Faithfulness to the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established by the Lord through Joseph Smith to deliver more information/revelation to mankind. The institution was authorized, or commissioned, to perform a variety of ordinances.

It was this church that baptized me. I’ve never belonged to another church. It was this church that delivered the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to me. It offered the temple rites, and other blessings which I received willingly.

For all of those who are similarly situated, it seems to me that we all have an obligation to remain faithful to the church. Jesus was faithful, even observing the rites of the Passover in Jerusalem with His disciples on the week of His atoning sacrifice. He admonished His followers to respect those who “sat in Moses’ seat” even though they would ultimately crucify Him.

I believe covenants should be honored. We do not have the right to discard them. Therefore, we proceed with honor to follow what we agreed to follow.

The Lord wanted the church to remain together. The splintering began even before Joseph’s death. When he died the splintering accelerated, but there was and is an obligation to remain together. No matter what you learn, how far you progress, or what great blessings you obtain from the Lord, there is an honorable obligation to remain ‘gathered’ with the saints.

There is still a great deal left to restore. The work is terribly incomplete and when it resumes it will be among the saints, not among the Methodists, or the Hindus. The restoration will add to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. It will not begin over again with people unacquainted with this latest body of revelation from the Lord.

I intend to remain faithful to the church, no matter what the issues are that exist because of human failings or errors.

Because I respect the order of the church, I refuse to get out ahead. No matter what I know, I am unwilling to step outside of my narrowly confined role. This confined role allows me to elaborate on existing scripture, and still limit what I say and do. I am forced to study the existing scriptures and our history to be able to confine what I do inside the existing order, while still explaining what I may be required to explain or declare.

I do not believe I would be of any benefit to the Lord or my fellow man if I were to rebel, abandon covenants I have made, or try to become something separate and independent. The Lord requires us to be meek, to respect authority, and to submit to others. It helps us to understand Him more fully. For me, respecting the order of things inside the church is also a matter of wisdom. It keeps all of us from becoming too much or too little as we follow the Lord.

Received of His Fullness, Part 3

The often quoted verses in Section 84 have an objective event that is consistently ignored. It is not merely “the ordinances” of the priesthood which are of value. The “power of godliness” (D&C 84: 20) is inseperably connected with these ordinances. (D&C 121: 36.) Without the “power of godliness” our rites are much like the apostate world Christ condemned in His initial visit with Joseph. (JS-H 1: 19.)

D&C 84: 20-22 tells us about:
-Power of Godliness
-Authority of the Priesthood
-Seeing the face of God the Father

These verses do not vindicate ordinances as an end in themselves. Far from it. Instead, they commend us to reach upward. If the ordinances alone were enough, there would be no mention of “power of godliness” and “authority of the priesthood” and “seeing the face of God, even the Father.” Therefore, how ought you to view the ordinances? If they have value, what value do they have? Why do we want or need them? What should they inspire within us?

Where and how did Joseph and Sidney “receive of His fullness?” (D&C 76: 20.)

Why, in speaking of “the power of godliness” and “the authority of the priesthood,” does it then connect with “seeing the face of God, even the Father?” (D&C 84: 22.)

Why, in the “oath and covenant of the priesthood” (as we have taken to identifying it), does it mention “receiving Christ?” (D&C 84: 36.) Is this to be taken as descriptive of receiving the priesthood, or as merely some future vague promise for the afterlife? If you read it as the afterlife, where do you find support for that reading in the revelation? Is that reading consistent with mortals having priesthood? If the priesthood is gained in mortality, why then is “receiving Christ” only post-mortality? Or, does the priesthood then become post-mortal as well?

Why does the Lord say if we “receive Him” we will also “receive His Father?” (D&C 84: 37-38.) How is coming into Christ’s presence related to coming into the Father’s presence? Are these connected? How? And how does this connect with “priesthood” since that is the topic of the revelation? Is the priesthood proprietary, meaning that it belongs like a franchise to some group, institution or individuals? Or is the priesthood instead best viewed as a relationship between God and man? If a relationship between God and man, then is it based on trust? Personal trust between God and the specific man? If that is the case, what is required to receive priesthood?

Who are His “servants” He requires you to “receive?” (D&C 84: 36.) How would such a servant aid you in coming to God and receiving priesthood? What is the relationship between receiving a servant, then receiving Christ, then receiving the Father? How is Joseph Smith an example of this?

Does the statement given in 1835 in D&C 107: 1 describe the condition of the church at that time? Or, does it describe a continuing presence of priesthood forever thereafter? Can priesthood be lost? (D&C 121: 37.)

Do you have His fullness? Why not? How do the scriptures say you receive it?

Is this what Nephi said he did in his record? Why does he walk us through his own experience? Is he bragging, or is he instructing and inviting us to do likewise?

Are ordinances enough? Do they testify to an underlying truth? Why receive the testimony of the ordinances and ignore the underlying truth?

No matter what we have received, retained or discarded from Joseph Smith, doesn’t his entire ministry come down to affirming James 1: 5? Can you ask of God also? Will He not “give liberally” to you? Then it is not lack of faith in Joseph’s ministry or your personal lack of keys held by those in higher priesthood offices that keeps you apart from God. Instead it is your unwillingness to do as James instructs, and your failure to ask God in faith.

Moroni told Joseph that Joel had not yet been fulfilled, but would be soon. He linked this to the “fulness of the Gentiles” which signals their end. (JS-H 1: 41; see also Joel 2: 28-32.) Is that time upon us?

Is the reason so few are “chosen” even though many are “called” related to this very subject? (D&C 121: 34.) Would you be better off trying to please God rather than getting noticed by other men?

Does it occur to you that this process in these revelations is the fullness of the Gospel in action? That the fullness of the Father, as well as the fullness of the priesthood, are part of the relationship which you are required to develop with God? Directly between you and Him, and not between you and someone else? If this is so, then what light is shed when the open vision given to Joseph and Sidney where the past rebellion of an angel in a position of authority is revealed, and the future final destiny of man is shown to them? Why is a man saved no faster than he gains knowledge? (TPJS, p. 217.)

Why did Joseph comment on the vision (in Section 76) by stating: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” (TPJS, p. 304.)

Received of His Fullness, Part 2

It will only be when the gentiles begin to have faith like the Brother of Jared that the Lord will make the fullness known again. (Ether 4: 6-7.) It was the plan to withhold the fullness from the gentiles, and not confer it upon them. The Lord told Moroni “they shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.” (Id.)

Joseph and Sidney “received of His fullness” in the vision. (D&C 76: 20.) The Lord once offered it again. Joseph may or may not impress you as a valiant soul (he certainly does me), but almost no one looks at Sidney Rigdon and sees a great, valiant soul. There has been nearly two hundred years of disparaging of Sidney by those who voted to follow Brigham Young and the Twelve and their descendants. It would be well to remember that Sidney “received of His fullness” and Brigham Young died hoping the Lord would visit him if he lived to be 85 years old.

If Sidney, despite all you have heard and read concerning him, and despite his subsequent disaffection from the church, “received of His fullness” then you should recognize this is NOT so great a thing as to be impossible for you. Take heart.

What is it that the Vision tells us about the exalted hosts?

They are the “church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 76: 54.) Meaning they are all sons and daughters of God.

The Father has given “into their hands” what is called “all things.” (D&C 76: 55.) That is, they have handled something.

They have “received of His fullness and of His glory.” (D&C 76: 56.) Both Joseph and Sidney recite this as having taken place. (D&C 76: 19-20.)

Though it would not be until sometime in 1843 before Joseph began to unfurl in private the process of becoming a “king and priest” unto God, Sidney and Joseph were acquainted with this in the Vision in 1832. (D&C 76: 56-57.) This is the only way such kings and priests can be made; although you can have a ceremony which symbolizes it. Joseph and Sidney’s accomplishment was an invitation for others to follow. It was not intended to be the end of the restoration process, but a harbinger of what would follow.

If Joseph and Sidney were the only ones who were to “receive of His fullness” then the prophecies promising a return of Zion could never be fulfilled.

Why are we allowing the restoration to end?
Why are we not looking to see a return of Zion?
Why are we content to trust others will bring it, when each of us has a responsibility to individually prepare to see it return?
What good does it do to study the revelations if we are unwilling to do the works required by the revelations?
Is theoretical knowledge and symbolic ritual enough?
Will Zion only return as a distant symbol in this dispensation?
Will the Lord only symbolically return?
Will the world only symbolically end?
Will the wicked only be symbolically destroyed?

What is it that you find so compelling about your current plight that you won’t awake, arise and look into the matter of the fullness as set out in scripture? To receive it you only need to “love him, and purify yourself before him” and He will “grant this privilege of seeing and knowing for yourself.” (D&C 76: 116-117.) But this must be “while in the flesh” and not after you leave here. (D&C 76: 118.) This is the only way you can then be able to “bear his presence in the world of glory.” (Id.)

Received of His Fullness

When the heavens opened to Joseph and Sidney Rigdon jointly in 1832, they saw and heard many things. Among the many things shown them was the Father sitting on His Throne and the Son beside Him. (D&C 76: 23.) The Vision included not just the final state of mankind in the various kingdoms of glory, but also included an explanation of the rebellion by an angel in a position of authority before God. (D&C 76: 25.) They saw the heavens weep over this rebellious angel. (D&C 76: 26.) They saw the terrible, inexpressible end to him, and all who follow him. (D&C 76: 44-48.)

They saw the final state of mankind. They also beheld many things they were not permitted to write. (D&C 76: 114-115.) Their knowledge exceeded what is lawful for man to know. Because of this knowledge, they were not like the others of their generation.

They entered into the Throne Room of the Father, and beheld Him in His glory. Because of this, both Joseph and Sidney “received of his fulness” (D&C 76: 20). This is how the fullness is received. It can be symbolized, ritualized, or conferred by an ordinance, but the fullness itself involves God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, personally. Therefore, when we speak of “fullness” through symbol, ordinance and ritual, we are speaking of the type. When we speak of the “fullness” itself, we are speaking of the real thing. There is a custom to accept the rites and symbols in place of the real thing. This is so much so that, today, some doubt the need for the real thing.

The “fullness of the Father” includes the “fullness of the priesthood.” It also includes more. Joseph and Sidney joined the holy angels who stood before God. (D&C 76: 21.) Therefore, they would be among those who “came to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.” (D&C 76: 67.)

By 1841 the fullness of the priesthood had been forfeited by the church. (D&C 124: 28.) Christ offered, on condition of the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, to come and restore that fullness again to the church. That required Him to come. (D&C 124: 28.) If He came, then men would be redeemed from the fall and return to God’s presence. (Ether 3: 13.)

To have Zion, God must come and dwell with His people. (Moses 7:  69.) To have Zion is to have people who:
-are of one heart, and
-are of one mind, and
-dwell in righteousness, and
-have no poor among them. (Moses 7: 18.)

There are many things which occupy the attention of Latter-day Saints. This short list, however, would seem to be the most important place to begin, assuming we were interested in having Zion return. We are not currently unified and for the most part are fragmenting. This is the inverse of what brings Zion.

Luke 1: 8-9

Luke 1: 8-9 refers to Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) officiating in the priest’s office.

“And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.”

Those who were outside knew how long it would take to burn incense and offer the morning prayer, therefore when too much time had passed they were troubled by the delay. (Luke 1: 21.)

The prayer he offered was set, given each day as part of offering incense in the Holy Place, and is as follows:

True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King of our fathers, our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.

Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto Thee.

We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be unto Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed be the Lord, unto who belongeth praise.

Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance has Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at times, and at every hour with Thy peace. Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace. (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, pp. 128-29.)

When the angel appeared and said, “Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard” (Luke 1: 13), the prayer asked for “the light of [God’s] countenance” to shine again upon Israel. The promised son (to be named “John”–Luke 1: 13) was to “go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.” (Luke 1: 17.) The One before whom John was to go was “the light of [God’s] countenance” or, in other words, Jehovah. John was to be Elias to precede and prepare the way for Jehovah.

Following his birth, John was “ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.” (D&C 84: 28.) He prepared the way, was imprisoned and beheaded. Then he appeared with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. (JST-Mark 9: 4; Matt. 17: 2-3, 13.) Moses opened, and John closed, the prior dispensation and met with Christ as the founder of the new dispensation.

John was as great a prophet as ever lived. The Lord said he was “more than a prophet.” (Luke 7: 24-28.) Foretold in  prophecy, born to bring “the light of God’s countenance” back to Israel, fulfilling an angel’s promise, named by heaven, ordained at eight days, sent to close one and open another dispensation, slain for his testimony, and then called to minister as an angel to the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, John was “more than a prophet.”

The Lord Delights in Chastity

Jacob’s sermon which touches on and condemns taking multiple wives includes this statement quoted from the Lord: “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” (Jacob 2: 28.) In the same breath, and in connection with the topic of multiple wives, the Lord adds: “And whoredoms are an abomination before me.” (Id.)

All those who think they are living a “higher law” by taking multiple wives should be extremely careful about their actions, in light of the Lord’s overall caution about this subject. David fell from his exaltation as a consequence of offending this law, because it led to betraying Uriah, lying to protect against his immoral behavior, and ultimately taking life. (D&C 132: 39.)

How often has violence been the product of polygamous groups? How many murders have happened while wicked and ambitious men struggle for control over followers who take multiple wives?

Joseph Smith, the recipient of the revelation which has led to these various claims by different pretenders also had something to say about chastity and adultery. The very same man through whom the revelation came also instructed the Relief Society with this advice:

“Spoke of the organization of the Female Relief Society; said he was deeply interested, that is might be built up to the Most High in an acceptable manner; that its rules must be observed; that none should be received into it but those who were worthy; proposed a close examination of every candidate; that the society was growing too fast. It should grow up by degrees, should commence with a few individuals, thus have a select society of the virtuous, and those who would walk circumspectly; commended them for their zeal, but said sometimes their zeal was not according to knowledge. One principle object of the institution was to purge out iniquity; said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations, or the consequences would be serious. …[T]he Saints should be a select people, separate from all the evils of the world– choice, virtuous and holy.” (TPJS, p. 201-202, March 30, 1842.) Joseph also said: “If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom.”

“Inasmuch as the public mind has been unjustly abused through the fallacy of Dr. Bennett’s letters, we make an extract on the subject of marriage, showing the rule of the church on this important matter. The extract is from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and is the only rule allowed by the Church. “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”  Times & Seasons 3:909, Sept. 1, 1842.

Whatever you may think you know about Joseph’s intentions and practice involving plural wives, his public statements cannot be reconciled with promiscuity or exploitation of women for the gratification or vanity of men.

This may seem a contradiction. As if Joseph were talking out of both sides of his mouth. It is not. The careful manner in which the Lord controlled and permited taking additional wives to “raise up seed unto Himself” was covenantal, sacral, and did not involve indiscriminate breeding of multiple women. Other than his own, Joseph only sealed one plural wife to one man. For Joseph, the multiple wives were governmental, sealed to him to construct the family of God on earth. Tying together lines of what was to be a single family, with himself as the patriarchal father of a new branch of the Family of Israel. It was not, as the quote above demonstrates, a matter of lust and physical gratification.

Joseph’s practices were carefully guarded, hidden from public view, and so discrete that still today there are those who think he never had plural wives. If this were something for public display and advocacy, then Joseph would have done so. He did not. To the contrary, he also delighted in the chastity of women and condemned adultery and fornication.

In contrast to Joseph’s remarks, Brigham Young made a remark at the return of Thomas Marsh to the church in 1857. This is a reflection of President Young’s attitude toward women. I end this series with Brigham Young’s words. They were spoken immediately after Thomas Marsh addressed the Saints, pleading to be welcomed back after his apostasy. Brigham Young introduced him, and while Brother Marsh spoke he (Marsh) mentioned that he was “an old man” now. Folllowing his remarks, Brigham Young added the following:

“He has told you that he is an old man. Do you think that I am an old man? I could prove to this congregation that I am young; for I could find more girls who would choose me for a husband that can any of the young men.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1329, September 6, 1857.)

Brigham Young added that the difference between his age and Brother Marsh’s age was “one year and seven months to the day.” (Id.)

Somewhere between Joseph’s Nauvoo and Brigham Young’s Salt Lake City, the idea of multiple wives transitioned from a carefully guarded, privately practiced, severely limited relationship requiring God’s approval, word and the Holy Spirit of Promise, into a broadly advocated, openly practiced, publicly defended, and church authorized form of marriage which was said to be required for exaltation. In Brigham Young’s form of the church a man could not be saved if he didn’t fetch multiple wives: “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise you that you will be damned.” (JD, Vol. 3, p. 266.) “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” (JD, Vol. 11, p. 269.)
It is my view that the question of taking plural wives arises with Joseph Smith, and was through a revelation to him when he inquired about the topic. He treated it as a limited, carefully curtailed, private matter. His implementation of the practice was limited to sealing his own plural wives, and one other man to two wives. 
With Brigham Young, however, taking more women became not only public, but it also became a topic used to prove his own verility. A comparison between Joseph’s and Brigham Young’s advocacy is stark, at least to me.

The subject could be discussed endlessly. I would discourage anyone from thinking this is something to advocate or practice. Even if you believe you are a well-read polygamist, you still don’t have enough information. If you think you have enough understanding to know what the topic includes, then instead of acting like Brigham Young and “finding more girls who would choose you for a husband” focus instead on qualifying to preserve one marriage.

Any man whose wife is unhappy, who is exploited and treated like his property, whose behavior fails to mirror Christ’s in the heart of the women who knows him best, has not yet qualified for his marriage to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. That work should not be left undone, and certainly must precede any complication of life by introducing more women into a relationship. Stop this foolishness. Save yourself by approaching this with the caution required to avoid vanity, self-destruction, practicing an abomination, and reducing a relationship to whoredoms. You should never trifle with the souls of others.

Answer: Reading Scripture

I received a question this morning about the first two verses of Section 132. The questioner presumes the first two verses frame everything that follows. According to his manner of reading the first two verses the language dealing with eternal marriage requires plural wives.

Here’s my response:

God gives “liberally.” (James 1: 5.) This means something. The word “liberally” is illustrated frequently in scripture. For example, Joseph Smith inquired which church to join. (JS-H 1: 18.) The answer to the specific question was to “join none of them.” (Id., v. 19.) But the answer was not limited to the question posed. It also explained that:

-Their creeds were an abomination.
-The professors were corrupt.
-The practitioners draw near with their lips, but
-Their hearts were far from God.
-They possess only a form of godliness.
-Their form of faith is powerless.
-Their doctrines are merely commandments from men. (Id.)
Then the Lord added “many other things did he say unto [Joseph]. which [he] could not write at this time.” (JS-H 1: 20.)

This information, beyond which church to join is the Lord giving liberally.

When Joseph sought to know what his standing was before God four years later, he prayed to have his sins forgiven. (JS-H 1: 29.) In response to this inquiry, the angel Moroni appeared and gave him information about coming judgments, the future revelations to be poured out as promised in Joel, the restoration of priesthood, and a book buried nearby giving a history of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. (JS-H 1: 33-43.) The answer was far beyond the scope of the inquiry. This was God giving “liberally.”

When the Brother of Jared tried to solve the problem of interior lighting in eight barges, the Lord’s answer had very little to do with the lighting problem. (Ether 3: 1.) The Lord’s answer redeemed this prophet from the fall (Ether 3: 13), included ministering to him as the Lord administered to the Nephites at a later time (Ether 3: 17-18), and the Lord “ministered to him,” which would have included a great deal more than solving lighting issues (Ether 3: 20.) This is what “liberally” means.

The question asked by Joseph concerned plural wives and created the circumstance where the Lord could then “give liberally” to Joseph. The question is posed in verses 1-2. The Lord gives liberally, and explains the eternal marriage covenant (not responsive to the question asked). Then he also answers the question, beginning at about verse 34 and going through verse 44. Moreover Joseph receives his calling and election, and is given the sealing authority in verses 45 through 50. This, once again, has nothing to do with the question in verses 1 and 2. This is the Lord “giving liberally.”

Revelations from the Lord go well beyond the question asked. Oftentimes the issue which brings a prophet before God has nothing to do with the reason we later learn of the Lord’s answer. The highly local question (which church to join, how to light a barge, where to hunt food, why some ancients had plural wives, what repentance is required, etc.) is largely irrelevant to us. The “liberally” given material addresses matters of universal concern:

-Apostasy and restoration.
-Priesthood restoration to Joseph.
-The fullness of God’s revelations to mankind, including from the beginning to the end.
-Calling and election.
-Sealing authority.
-Visions of eternity.
-etc., etc.

It is the “liberally given” material which shows what the Lord really intends to bestow on mankind.

Therefore, although the question is posed in verses 1 and 2, the answer goes well beyond, giving liberally, and reveals for the first time the eternity of marriage. You can have plural wives without having an eternal marriage. That is what happens today in the various powerless cults. But the conditions for having an eternal marriage, bound by someone who has been into the Lord’s presence and received from Him that authority (as Joseph did), is another matter.

Therefore I do not think verses 1 or 2 frame what follows any more than I think the ministry of Jesus to the Brother of Jared is confined exclusively to lighting interior of barges; or any more than Moroni’s visit was confined exclusively to whether Joseph had good standing before the Lord.

Plural Wives

Section 132 speaks to two issues: As to entering into an eternal marriage covenant between a man and a woman in this life, before death, and having that occur by God’s will and word, sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the revelation is clear: It is mandatory. As to taking multiple wives, the revelation states conditions, making it clearly NOT mandatory.

The problem with this whole sideshow is that the argument we have going on between devout people over the necessity for plural wives distracts from the real issue. Instead of seeking to have God, by His word, establish a union that will endure into eternity by sealing it through the Holy Spirit of Promise, the debate is over the non-mandatory issue of taking multiple wives.

This sideshow is, of course, a tool of the adversary designed to move focus away from what is required for exaltation onto an issue that will never save a man or woman. Stop being deceived. Stop being distracted. Stop being preoccupied by the second issue, and recognize you will fail in your desire to preserve yourself and your marriage if you neglect to fully comply with the first.

That having been said, the revelation is rather clear about the conditions for taking plural wives. The first requirement is that the Lord must command it in order to raise up seed. This requirement is not found in Section 132, but is in Jacob 2: 30. This is where the underlying reason is stated for the Lord to give the command. Before you presume you understand this underlying doctrine, I would like to pose a few questions to consider:

-If the foundation for giving the command is found in the Lord wanting to “raise up seed unto Himself” then what is to “raise up seed unto the Lord”?
-Are you certain this is childbearing alone?
-Does having children ever “raise up seed unto the Lord?”
-Was Joseph Smith commanded?
-Did Joseph Smith “raise up seed to the Lord?”
-Why did Joseph Smith only father children with Emma Smith?
-Does the commandment to Joseph mean something other than breeding children with multiple women?
-Can a man “raise up seed unto the Lord” as Joseph Smith did, never fathering a child with any other woman than his wife, Emma?
-Who are the “seed” which Joseph “raised up unto the Lord?”
-How were they made Joseph’s seed?

Section 132 gives two conditions for taking plural wives:

-If the Lord commands. (As in 132: 35 where Abraham was commanded.)
-If a man having the correct authority asks and obtains permission. (As in 132: 39 where David asked and the Lord, through Nathan, gave him these wives.)
-If additional wives are taken without the Lord wanting to “raise up seed unto Himself” thereby opening the way, and one of the two foregoing conditions being met, then taking additional wives is an abomination. (As in 132: 38.)

Further, in order to take an additional wife, someone (either the recipient or an officiator) must have the necessary keys to seal the marriage. This is complicated by the fact that there is never but “one man at a time” who holds this authority. (132: 7.) So if Warren Jeffs has these keys, Thomas Monson cannot. But if Owen Allred has the keys, then neither Warren Jeffs nor Thomas Monson can have them. And, of course, if Alex Joseph has them, then that deprives Allred, Jeffs and Thomas Monson.

The problem is, that if you are wrong in guessing which of the groups actually have the keys (because there’s only one, mind you), then you are guilty of an abominable practice and you are condemned. You not only will fail to preserve your marriage, you forfeit your exaltation and condemn yourself.

Though I do not often make disclosures of this sort, one of the reasons I am writing this series is because I have asked, and the Lord has told me Warren Jeffs does not hold these keys. Those who follow him thinking he is leading to a better condition in the afterlife have been deceived. I would advise them to abandon that group and repent. Has not his recent behavior taught you he is in error? Has not his last declaration about who can father children made plain the man does not speak for God? Have you not eaten husks long enough? Is it not yet time to return and repent?

Now, if you are of the view that you need to live polygamy, then you need to take every precaution to first know:

-The Lord has, in fact, commanded you; or
-You are in possession of the correct authority and you have asked God and been given His permission; and
-You are capable of “raising up seed unto the Lord” (which means that in the resurrection, you have the ability to take them with you in the ascent through the heavens, passing the sentinels who stand guard along the way, leading your company by the knowledge you have to endure that fiery ascent back to the Throne of God.)

If there is any part of that you do not understand, then you are utterly incapable of satisfying the conditions and you should run from this idea because you are not capable of living the conditions. If you understand and think you have authority to go forward, then I would further caution you that this is not something men take on themselves, but something which God or His ministering angels alone supervise. Do not trust some sentimental feeling, or “burning in the loins.” These are serious matters, not to be trifled with by the foolish and aspiring – and NEVER an invitation to the carnal.

Discussion continues

This current topic will continue with two more posts. I don’t normally post on weekends of late, but there will be more on this through Sunday, so I can finish the material.

Donald: I do not think you are guilty of adultery.

Cursing and Abominations

Before proceeding further, it is important to recognize that this is not an inconsequential matter. If someone guesses they can have plural wives and they are wrong, they have gone too far. They are taking a dangerous step. They risk eternity. Therefore this topic should not be approached casually, or because someone “thinks” this is proper. Either they know because God has instructed them by commandment, exclusively for the limited reasons it is allowed to be practiced, or they are involved in a serious, grievous sin.

In Section 132, words like “he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery” are included for those who proceed absent the Lord’s command. (D&C 132: 43.) Those who go too far can “fall from his exaltation” when these things are done in violation of God’s will. (D&C 132: 39.)

In Jacob, the improper taking of an additional wife is called “whoredoms and an abomination” by the Lord. (Jacob 2: 28.)

Those who proceed in our dispensation in the absence of the Lord’s direct command to them are included among those the Lord described as gentiles filled with “whoredoms, and of secret abominations.” (3 Ne. 16: 10.) If you are engaged in the practice, and recognize it is an abomination, and you will “repent and return unto [God’s ways], saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.” (3 Ne. 16: 13.)

None but fools will trifle with this topic.

Read Section 132 and see if the Lord commands you to either take or be a multiple wife. Don’t impose it in the language. Don’t force it into the revelation. Instead, read it as if the practice is forbidden, an abomination, adultery, or whoredom. Where do you see it demands you to take or be a multiple wife?

Verses 2 through 28 explain celestial marriage without mentioning anything other than a single wife. This explanation of having a single wife sealed to the man is the law which “must be obeyed” or exaltation is impossible. 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.” (D&C 132: 3-4.) The law, however, is for a man and woman to be sealed together for eternity and to have that sealing ratified by “the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

But it is a man (singular) and a woman (singular). For example:
“a man” and “a woman” and “he” and “she” and “him” and “her” (132: 15)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 18)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 19)
“a man” and “a wife” and “he” and “she” (132: 26)

These verses, from 2 through 28, speak in the singular throughout. One man. One woman. And these verses are the ones that speak of exaltation, thrones, dominions, kindgoms, principalities, all heights and depths. (132: 19.) In fact, the very verse where these things are mentioned is in connection with “a man marry a wife by” the Lord’s word. (Id.)

Celestial marriage and the celestial law of inheriting exaltation is set out in the very revelation that mentions for the first time the eternal marriage covenant. This occurs ONLY in those verses which are describing marriage between “a man” and “a woman” and not elsewhere.

The focus of these verses is not on multiple wives. Rather the focus is on the preservation of marriage into eternity by God and by His word (132: 12) which is “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” (132: 7.)

Therefore, the question is not whether you have multiple wives. The right questions are:
-Are you sealed by God?
-Are you sealed by God’s word?
-Are you sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise?
If you do not obtain this promise sealed to you by God, through His word, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, then it does not matter. “[I]f 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.” (132: 18.)

Your individual hopes, wishes, aspirations and ambitions are nothing. The only thing which will endure is that which is established by God. Or, more completely, by God, through His word, which is then sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

All of this discussion takes place in verses 2 through 28 of the revelation. None of it forces you to read it as referring to multiple wives. You cannot find the multiple wives information anywhere in these verses. If you think it is there, it is because you have put it there by your own interpretation. Multiple wives is NOT included.

The explanation for multiple wives begins after the explanation of what is required for exaltation. These verses permit two exceptions to the prior, mandatory requirement that marriage is limited to a man and a woman who are sealed by God, through His word, by the Holy Spirit of Promise. These two exceptions will be considered next.

To reaffirm the point of this post: If you guess wrong by taking multiple wives, your mistake is called “whoredoms” and “an abomination” and will condemn you. Unless you repent and return to God, you forfeit your exaltation.

Jacob and Section 132

Through Joseph Smith we have two scriptural sources dealing with plural wives. Jacob 2, in the Book of Mormon condemns the practice as “an abomination,” but leaves it open to be practiced if the Lord commands. The reason the Lord would command is to “raise up seed unto [Him].”

Section 132, beginning at verse 29, discusses why earlier prophets took more than one wife. It “permits” taking more than one wife under two conditions. But Section 132 should be read in light of what Jacob taught regarding the limitations and purpose of having more than one wife.

Before carefully examining the scriptures, a bit of history is necessary. Joseph first learned about the subject during the translation of Jacob sometime in 1829. Oliver was with him when the answer was first received. Therefore, at least two people knew about the subject as early as 1829.

As the earlier post on William Clayton’s Journal shows, Joseph did not put the revelation into writing until July 1843. Between 1829 and 1843, any explanation by Joseph (or Oliver) would have been verbal, private, and not necessarily understood properly, recorded correctly, or practiced openly. In other words, whatever happened between 1829 and 1843 is bound to be extremely difficult to accurately recreate. Those involved were trying to cover it up, and make it difficult and hopefully impossible to know it took place. They did not want it public.

Moreover, not everyone who was taken into confidence by Joseph was trustworthy, or honorable. Some men were predisposed to exploitation of vulnerable women. John C. Bennett, for example, was a sexual predator before coming to Nauvoo. When he became the Mayor and a member of the First Presidency, he learned about these unrecorded teachings and began to behave in a contemptable manner.

John Bennett would later publish salacious details of sexual misconduct in Nauvoo, attributing to Joseph some of his (Bennett’s) own conduct. Some of what Bennett wrote was true (i.e., private taking of multiple wives) and some of it was sensational, untrue, and was a reflection of his own behavior projected onto others, most notably Joseph Smith.

The Bennett expose of Nauvoo underground sexual practices acquired increased credibility years later when Brigham Young began to openly practice and advocate taking plural wives. Some people who had not believed Bennett at first, changed their minds and took him as a credible source once the public revelation of plural marriage became international news.

Section 132 was not revealed publicly in 1843. When it was finally made public, it also seemed to vindicate Bennett’s accusations about Nauvoo private behavior. The revelation was attributed (I think correctly) to Joseph Smith, and therefore it established a religious basis for the Bennett accusations stemming directly from Joseph.

In addition to Bennett, others also knew of the private taking of additional wives. The most vocal parties with inside information were critics of Joseph Smith who left the church. These disaffected former Mormons had little reason to tell an accurate story. They were trying to discredit the church, not to defend it. Even if they attempted to be “fair” in retelling what they knew, their accounts are colored by:
-Disaffection for Joseph Smith.
-Hostility to the religion.
-Questions about whether or not they fully understood the matter.
-Issues about how “hidden” and “secret” practices were explained.
-Their attempts to make themselves appear more moral than their private conduct actually reflected.

All of this strongly suggests to me that the words of Jacob and Section 132 need to be carefully studied, and the history of how the practice was conducted by the few who knew what was happening must be taken with some careful skepticism about its accuracy.

When characters like John Bennett and William Law were involved in seducing women and claiming there was a secret teaching allowing “spiritual wives” because Joseph Smith had actually discussed the principle with them, it becomes apparent that whatever Section 132 permits or does not permit, the principle can be abused. It was abused by these men, and other insiders. Joseph’s public statements condemning adultery, and denouncing polygamy can be reconciled with Section 132. But to reconcile it all requires some knowledge about these events. It also requires recognition that the neat, tidy history that ignores these rather messy interpersonal conflicts and betrayals of trust is inadequate.

Plural wives is as unpleasant a topic as you encounter in our religion. However, its unpleasantness does not detract from the importance of sorting it out. Given the various conflicting charges and countercharges, it is a relief to just accept a superficial account and hope it is true. That applies to BOTH sides. BOTH those who reject the practice, as well as those who welcome it, need to be willing to sort through it and reach the correct conclusion.

Just because the fundamentalists have recognized more of the truth about the history does not mean they have sorted it out aright, nor that they are living a “higher” law. It may mean they are just as wrong about their conclusions as they think the church is for abandoning the practice.

I’ve taken the topic seriously. I’ve accorded the advocates’ arguments respect. I think they are wrong. As I continue this discussion I’m hoping some of them may be persuaded there is still some of the story they haven’t yet sorted out correctly.

Did Joseph Receive A Revelation?

Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants is not universally accepted as a revelation received by Joseph Smith. When the discussion cannot proceed beyond whether this originated from Joseph Smith, by revelation, the discussion goes nowhere. Therefore, the first step must be to resolve whether the revelation came through Joseph Smith, or was a later fabrication of Brigham Young and his inner circle of polygamists.

The following information persuades me Section 132 came through Joseph Smith and was reduced to writing on July 12, 1843:

The Nauvoo Diaries of William Clayton were written chronologically and have the following entries (exactly as in original):

July 11, 1843: At noon rode out to farm with Margt. P.M. J & family rode out in the carriage.
July 12, 1843: This A.M. I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives & concubines. After it was wrote Prests. Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E. who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious. J told me to Deed all the unincumbered lots to E & the children. He appears much troubled about E.
July 13: 1843: This A.M. J sent for me & when I arrived he called me up into his private room with E. and there stated an agreement they had mutually entered into. they both stated their feelings on many subjects & wept considerable. O may the Lord soften her heart that she may be willing to keep and abide his Holy Law.
July 15, 1843: Made Deed for 1/2 S. B. Iowa from J. to Emma. Also a Deed to E. for over 60 city lots.
July 16, 1843: A.M. at home writing bro. Kimballs lecture. P.M. went to the Grove and heard Pres. J. preach on the law of the priesthood. He stated that Hyrum held the office of prophet to the church by birthright & he was going to have a reformation and the saints must regard Hyrum for he has authority. He showed that a man must enter into an everlasting covenant with his wife in this world or he will have no claim on her in the next. He said that he could not reveal the fulness of these things untill the Temple is completed &c.
July 17, 1843: A.M. at the Temple & at Prest. J’s. conversed with J. & Hyrum on the priesthood.

In addition to the foregoing, I checked surrounding public events, and the diary is consistent with other records of those days. For example, the event on July 16th is recorded as having taken place “At Stand in Grove, West of Temple” and appears in a letter of Willard Richards to Brigham Young, the Joseph Smith diary kept by Willard Richards, the Levi Richards Diary and the Willard Richards Diary. The afternoon of the 16th also records a public meeting on the “Temple Stand” in the Franklin Richards, William Clayton, and Levi Richards diaries and in the Letter of Willard Richards to Brigham Young, as well as in the Joseph Smith diary kept by Willard Richards.

Disputes after Joseph’s death also confirm a disagreement between Emma and the church over ownership in the Steamboat the Maid of Iowa.

These entries seem credible, and therefore I believe they show Section 132 was recorded on July 12, 1843 and originated from Joseph Smith. In addition, the August 12, 1843 meeting of the Nauvoo High Council records there was “teaching by Hyrum Smith” which four witnesses later confirmed included reading Section 132. These witnesses were Austin Cowles (who rejected the doctrine and left the church), David Fulmer, Thomas Grover, James Allred and Aaron Johnson. Hosea Stout was absent when Hyrum read the document, but was later told about the revelation. When Section 132 became public, Hosea Stout confirmed it “corresponded to what” he was told about the reading in August 1843.

It is possible to believe it a fabrication of Brigham Young. It was not made public until the 1850’s, and the public disclosure was on Brigham Young’s watch. But the document came into existence while Joseph was church president, and came through him. As much as a person may wish the document did not originate with Joseph Smith, the evidence appears to be more than adequate to show it did. It came from Joseph and was reduced to written form in July 1843. 

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.

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.

The Trick to Avoiding Apostasy

We began this week with the topic of apostasy. That is where we will end. It is easy to distract and fool people. It is also easy to keep in mind what is essential and will save, and what is distracting and cannot save. Here are a few thoughts that can prevent apostasy:

Never confuse the symbol for the reality.

Never accept a man as your Lord, but reserve worship for Christ alone. Everything and everyone else is idolatry.

Always bear in mind that Christ alone is the keeper of the gate, and He cannot be misled.

Always participate fully in the rites given to you as a gift from God, performed by the priests, and be worthy before God when you do so.

Take every gift from God in gratitude, and recognize His hand in what you receive.

Be grateful for what you are given, and never think yourself better than another because you think you understand more. You are measured against perfection, not your fellow man.

Forgive if you want to be forgiven.

Leaders deserve your best efforts to support them in the heavy burdens they carry. Uphold, rather than criticize them.

Most errors deserve your pity and forgiveness – not your judgment.

It is not criticism to search for truth, even if the truth exposes mistakes and errors of men. Be gracious with failure, and not distracted or preoccupied by it.

Nobody’s failure can prevent your success. No other organization or person can bring you along in their success. You are required to connect with God independent of all others. Life eternal is to know Him and His Son.

Love your spouse, because this is your own flesh. There was never a saved man without a woman, nor a saved woman without a man. Adam and Eve are “the image of God” for “in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.”

It is in the private, unobserved moments when you learn the most about yourself. What you think, what you do, how you act when you think you are alone reveals more about your heart than anything else. If you are distant from God, begin to return in those moments alone.

God does live. Never doubt that. Just accept it and move forward to know Him.

It is a thin veil, not a wall, that separates you from God. Do not let it become insurmountable. It was always meant to be parted.

Fear is the opposite of faith.

Do not let borrowed fears become the barrier to your faith.

Men cannot save you, but they can condemn you. You cannot respect men too much without respecting God too little.

Religion has been the source of most of mankind’s cruelty, rebellion and apostasy. Never think your own religious observances can or will connect you with God. They are only habits until you reach out and speak with God directly. Ministers, priests, Rabbis, Elders, preachers, Fathers, Presidents, Apostles and even prophets are not God. Nor should any of these roles be allowed to distance you from God.

Saving belief requires you to accept the truth. Saving faith requires you to act in conformity with correct belief. Saving knowledge comes from contact with God.