Obery Hendricks on Mitt Romney & Mormon Racism

Yesterday Obery Hendricks posted an article on the Huffington Post challenging Mitt Romney on racist sentiments found in the Book of Mormon.  As has been pointed out, Hendricks is guilty of cherry-picking some of those statements.  He also doesn’t have a good enough handle on Mormonism to understand that the Book of Mormon is not making reference to people of African descent, rather it’s speaking of dark-skinned people of Jewish descent living in a yet-to-be-determined location (some might say they are dark-skinned Native Americans, others might say these passages have nothing to do with skin color at all).

Last night Hendricks appeared as a guest of Ed Schultz on MSNBC.  As I predicted, I believe this is just the start of these attacks on Mitt Romney and Mormonism.  The challenge Romney faces is answering these charges in the length of a sound-bite.  I don’t think the nuance that Mormons engage the priesthood bad with is going to communicate.  I also don’t think he has the opportunity to engage in exegis of the Book of Mormon. Hendricks does not offer an attack that effectively sways Mormons, but he does offer an attack that sways non-Mormons.

I don’t believe this is going to go away and I’ll be interested to see how Romney resolves it.  I believe he’ll eventually be forced to say, as John Huntsman has stated, that the priesthood ban was wrong.

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56 thoughts on “Obery Hendricks on Mitt Romney & Mormon Racism

  1. I’m interested too. All of the response I have seen on the Mormon side so far is that he didn’t get the book of Mormon, took something out of context, doesn’t get it, etc. So far no one has just said, “Yes, it was wrong, I/we am/are sorry.”

  2. Unfortunately, the average Mormon is ill-equipped to answer this question in a way that seems sane in 2012 America. But, I fully expect the Huntsman style answer sooner or later. Mitt will do what it takes to win.

    Curiously, Democrats like Shultz don’t seem to object to Harry Reid’s position in our government.

  3. Curiously, Democrats like Shultz don’t seem to object to Harry Reid’s position in our government.

    I had the exact same thought. How come Harry Reid doesn’t have to denounce the racial passages of the Book of Mormon before black Democrats are willing to accept him as their Senate Majority Leader?

  4. Oh that kind of question is an easy layup for Mitt Romney… He makes Hendricks the issue and wins the news cycle:

    One of the core reasons a black man is President of the United States is because Harry Reed, the Mormon Senate majority leader urged Senator Obama to run and threw financial and political support behind him. To argue that Mormons are inherently racist, as Professor Hedricks does, is offensive. Last I checked Professor Hendricks does not hold office within the Mormon church. Mormon holybooks mean what Mormons take them to mean, and the Mormon church asserts our holybooks support the full equality of all people. All religion’s holybooks can be quoted out of theological context so as to distort their teachings.

    I think the bigot here is Professor Hendricks

    That’s golden for him. Almost all Americans know how easily hostiles can represent their sacred literature. I would hope the Democrats do a better job than this.

    And in terms of faith given that he is looking for strong turnout among religious conservatives he needs to say anything in a way that is faith affirming. Like I stand with First President at the time Francis Gibbons in celebrating that by revelation the priesthood was open to all the faithful. I don’t commune with God and know why we had to wait until 1978, nor do I presume to judge God.

    If he is iffy on this, then his supporters are going to have to wonder if he will be iffy on a host of other issues of importance to the religious right that the rest of the country disagrees with. Now this being Mitt Romney he is going to flip flop and this issue depending on the audience and defang it that way. But I think an apology is a terrible idea. Because he is going to asked the next question, “What other divine mandates are wrong”.

  5. Romney has said everything he needs to say. He has nothing in his record to suggest he’s racist, and his Republican family was supporting civil rights before many other Republicans were.

    Even Hendricks said he doesn’t believe Romney is a racist. So what’s the point of pressing a candidate for secular office for an answer on what is essentially a theological question?

  6. How come Harry Reid doesn’t have to denounce the racial passages of the Book of Mormon before black Democrats are willing to accept him as their Senate Majority Leader?

    Because only Democratic Senators vote for/against him. And the only two during his tenure as majority leader have been Barack Obama whom he was aggressively mentoring; and Roland Burris who didn’t get to vote. Senator Braun didn’t win reelection when Reed ran for Whip, however she would have likely opposed him, though for reasons having nothing to do with race.

  7. Outrage for what? The verse is not about African Americans, it is about the people that lived in the lands of the Book of Mormon. Also there is nothing within the Book of Mormon that Blacks are inferior to whites. Failing to take the comments written by a person living in 480 A.D. who is writing and copying from comments further in the past about people he recognizes as cousins is not about race, but their condition before God.

    There are verses within the bible that are disparaging of other groups, do we ask them to be removed? No. The Record stands, The Book of Mormon comment, when understood in context is not racist, it is an opinion of a man who was not writing about Africans. And even white’s can become dark and loathsome–would one describe the Nazi movement as a dark and loathsome group of degenerate people?

  8. I understand the nuts and bolts. I’m asking where the the outrage is?

    @ChristianJ. Why would you expect their to be “outrage” at Reid? Reid has a long history of supporting minorities. Including being the single person most responsible (Barack Obama himself exempted) for the United States having its first black president. Reid has an excellent record on hispanics as well, and gays and….

    He is not in the same situation as Romney on race at all. However, despite that, in real life I haven’t heard many Democrats attack Romney on this issue either, Romney doesn’t have a history of anti-African American activism or rhetoric. Further, it’s not like we don’t know where the african american vote is going this election.

    Where Romney is likely to be attacked in the general on race is towards Hispanics where he has been downright enthusiastic and is campaign with people known for anti-Hispanic activism like Kris Kobach. Hispanics are more of a swing constituency previously breaking about 60/40 and lately more like 80/20.

  9. Where is the outrage? This isn’t about facts or a theologically nuance view about Romney’s religion.

    Romney is going to be attacked as a racist no matter what his religion. He is a Republican so he is a racist, end of narrative. If he was a Southern Baptist they would tie him to the Klan. If he was a Roman Catholic he would be accused of donating money to Pope Pius the XII memorial fund. If he was Reformed he would be accused of supporting Apartheid. If he was a Lutheran it would be proof of his NAZI tendencies. Bla Bla Bla. It is going to happen.

    But then Pastor Wright’s quite theologically defensible “chicken’s have come home to roost” comment about America makes President Obama anti-American, communist, socialist, apologizing, appeaser no matter what he does. So its even.

  10. It bothers me that they quote the BoM passage, then use the word ‘inferior’ is as describing the meaning of the content. The pages of the BoM clearly describes our relationship to God as the deciding factor for our blessedness or cursedness. It also ascribes skin color to the relative blessedness/cursedness of the generation.
    Brigham Young made some severe comments, and standing in his shoes in his day, what was the relationship between African Americans and the rest of the world?
    They were being stuffed in boats, so tight that many were sure to die (but the overstuffing made up for it), like cattle..sold into slavery. Where were they being taken from? Except for missionary efforts, their faith was without Christ…without life…dark and wicked, witchcraft in place of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Still living in huts, either naked or covered by the skins of animals and so forth. Were they not cursed? Were they not denied education and social accommodations? Beaten, tortured, raped, debased, dismissed, and all the other horrors unimaginable to civil minds…God is sovereign…and in his hands I leave these mysteries.
    I mean no offense, I wonder at the beauty of a life so basic and I think it to be a blessing from God that primitive tribes have been preserved til this day. And to God I give it all, for it was by his Word that the African nation was subject to slavery and freedom. Man could want it sooner, but it wasn’t until his purposes were filled. Why did God wait to induce the Civil Rights movement? Photography, film, and physical evidence make the retelling very persuasive. Some claim Jews weren’t slaughtered..those claims balk at the evidence.
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints established the policy in Utah that an owner and a slave may enter and reside within it territories, but if the ‘slave’ were to ever leave the state, he would do so as a free man. The trail through Utah being a vital route to the West, blessed be the Lord that a state was established to served as a filter for slavery! What a land, that if you but step upon it as a slave, a claim to freedom is established.
    Slaves were excepted as a form of tithing, by the Church, and the former slave would then work to repay that amount. Seems harsh. Tithe has always been 10 percent so the amount wouldn’t be expected to be greater than ten percent of the income of the owner. How it was paid depended upon the disposition of the Church. I would assume the policy was to make the man free, with his first obligation being to repay his debt. How satisfying to some to work for every penny, how merciful it was to others, to forgive the debt early, and how instructive it was meant to be, for those who felt taken advantaged of.
    It is so stated in the BoM that every man woman and child has the right to be free and no one ought to subject another into bondage, and that the freedom from bondage ought to be sought and maintained, and defended even unto bloodshed.

  11. Walrus,

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints established the policy in Utah that an owner and a slave may enter and reside within it territories, but if the ‘slave’ were to ever leave the state, he would do so as a free man.”

    Really? Are there any examples of the ever happening?

  12. There’s a lot of textual evidence that these BoM passages have nothing to do with skin color – especially if read along side the Bible.

    I’ll attempt to dig up the Biblical references.

  13. I jumped topics that run parallel. I don’t believe that any intelligent human being could interpret the BoM as referring to Africans. It does connect lightness and darkness with cursedness/blessedness and can easily be connected with skin color. In a modern setting that principle is applied to nations which were unknown to the BoM authors. The ‘mark of a curse’ was specifically directed toward the children of Laman and Lemuel for so long as they transgress the commandments of God.
    Jumping topics- If the BoM stands up to the attack, then the interpretation and action of the body of the leaders and body of the LDS Church is to be assessed.
    A point of scrutiny are Brigham Young’s snippets describing the African condition. While admitting that I would want better words to describe their state, to say other than the truth would deny them their justice. To not look at his remarks in a day where one still saw men and women chained, slaves to another, is self-defeating.
    In my opinion, the principle of a curse, or a mark, to distinguish the seed of dissenters by a change of skin color was applied to the African nation, and, with the aid of revelation, a clearer picture of God’s work was unfolded. It is recorded that God gave unto Cain and all those who mix with his seed, a mark which would immediately identify their heritage to those who looked upon them. To be cursed was a big deal. Privileges of some sort were taken away. The curse would some day be lifted, that day came, and we must now remember these things and know that God has it all under control.
    The LDS Church’s stance has always been against slavery. I think the Civil Rights movement prepared the minds and hearts of a Nation to finally free those in bonds. It also prepared the hearts and minds of the Saints for the changes God had in mind.

  14. “An Act in Relation to Service” approved in 1852.
    “Slave holders coming into the territory were required to file evidence of lawful bondage with the probate court, and any transfer of slaves to another master or removal of them from the territory required court approval and the consent of the slaves themselves. Four sections of the act dealt with the issues of miscegenation; food, clothing, and shelter; punishment; and education:”
    It then goes on to describe any abuse of the slave as justification by the court to void the contract between owner and slave.

    http://historytogo.utah.gov/people/ethnic_cultures/the_peoples_of_utah/blacksinutahhistory.html

  15. Is there a documented case of a probate court in Utah freeing a slave transiting territory?

    I am not trying to trick you I am simply asking a question. I have read the 1852 Utah slave code (published the same year the LDS went public about polygamy) and there is nothing that forces emancipation by transiting the territory, only reporting to a Probate Court. There has to be a reason that Utah in 1852 legalized slavery in the territory.

  16. My understanding was that if they didn’t legalize it, then the policy would be to reject anyone with a slave. They couldn’t enter, or pass through, or reside where it wasn’t legal…so, to legalize slavery made it a place where slaves could reside. But the conditions set forth by the state of Utah weren’t designed to retain a slave in bondage, but rather to make available every possible means to break the contract of bondage. A contrast from true ‘slave states’ who’s laws took away rights, and blocked the passage of freedom. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has always been anti-slavery. You should look up the laws yourself…it gets very specific and ill treatment of any sort by the owner justifies a termination of the contract between owner and slave.
    There were some 52 registered slaves in a given year, and there are documents tracking their compliance with the laws set forth. Since the owner couldn’t leave with the slave, there are numerous records of those in bonds being sold..and I have not looked for nor seen evidence of any further compliance to those laws.

  17. Servitude may and should exist, and that too upon those who are naturally designed to
    occupy the position of “servant of servants;” yet we should not fall into the other extreme,
    and make them as beasts of the field, regarding not the humanity which attaches to the
    colored race; nor yet elevate them, as some seem disposed, to an equality with those
    whom Nature and Nature’s God has indicated to be their masters, their superiors.

    Governor Brigham Young, 5 January 1852

    I have read the 1852 Law. You should Read “A PECULIAR PLACE FOR THE PECULIAR INSTITUTION” the BYU Masters Thesis of Nathaniel R. Ricks

  18. The Mormons are ignoring a very simple fact: Brigham Young was a vicous racist. It’s one thing to celebrate a racist politician from history, but a racist religious leader? The Mormons claim they are Christians, but didn’t Jesus urge his followers to love all? Except the Native Americans and gentiles in Jospeph Smith’s case and the blacks in Brigham Young’s case.

    I was raised Catholic (not a follower of any church or religion today). I would be embarrassed to try to make excuses for the corruption of the Vatican or it’s child sex abuse cover ups. How could I in good consience? Why are Mormons so unwilling to repudiate the sins of their leaders and specifically Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? When you don’t you make your religion seem more like a cult than a rational, spiritual group. Joseph Smith was a con man. He took money from dupes to search for buried treause with magic stones. He wanted to have sex with young girls, so he came up with polygamy. Why are Mormons so stubbron about accepting the truth?

  19. Edger —

    Brigham Young was a vicous racist. It’s one thing to celebrate a racist politician from history, but a racist religious leader?

    Ah I see. So we should reject teachings of religious leaders who have inappropriate views on race. So for example someone who would advocate synagogue destruction against Jews “First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly_and I myself was unaware of it_will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.“. Someone like that shouldn’t be honored neither with multiple denominations named after them nor with his 5 key teachings becoming the absolute cornerstone of Protestantism.

    Methodists can and should take great pride that John Welsey wrote about the evils of slavery and the equality of african Americans in the 18th century. But he was an exception. In general Christianity has an almost unbroken chain of being in-favor of the evils of society and strong opposition to their removal. It is the sort of disgusting history that can legitimize a prophet desiring to not just reform but restore Christianity.

  20. Methodists can and should take great pride that John Welsey wrote about the evils of slavery and the equality of african Americans in the 18th century.

    I can and I do, thanks for the encouragement.

    Someone like that shouldn’t be honored neither with multiple denominations named after them nor with his 5 key teachings becoming the absolute cornerstone of Protestantism.

    This is how current Lutherans officially react to Luther’s anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic statements. Can you please point to any equivalent official statements by the LDS church?

  21. David —

    I’d say they are doing more than issuing statements. The LDS church effectively takes billions of dollars from white congregations to spread the gospel to Latin American congregations (where there were hundreds of years of free intermarriage) and African congregations. There is a reason for the expression “putting your money where your mouth is”. You simply cannot hold to Brigham’s theories regarding race mixing polluting children in terms of election and operate in countries where the population is so racially diverse that everyone is the product of race mixing. I’d say 31 Latin American temples with another 9 under construction is far better evidence of complete repudiation than a simple statement.

    I don’t give Lutherans in the United States a whole heck of a lot of credit for writing against Luther’s anti-Semitism in 1983. The group you are quoting, the Missouri Synod, is active in anti-gay activities today. Which means that if we had asked the question in 1883 they most likely would have been fully in favor of the anti-Semitism of the time. And certainly in the 1930s, when their opinion actually mattered, when the United States was trying to decide how involved to get in assisting resistance to Hitler. we know where the LCMS was on the issue. They are just opposed to anti-Semitism today because their cultural group is now dominated by dispensationalists.

    I give Welsey credit for writing about the evils of slavery when he did it. I wouldn’t give a modern Methodist any credit for writing about the evils of slavery today.

    Go after the Mormon church for their terrible attitude towards gays. Towards fielding a presidential candidate who prides himself on one of the most ferociously anti-Hispanic platforms since the 1930s. Give the Mormons credit for both the church and Romney standing firm against the current Republican Islamaphobia. But anti-race mixing opinions of Brigham Young is IMHO a BS issue.

  22. CD Host,

    So in summary, no, you can’t provide any official statements of the same kind.

    Your first paragraph is completely beside the point. Preaching the gospel in Latin America is still seen as fulfillment of prophecy by most LDS, as it is seen as preaching the gospel to the Lamanites. It’s even directly commanded, “you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them” (D&C 28). Even Spencer W. Kimball was pleased as could be that those Lamanites were turning white, in fulfillment of prophecy, through the labors of the LDS church. Plus, might I add the little logical problem that having been nice to brown people, in fulfillment of prophecy, doesn’t fix the problem of being on the wrong side of the fence with respect to black people, because of prophetic teachings?

  23. Methodists can and should take great pride that John Welsey wrote about the evils of slavery and the equality of african Americans in the 18th century. But he was an exception.

    Which, by the way, doesn’t actually mean that John Wesley was not a racist by modern standards.

  24. David —

    So in summary, no, you can’t provide any official statements of the same kind.

    First off I find an American Protestant being critical of Mormons because they haven’t done on racial issues offensive. Protestantism not Mormonism enslaved and killed millions of Africans all over the world over a period of centuries. Mormons were tangential supporters of racism, without much meaningful influence. This is like a mass murderer being critical of someone who got a parking ticket.

    In any case it was repudiated in 1978 by Kimball. God came down and cancelled it, is pretty clear repudiation. Other ones:

    — The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued this statement in 1986:
    “We repudiate efforts to deny any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race over another.

    — Elder Alexander Morrison (Member of the First Quorum of Seventy) said in 1993:
    “There is no place for racism in the Church. We abhor it.”

    But the statement to my mind that really matters are acts, in this case Latin American missions. I don’t consider lip service repudiation to be superior to actual repudiation. I’ll say it again. You cannot repudiate Brigham Young’s theories about mixed race any more directly than by welcoming Latin Americans into the Mormon faith on a fully equal basis. That is real repudiation in my book not issuing a statement long after the fact.

    The Catholic church officially repudiated their attacks on Galileo in 1835. But their repudiation was specific to him and that issue. It was not even a broad repudiation of the church’s right to rule over matters of scientific fact. And that is where the Mormon church can be proud. Not only has it fully repudiated Brigham’s views but on the issue of Islamophobia seems to have learned to avoid repeating the mistake.

    Plus, might I add the little logical problem that having been nice to brown people, in fulfillment of prophecy, doesn’t fix the problem of being on the wrong side of the fence with respect to black people

    The brown people we are talking about are brown in part because they bred with Africans, descendants of Hamites are Hamites. Hamites to Brigham carried the “cursed seed of Cain”. There is no way Brigham could have had an mission in a place like Mexico or Brazil with this theology. That’s why the church was indifferent to African attempts to create their own church until the ban was lifted.

    So yes it is full repudiation.

  25. Just whitewashing being done here. Let me understand, Joseph Smith was a direct prophet from God and Smith told his flock that Native Americans were the descendants of a lost tribe of Israel whose skin color had turned red because they had rejected God and then the evil red people had murdered all of the remaining pure white skinned peoples? And Smith had sex with underage girls under the guise of Plural Marriage”? Why would a Judeo-Christian version of God choose a child molester who could not stay faithful to his wife (I’m pretty sure adultery is covered in the Ten Commandments) as his prophet?

    And Brigham Young is forgiven for hating blacks because he was a man of the 1850’s? His racism went way beyond not liking race mixing as I’m sure 95% of mid 19th century Americans didn’t either. In his own words Brigham Young expressed hatred for blacks and you know it.

    God must have been on vaction the day those two were chosen as “prophets”.

  26. Why would a Judeo-Christian version of God choose a child molester who could not stay faithful to his wife (I’m pretty sure adultery is covered in the Ten Commandments) as his prophet?

    Lets take David, the greatest king the line of Jesus. He had as wives: Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah and Bathsheba. He married some additional ones later in life, and on top of that at some points in his life had a minimum of ten concubines.

    Then his son, the great Solomon the one assigned by God to build the first temple had 700 official wives and 300 concubines.

    So evidentially God doesn’t seem to have the same definition of adultery you do.

  27. CD-Host,

    Please provide the passage in the Bible where this behavior is said to be good. As I read 1 Kings and Deuteronomy, this behavior is pretty roundly condemned.

  28. David —

    Deut 25:5-10 which specifically command polygamy in one particular instance, and considers it a duty.

    But you are actually shifting the claim. The original claim was that a Judeo-Christian God wouldn’t choose such a person as his prophet when throughout scripture he consistently chooses polygamists for the most important roles.

  29. CD-Host,

    Deut 25:5-10 commands levirate marriage, not polygamy. While there might have been some overlap between the two, the passage is not interested in polygamy, but in the perpetuation of the deceased brother’s seed.

    As for the shifting claim, it is you who are shifting the claim. In the LDS context polygamy was seen as a religious duty, in some cases necessary for salvation/exaltation, commanded by God. In the biblical context it is a cultural practice and not something that God commands. In none of the most famous cases (Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses, David, and Solomon) does God command polygamy. In every single one of those cases the negative side of polygamy is on display, which doesn’t exactly cast a favorable light on the practice. Polygamy as practiced in the Bible has zero to do with early Mormon polygamy, other the the former often being used the justify the latter.

  30. Do you actually believe the Old Testament is the word of God? Do you actually believe that the ancient Jews were God’s “chosen people” and God gave a couple of kings the a-okay to marry lots of chicks? Yeah, God who created man in his image decided to pick out one tribe on earth to be his pet faves.

    And then God decided to wait another 1800 years after Jesus to bring forth his next true porphet, and who did he pick? Jospeph Smith, a guy who swindled greedy farmers hoping to find Indian buried treasure with magic stones. This same new prophet also wasn’t a huge fan of monogamy and oh yeah, he had his own army. So, God’s last true prophet, Jesus said the meek shall inherit the earth and God’s next pick engaged in bank fraud, conterfeiting, and was arrested for being a con man. Jesus said turn the other cheek and God’s next point man on earth had his own militia?

    It’s unfair for Mormons to have to take heat for the Book of Mormon (as ridiculous as it is) more than Jews, Christians, and Muslims have to take heat for silly things written in the Bible and the Koran. Unfortunately for Mormons there are written eye witness accounts, bank records, and court records of Joseph Smith’s activities.

  31. CD Host,

    Your arguments are flawed. The comment about a Judeo-Christian God not accepting Joseph Smith’ philadering was me trying to point out that J. Smith ignored the Commandment you believe was handed down to Moses by God which forbids adultery. So, if you try to justify that by saying some part of the Old Testament mentions polygamy without condemning it, you are missing a crucial point. J Smith slept with other men’s wives! That is against the word of God (I dont believe any of this nonsense about Moses and 10 Commandments from God, etc. But you apparently do). How can you be a prophet from God and ignore one of the ten basic precepts of his obligations to man on earth? Regardless of how many hundreds of young virgins J Smith deflowered under the practice of polygamy you seem to suggest is okay with God, he also slept with many married women. You have no way to argue your way out of this obvious fact.

  32. kullervo, did j smith sleep with married women? yes, he did. is adultery forbidden by god? yes, according to judeo-christain teachings, it is.

    so, what is your point?

  33. As for the shifting claim, it is you who are shifting the claim. In the LDS context polygamy was seen as a religious duty, in some cases necessary for salvation/exaltation, commanded by God. In the biblical context it is a cultural practice and not something that God commands.

    By shifting the claim I’m referring to otto’s post which argued that the Christian God was firmly opposed to polygamy and underage wives and considered that a disqualification for being a prophet.

    There are multiple “biblical context” because the bible claims to be happening over a several thousand year period. There is not one single biblical context. I would agree that God in the Old Testament never commands plural marriage, it is seen as a benefit of wealth. The same way we would view wealth as usually implying a big house, the early bible views it as entitling one to having a large number of female sexual partners.

    However, the relationship for these women is absolutely portrayed as being highly positive. A constant theme of the bible is how important it is to have sex in a long term context providing a covering. For example the book of Ruth uses the analogy between God providing a protecting covering for men, and men providing a protective covering for women via. marriage. The word ga’al (redemption) / go’el (redeemer) is used in this sexual / marital context over 20 times in the text. And of course the book ends by tying Ruth explicitly to David, the redeemer of Israel. By entering into a covenantal relationship one is redeemed and inherits god’s grace which in these books is material and spiritual. There are allusions to this position in other biblical verses like 1Tim 2:15.

    As for Mormon polygamy Joseph Smith is a prophet so his revelation not coming from the bible I wouldn’t find concerning. He never makes claim to any sort of sola scriptura methodology. As far as Mormon polygamy I think during the Joseph Smith era you have an alpha male (and possibly a few other alpha males) have sex with multiple women who continue to reside with their previous husbands. There is nothing particularly unusual about that. During that period Brigham Young is marrying widows who would be unlikely to find new husbands, essentially he seems to be primary funding and modeling a social security program.

    It is the next generation where you have widespread polygamy for one generation that seems to involve 20-33% of the males in the church. That is more interesting, but Joseph Smith is dead by that point so I wouldn’t want to conflate the Joseph Smith era polygamy and the later polygamy.

    In none of the most famous cases (Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses, David, and Solomon) does God command polygamy. In every single one of those cases the negative side of polygamy is on display, which doesn’t exactly cast a favorable light on the practice. Polygamy as practiced in the Bible has zero to do with early Mormon polygamy, other the the former often being used the justify the latter.

  34. wow, you cant address the point. god as you believe it, forbid adultery. right, we agree on that point? then why was it okay for j smith to engage in adultery if you truly think he was god’s prophet on earth? wouldnt the prophet have maybe obeyed one of the primary rules? forget about polygamy, only a numbskull would try to argue the benefits of that, i am talking about ADULTERY, not polygamy as you keep repeating.

  35. otto —

    Joseph Smith believed in plural marriage (polygamy) both polygyny and polyandry. He was sealed to the women he slept with. Adultery (na’aph) is having sex a woman who is married, but not to you. Incidentally the latin adulterium also has that not bidirection meaning. Joseph Smith married these women prior to having intercourse. But D&C 132 is pretty clear that Joseph Smith claims general authority for plural marriage. When Joseph Smith had sex with Emma it wasn’t adultery because she was married to him. Similarly for all the others.

    As an aside Moses is also a polygamist: Numbers 12:1.

  36. smith only came up with this polygamy nonsense where the angel moron supposedly came to him extolling the virtues of plural marriage AFTER he was caught sleeping with already married women. AFTER, not before, so what seems to be your weird legal argument (like “i didnt inhale” or “it depends upon what the word is, is”) holds no water. he commited adultery.

    he commited adultery any which way you want to argue. doesnt mean mormonism is bad or mitt romney should have to condemn his faith’s previous adherence to insitutionalized racism. it means joseph smith was an adulterer. accept it.

  37. otto —

    The first visit of Moroni was September 21, 1823. What already married woman had he slept with before that?

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about.

  38. he was caught having affairs with multiple wives of his followers before he revealed his edict about plural marriage or took on any plural wives. there are written accounts of complaints by his followers detailing this.

    i was making a joke about the visit by the angel moron (i used moron instead of moroni, get it?). i know he was never visited by any angels on any date. do you believe in santa claus, too?

  39. CD Host,

    I’m done talking about this. Dont really care about Mormonism or any religion for that matter. I’m sure you’re a nice person and I admire your faith. I only got involved in discussing this because of what I find to be blatant hypocrisy in judging others behavior while refusing to acknowledge similar bad behavior by your own church’s creator. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were just two guys with leadership skills who craved power. No different from similar personalities today. But they were mortal men with huge moral flaws. You are attempting to explain away or sweep under the rug these flaws. That’s wrong. People should always be told the truth so they can decide for themselves what to think and believe, not just a portion of the facts so they can be herded like sheep in a pen.

  40. CD,

    I think Otto is talking about the vision described in the Journal of Discourses 20:29. I am not sure of the date of that particular vision.

    The Targum of Ruth (4:6) has this passage:

    “The redeemer replied: “In that case, I cannot redeem it; because I have a wife, I am not permitted to take another one in addition to her, lest the result be quarrel in my home, and I will be destroying my own possession. You redeem it, since you have no wife; for I am unable to do so.””

    But more than one person has gotten into trouble over polygamy.

  41. Gundek —

    The date on 20:29 is July 7, 1878 delivered by Joseph F. Smith. He claims that Joseph Smith knew about plural marriage earlier than 12th day of July, 1843. “perhaps as early as 1832”, and that Oliver Cowdery took his first plural wife at that point. I’m not sure what that proves since Moroni is still 9 years earlier even if Joseph F is right.

    As for Ruth 4:6 the point of Ruth was the redemption theme by marriage. In terms of 4:6 and the elder rejecting a plural marriage that unnamed kinsmen is a negative character. Hence the reason Ruth needed to offer herself. You’ll notice removes his sandal which is a negative thing he’s admitting that he is not fulfilling his next of kin duty. Boaz incidentally agrees not to lay permanent claim to the land but to redeem it…. You can’t read that story as approving of the kinsmen’s actions.

  42. It proves that Joseph’s sword bearing angel demanding he practice polygamy visit was after the 1828 Moroni visit. Nothing more, nothing less. It leaves open of course if Joseph was sleeping around prior to the sword visit.

    There are any number of problems with your take on Ruth, the first being that she was a Moabite and neither the unnamed redeemer or Boaz were under any obligation to marry a Moabite. Second this cannot be considered a Levirate marriage because Levirate marriage is only applicable when “brothers dwell together”. Third, the removal of the sandal is describes as the custom for “redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction” has the unnamed redeemer voluntarily remove his sandal and lacks the spitting in the face described in Deuteronomy 25:9. Reading this in context I don’t think the unnamed redeemer comes off all that bad, in fact since neither redeemer was technically obligated to Ruth, Boaz looks all the better.

  43. In terms of Ruth, Ruth 3:12-13 he identifies the process as acting as kinsmen, and indicates because of this he can’t step up until her closer relative declines. So it appears that in an intermarried situation it might have been seen to apply to Moabites, or at least in the context of the story it does.

    The practice is regulated in Islam and still has residues in Judaism today. While I think it is dangerous to draw conclusions from the time or Ruth from modern Judaism the yibbum / halizah system does not require co-residence, but does have 6 criteria. Nor does the system being altered in the Qu’ran. So I think there is good reason to believe that the system did still exist Hellenestic era when Ruth was authored and I don’t think it has the same criteria you mention. Jews don’t believe in sola scriptura.

    As for Joseph F’s comment proving anything I’m still not following. Joseph F is placing the date that Oliver Cowdery took his plural wife in 1832 and is speculating that Joseph Smith Jr knew about plural wives then. He is definitely asserting that it was before 1843.

    First off, Joseph F could just be wrong. He is talking about events that occurred prior to his birth. I think the JoD proves what the LDS church was teaching about plural marriage in 1878 as the practice is waning, I don’t think it is proving much about what happened in the 20s-40s. Secondly the report of the sword angel and command about destruction came from Lorenzo Snow is reporting on events that occurred between 1839 and 1843 (when he was in England). And of course Lorenzo Snow is telling Joseph F this in 1878 and we are getting Joseph F’s version of Lorenzo Snow’s version of what Joseph Jr told him. As an aside the earliest claim we have is William W. Phelps who put the date he heard about plural marriage at July 17, 1831. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (wife 9) also puts the date in 1831. Ezra Booth puts it at 8 December 1831, though specifically a doctrine of plural marriages with natives which never became church doctrine.

    That being said, Otto’s original claim was that the plural wives were prior to Moroni (1823) which means that Joseph Smith was having adulterous affairs prior to being 18 and four years prior to his even being married at all, i.e. to Emma. Even if we say that Fanny Alger was Joseph’s first plural marriage, and there is good reason to believe that, then Joseph Smith started practicing plural marriage at the earliest in 1836 not before 1823 which was the original claim.

    I think the evidence is pretty clear that the LDS’ version of events is mostly true. Somewhere around 1831 Joseph Smith starts teaching this practice privately, mostly to his inner circle but no one acts on it. 1836 Joseph gets Fanny pregnant and he claims they were previously sealed. He secretly marries Harris in 1838 and openly marries Beaman in 1841 when the practice becomes open.

  44. I agree any conclusions drawn by comparing the exact legal practices laid out in Leviticus (kinsman-redeemer) or Deuteronomy (Levirate marriage) are simply speculation. Ruth is a narrative, intent on showing God’s providential care for the line of David, not a legal case study. It is obvious that the redeeming and exchanging custom described in Ruth is not the same as described in Deuteronomy and the kinsman obligations don’t fall exactly into line with Leviticus, where marriage is not required. If you date Ruth late, one can reasonably speculate that the redeeming and exchanging custom had fallen out of practice, requiring explanation (4:7), and the unnamed redeemer is not specifically condemned for his choice in this explanation.

    I thought the Targum Rendering of Ruth 4:6 was in interesting insight of the practice of polygamy in the post second temple era. I’m really not all that interested in Mormon polygamy, the main line Mormons don’t practice it, currently, and if a person accepts Smith was a prophet, I would expect the will also accept the correlated historical accounts and explanations for the practice. It an unproductive dialog.

    I’m glad you are so informed about Mormon polygamy, but I still think Otto was referring to the second polygamous sword angel and not the first Moroni visit. Look at the pejorative spelling in reference to the angel Moroni and his later explanation.

  45. i cant wait to get away from this discussion, but i had a feelign cd host was going to lie again about what i am saying so i had to take a peek and lo and behold! cd host lied again.

    i did not say j smith had an adulterous affair before a visit by the angel moroni in 1823 which i guess was when these ancient golden tablets were revealed to him (do you guys really believe this stuff? i mean REALLY believe this stuff?). i made a joke about the angel MORON visting him and telling him about the holiness and righteousness of polygamy. it was a joke about an angel named moron, instead of moroni, giving him the okay to have sex with his followers wives. i made it up and was not referring to this real (wink, wink sure) visit by this real (wink, wink sure) angel moroni visit.

    the truth is, which cd host refuses to wrap his brain around, j smoth had documented affairs with married followers of his BEFORE he had taken a plural wife and BEFORE he had revealed his revelation regarding plural marriage to his inner circle. to put it bluntly, once again for cd host, j smith got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and only then did he become an advocate for plural marriage. first came the cheating on his wife with married female followers, then came plural marriage. first adultery, then plural marriage. get it yet, cd host?

  46. Otto —

    j smoth had documented affairs with married followers of his BEFORE he had taken a plural wife and BEFORE he had revealed his revelation regarding plural marriage to his inner circle

    Except he didn’t. Lucinda Harris is the first married woman he is documented to have touched. She doesn’t become a Mormon until 1834 which is 2-3 years after members of his inner circle claim to have heard him discuss the plural marriage revelation. They don’t live in the same state until another 4 years after that. Sarah Pratt, founder of the Anti-Polygamy Society knew of the plural marriage when it happened in 1838. So even the people opposed to polygamy don’t agree with your nonsense.

    And incidentally her other husband (George Harris) moved his home close to Joseph Smith to keep Lucinda available to him. So, yet again a pack of lies.

  47. Gundek —

    I date Ruth to the Hellenistic period, the themes seem very late about kindness and Jew-by-choice. If I had to guess I’d assume when it was authored that that polygamy was dead because it was so looked down upon by Roman and Greek custom. I think there was likely as much of it in 1st century palestine as there is today in the United States. In the rest of the Jewish Greek world essentially none. We have a pretty good idea of what actual practice was from that period.

    Though interestingly there was a lot of bigamy. I’m kinda unclear in a situation where bigamy is not criminal what the distinction is between bigamy and polygyny to be honest. If I had to guess I’d assume it meant serial marriage without going through the a Jewish divorce. I’m think POSSLQs that don’t get divorced. But it could be a problem mainly with women which you still have in the Jewish community today where woman who would otherwise be agunah move and pretend to be widows.

    Anyway I don’t find it at all implausible that the Targum translator of Ruth (and possibly even the author of Ruth) found polygamy morally repulsive.

  48. believe what you wish if that makes your faith stronger. it should have no bearing on it. the mormon religion and people have been very successful. mormons are much less prone to many of societies ills such as drug and alcohol abuse because of their church’s teachings. they seem to be very family oriented as well which is the admirable thing a people can be.

    you are strictly referring to information that the mormon chruch has released to you. the church has been buying up incriminating documents about j smith, b young and the church itself for many decades. do you honestly think that god told j smith plural marriage was a good thing and only then did j smith have sex outside of his marriage? he was a faithful man but only was unfaithful because god told him to be? that makes absolutely no sense. you are obviously articulate, so you can’t be stupid. there are eyewitness accounts and complaints about j smith’s adultery before you state it was first detailed.

    you also neglect to address smith’s bank fraud and his encouragement of US currency counterfeiting. you can love and admire j smith without putting your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the man’s moral failings. b young on the other hand. not such a nice guy. if you try to defend a guy who ordered massacres on innocent transcontinental settlers who were naive enough to travel through his turf, then you yourself have moral failings. .

  49. do you honestly think that god told j smith plural marriage was a good thing and only then did j smith have sex outside of his marriage?

    That’s an entirely different question. Your earlier question was on whether Joseph Smith formulated and taught a doctrine of plural marriage prior to having sex with woman who were already married to other men. Whether he had a discussion with God, made it up or talked with ghost of kermit the frog is not a historically verifiable question. That is a question of faith.

    What is not a question of faith, but a question of objective factual history is the order of events. And it is on these objectively verifiable issues on which we have multiple witnesses, supporting documentation and consistent verified timelines that you have been repeatedly shown to be wrong. The only faith I’ve shown in this discussion is faith that 1838 happened after 1834 and 1823. The person who has been making constant appeals to faith is you. For example:

    there are eyewitness accounts and complaints about j smith’s adultery before you state it was first detailed.

    From whom? Which adulteries? When? Why should I have faith in these “eyewitness accounts” that you keep claiming to know about?

    As for “released by the church” that would be a good argument. However, Sarah Pratt was not a member of the LDS church she was an excommunicated critic who ran anti-polygamy group. That’s what I mentioned when I cited her as dating the marriage to 1838. Obviously one has to be careful about using church sources as they might fulfill an apologetic function but when church sources agree with testimony from their harshest critics that is genuine evidence.

    you also neglect to address smith’s bank fraud and his encouragement of US currency counterfeiting

    The fact is a huge number of the silver banks in Ohio and almost all the banks in Michigan (which used the same system) failed during the 1837 panic. The United States would never have a state banking system again like it had had prior to 1837. Out of 850 banks in the United States, 343 closed entirely, 62 failed partially. The Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company wasn’t even a legal bank, so I don’t think the bank failure should be a point of shame for Mormons.

    I think it is fair to accuse Mormon leaders of the time of being locofocos in their political orientation at the time. I think it is certainly fair to say that the Whigs, won their battle with Jackson in 1836-7 and the Mormons were on the wrong side. The Mormons become Whigs by the next year so you can even make a case they learned from their mistakes.

    In terms of the crimes you mentioned, the most obvious response is that there was no bank fraud because Joseph Smith never ran a legal bank at all. As far as KSSABC it was in line with the sort of speculation that existed in American 1836. Joseph Smith had a severe cash flow problem he tried to solve it in the way many other municipal leaders tried to solve their problems in Ohio, and he failed in the same way as many other municipal leaders. A fairly good treatment of what exactly happened with KSSABC is Dale Adam’s article

    Counterfeiting is an outright fabrication on your part. He was never remotely involved in counterfeiting or anything like it. Quite simply I see no evidence you know anything about Joseph Smith nor any evidence that you know any real history at all.

    I can make up charges out of thin air about anyone.

  50. So, in your opinion it’s appropriate for “prophets” of God to run con games with magic stones, have sexual intercourse with dozens if not hundreds of married women while being married already, open their own bank, have a private armed militia, and order the execution of innocent civliians? Sounds more like Jim Jones or David Koresh than Jesus to me.

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