Five Possible Reactions to Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

New York Times Front Page Joseph Smith PolygamyThe LDS church has recently taken a big step in respect to the life of Joseph Smith by publicly admitting that Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives, that some of his wives were married to other men, and that some of his wives were as young 14 years old.  The Church’s essays on these things at times strain credulity in offering a faith-promoting narrative and occasionally distort the evidence to favor Smith.  But nonetheless, the Church should be congratulated for taking this first big step in accepting the basic facts.

A friend asked me what this could mean in terms of accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet. I have seen 5 general reactions that I think are possible for the institutional Church to adopt as it moves forward.  They are listed in here in order of trust in Joseph Smith.

1) So What.  If God commanded him to do it, it doesn’t matter what he did. Any action ordained by God is righteous and Joseph was ordered to do all of these things. (This was the Church’s stance toward Smith while Brigham Young was Prophet of the Church and of the polygamous Mormon sects of today.)

2) No Sex. Joseph married these women and it looks creepy but he didn’t have earthly sex with them, his carnal knowledge is in Eternity only. It was Brigham Young who brought sex into polygamy. Implicit in this reaction is that if Smith was having sex with girls 20 years younger than himself or married it other men, it would be a problem. (The Church will try this as long as it can but the historical record doesn’t bear it out. The Church is already in conflict on this by simultaneously saying that the purpose of polygamy was to raise up a righteous seed.)

3) He Was a Fallen Prophet. Joseph eventually fell into sin and abused his position and power as prophet.  We hope he repented before his death but the good things he gave us still stand and are useful for pursuing God. (This is the stance of the Henderickites who own the Temple Lot in Independence, MO. They maintain the Book of Mormon and the general church structure and mode of worship established by Smith.)

4) No Religion Is True, So Stick With What You Know.  This has become popular among the so-called “Pastoral Mormon Apologists” like Adam Miller and Teryl Givens. They don’t outright say it like that but that’s the heart of their argument.  If you’re comfortable remain comfortable and we’ll just slowly reform the things we don’t like. (The Community of Christ, formerly the RLDS, largely took up this and stance #3 in the last 15-20 years. They are now practically indistinguishable from the Mainline Protestant Denominations. Liberal zeitgeist seems to be the greatest source of inspiration and instruction).

5) Repentance. Fully acknowledging the sins of Joseph Smith and the institutional Church’s fault in promoting Joseph Smith and his teachings followed up by a massive and painful reformation. (This was what the stance the non-Mormon Worldwide Church of God took toward their founder in the late ’90s.)

Each of these positions carry risk and most certainly a loss of membership. I think we can look at November 2014 as a watershed moment in the history of Mormonism.

Advertisements

242 thoughts on “Five Possible Reactions to Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

  1. What I was implicitly or explicitly taught as a member of the church is essentially #1: that it is a mystery what happened between Joseph and all the women, but it did not change the value of his teachings, i.e. the Book of Mormon is still true.

    This was essentially Brigham Young’s view:

    “I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against “Joe Smith,” saying, “that he was a mean man, a liar, money digger, gambler, and a whoremaster;” and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor’s wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it. He said, “I have done.””

    Of course I was a raised as a Mormon with essentially full disclosure about all of these things. This position worked for me for quite a while, and it informed the way I saw every other author of scripture.

    My guess is that the Church will follow a combination of 1 and 4 and the two views will be sprinkled throughout the membership. It will reform, but the Church will follow the conservative Zeitgeist rather than the liberal one. This seems to have been the general trajectory of the Church for the past 20 years. Conservative values have made a much bigger impact on the church than Joseph’s scriptures.

  2. Yeah, I think in retrospect I should have written #6, which would be: Teach 1-4 based on the necessity of the occasion and bounce between them fluidly regardless of consistency or compatibility between them.

  3. I wouldn’t expect anything less out of the man. But he’d probably say that he was just following the holy spirit.

    People will always fall prey to these sorts of charlatans. In the name of religion.

  4. I wouldn’t expect anything less out of the man.

    Would you expect anything less out of any man, the miserable fallen creatures that they are?

  5. And actually the historical record DOES bear out that Joseph didn’t have any sex with the following two classes of wives:

    1. the underage ones

    2. the ones already married to other men

    And let’s be honest here – those are the only two classes where anyone cares whether Joseph had sex with his wives or not. If you can prove he was sleeping with other men’s wives or 15 year olds, you nail Joseph.

    If all you can prove is that he probably slept with a few of his other brides – it’s frankly a big disappointment of a criticism against Joseph Smith.

    See, what you did here Tim was try to change arguments that Joseph Smith didn’t have sex with the two groups I listed to “he didn’t have sex with any of his wives except Emma”. This is called a straw man.

    But the apologetic has never been that Joseph never had sex with anyone but Emma. The apologetic is that he didn’t have sex with 14 or 15 years olds, and secondly – didn’t have sex with already-married women. These marriages definitely seem to have been mostly symbolic and never consummated.

    Which makes a big difference.

    As for if he slept with any of the other women… Honestly, who cares?

    Although I will say that I personally would prefer that he slept with at least a couple of them who seemed to have a fully intimate enough connection with him for that to be appropriate treatment of the woman in question. Eliza Roxy Snow for instance.

  6. Seth, can you help me understand, why would it be okay for Smith to have sex with some of his polygamous wives but not others if God commanded him to marry them? Why would it be okay to have sex with a 15 year old but not a 14 year old? Why would it be okay to have sex with sisters but not women married to other men?

  7. I’m just saying – it’s precisely the most controversial cases where the evidence for sex is the weakest. And I wasn’t pulling an age line – it’s usually the critics of Joseph Smith who do that.

    Personally, I definitely think there are a few ethical problems with sex with girls that young – even in the cultural context of 1840s frontier America, so the evidence that he didn’t have such relations with them is helpful. I also think there are ethical and moral problems with having sex with women already peacefully married to other men. So the lack of evidence of sexual relations there is also helpful for viewing Joseph Smith as a generally moral individual on the balance.

    So yes – it matters.

    But I don’t consider polygamy per se to be particularly immoral in and of itself. So I don’t mind the prospect of sexual relations with the women who do not fall into those two categories. On the contrary, I’d almost expect it.

  8. I also think there are ethical and moral problems with having sex with women already peacefully married to other men.

    Why is it okay for Joseph to take away the sealing of a married man eternally but not temporally? It seems Joseph took more from these men in the long run than the short.

    Why is it okay for a married man to have sex with multiple women, but it’s not okay for a married woman to have sex with multiple women? It seems to be an inherently sexist double-standard.

    I’m glad to hear that you think there are ethical and moral problems with some of these allegations, but if you weren’t raised Mormon would you see ethical and moral problems with polygamy? It seems the justification that “God commanded it” is just as righteous for polygamy as polyandry and teenage brides.

  9. I’m interesting in where this “evidence” of Smith NOT having sex with women he took as wives. And why did Emma care if they were just sealed for eternity if they weren’t having sex with him. Also, it wasn’t just that the girls were underage (though that is enough), but that they were living under his roof in a sort of foster child arrangement. Then he coerced them to marry him. If it were just “for eternity”, why the force?

  10. Jolee, wouldn’t you care if your husband was marrying another woman – even if you knew he wasn’t having sex? And wouldn’t you be worried he might really be doing it? And anyway, is sex all that marriage is or the only thing important about it?

    I can imagine all sorts of reasons for Emma to be unhappy with it besides sex.

    On the foster-child thing – you need to be specific. Which individuals are you talking about?

    You can’t just lump all the women into one unified narrative here.

  11. Aaron, it’s good to keep in mind that people didn’t usually file for formal divorce in frontier America back then. Usually, the woman (or man) just left, both considered themselves “through” – and they moved on to another town and just remarried without even bothering to get a judge to rule on it.

    Don’t assume the world back then worked the same as the one you live in.

  12. “but if you weren’t raised Mormon would you see ethical and moral problems with polygamy?”

    Well Tim, seeing as how it took me quite a while to come around to seeing the ethical and moral problems of homosexuality – I would say odds are pretty good I wouldn’t have been too fussed about polygamy even if I wasn’t a Mormon.

    Some people are just naturally more chill about things than others it seems.

  13. I suppose he might be picking the Old Testament because those are the only prophet-examples of polygamists we have?

  14. Smith believed that he was restoring the law of marriage from the Old Testament in an improved or perfected form. The Levitical law allowed for men to own women as wives; concubines; and slaves -all were available to the owner for his sexual use. Joseph’s behavior and teaching were tame compared to the sexual practices of multitudes of Christians that followed a form of this women-as-chattel law until well into the twentieth century.

    Given the history, its hardly fair for Christians to see Joseph’s sex life as a fatal flaw in his theology or inspiration. (It is not as if the traditional church fathers were enlightened enough to authoritatively free women from this sort of misuse.)

  15. Thanks for the clarification Jared. I think the difference is that the OT characters were living out a cultural practice of polygamy rather than a Biblical practice. At times the OT defines some parameters around polygamy (like don’t marry a mother and daughter) but no where does it recommend or encourage the practice. For certain there is no place in the OT that declares polygamy to be an everlasting covenant or a path to salvation. The polygamist in the Bible are flawed as polygamist.

    In the NT you start seeing a conscious move away from the practice entirely. Paul specifically declares that a church leader can not be a polygamist.

    I’m fine with Joseph Smith being a flawed and imperfect character as a prophet. But his behavior is something foreign to Biblical prophets. First, he begins the practice of polygamy well before he has any dictate from God to do so. Not only that but he even begins polygamy before he knows anything of the practice of family sealings. Second his practice of polygamy is in strong violation of the Biblical standards AND his own revelation. This appears to be someone using the mantle of prophet to justify his own actions. He never repents of this behavior but instead makes it prescriptive for the rest of the church.

    Joseph the womanizing-prophet might be fine. Joseph the righteous-because-he-was-a-womanizing-prophet is something inconsistent with the Bible.

  16. Seth is correct to the extent that the most problematic of Joseph Smith’s relationships are the ones we are in the weakest position to assume as being sexual in nature (with the possible exception of Fanny Alger). Just for the sake of argument, I’m going to assume, however, that Smith made some serious errors in his implementation of polygamy. Besides, even if there were no sexual transgressions, Smith’s treatment of Emma isn’t defensible and is contrary to the image the church has painted of him.

    On a personal level, I’m reasonably comfortable enough with some variation of option 4 (despite Tim’s cynical description). As far as I’ve been able to find, God does his work only through flawed people, so for Smith to be less than perfect, perhaps even far less than perfect, isn’t a surprise. So were many of the Biblical heroes; their flaws don’t negate the important contributions they made to the faith. Smith himself predicted that those with authority would abuse it, and I assume he had himself in mind as much as anyone when he said that.

    It just isn’t a surprise that people of God, even those called as church leaders, will make mistakes, In fact, we should expect it. On an institutional level, that’s what we need to acknowledge.

    Whether a “massive reformation” is needed, I don’t know. But the church culture, of which the leaders are a key part and for which they bear the greatest responsibility, has promoted a narrative that almost deifies Smith and even the current prophets and apostles. To the extent that we anchor our lives on our church leaders rather than on Christ, we are certain to be disappointed, or worse.

    Earlier this month I attended an out-of-town sacrament meeting on a testimony Sunday. While there were a few uplifting testimonies that I certainly appreciated, there were more testimonies of Joseph Smith as prophet than there were of Jesus Christ as Savior. This is just wrong on so many levels, and this was after the publication of the polygamy essay.

    The Atonement is at the center of LDS theology. What would be helpful would be for the leaders to demonstrate what the Atonement has done for them, and that doesn’t come about when the direction of the church is to treat them as de facto infallible. Come to think of it, “massive reformation” might not be an overstatement of what’s needed. Such a change in approach would be a huge shift in culture, but a necessary one.

  17. Joseph the righteous-because-he-was-a-womanizing-prophet is something inconsistent with the Bible.

    Sure, and as history has shown, it is inconsistent with Mormonism. Very few practiced polygamy in the completely unregulated way Joseph did. Explaining it psychologically, which I believe the Church is free to do relatively consistently, it makes sense that he would fall into the errors of Gyges. When his polygamy was in its heyday had complete freedom, no accountability, and was incredibly charismatic. It took a mob to bring him very painfully down to earth. Most charismatic preachers in America today don’t have their own judges and armies backing them up. I am sure that that sort of freedom was intoxicating.

  18. It actually took several mobs, several attempts to put an end to him. As Bushman convincingly pointed out, the final mob was fueled by contempt for Joseph’s polygamy.

  19. I’m glad that the church has made this public statement. Not so much because I think it was hidden before–I was always well aware of the history of the church and always a bit baffled at the people who denied it. It is nice now because if anybody denies it, they can be pointed towards official church statements.

    I’m curious about how one has evidence that Joseph Smith did not consummate some of his marriages? How does historical evidence bear out who he was or was not having sex with?

    The thing that bothered me about polygamy (aside from the fact that Kullervo could theoretically marry multiple women in the temple, and I could not) was the lying. When polygamy was the deciding factor over statehood, the leaders of the church said that they were going to stop it for fear of being killed or not becoming a state or furthering God’s plan or whatever. But they continued practicing it and lied about it. They published articles saying that it was done, while continuing to marry other people.

    To my knowledge, there are no other examples in the Bible (or the Book of Mormon) about God telling people to lie, or God condoning people lying on his behalf. In fact, I’ve seen many more examples of people honestly proclaiming God’s truth, and God protecting them for it (Daniel and the lions), or comforting them when the world ganged up on them (Paul). And I’ve seen examples of God being pretty disappointed when people lied to save their behinds (Peter denying Jesus).

    So, the lying has always bothered me. What with God being all powerful and all, it seemed like if polygamy was part of His plan, He could totally support the practitioners. If it was not His plan, or not instrumental, or fine to abandon to gain statehood, then they should have stopped when they said they stopped. But I just don’t understand a situation where it would be okay to lie about it. It bothered me so much that it was instrumental in me going back to God and asking about whether this was the right church for me. (The answer was no.)

  20. Just reading the D&C or hearing a standard LDS approach to Mormon history would make a claim of JS receiving revelation from God in a fairly direct way. But the record (true or not) is a much different story. From the very beginning, this guy was experimenting – trying stuff out. Some stuff seemed to work really well (BoM is a candidate). Others, it looks like he botched (polygamy). In this way, I see him very much like the Abraham/Moses/Jeremiah model of a prophet.

    As long as we can accept that God calls deeply flawed servants, and uses them for his purposes in spite of their sinfulness – not using their own character as a measure, but the character of God – we’ll be fine.

  21. Its very easy to rationalize lying, if you think the cause is noble. An easy one is Nazi’s knocking on your door asking you if you’re the only ones in the house. Do you tell them about the Jews in the attic? Of course you don’t. I don’t think God disapproves of that lie.

    Maybe we can imagine how a truly persecuted people might feel back then- the feds knocking on your door, asking if your polygamous father and provider of the family is home. Not terribly difficult to rationalize.

  22. I get what you’re saying though katy. Why didn’t they just stop? Like they said they would? I think breaking up those families took time.

  23. I’m curious about how one has evidence that Joseph Smith did not consummate some of his marriages?

    There is a certain amount of absurdity in saying “You can’t prove that man had sex with his wife.”

  24. CJ said:

    As long as we can accept that God calls deeply flawed servants, and uses them for his purposes in spite of their sinfulness – not using their own character as a measure, but the character of God – we’ll be fine.

    But what are you doing with the scriptures that were produced to defend and justify a prophet’s sinfulness?

  25. If you’re referring to D/C, it seems to defend polygamy, but not every form of the practice, certainly not the full scope of Joseph’s deeds.

  26. No Tim, I actually don’t think there’s any absurdity at all in saying a man didn’t have sex with his wife in this instance.

    Katy, the evidence in at least the instances of women already married to other men was that the sealings happened with full knowledge and consent of the husband in question – and the woman in question immediately went back to live with her existing husband.

    It’s kind of obvious nothing went on and something other than what you or I am thinking of took place in those weddings.

  27. Besides, pointing out absurdity is usually the lazy path of argumentation.

    Because the fact of the matter is – life IS absurd. It IS unlikely. It IS improbable. So your feelings of absurdity frankly don’t count for any more than some random atheist making contemptuous remarks about “zombie Jesus” or what have you.

  28. I think the evidence is pretty clear that Joseph most likely slept with more than one of his wives, but not all of his wives. What is also pretty clear is that Joseph did not feel like it was a sin to have sex with his wives, nor did it diminish his capacity as a prophet.

    Also, as a side note that may have some relevance, marriage itself was not a ritual practice in the U.S. at the time, especially along the frontier. Being a wife was synonymous with filling a certain job description rather than an office bestowed by official legal authority. Joseph’s idea of spiritual wives was different in that it was not defined in terms of filling a role, but in receiving a sort of priesthood right to participate in the eternal family of the prophet.

  29. the evidence in at least the instances of women already married to other men was that the sealings happened with full knowledge and consent of the husband in question – and the woman in question immediately went back to live with her existing husband.

    Seth, in general I try to avoid arguing specific details with you, but I’ve seen you emphatically state this a couple of times and it’s not totally true. Yes, all the women continued to live with their first husbands, (they were polyandrous). Yes it is true that SOME of the men knew that this was taking place. But it is not true that ALL of them were aware of it. Some of them were out of town on missions and didn’t find out until after the fact. Not all of the husbands had full knowledge nor gave consent.

  30. For the active Mormons, just curious: If I showed evidence that Brigham Young had sex with polyandrous wives and/or young teenage girls would it matter to you?

  31. “marriage itself was not a ritual practice in the U.S. at the time”

    That is the oddest statement I think I have ever seen used in a discussion of polygamy.

  32. “For the active Mormons, just curious: If I showed evidence that Brigham Young had sex with polyandrous wives and/or young teenage girls would it matter to you?”

    No. My personal convictions regarding the church do not rest on the details of how plural marriage was practiced.

  33. J. Smith’s biggest sin isn’t his sexual transgressions. But his denial that Christ was the Living God and that the Cross accomplished everything needful for sinners…for people like J. Smith.

    J. Smith cooked up that religion out of a work of science fiction that he “borrowed”. It’s typical, run of the mill, man-made religion. that puts man at the center and makes the self into a god.

    Nothing new…at all.

    Unlike the gospel…which is radically new and something that humans would never have cooked up on their own.

  34. Thanks especially to Tim, Eric, and Seth R. for your extensive and revealing information.

    We’re glad in this corner that God is working in the hearts of LDS leaders to come clean.

  35. Is that supposed to be a snarky taunt Cal?

    There is no “coming clean” here – because the LDS Church never hid Joseph Smith’s polygamy in the first place. The worst you can say about them is that they didn’t advertise the fact. And even that is an understandable choice – because we don’t currently practice polygamy, and there were other priorities in the curriculum than detailed historical exploration. I’m happy that this is being emphasized however – because it means within about 5 years – all the people griping about secrecy and lies are going to look fairly stupid and irrelevant.

    And that’s a fairly good thing.

  36. Tim, the only way to have a really useful discussion of Nauvoo polygamy is to deal with the wives on a case-by-case basis.

    So… which wife do you want to talk about first?

  37. As I said earlier, I try to avoid the discussion of historical details with you. That doesn’t mean I think they are irrelevant. It’s just that they distract from what I think are the more interesting questions and tend to enforce/prove our own biases.

  38. I’m happy that this is being emphasized however – because it means within about 5 years – all the people griping about secrecy and lies are going to look fairly stupid and irrelevant.

    What you should be most happy about is that MormonThink, UTLM, CES Letter and Signature Books are going to be “out of business” as a result of the LDS Church entering these discussions. They’ll very quickly become unneeded. The historical expose market is going to dry up.

  39. Discussion of polygamy without discussion of details is rather worthless in my opinion.

    It makes it easy to make sweeping generalizations like “Joseph Smith stole other men’s wives” when what you really mean is “Joseph Smith stole wife X”. Meaning that the statement doesn’t even apply to the rest of the women anyway. But your statement makes it sound like it does.

    And then whenever someone tries to argue for or against the proposition, the discussion gets muddled by piecing together either worst or best aspects of VARIOUS of Joseph’s marriages.

    There is no other useful way to talk about Nauvoo polygamy except analyzing the specific individual accounts. There is no use in looking at trends in this particular subject.

  40. I think the details are immensely important. But we approach the details from much different perspectives. For you these are “MUST I believe it?” questions. The normal human tendency when faced with a fact we don’t want to believe is to reject it with any and all available reasoning.

    Where as for me the question is “CAN I believe that Joseph was sexually inappropriate with the married women he married?” Since I already think that he was inappropriate by practicing polygamy all the other question marks about his sexual activities are filled in. I need the opposite kind of evidence that you do. I assume men have sex with their wives unless given evidence that contradicts that assumption.

    Because of those different perspectives I think the discussion of details will get tedious and be less than helpful. I think BOTH of us SHOULD go look at the details. If the details line up with my bias you’ll change your perspective as soon you can no longer hold a contrary opinion. If that happens my guess is that you’ll adopt position #1 since you’re already okay with polygamy and your faith is probably unmoved by Brigham Young doing the same things I’ve accused Smith of.

  41. I should add, if the details line up with your perspective I’ll still believe Joseph Smith introduced doctrines to justify to satisfy his own sexual urges because we agree he had sex with other women without Emma’s knowledge or consent.

  42. I only suggested that Joseph didn’t have sex with a lot of these women and that they were different sorts of marriage than we are used to BECAUSE the evidence indicated that was the case Tim.

    Before I encountered the evidence, I assumed that marriage meant sex too. It was only after I educated myself that I felt differently.

  43. “Its very easy to rationalize lying, if you think the cause is noble. An easy one is Nazi’s knocking on your door asking you if you’re the only ones in the house. Do you tell them about the Jews in the attic? Of course you don’t. I don’t think God disapproves of that lie.”

    Christian J–I’m not saying that there is no rational basis for it. But rather, what is the spiritual basis for it? Why is God okay with people lying? Whenever I asked this question when I was still LDS, the answer I got was that God told Abraham to lie (in the pearl of great price, which is a different story than what happened in the Biblical account). I’m not saying that people don’t lie, or even that there aren’t situations where lying would be appropriate.

    But people justified this lying to me by saying that that’s what God wanted, or what needed to happen in order to get Utah admitted as a state/in order to save the men from jail/whatever. But I disagree–God could make sure that those men were not jailed. God can make whatever He wants happen, so why were they forced to lie?

    And it’s not even that the polygamous marriages continued–they continued getting married to new people.

    As for the consummating of the marriages, I wasn’t in those bedrooms. But I think it’s disingenuous to assume that just because husbands sometimes knew about these sealings meant that there was no sex. Also, how do we have evidence that there was never sex with the young teenagers? A prophet of God tells you that since you’re married, you need to have sex with him, but you shouldn’t talk about it because it would be scandalous, just like Mary and Joseph didn’t advertise her pregnancy being of God and not of Joseph. You believe he has a red phone line to God, are you going to argue?

  44. But people justified this lying to me by saying that that’s what God wanted, or what needed to happen in order to get Utah admitted as a state/in order to save the men from jail/whatever. But I disagree–God could make sure that those men were not jailed. God can make whatever He wants happen, so why were they forced to lie?

    I think the main problem with this argument is that it assumes a view of God’s interaction with human forces that most people do not accept. Dishonesty is an inescapable part of politics. It can be reasonably said that Christianity, as an human institution, was preserved from its enemies through this sort of dishonesty. This is not to champion dishonesty, but to take a more realistic and charitable view of its place in preserving good over evil. (Some might say that the good-evil paradigm itself is founded on a certain intellectual dishonesty.)

  45. I am not as knowledgeable about post-Manifesto polygamy as other things, but since “God can make anything happen” can be an answer to anything really it is an answer to nothing at all. God could have just saved the Jews from Nazi Germany and prevented all the lies that were told to protect them, too.

    As far as evidence for non-sexual polygamous relationships, the ages of some of Joseph Smith’s wives (50+ years old) is one clue that at least some of the sealings functioned more a linking of families and individuals.

    Todd Compton argues that the marriage to 14 year-old Helen Mar Kimball was not consummated because of what she later wrote about becoming resentful of polygamy after being forbidden to attend dances and socialize with her friends after her marriage, whereas she under the impression that the marriage was for “eternity alone.” It’s very highly unlikely that she would have been mistaken about just how married she was if she’d had sex with the prophet. Brian Hales also points out that Helen Mar Kimball was not called upon to testify like other women in the Temple Lot Case, even though she was an avid defender of polygamy at the time.

    There is no other information about the other 14 year old Joseph married, but Compton argues that it was probably unconsummated also based on later Utah practice where men married teenagers but did not consummate the marriage until they became of age.

    The evidence of sexual relations that we do have all of come from women who were single and of typical marrying age.

  46. The argument is that God wanted Utah to become a state and it could not have happened otherwise. But, if they then stopped practicing it, why not stop when you say you have stopped? Did God really tell his prophets that they should lie to the world, keep practicing polygamy when they say they aren’t, and then tell them to stop less than a year later? Were the sealings that happened in that time so important to God’s plan? Maybe so. One could argue that. But the institutional lying bothers me. If an organization claims to be the one true way to God, but you can only trust them kind of–because they might be lying–it seems like a shaky link to salvation. An answer along the lines of “they were just men and they shouldn’t have lied” would have gone better with me, but nobody offered that as a solution.

    “As far as evidence for non-sexual polygamous relationships, the ages of some of Joseph Smith’s wives (50+ years old) is one clue that at least some of the sealings functioned more a linking of families and individuals.”
    So, I should expect my sex life to end when I become 50+? That’s sort of a bummer. Do women somehow become asexual when they hit 50? Or are they just repulsive to men? Obviously men would much rather have sex with a 15 year old than a 50 year old, right?

    The rampant rise of STDs in nursing homes would call this theory into question.

  47. I might be wrong but I believe that David Koresh and Jim Jones were having sex with women in their 50s. I’m guessing when a man has that many sexual partners at one time it’s more about power and conquest than attraction.

  48. Wow, you two are literally the first people I’ve ever heard argue for a sexual relationship with the 50+ year olds. Probably because no historian would extrapolate modern personalities and practices onto events that happened 150 years ago with a straight face.

    How about the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith after he was killed? Were those marriages about sexual conquest too?

  49. They clearly weren’t about sexual conquests but they were about the prestige of being sealed to Smith for the women and building the honor of a large celestial “harem” on behalf of Smith by his followers. (So yes, it was still about power.)

  50. And Brian Hales extrapolates all kinds of modern sexual attitudes on to events from 150 years ago. Are you saying he doesn’t have a straight face? The LDS Church essay on polygamy extends contemporary Mormon attitudes than even more than Hales.

  51. “Wow, you two are literally the first people I’ve ever heard argue for a sexual relationship with the 50+ year olds.”
    Wait–are you really, actually saying that people stop having sex with women when they turn 50? I’ve still got almost two decades before I get there, but I don’t plan to become celibate. Seriously. How about we remember that women have sexual needs too, even *gasp* after they hit 50?

    50 isn’t even that old!!!!!

    I just don’t see how age could possibly be a factor in deciding if the marriage was consummated. It just seems to me that it would be difficult to have evidence that two people did not have sex. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen, but that evidence supporting it would be hard to come by.

  52. They clearly weren’t about sexual conquests

    See? It’s not that hard to believe after all! FYI, teachings about celestial sex and procreation did not develop until decades later in Utah, however women began to be sealed to the prophet by proxy immediately after his death in Nauvoo. So saying Joseph or his followers were building a celestial “harem” at least during this era are problematic.

    And Brian Hales extrapolates all kinds of modern sexual attitudes on to events from 150 years ago.

    This statement is useless without examples.

  53. 50 isn’t even that old!!!!!

    It isn’t that old today, in 2014, with access to modern medicine, nutrition, and anti-aging products, sure, women are sexually active into their 50s and beyond and it’s not hard to imagine men in their late thirties wanting to have sex with them.

    But in the 1840s, on the American frontier, and where the theological purpose behind sex in plural marriage was for creating children –not so much. To argue for a sexual component in these relationships I think you would have to believe, like Tim, that Joseph Smith just wanted to have sex with anything that moved.

  54. I can only say you’re playing fast and loose with the term “sexual conquests” when you include in it – any relationship that merely involves prestige.

    Tim, I would say the opposite. I would say that sticking to general trends has a greater tendency to make the conversation slave to ideology and position-advocacy.

  55. Pingback: Faithful Mormons Respond to News of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy | Mormon Coffee

  56. The LDS Church says :

    Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone. Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

    There is a third category of married women who did make it known. Somehow the LDS Church left their testimony out of the essay.

    Patty Bartlett Sessions stated:

    “I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9 1842 in Newel K Whitneys chamber Nauvoo for time and all eternity.”

  57. Reading through most of these posts, I see one thing that has pretty much been ignored:

    why did the LDS church just now openly and fully admit and embrace the truth that Smith had up to 40 wives, whether he slept with them or not?

    I grant they did not deny it, but they certainly have been loath to talk about it. So, why the change of direction? What does that say about a church who supposedly gets its direction stright from God himself?

  58. So, why the change of direction?

    The quick answer is that staying silent on these historical issues was no longer sustainable. It finally made more sense to the powers that be to put the best possible spin on the facts than to allow the church’s critics to present the worst possible spin and go virtually unanswered.

    What does that say about a church who supposedly gets its direction [straight] from God himself?

    It’s God’s church, but a) God very seldom tells the leaders directly how to run things, and b) those who run it are imperfect human beings.

    I think Tim’s alternatives for the church are fairly logical (although No. 2 has already been rejected), although I’d organize the alternatives differently. I think the only two realistic alternatives are 1) to posit, essentially, that whatever Joseph Smith did he did because God told him to (kind of like Tim’s first alternative) and 2) to combine some elements of Tim’s 3, 4 and 5 by embracing Joseph Smith’s fallibility and saying, essentially, that if God can work through a flawed person such as Smith, God can also work through flawed people such as the rest of us today. Right now, the church seems to be pursuing a third approach, which is to hope everything blows ever, but I don’t think that can be sustained for long.

  59. Thanks for the answer, Eric. I agree that they had to come forward with something, but that only partially answers the 2nd question I posited. Why would the church allow misdirection on this for so long, and why would God, whose church the LDS supposedly restored, allow the manipulation of the image of the restorer of his true church?

    While I understand God moves through imperfect people, the move to protect Smith seems apart from God, and it has been fully embraced by church leadership for over 100 years. That Smith was imperfect does not negate the church’s reaction, which is a separate issue to Smith’s behavior.

  60. Why would the church allow misdirection on this for so long, and why would God, whose church the LDS supposedly restored, allow the manipulation of the image of the restorer of his true church?

    This question seems to be along the same lines as: “Why would God allow Pilate to crucify Jesus?”

  61. Or “Why would God allow Abraham to have more than one wife?” They are not really answerable by those who believe Abraham was a prophet, only guessed at.

  62. slowcowboy – probably because they got sick of online critics making an issue of it.

    Before the LDS Church stance was simply to focus on things that are currently believed and taught and ignore the unimportant historical peripherals. Of which they considered this topic one.

    But the noise became enough of a distraction that it needed to be publicly addressed. That’s all there is to their actions would be my guess.

  63. Seth, is the marriage situation of its founder a peripheral issue? By that, I mean to ask the issue of polygamy and its genesis and subsequent ending peripheral? As I recall, polygamy is still considered an issue one must agree to or not be allowed to reach exaltation.

    I am not sure that is peripheral.

  64. polygamy is still considered an issue one must agree to or not be allowed to reach exaltation.

    This is not true in Mormonism except in the sense that they believe that a person must submit to the will of God in all things. There is no requirement that you preemptively agree to what God could possibly will for you. You do not have to anticipate the revealed law.

  65. Well, the commandment still stands in the D&C, and as I understand, polygamy is still allowed in the afterlife.

    While the practice of polygamy no longer exists, the doctrine still stands. Correct me if I am wrong on that.

  66. You recall incorrectly. Re-read the D&C passage. It never anywhere says that all Mormons have to practice polygamy.

    And yes – it is currently peripheral to modern LDS practice.

  67. Seth, I am not suggesting they have to practice it. I am suggesting they have to be OK with it, as it is still a part of Mormon doctrine. As such, it is not merely peripheral, as someone who denies any possibility of polygamy is outside the mold of prescribed Mormon doctrine.

  68. Well, yeah – you do have to at least be OK with the things that God commands.

    Thing is – he’s not commanding this at the moment. And I personally think God is a bit merciful about people having misgivings about past trials that they themselves are not required to practice.

    Are you required to be OK with hypothetically sacrificing your son on an altar just because Abraham was required to by God in order to be saved?

    How relevant is that to your modern life of worship?

  69. Seth, what you seem to be missing is that polygamy is still ordered, even if not actively practiced. We may disagree on this point, but I still see polygamy as a current commandment. It has never been renounced or declared unnecessary. The only thing that changed is that it is not to be practiced in the present. God could, tomorrow, say that it is OK to practice it. And some within the LDS greater fold still do practice it, though I know you don’t consider them as part of your faith. And it is still possible, at present, for polygamy to exist in the afterlife.

    The point is that polygamy is still very much a part of Mormon doctrine and life. It may not be a part of your everyday life, but it is still a prominent part of Mormon theology and certainly not peripheral.

    Now, you ask whether I am OK with sacrificing my son at the alter? This was a one off situation wherein God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, and when Abraham was willing to do it, God called it off by providing the ram. There is no other instance in the Bible where we see God do this, and it is certainly not something that anyone in Judaism or Christianity still holds to. There is not a continuing belief that we are to sacrifice our sons.

    As to Abraham’s relevance in my life of worship, I must be ready to heed God’s call and be willing to put that which is most dear to me for Him. However, there is someone who has done all of that for me already: Jesus. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, remember, Christ was God’s son, on the cross, God made the very sacrifice He asked Abraham to make (its actually more than that, because God himself took the form of man through Jesus meaning that God sacrificed Himself on the cross). I don’t need to worry about having to do anything like that because of God’s final sacrifice for me.

    This is a very different proposition to what Mormons state about polygamy, which has not disappeared and is still practiced in the afterlife. It remains something that could be called upon by its followers now or in the future. Whether you focus on it daily is of little import as to its prominence in Mormon theology.

    By the way, its OK if we disagree on its importance. I doubt you will ever grant that it is an important part of your faith, but it is entirely plausible that it remains an important feature of Mormon faith.

  70. Actually, you’ll find among active Mormons that I’m one who actually places more importance on the doctrine of polygamy than most Mormons. And I’ve always been a fan of what I think polygamy adds to our theology.

    But even I don’t view it as central – mainly because I view normal lay membership as having a limited attention span. It’s honestly all the LDS Church can do to preach faith, repentance, baptism and a few other key doctrines that we’d probably both agree are more central and relevant to Mormon life and worship.

    Honestly, I just don’t think there’s enough attention to go around to cover everything we’d like to cover (and I am one of those who wishes we would cover topics like polygamy and such). You gotta focus on the Atonement before you get to have chats about other stuff. Just my take on it.

  71. Seth, what I get from your last two posts is that its not important because people don’t get it or are not aware of it, or simply more concerned with the faith, repentance, baptism, etc. Its an interesting position, but a bit simplistic and convenient. I don’t mean to be critical there, but rather honest. Why? Because acceptance of polygamy is still part of Mormon doctrine, and as such it should be forthrightly told to everyone practicing Mormonism. Its really a matter of full disclosure.

    My view of religion is that everything should be on the table all at once. Any sort of progressive teaching can be manipulated. God has revealed everything to us and should be readily available. Further, every doctrine is important and should not be dismissed. Sure, there are practices that we can disagree on (from a Christian perspective, two examples are the mode of baptism and the form of communion), but the doctrine behind them is more strict.

    Putting that into a Mormon perspective, polygamy is still doctrine. Whether folks get this, or even focus on it or not, its still true that polygamy remains doctrine. And because it is doctrine, not merely practice, it remains an important aspect of Mormonism.

    Now, I said above that acceptance of polygamy is required for exaltation. I still believe that is true, even if it is also true that it does not take a high place in the pantheon of Mormon belief.

  72. No, what you should be getting is that there are other things to talk about that are a LOT more important than this is. And the LDS Church can’t really be blamed for focusing on those things.

    Really, if there weren’t a lot of noise from critics disturbing the peaceful worship of the saints, I doubt the LDS Church would even be devoting a lot of curriculum space to this subject even now – and I’d probably be in large agreement with them.

  73. Seth, I appreciate your position, but no matter how you emphasize it, I see polygamy as being swept under the rug. I have explained why. You can do what you want with that information, including what you did: blame the critics.

    I am sure the LDS program would continue to ignore it if the critics would just stop, but so what?

    The purpose, as I can glean, of this site is to encourage communication between LDS and Christians. I understand why you, personally, think the issue of polygamy should be set aside (by the way, the phrase “essential teaching” is not something Christians generally use). I hope, you too, understand why I feel it is an important issue.

    We need not agree on the conclusion to have a meaningful discussion.

  74. My view of religion is that everything should be on the table all at once. Any sort of progressive teaching can be manipulated. God has revealed everything to us and should be readily available.

    This is not the Mormon view of religion, nor would they, or I, reasonably consider it a Biblical view.

  75. I’m actually one of those Mormons who thinks polygamy should be openly discussed more than it has been in LDS lessons. That’s my own position. So there’s going to be some agreement with you.

    My main point was that i don’t like the insinuation that the LDS Church has been hiding this subject or deliberately concealing it. I don’t think they were. And my remarks above were meant to highlight why this could simply be a reasonable and pure-motivated policy decision and not evidence of some sort of cover-up.

  76. Seth said

    Really, if there weren’t a lot of noise from critics disturbing the peaceful worship of the saints, I doubt the LDS Church would even be devoting a lot of curriculum space to this subject even now – and I’d probably be in large agreement with them.

    With all due respect, the church didn’t publish these essays because of the things critics were saying. Critics have ALWAYS been after the church with historical expose. The church published these essays because of what the members were reading and what they were doing after reading.

    General Conference protestors make a lot of noise. That’s never seem to have been an issue for the Church.

  77. @slowecowboy

    Mormons do not believe everything is before us. The scriptures are only glancing visions of the eternal world, only the spirit is before us and that is there only to direct and comfort when needed.

    The idea that everything is on the table at once is not a Biblical view because the Bible is pretty explicit that new things will show up on the table that will demand new explanations. See, e.g. Revelation.

  78. Perhaps we can consider a sixth reaction. One where cognitive dissonance is successful. The LDS no longer confidently wants to discuss their faith because LDS history (polyandry) together with the other elephants in the room now are impossible to navigate. Some LDS members might just avoid any discussion about their faith. (Shaken Faith Syndrome)

    Certainly this may not necessarily lead to repentance, but simply loss of faith in the LDS restorationist movement.

    Perhaps, it may be termed this way. The other religions may be true, but they are too painful to consider (at this point).

  79. @slowcowboy

    Jared, this is one area that strongly differentiates Christianity and Mormonism.

    I think it differentiates Protestants from Mormons, but Catholics and Mormons seem to share the view that revelation should guide the Church.

    @stockoneder

    I think that if Joseph Smith taught anything, it was to have both faith in men and in God. Should faith in men always be condemned?

  80. @richards

    Perhaps, it may be termed this way. The other religions may be true, but they are too painful to consider (at this point).

    I like this notion, I suppose the same thing could be said of Christianity in general. Truth does not seem to be a simple fact that attaches itself to only one set of words. Relief of pain, in the broadest sense, may be a more reliable determination of what is most simple.

  81. I don’t think Joseph taught that at all. He warned people not to put their faith in him. I don’t know of any scripture telling us to have faith in anyone besides Jesus Christ. Do you?

  82. What does ” Follow the prophet” mean other than putting faith in people. I think the LDS insight on following prophets is similar to the insight that William James had when he said that all faith is faith in other people’s faith.

  83. Follow the prophet is a doctrine taught by men not Jesus. Jesus said, “Come follow me”. He didn’t set up any middle men to follow to get to him. Men set themselves up in that position.

  84. Catholics do not believe “that revelation should guide the Church.” Catholics believe that all prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that nothing can be added or taken from the Bible. The Church does believe that the Gospel is a living source of grace, which can be found at any time and place, and which does not crumble with human expansion of knowledge.

  85. @stockoneder

    The LDS position does not accept that Jesus is God is a simple fact, i.e. a complete mystery – like Protestants and Catholics do.

    Jesus’ godhood is explained by his perfection vis-a-vis the law, i.e. the commandments of his Father. His freedom as a human spirit interacted with the law and he was judged perfect. The LDS position is that He was and remained very much a free human spirit, and this is how he became God.

  86. “The LDS position does not accept that Jesus is God is a simple fact, i.e. a complete mystery – like Protestants and Catholics do.”

    Another example of a key difference between Mormons and Christians.

    As to Catholics on continuing revelation, I agree with Vajra. What the Catholics have done is to insert a leader of God’s church in the form of the Pope, whose job is not to give continuing revelation but to protect the church and administer it.

  87. Your beliefs are one thing, I have no argument with them. I am just discussing Joseph Smith’s position as you were.

    You said that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon, which denounces polygamy, somehow pointing out an inconsistency in his position. My response was to point out that that this is not an inconsistency, Joseph believed that every person must trust in the Holy Spirit, and follow the prophet who received the message of the Holy Spirit for the Church.

    You said that “Come follow me” is a doctrine taught by God. I think that this is equivalent to saying “follow the prophet”- as the LDS do – because Jesus was (is) a man, and a prophet, those who follow him are simply those that trust in his vision and the subsequent vision of his disciples.

    I think the LDS position is that, if you believe in the Bible, as you appear to, you, like Joseph Smith, have placed your trust in people and the Holy Spirit. If you believe in the Bible and are not Mormon, you probably just reject that there are not prophets to trust except those in the Bible.

  88. “If you believe in the Bible and are not Mormon, you probably just reject that there are not prophets to trust except those in the Bible.”

    It would be more correct to state we don’t believe in a need for modern prophets. Christ gave us everything we need and there is nothing left to reveal.

  89. I never said JS wrote the BOM, I said he translated it, which is what I believe. I think if JS received Section 132(which I don’t know) he was deceived.
    Jesus was never a man imho, he was always God in a human body and thus not a “man”.
    So Him saying “Follow Me” is far different than a human man saying the same thing.
    I do believe God inspires people to do His work but that doesn’t mean I should follow those people or have faith in them although God can reveal to me if what they say or do is of Him.

  90. Slowcowboy,

    I believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and that God can do whatever He chooses to do in order to save His children. I am a mormon but don’t believe other men determine my relationship with Christ. Men are all fallible and so putting ones trust in them is a mistake.

  91. @stockoneder,

    Lets be clear, I am not arguing for or against your beliefs, just trying to discuss them in the context of traditional Christian ideas vs. traditional Mormon ideas. I personally, as of now, accept either tradition.

    With regard to whether Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon, there is no question on this point, Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon. He said that he received it through the “power and gift of God.” I would call this a vision, and in that sense, he is absolutely a prophet. Mormons acknowledge this as a simple fact because the book itself is divine in its instruction. (That is why the Church itself has rightfully abandoned explaining it in historical or scientific ways.)

    I guess I was also just trying to orient your thought within the LDS and traditional Christian traditions regarding Jesus. You believe that Jesus was very different than every other man, i.e. he was always God in a human body. This is where you probably diverge from traditional LDS thinking on the subject and agree with Protestants and Catholics.

    But, to your original point, I think it really says nothing about polygamy or Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling to say that polygamy was condemned in the Book of Mormon.

  92. Actually Jacob does not denounce polygamy in the Book of Mormon – unless you are using an opportunistic reading of the text.

    He specifically inserted a pretty big exception for when God can order polygamy. Re-read the text. It’s clearly in there.

  93. stockoneder, why shouldn’t we trust human beings?

    I trust some human beings.

    Of course they are fallible. But why is that a good reason not to trust some of them?

  94. First off, Jacob was talking about a specific Nephite practice that was being used as camouflage for whoredoms.

    Secondly the exception comes in verse 30:

    “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

    That’s pretty clear on its face stock.

    If I have time, perhaps I’ll have a look in and see how your author has managed to complicate and obfuscate the plain language of the text.

  95. Yeah, so what?

    Jacob was mostly speaking out against concubinage and misusing marriage for the same purpose anyway.

  96. Polygamy, tomorrow, could be OK’d by Monson. It is no side issue, though you have argued that it is. And as Stock says, we are not to trust middlemen between us and God. This was the very reason Christ came and died for us: to provide direct access to God. Everything we need is found in Christ as revealed in the Bible.

    Because polygamy remains doctrine, and because its practice is predicated on word from your leadership, it is a major issue. Not only is it doctrine, but it is directly within one of the primary justifications of your faith: obedience to the prophet.

  97. Why shouldn’t we trust middlemen? If the indications are that they are doing well, why not trust them?

  98. Jacob was mostly speaking out against concubinage and misusing marriage for the same purpose anyway.

    What should we make of the way Joseph Smith practiced polygamy?

  99. Duh Tim – not concubinage.

    You know my views on this I think.

    Slow,

    I never said anything about trusting middlement OVER God. You snuck that in there yourself.

    I was talking about trusting them at all.

  100. Now, Seth, you know full well the context of my comment. As Jared points out, Smith entirely advocated trusting himself as speaking as god. Smith was even recorded as boasting he had done more than Christ himself.

    Now, you ask specifically, “Why shouldn’t we trust middlemen? If the indications are that they are doing well, why not trust them?”

    Trusting some men on somethings is certainly appropriate. On matters concerning God, why do we need them? Sure, those more mature can offer insight we have not yet come to understand, but that is different than speaking literally for God. We have everything we need and there is absolutely no need to have someone speak for God since Christ’s death, resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven.

    Why not? Because God’s word is perfect and eternal. The Bible is complete. There’s nothing to add, and nothing was left out. A middleman accomplishes nothing except to interject human pride and the possibility of human mistake. We saw this with Smith, Young, and a host of other Mormon prophets.

  101. We have everything we need and there is absolutely no need to have someone speak for God since Christ’s death, resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven.

    Except, perhaps St. Paul?

  102. We have to look at what Paul did and said. Paul never revealed information except in the interpretation of what Christ did. Paul was merely one of the first evangelists, and as such would have been one of the first, if not the first, to come the conclusions he did. This is entirely different from what Smith did and what he claimed to have done.

    Smith claimed he was appointed by God to be a prophet and to restore a long lost church, and that this church did things that are entirely separate from what we have in the Bible. Smith then continued to lay down revelations, including polygamy, that are not to be found in the Bible and Christ’s teachings.

  103. “Now, Seth, you know full well the context of my comment. As Jared points out, Smith entirely advocated trusting himself as speaking as god. Smith was even recorded as boasting he had done more than Christ himself.”

    Nothing more than opportunistic quote-mining drivel from Lighthouse Ministries Slow.

    Joseph himself believed nothing of the sort. If you actually bother to study his real life and not a checklist from CARM or Mormonism Research Ministries, this becomes more than apparent.

  104. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Jared has always had a disturbing tendency to throw Joseph Smith and the LDS Church under the bus prematurely. I’ve always felt this way about his arguments.

  105. In truth Joseph Smith was also a very humble and down to earth person – and certainly never viewed himself as superior to Jesus Christ in ANY respect.

  106. Actually – polygamy definitely is in the Bible.

    See “Levirate marriage.”

    Tim, I made a post with a link that got stuck in moderation.

  107. Just because levirate marriages were part of Jewish law and practiced in many cultures doesn’t mean they were ever commanded by God and that type of marriage is a far cry from the plural/spiritual wife system practiced in the LDS church. Lots of Jewish Laws had nothing to do with the commandments of God. Much of Mosaic law was done away by Christ.

  108. And where did Jesus say he’d done away with all future possibility of Levirate marriage? Must have missed that part reading through the New Testament.

    And anyway, you’re moving the goalposts Slow. First you were claiming “this isn’t anywhere in the Bible!” Now you’re talking about Jesus making everything in the Mosaic Law invalid.

    So, if this is your new argument, can I take it as an admission that your earlier statement of “this isn’t anywhere in the Bible” was incorrect?

  109. Sometimes I wonder why Evangelicals even have the Old Testament, given how contemptuously dismissive they are of it.

  110. By the way…

    Has anyone ever noticed how similar the popular Evangelical argument of “Jesus did away with the Mosaic Law” is to the Mormon popular argument of “well, the Bible isn’t translated correctly”?

    How they both function effectively in waving away scripture that we find uncomfortable?

  111. Levirate Marriage was the command that a deceased man’s brother take his widowed sister-in-law as a wife if she doesn’t haven’t any children. It was at times practiced in the context of polygamy.

    Interestingly it was in the context of a discussion on Levirate Marriage that Jesus said that a woman who married seven brothers on earth would be married to none of them in eternity because there is no marriage in the afterlife. Sometimes I wonder why Mormons even have the words of Jesus, given how contemptuously dismissive they are of them. 😉

    There are good ways and bad ways to discuss the applicability of the Old Covenant as we live out the New Covenant. Evangelicals at times use the “bad ways” but they generally have the right idea that we do not live in or with the Mosaic Law. Mormons on the other hand are living out a sort of “Old Testament Christianity” and they seem to be as haphazard as anyone in which parts of the Mosaic Law they observe. As far as I can tell Mormons practice less than 25% of the Mosaic Law. There are plenty of restrictions placed on polygamy and Mormon polygamists didn’t seem all that interested in following any of them (for example: sisters, mothers and daughters).

    {Seth I looked for your post in moderation but couldn’t find it}

  112. Seth, I think you might see this discussion as more partisan that I do. I don’t have a problem with polygamy in principle, I am proud of my polygamist ancestors. I think it is plenty biblical and modern monogamous marriage is as much a part of the romantic cult as anything else. But I think it is pretty clear that Joseph Smith’s polygamy came from his mind, whether your believe any of his visions were from God. I think candor is the best policy for the Church on that.

  113. And I think that is wrong Jared. I do not see this as just coming from Joseph Smith’s mind. Nothing in his life or narrative leads me to that conclusion.

    There is nothing to be candid about on that score. Candor does not mean simply accepting baseless criticisms without comment.

  114. As for Levirate marriage. The brother was commanded to marry the widow. If he was already married, he still had to marry her.

    Bingo – commanded polygamy.

  115. Yes Tim – people said people don’t get married in heaven.

    Because they get married for eternity HERE on earth.

    You’ve been around long enough Tim – don’t pretend you haven’t already heard this response.

  116. Commanded by whom? Just because some man or men(even prophets)commanded it doesn’t mean God did. Man has hundreds of thousands of commandments, they call laws, while God had only a few.
    So show me where GOD commanded polygamy in the Bible.

  117. Because they get married for eternity HERE on earth.

    Seth, you’re missing a significant detail. The widow was married HERE, on earth (seven times). And yet none of the brothers are her husband according to Jesus. Not because there are no marriage ceremonies in eternity but because there is no marriage.

    If he wanted to say that she didn’t get married for eternity, or that she didn’t get married by the correct priesthood ordinance he could have easily said that. But he didn’t.

  118. I’m not ignoring the things he did say.

    I’m just not putting words into Jesus’ mouth like you are.

  119. I’m sorry you lost me and I really want to understand how Mormons resolve this passage. What words am I putting in Jesus’ mouth?

  120. Most Mormons resolve this by pointing out what Seth did, that Jesus never says there isn’t marriage or married couples, He says, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Specifically referring to the action itself.

    I have long since realized that this explanation doesn’t satisfy anyone who doesn’t already believe that family relationships continue in heaven, which includes the vast majority of Christians I’ve met, by the way.

    To those who are more gung-ho about being separated from their spouse for eternity, I take a different approach. I point out that it wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to reveal the principle of eternal marriage in a time where marriage functioned largely as economic or political transactions. So when we call it the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we mean exactly that.

  121. Was the widow married on earth? Which of the brothers was her eternal husband? That’s the context of his answer.

    Why mention that there are no ceremonies in heaven if he’s not going to provide the eternally vital information that they need to get married HERE?

    FWIW, every evangelical I know expects to know and be with their family in the afterlife. Just not as spouses. They also expect to know and be close with every believer.

  122. The words you are putting in Jesus mouth are that there are no marriage relationships in heaven.

    He clearly did not say that in the text.

  123. Of course that’s the case Mephibosheth.

    Just like no one buys into William Lane Craig’s ontological arguments for the existence of God who doesn’t already want to be convinced. That’s true of all apologetics.

  124. I want to talk more about this:

    4) No Religion Is True, So Stick With What You Know. This has become popular among the so-called “Pastoral Mormon Apologists” like Adam Miller and Teryl Givens. They don’t outright say it like that but that’s the heart of their argument. If you’re comfortable remain comfortable and we’ll just slowly reform the things we don’t like. (The Community of Christ, formerly the RLDS, largely took up this and stance #3 in the last 15-20 years. They are now practically indistinguishable from the Mainline Protestant Denominations. Liberal zeitgeist seems to be the greatest source of inspiration and instruction).

    I agree that this is the stance of the pastoral Mormon apologists and it’s not very convincing. They came here to the Twin Cities with their “crucible of doubt” firesides and my friends said that the main takeaway was, “Lower your expectations of church.” And then my friends were like, “We’re not actually sure they could be any lower.”

    I think it’s super crappy that that’s the situation we’re in, but that’s the situation we’re in and it’s not going to get better in my lifetime.

    As someone who is kind of sort of trying to decide between Community of Christ and Lutheranism, if I could ever for the life of me get my husband on board, I will add that I don’t think it’s fair at all to say that Community of Christ is indistinguishable from mainline Protestantism, or that liberal zeitgeist is the greatest source of inspiration and instruction for either of them. CofC has a totally different feel than the mainline churches, unique traditions, and I think some fairly distinct theology and practices. Also, I think God is at work in both places. So, I’m going to nitpick there.

  125. BTW I agree that Jesus was saying that there is no marriage in heaven. Even on my mission the way that Mormons tried to get around that verse made zero sense to me.

  126. I pretty much got over the lower-your-expectations-and-it’s-cool approach to Mormon fundamentalists apostatizing some time ago.

    My approach is rather that Mormon fundamentalists are dangerous heretics preaching false doctrine.

  127. Seth views anyone who has left the Church due to historical issues as having been “fundamentalists”. They left due their simplistic and false expectations of the Church or Smith.

  128. Fundamentalism is probably the wrong word for it though.

    What they really are is reductionists. People who seek to reduce the broad scope of the Gospel down to something more manageable and comfortable for themselves.

  129. Seth,be sure you quote me accurately. You claim I said things I did not, but that Stockoneder said.

    Others have addressed the marriage/polygamy issue, which I understand was a cultural thing. Christ then told us it really does not matter in heaven. My opinion on the matter is that our earthly marriage in the afterlife will be but an after thought. Our presence with Christ will trump anything else. That will be so glorious nothing else will matter.

    As to Smith, I can see that we have a vastly different view. And do not assume where I get my information. Smith, by the way is quoted as having done more than Christ himself. He also wanted to be essentially a king. And you know, just as you admonish me for using certain sources, that may apply to you, too.

  130. The church didn’t lose me with its past and it didn’t lose me because of human frailty. It lost me because the institution is distant and opaque, because the leadership refuses to acknowledge their human frailty while knowing full well that large swaths of people idolize them, and because they persist in practices and policies that deny the grace of Christ. Believe me, *I know* that church leadership is not nor ever has been “perfect” and I and have *zero expectation* that they should be so. What I expect is for people who claim to follow Christ to name their brokenness and fallenness instead of trying to hide it and cover it up. Well, I don’t even expect that all the time, because: human, but I expect it to, oh I don’t know, come up at least once in a while.

  131. And I’ll add that I think “lower your expectations” is more about the institution than it is about all-or-nothing reductionists. People are affected by policies and practices that cause harm, TODAY. Most people would be able to forgive the sins of the past if the church would stop trying to pretend like everything’s fine and that there *are* no problems–which pretty much all of these recent essays try to do.

    The disingenuousness of trying to own up to the minimum amount of messiness possible without losing all credibility, while still trying to save face and pretend like it’s all fine, is a huge turn-off. People could deal with the messy history. It’s this stuff that makes a lot of us feel like there’s no hope. And for the record, THAT’S what the Givens’s and others in this camp are saying, because their audience is people like me: people who are aware of the messiness and are willing to forgive it, if there could just be some acknowledgement of it. Basically they’re saying lower your expectations that there will be basic integrity and openness and authenticity from the institution, lower your expectations that you can show up as you are in the community with your true thoughts and feelings. And honestly? That SUPER sucks. It’s not helpful, it’s not hopeful, it’s not convincing.

  132. The Joseph Smith quote on him having done more than Jesus Christ is a pretty bog-standard piece of CARM/Lighthouse Ministries/MRM/whatever slash quote-mining. In context, it’s really not that bad of a quote and the rest of Joseph’s teachings make it pretty freaking obvious that he didn’t consider himself superior to Jesus in any respect.

  133. And as for dis-ingenuousness – I get the feeling the only way that the LDS Church could avoid the charge in your mind would be to admit to a lot of wrongs that actually didn’t happen, but you are convinced did happen.

  134. You know, your posture is exactly the problem I have with the institutional church and exactly why they lost me. “Nothing you’re concerned about is real. You think you’ve been harmed and hurt, but it’s not true, YOU are the problem.”

    Which, fine. It’s cool. I get it. But that’s why they don’t get my money, my heart, or my faith anymore.

  135. Seth, the importance of that quote is a matter of opinion. Anyone who claims to have done more than God is incredibly arrogant, boasting that no one had left him when foljs fled Jesus. It reflects Smith’s thirst for power. Why would he say it?

    This is also reflected in his introduction of polygamy. When I look at Smith’s record, the one you say is that of a humble man, I see a man who was simply power hungry.

  136. Katie, I don’t see why responding to you appropriately automatically involves rolling over and admitting to stuff that has not been established.

  137. OK, from https://byustudies.byu.edu/hc/hcpgs/hc.aspx?HC=/hc/6/1.html&A=408

    “President Joseph Smith read the 11th Chap. 2 Corinthians. My object is to let you know that I am right here on the spot where I intend to stay. I, like Paul, have been in perils, and oftener than anyone in this generation. As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did. I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions. Perhaps my brethren think it requires all this to keep me humble. The Lord has constituted me so curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster; I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last. My enemies are no philosophers: they think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down—but for the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.

    God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil—all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me. They have got wonderful things in the land of Ham. I think the grand jury have strained at a gnat and swallowed the camel.”

  138. If you compare the quotes of Paul and Smith, you will notice some important differences.

    For instance, Paul calls himself a fool. Smith says he suffered more than Paul, which is open to debate, for how often was Smith stoned? Smith then taunts his critics. Paul lists his ailments, and ends with a statement showing that if he is to boast at all, it is of his weaknesses and an acknowledgement of temptation toward sin. He says God will know he is telling the truth. Smith, on the other hand, goes out of his way to demonstrate to the world how he has been so good.

    And to assist the reader, here is Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 11: 16-33:

    16 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

    Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

    30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.”

  139. So, Seth, why would Smith say what he did? Why would he feel the need to keep a clean record against the world? Why does he need to justify himself as to other people? Why does he not humble himself here, as Paul did right in the very words Smith was discussing, but rather taunt his critics? Why does he say: “If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster; I shall always beat them.” And then, ” In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil—all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last.”

    You do not have to agree with me, but surely you have to notice how arrogant this can sound, and that his motives were not out of humbleness but rather a selfish desire to be proven right.

  140. By the way Slow, I actually rather like this quote from Joseph Smith and tend to feel that his critics rather deserve this tongue lashing from him.

    Since Joseph was beaten nearly to death on a few occasions, I would say his suffering was comparable to Paul’s. As for his rhetoric about Jesus, I don’t really see that as a declaration of superiority over Jesus. In light of all the other things Joseph said and taught, it’s ridiculous to even think that he considered himself better than Jesus.

    I am glad you pointed out how Joseph was using the same language as Paul however. Good comparison. Paul had a rather in-your-face cockiness about him that tended to anger his opponents as well. I like both historic figures myself and tend to think most of Joseph’s quote you have provided is, in fact, borne out by history.

  141. Seth, I provided the link, so don’t accuse me of not giving sources. If you were to have followed the link, it would bring you to BYU/Studies/History of the Church. This is found in Volume 6, Chapter 19, pages 408-409.

  142. Oh, and Joseph called himself a fool and a person of lowly state on repeated occasions. If you read more of Mormon history than the CARM quote-mined edition, you might discover some of it. Entire sections of the Doctrine and Covenants consist entirely of God blasting Joseph Smith and calling him to repentance. Your character analysis simply doesn’t have any depth to it.

    But critics don’t generally like being trolled. They didn’t like it when Paul did it to them. And as you’ve shown here, they still don’t like it much.

  143. I like the words of non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb:

    “By any measurement, Joseph Smith was a remarkable person. His combination of organizational acumen with spiritual originality and personal decorum and modesty is rare in the history of religion. He was so steadfast in his ability to inspire men and women through times of great hardship that none of those who knew him could claim to fully understand him. He knew more about theology and philosophy than it was reasonable for anyone in his position to know, as if he were dipping into the deep, collective unconsciousness of Christianity with a very long pen. He read the Bible in ways so novel that he can be considered a theological innocent—he expanded and revised the biblical narrative without questioning its authority—yet he brusquely overturned ancient and impregnable metaphysical assumptions with the aplomb of an assistant professor. For someone so charismatic, he was exceptionally humble, even ordinary, and he delegated authority with the wisdom of a man looking far into the future for the well-being of his followers. It would be tempting to compare him to Mohammed—who also combined pragmatic political skill and a genius for religious innovation—if he were not so deeply Christian.”

    Stephen H. Webb, Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)

  144. “I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me [except] to do his will.”

    (Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, Greenville, Indiana; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.)

    “I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else….I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.” (History of the Church 5:401)

    “Now, I ask all the learned men who hear me, why the learned doctors who are preaching salvation say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. They account it blasphemy to contradict the idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. The reason is that they are unlearned but I am learned and know more than all the world put together—the Holy Ghost does, anyhow. If the Holy Ghost in me comprehends more than all the world, I will associate myself with it.”

    Stan Larson, ed., “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (Winter 1978), 203.

  145. Seth, but he didn’t there. Nothing about what he said elsewhere changes what he said in the above quoted talk.

    I understand that critics don’t like being trolled, however this is a forum to discuss Mormonism and Christianity. That does not necessitate that everything cozy up to Mormonism and withhold criticism. Its the same for Christianity, too. This is a forum for discussion, which will include criticism, I am sure.

    As to Webb’s quote, I still disagree, and see it as an opportunistic quote on your part, as his thesis is that of God/Jesus is a material being. The review says this: “Webb’s concept of Christian materialism challenges traditional Christian common sense, and aims to show the way to a more metaphysically sound orthodoxy.”

    He’s apparently trying to merge the eternality of God with the material world. He also has another book called Mormon Christianity: What Christians Can Learn from the Latter-Day Saints. Given that it is LDS belief that God is a person, it is not surprising you find favor in this quote, or even Webb.

    As to my opinion, I believe God is a being, who took the form of man but returned to heaven after death on a cross, and as such is non-material. There is much to support this view, as I am sure you are aware. Further, as to Smith, I look at quotes like the one posted, his polygamy, desire to be king, not just president, not to mention copyright of the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc. to conclude that despite his apparent outward humbleness, he was quite full of himself and was also a scammer.

    I know full well you do not like this picture of your founding prophet, but that is indeed the conclusion I come to. Unless you can tell me my facts are wrong, the interpretation is fair, whether you like it or not. I don’t say that to taunt or anything like that. I say it to be honest and forthright. We are allowed to disagree, are we not?

  146. You don’t have any facts yet Slow.

    All you’ve given me till now are gut impressions and personal reactions.

  147. And the issue of whether he was a scammer is completely separate.

    Gee wiz Slow, what is this – throwing spaghetti and the wall and seeing what sticks?

  148. Do you deny the words Smith is recorded as saying as I have posted are not facts?

    You cannot deny that those words are recorded as his. You can deny he spoke them, as some have tried to do, and you can give another interpretation, but those words are attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr. That is a fact by definition.

    You are doing something I have seen other Mormons do: deny what is painfully obvious by denying what is right in front of us.

    This particular topic deals with polygamy, and I brought up that Smith was arrogant and used this to support it. You asked for a citation, and I gave you his entire talk. The other points that I have brought up to discredit Smith were not expounded on because they are outside the scope of this topic.

    What you just accused me of is simply dishonest and incredibly manipulative. You have been given facts. Address them.

  149. “And the issue of whether he was a scammer is completely separate.”

    Which is why I have said it is merely my opinion and why I have not expounded on it. That said, it is not completely irrelevant to his arrogance.

    Deal, though, with the quote I have posted. All you have done is say that elsewhere he says other things, so we can’t really take what he said here seriously.

  150. I already dealt with the text of the quote and pointed out why I don’t interpret it as showing Joseph Smith as believing he was greater than Jesus Christ. Then I provided other quotes demonstrating the opposite.

    All you did was shoot back your own opinion that the quote did show that.

    Which is not fact.

    It’s just your gut impression Slow.

    But you’re not the first person to make the mistake of thinking his own sense of aesthetics was “fact.”

  151. You asked me to quote it, accused me of taking it from CARM or MRM or some other institute, and basically told me that this quote is not him saying anything arrogant and that is supported by other things Smith did and said.

    What’s amazing in your response is that you accuse me of saying something I have already admitted! I said his words are the facts, but we interpret them differently. I said this above: “As to Smith, I can see that we have a vastly different view.” I also said: “Unless you can tell me my facts are wrong, the interpretation is fair, whether you like it or not.” And: “You can deny he spoke them, as some have tried to do, and you can give another interpretation, but those words are attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr.”

    Smith’s words are his words. His actions are his actions. We are free to let those fit into whatever notion we want to fit them into. I, as I have explained over and over again, interpret his actions in one way, and then I give instances as to why I interpret them that way. Whether you agree is not something I cannot control, and won’t pretend to. All I can do is bring facts (Smith’s speech) and give my interpretation. I don’t pretend to do anything else.

  152. I think it can be confirmed that Joseph Smith was a religious genius, but I think you could say that he did not reasonably understand the the Second Comforter, to use LDS terms.

    His philosophy is naturally totally independent from his sex life.

  153. But you’re not the first person to make the mistake of thinking his own sense of aesthetics was “fact.”

    Don’t we all make that mistake (especially in religion)?

  154. Yeah, but I don’t think your interpretation was fair Slow. That was, in fact my central point.

    When I accused you and lifting everything you’ve read about Joseph Smith from Evangelical hit-lists, that was not a statement that your quotes were not copied down faithfully.

    I’m sure they are word-for-word duplicates of what is found in the History of the Church and so forth. I definitely do believe that Evangelical hit-lists contain verbatim quotes from Joseph Smith.

    But the verbatim wasn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about how Evangelical hit lists selectively choose only certain passages Joseph Smith wrote or spoke, but ignore the rest. This is called quote-mining. And it’s when you selectively take things your opponent said out of context or in isolation in an attempt to make them look bad – when in reality, their opinions and views really aren’t like that.

    This is why I said that if you’d read more of what Joseph Smith wrote – instead of a quote-,mined Evangelical hit-list, you would realize that he really did not think that he was better than Jesus. Not even remotely. In fact, to people who’ve read a broad selection of what Joseph Smith wrote and said, your accusation is not only unfair, it’s ridiculously laughable.

    I definitely agree that you are bringing an honest and plausible interpretation to the isolated and decontextualized quotes you have shared here. And your views would be credible – IF they were not so out of touch with the reality of the REST of what Joseph Smith taught and stood for.

  155. Seth,

    if you had your way, we would never know Smith said he had done more than Christ. As Katie L inferred, the LDS apologetic minimizes and ignores those things that are embarrassing to the church. Sorry, but its also true that such selective memory seems manipulation.

    The fact that you use such selective memory is at beat indicative of a lack of understanding of the debate that is very focused on but one side.

  156. I already told you I liked the quote Slow.

    So no – it wouldn’t vanish. But unlike if you had your way – lots of other things would be read too.

  157. In fact, if I were to put together a representative selection of quotes from Joseph Smith into one book – this quote would probably make it in there (with a note that it was written second-hand after his death of course).

  158. No, not really, Seth. I am fair and would include more than you give me credit for. I am a critic sure, but I am honest as to fact. Smith apparently did do much to suggest he looked out for his people. However, I see a sinister side that I think gets swept under the rug. This brings me back to one of my original points on polygamy: that it gets swept under the rug.

    If you’ve listened to/watched the video Tim posted yesterday, you will see that I am not the only person to think that.

  159. Jared, a genius, huh? I give him credit for being a bright, creative, and persuasive man, and certainly those traits can be indicative of genius, sure. But he was not the only man to create another world, and he was not the only man to lead a group of people.

  160. Why would other people agreeing with you have anything to do with anything Slow?

    You can find people who agree with any fool thing you want to mention.

    I did watch the video and agreed with a good portion of it – though not with his dismissal of “apologetics”. And I already told you I like the quote and would include it. But I would include a lot of other stuff that shows that on the whole – he was indeed a fairly humble individual. Since apparently you haven’t read this material and wouldn’t include it, that would make my selection more comprehensive.

  161. Uh, Seth, you said this: “Since apparently you haven’t read this material and wouldn’t include it, that would make my selection more comprehensive.”

    But I said this: “I am fair and would include more than you give me credit for. I am a critic sure, but I am honest as to fact. Smith apparently did do much to suggest he looked out for his people.”

    Be fair and read more carefully.

  162. Well, if that’s the case, then you must have come across a lot of material showing that Joseph Smith was actually a fairly humble person.

    Right?

  163. And you would realize that he most certainly didn’t think he was better than Jesus Christ in any respect.

  164. Seth, consider the lives of Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker. Surely, they have done many positive things, too. So, its fair to conclude that someone can still do good things and bad things together. So, the existence of the good quotes and reported actions of Smith are hardly persuasive as to his overall beneficence.

  165. I think it is nearly unquestionable if you look at the history, that Joseph Smith died unjustly standing for the right things, regardless of his guilt of any clearly wrong things he did. He also encouraged others to follow Christ and practice Christian virtue. His legacy is a very large and faithful body of believers in this sort of virtue. It seems strange for Christians to condemn his project as much as they do.

  166. Jared, I am not sure he died standing for the right things. He was jailed in Carthage, IL for, among other things, destroying a printing press that was critical of him. This can be seen as another of his actions interpreted as arrogant and as a power grab as he sought to stifle dissenting voices. Sure, as with so many other things, different interpretations are allowable.

    The printing press he destroyed revealed his polygamy, which is exactly what the most recent essay discussed. So, why was the jail mobbed? I am not sure the exact reason, but it is clear Smith was a divisive figure with a propensity to bring out anger toward him.

    But don’t ignore the link between the reason for the destruction of the printing press with the topic of this article. Smith was being accused of practicing polygamy and destroyed the press that was saying it. Now, about 170 years later, the LDS leadership just admitted that what the press was saying was largely true: Smith was actively practicing polygamy.

  167. Oh, and Jared, why do Christians condemn his project? Because we view his message as a false message that leads people astray. The Christ he preached is seen as his creation, not as truth. As such, it is viewed as heresy.

  168. Joseph did not have to be in Carthage, he knew there was a mob out to kill him, he died submitting to the law, because he willingly submitted to the law.

  169. I don’t see that as relevant to the circumstances. He destroyed the printing press for writing inciteful articles on his polygamy, something I consider a power grab. Apparently, he ticked a lot of people off, polygamy being just one reason.

    Its interesting to note you use the term submit to the law when he took the law into his own hands and destroyed the printing press about to write about his polygamy. Don’t forget he was the leader of his movement and mayor of his town.

  170. Was the widow married on earth? Which of the brothers was her eternal husband? That’s the context of his answer.

    Actually the context is the Sadducees trying to prove the resurrection doesn’t happen by asking Jesus a riddle that makes it sound like nonsense, so we wouldn’t necessarily expect Jesus to give a complete doctrinal explanation of eternal marriage since that wasn’t the issue in contention. Besides, the point behind typical Mormon response is not that Jesus is teaching eternal marriage here, but that His language leaves the door open for it.

    FWIW, every evangelical I know expects to know and be with their family in the afterlife. Just not as spouses.

    It’s that last sentence there that hasn’t quite percolated down to the grassroots, in my experience. To these people I have to say “ask your pastor” who I know will give them the party line that we will all just be brothers and sisters there.

  171. Basically they’re saying lower your expectations that there will be basic integrity and openness and authenticity from the institution, lower your expectations that you can show up as you are in the community with your true thoughts and feelings.

    This is preposterous. I defy you or anyone else to find anything remotely close to this sentiment in anything Terryl Givens or Adam Miller has written or spoken.

  172. I actually sympathize a lot with Joseph’s decision to destroy the press and would have been highly tempted to do the same thing myself.

    The Mormons had just been raped, robbed, killed, and mobbed out of Missouri recently and a repeat of that disaster was shaping up to happen again in Illinois. In the middle of the powder keg, William Law comes out with his little Mein Kampf publication throwing matches around.

    The guy was fixing to get Mormons murdered and he knew it.

    My sympathy for Law’s freedom of the press doesn’t really extend that far.

    Destroying the press, while perfectly legal at the time, was probably a tactical blunder on Joseph’s part. But I don’t feel one jot of outrage on William Law’s behalf.

    The wretched little scum had it coming to him.

  173. I can easily see William Law’s publication as causing sheer terror in everyone that Missouri was going to repeat all over again. As it so happened, Joseph considered going into hiding again. But certain among the Mormons were scared that if he didn’t turn himself in, mob violence would start all over again. Despondently, Joseph Smith said “if my life is of no great worth to my friends, it is of no great worth to me” and turned himself in – fully expecting he’d be killed this time.

  174. Seth, OK. As I said long ago in this thread, we have very different views of Smith and what he did. You justify everything he said or did in a way that strikes me as having an agenda, just as you likely accuse me of. We won’t ever get anywhere, which is OK.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  175. And if we’re not going to get anywhere, why do you keep bringing up criticisms?

    If you bring up criticisms, expect an answer.

  176. SlowCowboy,

    Until you can see Joseph Smith as a man and a politician rather than some satanic false prophet you are not going to judge him correctly, even from an orthodox Christian perspective.

  177. When you see him as just another frontier leader, condemning Joseph Smith for not protecting the First Amendment is a laughable position given the realities of the American frontier in the 1840s. Joseph Smith’s submission to the law for the sake of peace, even though the government was essentially bankrupt in its promises to protect him was a very noble act, no matter what your religious persuasion.

  178. Seth, I agree, its not complete, but its at least a neutral starting point to seeing Joseph Smith clearly. Few people outside the church can appreciate the value of his religious vision in his life and the lives of those that followed him.

  179. I guess I was thinking more of Richard Bushman’s point that you can’t really understand these people unless you consider the religious framework they were operating under. Joseph didn’t just see himself as a mayor of a town, or running a business.

    Other than that, I can see what you are getting at and fair enough.

  180. Seth, I’ve tried to diffuse the discussion, we are not going to agree. Where in my last post did I criticize? Why do you keep responding?

    Jared, that’s the issue: I do see him as a man and a politician. I disagree with him. So what? And why accuse me of seeing him as a “satanic false prophet”?

    Look, guys, from my point of view, Smith was anything but a prophet, and I have many reasons for that. I can’t, and won’t lie to you and tell you I think he was wonderful. But what I don’t understand is the need to keep pressing the point. While I understand you feel strongly about him, and that you don’t like people criticizing him, the constant harping when there is desire to move away is rather off-putting.

    We disagree on the person of Joseph Smith. So what? We also disagree on many aspects of Christianity, so much so that Smith called my faith essentially a lie. My purpose, then, in this discussion was less to convince than to educate. I realize it is not likely my words will convince you of my position, but if nothing else, I hope to give a better understanding of it.

    And Jared, as an attorney, you should see that my position is based on reasonable assumptions concerning the topic. You do not have to agree, but it is not out of right field and has a basis behind it.

    Again, guys, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  181. Slow, I would not call your assumptions unreasonable. But I would call them inadequately informed and selective in which sources they are founded upon.

    And don’t overestimate us attorneys. I’ve known plenty of attorneys in my field who were distinctly lacking in common sense and judgment.

    Basically, if you want to throw out a negative data point, and I feel there is another side to it that is not being noted – I will respond without any reference to whether I am “getting somewhere” with you personally.

  182. Seth, though I am tempted to respond to the specifics in your last post to me, I will only ask why the persistence? Is not disagreement possible? Or do I have to see it your way?

  183. You are free to stop whenever you want.

    I’m not one of those types who takes a lack of response as waving a white flag or anything.

  184. Slowcowboy,

    I have really appreciated your participation in this discussion. I am no longer a believing Mormon, but by outlook on life is steeped in the Mormon outlook.

    I think the problem that Seth and I may have with your approach to Joseph Smith is that you don’t seem to be well versed in the facts, or of Joseph’s religion, but have preconceived notions about how bad Joseph Smith was because he didn’t preach yours. Almost every discussion I have had about Joseph Smith has been partisan, and I don’t think you get much understanding in those sorts of discussions. I don’t think you are unreasonable, just not academic in your approach.

    People don’t learn much about the value of Luther’s teachings when they can’t get past his participation in the bloody madness that followed his reformation, his antisemitism, his lifestyle, and the other historical currents that he rode that eventually threw all of Europe into chaos and murder. These are all the fact, but they are really not relevant to the value of his philosophy.

  185. Seth, you didnt answer my question, but give the inference you are attacking.

    Jared, what facts? What more do you want from me? I grant Smith did good things. I grant Luther did poor things as well, as did other early Christian leaders. But its much more than what we have discussed. Before acusing me ofmy preconceived notions, consider your own.

  186. Oh, you mean the “why the persistence” and “do I have to see it your way?”

    I thought you were being rhetorical.

    Answers:

    1. For the benefit of anyone who is reading who is open to a different interpretation of Joseph Smith

    2. No, you don’t. I don’t recall ever stating such.

    But if you want to keep throwing out criticisms of Joseph Smith, it’s likely I will dispute them where I think they are one-sided.

  187. No, Seth, I was not being rhetorical. I do not play games and mean what I say and ask.

    I believe we have beaten the current topic hard, and there is enough here to allow a reader to assess the arguments for themselves. It’s become counter-productive to continue.

    Given how you’ve continued to object to my arguments, I am not sure I believe you when you say I do not have to see it your way. Perhaps next time we can discuss more productively.

  188. SlowCowboy,

    I suppose the best thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t get you anywhere with a true-believing American to disrespect the honor of its military. Neither does it get you anywhere with a Mormon to disrespect Joseph Smith.

  189. Jared, I’m plenty willing to discuss the failings of Joseph Smith – but not typically with someone who has a completely lopsided agenda-driven conviction that he’s a prideful, child molesting, egomaniacal, con artist.

    There’s no point having a nuanced discussion about Joseph Smith with such a person.

    I’d be the only one compromising – the other party would remain unbudged and would simply take advantage of everything negative I have to say.

    Kind of like how the guys at Mormonism Research Ministries are fond of lurking around the bloggernacle in hopes of hearing liberal Mormons drop little tidbits they can use to write new hit pieces on the LDS Church on their blog.

    I’m not willing to meet in the middle with someone who is convinced of their extreme position and shows no sign of giving an inch on it.

  190. I used to try compromising and admitting to what I thought were legitimate faults of the LDS Church once upon a time.

    Then I noticed I was the only one giving. The folks on the other side were just smiling, nodding their heads, and yet never compromising on their ends. So I got a lot more wary of the candid dialogue concept after that.

  191. Seth, there you have it. Lines are drawn, and nothing can be discussed fairly without distrust. Open discussion is impossible with you unless the discussion meets your terms. I fail to see where I was anything but open and honest in what I presented above, granting many of the items you out insist upon. What I did not do was take your interpretation of the facts. This is why I ask whether disagreement is allowed, because acquiescence to your interpretation seems required to let things go.

    Now, as I said last night, I hope future discussions between you and I are not so distrusting and therefore more productive.

  192. Jared, I actually have not problem if someone wants to criticize our military. Doesn’t mean I agree, but I won’t turn on someone for a dislike of something I hold dear. So, while I understand your point, I do see things differently.

    Life is too short to be so stuck on a position that we fail to consider other ideas. We can learn from them all and learning helps us grow and enjoy life. Besides, getting angry every time sometimes objects to us only puts it seems foul moods, at least for a time. That’s not a choice I like to make.

    Life is good, and we should take every interaction to make it better.

  193. Slow, when did you ever give ANY indication in this exchange of changing your views on Joseph Smith one jot?

    When did you ever show the slightest interest in a differing paradigm of Joseph Smith than “egomaniacal, sex crazed, child molesting, scam artist?”

    When did you EVER present yourself as someone worth having a productive conversation with?

  194. Seth, where do you get the idea I am here to convince? I think you assume I have motives that are not present.

    Relax, man. Not every exchange is a battle. Sometimes,it’s just an exchange of information.

    Chill out, ok?

  195. I never had a problem with you exchanging your one-sided information. As long as I was able to balance it out.

    You’re the one who doesn’t seem to want to be contradicted here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s