April 1, 2009

Test of Faith or Clue from God

The point of my post yesterday was that we cannot assume every test we're given from men is a test also from God. If Jim Jones had given me a cup of poisoned punch to test if I would drink it, I would have thrown it in his face.
The same goes for Joseph Smith. If he knocked on my door and told me he had been commanded by God to marry my wife and have my daughter sealed to him for eternity, I would have slammed the door in his face.
A man of God would not behave ungodly, or demand that I do so. If he does, that's a pretty good sign that he's not a man of God.
So again I ask, at what point is something merely a trial of our faith, and at what point is it a clue that the messages we're getting are not from God at all?
If Jim Jones asked me to turn in my paycheck every week, I might be okay with that if I believed he was a man of God (and hundreds of people did). If he asked me to sell my house and donate the money to the People's Temple, I might agree to that. But if he asked me to go to bed with him (and he asked dozens of his followers that exact thing) it would no longer be a matter of faith, but that would be a clear clue to me that he was an impostor - a man out for power, full of lust, under the protection of my faith.
If I had reason to believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a prophet of God, and he asked me to give all of my income to the Church (and he did ask the early members of the Church to do just that) I would probably comply. If he asked me to go on a mission across the ocean, leaving my family on their own, I would probably do that on faith. But if he asked to make my teenage daughter his 24th wife (he actually did ask several of his colleagues for their daughters' hands in marriage - see Compton, 2001), at that point, it would become very clear to me that he was not a man of God after all. How far can a man go until we are willing to question his motives?


Anonymous said...

Hey there, I don't want to judge or anything. But is the reason you left the Church polygamy? I too am sometimes like why did we have to do that?! But it is over and served a purpose for a short time. I just wanted to be clear and am wondering...thanks.

Eli said...

Response to Anonymous: The reason I left the Church is that many doctrines and actions of Church leaders (e.g., polygamy, racism, hypocrisy, contradictions in doctrine, etc.)have led me to conclude that the Church is not led by God as the leaders claim. I would expect the church of God not to change fundamental doctrines when politically convenient, and/or to have the correct position from the beginning instead of slowly developing it.
I'm curious what purpose polygamy served. I have not discovered one good reason that polygamy was ever introduced. Do you have one?
It is over? According to Isaiah, it will be reinstated in the millennium and according to D&C 132, all who want to enter into God's glory will have to practice it again.

Anonymous said...

I admire both your honesty and your charity as you struggle with the consequences of your decision. May God continue to bless you and yours!

Eli said...

Response to Anonymous: Thank you. God bless you as well!

Richard Packham said...

"Anonymous" (who I assume is Mormon) said that polygamy is "over and served a purpose for a short time."

I echo Eli's question: what purpose did it serve? A case might be made that it was a "test of faith" (like Abraham's test, to kill his son). Even Mormon scholars admit that it was not to provide husbands for the surplus of Mormon women (there was actually a surplus of men). It was not to "raise up seed," at least in the case of Joseph Smith, since the church insists that his polygamous (and secret and illegal) marriages produced no seed.

"Anonymous" is also mistaken to say that it is "over." It is NOT "over." I know faithful Mormon men right now who are presently sealed to more than one wife. My brother, for example, now serving a mission for the church with his second wife, sealed still to his first wife. Several present General Authorities and recent presidents of the church are sealed eternally to more than one wife (Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, Howard W. Hunter, Dallin Oaks, Russell M. Nelson). And surely no Mormon would deny that Brigham Young and all the other righteous polygamists who are now enjoying celestial glory are enjoying the company of their many righteous wives?

Polygamy isn't over. As D&C 132 says, in Mormon doctrine it is "everlasting."

Jim (the computer guy) said...


I heard about your decision today and felt a sense of sadness. I compare it to the news of losing a close friend to that part of life we will most undoubtedly come face to face with. It was, to some degree, a feeling of disbelief. I don't believe that we could consider our relationship as one of being close friends but do feel that the working relationship that we had was enough for me to have a sense of disassociation from the person that I thought I knew. I do not mean this in any negative regard whatsoever. I will say that after reading what I have of this blog, I can only imagine, to a minimum degree, the internal struggles and questions that you have been living with. I will admit that I have not read your entire blog and feel that I have seen the basis of your perspectives. Of the posts that I have read, I can only recall you mentioning Jesus Christ once. And that was in regards to Joseph Smith's "claim" that he saw God The Father and Jesus Christ in the flesh. You said that we could ask questions... so here are some that I have...

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that God ever had Prophets on the earth? Do you believe you have to be a perfect person to be a Prophet of God? Do you believe in the Bible? Do you believe the biblical practices of polygamy were also not of God?

Please keep in mind that these are not questions addressed with a terse approach. I am trying to understand the "you" now from a perspective of what I thought I knew of you before. It honestly brought up feelings of betrayal, feelings of sadness, and feelings of confused misunderstanding. I continually keep an open mind as to the original God given right and freedom of choice that you have. I also am speaking from my heart and not out of judgment. I truly wish all that is "virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report" for you, Kira, and your daughter!

I know others have shared their beliefs and testimonies of their religious convictions. I too have had my own experiences that have led me to my own convictions. One's that I cannot deny and will not deny. I originally wanted to walk away from this blog and not post anything, but felt compelled that I had to follow the promptings that I felt. I am not a perfect person and do not profess any such claim. I do know that we are all going through this life as a trial of faith and based on my personal experiences I have found my convictions in my Savior Jesus Christ and his atonement for me and any willing to accept his offering. I know that God lives.

I have other questions and may ask them at a later time... and it is not a matter me not wanting to know what proof you have. I feel that I have proof enough for me and you have proof enough for you. There are many things that can be discussed and many hours spent discussing. I will be sensitive to the time that I put into this simply for the benefit of my family and personal time that I have to spend with them.

Eli said...

Response to Jim: Thanks for the post, Jim. I appreciate the thoughts of me and your sincere desire to know more about it rather than just dissociating yourself from me. I'll answer your questions in order:
I've always wondered about Jesus Christ. Not whether he lived or taught what he taught, but whether he was the literal son of God. I love his teachings and example of his life, but I guess I'm not too sure how literal the New Testament is what with the Nicene Creed and all that. I certainly try to live by Christ's teachings though: love thy neighbor, pray for your enemies, etc.
I believe that God has revealed amazing truth to individuals throughout history and that he guides honorable men and women. I can't say I believe he has had one spokesperson at a time for the entire world.
I definitely do not expect a prophet of God to be perfect. If all I knew about Joseph Smith was that he had failed at his banking attempt, and that he had ordered that printing press to be destroyed, and that he'd unloaded a revolver on the men coming to get him in Carthage, I can't see how I'd be here right now. But it's proposing and consummating marriage to 11 other men's wives that goes way over the line of human error in my mind and conscience.
I believe the Old Testament is a collection of stories with religious morals in them. I believe they were probably based on some real events, but exaggerated. In brief, I do not believe it contains a literal history. I certainly believe that Abraham and Jacob had plural wives (a great majority of cultures have practiced polygamy in some form throughout history), but I don't necessarily believe it was God's commandment. Even if I were to stretch my conscience enough to think God might have approved of it, it would be only for very good reasons, none of which make sense in the case of Joseph Smith (see Richard Packham's comment in this string).
I'm happy to answer any more questions. Thanks for asking.

The Mudras said...

Jim plays the Mormon trump card: "experiences" that he cannot deny. Presumably supernatural, faith-strengthening experiences.

No denying such experiences. They happen to everybody, believer and non-believer, people of all religions. But can they trump facts? Do they prove the truth of one religion (or all religions and non-religions)? (And don't say "All religions have some truth - God listens to all prayers..." Is God telling everybody that their particular religion is true? and not an "abomination" - see the First Vision)

If a Catholic "feels the presence of the Virgin Mother" while praying at an altar in the cathedral, does that prove that the Catholic church is true? And how is her feeling different from the devout Mormon who "feels the spirit" in the celestial room in the temple?

Always check the facts that can be checked, Jim. As Senator Moynihan said, "People are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts."