December 27, 2009

Pigs Among Men

Orwell, one of my favorite writers, spent his life examining and exposing the methods used by those in power to manipulate, use, and control others. He concentrated on tyrannical governments, but these same principles apply to many religious practices. In his classic work Animal Farm, he creates a microcosm of this power struggle on a small farm. The animals run the farmer off the land, and establish a government of their own. The pigs assume the position of leadership, making promises that the animals' lives have changed and that a new era has begun. At the end of the story, however, the rest of the animals are repulsed to find the pigs have become the very thing they claimed to abhor; they had turned out to be no different from the farmers. The final line of the book explains, as the animals peered through the farmhouse window to see the pigs sitting with men,
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. (read entire book here)
The phenomenon of the revolutionaries repeating the behavior of those they fought against was certainly present in the LDS church as well. For example, Joseph Smith preached against adultery and other lustful acts (e.g., Jacob 2). He founded his church promising purity and chastity to those who would follow him. Of course, once he had established his power, he became the very thing he preached against; he took a large number of wives, often from their first husbands, several of them teenagers (source). He and his early elite became the adulterers they professed to condemn (those who disagree are first directed to this post, then feel free to respond).

Another common theme throughout Orwell's writings is that the leaders allow themselves special privileges that are strictly forbidden to the followers. For example, in 1984 (full text here), the high members of the Party have control over the devices monitoring their movements and speech, may have quality chocolate and other such comforts not permitted to the rest of the society. The elite members of the Party may make exceptions to their own rules as they see fit. They are somehow above their own laws: requiring the followers to practice restraint, but not themselves.

This is also true of Joseph Smith, Jr.; his own conditions for the practice of polygamy were that (a) it be only for the purpose of producing children (Jacob 2:30), (b) plural wives must be virgins (D&C 132:61), (c) the plural wives may not belong to another man (also D&C 132:61), and (d) the first wife must give her consent (also D&C 132:61).

Smith followed not one of these conditions: (a) he produced, at most, 3 children from extramonogamous marriages (Compton, 2001; Embry, 2007); (b) he married at least 15 women who were not virgins; (c) at least 11 of whom belonged to their living husbands (Compton, 2001); and (d) Emma did not give consent until 1843 - years and wives after Smith started the practice (Brodie, 1945; Embry, 2007). Thus, Smith felt that he was somehow above the conditions of polygamy he set forth. Somehow his rules did not apply to himself. So we see that the LDS church is no exception to the corruption that comes with power.

Thus, while Orwell demonstrated how pigs, when given ultimate power, become the men they despise, Smith showed us how men, when given ultimate power, become the pigs they despise.

Brodie, F. M. (1945). No man knows my history: The life of Joseph Smith. New York: Vintage Books.

Compton, T. (2001). In sacred loneliness: The plural wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.

Embry, J. L. (2007). Setting the record straight: Mormons and polygamy. Orem, UT: Millennial Press, Inc.


Seth R. said...

Of course, the fact that no children from any of these marriages have been found leaves the door wide open for concluding that the marriages were not actually about sex.

Which the evidence does seem to bear out in many of the cases (including those of the teenage sealings).

The fact that people today assume that Joseph Smith married these women just to get sex says more about perverted modern attitudes toward marriage than it does about Joseph Smith.

Tell me, why do YOU assume that the sealing ceremony was merely a device for Joseph to get a woman in bed?

Eli said...

Response to Seth: That's a typical apologist response. It's laid out clearly in the LDS scriptures that polygamous marriage is about precisely sex. Otherwise, why make it so clear that wives must be virgins? If the marriages to teenagers were not about sex, I ask you, what were they about? If it was a dynastic thing merely to join families, why was Joseph not simply sealed to a male as a brother? We know from several of his wives' journals that he had sex with at least some of them. If you're right and he did not have sex with all of them, what was the purpose? What purpose can you possibly imagine there was for marrying women who already had righteous, active husbands?
Actually, there's really no reason to believe that Smith did not have sex with all of his wives. Several historians have addressed this, so I see no need to write a novel about it here. I direct you to previous sources I've cited. Thank you for your thoughts.

Seth R. said...

Call it a "typical apologist response" if you want.

Labeling is not a substitute for actually having an argument.

And I suppose by "several historians" you mean Todd Compton? Or are you including Fawn Brodie as a bonus? Todd Compton's work on the subject is pretty good. But he certainly had a few biases that he brought to the subject. For one thing, he was a little too quick to assume marriages for which the evidence was a bit dubious. For another, he was a bit too quick to play up the sex angle.

You say there is no evidence to believe that Joseph didn't have sex with all his wives. Actually there is. The language used to describe the relationships, the way the people themselves described them, the fact that the women were married to other men, and the men in question were OK with it.

I'd like to know what evidence you think you have that Joseph did sleep with all the women. I'd like to know exactly what historians you think make this claim.

Otherwise, there's really no response for me to give, other than match your bare assertions with my own.

Eli said...

Response to Seth: I can only assume how much you've actually looked, so there's a good summary at
I've actually never read all of Brodie. Compton is a great one, so good job looking into him. I'm sure his biases are just as large as sources like Bushman, so it looks like it's up to you to finally decide. How do you feel about polygamy? What does the Holy Ghost witness to your heart when you hear about it?
The men were okay with it? Yeah, eventually maybe, because they were given the option to marry others once they gave up their first wives.
Jim Jones was able to get men and women of his congregation into bed with him too. They were okay with it too, but that doesn't make it the will of God.
Again, I notice that you didn't address my question of what the purpose of the marriages was. The fact that you, and no one else, has an answer is an answer in and of itself.
I find your argument puzzling; you admit that he had several wives after Emma, you admit that at least some of them were sexual in nature, but you've offered no explanation for the rest of the marriages, so what exactly is your argument? Are you simply saying that it wasn't as bad as I and other historians think? If that is the case, where would you draw the line?

Seth R. said...

An overriding theme in Joseph Smith's ministry was the binding together of people in covenant bonds before God. The construction of Zion where everyone was of "one heart, and one mind," etc. Everything Joseph did and taught was done with this aim of binding people together in salvation.

There appears to have been a strong belief in early Mormonism that the blessings of salvation could be secured for people via sealing ordinances.

These sealing ordinances were always viewed as far more than mere marriage. And such attitudes persisted long after Joseph's death.

So I would say that the primary aim of many of Joseph's marriages was due to his sense of extending the blessings of exaltation to others, I see little evidence that it was really about sex.

If sex is what you want, there are easier and safer ways to get it than how Joseph went about it.

Jim Jones is a poor example. His practice was to prey upon the weak and vulnerable in his congregation. People who were unlikely to rat him out and could be easily cowed.

This is not the pattern that Joseph Smith followed. The people he involved in polygamy were usually the most powerful, the most independent, and the most likely to rat him out if they felt there was anything dishonorable going on. If I wanted to have a bunch of affairs with women, someone like Brigham Young is the last person I would have confided in.

And calling Eliza Roxy Snow some helpless victimized tool is just simply ridiculous to anyone who knows much about her. I doubt there was a stronger, more independent-minded woman in the entire span of US history.

How do I personally feel about polygamy?

Just fine.

How do you feel about monogamy?

Seth R. said...

Oh, and I think we better refocus this conversation a bit.

Here is my original statement:

"the fact that no children from any of these marriages have been found leaves the door wide open for concluding that the marriages were not actually about sex."

Let's be clear about what I was initially objecting to here. I was not trying to make the claim that Joseph Smith didn't have sex with anyone but Emma.

I don't personally believe this.

What I object to is the common anti-Mormon ploy of trying to imply that Joseph only married a bunch of women out of some overpowering sex drive. Or in a power-mad bid to dominate a submissive harem.

I think the evidence is against THIS caricature. So don't mistake me. I'm not trying to argue there was no sex, but I am arguing that sex was not the primary motivation, and was probably not present in at least some of the the plural marriages, if not most of them (including the most controversial ones).

So don't think that by presenting statements favoring sex in SOME of the marriages that you have in any way addressed my point.

My point was that sex was not the prime motivator in these sealings, not that there wasn't any.

Eli said...

Response to Seth: That still doesn't answer my question. If it was all about binding people, then why was he not sealed to everybody as a brother, or a father? Why a wife? He sure wasn't too concerned with being sealed to many men. That sounds pretty fishy. Helen Kimball specifically stated that she "never would have" become his polygamous wife "had [she] known it was anything more than ceremony." Clearly, there was more to it than just "binding" people. Actually, a lot of polygamous wives struggled with it off and on for years, so I have a hard time imagining that it was purely a "binding" thing as well.
Jim Jones is a poor example? Perhaps you have a good example for what you're talking about...
Following your refocus, I think we mostly agree. Smith was a very pious, god-fearing man. And I don't think he had sex with every one of his wives either (like the mother-daughter combo: likely one of them was left out).
Where we probably divide is that it seems much more likely to me than God commanding him to marry all these women and have sex with some of them, that Smith found himself attracted to women other than Emma, and believed that his feelings of attraction were a sign from God that they were given to him. I don't believe for a second that he was just using them for their bodies, but he was genuinely attracted to them and felt that he could be a good husband to them. I don't believe Smith was an evil man. I do believe he was corrupted by power, saw his advantage, and took it.
So we agree that he had many wives, he had sex with more women than Emma, and sex was not necessarily the prime motivator for polygamy.
We disagree about the purpose of it. As I understand it, you believe that it was mostly to bind people together. My response is that it was totally unnecessary to marry them, he could have been sealed to them as any other kind of family member, and finally, if this was the reason for polygamy, why is it not done now? That is, why do members not all get sealed to everyone else in the ward? Why do couples not get married to each other's spouses? Where does it end?

Eli said...

Response to Seth: I apologize. You asked about how I feel about Monogamy. Please see my post from March 25 of this year, July 31, as well as September 12. I believe those adequately address your question. Perhaps another question: How does your wife feel about polygamy?

Seth R. said...

I suspect we're going to be reaching an impasse soon where one either takes certain things on faith or one doesn't and there's not much more to say about it.

I concur with your list of agreements though.

As for what I think about polygamy...

First point of order, my wife is fine with it.

Second point of order - polygamy is still practiced by the LDS Church. Just not in mortality.

Today a man can be sealed to more than one woman. Take the following example:

Guy marries a woman he loves. She dies after maybe five wonderful years of marriage. Guy remarries to another woman, loves her, grows old with her.

He can be validly sealed to BOTH women - even while he is alive.

Women can also be sealed to more than one man, but only if the woman in question is dead.

It may well be that this is merely a practical measure for dealing with a situation where we don't feel comfortable in picking one husband from numerous alternatives for a woman who lived centuries ago.

But to me, it seems like the foot is in the door. Combined with Joseph Smith's documented polyandry, it seems to me that the time will eventually come when women are openly allowed to be sealed to more than one husband.

Whether full mortal polygamy makes a comeback or not remains to be seen. It is possible that when societal norms have shifted enough, it could come back. I think the LDS Church will be slow to adopt - they always seem to have problems with inertia. But eventually, I expect it will be allowed again. Just a matter of time.

How do I feel about all this?

Well, I don't advocate for polygamy now. I think under the current societal paradigm, polygamy is fraught with problems. Not because polygamy is inherently evil, but simply because it's a very bad fit with our modern society (and its laws).

If my daughters wanted to do it, I would feel the need to oppose it.

But I have zero problems with the idea of it being a reality in the afterlife.

Of course, I also assume that it will be equally applied to men and women. But I feel it is unfair to ask a person to choose between two beloved spouses in the hereafter.

I think there is room in the human heart for more than one person.

My wife has no problem with this view of polygamy.

And likewise, I have no problem with the possibility of her ending up with more than one eternal companion.

Eli said...

Response to Seth: I agree - we are close to a standstill where the gray areas remain gray and one must choose which side to stand upon.
It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into the matter, and I appreciate the dialog. Feel free to make any comments in the future, and good luck and Godspeed to you and yours. To quote a good friend, I'm sure God will surprise us all in the end.

Seth R. said...

Yes. I suppose we can leave it there.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Hi, its Nick from the UK

Many LDS members somehow are trying to minimise Joseph Smiths 'marriages' to simple sealings of sort.If this is the case then does Monson practice these sealings today with multiple women? and if not why not?

And incase anyone might get the wrong idea that marital sex might be involved and feel repulsed by it all, then Monson could(if necessary)do it secretly as Smith was doing.
LDS leaders do believe that its ok to lie to their own church members as well as the public when necessary for the Mormon God's will to be done.

If these were just simple dynastic sealings, then :

Why did Smith say an Angel with a Flaming Drawn Sword threatened to KIll Him after one of the married women refused him first time he asked? Her name -ZINA HUNTINGTON JACOBS
Kind of sounds extreme for just a simple sealing?

What about Hyrum Smiths polygamous marriages at the time? Were they supposed to be just sealings also?

and yet Brigham Young also married many women, he also threatened them with HELL over it so they should OBEY (source JOD). Many very young teens ended up in his Wives List.He had no problem having sex with them.

Orson Pratt married a 16 year old at aged 57 and was having SEX at once with her(she bore him a child just 9 months later).It was a 16 year old called Margaret Graham.It was his 11th wife. In fact he had already married a 16 year old when he was 44.

There is much more of this behaviour in LDS history and even worse these girls are supposed to continue these marriages 'eternally' somehow?

The reality is that LDS members obsessed with the 'church being true' at any cost do not give a damn what these girls went through.
They can enjoy freedom from that abuse thanks to opposers of it which forced the cult to end the barbaric practice.

Woodruffs declaration that God told him to suspend polygamy is made up BS like everything in the LDS history.

Why do LDS members even argue that Joseph Smith didn't have sex with his polygamous wives(sealings) knowing what every other Polygamous LDS leader did.

maybe Brigham Young and the rest of the megalomaniacs misunderstood Smiths Polygamous marriages and should have only been sealed to those women and not have been physically interfering with them.

To be in a CK amongst this arrangement with these megalomaniacs is a living Hell IMO.

Its great knowing that its not true anyway and just man made. The LDS is just another silly cult like the JW's and Moonies albeit with gullible and unfortunately for the most part sincere recruited victims as members.

Seth R. said...

Funny. Brigham Young is also quoted with saying that any woman who wasn't happy in her marriage and wanted out could get a divorce as far as he was concerned.

And, as it so happens, it was very, very easy for a woman to get a divorce in 1800s Utah. Utah actually had some of the most liberal divorce laws in the country under Brigham Young. He almost always granted divorces when asked to.

As for Joseph's "flaming sword" quote...

I'll just note that Joseph is hardly the first guy in history to tell a girl that he'll "die" if she won't be his.

Seth R. said...

Oh, and I would submit that the reason that polygamy is so abusive today is primarily the fault of the bigoted US government that drove it underground.

If Mormonism had been allowed to continue the practice legitimately, it would probably be no more abusive today than monogamy is.

Anonymous said...

Nick from the UK

To SETH R the apologist.

Yes Brigham Young told the women they could have a divorce if they wanted as they were so unhappy but what you miss out is that at the same time he threatened them that they would end up as single eunuchs in a lesser kingdom while he would have new wives given to him in Mormon CK should they choose to end being his polygamous wives.

He wasn't offering the choice of divorce from the goodwill of his heart, but because they were very unhappy and visibly seen to be so, and worse still likley in a living hell.

I don't believe it was that easy to escape from Cult Leader Thugs like Brigham Young.

How would these women even survive amongst a Cult Community if they are openly singled out and condemned this way and among a community of idiotic deluded fanatics.

We don't want cults trying to teach our families that Polygamy is from God and Ok etc and anyone who feels it repulsive is going to end up in Hell etc.

Thank goodness for opposers who have reformed this cult but much more is yet to be done and the cult will bend to the will of the people like it always has done albeit reluctantly.

Seth R. said...


Was that supposed to be an insult?

You break my heart Nick.

Or could it be that your arguments are so weak that you feel the need to resort to labeling to boost them?

For your information, Brigham Young never said the active practice of polygamy was a requirement for salvation.

Some people like to take one or two of his quotes out of context to try and demonstrate that he did say this, but if you read the entire quotes, and other things he said, it is clear that he did not require polygamy from everyone as a pre-req for the Celestial Kingdom.

Which is a good thing, because no more than a minority of the male or female population in Utah ever practiced polygamy at any one time. All Brigham Young ever asked for was a willingness to support the practice.

As for the stuff about "single enuchs," I don't see how those statements are different than the intense social disapproval single women were subjected to in EVERY part of 1800s America

Tell you what... name me a problem in 1800s polygamy that wasn't equally a problem with 1800s monogamy. What do you say?

Seth R. said...

Oh, and several of the women Young married were actually divorced women.

So the stigma of divorce couldn't have been that rough in 1800s Utah.

One final note:

The word "cult" is such a vague and inflammatory term that I would submit it really has no place in intelligent conversation. It's an insult - nothing more. It doesn't usefully inform us of anything.

If you have gripes, then I'm afraid you'll have to spell them out. Resorting to name-calling simply demonstrates that you haven't clearly thought through the topic.

Anonymous said...

Nick from the UK

To Seth R

"Tell you what... name me a problem in 1800s polygamy that wasn't equally a problem with 1800s monogamy. What do you say?"

How does a man with 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more wives and kids from many/most/all of them have time for his family like a man with one wife and kids?

And your church claims to represent 'The Family'?

How does a polygamist wife of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 get to communicate and bond with her husband if he is sleeping and giving time to 10-49 or more others ?

Have you asked that question your wife, daughter or mother?

"For your information, Brigham Young never said the active practice of polygamy was a requirement for salvation."

I don't want your information. It's deceptive.

No but it was supposedly critical for himself and for the other select few cult leaders so called salvation if you believe wht he taught.

“The ONLY MEN WHO BECOME GODS, even the Sons of God, are those WHO ENTER INTO POLYGAMY.”
(Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 269.)

Brigham Young; Journal
Of Discourses VOL 17 page 159

“Brother George A. Smith has been reading a little out of the revelation concerning celestial marriage, and I want to say to my sisters that if you lift you heels against this revelation, and say that you would obliterate it, and put it out of existence if you had the power to nullify and destroy it, I say that if you imbibe that spirit and feeling, you will go to HELL, just as sure as you are living women...You sisters
may say that plural marriage is very hard for you to bear. It is no such thing...But it is not the privilege of a woman to dictate the husband, and tell who or how many he shall take, or what he shall do with them when he gets them, but it is the duty of the woman to submit cheerfully”

Brigham Young said in that quote that it is not the privilege of a woman to dictate the husband, and tell who or how many he shall take and yet D&C clearly states that the first wife MUST give permission?

"it is clear that he did not require polygamy from everyone as a pre-req for the Celestial Kingdom."

No but he required it for himself and for the other select few cult leaders.

“The ONLY MEN WHO BECOME GODS, even the Sons of God, are those WHO ENTER INTO POLYGAMY.”
(Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 269.)

"The word "cult" is such a vague and inflammatory term"

It depends how you understand Cult. I use it the same way I would describe the JW cult.

So if you support the JW's and their history( including lies and deception)then it's a compliment.

Seth R. said...

Who are these people with "50 or more" wives you are talking about?

No one in 1800s Utah, I can tell you.

Brigham Young comes to mind, but he was an extremely wealthy individual, and the entire household took care of each other. Nor were each of his wives in an arrangement expecting the full intimacy of a 1990s romance film. Some were just unfortunate women he gave a home to out of kindness with no expectation of children and such.

My own ancestor had 12 women as wives, but he took exceptionally good care of them and did manage to spend time with all his kids (even if he couldn't always keep their names straight).

To be honest, this was more of a husband and father than plenty of women and children in 1800s MONOGAMOUS households got.

Many polygamous husbands were much more attentive to all their family than many monogamous husbands of the same time period (or today) were.

Seth R. said...

Here's the quote you gave:

"Brigham Young said that the only men who become gods are those who enter into polygamy."

This is a common quote for anti-Mormon sources to dishonestly rip out of context to make it sound worse than it is. Here's the full quote:

"We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists AT LEAST IN YOUR FAITH, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them." (emphasis added)

Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269

It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:

1. the command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God
2. to obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets
3. it was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward
4. if one were commanded to enter into plural marriage ("had blessings offered to them"), and if one refused, God would withhold blessings later because of disobedience now.

Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God if He chooses to command the practice of plural marriage.

But, in the context of this speech, "enter into polygamy" does not mean that all members at all times are required to be actual polygamists, but that they accept the doctrine ("polygamists at least in your faith") and be ready to practice it if so commanded without regard for worldly pressures.

I'll leave it up to you to guess at why your sources for this quote deliberately decideded to leave out what they left off.

Eli said...

Response to Seth and Nick: First a quick point:
The term "Apologist" is simply a technical term referring to an individual who defends a belief or idea. I am unaware of any inherent derogatory intention, although it certainly may come across that way when we get labeling people. I cannot vouch for Nick's intention in using the term, but mine was simply to correctly label the side of the argument. Nick and I are technically "critics", while anyone defending what we criticize are "apologists". I hope we can avoid real name-calling here.

Second, I don't want to start mediating but the tone of the discussion is deviating somewhat from the intention of this blog; if someone is happy with his or her belief, and allows others the same happiness with their beliefs, I think we all win. However, if someone believes because he or she feels forced, coerced, or frightened about following reason or conscience, or even questioning dogma, then this is a place for a sympathetic ear. As the description of the blog states, I do not wish this site to harm goodness, but encourage transparency, reason, following conscience, etc. If Seth truly is happy and comfortable with his beliefs about the Church and polygamy, then that's fine. Nick and I (and others) have made our position on it clear as well.

To sum up the argument, it appears that Seth feels that polygamy is not inherently bad, and that it has some purpose, perhaps not yet known. The critics feel that it is much too questionable territory to take lightly, and if we are expected to allow for such practices in "the only true church", we want reasonable explanations. We feel these have not been provided.
Seth has decided to err on the side of faith, and the critics have decided to err on the side of avoiding being mislead by the craftiness of men (in this case, Joseph Smith, Jr.).

Thank you both for the dialog and please feel free to comment in the future (or past).

Seth R. said...

Eli, if you'd like me to disengage on this, I will do so.

My use of the word "critics" applied more to the sources "Anonymous" seems to be quoting than to you, or even to Anonymous himself.

My experience is that the word "apologist" is often used in the same way the word "anti-Mormon" is used:

As a tool for discrediting a person as "someone we shouldn't take seriously." And these words do seem to get thrown around more when people don't want to address the substance of the arguments at hand.

Seth R. said...

One final point since Anonymous asked:

My wife is fine with the idea of polygyny.

Likewise, I am fine with the idea of polyandry.

At least in the hereafter, where the societal problems we have here on earth will not be in play.

Eli said...

Response to Seth: You may continue or leave it as it is. I think you and I have agreed to disagree, but if you feel others would like more discussion with you, perhaps you'd like to leave your website address here.
Either way, thanks for reading.

Seth R. said...

My Blogger profile links to an LDS group blog that I occasionally post at, but I haven't been too active there for a while.

Richard Packham said...

My head is spinning from trying to follow the convoluted reasoning (dare we call it that?) of Seth.

Eli, an excellent blog post!

You might mention as a fourth rule which Smith broke: in taking an additional wife, the first wife must give her permission. D&C 132:61

Quite a few of his polygamous wives were taken secretly, without Emma's knowledge or permission (e.g. the Partridge sisters).

Eli said...

Response to Richard Packham: Great point! That certainly does belong in the post. I'll edit it in next chance I get.

Riposte said...

In May of 1834, Emma Smith approved of Joseph's marriage to Eliza and Emily Partridge. They were an awkward selection because Joseph had already married them two months earlier in March without Emma's knowledge. In May they conducted the ceremony for the second time with Emma present.

I am aware you do not share my views about the situation. But from a faithful Mormon perspective, Joseph was caught in an impossible situation where he had to decide between the revelations he had received, and the outright resistance of his wife.

It didn't help matters that Emma would at times soften on the idea of plural marriage and at other times revoke her earlier approval. This left Joseph in an uncertain position. Aware of her opposition, he felt he needed to move ahead anyway - making the recovery of his domestic life almost impossible.

Was Joseph wrong in how he handled the situation?

He may well have been.

Was there a way to handle the situation without hurt feelings?

Probably not.

I believe the general notion of polygamy was indeed inspired and will offer us something quite glorious in the afterlife.

But that doesn't mean I think Joseph Smith was infallible in how he handled it.

However, I do think many of the criticism against him on the subject are rather unfair and show a great lack of perspective and historical insight.

Seth R. said...

Sorry, that was my comment above.

I was using a different computer and forgot to log out of the other account.

If you want Eli, I can repost the above under this account name and you can delete the extra comments.

Eli said...

Response to Seth: No worries. I've never tried paintball - sounds fun.
I will say this to end my argument; if you are right, I fear we have an awfully cruel God who would force us to go against conscience, when unnecessary, and provide us with no answers as to why. Still, even if you are right, I feel very strongly that my (and others') concerns about polygamy are extremely valid, and leave us blameless. I tried for so long to be okay with polygamy. I have tried for so long to understand how on Earth or in heaven it could be permissible, and I am completely at a loss. I see how it is possible to stretch one's imagination to the point that it may seem fathomable that there was some purpose for it, but I cannot do that comfortably. I wish you well with what you believe. It still does not make any sense to me, but for your sake, I hope you are right.

Eli said...

Questions for Seth: If you're still following these, I am curious about a few things if you don't mind answering. Sorry to keep coming back to it when it seemed like we were wrapping it up:
1. How did you happen upon this blog?
2. Suppose just for a moment that Joseph Smith was not a prophet at all. What clues would give it away? Specifically, what if he were just a man, and came up with polygamy entirely on his own. What would tip you off about that?
3. What I'm driving at really is this: you seem to agree that parts of Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy look bad. How bad would you allow it to look before you said "enough"? Say there were proof he had sex with a 14-year-old against her will, or he had 300 wives with whom he had one-night stands, or he had doctors perform abortions on every pregnancy so he could keep the marriages hidden, or he had wives killed if they threatened to leave him, or any other thing. If the things we both agree on do not bother you enough to doubt his prophetic call, what would?