Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

An Informed Perspective on Polygamy

Gregory L. Smith, M.D., offers a helpful and highly informed perspective on the controversial 19th-century practice of polygamy among Latter-day Saints in his article, "Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication: Frequently and Rarely Asked Questions about the Initiation, Practice, and Cessation of Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" at FAIRLDS.org. If you've struggled with the issue of polygamy (struggled with it philosophically, not in practicing it, I hope!), this article helps clarify why it was kept secret for so long, why it was not about personal gratification, and why many of the anti-Mormon charges based on it are weak or even absurd. As for the charge that it was just an excuse to allow Church leaders to gain physical gratification, I find that particularly absurd. There are plenty of ways to gain the "benefits" of immorality without the insane burden of marrying one's conquests. Polygamy in the early LDS Church was a good way to get yourself killed or jailed or in all sorts of other hot water and distress (hint: how many in-laws did Brigham Young have to deal with??), and in general just doesn't make sense as merely an excuse for men having fun. To look at the lives and writings of the men and women involved, it's much more plausible to see polygamy as a painful sacrifice, even something of an Abrahamic test for the virtuous Puritanical stock that dominated Church membership rather than a moral loophole for the personal pleasure of perverts.

Yes, there were problems and mistakes and even disasters for some, and I think we're nearly all relieved to be over a century away from that practice. But it was not the sensational, demonic practice that its critics made it out to be, or that HBO will make it out to be in their "Big Love" travesty (a hideous series that will associate modern immorality with the Church, confusing people into thinking that Mormons still practice polygamy and even do it Hollywood style).

103 comments:

Ryan said...

The tangent I actually came here to post about was the news that S. Dakota has just passed a law banning abortion, except when the mother's life is in danger.

Naturally there's a conflict with Roe vs. Wade here... Sorry to hijack the thread.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

Jeff, I'm getting the impression most of your commenters aren't actually reading Dr. Smith's 65-page article. In attempting a detailed defense and justification of polygamy, I think he's going against the example of modern LDS leaders, who simply do their best to avoid the subject -- a wiser course, in my opinion.

Mike Parker said...

Sarah:

You're long on snarky comments, but short on evidence. As Todd Compton's chart of documented marriages shows, the average age of Joseph's wives was 29. Their ages ranged:

55–58: 2
46–55: 3
36–45: 4
26–35: 10
18–25: 7
14–17: 7

If Joseph Smith's polygamy was all about "intercourse with teenagers," then why were 79% of his wives legal adults (by today's standards), 18% of them older than himself, and 9% of them old enough to be his mother?

On top of that, please provide for me one — one — reliable first-hand source that indicates he had sexual relations with his two 14-year-old wives. (Note that they were both married by proxy to Joseph Smith.) Why no children? And if Joseph was just after a sexual conquest of Heber C. Kimball's daughter, why did he ask Heber for Helen Mar's hand? Why not just take her without his permission? Or even knowledge?

Simply put, you have no evidence of Joseph Smith as lecher. You prefer to cast aspersions and make smart-alec remarks rather than deal with the evidence.

Wendy said...

The evidence looks pretty shady to me as well.

Mormanity said...

I deleted a few snarky RFM blurbs that, as usual, failed to respond meaningfully to the discussion at hand.

Wendy said...

Joseph asked for Heber C. Kimball's wife Vilate first, telling them that the union would guarantee their salvation and later settled on Helen instead:

Joseph Smith gave Helen only 24 hours to decide on whether or not to marry him. Of this, Helen wrote:
"[my father] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty four hours. ... I was sceptical - one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof That I had of its being right."
The next morning, Joseph Smith finally appeared himself to explain the "law of Celestial Marriage" and claim his teen bride. In her memoir, Helen wrote, "After which he said to me, 'if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father's household and all of your kindred.' This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."


Helen also writes about her mother's reaction to all of this:
"None but God and his angels could see my mother's bleeding heart - when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied 'If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say."

"She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had yet seen her fifteenth summer, following the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was hidden from me."
Helen thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was only dynastic. But to her surprise, it was more. Helen confided to a close friend in Nauvoo: "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it." ("Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS member Richard S. Van Wagoner, p. 53.)

Randy J said...

Mike - Compton spins the data differently than you do:

"In the group of Smith's well-documented wives, eleven (33 percent) were 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Nine wives (27 percent) were twenty-one to thirty years old. Eight wives (24 percent) were in Smith's own peer group, ages thirty-one to forty. In the group aged forty-one to fifty, there is a substantial drop off: two wives, or 6 percent, and three (9 percent) in the group fifty-one to sixty.

The teenage representation is the largest,though the twenty-year and thirty-year groups are comparable, which contradicts the Mormon folk wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy as an attempt to care for older, unattached women. These data suggest that sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith's polygamy. In fact, the command to multiply and replenish the earth was part of the polygamy theology, so non-sexual marriage was generally not in the polygamous program, as Smith taught it.

Mike Parker said...

Wendy's last post is instructive, in that it demonstrates that she is selective with the evidence she presents and seems to accept the worst rather than the most likely.

Joseph asked for Heber C. Kimball's wife Vilate first, telling them that the union would guarantee their salvation and later settled on Helen instead.

This is an egregious distortion of what really happened.

The testimony comes from Heber C. Kimball in his own autobiography. He reported that Joseph asked for Vilate, and after much inner turmoil he agreed; Joseph "wept at this proof of devotion, and embracing Heber, told him that was all that the Lord required" (Compton, p. 495). He then and sealed Heber and Vilate on the spot. If Joseph wanted Vilate, and Heber gave her to him, why didn't he just take her? The evidence is against you here.

There is no evidence that Joseph "settled" for Helen. This is a distorted interpretation by someone who wishes to besmirch the character of Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith gave Helen only 24 hours to decide on whether or not to marry him. Of this, Helen wrote:
"[my father] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty four hours."


"Only"? Why didn't he demand an immediate answer? Why didn't Heber just tell his daughter to shut up and do it now? Why even bother to give her a choice?

"... I was sceptical - one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof That I had of its being right."

This clearly supports my take on the events more than it does yours. She was given a choice, considered it seriously, loved and trusted her father, and went forward on that basis.

The next morning, Joseph Smith finally appeared himself to explain the "law of Celestial Marriage" and claim his teen bride.

"Claim?" As if she were property!

In her memoir, Helen wrote, "After which he said to me, 'if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father's household and all of your kindred.' This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."

This and other evidence point toward Joseph's view of polygamy as dynastic. This is also the conclusion of Richard Bushman in his Joseph Smith biography. (Bushman is, of course, that hack apologist who just happened to become Gouverneur Morris Professor of History at Columbia University.)

Helen also writes about her mother's reaction to all of this:
"None but God and his angels could see my mother's bleeding heart - when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied 'If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say."


If Vilate was so horrified, why didn't she say no? Why didn't she tell Joseph and Heber to get lost? Her statement is more one of faith than doubt.

"She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had yet seen her fifteenth summer, following the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was hidden from me."

Was plural marriage easy? Was secret plural marriage to Joseph Smith easy? No one I know of has ever claimed so. I don't know what this proves.

Helen thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was only dynastic. But to her surprise, it was more. Helen confided to a close friend in Nauvoo: "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."

This passage was not published by Helen herself, but by Catherine Lewis in her 1848 anti-Mormon book Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons; Giving an Account of Their Iniquities.... There are good reasons to suspect that the quote was either fabricated or distorted by Lewis:

Based on her own actions after Joseph's death, she seems not to have believed she was deceived. In 1884 she published a 72-page booklet entitled Why We Practice Plural Marriage, a vigorous defense of "the principle." She traveled widely, speaking publicly in support of polygamy. Her life was horribly difficult, with poverty, disease, hunger, and death, but she remained in the faith until the end.

Not exactly the actions of someone who thought Joseph Smith was a liar and a pervert.

Mike Parker said...

Randy J: "Mike - Compton spins the data differently than you do."

Yes, he does. But then Compton also believes the plural marriage was not based on revelation but on Joseph Smith's own ambitions. His conclusion drives his analysis at virtually every step, even to the point of constructing fictional events.

My age groupings are standard for contemporary marketing analysis (which is what I do for a living). Separating 18 to 25-year olds from younger teenagers is the proper way to approach this subject, especially, because those 18 and older are considered emancipated adults. By including 18 to 20-year-olds with teenagers, Compton skews his statistical presentation.

Claiming that "sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith's polygamy" holds a lot less water when you present the data a little more accurately. But since that was one of Compton's main theses, he went with it.

Needless to say, I have a lot of problems with In Sacred Loneliness.

Mike Parker said...

By the way, I'm still waiting for one reliable first-hand source that indicates Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his two 14-year-old wives.

Sarah said...

Mike said: "I'm still waiting for one reliable first-hand source that indicates Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his two 14-year-old wives."

Are you arguing that he didn't have sex with his wives? Or that he did with some of his wives but not others? Or he did with some of his teenage wives but not others?

What do you want, a soiled bedsheet? Given Joseph's secret letters arranging liaisons, his lying to Emma, and his seduction techniques threatening divine retribution, (from secret letters to bold-faced written revelations!) it would be surprising if he invited someone in to watch.

"And if Joseph Smith have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore he is justified for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth."

Have the courage to say that you don't believe Joseph had sex with his wives.

I used to believe that Joseph wasn't polygamous - this was taught to me in seminary and sunday school. The picture has become much clearer now. In Sacred Loneliness (ISL) was heartbreaking and testimony-shattering.

From Todd Compton's ISL:

"Because of claims by Reorganized Latter-day Saints that Joseph was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Joseph's wives) affirmed repeatedly that Joseph had physical sexual relations with his plural wives-despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American religion which otherwise would have prevented mention of sexual relations in marriage."

Examples compiled by 14M.com that supplement ISL -

- Faithful Mormon Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph's wife "in very deed." (Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156.)

- In a court affidavit, faithful Mormon Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. (Temple Lot Case, 427)

- Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) said she "roomed" with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had "carnal intercourse" with him. (Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15.)

In total, 13 faithful latter-day saint women who were married to Joseph Smith swore court affidavits that they had sexual relations with him.

- Joseph Smith's personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith's first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated.
William Clayton's journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106)

- Smith's secretary William Clayton also recorded a visit to young Almera Johnson on May 16, 1843: "Prest. Joseph and I went to B[enjamin] F. Johnsons to sleep." Johnson himself later noted that on this visit Smith stayed with Almera "as man and wife" and "occupied the same room and bed with my sister, that the previous month he had occupied with the daughter of the late Bishop Partridge as his wife." Almera Johnson also confirmed her secret marriage to Joseph Smith: "I lived with the prophet Joseph as his wife and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin F." (Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. See also "The Origin of Plural Marriage, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Deseret News Press, page 70-71.)

- Faithful Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith's son: "Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, "I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that."" (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.)

ISL further states:

"The teenage (wives) representation is the largest, though the twenty-year and thirty-year groups are comparable, which contradicts the Mormon folk-wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy was an attempt to care for older, unattached women. These data suggest that sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith's polygamy. In fact, the command to multiply and replenish the earth was part of the polygamy theology, so non-sexual marriage was generally not in the polygamous program, as Smith taught it."

At some point apologizing for polygamous behavior becomes unseemly; as the mother of a teenage daughter who can't imagine a fourteen year old being taken by a thirty+ year old man, I'd suggest you rethink your stridency.

Wendy said...

Mike wrote: The testimony comes from Heber C. Kimball in his own autobiography. He reported that Joseph asked for Vilate, and after much inner turmoil he agreed; Joseph "wept at this proof of devotion, and embracing Heber, told him that was all that the Lord required" (Compton, p. 495). He then sealed Heber and Vilate on the spot.

I know you are trying really hard to defend Joseph but you are doing him no favors with this one. Joseph is supposed to be a prophet of God. This just makes Joseph look like an egomaniac with a God complex playing cruel mindgames with Church members. The facts show Joseph did indeed marry the wives of other Mormon men (Zina Huntington Jacobs and Nancy Marinda Hyde to name two), so I guess Heber lucked out...except for the whole Joseph marrying his teenage daughter instead.

All these marriages were made on the grounds of spiritual promises of salvation to them and their family members. What would Mormons do today if the Church still practiced this doctrine? How can salvation be extended to an entire family by taking one of their teen daughters? Why can't Latter Day Saints today recognize the moral depravity in Joseph Smith's actions towards his followers? Did angels with threatening swords really force Joseph Smith into behaving like this?

Mike Parker said...

Sarah: "Are you arguing that he didn't have sex with his wives? Or that he did with some of his wives but not others? Or he did with some of his teenage wives but not others?"

I'm not arguing that Joseph did not have a sexual relationship with at least some of his wives. The testimonies you reproduced are clear on that.

I am arguing that there is no evidence or testimony that he slept with his two 14-year-old wives. In fact, the evidence in Helen Mar's case indicates dynasticism.

I was, if you'll recall, responding to your earlier comments (since removed by the admin) accusing Joseph Smith of instituting plural marriage so he could have sex with 14-year-old girls. I responded to that, and now you're straying from your earlier claim by providing testimony from wives who were not the two 14-year-olds.

Again, I repeat: Where is the first-hand, reliable evidence of this?

Sarah: "I used to believe that Joseph wasn't polygamous - this was taught to me in seminary and sunday school. The picture has become much clearer now. In Sacred Loneliness (ISL) was heartbreaking and testimony-shattering."

I'm sorry that your testimony was based on information you received from uninformed teachers. I'm also sorry that you appear to have taken all of Todd Compton's book as gospel; as I mentioned above, his research was thorough, but the lens through which he presented it is distorted.

Wendy: "Joseph is supposed to be a prophet of God. This just makes Joseph look like an egomaniac with a God complex playing cruel mindgames with Church members."

If that is true, then why didn't Heber C. Kimball — the subject of the test — think so? Why didn't he turn on Joseph Smith? Why did he stay in Nauvoo? Why did he give his own daughter to Joseph as a plural wife? Why did he go west? Why did he become a member of the First Presidency? There are so many, many questions that cannot be answered under the "Joseph as egomanic" rubric.

Wendy: "The facts show Joseph did indeed marry the wives of other Mormon men (Zina Huntington Jacobs and Nancy Marinda Hyde to name two), so I guess Heber lucked out...except for the whole Joseph marrying his teenage daughter instead."

Yes, Joseph did marry other men's wives. But I was responding to the charge that "Joseph wanted Vilate but settled for Helen." You haven't even come close to demonstrating that. Heber agreed and presented his wife to Joseph; Joseph could have had at that moment, but instead broke down in tears, embraced them, and sealed them to each other on the spot. And "luck" had nothing to do with Joseph's sealing to Helen — Heber and Vilate both gave their permission, and Helen, by her own testimony, agreed because of her faith in her father.

Wendy: "All these marriages were made on the grounds of spiritual promises of salvation to them and their family members. What would Mormons do today if the Church still practiced this doctrine? How can salvation be extended to an entire family by taking one of their teen daughters? Why can't Latter Day Saints today recognize the moral depravity in Joseph Smith's actions towards his followers? Did angels with threatening swords really force Joseph Smith into behaving like this?"

These are interesting questions, and they have application in a host of scriptural circumstances. What would a modern Saint do if he was asked to sacrifice his only son of promise, as Abraham was? What would a modern Saint do if he was called to free an entire people from the most powerful nation on earth, as Moses was? What would a modern Saint do if he was called to retrieve the history of his family from a powerful, bloodthirsty man, as Nephi was? The list goes on and on.

There are scores of scriptural examples where key people in key times were presented with trials of their faith. Modern scripture indicates that all of us must go through our own personal trial of faith, or we cannot be sanctified (e.g., D&C 58:4; 95:1; 98:12; 101:4–5; 136:31, 51). Perhaps the trial for some people is to learn that Church history is more complicated than what they learned in seminary.

Casting Joseph as an egomaniacal pervert does not explain the Book of Mormon; the revelations; the miracles; the communities and temples in Ohio, Missouri, and Nauvoo; and all the other incredible things he accomplished. You've simply traded one overly-simplistic view of him (perfect prophet) for another (egomaniacal pervert). A more balanced view presents him as an imperfect man called to do God's will and carrying it out with mixed results — sometimes he was successful, and great things took place; other times things were difficult and complicated, and we are left with an incomplete understanding of how to deal with them in light of our present understanding of the gospel.

But just because I don't understand all of Joseph's actions doesn't mean I should reject the gospel in toto:

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:66–68.)

Having reviewed much of the evidence, I have decided to give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Sarah: "Are you arguing that he didn't have sex with his wives? Or that he did with some of his wives but not others? Or he did with some of his teenage wives but not others?"

For the record, this is a good example of where Compton’s ISL is confusing, and your argument here (apparently) even distorts what Compton thinks.

He writes:

[S]ome conclude that Helen Mar Kimball, who married Smith when she was fourteen, did not have marital relations with him. This is possible, as there are cases of Mormons in Utah marrying young girls and refraining from sexuality until they were older. But the evidence for Helen Mar is entirely ambiguous in my view. (emphasis added). (ISL, p. 14)

Like Sarah, when I read this I assumed that Compton was arguing for there being evidence both ways.

Compton’s later remarks on this point, though, suggest that his intent was different:

The Tanners made great mileage out of Joseph Smith's marriage to his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball. However, they failed to mention that I wrote that there is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage, and I suggest that, following later practice in Utah, there may have been no sexuality. (p. 638) All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage. - Todd M. Compton, Response to Tanners, post to LDS Bookshelf mailing list, no date. www.lds-mormon.com/compton.shtml (15 May 2005).

So, this sounds a bit different when Compton explains how the Tanners have misread him. Personally, I suspect that the editorial hand of Signature Books may rest more heavily on this passage than others.

Compton also writes:

…there is no good evidence that Joseph Smith did not have sexual relations with any wife, previously single or polyandrous. (ISL, p. 21)

One is tempted, of course, to ask just what such negative evidence would look like. There is, after all, no evidence that Compton did not beat his wife—are we therefore justified in concluding that he did?

I am not so much concerned about whether there was sexuality in the marriages—since I hold they were legitimate marriages, then a sexual dimension neither surprises nor alarms me. But, I am troubled by Compton’s evidentiary standard here (or lack of clarity), especially when he later disclaims it when the Tanners call him on it.

Indeed, Compton’s approach to this issue is often inconsistent. Of Zina Huntingon, he writes “Nothing specific is known about sexuality in their marriage, though judging from Smith’s other marriages, sexuality was probably included.” (p. 82) Once again, we have him arguing from negative evidence—we don’t know anything here, so we should judge based on other relationships. Yet, in another place, we read that “it is probable that Smith did not have sexual relations with his older wives.” (p. 281)

It is not clear to me how this squares with Compton’s claims that there is no evidence that sexuality was not involved with any wife; his treatment of this (like many others) is depressingly confused when it comes to interpretive issues.

I suspect that because Compton is trying to draw broad conclusions from limited evidence, and because he is treating the marriages as if they were ‘cookie-cutter’ versions of each other in which the happenings in one may be used to describe another, his approach is inevitably muddled. I wonder too if the hand of his editor can be detected in this area more than others.

In fact, he tells us elsewhere that:

My position, actually, is that there is no evidence, pro or con, for sexual relations. You cannot prove that there were sexual relations; you cannot prove that there were no sexual relations. Notice that I do not simply say "ambiguous"; I say "entirely ambiguous."

But, the reader may ask, what is my best guess? I remember talking with my publisher Gary Bergera on the phone once during the editorial process and I restated the cautious "no evidence either way" position. But Gary pressed: "But what do you think? What is your best guess?" And I answered that my best guess was that there were no sexual relations, based on parallels from some marriages to underage women in Utah polygamy.

See: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/7207/revhmk5.html, 19 March 2006)

To me “ambiguous,” does not mean “no evidence either way.” I, like Sarah apparently, read this as “some evidence both ways.” I think this is, as least, an example of poor editing, since surely they knew this would be an important/controversial point, and yet there seems to have been both an effort to get Compton to commit more heavily than the data would permit, and a choice of words which many (including me) have misread versus what Compton says he meant.

==

Readers wishing to appreciate the wide variety of arrangements (each with different duties, obligations, and privileges) in Utah plural marriage should read Kathryn Daynes “More Wives Than One” (in my view, the best single volume on plural marriage.)

Deciding whether such things applied in Nauvoo would be a type of “regression analysis,” if you will, that must remain speculative in the absence of other data.

Kind regards,

Greg Smith

Anonymous said...

Helen Mar certainly is the most abused woman in Mormonism...abused by the antiMormons, that is. They stuff a sock in her mouth and search out a few negative statements in a LIFETIME of her writings in defense of her lifestyle. I don't think much of polygamy...but I think even less of people who demonize women as being dumb or brainwashed or oppressed for making their own choices. It has gotten to the point where it begins to look a little too much like misogyny for my comfort. I always refer to these really "smart" people who crawl out to defend dead women by smearing them and demeaning their life choices the Defenders of Dead and Dumb Women. Let's remove the sock from Helen's mouth and let her speak for herself:

Helen Mar Kimball, Woman's Exponent 1 December 1881:
If those not of our faith, who visit our cities, came with a determination to lay aside their prejudices, to learn the facts concerning us, or our religion, nothing would give more pleasure than to tell it them; but too many who have come here, after being treated with every politeness and escorted to seats in our tabernacle which are reserved for the stranger, sit there, under the very altar of the Lord's Supper, in the hearing of Saints who assemble to worship God, and spit out their venom, or make ridicule of everything that we hold sacred.

But the most despicable characters are the overly righteous souls, who are filled with such holy horror at the mention of "Mormon" polygamy, and are the ones whom we look upon with suspicion, and set them down as among the most corrupt of hypocrites.

Juliann

Wendy said...

I don't think much of polygamy...but I think even less of people who demonize women as being dumb or brainwashed or oppressed for making their own choices.

Juliann,

I am not demonizing women. I am talking about the actions of *Joseph Smith*, a man. When there is a power imbalance, such as the case with Joseph, THE PROPHET, and fourteen year old Helen Mar Kimball, then yes, I have a problem with it.

Ryan said...

I'm getting the impression most of your commenters aren't actually reading Dr. Smith's 65-page article.

Sorry for the tangent. The thread wasn't exactly hopping when I posted it. I actually did read the article, last time Jeff linked it. Took nearly 4 hours!

I had an interesting thought while reading, though I don't think the authors really made a point of it: maybe one reason the Church had to stop the practice was because the nation had shown it was prepared to dismantle the Constitution and abandon rule of law in order to prosecute Church members.

This was a surprise: one court even "upheld the right of a U.S. Marshal to shoot and kill rather than arrest" a polygamist "who was in no way resisting arrest." All this despite the fact that polygamy was only a misdemeanor, and never classed as a felony.

Imagine today if a police officer shot and killed a shoplifter *after* putting on the handcuffs, especially if the victim were a member of some persecuted minority!

Anonymous said...

Wendy:

"When there is a power imbalance,..."

Ooh, there's a red flag or code-word if there ever was one.

You're trying to impose late 20th century femininism onto a situation in the 1840's.

Sarah:

I'm sorry you were lied to in Seminary and Sunday School. I joined the church as an adult, and I figured out Joseph Smith practiced polygamy just by reading D&C section 132, especially verse 52.

But I was lied to by other members of the church, so I know it hurts when you find out some people have lied, especially sometimes when leaders have lied.

And it hurts even when they don't actually lie, but just let you believe something that isn't true, and they don't take steps to clarify things.

The church is still true.

Natalie said...

Ya know, I wanted to start this whole comment with a tangent, but then I would have said some naughty word, and Jeff would have deleted my post, and then what would have been the point?

Still not sure there is a point, because if you DISAGREE with the Mormons, you are an "anti" and everything you say gets dismissed out of hand.

But has it occurred to ANY of you Mormons defending Joseph's choice to marry 14-year-olds while he was married to someone else that he was marrying 14-YEAR-OLDS?? Who really gives a rat's.... er...butt, whether or not he was having SEX with them. Are you REALLY that deluded? They were barely in their teens, you stupid....er....um....well, they were YOUNG TEENS. Perhaps some of you have daughters their age. How would you feel?

I just don't get this desire to defend the indefensible. Can’t you get by your overwhelming, heart-burning belief to realize you are so crazed to defend your faith that you don't even realize you have gone over the edge? There is no explaining this stuff away. It won't work, and Mormons are beginning to look more and more stupid.

I know you WANT to believe it. I know you WANT to defend it. I understand that, because your entire being is invested in it, but sooner or later you have to accept that you have been duped.

There IS no informed perspective on polygamy, except it was a convenient way for Joseph to get...er, happy.

I don't think Joseph Smith was entirely evil. I do believe he was a young charismatic, but uneducated con man who, once he realized what he could get away with (can you say PROPHET) got caught up in his own fervor.

As for the last poster on this thread, YOU need to get a life. The CHURCH IS TRUE, na na na na na na? Just because you SAY it is so, doesn’t make it true.

The hardest part of all of this, for me, is the desire to say, YOU ARE AN IDIOT, to these posters, because the truth is, they are not. They aren't idiots. And one day the realization that all of this crap they have been defending for so long is absolutely without defense. That's where the hard part comes in. They will reach it.

Of course, some will not. Cover your head in the sand. Go ahead. Spin in circles. Convince yourself you are living the good life that will lead you into the Celestial Kingdom. I guess that's okay, too, but I truly believe the apologists know there is something wrong. Or they wouldn't be so busy spinning circles around the truth that they are left dizzy with their own brilliance. Or stupidity. You pick.

I have no doubt that Jeff Lindsay, and most of the people that post on his blog, are good people. I really don’t. I do find it sad that you are so busy defending your “truth” that you have lost sight of reality.

14-year-olds. FOURTEEN. Early teens. EARLY teens. Got a young daughter? Think about that. Even in those days, TOO YOUNG TO MARRY, especially when you were married to someone else. If you keep defending this away, you are as depraved as he.

John said...

Natalie,

I don't know if you were thinking you'd reach any of us stupid mormons with that last post, but I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren't a horrible person and that your intentions were pure. I have a couple pointers for you so that next time your out-stretched arm of love can be more successful.

1) As much as you hate it, name calling is a great way to get yourself dismissed in people's minds right off the bat. It has nothing to do with us eagerly writing people off that disagree as it does with people earning it for themselves through open hostility. Suppose someone came up to you and said, "Shut up and sit down. Listen to this, moron," would you listen to what they had to say next very carefully?

I personally take offense to your comment, "Still not sure there is a point, because if you DISAGREE with the Mormons, you are an 'anti' and everything you say gets dismissed out of hand." If you've read this blog with any kind of regularity, you'd know that diverging opinions are common and that room is given for all opinions to be expressed fully. Balanced, civil discussions are the norm here, so spare us the martyr act.

2) Eliminate the rhetoric. It doesn't work.

3) Be respectful.

We stupid Mormons will be far more likely to take something you have to say seriously if you can abide these few principles.

Now to cut through your nonsense to the single point you brought up--

The situation was not as simple or evil as your caricature. From your post, I assume you didn't bother to read the link in its entirety, or even in part for that matter, so rather than waste time writing what's already been written, I will advise you to read the article. I also admonish you to exercise your superbly open mind while reading. Make an effort to understand the situation from the other perspective. Understanding has nothing to do with condoning or believing, so doing this wont pollute your mind or faith with our stupidity. What it will do, however, is allow you to pull your head out of the sands of ignorance, over-simplification, and intolerance to reveal a world of multi-faceted issues. Do it slowly--it may just blow your mind.

Anonymous said...

I had a roommate in school who was from India.

His parents got married, it was an arranged marriage, when his mother was 14, and his father was 25.

Before she turned 15, she gave birth to my roomie. Then the family came to the US, and they had 2 more children. The father was a scientist for a big national or world-wide corporation, then went into business for himself.

My former roomie is now a cardiovascular surgeon, and his parents are still married last I heard.

Marriage at age 14 is unusual in our day and age, except for certain countries. It may have been unusual for the American frontier in the early 1800's, but not all that unusual.

And yes, it is a big deal whether or not Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his 14 year old wife or wives. And the fact that Helen Kimball is later on record as defending polygamy speaks volumes.

What's really wrong here is trying to use late 20th century attitudes to judge early 19th century people. Doing so might give you a nice sense of moral superiority to those "depraved Mormons." But you're also attempting to rewrite history, or at least showing that your analysis of history is lacking.

If arranged marriages are so horrible to you, be thankful that you were born in a time and place where it's no longer practiced.

And no, repeating "the church is true" is not burying one's head in the sand. It's a statement of truth which I received via divine revelation, something I trust much more than things written by strangers on the Internet.

The apostle Paul nailed it in one of his letters to the Corinthians, spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Without revelation, spiritual truth cannot be known.

Aside from your illogic of trying to use late 20th century attitudes to judge early 19th century people, your incredulity of Joseph Smith is logical. Without a spiritual witness or confirmation (revelation) I wouldn't have believed it either.

I fully realize the "God told me so" testimony of believers fails to satisfy unbelievers who seek concrete evidence. That is a big stumbling block. The best that believers can do, as Jeff often points out, is offer "evidence of plausibility." There will never be evidence that rises to the level of proof. There are many places in the New Testament, in both the gospels and in the epistles, that address the concept of faith and not having proof.

Anonymous said...

Wendy and Sarah: Are you two Bible-believing Christians? If you don't want us to be believe in Mormonism, what do you want us to believe? What is your replacement? Atheism, agnosticism, some other Christian religion, or what?

You're debating from a history and sociology perspective, not from a religious perspective. If one rejects the divinity of Jesus as the Christ, then debating the historical perspective is a moot point. Both on your end and our end.

If you're agnostic/atheist, then no one (including JS) could be a prophet, so it's pointless to continue. And it would likewise be pointless for us to encourage you to believe that he was a prophet, if you reject a priori the divinity of Jesus.

Natalie said...

John,

I didn't call anyone a name. I did use some names, but they were NOT directed at one person. If you CAREFULLY read my post, you will see that. You seem to think that all I need to do is slow down and reexamine this polygamy stuff and it will BLOW MY MIND. Sorry, it already did that. And I am appalled that any self-respecting human being can defend it.

As for the way I address things, I am frank and to the point. I leave the spinning and circling to others.

Rhetoric? Look in your own back yard.

Wendy said...

People keep saying you can't apply today's standards to those in the 1800s. Yes, you can. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.

I am LDS. I don't believe in everything the church teaches. I let my own conscience, heart and mind be my guide. Joseph being forced by an angry angel with a sword into deceiving and betraying his faithful wife Emma by taking multiple wives sets off every internal alarm I have. It is not just my 21st century self speaking. It was as wrong back then as it is now. The Proclamation on the Family and it's "one man one woman" rhetoric rings especially shallow in comparison.

The Manifesto repealing polygamy was as much influenced by outside sources as it was from God. One starts to wonder if Joseph's true legacy isn't the border towns of Hildale and Colorado City and all their contemporaries.

The Church stands in judgement of me everyday. I will also hold the Church to the same standard.

Mike Parker said...

Wendy:

You are clearly avoiding a deep and considered study of this subject, relying instead on your emotional response to an oversimplified version of events. Have you considered that your "internal alarm" might be ringing based on incorrect information?

Arranged marriages of young teens were not at all uncommon — and certainly not illegal — in early 19th century America. As repulsive as it may be to you, a 21st century liberated woman, it was not even blinked at by your ancestors.

Put aside your biases and read Greg Smith's paper.

Schuyler said...

A couple of observations: First, I have noticed the media has increased its coverage of polygamy and tend to sensationalize it for ratings. Often they paint it with a broad brush to indict all Mormons. This subject has ebbed and flowed with the media over the years. What is interesting is it seems to be on the increase since Mitt Romney is gaining popularity as a possible Republican presidential candidate for 2008. I’m wondering if it is an indirect way to discredit him without directly attacking his good name, reputation and accomplishments. It makes for a good conspiracy theory.

Second, as has been pointed out by many, the norms and ideals of 19th century America are very different than today. Here are some examples:

1. Men were expected to be well established and capable of providing for their wife, especially in high society. These often meant 30 year old men married girls in their early teens. Repugnant to us now, fathers at that time wanted their daughters to marry early and properly. If I recall correctly, an old maid began at age 19.

2. In the late 1800’s injecting heroin, smoking cannabis and snorting cocaine was very acceptable. Today (and rightly so) it’s highly taboo.

3. A trip to the woodshed, whipping a child, etc. was not only accepted by expected punishment for a wayward child. Today if you scold your child you might be arrested for causing mental harm. (In 1970’s Sweden a parent would be arrested for a simple spank.)

4. If your child is not belted in with the proper car seat, you are considered a child abuser. As a child, I remember sitting on my father’s lap while he was driving the car.

5. Capital punishment used to be a social gathering where citizens cheered as the criminal was beheaded, hanged, shot, flogged or drawn and quartered. Today, if capital punishment can even be carried out, the public is extremely concerned that the criminal might sense pain even after being anesthetized.

6. Need I even mention slavery, racism, etc.

I’m sure there are many other examples. Needless to say, there are many practices that were common place in our society only a century, if not decades ago that would singe our modern sensibilities. I have a 14 year old daughter and I would do everything in my power to stop her from marrying anyone, let alone a man in his 30’s. Had I lived in the 1800’s my viewpoint might be entirely different. Fortunately, I will never know.

Yes, polygamy bothers me; it bothers my wife more. I don’t understand it, but there are a lot of things I don’t understand. I know, however, that living the principles of the Gospel bring more happiness than not living them. I’m glad to be a member of the Church now rather than in the 1800’s.

John said...

Natalie,

I read your post carefully before I posted the first time, and now I carefully read it again. Two questions-- Did I claim you name-called a single person? Is there any fundamental difference between insulting an individual versus a group? If anything, insulting a group is the worse offense. Ask anyone part of a minority how they feel about it.

"You seem to think that all I need to do is slow down and reexamine this polygamy stuff and it will BLOW MY MIND. Sorry, it already did that. And I am appalled that any self-respecting human being can defend it." --The fact that you are so clearly "appalled" betrays your over-simplified, inaccurate idea of what polygamy was as practiced by early church leaders and that you have limited your reasoning to your initial emotional reaction, a reaction based on false concepts. If you laid aside your entrenched opinions long enough to read the article and fairly consider the issue, you would discover a much more complex situation. Please, read the article and abandon your predudice before dismissing an entire group out of hand.

ltbugaf said...

"The Proclamation on the Family and it's [sic] 'one man one woman' rhetoric rings especially shallow in comparison."

Yes, it must be shallow indeed, since it doesn't exist. The Proclamation never, ever says "one man, one woman." It says marriage is a proper relationship between a man and a woman. That was just as true for authorized polygamous marriages as for authorized monogamous marriages.

Wendy said...

Put aside your biases and read Greg Smith's paper.

Mike,

I have read the article. In fact, I have spent hours and hours over the years on the FAIR site pouring over many of their articles. I am a voracious reader and read both sides of issues that interest me.

You talk of bias. Maybe you need to overcome *your* bias. I was born in the covenant, indoctrinated since birth, and married in the Logan LDS temple in 1990. I *have* overcome my bias, as a born and raised member of the LDS church, by seeing something isn't right about the Church and apologist's versions of Joseph Smith's revelation and practice of polygamy. For every FAIR article you read, try a book like Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Webb Young (one of Brigham Young's many wives) to balance out *your* bias.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0405044887/103-0733893-3203830?v=glance&n=283155

I've found the comments on this post interesting but I'm ready to move on.

ltbugaf said...

So for every piece of careful and responsible scholarship we read, we should balance it with a piece of irresponsible propaganda? Interesting concept, balancing truth with falsehood.

ltbugaf said...

Jeff, the material I've seen on TV about "Big Love" indicates that your characterization of the series may not be right. What I've been able to gather from the talk-show promotions and popular magazine articles is that the series focuses not at all on the supposed sexual excitement of polygamy, but rather on the difficulties faced by an extremely harried husband with three very demanding wives. I'm also not sure it fails to show that the modern Church eschews polygamy. It looks to me like the characters are having to be quite secretive about their practice as they carry it on around their Mormon neighbors.

Have you seen other material to the contrary?

Sarah said...

I don't know how Gregory Smith in good conscience invokes Gandhi's movement to liberate a billion Hindus and Muslims as a parallel to the propagation of child polygamy and lying about its practice.

I also don't know why he barely mentions Emma, other than to say that she was "no fan" of polygamy. Indeed.

Nice that Gregory Smith gets to the heart of the matter...

You can make your arguments about historical context, but it's articles like Smith's that are no longer persuasive to those of us who weigh the totality of the evidence, the lies, and the deception and see the practice, and what it tells us about those who apologize for it, for what it is - self-serving, twisted, and NOT of God.

But I must be mistaken, for Gregory Smith puts me in my place:

"...but it is laughable to argue that he (Smith)and his associates were insincere or that they were practicing their religion only for power and to satisfy carnal desires...."

Now that's a scholarly article.

John said...

Not to butt in, but Wife #19 by Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young Denning is one of the most ridiculous books I've ever read--not because its from the "other side," but because she's absolutely full of it.

Mormanity said...

I find marriage at age 14 to be deeply troubling. But I also struggle with whether there is an age that can be universally accepted as the boundary between evil and good marriage. My own town of Appleton is loaded with this appalling phenonemon. We have many dozens of teenage brides in the Hmong community. One of my favorite people in the world was a 13-year-old girl when she married. She tries hard to convince others that this is stupid because it hurt her educational opportunities and set her back in many ways. But she has marvelous husband, another great human being, who was convicted of a felony for marrying her, not fully appreciating the impact that American law would have. Other impressive women I know married at 14, 15, and 16. Many agree that this was too early. But these same people are also quick to point out that America may be far too harsh to condemn that practice, and that it was long viewed as fine and acceptable in the old country (Laos), but in modern society, it's a big problem.

Mike Parker said...

Wendy: Are you seriously recommending Wife Number 19? Are you even remotely aware of Hugh Nibley's classic 1963 book Sounding Brass (republished recently), in which he soundly trashed Eliza Webb's hysterical yarn-spinning?

Sarah: The objectives of Ghandi and Joseph Smith were different, but their method — civil disobedidence against unjust law — were the same. How could you have missed that rather obvious point?

Greg Smith's comment that you deride is right on target. If Joseph simply wanted to have sex with young girls, there were much easier ways to accomplish this besides the way he introduced plural marriage. As I've mentioned several times now — and no one has bothered to respond — the ages of the women he married and the complexity of the arrangements were about the most difficult thing he could attempt. It would have been far, far easier for him to simply engage in secret sexual liaisons; that way the fewest number of people would know about it and he would have plausible deniablity. Instead, he opened himself up to being exposed by introducing the most difficult and controversial doctrine he ever taught, and it was exactly that that lead to his own death.

It is laughable to argue that Joseph Smith's plural marriages were simply about satisfying his carnal desires.

Shadow Spawn said...

I think a major reason for polygamy was a test of the people's faith. Sometimes the Lord asks things of us that might seem absurd or outrageous at the time. Imagine what Adam thought when he was told to slaughter animals on an alter. Or what Abraham must have thought when told to sacrifice his son.

My personal opinion, is that once in a while the Lord likes to weed out his garden. I think the whole Mark Hoffman thing was such a case.

Some people just get weeded out, and the rest have to move on in faith.

Mike Parker said...

Interesting comment from the Tuesday 3/21 Alberta newspaper The Gateway (LINK):

Oddly enough, the Mormons were the first people to play around with the rules of our societal game. Joseph Smith introduced the idea of polygamy to Mormon settlements. Although polygamy appears to go against women’s liberation, the effect was surprising.

Suddenly, Mormon women were free from their husbands and societal expectations. Notions of "true love" were eliminated. Women were no longer pressured to look a certain way, or behave like virgins or whores, since they were married off fairly young to feminine households. Many Mormon women were liberated by the experience, and gained confidence and power in the households. Salt Lake City, the Mormon capital, was the first place to give women the vote. At the end of the 19th century, many Mormon women were professionals.


Repressed women? Hardly.

We shouldn't judge 19th-century mainstream Mormon polygamy by the distorted practice among modern fundamentalist Mormon groups.

On Lawn said...

Jeff, thanks for the link. I've put my thoughts up on Opine as this is part of a much larger social debate.

sarah said...

This thread has been clarifying -

Parker, Lindsay, et al: I'm sure you are good husbands, fathers, and sons, and that you're stalwart members of your community, but your tortured defenses of the indefensible tell me that I would not have my teenage daughter anywhere near you.

John said...

Sarah,

Cute.

Mike Parker said...

Sarah's last comment is revealing, in that she chose to hurl personal insults rather than respond to the arguments against her case.

Sad, but not atypical.

Wendy said...

Mike your know-it-all attitude is really off-putting and not very conducive to debate or very Christlike. One so stridently defending Joseph Smith's honor should maybe keep that in mind.

Your displays on this thread seem less like good debate and more like brainwashed, pompous fanaticism.

But of course that is just my opinion--the opinion of a likely heretical LDS woman, so you can fully disregard it just as you disregard anything that doesn't come from FAIR or the church.

I knew I shouldn't have come back to this thread. Slow work day.

ltbugaf said...

Wendy, I was hoping your latest attack would contain more substance than Sarah's last attack. Unfortunate that it's just more of the same, and apparently for the same reason.

Mike Parker said...

Wendy,

Unfortunately, ltbugaf is right. Like Sarah, you have fallen back on ad hominem, attacking my "off-putting" personality and dismissing me as "brainwashed" rather than responding to my arguments.

As I've said repeatedly, Joseph Smith was not a perfect man, but your characterization of him as a "morally depraved" "egomaniac with a God complex" (your words) is unfair, ill-considered, and not supported by the facts.

I would be happy to continue discussing this with you if you're willing to stick to the evidence and not attack me personally.

Wendy said...

Mike, I wasn't responding to your arguements. You feel the way you do and I feel the way I do, both apparently backed up by facts.

Therefore my last post to you wasn't an ad hominem attack against your defense of Joseph's polygamy and was instead an attack against your pompous, know-it-all nature.

I, too, am straying far from being Christ-like so I will bid you adieu.

ltbugaf said...

So let me see if I have this right: Calling someone a pompous know-it-all is not an ad hominem attack?

Mike Parker said...

Wendy,

If this blog entry were about my pompous, know-it-all nature, then I suppose your previous message would be on-topic. But this blog entry is actually about early LDS polygamy, so my personal character flaws aren't the issue, and bringing them up is merely a distraction and a personal attack on me.

I may believe you are interpreting the historical record incorrectly, but I would never claim you were a "know-it-all," "not Christlike," a "brainwashed, pompous fanatic," and that you "disregard anything that doesn't come from Signature Books or RFM." Not only do I not know these things for myself (never having met you), but they also have no bearing on Joseph Smith's actions.

I have presented numerous reasons why it is illogical, and therefore unlikely, that Joseph Smith used polygamy to justify his personal lusts, but you have simply ignored them. You quoted some testimony from Helen Mar, and I demonstrated part of it shows her support for plural marriage, and the rest was probably fabricated by an early anti-Mormon writer. In fact, every point you have made, I have responded to with contrary evidence. Your only response has been to tell me that you "would not have my teenage daughter anywhere near you."

I'm frustrated that you seem unwilling to examine arguments contrary to your position.

Wendy said...

Mike, you are confusing things I've said with things others have said. I don't have a teenage daughter for one thing.

I'm done. You will have to save your vastly superior debating skills for someone else.

Mike Parker said...

My apologies; you are correct — I attributed one of Sarah's lines to you.

I still remain curious why you choose to finish with a sarcastic jab rather than engage the issues.


"Altho' I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charg'd with doing." —Joseph Smith (WJS p. 130)

Anonymous said...

That's right, folks. Keep your teenage daughters away from people you disagree with. I suggest locking them up in an attick somewhere.

Sarah, are you insinuating that Mike and Jeff are dangerous because they don't reject the Church because of polygamy?

Natalie said...

I actually try not to get too strident on this blog, because I DO respect Jeff and his sincere take on life and his religion.

As for Mike Parker... PUHLEEZE. You are waiting for one definitive first-hand source that Joseph Smith had SEX with his teenage wives? Hello? They are DEAD!!! And Joseph Smith was anything but dumb. Uneducated, perhaps, but NOT dumb.

And John? Come on, buddy. I READ the article. You just don't think I read it CORRECTLY, or won't, until I agree with you. That isn't going to happen.

As for the insults, I used to couch my words in niceties and all that, and I got accused of PRETENDING to be nice and attacked by quite a few Mormons. Now, I resort to frank. I do NOT think Mormons are dumb. I DO have MAJOR disagreements with Mormon theology and the defense of polygamy, and the lies about why it was practiced, is one of those.

What bothers me most is that Mormons are ALWAYS looking for something to validate their religion and belief, but always opining that it is is about having "faith."

And the poster Shadow Spawn proved that.

"I think a major reason for polygamy was a test of the people's faith. Sometimes the Lord asks things of us that might seem absurd or outrageous at the time. Imagine what Adam thought when he was told to slaughter animals on an alter. Or what Abraham must have thought when told to sacrifice his son.

My personal opinion, is that once in a while the Lord likes to weed out his garden. I think the whole Mark Hoffman thing was such a case.

Some people just get weeded out, and the rest have to move on in faith."

A loving and just God does not ask people to marry fourteen-year-olds, and other people wives, etc.

ltbugaf said...

Why do many seem to be working from the assumption that a sexless marriage to a plural wife is somehow more virtuous than a sexual one? Why would that be true?

ltbugaf said...

Natalie, looking over your earlier post, I'm hoping you can help me with something that I find puzzling. You come here with the objective of convincing people that Joseph Smith was a corrupt, lascivious, con man, and that the whole church is founded on falsehoods and delusions. Yet at the same time, you appear quite offended at being labeled "anti-Mormon." Why? If your stance isn't anti-Mormon, then what is?

Anonymous said...

"Joseph was very free in his talk about his women. He told me one day of a certain girl and remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible to talk like this."
- Joseph Smith's close confidant and LDS Church First Councilor, William Law, Interview in Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 1887

Natalie said...

Bug person,(sorry, I don't remember your whole logon name),

I am not an anti-Mormon because I love Mormons. I have Mormon friends. I have Mormon relatives. I am not "anti" them. I just don't espouse the religion, and frankly, am tired of the fact it will NOT LEAVE ME ALONE.

Stop with YOUR rhetoric (ha!), and don't tell me how simple it is to get away, because IT IS NOT. I am living proof. As are many others. It is not easy at all. Especially in Utah.

Of course, it shows up other places, too.

You never, ever, ever just walk away. My friend Suzanne, who joined the Church in Nevada, just briefly, while a teenager, recently got a letter AT HER HOME here in Utah. Addressed to her, using her MAIDEN NAME, the one she joined with years ago. She is here with her Air Force Husband, who flies. She does NOT know how they found her. She has no Mormon relatives who would turn her in. She did not attend long. And YET THEY FOUND HER.

Don't tell me it's easy to walk away.

Every day I find fliers on my doorstep, and invitations to Church.

Don't tell me I'm anti. I am NOT. I just happen to think it is all a bunch of hooey and you are all deluded, just like YOU think I am a lost soul and a heathen, and whatever the heck else you think. Your rights, my rights. I have the right to say what I think just like you.

Are you an anti-Ex-Mormon?

John said...

Natalie,

"And John? Come on, buddy. I READ the article. You just don't think I read it CORRECTLY, or won't, until I agree with you. That isn't going to happen."

If you have considered the issue thoroughly and fairly, then by all means, offer something pertinent to this discussion to support your position. I have absolutely no problem with the concept that you can be informed and respectfully disagree with me. It actually happens all the time.


"I DO have MAJOR disagreements with Mormon theology and the defense of polygamy, and the lies about why it was practiced, is one of those."

Can you be more specific, please? What, in detail, are your major disagreements with the doctrine of polygamy (and please be accurate and civil in your treatment of mormon doctrine)? To what lies are you referring? Who told these lies? When?


"What bothers me most is that Mormons are ALWAYS looking for something to validate their religion and belief, but always opining that it is is about having 'faith.'"

I would appreciate it if you could, in the future, avoid broad generalizations about "mormons." Especially when "they" "always" or "never" do this or that. Thanks.

John said...

PS- For the record, I don't think you're a lost soul or a heathen.

PPS- Anonymous, in my opinion, William Law in 1887 has little better than zero credibility.

ltbugaf said...

Natalie, by your criteria I don't think there can be such a thing as an anti-Mormon: they all claim to be acting out of love, too, as they vilify the Church, its leaders, its teachings and its founders, while also vilifying its members as deluded. That's exactly what you're doing here. So why protest that you're not?

ltbugaf said...

"Don't tell me it's easy to walk away."

I didn't. Are you addressing me or someone else?

Mike Parker said...

Natalie: "As for Mike Parker... PUHLEEZE. You are waiting for one definitive first-hand source that Joseph Smith had SEX with his teenage wives? Hello? They are DEAD!!!"

Natalie, this is not that difficult. Reliable first-hand evidence would include:

1) A statement from one of Joseph Smith's teenage plural wives (even in later life) to the effect that she and Joseph did have sexual relations when she was 14 or 16 years old, or

2) A similar statement from Joseph Smith himself (not likely, but theoretically possible to discover), or

3) A child born to a teenage plural wife that (a) was claimed to be Joseph's child and (b) could be connected to Joseph using modern DNA evidence.

So far, none of these three things have appeared.

Genetic testing has been done on several people who were claimed as children of Joseph through polygamous wives, but all of them have turned up negative.

Second-hand claims — such as the one "Anonymous" provided — need to be given much lower weight because of errors in memory, misunderstanding by the hearer, and bias (especially in the case of William Law).

Third-hand claims ("William Law told me that Joseph said...") should be given no credence at all.

So, I'm still waiting for reliable, first-hand evidence: Testimony from a teenage plural wife, Joseph Smith himself, or a child from such a relationship.

Until you can turn something up, all you have is supposition and innuendo. You may not like plural marriage, and you may think Joseph was immoral to marry teenage girls, but that is not evidence of anything.

ltbugaf said...

"I have the right to say what I think just like you."

Pay better attention. If you do, you'll notice that neither I nor anyone has challenged your right to say what you think.

What I have said is that while you are saying the particular things you think in the particular way you are doing it, you are performing the role of an "anti-Mormon." And since you are so enthusiastic in that role, I simply fail to understand why you are offended by the label.

nshumate said...

And the winner for "Most Telling Comment in This Thread" goes to: Natalie!

I just don't espouse the religion, and frankly, am tired of the fact it will NOT LEAVE ME ALONE.

Yup. Chased her down and forced her to read a Mormon blog, we did.

Anonymous said...

"I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it." ("Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS member Richard S. Van Wagoner, p. 53.)

"None but God and his angels could see my mother's bleeding heart - when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied 'If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say."

"She (Helen's mother) had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had yet seen her fifteenth summer, following the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was hidden from me."

"My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched unil they were ready to snap asunder, for she had already taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more."- Helen Mar Whitney Journal, Helen Mar Autobiography, Womans Exponent, 1880 and recently reprinted in A Woman's view

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous:

If you had read my previous comment (HERE), you would have discovered that the first quote in your list is not from Helen herself, but from an 1848 anti-Mormon book.

The final three paragraphs don't say anything about sexual relations, although they do say much about the sacrifices of those called into plural marriages and their families.

Still waiting.

Anonymous said...

Genetic testing has been done on several people who were claimed as children of Joseph through polygamous wives, but all of them have turned up negative. (Mike Parker)

But everyone knows that genetic testing is completely unreliable. Consider, for example, how Amerisraelite DNA has mutated to look like Asian. Couldn't the DNA of JS's offspring also have undergone a mutation that rendered it unrecognisable, just like happened to the poor Lamanites?

ltbugaf said...

I ask again: What's wrong with engaging in sexual relations with a woman to whom you are married?

So many of these comments seem to be based on the assumption that having a plural wife in name only is more virtuous than having a plural wife "in very deed." Why? Marriage is presumed to be a sexual relationship. A wife is a wife. A husband is a husband. Why should people who are married to each other abstain from sexual relations? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob certainly didn't abstain from sex with their plural wives.

Anonymous said...

ltbugaf:

You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. Why else would Joseph marry a fourteen year old? And what's wrong with that? Others on this thread seem to think it's just dandy. You're the first to be honest about it.

ltbugaf said...

"Why else would Joseph marry a fourteen year old?"

One always marries a woman of whatever age for a variety of reasons. One of Joseph Smith's reasons for marrying these women, both old and young, was to avoid offending God and coming under condemnation. One may have been to raise up righteous seed (with some). One may have been to test and try both Joseph and others with a difficult task of obedience. I don't know all the reasons. But it's preposterous for you to state that there were no reasons other than sexual interest, as you do in asking, "Why else...?"

As has already been pointed out many times, most of history, including most of Joseph Smith's own century, is replete with the common practice of younger women being married to older men. How many of them are you trying to paint as child-molesters hiding behind marriage vows? Only the Mormon leaders? What about Joseph, who, according to a mix of tradition and scholarship, was much older than his mid-teens bride Mary when they were betrothed and traveled to Bethlehem together. Was he just a dirty-minded manipulator too? How old were the wives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses?

You're going to have to work harder than that if you want to portray Joseph as a pedophile.

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous: "But everyone knows that genetic testing is completely unreliable. Consider, for example, how Amerisraelite DNA has mutated to look like Asian. Couldn't the DNA of JS's offspring also have undergone a mutation that rendered it unrecognisable, just like happened to the poor Lamanites?"

You are comparing apples and oranges here. There is a vast difference between using DNA to determine specific paternity along a line one or two generations back and using DNA to determine general ancestry from hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Additionally, the "God changed the Lamanites' DNA" argument is exceptionally weak and unnecessary when other theories — including genetic drift and the bottleneck effect — explain modern Native American DNA perfectly well without resorting to deus ex machina.

If you didn't already know this, I recommend you educate yourself a little on the issues. (Link to key reading.)

If you did already know this, why did you resort to a time-wasting sarcastic jab when dealing with the actual issues would have advanced the conversation?


Anonymous: "You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. Why else would Joseph marry a fourteen year old? And what's wrong with that? Others on this thread seem to think it's just dandy. You're the first to be honest about it."

As much as I appreciate his (her?) input, I think ltbugaf is oversimplifying the issue. He's looking at Joseph Smith's plural marriage through the lens of the more developed polygamy doctrine of the late 19th century.

It seems fairly clear from Heber and Helen Kimball's statements that Joseph saw plural marriage as a salvation event, one where a dynastic relationship around Joseph would guarantee exaltation for an entire community. (This is the same conclusion that Bushman comes to in Rough Stone Rolling.)

Claiming that "of course" Joseph had sex with all his plural wives ignores the context and begs for evidence.

Anonymous said...

Mike Parker: I agree with you that the inquiry is relevant and worth making. The claim that Joseph Smith bedded young wives does, indeed, beg for evidence.

I'm just asking whether, if someone ever does present such evidence (hasn't happened yet), such proof will really say anything bad about Joseph Smith. The only thing it will prove is that he engaged in marital conduct with marital partners.

Incidentally, I'm a "he."

Sign me up for polygamy! said...

Found some quotes by early Mormon leaders and prophets on the evil nature of monogamy. I guess we should all be polygamists. The FLDS church is true!


"It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her." - Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202

"Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious." - The Prophet Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128

"...the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people." - Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

"Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire....Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it. 'And is that religion popular in heaven?' it is the only popular religion there,..." - The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

"This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,..." - Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195

"We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they (Non-Mormons) envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations." - Apostle George A Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291

"I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece." - Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22

"Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife. " - The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262

ltbugaf said...

EEK! That was me at 11:27, not "anonymous." Sorry. I was replying to Mike Parker's comment on my comment.

Mike Parker said...

The quotes that "Sign me up for polygamy!" provided demonstrate that 19th century LDS leaders used their own research, opinions, and conclusions to bolster the (then-in force) commandment to live plural marriage.

Whether their statements can or should be used as official the LDS position, post-Manifesto — or indeed ultimate truth — is dubious and awaits evidence and argumentation.

Anonymous said...

One always marries a woman of whatever age for a variety of reasons. One of Joseph Smith's reasons for marrying these women, both old and young, was to avoid offending God and coming under condemnation. (ltbugaf)

This would be getting hilarious, if it weren't so sick. So JS wan't a pervert, God was. It seems that Mormons have succeeded in producing a god even more depraved than that of the Calvinists.

Several people have insisted that since JS might have engaged in paedophilia and adultery privately, he must have gone public about polygamy for nobler reasons. (OK, we know he lied about it too, and covered it up, but that says more about his character than his motivations.) But,as ltbugaf points out, there was more to his behaviour than just tiltillating his private parts. JS and friend clearly got off on the power and domination they enjoyed when they played at patriarchs. This isn't unique to Mormons: unfortunately, it's a sad part of the male psyche. David Koresh and Mao Zedong did the same.

Now, it would be nice if we could be charitable and imagine that JS was really, genuinely deluded, and thought God told him to be a polygamist. Our urban streets are full of people badly in need of a bath who think God sends them equally strange messages. But it's hard to be charitable about Joe Smith; his history betrays him. There is too much dishonesty and chicanery in his background to assume that he was honest about this "revelation".

I think the reason Mormons seem to have such an undedeveloped, immature moral sensibility is they have been unable to face up to the moral defects of their founder. Let's face it, there are precious few saints among the Latter Day "Saints". (No, eschewing coffee and voting Republican don't count as moral virtues.) Perhaps if Mormons became honest enough to recognise the flaws in their Mohammed, they could move beyond the childish ethical neverland they've built for themselves. What you need is a Mormon Khrushchev.

ltbugaf said...

No point in arguing with someone who appoints him/herself as judge of what God ought to do, be and think.

(By the way, the "anonymous" above wouldn't happen to be our old friend, Radicalfeministpoet, would it?)

Perhaps someday, anon will develop the courage to identify what he/she/it is FOR rather than only what it's against. It's just too easy to denigrate the beliefs of others while refusing to disclose any of one's own.

Mike Parker said...

Agreed, ltbugaf. Our anonymous poster is good at leveling accusations and insults, but sadly lacking in any informed, reasoned analysis.

I've responded to the accusations s/he has made, but s/he simply keeps repeating them, perhaps thinking that saying them over and over will make them true.

Reminds me of the psychological profile the OSS prepared on Hitler: "People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Anonymous said...

Reasoned analysis? Some fellow with a (deservedly) bad reputation starts a religion and announces that God wants him to marry multiple wives (including women who are already married, and girls too young to marry by the standards of the day). How much reasoned analysis does it take to see through him?

I'm not sure which accusation Mike Parker thinks he's responded to, but my most recent has been that the "Saints" are curiously devoid of saints. I'd be interested in hearing his response to that.

ltbugaf said...

But why shouldn't he just follow your example, RFP, and simply ignore most of the questions and issues put to him?

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous,

This is getting tiresome. You either haven't read this entire thread or you're ignoring what's already been discussed.


"Some fellow with a (deservedly) bad reputation starts a religion...."

This is a radical oversimplification and distortion of Joseph Smith's early years. All the recent research (since 1970 or so) shows that Joseph's activities in the Palmyra area were unremarkable for the time. The "bad reputation" you claim comes almost exclusively from the Hurlbut affidavits, which have been shown to be unreliable hearsay (reference).


"...and announces that God wants him to marry multiple wives..."

This claim comes right after "starts a religion," ignoring the considerable period between the establishment of the church (1830) and Joseph's earliest purported plural marriage (1833), as well as his second (1838) and third (1841). If Joseph was the sexual maniac that you believe him to be, he certainly waited a long time before and between his early polygamous relationships.


"...(including women who are already married, and girls too young to marry by the standards of the day)."

This has been asked and answered previously on this thread. You have not replied to anything I've had to say about what Joseph's own plural wives said about the reasons they married him, and the dynastic view that Joseph likely had in these relationships.

And as far as the "standards of the day" go, you're simply wrong:

The age of consent under English common law was ten. United States law did not raise the age of consent until the late nineteenth century. In Joseph Smith's day, most states still had declared age of consent to be ten. Some raised it to twelve, and Delaware lowered it to seven (reference).

It is significant that none of Joseph's contemporaries complained about the age differences between him and his marriage partners. This was simply part of their environment and culture; it is unfair to judge nineteenth cenutry members by twenty-first century social standards.


"How much reasoned analysis does it take to see through him?"

More than you're employing. Much more.


"I'm not sure which accusation Mike Parker thinks he's responded to, but my most recent has been that the 'Saints' are curiously devoid of saints. I'd be interested in hearing his response to that."

That Mormon history is full of people who were less than perfect — and some who were downright bad — is no secret. In fact, Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton (LDS Church Historians at the time) wrote a book famously entitled Saints Without Halos.

What this fact has to do with the propriety of Joseph's polygamous marriages is unclear to me. Please stick to the subject. We can address your accusation that Mormons are evil in another thread.

ltbugaf said...

I'm also wondering if RFP (a.k.a. "anonymous" at 12:11) is ever going to bother addressing its comments to the actual topic of the thread--the article that Jeff discusses in his original post. Doing so might require actual reading of the article, so I'm doubtful...

Anonymous said...

Sarah quoth:

I don't know how Gregory Smith in good conscience invokes Gandhi's movement to liberate a billion Hindus and Muslims as a parallel to the propagation of child polygamy and lying about its practice.

I don't believer I claimed it was a parallel.

The 1960s gave "civil disobedience" a bad name in America, especially among politically conservative folks like most LDS. The LDS are also taught consistently to be law-abiding people, to tell the truth, etc.

I have even, on occasion, heard a member say that if a criminal broke into their house and demanded to know where their children were, that they would tell them because "honesty is the best policy."

Therefore, to understand the decisions made by Joseph and the Church in their context, one must appreciate the moral/ethical issues involved with civil disobedience. If you know two better modern theorists on the subject than Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi, you are welcome to use them instead. Personally, I felt it would be dishonest to try to discuss the subject without including what they thought.

The first question to answer is, "Are there any conditions under which being less than forthright and/or breaking secular law is justified by a believer?"

Gandhi is a potent argument that the answer is "Yes." Once that is established, then the second (and more crucial question) can be answered: was plural marriage also such a case?

Many LDS have not, however, even really confronted the first question in a serious way--or, they have decided the answer is "No."

I also don't know why he barely mentions Emma, other than to say that she was "no fan" of polygamy. Indeed.

Um, because Emma's opposition to plural marriage was well-known. She went so far as to insist that Joseph never taught it--his children believed this to their dying day. Ironically, much of what we know of the period came because of Emma's lies led late 19th century and early 20th century LDS to amass evidence proving that Joseph DID teach the practice.

If you want more on Emma, there are lots of quotes, but I suspect that you won't like them because they show that the issue is more complicated than your outrage seems to want to admit:

...from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness; that Satan was doing his utmost to destroy her, etc. And solemnly came the Prophet’s inspired warning ‘Yes, and he will accomplish your overthrow, if you do not heed my counsel.’ - Allen J. Stout, “Allen J. Stout’s Testimony,” Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 230–31; cited in Wendy C. Top, “’A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart’ – Emma Hale Smith,”Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith, Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 28.

Or

Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it. - Todd M. Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 261.

Or

Maria Jane Johnston, who lived with Emma as a servant girl, recalled the Prophet’s wife looking very downcast one day and telling her that the principle of plural marriage was right and came from Heavenly Father. “What I said I have got [to] repent of,” lamented Emma. “The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that[principle[;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.” - Wendy C. Top, “’A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart’ – Emma Hale Smith,”Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith, Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 28; citing Emma Smith to Maria Jane Johnston, as quoted in Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 161.

I tend to agree with Richard Anderson (who is a scholar, even if I don't merit the title):

Yet the "poor Emma" theme is overworked, not only in sentimental semi-fiction, but even in the long biography of her, Mormon Enigma, wherein Emma is too often ennobled at the expense of Joseph. After all, the great question is why she endured 17 years of constant adjustment and danger at the Prophet's side. The answer is that she obviously shared his spiritual commitments in order to share his persecutions. - Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Religious Dimensions of Emma's Letters to Joseph,” in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1993), 117.

Nice that Gregory Smith gets to the heart of the matter...

You can make your arguments about historical context, but it's articles like Smith's that are no longer persuasive to those of us who weigh the totality of the evidence, the lies, and the deception and see the practice, and what it tells us about those who apologize for it, for what it is - self-serving, twisted, and NOT of God.


I'm sorry you didn't find it useful. Of course, it would be more helpful if you actually critiqued the arguments instead of ad hominem attacks on how I'm "self-serving" (though how this serves ME, who doesn't practice plural marriage and doesn't want to is a little opaque). But, so far you've given no evidence that you have read or understood my arguments, even if you don't agree with them.

But I must be mistaken, for Gregory Smith puts me in my place:

"...but it is laughable to argue that he (Smith)and his associates were insincere or that they were practicing their religion only for power and to satisfy carnal desires...."

Now that's a scholarly article.


It wouldn't be "scholarly" at all if I just made the claim with no justification. However, I would respectfully submit that there's a fair amount of citation and argument buried in there between my self-serving, godless propaganda. :-)

I stand by my claim that it is "laughable" to reduce the issues as you seem to be trying to--Toffler called that "supersimplification," and it always leads to misunderstanding.

If you disagree, it would be nice to see you engage the evidence that led me to that conclusion.

You could always take a look at Lawrence Foster, for example, someone who is neither LDS, nor a believer in Joseph Smith, but who yet believes that the explanations behind plural marriage cannot be reduced to mere carnal desires.

You'd think that having written such a long article with all the references would provide a ton of fodder for the critics. I'm cool with that. But, strange to say, none of the critics here seem to be addressing any of my arguments or data.

Almost makes me think I might be onto something... :->

Kind regards,

Greg Smith

Anonymous said...

Mike Parker responds to my description of JS’s reputation as “a radical oversimplification and distortion of Joseph Smith's early years,” and would like us to believe that “all the recent research (since 1970 or so) shows that Joseph's activities in the Palmyra area were unremarkable for the time.” As evidence, he cites a FARMS webpage. I don’t know how to put his any more kindly, but Mormon apologetics do not constitute “all the recent research.” To put it baldly, Mormons do not have a reputation for truthfulness (ie, ‘milk before meat’)—a characteristic that I hypothesise relates to the character of JS himself. What non-Mormon authority has ever given JS’s character a clean bill of health. Even relatively sympathetic biographers, like Rupert Remini, who admit a fondness for the rogue, are open about his character flaws.

Mr Parker goes on to say, “And as far as the "standards of the day" go, you're simply wrong: The age of consent under English common law was ten. United States law did not raise the age of consent until the late nineteenth century. In Joseph Smith's day, most states still had declared age of consent to be ten.”

Mr Parker seems to be confusing the age of consent vis a vis statutory rape with the “standards of the day”. Having sexual relations with someone below this age was a capital offence—the guilty party could be executed. It does not follow that engaging in such relations with someone marginally above this age was considered socially acceptable, especially when all evidence indicates it was not—starting with the 19th century reform movement Mr P alludes to, which raised the age in the UK and in US states.

Mr Parker continues, “Mormon history is full of people who were less than perfect…What this fact has to do with the propriety of Joseph's polygamous marriages is unclear to me. …We can address your accusation that Mormons are evil in another thread.”

I doubt that most Mormons are evil. I think any religion has its share of bad apples. The interesting thing about Mormonism is that it doesn’t seem to have any especially good ones. There is no no Mormon Hillel, Mormon Francis of Assissi, no Mormon Mother Theresa, no Mormon Wilberforce, no Mormon Mahatma Gandhi, no Mormon Dalai Lama—you get the point. (There is obviously an attempt to manufacture a saint out of Joseph Smith, but his biography is just to well known for the odour of sanctity to cling to him.)

Mike wonders how this lack of moral exemplars among Mormons relates to JS’s sexual pecadilloes (kind version) or depravities (candid version). My hypothesis—and I’m prepared to be convinced to the contrary—is that the entire flawed character of Smith (he was dishonest, after all, as well as promiscuous) has resulted in a primitive moral sense among Mormons. I think that’s why they’re so ready to be dishonest about their doctrines when they proselytise, for instance. I think it’s why they can’t distinguish between objective scholarship and FARMS/FAIRLDS-style apologetics. And I think it’s why they’ve failed to produce a moral vision that anyone else finds admirable. This is not saying that individual Mormons can't be very good people. Perhaps many are.

I realise that this viewpoint may sound foreign even shocking, to Mormons themselves, who, from what I read here, are very much convinced that their leaders are moral leaders. I don’t think that view is shared by anyone outside of Mormonism, except by politicians, of course. Do you suppose Mormons really understand what other people think of them, and why?

ltbugaf said...

Is anyone else as tired as I am of Radicalfeministpoet's laughably inaccurate and unbacked characterizations of what "everyone else" thinks about Mormons?

ltbugaf said...

And is anyone else as tired as I am of self-important lectures on morality from a person who dedicates his/her existence to the denigration of others?

Mike Parker said...

I'll tell you what I am tired of, ltbugaf: "Anonymous"'s continuing refusal to engage the evidence and resort to ad hominem.

I provided (just one) reference on Joseph Smith's New York reputation. Instead of bothering to tell me what was wrong with Richard Anderson's conclusions, Anonymous simply dismisses "Mormon apologetics" and informs us the "Mormons do not have a reputation for truthfulness."

Instead of dealing with the age of consent evidence (from a non-Mormon source, by the way), Anonymous dodges with a bizarre appeal to "statutory rape," which would not apply if two people were married. And s/he continues to avoid the issue that I have pressed all along that there is not a shred of evidence that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with Helen Mar Kimball. Joseph didn't claim it. Helen didn't claim it. Helen's family didn't claim it. There was no child from the marriage. Every statement made by all the parties involved indicates Joseph was after salvation, not sex. Anonymous' response? Ignore, dodge, obfuscate.

Then Anonymous criticizes Mormons for not having a great moral historical figure, and lacking a "moral vision." What this has to do with Joseph Smith's plural marriages and whether he married Helen Mar so he could get his rocks off is entirely unclear to me.

Finally Anonymous deigns to tell us what all non-Mormons thinks about us — that we're depraved idiots who don't and cannot know a thing about real history, real morality, and real vision.

Oh, Anonymous — what would we be without your clear vision to guide us benighted souls? If only we knew your real name so we could follow you to true moral greatness.

Anonymous said...

It may be hard for Mr Perkins to hear this, but Mormons do not have a reputation for truthfulness. I’m afraid that rather colours the way non-Mormons view their apologetics, including FARMS and the like. I therefore suggest he refer me to a single non-Mormon biographer of JS who found no credible evidence for some pretty serious flaws in the man’s moral character. There probably is one, somewhere, though I don’t know of one myself and such an one would be considerably outnumbered. Remini is the most sympathetic non-Mormon biographer I can think of, and I don’t think he’d have let his daughter, or his wife, near the man.

The age of consent for sexual acts generally differs from ages of consent for entering into contractual arrangements (such as marriage). Mr Perkins may not realise it, but the link he provided (Georgetown) referred to the former, not the latter. He tried to present the age of (sexual) consent (infringement of which is considered statutory rape) as evidence that J Smith’s marriage of a 14 –year old was normal for his day. It wasn't. The point, which I suspect most readers understood, is simply because JS’s behaviour was still legal at the time did not mean his contemporaries didn’t find it disgusting. Within a generation the law had caught up with public sentiment, and what Smith had done was made illegal.

ltbugaf said...

But RFP, since you yourself have a strong reputation for mendacity, obfuscation, avoidance of issues, unsupported assertions, egomania, and narcissism, what puts you in a position to comment on the flaws of Joseph Smith or any other of your moral superiors?

And what evidence do you have to support your false assertions about the general reputations of Mormons? What study of public opinion shows this universal disdain for all things Mormon that you so gleefully and so frequently refer to?

ltbugaf said...

Oops...forgot cowardice (although that's been amply commented on and demonstrated on other threads).

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous:

Who is the "Mr. Perkins" you are addressing? Are you confused, or is that an elementary school-level snark?

Again, you repeat your contention that Mormons lie and therefore people shouldn't trust them. I suggest you read up on the fallacy of ad hominem. The fallacy in this case works like this:

Mike: "I believe that Joseph Smith was not a child molesting pervert."
Anonymous: "Of course you would say that, you're a Mormon, and all Mormons lie."
Mike: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Anonymous: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a Mormon, so you have to say that Joseph was a wonderful person. Further, because all Mormons lie, I can't believe what you say."

Lay off the insults and sweeping generalizations. Deal with the evidence.

How many non-Mormon biographies of Joseph Smith have been written by people who didn't have an axe to grind? If you can point one other than Remini, I'd appreciate it.

Also, I'd like to know what in Remini's biography would lead you to claim, "I don't think [Remini would] have let his daughter, or his wife, near [Joseph Smith]."

"The age of consent for sexual acts generally differs from ages of consent for entering into contractual arrangements (such as marriage)." Please back this up with documentation. Since sexual acts outside of marriage were considered sinful by the vast majority of nineteenth century Americans, marriage and sexuality went hand in hand. The minimum age was commonly ten to thirteen in the mid-nineteenth century, and gradually drifted upward after that. (Here's another reference, since my first one was so unpersuasive.)

"Simply because JS's behaviour was still legal at the time did not mean his contemporaries didn't find it disgusting." Again, evidence, evidence, evidence. Give me a reference to someone involved in Nauvoo polygamy who objected to the age of (a few!) of his wives. The wives themselves didn't have a problem with this, and neither did their families. Even the publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor, who were so horrified at Joseph's plural marriages, didn't bring up age as an issue.

You like to make big, grandiose claims, but I have yet to see you put any evidence on the table. I'm sick of this stupid game — put up or shut up.

Mike Parker said...

Anonymous,

On further reflection, I'd decided to end this conversation. Please see my comments over here.

I should know better than to get suckered into arguing with individuals such as yourself.

Good day.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, my uncle married his wife the day after her 14th birthday because the justice of the peace would not marry them any sooner, although she was already pregnant. Not much else to do in small farming towns, I guess.

I know it's hard for some people to imagine a 14-year-old getting married, but I think it's equally hard to imagine a 15-year-old working as a successful schoolteacher, too. A lot of things are hard to understand when they aren't contemporary.

Pat said...

Mike Parker says:

"I'm not arguing that Joseph did not have a sexual relationship with at least some of his wives. The testimonies you (Sarah) reproduced are clear on that.

I am arguing that there is no evidence or testimony that he slept with his two 14-year-old wives."

Mike, am I understanding correctly that you believe that Joseph had sex with some of his wives, including some of his teenage wives, but not his fourteen-year old wives?

If yes, do you think Joseph had some moral code that allowed intercourse with plural-wife teenagers, but not fourteen-year-old teenagers?

Anonymous said...

“I suggest you read up on the fallacy of ad hominem.”
Mr Perkins, who now wants us to call him Mr Parker, tells us that for “the vast majority of nineteenth century Americans, marriage and sexuality went hand in hand. ” I’m afraid this is a rather naïve view. Births out of wedlock were common, especially in the lower classes. Furthermore, the reason there was a common law tradition of an age of sexual consent was precisely to protect children from what we would today call sexual exploitation. Oddly, the link he provided clearly states that “AoC Laws regulating sexual acts” should “not be confused with the age of majority or age of criminal responsibility, and in some jurisdictions, the marriageable age.” I think he has assumed that though it was a capital offense to engage in sexual relations with a girl below a certain age, once she reached that age she could legally marry. That was not the case, as I suspect even he must realise.

He also accuses me of “ad hominem” attacks. On the contrary, the only person whose character I have personally assailed has been Joseph Smith (who is the topic of this conversation, since it was he insituted polygamy among the Mormons). As he is dead, I don’t think he will be offended (nil bonum de mortuis has always been my motto). Nor have I said that “all Mormons lie”, as he alleges. I have said that Mormons do not have a reputation for being overly truthful, which, though perhaps difficult for a Mormon to hear, is another thing entirely. There are reasons for this reputation, as anyone who has ever been visited by Mormon “missionaries” and heard them dissimulate and evade questions when pressed on points of doctrine, or has followed the Hoffman forgery story, or has wondered about the inflated official membership statistics, will tell you. Now, you may dispute any one of those points, but you must admit that the result of them is a particular reputation, and you can hardly blame someone if she asks for objective sources, such as a non-Mormon biographer. Nor did I suggest he or anyone else here is lying, but I do suggest that FARMS and the like may not be the most reliable sources, for the reasons I have mentioned.

I think what Mr Parker, or whatever he wants to be called now, finds frustrating is that he feels that when he offers ‘evidence’, there are people who do not find it convincing. That is not an ad hominem attack, but it does perhaps say something about the different ways people approach data and process information. I have noticed a particular that Mormons on apologetics boards and on blogs do this in a rather particular way which differs significantly from the way I am used to. (I can’t speak for any in real life, as there are none here.) As I have said before, I find this extremely interesting.

ltbugaf said...

"Mr Perkins, who now wants us to call him Mr Parker..."

Actually, that would be Mr. Parker, who has never represented himself by any other name. Unlike RFP, who even now persists in the absurd and immature charade of listing itself as "anonymous," apparently in the false hope that we won't know who's commenting (or perhaps just in a childish desire to tweak those who point out RFP's identity).

"Nor have I said that “all Mormons lie”, as he alleges. I have said that Mormons do not have a reputation for being overly truthful..."

Yes, RFP, you've asserted and reasserted and reasserted that allegation. You've repeated yourself, but you STILL haven't offered a shred of evidence that Mormons have the unsavory reputation you say they have.

Mike Parker said...

Pat: "Mike, am I understanding correctly that you believe that Joseph had sex with some of his wives, including some of his teenage wives, but not his fourteen-year old wives?

"If yes, do you think Joseph had some moral code that allowed intercourse with plural-wife teenagers, but not fourteen-year-old teenagers?"


What I am saying is that Joseph's reasons for entering into plural marriage don't appear to be based purely (or even mostly) on sexuality. The reasons he gave those whom he took into confidence indicate that he saw plural marriage as having dynastic benefits — that is, people sealed to him would share salvation with him. This explains many of the more usual aspects of his marriages, such as marrying who were already married to other men, with the first husband's permission (and even participation in the sealing ceremony).

Did he have a sexual relationship with all of his wives? Unknown, but doubtful, for reasons given above.

Did he have a sexual relationship with some of his wives? Probably. We have statements from a few of them during the anti-polygamy conflicts of the late 19th century indicating that they had children by him. So far, all genetic tests of these claimed children have turned up negative, but there are more tests to do.

The bottom line is that we just don't know how extensive his sexual relationships were. But to accuse Joseph Smith of pedophilia is going beyond the evidence.


(And, BTW, I trust that intelligent readers of this blog can immediately see that "Mormons do not have a reputation for being overly truthful" is just a more turgid way of saying "all Mormons lie.")

Anonymous said...

I’ve been criticised from time to time to ‘ignoring’ things people say, but the truth is, it’s not intentional. I’m a very busy person and can’t really afford to spend much time here. So please don’t be offended if it seems I haven’t paid attention to some of you; I just don’t have the time to answer everyone, so I try to focus on those who perhaps need it most.

Now it is true that ltbugaf asked me some time ago on what basis I say that Mormons don’t have a generally good reputation. (I think it was him, anyway.) It’s a fair question, and I don’t like to ignore him, but I’ve been busy with some of his (and my, I hope) other friends. I think he asked if there was some sort of survey on the question. That’s an interesting thought. I’ve never heard of any survey that measured the comparative ‘popularity’ of religious groups. Perhaps there is one, somewhere, but the usual criticism of course is ‘it’s all how you ask the questions.’ If he knows of one, I’d be interested in hearing about it. But if he wants to know what non-Mormons think of Mormons, then the best way to do that is to ask them (without, of course, identifying his own affiliation—people are much less likely to be candid if he does that). Talk to people.

The first thing you will hear about is the honesty issue. The only Mormons most people ever meet are the self-styled “missionaries” who roam in pairs from door to door. Do you know what it’s like to try and pin people like that down about specifics of Mormon doctrine? Such squirming and dissimulation you’ll never see in your life. Where else do people hear about Mormons? Well, occasionally someone like Hinkley breaks into the media for a moment or two—and guess what, he’s evasive about Mormon doctrine. Or maybe it’s the LA Times writing about official Mormon membership figures being inflated, or maybe it’s a new book come out on the Hoffman forgery…all this is where reputations come from. Now, you may think that unfair—you may have never told a lie in your life, nor your grandma—and perhaps it is unfair. But it is the reputation that’s there. Mr P notwithstanding, I think most people can tell the difference between ‘all Mormons lie’ and ‘Mormonism has a reputation for dishonesty.’

And there’s more behind it. This is a thread about polygamy. We all know here that Joseph Smith lied about polygamy. We know the Mormon church leaders lied about polygamy. I think everyone here would admit that, though many try to find excuses for it. And that attempt—to make excuses for dishonesty—feeds into the reputation.

This is an important issue, because you don’t hear about other religions trying to hide their doctrines. When necessary, they went to the stake for their beliefs (without a gun in hand)—Cranmer’s anniversary just passed recently, for instance. I’ve stated before that I think the trouble Mormons have with moral discernment goes right back to Smith. If you want to improve the reputation Mormons have on truthfulness, start by admitting the fact of Smith’s low moral character. Certainly God could pick whatever kind of prophet she wanted to, even a creep, right? So why try to make a saint out of someone who so clearly wasn’t? If you’d come out and say, okay, we believe God made use of Smith to reveal the BoM, but he took advantage of his chosen status by issuing a lot of goofy, self-serving and sometimes evil edicts and passing them off as God’s wishes, and there’s no hiding he was a bad man right up to the end—if you did that, instead of trying to hide his manifold faults, you might find people trust you more.

I’ve focused on honesty because that’s what people seem to take most umbrage at. No one (yet) has complained about the impoverished intellectual tradition or the lack of moral exemplars, but if I were you, I’d find that pretty troubling too.

S. Lewis said...

Ya know, I have to agree with Mike here. Anon's last post talks a lot about the Mormon "reputation" for dishonesty, but s/he didn't give a shred of evidence that all (or most, or even many) non-Mormons believe that Mormons are dishonest.

Anon tells us to "talk to people." But what if people *I* talk to say that most Mormons they know are honest? What if *I* know employers who like hiring Mormons because they don't steal from them? What if *I* know landlords who like to rent to Mormons because they pay on time and don't trash the apartments?

I guess I'm just not talking to the right people.

Or maybe Anon is only talking to the wrong people.

Either way, Anon has given us his/her opinion again, but not a bit of evidence that s/he's right.

Until s/he does, I think it's best to assume that s/he's full of crap.

Anonymous said...

Curiously, SLewis seems to have interpreted “honesty” in economic terms. Personally, I have no idea whether a Mormon is more likely to pick my pocket than a Southern Baptist or a Zoroastrian is. I thought it was rather obvious that I was talking about intellectual honesty. Like it or not—and I wouldn’t expect any Mormon to like it—Mormonism has a reputation for intellectual dishonesty. (This is why I encourage people to cite objective sources rather than FARMS and the like.) Jeff seems aware of this problem himself (see HERE), without the need for an opinion poll (which I think is what SLewis is asking for), and it’s worth reading the comments on both sides. SLewis wonders whether it is he or I who have been talking to the wrong people. I’m not sure there are any “right” or “wrong” people; I merely am pointing out that this reputation exists, even if it's among those he would categorise as "the wrong sort of people". Furthermore, I wonder if the problem really goes back to (1) J Smith’s personal dishonesty (for even if we accept the BoM as divine revelation, we have to admit he remained a dishonest person) and (2) Mormons have in the main having found it very difficult to face up honestly to his many flaws.

Remember this is not the only negative aspect of Mormonsim that I have pointed out. There is also the (related) issue of the lack of a credible intellectual tradition, and the perhaps more important one of a lack of focus on works of mercy. Again, my hypothesis is that all these aspects may be traceable to deficiencies in the founders of Mormonism.

S. Lewis said...

Anon, you simply do not know what you are talking about, and you still aren't backing up any of your broad accusations with evidence.

ltbugaf said...

Surely, now, RFP, even you can grasp the difference between, on the one hand, giving arguments as to why you believe Mormons ought to have a reputation for dishonesty, and on the other hand, presenting actual evidence that they do have such a reputation.

Still waiting for the latter.

Anonymous said...

What gets my goat is that Mormons cannot question anything. It doesn't matter what FACTS you put in front of them about the Bible's accuracy, etc. It doesn't matter. They cannot "examine all things" as the Bible says. That is the only way their religion survives.

What I like about being a Christian is that the Bible can be backed up historically. I can question it all I want!! Secular historians have tried to disprove the Bible and have turned into Christians in the process.

Anyway, I just wish Mormons would do research of their own. Instead of labelling things as anti-mormon, why don't you prove them wrong? Why don't you prove the Bible wrong? It's an historical document. Why don't you try? Don't look at pro-mormon literature for an answer. Find your own answer.

I know I'm just wasting my fingers typing this. Oh well...

How do Mormons ever become PhDs?

RevPentland said...

Everyone has the right to live in peace and security, they have the right to believe as they see fit, in whatever context they view God. Throughout time horrible things have been done in the name of religion and the righteous. Still today in the middle east. Every group claims the "One true faith" every group makes that claim that their road is the only one to salvation, be it from stone tablets left by the hand of God on a mountainside, or gold disks hidden under a rock the secret given to but a single man. There are those who believe Jesus never walked the earth, and even still those who believe you must kill the innocent to gain Gods favor in heaven, and they do so with great relish.
My beliefs may not be the beliefs of others, so be it. I am but a man as are all men and women. We cannot begin to explain the miracles of God. We know not how God functions or what his plan for us is. The one thing we can all do now, in this time, while we are here. Is embrace the human condition, to accept and rejoice in our differences and still be able to come together at the table of brotherhood. Love thy neighbor as it is said. There can always be found reasons to hate and fear, you need not look far to find them. But do you realy wish to fill your heart so full of darkness that you no longer can see the light? In our society we focus far too much on times long past. We fail to look to the now and the future. We cannot change our pasts my brothers and sisters. We can only hope that we have learned from it and have grown enough to continue to walk in the light of our futures.

Rev. Marc J Pentland