Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Weighing Mormonism: Thoughts for Mormon Doubters (and Readers of the New York Times)

The New York Times and Shaken Faith in Sweden

The arguments that weigh against Mormonism and the LDS story of a divine Restoration came to the front page of the New York Times recently in an article about Mormon doubters, including a former Area Authority from Sweden, Hans Mattson, who found negative information on the Web which undermined his faith. While I'm surprised that this would be a front page story for the Times now that the election is over, I personally find it interesting and important for Mormons to understand. The story is "Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt" by Laurie Goodstein, July 20, 2013.

According to Goodstein, Brother Mattson didn't get the help or answers he felt he needed when he raised some concerns that other Swedish people had, so he began his own online investigation and soon had his faith undermined. I would say that he experienced the phenomenon that Michael Ash calls "shaken faith syndrome" in his excellent book of that name. The Times describes the troubling results of his search:
But when he discovered credible evidence that the church's founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
This paragraph was especially painful for me to read. How can this happen? I suspect that the reporter is missing something here, and perhaps it was details of polygamy that shook Brother Mattson more than merely discovering that there was polygamy. After all, on my mission in Switzerland and Germany, not all that remote from Sweden, polygamy seemed like the first question that came up with many educated investigators, so how could our own members in the north not know of it? Yet it is said that there are members in various parts of the Church who don't yet realize this.

I do recognize that the Church is not keen on that aspect of history and does not do much to bring it up these days since, frankly, I think we are all glad it's over. But our link to polygamy in the past is hardly invisible. In fact, it's in the LDS scriptures, where Official Declaration-1 from the First Presidency in 1890 declares that polygamy is over. This is placed right after Section 138 in the printing of the Doctrine and Covenants. There is also Section 132 which introduced plural marriage, and while that practice has been ended, I think it's hard to avoid some discussion of it during years of Church membership.

Some discussion, for example, occurs on the Mormon Newsroom site of the Church which has a page on polygamy, explaining that it was introduced in 1831. It is mentioned in the popular Church booklet, Our Heritage (PDF file) as well as the Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School manual (PDF) in treating Section 132. President Hinckley fielded some questions about polygamy in his famous Sept. 1998 interview on Larry King Live, and he again mentioned polygamy in his well-known October 1998 General Conference address, "What Are People Asking About Us?" He reminds us that the Church has stopped practicing polygamy for over a century, with more detail in the Larry King interview. Of course, King's questions were polite and not nearly as troubling as they could have been, but they served to remind anyone listening that the Church was tied with polygamy in the past.

I recognize, of course, that if one's understanding of Church history comes from basic LDS video clips of the Restoration, it would be too easy to think that Joseph was just another ordinary monogamist. Ditto for Brigham Young. But I somehow thought that the first thing Europeans learned about Utah and Mormons was that Brigham Young had numerous wives and that Mormons practiced (and allegedly still practice) polygamy. That's why I think Brother Mattson's issues were certainly deeper. Polygamy was a complex, sometimes messy matter in my opinion, and I'm so glad it's over.

Polygamy is certainly a sensitive subject that we have perhaps been too shy to address with our own members. Without some basic "inoculation" and frank discussion, as in Michael Ash's Shaken Faith Syndrome, we may have left too many prone to a shaken faith when their mistaken vision of Joseph as a monogamist is toppled with a long queue of wives, including some controversial marriages that require some careful consideration to sort through the messy and troubling issues. Resources for dealing with some of the most troubling and puzzling aspects of polygamy include Greg Smith's 2009 article, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask)" and other information at FAIRLDS, including the FAIRMormon Wiki on polygamy and their material on the issue of polyandry. Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling also confronts many of the troubling issues of polygamy and other non-ideal aspects of Church history and reminds us that a scholar can dig into the controversies and maintain a vibrant faith.

Some Thoughts for Those Struggling with Doubt

Regardless of how Hans Mattson and other Saints may have been blindsided by some of the controversies of our past, including polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, or by challenges to our scriptures, such as attacks on the Book of Abraham, there are some things I'd like to say to them and to any of you struggling with related doubts.

First, know that you are not alone in your concerns. There are challenges to our faith and misconceptions that many of us had for years that need correction, and sometimes this updating can be painful. Some simple assumptions that seemed OK in the past are not accurate and not even doctrinal, such as the common old assumption that the Book of Mormon describes all the ancient origins of all Native Americans, or the idea that the limitation on the priesthood for many (but not all) blacks must have been a doctrinal matter based on some official revelation (there is no evidence of such a revelation being given).

Second, know that there are some helpful answers and new perspectives that can strengthen your faith as your grapple with these challenges. Resources such as FAIRLDS.org, the Maxwell Institute, the Mormon Interpreter, and BlackLDS.org can supplement the vast resources at LDS.org and help clarify some of the issues. None of that is going to make the controversy of polygamy disappear, but you can see that many faithful LDS people have dealt with these issues in various ways and found their faith still intact. I take on some of the controversies also in my LDSFAQ area.

Third, in weighing Mormonism, don't just add the controversies of history to the balance. There growing evidences for the Book of Mormon need to be considered. The big picture of the broad answers that the revelations of the Restoration provide need to be considered, including their marvelous fit into the ancient world, even down to details such as modern discoveries on ancient covenant patterns which we find beautifully present in the Book of Mormon and the restored LDS Temple. I discuss my journey in some of these areas on my LDSFAQ pages such as my pages on the Book of Abraham, my pages on Book of Mormon Evidences, and on my Mormanity blog.

There is room for doubt and a need for all of us to grapple with doubt. But know that there is still plenty of room for faith and plenty of room for rejoicing in the majesty of the Restored Gospel, including some remarkable evidences for the Restoration that the Lord has allowed to come our way. There is much to weigh and many perhaps overlooked or not yet noticed treasures that can swing the balance to the side of strengthened, not shattered faith.

To Hans and all others in the process of weighing Mormonism, I would encourage you to step back and see the bigger picture and then fairly consider the many positives at the same time as we update our perspectives on the trouble spots. While what really happened in history is rarely clear and easily misjudged, we can more easily judge what happens in our lives as we live the Gospel and experiment with the Word. There is a power, joy, and indeed, even intellectual fulfillment that comes with steady service and study, even after facing some of the disappointments that come when some unfounded assumptions we long held require correction.

Finally, for those who have friends or loves ones experiencing shaken faith, be patient and loving, even if (or perhaps especially if) they leave the Church. While the issues they are facing may not trouble you, perhaps because you haven't faced them or perhaps because you have already moved past them or perhaps because your have a firm testimony based on other factors, do not discount the severity of the challenge your friends or family may be facing.

Do not assume that the real issue is some hidden moral sin or being offended by some trivial "spilt milk" issue. That is often not a fair comparison to the real issues and real pain that doubters who want to be believers can face. Love them, help them find useful resources if they wish, do not just brush off their concerns (at least put them in contact with some of the LDS folks who might have answers or at least thoughtful perspectives to share), and maintain your friendship even if they leave the Church. Friendships and family relationships are precious and we should try to not let religion get in the way when religious differences arise. Our faith should strengthen our ability to be good friends and family members, even when others don't share our views. Yes, I know that's easy to say but often hard to do, especially when a doubter feels a need to spread the doubts and fight against the Church. But let's do the best we can to follow Christ in these challenges and be who we are supposed to be.

We do not need to be the judge, just the friends and perhaps helpers (when help is wanted) of those who doubt. But may those doubters find their faith again and come home. There are many good reasons to come home again, and many treasures to weigh on the side of faith.

Update, July 27, 2013: The concerns of the Swedish Saints turn out to be deeper and more serious than the New York Times article indicated, and the frustrations raised are more well founded, in my opinion, though consideration of the pro-LDS resources cited above help to address many of the specific concerns. In the end, faith and tempered expectations are required.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I doubt that Bro. Mattson was unaware of the church's practice of polygamy. Having been a missionary in Scandinavia, that simply isn't possible. However, he could easily be troubled by some of the more controversial aspects of the practice, including brethren taking wives that were married to someone else, the marriage of young teen girls, high divorce rates, misogyny, and other evidences of very imperfect people trying to live what they saw as a perfect principle.

Regardless, the challenges to faith are very real, especially to those experiencing them. Your counsel to love them (even if they leave the church) and point them to useful resources is good.

Some have asked why the LDS Church keeps people on its rolls that no longer self-identify as Mormon unless they specifically ask to have their names removed. Why do we keep trying to reach out to these "lost sheep?" I am reminded of Isaiah 49:15-16 where the Lord promises not to forget the lost, reminding that he has engraved them on the palms of his hands.

Anonymous said...

Not a very fair recording of the issues Mr. Mattsson's group presented. And you completely missed how poor the quality of the answers that came from 2 of the church's top ranking historians were.

Fortunately a transcript of the meeting is available here http://www.roadkilldelight.com/NOM/SFMJRT.pdf so that you can get a more accurate picture of the situation yourself, Jeff.

Quantumleap42 said...


That transcript was a very interesting read. I thought they did a very good job at addressing the questions as best they could. I could tell that some of the people asking the questions had a sincere desire to know the truth. I hope they find it.

I could also tell that a few of the people asking questions had unrealistic expectations about Joseph Smith, prophets in general, and the church in general. I suspect that for those people no answer will ever be sufficient. In the questions regarding how the translation process was depicted in church art, it seemed like the person asking the questions was wondering why the church leaders weren't employed full time correcting every possible misconception, inaccurate depiction, or incorrect painting ever used in a church meeting. There is no physical way for them to do that. We should have a little charity and understanding because we are all in this together. If I had been there I may have asked the rather impertinent question, "Well why haven't you fixed all the church art? If you haven't fixed all the church art yet how can you expect the prophet to fix it all?" If that is all the prophet did then no actual church work would ever get done.

Also on the question regarding translation. It seemed like one of the people asking a question about it was offended, or put off by the fact, that Joseph Smith didn't use the word "translation" in the same way that the person asking the question would have used it. In other words, he took issue with the fact that Joseph Smith didn't use the word translation in the commonly accepted academic sense. This has created some misconceptions (see the discussion regarding church art), but that does not make Joseph Smith, or any other church leader guilty of deception, as the person asking the question accused them of being deceptive. They were not trying to be deceptive. They didn't have any control over the fact that 100 years after Joseph Smith died people would misunderstand how the translation process happened since he used the word "translate" instead of saying, "God gave me the text in English through revelation while I was looking at a stone in a hat." Try saying that 100 times fast and you will quickly understand why he said that he just translated it. Functionally it was equivalent to translation, so it was a translation.

So just remember, don't have unrealistic expectations, before you judge someone for doing something, or not doing something, ask yourself, "Would I do any better in that situation?" and remember, God said that He accepted Joseph Smith's sacrifice (see D&C 132:50), not that Joseph Smith did every single action in his entire life in such a way that 150 years later in a different cultural and social time no one would be able to find any of his recorded words or actions to be less than perfect.

Jared said...

I appreciate Jeff's approach to the challenge the church is facing. Bro. Mattson is a high ranking church member by calling. I hope he can find his testimony broadened and deepen by turning to the Lord for answers. This is really the only way to deal with the problem. If Bro. Mattson doesn't have the wherewithal to obtain help from the Lord then that is the bigger problem.

There are times when we have to have the Lord's help, nothing else will do. Those who are on the verge of losing their faith (for whatever reason) should do all in their power to call on the Lord in mighty prayer and fasting.

A crisis of faith is where many people find real faith. I've been around a long time and have had many occasions where I've had to turn to the Lord in mighty prayer and fasting. It not a theory for me, I've been there and done it and can testify of the reality of God's tender mercies based on my own experience.

Angie said...

I consider myself well-enough-versed in the more controversial history and practice of Mormonism, and my husband and I share these facts and our faith in Mormonism with our children. In other words, we are actively inoculating our children as we teach them our LDS beliefs.

For me, it comes down to this: either Mormonism is correct, or all of Judaism, Christianity (including Mormonism), and Islam are incorrect. I say this because of the Old Testament. Compared to Lot and Abraham, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were boring!!!

And so I ask myself: not only whether Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were prophets, but also what do the actions of JS, BY, Abraham, Lot, etc., tell me about God? Not only how to explain the Danites, but the Flood's destruction of the world and the death of the Egyptians' first-born? Not only questions about 1800's LDS polygamy, but also about Hagar and Leah?

And in the face of these questions, I believe in God, the God of the Old Testament, New Testament, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. I believe He is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly loving.

As we wrestle with this dissonance, our faith matures. It's okay for Brother Mattson to doubt, question, struggle, and agonize - sometimes, this is the only way to come to know God.


Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks for pointing me to the transcript of the meeting. It does sound like the issues were much deeper and more complex than the Times story indicated.

Unfortunately, I was sometimes disappointed with the responses to the questions. I guess the limited time for the meeting was part of the problem, along with the difficulty of being prepared to handle questions all over the ballpark on the fly. Wish they had brought along Daniel Peterson, Greg Smith, Brian Hales, and a few others who could get into the details and clarify things a little better. I certainly hope that people with those kind of detailed questions will explore the detailed responses that are available.

Mormon Media Reviews said...

Love that you say "Step Back" and not step away. There are a lot of things that I don't quite get yet, but for every "credible" evidence against the faith, I find something credible to support it. So I come back to my faith to decide which of these evidences I put my trust in

Kevin Rex said...

Bro. Lindsay, I wish that you were one of the general authorities and were given the power to say what you have said in your blog in a fireside meeting like the Swedish Rescue. Why, I keep asking myself, aren't the general authorities humble enough to act, learn, and feel like you can? It would be so helpful to the Lord's work if they were more humble and asked for the help of good men like you and Bro. Ash. Instead, we keep getting the same kind of avoidance answers on so many controversial issues. I was so surprised at Elder Holland's first deceitful response to the BBC journalist interview about the temple oaths. He lied, and then back pedalled. Why can't our general authorities admit mistakes?

Pioneer said...

Great post, Jeff. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I really believe this is one of the most poignant challenges we face as LDS.

One quick thought related to Quantumleap42 point that there's "no physical way" for Church leaders to change the erroneous artwork to more accurately represent the historical record. I don't believe this is true.

I work with a Fortune 500 company, which is in many ways, highly structured similar to our LDS organizational structure. I know that if the CEO picked up the phone and demanded that a mission-critical change be made as soon as humanly possible, there would be delegated teams of people at all levels of the organization working days, nights, and weekends to make that happen.

I believe Faith Crisis is the defining " mission critical" challenge of our time. If the direction from the top mandated an immediate fix to the misleading artwork and incomplete historical references, it would get done within a timeline period. It would not be the prophet and apostles doing this work—it would be the curriculum department, the Church museum department, the visitor center department, the distribution center department, etc.

It appears this mandate for change has not been given from the top leadership. I assume this is because the Brethren do not wish to damage the faith of the majority of members who are still unaware of these historical anomalies.

Anonymous said...

How am I supposed to believe in a God that loves his daughters as much as his sons when learning of the deception and manipulation that Emma had to deal with? Why would God command Joseph to do things that would break her heart? Why was he entitled to her fidelity when she wasn't entitled to his? So expanding Joseph's kingdom trumped any anguish suffered by Emma? I just can't get my head around it. It really hurts to hear people dismiss this part of the story and say "but look at all the other great things he did." It's like those people who think Bill Clinton was a great president, even after what he put his wife and daughter through. To me, if you break your spouse's heart, nothing else you do really matters much.

Angie said...

In my humble (meaning: lowly and submissive to God) opinion, Anonymous is raising very important questions. The key to finding true answers is the seeker's intent. If the seeker is asking questions to find a reason to leave the church or to disbelieve in God, then the questioning will not lead to peace or truth.

But if the seeker assumes certain spiritual truths (e.g., God exists; He is good; He gave us the freedom to choose our actions, thoughts, and feelings; He will reveal truth to us; etc.), then the questioning will bring us closer to Him.

For example: "why did God require marital fidelity/monogamy of Emma, but not of Joseph?" If we ask this question to prove that Joseph Smith could not possibly be a prophet - therefore disproving the Book of Mormon, temple, and LDS Church - then we will languish in the "mist of darkness," having let go of the "rod of iron."

But if we ask this question, sincerely wanting to know how this set of circumstances could possibly further God's work and His glory, then we will find eternal truths opened to us.

I look forward to Anonymous' path, exploring God's work with the aim of understanding and furthering His work There is nothing to fear in learning about God's ways. He is all-loving, -powerful, and -knowing, and all things work together for the good to those who love Him.

Bookslinger said...

When I read the NYT article i was wondering what the fuss was about, because all the subjects metnioned in that article are old news, and had been asked and answered long ago, with plenty of web sources.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, when the questions began to bubble up in large number and Mattsson himself was unable to satisfy those in his area he contacted Elder Perry of the Twelve. When the assistance he was given from afar didn't help what I've heard called "The Swedish Rescue" was launched in SLC. That's when Jensen and Turley were dispatched to Sweden to meet directly with the troubled.

It's inconceivable to me that when they were sent on this very serious mission they had less than adequate resources of information, talent, time or intent. Consequently, to say, as a number have, that the answers were the best that could be provided under limitations is unconvincing. Jensen & Turley are the official church's top 2 historians.

Jensen's and Turley's stature tells us the situation was grave. So does the fact that, it seems, the attendees were contacted after the meeting and asked if they would remain in the church, resign or, at least some said, face excommunication. In those circumstances, answers that were less than verifiable and conclusive leave a great deal of room for doubt still.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the original post as well as the commenders' words. However I am very concerns with the comments that seem to be putting down those who are being confronted with truths they didn't previously know, "How could they not know? I knew." "That is old news." Etc. In reality, most LDS learn about the church through our weekly meetings, through correlated manuals and through very watered down articles in the Ensign, The Era and the Friend.

In February, two historians with the JSP project came to our Davis County, Utah ward (certainly not Sweden) and gave a fireside on some of the more interesting things they have found. One of the historian/editors told us that there is no evidence that the golden plates were translated using any other method than the peep stones, When he taught that to his BYU class last semester, he received a VERY angry telephone call from one of the general authorities. The general authority, calling from SLC, told him to stop teaching lies and falsehoods to his granddaughter who was in that class, This historian was then faced with the awkward job of telling the GA the truth.

Also, he mentioned to us that he has two seminary teachers in his ward along the wasatch front. Seminary teachers, one would think, should know a lot about the church. It wasn't until the historian recently told them, that either of these two knew that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy,

Yes, we all know--as does everyone else in the world--that BY practiced polygamy. But mot Mormons truly do not know anything about Joseph Smith's polygamy. This is NOT helped by our GD lessons which never mention it OR movies like Legacy which portray Joseph and Emma as a blissfully happy, monogamous couple.

Stop asking how these people can't be as smart as you and start to realize that we are all to blame for this problem.

Anonymous said...

I was preparing for a lesson (primary age 4) and saw that the lesson said only that Joseph Smith used the urim and thummin to translate the plates. From the Joseph Smith Papers project, we can learn that he only used the peep stone, I recently contacted the church and suggested they alter this lesson to include more factual information and referenced the Joseph Smith Papers project. (Hmm, why do we wonder why people don't know the truth about the church and its history when we are actually teaching mis truths?) Anyway, I received a reply yesterday. The person who replied asked me what the Joseph Smith Papers project is.

Anonymous said...

How many BIC today genuinely have no idea of the blood oaths that were removed in the 90s. And how many more have no idea about the oath of vengeance that was removed in the 1930s?

One day someone will stumble across this information and have a similar crisis and someone will say "that's old news that everyone already knows."

Anonymous said...

Just as a point of clarification, the term peep stone seems to refer to a stone that does not have divine sanction whereas seer stone is a stone that does have divine sanction. So, referring to Joseph's initial revelatory ability as using a peep stone lessens the credibility rather than calling it a seer stone.


coltakashi said...

I still have trouble conceiving how a Latter-day Saint can avoid knowing that Joseph practiced polygamy when HE received the revelation and taught it to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, the histories I learned in Institute circa 1970 discussed the "Abrahamic test" of Heber and his wife Vilate over Joseph asking Heber to let him marry Vilate but which didn't go through, the history of the problem it caused for Emma, and the fact that Eliza R. Snow, probably one of the most famous women in the Church, was married to Joseph and then to Brigham.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding post! Brilliant. Education is the answer. There are many misconceptions Mormons have with other religions. I.E. Eternal marriage and families forever.

Come home, the USA needs your money!

Bookslinger said...

If you google these questions, you're going to come up with all the standard LDS apologists, FARMS, FAIRLDS, Jeff Lindsay's LDSFAQ and Book of Mormon Evidences pages, etc.

What more could Jensen and Turley say that isn't already among those resources? And how much can you really pack ( not much really) into a meeting of just a few hours, when it can take multi-hours of online reading just to go through the various evidences and reasoning concerning just one question?

My observation is that church critics always seem to try to paint historical vignettes in the worst possible light, offering half-truths, twisting things, leaving out important information, and doing things like feigning shock over something that is not shocking at all, or is/was not shocking in context.

Problems then occur when sincere truth-seekers then come across the twisted half-truths of the cynical critics and then stumble. Defenders then have to go over things with a fine tooth comb to point out all the devious things that the critics did to fool people.

And here we are on a PRO-LDS blog, and anonymous critics throw out things without citations, references, and links, in an apparent effort to make believers and defenders go on some wild goose chase.

I've seen this game played for 30 years, ever since someone sent me anti-Mormon literature as soon as I got baptized. And it's ALWAYS the same!

Here's how it goes down: Either facts are misrepresented, or outright lies are told, or half-truths are presented, or relevant contextual information is withheld, or something which is true and good is falsely denounced by a critic to be something bad.

Or the open ended snarky questions like "How do you explain such-and-such in the Book of Mormon? There's no evidence for it." When in fact, there doesn't HAVE to be physical archealogical evidence for everything in the Book of Mormon. In fact, there doesn't have to archealogical evidence for _anything_ in the Book of Mormon. And if there is archealogical evicence, much of it could be undersea from the upheavals that accompanied the crucifixion, or has deteriorated to dust in the 1600 to 2600 years since then, or is located in the 99.95% of the land area that has NOT been dug up and analyzed.

I can't beieve how bent out of shape some people have gotten about a silly ARTIST'S RENDITION showing Joseph with his finger on the gold plates. Maybe that was the scene when he copied some characters for Marton Harris to take to professor Anton, and someone who is NOT the artist then decided to use that scene as representative of the translation process.

It's merely an ARTIST'S RENDITION, representative of THAT person's idea.

What about the artist or artists who painted pictures of St. Peter wearing glasses? Glasses hadn't been invented then. Does that mean St. Peter was a fraud? If the artist was Catholic, does that painting mean Catholicism is fraudulent.

Anonymous said...

If the 2 top historians that the church could select from traveled thousands of miles to clear up serious questions that Perry was already acquainted with from his visit why is there still a problem that's resulted in a raft of defections? After all, the church has the totality of the historical record in its vaults and they have the guidance seers and revelators as well as the Holy Spirit who surely is concerned about an entire area being in turmoil.

It isn't as though, having traveled from SLC to Northernmost Europe Jensen and Turley had a limited amount of time. There's no reason sessions couldn't have been held on several days giving each question the time it deserved. It isn't as if people who had been pleading for answers for years were going to lose interest. It isn't as if Mattsson hadn't given years of his life in service to see the church flourish and grow. It isn't as if the consequence of leaving these questions unresolved was minimal or acceptable.

A matter of this import and influence required nothing less than genuine resolution and verifiable information that is consistent with the scientific and historical record as well as the full flowering of the spirit.

A person can insist ad infinitum that the Swedish church should be satisfied and must be satisfied but it's clear from the number of resignations that occurred and from the Mattssons' obviously pained distance from the church and sense that Hans needed to be understood that there's little satisfaction to be found.

Perhaps we'll hear from some attendees who did get the enlightenment they needed. So far, I haven't.

Anonymous said...

@ Angie Crowther - I am Anonymous from 7:51 yesterday. Thank you for your kind response to my question. I tried to post this same question on the Deseret News board discussing this same topic, and was rejected for being "disruptive."

Dale said...

I trust you can answer this,
1, was Joseph Smith involved in Polyandry?
2. did Joseph Smith have sex with minors? If so I wonder what the laws of Illinois were at the time?
3. Can Joseph Smith be excommunicated for the dead if he is guilty of the above?
4. In the rein of terror and inquisition in our Stake a few years ago many young people were happily excommunicated by the abusive leaders for sins FAR less than the sins in # 1 and #2 above.

Bookslinger said...

Anon at 7:42 PM, July 27, 2013:

Based on what I've read about the matter, you've pretty much mischaracterized and misrepresented both the questioning saints and the church's response.

You've essentially done what I previously described church critics as doing: using half-truths and twisted facts to paint a false picture and confuse more people.

You've also done what a lot of ex-members insist on doing: demanding that LDS church leaders administer the church according to the way you think things ought to run.

Your comment was obviously very judgemental, perhaps even more so than those you've accused of being judgemental.

Anonymous said...

I understand that you're angry and frustrated but the fact is that the information is now out there. It will be, like every other bit of information in the universe, subject to interpretation and evaluation. Furthermore, people will come to their own conclusions.

You may say that you're dealing in matters of faith. I wouldn't dispute the importance of faith. But there just isn't any reason to think that matters of faith should be in defiance of of material and scientific fact. We can ask what relationships we don't understand but denying verifiable scientific or historical evidence isn't an act of faith. It's an act of denial.

Nevertheless, no one can force conclusions on you any more than you can force yours on them. So, might as well relax until the water's calm.

Anonymous said...

When I was a missionary in South America, people would ask about polygamy sometimes and I would explain it. Why skirt around former doctrines? I know some Elders who would try to deviate from the subject and I found that being honest and explain the story behind it would do much to dispel doubters and we had a ton of investigators every week. Even my senior companion said WOW, he didn't think that would work. Now I know that in the 1981 Book of Mormon preface it talks about the native americans basically being transplanted Jews from Jerusalem (we all know that) and Pres. Kimball himself walked a beach in Chile and said that was where Father Lehi had landed. NOW there is now dna testing and experts say that the Native Americans are not middle eastern. OK, hmmmmm, time for doubt? Have they tested every Native American tribe? There are countless stories about people coming to the Americas before Columbus - even Chinese, Sumerians, Cretans so how do we know? It's up to each individual to have his/her own testimony. It's up to each individual to make up their own minds. There are some things I don't necessarily care for, but it doesn't stop me from having faith in the Lord and from going to Church. I didn't support Prop8, didn't donate to it, although many in my ward did, (I actually said to some church friends that eventually it would probably be overturned so why waste the money? I wouldn't vote Republican if you paid me, and did not support Bro. Romney's campaign (OH NO!) Plus it is not my place to judge the lifestyle or politics of others. Nor for the Church. Only the Savior can. I think that it's ok for women to join the workforce not to stay home and have as many kids as they can handle but I am still allowed to think for myself.
If some of the things I think don't jive, it doesn't make me any less of a Mormon. That's between me and my God. Not between me and my Bishop.

Lyle J. said...

Former Church historian Davis Bitton once gave a talk titled "I do Not Have a Testimony of Church History."

Quite frankly, all this banter over Church history is sometimes so very dreary. Its as though the critic would declare "if only I could see the gold plates then I would believe."

"If only Joseph Smith were not a polygamist then I would believe."

"If only..." I think you get the drift.

Seeing is NOT believing. All I have to do is ponder over the fact that even as the Savior Himself walked among men declaring He was the Son of God, people did not believe.

Its that simple. The answer is NOT found in finding answers in Church history. The answers are found in humbling ourselves and repenting of our blasted prideful attitudes and sins. The answers are found in turning ourselves over to God and serving Him by serving our fellow men.

History is a series of snapshots. It is NOT a video. The study of history is akin to assembling a 1,000 piece puzzle with perhaps 50 pieces available.

Finally, for those serious about the fact that there was a war in heaven and 1/3 of the hosts of heaven followed Satan, ask yourselves what those spirits are doing right now.

I'm strongly inclined to believe that the incessant discussion over troubling aspects of Church history is a smoke screen and a diversion away from the more weighty matters of the Kingdom.

The sad thing is: the diversion is working. Seems like this was prophecied somewhere wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dale,

What is the age of a "minor" in Illinois during the 1830s - 1840s? At what age did women get married?

If Joseph participated in polyandry, then the women are marrying more than one husband. Where is the outrage about these women?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve,
Good questions.
I would be concerned if the women felt pressure to Marry Joseph.
I wish I knew the laws of the times.

Anonymous said...

The women were not prophets. I hold a prophet to a higher bar. My questions stand.
Especially the question about sex with children or minors.

Anonymous said...

My question also still stands. What age is a "minor"? We might call them children today but a quick Google search pulled up that the average age of marriage for women during this time period was 15 - 18. The quick Google search called them women, not children and given the age range was "average", that would have to mean that there were younger as well as older. We cannot apply today's social mores to those of nearly 200 hundred years ago.

Also, if polyandry was being practiced, how widespread was it? I can only image that it was not common but it still begs the question. What kinds of these marriages were being solemnized that had nothing to do with Joseph Smith?

I too would like to hold prophets to a higher standard. Elijah calling on a she bear to maul a bunch of kids, calling fire down from heaven to consume pagan priests, Abraham nearly sacrificing his own son. When I hear these stories, I just have to realize that Jesus will be the ultimate judge and until I get some other commandment, I know what I need to do.


Anonymous said...

I'm an ex-Mormon of relatively recent vintage. I have to say that the discussion on this blog is excellent.

A couple of points. First, I'm in my fifties and studied huge amounts of Mormon history and doctrine over the course of my life. I was nevertheless stunned to learn not of JS's polygamy but of the polyandry and the 14-year-old brides. I simply cannot conceive of a loving God who would order JS to send a man on a mission and then marry his wife. I was also disturbed to learn that JS used the seerstones rather than the U&T, the latter being a falsehood that the church instructed me to teach on my mission. How could I even present that concept if the church had not provided me with (false) illustrations and taught me how to say "Urim and Thummim" in a foreign language? I was, by contrast, never taught words like "seer stone." So I was shocked to learn the truth about these things a decade ago and empathize fully with Mattsson and his compatriots.

Second, the one element of the Swedish episode that is missing from the discussion here is the intimidation. Jensen and Turley informed the assembly that there was very little time to deal with the troublesome questions, then spent close to an hour telling them that the spirit of God is the spirit of agreement and unity; and that if they don't agree, they are following the spirit of the devil. Then, after the brief conversation about the "issues," the GA from Germany--and this was conveniently left out of the transcript--spent another hour warning the Swedes that they must not speak of their doubts to anyone else, including their spouses. If they did, they would be subject to excommunication. He went further and said that the Swedes had to decide whether they were in the church or out or, again, they could be excommunicated.

In short, the Jensen team spent half of the time saying that they did not have time to discuss the issues and the other half threatening the Swedes--who were the core of the Mormon community in their country--that they'd better fall in line or they'd be kicked out of the church. Which message--that the church cares about you and will help you understand, or that you must shut up or we'll kick you out--was delivered with more force? The Swedes have subsequently made it pretty clear what they think.

Anonymous said...


Where are you getting your information? The average age of women's first marriages in the US in the 1930s was 20.7 years. Marrying a 14-year-old was then almost as scandalous as marrying one today, particularly if the bridegroom is in his mid-30s. The truth is that Joseph married little girls as well as girls who were working as maids in his home and two over whom he was legal guardian. Anyone who thinks this was socially acceptable on the frontier should read what contemporary accounts said of it.

As for the women being equally responsible with Joseph, one needs to bear in mind the power relationship. Here was God's representative on earth telling women, several of whom he had locked in a room, over several hours or days that God had commanded them to marry him. Here was Joseph and Heber Kimball telling Heber's 14-year-old daughter that God wanted her to marry the much older man. Joseph used promises of eternal life for the women and their existing families, and threats of damnation, as part of his courtship process. Given his status, and the women's desire to do what God wanted, it was extremely difficult to say "no."

The fact is that Joseph's conduct was by contemporary moral standards inexcusable. The only way to justify his behavior is to believe that for some reason God wanted him to marry those children and those men's wives. That is an issue of faith, and all of us must decide where we stand on that question of God's intent.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of people in the church dissing on those who have doubts when they find out the true history of the church. I have been a member for over 30 years; hold advance degrees in business and live in the United States. Last year I found out about Joseph Smith and polyandry and it rocked my world or what Bro. Ash calls it "Shaken Faith Syndrome". I did what my leaders told me to do - not go to anti-mormon websites and whatever was printing in the sunday school/relief society/priesthood manuals, I believed 110%. I never thought that my church would "LIE" or withhold the truth from me. If you lived in Utah and heard about Joseph Smith practicing polygamy and polyandry - good for you. Those of us in the mission field did not have that opportunity and only read what was fed to us. Just look in the "Teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr" and what do you find? It states that "As commanded by God, he also taught the doctrine of plural marriage" - page 24. That is it! No mention that he practiced polygamy or that he was marrying married women with the majority of the weddings unknown to Emma.

So please, don't be so hard on us with doubts. We are trying to do the best that we can with the information that we found.

Anonymous said...

The majority of my ancestors are from Oklahoma, Missouri and central Illinois. I just calculated the average age for marriages of my ancestors, during the 1840's and 1850's and it is 20.5 years old. I did not have one ancestor that married below the age of 18 years old. My ancestors lived only 130 miles away from Nauvoo and lived in very rural (farming) areas. If my gg-grandfather could find a wife of 18 years old, why couldn't Joseph? Joseph was living in Nauvoo, which was one of the biggest cities in Illinois. If ole gg-grandpa could find a wife in a township of 200, I don't think it would had been a problem for Joseph living the high life in Nauvoo!!

Ok, the marrying of 14 year old girls bothers me greatly, as well as the polyandry. For the life of me, I can not wrap my head around those two issues! ;(

Anonymous said...

I agree with Pioneer that if the leadership wanted to, it could clean up all the confusing "art" or other misleading materials is very short order.

Remember how quickly the church mobilized when it unfortunately wished to intervene in the Prop 8 matter in California.

It wasn't that long ago when a visitor to Temple Square would be confronted with numerous "Ancient America Speaks" displays, dioramas and information. Remember at that time the feature length movie at the JS building was "The Testament", a moving story of the fictional Helam and his family as they experienced the events described in III Nephi.

The displays and the movie were completely drawn and depicted in Aztec and Inca motifs and imagery.

Today these images and motifs are scrubbed clean from official materials in every way.

No, it is clear that when the church chooses to promote a theme or message, or when it chooses to abandon a theme or message, it can do so, and this is deeply troubling and confusing to me.

I can hardly decide if FAIR or FARMS is leading the way on doctrine and history, or if the church is leading the way. No one will say officially either way!

Anonymous said...

"My question also still stands. What age is a "minor"? We might call them children today but a quick Google search pulled up that the average age of marriage for women during this time period was 15 - 18. The quick Google search called them women, not children and given the age range was "average", that would have to mean that there were younger as well as older. We cannot apply today's social mores to those of nearly 200 hundred years ago."

Sorry, I spent about 20 minutes and couldn't find this. Care to provide a link? I did find that the average age of a woman's first menstruation was a lot higher then which would make it even more difficult to believe that the average age of marriage was that young. In fact, according to the following website, in 1830, the average age of first menstruation was 17.


Anonymous said...

I found my information from the following uber-official looking site:


I welcome people finding accurate information on the topic for the life and times of the period in question rather than pulling in their own preconceived notions of today's life and juxtaposing it on the 1830s.

There is not a lot of data as it appears that this type of census started to be gathered in the 1890s. It also appears the people like to extrapolate where data does not exist. This can be a valid method but at the end of the day, it ends up being a guess.

Aristocracy in the 1500s married in their early teens (that's right, early teens) whereas the common people married in their early twenties. Furthermore, the early teen marriages were arranged. What does the above information have to do with Joseph and his wives and the ladies with their multiple husbands? Not a lot since we don't know what the circumstances were in the 1830s and 1840s. I present this information so that everyone can wrap their heads around the idea that what we might consider reprehensible might not have always been the case.

No comments about Elijah calling on a she bear to maul children because the children were calling him names? I would have expected that to raise a few eye brows.


Anonymous said...

Over the years, I have evaluated and struggled with many issues in the church, its scriptures and history. But there has ultimately distilled a single moment I can point to as the fulcrum of the veracity of the entire church:

The very first time Joseph approached another man's wife and explained to her his vision of an angel with drawn sword threatening his life and that of the church should she refuse his advances is either a starting or ending point for the entire church.

Whether he intended a sexless union or not is inconsequential. Joseph's proposal would necessarily draw this woman to step outside the bounds of any marital vow she had made to her husband. There's just no way a married woman can agree to marry Joseph Smith without violating the vows of her first marriage.

If Joseph saw an actual angel of God, then this God is not to trusted or followed. He delivered the edict through Moses that a man is forbidden to covet another man's wife, but reversed this with Joseph. Such a God is not worthy of worship.

If Joseph concocted the story, then he is not to be trusted. And none of his other claims to angelic visitations is to be trusted either. The entire church founding is called into question.

If Joseph imagined the visit, but it did not actually occur, he is to be pitied. We should not trust any of his other claims to angelic visitations.

I struggle to find any reasonable road around this obstacle that does not lead to these conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Steve, that is a lousy source. A two-sentence answer written by an anonymous poster with no citations. At least you can get a free credit report on that page.

Rather than accept that source's "15-18 years" guess, I'd suggest consulting the National Institute of Health, whose data says that in the 1830s the average age at which women got married was 22.9 years. (link below)

Or check Thomas Dublin's "Farm to Factory," published by Columbia University Press. On page 32, Dublin says that the average age of marriage varied, depending on social and economic class, from 22.9 to 25.2 years of age. The estimate of 15 to 18 is sheer nonsense, fit for FARMS and FAIR and the Sunday comics.

NIH data:

Anonymous said...

Not only did Joseph's marrying of married women force those women to violate their wedding covenants, it also violated the New and Everlasting Covenant as expressed in D&C 132.

The Doctrine and Covenants says that polygamy is only permitted where 1) the women are virgins, 2) the purpose is sexual reproduction or "raising up of righteous seed," and 3) permission from the first wife has already been obtained.

Those second-marriages were hardly to virgins, since many of the polygamous wives already had children. Moreover, either Joseph had sex with them or he violated the sole purpose of polygamy as explained in D&C 132. The church has acted as if those marriages were not sexual, effectively saying that Joseph sinned. In any case, Emma did not approve of most of those plural marriages.

There is consequently no way that Joseph's polygamy met the requirements established by Mormon scripture. According to D&C 132, he was adulterous and would be damned.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 3:40,

Thanks for the link. Maybe my sarcasm about my reference being an uber-official site was not sarcastic enough. While NIH and a university publications would hold more weight, their references still need to be verified and validated. I did notice at the bottom of the NIH web site that the data was pulled from 1850 - 1930. It is probably safe to assume that we can extrapolate the data backwards. I did not check out the university's reference. I did notice that there were 12% of the women between ages of 15 - 19 that did marry. Were these ladies minors or were they ready to be betrothed and start families? If this age group could get married, would it be okay for them to enter a polygamous marriage too?

I cannot comment on whether the ladies that engaged in polyandrous marriages violated laws and covenants that were established and record in Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 July 12, 1943.

As for any adultery that occurred, I will have to leave that up to people who have been setup and established as judges to determine.

Seriously, no one will take the bait about Elijah and calling out a she bear to maul children because the kids called him names?


Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,

I thought you probably did mean the "uber-official" as sarcasm, but assumed the least and reacted didactically. Sorry about that.

I like your questions about the age of marriage. You are right that there was variance, as there is today. My feelings about this topic stem largely from my readings of what many of those women wrote in their diaries and journals, and several of those were uncomfortable with their own circumstances and scandalized by some of the other younger marriages. I think part of the story here is the later age of menstruation, which started at close to 17 in the 1830s. That means that some of those women were barely adolescent when Joseph took them to wife (wives).

The one place where I do disagree with you, clearly, is on Joseph's conduct. I simply apply the explicit statements of the Lord as recorded in D&C 132, since it is written in the first person. If Joseph married women who were not virgins, and if Emma did not pre-approve the marriages, those marriages were null and void and the sexual relations therein were extra-marital affairs. I have no trouble applying the Lord's word to the conduct of the man he calls "my servant," Joseph.

On the Old Testament prophets, I didn't bite because I don't think anyone's purposes are served by saying that "yeah, Joseph was an adulterer and child-molester, but the other prophets were even worse!" That doesn't really work to Joseph's advantage.

Blake said...

I really strongly suggest getting Brian Hales' books on polygamy. There are 3 volumes and they are now the gold standard on the issues related to polygamy. So let me clear a few points up:

1. Many of the marriages were what we would call sealings today. The purpose as seen by those involved in the practice was not to create a martial couple, sire children or take advantage of young women, but to provide for being sealed up to eternal life and to create eternal familial relationships with the families of those involved. In all cases, Joseph Smith never lived with the "plural wife" after the sealing ceremony and with many he left right after the ceremony without having spent any time alone with the new "bride."

2. Brian Hales makes a very persuasive argument that Joseph Smith did not have sexual relations with any women who were still married to another man. Read that again. His purpose was to have these women sealed to him in a family relationship. So the D&C 132 argument made by one of the many anonymouses here holds very little plausibility for me.

3. Joseph Smith did not have sexual relations with the two 14 year old girls that he "married" or was sealed to and they were both later married to other individuals without any thought of divorce from Joseph Smith. They regarded themselves as fully compliant with their covenants.

4. Fannie Alger (Joseph Smith's 17 year old "maid") was a young girl taken in by the Smith family. It is not clear that Joseph had intimate relations with her (though possible). It appears that she did not talk about it afterward but married another man without any thought of a divorce from Joseph. It is quite possible (quite [probable in my view) that Joseph Smith did not have intimate relations her.

5. The fact is very clear that a lot of what passes for evidence regarding polygamist relationships would not rise above the level of sensational gossip and sometimes slander. The evidence is often unclear, contradictory, and a lot of what passes for scholarly assertion is sheer speculation. That is a good reason for the Church to remain tentative on these issues.

6. Emma told her children to her dying day that Joseph did not practice polygamy. Perhaps if she had been asked about celestial marriage or sealings her answers would have been different.

7. Emma at times approved, and at other times disapproved, changed her mind often regarding whether Joseph could be sealed to other women. Joseph would have been quite understandably confused about where Emma stood.

8. There is no DNA evidence of any off-spring sired by Joseph Smith other than by Emma. There is crystal clear DNA evidence that in all but one case where historians had previously pontificated that Joseph had sired children by plural wives that he did not do so. This is the strongest indication possible that a great deal of what passes for scholarly certainty is really just guessing and speculation.

9. There is persuasive evidence that what Joseph Smith desired was eternal family relationships based on a genuine love for the families involved.

Blake said...

With respect to the Urim and Thummim and seer stone; it is crystal clear that Joseph first called the stones a "key" (1827 and 1828) and later interpreters (1829 and Book of Mormon). There is strong evidence that he used two stone fastened in a bow that was set in breast plate when he first began to translate (according to William Smith and his mother and the 3 witnesses). Later he used a stone (but neither he nor anyone else called it a seer stone -- that is as anachronsitic as urim and thummim). Joseph later analogized the stones he used to the urim and thummim. Why not?

But I am just amused that folks are willing to believe that he could use two stones called the urim and tummim to translate but could not use a single stone called an interpreter or reader to translate. Really? It is like believing that Jesus is a Christ but not a messiah. I feel for Brother Mattson, but I do not believe that this kind of concern is something that really merits much attention.

Anonymous said...

Yes and the Lord instructed Oliver to use his dowsing rod(rod of Aaron anyone?) to translate as well... The larger point about the Urim and Thummim is it was supposedly preserved through a lot of effort and sacrifice to be used by Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon. It was recovered under miraculous circumstances. If Joseph's account is to be believed, then it was only necessary for the first lost part. For the remainder that we have, apparently his seer/peep stone was plenty, even though this was a rock that he had previously used for occult purposes. It wasn't an object that he needed special training for since he had been using it for treasure finding before using it to translate the Book of Mormon. A book that was secreted outside the house and therefore not in the room with him at all. This was not the correlated story I was instructed to give to investigators and it was certainly not a story I was familiar with. In other words, I was given a false story and commanded to deliver a false story. I was made a liar.

This story is much like the miraculous 60 days of translation story challenge. This is a false wall. The fact is, that if you marked the time from when he first "learned" of the book via Moroni, he had many years to develop the story. If you factor in coming up with the story of the vision of Moroni and the information contained in it, then you have an even larger time span available for the development of the story.

You can find the audio from the transcript online. I found that to be far more damning than the transcript because you can see how condescending and evasive these official representatives were to these Swedes that had very real and serious questions. Supposedly these representatives had flown 36 hours out of their way to hold a short 2 hour meeting in Sweden to help these people. Instead they spent nearly half the time telling them that if they doubt then they are encouraging the spirit of Satan, instead of acknowledging their sincere questions. These are questions that I was shocked to learn have been in the milieu for a very long time. I used to believe that the Church was wise to avoid these types of questions because I believed that it would be a waste of resources to answer every question because the so-called AntiMormons would just weasel around to find some new nitpicky murky historical/doctrinal thing to nip at the Church with. What I have found is that these questions are sincere, clear, and consistent through time. It's only a question of when we become aware of them. What I have also found in general is that the Antis have very clear responses to these questions. That by and large the historical record is stunningly clear. While the apologists and especially the Church are very murky about them. They hem and haw about potential patterns or oblique associations. They make historical associations that are hundreds if not thousands of years apart. Judging by how prophets of the past dealt with antiChrists in the Book of Mormon, I would think that the Church with all its resources, both temporal and spiritual, with men who supposedly are special witnesses of Christ would be able to come up with satisfactory responses and be able to clarify these issues. It all comes across as being extremely evasive. I know that when I am dealing with a client or student who is evasive, then I am dealing with someone that I cannot trust.

Another act that I find to be deceptive is the "blame the ignorant artists" approach used by apologists. No piece of artwork gets published by the Church in her official publications without approval by an apostle. Artists and illustrators are heavily art directed by Church publications. It's a flagrantly deceptive redirection to blame the hired hand for carefully doing the work the master has dictated.


Anonymous said...


You are smoking dope. If Joseph Smith did not have sex with his plural wives, he was violating D&C 132, which says that "raising up righteous seed" is the only permissible reason for plural sealings. Read it. We do not need a secondary source, no matter how authoritative you find it, to interpret the plain words of the Lord in the Doctrine & Covenants.

Second, you say that JS did not have sex with his plural wives. That would be news to them, since their journals are quite explicit. What do you think she meant when Helen Mar Kimball wrote that she would never have married Joseph if she had known that it was to be a marriage in every sense of the word?

Third, the church went out of its way to prove that Joseph had sex with his plural wives. In the 1860s or 1870s, it took depositions from those plural wives who were still alive and presented them in a court of law, the Temple Lot Case, in an attempt to prove to the Reorganized Church that polygamy had been part of the restored gospel from Day One.

So you are teaching false doctrine. You tell us that Joseph Smith did not follow D&C 132, but that that was a good thing. Then you tell us that Joseph did not have sex with his plural wives despite the fact that the church itself proved that he did by using the legal testimony of the women he married.

Why do you apologists substitute your judgment for that of God and his prophets? Have you been set apart with any priesthood authority to do so or are you just steadying the arc?

Blake said...

Anonoymous (of course): Note well that I did not say that Joseph did not have sexual relations with any of his plural wives. Challenge: Show me where I said that. Clue: you won't be able to because I did not say that. I was very careful and specific about the claims I made and the specific groups of wives with whom he did not have intimate relations. You did not read carefully.

Second, my point (one that you obviously missed) was that he did not have sexual relations with many of his plural wives. Therefore, we have to look much deeper to understand his motivations.

You are quite correct that the Church went out of its way to try to find evidence that Joseph in fact had sexual relations. The difficulty it faced in doing sois a pretty good indication that the evidence was not as supportive as you assert. It appears to me that the witness statements are rather motivated by that very fact and surprisingly less than explicit about what they mean. I'm an attorney -- I know how clients (of other attorneys) get pressured to say things that they really don't want to and so say something as close as possible to please all sides.

Moreover, you and I are going to disagree about what D&C 132 says about this since I believe it is explicit that the purpose of celestial marriage was being sealed up to eternal lives; not sex. I get really tired of the kinds of over-the-top reactionary nonsense from folks like you who do not read carefully and really do not know the evidence. Even Todd Compton agrees that Helen Mar Whitney's marriage was dynastic:

According to Kimball, her father wished to create an eternal link between his family and the family of Joseph Smith, Jr. (Anderson & Faulring 1998) Todd Compton describes the reason for the marriage:

“The prophet’s marriage to her seems to have been largely dynastic union arranged by Joseph and Heber to seal the Kimball family to a seer, church president, and presiding patriarchal figure of the dispensation of the fullness of times" (Compton 1997, p. 486).

In the early summer of 1843, when she was 14 years old, Kimball’s father described the doctrine of plural marriage to her. He then asked if she would consent to be “sealed to Joseph” (Compton 1997, p. 498). Helen Kimball took 24 hours to respond to Joseph's request, and consented after Joseph Smith explained to her that it would ensure her eternal salvation along with that of her family. Helen was "sealed" to Smith in May 1843. Kimball continued to live with her parents (Anderson & Faulring 1998).

Look, read the sources first and then come back and have an intelligent discussion. Otherwise, your diatribe is just baseless nonsense.

Blake said...

Mindog: Arguing that art is church doctrine and shows that the church is therefore deceptive is like saying that Picasso failed to recognize that people actually live in three dimensions. I am just rolling my eyes at your comment. It's like Christianity must be false because the Pope knew that people in Christ's day did not dress in 16th century styles and he still commissioned Rembrandt.

As Bushman argued, it is just as easy to see God preparing Joseph Smith to be sensitive to the spirit by using the means common in his culture. Joseph had a gift. He knew it. It worked. Look at the Book -- it is tour de force.

Anonymous said...


I'm a lawyer too. And I know how lawyers work, including insinuation that your name "Blake" is any more forthcoming than my choice to use the word "anonymous." If you think that openness is important, what is your full name? What law firm to you work for? If on the other hand you prefer to keep that information private, then I trust you'll respect my desire for anonymity as well.

I also know how lawyers twist the truth. Example Number One: Joseph's polygamy was okay because he only had sex with some of his plural wives, some of the little girls, some of the women married to other men. For the vast majority of people, those facts are sufficient to reach the conclusion that Smith was an adulterer. Your argument is essentially that Smith was a good man because he didn't commit as much adultery as some people think.

Third, you are mischaracterizing the dispute. You allege that the purpose of polygamy was to seal families together. True, that was one purpose of plural marriage. But that's beside the point. If sealing families together was the sole purpose, then surely sex was unnecessary. And if it was necessary, for whatever reason, why didn't Joseph only marry consenting, single, adult women? The issue is not whether there were other motives at play but whether it was okay for him to sleep with his friends' wives and with little girls.

Fourth, your statement that the purpose of the marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball was to form a dynastic connection between the Kimballs and the Smith is both true and irrelevant. The question is whether it was right for Joseph to sleep with a little girl. Her father's views have nothing to do with that.

Fifth, you still haven't answered why it was okay for Smith to marry women who were already married. D&C 132, which you are attempting to defend, says in verse 62 that if "a man espouse a VIRGIN, and desire to espouse a second, and and the first give her consent, and they are VIRGINS, AND HAVE VOWED TO NO OTHER Man," the second marriage may occur. But when Smith married eleven of his friends' wives, none of them were virgins and many of them were not consented to by Emma. So Smith was clearly violating the principle of polygamy and, again according to D&C 132, was committing adultery.

Or is this one of the areas in which you think my reading skills are deficient? Perhaps you can apply your legal sophistry to explain what in verse 62 I have wrong? I'd appreciate it if, in doing so, you'd stay on the point rather than asserting that Heber Kimball's motivations for giving his daughter to Joseph excuse Joseph's sleeping with her and then sending her home to her mommy and daddy.

Anonymous said...

Blake: That's a red herring and not the argument I made. You are also making a poor equivocation. I apologize if I lacked clarity in my statement. I did not say that the Church's commissioned artwork is doctrine. What I tried to communicate is that the artwork is approved stringently by men who are ordained as doctrinal gatekeepers. Therefore the artwork presented to us is the version of history and doctrine they want us to perceive, or if the Church is true, that the Lord wishes us to see. They commission the illustrators to illustrate the stories they want illustrated. Ultimately my larger point is that the apologists like to blame the simpleton ignorant artists for failing to present Church history accurately. The artists are not to blame, the commissioners are and those that give the final approval are to blame, since it is they who hire and dictate the artwork to the artists.

As a side note...The Pope never hired Rembrandt to do anything, since they were from different religions at a very tumultuous time. Picasso was purposefully manipulating his perception of reality to reveal something about humanity or himself, which again, is not the same thing.

An equivocal comparison might be that we paint the events of the Old and New Testament with people wearing bathrobes and towels on their heads or that we illustrated Moroni in roman garb. These things are done to convey the larger narrative because we can only speculate on their clothing, since we lack(ed) sufficient information to do otherwise. That's an entirely different matter than painting an inaccurate picture of clearly understood events. The comparison you are making would be that we paint Jesus performing cataract surgery on the blind man, instead of the miracle recorded in the Gospels.

Easy for you, perhaps. I, for one, listened to Bushman's extended interview with John Dehlin on Mormon Stories. When John Dehlin asked Bushman about his testimony of the Joseph Smith and Church, he had to be pushed somewhat to respond. Bushman said that he believes in the goodness of the Church and it's teachings. He could not be prompted to state publicly that he had a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. I found that to be very telling.

It is exactly these types of oblique tactical approaches used by apologists that helped to open my eyes to the reality of the history and its meaning.


jose carlos said...


Blake said...

Anonymous - I am well known on the nacle. My website is blakeostler.com. I don't hide in anonymity. I just laugh when bloggers complain that the church is hiding something and then they give us their anonymous comments. Somehow they miss the irony. I am hiding nothing -- so come out into the light and let us know who you are.

Second, as I suspected you haven't read the evidence. Let me repeat. Joseph did not have sex with either of the 14 year old brides. These marriages were dynastic solely -- not dynastic plus sex as you argue. Read Brian Hales' books and then come back.

Third, Joseph did not have sex with many (I would say most) of his plural wives. So let's talk about your supposed knock down argument about D&C 132.

D&C 132 states that if a wife is given by God then it is according to the covenant. See vv. 26, 28-40. When God expressly reveals that a person is called to take another wife, then all that is required is that God ordained that marriage. However, if a man desires to take another wife (not as revealed or called by God initially) then there are two conditions: (1) the woman must be a virgin; and (2) the wife must consent. (vv. 61-63) This was the common understanding of D&C 132 by those who practiced plural marriage. So your argument does not hold water. You have failed to distinguish the two different situations of God calling a man to take a wife and the man himself desiring to take a wife without first being called.

So like I said, go do your homework first and then come back so that we can discuss these issues.

Donna Tagliaferri said...

I was intrigued by the information that no one has found any children other than with Emma. DNA evidence with only Emma's children. He was married to many, many women. Where are the children? I have been thrilled at the change in the church's attitude toward our history. Mountain meadows massacre is a great sample....president Hinckley saying, "go where the evidence takes you." Mountain meadows was a tragedy, and it isn't a coincidence that until it was cleared up, apologized for and repentance made Cedar City did not have a temple. Our church as made mistakes, Joseph made mistakes, Moses made mistakes, Peter, Paul, Brother of Jared, Alma.....me. We have all made mistakes, except for the Savior. I love the Savior, I believe this is His church. I love this church, I love the organization , so that we don't fall through the cracks. I am a convert and I have never been disappointed at people's frailties...some base their beliefs on people. I never have. I love the people, for the most part, but they won't keep in church, or drive me away.

Anonymous said...

Surely, Ostler, you jest.

The church claims to speak for God. It claims that the statements of its prophets and apostles are doctrine, and then it hides that doctrine. You may say to Mindog that the church does not deceive, yet the church taught me and my fellow missionaries to teach that the translation of the BoM occurred through the Urim and Thummim. Then they provided pictures of that process and taught us the words in our foreign languages to convey that falsehood. There is a world of difference between what the church has done through its intentional institutional deception and my desire to protect my anonymity. In short, I do not claim to speak for God or to proclaim doctrine.

On polygamy, you can continue to assert that you have read more on the topic than I have, but you have no basis for saying that. Your continual trumpeting of Hales' tendentious tripe is proof of either that lack of foundation or a more worrisome lack of judgment. No serious scholar gives that any more credence than the equally obfuscatory Massacre at Mountain Meadows.

Your reading of D&C 132 provides further evidence of your either substantive or self-imposed limitations. The chapter does not say that God can give a man a second wife without the latter meeting the requirements in verse 62. What it says is that the requirements are stricter for second and third marriages than first ones. Where is the uncertainty here? Have you read Doctrines of Salvation? Mormon Doctrine? The church's own lesson manuals from the 1960s--you know, before the church started burying its polygamist history? Did you know that plural marriages required special interviews and special privileges due in part to the stipulations of 132:62? You are once again asserting a version of scriptural interpretation that contradicts the statements of the prophets and apostles.

And yes, Helen Mar Kimball did have sex with Joseph Smith. Or don't you believe her own words in her diary? Is she part of this vast ex-Mormon conspiracy? How could Joseph have pursued women like Kimball and Sarah Pratt, who were obviously deceptive and manipulative slaves of Satan? Have you read the Temple Lot depositions themselves? Why do you dispense with Compton's findings in favor of Hales's?

The bottom line is that having sex with other men's wives is adultery not only by the popular understanding but also by the traditional, authoritative reading of D&C 132. You may have read enough nonsense by Hales and his ilk to persuade yourself that that is not the case, but, if you haven't noticed, you apologists are losing the public debate.

The other issue is of course the hubris of asserting that you, as an apologist, have the authority to reinterpret the writings and statements of prophets and apostles. As the demise of Dan Peterson has shown, and as Jensen and Turley learned in Sweden, no one takes unauthorized babblings seriously. The day the church announces its positions with clarity and authority rather than relying on self-appointed stooges to throw dirt in the air and say "but we can't see" is the day that people will begin to listen.

Blake said...

Anonymous: If you are truly an attorney, I hope that your legal writing makes more sense than your mindless assertions here -- and I truly hope that you do not ignore the evidence and distort it the way you do here. You make accusation after accusation that shows about a kindergarten level of understanding of the issues. Is that as the best that you can do -- hiding beyond your convenient anonymity? Please.

Your assertions regarding sexual relations with Helen Mar Kimball Whitney show that you really are clueless and making claims you cannot support. Check it out:



I suggest that you read Hales work before you critique it -- since your comments here demonstrate that you have no clue what he says. You do know that calling something "tripe" is not a legitimate argument, right?

Moreover, you ignore the obvious with respect do D&C 132. It is hardly hubris or disagreeing with the prophets to quote them! Do you even get how foolish your argument is that quoting the scriptures is somehow disagreeing with the prophets? Thanks for the laugh anyway.

Anonymous said...

Did you quote the prophets? I'm sorry, I didn't see that.

I thought what happened was that I quoted scripture and referred you to the prophets' interpretations of that scripture. You then offered an alternative interpretation with neither citations nor references. Can you please point out where you cited a prophet or apostle?

As for Hales, yes, I have read his book (or "books," if the plural makes you feel more accomplished). Just wasn't impressed. I haven't read your publications but, judging from the reviews you highlight on your website, I haven't missed much. Three from BYU, two from UVU, and one from Western Carolina University? You obviously write for a very narrow audience--in which I am sure you are quite prominent.

Meanwhile the rest of the world--where extra-marital sex is considered, however simplistically, extra-marital sex--goes about its business. You apologists may flatter yourselves that you are making a difference, but as Sweden showed, what the world wants is authoritative declarations from those who have actual authority.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see the cause of the misunderstanding, Blake. You don't know what the word "quote" means.

You referred, however inaccurately, to scripture and believed that you were quoting. Generally the term "quote" is used when one actually uses the words of the person being quoted. You may have seen the occasional use of quotation marks in your copious readings, which is generally an indication that the author is engaging in quotation. If the concept seems daunting, you might alternatively just use the word "cite" and not have to worry about the arcana of attribution.

I'd have thought that an intellectual and spiritual giant, such as yourself, would have known that. Perhaps you should sue your alma mater for failing to teach you basic English lexicography. But then again, spending time on vocabulary and logic would have detracted from the more fundamental education in sophistry needed to thrive in that incestuous little apologetic world in which people think sleeping with other men's wives is not adultery.

Blake said...

Anonymous: Look, you are wrong about Helen Mar Whitney. The evidence simply does not support your assertions. The evidence does not support that Joseph had sex with other men's wives while they were married. I cited both Todd Compton and Brian Hales, generally regarded as the two leading authorities, and you are still asserting that only apologists make these assertions. You apparently do not care to deal with the evidence and prefer to simply make it up as up as you go.

Here is what truly baffles me. Aside from the fact that your arguments all boil down to name-calling without substance, how does one go on a mission, or have the capacity to get through law school, and still have the inerrantist and fundamentalist understanding of these issues that evince? I am truly puzzled by this approach.

BTW you couldn't understand my books, so don't bother. Given that you are hell-bent to twist the scripture and to judge Joseph Smith even for things he did not do I would not want to be your judgmental cross-hairs.

However, you are right, I did not quote D&C 132 -- my bad for citing it and figuring that if you could get through law school you could find it and read the references for yourself. The simple fact is that your argument that somehow D&C 132 prohibits men from marrying (being sealed to) anyone but a virgin as a plural wife ignores the text and its structure. So your argument holds no water as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading through Compton's explanations and they're pretty clear. He says it's unclear and doesn't know, but doesn't think so, based on non contemporary later practices. Those aren't arguments in favor of yours. That's the murky apologist approach. He points out all the lack of clarity as a way of obfuscating the instances where things are abundantly clear. He does cite several examples of when it does seem pretty clear that there was more than just a spiritual marriage.

And again, regardless of what conclusions he may come to, no matter how clear, well sourced, well cited or erudite, a Church President can come along and knock all that down with a new revelation regarding the matter. There is always the caveat of "this opinion does not necessarily reflect those of Church or other supporting organization." Which is to tease that this may or may not be an accurate reflection of authoritative history, practice or doctrine. I guess we'll just have to wait and see forever and ever while the world rolls around, while those who could give authoritative answers remain silent and let their vulnerable sheep wander off. It would be a very simple matter for Pres. Monson to get up in conference and make a statement regarding the doctrine, practice and history.

One thing that I believed for a long time was that the Church was elegantly clear about doctrine. That these things were all essential and understandable from the pre-existance to the exaltation of man. One may argue that something like polygamy is not essential to our salvation, but don't tell Brigham or other Church leaders. And don't tell that to modern mormons, some who are apostles, who have plural celestial marriages. The practice and doctrine is still relevant today, though not according to Hinckley, and therefore the doctrine which affects our theoretical eternal salvation is worthy of an authoritative explanation.

The way things are going, it's obvious that there isn't one coming and that's disappointing.


Blake said...

Mindog: You do know that Compton isn't an apologist by any stretch, right? Don't embarrass yourself any further.

Anonymous said...

Really? Because in that article he seemed to be very pro Joseph Smith. He's also a member of the LDS Church and as far as I know, in good standing. He probably takes a different approach than you might, but that doesn't make him any less the apologist. And he's at least kind enough to not use pejoratives, which seems to feature prominently in your tactics. Calling others names or making dismissive conclusions void of either information or argument do not help the discussion. It is also an important feature of someone who has poor skills in maintaining a debate. None of which, you'll find, has been a feature of my rebuttals here. So, please don't use them, they don't help your opinion, quite the opposite.

I have noticed that you favor shifting the argument away from important points and into the areas where things may be more vague and superficially more easily argued in your favor.

As for Hales, I did listen to his extensive interview with Dehlin as well, he really didn't have that much concrete information to say beyond that he doubted that the sources used to indict Joseph's character were as valid as he felt necessary. His primary tactic was to discount the sources used and while it may be true of the instances he was trying to cast doubt on, there's still a lot of other damning information that does appear to my embarrassed eyes to be clear enough.

I made several lucid statements about how the Church develops and uses art in how it wishes to present itself. This is based on 1st and second hand experience. The fact remains is that the art the Church (i.e. the apostles and prophets who say they are special witness of/for Jesus Christ) produces and publishes regularly is what they want seen. I imagine if I had grown up with images by Bob Barrett of Joseph with his face in a hat dramatically painted, that I may have had a different perception of what that experience means. But the Church did not want me to have that experience, because it wisely knew that is a far less credulous view of events they want me to have faith in.

And again, in the long term, the apologists words don't matter (including yours). Why, because they and you do not have the backing and blessing of the 15. They can void anything you say, which I'm sure you would not mind too much. That was my larger point, which again, you missed. In case you missed it again, your arguments are not valid because they do not have the backing of those you claim to be specially endowed with revelation.

My faith crisis began in earnest a little over six months ago, before which, I was satisfied by the oblique associations and the murky waters. I just didn't realize how shallow those murky waters were and how close the largely verifiable truth had been. I had been willing to put things on the shelf over the years or believed I had sufficient explanations. Up until then I had been very active, tithe paying, temple going, held "high" positions in the Church, donated my time, efforts and resources, defended it when necessary, served a mission, studied and prayed, etc. The only thing I'm missing is the whole eternal companion thing. In my case a friend asked a question and in my effort to answer it for myself, it became compellingly obvious what the answer is. And for now, I'm anonymous regarding who I am, because I have yet to calculate the opportunity cost that coming out of this will be.

I do understand that you have invested a lot in what you are doing and what you have become and it is not easy to stand aside and look objectively at the data. I was blind to my biases and I have sympathy for you for yours. I probably still am to one degree or another.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'm not the same "Anonymous" as our storied Anonymous, and sorry, Storied Anonymous, for grabbing your handle (as the CBers used to call it). There was no other appropriate choice. But goodness, what a lot of time some take here to chew over matters that, ultimately, are irrelevant to one's eternal salvation.

It comes down to this: If one has a testimony of the gospel, one will persevere in the face of whatever negativity, diatribes, enticements, blandishments, or anything else proffered by those with flagging or nonexistent faith. The blandishers are perfectly welcome to blandish away, but it frankly is a waste of time to engage them here or anywhere else. They purport to be interested in the facts, but seemingly only "facts" that trample the gospel, the church, and our Father's Kingdom under foot. Certainly they see it otherwise, but of course they would.

Clearly, it is quite easy to be sucked in and begin jousting with such folks. Soon, anger erupts and ad hominem attacks arise. Insults and sarcasm--sometimes clever, no doubt, as judged by worldly standards--begin to roll, and the vitriol flows. Tsk, tsk. We are supposed to be better than that, at least those among us who truly attempt to live according to the commandments we have been given . . . all of them.

Blasting away at anyone interested in deconstructing the church, its leaders, its doctrine, and its credibility will not get the blaster anywhere. Those attempting the deconstruction are not interested in bolstering real faith whatever they purport but in subverting it so that others who respond to their blandishments may learn to wallow along with them in an increasingly faithless morass.

Once, years ago, a stake mission president ran foul of his stake president's explicit instruction not to engage one Walter Martin, Ph.D. (naturally, the degree conferred endless credibility), author of that jewel of a work, "Kingdom of the Cults." A chapter in the book roundly blasts the church, citing nearly every old chestnut ever propounded to pillory the church and all its works. Dr. (let's honor him) Martin was speaking at the local First Baptist Church, his text being the very anti-church chapter in question. Naturally, the word was spread in hopes that what exactly happened actually would happen.

The stake mission president took the bait and acted counter to his stake president's direction (gosh, imagine an imperfect priesthood-holder!). He proceeded to make a fool of himself in a completely hostile environment, where even his quick wit and agile mind were no match for the overwhelming opposition he was subjected to. He was essentially run off in disgrace, the "disgrace" resulting more from the circumstances and overwhelming opposition and ill-will than anything objective. But who says audiences--including those meeting in a forum such as this one--may not begin frothing with ill-will? Well, exactly no good came of this brother's violation of the direction he was given. Surprise.

Maybe it is not such a good idea to feed energy over to the agents of the Dark Lord (and I don't mean Darth Vader, who at least had the virtue of being entertaining) by being drawn into ultimately useless fencing. It is much wiser to use time and energy to build one's faith and the faith of others and not enter the sadly tortured and dank realms of those who would question anything that in the least supported the restored gospel, its church, and its leaders.

The Spirit of God like a fire is burning. Let us enjoy that burning while some others toast themselves with quite another sort of conflagration.

Note: "Enter your civil, intelligent comments here. Insults are discouraged. Anti-Mormon links are frowned upon...." Maybe the master of this site would be wise to consider booting insults rather than just "discouraging" them. Then we would be left with quite the load of uncivil and unintelligent comments to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Someone has been reading a lot of 19th century literature it seems. I can see you wringing your hands in the air at some storied sun-speckled pulpit with fire in your eyes.

Let's see...you decry the foul ad hominem, yet pepper them about like burning shrapnel. You cast aspersions regarding the character of those you have not met. And judge them damned. Such love. I would think that someone who enjoys the Spirit so much, would extend hands of fellowship to the fallen, rather than the pummeling closed fists of conflagration. I can see you, seeing yourself at the judgement bar casting the wicked apostate down into his ever burning darkness. Do you really project such stereotypes out into the world? Perhaps that was all written tongue-in-cheek?

But what do I know? I had a testimony, I lived the life, I believed that there were reasonable answers to my simple questions. Questions that I believed would give clarity to my doubts. I discovered that there were other earnest questioners who also wanted these answers. When we turn to Church, theirs' and your response is to just believe, regardless of whatever evidence may come. While I stare up at the blue sky, they are all crying that it is pink or that there is no sky at all. Their first advice is to not even look at contrary information. They allow the apologist both professional and amateur to speculate and quibble about unofficially without further foundation than their ability to reason, while neither asking nor providing for more complete answers. What does the truth have to fear of the false? When explanations are given, they are oblique and incomplete, sometimes dishonest. More often than not they ignore the essential central principle of the thing.

Look at Blake, up above. His primary response is that A. This has all been dealt with and B. You're an ignoramus for being unaware of it.

It turned out there were answers, just not the ones I expected, nor the ones I wanted. Instead I found equivocation and misdirection. Ultimately what I did find, when I did accept the reality of the situation was relief. That, I expected least of all.

In the end you haven't made an argument for your case, but rather proved my point.


Blake said...

Mindog: A part of the challenge of growth is realizing that not everything fits into the neatly crafted boxes and concepts that we create. We all go through reassessment and reconfiguring. It is part of the process of learning. The world is not as neat and tidy as we would like I suppose. That is why giving up inerrantist nonsense about prophets is essential.

The world of church history is not a matter of black and white clarity. Finding exactly what occurred is especially difficult when it comes to matters of history where we rely on less than complete data, often conflicting accounts and just plain holes in the evidence that we have to fill to reconstruct what we suppose may have happened. We deal with the particularity of the perspectives and biases of those involved and who write accounts or letters on which we rely. It is a very human endeavor.

My only point is that many people make claims about Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy, or what he claimed about how he did the translation, that are either false or not clearly supported by evidence. They often assert facts that are sometimes demonstrably false (e.g., claims made by some here about Joseph Smith having sex with 14 year olds), or the evidence will not support assertions made (e.g., Joseph had sex with other men's wives) or they make claims that are anachronistic and erroneous (Joseph used only his "seer stone" to translate).

Doubt is not contrary to faith, it is a part of the process of growing in faith by growing as a person to realize that the world doesn't always accommodate our expectations and pre-fabricated mental schemes. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The gospel is invaluable and fosters love and growth even if it doesn't always fit our mental schemata that we have put in place and mistaken for the gospel.

Anonymous said...

There is belief such as Albert Einstein had when he theorized about the cosmos at a time when few could even understand the questions he was asking and belief such as Watson and Crick had about the existence and structure of DNA. They explored their belief and shaped it into hypotheses and gave it out to the world to investigate, question and verify.

And then there's a kind of belief that people here are asking for. It says be wary of questions. Don't let your investigations wander from the pre-ordained conclusions. Don't let evidence to the contrary dissuade you. Expect conflicts with verifiable evidence.

Which, I ask, will get you closer to the truth?

Anonymous said...

If Joseph Smith came to my house I would not let him near my wife. I would not leave them alone lest he order my wife to marry him.

This is beginning to be a very sad situation.

A precept of Masonry is to never mess with another Masons wife. I have heard it said Masons were in the crowd that shot Joseph. Perhaps he needed to be shot to protect families. Perhaps he was such a Narcissist and wife stealer that shooting was justified. Perhaps those of us in the church are coming at Josephs murder from the wrong angle.

How could a prophet be such a man? Stealing a mans wife -- is that as bad as stealing his horse? Horse thieves were shot. Being sealed to 14 year olds? Is this man a prophet?

Jeff Lindsay said...

I do not mean to blame the historians from the Church in their kind attempt to visit and strengthen the Saints in Sweden. It is great that they were willing to openly discuss the numerous issues. But I don't think they realized how deep the concerns would be and what some of the specific objections were, and the meeting appears to have been hastily done and without all the time and preparation that would have been ideal. For example, when the statement was made that a woman didn't know who was the father, the statement wasn't challenged with the easy challenge that can be made. It would have been helpful to at least indicate that Hales has pointed out that the only source for this hearsay quote was a hostile source who has been attacked even by other critics for being unreliable, and who obviously got numerous related details wrong. There were quite a few more specific answers that could have been given.

In retrospect, it's easy for me to say that it would have been better for the team to come prepared with handouts listing resources for the major contentious issues, and maybe spending a little time showing how to find answers at, say, the Maxwell Institute and on LDS.org.

Anonymous said...

(different Anonymous here) Fascinating topic, heart-wrenching emotions for a lot of people, and some tough issues to address for the LDS church. I feel for Marlin Jensen, who in around the same time period as this meeting, admitted to a group of USU students that the LDS church is dealing with a substantial "apostasy", not seen since the Kirtland Bank failure.

Most of this boils down to the nature of belief, how it is formed, the mental context and understandings that buttress the accompanying emotional state, AND how additional facts inform or impact the emotional state of faith.

My own experience was similarly difficult, namely reconciling how much of my testimony was based on the (once quite popular) stories of Paul H. Dunn. My testimony was powerful, emotional, moving (to me). When it was revealed that Dunn had fabricated at least some of his stories, it rocked my world, my understanding of things, of authenticity of testimony, etc.

How could what I felt be based on a lie? Is it possible to have testimonies built on inaccurate or not entirely truthful accounts of what happened before? This has happened millions of times with people who believed in the literal flooding of the Earth, or Adam and Eve, or that human beings came out of a hole in the ground (if you're Navajo).

Many LDS are going through similar turbulence as their understandings of Joseph Smith and early church history are sometimes radically challenged. A woman I know was unable to finish Bushman's book because it was just too uncomfortable, too disruptive of her own paradigm. That's understandable.

This isn't just a problem for Mormons. People in every religion have struggled with doubt, with conflicting information that disrupts their understanding, their "faith". In my view, that doesn't mean that their quest to understand and attempt to return to the divine was worthless.

What did believers in Thor go through as Christianity moved through northern Europe? What about believers in the various Polynesian gods, certainly many members of Islamic sects, Christian sects, lots of Jews, etc.

In my work, I associate with a lot of Hindus, and find similar questioning about the (extraordinarily impressive) dedication to ritual and faith of their parents and grand parents.

Among orthodox Hindus, there is great prayer, sacrifice and offerings to different deities, and as conformational evidence occurs in their daily lives, the emotional bonding is very, very powerful, moving.

I've been fortunate enough to experience very powerful emotions myself in a Shoshone sweat lodge, where the message was very simple, positive, and the voices of the faithful very moving. There were no drugs or peyote involved, but neither was there any mention of Jesus... only the Creator.

Just as I don't judge the Hindus for their fascinating and very sincere beliefs, I don't judge Mormons (or anyone else) for their faith, even though merely equating the two may seem like a back-handed compliment, from the LDS mindset.

Anonymous said...


Wouldn't you think they'd have the guidance of the Holy Spirit on such a momentous occasion? It could have helped avoid this becoming a painful issue that has just festered over the last 3 years. I would have expected the Holy Spirit be on the church's side if not that of individual struggling members.

Anonymous said...

Blake: It is the prophets that declare their own doctrinal perfection. They tell us that they will never lead us astray. They tell us that we should do what they say even if they are wrong and we will be blessed for it. I can't stand by that principle not matter how grey. Pres. Hinckley declared that there are minor wrinkles and such in Church history, which you later find to not be wrinkles or minor issues but fissures reaching down into the foundation. I can understand mistakes, we are all human. But I did not find a pattern of minor mistakes. Certainly the world does not exist in black and white, but do not tell that to the Church. You may see the history and the organization that way, but the ones to whom you declare your allegiance do not. In fact it is heretical to think that, you have no authority based on the structure you are trying to support.

Compromises certainly must be made to move forward in life, but at which point does compromise become hypocrisy and lying? Do you have a border that you would not cross? I did.

For me, the moment of clarity came with the Book of Abraham. In your mind this may be some canard that has been easily dealt with. Translation is not translation, but the facsimiles presented in PoGP declare that assertion to be incorrect. Joseph Smith specifically points to symbols and graphics and declares their meanings. The falsity of the translation has been publicly discussed for over a hundred years, including but not limited to the New York Times. Portions of the papyri, including one of the facsimiles printed with the PoGP have been with the Church since the late 60s. I was entirely unaware of this fact. You may say that this has been public information, but it was certainly never discussed in the years of Primary, Sunday School, Seminary, BYU, Institute, MTC, mission, EQ meetings, etc. all down the line my entire life. It may have been printed in 1968 in the Ensign, but I wasn't around then. The electronic versions made available in the scripture apps and online only go back to 1971(for good reason, I am told). I did not think to look into the issue, because I was kept unaware that the issue existed. Any other associations that apologists declare positives happen over such a vast span of time to become entirely meaningless. The few "hits," as apologists like to point out, are not actually hits. Quadrants are not the same as cardinal points. And certainly the misses voluminously outweigh the hits. Even the story of the extra long missing papyrus comes from an unreliable quarternary or worse source. One would think that the Church would have the papyri they have on permanent display along with other useful relics like the seer stones. The fact remains that what he have now has nothing to do with what has been printed.

I, however, had heard of the Kinderhook plates growing up. I had been told that Joseph had seen through the lies of the fabricators and had never translated them. That is what the apologists declare today. This may be historically true, though contemporary second hand accounts say otherwise. However, what is undeniable is that those speaking on behalf of the Church said otherwise up until 1980 when incontrovertible evidence came forward with the discovery and testing of one of the plates. In the face of that glaring evidence, and not even until the second round of testing, the Church had to seismically shift from saying that the Kinderhook plates were evidence of Joseph's miraculous power to discover and translate ancient records to one where he had never been deceived since he had never translated and that they had always said so.


Anonymous said...

These two things are rock solid. When I understood the truth of them and I recognized the source of the contradictions, I understood the reality. Contradictions arise from false assumptions. "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." as Ayn Rand put it. Those are words I can reliably live by. I have found that when I observed what appeared to be contradictory behavior in others, that I had simply made false assumptions about a person's character or intent. This I found to be true of the Church, her leaders, and her doctrines. The webbing I had spun to hold together all the things that I had tried to force understanding on started snapping and I was suddenly relieved that I was no longer responsible for holding the entire fabricated mess together in my head.

Maybe Joseph was part of some grand conspiracy of Sydney Rigdon's design. Maybe he was the sole author and he originally intended to just sell a book to the public and things got bigger and bigger until they got out of hand. Maybe there's some other natural explanation for it. But what was does become abundantly clear is that as things moved forward he tried to expand his power and wealth in the temporal realm by declaring his authority over the eternal.

This isn't a matter of throwing the baby out of the bathwater, this is a recognition that there is no bath, there is no baby and there is no water.

As I researched and research now there are certainly other areas that are less clear than these. We do know for a fact that there were those who believed that they had children through Joseph Smith.

Recognizing the reality of this world has made me value it even more and there has already been so much time wasted on nonexistent things. I wish I could stop researching, but I recognize a responsibility to be well grounded in my sea change decisions. Having pulled back the curtain and seen the wizard, I cannot unknow what I have learned.

So, when I read the NYT article, listened to Dehlin's interview with Mattson, read the transcript and then listened to the audio of the meeting as well as statements from others about what happened after the meeting I found even more damning evidence of the Church's representatives' willingness to threaten, manipulate, and lie to keep others in line. Those are not insults or extreme descriptions, those are cold hard facts. Find this information and give it an objective listen. What does the truth have to fear from the lie, I do know what lies fear. On the audio the Jensen and the others there spend the first 38 minutes or so telling these honest seekers that they are anti Christs if they do not accept their explanations. Then they spend a little less than an hour giving very poor answers to very sincerely delivered questions. The excuse of limited time is given again and again, when I am sure that these Swedes would have given them as much time as they wanted. Then having failed at that they remind them that they are of the Spirit of Satan if they do not agree with and accept the answers and then tell them that they need to declare whether they will remain with the Church after that. This is followed up by bishops going around to their homes with further demands. On the surface this may appear to be contradictory of the Church's teachings, but if you reexamine your premises, you'll find that it's not.

I'm not so much angry at them as I am at my own blind foolishness.


Anonymous said...

Read the literature. The case for Joseph "stealing" wives is based on assumed sexuality in those sealings and conflicts with the way those "cheated" men responded: staying on good terms with Joseph. Not something imaginable if what you think happened actually happened.

Anonymous said...

I would not want Joseph near my wife or kids. He was a Mason. A Masonic covenant is to not be with another Masons wife. Perhaps he was not shot for his religious persuasion. Perhaps Masons in the crowd shot him fo messing with the wives of fellow Masons.
Is Joseph normal? I know Jesus is perfect. What is perfect. I fear perfect may be narcissism and CEO behavior. Will Jesus be the kind loving man portrayed by Christian Churches, or a mean wife stealing man. G

Anonymous said...

When the Doctrine and Covenants says Joseph has done more than anyone, save Jesus, does that mean more than the Father and Holy Ghost, which would make Joseph #2?

Anonymous said...

Are you referring to Doctrine and Covenants section 135 verse 3?

3 Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

So, I think the answer to your question is that Joseph is not #2. But maybe you were just giving us all a good natured jab.


Anonymous said...

I am very good natured. But I am truly confused.

Anonymous said...

The referenced verse talked about people that lived here on Earth. As far as we know, Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost have not lived here on this Earth so Joseph definitely does not qualify to be #2.


Sidney said...

If Joseph Smith didn't intend to have connubial relations with any of his plural wives that were married to other men (or any that weren't), couldn't he have told them that up front, and if he did, wouldn't they have been relieved to find that out and not shocked or scandalized? What's the big deal about being sealed to Joseph Smith if no sex is involved? There would have been no reason for Sarah Pratt to react the way she did. No reason for Nancy Rigdon to react the way she did. No reason for Heber and Vilate Kimball to be concerned over Joseph's revelation that he was to take Vilate as a plural wife (I know he didn't go through with it, but if the polyandrous marriages did not involve sex, he apparently concealed that fact from them). There also would have been no reason to conceal it from the general membership in Nauvoo. If it was merely "sealing" without physical relations, why hide it?

During my mission, missionaries would explain to nonmembers that polygamy was used to take care of widows who lost their husbands while crossing the plains, and that no sex was involved. This was a lie, of course, and I knew it at the time, but my companions picked up this apologetic dodge in the MTC. I was recently surprised to learn that missionaries are still perpetuating this falsehood (that I'm sure many of them believe) more than 20 years later.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with some of the answers.
I also fail to understand how Mattsson got to such a high position without knowing at least some of the issues that were brought up by the Swedish members. (I have Swedish ancestry!)

It is easy to read about troubling issues of the church on sites that are not pro LDS. I read some stuff on these sites and they are very good at convincing people that the information they present is totally true. One really has to dig and double check the information these "anti" sites put out. I got upset about some things I read and started to doubt the church, and once I researched the claims on my own I found out the site was dishonest. A good example is critics said there was no religious fervor nor revivals or meetings in J. Smiths area. I learned about this in college history without Mormons being mentioned, and even the Internet confirms this information as true. The majority of people, through out the world, believe everything they read or watch or listen to, without trying to find if what they heard was factual. Of course sometimes it is hard to find the truth. Sometimes we just do not know and must withhold judgement. Hard to do as humans.

Another issue is that in Utah there are tons of Firesides, seminars, educational series, etc. available, but to those who do not live in Utah, and especially in other countries, the members really never hear this information. It would be wonderful if these Firesides, etc. could be done in other countries and other states, and not just in Utah. I feel cheated that I do not have the same opportunities and access to these Firesides, seminars, etc. that those in Utah have. A good example is when Margaret Barker and others present information about Temples. It is either in Utah or England. I can't even imagine living in another country, where the LDS population is small and there are very little resources and so far away from church headquarters. Yes some of this information gets on the Internet, but do LDS members in other countries, and new converts, really know about the pro LDS Internet sites and all the wonderful information by LDS scholars? Not to mention information from church authorities. I seriously doubt it.

I also find it interesting that when some members find out troubling information they handle it quite well, but some members fall apart with the same information. I also think some of the issues are petty. Different levels/degrees of testimony and faith?
What helped me is I started to dig into the deeper doctrines, research Christianity throughout the ages, study other religions, etc. I came to believe that Joseph Smith could not have been a religious genius,as some say, nor was he lucky in guessing. The only way Joseph Smith could have known what he did was through Divine teachings. My testimony is intellectual. There is too much information that we now have that Joseph Smith did not have that matches with his teachings and revelations. Was Joseph Smith flawed? Yes, we all are. God has to work with imperfect humans to accomplish His goals. It took a lot of study, reading, and digging for information because I live in an area where resources are few, unlike in Utah or large cities.

If the LDS doctrine is wrong, then members are no worse off than the rest of Christianity. And it means the Jews are the true religion/gospel. And in all honesty if it was not for Joseph Smith seeing Divine Beings I would probably be an Atheist, or not very religious.
Thank you. JRSG

Anonymous said...

Edgar Allan Poe married his fourteen year old cousin, as did the musician Jerry Lee Lewis. There are other examples of older men marrying girls under seventeen. Was it common in the 18th and 19th centuries? Not really, but it did happen and no one batted an eyelash. We have to quit looking at history with 20th-21st century mores/morals/lens or what ever one wants to call it. Just like we have to read Scriptures in the context of when it was written, to whom and for what purpose and so on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot this. Maybe it is irrelevant. In the U.S. up to the 1900's child labor (very young- elementary age) was used extensively. The children were treated badly in many instances. Child labor was also used all around the world, and still is today in many countries, and yet where is the outcry about that?
Some fourteen year old girls did get married before the 20th century. So what? Even today fourteen year old boys and girls are having sex today. Where is the outcry about that? And what is being done about it?

Also, 15 year old girls became school teachers in the 18th and 19th centuries. One example is Laura Ingalls Wilder. By today's standards that is unthinkable, unless the 15 year old is a genius and finished college at age 13 or so.

Anon 3:38 AM, August 07, 2013

CF said...

Wow, this board is evidence that a lot of people have been deceived by Satan. "and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance."

It is shameful for many of you to attack Joseph Smith as you are doing. Joseph was called of God to practice polygamy as were many, many prophets from the Bible. Yes, EVEN with women under the age of 18.

What is so wrong with that? Just because Satan has twisted your minds in the modern era, doesn't mean that this isn't still a commandment of God. Read the scriptures, use them as your guide. Pray to God for guidance, follow not the ways of man to be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

Think about it, our society today is FAR more accepting of homosexuality than they are of sexual relationships of young men and women in marriage. Yet, God DESTROYED a city for homosexuality in the Bible. How twisted and backwards has our world become where sex between two men is normal, yet sex between a person under the age of 18 is a horrible evil!

"Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil."

Many of you have been led astray by the devil. Take the advice of Jeff and take a step back and look at how Satan has tricked you. We are in the last days and very close to the return of our Lord and Savior, let not your minds and hearts be deceived. If nothing else, cling to Faith in the Lord and be not led astray by the cunning of the devil.

MuralMama said...

I greatly appreciate the last "Anonymous"'s comments. As someone who has been a member my whole life, been through a period of inactivity in my late teens & early 20s, is married to a Christian non-member (21+ years), received my own endowment 12 years ago, and feel my testimony of the Gospel is stronger & more mature than ever (because of some anti-LDS run ins), I GET SO FRUSTRATED AT THE CHURCH!

I'm a strong Republican, and mention that only because, like the Republican Party, the Church can't message for crap! Sorry to be so blunt; it is just terribly ridiculous & frustrating that such simple tasks as defending our faith (apologetics) seems beyond the grasp or desires of the church, the leadership, and the curriculum departments.

We should be infusing every Sunday School class, Seminary, magazine & Institute class with doses of REAL apologetic information to help stave off issues just as those noted in the original article. I cannot for the life of me understand why this doesn't happen. Why are we so invested as a people and a culture of showing only the squeaky clean side of things? What about reality? Wouldn't reality strengthen testimonies more than whitewashing?

Like Jeff, I was surprised that someone could NOT know of Joseph's polygamy, or that, considering the record of polygamy in scripture, that it would even be so faith altering. Yet, the image of Joseph we get at church is one of a nearly perfect man, not at all like Bushman's "Rough Stone." However, I believe Bushman's image is the one we need to have in our minds, one of a perfect God doing what He felt needed to be done to restore his Gospel through a highly imperfect man---one who was no more or less imperfect than the prophets of old.

I enjoyed Ash's "Shaken Faith Syndrome," as well as his "80 Evidences" book. Both books did what I think is most important in ANY faith, and this is making many things that critics seize upon 1) understandable, and 2) offering a feasible explanation and alternative view. In this day & age, feasibility is vital, at least as much as faith. But sending out an excommunication squad to "deal with" the Swedes' difficulties doesn't make our faith look feasible, it makes us look foolish and reactionary- threatened by faith shaking questions and unwilling take the time to discuss questioners' issues. Questions that could be answered gently and with a teaching spirit, answered in such a way as to save one's faith, not destroy it.

Such events do not shake my faith in the Gospel and the core beliefs I hold dear, but they make me sad, sad to think that we have so much to offer that gets clouded over, not just by "antis" but by church leadership itself. How many are leaving the Gospel over such simple issues?

Anonymous said...

After reading on sites that are very much against the LDS religion/church, I find it interesting that mainstream Christianity as a whole does not own up to its history.

Where does the Catholic church teach its own history to its members? It has an awful history. Corruption, killing and enslaving indigenous peoples, hiding criminal priests, etc.

Where does the Calvinists teach about John Calvin and all the horrible things he did? Same with Martin Luther - he was anti_Jewish. Martin Luther was a big influence on Hitler, which is why Hitler killed all the Jews. Martin Luther even believed in polygamy and there were practicing polygamists in his day that were Christians.

Racism? Still practiced today by the majority of mainstream Christian churches. No Christian religion today teaches it imperfect, violent, racist and sometimes evil, history. Yet for some reason the LDS religion is supposed to have a perfect, impeccable past?

So if the LDS religion is so wrong and flawed, then frankly, so is mainstream Christianity and mainstream Christianity is no better, especially with how it deals with its own past and history.

Loves All Animals

Anonymous said...

"So if the LDS religion is so wrong and flawed, then frankly, so is mainstream Christianity and mainstream Christianity is no better, especially with how it deals with its own past and history"

The difference is Bible-believing Christians don't view Luther, Calvin or the Catholic pope as the very mouth of God the way LDS do with J.Smith.

I'm sorry, but a man who threatens his own wife to be "destroyed" via "divine revelation" unless she accepts him to marrying other men's wives is inexcusable. D&C 132:52-56

Anonymous said...

I believe that I had read Mattson also questioned the Second Anointing. So, maybe his issues were deeper than polygamy. There had previously been a UK Stake President, Tom Philips, who left because of the Second Anointing. I admit, I had not known about certain LDS being called aside by the hierarchy and called to receive this "Second Anointing".

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I just read this...sad.

I am BIC, RM, Post BYU, temple wed and well educated. And Yes, I have occupied many positions which some would call Church leadership. I grew up in the heyday of the church, sitting at the literal feet of Monson, Packer, Dunn, Perry, as well as historians such as Bushman, Holzapfel and many others with whom I am well acquainted. We all knew "back then" that the Indians were Hebrew, that Blacks were of a cursed lineage and that we were the only true church. We knew that the creeds of all of the other religions were an abomination. We boldly declared these things before the world as we went forth to preach the restored gospel upon the face of the earth.

Now I am surprised to watch this Kingdom begin to struggle for breath, and to cast about for anything solid to hold on to. The hubris of the former correlated "truth" is coming back to haunt us in a way we never expected back in the 1960's and 1970's. We are left to ask what has truly been "restored"? We are shocked when villains such as Warren Jeffs or Michael Travessor are imprisoned and we compare the actions of Warren and Michael with that of Joseph.

Our General authorities are not bad people. I really believe these people possess good intent. This fact does not simultaneously establish that they are correct. It seems that they are unable to deal with our thorny issues in a manner which can comfort those of us who are surprised by doubt, good intent notwithstanding. There are real issues here which cannot be washed away casually or erased with good home teaching. Neither rhetoric nor good feelings will serve as answers and especially not propaganda laced with ad hominem insults. We doubters are already angry, feeling that we have been lied to for decades. What we need is NOT sarcasm, nor answers intended to invoke shame, or answers which are aimed at those who our authorities hope haven't really studied deeply. Answers have to make sense and they have to be true in a way that our correlated history wasn't.

We doubt. And yes, we are legion. We fill our callings and read our scriptures and do our best and then... we leave. I know that all those who sincerely believe are not dopes, but more importantly to the issues at hand, not all who doubt are insincere. Many of them have great moral courage. I feel for Mr. Mattson and the Swedish group because they were not well treated as far as answers to their sincere questions.

Frankly, a lot of the comments here which purport to deal with existing questions are also Pablum. If anyone deserves shame, it is not those who, as Mr Holland maintains must "crawl" over the Book of Mormon, but those who invent answers to obscure the truth. Nothing but the truth will do at this point.

Why am I writing this? Simply to say that the angst of Mormon history isn't a stain that will go away with a mere rinse. Established yet doubting members like me may indeed indicate a tipping point in the future. Insincere and apologetic answers just won't do it anymore. We are not looking for answers and not particularly looking for religion. I am looking for truth. It seems to me now that I am looking in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

I was a convert to the church in 1997. I left the church a few years later for many reasons but not because I thought the history was false. In 2010, I once again started investigating the church. I almost got baptized again along with my 10 year old daughter. At the same time, I went online and found so much negative information regarding the history (or lack of proof of Mormon history). When I questioned the Bishop and missionaries, they could not give me a satisfactory answer so I did not go through with the baptism. :(