The Church’s practice of Plural Marriage has been the source of curiosity, scorn, humor and head-scratching for the majority of the history of the Church. With the focus on Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, same sex marriage, TV shows like “Big Love” and “Sister Wives,” and two Mormon presidential candidates, the terms Mormon Church and polygamy are never very far apart.
Thus we have a love-hate relationship between the Church and its former polygamous roots: the ultimate contradiction.
I say this because the church cannot deny the impact polygamy has on it. It is one of the things about the Church that most people know something about; all of the presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith to Heber J. Grant were practitioners and advocates of the practice in secret and in public (As well as many high ranking leaders of the Church from that time); a great number of people now living in Utah and the western United States are directly descended from polygamous families including both Mormon presidential candidates.
It was also the source of great trouble for the Church as the United States Government outlawed the practice and legally pursued Church members who practiced it and attempted to disenfranchise the entire Church because of it. As a result, the Church suspended the practice of polygamy in 1890 and finally put an end to it in 1905. Ironically, the US Government seems to have had little interest in pursuing those who practice polygamy since that time and even today, outside of the efforts toward the FLDS and Warren Jeffs. The states of Utah and Arizona have turned a mostly blind eye as well.
The Church’s position on living plural marriage is quite emphatic. In the words of President Hinckley:
“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.
…More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Oct. 1998 General Conference).
This is where the “hate” comes in regarding the practice of Plural Marriage. We want to be disassociated with those groups that practice it today in spite of the fact that their roots are the same as our roots. We want to be disassociated with the practice because it is distasteful to most people, particularly women. We want to be taken serious as a modern, progressive Church and the practice of polygamy seems archaic, old fashion, and, in the minds of many, perverted. The reported practices of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS do not make that last point any easier to dispute.
But, while the living practice of polygamy has ceased, the deceased practice lives on. A man, in particular, but also a woman, can be sealed to all of their deceased spouses plus one living spouse. These sealings, of deceased spouses, for the most part, are done by proxy. The rules for living men and women do differ.
A woman can only be sealed to one living man. So, if she divorces a spouse, having been sealed in the Temple, she must have that sealing cancelled if she wishes to be sealed in the Temple to a current spouse. But, a man, who is divorced from a sealed spouse, must receive a “sealing clearance” but does not have to have the prior sealing cancelled. But he must receive a sealing clearance even if the sealing was cancelled or if the divorced spouse is deceased.
So, in that regard, the practice does live on. This is the “love” part of the relationship.
What remains a mystery is since the practice was suspended because it was going to be detrimental to the Church and violated the law of the land at that time and is, President Hinckley stated, against the “Law of God,” what will happen when and if it is no longer a violation of the “law of the land?”
If it’s no longer against the law, I expect some will advocate for it and it may lead to reconsideration of polygamous marriages in other cultures when people convert. In North America I don’t think it will change since the church has worked too hard to seem normal and this would place us right next to Jeffs.
Two weeks ago I was in St George and went on a tour of the Brigham Young House. A family in the group was clearly not Mormon, and when the tour guide was explaining how Brigham was a polygamist and only one wife came down with him, he got very defensive about it without need. The non-Mormon family didn’t ask if we still practice polygamy. They didn’t make any derogatory comments. Yet this missionary was so emphatic in that polygamy is a practice of the past and it was a bad bad bad thing. I think this is part of the problem. Modern members try so hard to distance themselves from polygamy that they themselves promote the idea that polygamy is a bad bad bad thing without fully comprehending or explaining polygamy.
some members have become as Anti-polygamy as some ex-members have become Anti-mormon.
“I don’t think it will change since the church has worked too hard to seem normal and this would place us right next to Jeffs”
you’re probably right about that though I might put the normal in quotes…… 🙂
Ironically, this societal disgust at polygyny is misogynistic at its root. Critics claim that women are “subjugated” in plural marriage, as if these women are incapable of making adult decisions about their own family relationships. In doing so, these critics treat adult women as if they were ignorant children.
Mind you, I’m not speaking here of the child brides we hear about among the FLDS and certain other Mormon Fundamentalist groups. I don’t advocate child sexual abuse for one moment. At the same time, however, I think it’s offensive to tell consenting, adult women they have no right to choose a polygamous family structure.
Not only that, but in most relationships, majority rules! 🙂
“Yet this missionary was so emphatic in that polygamy is a practice of the past and it was a bad bad bad thing. I think this is part of the problem.”
It seems to me that this sort of response is based out of fear.
Polygamy has a very unclear doctrinal position, and personal opinions range from “it was always a mistake and no one will be asked to do it ever again” to “God is simply waiting for the world to be righteous enough to pick it up again.” And that isn’t even touching people’s opinions about what will happen with it in the Celestial Kingdom.
There has been very little clarification from church leadership about what the practice meant in the past and what it means now, and what it will mean to us in the afterlife. There is simply the ‘we don’t practice it (but actually we kinda do because of how we do sealings, but that doesn’t really matter)’.
This void of information leaves people flailing and the sort of over-exuberant denunciation shown by that missionary is one born of uncertainty. Lots of members can’t be at peace with polygamy because they can’t feel certain about what the church actually teaches about it right now. It’s just a big uncomfortable mish-mash of conflicting data where *anything* could be true.
Growing up in the church, I never had an issue with polygamy, at least as far as one man having multiple wives.
I do however, have issues with the type of polygamy done in the early church, especially by Joseph Smith – marrying underage girls as young as 14, marrying women already married to other men (and then sending their old husbands away on missions to get rid of them!) That’s just wrong…
Okay, wait… Can you explain the rules again? I thought that women could only be sealed to one spouse ever. This might have recently been further confirmed (in my head at least) by an acquaintance who’s a widow who got her sealing canceled before she got sealed in the temple again. Of course that could’ve just been a personal preference, but i thought it was because she had to. And what’s up with the clearances? Please help me out!
We had a visiting Area Authority recently preside at our Stake Conference and during his talk, he stated in a manner of testifying that we have ‘one Father in Heaven and one Mother in Heaven’.
I was pleased when I caught this that, first of all, the Mother in Heaven doctrine was preached and, second, that he disavowed the notion that we, as spirit kindred, could possibly have different mothers from celestial polygamous unions, as some proponents of polygamous doctrines would teach. If those who inherit the CK do get ‘their own planet’ this would support that there is at least a monogamous governing celestial parenting unit per planet.
Also, I can’t stop chuckling about the euphemism of the recent Warren Jeff’s sex tape referring to the joy of sex as ‘the burning fire of heaven.’ I’ve heard it called a lot of things, but what a description.
I agree with what you’ve said, mostly. The problem is, while polygyny isn’t necessarily misogynistic in itself, the promotion of polygyny over monogamy and polyandry IS. Women of the FLDS church and the early mainstream church aren’t/weren’t free to choose polygyny because they felt it was the best thing for themselves; they “chose” it because it was the *only legitimate option.* And then the women who were quite literally forced into it–well, as you say, that’s a different thing entirely.
@10 Even if there are many Mothers in heaven, that statement can still be true. We all can only have one Mother in Heaven… each.
What puzzles me is, why would God ask men to practice polygamy in the first place? The standard excuses of the widows or even to increase the Mormon population simply don’t work. I see it as either God wanted people to hate Mormonism and keep people from considering his one true church seriously, or it was an institution created by men. I believe the latter.
“I thought that women could only be sealed to one spouse ever.”
No, one living spouse. But any sealing for TIME AND ALL ETERNITY to another spouse would have to be by proxy. I knew someone in this situation and her explanation was that the Lord would figure out who she was to be with through the eternities…..
“it was an institution created by men. I believe the latter.”
Then why would you bother to ask the question at all if you mind was already made up.
“he stated in a manner of testifying that we have ‘one Father in Heaven and one Mother in Heaven’.”
I would agree with Stan on this point. We, as indivivuals only have one set of parents.
BethSmash- a woman can be sealed to all the men that she was legally married to *after* she has died. So in the case of your friend she had to have the first sealing cancelled because she is still alive.
“a woman can be sealed to all the men that she was legally married to *after* she has died.”
Actually, it is after the men have all died….
Jeff and Starfoxy,
See why I’m confused? Does that mean that IF my friend (who got her sealing canceled) if her CURRENT husband dies THEN she can be resealed to her first husband? OR if SHE dies can her second husband help her get resealed to her FIRST husband. Argh, that’s so confusing. Or is it after she and her second husband die – her kids can also have her ‘resealed’ to her first husband.
“Also, I can’t stop chuckling about the euphemism of the recent Warren Jeff’s sex tape referring to the joy of sex as ‘the burning fire of heaven.’”
I guess for me the humor was lost in the fact that the tape was an actual recording of the rape of children?
Ooh!!! And what if she had had kids with her first husband – what would’ve happened if she had canceled the sealing then?
Any sealing cancellation does not affect the children. The children could only be re-sealed to another man if the father gave up parental rights and the next husband legally adopted them.
the children play no part in a any subsequent sealing between the woman and any other man.
““Also, I can’t stop chuckling about the euphemism of the recent Warren Jeff’s sex tape referring to the joy of sex as ‘the burning fire of heaven.’”
I would agree that the ludicrousness of any statement is lost in the abhorrent act.
This is a total threadjack, and a little bit heretical… okay, so I was having a conversation about polygamy with a friend the other day – and I had a thought that I might as well share. What if the whole sealing thing to more than one person is done less for the marriage aspect and more about creating links between people. I mean, JS was sealed to women who were already sealed to other men, right? BY had an African American woman sealed to him (by her request apparently) as a servant for all time (I’m pretty sure her biography is covered in Worth their Salt, I’d double check, but I didn’t bring it with me when I moved) Creating a world and it’s solar system, galaxy and universe has to take a whole lot of power, right? So what if it takes a lot more people than just HF and HM and JC – what if there is a whole slew of other people sealed to those people who help out… and wouldn’t it be interesting if this helped lead to early creation stories with multiple gods and goddesses.
Now, I don’t think it’s true, but I do like the idea behind it – mostly because I am SOOOOO not for polygamy. But, if it were just about creating ties between people in a certain ritual so that it would be easier to create things on the other side… then I could be behind that, I think.
That sort of sealing and linking sounds a little bit like Noyes and his ideas later in life. (I think it was Noyes? Correct me if I’m wrong — Does anyone have the exact details?)
I still have issues of, is it instituted of God or is it an institution of man. I don’t know, don’t know if I ever were. When I heard about Waco and David C. I thought, who would ever belong to a church where the head guy is sleeping around with all the women, and then to find out that Joseph did too, makes you understand where all the rumors came from, assuming Joseph really did or if it was just made up by Young and associates.
Another contradiction that Hinckley says in his statement. He uses the 12th article of faith. I think he misinterprets it, like most mormons do, by saying that we much obey man’s law. It says we obey governments, kings, etc as long as the laws they create are based on God’s laws anything beyond that we are not bound to. Reading the 12th all by itself gives the impression that we blindly follow authority but reading the scriptures we see tons of examples of God’s people disobeying unrighteous rulers. As a nation we even celebrate this disobedience every 4th of July.
“then to find out that Joseph did too,”
No proof of that.
What do you mean, “no proof of that”?
We know that JS had other wives:
Or did you just mean no proof that he actually had sex with them?
I’m just referring to the counselor quote from BY’s first counselor (found in Journal of Discourses) saying that Joseph took other men’s wives for himself. Didn’t mean to imply that it was true or not. I really don’t know and haven’t spent a lot of time on the subject to know. It’s all just too disconcerting and time consuming for me to want to dwell on the subject too long.
That is plain silly.
It is clear that Joseph slept with at least some of his wives. Many filed court affidavits admitting they were wives “in very deed”. That was a 19th century euphemism for sleeping together. That doesn’t include the accounts of him being caught with the various women by Emma or other. Nor, does it consider the accounts of various Saints (William Law comes to mind) who provided their homes so Joseph could “meet” with his wives.
The only really open question is did he father children with them. Unknown at this point. It is possible he practices some form of birth control or only had relations at particular times of the month. We simply don’t know (nor, do I want to).
You’re stretching here. A lot. Having studied a lot about Woodruff, I can offer my opinion that there is nothing “clearly” about it. The way Woodruff phrased the whole thing went against his previous writing styles (available in his extensive diaries), his own use of the “prophetic” tone he felt comfortable with in his writing and is a direct contrast to “revelations” he has just prior to the whole 1890 “To Whom it May Concern” letter.
Or did you just mean no proof that he actually had sex with them?”
Yes, Steve’s comments notwithstanding, there is no proof.
“It is clear that Joseph slept with at least some of his wives. Many filed court affidavits admitting they were wives “in very deed”.”
Sorry, it’s just not there.
“You’re stretching here. A lot.”
I’m not stretching anything. These are President Hinckley’s words. You can deny it all you want, but the Church does not practice living polygamy at this point regardless of when it actually, officially or not, ended.
BTW, BethMash, you can find the list of JS’s plural wives on FamilySearch.
My issue with polygamy / JS:
Joseph Smith was clearly sealed to multiple women. He was married to young girls in the Warren Jeffs range. He married other men’s wives when they were sent on missions. We obviously don’t have videotape, so it can never be absolutely proven one way or another, but based on various affidavits, accounts, reactions of Emma when she “caught” JS with other girls/women, etc., it is much more likely than not that these were marriages in every sense of the word – including having sex. And there was coercion involved as well. When the Prophet comes up to you and says and angel with a sword commanded you to be with him, that’s pretty powerful to a teenage mind.
This is distasteful to most people in today’s society, so we have obviously tried to distance ourselves from the issue and say that Warren Jeffs is totally out there on a limb. The problem is that we have built up a “cult of Joseph” in the Church. We have talks suggesting that the whole church stands or falls on Joseph / Restoration / BofM being this perfect and marvelous thing. Because of that, many members cannot accept what Joseph did in the least and try to explain things away using convoluted logic.
Everyone can have their own opinion, but it seems MUCH more likely that he actually did this then not. But the question could be immaterial. King David is still revered by billions as a great man. We respect what he did and the inspired teachings he brought forth. The fact that he was also a deeply flawed man, committing adultery and causing a murder, is actually inspiring in a way, suggesting that God can still use imperfect people. In a similar fashion, Joseph’s teachings can stand or fall on their own merit.
I think we do a great disservice when we try to hide polygamy or pretend things didn’t happen. When it appears that we (as the Church or individuals) are trying to hide something, the 99% rest of our message is discounted as well.
Also, other prophets have suggested that God will not allow a prophet to lead the Church astray. Joseph Smith’s attempt to hide the fact that he (and a few other leaders) where secretly practicing polygamy directly led to the chain of events that caused his death.
Perhaps God really didn’t want polygamy to happen, gave the leaders a chance to fix the problem on their own, and then followed through on His promise.
Just food for thought?
And one final comment on how the Church practices “situational ethics”. Here is a quote from the article:
This doesn’t apply to immigration law. You can still be endowed, go on a mission, serve in Church leadership, etc. and be in flagrant violation of the law. So using this as a justification against polygamy is pointless.
Laying aside the matters of his underage wives, What difference does it make whether Joseph Smith had sex with his wives or not? Brigham Young clearly did…so! As far as I read the matter, it is actually worse for the Church if he didn’t.
That sort of sealing and linking sounds a little bit like Noyes and his ideas later in life. (I think it was Noyes? Correct me if I’m wrong — Does anyone have the exact details?)
Anyone have any ideas on that? Because, if so I’d love to read them. What did Noyes (or whoever) write/say on linking/sealings?
So, what was Joseph doing when he met privately with his wives at other men’s houses in the bedroom — alone?
I’m astounding you’d maintain that there is no evidence of what he was up to . .
Thanks. I knew he had wives, but I still found the stories from FMH illuminating. It’s always kind of in the periphery. I agree with the person above who said we kind of have a “cult of Joseph”. We are constantly building him up – but I find he’s MORE interesting when we learn about the rest of his history instead of just the bits that the church produces films of. Of course, that’s pretty much true for any historical person that I’ve ever studied/been interested in.
Brigham Young was never sealed to an African Anerican woman, dynastically, as a servant, or otherwise.
Jane Manning James was offered to be sealed as a servant to Joseph Smith as a servant, but it never happened.
So what do you think of Section 132 then?
You reallt need to figure out blockquoting, both in the OP and comments. That would have saved my comment direction… And it would help a lot of us out.
Even so, to put “clearly” and what Woodruff experienced in even the same paragraph was a gross overreach by Hinckleys speechwriters, and Hinckley himself.
Mike S, #36,
A of F 1:12 doesn’t mean that we must obey all laws. It only means, as long as the leaders adhere to God’s laws and the laws they create adhere to God’s laws then we must obey them, otherwise we are not subject to them. God’s laws are first and foremost, man’s laws take second fiddle. That’s what the scriptures say, example after example.
Jane Manning James was offered to be sealed as a servant to Joseph Smith as a servant, but it never happened.
I’ve never before heard anyone say that the sealing never happened. I suspect Jorjaswtgja is confusing the sealing as a servant (which did happen) with Sister James’ desire to be sealed to Joseph and Emma as their adopted child (which did not), a desire that arose out of her relationship with the Smiths and a specific conversation with Emma. The sealing to Joseph as a “servitor” was a sort of compromise short of outright denial of her request to be sealed. It was performed in 1894 in the Salt Lake Temple, with proxies standing in for Joseph, who was dead, and Jane, who was alive but excluded from direct participation by her race.
Sister James deserves to be as well known as Elijah Abel, but I get the impression she is not, at least for present-day white Mormons. When she died, in 1908, her obituary appeared on the front page of the Deseret Evening News, and then-President Joseph F. Smith spoke at her funeral.
More recently, the Ensign published an article about her shortly after the end of the racial priesthood ban, but it does not discuss the sealing to the Smiths, a topic with implications that I can imagine the Ensign wished to avoid.
This Harvard Divinity Bulletin article supplies some of the missing detail.
Whoops – sorry about forgetting Jane Elizabeth Manning James’ name – and for confusing who she was sealed to. Thanks for the corrections.
Just curious: have there ever been ANY polygamous sealings where one of the wives was Black?
I still maintain that Jane Manning James was never sealed. As a slave? With Smith dead? And her not even in the vicinity? LOL.
Jeff – what would be sufficient proof enough to satisfy you?
#44 Jon – A of F 1:12 doesn’t mean that we must obey all laws. It only means, as long as the leaders adhere to God’s laws and the laws they create adhere to God’s laws then we must obey them, otherwise we are not subject to them. God’s laws are first and foremost, man’s laws take second fiddle.
That’s what Warren Jeffs has been trying to explain to the Texas courts. So far, they aren’t buying it.
Joseph wrote Section 132 to convince Emma that what he was doing was right. From the Church’s manual:
It wasn’t part of canonized scripture for several decades later. So, what do I make of section 132 – I don’t know that it’s stated purpose – that of getting Emma to accept all these other wives – really worked all that well.
#8 – JustinAiken on August 5, 2011 at 9:54 AM said, “I do however, have issues with the type of polygamy done in the early church, especially by Joseph Smith – marrying underage girls as young as 14, marrying women already married to other men (and then sending their old husbands away on missions to get rid of them!) That’s just wrong…”
I don’t think he did this. See this thread – and the comments – for an explanation:
Some excerpts: “It is not commonly known that the seven volume History of the Church, which purports to have been written by Joseph Smith himself, was substantially added to and edited after the Prophet’s death.”
“In the last three years of his life Joseph took the precaution of having scribes and male companions with him at all times recording his actions and whereabouts in order to make it impossible for his enemies to continue to contrive illicit affairs where none existed. There are absolutely no contemporary records of any woman being married to Joseph Smith except one: Emma Hale Smith. Virtually no one came forward during Joseph Smith’s lifetime claiming to be married to him. As Joseph said in mocking reference to these phantom wives, “I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are.””
“Unless someone can offer me SOMETHING not based on hearsay that appeared years after his death, or can explain why Brigham felt it necessary to doctor a dead man’s journals in order to make the history comply with the new direction he was taking the Church, I will continue to believe the words of Joseph Smith over those who used his name to corrupt the religion he founded.”
Whether Joseph had sex with his plural wives is of no consequence to the point of my post. As usual, some want to re-run history cast in their own vision rather than in context of the time.
Let’s try to stick to the point of my post.
I am aware of the post you are quoting. Alan has adopted the Richard Price position that Joseph Smith not only didn’t enter into polygamy but fought against it.
I don’t think the evidence support this position. there are too many account produced during that time to really dispute it. And not just History of the Church accounts. Even the LDS Church admits Joseph had taken “spiritual wives.
On the other hand, the accounts of his having sex with this “spiritual wives” and fathering children were all very much after the fact and so far no children have been discovered. This, in spite of extensive DNA testing.
Wow, I wish I had been able to comment sooner–so much to catch up on.
There is a brand new book called “Teh Development of LDS Temple Worship 1846-2000” the discusses multiple sealings for women. A woman and can be sealed to every man she was married to in life. The rationale is that she will be able to choose 1 husband to be sealed to in the hearafter. The change happened in 1969,ad was suggested by apostle (and future president) Howard W. Hunter. Pres McKay endorsed the change. See my post on Multiple Sealings for Women.
“There is a brand new book called “Teh Development of LDS Temple Worship 1846-2000″ the discusses multiple sealings for women.”
I have a copy of that book on your recommendation. It is the next on the list.
Thanks for the clarification. My info came from the handbook
Margaret Young did an interview on Mormon Stories saying that Jane Manning James was sealed to Joseph Smith as a servant. Her temple work was completed quickly after the 1978 revelation, where she was sealed to her husband.
I agree that Rock Waterman has adopted the Price’s position on polygamy about Joseph Smith. The Prices are very strong into the old RLDS position that Joseph never practiced any polygamy at all–I just don’t think that position is very convincing, though Rock does a good job presenting his case.
Every credible historian (most notably Richard Bushman) agrees that Joseph practiced polygamy. Even the RLDS church (now known as the Community of Christ) acknowledges that Joseph practiced polygamy. Their current prophet, Stephen Veazey has a video on the official website acknowledging that fact (which overturns 100 years of denying it.)
Brian Hales, a strong current member, is giving 2 presentations tomorrow at Sunstone in Ogden. He discussed Joseph marrying other men’s wives at the MHA meetings in May. He has a website http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/
Thanks for that link to Brian’s website. good stuff!
I met the Prices some years ago on a trip to Kansas City. i stopped into their bookstore and talked mainly to her for some time. Bought a bunch of stuff as well. They gave me that “Joseph Fought Polygamy” book and the one about what happened to the RLDS Church. And some tape with Richard arguing with his Stake President.
I felt bad for them to have essentially “lost” their Church, at least in their eyes.
I ordered some more stuff which they mailed to me and them sent them a check. Deseret Book won’t let you do that! Thanks again.
Your comment “I felt bad for them to have essentially ‘lost’ their Church,” expresses the lament felt by many in the RLDS tradition.
The evidence that JS taught AGAINST polygamy in public, to the point of excommunicating people for its practice, is strong. The recognition that JS taught and practiced the doctrine privately, therefore, is WORSE to take psychologically, because the RLDS largely formed around those who said it was morally wrong.
Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III, who was RLDS prophet from 1860 into the 20th Century, was always on record as saying he did not believe his father had participated in polygamy, but that evidence to the contrary would leave untouched ONLY that work he had done (e.g., the Book of Mormon) BEFORE teaching and participating.
Polygamy remained a contentious issue in the RLDS into the 1970’s, when we began to find converts among polygamous tribes in India and had to resolve questions of whether to permit that cultural practice to continue. The decision given in a revelation which is now Section 150 (warning: WordPress automated software link won’t work here) of the CofChrist D&C preserved existing polygamous marriages but forbade new ones. More importantly, it established the doctrine that “monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built.”
Now, of course, since I believe in parallel universes (as a physicist, not as a CofChrist member) and think that all copies of me share a single spirit across all of those universes, I’m probably married to most women somewhere in eternity, and probably a few men, too. So the rules for multiple sealings are probably insufficiently crazy to reflect reality.
Scroll down to the part about Josephine Rosetta Lyon. I think it would be nice if it were true that Joseph’s sealings to other women were purely spiritual, but why would they have been? Future polygamous marriages weren’t, so why would Joseph’s have been?
I don’t know if polygamy was a mistake, or if it was actually a command from God. I really hope that it’s not an eternal deal. I’m going to be pretty unhappy if God is a polygamist. Polygamy to me, puts women as second class citizens, and if that’s the way God meant it to be, that would be my hell.
(so much for my html attempt…)
“I’m probably married to most women somewhere in eternity, and probably a few men, too. So the rules for multiple sealings are probably insufficiently crazy to reflect reality.’
I can’t wait to find that out!
Oh, and I think that Joseph’s public statements and private practices were so diametrically opposed that you could make the argument either way at the time. but, now, I think the evidence is overwhelming toward the practice.
the real interesting part is Emma. She knew and yet allowed the RLDS to push the “no polygamy” argument.
“I think it would be nice if it were true that Joseph’s sealings to other women were purely spiritual, but why would they have been? Future polygamous marriages weren’t, so why would Joseph’s have been?”
Brian has done a really good job on that site. But, again I am re-thinking my position based on his evidence. Nevertheless, your argument, which is based on pure speculation, does not really hold water. It might be true, but knowing that future plural marriages included sex does not automatically mean Joseph’s did.
I don’t mind if my argument holds water or not. 🙂
I’m satisfied that at least *some* of the marriages were very likely consummated. Does it change my view on Joseph Smith? Not really. I’m kind of a split personality mormon and am able to compartmentalize the good and the bad into different sections so that I don’t drive myself crazy.
My view was that if Joseph was teaching plural marriage only in the spiritual sense, how did that turn into sexual later on? It doesn’t make sense, so the simpler view is that they probably started out that way.
“I can’t wait to find that out!”
As long as your wife here doesn’t start thinking that. There are days when I really mess up where I’m sure my wife finds the multiple copies concept a great comfort. 😀
Time for the magic question —
What should happen to polygamists today?
Texas is going after the group in Texas.
But, what about the groups in Utah/Arizona? There is a long history of under age marriages, abuse and all kinds of lawlessness.
Polygamy is an embarrassment to Utah/Arizona and the Church. The solution is to call for vigorous enforcement of the law.
My belief is that the groups should be smashed — treated as a criminal organization. Arrest all the parents participating in polygamy (use the records out of Texas). Charge them with bigamy and put them away for 5-10 years. Farm the kids out for adoption. Hopefully, that would shatter the groups.
Religious belief gives you the right to believe things. It doesn’t give you the right to practice anything. The line should be drawn.
Alice (fixed comment #59)
Use blockquote /blockquote inside rather than [quote] [/quote]
#65 – Well, since it is legal for people to live together sexually without being married whether homosexual, heterosexual, multiple partners, etc., I think polygamy should not be outlawed as long as the partners are of legal age, and are really consenting adults (not brainwashed women who are terrified of going to hell if they refuse).
Either that or make homosexual sex illegal, and make heterosexual sex illegal unless one is only with one’s spouse along with outlawing more than one spouse.
Marrying more than one spouse is against the law (bigamy). But, polygamy is specifically targeted in the law. In fact, the Utah and Idaho Constitutions both ban the practice. And, the Supreme Court specifically said that government could take action against those involved in polygamy.
The problem I have with these groups is the grotesque levels of abuse and manipulation. Law enforcement really needs to step up to the plate.
Go after the under-age stuff but I’d go after the polygamy itself. It wouldn’t hurt if the Church gave tactic support. At the very least, it would be a chance for Utah to minimize the association with polygamy.
One more thought. I don’t think any of these groups are free of manipulation of women into polygamist relationships. Most are told they will be damned if they don’t participate.
Thanks Mike S.
“My view was that if Joseph was teaching plural marriage only in the spiritual sense, how did that turn into sexual later on? It doesn’t make sense, so the simpler view is that they probably started out that way.”
I would say that it is not certain he fully understood what he was doing initially. So it is hard to say whether it was “only spiritual” or a marriage in every sense of the word. In my mind the fact that he took spiritual wives who were already legally married to someone else, it seemed he didn’t expect to have sex with them. but, it is only speculation on my part. As with most doctrine, it evolved or become more clear over time. hard to say what would have happened had he lived.
“The solution is to call for vigorous enforcement of the law.”
I agree with you. somewhere those groups went off the rails 9 if they were ever on them) and their leaders and lawbreakers need to be prosecuted.
At the MHA meetings in May, a former federal prosecutor spoke about the Texas FLDS raids. He said that he believes that if the Federal anti-polygamy laws were challenged, the Supreme Court would overturn the law on Constitutional grounds. He said that there have been no federal prosecutions of polygamy in at least 75 years, and noted that any polygamy challenges have occurred at the state level. A lawyer from Georgia also spoke in the session, and advised the sheriff in Texas to avoid a militaristic Waco-style raid. Unfortunately, the sheriff was over-ruled.
Most government officials are willing to go after under-age polygamist brides, but almost everyone knows that these anti-polygamy laws concerning consenting adults won’t pass constitutional muster. Even when the Edmunds-Tucker act was passed, there were questions about the constitutionality of the law. The Supreme Court of the day ruled in favor of the law, but most experts agree that the judicial climate has changed so much that the law would be struck down if anyone tries to enforce it today.
Jeff and Alice,
I attended one of Brian’s 2 presentations today. While he contests the idea that there is proof that Joseph had sexual relations with his polyandrous wives, he also acknowledges that he is a singular voice in this position. He does a good job presenting his case, but I am not compelled to agree with him.
I asked him 2 questions during the session today. There is a really odd story about surrogate parenthood in the days of Brigham Young. Click here for full details. In brief, a convert couple could not conceive children due to a medical condition of the husband. Brigham Young proposed a temporary civil divorce. The wife (Mary Richardson) was civilly married to a man by the name of Frederick Cox. He fathered two children in a sort of levirate marriage (mentioned in the New Testament). Then they divorced, Mary re-married (and was sealed) to her original husband. It’s definitely an odd story.
My point is that this seems to be a sort of polyandry. Kathryn Daines mentions that it was “family legend” that the Richardsons obtained a divorce. Brian Hales indicated he felt it was solid evidence and not adultery. It sure seems like if the Richardson divorce was arranged with an understanding of re-marriage, that it was a form of sexual polyandry, with a wink and a nod to civil law. If Brigham Young sanctioned it, it seems to me that Brigham must have felt that such an unusual arrangement must have been ok with Joseph Smith.
One more comment on this issue of polyandry.
There is also a veiled reference in D&C 132 concerning Emma Smith. Richard Van Wagoner documents an unusual issue with Emma Smith. Quoting from my post,
D&C 132:51 seems to refer to this incident. It says,
Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her;
If Emma had accepted in time, perhaps she would have been a polyandrous wife. Of course that is just speculation, and the rest of verse 51 says it is an Abrahamic test. But it still seems like another odd incident.
Sorry, one last comment on this issue. Jonathon Stapley has a position about adoptive sealings. Stapley seems to argue that some of these sealings were adoptive in nature. At first I thought Brian Hales might agree with this position, since it would seem to support his contention that the polyandrous marriages were non-sexual. However, Brian said that he and Stapley don’t see eye to eye on the issue. I think Stapley’s argument is worth looking into, though I haven’t finished reading his whole position yet.
I’d agree with that.
Sylvia Sessions Lyon is my ancestor, and I don’t know if that makes me more accepting of her death bed confession than you might be- but death bed confessions at that time were accepted as truth.
MH’s idea of surrogate parenthood is interesting. Sylvia had had several children with her husband Windsor P Lyon, (although they all died), but there does appear to be the possibility that Sylvia and Windsor’s marriage was (temporarily) unofficially cancelled when Windsor was excommunicated. That’s the time period when Sylvia was sealed to JS.
Interesting stuff for sure.
Wow, JS really opened a can of worms back then! It speaks to the issue of his being a bit uncertain where it should all lead.
The adoptive sealing thing is quite interesting in lieu of modern medical technology……
Makes surrogate parenthood seem pretty straight forward.
I don’t follow this logic. By following your links it appears this arrangement occurred in 1857, well after JS had passed. BY is the only person I’ve ever read of saying that everything he did was shown to him by JS. It’s just as likely that BY did what he did [saying JS approved and/or taught him the stuff] was a simple way to create allegiance.
Honestly, I’m not sure how you can logically state that simply because BY did something that that meant that BY was sure JS would have approved.
John, your point is well taken–I acknowledged the “chronology” problem when I asked the question. However, (1) in light of the Emma Smith rumors of polyandry being offered and then revoked from her (and that was contemporary), (2) the idea that Brigham participated in polygamy and was more aware of polygamous practices than say Sidney Rigdon, William Marks, or others opposed to polygamy, (3) and the idea of continuity between prophets, then it seems to me that Brigham Young wasn’t trying to be ingenious with the practice. Brigham always appealed to Joseph, and never claimed to be an innovator of theology. To me, the story supports the idea of polyandrous sexual relations, rather than supporting Hales position that Joseph’s relationship with his polyandrous wives was non-sexual.
I agree with you that this evidence by itself cannot be considered “proof”. However, this evidence as well as other pieces of evidence seems to imply sexual polyandrous relationships were acceptable if sanctioned by the prophet. You and Brian Hales are welcome to disagree.
My niece just shared with me one of the creepiest pickup lines I’ve ever heard, and brings up all of the worst images of polygamy. Although she is not LDS, she does reside in the western US. An elderly gent came up to her and asked her if she believed in polygamy. When she said she did not, he replied that he didn’t either, but that looking at her was making him reconsider. Yeech!
So what do you think of sealings? Was there other revelations before then that talked of eternal marriage?
Yeah, you got pick and choose your battles, even if God’s law says you can (or cannot) do something, if man’s law puts you in jail or kills you then it might not be worth it. Like defending your property from governmental theft. Just not worth it, give them the extorted money and call it good.
Jon, must we talk about “governmental theft” and “extorted money” on a polygamy post? You’ve got a one-track mind, and it would be nice if you could stay on topic.
I am staying on topic. We were talking about contradictions and the contradiction in the main quote Jeff quoted from Hinckley. Article of Faith 12. Hinckley didn’t properly use the article of faith, at least how I understood. It is interesting the contradiction within the contradiction. You didn’t notice the irony?
I kind of figured out what Jon was trying to say, but it wold be easier to understand if it had the word polygamy attached to it somewhere.
I think the issue of Joseph Smith and polygamy is a good proxy (pun intended) for other issues in the Church. Jeff (and others) rightly points out that there is no contemporary, first-hand account that directly states that Joseph Smith had sex with any of the women with whom he was married. A few comments related to this:
1) Does anyone really expect that anyone would actually say this? They would couch it in euphemistic terms that sound creepily like the words that Warren Jeffs used to talk about sex. They are words that can be used to plausibly deny that sex actually happened, although to insiders it is clear that it did. The accounts referring to polygamy that we have use these same terms.
2) The accounts that we have of Joseph Smith’s relations with these girls and women are sometimes second-hand, or else given years after the fact, so they are discounted because of that. Yet the same people who discount those accounts accept MANY other things with the same level of evidence:
– Joseph Smith gave multiple accounts of the First Vision, years after it happened, which actually contradict each other. Yet we accept that the First Vision actually happened.
– Lorenzo Snow’s visitation by Christ in the temple is from an account given years after the fact as a story that he told his granddaughter who actually related it. Yet we accept that President Snow actually saw Christ.
– The King Follett discourse introduces many profound concepts in Mormonism, including the nature of God and our profound potential. Yet it was compiled from notes taken by various people at the funeral, and it is estimated that only around 30% are actual words the Joseph Smith said. Yet we accept these accounts as a fundamental basis of LDS beliefs.
– The Brigham Young transformation is a cornerstone of the method of succession we use in the Church. Yet most of the accounts of the transfiguration were written years after the fact, and seemed to get more embellished as years went by. And some of the most convincing accounts were written decades after the fact by people who history shows WEREN’T EVEN THERE. Yet we still assume that it happened.
It could go on and on, but MANY of the things which we believe, all the way back to and including our founding story (First Vision), are based on non-primary, non-contemporaneous, and sometimes conflicting stories. Yet we accept them.
There is at least the same level of evidence that Joseph Smith was sealed/married to and had actual physical relations with multiple girls and women, including women who were still married to other men. This sounds as abhorrent to our modern sensibilities as the Warren Jeffs allegations, so it is understandable to want to discount them and attack the level of evidence. But if we insist on a “high” level of evidence, do we need to also discount everything that doesn’t meet that same level? And if so, what is really left?
Firstly, you need to separate Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs out right. Jeffs is turning out to be a complete pervert from the word go who then used his religion to cover it up.
Perhaps, Joseph was the same way? If so, does it negate all that he accomplished.
Or, did he receive this revelation and then struggled on how to implement it?
Anyway, history is a tricky business, interpreting accounts, both contemporary and historical to piece together a story. You have to extrapolate to fill in the blanks. And different people are going to do it differently.
My mind is open to the fact that Joseph may very well have consumated some of his plural relationships. But I have yet to see any conclusive proof that it is true. The historical accounts also claim that he fathered children with these women and so far, none have been found. To me, that calls into question those accounts.
All of the other examples you cite are supposed to be uplifting experiences, not negative. People want those. They treat those differently, I think.
Some of the people examining Joseph’s polygamy are attempting to make it all negative so the motivation to interpret the historical evidence is suspect to me. Most of the accounts of Joseph having sex come from critical sources to begin with.
So, I am skeptical.
My account comes down the line from my ancestors. We’re all rooting for Windsor P Lyon (Sylvia Sessions Lyon’s first-husband), (he kind of got a bum deal).
A lot of the talk about Joseph and polygamy is pretty critical though.
“My account comes down the line from my ancestors. We’re all rooting for Windsor P Lyon (Sylvia Sessions Lyon’s first-husband), (he kind of got a bum deal). ”
Where can I read about her?
I think it is important to consider the implications here. After all, the line drawn between the mainstream Church, and many of the other groups (Particularly the RLDS), was in fact polygamy. If it could be proven that Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships were non-sexual, and had more to do with trying to understand/implement sealings for strictly religious purposes, then that presents the mainstream Church with MAJOR problems. In early Utah era Church leaders went to great lengths to show that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and that he was sexual active in his polygamy. This of course was to justify the polygamy of later Church leaders. Given the fact that as Mike S. notes, the “transfiguration” of Brigham Young is not nearly as cut-and dried as we like, this is a re-opening of that old can of worms. The implications could invalidate the entire Priesthood authority of every Church leader down to local leaders, all the way up to President Monson. While the Church clearly wants to lose it’s association with Polygamy, this new “revelation” should probably be avoided if they want to remain a going concern.
Most of the sources about Joseph Smith and polygamy ironically come from the Church. As you know, the RLDS Church taught the polygamy originated with Brigham Young and that JS never practiced it. To defend their practice, the early Church leaders gathered over a hundred different affidavits showing that JS actually introduced and practiced polygamy. So our own Church is the best source for this, not people with an axe to grind.
And regarding Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith, I want to agree with you. However, if you look at it an an outside observer, there are more similarities.
The polygamy of both men was denounced by the societies in which they lived. The polygamy of both men was accepted and embraced by the members of their Churches due to their prophetic standing. It was against the law for both men. Both men tried to destroy evidence, whether it was a printing press or disallowing evidence.
And the practice of Warren Jeffs taking one man’s wife and children and giving it to a more “worthy” man of higher rank comes DIRECTLY from Brigham Young who taught that doctrine in black and white, with no need to interpret it. Brigham Young taught that a woman didn’t even need a divorce, but could just be married to a man of “higher rank” as a plural wife and that it would help her in the hereafter.
So, while Warren Jeffs sounds crazy from our point-of-view, what he teaches actually an from our earlier leaders. And the people around our early leaders thought they were just as crazy as we think Warren Jeffs.
“If it could be proven that Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships were non-sexual, and had more to do with trying to understand/implement sealings for strictly religious purposes, then that presents the mainstream Church with MAJOR problems.”
I do not see how this is the case. It appears to be like any other new doctrine in the Church. It took time to figure out the full extent of it. And besides, what do you think I am arguing against here? Not whether Joseph had sex with his plural wives. I am only asking for proof. I am not yet convinced.
“In early Utah era Church leaders went to great lengths to show that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and that he was sexual active in his polygamy.”
First part, definitely. Second part, not sure of that.
Where would I find that?
“And regarding Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith, I want to agree with you. However, if you look at it an an outside observer, there are more similarities.”
The reports and testimony from the trial indicate that his sodomized his niece and nephew at a very early age.
Sorry, but that is not in the same league at all.
I also heard, though not confirmed, that Rulon Jeffs (Warren’s father) did not permit marriages of women under 20 years old. That is very different, if true, than what has been going on with Warren as leader.
A very different situation, indeed.
Not to be snarky, but have you read any of my previous comments? (I’m just feeling like I’m repeating myself.)
There’s also some interesting stuff in In Sacred Loneliness.
I was hoping for something a bit more in depth
The link I posted way up the page had quite a bit more.
Also Mormon Polygamy by Richard Van Wagoner talks about her.
#69 – Exactly!