Lindsay Hansen Park is a bloggernacle staple.  She has her own podcast, Year of Polygamy, and is the Executive Director of Sunstone, where she coined the phrase “More Than One Way to Mormon.”  She has done a lot of work in polygamy communities, and we will get acquainted with her in our first episode.

Lindsay:  My name is Lindsay Hansen Park, and I am the Executive Director of the Sunstone Education Foundation. I also have a really popular Mormon podcast called Year of Polygamy. I’m also [part of a new podcast.] It’s becoming really popular new podcast, Sunstone Mormon History podcast.

GT:  You’re an international TV star, too.   I don’t know how long it’s been, but you posted the thing where there was this Russian dialogue over a video of you talking about polygamy.

Lindsay:  Yeah, it’s a wild world I live in. Like, it’s every little Mormon girl’s dream is to grow up and be all over the news for polygamy. {Chuckling}  So I think I’m killing it in that regard. No, I mean, it’s weird. My life, it’s so weird. I always say, I don’t even know if I could get another job because my resume is so weird. Now [that] I’m doing Mormon stuff all the time, I’m not even normal. I can’t have a normal conversation with people. We’ll just be at a dinner party with never-Mormon people, and always we end up talking about polygamy. I’m like, “Sorry, I’m weird. I don’t know how we got here.”

GT:  The Year of Polygamy was supposed to last a year and how long has it been going on?

Lindsay:  Yes, everybody thinks this is really hilarious joke.  I was going do a year of polygamy. What people think, they’re like, “Does that mean you practice it for a year?” No. I had the Feminist Mormon Housewives podcast, which is now defunct. We don’t do that anymore.

GT:  Oh, I didn’t know that.

Lindsay:  Yeah. I just thought for a year, I’m going to go down and study this topic and tell the history of polygamy, and it turned into what is it, five years now?

GT: Has it been five years?

Lindsay:  Several Years of Polygamy.

GT:  You don’t just do polygamy. I mean, certainly, that’s the major topic because I know you’ve talked a little bit about Mountain Meadows Massacre and some other stuff like that.

Lindsay:  Well, it’s my theory that Brighamite Mormonism [meaning that] anyone that came across with Brigham Young and all the break off groups that sort of come from, are completely shaped by polygamy. The doctrine, theology–I often say the LDS Church is still a polygamous church. Brigham Young asked everyone to be a polygamist if only in their hearts, and I think that people took that really seriously. So for me, I can see traces of polygamy just about anywhere. A lot of the things that the modern LDS Church have now, the practices, policies, doctrine, culture either grew out of polygamous culture, or a response to polygamous culture or a direct reaction to trying to distance yourself from it. So to me, polygamy is everywhere.  I can trace the roots. We talk a lot about the history but like Mountain Meadows Massacre and Mormon violence and all of that. All of it is rooted in ideas that are traced back to polygamy, in my opinion.

One of the most critical revelations among Mormon fundamentalist communities is the 1886 revelation given to John Taylor.  It was never canonized in the mainstream LDS Church, but is an extremely significant document among polygamist communities.  Lindsay Hansen Park will give a brief history leading up to John Taylor’s revelation.

Lindsay:  John W. Woolley was a personal friend of John Taylor. He was a bodyguard. He and his son, Lorin Woolley, claimed basically that one night they’re outside the room.  John Taylor is having a revelation.  They testify to seeing the light under the door, and depending on the fundamentalist versions, John Taylor basically claims he is visited by personages.  Some interpretations are that it’s Joseph Smith, some that it’s Jesus, some that it’s both depending on which story you viewed.  Those exist. But basically, heavenly visitors come and have an eight-hour meeting with John Taylor, and they have several meetings with him. They basically say, “You have to keep plural marriage alive. You have to keep it alive. But we have to figure something else out because the government’s going to take away the temple and if they take away all of our church property, then what?  How do we fulfill this mission of God? So figure out a way to keep the keys alive and to keep the business affairs of the church.” Now the Woolleys sit on this. They’re given the revelation.  We actually have the revelation written down in John Taylor’s hand, which is really controversial because for years it was seen as a forgery or something that wasn’t real, but it’s been authenticated.

GT:  You say we have it. Is it in the Church Archives? Who has it?

Lindsay:  We can talk more about this later. My understanding is that the church had a copy. There’s a copy that you can see online. There’s a fundamentalist collector. His name is Ivan Nielsen.  Uncle Ivan is known for collecting fundamentalist stuff. So I believe he has a copy. John Taylor’s family had some of the paperwork and we can get in the history of what happened with all those documents because I think that’s really fascinating.

John Taylor’s 1886 revelation about polygamy is important among fundamentalist Mormons but was never canonized in LDS Church. While there have been rumors that it isn’t authentic, I haven’t heard any legitimate analysis against its authenticity.

What are some of the differences between LDS theology and that of Mormon fundamentalist theology? Lindsay Hansen Park will answer that question, and we’ll talk about how many wives a man must have in order to inherit the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom.

Lindsay:  Within Mormon doctrine and still on lds.org, the top level is called the Celestial Kingdom.  To get to the Celestial Kingdom, you have to have gone through the temple.  You have to have a sealing ordinance.  There are certain things you have to do. That’s why I say we’re a works doctrine. Mormons are very much about earning our way into heaven. Nobody likes to say that, but that is absolutely why people don’t think we’re Christians. I mean, grace is such a–this is why I think it’s different.

GT:  I would caveat that, because I think Evangelicals and Catholics are very different. Now, Catholics don’t think we [Mormons] are going to heaven, certainly, but evangelicals drive me crazy. I’ll just say that.

Lindsay:  Well, Mormons drive them crazy.

GT:  I probably just ticked off all of my Evangelical listeners right now.

Lindsay:  I think [with] Evangelicals, what’s hard is we know what they’re about.  We know that they don’t respect us. They don’t think that we’re saved.

GT:  What I’m saying is the whole grace-works [issue], I don’t want to call that Christian. I want to call that Evangelical, because you’ve got–you’re born again…

Lindsay:  That’s fair.

GT:  I would argue that was the whole difference between Luther and Catholicism. It was this whole idea about grace and works. I don’t want to turn this into a grace and works [discussion,] because to me, it’s two sides of the same coin.

Lindsay:  Mormonism is very Calvinist.  Let’s just say this. For you to get in the highest degrees of [heaven], it is like a special order. There are secret tokens, handshakes, signs, wording, behaviors, things like that. So within the Celestial Kingdom are three degrees.  You can go to lds.org. Look it up. It’s still on our site.

Lindsay:  Now, in the old frontier doctrine, when this was really discussed and believed, it was widely believed and preached that the highest [level of Celestial Kingdom] was for the polygamous families, and then you sort of went down from there. Now in fundamentalist circles, I’d say it’s a sacred doctrine. It’s sort of a taboo to talk about still, but they believe the Celestial Kingdom is only for polygamists and to get in the top level you have to have seven wives, five in the middle, three in the bottom.

Do you agree or disagree with our discussion about grace and works?  Did you know about the number of wives needed to get into the Celestial Kingdom? Have you listened to Year of Polygamy or attended Sunstone?  Is polygamy an eternal principle? What are your thoughts?