Caught in the Web

In case you hadn’t already heard, the LDS church has acknowledged on its website, lds.org, that Joseph Smith married women other than his wife, Emma, including one as young as 14. The LDS church wants you to think that it’s okay because he was a prophet and God told him to do it. News flash: polygamy is not okay. Not then. Not now. Marrying children is not okay and never will be.

This is what it looks like when a young girl is married to a man 20+ years her senior.

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This is what it looks like when a “prophet” marries a young girl in modern times.

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Dieter Uchtdorf, of the first presidency of the LDS church, has given a number of speeches directed at women. Here are a few thoughts from one of them.

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You can’t have it both ways. If the Lord loves women, he does not tell his prophets to marry young girls under the threat that it’s the only way for them to go to heaven and be with their families.

If the Lord loves women, he does not give them to men to collect  like dolls.

Meet The 'Barbie Man' From Florida

If he wants us to be happy now, not at some vague point in the future in some as-yet-unreached heaven, then he does not ask women to turn their lives over to a man so they can be one of many, where true love may not exist, real intimacy is not shared, and a valued partnership never occurs.

If God loves women, he does not coerce them into unwanted marriages with threats of physical violence against their prophet and an eternity of separation from beloved parents.

If God is God, he does not manipulate, he does not lie, and he does not sell his precious daughters en masse to his favorite sons.

Polygamy has been the spider lurking in the corners of Mormon history for a long time.

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Now that it’s out there, don’t swallow the lies.

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Careful Wording

So the religion I once cherished took a huge step forward this week in my opinion with the release of the latest essay explaining the polyandry and teenage brides of the founding prophet.

For the most part I think this is a really good thing. It means the discussion can finally move past the ‘you are spreading anti mormon lies’ to we agree on the facts, lets discuss motives.

For the most part other than a few well versed historians, most members of the church that I dealt with thought I was just making up stories or repeating falsehoods with every bit of evidence that I produced to explain why I lost my faith in the church being a divinely recognized institution. I really appreciate the church making this effort to come clean even if it is carefully worded because at least my friends and family no longer believe I am making up the facts I am referring to.

As the profet of the Fridge I kind of expect this particular admission to have more of an effect than all the others to date, while it might not get the hits that the underwear video did it is sure to be talked about in Elders quorum on Sunday. I wonder how I might have talked about it if I were still attending church. No longer is it taboo to bring up these difficult things. The reason this one will be more popular than all the rest of the articles? Because of the emotional content. This time we find out that JS really did marry almost a dozen teenage girls! Ok, the article only admits to one, but hey don’t you think people are at least gonna wonder about the whole list now and go looking for it? For me personally this is the phrase that stood out the most:

“The rumors prompted members and leaders to issue carefully worded denials that denounced spiritual wifery and polygamy but were silent about what Joseph Smith and others saw as divinely mandated “celestial” plural marriage”

Did you catch that carefully worded bit? I think it is specifically referring to this statement by the prophet himself:

“…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” – History of the Church, Vol. 6, Chapter 19, p. 411

I read this statement1 a long time ago when I was enamored with church history. Back when I kept digging and digging discovering more and more about the final few weeks of the prophets life. This particular meeting happened just a few weeks before he was killed. At the time he had many many wives, since polygamy was illegal at the time, they were often called spiritual wives by his detractors due to the fact they were church sanctioned. Specifically one William Law who would print a list of all these wives in a newspaper called the Nauvoo expositor. The release of which caused Smith as mayor of Nauvoo to order destroyed leading to his arrest and eventual mobbing at Carthage. At that meeting he decried William a liar for saying he had multiply wives and proclaimed the carefully worded denial above.

Take a look at what he said, I didn’t realize how carefully worded this was till I showed it to a friend. He pointed out it is was totally possible that only Emma was at that meeting making his statement technically true. I thought about that quite a bit. It was very careful wording that could be technically true. And it reminded me of another denial that was technically also true that happened in my life time. This is the one I’m talking about, I am sure you will remeber it:

You see after reading all the legal mumbo jumbo on Bill’s case2  I found out that the term ‘sexual relations’ could be narrowly interpreted to mean intercourse only, and not include the oral type that Bill engaged in. Thereby making his careful worded denial technically and legally true while misleading everyone.

Once I realized that clear back at the beginning the leaders were willing to omit critical information in an effort to keep people in the church it became obvious to me that I needed to question everything. So when this document came out, happy as I was it did, I looked it over for careful wording. I found a plethora of it, for example this:

“The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball… who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday”

Why not just say she was 14? Is this an effort give the impression she was older?3 Now consider this:

“A few men unscrupulously used these rumors to seduce women to join them in an unauthorized practice sometimes referred to as “spiritual wifery.””

Why not mention the names of these men? Tell you what, google John C Bennet and find out a little bit about the doctor that was one of these guys and a close friend of the prophet. You see Sara Pratt (yeah wife of that apostle guy) said that Bennet preformed abortions  for the celestial consequences of Josephs actions. It would explain why we can’t find any seed of his these days doesn’t it? But you can see why this name is to be avoided if you are crafting your words carefully can’t you?

Now of course any true believer reading this post will probably say ‘those are all LIES!’ But think about that for a minute if that is your gut reaction. Just last week it is likely you would have said that same thing about Joe getting married to a 14 year old… and that turned out to be true didn’t it? Doesn’t it behoove you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions before taking these crafters of careful words at their word?

When I read this document after having done extensive research on the topic myself I see loads of careful wording that is designed to give you the best possible impression of some pretty despicable behavior. The part that winds me up the most? The impression that it was hard for Joseph to do this, so hard that God sent an angel to kill him if he didn’t do it. You see the part that careful wording omits, is the fact that is what he told many of the women and their husbands when they wouldn’t accept his advances. If you didn’t get it on with the prophet, God was gonna kill him. Imagine the pressure on a young teen girl to feel like she must make this sacrifice for the church and for God. It would definitely explain this poem by Helen Mar on the topic:

 “I thought through this life my time will be my own
The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone,
No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free,
And as the past hath been the future still will be.
To my guileless heart all free from worldly care
And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare
The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept
From sight and all looked fair…

…but pitying angels wept.
They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold.
And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled,
Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise,
Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price;
Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be
Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny,
And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys
Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes,
And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart,
Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;

But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown,
Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn.
Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw
A glory in obeying this high celestial law,
For to thousands who’ve died without the light
I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright.
I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God
And receive every word as the word of the Lord,
But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth,
I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth.

Helen’s words are far less crafty that those of the essay, that is probably why I tend to trust them more, after all she was there. The simple fact is this episode in the churches history is a very close parallel to the same drama we have seen play out among Warren Jeff’s and his followers.4 The facts themselves are virtually the same. Women and men that revere him as a prophet did unspeakable things by coercing their daughters into marriages that he said were what God wanted. In Warren’s case it was clearly revolting, but when I first found out about this stuff Joe did, for some reason I kept trying to justify this terrible behavior, my gut told me it was wrong, but my testimony said these guys were prophets. ‘Was I just like the followers of Warren?’ I asked myself over and over again. ‘Was I justifying awful behavior because I wanted to believe it was true so badly that I would condone this as something a loving heavenly father would endorse, yea even command?’

My shelf didn’t collapse with all this on it, but it sat very very heavily there as I added on the many other issues that came up over the following months of study. But in the day it collapsed I realized these were just men. They were making stuff up5, either being crafty or deluded it didn’t matter because my mind was free! I didn’t have to say this behavior was ever right in any circumstance, it is always wrong to coerce a 14 year old into marriage against her will! If there was a deity that would condone it, I decided that morally I would rather be cast into hell than worship such a mob boss type supreme being.

So you see, carefully worded this document is, I think it is going to  be wildly transformative as far at the Mormon church is concerned. Polygamy has always been a problem for the church when it comes to public image, now the polyandry and the teenage brides are out there as well. The past admissions on polygamy will bring focus on this newly admitted to information. Members will dig deeper and question more, many will fall away disillusioned with the institution they trusted as I did. Some however will remain steadfast and firm in their faith. I believe the new core of the Moralitychurch will be far more zealous and extreme as the moderate believers dig deep for the truth and eventually choose to leave.

Because to keep the faith and to know these things you have to justify it all. And the only justification that works without destroying the very foundation of the church is it was ok because God said so. For some that works and they will believe, for others they will question the morals of a divine being that would command such an action that they as a father would not. Helen said she wouldn’t have done it had her father not asked her to. As a father of an 11 year old girl, I can’t imagine asking that of her ever. I’d rather go to hell. Heber would not though and some will respect him for sacrificing his little girl to become a God in the next life. Personally I think that was a most selfish act on his part.

Either way you go you see this type of admission forces a choice. Blind obedience is gone, it is your duty to study and read and know what you have signed up for! And when you see careful wording,6 I suggest you dig a little deeper, because it is really likely it means someone is carefully making sure you aren’t getting all the needed information to make an informed choice.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Please do not take my word for the context, read Rough Stone Rolling, at a minimum follow this link to the church history record and read the full statement
  2. I personally think Bill’s apology was more forthcoming since he admitted to being deceitful, I kind of wish the church was as well it, it wouldn’t win me back though just help me feel more respect for the efforts of the current leaders
  3. The article also says her age was ‘legal’ while omitting the fact that plural marriage was definitely illegal at the time. That’s why it was called spiritual wifery!! There is also a clear effort to make it also seem normal which a quick google search proves it wasn’t (Talk about some crafty wording!) fact is it was just as awful then as now. In fact that’s why Joe was actually tarred and feathered if you dig deep enough to find out how much people were outraged by it.
  4. I didn’t realize it till today that there was another self declared prophet taking child brides as well. Personally I tend to think that the behavior in the past somehow helps these men justify their actions today.
  5. If you think about it and leave the emotion out, the simplest explanation for all the conflicting evidence for the changing doctrine and all the things that would fill up your mental self is: ‘They were making it up.’
  6. One last thought, if you haven’t noticed yet all these articles the church is releasing are really carefully worded. So much so that there is never an author listed nor a date when they were produced. this runs so counter to this press release that I sense an effort to look transparent without actually being so, we are so open that we will tell you when we make a little change to a video, but just right to search out these new essays on LDS org and see how easy they are to find, I’m pretty sure church sponsored links to the essays won’t show up on google anytime soon even though there will be dozens of blogs about it!

The Great Firewall of China and Washing of Brains

In my day job I regularly go to China, an interesting experience to say the least. On my travels there I typically visit Taiwan, Hong Kong as well as the China mainland. One thing that always gets me is the stark difference in information accessibility between China and these other places. Probably because I use the internet for so much of my work. Once you are in China mainland you can’t get on Facebook, wikipedia is a joke and google doesn’t work well because the government owned telecoms literally monitor and control the information flow in and out of the country. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t ways around this firewall, but even those are constantly shored up by the Chinese propaganda machine. You can for example get around the Facebook and google blocking using a VPN, but they are temporary and have to change all the time to stay ahead of the ministry of information control. If you don’t find an alternate path to the information you will never learn about Tiananmen Square or the freedoms that other countries take for granted. Travel outside of the information controlled by that government though and it is a few keystrokes away from discovery.

The rulers of China also understand one of the more subtle concepts of brain washing, something so simple that you hear it in every sales approach. The concept of repetition. They would get POWs to repeat simple phrases over and over, small little ones that weren’t that bad (like the US makes mistakes), but then over time push for stronger and stronger phrasing to the point that when these POWs returned they would tell you that the communist regime had “done a fine job” in China and even vilify the US for their actions towards others in the world.

By controlling the information that people have access to and by getting those same people to consistently repeat the propaganda you want them to they can keep a nation of 2 billion under control. These are powerful techniques, they are also techniques that religions use to do much the same thing, to get their members to act and do what they want them to. I think this experience I have had several times in China might have been part of the reason I recognized similar things in my own religion that lead to my eventual disbelief. For example.

In the LDS conference this weekend an apostle said:

“Next, read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price or in this pamphlet, now in 158 languages. You can find it online at LDS.org or with the missionaries. This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred. Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.”
– Neil Anderson

To paraphrase, Read Joseph’s own words from his own testimony…then read Joseph’s words out loud in your own voice and record it…then listen to the recording of yourself repeating JS testimony over and over and over and over…it kind of reminds me of how conservative republican mormons were all wound up about some grade school kids singing something nice about Obama, that is evil brainwashing, but this is good stuff!1

They would seem to be saying that truth comes from repeating things, I think truth comes from questioning things. One of those two certainly fits the pattern of brain washing.

brain washAnother repeated them has been to not research any information on the church outside of the media that they control. How is this any different than the great firewall of China? When I first started reading much of the information about the history of the church that lead to my doubts I searched all over the current websites for explanations and none were there. This was a big read flag to me because 95% of the history that had caused my doubts in the first place were in the churches own history books. Why would the journal of discourses not be available in its entirely on LDS.org? It is a record from the 1800s that is much the same as the Ensign today. Such a big deal that there are thousands of references to it in the talks on the same website.

The only reason imaginable is information control. Of course you can find those documents elsewhere using the internet, just like you can find the truth about China by circumventing the restrictions they put in place. But the fact you can find the information doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to control it. I hear this argument all the time from believers when I point out some fact that you can’t find in the current official statements of church leaders. They seem to think because you can find it on a website outside of the churches control that they aren’t hiding anything.

I say current church leaders because much of the more upsetting historical facts you uncover if you start looking come from past church leaders making very official statements in their day and age. Things that today are not to be found by any official means, if you do find them on an apologetic site or other place and bring them up, well that old stuff doesn’t count anymore because they were just opinions. But if they said it was doctrine then and they have turned into opinions decades later how can we have any confidence that what is declared doctrine today isn’t gonna be opinion in a few more generations?

Nothing drove home more the fact that this editing of information without general knowledge of the followers was condoned that discovering this talk.You see back when I was in high school there was a conference talk given by Elder Poleman, one that apparently didn’t give the church enough credit so it was edited and rewritten. It was even re-video taped and saved in the record in place of the original. Due to the miracle of modern day information we can look at both. 2

Here is the original(look for part 2 in the sidebar on youtube):

Here is the official tape approved by the church’s ministry of information:

If you’d rather just read the differences in text look here. I personally preferred the original at the time I discovered this, it fit far better with my then view point that religions are primarily constructs of men. But the content wasn’t the thing I had to shelve. It was the deliberate act to mislead people that trusted the leadership as divine. Did God really need his seers and revelators to edit and re-edit his words? And if it was just because they were human and screwed up, then why hide the fact? It was all very disconcerting.

Here’s another gem from this recent conference:

“Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.” -Neil Anderson

The popsicle of the Fridge M. D. Lighted pointed out the deep meaning in this statement. It paints me as a defector. I am a traitor to the cause. The evil apostate that has nothing good to say ever. But why am I painted this way?  Because I showed you the man behind the curtain. In this post above I showed you with video evidence that the leaders of the church are completely willing to pass off an edited copy as the original while never letting on to you they are doing so. I am decried a traitor or defector for telling the truth.

I suppose that next time dear believer when you post a meme degrading the president of the United States for a cappachino salute, that makes you a defector from the US as well then doesn’t it?

Or do you think you are holding the ideals of the nation as a greater standard and judging the leader accordingly? Because if you do think that, then maybe, just maybe if you think about it a while when I say I tell you these upsetting facts of your religion out of a sense of integrity and duty to truth and honesty that I learned from that same religion. You just might begin to understand where I am coming from.

1. Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking,
Hailing a future of freedom and light.
Angels above us are silent notes taking
Of ev’ry action; then do what is right!

[Chorus]
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!

2. Do what is right; the shackles are falling.
Chains of the bondsmen no longer are bright;
Lightened by hope, soon they’ll cease to be galling.
Truth goeth onward; then do what is right!

3. Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.
Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight.
Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless.
Blessings await you in doing what’s right!

  1. Since I made an edit to correct my mistake of improper quoting, I got to thinking, why tell anyone I made the edit, why not just sneak it by like the church did with the talk in this article? I think it boils down to honesty, if you screwed up, admit it and don’t pretend it didn’t happen. This is a tough thing for guys to do that also tell their followers that God will never lead them astray. The very testimony that Elder Anderson is telling them to memorize is like the 6th or 7th revision of the telling of the story and is far more embellished than the original written by his own hand. Why not tell the members to read that one repeatedly?
  2. This seems like such a sneaky move that you would only make if you thought weren’t gonna get caught. I mean if you were a prophet and could see the future and knew someday both versions would be compared wouldn’t you have at least put a disclaimer on the modified one to give the appearance of being honest and open?