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 statement 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 case 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? 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. 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 up, 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 church 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, 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.