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 carefully 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 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,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.
- 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 ↩
- 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 ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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.’ ↩
- 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! ↩
I would agree with all you’ve written here except….
I believe you err when you claim “And the only justification that works without destroying the very foundation of the church is it was ok because God said so.” And thus, by implication, God approved of polygamy, authorized child marriages, etc.
Since you can’t worship or follow such a Being, the Church must be false.
There are many other alternatives, however.
The first that comes to mind is that God could require such a sacrifice. (If He can ask Abraham to kill Isaac, He can certainly ask Heber to give his daughter in marriage at 14…and command Joseph to take her to wife.)
The second is that these men got it wrong. Polygamy (on earth, at least) may have been a crock, ordained for a few and demanded of some but never intended for the masses or the many. Perhaps Brigham introduced the practice to the Church, pawned it off as revelation, Joseph embraced it because he had “gazed into heaven for five minutes” and saw there unspeakable things, not lawful for man to utter, and was seduced into believing — by even a false spirit — that such was ordained for some men to perform on earth. Heck! He could have been commanded to do so by God Himself and the whole practice got carried away and corrupted by the devil. When has such not happened? It is, in fact, the way of most every thing in this world.
Joseph can be mistaken about polygamy, even a fallen prophet, and that doesn’t render the Book of Mormon any less true.
The key here is not “we must follow the Brethren” or they must be “true” or the Church is false. No, the key is that we must follow God, give heed to and recognize the voice of His Holy Spirit — “My sheep hear my voice” — and follow that voice wherever and however it leads.
The Church can be entirely false now and the Book of Mormon still true, Joseph’s gift to translate still real, and God can still be speaking to us from the heavens.
I know you’ve lost your faith in the LDS Church and in LDS prophets and, in a way, that’s a very good thing. We shouldn’t be following men or relying on churches. Our God is the Lord!
But you’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. The mistakes of men have lead you astray. You were supposed to have oil in your own lamp. You were supposed to be a prophet yourself! Otherwise you would fall.
You might fall anyway.
It’s not easy being a prophet and standing before God, being held to account for everything you say and do. You will be made a fool of, for Christ’s sake! All your follies and weaknesses will be tested and exposed. Your errors will be magnified. For your sins you will be damned and destroyed. In this life, at least, few (if any) survive the effort. There is one standard: Christ. And no one else meets it (under normal circumstances). Few have been those who endured long enough to become “perfect” in their generation.
Joseph was, indeed, a rough stone rolling. He (and others with him) got many things wrong. The LDS Church has its own phalanx of “deuteronomists” who altered sacred records and church histories to reflect their own beliefs (and disbeliefs). The Spirit is the only thing that can be trusted. Finding, recognizing and following that Spirit — bringing what is true from all sources into agreement — is the challenge.
You didn’t have to lose your faith in God, or even Joseph Smith, to embrace the fullness of truth. A man can be a true prophet and, yet, a fallen one. A book can be true, even if its translator isn’t. God can live, even if those who claim to follow Him and speak on His behalf go astray.
In fact, that is one divine constant. The people of God go astray and make mistakes. It’s what children do. But nobody denies that children eventually grow up and become like their parents.
I wish you the best in your journey.
You realize I go by the term Profet right? And you tell me I am not a Prophet to myself… 🙂 I wish you could see your argument from my perspective. The essence of it is that one guy could have screwed up 100 things and still been right. It is the it might be true therefore it must be true argument. I find that assertion very weak for the following reason. There might be purple space unicorns orbiting neptune ordained by the Fridge to telepathically send you little whispers about what and what isn’t true… That might be true as well. In fact it has exactly the same amount of evidence for reality as the claims you and the church make (not to mention most other religions as well)
You think you are right because it ‘feels’ right to you. Of course if a person says forced teen marriage doesn’t ‘feel’ right, or lies about translation don’t ‘feel’ right. Or even Coolness forbid a Muslim ‘feels’ Allah is the one true God. You readily discount their feelings as wrong. You trust the spirit you ‘feel’ while discounting anyone else’s spiritual feelings that come to a conclusion that doesn’t support your belief.
This is where being honest with yourself is really really hard and really really important if your purpose is to seek out truth. You are quick to assume that that muslim or that apostate is confusing their own feelings with spiritual witnesses, or that they are only seeing what they want to. But the honest question is to ask why are you different? How do you know you are not the one that got it wrong? If that can happen to the person you disagree with and they could have such strong faith from their incorrect beliefs that they would fly a plane into a building because they were sure it was the will of Allah! How do you know you wouldn’t rationalize your beliefs suffering the same delusion just from a different perspective than his?
And for the record, I didn’t lose the faith after discovering the coercion, the polygamy and the historical lies, I didn’t even lose it after I realized the book of Abraham was clearly not the translation of a claimed seer. That and dozens of other things sat on my shelf for years while I did much of the same justification and apologetics on myself. I even felt I had direct spiritual revelation after a week of fasting that condoned all the crappy behavior of the past prophets and leaders as the only way to get things done… But it all say heavily on that shelf of I must be too stupid to understand Gods ways. It was at that time I decided to read the Book of Mormon again, the keystone of the whole deal. The strange thing was that last time through the book, the anachronisms stood out to me, the things that didn’t make sense were glaring where once I didn’t even notice them. I honestly do not think it was possible for me to see them before that point in time, my own confirmation bias was too strong. I couldn’t see past the illusion. That was when my self collapsed. It crumbles overnight once you honestly consider it with the same skepticism you use when you think about Islam or Warren Jeffs.
But I knew I’d had spiritual witnesses, I had to figure out why I could have that and be so confident spiritually in things that were later proven wrong… you see I realized that this had happened to me before. The spirit you are so confident in testified many times to me when Paul H Dunn spoke which he later admitted were lies. An honest man has to realize that in that instance the spirit wasn’t the confirmation of truth I believed it to be. Now I know that you will say next, you will say the spirit testifies of the ‘moral’ of the story, like in a parable. To which I would agree. But that still doesn’t mean it can validate historical fact. All it is good for is letting us know we agree with the premise or we are inspired by the story. You do now what I did then… you were sure that other persons spiritual witness was misunderstood or faulty or any other level of excuse needed to cling to your faith. But when you are honest you realize that you are just as subject to the illusion as I am or the muslim is. Then you see how the trick is done and once you know how the magician pulls off the magic, you can’t not see it.
The Fridge is true, the purple space unicorns tell us so… but only if we are willing to see and hear it 🙂
Preach Fridge Profet! Part of what broke my shelf was realizing that the church was talking like lawyers instead of like prophets.
NO Julia you did not miss it they just never explained it because it was awkward and raises the question of why with no real logical answer as with a lot of church history.
Did I miss the part in the essay where they explain why the church membership was always taught that no one was sealed to Joseph until after his death? And that poem is heartbreaking.
Excellent article.If the church had been honest from the start then I never would have joined.Hell they never mentioned to me the whole story of the blacks and the priesthood till I had joined and then there was no direct conversation just whispering a and no really convincing argument.As always when ever a tough price of doctrine came up it was because “God” basically said so and I was naive enough to believe it.The more I look at any Relgion the more I see hypocrisy lies and deceit to further mans agenda.There is nothing even remotely divine or inspirational about it any shape,form or stretch of imagination
The notion that mid 30s men normally married 14-18 year Olds “all the time”…”back then” was what made me begrudgingly accept that Joseph Smith did it.
You are helpful in pointing out, that it just wasn’t true. 14 year Olds just didn’t marry and it wasn’t the norm. In fact, it’s the age factor that is Secondary… I think… to the more oddball elephant in the room that Helen was to be one of many teen brides in a plural setting Emma was vehemently opposed to, and not at all supporting.
There was no smile on that face nor embracing.
Coupled all with the notion that we are outraged and revolted with LDS Splinter group prophet Warren Jeffs’ teen bride stable to the point that we locked him up never to see freedom again…. but JS gets anthems sung about him to this day (Hail to the prophet) and thus we see quite the fermenting pickle in the jar. Don’t we.
As a father of a 13 year old daughter, I agree completely with your point about preferring to go to hell rather than give my child over to a so called prophet.