Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Polygamy Issue Part 3: The LDS Church's 2013 Statement on Polygamy and My Response Because My Response is Important - Okay, Not Really

The church has planned 13 different statements (I don't know what else to call them so I'll refer to them as statements which is probably wrong) relating to problems within church doctrine that members have discovered since they've been able to investigate for themselves. Thank you internet.

The latest is on polygamy.

Here it is and my comments. Bear with me, it's long. So was polygamy. I am not a scholar nor do I pretend to be one, so forget about jumping back and forth with footnotes. This is a blog, not a college paper. So back up on my statements are on your own time.

For the statement in full you can read it at this website. But to get my brilliant insights you can stick around here.

To clarify, the statement is in italics, my comments are not. And only parts of the statement that I'm addressing is here because anything else is superfluous. See, I stuck a big word in there.

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s standard, except at specific periods when He has declared otherwise.

Ah, no they don't. The footnotes given go to a place in the BOM that condemns polygamy (more on that later) and the Bible has examples of polygamy but no declaration of God saying it's okay although there are lots of examples of dysfunctional families living polygamy. In fact I read all the scriptures last year and I didn't find anything in any of the scriptures (except  D&C 132) which has God commanding polygamy. Even in the D&C there's a part that says one man one wife.

In accordance with a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage—the marriage of one man to two or more women—was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s. 

 The "revelation" is section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants. As far as I know there were no witnesses to Joseph getting this revelation. You would think that something this earth shattering would have witnesses. And he didn't tell anyone about it until after he could no longer deny that he was practicing it.

In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

Yeah, except look at this following paragraph.

 On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years.

So the Manifesto did not end plural marriage in the church. In fact just read it through and see how it actually says that they were not performing plural marriages. Which statement tells the truth? That one, or the current one? It appears that Wilford Woodruff had a little problem with telling the truth.

In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages. Today, any person who practices plural marriage cannot become or remain a member of the Church.

Except in the temple. Men can marry as many women as they want in the temple. Women can't. A woman has to get a sealing removed before she can remarry in the temple. A man can have as many wives sealed to him as he was married to on earth. So if he's like Mickey Rooney who had eight wives or something like that, he can be sealed to all of them. The only exception to a woman being sealed to more than one man is if she's dead and she had several husbands and no one knows which one to seal her to. In that case, they seal her to everyone but she has to choose which one in heaven. Men don't have to make that choice.

This essay primarily addresses plural marriage as practiced by the Latter-day Saints between 1847 and 1890, following their exodus to the U.S. West and before the Manifesto.
Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century. 

Maybe because God didn't.

The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30).

Read Jacob 2. Here I'll give you a moment.

Are you done yet?

This scripture talks about how awful polygamy is and how wrong Solomon and David were and how much it hurts God's daughters and people better stop doing it.

No where does it say "but you guys can do it if you want."

I have no idea how anyone got that out of verse 30. I suppose someone with authority justified his polygamous ways by saying "this is what this means" and because he had authority and was a man everyone said "okay. You must know because you're a man with the priesthood."

But it doesn't actually say that polygamy is okay. You would think it would be as plain as the rest of the scripture that says emphatically that it isn't.

Yet Mormons ignored the plain and simple and forthright and the "don't do that" and put an interesting twist on a scripture that can be interpreted in other ways.

God even warns women not to get involved with married men in verse 28.

I don't know how plainer it can be.

The following is an example which I made up.

"Johnny, your sister came crying to me that you hit her. You can't hit her. It's wrong and it hurts her and it hurts me when you hurt her."

"But Mom..."

"I said you can't do it and I mean it."

"But if you said I could do it, then could I do it?"

"Yes, but I wouldn't say that. I said that you can't."

"But I could if you said I could."

"Yes, but Johnny, I said you can't."

Johnny runs away shouting to his brother, "Hey Marty, Mom said we could hit our sister!"

Plural marriage did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes.

I"m sure there would have been large numbers of children without polygamy. I bet there would have been more. Think about it. Wouldn't ten monogamous couples produce more children than one man trying to impregnate ten women? With a monogamous couple she doesn't have to share him with other women so the chances of getting it pregnant is greater because she's having sex more often.

If producing a large population were the reason for polygamy then why was there only Adam and Eve?  Where were Debby, Kathy and Maggie? And why didn't  Noah and his sons have more wives? Wouldn't populating a world where everyone has died be important?

 It also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in other ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; 

 Well, except for young men who saw the young women married off to old guys. Kind of hard to get one wife when the leaders were grabbing all the young women.

inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households;7 

And then were left to fend for themselves as single mothers. Yes, it's so much more financially stable to be a single mom than to be single and not have children.

and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population.

What? Didn't Brigham Young rail against intermarriage? Even recently, as in very recently the church has said not to mix race. No I don't have a link. You'll have to look it up. It was in a recent young men's manual.

 Plural marriage also helped create and strengthen a sense of cohesion and group identification among Latter-day Saints. Church members came to see themselves as a “peculiar people,”

Of course it did. You have to unite when you're in misery. You have to have people buoy you up and tell you you're doing the right thing. You have to create an us against them mentality to survive when you're doing something that's weird and goes against every other religion in the country you reside in and every other social norm. It's a way to keep yourself separate.

And yes, you do become peculiar.

Besides, no one wants you in their society. You might take one of their daughters. Duh.

 covenant-bound to carry out the commands of God despite outside opposition, willing to endure ostracism for their principles.

Perhaps the opposition happened because the outside world recognized that it was wrong and cared enough about their children to not want them to get caught up in this.

For these early Latter-day Saints, plural marriage was a religious principle that required personal sacrifice. 

No kidding. And my heart goes out to them. Somehow though I don't think that sacrificing for God is supposed to be so nightmarishly painful. Sacrifice is supposed to bring you greater blessings and fill you with something more than what you give up. Giving up a faithful marriage is not a good sacrifice.

 Accounts left by men and women who practiced plural marriage attest to the challenges and difficulties they experienced, such as financial difficulty,

 What happened to the financial stability mentioned earlier in this document?

 interpersonal strife, and some wives’ longing for the sustained companionship of their husbands.

 You mean women wanted to actually have a relationship with their husbands? What a novel idea! And maybe when there's a disagreement she might want more footing rather than him being able to walk away and find comfort in someone else's arms. She will always lose in that situation because he has no reason to work things out.

And what could women who are sharing a man possibly be fighting about? Hmmm.

But accounts also record the love and joy many found within their families.

 I'm sure that mothers loved their children. And I'm sure that women got to the point where they banded together in their misery. And I'm sure that siblings loved each other. And I'm sure that a man would have a favorite wife and she felt more special than the others (although not as special as a woman in a monogamous relationship).

They believed it was a commandment of God at that time and that obedience would bring great blessings to them and their posterity, both on earth and in the life to come. 

Of course they did. They trusted their prophet. Just like the Saints trust their prophet now. LDS people are taught to believe in their prophet and that he will never lead them astray. So if the prophet says it's a commandment, then it's a commandment.

While there was much love, tenderness, and affection within many plural marriages, the practice was generally based more on religious belief than on romantic love.

 You mean like when a teenage girl is told she has to marry a middle-aged man with several wives when she actually is in love with the teenage boy down the street?

 Church leaders taught that participants in plural marriages should seek to develop a generous spirit of unselfishness and the pure love of Christ for everyone involved.

 In other words - Women, shut up and do as your told by your husband.

During the years that plural marriage was publicly taught, all Latter-day Saints were expected to accept the principle as a revelation from God.

 Revelations from God cannot be questioned. We don't want anyone questioning things. That would lead to people thinking. We don't want that.

Not all, however, were expected to live it.

 Kind of hard when there weren't enough women for every man to have a dozen each.

 Indeed, this system of marriage could not have been universal due to the ratio of men to women.


 Church leaders viewed plural marriage as a command to the Church generally, while recognizing that individuals who did not enter the practice could still stand approved of God.

Actually that's not what Brigham taught. He said something about men not going to the celestial kingdom unless he had several wives. You'll have to look this one up on your own.

  Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all.

 Really? This part of D&C 132 relating specifically to plural marriage:

And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and acleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be bdestroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

That was just God joshing around? You mean Emma had a choice? Well I guess accepting what Joseph was doing or getting destroyed is a choice. Not a good choice, but a choice. But from what I understand Emma didn't even know Joseph was doing it for awhile. She never actually chose to enter into polygamy, forced or not. Joseph did that on his own.

And really what kind of choice does a woman have when she's told she'll be destroyed if she doesn't agree to marry Uncle Larry? Especially if she's been raised to believe that's the only way to have a marriage?

That's the part of the scripture that doesn't sound like the Lord at all. It sounds like a power hungry guy using his power and authority to get what he wants and what he wants is women in his bed. Many did it before, and many did it since. Like David Koresh.

In Joseph's case he was smart enough to get men to agree with him so it wasn't just him doing it.

I honestly believe that God loves us more than this and he would never violate free agency by telling someone that if they didn't do something horrible they would be destroyed.

This is religious abuse at it's worst and in this day it would be considered rape. And no, I'm not kidding about that. In fact this whole point makes steam come out of my ears so let's move on.

Some men entered plural marriage because they were asked to do so by Church leaders, while others initiated the process themselves; 

I'm sure they were inspired - by parts of their anatomy.

all were required to obtain the approval of Church leaders before entering a plural marriage.

It makes it easier to convince a young woman or the parents of a young woman to allow the marriage when they can say "the prophet commanded it."

The passage of time shaped the experience of life within plural marriage. Virtually all of those practicing it in the earliest years had to overcome their own prejudice against plural marriage and adjust to life in polygamous families. 

 You mean the prejudice that says "this is wrong." You mean that part of you that tells you when something is wrong. You mean the Holy Ghost, your conscience, your intuition, your gut, your intellect, your traditions, your upbringing, your every fibre of being that tells you something is wrong. They had to overcome that prejudice?

The task of pioneering a semiarid land during the middle decades of the 19th century added to the challenges of families who were learning to practice the principle of plural marriage.

So did the fact that no one knew where their husband was.

 Where the family lived—whether in Salt Lake City, with its multiple social and cultural opportunities, or the rural hinterlands, where such opportunities were fewer in number—made a difference in how plural marriage was experienced. It is therefore difficult to accurately generalize about the experience of all plural marriages.

It's difficult to accurately generalize about the experience of all marriages.

Still, some patterns are discernible, and they correct some myths. Although some leaders had large polygamous families, two-thirds of polygamist men had only two wives at a time.

 Only two? Yes, that makes it so much better. He's only cheating on his first wife with one woman instead of several.

Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women.

Well, I'm glad they recognized that. ESPECIALLY SINCE IT SAYS THAT IN JACOB 2! You know, that scripture that says "DON'T DO IT!"

 Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages; remarriage was also readily available.

 In fact marriages among the early pioneers were pretty much disposable. People were marrying and divorcing and remarrying all over the place. And they say that we're in a bad state of marriage now?

 Women did marry at fairly young ages in the first decade of Utah settlement (age 16 or 17 or, infrequently, younger), which was typical of women living in frontier areas at the time.

 I understand this is not true. I could be wrong.

 Almost all women married, and so did a large percentage of men. 

You mean the men who were allowed to marry? The ones who managed to snag a wife that a married man didn't want?

In fact, it appears that a larger percentage of men in Utah married than elsewhere in the United States at the time. 

Let's do the math. There are 100 men and 200 women. (Random numbers even though it was probably closer to even). If 50 men marry 4 wives each that leaves 50 men without wives. So in the rest of the states more than half the men never married? 

The experience of plural marriage toward the end of the 19th century was substantially different from that of earlier decades. Beginning in 1862, the U.S. government passed laws against the practice of plural marriage. Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization. For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants.

Of course they did. What else were they supposed to do? They had to protect their marriages. They may have fully believed that polygamy was right because that's the only belief they were ever taught. They didn't want to have the stigma of being a mistress and having their children being considered bastards under the law. They didn't want to be condemned by their church. Of course they defended it. There wasn't another option.

After the U.S. Supreme Court found the anti-polygamy laws to be constitutional in 1879, federal officials began prosecuting polygamous husbands and wives during the 1880s. Believing these laws to be unjust, Latter-day Saints engaged in civil disobedience by continuing to practice plural marriage and by attempting to avoid arrest.

A lot of husbands abandoned their wives leaving them without any income. Civil disobedience is not an avoidance of arrest. Civil disobedience often requires an arrest to prove a point.

So with all these priesthood holders in hiding did they give the priesthood to women? Nope. Remember, women don't need the priesthood. (I say this with my eyebrows raised.)

 When convicted, they paid fines and submitted to jail time.

You mean there's a choice not to when you're convicted of a crime?

 To help their husbands avoid prosecution, plural wives often separated into different households or went into hiding under assumed names, particularly when pregnant or after giving birth.

That's right. Hide the women in their shame.

By 1890, when President Woodruff’s Manifesto lifted the command to practice plural marriage, 

 Hold it. A command? Didn't it say earlier in this document that there was a choice?

For many who practiced it, plural marriage was a significant sacrifice. Despite the hardships some experienced, the faithfulness of those who practiced plural marriage continues to benefit the Church in innumerable ways. Through the lineage of these 19th-century Saints have come many Latter-day Saints who have been faithful to their gospel covenants as righteous mothers and fathers, loyal disciples of Jesus Christ, and devoted Church members, leaders, and missionaries. 

 You mean those people wouldn't be faithful if they hadn't been born in polygamous families? Don't we teach that we lived in the pre-existance and we are all meant to come to earth? According to LDS doctrine, these people would have been born anyway and most likely into LDS families. In fact, maybe there would be more LDS people because there wouldn't be the stain of polygamy attached and more people would have joined.

On another point of this, coming from those polygamous families we also have the fundamentalist groups and all the problems that has created. Warren Jeffs for instance and all those young women forced into marriages and those young men thrown out of their families. They trace their history to the same source.

My ears are steaming again.

Although members of the contemporary Church are forbidden to practice plural marriage, modern Latter-day Saints honor and respect these pioneers who gave so much for their faith, families, and community.

They gave far more than they should have and I'm sure the majority of them were righteous people trying to do what God wanted them to.

Yes, we honor them, by pretending that it didn't happen. We honor them by leaving the wives of Brigham and Joseph and John and Wilford and the other prophets out of the church manuals.  We honor them by denying there were so many of them.

I find it hypocritical that a church that is so conservative and has such a strong stance against pre-marital sex, "petting",  masturbation, homosexuality, pornography and even how women dress, still defends adultery, child-rape, sexual abuse, and religious/spiritual abuse and puts it under the title of plural marriage.

I know that's a strong statement. I let it stand.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The List

There is an informal list that as LDS people we are given to do to reach the highest level of exaltation. It's not written down anywhere (well, except where I wrote it) but it is understood.

Here is that list. Read the list.  The List.

Exhausted yet?

Yeah, me too.

LDS people know about grace. They believe in grace. They just don't accept grace.

Other Christian people fully embrace grace because why would you want to do that big long list?

Fully accepting grace means that you don't have to do anything. As long as you accept Jesus then you are saved. You may want to do something but you don't have to. You have no responsibility. After all you are a horrible sinner, there is nothing you can do to deserve grace. It is completely free because Jesus is so good and you are so terrible. You are no better than a serial killer.

LDS people on the other hand are children of God who Heavenly Father loves. But we are also  convinced that we are never good enough and must do everything possible to be accepted by Heavenly Father. He loves us, but He won't let us come to live with Him unless we are perfect. We live in that constant paradox.

So few of us believe we are saved because who can be with that big long list? Sure some will say "you don't have to do everything at once. There are seasons."

True, but have you ever talked to an LDS geneologist? That is the most important thing. This is the season.
To a mother, raising her children is the most important thing. This is the season.
To a home schooler, that is the most important thing. This is the season.
To the ward food hoarder specialist that is the most important thing. This is the season.
And to all of them their most important thing is your most important thing.
Everything is in season.

As for me, I prefer a middle ground.

I don't have to do everything on that list.

That was so freeing to come to that conclusion.

Jesus gave us three things to do.

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. - Luke 10:27

That's it.

1. Love God.
2. Love your neighbor.
3. Love yourself.

Now the things on The List are all good things. But they are merely tools. You don't have to use every tool in your tool box. Some become your favorite tools that you use over and over again. Some you don't even know how to use or ever need to use and sometimes you need a completely different tool that isn't in the toolbox and you have to go out and get it or make it.

I don't believe we can be saved by proclaiming Jesus and then doing nothing or doing evil things.

I don't believe that following a long list of things to do is necessary to be saved.

What I do believe is that we need to follow the path He lays out for us.  Along that path we will have to fight dragons and help people and learn things. Each of us has a different path. As long as we are headed in the right direction, on our path, then He will come to meet us wherever we are.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer

“When Elder Packer interviewed me as a prospective member of Brigham Young University’s faculty in 1976, he explained: ‘I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. I could tell most of the secretaries in the church office building that they are ugly and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting." - Boyd K. Packer, President of the Twelve, apostle in the LDS church to Michael Quinn LDS scholar.

As a woman in the church that quote is offensive in so many ways but mostly because it justifies withholding the truth from the members.

As a member I want to know! I have a right to know! I shouldn't have to go outside the church to know the truth. History is for everyone, not just something for a select few and hidden in vaults somewhere.

And so I have been on a search for truth.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

I don't normally do reviews on this blog. I have a review blog for that. However I thought this one would be best served here.

The LDS church which I officially belong to admonishes it's members,when reading things about the church to only read church sanctioned materials, because there is so much out there that isn't true.

In some ways it makes sense. If you want to learn about dentistry you don't ask a plumber. If you want to learn about Mormonism, you ask a Mormon.

For years I followed this advice because when I did read something from non-Mormons it was mostly false and nothing like my experience.

When I wanted to find out more history about my church, I decided to look a little further than the Mormon sanctioned sites. Because I discovered that the church publications didn't tell the whole truth. My manual about Brigham Young does not talk about his many wives. There's a statue in Temple Square in Salt Lake that shows the love between Emma and Joseph Smith. Nowhere are there statues for the other women that Joseph married and caused Emma so much heartache. The church glosses over the bad stuff.  I found sites that were Mormon friendly but told the whole truth, not just the parts that the church wanted me to know.

Which has sent me on a whole other journey which will be part of this blog although not so much this post.

Jon Krakauer is not a Mormon, nor has he ever been one, however in reading this book and knowing what I know now about the LDS history I find this book balanced even if it is scary.

The main purpose of the book is to tell the hideous but true story of the Laferty brothers who murdered their sister-in-law and her baby girl by slitting their throats. To understand what happened the author found it helpful to link the thought process of the brothers to their religious upbringing and the history behind it.

The Laferty's were ex-communcated from the church before they did their crime. So let's be clear about that. They were not acting for the church in any way.

However, one wonders if somehow the history of the church does have something to do with the craziness of fundamentalists. It's the same history.

And the history is far more brutal than I realized. The author tells about Joseph and his sordid past, about Hauns Mill, about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and about Brigham Young and his stand towards women, blacks, the American government and murder in the name of God.

It's fat and ugly.

Now the author does get some things wrong. He calls Lyman Wight, Lyman Wright (I happen to actually know this since my children are related to him). He tells the story of Elizabeth Smart and makes the mistake of saying that her abductor wore the robes that Elizabeth would have seen in the temple. Elizabeth would not have seen anyone wearing robes in the temple because she wouldn't have been in that part of the temple.

However he does use proven scholarly books written by Mormons for his history. Books that are well respected in the Mormons scholars world.

This book however, is not an attack on the church. It merely attempts to make sense of how two formerly devout and honorable LDS men can become so evil.

Don't read this book if you don't want to know the history of the church or if you want to follow the admonition of President Packer to not know the truth.

As for the quote at the top of this post -

It's like a woman asking her husband where he's been and he answers "I went to the movies," which is the truth. It just leaves out the part about how he went with another woman and later they went to a motel.

I'm sure Packer would approve.