Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

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JohnLocke
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Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by JohnLocke » 16 Dec 2013, 23:28

I'm pretty sure this just came out as the newest "tough gospel topics" essay.

http://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marria ... h?lang=eng

Thoughts?

Here are my initial ones:

Positive:
-It dispells some of the myths within our own culture about it - like that there were way more women than men, or that everyone did it grudgingly, or that it was for all the widows.
-It openly admits polygamy was practiced after the Manifesto. (Wasn't someone ex-ed for writing a book about this??)
-It actually gives some fairly reasonable arguments for why plural marriage helped the LDS community overall, instead of just pulling the "we don't know why" card.

Negative:
-I wish it gave a little more historical context or interpretation for its origins with Joseph Smith and his understanding of it, especially his practice of polyandry. I've never really had a huge issue with polygamy is a general principle. Anyone who gets into the nitty gritty even a little bit, has to admit there is some pretty funky stuff going on with Joseph Smith's specific practice of it, enough to make people question. So either this was a deliberate whitewash or (I sincerely hope) there is a forthcoming essay devoted just to Joseph Smith's understanding and practice of it.

One of the reasons I hold out hope for this is that the title of the article is pretty specific - it seems to just want to zero in on how it was practiced in early Utah, versus how JS practiced it. Also, although some of these essays may not have gone as far as some people have hoped, I REALLY appreciate that there is some serious attempts being made at historical interpretation, and none of these essays so far have resorted to the pitiful "we don't know why or how" line. That's a mark of a good historian.

Ann
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Ann » 17 Dec 2013, 00:36

Very disappointed, but not surprised. Feeling pretty pessimistic right now. They'll probably follow up with a "no one complained" article about JS's polygamy/polyandry and be done with it.
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"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Dec 2013, 01:24

This was part of a historical series that deals with early Utah. It doesn't address directly pre-Utah years, which is why the scope is so limited. The new material is being added as it is completed, so it's not chronological. The earlier years will be added when they are done - and they are more complicated, which probably is why this was was finished first.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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DarkJedi
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by DarkJedi » 17 Dec 2013, 06:12

I do like how it dispels some myths about polygamy. I personally like how it gives some apparently factual demographic information on how widespread the practice was and how it was decreasing over time. I also like how it acknowledges that Wilford Woodruff was "inspired" and there was no apparent visitation of the Lord to end the practice. I am not at all convinced there was a revelation instituting the practice to begin with to begin with, and although it's really outside the scope of the article they do make a point of it and the expectation of belief even though the actual practice wasn't expected of everyone.
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Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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SilentDawning
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2013, 06:24

DarkJedi wrote:I do like how it dispels some myths about polygamy. I personally like how it gives some apparently factual demographic information on how widespread the practice was and how it was decreasing over time. I also like how it acknowledges that Wilford Woodruff was "inspired" and there was no apparent visitation of the Lord to end the practice. I am not at all convinced there was a revelation instituting the practice to begin with to begin with, and although it's really outside the scope of the article they do make a point of it and the expectation of belief even though the actual practice wasn't expected of everyone.
I have always believed Woodruff ended the practice because the government threatened to confiscate the church's lands and property. Money and wealth is big deal to the LDS church as my life's experiences have demonstrated. It was only when the government was about to confiscate their earthly wealth that the "revelation" came. If you read the manifesto, I think that is one of the reasons given for ending the practice (will have to check).

The article is pretty tame in my view. I don't think anyone debates whether plural marriage happened, and the description of what it was like back then doesn't really address the key stumbling block for most people who have a problem with it -- that it occurred in the first place.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by DarkJedi » 17 Dec 2013, 07:19

SilentDawning wrote:
DarkJedi wrote:I do like how it dispels some myths about polygamy. I personally like how it gives some apparently factual demographic information on how widespread the practice was and how it was decreasing over time. I also like how it acknowledges that Wilford Woodruff was "inspired" and there was no apparent visitation of the Lord to end the practice. I am not at all convinced there was a revelation instituting the practice to begin with to begin with, and although it's really outside the scope of the article they do make a point of it and the expectation of belief even though the actual practice wasn't expected of everyone.
I have always believed Woodruff ended the practice because the government threatened to confiscate the church's lands and property. Money and wealth is big deal to the LDS church as my life's experiences have demonstrated. It was only when the government was about to confiscate their earthly wealth that the "revelation" came. If you read the manifesto, I think that is one of the reasons given for ending the practice (will have to check).
I wholeheartedly agree. The ending of the practice was much more political than spiritual. There was indeed that threat of confiscating church property, and Utah wanted to be a state. Yet, I think a poll of most active members would reveal that they believe the manifesto was the result of direct revelation to the prophet in the temple. The introduction to OD1 at LDS.org says it was a revelation, and the notes from Wilford Woodruff in the D&C also state it was a revelation (among many according to Woodruff). Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, but I see revelation and inspiration as different things - perhaps connected at times, but different. I'm not sure this article jives with other church documents.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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SilentDawning
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2013, 07:54

Ray Degraw wrote:This was part of a historical series that deals with early Utah. It doesn't address directly pre-Utah years, which is why the scope is so limited. The new material is being added as it is completed, so it's not chronological. The earlier years will be added when they are done - and they are more complicated, which probably is why this was was finished first.
I can see that the church is trying to address a lot of internet related issues simultaneously here. For example, the church has received heavy criticism on the Internet about its tendency to whitewash history. Further, the church can't whitewash anymore given the reach of the Internet. I think this series addresses these whitewashing concerns to some extent.

Same with the admissions of polyandry and now, the disavowal of the priesthood ban. Perhaps the church is learning its better to be transparent about its history -- and based on the reactions I'm seeing from TBM's and the disaffected on the disavowal, it appears to create a net positive effect or neutral effect on commitment. I am tempted to write a headline that says "LDS Church learns that transparency is the best policy". I wanted to write the headline that says "LDS Church learns that Honesty is the Best Policy" but that is a bit too edgy and implies there was active deception, which I'm not sure if the case. So, transparency is a better word.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by hawkgrrrl » 17 Dec 2013, 08:31

My understanding is that this is part of a series on polygamy, and this is the Part 2. Part 1 isn't ready yet because it is thornier and deals with the JS era where so much was secretive and there are conflicting accounts of what happened. The guys who are working on this stuff are doing it using actual, best available source documents, which is completely unlike correlation's approach for decades. We are going to get the most faithful history we can get, warts and all, but from the church's perspective (therefore believing) while dispelling untenable myths. I do have hope they will do a decent job of it, and it's a mess they've inherited, most of them directly. I still, however, find that nothing anyone can say about polygamy makes it acceptable to me, although I honor the sacrifices of those who felt duty bound to do it.

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Orson
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Orson » 17 Dec 2013, 08:51

Not all members were expected to participate, but the common belief was that the practice was required to reach the highest level of the Celestial kingdom. I think that much should be known. It may even be argued that the concept of "eternal families" only applied to polygamous families - at least according to the interpretation of some members in those days.

I also wish at a minimum they used "most" instead of "some" here:
some wives long[ed] for the sustained companionship of their husbands
I would also argue that their deepest longing was for more than companionship, it was for the emotional security of fidelity in marriage - in other words faithful monogamous marriage.

Of course this is my opinion, but from my perspective a high probability has been demonstrated that more wives than expressed themselves had an intense personal strife and difficulty with the practice. Their religious sense of responsibility kept them from voicing their displeasure, or at least from being recorded speaking it.
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Dec 2013, 12:30

I have always believed Woodruff ended the practice because the government threatened to confiscate the church's lands and property. Money and wealth is big deal to the LDS church . . .


SD, fwiw, I think that exact wording (the second sentence as a motivating factor in the first) is uncharitable in context. If I am threatened with having everything confiscated that supports my life and the lives of my family - and being jailed, so I can't start again in supporting them - and seeing my religion exterminated, "money and wealth" isn't going to the be issue that drives me (especially in a time of general hardship and relative poverty). Continued existence, freedom and not seeing my family starve or face severe deprivation are going to be foremost on my mind.

Of course, polygamy ended for the reason you mention. OD1 says that explicitly. I would have NO problem with it ending for that reason, even if I believed it was God's pure will - and I think even the most ardent traditionalists who remained in the Church accepted that as a justifiable reason. To say it was to retain money and wealth . . .

Let's just say I disagree with that wording as anything close to the primary reason polygamy ended. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it probably wasn't on their minds, as worded, at the time.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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