Law of Sarah

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gospeltangents
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Law of Sarah

Post by gospeltangents » 22 Nov 2017, 23:44

I know many people have expressed discomfort with the Law of Sarah, which was recently mentioned in the Gospel Topics essay. I interviewed polygamist Anne Wilde about the Law of Sarah, and I did not know that was an ordinance. Did you know that it was part of a sealing ceremony? I tried to press her on the issue about the idea that if a man is exempt from the Law of Sarah, what's the point?
GT: I’m going to try my best to channel my LDS woman here, but they’re going to say, “Well look. You’re telling me—to me the Law of Sarah, if a man can be exempt from the Law of Sarah, what’s the point having a “Law of Sarah?” It’s more of an idea. It’s ideal.

Anne: No, it’s an ordinance. In fact during the marriage ceremony she is supposed to put the hand of the future wife, the prospective wife into the hand of her husband. That’s part of the ceremony. But if she doesn’t go along with it and is not going to be there, he’s exempt from that.
It was interesting to hear that it is an actual ceremony. Were you aware of that?

I also asked Anne about concubines being justified in D&C 132. It seems to me that they are often sex slaves, captured gentile women who often were idol worshipers in the Old Testament. Why would God justify this practice? Anne seemed to think these were essentially time-only marriages, not eternal marriages, and that God allowed them as a cultural practice, not a religious one. But when I read D&C 132, I don't get that. It is about the New & Everlasting Covenant, so time-only marriages to concubines, non-believers, seems an anathema to me. I realized that in some ways, polygamy is really about disposable marriages in addition to eternal ones. Thoughts?

See here for more info: https://gospeltangents.com/2017/11/22/a ... law-sarah/

(For those unfamiliar with Anne Wilde, she was the 2nd polygamist wife of Ogden Kraut, and is an expert on modern day polygamy. Our interviews covered many polygamist groups.)
See my latest interviews on Mormon History, Science & Theology at www.gospeltangents.com

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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 23 Nov 2017, 14:21

I see it as a mortal justification. Period.

[Admin Note]: This is a highly emotional topic. I don't know if there is anywhere constructive it can go, but I simply want to remind everyone to be careful and considerate.
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.

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SamBee
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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by SamBee » 23 Nov 2017, 14:52

Cultures that have practised polygamy traditionally have often had two issues:

* Substantial deaths of males, particularly in wars etc (certainly for early Islam)
* Large numbers of deaths in childbirth and/or high infant mortality.

The first leads to an unequal ratio of men to women, and the second means that women often have short lives.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
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dande48
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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by dande48 » 24 Nov 2017, 01:13

Going along with SamBee's thoughts, I think polygamy/concubines are almost the natural order of smaller, more isolated populations. In large groups, there's a fairly uniform distribution of men and women, and if a few die in one way or another, it's not going to mean the end of the community. There's always another mate out there, and no one wants to share. In smaller groups (early Islam, Judaism, and even Mormonism), letting a womb go "unoccupied", could mean the end of a group. Not to mention, deviation from the 50-50 gender distribution is much more common. If there are more men than women, the excess are seen as a "menace to society"; they have no wives and no children to invest in. If there are more women, they must reproduce to ensure the survival of the group.

Let's say, for example, you have a group of 10 people, where each person has a 50-50 chance of being male or female. Under those conditions, there is only a 24.6% chance of having 5 men and 5 women. If there were 4 men and 6 women I can almost garauntee if you stuck them together on a deserted island, you'll have polygammy. Conversely, if had 6 men and 4 women on the deserted island, at least two of those men is going to wind up dead pretty quickly. As the number of people grows, the chance of a 50-50 gender split drops drastically, but the chance of a 50-50 split also grows (albiet slower). When you're in that special range, where there is not going to be an equal paring of men and women, where you run into polygamy, or polygammy-like situations.

With the limited population in early mormonism, I think this was clearly the case. Excess men were chased off. Excess women (including barely pubescent girls), were quickly taken. As for the concubines, not sealed for eternity, the main difference was recoginizing the practicality of polygammy on earth (small population) might not always be ideal in heaven (large population).

I think that's the premise behind "raising up seed unto the Lord". If the end goal was to raise up a large population absolutely commited to mormonism, polygammy did the trick. What I wonder is, would the Saints have been kicked from Missouri and Navoo if they hadn't practiced polygammy? Would they have died out, like Ann Lee's followers, without Polygammy and the subsequent isolation, or would they have still become a leading denomination?
Last edited by dande48 on 24 Nov 2017, 10:58, edited 1 time in total.
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SamBee
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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by SamBee » 24 Nov 2017, 15:34

In the FLDS you have the Lost Boys who are the excess.

In early Mormonism, you had a lot of men sent away on very long missions, some who died crossing the plains or even massacres. In a remote farming community, men can die off quite quickly.

The modern FLDS lives in a bit of a different environment... ironically in our own version of the LDS, we have more women than men, naturally, so it would almost work better than in theirs in which the excess males get expelled! (Assuming the women accepted polygyny)

Polyandry is almost unheard of in Mormonism though.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by Roy » 26 Nov 2017, 12:44

I believe that God may have given JS a spark or a push to begin his prophetic mission. Also related to this I believe God may have given JS his gift for seership (seeing what others do not). I do not believe that JS was regularly receiving information from God in a supernatural manner. This opinion colors my answer.

Because I do not believe there is a perfect or divine order or organization to be restored, it appears that JS was growing the church organization, procedures, and doctrines pretty organically as the need arose or as his ponderings prompted him. Similar to the US Justice system, it was based on the work and examples of justice systems that had come before. Far from being an exact copy, several improvements or innovations were made by the founding fathers right at the beginning. Other growths grew up naturally over time. I see the church as being similar to this.
gospeltangents wrote:
22 Nov 2017, 23:44
Why would God justify this practice? ...[snip]... It is about the New & Everlasting Covenant, so time-only marriages to concubines, non-believers, seems an anathema to me. I realized that in some ways, polygamy is really about disposable marriages in addition to eternal ones. Thoughts?
I do not believe that JS intended to restore concubines. I believe that it was part of the culture and practice that JS was borrowing from and it made it onto the page strictly on that merit alone. Perhaps a comparison might be early US post colonial judges wearing white wigs for a time. It served no purpose but was part of the culture and practice that the founding fathers were largely borrowing from. I believe it is similar to that.
gospeltangents wrote:
22 Nov 2017, 23:44
It was interesting to hear that it is an actual ceremony. Were you aware of that?
I was not, although it does not surprise me. I did know that Emma is described as placing the hands of a few (2, I believe) young women into the hand of JS during her brief period of struggling acceptance of polygamy.

Also, I know that the "Law of Adoption" was also an ordinance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_ad ... Mormonism)

It seems to me that JS may have added some number of ordinances to the traditional Christian baptism, laying on of hands for HG/Priesthood, and the Sacrament.

There is the washing and anointing for initiatory and for administering to the woman near childbirth, the endowment, the prayer circle, the sealing, the washing of feet, the second endowment, the hosanna shout, the blessing of homes and graves. I understand that resurrection is supposed to be an ordinance. Was there any ordinance associated with the council of 50? Why not the law of Sarah and the law of Adoption.

Several of these ordinances have been reduced, phased out, or discontinued. I am not aware of any ordinance being repudiated as invalid. When WW stopped the practice of "law of Adoption" he said:
"I have not felt satisfied, nor has any man since the Prophet Joseph Smith who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt there was more to be revealed on this subject than we have received … and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is let every man be adopted to his father."
Wikipedia describes this as "Placed in abeyance" as though every it and the law of Sarah are perhaps sitting together in a metaphorical closet somewhere collecting dust until they can spring forward once more. Perhaps when the church or nation is righteous enough to receive them in their fullness. Perhaps on the eve of the millennial reign. Who can say?

To reiterate my personal opinion. JS added many ordinances. Some of those ran into dead ends rather quickly and were discontinued/discarded. Some others took longer meandering paths before slowing to a trickle or silently stopping altogether. The ordinances associated with polygamy and the new and everlasting covenant of marriage were later rechanneled and repurposed into the monogamous temple sealings that we have today. The Law of Sarah ordinance appears to be a casualty of this rechanneling. Some others of those new ordinances remain with us today in more or less the same form as when JS created them.
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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by gospeltangents » 26 Nov 2017, 18:54

I don't know what to make of concubines, but clearly it was in D&C 132:1
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines
verse 37
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
But according to Anne, these likely time-only sealings? That's not what I read in verse 37. Abraham was righteous.

verse 38-39
David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power
But like I said, if these were Baal-worshiping concubines, and likely they were or some other idol-worshipers, it sounds like these are God approved. It doesn't make sense to me.
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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 27 Nov 2017, 20:44

The D&C, just like every other part of our standard works, isn't completely of divine origin.

It is that simple to me.
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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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by Shawn » 18 Dec 2017, 14:26

dande48 wrote: When you're in that special range, where there is not going to be an equal paring of men and women, where you run into polygamy, or polygammy-like situations.

With the limited population in early mormonism, I think this was clearly the case. Excess men were chased off. Excess women (including barely pubescent girls), were quickly taken.
I’m pretty sure Utah census data don’t support the idea that there was a shortage of men.
dande48 wrote: I think that's the premise behind "raising up seed unto the Lord". If the end goal was to raise up a large population absolutely commited to mormonism, polygammy did the trick.
Jacob 2:25 indicates God had been raising up seed without polygamy since the time He led Lehi out of Jerusalem. Adam and Eve were sufficient alone when commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. Noah and his sons were likewise commanded and they each had only one wife. I don’t know of a single instance in the scriptures (excluding D&C 132) of the Lord instituting polygamy to raise up seed. Also, I don’t believe polygamy necessarily increases the rate of childbirth. Brigham Young had 55 children by about 29 wives and it seems that many women could have had more children if each had her own husband.
dande48 wrote: What I wonder is, would the Saints have been kicked from Missouri and Navoo if they hadn't practiced polygammy?
It’s quite possible that the Saints would have stayed in Nauvoo if they hadn't practiced polygamy. It was the cause of a lot of strife and led to the burning of the Nauvoo Expositor which led Joseph to Carthage.

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Re: Law of Sarah

Post by Shawn » 18 Dec 2017, 14:37

Roy wrote: I did know that Emma is described as placing the hands of a few (2, I believe) young women into the hand of JS during her brief period of struggling acceptance of polygamy.
This is an interesting story. Richard L. Bushman wrote:
Richard L. Bushman wrote:While Joseph was alive, there were times when Emma countenanced plural marriage. In May 1843 she approved two wives, Eliza and Emily Partridge, daughters of Edward Partridge and helpers in the Smith household. The sisters were an awkward selection because Joseph had already married them two months earlier in March without Emma’s knowledge. When Joseph proposed, Emily and Eliza, nineteen and twenty-three, went through the usual turmoil. At first they turned Joseph down, but by the time he told Emily that “the Lord had commanded him to enter into plural marriage and had given me to him,” she was prepared. They married on March 4, 1843.... Eliza Partridge married him four days later. In May, they both went through the ceremony again with Emma present. (Rough Stone Rolling, ch. 27, “Emma and Joseph”)
And Emily wrote about what Emma did afterwards:
Emily Partridge wrote:[After the ceremony] she wanted us immediately divorced, and she seemed to think that she only had to say the word, and it was done. But we thought different. We looked upon the covenants we had made as sacred. She afterwards gave Sarah and Maria Lawrence to him, and they lived in the house as his wives. I knew this; but my sister and I were cast off. (link)
It’s really sad. Poor Emma was trying to go along with Joseph and just couldn’t do it, and then Emily and Eliza got the boot.

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