Stepping out of the shadows

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Heber13
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Heber13 » 15 Dec 2014, 12:51

Welcome Holy Cow. Thanks for your introduction.

I don't believe JS was a con-man at all. But I have come to understand that line of thinking. More importantly, I've come to understand how much the truth we perceive relies greatly on our point of view, or experience, and many factors unique and personal to us. I believe there is truth. I believe Joseph was seeking it. I believe a lot of good has come of it.

I'm interested...have you read Rough Stone Rolling? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I liked the approach Bushman took...showing how puzzling early history and JS was. Facinating!

Thanks for coming out of lurk-dom and joining the conversation. I look forward to learning from your posts.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Holy Cow
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Holy Cow » 15 Dec 2014, 15:04

Heber13 wrote: I'm interested...have you read Rough Stone Rolling? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I liked the approach Bushman took...showing how puzzling early history and JS was. Facinating!
Hey Heber, No I haven't read Rough Stone Rolling yet. It's next on my list of books to read. I'm reading In Sacred Loneliness right now, and I'm going to start Rough Stone Rolling next. I have read An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, and found that to be pretty interesting, but with a negative bias. I really liked B.H. Roberts' Studies of the Book of Mormon.
I completely understand what you're saying about Joseph Smith, though. Even after I started to study the church's history, and some of the things that can be a shock at first, I kept telling myself that Joseph Smith could still be a prophet, and he just made a mistake on this issue or that. But after doing that so many times, I finally had to tell myself to stop making excuses for him and just to look at him for what history shows him to be. And obviously, that will be a perspective that will vary for different people. Like you said, it depends on your point of view. And con-man was probably too strong a word for me to use. I believe he really did believe that he was sent by God to lead the church, but I also believe that there were things that didn't come from God, but came from Joseph's own creation, like the Book of Mormon, temple ceremonies, polygamy, most of the D&C and Pearl of Great Price. But, my wife completely accepts him as a prophet, and accepts everything he ever did and said, and I think that's just fine. I know that what I believe (and don't believe) can be very different than what other's believe, and I don't try to push my own skepticism on anybody.
Thanks for the welcome!
My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6139

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Heber13
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Heber13 » 15 Dec 2014, 15:33

Great response!!

I really liked this part:
Holy Cow wrote:I kept telling myself that Joseph Smith could still be a prophet, and he just made a mistake on this issue or that. But after doing that so many times, I finally had to tell myself to stop making excuses for him and just to look at him for what history shows him to be.
I totally agree with you. It almost seems there is a legend of Joseph that he walked 10 feet above the earth, he was so holy. And yet...while I can understand reverence for a prophet...it seems better for us to really cast him like he is in reality, not as if he was greater than he really was.

Like the old saying goes:
Catholics claim the pope is infallible, but catholics don't really believe it. Mormons claim prophets are fallible, but mormons don't really believe it.
I have found it much better for me to learn the facts and accept him as he is, not prop him up, but adjust my view of what prophets are, and accept what they are not. It has helped me find deeper meaning and actually, have greater appreciation for what they've accomplished.

You seem to fit in well with this group.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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SilentDawning
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2014, 09:38

I have been reading Rough Stone Rolling. It's created another cycle of evolution for my relationship with the church.

The parts that have me most confused are his relationship with Fanny Alger who was somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age. It was classic adultery in my view. She was helping out at the Smith home, was attractive and had a nice personality. Historical records indicate that she was well-liked by just about all men. Joseph was probably attracted to her. Emma found Joseph and Fanny "in the barn" and things erupted. Oliver Cowdrey called it a dirty, nasty business, and Joseph never denied a "relationship" -- but claimed it wasn't adultery because they were married -- not legally, but in a religious ceremony. Eventually Emma turfed her out...Fanny didn't follow the saints or the LDS movement, moved out of state, got married, and had at least 8 kids. She was tight lipped and refused to talk about Joseph Smith in later years.

I believe this was the genesis of plural marriage here. The same thing Charlie Chaplin apparently did (according to my wife, I haven't verified this)-- he really liked young girls and married them rather than be charged with crime. Joseph Smith was extremely handsome and charismatic, and I think he really did believe he was a prophet. Also, even when he was young, he seemed to have an ability to convince people he had some kind of supernatural ties -- belief that transformed into faith. This laid the foundation for the believability of plural marriage as a doctrinal point in Mormonism. After Joseph, I think the practice caught hold for a number of reasons. First, it certainly provides variety to men in a plural relationship. I can see men in tolerable, but unhappy relationships welcoming the idea. It provides diversity of skills in raising large family and most important, it fuels internal growth in the church due to the increased birth rate. The survival of the church was hugely important in our history, and I see plural marriage as a supportive practice for internal growth -- a nice complement to the missionary effort and consistent with organizational ego centrism.

Given my own history, I find it rather disheartening, and perhaps even unbelievable that God would work through a man who used doctrine to justify libido. I hate to say this, but the thought occurred to me several times -- in the Elizabeth Smart case, isn't this what her kidnapper did? Took this underage girl and married her in a non-legal, religious ceremony, and then had a physical relationship? I would think that God would have higher standards in a prophet than this -- particularly given His foreknowledge.

Yet people seem to believe in the restoration nonetheless. I have trouble accepting that Joseph smith made these mistakes, but was a valid prophet anyway.

Much confusion...

And then there is this -- testimony. Yes -- I have felt the spirit. Yes, there have been times when I have not been "worthy" of a temple recommend and things weren't right in my life from a church perspective. During those times, I spoke and taught in church. During the throes of a period like this, one Bishop told me "I'm not worried about you, because I always feel the Spirit when you speak". One person told me years ago I have "a gift" for creating a spiritual atmosphere when i talk. I know what i do -- I look for elements of any situation that are touching --that show self-sacrifice, that build faith that someone is watching over us, and use the 7 ways of inviting the Spirit Gene R. Cooke taught me on my mission. I use carefully crafted phrases when its time to bring the talk or lesson to a critical point, and I use confidence.

Is it possible Joseph Smith had a much amplified gift like this? And that gave him the ability to persuade others, and lead a movement, in spite of lacking the sexual purity God apparently requires of us to have access to his power? And this gift gave him the believability necessary to cover his appetite for women in a way that preserved his standing as a prophet? These are the questions running through my mind right now.

Someone once said "it's easy to believe in a dead prophet, and hard to believe in a living prophet". I would argue that given the general memberships' willingness to believe in JS in spite of this history above, this maxim is true:

"it's easy to forgive the misdeeds of a historical prophet, and hard to forgive the sins of a current prophet"...can you imagine how the church would bleed members if current prophets had engaged in the sexual practices Joseph Smith did?
"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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LookingHard
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by LookingHard » 17 Dec 2014, 09:53

Reminds me of a comment I saw on a blog. It was something along the lines of, "Most members can handle the prophet not being perfect, but not THAT imperfect."

I was intentionally trying to work through several other issues with my FC before I dove into polygamy, but then all the essays came out the blogernacle exploded on the subject. I still don't think I have reached my final stance and have more study to do. but my take at the moment is that I am not going to tell God that polygamy is wrong, but I am also not being told that I have to accept it or even state that I thought it was OK. Nowhere in any temple recommend interview do I have to even say that I think polygamy was ever OK (in fact it hints if I sympathize or support any polygamous group my recommend status is in question). So my stance now is that even if there are some situations it might be OK, I think the way it was implemented in the LDS church makes me sick.

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Heber13
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Heber13 » 17 Dec 2014, 10:17

What I like about RSR is that the facts that seem to be available to a historian are presented in what seems to be an honest and fair way. Bushman does not seem to take a position, but lays out what seems to have happened.

SD...I know you're not saying Joseph Smith was like the deranged madman Brian David Mitchell, who dragged Elizabeth by force and subjected her to 9 months of hell. There is just zero comparison between Fanny Alger and Elizabeth Smart.

I can understand people wondering if Joseph was justifying carnal urges in a deceitful way...it's one possible position. But reading RSR doesn't give me the impression that is what Joseph was doing when put into context of other things Joseph was doing, nor did the facts make Bushman lose his faith.

Perhaps Holy Cow can share what he thought when he gets around to reading it. I just liked how Bushman presented things, and left the reader to make up his/her own mind on what it says about Joseph. It helped me see Joseph as much more human, and that prophets work things out as they go (which is not always clean and neat).
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

nibbler
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by nibbler » 17 Dec 2014, 10:50

I had a slightly different take on RSR, but I've still got about 50 or so more pages to go before I'm finished reading it. Subject for another thread I guess.

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Holy Cow
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Holy Cow » 17 Dec 2014, 12:19

SD, it sounds like I'm in the same place with Joseph Smith as you are. Like, LookingHard said, I kind of put off researching polygamy in the beginning as well. My search started with temples. I began reading everything I could find about ancient Hebrew symbolism, ancient rites and rituals, and what happened in the temples at the time of Christ. When my research eventually turned to Joseph Smith and the history of the church, I still tried to keep it focused on temples. But once you start looking at Joseph Smith's life and church history, polygamy quickly becomes the proverbial elephant in the room that you're going to have to acknowledge eventually. Without having read RSR, I can't comment on that yet. But, one of my favorites has been "Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power." I'm sure most of you have read it already, but for any who haven't, this book is almost 700 pages and literally half of the book is the Notes and References. Very well researched and very thorough! And it's only the first book in a two-part series!
Anyway, I tend to see Joseph's polygamy similar to SilentDawning. It seems like it started out as an excuse for his relationship with Fanny Alger, and then with other women. But, I think as time went on, it became more than that. With the dynastic-type marriages, it seems like he started using it to increase his position of power. Being the leader of the church wasn't enough for him. He wanted people to adore him and worship him. In "In Sacred Loneliness," I've enjoyed learning about the lives of his wives, but in every chapter, the most uncomfortable part is where Joseph comes to the girl, or a member of her family, telling them that if they don't marry him they'll be responsible for the destruction of their family, their prophet, the church, or whatever else. And if they do marry him, then they'll guarantee the salvation of their entire family. Oh, and don't forget that angel with the flaming sword... The emotional strong-arm tactics that he used on these women absolutely disgusts me! And I think it was about more than just his carnal desires. It may have started out as that with Fanny Alger, but it became more than that as time went on. Like when he approached Heber C Kimball and told him that the Lord was requiring Heber to give Joseph his wife, Vilate. This broke Heber's heart and caused a significant emotional tug-of-war inside of Heber's head. Can you imagine the stress you'd go through if the prophet came to you and said that the Lord spoke to him and told him that you must give him your wife?! Anyway, when Heber finally felt like a broken man, and brought his wife to Joseph to deliver her up, Joseph told him it was just a test. And then compared it to Abraham offering his wife, Sarah, to the pharaoh. That's not much of a comparison, but I really believe that by this point Joseph really did see himself as equal, if not higher than, the pharaoh. He liked being in that position of having everybody obey him, and I personally believe that most of the things he started to implement by the time they were in Nauvoo were all about power. I can't help feeling that he got some twisted pleasure out of knowing that Heber and his wife, Vilate, were going through this agony, and then to finally watch Heber come and offer him his wife. Then, instead of taking Heber's wife, he settled for his 14 year old daughter, Helen Mar Kimball. As if that's any better. It makes me sick to think about what he put people through, and I can't find any reason the Lord would ever ask a prophet to do things like that. Brigham Young just picked up right where Joseph left off with the lust for power.
And that's just the polygamy topic. Then there are all of the other things that Joseph started to increase his power and authority: Council of 50, the Danites, sending men on missions whenever and wherever he wanted (sometimes opening up an opportunity for him to marry their wives while they were gone), Quorum of the Anointed, 2nd Anointings, the Nauvoo Legion (with himself as the Lieutenant General, of course), running for President of the United States, requiring the church members to build him a house, and then I believe (personal opinion here) that he started the temple ordinances as one more way to tie people to the church and to hang their eternal state (and the eternal salvation of their entire family) on the temple ceremonies.
Okay, sorry about the rant! I'm out of hot air for now. ;)
My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6139

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SilentDawning
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2014, 12:24

'
SD...I know you're not saying Joseph Smith was like the deranged madman Brian David Mitchell, who dragged Elizabeth by force and subjected her to 9 months of hell. There is just zero comparison between Fanny Alger and Elizabeth Smart.
I know I was taking a risk when I said that. Joseph wasn't deranged like Brian Mitchell. But the thought occurred to me repeatedly when I read about Fanny Alger, my wife shared Charlie Chaplin's approach of marrying young, attractive women for a short period of time, and how being married seems to justify the satisfaction of urges that would otherwise be considered adulterous. I reminded me of the problem Utah priesthood leaders had with young adults "eloping" to Las Vegas, getting married, having as much sex as they wanted, and then getting divorced that weekend. It seems this pattern has been used to satisfy lustful desires and keep people believing they are acting within the bounds of propriety, when in fact, it's all about personal, physical satisfaction.
I can understand people wondering if Joseph was justifying carnal urges in a deceitful way...it's one possible position. But reading RSR doesn't give me the impression that is what Joseph was doing when put into context of other things Joseph was doing, nor did the facts make Bushman lose his faith.
I went looking for different sources, and one source indicated JS married a lot of teenagers in the beginning. But Bushman indicates Fanny was the only one who was that young. I don't think it helps the JS case if there were a ton of 14 to 17 year olds in it. My wife was 18 when I met her, and 19 when I married her. I got a number of raised eyebrows because I was 28 at the time....if there were a lot of them in that age group, I would really wonder even more.
Last edited by SilentDawning on 17 Dec 2014, 12:29, edited 1 time in total.
"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

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Stepping out of the shadows

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Dec 2014, 12:28

Just for precision:

There were 4 young teenagers. There also were 4 women in their 50s, if my memory is correct. The average age was around 28-32, which actually is significantly higher than the average for that time.

That doesn't prove a thing about motivation or revelation or anything else - but it does refute the idea that he was a pedophile out to have sex with as many young girls as possible.
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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