New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
Post Reply
nibbler
Posts: 4449
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by nibbler » 25 Oct 2014, 09:49

It's understandable that the missionaries don't bring up things like polygamy because polygamy isn't what today's church is about. That said, I think they should be prepared to answer questions should the subject come up. If it's important to the investigator it should be important for the church.

It's also understandable that the church wants to present its best self to the outside world, we're all that way. How many dates do you have to go on with someone before you're comfortable passing gas in their presence? We all pass gas but we probably don't let one rip on the first date. Horrible analogy. :sick:

In some ways the church has made the bed it must lie in. There's so much focus placed on history in church, partly to establish authority, partly to tell faith promoting stories, that the church could live or die based on its history alone. Sometimes the fruits of the gospel centered teachings of the church often take a backseat to the history of the church, and that goes for both the orthodox and disaffected alike.

It would be nice to move on from history. The church could become a place that focuses on making the world a better place by helping people become better versions of themselves. Instead there appears to be a lot of wasted effort related to feeding the church's insecurities about being the authoritative church. If that energy could be refocused...

I suspect we'll get there with time and via those baby steps.

User avatar
hawkgrrrl
Site Admin
Posts: 3532
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 16:27

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by hawkgrrrl » 25 Oct 2014, 10:11

Reading between the lines, the essay says that polygamy is doctrinal, acceptable, kosher when commanded, or however you want to say it. She's not going to believe it, and I expect it will have a severe impact on her attachment to the church, my investment and participation notwithstanding.
This was a huge issue for me as a teen as well, and I have been divested to varying degrees ever since. I certainly can't embrace the idea that women are worth a fraction of a man or that we are eternal baby farms - why give us a brain or ambitions, if so? to torment us? - but on a good day I have always assumed this is how men with no empathy for women see God.

nibbler
Posts: 4449
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by nibbler » 25 Oct 2014, 10:40

The revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, states that Joseph prayed to know why God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice.
It's a shame the answer didn't come back "They were not justified." Especially in the case of David and Solomon. It's also interesting to see how there were bad fruits resulting from the polygamous relationships of the people that he specifically mentioned.

Another possible answer: "It was a different time Joseph."

I suppose that's also an answer for the faithful of our day, that Joseph's was a different time.

User avatar
mom3
Posts: 4077
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by mom3 » 25 Oct 2014, 10:52

guess what I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that the essays don't really help me because my faith in the institution has been undermined and I don't know how to get it back (and I don't think I ever will). And that is a really hard paradigm to work in sometimes...
Count me in. The part that is the hardest is that people I love very much are so connected to the church that anything the church puts out is so good - and the church does no wrong. So even my deepest relationships are divided and I have no wish to cause them unnecessary. I wouldn't wish this growth experience on anyone. I keep wondering when I am 80 years old will I look back and find good in this? Right now I can't imagine it. It's just a slow painful death.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

User avatar
DevilsAdvocate
Posts: 1392
Joined: 19 Feb 2010, 12:56
Location: Utah

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 25 Oct 2014, 14:22

nibbler wrote:It's understandable that the missionaries don't bring up things like polygamy because polygamy isn't what today's church is about. That said, I think they should be prepared to answer questions should the subject come up. If it's important to the investigator it should be important for the church...It's also understandable that the church wants to present its best self to the outside world, we're all that way...In some ways the church has made the bed it must lie in. There's so much focus placed on history in church, partly to establish authority, partly to tell faith promoting stories, that the church could live or die based on its history alone...It would be nice to move on from history...
Even though the Church has already discontinued the practice of polygamy and proclaims that marriage between one man and one woman is the current LDS standard that doesn't mean it isn't a problem anymore at all because it doesn't change the fact that it is still right there in D&C 132 and men can still be sealed to multiple women in the temple if they are widowed for example. More importantly, it is still very relevant to what the Church is still about here and now because of the continued emphasis on the idea that we should obey past and present prophets because they supposedly speak directly for God. Well if some of these prophets also said that God commanded them to practice polygamy, marry women that were still married to other men, young teenagers, etc. then the obvious follow-up question is what kind of unbelievable and frankly unjust trickster god is that and how can the Church realistically expect very many people to believe this?

It is simply too much for most people to accept nowadays and the main reason the Church hasn't been hindered by this embarrassing history even more than it has is because many members haven't been aware of it, paid much attention to it, or worried much about it. But instead of even considering the possibility that JS, BY, and other early Church leaders could have simply been acting on their own without any special approval from God the Church continues to support the claim that God was supposedly directly responsible for this mess. I realize that they are probably not going to abandon some of the trustworthy prophet mythology anytime soon but personally I think the best possible move assuming a relatively conservative TBM perspective would be to move away from depending so much on these questionable claims about prophets/revelation and at least try to make it more about what the Church should be now and in the future rather than where it came from. However, instead of trying to move forward they mostly continue to repeat the same doctrines and policies mostly based on unreasonable trust in fallible men as if all the evidence that this is a bad idea shouldn't change anything.
Last edited by DevilsAdvocate on 26 Oct 2014, 10:04, edited 1 time in total.
"Truth is what works." - William James

Ann
Posts: 2574
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by Ann » 26 Oct 2014, 02:24

Ray DeGraw wrote:
Am I wrong, or are there just two options? Either no one among the influential believes that a polygamy doctrine hurts women and girls, or they believe it does, but proceeded anyway.


Or that some "among the influential" believed that there are quite a number of doctrines that are painful, but that life, to a degree, is about dealing with pain / sacrifice. That general idea was FAR more common back in that time than it is now.

Or that people in the earlier times generally weren't as aware of sexism, particularly with regard to marriage issues, as we are now. I think that is indisputable.

Or that many believed the "restoration of all things" had to include all things they read in the Bible, no matter how painful - and that actually was a common idea back then.

My own take, that I've believed for a long time:

The Restoration is a process, not an event (as President Uchtdorf said recently), and there will be bitter fruit of some kind in the vineyard until the very end that will need to be pruned right up until the very end - and that the bitter fruit is incorrect doctrine, NOT people. It includes people, since people are the ones who teach incorrect doctrine, but I love Jacob 5 specifically because I think it destroys the idea that everything taught in Church is the pure word and will of God.

People do the best they can to understand and live their lives according to the dictates of their own consciences, subject greatly to the prevailing ideas of their times. There was a LOT of stuff in the times of Joseph and Brigham that was radically progressive; there was a lot of stuff that wasn't; there was some stuff that was traditional; there was some stuff that was regressive. I wish that wasn't so, but, as a history teacher, I know it's common to all ages and people.
Sorry, I wasn't clear that I was meaning today's influential, and proceeding with the essay as written.

I like to think we are in process, but the essay boomerangs us back to an event. I think this was a huge missed opportunity to say, or at least imply, many of the things you said. Instead, angel and flaming sword, etc.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"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

Ann
Posts: 2574
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by Ann » 26 Oct 2014, 02:55

nibbler wrote:It's understandable that the missionaries don't bring up things like polygamy because polygamy isn't what today's church is about. That said, I think they should be prepared to answer questions should the subject come up. If it's important to the investigator it should be important for the church.
I really wonder how much help the essay is going to be to missionaries. In my opinion it puts them on a terrible footing if the investigator's question is, "So...do Mormons believe that God could command polygamy again?" It doesn't seem to me that the essay gives room for anything but a yes to that. It's a shame, because I don't think people would be that interested in the good, the bad and the ugly history if we weren't keeping this little pilot light ("God's standard is monogamy, except....") burning. I don't think it will turn people off because they think there's a snowball's chance in hell that a modern, North American-based church would practice polygamy - more like they just won't want to associate with one that says it could, hypothetically.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"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

Ann
Posts: 2574
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by Ann » 26 Oct 2014, 03:22

Heber13 wrote: It's not just you, Ann. This is a subject that rubs me so wrong...I hate it. But looking at the history and accounts we have...it sounds like that was most of the early saints reactions as well. So...to see it being accepted by so many because of spiritual experiences despite their reaction towards it initially...it becomes an interesting topic to me on revelation, and church teachings, and what God asks of His children, or what people interpret from ancient scripture. It's interesting, despite the practice being unacceptable to me.
I think I would find it all much more interesting if the practice had just sort of bubbled up, gained momentum and so on. Then I'd be wondering what made it tick, but as it is, the pressure and coercion that made it all go takes a lot of the intrigue out of it.

I know I'm not alone, but sometimes I complain like I am. :smile:
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"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

Roy
Posts: 6112
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by Roy » 26 Oct 2014, 08:36

Ann wrote:
Heber13 wrote: It's not just you, Ann. This is a subject that rubs me so wrong...I hate it. But looking at the history and accounts we have...it sounds like that was most of the early saints reactions as well. So...to see it being accepted by so many because of spiritual experiences despite their reaction towards it initially...it becomes an interesting topic to me on revelation, and church teachings, and what God asks of His children, or what people interpret from ancient scripture. It's interesting, despite the practice being unacceptable to me.
I think I would find it all much more interesting if the practice had just sort of bubbled up, gained momentum and so on. Then I'd be wondering what made it tick, but as it is, the pressure and coercion that made it all go takes a lot of the intrigue out of it.

I know I'm not alone, but sometimes I complain like I am. :smile:
Dislosure: My world view does not accept the possibility of God commanding polygamy.

How then do I explain the spiritual experiences reported?

1) Spiritual experiences were more common back then. Church members spoke in tongues. People were having visions. Seeing miracles. All of this seems to be much more normal for the time period than it is today. The early church with its restorationist approach was a breeding ground for these types of experiences. Several times JS and others had to identify what was a spiritual experience from God and what was not (IOW Hyrum Page incident and others)

2) I wonder if 100 people put their minds to receiving a spiritual confirming experience, what percentage would be able to report that they had such an experience. In some degree it can be confirmation bias. You search your soul for signs that such and such is from God. You interpret anything found as divine confirmation.

3) Coercion. There seems to have been various levels of coercion used. Some examples that come to mind are as follows: A) Limited time offer. I remember that if one young lady did not consent by a certain time then the opportunity would be forever closed to her (along with her eternal salvation?) B) Angel with the flaming Sword. Consenting to become a plural wife to JS might save HIM from being destroyed by the angel. C) Salvation of entire family riding on this. In some cases the entire family of the plural wife was promised eternal blessings. D) That they were destined for this. Some women apper to have been told that this was arranged in heaven before they were even born and that they already belonged to JS. I'm sure that there are other points of pressure and coercion that I am missing. The power imbalance between any young woman and JS is problematic.

4) Many of the spiritual experience stories were told long after the fact once the saints were in Utah. 1 of the Q12 reported having seen the transfiguration of BY into JS who actually was not present at the meeting in question. I believe that this was reported in order to bloster BY's claim for the presidency. Similarly, there would have been pressure to report initial repugnance but then some sort of divine manifestation that it was correct. If one of the apostles could lie about his whereabouts for the sake of the church, how much easier would it be to misrepresent the feelings and impressions felt years before on an individual's heart. Such reporting would be an act of support and defense for the people and church that one loves and would be very understandable.

The essay itself points this out while making another point.
"They did not discuss their experiences publicly or in writing until after the Latter-day Saints had moved to Utah and Church leaders had publicly acknowledged the practice. The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscences are not always reliable."
This actually bothers me because it seems like the essay is saying this to envelop the whole issue in a fog of mystery and then cherry pick and highlight some "reminiscences" over others.

Suffice it to say that I see significant motive for women that were once plural wives to JS and might now be plural wives to BY or Heber C. to report spiritual confirmation of polygamy.

All of this does not mean that God didn't command polygamy or that God didn't send spiritual confirmations to the participants. It merely expresses that there is at least enough evidence against as there might be for God sanctioned polygamy. I simply see a much more human, fallable, and messy narrative of events.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16808
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: New Essay on Polygamy! (update, a 2nd one posted also)

Post by Curt Sunshine » 26 Oct 2014, 16:31

Just a point of clarification - an important one, IMO:

The Church hadn't denied or hidden polygamy in a LONG time. When we talk about this, at least we can be as factual as we want the Church to be.
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

Post Reply