Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

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SilentDawning
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2013, 13:55

Ray Degraw wrote:
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.
It was definitely on their minds - and I consider it a key tipping point. If you check the D&C (I just read it), Woodruff mentioned the loss of property and lands over and over again as a major factor (as you metnion). The loss of property, temples was a factor in this, no question. Sure there were other factors, but I have noticed that when temporal concerns conflict with spiritual concerns, the church tends to side with the temporal -- at least, in my experience that's true -- far more than I think is healthy for an organization with a divine commission.

They also let a lot of brethren go to prison for staying true to the plural marriage "doctrine" before they came out with the manifesto. I also think the church defaults to making the members sacrifice as a way of acheiving their own temporal ends far too quickly for my liking.

We can agree to disagree though. I maintain that temporal matters and money are hugely important to the church. More important than I am comfortable with. Take a societal problem, or a trend in society, and punctuate it with a business loss to the church (loss of membership, loss of property, expense to the budget, inability to expand) and you see faster action. Demonstrating commitment to values is a secondary consideration in many of these decisions to the church.

i also recognize I'm driven by my life's experiences when temporal, NOW matters conflict with church values. In my experience, they have sided with the temporal side every time. I tend to see things through that lens.

you can invoke the "seeing through a glass darkly" maxim here...but I simply cannot deny my life's experiences. And I tend to interpret history through those experiences. Money is a big deal to the church. Take a problem and attach money, property, and church temporal interests to it -- it becomes a source of focus for the church. I can quote example, after example, after example.
"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: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Dec 2013, 14:16

I never said losing all the property of the Church wasn't an issue. It was THE central issue, since it would have meant the destruction of the Church itself. OD1 says that, and I understand that.

What I said is that to term their primary concern as preserving "wealth and money" doesn't represent what they were facing. If they could have maintained their property, including the meetinghouses and the temples (which absolutely were NOT money-makers in any way imaginable at the time), and their identity as organized, practicing Mormons, I think they might have continued to resist - even if that meant returning to a state of poverty. After all, they had endured that for decades.

Whether or not Pres. Woodruff received revelation (and I have no problem labeling his experience as revelation, given what that word can mean), they didn't face losing "wealth and money" as their primary issue. The way you worded it makes greed sound like the primary motivating factor, and I simply can't see greed as their primary motivating factor - or, in that situation, as much of a factor at all. They faced losing everything that constituted being a church and an organized religion (and united families) - literally, the elimination of their religion and religious lives in practical terms. At the most basic level, they wanted "The Church" to survive and continue, even if that meant giving up polygamy.

That's all I'm saying.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by SilentDawning » 17 Dec 2013, 14:29

Ray Degraw wrote:I never said losing all the property of the Church wasn't an issue. It was THE central issue, since it would have meant the destruction of the Church itself. OD1 says that, and I understand that.

What I said is that to term their primary concern as preserving "wealth and money" doesn't represent what they were facing. If they could have maintained their property, including the meetinghouses and the temples (which absolutely were NOT money-makers in any way imaginable at the time), and their identity as organized, practicing Mormons, I think they might have continued to resist - even if that meant returning to a state of poverty. After all, they had endured that for decades.

Whether or not Pres. Woodruff received revelation (and I have no problem labeling his experience as revelation, given what that word can mean), they didn't face losing "wealth and money" as their primary issue. The way you worded it makes greed sound like the primary motivating factor, and I simply can't see greed as their primary motivating factor - or, in that situation, as much of a factor at all. They faced losing everything that constituted being a church and an organized religion (and united families) - literally, the elimination of their religion and religious lives in practical terms. At the most basic level, they wanted "The Church" to survive and continue, even if that meant giving up polygamy.

That's all I'm saying.
I wouldn't say, or mean to imply it was greed. first, of all, as far as I know, no one benefits personally from the wealth of the church, although I believe high-ranking leaders probably get a decent standard of living for their full time service. But even that is speculation, and not a motive for greed.

What I am saying is that temporal matters are very important to the church. More important than the spiritual in many cases (in my experience). And more than I am comfortable with.

Small case in point -- as a HPGL I had 200 families to see, and only 14 companionships, of which only a handful were actually functioning. I sent letters to the inactives each month, which our Bishop indicated made a difference. He was fine with sending the letters to get forwarding addressses, stay in touch with the flock, etcetera...provided I paid for it personally.

As soon as I asked him to include money in the budget for it the next year -- it was no longer important to fund letters -- unless I kept doing it out of my own pocket.

And then -- the crowning moment -- the Ward clerk tells me the Bishop runs a surplus on the budget AND SENDS MONEY BACK TO ITS SOURCE (The stake or salt lake) AT THE END OF THE YEAR....[I am not shouting, just giving caps for emphasis]

I realize this is only one experience, but I have seen this tendency to drop spiritual, higher values when there is tension between preserving temporal interests and furthering spiritual ones. They are not greedy, but they are egocentric and more self-preservationist than I think is necessary or inspiring.

I think the hard time the church had surviving in its early days created a very egocentric view of the church, a strong self-preservationist tendency that tips the scales whenever temporal/legal'/and monetary issues are at stake....like the fact we have one sit down meeting that focuses on ONE commandment each year -- Tithing Settlement.

That sticks out like a sore thumb to me. If spiritual matters were really all that important, then why not "Family Home Evening Review" or "Scripture REading progress meetings" or "Personal Prayer Encouragement" meeting. But no -- the only sit down meeting on a single commandment is over money.

Attach a threat to the temporal affairs of the church, and you get action and policy.

I listed these in another thread today in the Bowing to pressure thread. I think they bow to societal pressure a lot faster when their temporal assets are at stake.

There are times I wish I could just start over in the church and miss the personal history that has influenced the way I see the church's decision-making when spiritual and temporal interests conflict.
"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: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Dec 2013, 14:47

Thanks for that clarification, SD. I don't disagree strongly with any of that.

I just wanted to make sure the wording didn't misrepresent what you meant when other people read it. :smile:
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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mackay11
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by mackay11 » 17 Dec 2013, 17:28

I'm glad they keep publishing these. I'm hopeful of where it's headed towards. I was pretty underwhelmed by this article. I thought the other two were much more impressive.

Having said that... after a year or two of studying these things on a weekly basis I'd probably only be impressed if they republished the whole MormonThink website with the negative spin kept in! I'm probably over-saturated in church history to be ready see how big of a step these articles are.

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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by Ann » 17 Dec 2013, 21:21

hawkgrrrl wrote: 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.
I knew this entry was coming and thought I had braced for it. I feel more distance opening up between me and my church. It seems that it will justify to its last breath a practice that is on its face sexist and unfair. I do understand that these are our ancestors, but the article is still strikes me as lawyerly, passive, "scholarly" when it suits ("fertility at the societal level", "the monogamous nuclear family now well-suited to an increasingly mobile and dispersed membership," etc.), and crystal clear about the bottom line: God commanded this and a woman should not view herself as meriting a monogamous relationship with her husband. The watchword is unselfishness, sisters. Can't accept the concept that God could, at any moment, command your husband to open up your marriage to several other women? You must not be very Christlike. To my mind it doesn't matter that the church will never return to polygamy. We've never really left. Girls come to their mothers and the mothers cushion the blow with whatever they do to minimize, rationalize, justify, contextualize and explain. Mine did.
"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

GBSmith
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by GBSmith » 17 Dec 2013, 22:06

Ray Degraw wrote:
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.
I think WW had a revelation of exactly that happening, the destruction of the church. By the time the manifesto was issued all church properties had been confiscated by the government, women who had the franchise lost it and men were disenfranchised as well. He did the right thing and if someone thinks he should have done differently then imagine the church today looking a bit like Colorado City and not all that much bigger.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by DarkJedi » 18 Dec 2013, 03:43

I don't think there's any question on whether or not he did the right thing.
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."

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SilentDawning
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by SilentDawning » 18 Dec 2013, 06:36

DarkJedi wrote:I don't think there's any question on whether or not he did the right thing.

Yes he did the rigth thing. But late. We believe in obeying the laws of the land -- it is one of our core articles of faith. My point is that it took the confiscation of lands and temporal hardship to finally convince him to live up to that article of faith. it shows that the church does bow to outside pressure, and in many respects, is no different than any other temporal organization. Although i agree with Ray that the motive is not greed, I think it's pretty clear that the church is willing to sacrifice widely publicized doctrine and spiritual doctrines when such claims interefere with its temporal success and survival. I also believe the plural marriage thing is another example of the church putting its own success (rapid population growth) ahead of the needs of the women. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to envision your husband sleeping with another woman -- and having your personal character on trial as a christlike or selfless woman at stake if you don't smilingly agree to it. Yes, we have taken the commitment of our members for granted at many points in our history -- often placing their mental and spiritual health a distant second to the church's desire for self-preservation.
"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

GBSmith
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Re: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

Post by GBSmith » 18 Dec 2013, 08:58

SilentDawning wrote:
DarkJedi wrote:I don't think there's any question on whether or not he did the right thing.
I also believe the plural marriage thing is another example of the church putting its own success (rapid population growth) ahead of the needs of the women.
I don't think that the goal of polygamy was rapid population growth and I'm not even sure it was a side benefit/effect and I don't believe it was a conscious decision to sacrifice one for the other. I'm not going to argue that the principle didn't harm women though hearing LDS women's leadership singing it's praises does make you wonder what was going on. The only reading I've ever done is Annie Clark Tanner's autobiography "A Mormon Mother" and seeing the immediate and far reaching effects especially during the late years when people were on the underground shows polygamy as a bad idea that got worse with time.
Last edited by GBSmith on 18 Dec 2013, 18:45, edited 1 time in total.

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