U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

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Ann
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U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by Ann » 04 Jul 2013, 06:51

I imagine that most people now in and out of the church expect changes to U.S. law that will allow for legal polygamy. I don't know anything about "squaretwo.org." I think the author of this article had a piece in the Ensign recently. I am not really moved or convinced by the specific ideas set forth here. My measly opinion is that anything the church does to try to convince those in its membership already disinclined to view polygamy as divine will backfire. I am afraid that the coming legal storm (and who knows, maybe it will somehow pass us over) will be a "test" of members' obedience - i.e., we will be expected to think and speak along the lines laid out in talks like this. If so, I'm in trouble.

I also wonder if anyone has done a decent-sized survey of LDS attitudes towards polygamy. Is a person with polygamous ancestors more likely to consider polygamy a divine command than a person without? People have a deep-seated need to respect their roots. I'd be curious to know how beliefs about this break down by age, too.

http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersP ... ygamy.html

Kody Brown, the telegenic polygamist of Sister Wives fame, reportedly affiliated with the AUB clan of polygamists, is filing suit against the state of Utah for discrimination against his religious conviction that he needs to practice polygamy and have a minimum of three wives to make it to the celestial kingdom. This takes place in a state where the Attorney General has openly declared he will not enforce the law against bigamy/polygamy unless there are other crimes involved, such as child abuse. And, of course, this is not just any old state. This is the state where a religious group, which still dominates the state’s politics, fled in the 1800s precisely in order that they might practice polygamy in defiance of US law. Brown is hoping his case will make it all the way to the US Supreme Court, where he and his lawyer (paid for with Brown’s not-insignificant TV earnings) believe he will prevail under the reasoning of Lawrence, resulting in the legalization of polygamy among consenting adults throughout the United States.

You can’t make this stuff up; it is just too stunning a set of convolutions and ironies. What is more, if same-sex marriage is legalized at the national level, there really does not appear to be any good theoretical argument to support restricting marriage to couples only. There are plenty of good practical arguments against polygamy, many of which were presented during a lengthy trial to the Suprmem Court of British Columbia, which is currently deciding whether Canada will legalize the practice. [1] Canada legalized same-sex marriage some years ago, and that sequencing is likely to repeat itself in the US. [Update November 2011: On Thanksgiving Day, the Court finally issued its ruling, which upholds Canada's ban on polygamy as constitutional. The full decision can be read here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/ ... SC1588.htm . The BYU WomanStats Project provided data that was used in justifying the ban; this is mentioned in sections [613] and [614].)

But to most LDS, the practical arguments against polygamy are almost beside the point. It is the doctrinal issues surrounding polygamy that stir the LDS soul. For example, when the state of Utah passed its own law defining marriage as heterosexual, there was actually considerable debate about whether to define marriage as between “one man and one woman,” or as “a man and a woman,” so the Lord would not be in violation of Utah law just if the practice of polygamy was once again commanded. It says something about the LDS mindset that the second formulation was the one ultimately adopted—it says the mindset is deeply conflicted. Now, let’s make an informed guess that it will take about five years for same-sex marriage to become the law of the land in the US, and another five years for polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, polyamory, etc. to be legalized. That gives our LDS faith community ten years, or even less than ten years, to come to grips with the whole doctrinal mess. Frankly, that may not be enough time, given the visceral and volatile feelings among the LDS about polygamy and the practice of it in the early Church. The sooner we start really reflecting about this, the better.

Some may say, “Not to worry. The prophet will issue a statement when the time comes, and then we will all fall in line because we will know the Lord’s will.” Well, on one level that is exactly right. New revelation is probably the only way our people will get this straight, and we have every hope to receive it in a time of need (9th Article of Faith).

But on another level, the attitude such a statement demonstrates is not the best Latter-day Saints could aspire to do. As Hugh Nibley reportedly said, “God can’t pour a one-gallon revelation into a one-cup mind.” Our religion enjoins us to study out important issues in our minds before asking the Lord (D&C 9:7-8). “Well,” it might be said, “we’re sure the Brethren will be doing just that.” Of course they will, bless them. But that does not relieve the membership of its obligation to do the same. The membership has the same obligation to develop one-gallon minds before that revelation comes—and I think we all know why. If we are not preparing ourselves, our testimonies may falter at that day. How many Mormon splinter groups do we already have on the topic of polygamy? Do we really need more?

Now, no amount of reflection can substitute for revelation given to our leadership. Until the prophet pronounces authoritatively on the issue, all reflection must be only that—reflection. So let’s do some reflecting. Let’s create a vocabulary to discuss these issues. Let’s discuss what might or might not be consistent with what we know to be established Church doctrine, admitting that even Church doctrine has been both pruned and enlarged over time as our understandings have evolved under the guidance of living prophets. Let’s critically examine our assumptions to determine whether some of them might be culturally-based and not doctrinally-based. In other words, let’s do the spiritual equivalent of some warm-up exercises before the big game begins. For it is coming, that big game, no doubt about it, and they who are prepared shall not fear—or fall away.
"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

Canucknuckle

Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by Canucknuckle » 04 Jul 2013, 08:28

Ann wrote:I imagine that most people now in and out of the church expect changes to U.S. law that will allow for legal polygamy.
:eh: Maybe it's because I'm Canadian, but why would this be a forgone conclusion? I have never heard anyone in or out of the church jump to this conclusion. Is this what people are saying in your area? :eh:

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Orson
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by Orson » 04 Jul 2013, 09:06

I honestly don't see it as becoming much of an issue to the general membership. The position is Monogamy is the rule and there is no current need for polygamy - so no worries, no discussion.

This comment did bring a laugh to me:
For example, in the early Church, certain leaders taught that practicing polygamy was a requirement for exaltation.
If we step back in history I think we find EVERY church leader taught it was a requirement for exaltation. Read it in 132, Celestial marriage meant polygamous marriage, that is easily seen through reading old journals, interviews, letters, etc.

...but we have moved on and the meaning has changed.
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by Curt Sunshine » 04 Jul 2013, 09:38

I don't think it's automatic, but I do think there is a good chance it will be legalized, with limits on age and relationship.

I think the VAST majority of LDS members have no interest whatsoever in being involved in polygamy, and I think there would be MAJOR pushback and schism if it was preached as necessary to any degree. If it merely was allowed in areas where it was legal (for example, in areas where polygamous families wanted to join the Church, like Africa or the Middle East), I think there would be far less pushback - as long as a very clear and unambiguous statement was made that it was not tied to exaltation in any way.

Personally, I doubt it will be accepted, even if it becomes legal. I also don't think that "marriage" is the central concern of the church leadership; I think the primary concern is the pressure for "sealing" of all legal marriages and how legalized gay and polygamous marriages might affect the temple wording of the Law of Chastity.
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mackay11
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by mackay11 » 05 Jul 2013, 17:51

(Sorry... long post...)

I've spun this around in my head for a while.

Do I want the church to accept gay marriage? Yes
Do I want the church to accept plural marriage? Umm... no... but...

If plural marriage became legal... would I still want the church to exclude them from the church if they wanted baptism?
Umm...

Am I creating a double standard for myself? Do I presume that the practitioners of plural marriage are in some way depraved? Or mentally ill?

I was having a long conversation about gay marriage a couple of days ago with three other friends from church. Two were in opposition, the other two (including me) were in favour of it.

The argument against repeatedly degenerated into: "Would you make a marriage between a father and daughter or father and son legal?" My answer was consistently "no," because I would presume there was some sort of mental/psychological issue in that relationship and society should legislate to protect potential victims of someone else's crime... but not to legislate against choices for one's own life where there was not a third party victim. I said, on the same token, I would not make coffee/alcohol illegal if I were president for the day (the vocal gay marriage opponent would - he would create law that followed Mormon teaching. I suggested that sounded a little bit like the other guy's plan in the council in heaven).

Where is this post going?

Is at least one participant in a plural marriage practitioners a victim? The first wife persuaded to let her husband take a second? The second wife convinced the relationship is appropriate (or the best she can get)? The man brainwashed by a false prophet that this is the only way to live?

Or... are they 3 (or 4+) grown adults who are not mentally/psychologically ill? Should they have the right to live as they see fit?
Are the multiple wives of African tribal leaders all mentally ill? Or the multiple wives of Islamic migrants in the UK who married in their home country?
Do we reject plural marriage because of our paradigm? Our cultural lense?

If we can't establish there is an unprotected victim (and I'm not sure we can), should we oppose the legalisation of plural marriage? If that happened, how could the church oppose it? We currently don't practice it. But that is not because it is no longer the doctrine of the church. The only reason that Wilford Woodruff gave for ending plural marriage was respecting the law and avoiding the inconvenience of the law being imposed.

When you read Official Declaration 1, and the clarifying talk given by Wilford Woodruff it makes this very clear. The only thing that was "revealed" was WW having a realisation of "exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice."

This is the meat of OD1:
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.
Everything else around it (and the three addresses that were given after) are WW trying to convince the saints that he has not lead the church astray by ending the practice. Obviously a lot of people at the time suggested he was.

The only provision OD1 provides is to end (actually 'pause') plural marriage to avoid the punishment of the law. If the US law is reversed, that condition is revoked. The church has no doctrinal ground to oppose polygamy. It only has doctrinal ground to uphold the law. If it is legalised then there is no doctrinal ground to oppose it. It's not only FLDS who could challenge the law in USA. It's also possible that with the spread of Islam (which permits it doctrinally) that the law could be challenged by migrants or orthodox followers. The UK welfare system acknowledges plural marriages of migrants (only if performed in a country where it is legal) but will not allow plural marriage in UK. It's only a matter of time before someone challenges that who says their human rights are being limited by not being able to practice a cultural/religious value.

The church is also active in countries where polygamy is legal, but won't recognise it.

The church is stuck, especially if plural marriage is legalised in USA. It already practices temple polygamy (a man sealed to an additional wife after the first dies or after the first wife gets a civil divorce but not a temple annulment).

I think we're a long way of the legalisation of polygamy in USA.
I find it frustrating though that US culture/law often dictates and drives the policies of the global church.

For clarity: I don't want the church to have any part in polygamy.
If we are going to have temple sealings to dead/civilly divorced spouses then we should allow it to be 'both ways.'
When we do the work for dead family members we seal a woman to all her husbands (if she has several who died... not sure about dead relatives who divorce and remarry). If the church allowed the same for living widows then it would at least allow for the principle of "we seal everyone together as a principle... we'll let God work it out in the next life."

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cwald
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by cwald » 05 Jul 2013, 22:31

If the church openly or secretly practices polygamy again...Im out. Period. Done. I would become a vocal apostate...and I would cheer for the demise of the corporation. If the church practices polyandy....meh. Fine by me. Who cares?

What is good for the goose, is good for the gander. Or better put...what is good for the gander, is good for the goose.

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On Own Now
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by On Own Now » 06 Jul 2013, 08:27

The LDS Church is finished with Polygamy, polyandry, plural marriage as a practice in this life. Doctrinally, it's easy to defend this position, because of the long-standing answer to why only monogamy was allowed in BofM times: that it is only permitted when God specifically commands it. We are currently in a 'no' time. Culturally, Mormons believe that we are in a permanent 'no' time. In other words, we aren't going back to it except maybe during the Millenium... and unlike our mid-19th-century counterparts, most modern Mormons do not believe that the Millenium is anything we have to be concerned with directly. Pragmatically, any attempt to return to the practice would mean the demise of the Church as we know it. There is a false presumption that frequently arises, that most men would be OK with it. I'm fairly confident that men and women would defect in equally large numbers. Plural Marriage is an embarrassing chapter that even the most faithful wish wasn't a part of our identity. I see zero interest by even the most all-in members, for a return to the practice.

So, no, IMO, legalization of polygamy, in any form, will not result in a renewal of the practice. However, I do think it could force the Church to make a more authoritative statement, finally refuting it in its entirety. I would welcome that. Practice or no, it is still part of our doctrine, crippling our ability to answer charges from our distant past. I want that to end. A situation like the one proposed, would certainly be an opportune time to make that happen.

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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by journeygirl » 06 Jul 2013, 12:09

cwald wrote:If the church openly or secretly practices polygamy again...Im out. Period. Done.
I completely agree. I would leave in a heartbeat. It is such a sore subject for me, even the fact that it was ever allowed. It especially bothers me because of the sexism inherent in it. In the next life if men are married to all the wives they had loved, AND if women are married to all the husbands they loved, then I don't care about that. If it's anything like how they use to teach it, then I think that is evil and I don't believe it is from God. (or if it is, I have serious issues with God!)

Ann
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by Ann » 06 Jul 2013, 12:42

On Own Now wrote:

So, no, IMO, legalization of polygamy, in any form, will not result in a renewal of the practice. However, I do think it could force the Church to make a more authoritative statement, finally refuting it in its entirety. I would welcome that. Practice or no, it is still part of our doctrine, crippling our ability to answer charges from our distant past. I want that to end. A situation like the one proposed, would certainly be an opportune time to make that happen.
I agee a thousand times over. In the OP, I wasn't saying that I think most or even ANY church members are interested in polygamy. I just included the first few paragraphs of the article under the link to the article to show that I'm afraid the church is gearing up for some long, convoluted, scholaraly defenses of it as the possible legal battle appears on the horizon.

I'm afraid that in "a sitution like the one proposed," the church will completely squander an opportunity to refute it entirely. They'll go on and on and on and on about how it's divine when God commands it. D&C 132 is a section of scripture that "the family" should keep locked up in an attic bedroom. And, to some extent, that's what the church has done. Now, I'm afraid we're going to bring it down to the dinner table and expect us to make polite conversation with it. Men, women, not-adultery, men espousing virgins, then desiring to espouse more, virgins given unto men to replenish the earth, women must believe and administer unto men or be destroyed, law of Sarah, etc. There will be kids at the table without much knowledge of crazy section 132 who will have heard most of these phrases before. . . . . in documentaries about Muslim extremists.

Would anyone get up in General Conference, read the entire section, and testify that it was the express will of a loving God?

Anyone associated with the modern practice of polygamy from Joseph Smith through the last hold-outs post-manifesto are human beings like all of us. I don't doubt that many of them thought they were doing the will of God, or that many of them, though crushed by personal disappointment, were willing to be obedient when an authority told them to obey. God sustains people in all kinds of horrible situations. We can repudiate the practice without judging or condemning the people who lived 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

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On Own Now
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Re: U.S. polygamy - looking ahead

Post by On Own Now » 07 Jul 2013, 09:35

Ann wrote:I'm afraid that in "a sitution like the one proposed," the church will completely squander an opportunity to refute it entirely. They'll go on and on and on and on about how it's divine when God commands it.
Yes, I share that concern. Comparing with the Priesthood Ban, when we now say that it was a 'policy' and not a 'doctrine' and that we don't know why it was enforced, but we are glad it is over with now, then we can truly put it behind us. If we instead continue to try to justify it, seed of Cain... Less valiant... etc, etc, then we sound like we are still FOR it. In other words, with Polygamy, I would be significantly more comfortable saying that it was not a doctrine, but something that was once a practice, than to say that we no longer practice it, but it is a doctrine.
Ann wrote:Would anyone get up in General Conference, read the entire section, and testify that it was the express will of a loving God?
Hahaha... well... not nowadays, anyway. And I think that's a great point, because it IS an embarrassing doctrine. Let's purge it instead of closeting it.
Ann wrote:We can repudiate the practice without judging or condemning the people who lived it.
Absolutely.

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