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John Larsen

Joseph F. Smith on Plural Marriage

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Joseph F. Smith was speaking from his personal beliefs here, not from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

And you know this....how???

If he was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he would of told us with the famous "Thus sayith the Lord . . ." preface.

Oh, my dear LDS Guy friend! You need to freshen up on your apologetics 101.

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The real question is what equals a revelation?

Is every opinion of a man revelation?

Let me give a few possible apologetic responses to this:

Apologist:

"Really, this obsession that many seem to have with trying to pick apart any saying of the modern prophets to determine what is doctrine <revelation> and what isn't is unhealthy. My advice is to get over it."

Another apologist giving spiritual evaluation of the questioners:

"People get so hung up on words at GC that don't fit their lifestyle and rather than examine their lives accordingly and see if there is room for repentance or whether they are content in their hearts that they are doing what the Lord wants them for their circumstances, they just start rationalizing it away and criticizing whoever spoke. When this happens I suspect there is some feeling of guilt and maybe those are the people who really need to look at what they are doing."

Another apologist offers.....welllll...you know...:

[questioner] "has a propensity to become bombastic and magnifying his presumed personal directive from God. Calling the church and the Lord's prophets to repentance."

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Do we have any context for the quote?

It's hard to judge words without knowing the context, but so many have been willing to judge these ones without even caring what the context was. It's hard not to see such judgements as springing merely from bias against the mormon religion in general.

If there's cause to denigrate his words, then let's at least do so honestly with as much understanding of them as we can find. I know it's easier to be witty than informed but being informed is so much more becoming.

I'd personally like to understand his quote better and would appreciate some context to it-does anyone have any?

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Joseph F. Smith was speaking from his personal beliefs here, not from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. If he was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he would of told us with the famous "Thus sayith the Lord . . ." preface.

I do not think JFS was speaking from his opinion here. BY said the same thing.

Also, a GC speaker from one of the last conferences said that the word of the lord does not need to be preceded by 'Thus sayith the Lord'. So no, he does not need to use that preface for it to be revelation.

At this point his words would have to be accepted by unanimous decision of the General Authorities as the will of the Lord, and sustained by the Body of Christ to be a revelation.

It is not doctrine you mean. Revelation does not need to be confirmed; doctrine does.

Many vicious detractors like to act like every word out of a prophet's mouth is revelation. This is not biblical or logical, a prophet is still a man or woman, they still have there own opinions and beliefs outside of the revelations they receive from the Lord.

So the answer to your question is, President Smith's revelations are not wrong.

I agree.

This statement he made is wrong, the reason why it can be wrong and none of his revelations be wrong is that this statement is not a revelation!

I politely disagree - he was correct with this statement. Why do you believe he was wrong?

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bluebell, the quote is from this talk: http://en.fairmormon...Discourses/20/4

Here is the entire paragraph:

Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part

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He could have been right on a personal revelation basis, and personal experience basis, but wrong otherwise.

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When I was studying in America, I took an Institute class from Dr Kenneth Godfrey, who asserted that, based on his own research, during the height of the practice of plural marriage, 1/3 of all adult men in the church never married, in large part due to a complete lack of possible companions.

Does it seem reasonable then, given that stat. to interpret the JFS quote as him saying that practicing plural marriage was mandatory to receive exaltation?

Is that a logical arguement to attempt to make?

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Do we have any context for the quote?

It's hard to judge words without knowing the context, but so many have been willing to judge these ones without even caring what the context was. It's hard not to see such judgements as springing merely from bias against the mormon religion in general.

If there's cause to denigrate his words, then let's at least do so honestly with as much understanding of them as we can find. I know it's easier to be witty than informed but being informed is so much more becoming.

I'd personally like to understand his quote better and would appreciate some context to it-does anyone have any?

Just read through the 7 page discourse and I find the excerpt in the OP to be representative of the entire talk. The argument is based on "simple reasoning" that if marriage between a man and woman is exalting, then marriage between a man, a woman, and more women is all the better and qualifies men for even more of an inheritance.

However, the last page has this statement which clarifies to my satisfaction that President Smith had not received revelation on the matter:

If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error and if I am in error I want to be corrected.

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So can a personal revelation and "doctrinal" revelation contradict?

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So can a personal revelation and "doctrinal" revelation contradict?

I read through it pretty quickly but what jumped out was that he said he had worked this line of thinking out through "simple reasoning" and allowed for the possibility that he might be wrong. Sounds like this was his personal opinion or - given that he spent a good bit of two pages explaining Joseph Smith's revulsion to the practice of pural marriage and pinned his opinion to the fact that JS and others had to be threatened into living this principle - perhaps it was something of an apologetic response from the pulpit. :P

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"Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false."

Joseph F. Smith (Prophet, Seer and Revelator)

JD 20:28

Was Smith right or wrong?

This sermon wasn't an easy one. Elder Smith said: "This is just and righteous. If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error, and if I am in error I want to be corrected." (JD 20:31.) He was advancing a principle admitting it wasn't sure about it and it wasn't certain; it could be that he was involved in the controversy of Seymour Young being unwilling to take a plural wife.

Elder Smith further said: "This law is in force upon the inhabitants of Zion, and he that is qualified to obey it cannot neglect or disregard it with impunity." JD 20:31.

The gist of the sermon is that if plural marriage is a commandment, then the worthy saint must become worthy to practice it or he will be found to be disobedient. Elder Smith spent a couple of pages explaining how Joseph Smith entered into the covenant without enthusiasm but was commanded to do it; Elder Smith argues that the brethren of his day were under the same command.

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Isn't it true that at it's 'height' only 15% of LDS men had more than one wife? Isn't it also true that no man could take a plural wife unless he was directed to do so? (I'm honestly asking as i think i remember reading that but i might be remembering wrong).

If those two things were true then it is reasonable to reconsider what JFS meant by his quote, knowing that when he said it, most of the LDS membership had no access to plural marriage.

I'm kind of of the opinion that the reason there weren't that many practicing plural marriage is that in general the membership didn't care for it. I'll have to find the references but there are diaries of men who the leadership wanted to advance as Bishops but wouldn't until they had taken more than one wife and those men were reluctant to do so. The church's version of history may be somewhat different than the reality.

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So can a personal revelation and "doctrinal" revelation contradict?

While it's rare, yes, they can.

Keep in mind that "doctrinal" revelations are general and "personal" revelations are specific. They ordinarily support and re-enforce each other, but circumstances may make following the general impossible for a specific individual. I believe it was Elder Oaks who told the story of his contact with a former soldier who was very concerned that he had killed many people (not true, legal war-time acts are not murder, but that's s different discussion), and that he, Elder Oaks, had made a big point of the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (bad English translation

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Many many of the prophets in the Old Testament lived in polygamy, so why would it be considered something that could never/would never occur or occur again? I can't say that my mind delights in the idea, but that doesn't mean that it isn't truth.

Another way of looking at this issue is that rather than being a "higher law" as put forth by the LDS church, it is a distinct possibility that plural marriage was something that was "winked at" (Acts 17: 30) by the Lord as a cultural institution. Certainly later scriptures in the New Testament (which pertains to the "higher Law of Christ") made clear the Lord's preference for a monogomous marriage relationship.

1 Timothy 3:2

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;..."

Titus 1:5-7

5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in aorder the things that are wanting, and bordain celders in every city, as I had dappointed thee: 6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of ariot or unruly.

7For a abishop must be blameless, as the bsteward of God; not cselfwilled, not soon dangry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

1Timothy 3:12:

12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

One wife seems to be the order set forth in the original church.

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Does it seem reasonable then, given that stat. to interpret the JFS quote as him saying that practicing plural marriage was mandatory to receive exaltation?

Is that a logical arguement to attempt to make?

No, that's not logical... what JFS is trying to say is that by serving more other people, you will receive more happiness from it. That's why I don't think it's wrong =).

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This sermon wasn't an easy one. Elder Smith said: "This is just and righteous. If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error, and if I am in error I want to be corrected." (JD 20:31.) He was advancing a principle admitting it wasn't sure about it and it wasn't certain; it could be that he was involved in the controversy of Seymour Young being unwilling to take a plural wife.

Elder Smith further said: "This law is in force upon the inhabitants of Zion, and he that is qualified to obey it cannot neglect or disregard it with impunity." JD 20:31.

The gist of the sermon is that if plural marriage is a commandment, then the worthy saint must become worthy to practice it or he will be found to be disobedient. Elder Smith spent a couple of pages explaining how Joseph Smith entered into the covenant without enthusiasm but was commanded to do it; Elder Smith argues that the brethren of his day were under the same command.

I think Elder Smith issued the challenge rhetorically, already knowing that no one could refute him doctrinally. Joseph (and later Brigham) had made this issue of such import in order to solidify their own doctrinal stance that it had become a make or break doctrine for the church as well. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the main reason for Emma Smith's staying behind in Nauvoo. She knew what would await her in the Salt Lake valley.

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Excellent question......think about it........

think about it.. he was human.:P

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Just read through the 7 page discourse and I find the excerpt in the OP to be representative of the entire talk. The argument is based on "simple reasoning" that if marriage between a man and woman is exalting, then marriage between a man, a woman, and more women is all the better and qualifies men for even more of an inheritance.

However, the last page has this statement which clarifies to my satisfaction that President Smith had not received revelation on the matter:

That's how i understood the context as well (thanks mapman for helping with that). He seemed very much to be coming from it from the perspective of simple or maybe deductive reasoning and not like he was claiming any revelation on the subject.

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Those are excellent scriptural quotes! If that is the case, then I guess I do not understand how polygamy/plural marriage would fit into the original LDS church. Why would God give two contradicting orders in scripture?

Another way of looking at this issue is that rather than being a "higher law" as put forth by the LDS church, it is a distinct possibility that plural marriage was something that was "winked at" (Acts 17: 30) by the Lord as a cultural institution. Certainly later scriptures in the New Testament (which pertains to the "higher Law of Christ") made clear the Lord's preference for a monogomous marriage relationship.

1 Timothy 3:2

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;..."

Titus 1:5-7

5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in aorder the things that are wanting, and bordain celders in every city, as I had dappointed thee: 6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of ariot or unruly.

7For a abishop must be blameless, as the bsteward of God; not cselfwilled, not soon dangry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

1Timothy 3:12:

12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

One wife seems to be the order set forth in the original church.

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Those are excellent scriptural quotes! If that is the case, then I guess I do not understand how polygamy/plural marriage would fit into the original LDS church. Why would God give two contradicting orders in scripture?

For the same reason that he gave the Old Law to some, and the New Law to others. He gives the things that work best for the people themselves.

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But isn't God's law eternal and unchanging? As far as the New Covenant, Jesus fulfilled the Old with His death from my understanding. I guess that God passing out laws that work best for people sort of feels like it is more of a concept of relative truth, whereas I have always believed in an eternal Truth. Sorry if I am starting to make less sense, starting to get tired :P

For the same reason that he gave the Old Law to some, and the New Law to others. He gives the things that work best for the people themselves.

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Was Smith right or wrong?

He's absolutely right. It's the same way D&C 18:16 is right.

If he's right, then LDS today cannot claim to have access to the "fullness" of the Gospel.

How so? If he's wrong, that would mean the plural marriages are or will be dissolved and that is not the position the Church takes on the issue.

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But isn't God's law eternal and unchanging?

Yes, his celestial law is. But unfortunately, sometimes people don't like living by the celestial... did you ever wonder what was on those set of tablets Moses cracked the first time? It was the full law. He broke them in anger, and instead what was brought down was the ten commandments, because the Israelites would not have kept the higher law.

As far as the New Covenant, Jesus fulfilled the Old with His death from my understanding. I guess that God passing out laws that work best for people sort of feels like it is more of a concept of relative truth, whereas I have always believed in an eternal Truth.

Indeed he did... and I understand what you mean, about it seeming relative. I think God hopes to get all people to live his higher law... that would be the eternal truth you are talking about... but unfortunately, some people will refuse to, and so he has to give them another lesser law. Again, I would show the law of consecration... we were unable to live that law... so it got replace for the time being. Also with Moses and the tablets. The Bible Dictionary has a good explanation on it... it's here if you would like to read it, I can look for more examples if you would like.

Sorry if I am starting to make less sense, starting to get tired :P

You are asking good questions. I do not mind answering them =D. If I am not clear... tell me so I can answer them better =).

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"Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false."

Joseph F. Smith (Prophet, Seer and Revelator)

JD 20:28

Was Smith right or wrong?

Right.

If a people read D&C 132 and say, "We are going to live by the law in this revelation", and then say, "but we will never live any plural marriage", they just contradicted themselves.

D&C 132 requires plural marriage for at least two cases: when the Lord commands it, and when a faithful woman in the covenant loses her husband (verse 44).

To take the position that one will NEVER live it again, one is basically telling the Lord what He can reveal. Or they are telling the Lord that they will not live it if he reveals something against United States law.

But if the Lord's law is based on eternal truth and the pure love of Christ, and US law contradicts it, it does not matter: it is still the Lord's law, and one must live it to obtain the blessings.

I do not accept the FLDS version of living this law, and I am convinced that President Woodruff did wisely in temporarily stopping plural marriages in the United States (but not in Mexico). But until the LDS people claim their right to live plural marriage "when necessary" they have simply cut themselves off from more revelation from the LORD. And under US law today, it would be easy to claim this right if done carefully.

As a aside, here is something from a "Word of the Lord" revelation to President John Taylor concerning Joseph F Smith:

And I will also bless My servant Joseph F. Smith, whose heart and spirit are right before Me, and who is also desirous to fulfill My law;

--April 28, 1883 BJT 7:17

Richard

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