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Wrestling With Polyandry


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Hi All,

Most of you are aware of Brian Hales's new books on Joseph Smith and polygamy.

Brian documents Joseph Smith's polygamy in some detail, including Joseph's several sealings to women legally married to other men. Brian marshals evidence that these marriages, while "ceremonially polyandrous," were not sexually polyandrous: a wife was not having sexual relations with more than one husband during the same time period. In other words, she effectively went from being one man's wife to being another man's wife, rather than having two true husbands at the same time.

Brian finds none of the evidence for sexual polyandry incontrovertible or persuasive, and presents evidence against it (e.g., D&C 132's apparent condemnation of multiple husbands).

Not everyone is convinced by his arguments, and this is perhaps the primary basis on which some have dismissed him as an apologist.

As Brian's primary researcher and good friend, I helped craft some of the arguments he presents on this subject, and I think the case he can present on this is quite substantive.

But given that not everyone is persuaded by these arguments, and given that we never know what could pop up in further sources, I wonder how other believing Latter-day Saints might react if they became convinced some of Joseph's marriages were sexually polyandrous.

Suppose hypothetically that a source were to turn up which established Joseph's participation in sexual polyandry beyond doubt (and, by the way, while I have materials not in Brian's books, I am aware of no such source). What would you make of it?

One could lose faith over it.

Or one could believe it justified because, as Joseph once wrote, "whatever the Lord requires is right"?

Or one could theologize it--e.g., understanding polyandry as not necessarily evil, just as polygyny isn't, and might perhaps exist in the celestial kingdom.

Or one could explain it based on the needs of the time--that it served some temporary function in the 1840s that was no longer needed later and won't be needed after this life either.

Or...what? I'm sure this doesn't exhaust the options

I guess what I'm asking is, what would you see as the live options for dealing with sexual polyandry?

Thoughts?

Don

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Hi All,

Most of you are aware of Brian Hales's new books on Joseph Smith and polygamy.

Brian documents Joseph Smith's polygamy in some detail, including Joseph's several sealings to women legally married to other men. Brian marshals evidence that these marriages, while "ceremonially polyandrous," were not sexually polyandrous: a wife was not having sexual relations with more than one husband during the same time period. In other words, she effectively went from being one man's wife to being another man's wife, rather than having two true husbands at the same time.

Brian finds none of the evidence for sexual polyandry incontrovertible or persuasive, and presents evidence against it (e.g., D&C 132's apparent condemnation of multiple husbands).

Not everyone is convinced by his arguments, and this is perhaps the primary basis on which some have dismissed him as an apologist.

As Brian's primary researcher and good friend, I helped craft some of the arguments he presents on this subject, and I think the case he can present on this is quite substantive.

But given that not everyone is persuaded by these arguments, and given that we never know what could pop up in further sources, I wonder how other believing Latter-day Saints might react if they became convinced some of Joseph's marriages were sexually polyandrous.

Suppose hypothetically that a source were to turn up which established Joseph's participation in sexual polyandry beyond doubt (and, by the way, while I have materials not in Brian's books, I am aware of no such source). What would you make of it?

One could lose faith over it.

Or one could believe it justified because, as Joseph once wrote, "whatever the Lord requires is right"?

Or one could theologize it--e.g., understanding polyandry as not necessarily evil, just as polygyny isn't, and might perhaps exist in the celestial kingdom.

Or one could explain it based on the needs of the time--that it served some temporary function in the 1840s that was no longer needed later and won't be needed after this life either.

Or...what? I'm sure this doesn't exhaust the options

I guess what I'm asking is, what would you see as the live options for dealing with sexual polyandry?

Thoughts?

Don

Polyandrous or otherwise, I'm not sure what the big deal is over whether Joseph had sexual relations with any of his wives. My response would be if it happened, then it happened.

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Hi All,

Most of you are aware of Brian Hales's new books on Joseph Smith and polygamy.

Brian documents Joseph Smith's polygamy in some detail, including Joseph's several sealings to women legally married to other men. Brian marshals evidence that these marriages, while "ceremonially polyandrous," were not sexually polyandrous: a wife was not having sexual relations with more than one husband during the same time period. In other words, she effectively went from being one man's wife to being another man's wife, rather than having two true husbands at the same time.

Brian finds none of the evidence for sexual polyandry incontrovertible or persuasive, and presents evidence against it (e.g., D&C 132's apparent condemnation of multiple husbands).

Not everyone is convinced by his arguments, and this is perhaps the primary basis on which some have dismissed him as an apologist.

As Brian's primary researcher and good friend, I helped craft some of the arguments he presents on this subject, and I think the case he can present on this is quite substantive.

But given that not everyone is persuaded by these arguments, and given that we never know what could pop up in further sources, I wonder how other believing Latter-day Saints might react if they became convinced some of Joseph's marriages were sexually polyandrous.

Suppose hypothetically that a source were to turn up which established Joseph's participation in sexual polyandry beyond doubt (and, by the way, while I have materials not in Brian's books, I am aware of no such source). What would you make of it?

One could lose faith over it.

Or one could believe it justified because, as Joseph once wrote, "whatever the Lord requires is right"?

Or one could theologize it--e.g., understanding polyandry as not necessarily evil, just as polygyny isn't, and might perhaps exist in the celestial kingdom.

Or one could explain it based on the needs of the time--that it served some temporary function in the 1840s that was no longer needed later and won't be needed after this life either.

Or...what? I'm sure this doesn't exhaust the options

I guess what I'm asking is, what would you see as the live options for dealing with sexual polyandry?

Thoughts?

Don

Or it was a mistake.

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It is my understanding that until all were able to be sealed, women were sealed to Joseph...trust me they will be with the husband they want. I am married to one woman whom I love...the thought on another or 34 as Joseph were sealed too would be the lowest of hell. As my mother says, "no kitchen on earth is large enough for two women". Most of Joseph's were sealing...I ache for BY. :( In the OT polygamy lead to nothing but grief to all who practiced it...read about Jacob (Israel), oh the horror.

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I have zero evidence for this as I personally don't care one whit about polyandry and such matters but maybe God said practice it but left it up to the people involved to figure out how they lived it so if any mistakes were made, it was their own, not God's. I have a favourite quotation of mine from a fella in Utah during the reformation time and he was married twice and divorced (IIRC) and he said that he was "obedient but not very wise" so, obedient to polygamy but dumb as to how he personally carried it out.

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I guess what I'm asking is, what would you see as the live options for dealing with sexual polyandry?

Thoughts?

Don

Since I don't view women's capacity to love as categorically different than men's, once I came to terms with the idea that it might be possible for a man to have an intimate and loving and physical relationship with more than one woman at a time, than it didn't matter to me whether one place a woman with multiple men in the same situation.

It actually helped resolve for me the idea of having to choose between two (or more) spouses one passionately loved and adored and was 'one' with in all ways possible as a mortal that someone was married to at one at time in mortality, but would have to face choosing between in eternity if one is limited to only one spouse. Is it not possible that the person loved one as much as the other even if it was the fact that it was the time separation that allowed him or her to do so? And if one removes mortal restrictions, if love becomes without limits, what is to prevent someone from loving infinitely two or more others at the same eternal moment/period?

So at this point I am agnostic about polygamy, it may be that for whatever reason we will be limited to one to one spouses in eternities...and if we are, as perfect celestial beings I think we will be able to handle it without regret or resentment and jealousy when someone does not end up eternally married to an individual they were 'celestially' (in the sense of the quality of their love) to in mortality. However, I also believe that if polygyny is going to occur, than polyandry will as well...I can think of no reason that exists in the here and now that would apply to the next life to restrict such relationships. And if it is about maximizing love, fulfilling the potential of love, perhaps that means as much about quantity as quality?

IOW, I don't have a clue what love and marriage will really entail in the next life, but if one applies the same rules as here to there while removing the mortal, imperfect qualities that interfere with perfect expression...I don't see an issue with plural marriage beyond personal desire (one only wants to be involved with one person or only with those s/he was married to during mortality or only had children with or some other standard)

add-on: it helped a great deal to read in some of my ancestors' journals positive expressions about plural marriage, including one that was deeply grateful to be given the chance to live what she thought was the closest thing to celestial love--the kind of love that God felt for us, the one that caused him to sacrifice everything for us---that one could experience in mortality and that plural marriage is what brought her furthest along in seeking the Lord and preparing to receive exaltation from him.

Edited by calmoriah
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he said that he was "obedient but not very wise" so, obedient to polygamy but dumb as to how he personally carried it out.

I think many were in that situation. Too many then (and definitely now) see plural marriage as just multiple marriages rather than something very different and needing different responses, not just an equal division of time and resources.

one more thing: I think a lot depends on how we view love and what infinite, perfect love will mean in an eternal sense. In one sense, one could look on it as a good thing to have infinite number of perfect, loving relationships, what could be better than an infinity of infinite perfections? OTOH, if love is infinite, will not the experience of one infinite love provide you with as much love as an infinite number of infinite loves so would not one marriage per individual be just as glorious and fulfilling as infinite marriages? When it comes to infinities and perfection, it is hard to compare accurately, imo.

Edited by calmoriah
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I have never understood why this is such a big deal.

Let's look at a worst case scenario and assume that Joseph was therefore a fallen prophet at this closing period of his life.

How does that negate everything else he did?

If Thomas Jefferson was a philanderer, does that diminish the importance or significance of the Declaration of Independence?

Did David's final sins destroy the significance of all that went before including the psalms?

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My hope is not to hear the words " mene mene tekel upharsin " From the reports of those who have seen Joseph in vision ,it is apparent that, whatever his faults, he fought the good fight and endured all the necessary trials and is or will be rewarded with Celestial glory. We should all be so valiant!

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I vaguely remember a reference (was it Mormon Enigma?) that at one point Joseph was willing to allow Emma to marry polyandrously to assuage her feelings. Is my memory correct? If so, has somebody done any further work in the area?

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I vaguely remember a reference (was it Mormon Enigma?) that at one point Joseph was willing to allow Emma to marry polyandrously to assuage her feelings. Is my memory correct? If so, has somebody done any further work in the area?

There are some who interpret the verse in sec 132 as referring to a possible offer of an additional spouse for Emma to help her accept the polygyny of Joseph (the offer being withdrawn in that section referred to, IIRC some view it as some sort of a test for Emma). If you want more details, I am sure there have been threads about it on the board. If you can't find them, let me know and I'll do a search. Edited by calmoriah
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There are some who interpret the verse in sec 132 as referring to a possible offer of an additional spouse for Emma to help her accept the polygyny of Joseph (the offer being withdrawn in that section referred to, IIRC some view it as some sort of a test for Emma). If you want more details, I am sure there have been threads about it on the board. If you can't find them, let me know and I'll do a search.

Are you talking about verse 55 where it says "then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said"?

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I vaguely remember a reference (was it Mormon Enigma?) that at one point Joseph was willing to allow Emma to marry polyandrously to assuage her feelings. Is my memory correct? If so, has somebody done any further work in the area?

Mormonstories podcast with Grant Palmer, he talks about it being William Law that Emma asked for. But it's probably hearsay, I don't have a reference.
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Mormonstories podcast with Grant Palmer, he talks about it being William Law that Emma asked for. But it's probably hearsay, I don't have a reference.

I know the podcast is not where I heard it; I do remember the discussion I read did involve William Law (talk about irony!).

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Are you talking about verse 55 where it says "then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said"?

This:
51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to aprove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
My memory was faulty in that it is more than some, but stated right in the verse.
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It seems to me that the two verses go together. If anything, it would seem that it puts Joseph's offer to Emma beyond the realm of mere rumor, as I originally thought it was.

Let's get back to the topic of the original post. Suppose for the sake of argument Joseph did in fact make this offer to Emma. Would that have any relevancy to how you would answer Don's questions?

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I know the podcast is not where I heard it; I do remember the discussion I read did involve William Law (talk about irony!).

Emma wanted [William] Law for a spiritual husband,†and because Joseph “had so many spiritual wives, she thought it but fair that she would at least have one man spiritually sealed up to her and that she wanted Law, because he was such a ‘sweet little man.’â€

Although there is nothing to suggest that Law and Emma were more to each other than friends, Law later confirmed that Joseph “offered to furnish his wife Emma with a substitute for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in his house and to be well treated, etc.†(Salt Lake Tribune, 3 July 1887.)http://mormonheretic.org/2011/07/24/multiple-sealings-for-women/

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