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8 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Just thought I would chime in here. Some may be interested in Ross Baron's take on these types of issues: 

http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll16/id/510242

He only skims over the polygamy topic, but I think he captures well the implications of the Divine Command theory of ethics, as well as the unique understanding of that theory held by Latter-day Saints. How well an allegedly divine commandment or revelation complies with our own moral intuitions/sensibilities is an important factor, but certainly not the only factor, in how Latter-day Saints reach conclusions about the source of the said commandment/revelation. Carefully exploring what combination of factors might override our reliance on our own moral intuition (or socially informed moral values) seems to be a very worthwhile endeavor. 

I don't think that threads the needle quite right. Perhaps we should be more concerned about ensuring outside sources do not override our own understanding of right and wrong. After all, we are our own moral actors, no one else is. 

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10 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

To be well and good the esoteric must be moral, but the question is: whose morality? It is a known fact that cultures often lace morality into their assessments of one another and view differences between them as moral matters. Is the mere presence of the disapproval of the dominant culture sufficient to justify their critique of the separatists? 

I'm not sure why you keep bringing dominant versus separatist into it. I didn't argue for morality by popular opinion.

I really do not think this issue, the one of Joseph Smith's polygamy, is in a realm beyond a fairly straightforward understanding of morality.

10 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

A good question. I believe there are moral facts which bind even God, but I don't think highly enough of human social cognition to think that we can really understand them beyond the realm of impulses. Better definition of right and wrong has to come from God. 

In that case, you would be creating a circular loop with no answers at all. All those perspectives of what comes from God come through the filter of human cognition.

10 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

That's fair. I haven't had your experiences, of course, and I don't know how I'd react if I did. So I can't factor them into my own evaluative matrix, but I respect that they are in yours and I'm sorry you had that experience. 

My point was that my previous explanation through the "generality that sometimes lying can be necessary for the greater Good" became insufficient, because I better understood what the type of lying he did--and then modelled for others in his immediate sphere--looks like. The principle question imo is this, "Would a Good God inspire such work that would leave Emma deceived and in the dark as she was, and which would eventually lead women in Europe to come to Utah under the explicit assurance that the church did not practice polygamy?" 

That kind of deception goes far beyond the idea of shielding a minority religious sect from the larger society that just does not understand them. It removes agency from people in their own midst, and from people who would be in their midst and who are reliant on trusting relationships with them. 

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4 minutes ago, katherine the great said:

That I could understand but they can’t be baptized in countries where it is legal either. 

I am saying in the case of countries where polygyny is illegal, they are encouraged to get divorced as far as I am aware. In countries where a man legally has multiple wives and then gets converted, he is encouraged to stay with all his families and forgo baptism. 

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8 hours ago, Calm said:

Hopefully in time you will receive a perspective that helps you appreciate the topic in a way you can feel good about the process.  I don’t see any reason at this point an understanding is necessary except for personal peace of mind because we aren’t called to live it.  But it still feels right to me to keep on learning, so I don’t see an issue with exploring history and other difficult topics as long as one is also focused on keeping connected with God.  Still everything has its time and place and we can’t learn everything at once, so we all have to make choices of what to engage and what to delay for a time. 

Thanks Calm, I went into the investigation to quiet fears that would spring up in me about JS & BY.  Maybe some day I'll be able to delve into the history of the Church's practice of polygamy and see it in a new light and find peace in it. I hope so. Right now it seems impossible for me.

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10 hours ago, Calm said:

Except his second start was much more complicated if the idea was simply to be with multiple women in that he was sealed to already married women, who would be highly conflicted about having sex with someone else and it was risky to require the men to share their wives sexually.  That argument, IMO, makes more sense if he had started with marrying the unmarried sisters and and daughters.

Unless you are sexually attracted to another man's wife.  Not all that uncommon in todays world as well as throughout history.  Tell the woman she can still be with her husband, but can also have an ongoing affair (polygamist marriage) with him as well.  And God approves of it, so it is not immoral.

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9 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

You are talking out of both sides of your mouth.  On the one hand you excoriate obedience to  commandments by God (which you do not believe in), and on the other you claim to understand that all such forms and templates are according to local cultural rules.

I was asking your opinion before, now I am stating mine.  So not talking out of both sides of my mouth.

9 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Again, because Joseph Smith lived in more recent times, you think that the ancient rules couldn't possibly apply to him.  Yet one of the reasons why Martin Luther and John Calvin considered polygamy legal in the eyes of God was precisely because they knew the Bible approved of it and that God's rules are unchanging through time.  Still, Luther and Calvin would never dare put plural marriage into actual effect in their own time.  Cultural norms would simply not accept it.  And now here you are militating against plural marriage by Joseph based on the belief that he was only acting on sexual lust (not on actual commands from God), even though genetic testing shows that he had no offspring -- despite having all those marriages while he was fertile and having children by Emma the whole time.  You haven't thought through your own hypocrisy in making a claim about ultimate reality and disallowing any opinion but yours as normative.  All at the same time that you harshly criticize those who opposed same sex marriage.  Blatant hypocrisy, instead of tolerance of other POVs.

So polygamy is not about having increase?  Isn't that the whole reason given for polygamy to exist?

9 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Where is your acceptance of "equal protection of the law"?  Or, like the followers of the Trumpmonster, do you just apply the Constitution to your own personal concerns, and invalidate it for anyone else?

You are wrong on this one.  I think everyone can marry anyone they want.  It makes no difference to me, nor should it to anyone else.  How one practices marriage is between them and whom they marry.  I don't care how many wives Joseph Smith had.  I am talking about the deceit that he practiced in doing so and justifying that deceit in the name of God.

We are talking about a totally different subject here aren't we.  We are not talking about civil rights under the secular laws of this country.  

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6 hours ago, Meadowchik said:
14 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Just thought I would chime in here. Some may be interested in Ross Baron's take on these types of issues: 

http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll16/id/510242

He only skims over the polygamy topic, but I think he captures well the implications of the Divine Command theory of ethics, as well as the unique understanding of that theory held by Latter-day Saints. How well an allegedly divine commandment or revelation complies with our own moral intuitions/sensibilities is an important factor, but certainly not the only factor, in how Latter-day Saints reach conclusions about the source of the said commandment/revelation. Carefully exploring what combination of factors might override our reliance on our own moral intuition (or socially informed moral values) seems to be a very worthwhile endeavor. 

I don't think that threads the needle quite right. Perhaps we should be more concerned about ensuring outside sources do not override our own understanding of right and wrong. After all, we are our own moral actors, no one else is. 

Well, most of the time, this is never an issue, at least not for me. The overwhelming majority of what I believe are divine directives are in harmony (or, at least, aren't opposed) with my own moral intuition. If that weren't the case, I would never follow God in the first place. We certainly are our own moral actors, but our human nature and limited knowledge should give us reason to be suspicious of our ability to identify the correct moral course of action in all situations. 

I see trusting God as being somewhat akin to trusting a highly qualified medical professional. Typically, I wouldn't want other people slicing into my body and messing with stuff.  In most cases, I would say it would be morally wrong for people to stab someone else with needles or cut into someone else's heart or remove part of their brain. Such actions unquestionably cause harm, inconvenience, and may possibly result in death. But I have lots of reasons to trust that doctors, despite sometimes causing temporary harm, are better able to see how certain actions (which may seem unintuitively wrong to those without the same knowledge) will most likely result in the greatest good. 

The issue shouldn't be about whether it may or may not be correct in some circumstances to cede our judgment to others. We all do this all the time in a variety of contexts. The real issue is whether there is sufficient evidence to believe in a benevolent God and to trust that he (somewhat like a qualified medical professional) knows best, even if we can't always understand how his prescribed actions will result in the greatest good. That final calculation is undoubtedly far more complex than this discussion is ready to handle. The second issue would be the criteria we use to determine if God is actually the one prescribing a certain course of action, or if we are somehow mistaking other sources of information for his directives. Again, that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

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11 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Well, most of the time, this is never an issue, at least not for me. The overwhelming majority of what I believe are divine directives are in harmony (or, at least, aren't opposed) with my own moral intuition. If that weren't the case, I would never follow God in the first place. We certainly are our own moral actors, but our human nature and limited knowledge should give us reason to be suspicious of our ability to identify the correct moral course of action in all situations. 

I see trusting God as being somewhat akin to trusting a highly qualified medical professional. Typically, I wouldn't want other people slicing into my body and messing with stuff.  In most cases, I would say it would be morally wrong for people to stab someone else with needles or cut into someone else's heart or remove part of their brain. Such actions unquestionably cause harm, inconvenience, and may possibly result in death. But I have lots of reasons to trust that doctors, despite sometimes causing temporary harm, are better able to see how certain actions (which may seem unintuitively wrong to those without the same knowledge) will most likely result in the greatest good. 

The issue shouldn't be about whether it may or may not be correct in some circumstances to cede our judgment to others. We all do this all the time in a variety of contexts. The real issue is whether there is sufficient evidence to believe in a benevolent God and to trust that he (somewhat like a qualified medical professional) knows best, even if we can't always understand how his prescribed actions will result in the greatest good. That final calculation is undoubtedly far more complex than this discussion is ready to handle. The second issue would be the criteria we use to determine if God is actually the one prescribing a certain course of action, or if we are somehow mistaking other sources of information for his directives. Again, that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

It is useful to use the doctor example because in that case we can refer to medical credentials as reasonable evidence of their competency. But, even then, we can still request explanations for treatment and medications and assert ourselves as our "primary healthcare provider," where in essence we are using their expertise and service but are still principally the agents of medical choices.  (Of course there are exceptions with the latter in extraordinary emergent circumstances where we may be too incapacitated to be involved in medical decisions.)

In other words with enough information it is rather straightforward to understand that it can be completely moral for a person to drill into our skull under some specific circumstances. Of course there is always going to be medical error and uncertainty, but far less uncertainty than in the case of trying to evaluate the existence of God and then, conditionally, the will of a God that may or may not exist. There is a chasm between those comparisons.

With morality, there are reasonable ways we can test and check our conclusions in order to filter out corrupting influences. There is nothing close to that to check God claims, not in terms of reliability or accuracy.

 

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1 hour ago, california boy said:

I was asking your opinion before, now I am stating mine.  So not talking out of both sides of my mouth.

So polygamy is not about having increase?  Isn't that the whole reason given for polygamy to exist?

You are wrong on this one.  I think everyone can marry anyone they want.  It makes no difference to me, nor should it to anyone else.  How one practices marriage is between them and whom they marry.  I don't care how many wives Joseph Smith had.  I am talking about the deceit that he practiced in doing so and justifying that deceit in the name of God.

We are talking about a totally different subject here aren't we.  We are not talking about civil rights under the secular laws of this country.  

I totally agree. The church doesn't, though. So then I guess we have to decide whether or not we care what the churches position is. ;) 

 

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1 hour ago, Meadowchik said:

It is useful to use the doctor example because in that case we can refer to medical credentials as reasonable evidence of their competency. But, even then, we can still request explanations for treatment and medications and assert ourselves as our "primary healthcare provider," where in essence we are using their expertise and service but are still principally the agents of medical choices.  (Of course there are exceptions with the latter in extraordinary emergent circumstances where we may be too incapacitated to be involved in medical decisions.)

In other words with enough information it is rather straightforward to understand that it can be completely moral for a person to drill into our skull under some specific circumstances. Of course there is always going to be medical error and uncertainty, but far less uncertainty than in the case of trying to evaluate the existence of God and then, conditionally, the will of a God that may or may not exist. There is a chasm between those comparisons.

Well, like I said, that is the real issue isn't it. 

How certain we are about God's existence, attributes, and communication with us will determine how reasonable it seems to cede our moral judgment into his hands. You obviously take it for granted that we can have only a very low reliability of trust in God and his communication to us, compared to our trust in a doctor's credentials/competency. I think that simply reflects a difference in experience, access to certain types of evidence, and different methods of interpreting that evidence. I personally would be much more confident that God commanded polygamy than I would be in a doctor's medical advice. That conclusion will obviously seem strange to those who haven't had the same experiences that I have had. 

1 hour ago, Meadowchik said:

With morality, there are reasonable ways we can test and check our conclusions in order to filter out corrupting influences. There is nothing close to that to check God claims, not in terms of reliability or accuracy.

Again, I think this simply reflects a difference in experiences. God has prescribed ways to know if something is from him, if something is good and right, and also general safeguards for understanding/accessing revelation (both personally and institutionally as a church). The ability to accurately discern such things is something that typically must be developed over time and is itself a gift from God that is only given under certain conditions, so it is understandable that different people will reach different conclusions about the viability of revelation as a guide to moral behavior. 

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3 hours ago, california boy said:

I was asking your opinion before, now I am stating mine.  So not talking out of both sides of my mouth.

You are claiming that Joseph Smith was a liar and a cheat, yet at the same time insisting that such opinions about gay people would be completely inappropriate.  Do you realize what it means to be tolerant and gracious?  Apparently not.  You seem to prefer to have it both ways, typical of a two-face.

3 hours ago, california boy said:

So polygamy is not about having increase?  Isn't that the whole reason given for polygamy to exist?

You are wrong on this one.  I think everyone can marry anyone they want.  It makes no difference to me, nor should it to anyone else.  How one practices marriage is between them and whom they marry.  I don't care how many wives Joseph Smith had.  I am talking about the deceit that he practiced in doing so and justifying that deceit in the name of God..................... 

You already stated on this thread that your judgment was that it was deceit, but only because God does not exist, and because Joseph was merely slaking his lust.  Joseph could not possibly have received a commandment from God.  Rather than tolerance for non-traditional forms of marriage, just like any ultra-conservative you condemn what someone else does because they are lying.  They have to be lying, according to you.  And this would undoubtedly include Muslim polygamists, and any other polygamists in history.

Here we are living in a supposed Constitutional democracy, but you feel free to condemn people whose lifestyles don't fit your preconceptions.  How then do you differ (if at all) from the bigots who have been so condemnatory of homosexual lifestyles?  Are you siding with the cops at Stonewall?  Are you rejecting "equal protection of the laws" under the guise of intent -- via mind-reading?

You are just like the hypocritical racist who says that all people should be treated equally, but those people over there are evil by nature.  What happened to tolerance for differing lifestyles?  Or does it even matter to you?

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On 3/30/2021 at 3:43 PM, Scott Lloyd said:

I’ve never had a lunch pin be pulled out before, but I did lose a meal ticket one time and had to pay for my lunches out of pocket. 

Good catch!  And funny comment.😁

 

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12 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

The principle question imo is this, "Would a Good God inspire such work that would leave Emma deceived and in the dark as she was, and which would eventually lead women in Europe to come to Utah under the explicit assurance that the church did not practice polygamy?"

I'm a believer of the Bible.  Because of that, I have to deal with stories such as Abraham not telling Sarah that he was going to sacrifice their only son or God letting Satan toy with Job.  So having a situation where Joseph Smith is commanded to practice polygamy and he hides it from Emma isn't that much different.

And how often did women come to Utah under the explicit assurance that the church did not practice polygamy?  Who was giving that explicit assurance?  I'm not doubting that it occurred, but I don't think it happened all that often.

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12 minutes ago, webbles said:

I'm not doubting that it occurred, but I don't think it happened all that often.

I suspect the best known case is John Taylor’s denial in a published tract. 
 

https://m.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=145230439005376&id=112019248993162&substory_index=0

Full text is here:

http://olivercowdery.com/texts/1850Tayl.htm
 

As a published tract as well as public debate, this could have had a wide range of influence. 

Edited by Calm
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On 3/30/2021 at 1:15 AM, Risingtide said:

Thanks JLHPROF, I'll try to keep your observation of bias in mind. There is so much information to sift through. 

I recommend the book Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. Not all about polygamy but a large part was.

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24 minutes ago, Teancum said:

I recommend the book Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. Not all about polygamy but a large part was.

I would exercise some caution with that book though as it has a bias against polygamy Imo that is shown in use of sources.  Iirc (it has been years since I came across this) for example, they used a quote from Charlotte Haven about a heart to heart with Helen Mar Kimball where she is complaining without noting that Haven was a professional anti-Mormon who gave lectures as well (I may be confusing her in part with someone else, should refresh my memory but too tired) as there is no indication iirc that Haven was a close friend who Kimball would have opened up to.

Not saying don’t use the book as I believe it is a useful reference. Just educate oneself on the sources by going to the original to read in context and to understand the relationships being claimed. But then I think one should do this in any case anyway. 

Edited by Calm
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On 3/30/2021 at 2:04 AM, Robert F. Smith said:

The problem with rejecting that belief (as Carol Lynn Pearson has done) is to similarly reject the ancient biblical Patriarchs -- who were the foci of God's promises.  If Joseph Smith was wrong, then the Patriarchs were wrong.  If the Patriarchs were wrong, where does that leave the Bible?

Exactly!

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On 3/30/2021 at 6:18 PM, JLHPROF said:

I would argue that's a fundamental principle of Mormonism.  (Not sure about other Christian sects).
In Mormonism God became God by obedience to law, ie, by being good.
In other faiths God was always God and declared things to be good or evil.

Didn't Joseph Smith argue that whatever God says is right?  And this when trying to convince Nancy Rigdon to enter plural marriage with him.

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On 3/30/2021 at 6:20 PM, carbon dioxide said:

I give Joseph Smith a very wide range of acceptance on polygamy.

1.  Joseph Smith had no role models to look to in how to practice it.  Sure he knew people in the scriptures lived it but there is no instruction there of how to live it.  He was not raised in it.  Did not know anyone to get pointers on what to do and not to do.  It was all trial be fire for him.  Of course he was going to make bad decisions and mistakes.  We all would have made our own bonehead decisions.  Too many people have said they would not have done this or that what Joseph Smith did.   They don't know that.  They were not put in that position.  They are sitting in judgement 180 or so years later in the comforts of their homes, without persecution. They are like sports fans who ridicule the decisions made by a QB after a game.  They point out the mistakes they made.  None of them were on the field. None of them can prove they would have made a better decision during that play.  Hardly any of them are good enough to be a QB but they will criticize the play of the QB of the decisions they made. 

2.  He lived in an environment where few accepted polygamy.  He had to practice it in a hostile environment.  Not even Emma was supportive.  Naturally he was to be a little more secretive and deceptive regarding it.  It is not like those around him presented him an environment of acceptance or understanding to allow more honesty and openness.  I believe that if one wants a person to be honest, they have to provide an environment that promotes honesty.  That includes reacting to things in a mature ways.

Since I have no evidence that I would have practice polygamy any better in the 1830s given the circumstances that Joseph was under, I see little reason for me to criticize or pretend I would have made better decisions.  I don't know that and thankfully I was never put in that position so that people in the year 2021 could pronounce judgment on me for how I handled it.

I wonder if you give the same pass for other powerful religious sect male leaders who do polygamy. Or is Joseph just special?

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

I suspect the best known case is John Taylor’s denial in a published tract. 
 

https://m.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=145230439005376&id=112019248993162&substory_index=0

Full text is here:

http://olivercowdery.com/texts/1850Tayl.htm
 

As a published tract as well as public debate, this could have had a wide range of influence. 

Yeah, I know of that tract.  I'm sure there are others as well.

Maybe I misunderstood Meadowchick.  It felt like she was saying women were deceived before and during their immigration and if they had known the truth, they wouldn't have immigrated.  How often did that happen?  How many women were explicitly assured that polygamy wasn't practiced and when they reached Utah and discovered polygamy, were angry/distraught/upset/etc?  I'm sure that some women were.  I have an ancestor that traveled to Utah and then converted to RLDS and traveled back to Missouri.  It is probable that the discovery of polygamy facilitated that second conversion.  But they were not explicitly assured that polygamy wasn't being practiced.

This deceit also would have only lasted about 8 years.  There were 26,146 members in 1844 when Joseph Smith died, 52,640 members in 1852 when it was publicly announced, and 188,263 members when the first manifesto was announced.  A lot more members joined the church during the time when polygamy was publicly talked about.

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2 hours ago, Calm said:

I suspect the best known case is John Taylor’s denial in a published tract. 
 

https://m.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=145230439005376&id=112019248993162&substory_index=0

Full text is here:

http://olivercowdery.com/texts/1850Tayl.htm
 

As a published tract as well as public debate, this could have had a wide range of influence. 

This is an interesting one. It certainly does go against our felt-board expectations and doesn't look particularly great. 

In context, Taylor was dealing with allegations from one infamous Dr. Bennett which were inaccurate, fanciful, and more lurid in nature than the actual practices in Nauvoo,  not to mention entirely lacking the theological context. I can understand the thought process. It would be easier at the time to deny as opposed to lay out the entire schema, most of which would immediately be used against him and likely combined with Bennett's false allegations to give them credibility. He also might not have felt he had the authority to let the cat out of the bag until the First Presidency said so. Not to mention he was put on the spot. Catch-22. 

Also I'm getting a kick out of this olivercowdery.com boasting themselves as the "premier website for early Mormon history". Lol, step aside https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/, there's bigger game in town.

Edited by OGHoosier
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4 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

This is an interesting one. It certainly does go against our felt-board expectations and doesn't look particularly great. 

In context, Taylor was dealing with allegations from one infamous Dr. Bennett which were inaccurate, fanciful, and more lurid in nature than the actual practices in Nauvoo,  not to mention entirely lacking the theological context. I can understand the thought process. It would be easier at the time to deny as opposed to lay out the entire schema, most of which would immediately be used against him and likely combined with Bennett's false allegations to give them credibility. He also might not have felt he had the authority to let the cat out of the bag until the First Presidency said so. Not to mention he was put on the spot. Catch-22. ...................

Do you think that Pres Hinckley likewise obfuscated about the righteous becoming gods in a national interview for the same reasons?

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49 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

In context, Taylor was dealing with allegations from one infamous Dr. Bennett which were inaccurate, fanciful, and more lurid in nature than the actual practices in Nauvoo,  not to mention entirely lacking the theological context

Yeah, the allegation, as printed in the tract on page 7, was

Quote

He and his friends had quoted against the testimony of General Bennett and Professor Caswell, and of works published in America, in 1848. These works had testified that Joseph Smith kept up a seraglio of "Sisters of the White Veil," and "Sisters of the Green Veil;" and that Sidney Rigdon, who had at one time been almost as great a man among the Mormonites as Joe Smith, had quarreled with Joe for the latter's attempt to introduce his, Rigdon's daughter, into the sisterhood.

and

Quote

Now he (Mr. Robertson) demanded distinctly of Mr. Taylor what was the nature of the sisterhood of the White and Green Veil -- what was the nature of the dispute between Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith -- and what was the nature of the society called "Danites" or "Destroying Angels.

In case you don't know what a seraglio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seraglio), it is basically a harem.

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