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Distinct polygamy concerns


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4 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Agreed.

The issue is almost always whether or not God commanded something. Not whether or not we should do it if He did. 

True, that should be the issue.  But can we honestly say it's really the issue.

Do you think if I could prove 100% that polygamy came from God and is an eternal law that it would make people like the idea one iota more?

How about it @Tacenda?  If you absolutely knew it came from God would you like it even a tiny bit more?

I would argue it wouldn't for the vast majority.  They want their idea of God. 

sadly-enough-my-young-friends-it-is-a-ch

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4 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

He had a moral compass, and believed what Joseph was doing was wrong. 

That's precisely what he believed, and he had zero desire to ask God if that belief was correct or not. He didn't need to. He already knew that God would agree with him.

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10 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Agreed. And the real risk then is almost always the assumption that God would never command something we don't immediately like. William Law and his wife jumped straight to that conclusion.

True.  It's hard not to set ourselves up as the standard for what comes from God and what doesn't.

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12 minutes ago, bluebell said:

They can, it's just that what it seems to be saying is that God's daughters needed to suffer and sacrifice more than His sons to receive the same blessings (at least with those who had to live polygamy), and that answer just leads us back around to the first problem again.

Do you truly believe women suffered that much more in polygamy than men?  I've read a ton of history and journals and they show plenty of trials for husbands too.  Is it an assumption or incontrovertible historical fact that it sucked more for God's daughters than his sons?

Edited by JLHPROF
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8 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

True, that should be the issue.  But can we honestly say it's really the issue.

Do you think if I could prove 100% that polygamy came from God and is an eternal law that it would make people like the idea one iota more?

How about it @Tacenda?  If you absolutely knew it came from God would you like it even a tiny bit more?

I would argue it wouldn't for the vast majority.  They want their idea of God. 

sadly-enough-my-young-friends-it-is-a-ch

 

Well, I did say almost always.  :D 

But when you look at many of the issues with polygamy, they are often related to "I don't think God would do this" and not "I refuse to obey God if He did this". 

Of course, obviously we all do stuff (probably daily) that we know God doesn't want us to do.  That's why we need a Savior.  But with these big ticket items, the first hurdle seems to often be a doubt that God is even behind it in the first place.   Sometimes I'm sure though that the doubt remains because we very much hope that He's not, and so struggle to move past our own biases and get to a place where we are willing to recognize the Spirit's answer.

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6 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Well, I did say almost always.  :D 

But when you look at many of the issues with polygamy, they are often related to "I don't think God would do this" and not "I refuse to obey God if He did this". 

Of course, obviously we all do stuff (probably daily) that we know God doesn't want us to do.  That's why we need a Savior.  But with these big ticket items, the first hurdle seems to often be a doubt that God is even behind it in the first place.   Sometimes I'm sure though that the doubt remains because we very much hope that He's not, and so struggle to move past our own biases and get to a place where we are willing to recognize the Spirit's answer.

And what about the Priesthood Ban, that is no longer why they say it was needed. That's out the door. 

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13 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

Is it an assumption or incontrovertible historical fact that it sucked more for God's daughters than his sons?

When Kenneth Godfrey was my Institute instructor in America, he shared what he'd learnt from his PhD research about men's experiences in plural marriage. He said that chronic loneliness and social isolation were common, with sister wives often relying on each other for emotional/intellectual intimacy, leaving the husband as an outsider to his own 'family life'.

I also remember a handout he gave us on which were quoted the words a man in Logan, Utah, had spoken in stake conference about the 'blessings of plural marriage' and then his journal entry that same night in which he wrote out a prayer pleading with the Lord to sustain him in his abject misery.

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29 minutes ago, bluebell said:

It's hard not to set ourselves up as the standard for what comes from God and what doesn't.

One of my friends recently received her endowment and two weeks ago mentioned the flood of revelation that has come into her life following that event. 'And it's all things I wish God weren't telling me!' she added. 

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4 hours ago, Tacenda said:

It wasn't normal for a very young woman to marry a much older man.

 

teen-brides-1.png

Maybe not normal but not unheard of and definitely not illegal.   Plus what really is normal anymore?   Gay marriage is not "normal" in that over 95% of the population is not involved with it yet widely accepted in most places in the US. 

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1 hour ago, JLHPROF said:

Do you truly believe women suffered that much more in polygamy than men?  I've read a ton of history and journals and they show plenty of trials for husbands too.  Is it an assumption or incontrovertible historical fact that it sucked more for God's daughters than his sons?

As a male I could say that polygamy would be an emotional and financial nightmare in my circumstance.

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1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Agreed. And the real risk then is almost always the assumption that God would never command something we don't immediately like. William Law and his wife jumped straight to that conclusion.

If all commandments were easy and likeable, we would have no problems keeping all of the commandments and our faith would never get tested.  People say they love God but God has ways of seeing if that is really true or not.  

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5 hours ago, rongo said:

We moved into a new ward in April, in an area where we don't have connections. I was asked by the new Relief Society president (called two weeks ago) to address the Relief Society sisters about polygamy, because of concerns that have been expressed that are keeping some sisters away from church or tempting them to formally leave the church. 

What specific concerns with polygamy am I missing in preparing for this? I have . . .

1. Polygamy, period (concern about it being of God, ever, under any circumstances)

2. Caving to political pressure in ending it (concern that the Church followed man and not God)

3. Lying to hide and cover up polygamy (discomfort with lying under any circumstances)

4. Need for the Second Manifesto (1890 didn’t end it outright).

5. Polyandry (Joseph Smith being sealed to other men's wives)

6. Joseph Smith’s teenage wives (concerns about his sealings to women under 18)

7. Polygamy today via sealings to additional spouses (concerns that polygamy will be part of the hereafter, as denoted by sealings to multiple spouses)

8. Modern-day offshoots = 19th Century Mormon polygamy (concerns that polygamy among modern-day offshoots illustrates how it functioned from the 1840s to the early 20th century). 

---

Thanks in advance for any subtopics under this heading that I'm overlooking!

 

When it comes to polygamy, I would start with the baseline of polygamy in the scriptures, particularly the Bible.  If people view polygamy as always wrong, something that God simply allowed and not commanded, they will see any issue regarding polygamy in LDS history or elsewhere in a negative light.   They will never approach the issue with an open mind that perhaps this issue or circumstance was fine.   Any issue regarding it will be graded on degrees of how wrong it is.  If people can see that there are times when it is appropriate, good, or acceptable, it is easier to move on to specifics in regards to the list you have. 

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4 hours ago, webbles said:

A few other possible concerns:

* incorrect explanations for the reason of polygamy (lots of widows, too many women converts vs men)

* other polyandry after Joseph Smith (I think this is more esoteric so it might not be brought up)

* sending husbands on missions to steal wives (Brigham Young and Zina Huntington, Joseph Smith and Marinda Hyde)

#1 above added as #9 in the OP. The other two I would put as under polyandry proper (polyandry will take some explanation, and not a drive-by). 

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4 hours ago, Duncan said:

I would differentiate between getting married in the temple to someone vs. getting sealed to someone, which I think is different aka this whole adoption practice that the church had in the mid to late 1800's. So, you could get sealed to a woman or man in the temple and you are living with them, kids and providing and all that vs. getting sealed to someone is a name only type deal or adopted to someone. Your husband isn't active or dead but getting sealed to someone else who is but that other person isn't having children with you or really providing for you per se

This is a good point, and is part of the polyandry explanation. 

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4 hours ago, webbles said:

Another one: the requirement to be polygamous to make it to the Celestial Kingdom as well as a requirement for a certain number of wives.

And to go along with Tacenda, some of them might have family who were polygamous during the "Mormon Reformation" where young women were induced into marriages with much older men.  I have one ancestor who has a sister that was married at a young age (14) to a much older man (61) because of what happened during the Mormon Reformation.  She left an auto-biography and she wasn't happy with that marriage or that her parents allowed her to get married.

Added to the OP as #10. 

It wasn't just during the Reformation era. I have an ancestor, John W. Hess, whom I have shared with many people in many different wards. It's fun to compare notes on which wife we are from (he was wealthy). One of my YW presidents was from the teenage trophy wife, while the others were old and closer to his age (he used to take her out to show her off, and leave the old wives home). We used to tease each other light-heartedly about which wife was better to stem from. :) 

It is amazing, even in 2022, to ask people by a show of hands how many have polygamy in their ancestry. The new RS president and YW president are both converts (10 years for the RS president; a little over a year for the YW president. She just went through the temple, and loved it). I've found in the past that even new converts have polygamous ancestry (or Mormon ancestry). 

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4 hours ago, Fether said:

These topics are too vast and require far more than a single class of you are really going to help someone who is struggling.

I would focus on, instead, sharing resources and places they can go and how the ultimate authority is God and to go to him with your concerns

some sources:

Book of Mormon Central on YT

Doctrine and Covenants Central on YT

FAIR Latter-day Saint ON YT

The Latter-day Saint topical articles

Scripture 

Honestly, there are so many resources out there, I don’t know how people still have a hard time with this for long periods of time.

This message board has, what, maybe 30 people who are active posters? The reality is that the vast majority of members aren't dialed into the online chatter of the last 20 years, and online discussions are a poor bellweather of the "facts on the ground" in our wards and stakes. By preference, I prefer good old fashioned live, local discussion --- because there is a personal, local connection --- to the multiplicity of podcasts, daunting online resources, etc. Especially as a starting point.  

It is anticipated to be a beginning point for them, not drinking out of the fire hose. Key for many is going to be realizing that it's okay to talk about these things with each other, and that a lot has already been discussed. 

Totally agree about going directly to God with concerns. 

Edited by rongo
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46 minutes ago, pogi said:

1) The whole compulsion by an angel with a drawn sword story never sat well with me.

That's understandable.  We had a discussion about this back in 2019.  A few excerpts from my comments back then:

Quote

There is no way of proving that the angel/sword story was fabricated, either.  

But since when can historical events like this be "proven?"  Can anyone prove that Moses didn't carve out the tablets while on the mount and use them to fool the Israelites into accepting his authority?  Can anyone prove that Lazarus wasn't just in a coma, and that his "resurrection" was just an interesting coincidence?  Can anyone prove that the followers of Jesus removed His body from the tomb, and thereafter fabricated claims of Him being resurrected?
...
If the angel-with-a-sword narrative was intended as a justification, why didn't Joseph write it down?  
...
I am curious how you account for the "some twenty different reminiscences that recount Joseph Smith’s encounters with a sword-bearing angel who commanded him to establish the practice of plural marriage in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the early 1840s" compiled by Brian Hales.

To be sure, I am not super-duper invested in this narrative.  It's not canonized.  Most of the accounts are quite late, all are at least hearsy, and some are hearsay-within-hearsay.  But it's kinda hard to dispose of all of these accounts 100%.
...
Quoth Brian Hales:

Quote

Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet's counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.

Moreover, if Joseph Smith was really using this story to coerce women into marrying him, why did so many turn him down?

Moreover, if Joseph Smith fabricated the story (and, indeed, lied about God commanding polygamy), how do you account for the numerous men and women who, of and for themselves, claimed to have received revelation about polygamy?
...
See here (emphases added):

Quote

The historical record indicates that Joseph Smith contracted his first plural marriage in 1835 or 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio, with Fanny Alger. Upon learning of the relationship, his legal wife, Emma, and close friend Oliver Cowdery rejected it, considering it adulterous. Evidence supports that afterward the Prophet taught no one about plural marriage or even mentioned the subject during the next five to six years.   Richard Van Wagoner observed: “The difficulties [of] the Fanny Alger situation . . . seriously hampered Joseph Smith’s apparent enthusiasm for plural marriage.”  This may be why at one time he lamented to Levi Hancock, “Brother Levi, if I should make known to my brethren what God has made known to me they would seek my life.”  In 1843 Joseph observed, “Men will say I will never forsake you but will stand by you at all times but the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared, they will be the first to stone you & put you to death.”
...
Several accounts relate how Joseph appeared to have felt genuine fear at the time. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner recalled that the sword-threat was not symbolic: “Joseph told me that he was afraid when the angel appeared to him and told him to take other wives. He hesitated, and the angel appeared to him the third time with a drawn sword in his hand and threatened his life if he did not fulfi ll the commandment.”

...
We are mostly operating in a vacuum of data here.  Joseph Smith may have received clear and marvelous instruction to implement polygamy, such as was sufficient to overcome the aversion that so many of his contemporaries felt when they were first introduced to the concept.  He then married Fanny Alger, and did so using deception.  It was a spectacular failure on his part, by virtually every metric (except, perhaps, that he actually did obey the commandent).  He thereafter became very reluctant to continue the implementation of the practice, perhaps to such an extent that it imperiled his continued calling as a prophet.  Hence we get . . . an angel and a sword, since Joseph was apparently too reluctant to submit to other divine efforts to extract his obedience.

Reasonable minds can disagree about such things.

46 minutes ago, pogi said:

2) Joseph being sealed to other men’s wives never sat well with me.

Same here.  I think the 19th-century Saints had far more to do with "dynastic" concepts (marriages, adoptions, etc.) than we do.  See, e.g., here and here.

Animal sacrifice is likewise a bit discomfiting for me.

46 minutes ago, pogi said:

3) The whole justification of raising up seed never sat well with me - especially considering that Joseph never had seed through polygamy.  Did he really need that many wives to “raise up seed”?  Did he really need to be sealed to married men’s wives to raise up seed?  

Jacob 2 is, I think, a generalized precept.  That it did not have that result as to Joseph Smith does not negate it.  My great-great-grandfather, Alexander F. Macdonald, had 26 children by three wives.  Of these, fourteen lived to adulthood (infant/child mortality was a pretty horrible thing in the 19th century).  Those fourteen children in turn had a total of 76 children.  

76 Grandchildren, many of which are members of the Church today.

46 minutes ago, pogi said:

4) Yes, lying about it is a concern, but not only because “lying is bad”,

Yes, lying is bad.  Can't really sugarcoat that.

46 minutes ago, pogi said:

but because infidelity is bad and D&C specifically states that polygamy is only condoned where the first wife approves of it and where the other wives are virgins (if I remember correctly - can’t check right now), which was not the case with all of his polygamous wives.

I think you have in mind D&C 132:61.  Pretty decent exegesis here.

-Smac

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1 hour ago, carbon dioxide said:

When it comes to polygamy, I would start with the baseline of polygamy in the scriptures, particularly the Bible.  If people view polygamy as always wrong, something that God simply allowed and not commanded, they will see any issue regarding polygamy in LDS history or elsewhere in a negative light.   They will never approach the issue with an open mind that perhaps this issue or circumstance was fine.   Any issue regarding it will be graded on degrees of how wrong it is.  If people can see that there are times when it is appropriate, good, or acceptable, it is easier to move on to specifics in regards to the list you have. 

This goes along with my #1: Polygamy, period. This is really hard for many people. 

They're not ordered in any significant order --- just the order I thought of them (and added on addenda from this thread). 

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7 minutes ago, rongo said:

This message board has, what, maybe 30 people who are active posters? The reality is that the vast majority of members aren't dialed into the online chatter of the last 20 years. By preference, I prefer good old fashioned live, local discussion --- because there is a personal, local connection --- to the multiplicity of podcasts. 

It is anticipated to be a beginning point for them, not drinking out of the fire hose. Key for many is going to be realizing that it's okay to talk about these things with each other, and that a lot has already been discussed. 

Totally agree about going directly to God with concerns. 

I agree completely. I would stay out of specifics and trying to rationalize everything. Focus on ways people can find answers to their questions. I would still reference sources people can turn to. I’m not saying go over the content of those sources, just let them know they exist. If you search “Mormon polygamy” into any search engine, you will get 100 anti Mormon videos to every 1 faith promoting video. People just need to know there are sources.

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1 hour ago, bluebell said:

But when you look at many of the issues with polygamy, they are often related to "I don't think God would do this" and not "I refuse to obey God if He did this". 

I have a hard time putting much credit in the “I don’t think God would do this” argument. From our point of view God often does things that by our morality are downright cruel.

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