Many Mormons have mixed feelings about a recent disclosure from the church, acknowledging for the first time that the religion’s founder Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives in his lifetime, including teenagers. That is, if they even heard about the disclosure at all.
The New York Times published a piece on Tuesday looking at the aftermath of the somewhat unusual acknowledgement, which was posted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Web site in late October. The church has long renounced polygamy. And until now, it has never officially acknowledged Smith’s multiple marriages, only discussing his first marriage to Emma Hale Smith.
I recently read Robert Spencer’s book “Not Peace But a Sword”. As a former member of the LDS church, I was astounded by the similarities between Mormonism and Islam. It was much more than the polygamy and the visitations by an “angel”. Another interesting similarity is that in both Islam and Mormonism, God can change His mind and even contradict Himself. Also, lying for the Lord is ok. In the LDS church, Joseph Smith is set up as an example to follow, and many Mormons believe that if Joseph Smith did something, it is ok because he is “a true prophet of God”.
This is a fascinating article. I was particularly surprised that they acknowledge the “excruciating” suffering of Emma, Joseph Smith’s first wife, and that she at times denounced the practice of plural marriage.
The LDS church has not renounced polygamy. It is still a doctrine of the LDS church (see Doctrine & Covenants section 132) even though it is not officially practiced. There are members of the LDS church, including apostles, who are polygamists according to LDS beliefs.
The LDS believe that marriages sealed in their temples continue after death. So if a man becomes widowed, he is still married to his wife (according to LDS beliefs). He can then go on and be married to and sealed to a second wife. He then becomes a polygamist in the LDS church even though his first wife is dead.
There are instances where a man can become a polygamist by being sealed to more than one living woman. I actually know someone in this situation. The man is legally divorced from his first wife, but his temple sealing to her has not been cancelled. So, in the eyes of the LDS church, they are still married for eternity. This man was allowed to have a second wife sealed to him in the temple. He is only legally married to the second woman, but under LDS rules, he is sealed to two living women. His first (ex) wife cannot obtain a cancellation of the sealing unless she can show she can be sealed to a new husband in the LDS temple. His first wife is still single and cannot obtain a sealing cancellation unless she legally marries an LDS man who can take her to the temple to be sealed. Even if she were to remarry to a non-LDS man, she cannot obtain a sealing cancellation because she cannot be sealed to her new husband in the LDS temple. (I will note there are some instances where divorced women can receive sealing cancellations from their husbands without being able to be sealed in the LDS temple to a new husband, but these women have connections to LDS general authorities and can circumvent typical approval requirements).
I found this statement from Elder Steven Snow, church historian, to be quite telling.
[quote=Elder Steven Snow]There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.
“We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history,” Elder Snow said. “I believe our history is full of stories of faith and devotion and sacrifice, but these people weren’t perfect.
So basically, the truth was getting out to more people because of the internet so LDS leaders decided they needed to come clean. Why wasn’t the LDS church fully transparent before? When are they going to update the lessons missionaries give to investigators of the LDS church to include the subject of this and the other essays? I know several converts to the LDS church who never would have joined if they knew these things beforehand. When are they going to update the materials used to teach LDS church history in Sunday School and high school seminary programs?
I think part of the reason the LDS church has fought against same sex marriage is because it opens the door for polygamy.
While there are LDS who want polygamy to be reinstated, I think there are many among LDS leadership who do not want to open that door because of the fall out. There are LDS who would leave if polygamy is officially reinstated. It would cause a huge rift in the LDS church. It is a hot button issue that is simmering under the surface.
When I was LDS, I was open about the fact that the one thing that would cause me to leave the LDS church was polygamy. Ultimately, it was the issue that caused me to leave because when I learned the truth of Joseph Smith’s behavior and how polygamy was practiced, I finally realized Smith was a false prophet. God never commanded anyone ever to steal another man’s wife.
The reinstatement of polygamy is a great unspoken fear of many LDS women. Many LDS women rationalize polygamy by telling themselves that God would never command their husbands to practice polygamy. It is always someone else’s husband who will be commanded to marry more wives.
I was a single woman in the LDS church until I was 30. I was an old maid. The spectre of polygamy was always on my mind. Because LDS men never found me attractive or the type of woman who would make a good Mormon wife (I was too independent and opinionated and not sufficiently “submissive”), I sincerely believed that the only way I would ever get married in the temple was to become a man’s plural wife, after death of course. I cannot tell you how demoralizing it was. It hurt my soul to believe that my value before God was less than a man’s, and that I was a mere possession to be given in marriage to a polygamist. Even after I married my good Eastern Orthodox now Eastern Catholic husband, I worried about my eternal fate. I seriously still worried that because of his “unworthiness”, I would still be given to another man in the celestial kingdom. Yes, my thinking was completely messed up, but this is how many LDS women think. It is no wonder I am strongly opposed to polygamy because it denies the basic dignity God gave to women. Polygamy as a doctrine of the LDS church, even though it is not practiced, is incredibly damaging to women and girls in the LDS church.
Here’s an interesting story from the New York Times from last year about how the faith of many Mormons is being shaken by information that they are finding on the Internet:
In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.
When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.
But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.
“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”
Mr. Mattsson’s decision to go public with his disaffection, in a church whose top leaders commonly deliberate in private, is a sign that the church faces serious challenges not just from outside but also from skeptics inside.
Would allowing polygamy be a redefinition of the word “marriage”? Is polygamy something new? :rolleyes:
Genesis 16:3: So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.
Genesis 29:20-28: So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave** his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.
Judges 8:29-32: Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring,for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech.
1 Samuel 1:1-2: There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah.
2 Samuel 3:2-5: And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
1 Kings 11:1-3: Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.**