What I knew about Joseph Smith' polygamy

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beastie
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What I knew about Joseph Smith' polygamy

Post by beastie »

There are a couple threads about this, but they seem to have focused on a different direction than this one, so I'll start over.

I converted to the church at the age of 19 in 1976. I knew that the LDS church was associated with polygamy, as everyone who has ever heard of Brigham Young well knows. When I brought this up as a concern, the missionaries told me that polygamy was very limited, and it existed solely to take care of widows, due to the excess of females. (of course, I was too young and too eager to believe to process that this meant that the LDS men would only help take care of widows if they were "married" to them. Why wouldn't a caring community just plain take care of its widows without any marital contracts involved?)

I knew that Joseph Smith received the revelation about polygamy. I also knew that Emma had strong objections to the practice. I believed (although I do not remember specifically being taught this but I have to imagine I was, as a convert in an area with very few members or, prior to the internet, access to information about the church, I picked up everything I knew about the church from the church members) that due to Emma's objections, in accordance with the scripture that specified the first wife should give her permission, that Joseph Smith never actually practiced polygamy. I knew that many women were sealed to him AFTER his death.

I knew that Emma was under condemnation for refusing to accept those who had been "given" to Joseph. That is part of the reason that Joseph Smith said he'd go into hell to retrieve her, if need be. But I never knew that Joseph Smith actually went behind Emma's back without her permission and married other women, including, of course, very young women, women assigned to his custodial care, mothers and daughters, sisters, and already married women. Of course, Emma did consent to a few of these, but seemed to immediately regret giving her consent.

When I first read Mormon Polygamy by Van Wagoner, as a believer, and discovered just how Joseph Smith did practice polygamy, I was dismayed. I talked to several members about it. Most of them were like me - they had no idea that Joseph Smith had actually practiced polygamy, because we all knew Emma was hostile to the principle, and the D&C says that the first "give her consent" (132:61). I talked to one sister who knew about it all, and she understood my dismay and confusion, and told me, paraphrasing, that "even if the church is not what we were taught it was, it's still a good place to raise a family."

There are some believers who insist that it was my responsibility to ferret out information I didn't even know existed. People like me were lazy. I actually was a diligent member and read quite a bit - but I read books that were "safe" from Deseret.

Of course now even Deseret talks about Joseph Smith' polygamy. I believe even the Ensign had an article that mentioned Joseph Smith' other wives. My question is when did this begin to be addressed in "safe" (ie, deseret, ensign) circles? Was this information that a member who was NOT willing to read "anti" material and stuck to Deseret and church materials could be exposed to in the seventies and eighties? Did they discuss it in seminary and I missed it as a convert? I taught seminary for a year and we didn't teach it then, but perhaps it was the wrong year. Or did I just have my head in the sand somehow? Was I really that lazy and silly to NOT know all this?

Those of you who insist that this material was readily accessible to someone who was not willing to read "anti" material, in the seventies and eighties, can you back this up with any references?
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Re: What I knew about Joseph Smith' polygamy

Post by Rollo Tomasi »

beastie wrote:Of course now even Deseret talks about Joseph Smith' polygamy. I believe even the Ensign had an article that mentioned Joseph Smith' other wives. My question is when did this begin to be addressed in "safe" (ie, deseret, ensign) circles? Was this information that a member who was NOT willing to read "anti" material and stuck to Deseret and church materials could be exposed to in the seventies and eighties? Did they discuss it in seminary and I missed it as a convert? I taught seminary for a year and we didn't teach it then, but perhaps it was the wrong year. Or did I just have my head in the sand somehow? Was I really that lazy and silly to NOT know all this?

Those of you who insist that this material was readily accessible to someone who was not willing to read "anti" material, in the seventies and eighties, can you back this up with any references?

To this day I don't recall ever reading in a Church-sanctioned "safe" circle about Joseph Smith's polyandry. I know his polygamy has been briefly mentioned in the occasional Church publication, but never that Joseph Smith married other men's wives.
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Re: What I knew about Joseph Smith' polygamy

Post by Runtu »

Rollo Tomasi wrote:To this day I don't recall ever reading in a Church-sanctioned "safe" circle about Joseph Smith's polyandry. I know his polygamy has been briefly mentioned in the occasional Church publication, but never that Joseph Smith married other men's wives.


I agree. Never have I read anything about polyandry in a church publication that I can recall.
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Post by beastie »

To this day I don't recall ever reading in a Church-sanctioned "safe" circle about Joseph Smith's polyandry. I know his polygamy has been briefly mentioned in the occasional Church publication, but never that Joseph Smith married other men's wives.


Do you remember the time periods in which you'd seen his polygamy mentioned in the occasional church publication? I'm trying to figure out how I missed even that, and believed that the only "polygamy" Joseph Smith practiced was in the fact that lots of women had themselves sealed to Joseph Smith after his death.

And for those of you who knew Joseph Smith did actually practice it, aside from the polyandry, how did you reconcile this with the fact that the first wife was supposed to give her consent, and we all knew that Emma detested the practice and refused to give consent?
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Post by Runtu »

beastie wrote:Do you remember the time periods in which you'd seen his polygamy mentioned in the occasional church publication? I'm trying to figure out how I missed even that, and believed that the only "polygamy" Joseph Smith practiced was in the fact that lots of women had themselves sealed to Joseph Smith after his death.


I don't recall anything specific, but I heard the same thing you did about how it was mostly posthumous sealings of older women.

And for those of you who knew Joseph Smith did actually practice it, aside from the polyandry, how did you reconcile this with the fact that the first wife was supposed to give her consent, and we all knew that Emma detested the practice and refused to give consent?


I think I just figured that since he was God's prophet, it didn't matter if I didn't understand it.
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Post by Rollo Tomasi »

beastie wrote:Do you remember the time periods in which you'd seen his polygamy mentioned in the occasional church publication? I'm trying to figure out how I missed even that, and believed that the only "polygamy" Joseph Smith practiced was in the fact that lots of women had themselves sealed to Joseph Smith after his death.

It's been fairly recent. The Our Heritage booklet that was part of last year's Gospel Doctrine SS class (I think it was last year) mentions briefly the beginning of polygamy in the early 1830's (but puts it 50 years out of sequence -- it appears only after the section in the book discussing the Church's Jubilee in 1880 -- in connection with the federal government's persecution of polygamists in the 1880's, and even then it does not expressly state that Joseph personally practiced polygamy, but uses clever wordsmithing to suggest he did not). It's also included in the teacher's manual for that same Gospel Doctrine class, but puts it in the "additional" resources (not the main part of the lesson), to be used IF a class member first raises the issue.
"Moving beyond apologist persuasion, LDS polemicists furiously (and often fraudulently) attack any non-traditional view of Mormonism. They don't mince words -- they mince the truth."

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Post by The Dude »

I don't remember how much I knew about Joseph Smith/polygamy back when I was a believer. It may be that I didn't know at all, or I might have known but didn't really care, because it was so well known that the early saints in Utah were polygamists under BY. The practice of polygamy didn't bother me (probably in part because I'm male), and it still doesn't rate very high on my list of concerns.

On the other hand I'm pretty sure I never knew just how Joseph Smith got the polygamy ball rolling. That has only come to my attention since I quit believing, and it is a cause of great concern. If, as I mentioned on another thread, I could be convinced with external evidence that the Book of Mormon history really happened, I would still take the underhanded way Joseph Smith "restored" polygamy as a strong clue that he fell from grace.

beastie wrote:And for those of you who knew Joseph Smith did actually practice it, aside from the polyandry, how did you reconcile this with the fact that the first wife was supposed to give her consent, and we all knew that Emma detested the practice and refused to give consent?


Heh, since God knows everything, he probably knew Emma would eventually give her consent -- in heaven, maybe -- and so it was okay for Joseph Smith to go behind her back.

Oh! Did you hear all the joints in my back popping when I said that? Who said it only takes mental gymnastics to be a believer?

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Post by Runtu »

I found this in the December 1978 Ensign:

In obedience to the command of the living prophet, Newel and Elizabeth Ann gave their daughter Sarah Ann in marriage to Joseph Smith. Nearly a year later, Joseph Smith dictated the general revelation about the eternity of marriage and the nature of plural marriage, and Newel asked to have his own copy, a providential request, since the first copy was destroyed. Thus, Newel’s desire to have the word of the Lord has blessed the entire Church by preserving what is now Section 132 [D&C 132] in the Doctrine and Covenants.


Ironically, the article's author is Michael Quinn.

From the April 1980 Tambuli:

1843

July 12. A revelation on the “Eternity of the Marriage Covenant and Plural Marriage” (D&C 132) was recorded, giving fuller meaning to the “new and everlasting covenant” which had been mentioned as early as 1831. The Prophet had explained the doctrine to a few, and plural marriages had been performed in 1841.


From the Nov. 1989 Tambuli:

In Nauvoo, the Knight group faced and passed another great test of faith. The Prophet introduced several doctrines relating to the temple, including the temple ceremonies and plural marriage, which some could not accept. 9 But the Knights received the teachings. They helped to finish the temple and then performed baptisms for the dead. By early 1846, more than twenty adults in the Knight families had received their temple endowments and sealings. Four of Father and Polly Knight’s children entered into plural marriage.


June 1979 article about the Partridges:

Although little Don Carlos Smith died a short time later, Emily and Eliza continued to live in the Smith home, where, in the summer of 1842, both girls “were married to Bro. Joseph about the same time, but neither of us knew about the other at the time; everything was so secret” (Emily, “Incidents,” p. 186). Eliza later reflected:

“A woman living in polygamy dare not let it be known and nothing but a firm desire to keep the commandments of the Lord could have induced a girl to marry in that way. I thought my trials were very severe in the line and I am often led to wonder how it was that a person of my temperament could get along with it and not rebel; but I know it was the Lord who kept me from opposing his plans although in my heart I felt that I could not submit to them. But I did and I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for the care he had over me in those troublous times.” (“Autobiography and Diary,” pp. 13–14.)

The sudden and violent death of Joseph Smith in June 1844 was particularly wrenching to his plural wives, since they were forced to bear their grief in silence. Emily attended the viewing when the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were returned to Nauvoo from Carthage. “I went with the rest, as a stranger, none suspecting the extra sorrow that was in my heart” (Emily, “Autobiography and Diary,” p. 3).


So, yes, it was there. Like I said, I knew about the polygamy, just not about the polyandry and not about the secrecy from Emma.
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Post by Trinity »

Hi Beastie,

I think that you actually had more exposure to the topic than the average Joemormon, just because I think your curiousity and intelligence level is higher than the average Joemormon.

I was raised in an extremely active family, with ancestral polygamous roots in one of Joseph's polygamous wives. I have uncles who worked at the geneaological center and several family members that did nothing but trace old journals and family pedigree charts back to that time of the church. I can remember being at family gatherings where the sole topic of discussion was polygamy. Not one iota of that little polyandrous secret of Joseph Smith, even amongst all of the polygamous talk. So even for those who were aware of Joseph's polygamy, the polyandry portion was still the black sheep, I guess.

When I was 14 I began seminary and had D&C as my first year of study. I asked my instructor about Joseph's polygamy and he really skirted the topic and immediately sequed into Brigham Young's practice of it.

I took a church history class at BYU and there was peripheral discussion of Joseph's Smith's involvement in polygamy. The topic in all of my 35 years in Mormon sunday school classes went like this --->

    Joseph Smith was reading the OT and was perplexed about Abraham's polygamy
    Joseph went to the Lord and the Lord declared certain situations where polygamy was to be practiced
    Brigham Young and early pioneers followed God's command to practice polygamy, and the practice was discontinued after the Lord revealed it was no longer to be practiced.
    It is important to realize the sacred and vital nature of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in this day and age.(this is the lead-in to character traits of marriage the current leadership feels is "celestial."


So, out of curiousity I took a peek at the current seminary and institute curriculum. Not much has changed. Those who tell you you were sleeping or unaware are living in that internet haze far far away from practicing, chapel Mormons.

Religion 324-325, Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual

http://www.ldsces.org/clone.asp?Val1=.. ... start_here.

D&C 132:51–56. What Was Emma Commanded Not to Partake of?
No indication is given here or elsewhere of what the Lord had commanded the Prophet Joseph to offer to his wife, but the context seems to suggest that it was a special test of faith similar to the test of Abraham’s faith when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. Beyond that, it is useless to speculate. However, Emma was given additional counsel from the Lord, including commandments to “receive all those that have been given to her husband” (D&C 132:52) to obey the voice of the Lord (see v. 53), to “abide and cleave unto” the Prophet (v. 54),
and to forgive him of his trespasses (see v. 56).

The Lord also gave her warnings against rejecting these commandments and promises for keeping them. President Wilford Woodruff, who was closely associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, said: “Emma Smith, the widow of the Prophet, is said to have maintained to her dying moments that her husband had nothing to do with the patriarchal order of marriage, but that it was Brigham Young that got that up. I bear record before God, angels and men that Joseph Smith received that revelation, and I bear record that Emma Smith gave her husband in marriage to several women while he was living, some of whom are to-day living in this city, and some may be present in this congregation, and who, if called upon, would confirm my words. But lo and behold, we hear of publication after publication now-a-days, declaring that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with these things. Joseph Smith himself organized every endowment in our Church and revealed the same to
the Church, and he lived to receive every key of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods from the hands of the men who held them while in the flesh, and who hold them in eternity.” (In Journal of Discourses, 23:131.)


Doctrine and Covenants and Church History
Seminary Student Study Guide

http://www.ldsces.org/Employee%20SG.asp

Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, explained how an understanding of the doctrine of eternal marriage changed his life:

“Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.

“It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. . . .

“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt [1985], 259–60).


Doctrine and Covenants 132:58–66—Plural Marriage
As shown in the verse summary for Doctrine and Covenants 132, verses 58–66 concern “laws governing the plurality of wives.” Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage in the early days of the Church; in 1890, through President Wilford Woodruff, He ended that practice (see Official Declaration 1). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:

“Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman. (D. & C. 132:1–28.) Thereafter he added the principles relative to plurality of wives with the express stipulation that any such marriages would be valid only if authorized by the President of the Church. (D. & C. 132:7, 29–66.)

“All who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day, when the one holding the keys has withdrawn the power by which they are performed, are guilty of gross wickedness” (Mormon Doctrine, 578–79; italics in original).
"I think one of the great mysteries of the gospel is that anyone still believes it." Sethbag, MADB, Feb 22 2008

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Post by gramps »

Well, I guess I am totally at fault. I didn't know about it until I came home from my mission. My mother had told me about it being instituted to help all the ladies out whose husbands had died on the way west. I bought that hook, line and sinker. Why would I think my Mom didn't know? Once fooled, twice shy, became the rule.

I found out after starting to read Sunstone and Dialogue after I got home from England. When I read about Joseph telling his paramour to keep everything on the hush-hush and only come around when Emma wasn't around, and to burn the letter before anyone could have a chance to find it, that was a kicker for me. What Prophet does something like that?

And how are we supposed to have respect for our wife, if we are to follow such an example? What nonsense! Really! And then it just slides downhill into a stinking pile of crap through all the post-manifesto deception. Who would want to be in such a Church? I still don't really understand how someone would want to stay in such an organization. And then to defend it. Ohhh, there goes that "gymnastic popping" through my back. Ouch. Really. Ouch!
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Post by harmony »

A search of LDS.org using "Joseph Smith polyandry" results in 0 results.

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Post by gramps »

harmony wrote:A search of LDS.org using "Joseph Smith polyandry" results in 0 results.


Well, if you want to learn about Ford automobiles, you go to a Ford auto dealer, right? I guess not!
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Post by beastie »

Thanks for the input. Runtu, what is Tambuli? I did a search for it and am guessing from the reference I found on LDS.org it might be a magazine for the military? I don't remember ever hearing about it.

I did read the Ensign faithfully when I was at home. In 79 I was on my mission, so it's understandable that I missed that one. Perhaps I didn't keep up with the Ensign when I was at BYU, I really can't recall. I thought I read every issue, but maybe I didn't. And maybe my own confirmation bias was at work, as well. I adored the prophet Joseph and was more than willing to associate polygamy largely with BY, who seemed a more dictatorial, distant character. So perhaps I read these things and my mind helpfully erased them for me. Or perhaps I interpreted it in the platonic manner that some members of MAD do today. My adoration of Joseph Smith, despite the fact that I never could obtain a "real" testimony through the witness of the HG of his mission, made it that much more difficult for me when I read Mormon Polygamy. However, as dismayed and upset as I was, I still would have continued to believe had God answered my sincere prayers about Joseph Smith' calling as prophet.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

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