25 October 2014

The Mormon church finally admits that Joseph Smith had many wives (to "raise up seed unto God" by making big Mormon families)

Something strange is going on in Salt Lake City.

Last week the official website of the Mormon church (LDS.org) showed off its magic underwear; this week it admits that Joseph Smith was a polygamist.

And this is just the latest of their most recent public confessions. In the last year or so they have also: admitted they were wrong about race (while keeping their racist beliefs); pretended to deny (but didn't) that Mormon men get their own planets after they die; and admitted that Joseph Smith didn't translate the Book of Abraham.

Now, in a series of recent articles at LDS.org, the Mormon church comes clean on its dirtiest little secret -- that Joseph Smith Jr. was a polygamist. This, of course, is not news to anyone who knows anything about Joseph Smith. But it is news to most Mormons, since the Mormon church never mentions it to its own members. Not until now, anyway.

I suspect that there are two reasons for this new openness: the internet and the Book of Mormon musical. The embarrassing aspects of Mormon beliefs and history are readily available on the internet and are openly mocked in the musical. When the whole world is laughing at your beliefs, its time to face up to them.

In its article, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, the church begins by saying that monogamy "is the Lord’s standing law of marriage." But sometimes the Lord changes his standard and forces men to marry more than one woman.

Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standing law of marriage.1 In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman.2
Since I couldn't recall any biblical passage in which God commanded a man to have multiple wives, I checked their footnote. Note 2 refers to Genesis 16, which includes the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Sarah's female slave, Hagar. (Abraham and Sarah's names were "Abram" and "Sarai" until God changed them in Genesis 17 to celebrate Abraham's circumcision.)
Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived. Genesis 16:1-4
So the reference to Genesis 16 doesn't work. God didn't tell Abraham to have sex with (or marry) Hagar. Sarah commanded Abraham, and he did as she told him to do. God was an innocent bystander.

But then I checked out the other reference in note 2, the one from The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Here are the relevant verses:

God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it. D&C 132:34-35
The discrepancy between these two Mormon scriptures is explained in the Mormon church's intro to Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Section 132: Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.
And that pretty much explains it. God changed the story in Genesis 16 to provide a justification for Joseph Smith's multiple wives.

Still, it wasn't easy for God to get Joseph Smith to take plural wives. Abraham was easy; he just did as Sarah God commanded. But God had to send an angel who threatened to kill Joseph if he wouldn't comply, as the article explains:

... Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.

And that did the trick. Joseph Smith obeyed the sword-bearing angel, marrying as many women as he could. God only knows how many, since all of his marriages (except his first marriage to Emma Hale) were secret and illegal. But estimates run from 30 to 50, nearly all of which occurred within a few years (1841 to his death in 1844). Among his known wives were five pairs of sisters, one mother-daughter pair, and twelve women who were married to other men (Fawn Brodie, 1971, No Man Knows My History, p.336).

So Joseph Smith was just doing what God commanded. But why did God command it? For this reason, as the article explains:

God declared in the Book of Mormon that monogamy was the standard; at times, however, He commanded plural marriage so His people could “raise up seed unto [Him].”44 Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents.

Note 44 refers the reader to a verse in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:30, which contains a loophole for polygamy.

For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
God forced plural marriage on Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Mormon men from 1843 to 1890 to make big Mormon families -- just like it says in the last verse of Joseph Smith American Moses from the Book of Mormon musical (begins at about 5:00).

For more information about Mormon polygamy, I recommend that you watch this excellent 4-minute video:

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Thanks for keeping the Mor(m)ons' feet to the fire, Steve. Along with the feet of the followers of other religions you've helped toast, I wonder if this is "a sweet savour unto the lord".
Maybe god doesn't appreciate it, but I sure do! My Mitre is off to you.
Steve Weeks