Monday, May 15, 2006

Mormons and Polygamy

The buzz surrounding the HBO show Big Love and the FBI putting Warren Jeffs on its top 10 most wanted list has the Mormon church spinning furiously. Click on the title of this entry and it will take you to the church's responses to recent news coverage of polygamy. They also link to this entry which is the church's version of its practice of polygamy.

I'd like to correct a few errors in the church's corrections.
During a report about law enforcement’s crackdown and hunt for Warren Jeffs, leader of a polygamist group, CNN superimposed the face of Jeffs over an image of the Salt Lake Temple. Again, this implies a connection between the two. This is not just careless editing, but highly offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Warren Jeffs is not and never has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The connection is simple. The FLDS church and others like it are offshoots of the Utah church. Plain and simple. When the Utah church apostatized from Joseph Smith's teachings regarding polygamy, some people continued the practice. But the link is quite clear and it is disenguous of the church to claim no linkage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued the practice of polygamy in 1890.
The Mormon church did NOT discontinue the practice of polygamy in 1890. In fact, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve continued to authorize polygamous marriages and continued to enter into their own polygamous marriages until 1904 when the First Presidency was forced to put out a second manifesto against polygamy and eventually had to excommunicate two apostles who continued the practice after that.

Even then, the practice was NOT abandoned, but modified to comply with U.S laws. In fact, the church continues to perform polygamous marriages in its temples to this day. It regularly performs proxy polygamous marriages for the deceased. It also allows men who have divorced or who are widowed to remarry in the temple even if they are still sealed to their prevous wife. In the church's eyes the previous marriage is still in effect and that man has entered into a polygamous marriage. The church has never modified or renounced section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants which officially authorized polygamy and continues the practice it in the limited way mentioned.
There is no such thing as a "Mormon fundamentalist," nor are there “Mormon sects." A correct term to describe these polygamist groups is "polygamist sects." The inclusion of the word “Mormon” is misleading and inaccurate.
I'm not sure how the Utah church would characterize the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or the Strangite branch of the church or the many other offshoots of the church that was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. The branch led by Brigham Young is clearly the largest, most successful branch but it is just as clearly not the only one. This statement is so clearly wrong and easily falsified that it boggles the mind. Just because you say something, doesn't make it true. The fact is that there was no clear succession plan in place when Joseph Smith was killed and there were many people who could legitimately claim the leadership of the church. The fact that Brigham Young and succeeding church presidents took years to take the office of president was a direct result of the fact that Joseph Smith left no revelations authorizing them to take that role. The church's current succession practice is not in any canon of the church and is more of a tradition than anything else. In fact, alternatives have been discussed and considered by the First Presidence and Quorum of the Twelve.

Finally, we have this gem.
Polygamy — or more correctly polygyny, the marriage of more than one woman to the same man — was an important part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a half century.
Nine of the first twelve of Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages were to women who were married to other men. So polyandry, the marriage of one woman to multiple men, was an integral part of the original practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith. This practice was continued by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball after Joseph Smith's death.

While I was an active member I wondered why the church talked so little about its polygamous past other than to state that it no longer practices polygamy. It seemed to me that the current church leaders must be embarrassed and ashamed by the practice. If the practice was correct, then why were they trying to hide and bury it? When I learned the facts surrounding Mormon polygamy it became clear. They couldn't very well quote past prophets who claimed that the church would never stop the practice no matter what the government said and that they shouldn't believe anyone who said otherwise. The details of Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy are embarrassing as he skulked around cheating on his wife with other men's wifes and children and then lied about it and slandered those that tried to expose him.

I'm not sure what the church hope to accomplish by publishing "corrections" like in the referenced articles. The facts are so easily found that it is difficult to believe that the statements are made out of ignorance of the truth. The only conclusion I can make is that the church is knowingly lying about its polygamous past and its links to the polygamous Mormon sects in Utah and surrounding states in the hopes that if they repeat the lies often enough then people will believe them and the past will be forgotten.

3 comments:

GuateMom said...

It also allows men who have divorced or who are widowed to remarry in the temple even if they are still sealed to their prevous wife. In the church's eyes the previous marriage is still in effect and that man has entered into a polygamous marriage.

Another instance of discrimination within the Church. Men are allowed the "blessing" of eternal happiness with more than one spouse but women are not allowed to be sealed to more than one man (not that we would really want to be;)

considering said...

Why do you hate this polygamy idea? Are you afraid you would have too many women to put up with? What does your wife think about all this?

Bull said...

I hate the church's dishonesty about it. I hate the way Joseph Smith used religion to manipulate women into sleeping with him. Personally, I could care less if it is consensual and not coerce. I personally have no desire to have more than one wife. My wife hates it.