Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why I'm Abandoning Polygamy

Like all good Latter-day Saints of my generation, I’ve always been a committed polygamist.

To be clear, I’ve never been a practicing polygamist. You could say I’m a polygamist in the same sense that I’m a nutritionist.   I know nutrition is out there, I’m told it’s good for me, and I always figured that one day I would probably get around to practicing  good nutrition.

That’s kind of how I’ve thought about polygamy most of my life.  It was out there in the future somewhere, but not necessarily all that relevant to me at the moment.
    
Those of you new to the church in the last couple of decades may be surprised to learn that when we old timers were growing up, we were taught that “someday they’ll bring back polygamy” and at that day the faithful among us would finally jump back into the pool.  Plural marriage is, after all, an eternal principle, the suspension of which, we were frequently told, was only temporary.   

When I was a young single man, my attitude toward polygamy was somewhat ambivalent.  What did I care whether I ended up with one wife or seventy, just as long as I got to do it with somebody.  Just gimme that first wedding night and we can discuss numbers later.

So while growing up, whenever someone spoke up in Sunday School or Seminary with the reminder that someday we would all be required to practice “The Principle,” I was okay with it. Sure. Fine. Whatever.   

Then one day I met my soul mate.


Sorry Girls, He's Married

Few men actually have the good fortune to meet and marry their actual soul mate the first time out.  Some guys find her eventually, but it often takes a second marriage, or a third.  Most never do.  I hit pay dirt the first time out.  I knew Connie was The One the moment I saw her; I recognized her from my dreams.  I've known from the beginning that after finding her there was no possibility of my ever wanting to take on any additional wives.  Just not gonna happen.  Ever.  Connie is my one and only, my kindred spirit. We're one couple, indivisible.

And we ain’t sharin’ our bed with nobody else.

Luckily for us, we’ll never have to, because I’m happy to announce that while I’m firmly devoted to most of the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  I no longer believe in the doctrine of plural marriage.

I'll bet you don’t really believe in it either; not enough to start living it right now if you were told to.  As for me, I’ve had a real paradigm shift in my thinking, and it came to me after reading a book by Richard and Pamela Price entitled Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes.

Yeah, I know.  Stay with me here.

The first time I was made aware of this book, I did what every good Mormon boy would do. I ignored it.  After all, everyone knows that the doctrine of plural marriage came to us through Joseph Smith, right? (Spoiler alert: No it didn’t.)

I own Todd Compton’s book, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, wherein he traces the lives of the estimated 33 women who are believed to have been secretly married to Joseph Smith at Nauvoo.  There may have been some disagreement among scholars about the exact number of wives the Prophet had, but surely no one doubts the basic story.  We all know Joseph kept the practice secret so as not to give his enemies cause and to mollify his jealous first wife, Emma.

But to suggest that Joseph Smith may have actually fought against the doctrine of plural marriage was, to me, an absurd supposition.  It was not even worth thinking about.

But I had an experience a couple of years ago that convinced me to take a second look at this hypothesis.  I was reading Richard Van Wagoner’s biography of Sidney Rigdon, and something on page 292 jumped out at me.  The Author was discussing how often and adamantly the Prophet Joseph Smith attacked polygamy and those who promoted it:
“The Prophet warned against ‘iniquitous characters [who] say they have authority from Joseph or the First Presidency’ and advising them not to ‘believe anything as coming from us, contrary to the established morals & virtues & scriptural laws...’ The sisters were urged to denounce any man who made polygamous proposals and to ‘shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are Prophets, Seers, or Revelators; Patriarchs, Twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Majors, Generals, City Councilors, Aldermen, Marshals, Police, Lord mayors or the Devil, [they] are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices.” (Page 292)
Those are some pretty strong words coming from a guy who is supposedly getting a little on the side.  They leave no room for equivocation.  Joseph Smith was unmistakably condemning to hell any man who advocated polygamy, even if that man was the prophet himself.


Who's Putting Words In Joseph Smith's Mouth?

The author of Sidney Rigdon’s biography is also the author of Mormon Polygamy: A History, which was the first major overview of the practice, and he knows the subject well.  Van Wagoner does not question the widely held belief that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage, but like many who write about him, he finds Joseph’s apparent schizophrenia baffling.  Further down on the page we read this:
“The Prophet’s most pointed denial of plural marriage occurred on 5 October 1843 in instructions pronounced publicly in the streets of Nauvoo. Willard Richards wrote in Smith’s diary that Joseph ‘gave instructions to try those who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives...Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.’”
What really popped out at me was Van Wagoner’s footnote to the above quote, on page 303
“When incorporating Smith's journal into the History of the Church, church leaders, under Brigham Young's direction, deleted ten key words from this significant passage and added forty-nine others so that it now reads:
"Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise."   (Emphasis mine)

It is not commonly known that the seven volume History of the Church, which purports to have been written by Joseph Smith himself, was substantially  added to and edited after the Prophet’s death.  After all, Joseph Smith did leave great gaps in the narrative, and if his history was to be complete, the account required additional input from subsequent church historians.  Editions of the massive work were still being tweaked by B.H. Roberts as late as 1912.

Still, it struck me that the passage above had been substantially doctored so as to completely change its meaning.  It put words into the Prophet’s mouth that he simply had not spoken, words that in fact contradicted what he had said. The added words I’ve highlighted in bold italics above could incline the reader to conclude that Joseph equivocated on the subject, but it’s clear from his original words that he did not.  Missing entirely from Joseph's statement in the official history is the primary imperative, “Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof.”

This is not editing for clarification.  This is prevarication, a lie; a calculated attempt to change church history.

I felt it was high time I found out for myself what Joseph Smith had actually said about plural marriage in his own words, so I ordered a copy of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy from  RestorationBookStore.org and read it through.  I admit to approaching the book with skepticism.  I consider myself pretty well read in the history of the Missouri-Nauvoo period, so I figured I’d spot the flaws in this thesis right off the bat.

But the startling conclusion I came to is that most historians, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who have taught that Joseph Smith was a secret polygamist, were proceeding from a false assumption.  Several false assumptions, actually; not the least of which was that the many women who claimed to have been Joseph Smith’s plural wives had no reason to lie.  The truth is the precise opposite.  They had some very good reasons to lie.


The True Origins of Mormon Polygamy

You have probably never heard of the Cochranites, because this odd religious community simply vanished from history sometime in the late 1830's.  While they were on the scene, though, they stirred up quite a fuss and enjoyed no small amount of notoriety.  Richard and Pamela Price, the husband and wife authors of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy reproduce several articles from books and newspapers of the era that tell of the charismatic leader Jacob Cochran, who convinced some two thousand supporters that what he called “the Patriarchal Order” -that is, polygamy- as practiced by Father Abraham, was the proper mode of marriage, and that this “spiritual wifery” was ordained of God.  By the time of Jacob Cochrane’s death in 1829, there were still upwards of a thousand dedicated polygamists in the movement he founded, and they settled themselves up and down the borders of Maine and Massachusetts, with the main body in Saco, Maine.

When the first Mormon missionaries arrived in the area in 1832, they found the Cochranites to be extremely receptive to the message of the Restoration. Accustomed as they already were to following in the traditions of the ancient patriarchs, it was not difficult for them to accept the message that the ancient church of Christ had been restored with all its gifts.  The missionaries tarried among the Cochranites for several months and won many converts.  No doubt during their prolonged interaction with each other, the Cochranites shared their philosophy of plural marriage with the Mormon Elders.

The Cochranite stronghold was such a fruitful place for converts that the young Church of Christ held a conference in Saco in 1834.  Nine of the twelve apostles were in attendance.

Although the Cochranites vanished from the history books by the end of the decade, they hadn’t really disappeared.  They had simply been folded into Mormonism, selling their farms and shops and moving to Kirtland and eventually Nauvoo, bringing their polygamous families and teachings with them.


A Cancer Is Detected

Some of these converts to the church continued to practice their polygamous lifestyle discreetly, while others openly sought to recruit other Mormons to “the patriarchal order”.  Before long church leadership took notice, and denouned the practice in short order.   The 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included this article on marriage in section 101:
“Inasmuch as this church has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband.”
If you turn to section 101 in your D&C today, you won’t find that passage.  It was removed when the Doctrine and Covenants was reprinted in 1876.

The Quorums of the Seventy at Kirtland also made it known that polygamists would not be tolerated within that body when they adopted a resolution which stated that they would have no fellowship with any Elder "who is guilty of polygamy."

The practice of polygamy was becoming an open secret among some of the Saints in Nauvoo, and Joseph was continually being asked by non-members if Mormons believed in having more wives than one.  He published his official response to this question in The Elders' Journal: “No, not at the same time.  But they believe that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again.”   

While imprisoned in Liberty Jail, Joseph denounced polygamy in all its manifestations in a letter he wrote to the Saints in Caldwell County, ending with the warning that “if any person has represented any thing otherwise than what we now write they have willfully misrepresented us.”
                               
Joseph Smith’s denunciations of polygamy were frequent and fervent.  He considered the practice a plague that must be stamped out or it would eventually lead the church to the very brink of destruction.  But even he was not prepared to learn that some of his best friends were seducing women by claiming the authority to do so came from him.
                                   

With Friends Like These...       

It’s not unusual for many of us today to assume that when the church was young, Joseph Smith knew everyone in town and everyone knew him.  But this wasn’t true.  Some members lived their entire lives without having personally met the Prophet.  Thus it was with a young lady by the name of Sarah Miller who was a member of the choir during one of Brother Joseph’s sermons condemning polygamy.

Sarah became immediately alarmed at what she heard, and quickly confessed to church authorities that she had been engaging in illicit sexual activities under the belief that Joseph Smith himself had authorized it.  The gullible girl told a tale of having been seduced by Chauncey Higbee, a prominent Nauvoo attorney, who told her, she said, that “it was no harm to have sexual intercourse with women if they would keep it to themselves, and continually urged me to yield to his desires, and urged me vehemently, and said he and Joseph were good friends, and he [Joseph] teaches me this doctrine, and allows me such privileges, and there is no harm in it and Joseph Smith says so.”

Higbee duped the innocent girl into believing that she was Higbee's “spiritual wife,” and that in time they would be married.  Several other women soon came forward telling similar tales.  It turned out that Chauncey Higbee, his brother Francis, and several others were having their way with many women using the line that Joseph Smith sanctioned such seductions.

As these women came forth to the Nauvoo High Council with their affidavits, a common thread emerged that astonished even the Prophet himself.  It seems that if any of these men encountered resistance to the claim that Joseph Smith approved of their actions, they merely took the young lady to see the second most prominent citizen in Nauvoo, and he would assure them that yes, it was alright, Joseph Smith says so.  This unethical cad was seducing many women himself by telling them that Joseph Smith had received a revelation which allowed men to have plural wives.


A Scoundrel In The City Of The Saints

I’ve long felt that if ever there was a Mormon whose life story would make a fascinating movie, John C. Bennett was that guy.  But the movie would have a very, very bad ending.

It’s very likely that Nauvoo never would have become the impressive city it was had it not been for the able assistance of Dr. Bennett. 

Bennett arrived among the Saints precisely when he was needed most, just after the Saints had been expelled from Missouri and were now gathering weak, sick, and destitute on the Illinois side of the river.  He appeared like a knight on a white horse, and Joseph Smith was grateful and relieved to be offered assistance from such a capable personage as the well appointed Dr. Bennett.

A one-time colleague of Sidney Rigdon’s, Bennett joined the church at Nauvoo and immediately took charge of things, supervising the draining of the swamps and the mapping out of city plots.  “Joseph welcomed the assistance of Dr. Bennett, who came prescribing a miracle medicine, quinine, for the malaria which was killing the Saints; and also bringing great visions and expertise in city planning, schools, a university, commerce, a militia, a Masonic Lodge, and political stability.” (Pg 70)

The grateful citizens of the city he built elected John C. Bennett their first mayor of Nauvoo.   

Bennett’s credentials were impressive.  In addition to being a medical doctor, Bennett had also been a brigadier general, a quartermaster general, the dean of one university and the president of another, a horticulturalist, a postmaster general, a preacher, and an attorney.  And now he was the mayor of the fastest growing city on the Mississippi.

If anyone had shown up on the scene today with a resume like that, he would instantly be pegged as a fraud and an impostor, which, it turned out, Bennett was.  But Bennett was brilliant and capable, and he actually knew his stuff, so no one in Nauvoo thought to question the handsome savior who had appeared in their hour of need.  Nauvoo grew prosperous and impressive under Bennett’s rule.  He became easily the most prominent citizen of the city next to the prophet Joseph Smith himself.   Bennett lodged with the Smiths and became fast friends with the prophet, and when Sidney Rigdon took ill, Joseph even made Bennett First Counselor in the First Presidency of the church.

When it was revealed that Bennett had been using Joseph's good name in order that he and his friends could bed unsuspecting Mormon women,  Joseph quietly conducted an investigation.  He sent Bishop George Miller to Ohio to look into the good doctor’s background.  Miller reported that Bennett had lived in twenty towns in as many years, that he “has the vanity to believe he is the smartest man in the nation; and if he cannot at once be placed at the head of the heap, he soon seeks a situation...always push[ing] himself into places and situations entirely beyond his abilities...and the next thing his friends hear of him he is off in another direction.”  Joseph Smith was coming to the realization that his “friend” had cleverly maneuvered himself into positions of importance at Nauvoo for one purpose: he was building himself a personal empire.               

Bishop Miller reported one more thing.  John C. Bennett, the most popular and eligible bachelor in Nauvoo, had a wife and children whom he had abandoned back in Ohio. 

When Joseph confronted Bennett with the evidence of his crimes, Bennett wept and blubbered and promised to repent, begging the council not to make his sins public, for fear of how such news would affect his poor mother.  But it wasn’t his mother that Bennett was concerned about, it was the damage that exposure would mean for his broader political ambitions.

Mercy may have ultimately been Joseph Smith’s undoing, for he agreed that as long as Bennett was sincerely repentant, he would not make public his sins.  Joseph made similar agreements with the Higbee brothers when they wept and blubbered and begged.       

So without fanfare or publicity, The High Council of the church quietly withdrew the hand of fellowship from John C. Bennett.  He resigned as mayor of Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith took his place. Bennett made an official statement before the City Council in which he stated that Joseph Smith was “strictly virtuous,"  and he also provided Joseph with a lengthy affidavit swearing that at no time did Joseph Smith suggest or give him authority to hold illicit intercourse with women.  Bennett further stated in the affidavit that he hoped “the time may come when I may be restored to full confidence, and fellowship, and my former standing in the church.”

But poor Doctor Bennett just couldn’t keep his breeches buttoned.  When it was discovered weeks later that Bennett was continuing his illicit activities, Joseph Smith preached a public sermon against Bennett and his false teachings.  That was the end of it for John Cook Bennett.  He was finished, and so, he knew, was any chance to be elected to the Illionois state legislature, a position he desired very much, and for which he had no hope of attaining without the support of the Mormons.

General Bennett was cashiered out of the Nauvoo Legion and expelled from the Masonic Lodge he himself had founded. He was also expelled from the church. He left town in disgrace, but he vowed that neither Joseph Smith nor the citizens of  Nauoo had heard the last of him.  He would get his revenge against them all.

Bennett ended up in Carthage where he began to write a series of letters that were printed in newspapers far and wide “exposing” Joseph Smith as a polygamist and charging him with seduction, murder, treason, and other crimes.  A few months later Bennett published a book entitled The History of the Saints; or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism.  It was largely the inflammatory charges contained in those letters and that book that got the non-Mormon populace so riled up against Joseph Smith that in the end some were even willing to murder him.

As Doctor Robert D. Foster said of Bennett, “He tried to father all his own iniquity upon Joseph Smith.” Ironically, many of the things faithful Mormons today believe about Joseph Smith concerning polygamy can be traced to the ugly lies originally promoted by the vindictive Dr. Bennett. 
                   
       
A Testimony Against The dissenters

Although John Bennett gave Joseph Smith no end of grief, he was by no means the only person close to the Prophet discovered to be practicing plural marriage.  Joseph continued in his resolve to stamp out the spreading plague.

The group that included Bennett and the Higbees and their “spiritual wives” proved to be only part of the problem.  The philosophy of the patriarchal order introduced to the church through the Cochranites proved very appealing to many of the Saints, with the result that even some within the Quorum of the Twelve had come to believe in it and were secretly taking additional wives.   Joseph told William Marks that he intended to expose and root out this disease from even his closest associates.  But the Prophet never accomplished the task, because three weeks later he was dead.

It is a common belief within the church that Joseph Smith died defending his testimony of the Book of Mormon.  While that impressive work was clearly the crowning achievement of his short life, he left no recorded evidence that the Book of Mormon was foremost on his mind either on the eve of his death or in the weeks leading up to it.  If you’re looking for a truly fiery testimony from Joseph Smith just prior to his martyrdom, you’ll find it in his vigorous defense of his singular marriage to Emma and his castigation of those advocating polygamous unions, as well as his vehement denunciation of those accusing him of impropriety.   

Less than a month before Joseph’s martyrdom, thousands of Saints gathered to hear him denounce for the umpteenth time the evil doctrine and those who would accuse him of promulgating it.  You can find that address in The History of the Church under the title “Address of the Prophet-His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo.”   
“I am innocent of all these charges,” he declared, “and you can bear witness of my innocence, for you know me yourselves.”
“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.”
It was Joseph Smith at his fiery best.  You can read excerpts from that sermon here.  As Richard and Pamela Price state in their book, Joseph “wanted to get the whole matter out in the open and to put a stop to the polygamous activities which some of the apostles and their friends were practicing at the time.”

The book is filled with examples of Joseph Smith decrying the practice in his many sermons, as well as numerous newspaper articles and affidavits by those close to the Prophet disproving the charges against him.  You can read the entire book online here, as well as the yet unpublished volume two.  I highly recommend, however, that you buy yourself a hard copy of the book, because it contains sketches, photos, and copies of documents vital to a full appreciation for the thirty years of research the Prices' put into this effort.

 In the last three years of his life Joseph took the precaution of having scribes and male companions with him at all times recording his actions and whereabouts in order to make it impossible for his enemies to continue to contrive illicit affairs where none existed.   There are absolutely no contemporary records of any woman being married to Joseph Smith except one: Emma Hale Smith.  Virtually no one came forward during Joseph Smith’s lifetime claiming to be married to him.  As Joseph said in mocking reference to these phantom wives, “I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are.”   
                       

How We Got From From There To Here
                                       
So what about Section 132?  Isn’t that a revelation in Joseph Smith’s own hand calling for the institution of plural marriage?

Well, no it isn’t.  That is, the revelation does clearly call for plural marriage, but it isn’t in Joseph Smith’s hand.  And no one had ever heard of it during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.  It showed up as if by magic eight years after his death.

After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, the Nauvoo Temple was eventually finished, and some were soon putting it to use performing secret ceremonies wherein men were being sealed to multiple wives.  This was a purpose for which the first and only other Mormon temple, the one at Kirtland, had never been used.

In the original 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the church had issued strict rules under which all marriages were to be performed, rules which are consistently violated by faithful members of the Lord’s church even today:
“All marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints,” the declaration stated, “should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for this purpose..."
“...The persons to be married,” are to be “ standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left...” (Emphasis added)

You can read the entire rule here in the church newspaper, the Times and Seasons  where you’ll see that “the above rule is the only one practiced in this church,” and that the words of the ceremony leave no room to suppose that it was ever intended that another spouse join the marriage at any future time.


The Mysterious D&C 132


Once the Saints were safely ensconced in Utah, plural marriage gradually became an open secret.  Still, before making it official, church leadership needed to present it with a stamp of authority to assure the Saints that the practice was legitimate.  That mark of legitimacy would have to come from Joseph Smith, as Brigham Young did not claim the gift of revelation. “I don't profess to be such a Prophet as were Joseph Smith and Daniel,” he admitted, “but I am a Yankee guesser.”

So eight years after Joseph’s death, at a special conference called for the purpose, President Brigham Young (a polygamist) asked Apostle Orson Pratt (now also a polygamist) to read aloud a document purporting to be a revelation from the Lord to Joseph Smith, later to be incorporated into the Doctrine and Covenants as section 132.  The document revealed that plural marriage was not merely approved by the Lord, but now actually required for any good Latter-day Saint man or woman not wishing to be damned.

Brigham explained that this revelation of Joseph's, which Brigham called “the New and Everlasting Covenant” had been kept locked in a drawer in his desk all this time, but he didn’t explain why it hadn’t been released sooner.  Joseph Smith had been publicly declaiming against the very things contained within it for a year after it was reported to have been received.  Why would any prophet withhold a revelation that came directly from God?  Surely any information the Lord sees fit to reveal to His people would be intended for immediate dissemination.

More curious yet, this revelation is purported to have been given in July of 1843, just three months before Joseph, as both Prophet and Mayor, angrily took to the streets of Nauvoo and threatened to prosecute any who were “preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives” and further warning all citizens that they are forbidden from engaging in it. In order to accept that Joseph Smith would engage in an impromptu tirade like this after having received such a revelation, you would have to believe that he was not just an outrageous, overwrought liar; you’d have to believe he was completely insane.

Nor does the excuse hold that Joseph had to be careful because of his many enemies.  His enemies already believed he was practicing polygamy.  This would not be news to them.  Joseph Smith was not the type of man to limp around a controversy, especially if delivered from God.  On the question of whether, supposing  he had believed in plural marriage, would he have shied away from declaring it, he stated,  “I have taught all the strong doctrines publicly, and always taught stronger doctrines in public than in private.”

Brigham’s later explanation for why the revelation was not in Joseph Smith’s handwriting was that this one was actually a copy of the original revelation, as “Sister Emma burnt the original.”

When Emma Smith, back in Nauvoo heard this claim, she replied that she had “never saw such a revelation until it was published by Pratt in The Seer.”

This “copy” of a very lengthy revelation was in the handwriting of William Clayton, formerly a scribe of Joseph Smith.  He was also now a polygamist.

What I wonder about is this: was it the practice of Joseph Smith to have his scribes immediately create a second copy of all of his revelations, or did Brigham Young simply ask Clayton to “recreate” this one from memory?


Here Come The Brides

So how is it that today we know the names of at least thirty-three of Joseph Smith’s alleged wives, when during his lifetime no one seemed to be able to suggest more than a couple of possible ones?

After Joseph Smith’s sons were grown, the three of them made the long journey to Utah to challenge the polygamous system and attempt to restore their father’s good name. They met a wall of resistance. Out of nowhere appeared a number of women declaring that they had all been plural wives of Joseph Smith while at Nauvoo.  Most prominent of these women was Eliza R. Snow, a well-known woman of letters and now a plural wife of Brigham Young. 

Eliza claimed to have been married to Joseph on June 29th, 1842, but this would mean she was married to him three months before she had led a thousand women in promoting a petition stating that Joseph Smith was not guilty of polygamy as Dr. Bennett had charged.  So was she lying then or was she lying now?

Eliza was sitting pretty as the wife of the prominent Governor of the Territory.  Certainly she had much to lose if polygamy was exposed as a fraud and Brigham’s empire crumbled.  Besides, it’s very likely that most Mormons by then firmly believed in the principle whether it could be proven to have originated with Joseph Smith or not.  The Saints felt constantly under attack from the gentiles for their peculiar ways, and didn’t Brigham constantly preach that “lying for the Lord” was not a sin, but the duty of every faithful Latter-day Saint?

Curiously, Eliza Snow held the honored seat, at home and in public, at the right hand of Brigham Young.  This position of honor was ordinarily reserved only for a man's first wife.  How was Eliza Snow able to shunt wife number one out of the way and take her place?  What did she know?  Or what could she threaten to tell?

Nearly all of the other women who claimed to have been married to Joseph Smith at one time were also in polygamous marriages to prominent church leaders.  It certainly wouldn’t have taken much to persuade these women to make a public statement in order to protect the society they had struggled so hard to attain.  When you examine the statements of  these women, you find some of their claims to be a real stretch.

To their credit, some of these women went out of their way in their declarations to maintain that their marriage to Joseph had been for eternal purposes only, and that they had never been physically intimate with the Prophet.  So I give these ladies props for at least having the decency not to thoroughly besmirch a dead man’s memory.

Also, most of these women neglected to sign their names to their declarations, a clever way of protecting themselves from being called up on charges of perjury if the statements were to be challenged in a federal court.  As legal affidavits, these documents are worthless.

Besides, these women were soon marched through the temple to be sealed to Joseph Smith a second time, in order that their marriages would now be on record.  So they weren’t really lying.  In their minds they now truly were sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith for time and all eternity. 


Why Not Simply Admit It Was All A Big Mistake And Move On?

Personally, I don’t mind polygamists.  In fact, I like all the ones I've met.  Over the years I’ve been privileged to have several friends who chose to live that lifestyle, and I say more power to them.  The women in these relationships tell me they are happy not only to have the responsibility lifted of being the sole entertainment for their husband, but they enjoy the company of other women in the house with them.  I wouldn’t for a moment tell them I disapprove or try to intervene.  Why should I?  To each his own.  Live and let live.  Besides, I don’t belong to their church.

But I find it curious that the church I do belong to has expressed an unusual disdain for those who practice the religion my religion used to practice.

I was intrigued by the reactions of many of my fellow Mormons a while back toward the FLDS polygamists in Texas.  Members and leaders alike scrambled to distance the church from what they considered "those wacky fundamentalists."  “Those aren’t real Mormons,” I’d often hear people say.

Of course, those people say the same about us.

I've long wondered why, since Joseph Smith prophesied that the gospel of this church was destined to "fill the whole earth", that we would adopt a practice so repugnant to the earth's other inhabitants that it virtually guaranteed we would never gain any more converts.  It seemed to me that if Satan himself ever wanted to bring the momentum of the restoration to a screeching halt, he couldn't have devised a more effective scheme than declaring plural marriage a mandatory program.  Growth from outside the church was stagnant for almost a hundred years, from the 1850's to the 1950's, only beginning to pick up steam when David O. Mckay took determined steps to shake off our unsavory reputation.

Still, the prospect of the future return of "the principle" still hung in the air like the sword of Damocles.

Then one happy day during an interview with Larry King, I saw Gordon B. Hinckley make it clear that we won't be dusting off that doctrine for another go 'round.  “As far as we're concerned,” Hinckley said, “it's behind us, a long ways...I condemn it as a practice because I think it's not doctrinal."

Well, that’s a relief, and something our womenfolk especially can all be grateful for.  Most of us wouldn't wish to be forced to live under that system even if we did still believe in it.

Which brings up a question: If the church today rejects polygamy, and since the evidence is undeniable it wasn't actually sanctioned by our founder, why can’t we simply declare it was all just a big, silly mistake, a diversion from the true path that our misguided ancestors trod in error, but that now we’re solidly back on track?

I’ll tell you why.  It's been said that Mormonism is a religion constantly running from its own history. If we let Joseph Smith off the hook by copping to this blunder, we'll just open a whole 'nother can of worms to contend with.

For we would then have to address the matter of a certain missionary of the church in 1834, one of our early apostles, who insisted he was exempt from the scriptural admonishment that missionaries are to travel two by two. Instead he traveled alone, and after the first missionaries had left Maine, he tarried for months on his own as a guest among the Cochranites; lodging in their homes night after night, taking his meals with them, chatting with them by the fire, gradually assimilating the strange religion of his hosts while sharing the message of the Restoration with them.  And when he left, he took with him a woman from that community who abandoned her own husband and children to return home with him and become his second plural wife.

When John C. Bennett was to be tried before the Nauvoo High Council for spiritual wifery, Bennett  asked that this particular apostle accompany him to the hearing and intercede on his behalf.   
   
And at the time of Joseph Smith’s death, this apostle was already secretly married to four women living in Nauvoo.
 
Of course, you’ve already guessed the identity of this guy.  His name was Brigham Young.


Update: For a further exploration of why the testimonies of the women who claimed to be Joseph Smith's plural wives cannot be trusted, see the follow-up piece here.

_

417 comments:

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Anonymous said...


Polygamy was most definitely something taught and practiced by Joseph Smith. Anyone arguing against this doesn't know their own Mormon history. Today's LDS church is, in fact, living in apostasy against the Mormon church (those living in polygamy).

That being said, polygamy is a pretty horrific institution and I don't suggest anyone practice it.
Mormonism itself is a sham of a religion. Any religion that tells you that you can someday become a god is doing something very, very wrong.
There shalt be no other gods before me, Thus saith The only true God.

Anyone in Mormonism I pray that you look into your own history and find the truth.

Anonymous said...

Rock....what say you after the essay the church published on lds.org? I wanted to believe JS didn't practice polygamy but have since read the accounts all over the internet written by the wives or those JS attempted to marry. I don't believe polygamy was/is required by God. I also don't believe that the Lord would send an angel with a sword to force anyone to do anything! That would be denying us agency. Vile.

DeeLyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
randy nielsen said...

I would like Mr. Waterman to explain the Indian Polygamy revealation 1831.

Possible revelation in 1831
A photograph of part of W. W. Phelps' transcript of a claimed 1831 polygamy revelation by Joseph Smith. The original is held by the LDS Church's historical department.

Some scholars believe that Smith transcribed a revelation recommending polygamy on July 17, 1831. This alleged revelation is described in a letter to Brigham Young written in 1861 by an early Mormon convert, William W. Phelps,[13][14][15][16][17] thirty years after the supposed revelation.[1][18] This was during a period when LDS Church leaders were justifying the practice and origins of plural marriage, particularly to Mormon splinter groups who did not agree with the practice.[18]

The key portion of the revelation proclaims:[14]
“ [I]t is [Jesus Christ's] will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites [i.e., Native Americans], that their posterity may become white, delightsome, and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles. ”

This wording is comparable with the portion of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, which corresponds to today's 2 Nephi 30:5–6, which states that when Native Americans receive the gospel they will become a "white and a delightsome people."[19][20] Unlike the 1831 revelation, the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon does not specify that the Native Americans would become "white and delightsome" through plural marriage. A note from Phelps in the same document explains how the conversion of the Native Americans coincided with Smith's plan for a new system of marriage:[1][21]
“ About three years after this was given [i.e., about 1834], I asked brother Joseph, privately, how "we," that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives of the "natives" as we were all married men? He replied instantly "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah; by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation. ”

A reference was made to this revelation five months after its alleged date in a letter by Mormon apostate Ezra Booth to the Ohio Star on December 8, 1831, in which he refers to the "revelation [that the Mormon Elders] form a matrimonial alliance with the Natives", but the letter makes no reference to polygamy.[17] This letter is significant in that it confirms the authenticity of the revelation,[1] but some[who?] regard it as problematic because had it mentioned polygamy, Booth would have mentioned it in his anti-Mormon agenda.[citation needed] Three authors assert that a second record of the revelation exists, believed to be in the LDS Church's historical department,[1][14][22] though its existence has not been confirmed by the church.[citation needed]

The LDS Church never published Phelps's note or letter, nor has it been canonized as part of Mormon scripture, which was done with many of Smith's other revelations. The church also never adopted a policy requiring or recommending that its members marry Native Americans. In 1943, historian Fawn Brodie stated that LDS Church historian Joseph Fielding Smith told her that a revelation foreshadowing polygamy had been written in 1831 but never published, and that although its existence in the church library is acknowledged, "in conformity with the church policy" Brodie would not be permitted to examine it.[23][24]

Though the 1831 revelation is cited by Mormon historians,[25] non-Mormon historians,[1] and critics,[22] there are dissenting opinions, and no consensus has been reached.[26][27][28]

Brenefc said...

Alan, I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo grateful from the bottom of my heart that you wrote this. There are 2 things that have always (well, since I was around 5 years old and learned about them) bothered me about our church (I don't say gospel, because I don't believe they are or were ever gospel principles). One was polygamy and the other was the blacks and the priesthood. The second has already been rooted out and admitted to being the racism of Brigham Young and some of his successors. The polygamy thing was still a huge thorn in my side. I have prayed about it and have NEVER felt that either of these things came from God. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever and is not a respecter of persons... if He created Adam and Eve, and loves his daughters as much as his sons, it has never made sense to me. I have literally 'hung on' for all of this time because the gospel principles are beautiful and the spirit has testified to me of them. I won't get into debates online, but want to say that I believe that anyone who blindly holds onto things because 'that is how it is' and that is what they were taught will learn the truth in the next life. I am soooo grateful for the spirit and how He testifies of truths and denies untruths. I have been waiting for this for over 30 years and can not thank you enough!!! If anything, this has strengthened my testimony of what Joseph Smith brought to the world. Thanks you sooooo much!!!!

MrHFMetz said...

Did JS practise it? I can hardly believe so. If so, where is his posterity? He did teach it in secret I suppose but for what reason I don't know. There is too much confusion about the subject; nobody can tell me what it was really about, people come up with their own personal ideas about it from all corners. The practice was deep rooted in the early church but not just because of Brigham Young. He had some strange opinions, but concerning polygamy, the leading authorities were all involved in it. And it was not just for fun: some of the early apostles had more than 60 children, and even after the 1890 Manifesto it was continued in secret for a long time, and not just by these socalled Fundamentalists. So where did this deep conviction come from?
Anyway I have abandoned this subject as an object to investigate a long ago. I have more important things to do.

Faith, Family, Freedom said...

This post makes a big mistake: confusing what Joseph Smith called the 'Celestial order of marriage' and what the world called 'polygamy'. Higbee, Bennett, and others attempted to pervert this law of celestial marriage and Joseph did indeed condemn their 'polygamy'. However, facts (as well as revelation) are clear that the Prophet Joseph practiced the 'Celestial order of marriage'. http://www.ldsanswers.org/was-prophet-joseph-smith-commanded-practice-plural-marriage/

In the end it all comes down (again) to a testimony of the prophets that followed Joseph. The Lord clearly put his stamp of approval on Brigham Young in the transfiguration event. The saints that lived in Joseph's day were not blind - and most gained a testimony of Brigham Young as Joseph's successor and came west in the exodus.

Rock, I appreciate that you have a testimony of Joseph Smith. I do too - I know he was a prophet and the head of this dispensation. The part you're missing is that the Lord doesn't simply restore His church, gospel, and priesthood only to lose it again. The Lord is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" and will speak through His prophets (Amos 3:7). The Prophet Joseph prophesied that the church "would never again be taken from the earth" and that the Saints would go to the Rocky Mountains. If ANYONE had the authority to follow Joseph (and remember God speaks through prophets) it was Brigham Young. And I believe Brother Brigham when he says he isn't a prophet the same way Joseph Smith was. "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." I don't think Brigham could ever be the same as Joseph - for Joseph had a greater work as the Prophet of the Restoration. That doesn't mean that Brigham wasn't a prophet at all, though. Joseph Smith, as a modern Moses (and Hyrum as a modern Aaron) also have a modern Joshua - Brigham Young - who led the children of Israel the rest of the way to the Salt Lake and established the stakes of Zion.

DeeLyn said...

Actually, Christ taught that the only sure way to identify a 'true' prophet or disciple was by if they kept all of his commandments (as found in the NT), not by whether they are transfigured, or can do miracles, or claim visions, or produce so called scriptures, or not even if you get warm fuzzies after praying about them or their writings or if you agree with them and like the sound of their doctrines.

And since Christ (as did Joseph Smith all his life) taught that polygamy is always and forever against God's laws, and thus it's impossible that anyone who believes in or lives polygamy could be a true prophet.

Christ said the greatest prophet was John the Baptist, who also preached against polygamy. So though Joseph didn't pass the 'true prophet' test (for he didn't keep all of Christ's commandments), at least he continually preached against and probably didn't live polygamy, as Brigham would want us to believe. Even false prophets teach a lot of truths, mixed in with their falsehoods.

But a person's beliefs and actions reveals their true character.

Shaun said...

Rock,

It's been a long time since anyone commented here, but I just want to say thanks for the blog post, and thanks to everyone for the enormous discussion. I'd read this post before, but not the comments.

This is the first I've heard of JS being told (commanded? are we sure it was a command and not just a "here's what you do if you want to live"?) to flee Nauvoo and "head for the Rockies." I'd be very interested in a post about that, especially if it treated the question of why-oh-why did Joseph leave the church to become what it became: leaderless and full of corruption (apparently).

Because as hard as it's been to accept, I can accept that Brigham et al messed everything up. But if JS knew about all the corruption, why did he abandon us to it?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Why did God abandon the church to corruption, Shaun? Because he would not force the saints into obedience.

Joseph Smith frequently expressed frustration at not being able to get the saints to accept the simple things of God. Instead, they wanted to choose their own way. This is why the Lord himself abandoned the Church from medieval times onward, although he still operated in the lives and hearts of individuals, as he still does today even though the institution is corrupted.

Doubtless Joseph expected the saints to join him in the Rockies; he was not planning to abandon them. It was his own disobedience that cost him his life. Had he obeyed god and fled for safety, the church might have had hope of turning around. But a lot of the blame can be placed on his friends who were concerned that his leaving would be seen as cowardice.

Lesson: you can't please everybody, so you may as well just try to please God.

Shaun said...

I did find the place in History of the Church where Joseph is told to go to the Rockies to save his life, and I read about how everyone - including Emma - begged him to come back and turn himself in. It sounded like he was leaving on his own though - there was no mention of him asking the Saints to follow him. Not only is there no mention of him inviting them, who in their right mind would have thought, "Hey, even though Brother Joseph is trying to be as inconspicuous as possible as he flees from the authorities, and even though he hasn't told us we should go with him, and even though the temple isn't finished, and even though we've been displaced by mobs like, a thousand times already, let's evacuate the entire city to go follow him!"? I'm not sure it is "doubtless" that Joseph expected the Saints to join him there - maybe eventually, but there wasn't time for "eventually" in this case.

I'm not entirely closed to the possibility that Joseph made the wrong decision to go to Carthage, but it's hard to swallow. How then, did he "have a conscience void of offense towards God and towards all men"? Is it not possible that the Lord wanted Joseph to make this decision? Joseph was not forced into Carthage. He wasn't hijacked or kidnapped. The Lord gave him a way out, and Joseph chose to save his people rather than save himself? I think such a choice would have given him great peace - as awful as his death was, it was also a beautiful gift from God to go out the way he did.

Regardless...

Is that it then? Is it "The Great Apostasy" all over again? Don't misunderstand - I'm not defending Brigham Young et al - but I thought that this was the dispensation of the fullness of times. I thought that the priesthood authority would never again be taken from the earth (John the Baptist's words). What are we waiting for now? Another First Vision?

DeeLyn said...

I don't see how Joseph's death saved or helped 'his people' or 'the church', for it just made easy for BY & Co. to advance their new doctrines and take over the church and people.

Whereas, if JS had lived, even out west, he could have at least publicly denounced BY and sent warning to the church (once again) about not following those who promoted polygamy, etc. Those who truly believed in Joseph and were against polygamy could have eventually followed Joseph out west later on, and/or would have at least known to not fall for BY & his polygamy. Without a public declaration against BY by JS many people easily fell for BY and his doctrines.

For after JS died, his faithful followers left the Church anyway and most moved away to continue following Joseph's teachings on their own without him.

I believe God wanted Joseph to go west and to then call for his family to join him later and anyone else who wanted to.

And the Great Apostasy has been happening since the days of Adam, few even in Christ's day even lived Christ's teachings, and few if any even in Joseph's day lived them, including JS. What person or so called prophet has ever lived the real teachings of Christ? Except maybe John the Baptist.

I just wonder why Joseph believed Abraham was a prophet if JS understood that polygamy was wrong in every instance. (Any thoughts on that Rock?) God is either fickle in his doctrines (and thus Christ taught falsehoods) or truth never changes.

I believe truth is eternal. Right & wrong never change, and are the eternal principles of heaven. Adam had to keep the same commandments as we do today, the one's Christ taught, which were against all polygamy. God has never given a pass for polygamy, serial or concurrent, especially not for prophets, who Christ taught have to keep his commandments (of eternal monogamy) to even prove they are true prophets.

Shaun said...

DeeLynn,

The whole reason for Joseph coming back and turning himself in was because the state threatened to destroy Nauvoo and everyone in it unless he did so. Joseph could have taken the escape route the Lord dropped in his lap, but how could he leave them to die? The fact is we don't know what he was thinking, and we don't know what the Lord's intentions were for him. We don't know if the Lord's instruction for him to run to the Rocky Mountains was actually meant for him to leave, or if it was just to put him in a place to make a decision. The Lord may have spoken more to him that we just don't know about. I realize you can't prove a negative, but it just doesn't make sense.

After all Joseph had done and suffered, after all the chastisement and growing he endured, and all the hard choices he'd made, wouldn't it be EASY for him to obey the Lord's instruction to run away and save his own life? The idea that he disobeyed the Lord in order to sacrifice his life - widowing his wife, orphaning his children, and leaving the church leaderless - makes no sense.

Still, I wish he had/could have run away, and distanced himself from BY, as you outlined. I think he'd already tried to distance himself from the polygamists, but apparently enough people didn't want to hear it. We know from history that rejected prophets don't stick around, but we also know that the Lord God will do nothing, unless he reveals his secrets to his servants, the prophets. Regardless of what happened in the last weeks of Joseph's life, how much longer do we have to wait before the Lord calls someone to set us straight? The last great apostasy lasted 1800 years.

DeeLyn said...

I think the Lord is waiting on us, on the world or anyone to keep his commandments. Why would God give more enlightenment if people or so called prophets don't even keep the commandments he already gave us?

I don't believe the Lord ever wanted Joseph to start a physical church in the 1st place, let alone put it 1st in his life before his wife and children's needs and welfare and cause them so much suffering. Family comes 1st, especially a spouse. Thus Joseph could have rightly avoided most of what happened to him.

If Joseph was so concerned with other's spiritual welfare he should have just taught the commandments of Christ, as Christ intended so called prophets to do, instead of his own contrary commandments and scriptures.

For until we can find angels to lead physical churches, all churches will always preach and practice part truth and part error, which will just lead people astray, no matter how sincere the leaders are or how sure they think they are right or inspired or chosen.

matt lohrke said...

It's been very interesting to me as I've come to understand and believe that Joseph was, in fact, monogamous, just how difficult it is for people to accept. Well, actually it isn't -- if that falls apart, so do so many other things.

I've had many conversations with people in recent years in which they've born solemn testimony that polygamy is a true doctrine, that Brigham appeared as Joseph, that God called Brigham Young as a prophet, that Brother Thomas is God's "true prophet" on the earth today despite an ounce of evidence to support the claim. Truly strange days.

I try to be patient and ask questions as to how they arrived at the conclusion, encouraging critical thought instead of blind allegiance. But almost invariably it circles back to "follow the prophet" and "perfect obedience" because that's what they've been taught.

It's a difficult process.

I keep trying, however, because the capital-T Truth is a powerful narcotic. Once you get a taste of pure information/revelation and begin to commune with the Holy Spirit, there's nothing that can compare to it. I have a little bit of an understanding of what so many BOM prophets felt after their conversions. All they wanted was to share with everyone what they had experienced--to know Jesus, experience His love and mercy.

To be freed from the chains of false doctrine and false tradition is truly liberating.

Garth Oakey said...

I was glad to see this website. For years my wife and I have questioned "polygamy" as to whether it was ever a part of the reorganized church. It doesn't appear to be part of the church that Christ organized when he was on the earth. He stated (paraphrased) we should cleave unto our spouses and none else. He also said that to look upon another woman other than our wives is committing adultery in our hearts. I don't see how anyone could find a second wife without violating both of these commands by Jesus Christ himself. In the D & C it says that if a man lust after another woman, he shall not have the spirit of the Holy Ghost. In my mind, any church leader, who has lusted after or sought after another woman to make her his wife, could not have possibly had the spirit of the Holy Ghost and could not therefore be a prophet, seer, or revelator.

I have served in several church leadership positions, and I admit that I may have thought of church leaders including myself as being more special than others. I have never thought about that as being inicuous or part of iniquity. However, what you have said does make sense. I have thought about how many times the Book of Mormon tells us about leaders who labored for their own support. I don't feel in my heart that it is ever right for anyone to live off the labors of others, which is what our church leaders are doing. I have verified that many of our leaders who were only earning a meager living before being called to church leadership, now have net worths of several million dollars. Either they have concentrated on per suits other than magnifying and promoting the gospel or they have been given large endowments by way of their position. In my heart that does not seem right that any tithing money should be used in this manner whether it comes indirectly from church investments that were purchased from tithing or directly from tithing itself.

In regards to tithing keeping us from the church or the temple. The very fact that tithing does not keep investigators from entering a church house that they have not contributed tithing to, neither should it keep honest seekers of the Lord out of the temple. The very idea that we the poor and the needy can be kept out of the temple because of we have not paid tithes to the church makes our church seem like a Ramiumptom type of organization that is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Incidentally, James E Talmadge in his tithing phamplet along with section 119 of the D & C, states that tithing is to be paid on our surplus income and our gross. I have wondered about how I can do that. For you to mention that the money could be designathed as "Fast Offerings" so that it does fulfill the commandment in Mathew 25, was a good answer. However, I wonder if since the fast offering money now goes directly to SLC, whether or not that is even safe. I do however, like the Liahona organization for youth.

Thank you for being a modern day Abinadi.




Send your thoughts to: run4kids@gmail.com

Garth Oakey said...


I was glad to see this website. For years my wife and I have questioned "polygamy" as to whether it was ever a part of the reorganized church. It doesn't appear to be part of the church that Christ organized when he was on the earth. He stated (paraphrased) we should cleave unto our spouses and none else. He also said that to look upon another woman other than our wives is committing adultery in our hearts. I don't see how anyone could find a second wife without violating both of these commandments by Jesus Christ himself. In the D & C it says that if a man lust after another woman, he shall not have the spirit of the Holy Ghost. In my mind, any church leader, who has lusted after or sought after another woman to make her his polygamous wife, could not have possibly had the spirit of the Holy Ghost and could not therefore be a prophet, seer, or revelator. I have also verified that Joseph Smith has never signed any document whether in the church or in any other archive, that polygamy or his participation in it, is part of the restored church. There are not any records anywhere showing that he married anyone but Emma except those records that were made after his death.

I have served in several church leadership positions, and I admit that I may have thought of church leaders including myself as being more special than others. I have never thought about that as being inicuous or part of iniquity. However, what you have said does make sense. I have thought about how many times the Book of Mormon tells us about leaders who labored for their own support. I don't feel in my heart that it is ever right for anyone to live off the labors of others, which is what our church leaders are doing. I have verified that many of our leaders who were only earning a meager living before being called to church leadership, now have net worths of several million dollars. Either they have concentrated on pursuits other than magnifying and promoting the gospel or they have been given large endowments by way of their position. In my heart that does not seem right that any tithing money should be used in this manner whether it comes indirectly from church investments that were purchased from tithing or directly from tithing itself.

In regards to tithing keeping us from the church or the temple. The very fact that tithing does not keep investigators from entering a church house that they have not contributed tithing to, neither should it keep honest seekers of the Lord out of the temple. The very idea that we the poor and the needy can be kept out of the temple because of we have not paid tithes to the church makes our church seem like a Ramiumptom type of organization that is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Should we have to prove that we have paid the money in order to enter the temple, which is pay to participate activity. Should our bishops and stake presidents become like money changers to determine who whould enter the temple, particularly as tithing is supposed to be between us and the Lord. Incidentally, James E Talmadge in his tithing phamplet along with section 119 of the D & C, states that tithing is to be paid on our surplus income and not our gross. I have wondered about how I can do that. For you to mention that the money could be designathed as "Fast Offerings" so that it does fulfill the commandment in Mathew 25, was a good answer. However, I wonder if since the fast offering money now goes directly to SLC, whether or not that is even safe. I do however, like the Liahona organization for youth. In anycase, as a missionary, I found that many investigators were gungho about the church until they heard about tithing. It truly does keep people out of the church, which is not what I believe God and Jesus Christ would condone.
Thanks for your website and comments – you are much like Abinadi

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