Part 1, A Mormon Girl’s perspective
Part 2, Examining the Past
Part 3, Polygamy and Mormonism today
Part 4: Afterthoughts
Having published the previous articles and engaged in a few facebook discussions, this post is a compilation of my commentary as well as a few more points I would like to make. The Mormon polygamy/polyandry debate is a rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper the more one studies, and I am by no means an expert. There are several hypothesizes one could make concerning what really happened, and I have only explored the over-arching one that seems most plausible to me. So without further ado, here are a few more points to consider.
1. Jacob 2:30, What does it mean, to raise up seed?
Since publishing this essay, others have pointed me to essays on Jacob’s sermon and I have studied the chapter again and wish to add my commentary on Jacob 2:30. This verse is often used as a loophole for polygamy in a chapter that otherwise sharply condemns the practice:
30 “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.”
What does it mean, to raise up seed?
In Jacob 2:25-26:
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
As far as I can tell, in this chapter God is saying- look, these people in Jerusalem do polygamy, and it’s an abomination. I need righteous seed who will not practice polygamy, and I have commanded your family and these people (the Nephites) NOT to practice it. Why? Because I have separated you and I command you not to sin as the people of old did.
In other words, it’s the righteous seed that are especially COMMANDED not to practice polygamy.
Otherwise, even if not specifically commanded, stay away from these “things”, aka, abominations.
Isn’t it sad, and ironic that we have in verse 23:
“…they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written…”
…and yet, today we use another verse by the same author to excuse polygamy in our day. During the polygamy years in Utah, the preface to this chapter stated that the Nephites were commanded not to do polygamy “because they were wicked”. I don’t see it that way. The way I see it, the Book of Mormon tells us that polygamy is an abomination!
2. The unusual polyandry of Zina H.J. Young
Long before I stumbled across the RLDS apologetics, I read about what has to me become the most troubling aspect of the entire polygamy/polyandry of early Mormonism, which is the sad tale of Henry and Zina Jacobs.
According to the original narrative, before she married Henry, Joseph Smith approached her and asked her to be his plural wife. She refused and married Henry. Two more times she refused him, but on the fourth request, he told her that an angel with a flaming sword had commanded them to be sealed together, and while the marriage was said to be consummated, a child even resulting from the marriage, Zina remained with her first husband Henry.
After Joseph died, she was again sealed to Joseph, this time with Brigham Young acting as proxy and with Henry standing as a witness. Then it is declared that Brigham and some of the other apostles have a Levitical responsibility to care for the wives of Joseph. He takes Zina as his own wife, sends Henry on a long, foreign mission, and has a child with her. Zina Jacobs becomes Zina Young.
Something’s not right here. If Joseph allowed her to stay with her husband, why wouldn’t Brigham? Joseph was dead, and Zina had a legal, living husband ready to provide for her, and two children. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Brigham wanted the beautiful and intelligent woman to be his wife. Levitical responsibility indeed. Both Zina and Henry’s happiness was destroyed by the new relationship, and their two children lost their father. For years they said Zina’s second child was Joseph’s, but DNA tests have proven that Henry was the father.
Which makes more sense? God would command Joseph to take Zina as a Spiritual Wife while allowing her to stay with her physical husband, only to have Brigham be her physical husband in order to raise up physical seed for Joseph according to the Levitical commandment, even though that physical marriage destroyed another marriage with a worthy priesthood holder who had committed no sin, breaking apart a family with two children. Such was the will of God.
Or perhaps, Brigham wanted Zina for his wife and convinced her to join his elite circle. Needing a religious justification for their actions, they concocted this story and acted out their parts. Why would she need to be sealed to Joseph twice? Why was Zina’s memory as to the details of her marriage to Joseph so vague?
Of course there may be another explanation. Maybe Zina was strong-armed into the relationship. Maybe Brigham was mad. Maybe there is some unknown mystery in the story that would explain everything and make it all right. Nevertheless, in my mind, no other explanation closes the Zina H. J. case as succinctly. I didn’t need RLDS apologists to know there was something fishy about Zina’s story. And poor Henry!
3. Polygamy on trial in Hancock county
One thing I HAVE been taught since childhood is that there were many lies told about Joseph Smith during his life, lies that landed him in jail and justified the mobs, but when he testified in court, again and again he was proven innocent. What did he go on trial for? In the Nauvoo years, more often than not, polygamy. And if he was able to prove his innocence then, why not now? If the Temple Lot Case failed to prove he was guilty after his death, a case involving many who knew him personally, we would certainly be hard pressed to prove it now. If people lied about him during his life, what would stop people from lying after he was dead and couldn’t defend himself? Especially if the lies would justify their crimes to the tender-hearted saints and potentially fend off an increasingly oppressive federal government.
Regarding the polygamy trials in Nauvoo, there were several. And Joseph was not the only one on trial. John C. Bennett, Nauvoo’s first major, was excommunicated from the church and expelled from the community not only for practicing polygamy, but also for falsely attaching Joseph’s name to it. Bennett then wrote a book about Joseph practicing polygamy, and Emma responded by gathering over 1,000 signatures from women in Nauvoo stating that the LDS church did not practice “spiritual wifery” in any form, and that such was the sole invention of Bennett.
Chauncey L. Higbee was expelled for the same reason, and we have several affidavits from the women he seduced who testified that he claimed the teaching came from Joseph, only to find out later that it was completely untrue. In Higbee’s case, Joseph went so far as to sue Higbee for defaming his name, not only in Carthrage, but again on the county level. Joseph went to great lengths to prove his innocence, declaring again and again that it was his intention to root polygamy out of the church. These court cases show several affidavits of young women who were seduced into polygamy believing Joseph was secretly teaching it. They declared they never heard Joseph teach it, and upon learning the truth, they wished to repent and do all they could to clear Joseph’s name and make the thing known to protect others from the same fate.
At the time of Joseph’s death, he was compiling evidence to convict several more polygamists who were doing the same, with full intentions of putting himself through the same trial as his counterparts. Hyrum was helping him prepare. After Joseph’s death, these documents fell into Brigham’s hands. Why would Joseph go to such great lengths to root polygamy out of the church if he was secretly practicing it himself? Why would he be willing, nay, eager to put himself through the third-party legal system if not to prove his innocence? Evidence of these trials, the affidavits of the young women involved, and Joseph’s preparation for the upcoming trial is documented in Prices carefully researched documentary “Joseph Fought Polygamy”.
4. God will beat us with a few stripes…
An excellent point my friend Steven Retz pointed out, regarding a scriptural inconsistency not addressed in the links I shared. Nephi warns us to watch against a false doctrine: 2 Nephi 28:8
“God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”
Compared to D&C 132:26
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.”
Before I comment, let’s define “Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise”, as well as “The morning of the first resurrection”.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
From D&C 88:
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
In the Doctrines of the Gospel teacher’s manual, we read:
“What is meant by the phrase “morning of the first resurrection”? One of the blessings pronounced upon those who are sealed in the temple for time and all eternity is the power to come forth “in the morning of the first resurrection.” Elder McConkie explained: “Those being resurrected with celestial bodies, whose destiny is to inherit a celestial kingdom, will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. Their graves shall be opened and they shall be caught up to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. They are Christ’s, the firstfruits, and they shall descend with him to reign as kings and priests during the millennial era.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 640.)”
Those two scriptures are teaching two different truths. Nephi says it is a false doctrine to believe that one can be saved in their sins after a few stripes.
The other says that once a couple is married and has been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and in this context it seems to me to be referring to the event of being sealed in the temple to your spouse(s), future sins short of murder will be punished previous to the morning of the first resurrection and they will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.
Yet it seems to me that other scriptures describing the Holy Spirit of Promise refers not to marriage, but the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through this gift, we are sanctified in Christ as we obey the Celestial laws and become perfected in him. These blessings are given on condition of our faithfulness. It is not an event that happens once. Sanctification is a process. When we sin and commit blasphemies, we are not obeying Celestial laws.
It is not the process of being destroyed in the flesh and given over to the buffetings of Satan that we become worthy of Celestial glory. It is the process of the atonement, our sincere repentance, and our demonstration that we can live Celestial laws that qualify us for Celestial glory.
I conclude that this concept in LDS D&C 132 is not compatible with 2 Nephi 28, and I favor the Book of Mormon.
5. We know there was a conspiracy. The question is…
Was Joseph involved? Critics of the Utah polygamy conspiracy theory state that it would be impossible for so many people to tell the same lie and pull it off. That it is hard to believe so many people would be willing to lie about polygamy.
I ask why? We KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, by their own confession, that they were lying about polygamy in the Nauvoo years. Even if God justified their lies in order to protect themselves from the government as they obeyed a commandment, even if that is true, these people have demonstrated that they were perfectly capable of lying not only to the government, but also to their fellow saints.
We know that Bennet and Higbee deceived many, how was it done? If they were lying, how did they deceive their fellow saints in the church? I invite you to examine their story and compare it to what Joseph is said to have taught. We cast Bennett from the church and spit on his memory and rightfully so. Why is it that we find Bennett’s polygamy so repulsive but can embrace it as a divine commandment if it came from Joseph Smith? Is it because we have seen the fruits of Joseph Smith and know he was a true prophet? That would explain the appeal of attaching polygamy to his name. We also have clear evidence that even after Joseph died and the saints established in Utah, and Utah polygamy being public knowledge the eastern states, that these leaders were denying polygamy in their missionary efforts in other countries, namely England and France.
Again, these church leaders and their wives were perfectly capable of lying well. We know because they have admitted that they lied in Nauvoo about not practicing polygamy. The only question is, was Joseph involved?
Either polygamy was started by Joseph and he taught them all how to lie about polygamy to protect themselves from the law, OR
Joseph was innocent of polygamy, the lie that they were not practicing polygamy in Nauvoo was abandoned in Utah, while the lie that it came from Joseph was sustained and further embellished.
Either way, everyone involved in Nauvoo polygamy lied about its practice at one point or another. They were capable of lying. They were quite capable of mass deception conducted as a group; we know because they did it. Why would it be inconceivable that they would have continued to lie when they reached Utah, especially when they had a lot to lose if they didn’t?
6. The cognitive dissonance of this new understanding
I have been asked how I can believe the proclamation on the family was inspired and yet reject D&C 132 as scripture. That if scriptural canon was hijacked and so many of these early leaders were lying about Joseph, it would imply that the church was, and therefore must still be in a state of apostasy. That to follow these questions through would mean I would have to reject something else in order to get things to match up. How can I be a faithful member of the church today and yet have this cognitive dissonance in my core belief system?
Is the church in apostasy? It’s quite possible. In fact, the Lord Himself told the Saints that the whole church was under condemnation for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously long before polygamy was introduced. Why did he direct the early Saints to change the name of the church? President Benson confirmed that we still remain under condemnation. For all of this, His anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. https://www.lds.org/…/04/cleansing-the-inner-vessel…
It’s the gospel that is true. The church is a tool for bringing the gospel to the people. The gospel is still taught in this church. There are and have been wicked and righteous men, wheat and tares in our church since the beginning. Because of this, the philosophies of men (example: polygamy) have also been taught. Nevertheless, I do not know of any organization in the world where so much of the truth is still intact, which is why I am still a member of the church today, in spite of its imperfections. I do not bring all of these issues and facts to light to shake faith in the restoration. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God. Too many people loose sight of that when they go down the polygamy rabbit hole. It is imperative that we base our faith in the correct things. In the truth. Cling to the truth.
I do not reject everything that has been taught in our church since the polygamy days. We have had great spiritual giants in our church. Again, it is NOT an all or nothing thing. It’s not either all completely true or none of it is. I can be a Mormon and reject polygamy. Let’s look at another example.
I honor the sacrifice of our founding fathers. I despise slavery. I think it’s awesome that we have been to the moon. I can be a good American without thinking every action of the US government is amiable. In fact, as a Patriot, I have a duty to do my part to preserve our freedoms against the hands of the adversary. America is still one of the best places to live in the world, and I identify myself as an American. When America is good, I rejoice. When America is in error, I have a right, nay, a duty to voice my dissent. It has been said that all that it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Whose responsibility is it to keep America free?
So it is with the church. I have gained a knowledge that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I believe the proclamation on the family to be inspired. I reject polygamy. I love the Book of Mormon. Why would that necessitate cognitive dissonance?
Oh wait, I know. Is it because the leaders of the church can’t lead us astray? The man in this discussion was right, in order to reject polygamy, something else would have to give too. It is the “can’t lead us astray” philosophy that is the “something else” I have rejected. Christ is the only perfect individual who has lived, and HE is the one who cannot lead us astray. If so, He would cease to be God. But it is not the same with the leaders of the church. They have their agency, and we have the responsibility to hold them accountable if they do lead us astray, as outlined in D&C 42 and 107.
Not everything that I’ve learned about the church as a result of my studies that began with polygamy has been what I wanted to learn. Hence the reference to the painful truth Patrick Henry alludes to. But learn it we must if we wish to repent of unbelief and gain knowledge. The glory of God is intelligence! God has given US the charge to not be led astray. It is OUR responsibility to carry his gospel to our fellow saints. The church is one of His tools for carrying forth that work. The Lord has revealed how His church should be organized, how leaders should be called by common consent, and how we as individuals must come unto Christ, seek His face, and know that He is. It is through the gospel that this work is accomplished. We have been told how to judge good seed from bad seed, good and evil, and have been give our sacred agency. We have been told to study and to learn. We have been given everything we need to return to the presence of the Lord. In that, the church is doing a fantastic job. I do not have to believe everything that is being taught to be true to the faith, true to my religion, and true to my God. Why would we be taught how to judge if we are not allowed to do so?
I rejoice that the church no longer practices polygamy today. That we reject it, and excommunicate any who are found to be practicing it. We have turned away from that evil. I believe in second chances. I believe in repentance. I believe that the Lord was pleased when our church abandoned the practice. I believe that the strong focus of the church in strong families is good. Anything that invites us to do good and to come unto Christ comes from the Lord. That is why I believe the proclamation on the family was inspired.
I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that what the Book of Mormon teaches us concerning polygamy is true, for it is a true book. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that he never became a fallen prophet, and I maintain that he was innocent of polygamy. I believe that marriage between one man and one woman is the pattern that the Lord has set. These beliefs are at the core of my religious conviction, and I will be true to them.