Through research, Jeremy finds multiple instances of the church changing doctrine over time as well as some of these changes being led by the law rather than by revelation and prophetic leadership. The story of the first vision certainly evolved into what it is today, it wasn’t even a footnote of church history until 20 years after it happened and it has grown from there to be the de facto origin story of the church. Then there’s the mormon church’s position on marriage and how it changed from monogamy to polygamy back to monogamy. See how Jeremy connects all the dots in his profile and concludes the church is not intellectually honest and he can’t stay while also retaining his integrity.
I’m passionate about science, law, and exploring wilderness. I was a mormon.
I began to look further into Church History to understand the First Vision and changes regarding marriage and I kept finding changes in doctrine. The Nature of God seemed to change through Church History, the D&C seemed to be changed in response to political and legal pressure instead of being revealed ahead of time. I finally allowed myself to consider that Mormon Prophets weren’t receiving revelation, but were reacting to legal pressure.
I kept searching, hoping I might be wrong, but the further I dug, the more I found out about the evolving nature of the First Vision. It appeared to evolve from being a “treasure guardian” who visited Joseph when he was between 18-19 years old, to an “angel” who told him his “sins were forgiven” when he was 17 years old, to “many angels” telling him his “sins were forgiven” when he was 14 years old, until the First Vision account I was familiar with from 1838 declared that “God the Father & Jesus Christ” appeared to Joseph when he was 14 years old. It was unsettling none of the early church leaders, like the three witnesses, or Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff seemed to know about the “First Vision” from their teachings.
Through my research, I kept seeing instances where doctrine seemed to be changing and leaders kept failing to predict the future. One of the most startling examples for me was when I realized that the Mormon Church Presidents had changed positions on marriage multiple times: for instance, the original D&C 101 (1835) states: “we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband”, but that was later replaced with D&C 132 (1876). That change appears to have happened two years after a new anti-polygamy law, Poland Act of 1874, was passed by the U.S. government. It appears that it was expressly canonized in preparation for a first amendment challenge to that Act, which ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The Supreme Court ends up upholding the Constitutionality of the Poland Act and the Church ends up losing. Further legal and political pressure is added to dissuade the practice of polygamy, and eventually the First and Second Manifestos are given to publicly declare the practice of polygamy “over”, while it was still practiced in secret for several more years.
Later in 1991, the marriage equality fight begins in Hawaii, the Mormon Church files an amicus brief to petition to intervene in the marriage equality case but is unable to point to any “scripture or doctrine” for monogamy, since they had previously argued for a first amendment right to practice “polygamy” in Reynolds v. U.S. – an irony that was predicted by Dallin Oaks in a legal memo that he prepared and was dated the same day he was sustained an apostle on August 7th 1984.
In 1995, Gordon Hinckley introduces the “Proclamation on the Family” and the Mormon Church uses this document as basis for their doctrine supporting monogamy in their petition to the Hawaii court in the ongoing marriage equality litigation in 1997. It appears that an original monogamy doctrine was replaced with a polygamy doctrine to fight a law on constitutional grounds, later the Church tries to intervene in marriage equality fight, but needs to supplant their polygamy doctrine with a document establishing monogamy as doctrine.
If they were “prophets”, why didn’t they see into the future? Why didn’t the leaders of the Church fix these problems before laws and court decisions forced a change? If leaders are actually inspired by revelation, why has “scripture” been amended several times to flip flop from monogamy to polygamy to monogamy?
I didn’t have an intellectually honest answer to that, and my integrity required that I regain my agency and authority. It took control of my life by taking a different path.Jeremy
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