What do you feel or know about mormon polyandry practices?
Most LDS members (including me until1.5 years ago), don't know that Joseph was married to between 10-12 women who were already married to other men (polyandry).
The church in its Gospel Topics Essay (early 2010s) acknowledges this, but they say it was likely just "spiritual wifery: (no sex). Are we to believe that 25-33% of Joseph's wives were just spiritual sealings (no sex)?
The LDS women who gave affidavits in the 1870s and 1880s for the Temple Lot case (when polygamy was okay in the church), testified though of full marital relations. Further, sex was the practice of polygamous marriages of Joseph's contemporaries, e.g. HS, BY, HCK, JT, etc.
I know people in the Denver Snuffer restoration movement, and some older-oriented folks in th RLDS tradition, who claim that polygamy, nor polyandry, was practiced by Joseph Smith and they cite as evidence that there are no known offspring.
My thoughts on denying Joseph's offspring are:
1) if women were married to other men while in sexual relations with Joseph (the LDS church in its essay acknowledges 10-12 women were polyandrous relationships), do you think those women, especially at that time, would have admitted to the baby being any other than their husband's? Recall that polygamy was secretive until 1852 in Utah, and many of these women were sworn to secrecy in the temple endowment ceremony (existed until 1990).
2) there was one account of a dying woman telling her daughter (in Utah) that her father was Joseph Smith
3) paternity tests for that many generations removed, are not reliable in the way familial tests are (tests for generations back more show the area of origin)
4) abortions were possible. Sarah Pratt claimed that John C. Bennett was performing abortions. Pratt described the instrument Bennett may have used: “a pretty long instrument of a kind I had never seen before. It seemed to be of steel and was crooked at one end.” Bennett was a trained obstetrician and presumably would have had the knowledge of how to abort a pregnancy. Hyrum Smith testified in 1842 that Bennett assuaged the fears of the women he seduced by promising: “He would give them medicine to produce abortions, providing they should become pregnant.
Polygamy did not just end in 1890 with WW's Manifesto.
a) there were two more manifestos, into the late 1910s
b) polygamous marriages and families still continued (there was no dissolution of families)
c) President JFS had 12 children by polygamous wives after 1890, and while President of the church. JFS was charged with Unlawful Cohabitation and he paid a fine (no jail time), while he was President of the church.
d) Fundamentalist groups continue until today, and if you believe that John Taylor (third president) was a prophet, you'll want to see the document in his own hand (an LDS Church Historian office verified it), ordaining three men (in an all-day meeting at a Centerville home) to continue the practice. Taylor had said publicly that the practice should never end (in his tenure men were going to federal jail.
Did God change His mind, or was the church under legal and financial pressure?
a) this is what WW spoke of in his 1890 Manifesto to end the practice
b) men were being imprisoned for bigamy, evading suspicion by having multiple homes and back entrances and cloaking their identities. My mom has a wood doll in her collection, carved by a polygamist in jail in the 1880s (that diddy will be the estate sale --for sure!)
c) there were three anti-bigamy acts from the 1850s to 1880s, the last of which being the Edmunds-Tucker Act, where Congress empowered the judicial and administrative branches to seize assets of the Mormon church if it did not discontinue the practice
d) the church hired a law firm in San Francisco, which drafted the Manifesto and placed church assets into the protection of The Corporation of the CoJCoLDS (the same, official church registered today)
e) Wilford Woodruff was right, and it was a type of plea he was making with men of the time, as it had become so doctrinally and culturally engrained into Mormon society (what can be more sacred than your family, and the heavy-drum beating (it was the main doctrine of its day) of BY and JT. BY taught you can't get to highest heaven w/out it, that it was eternal, that you are an Adam of an earth with it and each wife becomes the Eve of that earth. heavy, crazy stuff.
If we believe in being subject to laws, why was polygamy practiced at all?
a) anti-bigamy laws were on the books in most states as early as 1830s, and in Canada and Mexico in the 1850s and 60s (when Mormon Deseret Colonies were started).
a) there also were statutory rape laws (girls under 18) on the books in many states. Joseph had a number of younger wives, two were 14 -- and yes it would have been considered highly uncouth for a 37 year old man to marry a 14-year old girl.
b) Reed Smoot was a Utah Senator and he had to go under congressional trial, and WW the same, to declare that the practice had ended (but it didn't really until the 1910s, there were two apostles still doing marriages in Canada and Mexico, and some reports in the US).
c) the church (JFS) issued a Second, and then Third Manifesto (we only have the First, WW's in 1890) in the 1900s and 1910s. Where WW's manifesto is more of a plea not a commandment (he's reasoning with the men of what will happen if the practice continues), JFS' were more by way of commandment and penalties of excommunication. Two LDS apostles were excommunicated in the 1910s for polygamy.
d) the practice continues today in FLDS, although state and county AG offices have never really enforced anti-bigamy. The biggest action came in 2010s when Utah AG rightly disbanded an FLDS trust (law of consecration), where members were required to put their homes into the trust (a way Warren could control people).
When you read the journal entries and accounts of the women, when you try and put yourself in the victims' shoes -- you stop justifying a wrong practice. You see patterns of grooming (Joseph deeding plots of land next to his mansion before he'd approach the woman in marriage). Joseph saying things like, "What's wrong in one circumstance can be made right in another, but secrecy is needed."
Polygamy was a custom of the oldest times of the OT, it wasn't commanded and it wasn't a practice by NT times. Yes kings (David, Solomon) and sultans have had harems -- does that make it from God? If polygamy was a religious practice in Jesus' time, the temple pharisees and sadducees would have been all about that! In fact, anti-polygamy credos were adopted in early Christianity at the Council of Trent (it's not a religious Judeo-Christian practice!) Dang straight a patriarchal world of history would have used religious polygamy for its benefit (only kings and sultans had that haram-hankering authority!)
JS taught against it publicly: T and S articles, and most remarkably for me you can read the former D and C (1835 ed) 101:4 (removed by BY), which said "marriage should be between one man and one woman."
Joseph though privately practiced polygamy (along with his brother and other church leaders), and he privately preached it (Council of 50 minutes).
It is wholly incongruous with a rightful man of upstanding character to publicly preach against something so vile as polygamy, yet privately practice and preach for it. Was this b/c an angel of God threatened Joseph with a sword? Was he a reluctant participant? Why would Joseph go to the grave for things he publicly preached, but not stand up for something so significant? Was there a reason Joseph had the Council of 50 sent men to negotiate with Sam Houston and the new independent Republic of Texas, and why they were looking for land in the Oregon and Mesican (Great Basin) territories? (they wanted to live outside of the restrictive laws of the US - that's the other side of the story, it wasn't just religious persecution, and would polygamy not be something to be persecuted for?)
Rebuttals to apologist (excuse) Claims made by the church (prior), or in our folklore of soothing myth:
a) "Polygamy was needed b/c there were so many widows." You can look at census and church record data, and documentation of massacres, and see there were equal men and women. Birth rates were not different then, nor were death rates. The largest # of Mormon lives lost was Haun's Mill, where 8 souls lost their lives (12 were men and boys). Even if it were true that there were many female widowers, widows can be cared for w/out polygamy.
b) "Polygamy was needed to get the church procreation up, we wouldn't have survived with numbers without it!" Fact: the gestational period for a human child was and is 40-weeks. women don't procreate faster if they have a polygamous husband.
c) "Less than 5 percent of church members practiced polygamy." Facts: yes, and who were those male church members practicing polygamy? (A: they were male leaders). What does that say about the practice? And, it was likely by the end much higher than that. There is a sad/funny quote by HCK talking about the disdain for stake presidents choosing the prettiest of girls, and how the apostles need to have a "fair shake."
These are apologetic soothing stories we tell ourselves. It's uncomfortable for a reason.
The legacy of polygamy includes:
a) FLDS: Warren Jeffs, SoUT, prarie dresses
b) UAB: including Cody Brown's family from the TLC tv series "Sister Wives" mainstream, modern dress
c) other fundamentalist groups that broke apart, a lot of schismatic stuff and murders (Singer-Swap) in the 80s, and more breakoffs of families now from FLDS now that Warren Jeffs is in jail until chance of parole in his 90s for ritualistic rape, including consummating a marriage on a temple alter with his apostles and other wives as sacred witnesses (absolutely sickening)
d) murders of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter in 1984 by her brothers-in-law, who were inspired by fundamentalist teachings and original church Blood Oath doctrines (that LDS temple oath was discontinued in the early 1900s).
LDS folks like to carte blanche disclaim FLDS folks, but it is the same root and legacy of polygamy, it is the same practice, and you can read comments by Warren Jeffs w/out attribution and think you're reading something from BY. If you believe John Taylor was a prophet or correct in his views on polygamy, the fundamentalists have a great document to stand on (validated by late 20th century LDS History Office historian). Polygamy is sadly OUR legacy --and religious polygamy is absolutely, without question, a male abuse of women.
I'm fine with polygamous relationships if that's a person's relational choice -- but I am not okay w/religious polygamy, it's abuse of women.
Did God change his mind on polygamy and race-based priesthood and temple bans -- or was it manmade error?
a) the latter type of things tend to implode over time.
b) polygamy is the low-point example, the stain, of the LDS history.
c) it is uncomfortable for a reason, and it can't be explained away when you learn the facts, and try and see things from the victim's view.
The church can't gaslight and hide the topic forever, or people who value common consent and transparency such as me, will leave the church.
The LDS church still practices spiritual polygamy:
a) the doctrine is still held that the highest degree of the celestial kingdom is where eternal procreation takes place and where spiritual polygamy exists
b) a man can still be sealed in the temple to more than one woman, 1) in cases of being a widow,
c) in (some) cases of temple divorce.
Many people would have wanted Joseph dead, including Masons (for lifting their temple rites, they had a Blood Oath consequence), and husbands, fathers, brothers of the 30-40 women with whom Joseph was married (yet publicly preached against and denied). 24 of Joseph's wives came in the last 24 months of his life. Nauvoo wasn't the zionic experience portrayed in LDS history, it was a time of polygamy, Masonry, it's when an army was built, a time when the mayor (JCB) was ousted for polygamy, a time when the RS sisters signed a statement blaming polygamy on JCB and claiming JS's innocence in the matter, a time when JS became the sole trustee of the church and he resold plots and lands, and deeded plots near his mansion to his wives, etc. Polygamy had run its course in Nauvoo, it was a small town and neighboring towns (Warsaw, Quincey, Carthage) heard of it.
It wasn't all righteous-religion that caused JS' death as we were taught -- it was neighbors (and those internally in the church, as manifested by those who stayed behind and didn't go west) fearful of polygamy. Would neighboring towns be concerned by polygamy among LDS church leaders? would Masons be ticked at Joseph's replication of their temple rite (with its Death Oath if one were to speak of the secret rites outside of the Masonic temple)? Would neighboring towns be concerned that the leader of that religion had a Council of 50 whose stated purpose was to set up a theocratic government on earth, to supplant all other governments? (treason). Would neighboring towns be concerned that the new religion had formed a Nauvoo Legion, which was second in size to the US Army?
Issues are multiple and nuanced (vs the reductionist version I was taught that we are the "one true church and Satan's hand was stirring everyone up against us").
Apologetics (soothing things we were taught, as if if justifying of what happened) ... are by
nature overly-simplified and one-sided.
The truth is usually in the space in-between, where there is multiple factors of culpability. Evidence is evidence -- and it can't be apologized or ignored away, or felt away. History is messy stuff. Our heroes often have cardinal flaws. Our sacred stories are often nuanced.
I absolutely see polygamy as male abuse of women. I think Joseph was on a tear, 24 wives in 24 of his last months. I think Joseph abused his power (read the women's accounts and affidavits while in the protection of later-Utah, they're still revealing). I think Joseph used "revelation" to cover his tracks (Emma later reported that she first "caught him in the act" in Kirtland with Fanny Alger, which the LDS church justifies by recording her as Joseph's first polygamous wife). I think in the end Joseph knew he'd opened an awful pandora's box (a friend recorded something he said as to such). In the end, it was Joseph's greatest problem, and the church's biggest black eye.
It wouldn't be as long-lasting if the church would just acknowledge the practice as problematic, but the LDS church likes to keep the myth around the men, the myth, the legends (pay no attention to history, original documents or anything but your Sunday manual). And, the LDS church, as President Oaks said, "Is not in the business of apologizing." Lastly problematic for the church, it still holds the doctrine up (it hasn't denounced polygamy in the celestial kingdom), and it still practices spiritual polygamy (men can be sealed to more than one woman). So yeh, abuse of women, abuse of power, both then and now.