Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mormon Mondays (on Tuesday): Two (or more) Girls for Every Saint

The Latter-day Saints have had an odd relationship with polygamy, which is understandable when you see those currently practicing it. If the LDS is your friendly, clean-cut neighbor always willing to do good and give a helping hand, then the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the creepy uncle with a mean face and grabby hands. The main church did away with polygamy when they wanted Utah to gain statehood (by way of a divine revelation), and many Saints who love polygamy just weren’t having that. They saw the revelation against polygamy as a cheap political maneuver, and decided to take all their toys and go elsewhere. Strange thing was, even though they superficially did away with polygamy, some in the main church were still taking part in plural marriage, which proved to be embarrassing later on when they were called on it.

Anyhow, today the main LDS declare that the FLDS are not “mormons,” which strikes me as odd. I know that the FLDS doesn’t follow the mainstream LDS, but by believing that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet, doesn’t that kinda make you a Mormon by default, without all the gross stuff that the FLDS decided to tack on after that?

It does make sense that the main church would want to distance itself as much as possible from the FLDS. They’re not just creepy...they’re downright nightmare inducing. They have their own towns, where the cops are part of the church (making escape impossible). They encourage keeping women in line and obedient by all means necessary, which naturally means savage beatings and mental degradation. Old men in their 70s can marry (and therefore, of course, have frequent sex with) young girls ages 14 and up, thus destroying their chances of ever having a normal sexual life. Girls are taught at an early age, at home and in school, that men are their masters, and being disobedient is a sure ticket into the tortuous pits of hell. They’re told to “stay sweet,” no matter what. Boys suspected of being gay are thrown out of the community, literally. One time a large group of boys were rounded up and dumped off in some area, told never to come back. Teachers are allowed to smack their students around and humiliate them in class, and don't lose their jobs even in the rare instance where parents complain about it. This isn’t even mentioning the strange animal sacrifices and reintroduction of blood atonement that Warren Jeffs promoted.

Would this have been avoided if the main church kept polygamy? Does polygamy naturally lead to abuse towards women? I don’t know. I know that the FLDS can get away with this because they are their own self-contained community, and therefore can enact all kinds of crazy laws due to divine revelation. The strange thing is, without all the abuse and creepiness, I understand why the FLDS exists. Polygamy was a divine revelation given to Joseph Smith, it’s in the Doctrines and Covenants, and Brigham Young promoted it with the same kind of intensity that Apple used for their iPad. And yeah, when it was done away with by divine revelation, it does seem a bit convenient that it was something they needed to do anyway to appease the government. Either God is rather flexible with his divine orders, or some major religions function exactly like any other political group. Once the message no longer sticks, do away with it and try another angle.


  1. Roland

    In this post, you touch upon a point that does not come up all that often:

    Anyhow, today the main LDS declare that the FLDS are not “mormons,” which strikes me as odd. I know that the FLDS doesn’t follow the mainstream LDS, but by believing that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet, doesn’t that kinda make you a Mormon by default, without all the gross stuff that the FLDS decided to tack on after that?

    To the extent that your question is rhetorical, it is understandable. To the extent that your question is an actual inquiry, it is a good one. I will give it my best shot.

    The late Prophet Gordon Hinckley gave a 1998 General Conference talk in which he discussed, among other things, plural marriage. Here is some of what he said:

    I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy.

    They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. . . .

    If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. . . .

    There is no such thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist.” It is a contradiction to use the two words together.

    More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God.

    “What Are People Asking About Us?”, Ensign, November 1998 (to read the text of the full talk at www.lds.org, look under “Gospel Library”, then “Magazines”, then “Ensign”, then “Past Issues”).

    Orson Scott Card followed up on President Hinckley’s remark in a 2009 article in National Review Online. Here is part of what he wrote:

    When the Mormon prophet Wilford Woodruff declared in 1890 that it was God’s will that Latter-day Saints no longer take multiple wives, some Mormons clung to the “Principle of Plural Marriage” and rejected the authority of the president of the church.

    This is akin to what happened when Protestants declared that they would no longer follow the [P]ope, and polygamist sects are about as Mormon now as Baptists are Catholic.
    The fastest way to get yourself excommunicated from the Mormon Church is to advocate plural marriage.

    “Big Love? Big Deal”
    National Review Online, March 13, 2009 (the full article can be read at www.nationalreview.com)

    I think that Brother Card pretty much sums up why John and Jane Mormon, and Juan and Juanita Mormones, do not believe that “those people” are Mormons. The Mormon people are not distinguished solely be the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, but also by the fact that we follow the Prophet.

    Latter-day revelation teaches: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” D&C 1:38. “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” D&C 21:5. “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” D&C 132:7. “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” A of F 1:5.

    To be a Mormon is to both know these things and to live these things. Obviously, the FLDS neither know nor live these things.


    P.S. Did you know that Jana Reiss, at her blog “Flunking Sainthood”, has Mormon Mondays which are actually on Monday? blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood

    P.P.S. I am always careful online to capitalize “Protestant” or “Catholic”. Please be careful to capitalize “Mormon.” Thanks

  2. I'm interested in catching up with these Mormon Monday posts -- the previous one on Joseph Smith had quite a lot of comments and now couldn't get any more. I wanted to say I appreciated everything you said in that post!

    I wanted to mention someone the above commented brought up:

    "More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God."

    I guess my biggest problem with this statement is the following: If God overturned something he supposedly set forth in the past, how can either "revelation" be divinely given, period?

  3. Sarah

    The Book of Mormon, usually to the surprise of those who have never read it, as a GENERAL matter, FORBIDS plural marriage, which it describes as “whoredoms” for which God will “visit them [husbands in plural marriage] with a sore curse, even unto destruction.” Jacob 2:23-33. However, in the middle of forbidding plural marriage as a general matter, God states that, if times come, when plural marriage is needed to increase the number of believers through a larger number of children, then God will so command. “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.” Jacob 2:30.

    By latter-day revelation, on July 12, 1843, God did command use of plural marriage “to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.” D&C 132:63. On September 24, 1890, God said that “the Latter-day Saints [are] to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” D&C Official Declaration 1. Of course, Congress had enacted several statutes forbidding plural marriage in the Utah Territory. Somewhat later, the Prophet Wilford Woodruff explained that God’s alternative was to accept the federal government’s completion of its ongoing campaign to destroy the Church. Deseret Weekly November 14, 1891 as excerpted in the D&C. Note that this is quite different than the often-asserted notion that plural marriage was abandoned simply to achieve statehood for Utah. That notion rests upon ignorance of the length and severity of the federal government’s 19th century persecution of the Saints.

    People whose understanding of revelation is based solely on Protestant and Catholic practice sometimes have a hard time understanding that the adoption of plural marriage and the later abandonment of that practice do not constitute inconsistency or flip-flopping. Latter-day Saint practice is quite different. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Article of Faith 9. Protestants and Catholics teach that the canon, consisting of the Bible alone, is closed. Our Church teaches that the canon is open, that scriptures in addition to the Bible have been revealed, and that further scriptures may be revealed in the future. Protestants and Catholics teach that public revelation ended with Christ’s ministry on earth. Our Church teaches that, following His Restoration of the priesthood, through His servant Joseph Smith, heaven is open once again and that He speaks to us today through His living Prophet.

    That God first commanded 19th Century plural marriage, and later forbid it, is perfectly consistent with God’s Word given anciently to the prophet Jacob whom I have quoted above.

    I hope this answers your question. If not, let me know, and I will be happy to see what I can do.