My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 2. My Beliefs)

This article is a continuation of the article, My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 1. Supernatural Experiences)

 

My Faith in God

As I’ve tried to explain in my article on Eternal Progression and Comparative Cosmology, I believe as Hindu, Buddhist and Biblical & LDS verses suggest, that the Most High God IS essentially an infinite intelligence which permeates the universe (ie. see D&C 88:6–13,47. see also Oahspe & The Law of One); or in other words the incomprehensible intelligent aspect of creation or the whole of the infinite Universe of which we are all a part—like individual cells in a body; but I also believe there is a lengthy hierarchy of higher & lower extra-dimensional beings or mediators who are responsible for most of the religious and spiritual accounts of god (ie Mormonism’s “Father” & Son. see D&C 121:28,32. also see divine investiture of authority). I also believe in a sort of global and universal shared subconscious, which mystics are able to tap into (see akashic records, Rev 5:4). I believe the Most High God’s law IS the natural law and is thus impossible to break; and that the assorted laws of religion and state are the laws of mediators who simply try to mimic the unsurpassable harmony and symmetry of the natural law. I believe the highest religion is the one that best explains and mimics nature. My personal religion is based on the idea of doing the most good to others and understanding the natural law. My cultural religion is Mormonism and my life’s work is to bring the two into harmony. I believe Christianity and Mormonism are “types” or copies of more perfect extra-dimensional social systems which seek to mimic the natural law with their ordinances, doctrine and systems. I believe revelation doesn’t work at all like most people think.

Because I believe the Most-High God IS creation and his law IS the natural law, then all my descriptions of him or his law are basically me trying to scientifically or religiously describe nature and reality. And it is obvious that my perspective, compared to the whole of creation, is narrow and my language is partial and limited. I do my best to describe my beliefs of God in culturally accepted religious terms but I could just as easily use detached scientific terms— I  believe the truth encompasses all worldviews and descriptive languages (D&C 93:24–30). The way I would describe my beliefs to a Mormon is far different than the way I would describe them to a Catholic or a Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Atheist and I believe angels and God’s do the same (1 Cor 9:20).

I sense the truth behind the idea that the world we collectively deem as reality is really just a shared illusion of sorts, and that things are not what they always seem and there are aspects of reality beyond human comprehension (1 Cor 2:9). The question of whether or not we are alone in our galaxy and whether there are transdimensional beings who watch over the earth seems logically necessary to me. From the evidence I see in the fractal patterns our galaxy (see Eternal Progression and Cosmology) it seems illogical to think it would be any other way. But arguing over the afterlife or things which aren’t really provable seems even more silly and illogical. To me, the highest questions of religion are… what is the highest ideal? What’s the best way to avoid social revolt or collapse? What system of morality is best for each society. It is less important to figure out exactly who, if anyone these religious icons or “prophets” are interacting with. I believe, like the movie Avatar tries to depict, that if higher “Gods” are interacting with mankind, they would not take sides– they would simply protect the balance of life–in the same way a good biologist works to preserve fragile ecosystems.

Just as our current world is a product of our ancestors which came before us, I believe that our lowly earth is predominantly led, instructed and influenced by beings who are just a little further ahead in their eternal progression than us. In essence I believe that when a person dies they pass into another dimension of sorts, and that these dead ancestors are able to randomly communicate through transient holes in the dimensions to those who have unlocked certain metaphysical abilities; and that these communications form the basis of most the world’s religions (1 Ne 32:3).

In this next section, I’m going to use Mormon language and concepts as much as possible to describe my idea of the afterworld….

Telestial: The realm of sectarianism (some of Christ, Some of Moses, Some of Brigham. D&C 76:99-101). Terrestrial: Unified with one of the Son(s) of light, but not the Father of all mankind yet. (D&C 76:77) Celestial: Equal and One with the Father in ALL things. They are made Perfect or Whole redeemed from all division. (D&C 76:94-95) See  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

Telestial: The realm of sectarianism (some of Christ, Some of Moses, Some of Brigham. D&C 76:99–101).
Terrestrial: Unified with one of the Son(s) of light, but not the Father of all mankind yet. (D&C 76:77)
Celestial: Equal and One with the Father in ALL things. They are made Perfect or Whole redeemed from all division. (D&C 76:94–95)
See  Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

 

My Belief in the Purpose of Life

I believe a cohesive purposes of life is hidden with most the world’s religions. I have done a lot of searching in the world’s religions for the purpose of life & existence–which I believe is self realization by eternal progression (struggle/evolution) or movement through the divinely created stages of life. I try not to speculate too much on questions of first cause, but I believe that the progression and existence of mankind is a microcosm of the three stages typified by the stages of the stars and the cosmos. We originate at some distant pre-existent state from an eternal sea of unity, infinite intelligence, uniformity and equality. Through a long evolutionary process we are made self-aware and come to this telestial (3rd density) earth to be repeatedly reincarnated until we are driven by experiences and forces which cause us to potentiate into groups which bring greater unity amidst the group but separation from the eternal sea of uniformity.

This stage of “becoming” is made possible and accelerated by pain, struggle, ignorance & separation. It is often symbolized by concepts such as “polarizing”, “the fall”, “dividing”, “separating”, “creation”, “agency, free-will or willfulness”, “ego”, “power”, “kingdom building”, “pioneering”, “potentiation”, “temple/nation building”, etc. It is typified by prophetic archetypes such as Moses, Brahma, Adam, Mohammed and Elias.  The most important aspect of this stage of progression is the creation of potentiated & opposing desire—because it is desire that makes free will possible and sets the stage for our next phases of evolution.

Next, in the terrestrial or 4rth density, we enter a stage of harmonization or atonement (at-one-ing), where all within the group find their chosen location within that framework and use up their polarity to experience every desire of their own creating. This occurs in after harvest or resurrection into the more fluid higher dimensions of the earth where abilities of group consciousness are developed and harmonization and communication are made possible to a degree hardly fathomable in our present state. It is symbolized by words such as “love”, “atonement”, “harmony”, “gathering”, “significator”, and “sacrifice at the cross or hindu swastika”; and is typified by prophetic archetypes such as Jesus, Isa, Vishnu and Elijah.

Lastly, after what might be termed as millions of years according to our present accounting of time (Celestial or 5th density), and after every-one in the group has experienced, dropped or risen above every desire, external forces begin to divide, destroy, absorb or break up the group’s material form. An eternal “copy” or memory of the group’s “spirit” is integrated and saved within the galactic memory (true Nirvana). This exaltation of essence and fall of form from harmony (ie. creating “spirit children”) and perfect unity is the death which sets the stage for the whole process to begin again. It is symbolized by archetypes such as Messiah, Shiva, Eve, Buddha, or Maitreya and words such as “eternal exaltation”, “redemption”, “salvation” “ONE”, “the Dao”, all in preparation for some aspect of this unity to repeat the cycle of division and fall.  Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and modern mystical works each emphasize different fractal aspects of this grand wheel, circle or cross of eternal life. (or circles within circles or times & seasons within years) They often use differing classifications and break points to divide and describe the endless circle but in the end are describing parts of the same phenomena.

 

My Faith for the LDS Church

I try (oft times poorly) not to pretend to know what I don’t know. But these are my beliefs or speculations based on my spiritual experiences and the writings of many, many others who’ve had visions or purportedly interacted with spiritual beings (see my channeled texts section for some of my favorites). I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet/clairvoyant and really did have angelic visions. But because of my own metaphysical experience and the accounts I’ve heard first-hand from others who have claimed to see spirits or light-beings, I believe that visions are far more subjective than most LDS people would think. Although I’m not dogmatic about it, I believe many of Joseph Smith’s (and most other religious mystics) visions were in fact subjective visions, instead of objective physical events. In other words these “visions” would not be verifiable by an unbelieving or disconnected second earthly observer (which is why Joseph’s siblings were not awoken during Moroni’s visitations, and why the accounts of the three witness state the “witnessing” was done only by faith in “vision” with “a spiritual eye”). In my opinion, it seems that Joseph Smith and other clairvoyants interact with extra-dimensional beings (or their “thought-forms” in the mental realm) in a way where much of what is communicated is telepathically transmitted to the brain or memory across dimensions (through a spiritual eye/third eye, not physical eyes) and received in a state of altered consciousness which must be interpreted through and distorted by the recipient(s) particular cultural lense(s). [This could be explained as just another way of saying these people “imagined what they saw”, except that this type of subjective imagination originates from without the mind instead of within it, often occurs to groups of individuals collectively, has a much higher degree of perceived reality than simple imagination and produces results which often end up affecting the course of human history. In my opinion, higher dimensional beings are subtly communicating to people through their imaginations]. I also believe Joseph Smith (like all mystics) was allowed to be influenced equally by both negative and positive higher beings and thought-forms.

Channeled books such as The Law of One, explain in some detail the supposed rules that guard the agency of man, concerning higher-dimensional groups (both on or off-planet) which seek to interfere with the self-determination the mortal dimension of our planet. Going one step further from the prime directive rules of star command in the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness, these texts explain that higher beings have emplaced rules which prohibit “interference with the normal and healthy development of 3rd Density life and culture”. These higher beings have the means to appear subjectively to mortals (as thought-forms within their minds) as well as materialize objects and “move mountains”, but are restricted from doing so unless the “faith or pre-existing belief” of those affected is strong enough that the occurrence does not affect the seeking group’s normal evolution and self determination.

Impressive works like The Law of One and John Newbrough’s Oahspe give accounts of the physical barriers that separate the different dimensions, as well as the cosmological phenomena which periodically create holes in these veils—causing curiously similar religious movements to pop up on opposite sides of the globe, seemingly out of nowhere (the global Second Great Awakening of Joseph Smith’s day being the most recent example, with numerous religions beginning not only in America but theophanies like Hong Xiuquan’s Taiping Movement and the Bab’s Middle Eastern Bahai movement occurring with a decade of each other.)  After reading these accounts and noting all the subtle references to similar periodic mystical phenomena found in most major religions, I am left to conclude that it’s completely illogical to suggest that Joseph Smith, Hong Xiuquan and Siyyid Shírází (The Bab), all just “made up” their theophany experiences, nor can I believe that their expansive religious writings and scripture are devoid of supernatural influence.

But whose influence? That is the question! Once again, many esoteric books offer deep insight here by suggesting that people’s emotional and spiritual reactions to the works produced by these religious founders are not necessarily a testament to their absolute “truthfulness” as many suppose, but a testament to the fact that they are associated with higher dimensional groups (both good and bad) which have the ability to affect the consciousness of mortals who have the appropriate faith and receptivity. Furthermore, other texts suggest that many of the details of these mystic’s visions (and even theophanies) are actually the result of these individuals projecting their own biases onto the divine consciousness. The idea is, that when a mystic/prophet is able to break into the highest and most unified levels of consciousness, their worthiness (existing biases) will color everything they see (thus the necessity of worthiness to see the metaphorical “face” or presence of God). This could be what Paul is getting at in 1 Cor 13:12 when he says “Now [in veiled mortality] we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then [after exaltation] we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (NLT)

Because of the interesting similarities mixed with the stark differences of these people’s experiences, I believe most prophetic visions are almost like connecting to a computer mainframe of consciousness where the prophet is in charge of translating, culturalizing and “humanizing” all that is perceived through the spiritual/psychic organs of the revelators mind. I believe the Book of Mormon & Pearl of Great Price were channeled from a heavenly group (not “translated” per se), and are an often loose, somewhat distorted and westernized/christianized rendition of the history of an actual Native American group.  (Scores of other channeled works I’ve read as well as Books like Oahspe, The Urantia Bible, The Kolbrin, The Sealed Portion, The Aklatan, The Metinah Papers, Kinderhook Plates, etc.. might be of interest in a discussion of accuracy, purposes and truthfulness of all these channeled works.)

[Note: I can value the more agnostic perspective where the heaven seen by prophets, mystics and those having near death experiences is actually just a shared imagination of cultures. The idea that there is some type of shared consciousness which is not actually real or inhabited by dead ancestors (except as they exist in the group memory), but a shared dreamworld of sorts that is accessed by these individuals. Thus the more broad or encompassing an individual’s perspective or a culture’s perspective, the closer to a true reality their visions become. However, although there may be some truth to this I think reality is far more complicated, and I truly believe the dead do live on after death in a far more real way—guiding mankind from an unseen realm.]

Through the process of translation I believe Joseph became the mouthpiece primarily for one of these terrestrial heavenly groups—and highly influenced by several others (see D&C 76:86–88). I believe religions, much like nations are subject to evolution and survival of the fittest to an enormous degree. And that most religions (and even nations) are started when cosmologically induced “holes” open between the dimensions, allowing heavenly groups to channel information to receptive individuals—the Father (heavenly groups) impregnating the Mother (earthly groups) with truth and knowledge, which then gives birth to a Son (new nation, religion or influential ideology). I believe the opposing groups which communicated to Joseph did so with an important purpose which pertains particularly to the restoration of Israel, the future of the United States of America, the coming breakup of Medieval Christianity–and eventual transmutation of this planet by cosmic forces.

I believe as Joseph (like other mystics) grew older and the will of his followers became more integrated into his psyche, he became increasingly vulnerable to the negatively polarized groups who constantly seek to inject bias within all heavenly revelations. This revelatory bias (largely stemming from the negative desires of the early saints) was not enough for him to be rejected as a channel by the primarily heavenly group which he received revelation from, but was directly responsible for introduction of polygamy, many imperialist and cult-like doctrines, the subsequent breakup of the church and the succession crisis which ensued. I think it’s obvious from things like the Kinderhook plates, that as Joseph grew older he himself sometimes had a hard time differentiating between his own imagination and actual revelation. I believe that Brigham Young and other subsequent LDS presidents have continued and amplified that bias to the point that they have trouble overcoming the stumbling blocks which separates their own beliefs from the philosophy of the original heavenly group which appeared to Joseph. (see this article for some examples–realizing I certainly don’t have all the answers either.)

But I believe these terrestrial groups are highly intelligent and anticipated what occurred (since it is invariably the case with every heavenly revelation). I think current LDS leaders are good men, doing their best despite the assorted sources of their spiritual light (most of which I think appropriately come from Brigham Young and the Mormon Church in the highest level of the telestial level of the Spirit World–who in turn get inspiration from Terrestrial heavenly groups–who in turn are inspired by the group associated with Christ). As was the case with both Israel, Catholicism, and other major religions the church serves its purpose of exalting groups, and is used by higher beings to do their work. I believe that higher beings are adamant about guarding free will and the right to self determination and the heavenly silence occurs in order to give churches (and people) the right to figure out on their own who they are going to be. It is my hope that the church decides to be an organization which promotes agency, freedom and ecumenical democracy and not divine dictatorship (which is the hallmark of the archetypal Church of the Devil). It is also my hope that the church will continually repent of its pride and eventually play a key role (if not a central role) in gathering “all things in one”—as well as playing a key role in the creation of one of the five nations which will spring from the breakup of the United States in the next five generations (see prophesy in the Book of Ben Kathryn).  But my beliefs are increasingly less Mormon-centric than they once were. I see Israel and the church as a type of symbol of what God is doing globally. I see it as a shadow and school-master for far more perfect government organizations which exists in the heavens–which are designed to help people find unity and oneness, which is the gateway to harvest into the complex systems of higher dimensional life which I attempt to explain in my article Eternal Progression, Degrees of Glory, and the Resurrection: A Comparative Cosmology.

 

My Faith in Historical Religion

I don’t like to demonize or vilify things. I believe that all things have their place and time and fit together into one beautiful whole. I believe that the lower one descends through the planes of eternal existence, the more polarized (ie. disharmony in good vs. bad) things become; but that eventually people are redeemed from division when they learn to at-one or unify/harmonize all polarity. I think this same principle is taught in the LDS temple ceremony. That the archetypical “lucifer” unknowingly is fulfilling the Father’s will as he uses the world’s religion to polarize and divide people (giving them the fruit of the knowledge of good vs. evil). I think many people in the earth’s religions are actually being divided and polarized as they follow lords of force & division, instead of actually following Christ the western archetype of unity in love and equality.

I believe the highest extra-dimensional beings who watch over our galaxy (symbolized by the Father & Celestial kingdom in Mormonism), exist outside of space and time as we know it. They watch over earth’s progression with a full knowledge of every possible outcome of evolutionary experimentation. Although they control the natural law and know the end from the beginning, they avoid determinism and instead guard agency wherever possible and maintain the balance of dualities and opposing forces making global self-determination possible.

Some texts refer to the differing planes or densities as "projections" of God. As the planes move further from their source, their fallen or divided nature is greater.

Some texts refer to the differing planes or densities as “projections” of God. As the planes move further from their source, their fallen or divided nature is greater.

 

 

I believe in the cosmologies promoted by books like Oashpe and the Law of One which detail the partial and cryptic explanations of the afterlife given in most of the world’s organized religions. I believe that even though major religious founders interact with inter-dimensional beings, their words and teachings are almost immediately corrupted after their deaths by negative forces originating the earth Spirit World and global mind. These corruptions are anticipated by the higher beings, and the mixed messages and distorted religions which evolve from these revelations become a powerful cultural influence which creates an environment of “opposition in all things” which is necessary for mankind to exercise free will. I believe each religion has a multi-leveled counterpart in the earth’s 3rd density spirit world. These organizations seek to funnel people up to a state of consciousness where they can interact with the higher physical densities (resurrections)

I believe that being raised in this highly polarized environment of a religion which teaches love and acceptance and absolute truth but more often than not practices control and narrow mindedness, has been a highly effective catalyst in aiding my spiritual and intellectual progression. The polarization and conflict has left me seeking knowledge and prizing the answers. I believe most of the great minds on earth were grown in this environment (esp. Judaism in the Western world). Because of this I do not demonize negativity in my religion. I see it as effective, valuable, and useful. I plan to raise my children beneath the auspice of its mythos. I try to promote the good it it, and transmute the bad.

 

The Chinese concept of yin and yang represent how the two opposing polarities or forces in the universe fit into one whole. It is important to note that each force is both cored and underlain by its opposing polarity. (Also note masculine & feminine in this sense have nothing to do with sexual gender.)

 

 

 

An Answer to the CES Letter & Mormon Truth Claims

The CES Letter is a popular summary of arguments made by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was written by Jeremy Renold’s— originally as an honest request to a CES director for answers to the issues it raises.

The CES letter does a good job of compiling, summarizing and explaining many of the largest issues surrounding LDS theology and more especially LDS history and its conflicts with LDS truth claims. However, this letter does not do a good job of giving any context for the issues it brings up.—and as such it is one sided and biased toward not only loss of faith in all LDS theology, but often departure from God, Christianity and religious participation. It is almost an opposing mirror reflection of the one sided, “faith promoting” (ei. whitewashed) version of history and theology promoted by the church for the last 100 years.

The issues are complicated, and the truths presented shatter many ill-conceived doctrines, mores and cultural beliefs held by most Mormons. But as a whole the letter is akin to dumping a lesson onto a 6 year old which in one sitting breaks their idyllic views of humanity by exposing them for the first time to the harsh realities of moral relativism made evident in human history and the brutality of the human condition. For LDS people, it breaks down the oft-held idyllic “mormon-centric” worldview by exposing members to the imperfect realities of religious prophetic and revelatory mystical experience.

Effectively reconciling the issues in this letter (without becoming angry toward Mormonism) often requires redefining one’s understanding of revelatory and visionary experiences (understanding their subjective nature). It requires redefining many of the LDS church’s exclusive truth claims. It requires a mature understanding of the many shades of grey which exist between the idealized black and white view of right and wrong which is often taught in Sunday school. Here’s a great framework to start evaluating the CES letter from, written by someone I respect a lot…

The CES letter evaluates an “all or nothing” set of church beliefs by using the very same flawed “all or nothing” paradigm.

And when we use such false dichotomies, we typically come to the “nothing” answer, which to my mind is just as false as the “all” answer.

In my impression, the correct conclusion to make after reading the CES letter is not whether the church is true or not, but rather, the entire approach of “all or nothing” thinking is completely bogus, whether being used to defend or destroy the church (or anything else).

Evaluating four or six versions of the first vision, then rejecting the vision because the accounts changed is frankly the wrong answer. Theophanies exist. They happen. I have had at least one, and so have many of you. But to accurately describe one? Impossible. Sure, I don’t know if Joseph had a theophany, but the fact that he described it distinctly over time is more evidence of it than against.

But where is this kind of thoughtful evaluation in the CES letter? It doesn’t exist, because “all or nothing” thinking rejects any possibility of a Middle Way.

Yes, I believe, with others, that our beliefs need to be deconstructed, and for me this meant “complete deconstruction” — I embraced the “nothing” part of the “all or nothing” paradigm. Maybe that was necessary, for a moment in time.

But faith is neither found in the “all”, nor in the “nothing”. Faith is the Middle Way between all and nothing, between knowing and not knowing. Faith is not perfect knowledge or certainty, for as Alma said, when we “know” something, our faith is dormant. Faith is never dormant, it is always exploring, acting, moving, learning, dealing with doubt in constructive, hopeful ways.

If we have faith, we hope for things that are not seen that are true.

For most of the things stated in the CES letter, we can “know” that the certainties of church claims are not certain. In other words, we should come to the conclusion we don’t know what we thought we knew.

That’s great! But what then is the typical response to the CES letter? Another certainty: “the church is not true.”

We trade the “all” certainty for the “nothing” certainty, and we have missed the lesson to be learned here.

If the CES letter is a wake up call toward not knowing, then the answer is twofold: (1) the suspension of judgment, casting aside the “all or nothing” paradigm, and (2) activate our faith, which Alma describes as a process of exploring truth by doing the work necessary to find our own truth. –author requested to be left anonymous

 

Summary

Book of Mormon Issues

-Those who have faith in the Book of Mormon, should be prepared for the possibility that all scripture is not objectively true.  That the biblical story of creation is symbolic allegory, and the flood may be a symbolic story largely based on ancient oral myth, that Israel’s cultural stories of Abraham and Joseph and Moses are based on records and myths that combine truth with embellishment and even fiction, that the biblical histories are not entirely accurate. That the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price may also be mystical, more than historical writings. One must come to see how the value of these religious books is not in their objective retelling of history, but in the spiritual lessons which are woven into the history.  But there are many incredibly intelligent aspects of scripture which can be seen as divine and beyond human ability to consciously create. All must read them and decide which parts are human and which parts are divine. I believe all scripture/channeled literature (Christian or not) come from a place outside conscious thought. The better a mystic is able to channel the divine— the better the scripture.  I encourage anyone interested in this to read the following books. Morals and Dogma by Robert Pike. The Gnostic Pearl. Oahspe.

Joseph Smith Character Issues

-One must come to grips with the fact that Joseph Smith was not anything like the idealized prophet hero the church has made him to be.  He was visionary and persuasive. From the records available, it seems he was convinced of his divine mission. But his polygamy and power issues are impossible to dismiss. It seems that in the last three years of his life, he became a sex addict and took advantage of many women by using religious coercion to convince them to marry and have sex with him. On the other hand he was not without boundaries and tried to give the women he propositioned ample change to deny him… and respected their denials. Toward the end of his life, he made many enemies as he excommunicated those who threatened his power.  He turned himself into a king and acted despotically at times.  But he also acted charitably and kindly. He was both good and bad… each individual needs to study his life and decide for themselves whether the good of his life outweighs the bad, or whether the bad makes him unworthy of respect for the good he attempted to accomplish.

Brigham Young and Post-Joseph Leader Power Issues

 

 

The scriptural anachronisms and scientific conflicts in this section are pretty similar to those found in higher criticisms of the Bible. It is common for those young in a faith to adopt a literal, fundamentalist interpretation of scripture which validates one’s own narrow cultural worldview. As we look more critically at religious scripture and compare it to those of other global traditions, much of that rigidity tends to fall away. By comparison to all available truth and information, our view of reality becomes more broad and encompassing. Faith and rigid dogma give way to knowledge and divine wisdom. Absolutism makes way for a spectrum of possible truth and a realization that even religious prophets or mystics are bound by their own narrow cultural bias.

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1 – What are 1769 King James Version edition errors doing in the Book of Mormon? An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?

My Conclusion: I think it’s hard to deny that the Isaiah sections of the Book of Mormon were copied directly from the 1769 king James. One must come to grips with possibility that Joseph’s revelations & translation came from his own mind. But one should not dismiss a divinity in these books either. An argument could possibly be made that Joseph Channeled the text from some spiritual sources, and that those spirits passing the information to him, copied the passages from his own culturally accepted KJV. Or perhaps they simply told him to go to the KJV to get those sections (not likely given the evidence). Really there’s a number of possibilities, but the question this fact poses is more important. What do the KJV verses tell us about the translation process, if we are to attempt to maintain faith in the idea that the text is an actual divine translation?
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2 – When King James translators were translating the KJV Bible between 1604 and 1611, they would occasionally put in their own words into the text to make the English more readable. We know exactly what these words are because they’re italicized in the KJV Bible. What are these 17th century italicized words doing in the Book of Mormon? Word for word? What does this say about the Book of Mormon being an ancient record?

Conclusions: The idea that Joseph “translated” these sections of Book of Mormon (and possibly most, if not all the text), word for word cannot be upheld. The evidence presented would suggest, that if anything, Joseph “channeled” both the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham through “revelation” (channeling being the more modern term for the work of a revelator). The propagation of errors within Biblical quotes found in the Book of Mormon would suggest they were copied, essentially word for word (but with minor changes here and there) from his 1769 version of the bible.

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3- Joseph Smith translated the LDS bible, in which he claims to have fixed errors in other translations of the bible. Why do BOM passages match the KJV 1769 rather than the LDS bible? There seems to be a contradiction here.

-conclusion: It seems evident that the JST is not a “restoration” of the original biblical text written by the ancient prophets, but an attempt by Joseph Smith to clarify, expound upon, or reconcile conflicting ideas and doctrines presented in the passages he chose to address (according to his own beliefs and/or inspiration).

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4 – DNA analysis has concluded that Native American Indians do not originate from the Middle East or from Israelites but rather from Asia. Why did the Church change the section of the introduction page in the 2006 edition Book of Mormon, from “are the principal ancestors” to “are among the ancestors” shortly after the DNA results were released?

-conclusion: Obviously church leaders felt that the original claim was too strict, and was likely not supported by the text itself either. Many articles have been written on this, so I’ll just cover this in my explanations on subsequent issues.
-Questions. Just as with the Bible, there are many ambiguities in the Book of Mormon itself which would make genetic testing difficult. These include things like; what was the origin of the “Jaredite” people and were they literally all killed off (or were there tens of thousands living in scattered pockets whom the ancient Jaredite author knew nothing about? Did the Jaredites share a common ancestor with East Asians (such as Mongolians)? If there were many Jaredite remnants how much did they mix with Book of Mormon peoples. Many indigenous groups such as the Navajos, Pacific Northwest peoples and eskimos (the Athabascan language group) are known to have migrated from Alaska during post Book of Mormon times, how do we know which Native American Groups have no part in the Book of Mormon narrative? If the Book of Mormon truly was channeled from ancient North American Indians was what they wrote prone to their own cultural conceptions? Is it possible to find a genetic sample of unmixed pre-Babylonian captivity “Israelites” with which to compare North American DNA samples? Did the Northern Kingdom Israelites exiled into Assyria mix with the Turkish nomads who are the principal ancestors of modern Mongolian and north Asian peoples? Are there reliable control groups available for these types of genetic studies? Is historically known Viking DNA found in North American Indian DNA? How have post Christian era Inuit language group migrations mixed with more southern North American groups (Navajo tribes for example).
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5- Horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, and iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times. Why are these things mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being made available in the Americas between 2200 BC – 421 AD?

-conclusion: The anachronistic words used by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon, once again seem to strongly suggest that if one wants to assert that the text is based on a true historical narrative—then the text must have been largely channeled using his own cultural biases and language instead of translated word for word. 

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6 -There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon or the Nephites/Lamanites who numbered in the millions. This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists are coming up with the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America) and that the real Hill Cumorah is not in Palmyra, New York but is elsewhere and possibly somewhere down there instead.
Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson was BYU’s archaeology division (New World Archaeological Funding) founder. NWAF was financed by the Church. NWAF and Ferguson were tasked by BYU and the Church in the 1950s and 1960s to find archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. This is what Ferguson wrote after 17 years of trying to dig up evidence for the Book of Mormon:
“…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archaeology. I should say – what is in the ground will never conform to what is in the book.”

-conclusion: One assertion can be made from this. Archeological evidence would certainly suggest these battles almost certainly did not occur on or around the modern Hill Cumorah. (That is unless the battles did not include the use of stone weaponry or the weaponry was completely looted, collected and transported by subsequent indigenous groups. That seems unlikely but not impossible.)
Questions regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon are highly debatable and in many cases impossible to prove or disprove. Using the same logic on known historical documents (especially when legend or myth is concerned) brings similar issues. Numerous battles mentioned in Roman writings, Greek writing, Biblical writings, and Egyptian writings also have produced no archaeological evidence. This does not mean they did not happen. It does not even prove that the historical writings concerning these battles has been exaggerated or mythologized. Sometimes it simply means that archaeological evidence can be hard to find.
Questions: Why did Joseph Smith call the Hill Comoruh such? What real evidence is there that this is the Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon and that he was not simply mistaken? Why did He have a vision of a room full of records within the hill (link). Is that vision hearsay? How error prone are such visionary experiences?
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7- BOM geography names are strikingly similar to the Great Lakes region where Joseph Smith grew up. There are dozens of place names in BOM which correspond to real places around upstate new york. These include Alma, Boaz, Lehi…

-conclusion: This and similar semantics studies on the book of Mormon text (compared with Prof. Antons encyclopedia for instance) seem to suggest many of the Book of Mormon names may not have been direct “translations” but were at least influenced by Joseph’s cultural experience. It could be coincidence, but seems unlikely.
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7b- Off the eastern coast of Mozambique in Africa is an island country called “Comoros.” Prior to its French occupation in 1841, the islands were known by its Arabic name, “Camora.” There is an 1808 map of Africa that refers to the islands as “Camora.” There is an island off the cost of Madagascar called Camorah. Its principle settlement was named Moroni. Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter and fan of pirate fiction. A contemporary source reports that the young Smith was a fan of the Captain William Kid pirate novels, parts of those stories take place on Camorah and in Moroni. The name “Camorah” appeared in the 1830 edition of BOM, but the spelling was changed in later editions.
-conclusion: Same as above.
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8 – A fictional book called View of the Hebrews was published in 1825 in Vermont, 5 years before the first edition of BOM. It tells a story that parallels the BOM story in striking similarity, including migrations of Hebrew tribes to America, Jewish origin of Indian language, similar battles, settlements, Indian records recorded on gold leafs and buried in a hill, Urim & Thummim, messiah visits America, quotes entire chapters of Isaiah… Some passages from View of the Hebrews and BOM are word for word identical.

Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his cousin Joseph Smith.

-conclusion: Once again, it seems obvious from this and the next point that if the book is true, then Joseph’s cultural experience was highly influential in his “channeling” of his texts. Evidence is poor that Joseph copied or plagiarized his works from “View of the Hebrews”, “The Late War” or the “Spaulding manuscript”. But cultural influence on semantics, wording, styling and prose seems likely.

-Question. How does channeling work? Where is the inspiration of all of these works coming from? Did Joseph even read these books? Is there possibly a common source of inspiration for all these works? Are principles of group consciousness at work here? Are the similarities simply a product of the religious culture of the time?

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9 – The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain is a children’s text book published 1819. It is written in King James style language, and contains many phrases and passages which appear in BOM. Phrases such as “partly of brass and partly of iron, and were cunningly contrived with curious works, like unto a clock; and as it were a large ball” appear verbatim in both a text book that Smith likely read as a child and BOM.

Same as above.
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10 – The First Book of Napoleon was published in 1809. Compare its opening lines to the beginning of BOM:
“The First Book of Napoleon: Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Napoleon…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…their inheritances their gold and silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of their hearts…small in stature…Jerusalem…because of the perverse wickedness of the people.
Book of Mormon: Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people.

Same as above.
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11- The first 1830 edition of BOM had a trinitarian theology. Many passages that established identity between Father and Son were later changed, as part of over 100,000 changes made after the first edition. For example:
1 Nephi 3 (p.32): These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world”, was changed to
“These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world”
However, there are still some parts of BOM which establish identity between Father and Son. For example : Ether 3:14–15:
“Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.”
The changes to later editions show an evolving theology of the Godhead away from the traditional trinitarian view, but by leaving in some passages like the one from Ether above, the BOM now presents a contradictory view of the ontology of the Godhead.

-Conclusions: The fact that both of the earliest accounts of the First Vision speak of just One being really supports the issues in this point.
It would seem that just as with many textual changes in the Bible, LDS “Scribes” (Leaders) felt they were in good faith, clarifying confusing aspects of the text. However, numerous other references within LDS scripture, Biblical scripture, and other channeled texts of the time (see link) seem to suggest that like biblical textual changes, these additions were more a reflection of LDS leader’s lack of knowledge concerning the complexity of the subject of the nature of God. They seem to have sought to make the words in the Book of Mormon accord with their interpretation of God, just as Joseph may well have channeled the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants to accord with his own changing views of the nature of God.
Questions: What makes someone a “prophet”? Are the visionary experiences of “prophets” largely a reflection of their own understanding? Just as “god” speaks according to the language of a visionary individual, does he also speak largely according to their existing cultural and religious understandings? Thus do a prophet’s “visions” of God change with their understanding?
Along with the both Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian views in the Book of Mormon, why does D&C define God in a non-anthropromorphic way? Why do later revelations such as D&C 121 and D&C 132, and the King Follet Discourse promote polytheism? Such questions add a great richness to LDS theology.

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Book of Mormon Translation Issues

1 – Peep stone translation. Joseph Smith was not even looking at the gold plates when he “translated” them. He was looking at a rock in his hat. At times the plates were not even in the same building, but were rather hidden in the woods. Why has the church been less than forthcoming about the translation process?

Yes, it would seem the plates were more “channeled” than “translated”.
There is much the church has not been forthcoming about. Are they improving in this area of honesty? Was it on purpose? Was it to protect and bolster their own power? Did they think they were protecting fragile testimonies and achieving “the greater good”? How can we judge intentions when we were not there? Does this affect how much trust we should put in religious hierarchy? Are misconceptions in this area all just honest mistakes?
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First Vision Issues

1 – First vision inconsistencies. There are four different versions of the first vision in the sacred grove. This is Joseph’s vison that supposedly occurred in 1820. There is no mention of the first vision anywhere until it appears in Smith’s journal in 1832, twelve years after it happened and a few years after the first edition of BOM. The four accounts differ in how old Smith was, why he went out to pray, who appeared to him “a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son – are all over the place”.

Conclusion: The church has made great strides in being honest concerning this point as of late (see gospel topics essays). Original scans of these primary-sources for the first vision accounts are available on the churches website. The differences are indeed significant. And although one would expect even large differences in a person’s recollection and storytelling over a period of 30 years, the differences in the accounts do come across as suspicious. I believe this issue is most disturbing because the Church has used the official version of this account as such a central “selling point” of the exclusive truth claims of the LDS gospel.

Questions: What definition of “vision” was Joseph referring to when he described his experience as a “heavenly vision”? Was this a vision as in a true “supernatural apparition”? Or was it a vision as defined in the sense of “an experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance”? (see Webster’s dictionary) What is the difference? Did Joseph’s memory of the vision change greatly over time as his ideas of God evolved? D&C 76 is self-described as a vision given “in the Spirit” which multiple parties had at the same time— can the difference of whether a vision is “real” or not, be differentiated by whether a third party can verify the event. Are visions more subjective than reality where the beliefs of the vision participants are projected into the experience like a shared dream?
How much trust should people put in other people’s “visions”? How are drug induced visions, after-death experience visions and unassisted religious visions different from one another? Would Joseph be clinically diagnosed as a schizophrenic by today’s medical standards and is that diagnosis fair considering the social changes he accomplished? Are the biases of today’s secular medical field concerning visions and hallucinations ignorant of spiritual powers latent within the human mind?
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Book of Abraham Issues

1 – Book of Abraham. Smith bought a piece of papyrus from a traveling mummy exhibit and claimed that it was a document “written by Abraham with his own hand”. Smith’s translation is now the Book of Abraham. Egytologists later determined that the paper dated to the first century AD, 2000 years after Abraham lived, that the text was a common funeral item called a “breathing permit” issued to a man named “Hor” who was mummified in the first century, and that Smith’s “translation” was completely unrelated to the papyrus.
The book of Abraham presents a Newtonian cosmology which very closely resembles Thomas Dick’s (1830)Philosophy of a Future State, of which Smith owned a copy.
“Much of the book dealt with the infinity of the universe, made up of innumerable stars spread out over immeasurable distances. Dick speculated that many of these stars were peopled by “various orders of intelligences” and that these intelligences were “progressive beings” in various stages of evolution toward perfection. In the Book of Abraham, part of which consists of a treatise on astronomy and cosmology, eternal beings of various orders and stages of development likewise populate numerous stars. They, too, are called “intelligences.” Dick speculated that “the systems of the universe revolve around a common centre…the throne of God.” In the Book of Abraham, one star named Kolob “was nearest unto the throne of God.”
Of course now that we have good telescopes, we know this model of the cosmos is just as false as the geocentric models which preceded it.

-Conclusions: It seems apparent that the idea of Joseph Smith “translating” the Book of Abraham from an Egyptian manuscript may be unviable. It may be more likely that, like the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and D&C, the Book of Abraham was channeled. Perhaps the Anthon manuscripts were used as “props” to spur on the desire and need for the channeled material.

It cannot be ruled out that the numerous common elements and glyphs found in The Book of Abraham’s source text, the Book of Dead and other Ptolemaic era Egyptian funerary texts have their cultural roots in a true historical ‘Abraham’. The Kolbrin is worth considering in this discussion.

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Polygamy Issues

1-Adultery/polygamy – Joseph Smith had at least 34 wives “11 of them were married women of other living men. Among them being Apostle Orson Hyde who was sent on his mission to dedicate Israel when Joseph secretly married his wife, Marinda Hyde” Another of his wives was a pregnant newlywed.
Pedophilia – 7 of Smith’s wives were teenagers as young as 14.
Incest – Among the women was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets. Several of these women included Joseph’s own foster daughters.
Doctrine & Covenants 132 – This scripture sets out specific rules as to how polygamy can be practiced. It gives a man a right to “destroy” his first wife if she does not consent to further plural marriages, but she must at least be given an opportunity to consent. Smith did not follow the rules set out in D&C 132, secretly marrying women behind his first wife’s back, and marrying women who were not virgins. Moreover, “Plural marriages are rooted in the notion of “sealing” for both time and eternity. The “sealing” power was not restored until April 3, 1836 when Elijah appeared to Joseph in the Kirtland Temple and conferred the sealing keys upon him. So, Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger in 1833 was illegal under both the laws of the land and under any theory of divine authority”.
Predatory threats and promises – Smith promised salvation to a girl’s entire family if she would mary him. To another teenage girl, he threatened that an angel with a flaming sword would kill him if she did not consent to marriage.
Smith lied about his sexual activity – when publicly questioned about it shortly before his death he said “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.”
The 1835 edition of D&C bans polygamy, but as smith was receiving and teaching these “revelations” he continued to marry new wives.
Soliciting perjury – In an attempt to abate public rumors of his secret polygamy, Joseph got 31 witnesses to sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842 Times and Seasons stating that Joseph did not practice polygamy.
“…we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”
One of the signers of this affidavit, was Joseph Smith’s plural wife. Joseph and Eliza were married 3 months earlier on June 29, 1842. Two Apostles and future prophets, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, were very aware of Joseph’s polygamy behind the scenes when they signed. Another signer, Bishop Whitney, had personally married his daughter Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph as a plural wife a few months earlier on July 27, 1842; Whitney’s wife and Sarah’s mother Elizabeth (also a signer) witnessed the ceremony.

Reconciling Joseph Smith’s behavior with the idyllic view of “chastity” promoted by the LDS church for the last 100+ years is difficult to uphold given his behavior.

Questions: How many of these relationships were sexual? Why would Emma be so upset unless some of them were sexual? Why did all but 2 of them occur in the last 4 years of his life? How was Joseph’s polygamy different than Brigham Young’s or later church leaders who publicly lied about their sexual behavior. How fallible are “prophets” or those with the gift of prophesy. At what point does their behavior constitute a fall from grace? Was Joseph allowed to be killed because of his moral transgressions? At what point of “unrighteousness” is a priesthood holder’s authority invalidated? Is the LDS view of sexual morality based more on tradition than revelation? Did Judah’s sexual encounter with a temple prostitute and incest with his daughter-in-law invalidate his patriarchal priesthood authority? Is it hypocrisy for the LDS church to promote such a strict sexual morality when the Church’s founder had such lose sexual morality? Is God’s moral standard based on what secures the greatest happiness for all involved? (see Joseph’s marriage proposal to Nancy Rigdon). Is “God” OK with non-traditional sexual relationships as long as they are consensual, secure the greater good and religiously institutionalized? Does current LDS attitudes toward polygamy and sexuality make it more difficult for members to know about Joseph’s polygamy and sexuality and still maintain a testimony of the church’s exclusive truth claims?

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Prophet Concerns and Questions

1-Adam-God – Brigham Young taught that Adam was heavenly father descended to earth in human flesh. The Adam-God doctrine was condemned by a later prophet.

In my opinion this is not much of an issue to anyone who’s studied much of global religious traditions or religious esotericism in general.
Response: How does this doctrine relate to Joseph’s doctrine of plural gods as taught in the King Follet discourse? Was Brigham talking as a prophet or as a man? How does anybody tell the difference? Was Brigham referring to the “Most High God” or simply saying Adam is the primary God of this world under the Patriarchal priesthood? Did Brigham Young’s statement that Adam was “the only god of which we have anything to do”, infer that Adam was higher than Christ or Christ’s father? Was he talking about literal father’s or figurative fathers in the priesthood? If D&C 76:xx and numerous other scriptures teach that all celestial beings are “equal in power and authority”, then why is this even an issue?
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2-Blood-Atonement – Brigham Young taught that Jesus’s atonement was not sufficient to cover all sins, and that some people needed to be killed in order to atone for their sins with their own blood. “I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them…” Brigham young gave himself the right to kill people under the guise of saving them from their sins.

Conclusion: Brigham Young was an autocratic political and religious leader, leading a large population during a period of great social instability. Like most people in similar circumstances he did and said a lot of things that are very questionable to modern standards.
Questions: Priesthood holders have a responsibility to maintain social stability, but how much power and authority should one give them over our personal lives? Was this simply a religious justification for capital punishment? Did Brigham ever use this form of capital punishment on apostates (or sedition in political terms)? Same question applies to Joseph Smith in relation to his use of Porter Rockwell and the Danites. What’s the difference between a revered empire builder like Alexander the Great or Queen Victoria and a vilified empire builder like Mao Tse Tung or Stalin? Doesn’t history show they often use the same tactics and kill the same percentages of people in their endeavors?

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3-Polygamy necessary for salvation – Brigham Young said “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”

Conclusion: This is one of the least, of the many contradictory and obviously false things LDS church leaders have said. Questions surrounding whether Brigham Young’s was directly involved in the Mountains Meadows massacre (like Robert E. Lee accused him of being at his execution confession) are far more pressing when deciding how much power one should give religious leaders over their personal lives.
Questions: Just because someone does and says contradictory or morally wrong things, does this mean they don’t deserve their authority? Does the very fact that they hold social power prove that God approves of them? How does the Chinese philosophy of the “Mandate of Heaven” apply to religious leaders? When does speaking out concerning perceived wrongs done by leaders turn into anarchy and end up causing more harm than good?

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4-No Blacks Allowed – Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to black men, but Brigham Young prohibited it and denied black people access to the temple. Every prophet from Young until the seventies upheld the racist ban on blacks in the temple. How can true prophets disagree on a matter such as this? “The same God who “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female” is the same God who denied blacks from the saving ordinances of the Temple for 130 years. Yet, He changed His mind again in 1978 about black people.”
These doctrines were later declared false by future prophets and apostles. “Yesterday’s doctrine is today’s false doctrine. Yesterday’s prophet is today’s heretic.”

Same questions as above apply.

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Falsifiable claims – Smith claimed that he could translate ancient texts – this is a falsifiable claim.
Kinderhook plates – Joseph smith gave partial translation of these plates, claiming they were from a descendent of Ham. The plates were later revealed to be a hoax. This and the Book of Abraham mistranslation show that Smith could not translate ancient texts. His claim was both falsifiable and twice falsified.

 

 

I believe the best way to approach these issues is like a scientist—an unbiased truth seeker. One who wades through the facts not trying to prove or disprove truth claims, but one who starting from scratch wishes to use this information to learn truths concerning ideas like:
-how does the scriptural idea of revelation and “the gift of prophesy” really work?
-what is the nature of a “prophet”. How subjective vs. objective are visionary experiences, and how much control is it prudent to give another over our own lives as a result of material revealed in their visionary experiences?
-are there better physiological explanations for visionary experiences and channeled material which account for the subjective and often contradictory information contained in them, while at the same time accounting for the supernatural aspects of them?
-when does the end justify the means? Is it OK to lie, exaggerate or even kill someone if you perceive it will save someone else’s life or accomplish some greater good (killing in perceived self-defense for example, or killing/doing “bad” for a noble cause)?
-what really is the nature of God, and how involved is this being in the experiences of supposed “prophets”? For example is God an anthropomorphic being who whispers in a “prophets” ears everything he should do, say or write or is “God” more like a computer database which prophets & mystics look into and get the answers, that they want, need or are ready for? Answers which are interpreted through the cultural bias of the observer?
-if God, gods or extra dimensional beings really do exist, what is our relationship to them, what is their relationship to each other and why should we even care if they exist or what they have to say?

Separating Religious Faith from Objective Proof (choosing our Foundations of Faith)

I’ve come to realize over the years that well meaning LDS leaders have led many members to base their faith and worldviews on false dichotomies and binary thinking which can be tragically deadly to faith in religion, revealed scripture and God.

It’s something I believe we need to change. Allow me to explain what I mean by this.

In the Book of Mormon, LDS people are given an insightful metaphor on how to build our testimonies and worldviews concerning matters of faith. In the Book of Helaman, the ancient spiritual leader Nephi gives his sons the following advice,

12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Hel 5:12)

Here we have a spiritual leader comparing a worldview or faith system to a building, and saying that it should be founded on ‘The Son of God’, who is Christ.  He suggests that if his sons build their faith system on some other foundational ideal, they run the risk of it toppling just like a building built on a poor foundation.

History shows this may be very good advice. Since something about the Christian religion has allowed it to quickly eclipse many competing religions of its time to become arguably the largest and most influential religion in the world. And what is it about Christianity that has made it so powerful? Many people have offered opinions on this, (see these great essays for instance), but I propose that it has much to do with the way Christianity has built its spiritual faith structure.  Just as good music and literature tends to be purposefully ambiguous and full of metaphor which allows different people to get different meaning out of it depending on where they are in their progression, I believe a large part of the success of Christianity has to do with the brilliant ambiguity and metaphor in its own revelation.

Their multidimensional application to people from all levels of intelligence and walks of life are utterly divine. It is centered around an individual who is both man and god. Completely mortal and utterly divine. His lowly upbringing makes him relatable to the peasant, but his divine kingship makes him admirable to the nobleman. Everything about his life and those of his apostles is shrouded in mystery and unprovable supernatural feat. All we must prove to have faith in him is that 1: he was a mortal man who historically lived among the jews (a fact that has been historically proven over and over). And 2: he rose from the dead to sit on the right hand of God. (which not only is completely unprovable and yet impossible to disprove–it stands as a brilliant metaphor for what the religion teaches is the divine destiny of all individuals who worthily follow it).

 

-the temple of christian tradition goes from bottom up, christ, apostles (dead), prophets (dead), scripture, counsels, you

you could still be theistic and christian if you rejected the rest of the building….

 

Now let’s compare that to the mormon tradition.    I don’t think its clearly defined but it tends to go -joseph smith, current apostles

-I see too many people who leave become atheist and loose faith in chrsit….

 

 

Understanding the Mormon God

 


Mormon’s often boast that our concept of a God with a body is more true than other religion’s concept of a God without a body. But I believe Joseph Smith introduced an amazingly pluralistic concept that actually reconciles monotheism and polytheism as well as the incorporeality and anthropomorphism of God; that earth’s God is just an exalted earth-man operating within a chain of higher eternal beings extending and existing infinitely. This concept is supported and explained in more detail in other restorationist movement texts such as Oahspe (see Chap 7 Book of Jehovah).

But few LDS members really think about the implications of this when it comes to understanding God or arguing with other religion’s concepts of God. Joseph Smiths revelations (Facsimile 2D&C 132:17–20) and King Follet discourse suggests that “Christ” who is taking on rule of this planet is following in the footsteps of a “Father” who followed the same pattern and ruled before him. And that this “Father” also had a Father and so on, and so on. But the questions remain, “exactly which God or Gods relate to us”, “who was the first Father” and who is the “Most High God” or the “Eternal God of all other gods” as D&C 121:28–32 puts it? Here we run into the philosophical paradox of first cause and the realization that because of the principle of Divine Investiture of Authority, all “gods” take upon themselves the authority of the Most High God, but it is unknown whether anyone has physically “met” Him. Understanding the micro/macrocosm nature of the universe (see this article) or the “pattern in all things” spoken of in D&C 52:14, and following the succession of God taught by Joseph Smith to its logical conclusion, it seems evident that the “Most High God” must in a way be eternally distant and yet also omnipresent spirit, finitely embodied in all of us (especially his mediator gods), but in fullness comprising ALL THAT IS.  These biblical verses make this clear; Jer. 23:23–24 | 1 Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24–28, John 4:24 | 1 Tim. 1:17 | 1 Tim. 6:16. LDS Scriptures such as D&C 88:6–13 also support this in saying,

“He is in all things and through all things” including being “in the sun [moon, & stars], and the light of the sun [moon & stars], and the power thereof by which [they were] made”.

Thus both Catholic, Christian and Eastern views of God are all true in Joseph’s cosmogony, but use different words to label the different echelons of beings (those who Hindus or who Joseph Smith label as gods inD&C 132, would be labeled as something like archangels by most Christians). So in light of this worldview the question we should be asking when comparing the gods mentioned in scripture is which “Father” was seen in the “visions” of Enoch, Moses or Joseph Smith and relates to us as earthlings, and what language does he speak? (ie. what kind of distortion of the message is occurring because of difficulties of framing Gods image & words into the language, culture and biases of the prophet).  In these transcendental experiences is it the God/Father/Ruler of the House of Israel (ie. Abraham)? Is it the Father of just this Earth (ie. Adam)? Is it the God of Kolob or our small section of the Galaxy? Or of our entire Milky Way galaxy? (see the cosmology of Oahspe and the law of one for more info on this.) Of our supercluster? Our supercluster complex… ad infinitum?

Contemplating infinity, omniscience and omnipresence, I think it should be obvious that we just don’t know; but given the differences in global prophetic experiences it seems almost certain that each prophet uses his own language, culture and worldview to interpret what they envision. It is completely possible that in some cases, these appearances are subjective visions, where “God” is working from within the minds of the prophets themselves. And because of this it really shouldn’t matter so much exactly who was envisioned by Joseph Smith, Moses or ourselves anyway because we all relate to the level of beings in heaven of which we are best able to comprehend. And at the highest levels we are all connected and are all part of the ONE God (the idea of the trinity/godhead is trying to esoterically teach us this concept, the three are ONE). Man’s ideas of God are just like the mountain allegory. Each religion’s or person’s view of God is a partial distorted idea based on their limited perspective and are like the individual foothills in Jesus’ allegory on truth.  An understanding of the Most High God includes an understanding of all limited perspectives fit into one great whole. This is part of what I believe was Christ’s first teaching to the Nephites in 3 Ne 11:27–32. He essentially says to his multi-denominational audience, “stop bickering over religious doctrine and gods”. “Don’t you see that my goal is to lead you to unification in the Father, and my doctrine is that you stop fighting and get along?!” Let’s switch back to the illustration of the mountain again and compare it with our understanding of and relationship to God. It is so silly for us all to be sitting on our own peaks in the foothills of eternity arguing over whose hill is the top of the mountain. None of them are. The top of the mountain is eternal, and so even though we are all on different lower extremities of the same mountain none of us fully understands the whole picture because the mountain is never ending. Christ’s teachings of unconditional love and acceptance of all people and all creation are of course the beginning to truly understanding the Most High God. That type of love is the Christ-principle that no man can come to the Father without.  Christ tried to teach everyone the keys to love and unity in the principle that like numberless biological cells in a single body, we are all connected and thus part of God with statements like John 15:1–12 and John 17:11,21

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us

Christ also tries to teach that by overcoming his selfish ego, and being fully conscious of his unity with ALL THAT IS, he is indeed a microcosmic division (son) of God the Father.

8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me (John 14:8–11).

Yet at the same time he tries to teach that the father is much bigger than us all with statements like “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28).  Paul makes the same distinction when he says,

“who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” (NIV 1 Tim. 6:16, see all translations)

Hidden in these types of scriptures are deeply esoteric teachings & understandings concerning the relationship between human unity, group consciousness and the faces/images of God as revealed by His messengers (those who are able to reach into the realm of spirit and put a face to the deepest spiritual needs, faith and yearnings of mankind & creation).

 

No One understands the true nature of God and no mortal’s understanding of God is exactly true. We know only our limited perspectives gained from the limited information we have on the limited ways He has revealed Himself to us. No prophet can see God as HE IS. A prophet can only see God according to his own perceptions. We don’t even really know each other and yet each religion thinks they “know” or have the correct understanding of God?

God calls prophets and has them organize religions to teach people about the nature of eternal beings, universal consciousness and reality; and to teach them about themselves. But how do you teach someone who you are with mere words or even repeated short visits? A person can’t explain themselves in words, pictures or even face-to-face conversation. Even living with someone 24/7 we can spend our whole lives really getting to know them; but because most people are so complex you can never properly depict them on canvas, or paper or stone. The problem with religions is that they are like a young infatuated lover who has just got a girlfriend and thinks he “knows” her and is in love with her. Well it doesn’t take long before the magic wears off and the person can see in retrospect that the person isn’t quite what they thought they were. Hopefully they realize that the person is better than they thought, but typically since “infatuation” is really love of self, they find that they were projecting their own hopes and “desires of self” onto their lover. There is good reason why God and Christ compare themselves to a husband and the Church or us to their young bride. God is trying to teach us something about our own psychology.

 

The God of Israel
God wanted Israel to come up to the mount with Moses and personally worship the “true” God (D&C 84:23–27); but they couldn’t comprehend Him, so they had Aaron build them an idol that they could worship. (They needed something beautiful, concrete, visible and agreeing with their notions of god!) Since it was obvious that’s all Israel couldn’t understand that “God” (just like everyone) is to be experienced with your heart not seen with your eyes, as a punishment/reward God appointed Aaron and His posterity as priest to teach people the nature of God. The problem is that Aaron didn’t know God either, so God helped Israel form a religion that was actually predominately a projection of their own ego. That was all they were capable of receiving at that point in their progression. At this point the “God of Abraham” also allowed the management of Israel to be maintained by a group of lower ruling heavenly beings (the lower or Aaronic priesthood- D&C 84:18–21,23–27). The free system of only two great affirmative commandments was replaced with the negative ten commandments, which the priests turned into hundreds of laws and eventually thousands. The priests were appointed to stand between Israel and God, and in a way, give them the idol that they wanted just like Aaron did (Ps. 81:10–12, Acts 7:38–48). They got a rigid religious system based on Egypt’s, a hierarchical priesthood with an elite priestly class based on the Midianites and they got the understanding of God they were ready for (a watered down gospel) which also essentially became egocentric. Those who, like Moses, knew there was more than “what was being taught” and sought for true messengers to teach him a gospel that couldn’t be etched in stone, wasn’t constrained to a temple hewn by man (Acts 17:24–25), and can only be transmitted and understood in the fleshy tablets of the heart got truth as they asked for it. But it was only relatively few, like Elijah, who ever graduated from the lower Aaronic system into the Melchizedekian system of statutory freedom and personal experience with the invisible God (Colossians 1:15–20). The rest press on under the schoolmasters (Gal 3:19,24–29), who are men led by men, led by exalted man-gods.

Bridging the Homosexuality Divide- An LDS Perspective

gaymarriagechart

Homosexuality and the church has again entered the public eye.

I’m hoping I can throw some compassion on this polarizing topic here by reminding LDS people to be loving, civil non-dogmatic, understanding and not so quick to make up excuses or use self righteous language.  It might help us in this aim to remember that similar polarized arguments accompanied the 1870’s cultural issues of Mormon polygamy, slavery abolition, and the 1960’s issues of African American intermarriage and civil equality and later priesthood equality.

We should remember that because polygamy unwittingly legitimizes lesbian acts among plural wives, Mormon’s were actually the first religious and political group in America to legally sanction the redefinition of marriage to include a type of same sex couples.

And let’s always keep in mind this aspect of our history…

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

LDS first presidency letter and policy concerning blacks and the priesthood.

 

Compare this to even just the first paragraph of the Church’s new Gospel Topics essay on Race and the Priesthood, and you can see that Church policy & doctrine changes according to the needs of the times enough that we need not be dogmatic in our explanations. It’s not always readily apparent to ecclesiastical leaders what the Spirit has in store for the world or a given culture. Not that I’m advocating ignoring or opposing LDS leaders. But it does mean LDS members and leaders should be careful being too dogmatic or self righteous in our discussions about the inspiration behind church policy. It takes time for EVERYONE to find and implement the highest light. We should be careful about making up our own justifications and excuses or using “the prophet is always right” or “God said so” language. We should remember that similar policies have officially changed and been disavowed in the past–and others haven’t, and we simply don’t know what will come of this issue. So instead of being upset about it just civilly voice your favor or disfavor (and be patient with church leaders as they go through the process of figuring out whats right – something that sometimes takes decades).

Lets remember Christ’s Sermon on the Mound instead of making appeals to divisive and self-righteous scriptures like “the wheat and the tares”, the “division in the last days”, Christ came to “bring a sword” or other scriptures that are constantly used to justify and defend mean-spirited behavior.

Lets remember D&C 121:41–42 where we are instructed that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge…”  That means using persuasion through christ-like attributes instead of appealing to religious priesthood authority such as saying “follow the church leaders because their inspired positions”, or “I know we’re right because we have a prophet!”.  Such arguments only come across as self-righteous and consequently breed division and apostasy (such as the above brash quote by the First Presidency suggesting Church policy on Blacks and the Priesthood would never change).

—-

Instead, we can use gentleness and love to start by apologizing to those who are hurt, and acknowledging any part we might play in that hurt.  We can use reason to explain that church policies change according to what the church seems to need or is ready for at the moment, so society and members should be patient with each other as we feel our way through these new issues of civil rights.

Regardless of what happens we should be empathetic and understanding. We should remember the advice of Scott H. Swofford and fellow LDS researchers in starting the “I’m a Mormon Campaign who found that to dispel cultural bigotry against Mormons,

“that the most powerful myth-dispelling force was personal exposure to the lives of members”. They learned that “people need five to 10 exceptions in their lives before they will adjust their misconceptions…“.

In light of empathy, I think it is extremely helpful to watch the life stories of 5 to 10 homosexual individuals before deciding how best to respond to arguments surrounding the issue. Look at them as if they were your son/daughter or brother/sister (since it might someday be).

Then, and only then can we be in a position to have a Christlike discussion on how to

1- Best promote marriages which produce offspring, without demeaning or belittling those with same-sex attraction or other sterile unions.
2-How to best fulfill religion’s role to polarize those who straddle the fence or middle ground of the Kinsey Hetero-homosexual rating scale without unfairly relegating those who decidedly occupy the ends of that spectrum.
3-How to fairly give some types of special privilege (or “divine sanctity” in religious terms) to childbearing unions, without demeaning or making homosexuals feel persecuted, belittled or restricted.

I believe we could find real consensus on this issue, if we could just learn to speak to each other more respectfully “without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:42) .

Given our history of Polygamy and that Brigham Young went as far as to say in 1855 that non-polygamous marriages “were damned”; and that before 1978 apostles taught African Americans could not enter the temple, be sealed, endowed or be “celestially” married in Mormonism—and that leaders led an electric shock program at BYU to attempt to “change” sexual orientation (which failed miserably)—- I think we should always consider our current leaders words in the light of the advice in Acts 5:34–39. Remembering that God wants every member to speak in his name (D&C 1:20; Num 11:29). That every member is worthy revelation just as our leaders (D&C 68:3–5), and that it is possible that the Lord’s inspiration given to our leaders might be more a reflection of what members are willing to receive, than what the Heavenly Church is actually wanting to give (Jacob 4:14, Alma 29:4) .

Even if leaders or members feel strongly that Heaven requires a divine distinction be maintained between unions which produce offspring and homosexual unions, we can still end the self-righteousness and dogma and approach this topic from a place of complete respect empathy and love. One which makes both sides feel like they have the rights, love and acceptance they deserve.

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A few glimpses into the lives of fellow LGBT LDS members. Please watch!

This should make us all a bit sorry…

see also http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/03/31/what-c-s-lewis-marriage-can-tell-us-about-the-gay-marriage-controversy/31512

A Thoughtful Response to the LDS Temple Recommend Questions

Office desk with overflowing inbox

Did you know: Temple recommend questions were first instituted by Brigham Young a decade after the Saints came to the Salt Lake Valley (1857) and have evolved significantly over time. Early interviews included questions about branding an animal that you did not own and using another person’s irrigation water. Since then, the temple recommend questions have changed significantly.

My Thoughts on the LDS Temple Recommend Interview

After 20 years of temple service, I’ve lately started to find myself a bit disillusioned by the temple recommend interview process. I know most Mormon’s think anyone with issues about the temple must be “unworthy” to enter— but for me, my issues come from learning more details about our problematic history and doctrinal inconsistencies which are encapsulated in the interview questions. As well as my really coming to read and understand masonic teachings and ceremonies which some of the endowment comes from— as well as how they relate to the portions of the endowment that have been removed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found a good amount of value in the temple rituals. But I really think it’s’ time for the temple interview questions to be updated (and perhaps take another look at the entire interview system). For me, the questions make me not want to go to the temple because they come across as a test around whether you have more allegiance to the church than to God, the scriptures or my own spiritual conscience.

My problems revolve primarily around the emphasis on dogma and submission to control (both behavioral and psychological), over an emphasis on LOVE and CHARACTER and scripture. This system subtly defines righteousness pharisaically (that righteousness is in orthodox belief in tradition and behavior instead of a Christ-like character). How about asking as the first question “do you believe you are a selfless person, or do you try and be Christ-like?”  Or “do you find joy in the scriptures, church and living the gospel?”  Another problem is that not only are the questions impossible for an intelligent, honest person to answer truthfully (ie. question #7), they are far more similar to the questions and attitude portrayed by ‘Lucifer’ and ‘the Preacher’ in the endowment (‘the Preacher’ was removed in 1990). The preacher, who portrayed many aspects of masonic, enlightenment era thought in the early endowment was taught by Lucifer to present “the orthodox religion” which put dogma, allegiance, priesthood, self-aggrandizing authority, and tithing above humility and covenants. (see The Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to the Only True Church Doctrine)

I believe many of the questions need to be rewritten, and the “interview” process needs to revised and split up between leaders and parents, so it can be more meaningful and less of a drain on leaders time. The process should be a discussion, not an interview. The temple itself should restore the school of the prophets and solemn assemblies (for all worthy members), and focus more on teaching and consoling, instead of solely promoting a system which suggests every human who has ever lived is being blocked outside the heavenly kingdom of God until we modern Mormons somehow find their names and do their temple work. (see Clearing up Misunderstandings in the LDS View of the Afterlife). I’m really not sure what would be best, I just know I find the current system a bit distasteful. On that note, I have decided to write these more thoughtful and honest answers to the questions to clarify what I believe and what I think worthiness means— as well as the doctrinal issues with many of the questions. Issues that could be avoided by rephrasing the questions.

 

The Q&A’s

1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

My short answer. What do you mean by a testimony of?  Yes I believe in God. And yes I believe Father, Son and Divine Spirit are three aspects and archetypes of that God—but realize my views of these are likely far different than yours. And I hope that’s OK. Wouldn’t a better question be to simply ask “Could you concisely share with me some of your feelings and belief’s about God?”

My long answer. After spending years really studying the nature of god, my concept of God, Jesus & the Holy Ghost are so different from what they were when I was a 19 year old missionary (simply reciting to others the doctrine I was told)—that looking back I might as well have belonged to another religion and have been worshiping “a different God.” After spending 20 years seriously studying the scriptures, theology and getting my own answers from heaven, I now see how these terms are highly symbolic and archetypal and that by including in our first question the unique Article of Faith wording “God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost”, we are essentially testing members on a creed of dogma concerning the nature of God, as a way to pridefully separate ourselves from other Christian Faiths.  Like all creeds and dogma tests this question puts undo stress on the idea that a “testimony” in the precise nature of god is required for entrance into heaven or obtaining sealing blessings (which I absolutely do not believe is true.).

The unique wording of this question seems to be testing belief in our view of God as a “social trinity” (or three distinct beings one in purpose but separate in body) as opposed to Judaic, Catholic or Protestant views with differing ideas concerning unity of substance and essence, etc. It seems like the type prideful and divisive question that the early Catholic Arians often forced upon the Monophysites before excommunicating and ostracizing them.

My question is why? What if I come from a protestant background, believing that Jesus Christ IS the the Eternal Father? (ie. one in essence, but separate in person from the Father). Does that make me ‘unworthy’ when our scriptures teach the same? Look at Alma 11:38–39, Mosiah 15:1–4, Ether 3:14–15, Mosiah 16:15. ALL of these Book of Mormon scriptures teach specifically THAT CHRIST IS THE VERY ETERNAL FATHER. Until Christ’s coming there is no distinction between the essence of Christ and the Father. No hint that they have separate physical “bodies”, and far more biblical scriptures suggesting the Father is Spirit than corporeal. Only later does that distinction appear, (see John 10:30, 17:11-23, D&C 20:28; 121:28). Look at the wording of Mosiah 15:2–3 and Ether 3:14, where Christ is said to be both the Father and the Son—called Son when manifesting singly in form to flesh, but Eternal Father when in unity with Heavely Spirit. These scriptural ambiguities have been debated by prophets and philosophers for thousands of years! The Catholic Catechisms on the trinity are carefully worded to preserve the scriptural ambiguities, paradoxes and complexities, and yet we come along and pretend we have the simple clear-cut answers when there are no simple answers because of the sophistication of the metaphors and archetypes. Joseph’s Smith’s first vision is not even an answer because come to find out his earliest accounts have only ONE physical being (much like the Book of Mormon and New Testament theology). Not until later, when Joseph’s theology starts changing does he place “two physical beings” in his vision. Careful research shows our theology to be historically inconsistent, contradictory and juvenile. And scripture appears to purposefully present paradoxes in this regard, which is why the early church fathers agreed on calling God largely “incomprehensible.” (See the Wikipedia articles on sabellianism/modalism, trinitarianism, or the Nestorian debates to get a grasp on how trite most of our Mormon understandings of the historical christian concepts of trinity actually are.)

This question only reinforces the false pride within the church that our “social trinintarian” views are uniquely different and superior to those of Greater Christianity at large.  When you put this kind of stress on our neo-Trinitarian assertions — how will they not confuse and disillusion our members when they are confronted with the fact that Joseph’s view on the nature of the godhead clearly changed over time?  That his accounts of how many beings he saw in his “first vision” seem to have changed to match his views? (see church produced gospel topic essay “First Vision Accounts” — or better see Dan Vogel’s videos).  That the Book of Mormon essentially contains classic Trinitarian views on God (Alma 11:38–39, Mos 15:1-4, Ether 3:14–15, Mosiah 16:15), and that Church leaders have changed some of these verses to better align with current views? (for instance, 1 Ne 11:18,21, 32 & 1 Ne 13:14)  That the bible contains verses which conflict with current views (1 Tim. 1:17 | 1 Tim. 6:16 | Jer. 23:23–24 | 1 Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24–28, John 4:24). That Joseph Smith’s lectures of Faith define the Father as “a personage of Spirit”, the son as a “personage of tabernacle [flesh]”, and the Spirit being “the mind” of the Father and Son  (LOF 5:2). And that later, these views were changed to make “the Father have a body”, and the Holy Ghost to be “a personage of Spirit” (130:22). That views of God held by Old Testament prophets very plainly appear to be vastly different than our current view. (Elohim is a plural form of the Word ‘God’… and definitely not the “name” of the Father).  That Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse and D&C 121:32/132 adds complexities to these social Trinitarian views which create more questions than it answers concerning the nature of God(s). That D&C 88:6–13, 93:7-35 teach of an omnipresent non-anthropomorphic aspect of God more in line with Tim. 1:17, 1 Tim. 6:16 and many early church fathers, and more in line with my current beliefs.

I really wouldn’t have an issue with this question, except that the pride within the predominate view we’ve pushed for the last hundred years is causing so many to falter, lose their testimonies or leave our faith. People lose faith when the church places so much emphasis on the supposed dogmatic “truth” of our ideas on God — and then they find out those ideas are not even entirely consistent. And worse, our pride will cause many of our members to reject the coming Jewish prophets. I suggest we stop testing members on their view of God as a requirement for entering the temple and start asking members about their beliefs and experiences with God, so that we may find ways to add to and grow their beliefs in meaningful ways. I suggest we start stressing our scriptural similarities with the Christian trinity, not just our imagined differences. I believe learning the nature of God as He is symbolically taught in our scriptures is very important and deeply personal. I think the conflicting and even paradoxical descriptions of God in LDS and Christian scripture are purposefully designed to try and discourage dogmatic creeds or idol interpretations of deity. Let’s find and define God together as a church and enjoy each other during the journey, not arrogantly dictate our narrow interpretation of God as seen by one of his many, many witnesses.

 

2. Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?

Testimony of the atonement?… what is that even really supposed to mean?! Testimony is defined as “the evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” Shouldn’t you be asking if we have faith (which is belief, even in the absence of definitive evidence) in Jesus’ ability to reconcile us to god? Similar to my last answer, I think it would be more constructive to talk about my relationship with Christ and what he means to me rather than testing me on whether I have a “testimony” of his roles and incomprehensible “atonement” (however you want to define that befuddled Mormon concept). I’d rather share my understanding of Christ and his life/death as a living archetype or symbol of universal love, overflowing mercy, forgiveness and harmony as well as the at-one-ness or unity of all creation—my interpretation of the scriptures to worship him, not so much as a singular person per se, (since only an egomaniac would want to be worshiped) but as a mediator/symbol of a unified heavenly group or ideal with which I try to align (see John 17, D&C 88:6–13,41; Acts 17:28, etc). I believe the “Atonement of Christ” motivates all of my desires to love and reconcile the differences of belief I see in this world. (Gather together in one, all things; D&C 27:13) Using yes or no concerning my ‘testimony of Jesus’ as a righteousness test, insults my understanding of what Jesus and his atonement came to offer. Isn’t that what the Pharisees, Jewish High Priests & Pilate were doing when they crucified him? Didn’t they give him their own cultural religious ‘righteousness test’ — measuring Him against their preconceived notions of what the prophesied Messiah should be and declared that he failed–barring him from the temple and synagogue?  If one responds “I don’t really understand the atonement, and I don’t have any real evidence to base a testimony of his roles on”, are they unworthy of the temple?

One of the reasons why this upsets me a bit is because although I have had many spiritual and emotional experiences to base my “testimony” on (which are poor proofs or testimonies by the way)—I know a lot of LDS people who haven’t had any experiences worthy of being called “testimony.” They operate purely on faith and hope—and that should be ok! Because of the way these questions are structured, these individuals often express how “unworthy” or second class they feel. They feel pressured to lie about their ‘testimony’ just so they can get married or sealed to family. This upsets me given the fact that the Jewish leadership excommunicated Jesus and threw him (and his followers) out of the synagogue for non-conformity to predominate cultural beliefs. Joseph Smith, our own religious founder was also ostracized from his religious community for his differing “testimony” on Jesus. Testimony has nothing to do with righteousness and should play no part in obtaining temple blessings. The scriptures teach that faith is required for salvation… not testimony.

 

3. Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?

Might we instead ask “share with me your testimony or beliefs concerning the restoration of the gospel in these latter days.” Or “do you have faith in the restoration work the Church is trying to accomplish in these latter days?”

My detailed answer to the current wording of the question, would be what exactly do you mean by ‘testimony of the restoration of the gospel’. I don’t believe the “gospel” or good news of Christ, needed to be “restored” in the way we generally teach this concept. I don’t believe the cultural concept we teach concerning the “great apostasy” and “restoration” is found in scripture. (See my article on “Redefining the LDS (Protestant) View of the Great Apostasy.”) Such a belief calls for a far more weak and pathetic god than my conscience will allow me to believe in. (One which allowed His church to be destroyed for 2000 years without quickly picking new prophets to correct it). I believe the divine gave Joseph visions and revelations to reform the religious beliefs of Joseph’s culture and to restore certain truths and priesthoods. I believe Joseph was called to create the Church because God has a particular work for us to do in America. I believe the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox Church has been led for the last 2000 years by God every bit as much as the wicked nation of Israel was for the 1600 years prior to Christ. I believe LDS scripture clearly supports my views. (See Redefining the LDS (Protestant) View of the Great Apostasy) I also believe that we as Mormons have fallen into many of the same errors that Joseph sought to correct, and I try to address a number of these in these answers. I believe the Church is in dire need of continual restoration and reformation. I don’t care to dwell on the negatives. I love the church and think it’s doing a lot of good and generally fulfilling its divine roles. I believe God leads all religions and we will prosper according to how well we as a church follow His Spirit which tells us what he would have us do in the world.

 

4. Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

Perhaps a better question would be “Do you uphold the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys that have been given to our church.”

I’m a bit baffled as to why the question would single out the first presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as the church’s only prophets, seers and revelators, since that goes against our scriptures. If the question is trying to validate the language in D&C 107:91–92 then use it’s precise language instead of this convolution of it. Simply put, this question comes across as a test of authoritarian allegiance.

Like most rational individuals I believe in sustaining religious and political leaders. I try my best to do so. I “sustain” our current President of the High Priesthood (Prophet) as a prophet, a seer and a revelator; as well as the first presidency, travelling twelve and standing twelves of the stakes as prophets, seers and revelators inasmuch as they exercise those gifts of the spirit. I sustain my Bishop, my Sunday school teacher and my home teacher exactly the same; as prophets (or prophetesses), seers and revelators inasmuch as they exercise those spiritual gifts. As you can see, I likely define those titles differently than you, and have issue with how they’re passed around in the church, like they’re suits to be worn instead of gifts and skills that must be worked at, honed and consciously sought for. I hope that the Quorum of the Twelve are more often than not at least moderately clairvoyant and connected to the Spirit of Christ—and not just with the spirit of Brigham Young, or their own egos, but I just don’t know them well enough to judge in every case. I don’t believe our Church leaders talk to Jesus any more than the rest of us. Church history has many examples of when their prophesies or revelations ended up being just their egos. Like with all men I sometimes see a good amount of ego & error in their discourse—but why dwell on the negative? I also see overwhelming good. I could say the same about my own ego & error. I believe they lead the Church according to their agency. I certainly don’t believe in the Mormon doctrine of muted prophetic infallibility. (That God will never allow the “brethren” to lead the church “astray”–whatever that is supposed to mean.)

I believe in a God/gods who rule all men, nations and organizations according to their agency. I see what I consider as a lot of idolatry in the Church by those “sustaining” the Church leaders and putting them (or them putting themselves) in thrones that should belong exclusively to higher beings who have proven themselves worthy of that role. I also see a good many things the church leadership needs to repent of.  I do not believe they are beyond reproach, but I have beams in my own eye which are more important. I believe the President of the High Priesthood is the only one authorized to exercise all the Mormon priesthood keys. LDS scripture makes it pretty clear that there are more than one line of priesthood on earth and that the cultural Mormon view that Mormons are the only ones on earth with valid “priesthood” is distorted, egocentric and contrary to our own scriptural theology. I see no scriptural, logical, or personally spiritual basis to suggest that there are not priesthood keys on earth that he/they do not possess, nor are authorized to exercise. In fact many scriptures seem to suggest that claiming to be God’s only people and priesthood is dangerously close to a core tenet of the Church of the Devil. (see this article for instance)  (From a Mormon perspective we could talk about keys the LDS church hasn’t gotten yet, the eternal nature of the priesthood, the distorted & inconsistent Mormon view of apostasy, as well as keys held by supposedly “translated” beings like John the Beloved, and the three Nephites and the groups these individuals have/are assisting in probable non-Mormon restoration work among Judah and the other scattered tribes mentioned in LDS scripture. D&C 49:8 says as much. see also D&C 86:8–11; D&C 84:17–18, Abr 1:4, 2:11; D&C 77:14–15, D&C 133:12–13,24–35 for instance.)

As mentioned in the article ‘The Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to the Only True Church Doctrine’. Eternal priesthood has been given to every major division of the earth. The whole purpose of Paul’s discourse on Christ’s “Priesthood of Melchizedek” was to help the prideful Jews see that there was Priesthood in the world greater, older and above Abraham and Moses. (Since Abraham was only one of many that Melchizedek gave priesthood to). Contrary to our own scripture, LDS ideas on Priesthood have become just as befuddled and prideful as that of the ancient Jews.

 

5. Do you live the law of chastity?

As defined in the temple—sex only between a man and woman who are legally and lawfully wedded—Yes.  I have never had sex with anyone but my wife. Nor am I, nor have I been, sexually unfaithful to her.

But the law of chastity as defined by myself or Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount — no. It is a law that was made purposefully so lofty and idealistic as to be nearly impossible to keep (an absolute lack of lust, which I define as selfishness in sexual desire). Christ’s whole point in saying “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” was to show the pharasaically minded Jews that they were all guilty of sin. Just as saying “whosoever is angry with his brother” is under the same judgement as those who kill. As in “you’re all murderers in sense, so don’t put too much emphasis on the letter of the law—look to the Spirit of the law and treating others as you would be treated instead. Realize you always fall short of the law and try and be better!” Like the Mosaic Law, the LDS strictures on chastity are useful and generally good for youth and society. But I think Christ’s Sermon on the Mount was trying to counter this type of pharisaical rigidity in moral law.

The strict rigidity we have assigned to our modern “law of chastity” combined with the misapplied concepts of essential perfection which we apply to our “prophet seers and revelators” (I use those term sarcastically here), forms the basis of my issue with this question which I think is one of the largest reasons why good young people leave Mormonism with bitter feelings. This is especially sad because it’s so hypocritical given our history. Our pharisaic definition of “chastity” combined with our pharisaic view of our leadership dictates that Joseph Smith must have lived our modern concept of the law of chastity. And that all of his words and actions were that of a “prophet, seer and revelator.” And that God would not have let him “lead the church astray” in any way. (All false conclusions when you look at Biblical examples of prophets and High Priests).

So naturally its devistating to the faith of members when they learn that Joseph Smith did not keep the Law of Chastity as defined by modern Mormonism or even that of his own revelations. There is evidence accepted by Church employed historians that he had sexual relations outside of his marriage to Emma, long before the doctrine of Plural Marriage was “revealed” to the church—and certainly before he was “legally and lawfully wedded” to them (see this article). The church essay’s attempt to spin his sexual affair with 16 year old house guest, Fanny Alger as a “first plural wife” is absolutely ridiculous. (Like God sent an angel with a drawn sword to command Joseph to go behind his wife’s back and have sex with a 16 year-old house guest who is staying with them to help Emma recover from physical troubles! And then denounce polygamy until 5 years later when he finally gives into it and starts marrying women left and right.) There is indisputable evidence that he lied about practicing plural marriage long before it was revealed to the church. I am appalled at the quotes suggesting that he only reluctantly introduced the doctrine of plural marriage after an angel with “a drawn sword” threatened to kill him if he didn’t. (That’s not how a Christ-like god works!) I am skeptical of the authenticity of D&C 132’s numerous threats to “destroy” Emma or any other woman who rejects plural marriage. I agree with Emma, the three witnesses and Joseph’s children, that he was deceived concerning polygamy. It was simply used as an excuse for adultery and dynastic power plays. I believe D&C 132 is a corrupted revelation and I believe all revelations have the ability to be corrupted by negative influences (see D&C 50:1–3, 1 John 4:1). Despite all this, I see divinity in Joseph’s pre-polygamy visions, the Book of Mormon, his revelations and in current Church strictures on sexual morality.

Although I reject the context, I can sympathize with Joseph’s assertion of moral relativism given in his proposal to Nancy Rigdon (the unmarried 19 year old daughter of Sidney Rigdon). He said,

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.
God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” at another time He said “Thou shalt utterly destroy.” This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed…”

The rest of this quote, which I have cut short for reasons of brevity, is quite informative given the context of both modern Mormon sexual strictures and the similar rigid religious mores of Joseph’s day.

I do live the current “Mormon” Law of Chastity, even though it is harmful and hypocritical for the church to uphold this strict law in the sacrosanct manner it is done, when its founders taught & practiced contrary to it. Human sexuality is incredibly delicate and complicated. We should follow the scriptures in strictly forbidding adultery and condemning it as one of the most heinous sins. But we should be very careful in demonizing the sexual mistakes of the youth. Outside of adultery, I prefer that both myself and my children’s sexual activities be governed by personal revelation and common sense. For this reason I will ask each bishop not to inquire after my children’s sexual activities or pose questions concerning “chastity” to them until they are adults. I believe that responsibility is best left to parents (the patriarchal order of the priesthood). The LDS “law of chastity” left me so afraid of sex growing up (in the way that it generally demonizes sex to youth), that I had a hard time properly enjoying sex soon after marriage. I don’t want that my children to experience that outcome.

I believe complete unselfishness in regards to our sexual desire is the high standard which Christ gives in the sermon on the Mount, and is a standard none, including myself have reached, but one we can all work toward–one which I seek to work toward.

nauvoo-temple

6. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?

This is kind of a ridiculous question. How about rephrase it with “Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family which you would like to discuss and feel is not in harmony with the teaching so the Church?  Since Mormon scripture and doctrine often teach “perfection” (3 ne 12:48), everyone should technically say no to this question. This is even more true if you are a parent. Kids try my patience as much as anything I can imagine. I am far from perfect in my discipline and teaching, but I do my best–which I think & hope is pretty good parenting. I don’t think anyone would consider me even remotely “abusive” if that’s what you are asking here. (If that’s what you’re asking, why not just come out and ask it?) Really, if you want to test my righteousness, instead try asking for my thoughts on how I’m doing or better yet why don’t you ask my family what kind of man they think I am? I would personally be far more interested in their opinion of me than my opinion of myself. I think I’m a fairly easy husband and father to get along with.

 

7. Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

This question really needs to be rewritten. You as a leader have got to admit this question is so manipulatively ridiculous that it’s hard to hold a straight face when discussing it. At least half the world is part of a group “whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the LDS Church.” Was this question written by Kim Jong-un, Mao, Stalin or the Catholic Church during the Inquisition? If any temple recommend question was to make people lose faith in Mormonism… this would be it. It comes across as a cult practice or witch hunt. I’ll try to answer honestly without laughing. Support? Not monetarily (well I guess that’s not true since I pay taxes to the U.S government & various non-LDS companies which have “practices contrary to the church”). In fact the church itself has teachings and practices that are contrary or opposed to its own scriptural teachings. Affiliate with? I have family members, friends and online acquaintances who are contrary to the church, so yes.  Also I read their material and comment on their forums. Agree with? For sure— They have a lot of good points. Remember that advice “agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way with them”—I think it was um… Jesus who said that. I increasingly find myself following this advice in connection with anti-Mormons because I’ve found that frankly they’re often right. In my experience the majority of “anti-Mormons” are ex-Mormons who left because they felt marginalized, shamed or demonized, and because of their experiences; they have really good points concerning things the Church should improve on. Most of them (including early leaders like Martin Harris, Emma Smith, Smith’s children & Oliver Cowdery) left because church leaders did not follow the Lord’s advice in D&C 121:41–43. In other cases they have differences of opinion on doctrinal issues—and again have really good points which I very often agree with. In other cases they found fairly overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in church history and feel that official LDS treatment of these dark aspects of our past are unfair.  Again I agree with them. In my life I try to reconcile all the differences of opinion that I run up against, and I am most successful in this when I love and agree with my “supposed” enemies. I seek first to understand and agree with them—then I see if I can get the same respect in return.  I do not like to be negative or contrary, but this is a polarizing question which almost requires it.

I am also a fanatical truth seeker, which means I read and consider the truthfulness of any revelation proposing to be from heaven. I’d be quite the hypocrite if I accepted Joseph Smith’s prophetic ability despite his obvious mistakes and misunderstandings (like the kinder-hook plates or the true nature of the Book of Abraham papyrus), and yet didn’t also read and glean the truth out of other purported revelations like the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, The Avesta, The Vedas, The Apocrypha, Baha’i Scripture, The Zohar, Oahspe, The Urantia Bible, The Kolbrin, The Book of Ben Kathryn, The Sealed Portion, The Aklatan, The Metinah Papers, etc. One of my largest issues with Mormonism is that very hypocrisy, with the majority and leaders and members believing they have “arrived at truth” and have no more need to search out the continuing revelations of heaven. “A bible? A bible? We Mormons already have a Quad and we need no more scriptures!” (unless they come from our leaders, and are given in our culturally accepted language, and in no way contradict our cultural interpretations of our current understanding of the Christian gospel).

Opposing views I sympathize with: Some aspects of Joseph’s & the early saint’s polygamy, blacks & the priesthood, women and the priesthood, the way sexuality is taught in the church,  the way homosexuality was dealt with in the church, Utah polygamy, elitism, phariseeism, autocracy in church hierarchy, “worthiness” interviews, church history cover ups, the Danites, blood atonement, etc, etc…  For most my life I thought all these issues were completely baseless (because that’s what I felt Church leaders led me to believe), but the more I learn the more I see we have a shady past that needs to be brought out into the open, discussed, reconciled and forgiven. But as I said before, I try not to ever focus on the bad when there is so much good to focus on. I don’t believe it is constructive to discuss these issues in church settings. I chose to focus on faith and repentance through the love of Christ. I am a reformer and will continue (following Jesus’ example) to press for reform according to what God puts in my heart.

 

8. Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?

Yes I do my best to keep the covenants I have made personally with God. I seek diligently to keep my life in harmony with the gospel laws God gives me personally. I typically attend church but would not think twice about spending quality time with family and friends above, and in lieu of, church attendance. Church attendance once held a special place in my heart and in my spirituality, but since having kids, and as I increasingly personally connect with God and receive intelligible guidance through his Spirit I get less and less from Church lessons. I like to go to church to try and help others and connect with others. I see it as a great teaching tool for children and youth. I believe strongly in the idea of people getting together to try and solve social problems and teach youth. But my spirituality is increasingly shifting from buildings and organizations built with human hands to those built without human hands (as in Acts 7, 2 Cor 5, etc).   I believe the principles of shifting away from organizational religion and people “preaching to us” to a system where we reach through the veils and receive personal revelation and personal covenants with divine beings is at the heart of the endowment teachings. I believe the rigid and dogmatic aspects of organized religion are “schoolmasters” which seek to bring young and old souls together to a higher state of mind. I believe the gospel is more about good works than ordinances or teaching and preaching. In that light, parts of this question seems a bit silly as a righteousness test.

 

9. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?

I believe so. I sure try to be.   This is a great question by the way.  A better phrasing would be “Do you do your best to be honest in your dealings…”, and “is there anything you would like to talk about concerning your honesty…”.

 

10. Are you a full-tithe payer?

As I define it Yes. Which the Church Handbook of Instruction suggests I’m allowed to do concerning this question.

But I’d like to clarify myself. Because the church doesn’t obey or even teach the original spirit of tithing and consecration, which was social economic equality (exalting the poor and humbling the rich). And because the church doesn’t have any transparency concerning the details of where our tithing money is going, and gives members no input on its distribution— I pay tithing as it was originally defined, on my annual “interest” on my “surplus property” (see D&C 119:3–5).

3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.  4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.  5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. (D&C 119:3–5)

As described by Church Historians (see this article for instance, or this), the original law of tithing called for all members to give all their surplus to the church. (meaning income and property above a basic median income needed to cover basic wants and needs. Or in other words instead of putting your excess money in the bank or investment portfolio, you give it to the church to invest and pay tithing on the interest gained.) Tithing on this ‘storehouse’ of consecrated surplus then went to pay church workers and fund projects to provide for “widows and orphans…as also the poor” (D&C 83:6. see also D&C 84:11242:30-39). So specifically, tithing or ten percent was then to be assessed on the interest earned by that consecration. And consecration was meant to keep people from living lavishly far above the median income. (Although church leaders like Joseph and Brigham never actually consecrated—and lived off the church like modern millionaires.) The storehouse’s purpose was to lift the poor as it wisely invested people’s money—and tithing was a fee taken of the top. Consecration, was then a law to assure relative economic equality among the saints, and tithing was to be assessed to keep the church financially solvent and running. It’s purpose was to “administer to the wants of the poor” and to “humble the rich and proud” (D&C 84:112). The poor were NOT TO PAY TITHING, because its whole purpose was to exalt them and humble the rich.  Our current system which we pretend is so fair is really a mockery of the principle of economic equality the law sought to promote (as I read it).  It does nothing to abase the rich, very little to lift the poor.

Instead it goes to building ghastly expensive temples which certainly don’t help alleviate the latter-day issues Nephi prophesied about,

…and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few… (2 Ne 28:12–14)

I am very disturbed by what I see as an increasing deviation from the principles taught in 2 Ne. 28:13, 2 Ne 20:2, Mal 9, D&C 42:30, 3 Ne 26:19, 4 Ne 1:3, D&C 105:1–6. Our highest leadership disregards the instructions given to us in scripture when they put millions and even billions of dollars of money and energy into temporal things like expensive buildings, shopping malls (regardless of whether this is tithing money, it still uses church resources) and building programs which do not directly work toward accomplishing the tasks given us in the aforementioned scriptures. I invite them to read Alma 39:11 again and consider it in light of materialism. This bad example of materialism is causing many to lose faith and “not believe in [our] words. Radical reform is sorely needed and I do not think I am alone in seeing this. Some of the recent spending by our leaders is akin the building of St Peter’s Basilica by Pope Leo X; an act which along with arrogant related misuses of priesthood authority, upset so many members of the Catholic Church as to spur the medieval reformation (see Luther’s 95 thesis). I suggest church leaders read carefully the history surrounding this act and reform accordingly.

I am incredibly bothered by seeing the size, cost and number of some of the Apostles homes, estates and vacation homes (some are worth over a million dollars and most are over a half million, see this article). I am troubled by the fact that general authorities/seventies make twice the median income in salary when they repeatedly use the church’s “lay clergy” as a false selling point for the virtue of tithing. General authorities are suppose to be an example in how to sacrifice the temporal for the spiritual. Instead our seminary teachers are a better example than the quorum of the twelve. Have they forgotten this scripture?

14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70:14)

20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D&C 49:20)

Is there any wonder why so many members are leaving our church as “the abudance of the manifestations of the Spirit are withheld.” This would not be a big deal if it were not for the fact that our scriptures teach so ardently against monetary aggrandizement and inequality. I couldn’t care less if one of our volunteer bishop chooses not to live the spirit of monetary consecration, but I expect far, far, far more from our highest leaders who claim the apostleship of God. I defended these men up and down on my mission, and to learn they are hypocrites and live just as lavishly as many televangelists really upsets me. I don’t care if ALL their money came from book deals or their lucrative careers previous to being called— if they want to call themselves apostles, they need to “forsake all and follow him” (Luke 14:33, Matt 19:27)— or their bad examples are going to continue to divide the church.

 

11. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?

This entire doctrine really needs to be revised, clarified and re-presented. How does one answer this question honestly when our definition for the “word of wisdom” constantly changes?

The word of wisdom as “no drugs, coffee, tea or alcohol”, yes I keep it and have never touched any of those. As literally defined in scripture, No. Sometimes I eat a good amount of meat when it is neither winter, cold nor famine, and the Word of Wisdom forbids that (D&C 89:13). Sometimes I drink hot drinks like hot chocolate and the Word of Wisdom forbids that (D&C 89:9). Sometimes I eat a good amount of corn and oats which the word of wisdom says are more for animals (D&C 89:17).

I’ve never had a bit of alcohol or illicit drugs—but I don’t think that makes me a good Mormon or a good Christian. Contrary to Mormon myth, both Christ and Joseph drank wine. I’ve never had alcohol and frankly never want to, but someone shouldn’t be penalized or made to feel evil if they do want to and can do it in moderation. I like the “word of wisdom” as defined by current church leaders as no alcohol or drugs, but pushing it as a religious stricture instead of an important “word of wisdom” has many negative fruits. Although arbitrarily adding caffeine, tea or coffee to it is ridiculous. It has caused a lot of division in among my non-practicing siblings which really upsets me. I hope to teach these principles in the proper light to my children to avoid the division, self-righteousness and ill feelings that this dogma causes in Mormon country. Once again, I invite Church leaders to revisit the way the word of wisdom is taught and to revisit the importance of not “adding to” and “taking away” from the laws God gives in scripture. It has been very divisive for my siblings, for Utah and for the church… and I do not see how attaching a ‘wicked’ behavioral stigma can be justified when Jesus and our church founder engaged in the same behavior. God’s words of wisdom are not meant to be a burden or commandment, but a wise counsel toward a general standard of good living.

 

12. Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?

Not Applicable. I’ve only had one spouse.

 

13. If you have previously received your temple endowment:Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple?
Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?

Yep on all three.  But once again what is this question trying to prove in regards to wearing the garment?  How about ask me how I feel about the garment… what the garment means to me. What modesty means to me? Let’s talk about how the garment can be a symbol of our religiosity and faith.

I don’t wear it when I swim. I probably shouldn’t wear it when I play some sports because it gets sweat stains (but I usually do).

I see the garment as an important tool to promote conformity to generalized religious dress standards. I also see its importance as a symbol of religious observance.  But I’ve seen it as a cause a good amount of emotional pain and fear in some members (especially women). I ask that the church do a better job allowing local stake leaders the authority to dictate many specifics concerning the wearing of the garment. God’s standards are not to be a burden, they are to be a help and a joy. Making dress laws a stricture which precludes temple blessings for adults is a mistake.

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14. Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?

I think not. A better phrasing would be “Do you have any guilt or shame from past misdeeds that you would like to talk about or get help working through”?  Do you see how by changing just a few words, we can stop upholding “power and influence by virtue of the priesthood” (see D&C 121:45), and instead use humility and Christ-like attributes to uphold that power and influence?

 

15. Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?

Yes. But I believe the whole point of the earthly temple is to show us that God’s true house is not built by human hands. (Isa 66:1–2, Acts 7:48, 17:25, 2 Cor 3:3, Heb 3:4, Alma 33:2–12)

I have a view of what the temple has been in the past and could be now, that is so beautiful and wonderful. But the current temple has lost so much of that. It is like Solomon’s temple, built with good intention but corrupted by those who want power over others—an ultra-expensive statement of power, prestige and legitimacy.

It can be an opportunity for communities to work together to build and maintain something beautiful. It can be a way to walk our children through an initiation process which shows them how to pierce the human-made veils that divide us. It could be a place to teach the deep mystical aspects of group consciousness, thoughtful intent, how to harness and hone gifts of the spirit such as prophecy, revelation and seer-ship. It could be a central communion built around community.  It could be the meeting place for the “school of the prophets”, where those who see past the symbolism of the lower priesthood go to learn the mysteries and solve important social problems. But now it has become an institutionalized den of figurative money-changers, just like Jewish worship was. It has become a club for exclusivity and elitism, just like Jewish worship became. The true meaning of sacrifice lost. The true gospel distorted. The patriarchal order misunderstood and misapplied. The true order of prayer lost. A bunch of crazies who’ve twisted the meaning of the rituals and now actually think nobody in heaven is “married” except those who have had their temple work done. Like God has had millions of angels in heaven for the last 2000 years telling lovers and life-long couples to “stay away from each other!” because you haven’t been legally married by a Mormon proxy yet! Or that he’s kept people out of the Celestial kingdom for 2000 years because their baptism “wasn’t done by the proper priesthood authority! Its so ridiculous. It’s so prideful. Its SO against so many of our own scriptures. And yet its what most members believe.

True religion unites; false or apostate religion divides. Apostate religion creates religious social classes. It alienates large subsets of the group. It demonizes people and makes them feel wicked and subservient instead of making them feel loved, redeemed and free. It breeds apostates, discontent and ill feelings. Just like the Lamanites and prideful Nephites of the Book of Mormon, apostate religion leads to a great division in society which eventually ends in war. To know how a church is really doing, you must look at the division it causes.  Is it uniting more families and neighborhoods or is it dividing them? Is it solving the world’s social problems or creating more of them?

Mormonism has so much good in it… but we could do so much better with a little paradigm change from our leaders.

 

Notes on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: A Timeline

a time line of Joseph Smith's Polygamy, and events surrounding the breakup of the Nauvoo experiment.

a time line of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, and events surrounding the breakup of the Nauvoo experiment.

The history of polygamy in the LDS Church is certainly interesting. Perhaps more than any other issue, it has given me a somewhat naturalistic view of the church and church history. It has helped me to reevaluate my views on God, revelation, prophetic gifts and spiritualism. (I still have many strong spiritual beliefs)

As I’ve gotten older and learned more, I’ve been forced to nuance my once highly orthodox views. I’ve replaced my view of Joseph Smith as a god-like Saint who stood next to Jesus in wisdom and righteousness to a view that Joseph was simply one of many clairvoyant spiritualist (prophets) who played a key role in a divinely inspired nineteenth century political and religious restorational movement which revolutionized the world (and is paving the way for the restoration of Israel–see this article).

I’ve moved past the polarized views which most LDS and anti-mormon ideologues try to force upon others—one which requires you to take sides in whether the man was a saint or a charlatan. I realize that he was what he was, and forming rigid opinions on things which can’t be difinitively proven isn’t going to help me be a happier person. The historical sources seem to suggest he did a lot of good and also caused a lot of division and ill feelings through some very unorthodox religious views and social practices. In my experience it seems that the ideological issues surrounding Joseph Smith and religion in general, boil down to the effects of men who try to use God, or dead prophets as a means to legitimize their own authority over others.  Those who have fallen prey to this type of modern idolatry often become very upset when the reasons they trusted and obeyed others fail to hold up to logical scrutiny.

But once you free yourself of that subservience from manipulation, you can begin to look at Joseph and all others with love and objectivity regardless of their behavior. (Joseph’s own council in D&C 121:41–42 concerning “no power or influence… being upheld by virtue of priesthood authority” was a major aid in helping me do this.)

Maybe Joseph had sex with Fanny maybe he didn’t (see church topical essays). Either way, Fanny, her parents and Emma all seem to been fine with it, at least for some time afterward.  Joseph almost certainly slept with Lucinda Pendleton… but yet her husband also seemed totally fine with both the open marriage and the later eternal sealing to Joseph. Maybe Joseph did or didn’t sleep with the other 30 or so women he was wed to in the last few years of his life. To me, Joseph’s arguments for moral relativism given to Nancy Rigdon are both religiously convincing and consistent with naturalistic logic. And looking at the whole situation naturalistically, who cares if a bunch of consenting adults decided to enter into a bunch of crazy polyandrous relationships? (Obviously, we should care when teens, or even young immature adults are pulled into these types of sexual relationships, especially if religious manipulation or flaming swords are involved).

If we are to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt, and concede that he was receiving revelations from an exalted extra-dimensional group, or even from the biblical Jesus himself, wouldn’t we expect and hope their revelations aligned with the principles of agency? That if Joseph and this group were burning with lust from religiously repressed sexual desire, that these beings would eventually give revelations that religiously unblocked the desires these people were repressing? Like a father saying “look, I’ve told you multiple times that monogamy has been historically proven to be the most stable sexual relationship, but if you and your community want to experiment with unorthodox polyandrous sexual arrangements, go ahead and try it out so you can learn from your own experiences the difficulties inherent in these forms of sexuality.”

What I, and I think many, find troubling about this whole polygamy debacle is the religious fanaticism involved from beginning to end. It was too often presented with the excuse “I didn’t want to do this, but God made me do it”.  Us Mormons still use this excuse to the world “we only tried polygamy because God commanded us to!”  Whether it be the manipulation involved in the institution of plural marriage or the idolatrous deceit involved in its termination; the actions of men were constantly blamed on the God of creation.  I’m not fundamentally opposed to polygamy or unorthodox sexual arrangements, but to me these excuses leave a sour taste in my mouth because they sound a lot like the one’s my 5 year old uses when they misunderstand my counsel and get in trouble for doing something stupid.

For my faith, I think the most relevant aspect of the Mormon Polygamy experiment was that it teaches me how fallible all men (especially my church leaders) really are. It teaches me to be very wary of anyone who uses their priesthood (religious position) to legitimize their “power or authority”.  The whole issue helps me to keep my religious views founded on love (Christ), I try to remember that the erroneous statements or acts of Joseph or other Church leaders do not negate the good these men do. I judge each act and statement independently, gleaning from any good I can and rule my life according to my own personal inspiration

——————————————————————————-.

Note: In fairness. Although it is obvious that polygamy was one of the largest if not the single largest contributing factor to Joseph Smith’s murder and the schism of the early church, cases have been made that Joseph did not have sex with any of his plural wives. Some have put forth arguments to suggest that Joseph took plural wives to protect assorted women from what had become a polygamous “free for all” in the Nauvoo experiment. And that he was commanded to reveal polygamy because its “what the people wanted”. The reader can decide whether these arguments have any merit.

see Why I am not Persuaded Joseph Smith had Sex with Plural Wives
And Without Disclosing my True Identity appendix 2

A lot of the “Notes” below are facts corroborated by multiple first hand witness and historical documents. However, much is also complete here-say. It is important to for each individual to do their own research and try as best as they can to separate the fact from the fabrication.

Event Name Start Date End Date Category Notes

Marriage – Joseph to Emma Hale 18 Jan 1827 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Smith enlisted the help of a third treasure-seeker to obtain Emma Hale as a wife according to the requirement of Moroni. Emma did not mention her father’s claim that this happened while he was away from home on business, but later told her children, “I was visiting at Mr. [Josiah] Stowell’s, who lived at Bainbridge, and saw your father there. I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell’s, your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, aided by Mr. Stowell, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented.” The couple eloped on 18 January 1827 (1879, 289; I. Hale 1834, 363; HC 1:17; D. Hill 1977, 69; Youngreen 1982, 5-6). In commenting about this, Mormons typically speak of romance and Smith’s love for Emma as the reason for their elopement (e.g. Cadwell 1879). It is more probable, however, that Smith risked alienating his parents-in-law from his new bride by eloping—not for love alone—but to fulfill the requirement of Moroni.PLACE: South Bainbrudge, NYSOURCE: Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.140-141

Marriage – Joseph to Fanny Alger, age 16 Apr 1833 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Fanny Alger is Joseph’s first known plural wife, whom he came to know in Kirtland during early 1833 when she, at the age of 16, stayed at his home as a housemaid. Described as “a varry nice & Comly young woman,” according to Benjamin Johnson, Fanny lived with the Smith family from 1833 to 1836.Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, recalled that the prophet’s “servant girl” claimed he had made “improper proposals to her, which created quite a talk amongst the people.” Mormon Fanny Brewer similarly reported “much excitement against the Prophet…[involving] an unlawful intercourse between himself and a young orphan girl residing in his family and under his protection.”Former Mormon apostle William McLellin later wrote that Emma Smith substantiated the Smith-Alger affair. According to McLellin, Emma was searching for her husband and Alger one evening when through a crack in the barn door she saw “him and Fanny in the barn together alone” on the hay mow. McLellin, in a letter to one of Smith’s sons, added that the ensuing confrontation between Emma and her husband grew so heated that Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery had to mediate the situation. After Emma related what she had witnessed, Smith, according to McLellin, “confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him.” While Oliver Cowdery may have forgiven his cousin Joseph Smith, he did not forget the incident. Three years later, when provoked by the prophet, Cowdery countered by calling the Fanny Alger episode “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair.”Chauncey Webb recounts Emma’s later discovery of the relationship: “Emma was furious, and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet, out of her house”.SOURCE: Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, p.291At least one account indicates that Fanny became pregnant. Chauncy G. Webb, Smith’s grammar teacher, later reported that when the pregnancy became evident, Emma Smith drove Fanny from her home (Wyl 1886, 57). Webb’s daughter, Ann Eliza Webb Young, a divorced wife of Brigham Young, remembered that Fanny was taken into the Webb home on a temporary basis (Young 1876, 66-67). Fanny stayed with relatives in nearby Mayfield until about the time Joseph fled Kirtland for Missouri.Fanny left Kirtland in September 1836 with her family. Though she married non-Mormon Solomon Custer on 16 November 183614 and was living in Dublin City, Indiana, far from Kirtland, her name still raised eyebrows. Fanny Brewer, a Mormon visitor to Kirtland in 1837, observed “much excitement against the Prophet … [involving] an unlawful intercourse between himself and a young orphan girl residing in his family and under his protection” (Parkin 1966, 174).SOURCE: Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p.8

Marriage – Joseph to Lucinda Pendleton Morgan, age 37 Jun 1838 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Exact date inknown, sometime in 1838, Joseph Smith likely married Lucinda in 1838 when she was staying at the Harris home in Far West (History of the Church, vol. 3, pg. 9). This is supported by a statement made by Mrs. Sarah Pratt, “Mrs. Harris was a married lady, a very great friend of mine. When Joseph had made his dastardly attempt on me [in 1842], I went to Mrs. Harris to unbosom my grief to her. To my utter astonishment, she said, laughing heartily: ‘How foolish you are! Why, I am his mistress since four years’.” (Mormon Portraits, 1886, pg. 60)PLACE: Far West, MISOURCE: Historical Record 6:33: “Lucinda Harris, also one of the first women sealed to the Prophet Joseph”; Sarah Pratt, in Wyl, 60; 4 Apr. 1899 sealing, Salt Lake Temple Sealing Records, Book D, 243;

Smith possible father of John R. Hancock (by Clarissa Reed Hancock) Jul 1840 19 Apr 1841 Pregnancy Presently, there is only anecdotal evidence that Clarissa Reed Hancock (Mother of John Reed Hancock) was a plural wife of Joseph Smith. DNA testing would shed further light in this regard.

Smith defends church member for “sleeping with two women” 06 Feb 1841 Polygamy Smith tells the Nauvoo high council not to excommunicate Theodore Turley for “sleeping with two females,” requiring him only to confess “that he had acted unwisely, unjustly, imprudently, and unbecoming.”PLACE: Nauvoo High Council MeetingSOURCE: Minutes of the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Nauvoo Illinois, 6 Feb 1841

Marriage – Joseph to Louisa Beaman, age 26 05 Apr 1841 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Joseph B. Noble officiatingSOURCE: Noble affidavit, in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 2:102; Erastus Snow affidavit, in Historical Record 6:232, 233; speech by Joseph Noble, 19 Dec. 1880, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Emma carries child, premature baby dies at birth Jun 1841 06 Feb 1842 Pregnancy PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Official Joseph Smith family record www.FamilySearch.org

Smith possible father of George A. Lightner (by Mary Elizabeth Rollins) Jun 1841 12 Mar 1842 Pregnancy Mary Elizabeth Rollins, married to non-Mormon Adam Lightner since 11 August 1835, was one of the first women to accept the polyandrous teachings of the Prophet. “He was commanded to take me for a wife,” she wrote in a 21 November 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells. “I was his, before I came here,” she added in an 8 February 1902 statement.Brigham Young secretly sealed the two in February 1842 when Mary was eight months pregnant with her son George Algernon Lightner. She lived with Adam Lightner until his death in Utah many years later.In her 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary explained: “I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.” She added on 23 January 1892 in a letter to John R. Young: “I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr. L. after becoming the Wife of Another, which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious–and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury”SOURCE: Mormon Polygamy in Nauvoo, Richard Van Wagoner, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.3, p.77

Smith tells 19 year-old married woman that she must marry him or an angel with a sword will slay him 25 Oct 1841 25 Oct 1841 Polygamy Already married, 19 year-old Zina remained conflicted with Smith’s polygamy proposal “until a day in October, apparently, when Joseph sent [her older brother] Dimick to her with a message: an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Smith and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose “his position and his life.” Zina, faced with the responsibility for his position as prophet, and even perhaps his life, finally acquiesced.” They were secretly married within days.SOURCE: In Sacred Loneliness, page 80-81

Marriage – Joseph to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs, age 20, already married 27 Oct 1841 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Smith marries a woman polygamously who lives with her legal husband. Elder Dimick B. Huntington officiating. Brigham Young University would later name one of its residence halls after her. Zina D. Huntington would also marry Young after Smith’s death, her legal husband standing in as witness. This is the first of a dozen known cases of polyandry in Mormon history.SOURCE: Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1:5, 4:5, cf. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage,” 348; Historical Record 6:233;

Smith preaches that what people call sin is not sin 07 Nov 1841 Polygamy Smith preaches: “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down;”SOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.445PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Marriage – Joseph to Prescendia Lathrop Huntington, age 31, already married 11 Dec 1841 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Dimick B. Huntington officiatingPLACE: Smith’s Store, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Desdemona Wadsworth Fullmer 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Exact Date unknownPLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, age 33 06 Jan 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Widow of Joseph’s brother, Don Carlos SmithSOURCE: Brigham Young journal, 6 Jan. 1842, LDS archives and Marriott Library; Bennett, History of the Saints, 256, “Mrs. A**** S****”; Testimony of Mary Ann West in U.S. Circuit Court (8th Circuit) Testimony (1892), Manuscript Transcripts, 521, questions 676-79, LDS archives; Nauvoo Female Relief Society Minutes, 28 Sept. 1842, 89, LDS archives and Lee Library.

Smith says an angel with a sword has visited him three times about polygamy 10 Jan 1842 Polygamy Faithful member Mary Elizabeth Lighner publicy stated:“Much has come and gone from me through the powers and vicissitudes of this Church. I have been in almost every mob. I have been driven about and told I would be shot and had a gun pointed at me, but I stayed with the Church until it was driven from Nauvoo. The words of the Prophet that had been revealed to him always have been with me from the beginning to the end of the gospel. Every principle that has been given in the Church by the prophet is true. I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him.””Well,” said I, “don’t you think it was an angel of the devil that told you these things?” Said he, “No, it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me. “But,” said he, “they called me a false and fallen prophet but I am more in favor with my God this day than I ever was in all my life before. I know that I shall be saved in the Kingdom of God. I have the oath of God upon it and God cannot lie; all that he gives me I shall take with me for I have that authority and that power conferred upon me.”SOURCE: Testimony of Sister Mary Lightner, Address to Brigham Young University, April 14th, 1905, BYU Archives and Manuscripts, see alsohttp://www.ldshistory.net/pc/merlbyu.htm

Smith and Young propose to young woman to enter in polygamy 15 Jan 1842 Polygamy Martha Brotherton, a young Nauvoo woman, was allegedly approached by Brigham Young in Joseph Smith’s private office. “Were it lawful and right,” Brotherton reported Young as saying, “could [you] accept of me for your husband and companion? . . . Brother Joseph has had a revelation from God that it is lawful and right for a man to have two wives; for as it was in the days of Abraham, so it shall be in these last days . . . if you will accept of me, I will take you straight to the celestial kingdom.” Brigham then left the room and returned ten minutes later with the Prophet. “Just go ahead, and do as Brigham wants you to,” Brotherton reported Smith as saying. “I know that this is lawful and right . . . I have the keys of the kingdom, and whatever I bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever I loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” Martha noted she begged for time to consider, then left for Saint Louis, where she published her story in the 15 July 1842 St. Louis Bulletin.PLACE: Joseph Smith’s private office, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: St. Louis Bulletin, 15 July 1842

Marriage – Joseph to Mary Elizabeth Rollins, age 23, already married 17 Jan 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage In a sworn affidavit, Mary Lightner said, “Joseph said I was his before I came here and he said all the Devils in Hell should never get me from him. I was sealed to him in the Masonic Hall, over the old brick store by Brigham Young in January 1842 and then again in the Nauvoo Temple by Heber C. Kimball.” (Original sworn affidavit owned by Mrs. Nell Osborne of Salt Lake City, February 8, 1902).Mary also admitted her marriage to Joseph Smith in a public address. She said in part, “I am the first being that the revelation was given to him for and I was one thousand miles away in Missouri, for we went up to Jackson County in 1831 ….. I went forward and was sealed to him. Brigham young performed the sealing, and Heber C. Kimball the blessing. I know Joseph Smith had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I knew he had three children [by his plural wives]. They told me. I think two are living today, but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.” (Mary Lightner,1905 Address, typescript, BYU, Pg. 2-3)PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.net record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Sylvia Sessions, age 23, already married 08 Feb 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Sylvia Sessions told her daughter Josephine that Joseph Smith was her biological father. Josephine left an affidavit stating that her mother, Sylvia, on her deathbed told her (Josephine) that she (Josephine) was the daughter of Joseph Smith.SOURCE: Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, fd. 5, 1:60, 4:62, cf. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage,” affidavit #77 (unsigned, but supporting evidence makes this marriage close to certain); Historical Record 6:234; affidavit by Josephine Lyon Fisher, Sylvia’s child, 24 Feb. 1915, LDS archives; Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph Smith III, 25-26, LDS archives.

Emma carries child, boy dies shortly after birth Mar 1842 26 Dec 1842 Pregnancy PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Official Joseph Smith family record, www.FamilySearch.org

Marriage – Joseph to Patty Bartlett Sessions, age 47,already married 09 Mar 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Patty Sessions was sealed to Joseph Smith on March 9, 1842 as indicated by her personal journal entry, “I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9, 1842, in Newel K. Whitney’s chamber, Nauvoo, for time and all eternity ….”PLACE: Navuoo, ILSOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Marriage – Joseph to Nancy Marinda Hyde, age 27, already married Apr 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Ten years earlier, Smith had been tarred and feathered for supposedly seducing Nancy at age 16 while staying with her family. Nancy was likely taught polygamy by Joseph when her husband, Orson Hyde, was on his mission to Palestine. In 1841, Nancy was given a direct revelation through Joseph to “hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her” (History of the Church, vol. 4, pg. 467). In May 1844 Nancy would become pregnant with Smith’s child while Hyde was on another mission (sent by Smith). She later divorced Hyde and voiced her disgust of polygamy.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith journal, LDS archives, a list of marriages in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock, entered after 14 July 1843: “Apr 42 Marinda Johnson to Joseph Smith,” in Scott Faulring, ea., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1989), 396. For a second marriage to Joseph Smith, in May 1843, see Marinda Hyde affidavit, 1 May 1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1:15,

Smith proposes secret plural marriage to 19 year-old Nancy Rigdon 10 Apr 1842 10 Apr 1842 Polygamy Joseph Smith invited Nancy Rigdon, nineteen-year-old daughter of his close friend and counselor, Sidney Rigdon, to meet him at the home of Orson Hyde. Upon her arrival Smith greeted her, ushered her into a private room, then locked the door. After swearing her to secrecy, wrote George W. Robinson, Smith announced his “affection for her for several years, and wished that she should be his…the Lord was well pleased with this matter…here was no sin in it whatever…but, if she had any scruples of conscience about the matter, he would marry her privately.”Incredulous, Nancy countered that “if she ever got married she would marry a single man or none at all.” Grabbing her bonnet, she ordered the door opened or she would “raise the neighbors.” She then stormed out of the Hyde-Richards residence.The next day, Smith wrote Nancy a letter, where he justified his advances, saying ” That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. … Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. … even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.” This is his first written statement of theocratic ethics.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Official History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.134-136, Sidney Rigdon Biography by Richard S. Van Wagoner, p.295

Marriage – Joseph to Elizabeth Davis, age 50, already married May 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage SOURCE: Bennett, History of the Saints, 256, “Mrs. D*****”; Sarah Pratt, in Wyl, 54; Jackson, A Narrative, 14, links Elizabeth with Patty Sessions as a Mother in Israel who helped arrange polygamous marriages for Joseph. Patty Sessions was certainly married to Joseph. Emily Partridge, Autobiography, 4, LDS archives, shows Elizabeth relaying a marriage proposal to Emily, which confirms Jackson. Joseph often relied on previously married wives to educate and recruit new plural wives. A Nauvoo temple proxy marriage to Joseph is good supporting evidence, Sealing and Adoption Book A, 505; cf. p. 385: “Elizabeth Davis Smith.”

Endowment Introduced 04 May 1842 Polygamy Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment to seven men at a meeting in the room over his store in Nauvoo. A few others received endowments before completion of the temple.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: page 343 Deseret News Church Almanac 1993-1994 ed. [Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News 1992]

Smith initiates nine men into secret Quorum of Anointed 04 May 1842 05 May 1842 Polygamy Smith organizes the Quorum of Anointed or Holy Order of the Priesthood, and intitiates nine men into what would later be called the “temple endowment.” He excludes first counselor Rigdon and assistant counselor John C. Bennett. Women do not participate until 28 Sept. 1843.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Three women testify that Smith taught “spiritual wifery” 29 May 1842 Polygamy Three women testify that Assistant President John C. Bennett and Apostle William Smith taught them that Smith approved of “spiritual wifery” wherein several men have sexual relations with the same woman. The women testifying were Margaret and Matilda Nyman and Catherine Fuller Warren. The report of the Nymans was later printed in the 29 May 1844 Nauvoo Neighbor. The sisters said that Elder Chauncy Higbee had advised them that Smith approved of “spiritual wifery” but gave instructions to keep the matter a secret because “there was no sin when there is no accuser.” Catherine Fuller Warren in her 20 May 1842 testimony responded to charges of “unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others” by admitting to having intercourse not only with him but with Chauncy Higbee and the prophet’s younger brother, Apostle William Smith. Speaking in her defense, however, she insisted that the men had “taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practised it which things caused her to be led away thinking it to be right.”PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Minutes of The High Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 24 May 1842, Nauvoo Neighbor 29 May 1844 edition

Smith performs secret plural mariage for Brigham Young 14 Jun 1842 Polygamy The first fully-dated plural marriage performed by Smith occurs for Young and Lucy Decker Seeley.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Marriage – Joseph to Eliza R. Snow, age 38 29 Jun 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Brigham Yong officiatingPLACE: Navuoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Church newspaper publishes phrenoloy chart of Smith, described as ‘passionately fond of the company of the other sex.’ 02 Jul 1842 02 Jul 1842 Polygamy The church newspaper The Wasp publishes a phrenology chart of Smith’s head and personality. The first trait is “Amativeness-11, L[arge]. Extreme susceptibility; passionately fond of the company of the other sex.” The official History of the Church still publishes this chart, along with the caution that such a high score indicates “extreme liability to perversion” in the trait.SOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.53PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Smith attempts to seduce wife of Orson Pratt leads to suicide attempt 15 Jul 1842 Polygamy Thousands of Nauvoo Mormons search for Orson Pratt after discovering a suicide note. They find him distraught because Smith, according to Pratt’s wife, had tried to seduce Pratt’s wife Sarah.PLACE: Navuoo, IL

Orson Pratt votes against defense of Smith virtuous conduct 22 Jul 1842 Polygamy Pratt votes against a public resolution in defense of Smith’s virtuous conduct.SOURCE: Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p.33PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Revelation – Polygamy (never canonized or officially published) 27 Jul 1842 Polygamy Pior to his marriage to Newel Whitney’s 17 year-old daughter, Sarah Ann Whitney, Joseph Smith recevied and recorded a revelation on polygamy, which remains in LDS church archives. Although recorded in the official “Revelation Book” of the time, the revelation was not canonized as scripture.In this revelation, the Lord reveals a plural marriage ceremony, which would later be altered and become the sealing ceremony in the temple.From copies in archives at the Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah:Verily, Thus Saith the Lord, unto My Servant Newell. K. Whitney
A Revelation to Newell K. Whitney, 27 July 1842, and Joseph Smith Elizabeth Ann Whitney, and Sarah Ann Whitney”Verily, thus saith the Lord unto my servant N[ewel]. K. Whitney, the thing that my servant Joseph Smith has made known unto you and your Family [his plural marriage to Sarah Ann Whitney] and which you have agreed upon is right in mine eyes and shall be rewarded upon your heads with honor and immortality and eternal life to all your house both old & young because of the lineage of my Preast Hood saith the Lord it shall be upon you and upon your children after you from generation to generation, by virtue of the Holy promise which I now make unto you saith the Lord.””These are the words which you shall pronounce upon my servant Joseph and your Daughter Sarah Ann. Whitney. They shall take each other by the hand and you shall say ‘You both mutually agree,” calling them by name, ‘”to be each other’s companion so long as you both shall live preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout all eternity reserving only those rights which have been given to my servant Joseph by revelation and commandment and by legal Authority in times passed.’ If you both agree to covenant and do this then I give you Sarah Ann Whitney, my daughter, to Joseph Smith to be his wife, to observe all the rights between you both that belong to that condition. I do it in my own name and in the name of my wife, your mother, and in the name of my Holy Progenitors, by the right of birth which is of Preast Hood, vested in my by revelation and commandment and promise of the living. God obtained by the Holy Melchisedeck Jethro and other of the Holy Fathers, commanding in the name of the Lord all those Powers to concentrate in you and through to your posterity forever. All these things I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that through this order he may be glorified and that through the power of anointing David may reign King over Israel, which shall hereafter be revealed. Let immortality and eternal life henceforth be sealed upon your heads forever and ever. Amen.”LOCATION: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Original manuscript of Kirtland Revelation Book, Church Historical Department, Ms f 490 # 2, also The Historical Record 6:222 (1887 edition.), also In Sacred Lonliness, p. 348-349

Marriage – Joseph to Sarah Ann Whitney, age 17 27 Jul 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Father Elder Newel K. Whitney officiatingPLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Martha McBride Aug 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage PLACE: Smith’s Store, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Ruth Vose Sayers, age 33, already married Aug 1842 27 Jun 1844 Marriage SOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Earliest reference to secret garments worn by the Holy Order 08 Aug 1842 08 Aug 1842 Polygamy The earliest reference to the special undergarment worn by the Holy Order of the endowment reads for this date: “they have oil poured on them, and then a mark or hole cut in the breast of their shirts… to keep the Destroying Angel from them and their families.” From the eighteenth century to the 1840s, “shirt” referred to an undergarment which was often worn with a separate, tight-fitting underpant reaching to the knees.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p.635

Smith writes love letter to arrange night with plural wife 18 Aug 1842 18 Aug 1842 Polygamy To arrange night liason with plural wife, Newel K. Whitney’s daughter Sarah Ann, Smith writes “… the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. … Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. … I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith.”SOURCE: Joseph Smith, Jr., to Newel K. Whitney, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, etc., 18 August 1842, George Albert Smith Family Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. The text and the signature of this document are in the handwriting of Joseph Smith, Jr. This document has been reproduced in Dean C. Jessee’s masterful The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1984), pp. 539-40. See also In Sacred Lonliness, page 349-350

Smith sends 380 Elders across the country to deny allegations of his polygamy 29 Aug 1842 29 Aug 1842 Polygamy Joseph Smith calls and holds a special conference in Nauvoo. At that conference 380 elders volunteer to travel nationwide to distribute a broadside (a two-paged newspaper) filled with affidavits and certificates in a massive effort to convince the public, among other things, that that Joseph Smith was not a polygamist. Smith spearheads this endeavor, which is one of his greatest efforts to deny he was practicing plural marriage. It was such a tremendous undertaking and was promoted with such zeal that it can rightly be called a crusade.Smith had been arrested on August 8 by Missouri officials on charges that he had been an accomplice in the attempted assassination of former Missouri governor,Lilburn Boggs. The Prophet was released the same day of his arrest by the Nauvoo Municipal Court. He then went into hiding—first in Iowa, and then back in Nauvoo.Upon his return to Nauvoo, Smith recorded:”I advised the Twelve to call a special conference on Monday next (August 29), to give instructions to the elders, and call upon them to go forth upon this important mission; meantime, that all the affidavits concerning Bennett’s conduct be taken and printed, so that each elder could be properly furnished with correct and weighty testimony to lay before the public.”On Monday, August 29, a vast crowd of concerned Saints gathers at the Grove near the Temple for the conference. Near the close of Hyrum’s address, Joseph, who had not been seen in public for three weeks, walks up onto the stand and sits down. Joseph’s sudden appearance is a great surprise, for there was speculation among the Saints that he had gone to Washington or Europe, while others believed he was still in Nauvoo. After Hyrum concludes speaking, Joseph addresses the large congregation. He referrs to the affidavits and certificates which he had been busily preparing, by giving both a plea and a prophecy as he proclaimes:”Let the Twelve send all who will support the character of the Prophet, the Lord’s anointed; and if all who go will support my character, I prophesy in the name of the Lord Jesus, whose servant I am, that you will prosper in your missions.” (LDS History of the Church 5:139)After the Prophet speaks, 380 elders volunteer to go on “missions” to spread the Affidavits and Certificates throughout the nation (see Dean C. Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith 2:447). These men leave their families, homes, and jobs to travel thousands of miles to distribute the Affidavits and Certificates—and to give their own testimonies that Joseph is not a polygamist.LOCATION: Nauvoo, IL

SOURCE: LDS History of the Church 5:131–132; RLDS History of the Church 2:613; ; see also Dean C, Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith 2 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1992]: 443–444)


Smith publishes denouncement of polygamy 01 Sep 1842 01 Sep 1842 Polygamy Smith publishes teaching gainst polygamy in the Times and Seasons, of which he was editor.In the September 1 1842 issue, Smith declares:”All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ 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, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”SOURCE: Times and Seasons, Sep 1, 1842, Vol.3, No.21, p.909

Smith republishes denial of polygamy 01 Oct 1842 01 Oct 1842 Polygamy Smith re-publishes denouncement of polygamy from the Sep 1 Times and Seasons, of which he was the editor.In the Oct 1 1842 issue, Smith re-states:”All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ 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, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawfularents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.”The publication also includes affidavits signed by twelve men and nineteen women that states in part, “we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”SOURCE: Times and Seasons, Oct 1, 1842, Vol.3, No.23, p.939The signers included Apostle John Taylor and Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who had already been taught the doctrine of polygamy by Joseph Smith), Bishop Newel K. Whitney (who had performed a plural marriage ceremony the previous July for his own daughter and Joseph Smith in accordance with a revelation dictated by the Prophet on the occasion), Elizabeth Ann Whitney (who witnessed the plural ceremony), Sarah M. Cleveland (who had become Joseph Smith’s plural wife early in 1842), and Eliza R. Snow (who also married him on 29 June 1842).

Smith condemns coveting other men’s wives 15 Oct 1842 15 Oct 1842 Polygamy In the 15 October Times and Season, Joseph wrote strongly against coveting other men’s wives. As Editor, he republished an 1830 revelation in which it was revealed to him:“And again: I command thee, that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” (Times and Seasons 3 [October 15,1842]: 944)However, according to LDS authors, by the fall of 1842 Joseph was married to Mary Elizabeth Rollins, wife of Adam Lightner (see John J. Stewart, Brigham Young and His Wives: And The True Story of Plural Marriage [Salt Lake City, Utah: Mercury Publishing Company, Inc., 1961], 89), and Zina Diantha Huntington, wife of Henry B. Jacobs (ibid., 92; see also Andrew Jenson, Ed., The Historical Record 6 [May 1887]: 233; and Times and Seasons 2 [April 1, 1841]: 374). Both women were living with their husbands at that time.

Smith possible father of Orson W. Hyde (by Nancy Miranda Hyde) Feb 1843 09 Nov 1843 Pregnancy

Smith tells temple workers to stop gossiping about polygamy 21 Feb 1843 21 Feb 1843 Polygamy By early 1843 there was much speculation in Nauvoo as to whether or not Joseph Smith was secretly practicing polygamy. More and more were learning that members of the Twelve and others had secret plural wives, and the saying became more popular, “There cannot be so much smoke without some fire.”On February 21,1843, the Prophet spoke to those who were building the Temple — a group consisting of both men and women, and told them that he knew what people were saying about him. According to Official Church History, Joseph told them:”There is a great noise in the city, and many are saying there cannot be so much smoke without some fire. Well, be it so. If the stories about Joe Smith are true, then the stories of John C. Bennett are true about the ladies of Nauvoo; and he says that the Ladies’ Relief Society are all organized of those who are to be the wives of Joe Smith. Ladies, you know whether this is true or not. It is no use living among hogs without a snout. This biting and devouring each other I cannot endure. Away with it. For God’s sake, stop it.”SOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.286

Marriage – Joseph to Emily Dow Partridge, age 19 04 Mar 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Heber C. Kimball officiating. Emily D. Partridge Smith testified that she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him. See Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384.SOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Smith spends honeymoon night with secret bride Emily Partridge 05 Mar 1843 05 Mar 1843 Polygamy In sworn testimony, Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) testified she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him.SOURCE: Temple Lot case complete transcript, 364, 367, 384; also see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15

Marriage – Joseph to Eliza M. Partridge, age 22 08 Mar 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Heber C. Kimball officiatingSOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Marriage – Joseph to Flora Ann Woodworth, age 16 Apr 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Exact date unknown, Spring 1843SOURCE: Elder William Clayton affidavit, in Historical Record 6:225.

Man believes Smith’s angel-with-a-sword testimony, gives him sister as secret wife 02 Apr 1843 Polygamy Faithful member Benjamin Johnson wrote “His brother, Hyrum, said to me, “Now, Brother Benjamin, you know that Brother Joseph would not sanction this if it was not from the Lord. The Lord revealed this to Brother Joseph long ago, and he put it off until the Angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword and told him that he would be slain if he did not go forth and fulfill the law.” He told my sister to have no fears, and he there and then sealed my sister, Almira, to the Prophet.”“Soon after this he was at my house again, where he occupied my Sister Almira’s room and bed, and also asked me for my youngest sister, Esther M.”SOURCE: Joseph Smith’s personal secretary and church patriarch, Elder Benjamin F. Johnson, Autobiography “My Life’s Review”

Marriage – Joseph to Almera Woodward Johnson, age 30 03 Apr 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder William Clayton officiatingSOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. Easton, S. Civil Marriages in Nauvoo 1839-45. Cook, Lyndon Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register 1845-46 Mormon Manuscripts to 1846.

Smith challenges members to accuse him directly or keep quiet 06 Apr 1843 06 Apr 1843 Polygamy On April 6,1843, a special conference convenes at Nauvoo. Joseph Smith challenges the members to accuse him directly of sin or keep quiet.The record reveals:”President Joseph then asked the conference if they were satisfied with the First Presidency, so far as he was concerned, as an individual, to preside over the whole church; or would they have another? If, said he, I have done any thing that ought to injure my character, reputation, or standing; or have dishonored our religion by any means in the sight of men, or angels, or in the sight of men and women, I am sorry for it, and if you will forgive me, I will endeavor to do so no more. I do not know that I have done anything of the kind; but if I have, come forward and tell me of it. If any one has any objection to me, I want you to come boldly and frankly, and tell of it; and if not, ever after hold your peace.”SOURCE: Times and Seasons 4, [May 1,1843]: 181

Marriage – Joseph to Olive Grey Frost, age 27 12 Apr 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Historical Record 6:235, 234, Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697

Smith secretly marries William Clayton to his wife’s sister 27 Apr 1843 Polygamy William Clayton had learned of plural marriage at least by March 7, 1843, when Joseph Smith told Brigham Young to give Clayton a “favor” regarding priesthood instruction. The word “favor” in Clayton’s journal refers to the granting of an additional wife. Clayton and his first wife, Ruth Moon, were in their seventh year of marriage and had three children. The prophet personally visited the family in their Nauvoo home and suggested that Clayton participate in plural marriage. Margaret Moon, his legal wife’s sister, became Clayton’s first plural wife. The marriage was recorded on April 27, 1843, three months before Smith dictated his plural marriage revelation.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Smith possible father of Josephine Fisher (by Sylvia Sessions) May 1843 08 Feb 1844 Pregnancy Josephine L. Fisher wrote that her mother, Sylvia Sessions, told her “that [Josephine] was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”SOURCE: Josephine L. Fisher to Andrew Jenson, Feb. 24, 1915. On October 12, 1905Angus M. Cannon confirmed this account to Joseph Smith III, the prophet’s son: “It was said by the girl’s grandmother that your father has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl’s grandmother was Mother Sessions, who lived in Nauvoo.” He added that Aunt Patty Sessions “asserts that the girl was born within the time after your father was said to have taken the mother.”

Marriage – Helen Mar Kimball, age 14 May 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Father Heber C. Kimball officiatingPLACE: Smith’s Store, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Smith promises family salvation to marry 14-year-old 01 May 1843 01 May 1843 Polygamy Helen Mar Kimball writes of how she married Joseph Smith:“Having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he (my father) offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched unil they were ready to snap asunder, for she had already taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more.”SOURCE: Helen Mar Whitney Journal, Helen Mar Autobiography, Womans Exponent, 1880 and recently reprinted in A Woman’s viewJoseph Smith gave her only 24 hours to decide on whether or not to marry him. Of this, Helen wrote: “[my father] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty four hours. … I was sceptical – one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof That I had of its being right.”The next morning, Joseph Smith finally appeared himself to explain the “law of Celestial Marriage” and claim his teen bride. In her memoir, Helen wrote, “After which he said to me, ‘if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.’ This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.”Helen also writes about her mother’s reaction to all of this: “None but God and his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart – when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied ‘If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say.””She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had yet seen her fifteenth summer, following the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was hidden from me.”Helen thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was only dynastic. But to her surprise, it was more. Helen confided to a close friend in Nauvoo: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”

SOURCE: Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS member Richard S. Van Wagoner, p. 53.


Marriage – Joseph to Lucy Walker, age 17 01 May 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder William Clayton officiatingPLACE: Smith’s Store, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Maria Lawrence, age 19 11 May 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage SOURCE: Historical Record 6:223; Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, in the Temple Lot case (full transcript, 461, LDS archives); Helen Kimball Whitney, Woman’s Exponent, 15 Feb. 1886, 138.

Marriage – Joseph to Sarah Lawrence, age 17 11 May 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage SOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr., Historical Record 6:223; Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, in the Temple Lot case (full transcript, 461, LDS archives); Helen Kimball Whitney, Woman’s Exponent, 15 Feb. 1886, 138.

Hyrum Smith tells congregation only Devil would give plural wife revelation 14 May 1843 Polygamy Presiding Patriarch and Associate President Hyrum Smith assures a citywide congregation that only the Devil would give a revelation approving “wifes & concubines.” Joseph Smih was traveling outside of Nauvoo at the time.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Joseph sleeps with his plural wife Almera Johnson 15 May 1843 15 May 1843 Polygamy Elder Benjamin Johnson wrote, “On the 15th of May . . . the Prophet again Came and at my hosue [house] ocupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister that the month previous he had ocupied with the Daughter of the Later Bishop Partridge as his wife.SOURCE: Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44.

Emma discovers Smith in bedroom with Eliza Partridge 22 May 1843 22 May 1843 Polygamy Joseph Smith’s personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith’s first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated.SOURCE: William Clayton’s journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106)

Smith’s first wife, Emma, first approval of polygamy 23 May 1843 23 May 1843 Polygamy First occasion when Emma Smith approves her husband’s polygamous marriages. See D&C 132 where Emma is told to accept polygamy or be “destroyed.”PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Hyrum Smith receives endowment and associated polygamy doctrine 26 May 1843 26 May 1843 Polygamy Joseph Smith begins re-performing the endowment ceremonies for previously endowed men and for others who have accepted polygamy.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Joseph Smith and Emma are first couple “sealed” in marriage for eternity 28 May 1843 Polygamy Joseph and Emma Smith are the first couple “sealed” in marriage for eternity. During the previous month, he had married as polygamous wives seventeen-year-old Lucy Walker, sixteen-year-old Flora Ann Woodworth, and fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball who later testified that he had sexual relations with them.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Marriage – Joseph to Hanna Ellis, age 29 Jun 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Exact date unknown – sometime in Summer 1843SOURCE: John Benbow affidavit, see Historical Record 6:222-23, 234

Marriage – Joseph to Elvira Anie Cowles, age 29 01 Jun 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Affidavit, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1 :78, 4:80; Historical Record 6:234.

Marriage – Joseph to Rhoda Richards, age 58 12 Jun 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Willard Richards officiatingPLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Marriage – Joseph to Desdemona Fullmer, age 32 Jul 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage SOURCE: Affidavit, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1:32, 4:32; Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage,” #58; Historical Record 6:225.

Revelation – D&C 132 Plural Marriage secret commandment , dictated by Smith 12 Jul 1843 12 Jul 1843 Polygamy Smith’s revelations on plural marriage and sealing are recorded. Hyrum had asked his brother to dictate it by means of his seer stone, but Smith dictates it from memory. Hyrum uses the written revelation to try to convert Emma Smith to accept the practice.PLACE: Navuoo, IL

Marriage – Joseph to Nancy Maria Winchester, age 15 28 Jul 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage According to Mormon Church Historian Andrew Jenson, Nancy married Joseph sometime before his death in June of 1844. In addition, Orson Whitmney, son of Nacy Maria’s friend, Helen, also identified her as sSmith’s wife. These two witnesses, taken together, make a good case for NAncy as a plural spouse of Josepoh. Though there is no exac date for her marriage to the prophet, the best hypothosis is that the cereony took place in 1843.LOCATION: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Elder Jenson, Andrew. 1951 Volume: 1 Page: 697 Marriages in Nauvoo Region 1839-45. See also In Sacred Lonliness, page 606.

Smith tells William Clayton to get all the wives he can 11 Aug 1843 Polygamy Smith performs a marriage for his brother Hyrum and his first plural wife and tells William Clayton, “you have a right to get all you can.” Smith also once reportedly explained: “The result of our endless union will be offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven or the sands of the seashore” (History of the Church 5: 391-92).PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: William Clayton Journal 2, “Nauvoo, Illinois,” August 11, 1843

Hyrum Smith presents the revelation on plural marriage to the Nauvoo Stake High Council 12 Aug 1843 12 Aug 1843 Polygamy Hyrum Smith presents the revelation on plural and “Celestial marriage” (D&C 132) to the Nauvoo Stake High Council.PLACE: Nauvoo High Council Meeting, Nauvoo IL

Joseph Smith and William Clayton in love triangle 15 Sep 1843 21 Sep 1843 Polygamy William Clayton had already married two sisters and desired to marry the third (and youngest), Lydia Moon. Clayton asked the prophet’s permission bit he refused Clayton permission to marry Lydia, citing a revelation “he had lately, [that] a man could only take 2 of a family.” Smith then asked if Clayton would “give L[ydia] to him. I said I would so far as I had any thing to do in it. He requested me to talk to her.” Lydia Moon refused Smith’s offer because she wanted to “tarry with her sisters” who were already Clayton’s wives.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: William Clayton Journal 2, “Nauvoo, Illinois,” September 15, 17 and 21, 1843.

Marriage – Joseph to Malissa Lott, age 19 20 Sep 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Elder Hyrum Smith officiating. Malissa testified that her marriage to Smith included sex. See Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893.PLACE: Navuoo, ILSOURCE: FamilySearch.com record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph and Emma are first couple to receive second anointing 28 Sep 1843 Polygamy Joseph and Emma Smith are the first couple to receive the second anointing in which each is “anointed & ordained to the highest & holiest order of the priesthood.”PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Smith writes in diary that plurality of wives is forbidden 05 Oct 1843 Polygamy Concerning “the doctrine of plurality of wives,” Smith’s manuscript diary reads: “Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.” When incorporating Joseph Smith’s journal into the History of the Church, Apostle George A. Smith, a cousin, altered this passage to reverse this prohibition on polygamy.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Mormon Polygamy, p.63

Smith tells secretary William Clayton not to worry about love child 19 Oct 1843 Polygamy Smith tells his secretary William Clayton not to worry about an upcoming birth from a polygamous union, assuring him that if it becomes necessary to excommunicate him, Smith will immediately reinstate him. Smith told Clayton, said “Just keep her [the mother and baby] at home and brook it and if they raise trouble about it and bring you before me I will give you an awful scourging and probably cut you off from the church and then I will baptise you and set you ahead as good as ever.”PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: William Clayton Journal 2, “Nauvoo, Illinois,” October 19, 1843.

Smith republishes condemnation of adultery 01 Nov 1843 01 Nov 1843 Polygamy Joseph Smith republishes in the Times and Seasons an earlier 1831 revelation, which includes these commandments:“Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out. Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else; and he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, shall deny the faith, and shalt not have the spirit, and if he repents not he shall be cast out. Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that commiteth adultery and repenteth not, shall be cast out but he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive; but if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out. Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm. Thou knowest my laws concerning these things are given in my scriptures: he that sinneth and repenteth not, shall be cast out.”SOURCE: Times and Seasons, Vol.4, No.24, p.369

Smith marries two women to Brigham Young 02 Nov 1843 Polygamy Young’s30 Oct diary states: “Monday evening Baptized Sisters Cuoub [Cobb] & Hari[e]tt Cook.” Two days later, 2 Nov, Smith marries these two women to Young.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Brigham Young Diary, 30 Oct 1843

Marriage – Joseph to Fanny Young Murray, age 56, already married 02 Nov 1843 27 Jun 1844 Marriage Brigham Young reported the marriage of his sister to Joseph Smith in the Journal of Discourse: “I recollect a sister conversing with Joseph Smith on this subject [of plural marriage]…. Joseph said, ‘Sister, you talk very foolishly, you do not know what you will want.’ He then said to me [B.Y.]: ‘Here, brother Brigham you seal this lady to me.’ I sealed her to him. This was my own sister according to the flesh.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, pg. 166-167).Fanny was already married to a living husband, Roswell Murray.SOURCE: FamilySearch.net record for Joseph Smith Jr.

Smith accuses Emma of poisoning his coffee 05 Nov 1843 Smith becomes violently ill at dinner and assumes that his wife Emma of trying to poison him due to her opposition to polygamy. At the prayer circle meeting that evening Smith accuses her of poisoning his cup of coffee, and Brigham Young regards her shocked silence as proof of her guilt. However, Joseph’s rapid recovery from this illness suggests something other than poisoning, possibly ulcers.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.65, Brigham Young, conference address, 7 Oct. 1866, The Essential Brigham Young, p.188

Emma carries child, David Hyrum Feb 1844 18 Nov 1844 Pregnancy PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Official Joseph Smith family record, www.FamilySearch.org

Smith is anointed and ordained “King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on Earth” 11 Apr 1844 11 Apr 1844 Polygamy Smith becomes Mormonism’s theocratic king. The kingdom’s clerk William Clayton wrote that during the 11 April 1844 meeting “was prest. Joseph chosen as our Prophet, Priest and King by Hosannas.” William Marks, who was present at the coronation, later stated that the Council of Fifty performed an ordinance “in which Joseph suffered himself to be ordained a king, to reign over the house of Israel forever.” A later revelation to the Council of Fifty affirmed that God called Smith “to be a Prophet, Seer and Revelator to my Church and Kingdom; and to be a King and Ruler over Israel.” In detailed minutes of this same ceremony years later, the Council of Fifty’s standing chairman, John Taylor, was “anointed & set apart as a King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on the Earth.” In a veiled reference to Smith’s kingship, Apostles Lyman Wight and Heber C. Kimball wrote in 1844 that “you are already President Pro tem of the world.”PLACE: Council of Fifty Meeting in Masonic Hall, Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p.124

Smith possible father of Frank Henry Hyde (by Nancy Marinda Hyde) May 1844 23 Jan 1845 Pregnancy Frank Henry was born on 23 Jan 1845. Many suspect Joseph Smith was the actual father for two reasons. First, because Marinda had been the polygamous wife of Smith since Apr 1842. Second, because Smith had sent her first husband, Orson Hyde, on a mission to Washington on April 4, 1844 “immediately” after a meeting with Joseph Smith (History of the Church, pg. 286). The gestation period for a human is on average 266 days (not 9 months), which would date the conception to early May 1844. Of course 266 is an average date and the figures vary. To give you an idea of the range, only four percent of pregnancies are actually carried two weeks or more beyond the average time (Guttmacher, 1983). Frank Henry was born on January 23, 1845. Orson Hyde left for Washington April 4, 1844. The difference in these two dates is 294 days! That is almost a month longer than expected and is basically physiologically impossible, especially considering that Orson Hyde had not returned to Nauvoo until August 6, 1844 (Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, August 6, 1844). She later divorced Hyde and voiced her disgust of polygamy.PLACE: Nauvoo, IL

Suit filed against Smith for adultery with foster daughter 23 May 1844 Polygamy William Law files a formal complaint with the Hancock County circuit court charging Smith was living “in an open state of adultery” with Maria Lawrence, Smith’s foster daughter and polygamous wife. Maria Lawrence was a teenaged orphan who was living in the Smith household. In fact, Smith had secretly married both Maria, age 19 and her sister Sarah, age 17 on 11 May 1843 and was serving as executor of their $8,000 estate. William Law apparently hoped that disclosing Smith’s relationship with the young girls might lead him to abandon polygamy, but Smith immediately excommunicated Law, had himself appointed the girls’ legal guardian, and rejected the charge in front of a church congregation on 26 May 1844, denying that he had more than one wife.PLACE: Hancock County Circuit Court, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.403, Mormon Polygamy: A History, p.66

Smith denies polygamy, boasts he has done more than Jesus Christ 26 May 1844 26 May 1844 Polygamy In a now famous speach, Smith publicly denies he has any plural wives. Smith boasts to a congregation “Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go.”PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.408

Nauvoo Expositor publishes references to Smith’s polygamy and ordination as King on Earth 07 Jun 1844 The first and only issue of William Law’s Nauvoo Expositor is published, with references to the 1843 polygamy revelation and to Smith’s 1844 ordination as king on earth.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Navuoo Expositor

Smith as mayor of Nauvoo orders destruction of Nauvoo Expositor press 10 Jun 1844 10 Jun 1844 Nauvoo City Council discusses Nauvoo Expositor accusation of polygamy against Joseph Smith. Hyrum Smith tells Nauvoo City Council that Smith’s 1843 revelation pertains to ancient polygamy, not to modern times. By Joseph Smith’s order as mayor the council destroys the Expositor as “a public nuisance.”PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.432-434

Smith declares martial law, gives last public address to Nauvoo Legion 18 Jun 1844 18 Jun 1844 Smith declares martial law and, in speaking to the Nauvoo legion, gives his last public address.PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.497-500

Smith writes to apostles, tells them to destroy their garments and return to Nauvoo 20 Jun 1844 20 Jun 1844 Polygamy PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.519, Heber C. Kimball’s diary, 21 Dec. 1845, found in the book “Smith, An Intimate Chronicle”, page 224

Smith burns polygamy revelation, flees Nauvoo but then returns 23 Jun 1844 23 Jun 1844 After 1 a.m. Smith tells his secretary, William Clayton to burn or bury the minutes of the Council of Fifty, and Joseph and Hyrum Smith flee Nauvoo. Word of the prophet’s departure causes near panic among his devoted followers. Accused of cowardly abandoning Nauvoo, Smith returns about 6 p.m. He tells Stephen Markham that this is contrary to a revelation and commandment he had received. Joseph and Emma Smith burn the original manuscript of the 1843 polygamy revelation, presumably on this evening. William Clayton preserves a copy, which is later canonized as Section 132 of the D&C.SOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.548-550, Manuscript fragment of Nauvoo Legion History for June 1844, LDS archives.

Smith surrenders to civil authorities to stand trial for riot and treason 24 Jun 1844 Court/Jail Joseph rode down home twice to bid his family farewell. He appeared solemn and thoughtful, and expressed himself to several individuals that he expected to be murdered. The company (about fifteen) then started again for Carthage, and when opposite to the Masonic Hall, Joseph said, “Boys, if I don’t come back, take care of yourselves; I am going like a lamb to the slaughter.” When they passed his farm he took a good look at it, and after they had passed it, he turned round several times to look again, at which some of the company made remarks, when Joseph said: “If some of you had got such a farm and knew you would not see it any more, you would want to take a good look at it for the last time.”PLACE: Nauvoo, ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.558

Death of Joseph Smith 27 Jun 1844 27 Jun 1844 Court/Jail 5 p.m. A large group of men approaches Carthage Jail disguised with blackened faces. Smith at first assumes it is the Nauvoo Legion he has secretly ordered to rescue him. However, major-general Jonathan Dunham has disobeyed orders knowing that a prison escape would mean the annihilation of Nauvoo. Instead the vigilantes storm the upstairs room, instantly killing Hyrum and severely wounding Taylor. Joseph defends himself with a pistol, killing two men, then jumps out the window, and begins to shout the Masonic cry of distress: “Oh, Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Masons in the crowd show no mercy and prop the semi-conscious Smith against a nearby well and shoot him several times at point-blank range. Willard Richards is the only one not killed or severely wounded. Mormons immediately attribute this to the fact that he alone wore the undergarment given to endowed persons.PLACE: Carthage Jail, Carthage ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.616-623

Smith orders Nauvoo Legion to free him 27 Jun 1844 27 Jun 1844 Court/Jail The morning of 27 July, Smith sent an order (in his own handwriting) to Major-General Jonathan Dunham to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a military attack on Carthage “immediately” to free the prisoners. Dunham realized that such an assault by the Nauvoo Legion would result in two blood baths, one in Carthage and another when anti-Mormons (and probably the Illinois militia) retaliated by laying siege to Nauvoo for insurrection. To avoid civil war and the destruction of Nauvoo’s population, Dunham refused to obey the order and did not notify Smith of his decision. One of his lieutenants, a former Danite, later complained that Dunham “did not let a single mortal know that he had received such orders.”PLACE: Carthage Jail, Carthage ILSOURCE: Joseph Smith to Jonathan Dunham, 27 June 1844, in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, xxv, 616-17; History of the Church, 6:529 referred to this order but neither quoted nor summarized it.

Smith tells associate that he has lost the spirit of God for disobedience 27 Jun 1844 27 Jun 1844 Court/Jail Before leaving Carthage Jail at 1:30 p.m., Stephen Markham listens as Smith says he has lost the spirit of God for disobedience in returning to Nauvoo.. In 1858 Brigham Young would say later “If Joseph Smith, Jun., the Prophet, had followed the Spirit of revelation in him he never would have gone to Carthage and never for one moment did he say that he had one particle of light in him after he started back from Montrose to give himself up in Nauvoo.”PLACE: Cathage Jail, Cathage, ILSOURCE: Brigham Young, A Series of Instructions and Remarks by President Young at a Special Council, Tabernacle, March 21, 1858 (Salt Lake City, 1858)

Reposted from http://www.i4m.com/think/polygamy/polygamy-timeline.htm

 

Other Good References

And https://exploringmormonism.com/polygamy-timeline/

http://www.ldsorigins.com/polygamy.htm

http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/sexuality-2/

Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine

67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church (D&C 10:67–68).

Introduction

In this article I hope to show from numerous scriptures in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament & the Doctrine & Covenants that the “one true church” of Jesus Christ mentioned in most of LDS scriptures appears to be a non-denominational “spiritual church” or heavenly church which manifests as a cultural movement and NOT strictly the LDS ecclesiastical organization as has been established in LDS tradition.[defs] I also hope to show in this and other articles in this series that Judaism, Christianity and Mormonism were created to be a symbol, or type/archetype of this heavenly church, but by failing to establish Zion the early saints also failed to establish & gather the temporal “true and living church” spoken of in D&C 1:30. The “only true church”, or Kingdom of god/heaven would be something earthly churches aspire to and lead people to, not an inherent right that comes with priesthood keys. The scriptures toward the end of this article hit the point home, and show that like Peter and other apostle’s constant misunderstanding of Jesus teachings—Joseph and modern church leaders may have also misunderstood and overlooked LDS scriptures which clearly teach that the “only true church” is a heavenly church instead of specific religious sect or denomination. A global spiritual brotherhood which all the good people and faiths of earth are destined toward if the follow the path of love and selflessness. It seems to this author that religious scripture, like good music and poetry, is made to be somewhat ambiguous on many issues, and cultures use that ambiguity to promote love and selflessness or egocentrism and pride.  It is my hope that by looking at the following scriptural arguments that the LDS people might choose to focus on scriptures which promote religious pluralism, and not those which promote exclusivity and pride.

 

Outline of points covered in the article
-The cultural overuse of the only true church concept in LDS testimonies too often follows the example of the Book of Mormon Zoramites. (see Alma 31:12–21)
-The Book of Mormon, Bible and Doctrine and Covenants teach that Christ’s one true church (as well as the church of the devil) are spiritual churches which transcend organizational and priesthood lines. (D&C 10:67–68, 1 Ne 14:10Moroni 7:16–17, Mark 9:38–402 Nephi 10:16Matt 12:30, etc)
-The Doctrine & Covenants (D&C 10:67–68) clearly teaches the condition required to be part of Christ’s Spiritual Church. Declaring more or less than that definition threatens Mormonisms’ membership in Christ’s one true spiritual church.
-A temporal sect or religion’s “trueness” or whether they can be classified as part of the “one true church”, depends on how well they copy, obey or “come unto” the spiritual church in heaven. (D&C 10:53–59,67–69)
-The separation of the wheat and the tares at the end of the age is synonymous with Christ’s separation of the Church of God and Church of the devil. The point of the parable revolves around the difficulty for humans to distinguish between the two. (see Matt 13:37–43, D&C 86:1–3, D&C 88:94)
-D&C 10:52–54 makes it clear that Christ’s spiritual church existed on earth before the restoration of the LDS sect. Joseph Smith’s church & priesthood were meant to “build up” and correct the already existing spiritual church on earth. And to be a symbol and archetype of the end-epoch separating and gathering process (see Heb 8:5;9:23-24;10:1; Alma 13:16).
-Mormonism should never boast of being the only true church until Messiah’s final gathering of all people and churches in One Body, and that universal brotherhood or kingdom is ready to “present to the Father”.
-Interpreting D&C 1:30 to suggest the LDS church is ‘the ONLY true church’, contradicts other scriptural evidence concerning the matter. We LDS people need to relook at the conditional nature of what the verse actually says–and stop using it as a pillar of exclusivity. (see exegesis of D&C 1:30)

Zoramitism in the LDS Church

It seems to me that many Mormons have focused to much on a prideful reading of D&C 1:30, and discount an abundance of scriptural information to the contrary, in order to support the tradition of being “the only true church”. Like the biblical Pharisees and Zoramites in the Book of Mormon, we sometimes twist the scriptures in a manner that makes us think that God has “separated us” and “elected us to be saved”, while “all around us are elected to be cast by [his] wrath down to hell” (or lower kingdoms until we do their temple work). Understanding the pride inherent in our doctrines is the first step in unraveling what I believe to be egocentric scriptural interpretations which crept into the church from its earliest days. The similarities between the Book of Mormon account of the Zoramites and the average Mormon testimony in Fast & Testimony Meeting should be enough to convict us and open our hearts to the need to look closer at what the scriptures teach concerning the only true church doctrine. For those unfamiliar with the story of the Zoramites, let’s read through Alma’s experience for some insight into this extremely prideful sect—one that LDS people don’t want to be like!

12 Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.
14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:
15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
19 Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.
20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.
21 Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand. (Alma 31:12–21)

Although the beliefs of the Zoramites concerning the nature of God and Christ were different than our own, we come too close to sharing the same pride concerning salvation. Like all fundamentalist sects, the Zoramites saw themselves as a “chosen and holy people”. Like us, the Zoramites truly believed that their doctrines, divine election, (and likely priesthood & ordinances)  made them the only true church, “elected by God to be saved”. They did not understand the following concepts taught by Nephi, and reiterated by Moroni, Jesus and other prophets—that until Zion is fully established & redeemed, the only true church is a spiritual church which transcends cultural and organizational lines.

The ‘Only Two Churches’ are ‘Spiritual Churches’ or Social Movements

I suggest the LDS concept of being the ‘only true church’ is promoted by a small handful of misunderstood scriptures. One example is Nephi’s vision of the two churches. In his vision given in 1 Nephi of the Book of Mormon, Nephi was taught that there are only two churches, the church of the Lamb of God (or the true church), and the church of the devil (the false church). This vision is often used to support the idea that there is only one true church on earth — however, since Nephi’s vision specifies that everyone on earth belongs to one of these two churches— it should be obvious that term “church” here is referring to a “spiritual” church or ideological allegiance and not just a temporal sect or ecclesiastical organization. Lets look at what the verse says,

10 And [The angel of the Lord] said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Ne 14:10)

It should be apparent from the context of this verse, that the term “church” in this scripture, can not be referring to the most popular modern definition of the word church (which is a specific religious denomination). Since the verse says “there are save two churches only”, defining “church” as a denomination would mean there could only be two religious denominations in existence, and everyone on earth would have to be a member of one or the other.

As implied by the context and noted by other authors, the word church anciently, often had a much broader meaning than it does now (Hebrew qahal or edah; Greek ekklesia). For instance, in Greek texts it referred more broadly to a general assembly, or political association of people who bonded together and shared the same beliefs or loyalties. Scholars have noted that the modern concept of a church as a separate priesthood organization or religious denomination, didn’t exist among Jews of the first and second temple periods. Instead the differing religious groups or “schools of thought” as Josephus called them, were forced to work together to manage the Jewish theocratic state despite their conflicting ideologies.

In regards to Nephi’s vision of two churches, LDS apostles and church leaders have often misunderstood the scriptural use of the word “church” by arguing an inconsistent definition-— suggesting on one hand that the “church of the lamb of God” refers to a literal ecclesiastical organization (the LDS church and its ancient equivalent), but yet that the “church of the devil” refers to a figurative or spiritual church that transcends organizational lines. Others have tried to define the Church of the Devil in Nephi’s vision as the Catholic or American Evangelical Churches. However any interpretation to make either “the church of the Lamb of God” OR “the church of the devil” into literal Christian organizations or sects, contradicts the principle taught in Moroni 7 where he teaches that “every thing which inviteth to do good… is of God” and “whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil… is of the devil”.

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. (Moroni 7:16–17)

12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good… (Ether 4:12)

The idea sometimes pushed by early church leaders that every other Christian denomination BUT the LDS church was the Church of the devil would be a complete contradiction to Moroni’s words. How could Catholicism or protestantism for instance be the “church of the devil” when the devil “persuadeth no man to do good[0], no not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him“! The idea is prideful and contradictory and has subsequently been abandoned by most modern LDS teachers. But at the same time, how could the LDS church be the “only true church” when according to Nephi and other scriptures THERE ARE ONLY TWO CHURCHES? According to Nephi’s vision, holding that the LDS denomination is the only true church requires all others to be part of the church of the devil, which as we will see in this article goes contrary to the words of Moroni, Christ’s and the Joseph’s Doctrine and Covenants. The answer to this apparent contradiction is that Both Moroni and Nephi for the most part taught a broad spiritual version of Christ’s true church. [1]

Is it any wonder that we are scorned as being a cult by other churches when we repeatedly infer that they are part of the church of the devil? (Perhaps some LDS members don’t realize it, but our insistence that we are the ONLY true church infers by definition that unlike us, all others are false!).

To make either the Church of God OR the Church of the Devil into one particular organization is to twist the scriptures on the matter.

Early LDS Church leaders were not alone in their misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of the “church” Christ taught.  In the New Testament John and other apostles make this same mistake when they forbid a man who would not follow them, from casting out demons by Christ’s name and authority. Jesus rebuked them and teaches the same principle as Nephi and Moroni. No-one who does good in Christ’s name is of the devil—and the apostolic followers weren’t the only one’s allowed to act with Christ’s authority. Because all who do good in Christ’s name are part of Christ’s spiritual church.

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone forcing demons out of a person by using the power and authority of your name. We tried to stop him because he was not one of us.”
39 Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! No one who works a miracle in my name can turn around and speak evil of me.
40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. (Mark 9:38–40 GWT)

Nephi makes essentially the same statement using reverse logic later in his writings as he explains the nature of both the true church of Christ and the False church of the devil. (Christ also says almost the exact thing in Matt 12:30)

“Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.” (2 Nephi 10:16, see also Matt 12:30)

So Christ in one place says “whoever is not against us–is for us”, but in another place says (along with Nephi) “whoever is not for us–is against us” (see Matt 12:30). These statements are a complete contradictions if you try to define Christ’s church as a closed ecclesiastical organization. (see footnote 4) They can only be harmonized if you see them as a restatement of the same forced spiritual dichotomy used over and over in scripture which teaches that those who do good and are heading toward love are part of the spiritual church of God, and those who do evil and are fighting good are part of the church of the devil. And that every ecclesiastical church, sect, denomination, religion, person or nation is constantly aligning themselves with one or the other in everything they do–and will eventually have to chose allegiances in the heavenly or spiritual battle. Understanding this logic shows how the verses mentioned above support the idea of a spiritual church… and not just a temporal church.

good-vs-evil

The Good vs. Evil Dichotomy in Scripture

The binary or dichotomy of good vs. evil is taught throughout the scriptures. And perhaps nowhere is the idea that these terms transcend organizational lines taught better than in the parable of the wheat and the tares. In the parable the Master commands his servants to plant wheat in a field— but when it grows he find tares MIXED WITHIN the wheat. He tells his servants to allow them to grow together, least pulling out the tares, “ye root up also the wheat with them”.  The meaning of this parable is explained not only in the New Testament but also in D&C 86 & 88, where we learn that that “the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed” (D&C 86:2), the good seed are the children of Christ’s kingdom (true church), and the tares are the church of the devil or bad people and bad works that come from twisted doctrine (Matt 13:38, D&C 88:94).

37 …He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom [Christ’s true church]; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [ie. devil’s church, see D&C 88:94];
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 13:37–43, see also D&C 86:1–3)

Verse 38 (clarified in D&C 88:94) makes it clear that in this parable the wheat are the kingdom or church of Christ, and the tares are the ‘kingdom or church of the devil’. And the whole point of the parable is that it is hard to tell the difference between the two because they look so similar and grow together within each organization! Both the wheat and the tares exist within every religion, culture and kingdom. There are tares in “Christ’s Kingdom”, and wheat among the Gentiles. But it is not until “the end of the world” (end or close of the age in most translations) that Christ and his angels (not mortal servants) will separate the two; gathering the wheat into heaven and burning the tares with the stubble to prepare a new crop cycle. [2].

Open Letter to LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland

Note from the Blog Authors.

This letter was written by Bob McCue, a questioning ex-Mormon bishop who eventually departed from the LDS communion. I add it to my blog, because his reasoning and writing style resonate strongly with me. However, unlike Bob, I wish to stay in Mormonism, but reform the negative aspects of the Church which he mentions.

Dear Elder Holland:

You have long been one of my heroes. Your leadership while at BYU was remarkable. Your approach as a speaker and writer to challenging issues has usually in my experience been both enlightening and uplifting. I particularly remember hearing you speak while I was in university in the early 1980s respect the nature of human dignity, the challenges you faced as a graduate student laboring through “dark” times during which you did not have enough time or energy to go around, and other related things. You encouraged me while in similar circumstances – a young family, not enough money, way too much to do comfortably, and sometimes doubt as to whether I could keep going.

Maureen Ursenbach Beecher is a family friend, and has been liberal in her praise of you from both personal and professional points of view. Because of these things, I have chosen to write this letter to you. It would mean a lot to me and many like me if you would read it yourself, and assess the significance of the issues it raises. They are of great concern to a growing percentage of the LDS community, of which I still count myself a member.

Personal Background

I should provide a little personal background. I am of pioneer stock. I served a mission to Peru in the late 1970s and from then until about a year ago I served continually and faithfully in a variety of Church positions. I was called to be a bishop at age thirty-one and served for a five-year term. I am now forty-five years old. I have also served in most other callings at the Stake and Ward levels. I released myself from my last calling, that of Stake Mission President, just over a year ago. Last December I resigned my membership as a result of being required not to talk about things like those published in Grant Palmer’s recent book “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”. I had agreed not to discuss these matters in public, but the requirement was that I not do so in private, even with other members of the Church who were already well aware of things of that nature. I was not prepared to agree to that.

My Stake President, who I still count as a friend, developed his strategy respecting me in consultation with Salt Lake City based General Authorities. Hence it is fair to assume that he was following either formal or informal Church policy in my case. I have heard of numerous other similar cases that were dealt with in much the same way. Spiritual and social isolation through the suppression of communication appears to the common denominator in these cases, presumably to prevent the spread of the kind of “germs” Elder Packer described in his influential 1981 talk entitled “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect”.

I am a tax attorney and partner in one of Canada’s largest law firms. I enjoy reading and thinking, and was one of the more respected speakers at Church meetings and firesides within our Stake and in other places where we have lived. My wife and I have seven children. Our oldest son is currently serving a mission.

One of my friends here in Calgary, Bryce Tingle, has told me a number of entertaining stories about his friendship with your son while at BYU, and your concern with respect to both their advancing bachelorhoods. Bryce is now happily married and raising a family. I hope the same for your son.

Free Will v. Authoritarianism

As I trace the Church’s attitude respecting freedom of thought, speech and inquiry, I see a disturbing trend. For many years, the Church’s leaders from Joseph Smith through David O. McKay encouraged these things. But it seems that during the 1970s and early 1980s things changed, and since then questioning and exploration have been suppressed. I was most discouraged by President Hinckley’s and your addresses at the last General Conference. President Hinckley said:

The book of Revelation declares: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16). … Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

And you said:

…may I address a rather specific aspect of [our children’s] safety? In this I speak carefully and lovingly to any of the adults of the Church, parents or otherwise, who may be given to cynicism or skepticism, who in matters of whole-souled devotion always seem to hang back a little, who at the Church’s doctrinal campsite always like to pitch their tents out on the periphery of religious faith. To all such – whom we do love and wish were more comfortable camping nearer to us – I say, please be aware that the full price to be paid for such a stance does not always come due in your lifetime… with payments coming out of your children’s and grandchildren’s pockets in far more expensive ways than you ever intended it to be. …

In such basic matters of faith, prophets do not apologize for requesting unity, indeed conformity…

In these and a variety of other ways, your message seemed to me to be that Church members should not doubt or question in any way that would lead to disagreement with Church orthodoxy as interpreted from time to time by current Church authorities.

President Hinckley added that the issue is one of black and white – there is no room for doubt or uncertainty.

Contrast these with the following quotes from earlier Church leaders. Joseph Smith taught:

I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. (History of the Church, vol. V, pp. 498, 499)

I ask, Did I ever exercise any compulsion over any man? Did I not give him the liberty of disbelieving any doctrine I have preached, if he saw fit? (Documentary History of the Church, vol. VI, 273-274, as quoted in Alma P. Burton, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 105, 106)

It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have a creed which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. The high counsel undertook to censure and correct Elder Brown, because of his teachings … Whether they actually corrected him or not, I am a little doubtful, but don’t care. (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. VI, 273- 274, as quoted in Alma P. Burton, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 106, 107)

And David O. McKay, at the General Conference just after his famous encounter with Sterling McMurrin and in reference to it, said:

Ours is the responsibility … to proclaim the truth that each individual is a child of God and important in his sight; that he is entitled to freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly; that he has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience. In this positive declaration, we imply that organizations or churches which deprive the individual of these inherent rights are not in harmony with God’s will nor with his revealed word. (124th Annual
Conference, p. 24)

And my personal favorite, from Hugh B. Brown, who said:

I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent if you are informed. Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek the truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues: courage, zest and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, “From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth – O God of truth, deliver us. (BYU Devotional, 1958)

There are many other such quotes, but you are probably familiar with them and so I will not take more space or time to repeat them here.

It seems to me that a sea change has occurred within the Church on this point. It appears to me that Church leaders once were confident that the more questioning and exploration occurred, the quicker the Church’s claims would be verified, thus leading to a “Let’s find out!” attitude. Now, it appears, a lack of confidence in that regard has created a “Don’t look!” attitude. This, in my view, is a shame on a variety of fronts.

Where does that leave people who, with good reason, see issues that cry out for exploration, and as a result perceive a spiritual reality characterized by shades of grey? Is there no place for them? I felt that there was no place for me, and as a result my considerable energy and meager talents have been directed elsewhere. Is that what the leaders of the Church want to happen? If they continue on their current course, I predict that it will happen with increasing frequency.

Obedience to Authority Overrides More Important Values

I would like you to consider the nature of the influence that you and the other leaders exercise over Church members. One of the results of the trend toward increasing deference to Church authority is that the importance of orthodoxy within the Church has risen to levels at which it overrides almost all other values, such as the importance of love and respect within family relationships. Hence, if after the most careful study, prayer and spiritual effort of which he is capable a person feels to disagree with Church leadership, he is bad per se, regardless of what else he does or is.

Think of the difficulty in which I find myself with respect to my family. I am successful in most senses of that word. I have chosen to dedicate myself to providing for and raising seven children, and now one grandchild who lives with us. I have been faithful to my wife throughout our marriage, and continue to be faithful to her. I give heavily of my time and other resources to community causes, many involving my children, such as coaching sports teams and being involved in things at their schools. I am in the process of looking for another church to attend, where I will also give generously of my time, talent and other resources. I am recognized as someone within our community who has good judgement, is hard working and honest. Hence, people who know me seek my advice and other involvement respecting business, personal and community affairs.

I seem like a pretty good guy, right? Well, my parents and other family members are heartbroken and our relationships are in some cases in tatters because of one thing – I have chosen not to follow my religious leaders who first told me that I must not question them, and then told me that if I did not obey, I would have to relinquish my membership. My relationships with these family members has been badly damaged, perhaps irreparably so, because the value of obedience to Church authority trumps all other values.

It is any wonder that fine members of the Church who value obedience and Church orthodoxy to this extent also have trouble recognizing the condescending attitude with which they sometimes regard others who are not of their faith, which attitude I held myself until recently? Is this what Christ would want? I am sure you will agree that he would not. But how can this attitude be avoided by those who are taught to believe that anyone who does not experience spiritual life as they do is at best incomplete?

And what of my relationship with my wife and children? My wife and I were on the brink of divorce because she could not respect and love me as I am now in the fashion she did the priesthood leader I used to be. I could feel a loss of intimacy – an emptiness and sorrow where her love for me used to be. Something had died between us. Thankfully, she now recognizes the legitimacy of my concerns respecting the Church’s influence in our lives and the importance of ensuring that our children are raised with an understanding that religious matters are not clear-cut. The world is full of shades of grey, and the Church is no different. And while she continues to be an active and faithful member, she respects what I have done and supports me. We made it over the precipice with nothing to spare. I recently became aware of an unpublished master’s degree thesis in anthropology at a Canadian university that surveyed LDS returned missionaries who had gone through something similar to what I have, and found an 80% divorce rate. That does not surprise me given my recent experience.

And what of my missionary son? I am told that he wept for most of two days when he heard of my “apostasy.” We have had great difficulty communicating since then. And what of my faithful LDS daughter who attends BYU? More pain and difficulty. Other members of our family have reacted differently. Our twenty-one and sixteen-year-old daughters feel that their deep-seated concerns respecting many Church practices have been validated, as have they themselves, by what I have done. They are flourishing, but the fact that their views differ from that of their siblings, and to some extent their Mother, creates additional tension within our home. The three youngest children are confused by all of this difficulty between people who obviously love each other and yet behave in some ways as if they do not.

How can we justify religious beliefs that cause ruptures such as those I have described between good hearted, moral, family members who love each other, treat each other otherwise with respect, and have dedicated themselves to building their lives together?

Does not such relationship rupture, which I assure you is common in situations similar to mine, suggest a dysfunction in the belief system that causes it?

Religious Faith Does Not Change Reality

Religious belief is close to center of my life, as is the thoughtful examination of the world around me. I think that my experience of attempting to integrate the manner in which I experience the world with my religious faith will be close to that of many well-educated or thoughtful members. In short, in order for religious belief to inform me and help me to become more spiritual, more moral and a better person, it has to make sense in light of my understanding of how the world works around me. There is nothing new in this approach. Those who study the formation and evolution of religious belief tell us that this is how things have been for at least as long as human beings have kept records, and the many of the changes in most religions (including the LDS Church and Christianity in general) can be cogently explained on this basis.

If my religious affiliation is to serve a useful function in my life, it must not require me to believe things that, on the basis of reasonable evidence that I see all around me, are highly likely to be non-sense and to disconnect me from reality. And I must not be told by my religious leaders, in contradiction to those within prior Church leaderships who I believe to be among the most enlightened we have had, to suppress the natural and healthy inclination I feel to try to understand reality and harmonize my faith with it.

Religious history is full of examples of how this can and should occur. Why should I think that my religious beliefs will always triumph over evidence that strongly suggests they are out of sync with reality, particularly after learning about the many chapters in LDS Church history in which misplaced belief has given way as better information about reality has come to light?

I feel that I was being put by the Church in a position where my useful desire to explore legitimate questions was being suppressed, and by inference, that I was required to believe non-sense in a fashion similar to the Catholics of Galileo’s day.

As Leonard Arrington said so well in one of his essays on this topic, whether something is literally true or metaphorically true does not matter. The Catholic Church first had to let go of the idea that the earth was flat and then that it was immobile and at the center of the universe, both clearly supported by biblical texts that continue today to enliven organizations such as the Flat Earth Society and various young earth creationist movements. Why should members of the Mormon Church be required to base their faith on the historicity of events that probably did not happen? Faith so based is fragile, and much less useful than faith based on the kind of metaphoric truth of which Arrington and many others have written. If after being given a reasonable chance and encouragement to consider the evidence, members choose to base their faith on the literal occurrence of certain events, that is fine. They have their agency, and can exercise it as they wish. However, it is wrong in my view to suppress the discussion or other consideration of anything that might conflict with such belief.

For example, I acknowledge the possibility that the Book of Mormon is an historic record. Whether it is historic or not, however, is not important to me and nor was it to Arrington and countless other respected members of the Church. What is important is its value as a tool with which to explore and improve my soul, and to enlighten my way through life. The truth will, as Joseph Smith said, “cut its own way”. It does not need me, you or anyone else to protect it. And those who protect partial, misleading truth that amounts to falsehood may eventually look like those who ran the Inquisition and persecuted Galileo. And the fact that the religious and other leaders who made those mistakes did so with the best intent and powerful religious faith will besmirch both them and that kind of faith.

The Reality Gap

What about the cost in terms of human suffering that is inflicted by the Church’s continued suppression of its history, and insistence that the members not question or look? The gap between the faith picture and the real picture will continue to widen, and ruptures like the one I experienced will become more common. And then marriages will founder on the rocks of that same reality gap, as one spouse is less able to navigate the treacherous waters surrounding them than the other. And other family relationships will also suffer, as have mine.

I note a tremendous irony with respect to this reality gap. The greater the gap, the more at risk a person is respecting the kind of things I have just outlined, and the more painful the experience will likely be when reality comes crashing in. For whom is the reality gap the greatest? Those who are most faithful to admonitions such as your “don’t look, don’t question, don’t doubt” advice in your talk last April. That is, the most obedient to what the Church tells them are in a sense those harmed the most.

I was faithful. My faith for a long time trumped all else. However, as it became increasingly clear that living as I was would lead to spiritual death and moral dysfunction in my case given my individual makeup, I began to try other things. Many of my friends, who are still active members of the Church have told me that my main problem was that I was too obedient and did not read “faith threatening” materials, and that had I done so (as they have for many years) that I would not have experienced the rupture I have, and that my spiritual life would have been more healthy all the way along. That is, were I less obedient I would have been better off. I suggest that any religious system that produces this kind of result is out of kilter.

I further note that I now spend a lot of time speaking and corresponding with Church members about heterodox things that are not taught through Church channels. Several of them have told me that I aid the development of their LDS faith (one said I was the “leaven” of his testimony) as we explore spirituality in broad terms and how it is connected to our common LDS roots. One of these friends lamented my departure from the Church because, he said, our conversations are so fruitful from his point of view. I then reminded him that if I had remained a member, we could not have had our conversations because of the agreement I was required to enter into which prohibited me from talking about the very things he finds helpful. I am assisting him to ingest the spiritual food that should avoid the decay in him that led to my questioning and eventual forced departure from the Church. I ask how suppressing this kind of spiritual growth can be consistent with Christ’s teachings, or those of early Church leaders as set out above?

The Effect of Literalism and Authoritarianism on Spiritual and Moral Development

Let’s consider the effect that the Church’s attitude toward its position at the pinnacle of truth and its leadership’s practical inerrancy have on the spiritual and moral development of members of the Church. Many studies have been done that show how people, as they mature, tend to grow out of beliefs that are literalistic and exclusive in nature, and into beliefs that recognize the metaphoric value of religious teachings and the harm that is often done by believing that any one religious tradition is God’s one and only. Please do not equate this with mere skeptical questioning or a loss of faith. I am more excited about learning to be a better, more moral, more spiritual person that ever. My experience in this regard is typical of people who approach life as I do, and we are legion, as well as being many of your potential local leaders.

Can religions function on this metaphoric basis? Of course they can, and during the past couple of months I have found some much larger than the LDS Church that do. Many of them do not trumpet the “hard questions” or their answers, but when those so inclined begin to question, they are provided with ways to keep their faith intact as they evolve toward the kind of metaphoric, inclusive view of religion and humanity described above. They are also encouraged to be respectful of those of their co-religionists who might find such views threatening to their more brittle and less mature faith. Why can’t we do that?

My faith needed to continue to grow, and the narrowness of LDS orthodoxy did not provide the necessary room or encouragement. In fact, it actively discouraged the growth that I needed, making me feel for the past number of years that I was dying from a spiritual point of view, despite my efforts to “lengthen my stride” etc. in the conventional Mormon way. Many, of course, do not experience life as I do, and feel that Mormon orthodoxy is as good as spirituality can possibility be. I am not critical of them, while wishing that those who are part of my life had the chance to at least consider a broader point of view. But why would we assume that all will be like them, or that such is “the” way to be? Life is not that simple. Many people are similar to me, and the Church’s current tendency to further narrow the acceptable ways of approaching spirituality will drive such people out, as it did me. I again ask, is this what you want? Is this what Christ would want?

Other studies have shown a strong correlation between people who think in broad, metaphoric and inclusive terms and those who engage in the most advanced forms of moral reasoning. That is, people who believe that their religion is “the” religion and that their scripture is to be literally interpreted and is 100% “true” are often those who have trouble making moral judgements that require a broad understanding of humanity, its diversity, complexity and needs. Think of September 11th and what we know about how fundamentalist communities of all types operate. Regrettably, the LDS Church is much further up the fundamentalist scale than is, in my respectful opinion, healthy for many people. As a result, Mormons tend toward a mild version of the kind of narrow thinking that produces abhorrent, immoral, religiously motivated behavior.

In that vein, we should ask ourselves why a material percentage of the Church’s members in Utah and certain other areas are still inclined toward a polygamous lifestyle, based on a literal interpretation of certain LDS scriptural passage that are no longer “emphasized”. I was recently informed of a family in Cardston, Alberta near where I live, who after fasting, praying etc. and receiving answers in which they confided, moved to Arizona to join a polygamous group. I suspect that you are aware of many more stories of this type than I am. It seems to me that the tendency toward literalism and deference to religious authority makes members of the Church vulnerable to this kind of thing. Section 132 of the D&C still says what it says. When this scripture is combined with the behavior of the Church’s leadership between the first and second Manifestos, some charismatic authority figures within the polygamous groups, and the tendencies of Church members that I have noted, it does not surprise me that these seemingly archaic and dangerous groups continue to thrive in many places, including Canada. The Church has inadvertently sown the wind in that regard, and as a result some unfortunates reap the whirlwind.

Based on personal experience and on my review of the relevant research, it is my view that the Church’s approach to spirituality, regrettably, augers against the development of inclusive and flexible moral judgement by insisting that it is the “one true church”, that its scriptures are to be interpreted literally, and that its authorities are not to be questioned. These attitudes shut down the ability to learn anything that conflicts with the orthodox line in all areas they touch, and so short-circuit many important moral judgement and reasoning functions.

We Have Entrusted Church Leaders as Our Spiritual Guides

We have entrusted you as our spiritual guides. We look to you as both judge and jury. It is not right for you to respond to that trust by giving us a one-sided story and leave us to make up our minds on that basis. This is what the so-called “faithful history” policy does.

As Elder Oaks said at a CES conference at BYU in 1985,

Balance is telling both sides. This is not the mission of the official Church literature or avowedly anti-Mormon literature. Neither has any responsibility to present both sides.

In this he echoes Elder Packer’s “The Mantle” talk which was the keynote from which my Institute of Religion instructors taught me.

I can’t tell you how disappointed it made me feel to read things of this nature coming from those to whom I had entrusted my heart and soul, and to whom I had given all of the time and other resources for which they had asked over a period of more than twenty-five years. I did not know that they expected me to act as judge in this exercise, while they presented one side of the story and the anti-Mormons presented the other. In fact, I believed them when they told me that I should not read anything that was faith threatening. How, in that case, could I possibly have acted as judge? And if I could not act as judge, who was looking after my interest in this matter? The Church led me to believe that it was doing that for me, and now I find out that it never intended to do more than advocate a one-sided position. It still makes me feel ill each time I think of this.

I respectfully suggest that you and your confreres have a moral obligation to close the reality gap that is causing the problems I have described. The longer you put off discharging that responsibility, the more people like me and my family needlessly suffer, and the more other Church members are being set up to do the same as the Internet in particular brings vast amounts of information into our lives that we did not have access to previously.

The only reason I am no longer a member of the Church is that as a Church member my right of free speech was taken from me, and an attempt was made to repress my spiritual development by cutting me off from the only others with whom I was able to discuss the things required to continue to progress. I have trusted and looked to my church for spiritual guidance. It has been the most disappointing and painful experience of my life to see honest, sincere inquiry treated in the fashion it has been in my case, and many others of which I have been made aware. This ran contrary to all for which I believed the Church stood.

I recognize that the things which have so disappointed me respecting the Church are likely done by well-intentioned people who think that by suppressing free speech and thought that a greater good is accomplished. I do not believe that to be the case, given my reading of religious history and my own experience. Throughout history those who have suppressed speech and thought have done more harm that good – much more – and in many cases have ended up looking, if not playing, the fool.

The gap between faith and reality referred to above has created massive problems for members of the Church, and will create more. This is like deficit financing – the larger the accumulated debt becomes the greater the price eventually to be paid.

New Fuel in a New Age

We have much to be proud of with respect to our history and theology. The real story is much more interesting and uplifting than the sanitized one, once it is put in context. I marvel at what was accomplished by flawed – even tragically flawed – human beings such as Joseph Smith while illuminated by inspiration’s faltering spark. Those that came after him fanned that spark into first a small flame and then a refiner’s fire that attracted and purified my great-grandparents as well as many others, and that still burns, but in my view not as brightly or usefully as it once did. The nature of the fuel piled upon it has changed, and the fire is choking and sputtering. That new fuel is the information readily available to an increasing percentage of members of the Church and others over the Internet with respect to the origins and current reality of their religious faith and the Church itself.

Where are baptismal rates falling? What I learned during my recent tenure as Stake Mission President suggests that they are falling where Internet access, and hence access to information respecting the Church, is greatest. That is not a good sign. The truth does cut its own way. More information about the truth should hence mean more converts, and the opposite is occurring.

Investigators in “wired” areas tend to check the Church out independently much more often than used to be the case, just as they do when purchasing a car or house. When they do this, they find credible information that contradicts the simple story told by the missionaries. I have checked this theory with some of my friends who, while I was Stake Mission President, I encouraged to join the Church. After expressions of initial interest, they politely declined my advances and then seemed uncomfortable when religion was hinted at during our social encounters. Now I know why.

What I describe above is not the force of evil anti-Mormons amplified by the Internet. Shrill, anti-Mormon rhetoric is not effective. Well-reasoned, relatively impartial scholarship is, and there is lots of that now available at a few mouse-clicks distance. It is the gap between that and the Church’s version of many events that really catches the eye. And after the most careful research I can do, I am not certain as to the nature of the Church’s foundational events, and do not expect ever to be. But I am certain that my Church and its leaders, who I trusted with all my heart, have grossly mislead me as to the probability that the story they told me is an accurate summary of the facts. There is great uncertainty with respect to many important aspects of the stories I was told, and have repeated and borne testimony to countless times. This breach of trust has created a terrific sense of loss in me.

I do not know about apostasy rates, but you would. Do they display the same trend as falling baptism rates? I will be astonished if they do not.

Abundant information is rich fuel that will drown fires that have insufficient oxygen to deal with it, and will create great blazes out of what may now only be sparks somewhere that have the openness required to use that fuel.

Mankind, now as ever, needs a meaningful spirituality. Most traditional religions fail to deliver what is needed, at least in the developed world. My perception is that the Church is also failing in this regard. However, it is my view that the Church has imbedded in its foundational theology and current social structures some ideas that well suit it to provide spiritual leadership and meaning in a world where science and theology will walk increasingly overlapping paths.

You can increase the amount of oxygen around the fire. That is what it needs – the oxygen that will come from leadership openness and honesty, combined with the greater exercise of agency and freedom on the members’ part. This will clear the smoke, re-harness much energy (such as mine) that is currently lying idle or directed elsewhere, and permit the best ideas to step forward.

I implore you to use your tremendous talents as an educator, expositor and storyteller to help us understand our history and why it has not been told properly until now. And then turn us loose to govern ourselves. Encourage us and nurture us with your wisdom as we seek paths through the ever-changing forest that will provide us the joy of which the Book of Mormon speaks. Encourage us to nurture each other in any way we see fit, even if it means crossing organizational boundaries in ways that complicate your administrative tasks. We do not need to be controlled. We need to be nurtured. If you do these things, you will provide the oxygen needed to restore the fire, and close the reality gap. Future generations will bless your name.

And please, get us out of our current predicament in which we are surrounded by ticking information bombs that at any time can explode and disintegrate a picture that never should have been painted. The good intentions of those who painted it do not help in the end. Give us the meat that we have heard about for so long. When is a 45-year-old former bishop with three university degrees going to be ready for some meat? Treat us like we do our children when it comes to Santa Claus and sexuality. When we begin to ask legitimate questions, do your best to help us understand instead of telling us that our questions, and by implication we, are bad.

Conclusion

I hope you will do what you can to reverse an unfortunate trend. And I again thank you for all of the wonderful things you do. You have a weighty responsibility made even more difficult because of the virtually blind faith millions of members of the Church vest in you. Such responsibility brings awesome duties. I do not envy your position, and exercise all of my small but growing faith in your behalf.

All the best,
Bob McCue

251209 Range Road 33
Calgary, Alberta
T3Z 1K7
email: mccuer@telusplanet.net

Elder Holland did reply to Bob McCue’s Letter, but requested that it be kept confidential. However, Bob McCue did respond to Elder Holland’s letter.

You can read that second letter here. (It’s an 80-page PDF file)

The Law of Love Vs. Special Privilege. A discussion on Homosexuality, Morality and Religious Law

Over the last few years I have put a lot of thought into the dualism of justice and mercy, or more particularly between Christ’s law of love vs. the concept of special privilege. Nowhere is the dichotomy between these principles more visible than in the personal, religious and cultural debate surrounding homosexuality. How do we reconcile the Christian principles of universal love with the also seemingly “christian principles of special privilege. Does God favor certain people because of behavioral choices or proclivities and relegate or exclude others for the same reasons? If so, how can he be a all-loving God? I don’t pretend there is a simple black and white answer to this, but I’d like to talk about it for a moment and lead the discussion to the conclusion that it is impossible not to have many spectrums of stratification and polarity in society, but the goal of God and all “good” members of society is/should be to procure the most felicity for the most people.

These questions are especially important and meaningful to analyze because the answers which we come to concerning God, society and others, I have learned, will inevitably be used by ourselves to judge ourselves. I find the biblical adage increasingly insightful which says, “beware how ye judge”, for with that same measure ye mete others, it will be met unto you!”. I certainly saw this validated in my own life. Whether it was with the relationship with my parents, my first experiences with sex or pornography, or in marriage–the judgements that I allowed to define my view of the world concerning <em>other’s<em> various behaviors, became the measuring stick I judged myself with when I found myself confronted with the same or similar behaviors.

I think this works socially as well. The judgements that we concoct to judge society are the laws which God (or the natural law) will judge us.  God (as he works through us) has given judgement to man. So lets take this argument out of the ignorance of the religious sycophant/exclusivist and into the…

-this is an issue of rewarding behavior that benefits society and deriding behavior that doesn’t.  It should not be about love, it should not be about respect; those should be given to all regardless of behavior.  It should be about special privilege and loss of privilege.

-But how do you separate love from special privilege?  When you withhold privilege, when you deride behavior, people feel unloved and I don’t know that there’s a way around it.  Love gets defined by privilege.  This is the great challenge, how do we minimize the negative effects of inevitable social stratification caused by moral law?  Do we get rid of moral and social law altogether and say no matter what anyone does, we will treat you all equally? In that case the natural law takes over, which is the rule of the jungle.  The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer…. and now we’re back to square one.

 

-talk about how a proper understanding of Oahspe section on “inspiration” and judgment” solve many of these religious issues. and understanding that its really all about our priorities as a society is what it boils down to.

-deciding who we deride.  who we elevate?  who we give special privilege to?  And these judgements should be made on basis of the effects on society, not pretended dictates from one Groups perception of God, because historical evidence truly shows God is laissez faire. The natural law IS God’s law. God’s natural law is God’s punishment for sin. (Even though sometimes the reaction time on natural law can be long). So lets decide as a society what things make society flourish and last and what brings down populations, governments, families and emotional health and make laws based on our understanding of them.

 

 

outline.

-first point.  our judgements of others dictate our wordview, our self judgements and our happiness.  so why not be a lover and not a hater?

-second point.  special privilege and relegation on behavior is impossible to avoid. it must and will be done. But unconditional, love is the key to wisdom. (much like the scientists open, unbiased mind is the key to scientific discovery). Wisdom is achieving a worldview and behavioral stratification which give with greatest felicity to the greatest number of people.

-the only way to avoid this is a system where law is not given until people are ready for it… this was satans sin.  he gave people law (knowledge of good and evil) before they were ready for it, and it stratified or derided them out of god’s presense.

-third point. Some behaviors give desired results. some don’t.  We need to agree on our social values and then stratify behaviors based on this.  a correct system of juresprudence would rely on justice which reconciled only percieved injustices.   A person has a qualm, they accuse some