The topic of Mormonism's past practice/teaching of taking plural wives puts you squarely in the middle of problems in church history. Deliberate deception and public statements which contradict private behavior is a fact of Mormon history. This fact complicates the difficulty of knowing what is true and right, false and wrong, and whether something is a bona fide required part of "real" Mormonism.
The authenticity of the revelation (Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants) is debated. This debate is possible because of these problems with Mormon history.
To understand Mormonism requires a level of tolerance for deceit which some modern Mormons refuse to acknowledge. It is a natural reaction to want to put men on a pedestal. We resist any notion that would reduce them to anything less than completely truthful, honest in their dealings, and trustworthy in every statement they made. Therefore, when you encounter deliberate dis-information campaigns designed to mislead others, it is natural to react with disbelief.
The truth matters more than our reaction to it. Whether we find it troubling or not, the truth is valuable enough to warrant study even if it causes discomfort. The practice of taking plural wives is one of those topics requiring discomfort to wade through it and reach a conclusion.
There are some major themes in the argument advanced by those who claim it is essential to salvation. These include the sometimes inconsistent arguments that:
-It is required for exaltation.
-Those who live it are living a "higher law" and those who do not are living a lower law.
-Those living a "higher law" cannot submit to authority by those who live a lower law.
-President Taylor foresaw the discontinuance of the practice, and he gave "keys" to allow it to continue, outside the church.
-The Manifesto was merely a public relations document and did not reflect a serious abandonment of the practice.
-Plural marriages were performed by the church, including the president of the church after the 1890 Manifesto.
-The church's final abandonment occurred because of the Smoot Senate Hearings, and the pressure brought through interrogating President Joseph F. Smith.
-The "second manifesto" written in 1904 was the real basis for discontinuing the practice.
-Apostles Cowley and Taylor were forced to resign because of the "second manifesto" and the church never sustained it as binding; therefore it is not binding.
-The "fundamentalists" were allowed to use church Temples, including the Salt Lake Temple, to conduct plural marriages through the administration of David O. McKay.
-Several unpublished revelations, including to John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, show the Lord's insistence on continuing the practice.
Those who utterly reject the practice claim the sometimes inconsistent arguments that:
-Joseph Smith's public declarations are more reliable than a secret revelation.
-Joseph Smith is not responsible for Section 132.
-Brigham Young fabricated the revelation, and pawned if off as an authentic revelation from Joseph Smith, but it was never made public in Joseph's lifetime.
-The church's declaration on marriage was sustained by the church membership and precludes multiple wives.
-The Book of Mormon condemns the practice.
-Taking multiple wives is an "abomination" which the Lord condemns.
-The First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 have "keys' and they will never be lost.
-The affidavits from putative plural wives were given long after the fact, and in a time when the practice was being challenged by the RLDS movement.
-Emma Smith denies it was practiced.
-Joseph "repented" and changed his mind; claiming he had been deceived in practicing plural wives.
-There are no children proven to have been Joseph's other than those born through Emma Smith.
This is not exhaustive of the positions, but a reasonable starting point. All of the foregoing arguments have some historical basis to support them. People who make these and other arguments are not ignoring history. They are choosing sources; sometimes between what a single source said in one place and in another.
It is not possible to accept what everyone said in every instance and come out with a single version of the events. Hence the problem of history, lies, good faith and myths which cloud this topic.
I'm going to try this week to explain why the practice is, in my view, not a necessary (or advisable) part of Mormonism. Those who care intensely about this topic can find material to both support and oppose the explanation I give.
The content of this blog presumes you are already familiar with Denver Snuffer's books. Careful explanations given in the books lay the foundation for what is contained here. If you read this blog without having first read his books, then you assume responsibility for your own misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the writer's intent. Please do not presume to judge Mr. Snuffer's intentions if you have not first read his books.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
History, Lies, Good Faith and Myths
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