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Letter to my Kids part 5

By Guest Blogger fh451

After a hiatus, I continue the letter with a discussion of Polygamy, Kirtland Anti-Banking Safety Society, the Priesthood Restoration, and Mountain Meadows.

Polygamy

At first glance polygamy may seem to be a non-issue since it happened so far in the past. The main LDS church has stopped the practice and goes to great pains to distance itself from the fundamentalist Mormon-related groups that continue doing so today. [One might wonder why they are so insistent on maintaining this distance - if it was a commandment from God, why would it be an embarrassment? It is certainly not acceptable to a large portion of society today.] Even so, there are a number of facts you should know about Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy that are not commonly talked about in the church. Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the section that lays out the "New and Everlasting Covenant" of marriage. While today this is viewed as marriage in the temple for eternity, originally (and this should be clear from the text itself) it was viewed as the exposition of the doctrine of polygamy. Note that in the introduction to section 132 it states that the revelation was given in July of 1843, but "it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831." The significance of this footnote is that Joseph had been practicing polygamy in secrecy since approximately 1833, even from his first wife Emma.

When I was going to seminary I was taught that a large number of women had themselves sealed to Joseph after he was dead, but he never practiced polygamy while alive. Emma Hale Smith Bidemon also denied that Joseph practiced polygamy, and this was one of the primary issues that seperated the Reorganized LDS Church from the Utah church. They continued to believe and advocate (including Joseph's son, Joseph III) that Joseph had never practiced polygamy, and it was an invention of Brigham Young. LDS scholars and historians had long ago documented the wives of Joseph Smith; in particular, LDS church president Joseph F. Smith commissioned the church historian of that time, Andrew Jensen, to interview the widows of Joseph that were still alive and collect their testimonies to the fact. From these and other records we know of at least 30 women who were married to Joseph Smith while living, their ages at the time of marriage ranging from 14 to 50. Even the RLDS church has now accepted the facts about Joseph's polygamy, and this has caused quite a schism in that church. It has since reorganized (again!) with another church to become the Community of Christ, at least in part as a result of this information.

For your reference, a partial record of the wives of Joseph Smith may be found at the LDS church sanctioned website FamilySearch here: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/AF/individual_record.asp?recid=7762167&lds=0®ion=-1®ionfriendly=&frompage=99. More complete information is found in Todd Compton's book "In Sacred Loneliness," which is a biography of more than 30 of Joseph's wives. At the time I write this, Todd is still a practicing member of the LDS church and has been a contributor and editor of FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at BYU) publications. Thus, you do not have to depend on unfriendly "apostate" sources for any of this information.

Was it Legal?

One must confront the contradiction that the LDS church taught that they believed in "obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (12th Article of Faith), when in fact the practice of polygamy was illegal. A section of the Doctrine and Covenants that was published in the 1835 edition as section 101 specifically stated that LDS believed in having one wife.

"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 that in the event of death when either is at liberty to marry again." (History of the Church, Vol 2, pg 247).

But the laws of both Ohio and Illinois specifically prohibited polygamy at the time it was being practiced by Joseph and a few of the inner circle of leaders (see Section 121, Revised Laws of the State of Illinois, 1833). The only time that one could reasonably say that polygamy was legal was between 1847 and 1862 in the Territory of Utah. In 1862, the Morrell act was passed by congress to specifically prohibit polygamy, and was mainly to reinforce already existing state laws.

Were Marriages Sexual?

Some have attempted to excuse Joseph by saying none of his marriages were sexual in nature - they were meant for the afterlife only and for building his eternal kingdom. However, LDS scriptures talk specifically about the purposes and justifications for polygamy. First, in Jacob 2:27 it states "Wherefore, my bretheren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;" But in verse 30, the condition when it is acceptable is given: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things." Therefore, it is quite clear that when the Lord commands polygamy to be practiced, that it is for the purpose of raising up seed. Of course, this involves sexual relations. Additionally, D&C section 132:61 states: "And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood - if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else." If sexual relations were not involved, then there should be no need to talk about adultery. Finally, in section 132:63 it continues: "But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment..." This re-emphasizes that the purpose is for creating "seed" in this life, and not some future state. Finally, several of the women themselves testified that their relations were sexual, that their marriages were marriages "in very deed." One, Sylvia Sessions Lyon, even told her last daughter Josephine that she was the daughter of Joseph Smith. (See "In Sacred Loneliness" page 183)

Polyandry

One of the more troubling aspects of Joseph's polygamous relationships was the fact that 11 of the known women (nearly 1/3) that he married were married to other men at the same time, and most continued to live with their first husbands after their marriage to Joseph. This is called polyandry. Some were married to non-members, and one may attempt to justify this by saying these women wished to be sealed "under the covenant" to Joseph, since their own husbands would not participate. However, several were married to faithful members of the church, one of which was on a mission for the church at the time of his wife's marriage to Joseph (Henry Jacobs). Another, Marinda Johnson Hyde, was married to prominent early LDS apostle Orson Hyde. I am at a loss to understand how such a marriage arrangement could be justified, whether in this life or in some future state. Even if the relationship wasn't meant to be "physical" here, why would God sanction taking another man's wife for eternity? But the relationships were reported to be physical by Sylvia Sessions Lyon (among others), who was married to Windsor Lyon simultaneously.

Were There Too Many Women?

Another justification for polygamy after the time of Joseph Smith (and Brigham Young, too) was that there was an excess of women that needed to be taken care of, especially of widows and orphans. However, this is not born out by the available information, and this was recognized by LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe: "Members of the Church unfamiliar with its history, and many non-members, have set up fallacious reasons for the origin of this system of marriage among the Latter-Day Saints. The most common of these conjectures is that the Church, through plural marriage, sought to provide husbands for its large surplus of female members. The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, here seem always to have been more males than females in the Church....The United States Census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church." ("Evidences and Reconciliations," A. Widtsoe, p. 391.) This is consistent with how frontier America developed (and most "uncivilized" frontiers) - men move in to hack out trails, roads, and settlements in harsh conditions. Women and families come later as the area is developed. This is how Colonial America developed, and all the frontier areas as America was settled. Utah was no exception.

Official Church Position(s) on Polygamy

The practice of polygamy was not consistent with the church's own declared doctrine on marriage, which was canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 101, until 1876: "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 the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 247)

Joseph himself denied practicing polygamy publicly a number of times, one of which was recorded in the official History of the Church: "I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can. This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man does not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this…I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are - whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me…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." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 410-411) Note that William Law was a counselor to Joseph Smith in his church presidency, and finally could not stomach Joseph's marriage practices. I will speak more on this in the section about Joseph's death.

Regarding D&C section 132 where it states that the first wife should give consent for additional wives to be taken, it is quite clear from the record that Emma did not approve of Joseph's additional wives. In most instances he married women without her knowledge, and in some cases when she found out about women who were living in her own house, she threw them out. See "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith" for more information about these episodes.

Marriage Age?

One should note that 10 of the known wives of Joseph Smith were less than 20 years old, the youngest being 14 at the time of marriage. Some have excused this saying it was "common practice" for very young women to get married at that age during that time period. However, this assertion is not backed up by the data. I certainly don't dispute that some young women (some very young!) married at that age. Some still do today; but it was far from "common." And it was not at all common for a mid-30-year-old-male with numerous pre-existing wives to marry a teenager. Regardless, here is some research on the subject from the Encarta Encyclopedia: "The timing of marriage has fluctuated over the past century. In 1995 the median age of women in the United States at the time of their first marriage was 25. The median age of men was about 27. Men and women in the United States marry for the first time an average of five years later than people did in the 1950s. However, young adults of the 1950s married younger than did any previous generation in U.S. history. Today’s later age of marriage is in line with the age of marriage between 1890 and 1940." Additionally, in Colonial America, the average age of first marriage for women was 20.5, and had risen to 22 by 1890, with the age of men being 26 (Wells, R. (1985). Demographic Change and Family Life in American History: Some Reflections (Ed.), The Family Experience (pp.43-62). New York: Macmillan). So to assert that it was common for older men to marry very young women in the United States is simply not supported by the facts.

Does Polygamy Make Any Sense?

On the question of polygamy, one should think to ask "does it make any sense?"

- Given the very common trait of human nature, jealousy, why should one enter into a marriage arrangement that makes marital relationships even more difficult?

- Can one man actually produce more total progeny with multiple women than multiple men with multiple women? When considering the mechanics involved in the human reproductive cycle, it is almost certain that couples living together will produce more children than one male with multiple females.

- Would God set up a system where at least 50% of men will be unable to enter the Celestial Kingdom for lack of a partner? The ratio of men to women has been very near 50-50 for all of recorded history.

- Polygamy, when instituted on a community-wide basis, eventually results in younger and younger women being married to older men, because that is all that are left. The abuses committed by men like Warren Jeffs' community of fundamentalists are almost inevitable.

- Are men and women expected to live without close one-to-one relationships? If a man is required to spread his time, energy, and resources amongst multiple families, they certainly will not receive the full benefit of fatherhood.

All of these questions should make one consider whether polygamy was really a commandment from a supreme being, or merely the machinations of men.

A Final Note on Polygamy...

One of Joseph Smith's more profound statements on the purpose of existence is found here: "Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God." When he was "on," he could be very good! It is interesting to note that this quote actually comes from a letter to Nancy Rigdon, April 11, 1842 asking her to be one of his plural wives. He went on to say:

"But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. 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. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, 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." (History of the Church Vol 5, pp 134-136). In other words, if God commands it (or a man says God commands it), then it is right.

Nancy refused.

Kirtland Anti-Banking Safety Society

Carthage was certainly not the first time Joseph had been at odds with the law. Besides the Bainbridge proceedings mentioned previously, he and Sydney Rigdon had been tried and convicted of running an illegal bank in Kirtland, Ohio. During the 1830's there was considerable land and securities speculation occurring on the frontier of America. The banking laws and operating rules were not as firmly established as they are today, and Smith and Rigdon started a bank to finance the operations of the church. It was called the Kirtland Banking Society. They were told to stop by Ohio authorities since they did not have a charter or license to run a bank in that state, so they merely changed the name to the Kirtland Anti-Banking Safety Society. They issued notes that were supposed to represent value in the company (similar to stock today) and these were passed around among members as collateral and payment for property and other transactions. The "anti-bank" was severely under-capitalized, and when the general economy of the area went bad (there was a recession at the time) the bank became insolvent. Many people lost their life savings. Smith and Rigdon were arrested and tried for running an illegal bank, and convicted of the charge. They were released on bale pending appeal of their conviction, and at this time they fled for Missouri in the middle of the night.

While one cannot blame Smith for being a poor businessman, there are a couple of issues about this episode that reflect on his general character. One, they did not have a legal charter but continued to operate the "anti-bank" at defiance of the law. Two, he published a number of articles in the local LDS newspaper proclaiming that the bank was blessed of the Lord and would stand through the millennium. Many people trusted him because of his religious position and lost everything as a result. Third, rather than face the consequences of their mismanagement, he and Rigdon fled to another state to avoid incarceration. Many people left the church at that time because of this affair, and it has been referred to in the classes I took at BYU as "The Great Ohio Apostasy." I never learned that many of the people who left the church, including most of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, had legitimate grievances against Joseph that were never properly redressed.

Priesthood Restoration

The story of the restoration of the priesthood is usually presented as a seamless series of events resulting from Joseph and Oliver asking the Lord questions and receiving consecutive visits from heavenly messengers (John the Baptist, and then Peter, James, and John). The documented events are a little more complex. In the standardized LDS version, John the Baptist is said to have visited first on April 6, 1828, to confer the Aaronic Priesthood, followed shortly thereafter by Peter, James and John with the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. But in fact, "Priesthood," per se, was not even known to church members when the church was organized in 1830. David Whitmer comments thus:

"In no place in the word of God does it say that an Elder is after the order of Melchisedec, or after the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood. An Elder is after the order of Christ. This matter of "priesthood," since the days of Sydney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints. Priesthood means authority; and authority is the word we should use. I do not think the word priesthood is mentioned in the New Covenant of the Book of Mormon. Authority is the word we used for the first two years in the church — until Sydney Rigdon's days in Ohio. This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon

...

This is the way the High Priests and the "priesthood" as you have it, was introduced into the Church of Christ almost two years after its beginning — and after we had baptized and confirmed about two thousand souls into the church." (David Whitmer, "An Address to All Believers in Christ," pg 64)

In the offial history of the church, it records that conference of the church where this ordination took place, stating that on June 30, 1831, "the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders" (History of the Church, Vol.1, p.175) In a footnote, historian B. H. Roberts attempts to explain the discrepancy thus:

"A misapprehension has arisen in the minds of some respecting the statement—"The authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders." It has been supposed that this passage meant that the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was now for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation. This of course is an error, since even before the Church was organized, the Apostleship, the highest authority in the Melchizedek Priesthood, was conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and very probably upon David Whitmer also. (See pp. 40-42, note.) The Prophet does not mean that the Melchizedek Priesthood was given for the first time in the Church. It was at this conference, however, that the special office of High Priest was for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation, except in so far as Apostles are also High Priests (Doctrine and Covenants, sec. lxxxiv: 63); and of course as there were men who had been ordained to the apostleship before this conference of June, 1831, in that manner there had been High Priests in the Church, but not otherwise."

In my opinion, this is an attempt by Roberts to justify after-the-fact a belief currently (at Roberts' time and now) held in the church about the restoration of the priesthood. But there is no contemporary evidence to support this - all stories relating the official restoration story were recorded years later. No mention of angelic visitations or ordinations can be found documented until 1834-35 (See D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power", p. 14). One might also wonder about the mechanism for conferring priesthood - were Peter, James, and John present physically, or "spiritually," since Peter and James are dead and not yet resurrected? One early church leader speculated that Peter and James must have been there spiritually, while John was in the physical body, since he was the beloved disciple who had not yet tasted death. Regardless, the recorded history and the current traditional history of the priesthood restoration are not consistent, and early witnesses (including one of the "three witnesses," David Whitmer) to the church organization testify that it did not exist at the church's inception.

Regarding the priesthood restoration, it is instructive to compare verses from the original 1833 Book of Commandments with what was later published in 1835 in the renamed Doctrine and Covenants. In the first version, it states:

28:5 - . Behold this is wisdom in me, wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world:

28:6 - Wherefore lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins and be faithful until I come:--even so. Amen.

That's it. But in section 27 of the D&C it picks up in verse 5 and continues for 13 more verses listing all the angelic visitors that have come, including Peter, James, and John:

27:5 - Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim.

27:12 - And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them

And so forth. Why was this included at a later date when the original was supposed to have been received in August of 1830?

Mountain Meadows Massacre

A number of full books have been written about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, so I will only attempt to give a brief overview. In September of 1857, there was a wagon train of settlers heading to California from Arkansas that was known as the Fancher Party. They happened to be coming through Utah at a time of significant strain. Pressure was being exerted on Utah to stop the practice of polygamy, and Brigham Young and other church leaders were leading a "Mormon Reformation." Fiery rhetoric was being preached about people needing to repent and return to the Lord, obey the priesthood leadership, be re-baptized, and resist the United States government. There was also an oath being used in the temple as part of the endowment called the "Oath of Vengeance," requiring people to promise to seek revenge upon those who had killed Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. President James Buchanan appointed a governor to replace Brigham Young in the Utah territory, and was assembling an army, to be eventually led by Col. Johnston, to come to Utah and enforce the appointment. In the midst of this a wagon train of 150 men, women, and children appeared.

They were able to pass through most of Utah without incident, though residents were warned to not have any dealings with them. At Mountain Meadows, about 35 miles from Cedar City, a local militia led by John D Lee, along with a number of Paiute Indians, attacked the wagon train (Paiutes had been promised a share of spoils from wagon trains coming through the territory). The train successfully held them off and the Indians and Mormons laid siege to the train for 4 days. On the fifth day, John Lee approached the train under a white flag and told them that he had negotiated a truce with the Paiutes, whereby he would escort them safely to Cedar City in exchange for leaving all their livestock and supplies to the Paiutes. The Fancher party agreed, and they were escorted out of the camp and split into three groups - women and younger children, followed by women and older children, and finally all the adult men. Each man was escorted by an armed Mormon militiaman. After they had marched about 1.5 miles, John Higbee, one of the militia leaders, gave the command "Do Your Duty!" Each man turned and shot the man he was guarding. All the women and older children were also massacred. Only children younger than eight years old were spared, and these were later taken to live with local Mormon families in the area.

While it is difficult to pin down exactly who gave the order to attack the wagon train, the participants believed they were doing their duty and obeying the priesthood leadership at the time. This remained one of the single worst massacres of civilians in the United States (120 men, women, and children) for many years. It should serve as a reminder of what terrible things can happen when both civil conflict and religious fanaticism are rampant.

In the aftermath of the attack, blame was first placed on the Paiutes to deflect investigation of Mormon men. Further investigations by federal agents were interrupted by the Utah War and then by the U.S. Civil War. John D Lee was finally arrested in 1875, and after one mistrial, was finally convicted in 1877. He was executed at Mountain Meadows for his part in the attack. No others were ever charged or convicted, and Lee himself claimed he was being made a scapegoat for others involved. He wrote:

"I have always believed, since that day, that General George A. Smith was then visiting Southern Utah to prepare the people for the work of exterminating Captain Fancher's train of emigrants, and I now believe that he was sent for that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.

"The knowledge of how George A. Smith felt towards the emigrants, and his telling me that he had a long talk with Haight on the subject, made me certain that it was the wish of the Church authorities, that Fancher and his train should be wiped out, and knowing all this, I did not doubt then, and I do not doubt it now, either, that Haight was acting by full authority from the Church leaders, and that the orders he gave to me were just the orders that he had been directed to give, when he ordered me to raise the Indians and have them attack the emigrants." (From "Mormonism Unveiled; or the Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee", pp 225-226)

Comments

Delusional in Dallas

A little help here would be nice. Now what will I tell my friends and co-worker to excuse polygamy? I’ve been using the old “ Utard had more women then men” excuse since my mission. In fact, that was the mission approved answer handed down from church leadership and it always confused everyone to the point of ending the discussion. Now what?

mollyfurie

You do understand, don't you, that 'Universalism' has a very specific meaning and was a religion of its own until it merged with Unitarianism? (On which occasion, my Aunt Mary quit the Universalists.) Universalism held that all humans were saved by Christ's sacrifice and that baptism was therefore unnecessary.

Equality

From Wikipedia:
"Universalist beliefs exist within many faiths, and many Universalists practice in a variety of traditions, drawing upon the same universal principles but customizing the practice to suit their audience." I use the term "Universalist" in a generic sense (perhaps I should uncapitalize it) in juxtaposition to dogmatic literalist faiths like Mormonism. Yes, I am aware of the history of Unitarianism and Universalism and the merger of the two into Unitarian Universalism. The Universalism to which I refer would include but not be limited to Unitarian Universalism. Thanks for commenting, mollyfurie.

Jordan F.

D in D- I have never used that "Utard" (and what, exactly is a "utard?" anyone who comes from Utah? good thing I am not from there...)

When asked about polygamy, I always just tell people that those early LDS church members were doing what they thought the Lord asked them to do, just like the fundamentalist mormons are today. I try to express no opinion regarding whether it was right or not, I just state things how they are. I don't think there is a better explanation for most polygamy practitioners other than that they are doing (and in the case of mainstream mormonism, did) what they thought the Lord required of them. Nothing more, nothing less.

And Utah is a beautiful state with an ever-increasing population of people who are not LDS. I don't think it is very nice to apply such a derogatory term ("Utard") to such a beautiful state just because you disagree with the religious beliefs of some of its resident. Every state in this country has something wonderful about it. I would not denigrate any of them, and am sorry to see you do so. It seems beneath the level of tolerance and mutual respect set by Equality on this blog which most of us generally try to adhere to when commenting. I wonder how many Damu citizens who love Utah despite its mormon origins would agree with you here that Utah is so backward it is really "utard" even in jest.

It's kinda like calling a whole discrete group of people "delusional". It is not very nice, even if you're kidding. Just sayin'.

D in D

Jordan F- Case in point, Sister Beck’s talk. To tell the group of LDS women to “put a smile on” and go forth hoping that things will miraculously get better, is rather humorous. I will not make judgment concerning this talk, as directed by the leadership of the church(being directed not to make fun of something is rather funny in itself). But is this not putting our “heads in the sand” and avoiding the issues. Maybe even allowing ourselves to live in a make believe or (I hate to use the word) “delusional” state of mind?

Sorry about the offensive language, I’ll watch how I present myself in the future. For a definition of Utard, this would apply to anyone living in the valley who can’t or won’t see past the mountains. Not very nice, I’ll search for a better term. Never said Utah wasn’t beautiful, I love it there.

Jordan F.

I don't think they were directing not to "make fun" but rather not to be "critical." I think there may actually be a difference there. And if I recall, there was more to the Beck talk than simply "putting a smile" on your face and "hoping" things will "miraculously" get better. My memory of that talk includes lots and lots AND LOTS of things women should supposedly be DOING. I won't comment on the effect of such a talk on many women who already strain themselves to the max to be doing, however. But I do remember an emphasis on doing things that has been the brunt of criticism, not an emphasis on "delusional" hopes. No, the emphasis there is definitely on doing. And doing more. And more. etc.

I sincerely try to understand people, DiD, but it is quite difficult for me to understand why people think it is funny to just broadly paint a diverse population with trite words and phrases such as "utard," "delusional," and whatever other beauties you have hidden in there. It is much better to try to understand people on an individual, person-to-person basis. That is what I try to do, and it helps me because it allows me to understand the person, like you, equality, brother x over there in elder's quorum, sister y sitting in the front in gospel doctrine, etc., and to appreciate and value them personally as I appreciate and value all of those mentioned.

I think there is a place in this wide world for people who "can't see past the mountains" just as there is a place for those who do. And my libertarian leanings also tell me there is a place in society for fundamentalist mormons, a place for pagans, a place for all people to believe and behave as they choose, so long as it does not harm others' right to do the same, without much intervention from outside parties, like the government, you, or me.

Jordan F.

One last comment on this digression from fmh's thoughtful letter:

The term on which "utard" is based, "retard", is considered very offensive and juvenile by most people in today's society. Just a thought.

dpc

The following link is on that very point:

http://www.fray.ca/musings/retarded.html

D in D

Jordan, Jordan, Jordan,

Over time, I will illustrate how an isolated region of the country can become delusional in their thought. It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place for everyone to do as they please, we’re talking about right or wrong. And there is a right or wrong, I believe there is one truth or in other words a Healthy or Unhealthy way to live. Next time you’re in Utah, visit Southern Utah and tell me if the fundamentalist girls have any rights? Rights to an education, rights to free speech, rights to find love in a relationship, rights to do as they please? I don’t think so. You honestly believe that religions aren’t harming other’s rights? And do you really think that the fine people in Southern Utah selected that lifestyle for themselves? Our rights to practice do involve/infringe on others, our children and their children to come.

Not sure if I understand the difference between being “critical” and “making fun”. I tend to make fun of those things I’m critical of. It makes me laugh to think of my grandfather in the church office building planning the counter attack. I can hear him now, “children in my generation were meant to be seen, not heard. What do the children of today think they’re doing voicing their opinions? I’ve got it; let’s tell them it’s of Satan and that Satan will have power over them.” That’s how my 88 year old grandfather would handle it.

Jordan, I would love to be able to get to know everyone on a person-to-person basis; unfortunately, I just don’t have the time. I’m going to have to go with some trending data.

Jordan F.

So its "trending data" that you were relying upon in reaching the conclusion that led to your "utard" remark? I would like to see this trending data classifying various citizens of Utah and/or geographic regions into this "utard" category you speak of.

Jordan F.

Look, although I am trying to get over it, it clearly bothers me that you so glibly label anyone who does not see things as you do in the LDS church "utards" and "delusional". But it does not make me any less friendly towards you. Friends can disagree you know.

Equality

Jordan F. said: "And if I recall, there was more to the Beck talk than simply "putting a smile" on your face and "hoping" things will "miraculously" get better."

Indeed there was. For example, there was this:
"Mothers who know desire to bear children." Implication: if you don't desire to bear children, you are not one of the "Mothers Who Know."

And this:
"young couples should not postpone having children . . ." Apparently, a rule without an exception. If you postpone having children, you are not a mother who knows.

And:
"Faithful daughters of God desire children." If you don't desire children, you are faithless.

More from Sister Beck:
"I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn-out public transportation. They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts." Yes, the all-important ironed dresses, perfect hair, white shirts, and "missionary" haircuts. Your kids don't have these? Well, step aside, you "mother who doesn't know."

Another gem:
"Mothers who know are nurturers. . . . Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world." Yes, LDS moms should be in the home cooking and cleaning. We've already established they should be pregnant. Should they also be barefoot?

More:
"They plan for missions, temple marriages, and education. They plan for prayer, scripture study, and family home evening." So, "Mothers who know" spend all the time they are not doing housework on church-y things and their role is to make sure their kids go on missions and go to the temple. Success for mothers is to be measured by how well their children end up serving the institution as adults.

Further:
"Mothers who know are always teachers." Hey, now we are getting somewhere. Something I can agree with. But wait: "Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre–missionary training center." Oh, I see. Mothers are to teach their kids the way the church teaches missionaries in the MTC--with a 100% focus on strict church rules, no outside media or information (Beck says elsewhere in the talk that mothers should "not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting.") So, the "teaching" that mothers are supposed to do is to be modeled on the "teaching" that takes place in the MTC--where they tell missionaries what to think, what to say, what to read, what to listen to, etc. Nice.

Wait, there's more:
"Mothers who know do less." Another point I agree with. LDS mothers should do less: less worrying about measuring up, less mindless church activities, less church meetings, less trying to make sure their kids' hair is "perfectly brushed," less fretting about making sure their house is spotless, and way less listening to 50s-era conventional wisdom from women like Julie Beck.

Here we go again:
"Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord's kingdom for the next 50 years." Again, motherhood is reduced to the job of producing good little soldiers for the Mormon kingdom. Change "gospel of Jesus Christ" to "Communist message" and "the Lord's kingdom" to "China" and this could have been uttered by Chairman Mao 60 years ago.

This is a talk crying out to be criticized and ridiculed. The recent remarks by President Hinckley and President Packer essentially equating criticism of this talk with heresy are outrageous but, unfortunately, not unsurprising to me. Jordan, what do you think of President Packer's efforts to squelch any criticism of talks given by General Authorities and Auxiliary leaders?

D in D

The trending data actually came from a twenty year study including a six year on location study where I actually lived amongst the saints in Zion. Two of these years, I served a mission for the LDS church which involved riding my 10 speed around Utah handing out copies of the BOM. The other four years were spent on the BYU campus interviewing the female students. During this six year time period, I met and got acquainted (person-to-person) with hundreds of saints. I compiled all the data and performed some simple regression analysis and came to my conclusions. The data is available upon request.

Jordan F.

Thanks for the reminder. Absolutely!

Jordan F.

I think that Packer has a right to his opinion, and a right to share it with wards and congregations where ever he goes.

And thanks for backing me up on Beck there, equality- see DiD?!? There is apparently a lot more to this than putting a smile on your face as a front to "delusional" beliefs.

DiD perhaps you should give a talk in your ward laying out this data about what constitutes and does not constitute a "utard". I am sure that would be interesting...

D in D

Equality - your comments have approached “critical”, I want nothing to do with allowing Satan power.

D in D

Jordan – Not sure if that topic is on the church approved sacrament meeting list. But with the bishop’s consent, I would be glad to present my findings at ward conference. I would of course, have to water it down some. I don’t think the saints are prepared to handle all the data at once.

Equality

Jordan,

I think DiD already acknowledged that the term "Utard" is not nice and that he will search for a better term. I agree that the term is offensive and that such terminology most often serves as a barrier to rather than a facilitator of civil discourse.

Equality

"I think that Packer has a right to his opinion, and a right to share it with wards and congregations where ever he goes."

Well, of course he has that right. Do you agree with him? Do you share his opinion? If not, would you feel comfortable saying so?

Jordan F.

Well, I personally see no reason for faithful latter-day saints to criticize her for what I perceive to be, after further reflection (I must admit I was quite defensive on my wife's behalf when I first heard this talk), the setting of an ideal or a standard that would be good to strive towards. I therefore see nothing wrong with President Packer expressing his opinion that her remarks should not be criticized by LDS church members. Whether or not I personally agree with his comments are irrelevant. I will say that I see his point, and will try to respect it and follow his advice not to criticize Beck for her remarks.

D in D

Jordan, you never answered my Question.

It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place for everyone to do as they please, we’re talking about right or wrong. And there is a right or wrong, I believe there is one truth or in other words a Healthy or Unhealthy way to live. Next time you’re in Utah, visit Southern Utah and tell me if the fundamentalist girls have any rights? Rights to an education (NO), rights to free speech (NO), rights to find love in a relationship (NO), rights to do as they please(and NO again)? I don’t think so. You honestly believe that religions aren’t harming others rights? And do you really think that the fine people in Southern Utah selected that lifestyle for themselves? Our rights to practice do involve/infringe on others, our children and their children to come.

Equality

"Whether or not I personally agree with his comments are irrelevant."

Why do you think your opinion is irrelevant? You didn't answer my hypothetical. If you did disagree with President Packer, would you feel comfortable in voicing your disagreement in public (like, say, on this blog)? If not, does that fact say anything interesting about LDS culture in 2007?

Jordan F.

Of course I would feel comfortable expressing that opinion. The point is that I need not opine one way or the other, because I am choosing to support Packer by withholding criticism from Beck.

There are often times where we may disagree or feel critical about something a church leader has said, but unless the advice/counsel given by that church leader is actually immoral or unconscionable, which I don't find most advice to be, I see no reason to speak out against it and/or be critical. In fact, my own personal grumblings about something are often just the result of my own unfair biases and tendencies. So regardless of whether I agree with what he said (and I do, for the most part, there I opined...), I see no reason not to support it.

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan F.~

You perceive Beck's talk as "the setting of an ideal or a standard that would be good to strive towards"...

Would you feel Beck's ideas were ideally sound if she were directing all her comments to you as a man?

Women are harmed by such archaic "ideals" and so are men. This promotion of a standard that basically says a woman's value and worth is to be determined by her domestic goddess skills and the perfection of her children's appearance is insidious at best. The underlying and obvious message that women need to be doing more to prove their worth sucks at best. There are men who listened to this outrageous talk and then heard Packer say not to criticize her ideas who look at their wives and think wow, she's not anywhere close to ideal, is she? They and their poor wives are harmed by this. You can't tell me there won't be fallout from this.

In short, Beck's talk is offensive. As is Packer's directive not to criticize such teachings. Watching men and women staunchly defend this talk and its message as the "ideal" women should adopt really grinds me. I can't support it even a little. Just once it'd be great to hear a female (or male) leader tell the women how wonderful they are in all their glorious diversity and in their differing life situations. Just once it'd be nice to feel like a valid and worthy contributor within the church without emphasis being placed on housewifely perfection.

Jordan F.

So, DiD, do you think religion should be banned?

I had thought based on previous discussions with you that you were critical of other LDS members who looked upon that lifestyle with disdain. Where the government should and should not step in is tricky and has caused 200 years of litigation in the Supreme Court. Obviously, polygamy is illegal in this country, so that is one place where the people have decided it is appropriate for the government to step in. That is probably sound public policy, given the oppression that women and children are often subject to in polygamous arrangements. So, I guess there the government should intervene given the high externalities imposed on society by that belief. So good point.

Still, that a ban against polygamy may be sound public policy does not make its practitioners delusional.

Equality

"Still, that a ban against polygamy may be sound public policy does not make its practitioners delusional."

True enough. But do you not think that some of the practitioners of polygamy are delusional? Brian David Mitchell? Warren Jeffs? Ron and Dan Lafferty? Ervil LeBaron?

Jordan F.

I hear you SML, I hear you. And I am empathetic to your feelings here. But that said, I see no reason why I, as an active, believing LDS church member, need to openly voice such criticism.

Jordan F.

Surely some would fit into the narrow clinical definition, I am sure. But that is not my call to make, because I am not a trained psychologist.

Jordan F.

"Calculating" or "manipulative" might be a better word to describe some of those people than "delusional."

Jordan F.

I like this- we are slowly but surely directing the conversation towards one of the actual posted topics- polygamy. On that topic, let me share a quote that Equality wrote almost exactly two and a half years ago at millennial star. Here, equality is disagreeing with the position that it would make no sense for some things to be moral one day and then for the same act to be "immoral" the next. Take it away, equality:

"I disagree. For example, for me, engaging in sexual intercourse would have been immoral on December 8, 1989 (the day before my wedding day) but not immoral on December 10, 1989. Same act, different date. One immoral, the other pefectly moral. You may say that not only the date had changed--that an intervening act of some significance occurred between the 8th and 10th of December and that this intervening act changes the calculus. You would be correct. But just as the ritual act of a wedding ceremony conducted by one with proper authority could change the nature of an act from moral to immoral, so the act of one having authority can (and did) change plural marriage from immoral, to moral, and back to immoral. The doctrine really has not changed and I (for one, there are those here in the 'nacle who disagree) see no meaningful contradiction between Jacob 2 and D&C 132. The default position is that polygamy is immoral and not to be practiced. The Lord, through his servants, can change this, at which point polygamy that is approved by the proper priesthood channels becomes moral. The Lord can later revoke the command, at which point polygamy becomes immoral once again. So, yes, determining whether polygamy is moral or immoral does depend on the date on the calendar--in relation to the date on which the Lord's most recent revelation on the subject has been recieved by his authorized servant."

Oh, how the mighty have fallen... ;)

Sister Mary Lisa

"I hear you SML, I hear you. And I am empathetic to your feelings here. But that said, I see no reason why I, as an active, believing LDS church member, need to openly voice such criticism."

Do it for the women, Jordan F. Do it for your wife. Do it for you.

I imagine many active, believing LDS church members in 1970 said the same thing to themselves: I see no reason why I, as an active, believing LDS church member, need to openly voice my criticism over Blacks being banned from holding the priesthood.

Do it for you, Jordan.

Jordan F.

I don't think these are similar issues.

Equality

I'm so embarrassed by that quote. "I before E except after C." Duh.

Equality

"'Calculating' or 'manipulative' might be a better word to describe some of those people than 'delusional.'"

I agree. In that they are similar to Joseph Smith in his practice of polygamy; for example, with Helen Mar Kimball and his attempt to secure as a wife the lovely young Nancy Rigdon. Right?

Jordan F.

I disagree. Respectfully, of course.

Equality

We must be wearing different lenses. :-)

D in D

I'm with SML on this one.

Sister Mary Lisa

Thanks, DinD.

Equality

"let me share a quote that Equality wrote almost exactly two and a half years ago at millennial star."

In my defense, at the time I was speaking as a man and not a heretic.

D in D

If we could only get SML into the church leadership in Salt Lake, all these things would go away.

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan ~

Women's issues in the church have many similarities to the priesthood ban for blacks.

Regardless, if you felt as you said ("I must admit I was quite defensive on my wife's behalf when I first heard this talk"), then you should feel compelled to say so out loud, not compelled to silence yourself when you know something is not right, just because Packer said to. The way women are treated in the church is embarrassingly misguided by the leaders at the top, and Beck's talk outlines this only too well.

Sister Mary Lisa

I mentioned the "leaders at the top" before I saw DinD's comment about SML being placed as a leader at the top. Um...while I'd be honored, I don't have the proper body parts for such an important calling.

Jordan F.

SML, I believe my initial defensiveness was based on a misunderstanding of what Beck meant to say.

Sister Mary Lisa

What do you believe Beck meant to say, Jordan? Would you appreciate hearing the same message if her comments had been specifically directed to you as a man along with all the other men in church?

Speaking of men, why do you suppose her talk was directed to the women only? Why do only women have this burden to keep their children perfectly groomed on Sunday, and to keep their homes like the MTC, and why are they admonished to be "mothers who know" but men aren't admonished to be "fathers who know"? Why did she not tell us that "faithful sons of God desire children"? Why not "fathers who know are nurturers"? Why not "fathers who know are always teachers"?

Jordan F.

Because she was addressing the sisters of the church in her calling as relief society president. However, I personally took her remarks to apply to me, personally, as well, and would think that any man with an ounce of the Spirit about him would do the same. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do not view duties associated with maintaining a household or raising children to be women's work. They are couple's work. I hear nothing in Beck's talk to divorce me from that view.

Equality

I think her remarks apply only to women from black-and-white sitcoms from the late 1950s and early 1960s America. A small subset of the population to be sure. All others should give her remarks the same consideration they would give to advice printed on fortune-cookie papers (although perhaps I am being unfair to foirtune-cookie writers).

Sister Mary Lisa

If only all the other millions of men in the church would be like you and hear her telling women to be the "ideal" woman she describes, and see that as a message to themselves to work toward being ideal in just those housewifely ways. Unfortunately, I'd bet that the majority of them will instead look at their imperfect wives and wonder what they can do to also encourage these sweet women to be more "ideal"...

Jordan F.

SML- maybe amongst your acquaintances. But the people I hang out with tend not to be so mysoginistic.

Sister Mary Lisa

Jordan~

But these upstanding acquaintances of yours support such talks as Beck's. As do the Brethren. Her talk actively and openly encourages all LDS women to be more "ideal" (which you claim is mysoginistic from my comment that many husbands will encourage their wives to be more ideal too) as does the admonition of the Brethren to not criticize the talk. How's that admirable?

Jordan F.

No, the mysoginistic comment was directed towards husbands who are so spiritually void that they will not see how that talk applies to them too.

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