Friday, March 17, 2017

Reason for Leaving #3 - Joseph Smith/Polygamy Pt. 2 (sort of)


I will begin this post with a story:

It is the story of a boy born in Vermont, born to a family that was poor in finances, but rich in love. When he was fourteen, religion had become a big thing in his town and he was eager, and I do mean eager, to find which church is the one he should attend. But he was so confused as to which one he should join.
So while studying the Bible, he comes across a verse in the epistle of James ( If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.), and decided to act on that verse the next day.
It was then in a field where he prayed and saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and was told to join none of the churches, for they were all an abomination to him. After that, Smith receives a visit from the Angel Moroni who has a work for him to do which would be to restore God's true church, which was lost after biblical times.
So he obtains the golden plates, translates them, and the Book of Mormon, along with the Mormon religion is born.  He falls in love with Emma Hale, and they have the kind of marriage and relationship that church members are taught to aim for.
Smith deals with persecution from the time he becomes open about his vision. Persecution due to what he saw, and then persecution over his new religion. At one point, it gets so bad that he has to relocate to the Midwest. Yet, he stays true to God and the church throughout it all. The persecution regarding the religion gets to the point where Smith is killed as a martyr to his beliefs. This is at many times used as an example to members of the church to never be ashamed, and never be afraid of getting persecuted (because persecution WILL come), as the founder of that church was killed for his beliefs, and for not denying "God's one and only church."


Sounds like such a beautiful and inspirational story, doesn't it?
What if I told you it was all bullshit?

This is how the church wants the world to see Joseph Smith.

The church likes to feed us the "sunshine and cupcakes" and keep the integral information hidden. For example, my story above is how the church paints Smith, through the Joseph Smith History book in "The Pearl of Great Price," through the "Joseph Smith - Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" manual, through movies such as, "The Restoration," "Legacy," "My Story (biographical film of Emma Hale Smith)" and, "The Work and The Glory" movie series. Even the primary manuals that I used to teach from painted up Joseph as a giving and brave man.
But through my research, I learned that Smith was dishonest, was very selfish, a philanderer and just came off as a lunatic at times. He also changes his stories from time to time with an example being "The First Vision."


On "The First Vision"

www.mormonthink.comSo as mentioned in my little story, in Mormonism we are taught that Joseph Smith saw both God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Son tells Joseph not to join any churches. This all takes place in what is now called "The Sacred Grove" after Joseph follows a verse in the epistle in James, by praying to find out which church to join.

I discovered that there are many versions of that story. One of them being that Smith saw only one personage, and no instruction on joining or not joining a church was given, just that his sins were forgiven. In other versions, Smith claimed that he saw angels. But the two versions that I learned about was enough for me to see the inconsistency here. It also caused questions to arise about the "Godhead" (God the Father and God the Son being separate beings, not one) that I was continuously taught about throughout my years in the church.

Also, Joseph Smith claims that he was persecuted by the town after revealing this alleged vision. I remember at a fireside the teacher trying to drum up some sympathy to the fact that Smith was just a young teenaged boy who dealt with harassment and persecution over his vision. Yet, his vision was not revealed until eighteen years after (1838) it had "occurred" in 1820. So there's one thing that makes you question the persecution that the church claims that Smith had experienced.

Also, after this "vision" and Smith's personal "commandment" to not join any church, he applied for membership to a Methodist church. So here we have commandment-breaking.



On "The Book of Mormon"

There is quite a bit to cover here. So we learn that Moroni visits Joseph Smith at his home and tells him of a work that needs to be done. Moroni shows him an area where the golden plates are, and gives him instruction over the years. When the time was right, Smith would obtain those gold plates, and God will help him to translate them into what would become "The Book of Mormon."
Only, there was NEVER any gold plates. Ever wonder why those plates are never seen in a museum, or in any of the historical sites of the church? (Yes, I am aware of the claim that Moroni had to take the plates back.) Apparently, Smith was able to create this sacred book by...


*drumroll*


Looking at a rock that sat in a bottom of a hat. A seerstone as the church likes to call it.
And apparently this was mentioned briefly sometime in 1993. Please keep that year in mind.
And let me refresh your memory on the time that I had investigated and joined the church: The spring and summer of 2004.
So I never learned about some "seerstone." I was fed that Joseph had used the golden plates by the Missionaries, and through my YSA Institute classes. And through those aforementioned movies that I had indulged in over the years.
More of the hiding of information. The church is pretty good at that, aren't they?
You even have President Uchtdorf trying to sell the reality of a rock giving Smith messages by comparing it to a cellular phone. I couldn't buy it. It sounded just ludicrous to me.
I will also mention that this "seer stone" was also used by Smith to find treasure.

Then you the content of the Book of Mormon itself. 
Through my searches, I would learn about "The Views of the Hebrews" booklet that was written by Ethan Smith (no relation) who did not live too far from Joseph Smith, and had published that book about ten years prior to when the Book of Mormon was published. So we can add plagiarism to the resume of Smith's repertoire.
*A link to the Views on Hebrews can be found at the bottom of this page so you can read it and compare it to the Book of Mormon.


On Polygamy

While I found Mormonism's polygamous history strange, what disturbed me most was the fact that not only did Smith practiced it, but the details of his practice of it. This is something the church never told me. Through movies ("The Work and the Glory" and "My Story")and the Relief Society/Priesthood Manuals, Joseph Smith and Emma Hale's marriage was painted up as a golden partnership. Through movies that I watched, Emma believed in Smith's story about his vision and supported him, and stuck by him throughout his "persecutions." They kept each other strong throughout their hard times. There was no mention on any of Smith's many wives throughout those movies that I had watched nor in that lesson manual.
So to find out that Joseph had many wives was a shock, even though I knew something about the polygamy that had taken place, nobody ever told me about Smith's wives.
What disturbed me even more, was that quite a few of his wives were women married to living husbands and some were teenagers as young as fourteen. Let's think back to my friend's reason for why polygamy started: Because there were a lot of widows and married men married them to make sure they were taken care of.
I know these women that we are talking about are not widows, but why would a fourteen year old need to be married to be taken care of? Isn't that what her parents were for?
I had a Mormon friend on Facebook that shared a piece of her family history about how one of her descendants was a man in his mid-to-late twenties, had married a fifteen year old. She then said that it was okay, because Smith did the same thing, and she does not understand why people are disgusted by the fact that Smith had done such a thing.

When you read the church's essay, they mention Helen Mar Kimball, one of Smith's teenaged brides saying that she was married just before her fifteenth birthday (note, Smith was thirty-seven at the time). We've seen from that line that even "God's Church" itself could not bring themselves to say that she was married at the age of fourteen, instead they say, "before her fifteenth birthday).
The essay tries to claim as to whether or not Smith and Kimball's marriage was consummated remains a mystery when there are many documentations of Kimball saying, "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."
Reading between the lines, I (and others) would say that the marriage was consummated. Yet is was obviously one-sided consummation.
I could also mention Fanny Alger, but I'm sure many already know about that "dirty, nasty, filthy affair."

Then we have the married wives that Smith was sealed to. Going back to my friend's statement of the women needed to be taken care of, so they became plural wives, I wondered what kind of "taken care of" did these women needed since they were already married to their living husbands? And also, why would they need to be sealed to Smith to be with HIM in the next life, rather than the men that they were already married to? Now I do understand that some of these men were sent away to serve missions, and Smith married their wives while they were away serving. I had a hard time believing that this was something that "God" wanted.

What also bothered me was Joseph Smith lying about his practice of plural marriage. If this was a commandment from God himself, and an angel with a sword threatened his life (oh, I'm sorry, "encouraged"), why would he deny this practice?



On Dying as a "Martyr"

I remember a lesson about Joseph Smith during an institute class where Smith dying as a martyr was covered. The class was also told that we should be willing to endure through persecution for this church  because Smith endured persecution for the church and died for it. I don't vividly remember the lesson, but I remember what I had mentioned before about persecution, and that there was an argument on whether the word "martyr" was just a word, or more than just a word. So let's take a look at the word "martyr" shall we?

Martyr -
noun
  1. 1.
    a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.

    "saints, martyrs, and witnesses to the faith"
verb
  1. 1.
    kill (someone) because of their beliefs.

    "she was martyred for her faith"

Now if the religion we were talking about was "Polygamy" then Smith would be a martyr. But polygamy was a practice, a part (sure, a big one in a way) of that religion.

(Now if you want to look at the noun section of the word, and the second definition under the noun section, then I guess in that case he would be a martyr. The many claims of the persecution over his religion and his vision would make him one, but albeit not an honorable one. What I'm focusing on is the "honor" that the church tries to feed us.)

In reality, the people that had jailed and killed Smith were not angry in regards to his religion like the church lays claim to. It was Smith's polygamy and polyamory and destruction of property that got him in trouble. The local newspaper, The Nauvoo Expositor was going to reveal Smith's polygamous/polyamorous  lifestyle (or to be  frank, his sexual liaisons) and Smith ordered the press destroyed. For that action, he was jailed. After that incarceration and a gun battle, he was killed.

This has nothing to do with the religion, not like the church tries to convince us.

After discovering this, I felt that Joseph Smith was not a man that I would want to follow, sing "Praise to the Man" for, or defend him like I used to.



Suggested Reading/Viewing (as always, if there is something that I should add, please let me know in a comment):

    Just for laughs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reason for Leaving #2 - Polygamy

 

 I did not know much about polygamy until after joining the Mormon church. Although I do remember watching a feature on a young woman on a talk show (it might have been Oprah) who had left a polygamous community in the southwest, where she was forced to marry her cousin. This was back when I was a teenager.

When I began investigating the church (not yet attending), I somehow found myself wondering if this was a church that practices polygamy. My question was quickly answered when I attended and noticed that there were men with one wife. 
And kids. A lot of them.

My investigation of the church lasted for about five months, and I never heard anything about polygamy. Not from the missionaries (of course, because they are told/trained on what to teach), not through Sacrament Meeting talks and not in Sunday School or Relief Society.
I even said, "Mormons do not practice plural marriage" to my youngest brother when he asked me if I was going to marry a man with many wives after he found out that I joined the church.

I would learn about it a few years later while attending YSA (Young Single Adult) Institute, where the focus would be on the Doctrine and Covenants. Not much was covered on it, though. The teacher just covered the D&C, talked about his family history (which involved polygamy), what was in his descendant's journals and how things are now.
I talked to my friend about it, and she said that she can understand why polygamy had taken place at that time - because there were a lot of widowed women and (married) men married them to make sure they were taken care of, because it was during a time when women couldn't take care of themselves as they can now.

I'll admit, I bought what she said. I  would use those words to defend the church whenever someone would say that Mormons were polygamous. Then I just dismissed that part of Mormon history.

Until April 2008.

I came home from work one evening and turned on the news to find out about the raid of the YFZ Ranch. It was there I discovered that the men had a plurality of wives, with prairie dresses down to their wrists and ankles, long hair worn in high styles and braids. And I discovered that they were the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). My initial thought was that THIS is one of the main reasons why people assume Mormons still practice polygamy - they have US confused with THEM!

I would hear a lot about it during Relief Society, and how we had to work hard to set a great example so the world will know that we are nothing like the FLDS.

Of course, over the next few years, I would tell many people that the FLDS was the group that practiced polygamy, not the LDS (whenever they mentioned polygamy). Whether it would be family, friends or random people I would meet. 

And yet, I would wonder why the FLDS would have the LDS name as a part of theirs. I did not know anything about the split that had taken place when polygamy (supposedly) ended. This was something that was never brought up in church or institute. It was then my curiosity about polygamy grew. Especially so after doing some grocery shopping at a Food Lion, and seeing a guy named Kody Brown on the cover of People Magazine with the headline, "I Hope I don't go to Jail for Loving Four Women.
What caught my attention was that he was dressed casually, and he wore his hair long. Even though he was a Fundamentalist Mormon, I knew from his appearance he was not a part of the FLDS.

The questions kept coming.

It got to the point where I asked my roommate why polygamy was practiced in the first place. Her answer? "Because Joseph Smith was reading the Bible and asked Heavenly Father why the prophets of biblical times had more than one wife. And Heavenly Father said, 'Because I told them to. And now you can do it, too.'"
That's it.

I thanked her anyway. I tried to buy it, but couldn't. What made things even more complicated was when I overheard a conversation between my roommate and her father and he said, "My grandfather had three wives." My first thought was, "That is weird." But then I tried to convince myself otherwise my telling myself, "To think that is to go against Heavenly Father. After all He did command it." But I could not convince myself to buy my own words, nor the words of my roommate, or my friend years ago.
I know that things were very different for women than they are today, but I felt that to say that the married men of the church married the widows and single women to make sure they were taken care of kind of sounds as if women were being given a passive role in life. If we check our history, we learn about how women took over house and home while their husbands were off to war (by themselves, with no need to be a plural wife), as well as how women disguised themselves as men to go into the battlefield.

With those thoughts, I decided to do some research, because my gut was telling me that there was more to plural marriage than what the church was telling me, and what was in the Doctrine and Covenants.  
 I would read up on some of the polygamous sects that had broken away from "The Council of Friends," which had broken away from the LDS church. 
I would watch documentaries on the fundamentalist groups (most available were about the FLDS), I would watch shows such as "Polygamy, What Love is This?" in an attempt to gain a better understanding.
 But it would be a certain documentary that would cause things to click for me. That documentary would be (with its apt title), "Lifting the Veil of Polygamy." 

This documentary would cover things about polygamy that the church had not. One example is the belief that polygamy will be practiced in the next life, even though the church does not believe in practicing the principle in this life. Of course, it is pretty obvious when you have widowed men being sealed to single women. They'll most likely be in the next life with those two (or three in some cases) wives. But the church does not mention this, not that much.
Then you learn that the "revelation" on the "new and everlasting covenant" is received AFTER Joseph Smith takes on multiple wives, a way to justify his lifestyle perhaps.
Then you have quotes from the previous presidents of the church saying why Polygamy HAS to be practiced, one of them being Brigham Young's quote, "If any of you deny the plurality of wives, I promise YOU WILL BE DAMED."
And then, that's when it clicks. Even though the mainline LDS church claims to be the one and only true church, and claims not to be like the FLDS, the only real Mormon church is the FLDS church. 
And why is that?

Despite the outside pressure, they did not walk away from the commandments that came from Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, people they believe to be prophets of God, who they believe had given the former two men these commandments. (It makes sense why many mainstream Mormons would convert to Mormon Fundamentalism, although not to the FLDS since they're an extremely closed community, unlike AUB, Centennial Park, the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days, etc.)
And they live all of it, from the Adam-God doctrine, the Curse of Cain Doctrine to plural marriage. Also to the marrying of young teenage girls like a certain "special snowflake" of a prophet had (there are a few exceptions like the AUB and Centennial Park as far as underage marriage goes). There are also some cases of men marrying mother-daughter pairs, and sisters just like Smith had.

Now why does this bother me?
Because, once again, the church tries to hide this. I never knew about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young having multiple wives during my investigation (and again, the missionaries are trained on what to teach). The lessons taught on polygamy during institute are pretty vague. Even their biographies in the Relief Society/Priesthood Meeting manuals doesn't mention it.
 
Then there are interviews of the previous prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley damning polygamy on Larry King saying that it's not doctrinal (funny, since the commandment is in the Doctrine and Covenants - the Journal of Discourses as well but the church today does not acknowledge that book), and then says that it's illegal when polygamy was illegal when Smith, Young and the men of the church were practicing it.
We also have Hinckley lying, stating that polygamy started in Utah, when polygamy actually started in Kirtland and in Nauvoo. Now, even though the majority of Mormons did not practice polygamy until the "saints" moved to Utah, Joseph Smith and his inner circle were practicing it. So polygamy was indeed practiced before Utah.
And we have Joseph Smith denying that he practiced polygamy by saying, "What a thing, accusing a man of having seven wives when I can only see one."
Yes. Lying started with our founding prophet, but I'll talk more about that in a future post.

And then, we have the essays
Yes. Again, my last resort. But it was just more truth-bending. 
 
I've read somewhere that an angel with a sword threatened to kill Joseph because he was hesitant to take upon him other wives, but the essay says that God sends additional messengers to "encourage."
I don't understand how death threats equals "encouragement."
 
The essay mentioned how biblical prophets practiced polygamy because God had commanded it.
Now, I may not be completely familiar with the Bible, but I do remember that none of the prophets of old were commanded to practice polygamy (Genesis 16, where it is stated that polygamy occurred, but was not commanded). One example is the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. And I remember vividly that God did not command for that plural union to take place.

A brief recap for you:
In that Bible story, Jacob meets Rachel, falls in love, and offers to work seven years for her father for her hand. Instead, Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah by her father, and then had to work another seven years for the hand of the woman that he loves. 
See? No commandments from God here. Just a trick played by the father of the brides. (Unless the author of that bible excerpt failed to mention that God commanded the father to trick Jacob.) That was another red flag. 
Another example of the church lying to save their asses.

Another thing that I noticed was that the essay left out one of the integral claims as to why Polygamy was commanded: To obtain the highest order of heaven. Yet the essay claims that polygamy was started to so many upon many of children can be born into the gospel.
An odd claim, considering the mathematics of things.
 
A man does not need many wives in order for the Mormon population to grow. The wards that I used to attend is proof of that. My family tree is proof of that (even though they were not Mormon, my great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents, etc. had a LOT of kids).
Plus you have Joseph Smith who married around thirty women, and none of them (besides Emma) had any children that we know of. Although there were claims that around nine children may have been born from Joseph's "spiritual" relationships, the majority of them turned out to be negative when tested. Two are not applicable since those were two cases of children that died in infancy.
Even if each of the children were indeed born to Smith, that is only nine children out of Smith's thirty or so wives (excluding the children that were born to Emma). I do understand that some of Smith's wives were older.
Then you have Brigham Young who married about fifty-five women, and only had about fifty-something children.
Through those two examples, I do not see how polygamy can help with the then growing Mormon population.

Yet still, those bits of information that I had mentioned was enough for me to continue to question what others "truths" the church could be bending...
 
 
 
Suggested Reading (if there is anything else I should add, please let me know):
  • The Journal of Discourses
 
Suggested Videos