Guest Post: A Voice of Reason

A comment from a good friend sums up the plural marriage issue for me pretty well:

Men claim that they have special revelation/permission from God to go against God’s normative teachings. And why is God breaking the rules that He Himself laid out? Is it to bring about racial reconciliation? To empower women? Bring a halt to human trafficking? Fight world hunger? Reform maternity care in the US?

Oh, no. The heavens are open and the God of the Universe has given special permission for certain men to get their dicks wet with women other than their wives.

Joseph Smith? “And we called it ‘celestial marriage'”

Tony Jones? “You’re just the legal wife, I have a spiritual wife now.”

My ex-spouse? “I prayed about it and God told me not to stop seeing my other sex partner, so you don’t get a say in it.”

Some woman on a blog I recently read: “I got on Tinder and cheated on my husband and got pregnant with another man’s baby, but it’s brought me closer to God and now we see how all things work together for the good of those who love him!”

That pastor who impregnated 20+ women, married women and young girls: “The Holy Spirit told me to do it.”

Look, here’s the thing: sure, there’s some weird crap in the Bible that’s hard to justify. The sacrifice of Isaac, some of the Mosaic laws, the slaughter of the Midianites, and so forth. It’s difficult to believe that God would command those things. I’m not an apologist. I’m not here to justify those things for you.

But even with all of that weird stuff in there, it NEVER happens that God expressly commands a man to boink women other than his wife. It NEVER happens that God OK’s adultery. Forgives adultery, yes. Says some people were righteous folks in spite of being adulterers, sure. But it just NEVER happens that God comes along and says, “Okay, my child. I hereby grant you special permission to get your dick wet. Go thou and have fun!”

And people really need to stop insulting both God and our intelligence by claiming God signed off on this stuff.

That is all.

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53 Responses to Guest Post: A Voice of Reason

  1. Wow – that’s really crass language. What if people talked like that about what happens between you and your wife? We are talking about people who were Joseph Smith’s wives and eternal companions. Judging on the basis of your language alone, you are far from knowing the mind of God. How would you know what His motives were in establishing plural marriage in this dispensation? It would be better for you to say “I do not understand it” than to malign it like you do.

    • Steelhead says:

      Amanda,
      I am wary of anyone who claims to know the mind of God. Claiming to know is easy, anyone can claim such. Demonstrating such, is very difficult. If you are OK with a god that required Joseph to sneak around, take additional wives, all while deceiving Emma, then more the power to you. For me, dress it up however you want, that is not of any god I want anything to do with.

      When Joseph married Emma he made promises of fidelity. God then later required him to violate those promises? Quite the character, God.

    • runtu says:

      No offense, but I’d say that using crass language is less an indicator of how well one knows the mind of God than is sleeping with women behind your wife’s back.

    • runtu says:

      This is not from me but from a commenter who is having trouble posting here:

      Thank you for the excellent analysis and use of appropriate language which puts the issue in proper perspective.

      I am a direct descendant of one of JS’s first cousins and his fifth wife. Polygamy was an open subject in my family. I was never comfortable with it, but I always respected my great-grandfather. However, he did not lie to his first wife; lie to the members of the church, including in his last public address when he firmly denied practicing polygamy; nor did he destroy a printing press which was publicly exposing his polygamous practices.

      Joseph Smith was having a lot of sacred sex (is that description sufficiently respectful?) with a lot of women other than his legal spouse, and only the profoundly self-deluded will deny that. Believing that he did that because of his righteousness and willingness to follow God’s instructions is a CHOICE. All the “faith” in the world does not alter that fact. You can choose to believe or you can choose to consider an alternative perspective–one which does not require quite so much willingness to “just have faith and trust that God will explain all this difficult stuff in the end.”

      • Yes, I did choose to respond to the events of our history this way, and it has been rewarding. I can, indeed, attest to the fact that AFTER one exercises one’s faith, God does shed more light on an issue – not even necessarily in the next life…just after we have exercised our faith.
        I believe my parting comment below applies here as well.

      • runtu says:

        I’m happy you’ve worked it out, but I wish you could express your opinions without the personal condemnation.

      • We bring condemnation on ourselves, never on others.

      • runtu says:

        Then you shouldn’t be condemning, should you?

      • Bob says:

        Amanda,
        Since you now have been enlightened to the point that you are no longer bothered by all this, please share what you have learned. MANY people leave because they can’t get to that point. Help us make sense of this. Just to preempt, saying that the info is too sacred to share with us is a cop out.

    • Andrew says:

      I appreciate your comment re: irreverence, but in fairness this is a pretty irreverent topic. And that is in fact the point being conveyed by the crass language, or at least how I interpreted it. Most seem to want to have a primary-level discussion without confronting the reality of the subject. I don’t know what the deal is, but I observe that many members don’t think of polygamy as actually having been what it was. It’s similar to the prudish mindset that replaces words like “penis” and “vagina” with some absurd code word and then kids develop a phobia and think their body parts are something to be ashamed of. Polygamy is not some cute cultural oddity that should be treated reverently. Polygamy was very abusive to women and still is at an emotional level.

      • Thank you for addressing that, Andrew. I think that is where the root of the disagreement lies: to me, plural marriage is at the heart of all that is sacred. To hear it spoken of in such carnal language is a major affront to my sensibilities. Polygamy put into practice by less-than righteous individuals is, of course, going to be abusive to women. But where there are individuals of a pure heart (such as the ones needed to live the law of consecration) it fulfills an eternal purpose that is essential to the rights of women. It actually puts the power into a woman’s hands to not only HAVE an equally righteous husband, but to CHOOSE her equally righteous husband. The article above is completely divorced from any understanding of it on a spiritual/eternal level. It seeks to understand it from a carnal perspective, which we have been told in scripture…it is impossible for the natural man to understand the things of God.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t think the church teaches that plural marriage is at the heart of all that is sacred or that it will be restored in a day that is to be looked forward to. I think I would have been sent home from my mission if I’d ever taught anything like that to anyone.

      • butch says:

        “to me, plural marriage is at the heart of all that is sacred”

        ack, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. That is just twisted…you would think a self professed Christian would say that about something like the atonement of Jesus Christ, NOT the act of marrying teenagers and other “priesthood’ holders wives behind your own wife’s back. The god you worship seems like a jerk if trust in him leads you to think like this…

      • runtu says:

        We seem to be seeing two extremes in being able to reconcile Joseph Smith’s taking of plural wives with his being a prophet. On the one hand, we have Meg Stout telling us it wasn’t at all sexual and had nothing to do with sneaking around behind Emma’s back; on the other, we have Amanda telling us that, not only did Joseph have physical relations with his wives, this is godly and at the heart of all that is sacred. IMO, there’s nothing wrong with believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet who did some things he shouldn’t have done. For Amanda and Meg, this apparently isn’t a possibility.

      • Andrew says:

        Amanda, I’d love to hear your explanation of how polygamy empowers women. Would you mind sharing?

  2. It sounds like your beef is with God. Did he not counsel us, saying “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me?” What if Joseph loved Emma more than he loved the Lord? It would have ended in a scenario even Emma would ultimately not be have been happy in. Emma will be saved BECAUSE of the kind of man Joseph Smith was, not in spite of it.
    Every intelligent Latter-day Saint is going to come to the crossroads you and I both have faced. The difference between us is that, though we see the same information and because of an already-existant trust in both God and Joseph Smith, I was able to cross that gap safely. Your irreverence indicative of where you are at.
    Do not pretend to be offended for Emma’s sake, or on behalf of any woman on account of plural marriage of our past or of our future (I am not advocating if for the now). It is inherently tied to some of our most fundamental rights. And when you villify Joseph Smith for carrying out the designs of God in this dispensation, you do us a grave disservice.

    • runtu says:

      Who said anything about being offended or pretending to be offended? My ancestors were polygamists, and I have always assumed they did it because they believed in it. But then they didn’t hide their plural wives from their legal wives.

      • That is exactly the type of gap in the information available to us that you simply do not know enough about in order to judge. And I’m not saying that he DIDN’T hide the fact from Emma – but you do not know all the reasons why. These are the parts we take on faith, and after we exercise our faith we see some of what, before, we could not see.

      • just me says:

        Is there ever a good reason to prevent someone from giving informed consent? Is it ever okay to expose a spouse to sexually transmitted illnesses without their knowledge and consent? Is it ever okay to use the name of God to manipulate and threaten your spouse into accepting your affairs? Is it just, merciful or fair for god to allegedly send an angel to force Joseph to have affairs, but not send an angel to Emma to explain it? BTW sending an angel to threaten to murder someone if they don’t have sex with another person sounds like rape in the third person. Just gross and awful and not god like. Sounds like a story a guy trying to get laid might use.

    • butch says:

      “Every intelligent Latter-day Saint is going to come to the crossroads you and I both have faced. The difference between us is that, though we see the same information and because of an already-existant trust in both God and Joseph Smith, I was able to cross that gap safely.”

      In other words, you started with your conclusions and worked backwards to build a bridge that would support your pet beliefs. Most intelligent, active LDS that I know, when they came to this crossroad, decided god had nothing to do with this but still decided that their participation in the organization was a net positive regardless of Joseph’s kinks.

      Trying to justify adultery and Joseph’s dishonesty by claiming we cant understand the “designs of god in this dispensation” is ridiculously condescending to your audience (although i get that there is a subset of believers that are looking for any handhold for their belief regardless of how flimsy it is). Adultery is adultery. Marrying other men’s wives behind their backs was/is dishonest and deceitful. Approaching teenagers about marriage as a 30 year old married man (with multiple secret wives) was/is creepy. Then, when caught, pretending like it was all part of god’s plan while producing “revelation” to support your behavior is the icing on the scammers cake. Please explain how Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs are any different if I dont have an “existant trust in both god and Joseph Smith”.

      Believe whatever you want but please dont insult our intelligence by acting like our conclusions are “indicative” of anything other than following the available evidence.

      BTW, I find your language triggered pearl clutching amusing. Offended by language but you seem to have no problem with adultery and dishonesty (as long as you you have “an already-existant trust in both God and Joseph Smith”)

    • Andrew says:

      Your comment doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

      First you say, Emma will be saved BECAUSE of the kind of man Joseph was? Would you mind explaining this? Emma sort of left the church you realize?

      Next, you say that you were able to reconcile the history of Joseph because you already trusted him. Huh? What does that mean? It sounds like you’re claiming to have spoken with God, is that your claim?

      You’re also playing down the problem as it presently exists. There is no compelling reason to believe that polygamy is or ever was an inspired practice, and yet it still exists in our theology. From time to time my wife has bouts of depression tied to the subject. Am I supposed to subject my daughters to this emotional abuse also? It’s an albatross around the neck of the church.

  3. malkie says:

    Amanda, it’s the “take on faith” idea that lets these men (and they are almost always men) get away with things.

    The idea that we should not worry about it till we’re dead, when god will explain all and we’ll be satisfied, or until god tells us it’s really OK, inhibits the good and moral sense of people who would otherwise be justifiably outraged.

    If you want to “trust in both God and Joseph Smith”, that’s fine for you, but there are lots of people who trust in God, but balk at this kind of human practice of men like Joseph Smith. Especially when there is evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith was satisfying himself, and not God.

  4. CAB says:

    Thank you for the excellent analysis and use of appropriate language which puts the issue in proper perspective.

    I am a direct descendant of one of JS’s first cousins and his fifth wife. Polygamy was an open subject in my family. I was never comfortable with it, but I always respected my great-grandfather. However, he did not lie to his first wife; lie to the members of the church, including in his last public address when he firmly denied practicing polygamy; nor did he destroy a printing press which was publicly exposing his polygamous practices.

    Joseph Smith was having a lot of sacred sex (is that description sufficiently respectful?) with a lot of women other than his legal spouse, and only the profoundly self-deluded will deny that. Believing that he did that because of his righteousness and willingness to follow God’s instructions is a CHOICE. All the “faith” in the world does not alter that fact. You can choose to believe or you can choose to consider an alternative perspective–one which does not require quite so much willingness to “just have faith and trust that God will explain all this difficult stuff in the end.”

  5. Seriously, my friend. You are my Cochabamba brother, but I cannot indulge you in your present feelings.

  6. Jenny says:

    Some of the comments left here helps me to understand why people can sometimes do the unthinkable in the name of religion. To give a man unquestionable faith and devotion can lead to injecting your child with poison on that mans request (See Jones Town). That man was as much a prophet to his followers as Joseph Smith is to his followers. It gives me chills what people are capable of…and how far they will steatch to make it “from God”.

    • butch says:

      Or the lafferty’s. They wrote down all kinds of interesting (and internally consistent :)) revelations that led to murder. Some people dont seem to poke their heads out of their own religious bubble (“already-existant trust in both God and Joseph Smith) to see how they are in no way unique in choosing their own cherished beliefs.

  7. CAB says:

    Vessel of Wrath. That has quite a ring to it. I like it. Thanks.

    I personally knew several Mormon men who “received revelation” that they were to become polygamists. Over a period of years I observed how that affected them, their marriages and their families.

    One of them claimed that he could no more deny his special revelation than he could deny the church was true. He said that to do so would put his eternal soul in jeopardy. That was his firm stance until his long-suffering wife of 28 years had finally had enough and sued for divorce. Then he announced he was “deceived.”

    I hesitate to speculate why Joseph Smith engaged in so much dipping, but I am certain that it was not because of threat of angelic flaming swords.

  8. Guest says:

    The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

    If there are any vessels of wrath commenting on this thread, it’s those who defend adultery as the will of God.

  9. Parker says:

    I’m so grateful there are people out there who recognize hypocrites and particularly vessels of wrath when they see them. But I didn’t think non-priesthood holders were authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord–that is, be a judge in Israel.

  10. Andrew says:

    Amanda, I’d love to hear your thoughts on epistemology. You’re saying some pretty strange things. And I see you run a website that is looking forward to the day polygamy is restored. Do you think we’re all going to be polygamists in the celestial kingdom? What is your basis for believing that polygamy is a true, meaning a divinely inspired, principle?

    • Andrew, We outline the possible basis behind the LDS theology of plural marriage at our website. You just have to look under the Polygamy page. Take a look, if you like. If you have any questions remaining when you are through, I would be more than glad to discuss it.
      Runtu, every comment was typed with a smile…so, no hostility. I play hard sometime, and I apologize. Thank you for providing this forum.

      • CAB says:

        “…with a smile…” That somehow makes your hostile and insulting comments friendly? Wow.

  11. steelhead says:

    Runtu, now you are a seething little cauldron of hate, mixed with a decrepit vessel of wrath, and Amanda has taken her ball (the spirit) home and refuses to play. Some people just serve to make themselves and their religion look bad.

    @Amanda, you outline a possible basis for polygamy….. let me outline one for you; Joseph smith was abusing a position of power over those who trusted him in order to have sexual access to a multitude of females. How is that for a “possible basis” for Joseph’s philandering ways?

  12. malkie says:

    A further thought on the subject of “trust in both God and Joseph Smith” wrt polygamy:

    If polygamy was/is such a great and glorious doctrine, why do the missionaries not proclaim it loud and long in the discussions? Do they not teach clearly about eternal families, about the ‘great apostacy’, about restoration of the priesthood, etc? Why then ignore polygamy and the role that Joseph played in teaching and practising it?

    I believe the answer is that the leaders of the church know that, in most societies, absent “trust in … Joseph Smith”, a description of Joseph’s practices of polygamy would result in most prospective members telling the missionaries to go away and not come back.

    That, I believe, is because reasonable people who do not already trust Joseph Smith will see his polygamous practices as simply the satisfying of his carnal desires – that he was no better than other religious leaders who have taken advantage of their influence over their followers to gain access to power, wealth, and a large share of the nubile females in the congregation.

    Without a pre-existing trust in Joseph (and, clearly for many, even with such a trust), polygamy, and especially Joseph’s polygamy, is a deal breaker. Thus, trust in Joseph Smith never develops.

  13. Liz says:

    There really is no way to condone Joseph Smith’s conduct. Isn’t it interesting how as soon as a leader of a religious movement gets a following, and when that following includes women, “god” starts telling the leader to sleep with those women. David Koresh, Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, etc. Happens very often.

  14. malkie says:

    Liz, it’s interesting, also, that the followers of each of these leaders find a way to excuse their own leader while condemning the others.

    • Steelhead says:

      Malkie,
      Whenever god sets up something true and correct, Satan sets up imitations. Hence all these false prophets designed by Satan to divert us from finding the true prophet of god; Warren Jeff’s.

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