“A lot of members don’t realize that there is a set of very specific and bizarre rules outlined in Doctrine & Covenants 132”
Polygamy Is Banned – Some commandments of old times are no longer in place, including polygamy. It has been superseded by later revelation. We do not sacrifice animals on altars like the Old Testament commanded. We drink water for the sacrament instead of wine. And we do not practice polygamy like in old times. Commandments and church policies are often updating according to modern revelation to fit modern circumstances. But fundamental gospel principles are the same and never change.
It is incorrect to use present-tense grammar, to say “there is a set of very specific and bizarre rules.” No, there was a set of rules. Not there is a set of rules. Past tense! Additional D&C scripture superseded this polygamy policy, and now polygamy is not permitted in any case.
Marriage Must Be Consensual
Mormons have always placed utmost important on individual free agency and a person’s freedom to make choices for themselves. Under the old rules of polygamy in D&C 132, if a man intended to marry polygamously, his first wife had to give her full consent. There was no allowance in the church for anyone to be forced, coerced, or manipulated into anything. Personal agency is an important concept that protects members of the church.
It has always been a principle that God might command men to take multiple wives to “raise a seed,” which means to boost reproduction in the community, like He did with Abraham. D&C 132 makes clear that this was the purpose of early Mormon polygamy. It was indeed necessary to boost the population at the time of the early church, as Antimormons were murdering Mormons at a very rapid rate. Mormons needed a large population to settle Utah.
Eternal marriage has always been a gospel principle regardless of whether the circumstances demand multiple wives or just one. Right now the commandment is to take just one wife, because polygamy would be very a bad idea in today’s society and we have a large population.
Mormon Sealings Were Different – In early Mormon times, civil marriage and eternal sealings were totally different things. To be sealed “for eternity” did not necessarily involve being married “for time”–conventional marriage. It would be for eternal cohabitation in the afterlife only, and did not involve sexual or earthly relations. In such an arrangement, the “new and everlasting covenant” of eternal marriage would nullify civil marriage in the afterlife: “All old covenants have I caused to be done away.” That is not like modern-day polygamy by any stretch of the definition. Two totally different institutions.
Bigotry By Antimormons
“I have a problem with this. This is Warren Jeffs territory. This is not the Joseph Smith I grew up learning about in the Church and having a testimony of. This is not the Joseph Smith that I sang ‘Praise to the Man’ to or taught others about two years in the mission field.”
D&C 132 is one of the most read scriptures in the Mormon church. How did CES Letter grow up in the church and not hear about it? How do they still not understand it? Why would anyone think commandments don’t change? Where did they get this idea from? The church makes no secret about what commandments were given in historical times, and makes it clear they have been superceded.
Of all CES Letter‘s rhetoric against Mormons, this comparison to Warren Jeffs is the worst. Cultist Warren Jeffs reportedly raped girls, violated the law, and ran a disgusting cult full of incest and pedophilia. There was none of that in the LDS church, absolutely none. This is like calling an American of German heritage a Nazi. It is bigoted slander, malice, and dehumanizing hatred. The church has always condemned the kinds of things Warren Jeffs did, and above all the church has always followed the laws of the United States.
What leads a person to tell such malicious lies about a group of people? Why do Antimormons feel the need to tell these lies about Joseph Smith and harass Mormons about it? Polygamy is not even allowed now. Mormons don’t do it, so why can’t they just let Mormons be? Stop comparing us to cultists like Warren Jeffs.
These lies are used by skeptics to attack Mormon standards of modesty and chastity. Suddenly now, when an LDS seminary teacher tell kids to wait until age 16 to date, Antimormons scream that they are perpetuating the evil polygamy culture of the 1800’s. Every standard of virtue and modesty is attacked through this shaming narrative. Most folks are adrift with no clue how to secure loving relationships or how to find peace and happiness in their lives. The polygamy narrative is a foil that prevents Mormons from sharing these important principles with the world. Our standards were once common sense but are now lost to modern political correctness. It is really too bad. These moral standards are there to guide us and to receive the blessing of eternal marriage. We must not lose sight of our basic behaviors of modesty, or lose our focus on eternal families. Never be ashamed of our legacy. Never stop working to make our families happy and successful. The principle of eternal marriage in D&C 132 is a very important gospel principle that blesses Mormons and have always blessed mankind. Antimormons destroy those blessings by making false accusations about what happened two centuries ago and by slandering Mormon traditional families as “bizarre.”
It is easy for Antimormon to sit here and judge historical cultures, but unless you were there you have no idea how things were and why people made the choices they did. There are all kinds of theories about why Joseph Smith was told to institute polygamy, but it is pretty much futile to speculate about a pre-Civil war culture. It was a different time, and I find it truly bizarre that scholars, the media, and popular culture cherry-picks this one thing to obsess over, while there are so many peculiar and offensive things from this early America time period they could complain about. What does this say about them?
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Ad Hominem||The Warren Jeffs comparison is nothing but a personal attack. It is like screaming, “You are literally Hitler!” It is childish and offensive. Joseph Smith is nothing like Jeffs.|
|Joseph Smith did not have sexual relations with any of the women to whom he was sealed for “eternity only.” He likely did not have sexual relations with any plural wife at all. The “new and everlasting covenant” of sealing was different from civil marriage, as it was for the afterlife and did not involve earthly relations by itself. Only those sealed “for time and eternity” could have involved sexual relationships. There is no evidence of sexual relationships between Joseph Smith and any of his polygamous wives.|
|Strawman Fallacy||CES Letter incorrectly characterizes D&C 132 as disregarding the consent of women. They mischaracterize obsolete commandments as still applicable.|
|Guilt By Association||Why compare Joseph Smith to Warren Jeffs? Perhaps because Jeffs is polygamous and calls himself a Mormon. Well, he is not Mormon. The cultists who practice polygamy are not Mormon.|
|Repetition||CES Letter repeats the slanderous comparison to Warren Jeffs twice within this argument. CES Letter goes on to repeat the argument three times throughout their PDF.|
|Subjectivist Fallacy||Just because CES Letter somehow didn’t hear about D&C 132 growing up and does not understand what it means, doesn’t mean most Mormons don’t.|
CES Letter calls the polygamy issue “bizarre” and “a problem.”|
Antimormon Hypocrisy – Why do so many “pro-equality” activists, good progressives who say people should be free to marry whoever they love, often condemn Mormons for their history with polygamy? The same Antimormons who attack us for the old history of polygamy often also often endorse gay marriage and equality. They equate marriage with love. Shouldn’t polygamy be on their list of marriages that deserve equality?
Well yes, it should, and this is why those Antimormons often spin polygamy as something with extreme rules of practice. Lately, this narrative has become evens easier as there really are crazy cults that actually do victimize girls and force people to marry. This is why this argument’s narrative about women being victimized is so important. Opponents in the media have trumpeted this narrative since the beginning. In the 1800’s, American newspapers were putting out story after story about how women in Utah were treated as “slaves.” It led to the federal government for the first time registering all marriages, controlling the definition of marriage, and jailing Mormons who did not fit that definition. Still today, Mormons are persecuted by the media as some kind of oppressive patriarchy that victimized women. This narrative gives opponents justification for attacking Mormons while claiming to be “pro-equality.”
Narrative – One alternative ideology, for example, to Mormonism is the Marxist ideology. Marxism is all about protecting victims from the predators. Marxists think the biggest miracle about mankind is that we evolved to the top of the food chain without ever becoming predators of other animals. Economically, Marxists protect working classes from a predator class. Marxism is all about protecting the vulnerable from those seeking unequal advantage–and yet all about keeping people weak in order to keep them reliant on a benevolent dictator for safety.
A major part of Marxism is the deconstruction of masculinity. They seek to pick masculine traits that propagate the ideology, such as the gusto to fight for the cause, and eliminate “toxic masculine” traits such as the desire to marry and have children in a traditional family. They think traditional families are evil because men contribute labor to the economy while women are “subjugated” as mothers and do not perform labor. The ideal for Marxists is a state where men and women are completely equal working bees and children are grown and raised by the benevolent dictator state. Nobody is preying on anybody.
This is why Marxist agitators repeatedly dredge up centuries-old false allegations, and smear and shame religious groups. It’s not only an attack on the church, it is also about replacing the testimony of a gospel with an alternative ideology. Marxists believe females are oppressed by men in a giant class struggle that hinders their economic output. Polygamy in the Mormon church was problem for Marxists because the higher law of eternal marriage is the perfect example of “inequality” that Marxists hate. Today’s practice of temple marriages are likewise a problem for Marxists.
They can get away with the narrative if it is the consensus among so many fake scholars, and because it takes so long to actually investigate the evidence. People don’t actually look through all the historical documents. Even mainstream church apologists are beaten down by all of the accusations and have give way to the narrative. They are too tired defending against it. Even if you don’t believe the allegations, just this association frames Joseph Smith in a very negative light.
Contradiction – Even if the other argument were all true and he were a fraud, so what? Aren’t Mormons still nice people who make the world a better place? The powerful thing with these polygamy arguments is that we start to decide why Mormonism is still evil: it victimizes women. This is easy rhetoric for them to push, as the internet is filled with all kinds of false rumors about Mormon polygamy and because the fake news media labels modern-day polygamist cultists as “Mormon”.
(All claims in this article are personal opinion and speculation. Quotes regarding CES Letter are derived the March 2015 version of CES Letter and may not reflect more recent versions.)