“D&C 132 is unequivocal on the point that polygamy is permitted only “to multiply and replenish the earth” and “bear the souls of men.”… Again, looking at how polygamy was actually practiced by Joseph Smith… Joseph married 11 women who were already married.” (CES Letter)
Did Not Marry Women Already Married – This argument is a lie. Women were to strictly have only one husband, according to D&C 132:63:
“But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery.”
|Why was Joseph Smith sealed to women who were already married? Because civil marriage and sealings were totally different things. One could be sealed “for eternity” to one person and married “for time” to another, because a sealing for eternal cohabitation in the afterlife did not involve sexual or earthly relations. 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.”|
If the marriage is an “eternal sealing” that does not include a civil union “for time,” then it does not involve a physical relationship/ earthly married relationship. It was literally a matter of Joseph Smith and the woman speaking some words in a ceremony and then rarely seeing each other again, until the afterlife. That is not polyandry by any stretch of the definition. Two totally different institutions.
Reproduction Not The Only Purpose – This argument lies about polygamy’s purpose. Obviously, marriage for “eternity only” does not help with reproduction on earth. But multiplying and replenishing the earth was just one of the stated purposes of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. There are four reasons given in D&C 132:
- Restitution of all things through priesthood keys (v.40,45)
- Fulfill promises and demand the sacrifices of Abraham (v.32, 51)
- Multiply and replenish the earth to prepare for exaltation (v.62)
- Give every woman the opportunity to bear souls and enter exaltation (v. 16, 17, 63)
Due to the circumstances of the Mormons at that time in history, due to the persecution and rapid rate of conversion, there were many women. They needed husbands. This principle of polygamy served to establish societal conditions and family lives helpful for the circumstances on the frontier. Polygamy served as both a sacrifice or test, and as a means for families to be established and legacies to be handed down.
Joseph Smith made a bold move in order to institute polygamy. It was a difficult and controversial principle. He set an example by being sealed to multiple women, even if he wasn’t bearing souls with any of them. We know that Joseph Smith did not procreate with any of his plural “wives,” and probably did not have physical relations with any of them. He set an example and served the other three purposes of the covenant.
Obsolete – Polygamy is banned in the Mormon church today, though chastity and eternal marriage are still an eternal principle. It is quite manipulative for CES Letter to use present-tense grammar when discussing this, “polygamy is permitted…”
It was permitted. Not is permitted. Past tense! Additional D&C scripture superseded this polygamy policy, and now it is not permitted in any case, though the general doctrine of eternal sealing for the afterlife is very much alive.
|Emma Knew – D&C 132 says Joseph Smith had “trespasses” against his wife Emma. Perhaps Joseph Smith was afraid to tell her about the commandment to be polygamous and he started the sealings in secret? Who knows, and who could blame him if he did? This would be a very hard thing to break to her.
We don’t know what this scripture was referring to. Some of the polygamous wives said Emma knew about the sealings and even facilitated some of them. But we can’t know for sure how much Emma knew and when she knew it. She almost certainly was on board with some of them, and it is dishonest to say for sure one way or the other.
CES Letter says Joseph Smith was “lying to Emma and everyone else about it,” but this is totally baseless and false.
Sealing Authority Followed – Most scholars place Joseph Smith’s ceremony with Fanny Alger prior to Elijah’s appearance on April 13, 1836. CES Letter claims:
“Richard Bushman, states: ‘There is evidence that Joseph was a polygamist by 1835’… The “sealing” power was not restored until April 3, 1836 when Elijah appeared to Joseph in the Kirtland Temple and conferred the sealing keys upon him. So, Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger in 1833 was illegal under both the laws of the land and under any theory of divine authority; it was adultery.” (CES Letter)
The sealing to Fanny Alger is not dated, probably due to the controversy of the time, so we do not know for sure when it happened. But there is no evidence that Joseph Smith was polygamous prior to 1836. CES Letter presents zero evidence.
The only evidence I could find to indicate a date of 1835 is a quote by Benjamin F. Johnson, that in 1835 “it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her.” This is a very unreliable third-hand quote, however, dating to a 1976 publication about a letter supposedly written in 1903, 68 years after all this happened. I have not seen this letter and there is no explanation why we didn’t hear about it before 1976. So this quote is not to be trusted–and even if it were true, an elderly man recalling gossip from his youth about Joseph Smith liking a neighbor lady is hardly evidence of polygamy.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
It is not correct to call this polyandry, as Joseph Smith did not have sex with women who were married. The “new and everlasting covenant,” or eternal sealing was different than civil marriage and did not involve physical relations. Plural marriages were not always “rooted in the notion of sealing for both time and eternity.” This is a flat-out lie by CES Letter.
Joseph Smith was not sealed to anyone prior to Elijah’s coming in 1836.
Bearing the souls of men, or multiplying and replenishing the earth, was not the only reason polygamy was permitted. The entire premise of this argument is false.
Joseph Smith’s sealing to Fanny Alger, if it actually happened, did not violate any laws of the land.
|Circular Logic||CES Letter claimed Joseph Smith committed “polyandry.” Then, CES Letter repeated this lie and explained why this was true: “Multiple husbands = Polyandry,” an incorrect generalization of Mormon marriage. Then, CES Letter dismissed the truth nature of Mormon sealings: “Plural marriages are rooted in the notion of ‘sealing’ for both time and eternity.” They are essentially saying, we know Joseph Smith was polyandrous because sealings were for both time and eternity, and we know sealings were for both time and eternity because Joseph Smith was polyandrous.|
|CES Letter equates all sealings with civil marriage and mischaracterizes Mormon belief and practice of polygamy, both today and historically. They also falsely claim virgins were excluded.|
|Non-Sequitur||Even if Joseph Smith had been polygamous prior to receiving sealing authority in 1836, how would this be evidence that polygamy’s purpose was only for reproduction?|
CES Letter (falsely) claimed D&C 132 “does not say that the man must get a specific revelation from the living prophet” regarding polygamy, yet now they (falsely) claim Joseph Smith’s alleged sealing was “illegal” because he hadn’t yet been given permission by the prophet Elijah.
CES Letter (falsely) claimed “the only prerequisite that is mentioned for the man is that he must desire another wife,” but now they claim polygamy was banned “except in the case where God commands it to ‘raise up seed.'” So it turns out another prerequisite was to be willing to reproduce?
Within this argument, CES Letter repeats the false premise that polygamy’s only purpose was to multiply and replenish, rather than give evidence to back up this claim. They repeat the lie that Emma did not know about the sealings. They repeat the lie that Joseph Smith married women already married, a lie that they repeat throughout CES Letter.
CES Letter repeats the lie that Joseph Smith lied to Emma four times in CES Letter.
CES Letter repeats the false claim that Joseph Smith “married” Zina Hunnington to “bear the souls of men.”
|Shotgun Tactic||The entire CES Letter is a shotgun tactic–many arguments against the church thrown out with little explanation with the hope that one of them sticks. With so many arguments thrown so quickly it is hard to defend against them all. In this argument, CES Letter repeats a bunch of earlier arguments to make it seem more complex and solid.|
|Etymological Fallacy||The LDS semantics are unusual, and it is easy for CES Letter to just lump everything together as “marriage.”|
CES Letter is quite brilliant how they repeat their sordid accusations against Joseph Smith.
The repeat the premise of each claim several times, compare Joseph Smith to pedophile Warren Jeffs a couple times, and then they repeat the sordid accusations in a tidy list. In the midst of all of this repetition, they slip in the lie: “Plural marriages are rooted in the notion of ‘sealing’ for both time and eternity.” This is justification for the very first lie that they started out with, that Joseph Smith married women already married. We thus come full circle in a grand chain of circular logic.
Authoritarian Mindset – Anti-Mormons instigate class competition between the sexes by portraying some kind of unfair discrepancy or disadvantage that men had–hundreds of years ago. This argument serves to divide the Mormon community and fuel class hatred. It is interesting that CES Letter is incorrectly claiming that D&C 132 gave men so much power with no prophetic oversight. This is an interesting claim, because not only is this totally incorrect, it also gives us a look into CES Letter‘s ideology: strict control over the people and strict control over their personal relationships. This is the authoritarian mindset that CES Letter represents.
For all their talk of “equality” and “freedom to marry,” it is anti-Mormons who banned 19th century Mormon polygamy, the freedom for Mormons to consensually marry whoever they wanted. It is these same anti-Mormons with the same authoritarian mindset today who push the federal government to further intrude on the definition of marriage and further control personal relationships, under the guise of “equality.”
Why is CES Letter complaining that there are not enough prerequisites? Why is CES Letter complaining that there is not enough modern-day control by the church over marriage? Think about it. Anti-Mormons typically want a more vague scope of how marriage is defined, but they want the prerequisites to be more constricted and the oversight of an authoritarian power to be more oppressive. They typically want to tell you who you can or can’t love, just like they did with Mormons in the 19th century and using the same arguments as they did in the 19th century, and they want to do it in the interest of an “equal” Socialist society.
Appeal To Emotion – CES Letter uses an emotional argument for polygamy, whereas they used intellectual arguments against the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. In each case, they set a rigid binary standard for right or wrong based on modern, popular sensibilities and apply that to Joseph Smith’s history, as if this is real history.
We saw their modus operandi at work as they stuck with modern Egyptologist’s translations of the facsimiles and acts like this contradicts Joseph Smith’s interpretations for the Book of Abraham. This is how CES Letter works. They give a few bits of incorrect leading evidence in a constrained context; the reader connects to dots in their mind; and CES Letter pushes it to a sweeping generalization.
|Big Lie Tactic – In this argument, CES Letter approaches marriage from our modern society’s definition, ignore all historical context, and perpetuate the big lie that eternal sealings in the temple were the same as a civil marriage with a physical relationship. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why did he violate women’s rights? Well, he didn’t! But people are much more likely to believe CES Letter‘s string of illogic because they connected the dots out on their own, subconsciously. They are also more likely to believe the evidences for that deduction, which in this case are falsehoods.
Why do so many “pro-equality” activists, good progressives who say people should be free to marry whoever they love, condemn Mormons for their history with polygamy? The same anti-Mormons who attack us for the old history of polygamy also endorse “progressive” ideas about marriage and love. Shouldn’t polygamy be on their list of marriages that deserve equality?
Well yes, it should, and this is why anti-Mormons spin polygamy as something that coerces and manipulates women into subjugation. Lately, this narrative has become evens easier as there really are crazy cults that actually do victimize young girls and force people to marry, criminals like Warren Jeffs. Interestingly, we only seem to hear about splinter groups in Utah, however…
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 as some kind of oppressive patriarchy that victimized women. This narrative gives opponents justification for attacking Mormons while claiming to be “pro-equality.”
The narrative that women are coerced into marriage because of Christianity comes straight from Karl Marx, and it is nothing but an attack on the traditional family. CES Letter‘s appeal to emotion is not only about attacking the church. It is about replacing the testimony of a gospel with… something else. 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.
This lie is easier for the reader to accept after all those earlier arguments that attached the same kind of narrative about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. If Joseph Smith made up all these books of scripture haphazardly, isn’t it reasonable that he made up revelations about marriage in order to steal underage girls?
CES Letter can get away with this Big Lie because it is the consensus among so many fake scholars that Joseph Smith had carnal relations with girls, and because it takes so long to actually investigate the evidence. People are too lazy to 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 big lie. They are too tired defending against it. They let CESLetter get away with the lie that Joseph Smith “married” underage girls, as we understand the definition of marriage today which involves sexual relations. Even if you don’t believe the allegations, just this association frames Joseph Smith as a creep.
For the Book of Abraham, the big lie was that the book was “translated” from a recovered fragment of papyrus that we now know is the Book of Breathing. They repeat it over and over. With polygamy, the big lie likewise will be used by CES Letter to make all sorts of implications to attack Joseph Smith’s character.
Contradiction Strategy – CES Letter gives a few bits of incorrect leading evidence; the reader connects to dots in their mind; and CES Letter pushes it to a sweeping generalization. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why did he manipulate women into having carnal relations with him? People are much more likely to believe CES Letter‘s string of illogic because they connected the dots out on their own, subconsciously, even if they don’t agree with it at first. They are also more likely to believe the evidences for that deduction, which in this case are falsehoods.
We could see the intellectual tricks and sophistry CES Letter used to portray Joseph Smith as a fraud in their arguments about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. Well, even if that 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 CES Letter tells you why Mormonism is still evil: it victimizes girls. It matters because Joseph Smith was a creep who preyed on 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”. It is easy to just repeat claims over and over, not give any evidence, and make the issue personal through manipulative repetition.
Total Hypocrisy From Anti-Mormons – Yet, in the Soviet Union the minimum age of marriage was 16! And age 15 was considered old enough and were quite common. By age 25 Russian girls were considered “old maids.” So Marxists really have no reason to complain about Joseph Smith even if the phony allegation were true! According to Marxist law, he didn’t do anything wrong–even if they were earthly marriages, which they weren’t.
The arguments are contradictory–CES Letter incorrectly complained that Joseph Smith was marrying other men’s wives, but now suggests that only men and not women were allowed to by polygamous. But the narrative doesn’t need to make sense, because it is a purely emotional appeal.
Meanwhile, the “marriage equality” crowd pushes children to make ‘choices’ about their gender and applauds drag parties for 10 year old boys. The age of consent completely flies out the window when it comes to influences pushed onto children in the name of Socialist “equality.”
CES Letter says he was led to believe something different about Joseph Smith. “This is not the Joseph Smith I grew up learning about in the Church and having a testimony of.” This shows how dependent and weak CES Letter was, demanding the church to hand them all the answers instead of researching things for themselves. It also suggests that the definition of “testimony” was depthless. If a testimony is indeed crushed by new information, it wasn’t much of a testimony to begin with, because truth doesn’t change. Truth changes for Marxists and worldly Socialists, and they believe whatever narrative they need to in the moment for their ideology and universal salvation and dictatorial control, but real truth is never altered by “new” information, only solidified.