Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Index/Chapter 8

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 8"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage", a work by author: George D. Smith

452

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that "Joseph Smith's diaries [are] silent on his courtships and marriages."

FairMormon Response

Censorship of Church History (edit)

453

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

It is noted that the only mention of a marriage by Joseph is in April 1842 and that "[t]he History of the Church deleted even that one citation."

FairMormon Response

  • A lone citation might make little sense without context.
  • If the author can think of no reason to exclude an entry besides malicious intent to deceive, perhaps he can explain his own editing decision when he published the William Clayton diaries. Jim Allen observed that
“in his abridgement, however, Smith kept only about one-sixth of the total entry. . . . By including only the somewhat titillating material and leaving out the much more important information about Clayton and what he was doing as a missionary, this ‘abridgement’ does little but distort the day’s activity.”[1]:166

Censorship of Church History (edit)


473

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "…the polygamous family associations of Joseph Smith, and now even Brigham Young, are not acknowledged in LDS gatherings…."

FairMormon Response

Censorship of Church History (edit)


513

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Munster Anabaptists' practices are claimed to be "reminiscent of Brigham Young's policies," and "over hundred women were allowed to divorce the men they had been forced to marry."

(Author's sources: *Williams, Radical Reformation, 3d. ed., 570; no reference for the LDS claims.)

FairMormon Response

  • The historical comparison is inaccurate on virtually every level.
  • Mormon women were never forced to marry (unlike the Munster Anabaptists), and Mormon women always had the right of divorce (though Brigham was much stricter with men about divorce).
  • This is not a parallel, but a contrast.

532

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author suggests that Orson Hyde "might have been sensitized by Joseph Smith's 1831 suggestion of plural marriage to Native Americans and therefore judged the Cochranites less harshly than otherwise."

(Author's sources: *Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 8.)

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: 535 - The author suggests that Joseph Smith had predicted the return of Jesus Christ

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author suggests that Joseph Smith had predicted the return of Jesus Christ when he said that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene and the Saviour should come to his people."

(Author's sources: Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 2:522.

Predicting 2nd Coming (edit)

  • See also ch. 1: 6 and 9
  • See also ch. 8: 535
    )

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith prophesy that Jesus Christ would return in 1890?

Jesus Christ stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return

It is important to realize that while Jesus Christ resided on the earth he stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).

Because we do not know, we need to constantly be ready for his return, for "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).

In February 1835, Joseph Smith is reported to have said that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene"

Joseph Smith did make several interesting statements about seeing the Savior. B.H. Roberts in History of the Church notes the Prophet's remark in 1835 when he is reported to have said that,

...it was the will of God that those who went Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.[2]

In Feb 1835, fifty six years in the future was February 1891. This would be shortly after Joseph's 85th birthday (he was born 23 December 1805).

Joseph made continuous reference to this date in light of a revelation which he reported. It is recorded in D&C 130:14-17, and it is clear that the revelation leaves the exact date of Christ's second coming much more uncertain. Whatever Joseph meant or understood by "wind up the scene," it must be interpreted in light of the revelation as he reported it, and the conclusions which he drew from it.

This particular revelation is a favorite of anti-Mormon critics. They have misquoted it, misreported it, misinterpreted it and misexplained it. Most often they simply do not complete the quote, making it appear that the Prophet said something he didn't.

Joseph acknowledged as he recorded this revelation that he didn't understand its meaning or intent

The revelation is reported in abbreviated form, and Joseph acknowledged as he recorded it that he didn't understand its meaning or intent:

I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. (D&C 130:14-15).

Many critics end the quote at this point, and then they hope the reader will assume that the statement is a prophecy that the Savior would come in the year 1890 or 1891, since the Prophet Joseph was born in 1805. (Other critics do not even bother to cite D&C 130, and simply rely on the quote from the Kirtland Council Minute Book of 1835, reproduced in History of the Church.)

Joseph expresses his uncertainty: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time"

However, if the reader will continue further in that passage, they will see how Joseph Smith himself understood the revelation, unfiltered through note-takers or critics who wish to explain his meaning:

I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face (D&C :130).

The actual content of Joseph's prophecy--if personal opinion can be said to be prophecy--does not occur until the next verse:

I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.(D&C 130:17.)

Without a doubt, Joseph's belief proved correct. The Lord did not return to the earth for His Second Coming before that time.

At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man

But there are other aspects of fulfillment that should also be considered. We do not know when it was that the Prophet earnestly prayed to know the time of the Lord's coming. The context, (verse 13), shows that it may have taken place in 1832 or earlier. At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man. D&C 76:20-24 and D&C 110:2-10 both record appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, either of which may constitute fulfillment of the Lord's prophetic promise. He may also have seen the Lord's face at the time of his death in 1844, as he pondered in D&C 130:16.

Joseph made reference to the incident on at least two other occasions, and indicated that his belief was not that the Lord would come by the time of his 85th birthday, but rather that the Lord would not come before that time, which of course was a correct prophecy.

In the History of the Church:

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.[3]

Again, Joseph Smith doesn't say the Lord will come then, but that He will not come before that time. The return to his age 85 shows that all these remarks derive from the same interpretation of his somewhat opaque revelation from the Lord, who seems determined to tell his curious prophet nothing further.

Joseph denies that anyone knows an exact date

Later, Joseph Smith again prophesied on the subject of Christ's coming:

I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers.[4]

This remark was made on 10 March 1844. It echoes a teaching given through Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants in March 1831:

And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49:6-7, emphasis added)

Thus, from the beginning to the end of his ministry, Joseph Smith denied that a man could or would know the date of the second coming of Christ. (Joseph's remarks may have been instigated by the intense interest among religious believers in William Miller's prophecy that Christ would return by 1843.)


535-536

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that before 1890 “the number of [polygamy] practitioners had expanded exponentially.” In support of this, we are told that "67 percent in Orderville, Utah" were polygamists.

(Author's sources: *Lowell “Ben” Bennion, “The Incidence of Mormon Polygamy in 1880: ‘Dixie’ Versus Davis Stake,” Journal of Mormon History 11 (1984): 27–42.

Statistical problems (edit)

  • See also ch. Preface: xv
  • See also ch. 4: 253 and 289
  • See also ch. 8: 535-536
    )

FairMormon Response

  • The author leaves unmentioned the study’s observation that Orderville was somewhat unique because “one suspects that membership in Mormondom’s most successful attempt to establish the United Order may have required a commitment to plural matrimony. Unlike the pattern that usually prevailed in Mormon towns, many young men of Orderville entered the celestial order when they first married or soon thereafter.” Nearby Kanab was less successful in its communal economy and had less than half as many polygamists. Furthermore, all of southern Utah was more likely to be polygamist than Utah as a whole, for similar reasons.
  • Polygamy/Prevalence of in Utah
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

541

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "The leaders in Salt Lake…failed to comprehend how unsavoury it appeared for a man of high priesthood rank to claim the wife of someone of lower status if a missionary's wife was loaned to someone else during the husband's absence."

(Author's sources: *S. George Ellsworth, ed., The Journals of Addison Pratt (SLC: U of Utah Press, 1990), 515; Smith, Intimate Chronicle, 227n.

Brigham Young's 8 October 1861 talk (edit)

  • See also ch. 2: 78
  • See also ch. 8: 541
    )

FairMormon Response

  • The author grossly mischaracterizes the doctrine on this point. He omits key parts of Brigham's recorded discourse: "…if a man magnifies his priesthood, observing faithfully his covenants to the end of his life, all the wives and children sealed to him, all the blessings and honors promised to him in his ordinations and sealing blessings are immutably and eternally fixed; no power can wrench them from his possession. You may inquire, in case a wife becomes disaffected with her husband, her affections lost, she becomes alienated from him and wishes to be the wife of another, can she not leave him? I know of no law in heaven or on earth by which she can be made free while her husband remains faithful and magnifies his priesthood before God and he is not disposed to put her away, she having done nothing worthy of being put away." (emphasis added)
  • Brigham Young 8 October 1861 discourse on plural marriage
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."
  • This is a reference to what other critics call "wife swapping." See: Wife swapping


541

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

[continued from above] "Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had set such examples."

(Author's sources: *Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 37-46.

Brigham Young's 8 October 1861 talk (edit)

  • See also ch. 2: 78
  • See also ch. 8: 541
    )

FairMormon Response

  • The author omits key parts of Brigham's recorded discourse: "…if a man magnifies his priesthood, observing faithfully his covenants to the end of his life, all the wives and children sealed to him, all the blessings and honors promised to him in his ordinations and sealing blessings are immutably and eternally fixed; no power can wrench them from his possession. You may inquire, in case a wife becomes disaffected with her husband, her affections lost, she becomes alienated from him and wishes to be the wife of another, can she not leave him? I know of no law in heaven or on earth by which she can be made free while her husband remains faithful and magnifies his priesthood before God and he is not disposed to put her away, she having done nothing worthy of being put away."
  • Brigham Young 8 October 1861 discourse on plural marriage
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."
  • This is a reference to what other critics call "wife swapping." See: Wife swapping


546

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Communist author Friedrich Engels wrote "that with every great revolutionary movement the question of 'free love' comes into the foreground."

(Author's sources: *Hill, World Turned Upside Down, 247; citing Engel's manuscript, "The Book of Revelation," (1883, published in 20th century in Moscow).)

FairMormon Response

546

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Tours of [Brigham Young's] Salt Lake City home, the Beehive House, notably omit mention of Young's numerous wives."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This claim is false as of the summer of 2008. A FairMormon member went on the tour, and Brigham's many wives and children were mentioned frequently, especially in the family "store" from which goods were distributed. [5]



547

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "Dana Miller of Idaho Falls was told by his church leaders that 'men will have more than one wife in the celestial kingdom. It's doctrinal.'"

(Author's sources: *Dana Miller, "Celestial Polygamy," May 9, 2008, Public Forum letter to the Salt Lake Tribune.)

FairMormon Response

  • Who were Miller's "church leaders"? A bishop? A stake president? An elders' quorum president? High priests' group leader? Did he interpret what he was told correctly? There is, of course, no way to say.
  • Members may believe whatever they wish about such matters. In a work of serious scholarship, however, this tells us little about official LDS doctrine, or even what most members believe.
  • Non-members, however, might well be confused, and the author does nothing to lessen the confusion.

Notes


  1. James B. Allen, "review of An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, by George D. Smith, ed.," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 2 (1995).
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:182. Volume 2 link
  3. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:336–337. Volume 5 link
  4. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:254. Volume 6 link
  5. Gregory L. Smith, personal communication to FairMormon, 22 December 2008 (used with permission).