Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Changing World of Mormonism/Chapter 2

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 2: Change, Censorship and Suppression"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Claim Evaluation
The Changing World of Mormonism
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Response to claims made in The Changing World of Mormonism, "Chapter 2: Change, Censorship and Suppression"

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Response to claim: 29 - John Taylor said that we are not ashamed of polygamy

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

John Taylor said that we are not ashamed of polygamy.

Author's sources: *Life of John Taylor p. 255

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors fail to provide Elder Taylor's reasons; they imply that he should be ashamed:

John Taylor said,

We are not ashamed to proclaim to this great nation, to rulers and people, to the president, senators, legislators, judges; to high and low, rich and poor, priests and people, that we are firm, conscientious believers in polygamy, and that it is part and parcel of our religious creed. We do this calmly, seriously and understandingly, after due deliberation, careful examination and close investigation of its principles and bearings religiously, socially, morally, physically and politically! We unhesitatingly pronounce our full and implicit faith in the principle as emanating from God, and that under His direction it would be a blessing to the human family.[1]





Response to claim: 29 - Brigham Young said that the only men who become gods are those who enter into polygamy

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young said that the only men who become gods are those who enter into polygamy.Not content to let a good quote mine go to waste, the authors repeat this one later on p. 258.

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

If you read the entire passage from which this quote is taken, you will see that Brigham is also acknowledging those who do not actually practice plural marriage. Critics of the Church, however, only extract this single phrase.

See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.

Question: Is plural marriage required in order to achieve exaltation?

Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

Critics of the Church point to a statement made by Brigham Young to make the claim that Latter-day Saints believe that one must practice plural marriage in order to achieve exaltation: [2] Brigham Young once said,

The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.)

This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. They do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by those trying to worry modern-day readers):

Brigham Young also said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith"

We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.[3]

Brigham was stating that the command to practice plural marriage was from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God

It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:

  • The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
  • To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
  • It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
  • Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.

Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as present-day members do not.


Question: Did Brigham Young believe that one could not enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they were a polygamist?

Wilford Woodruff: "President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all"

I attended the school of the prophets. Brother John Holeman made a long speech upon the subject of Poligamy. He Contended that no person Could have a Celestial glory unless He had a plurality of wives. Speeches were made By L. E. Harrington O Pratt Erastus Snow, D Evans J. F. Smith Lorenzo Young. President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all.[4]

Wilford Woodruff: President Young...said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord

Then President Young spoke 58 Minuts. He said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.[5]


Response to claim: 29 - Bruce R. McConkie said that plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Bruce R. McConkie said that plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation.

Author's sources: Mormon Doctrine (1958) p. 523.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

McConkie was correct.



Seminary Teacher Resource Manual: "We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation"

"Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org:

Note: Avoid sensationalism and speculation when talking about plural marriage. Sometimes teachers speculate that plural marriage will be a requirement for all who enter the celestial kingdom. We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation.[6]


Response to claim: 31 - Joseph Smith drank beer despite having received the Word of Wisdom

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith drank beer despite having received the Word of Wisdom.

Author's sources:
  • Millennial Star 23:720
  • 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), 6:424. Volume 6 link (Reference to beer mentioned in the Millennial Star removed from this reference.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Beer was not forbidden by the Word of Wisdom in Joseph Smith's day, but the Tanners count on their readers not knowing this. The prohibition against all alcohol came later.



Response to claim: 33 - Joseph encouraged others to break the Word of Wisdom by drinking whiskey

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph encouraged others to break the Word of Wisdom by drinking whiskey.

Author's sources:
  • Millennial Star 21:283
  • 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), 5:450. Volume 5 link

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The Tanners here exploit their readers' potential lack of familiarity with how liquor was seen under the Word of Wisdom in Joseph's day. Joseph certainly did not encourage others to break the Word of Wisdom.

Question: Did Joseph Smith give some of the brethren money to purchase whiskey in violation of the Word of Wisdom?

The use of whiskey as a stimulant while traveling was allowed, but abusing it by getting drunk was not

Liquor in judicious amounts was used as a medicinal substance, and seen as a stimulant or restorative against fatigue. This is why Joseph "investigated the case"--he wished to know if the use had been acceptable or to excess. (In a similar way, a modern-day Church leader who heard that a member was using morphine might investigate to discover if such use is appropriate--e.g., under a doctor's supervision in proper prescribed amounts for a legitimate ailment--or whether they were abusing it to get "high".)

Here's what Joseph said,

The company moved on to Andover, where the Sheriff of Lee County requested lodgings for the night for all the company. I was put up into a room and locked up with Captain Grover. It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whiskey that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom.

I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done, and gave them a couple of dollars, with directions to replenish the bottle to stimulate them in the fatigues of their sleepless journey.[7]

The complete prohibition on alcohol was phased in gradually

Critics of the Church who use this quote as evidence that Joseph disregarded the Word of Wisdom also do not inform readers that the complete prohibition on alcohol was a gradual matter, and so Joseph's judgment on the issue was possible (which explains why no one at the time was shocked or outraged by it). Later nineteenth century Mormons, such as Brigham Young, understood the matter in the same way, and also distinguished between the excessive and judicious use of spirits.


Response to claim: 33 - Joseph asked for a pipe and tobacco to settle Willard Richards' stomach

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph asked for a pipe and tobacco to settle Willard Richards' stomach.

Author's sources: *Millennial Star 24:471
  • 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), 6:614. Volume 6 link

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Tobacco (and wine) were considered by some to be a medication in Joseph's day. The authors do not provide the entire story. Joseph had sent Stephen Markham out, as previous text unquoted by the Tanners tells us: "Brother Markham...go get the doctor [i.e., Richards] something to settle his stomach," and Markham went out for medicine. When he got the remedies desired...[the] Carthage Greys gathered round him, put him on his horse, and forced him out of the town at the point of the bayonet." So, Markham could not return, and nothing from him reached the jail (p. 616). In addition, Willard Richards was a Thompsonian herbalist physician—one of the medications advocated by these doctors was lobelia, or wild Indian tobacco.
  • See also p. 471 for the Tanner's further exploitation of this presentism.

Question: Did Willard Richards violate the Word of Wisdom by using tobacco at Carthage Jail?

Joseph Smith obtained some tobacco for a friend while in Carthage Jail prior to being martyred. Doesn't this make Joseph Smith a hypocrite for violating the Word of Wisdom?

Willard Richards was a Thomsonian herbalist, a type of physician common in the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States

We are sometimes guilty of "presentism"—judging historical figures by the standards of our day, instead of their day. The tobacco was intended for medicinal purposes.

Willard Richards was a Thomsonian herbalist, a type of physician common in the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States. Thomson was the name of the founder of this school of practice, which differed from the practice of the "orthodox" medical doctors, who focused on balancing humors, purging, inducing diarrhea, and so forth.

Neither the wine nor the tobacco was, for members at the time, seen as a violation of the Word of Wisdom--they were likely medicinal

An aspect of Thomsonian medicine was Thomson's enthusiasm for the use of lobelia, or wild Indian tobacco. It was used as a cure-all, and was prominently used as an emetic to induce vomiting and restore health. This is the key to understanding the use of tobacco at Carthage Jail.

Neither the wine nor the tobacco was, for members at the time, seen as a violation of the Word of Wisdom--they were likely medicinal.

Tobacco for Willard Richards

Willard Richards, who was in jail with Joseph, was a Thomsonian physician. This was a branch of pre-modern medical practice which required minimal schooling. Thomson's followers' believed strongly in the use of lobelia, or wild Indian tobacco. It was used as a cure-all, and was prominently used as an emetic to induce vomiting and restore health. This is the key to understanding the use of tobacco at Carthage Jail.

Critics Gerald and Sandra Tanner (p. 33) make a great deal of Joseph asking for a "pipe and tobacco" for Willard Richards. However, when we understand the circumstances, this action makes sense, and it has nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom. In the first place, we must realize that Joseph and Willard were locked in Carthage Jail.

Joseph had sent Stephen Markham out, as previous text unquoted by the Tanners tells us: "'Brother Markham...go get the doctor [i.e., Richards] something to settle his stomach,' [said Joseph,] and Markham went out for medicine. When he got the remedies desired...[the] Carthage Greys gathered round him, put him on his horse, and forced him out of the town at the point of the bayonet." So, Markham could not return, and none of the remedies he had obtained reached the jail. [8]

It is not clear which remedies Markham sought out—but he could not return. A Thomsonian like Richards would have probably seen tobacco as a medicinal drug, however—especially in a pinch when he could get nothing else. This would be particularly true if the tobacco was lobelia—it was the Thomsonian cure-all, literally.

The Tanners complain elsewhere about how in the History of the Church the words "pipe and some tobacco" were replaced by the word "medicine" (p. 471). But, this misses the point in a spectacular way—tobacco was considered a medicine at the time! Modern editors would not make this type of change to a historical text, but one can understand why rather than bother to explain about Thomsonian beliefs and medical practices, the editors of earlier times decided to simply "translate" the reason for the tobacco. The issue only becomes important, after all, when one is unfamiliar with early nineteenth century medicine.

There is further evidence that the tobacco was not seen as a problem by current or later leaders, since John Taylor's later account of the martyrdom in History of the Church mentions it very frankly and matter-of-factly:

Before the jailer came in, his boy brought in some water, and said the guard wanted some wine. Joseph gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; but the guard said one was enough, and would take no more.

The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail soon after the jailer went out. Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as also Brother Taylor and the doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out. When at the top of the stairs some one below called him two or three times, and he went down.[9]

Since neither the wine nor the tobacco was, for members at the time, seen as a violation of the Word of Wisdom. Leaders would not include this information if it made Joseph look bad. This should be our first clue that something else is going on.[10] Some critics, however, have not sought to understand, but merely to condemn by trusting that their audience will not understand the fine points of early nineteenth century frontier medicine.


Response to claim: 34 - Brigham Young ordered the destruction of Lucy Mack Smith's history Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith published by Orson Pratt in 1853

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young ordered the destruction of Lucy Mack Smith's history Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith published by Orson Pratt in 1853.

Author's sources: Millennial Star 27:657-58

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The original manuscript was not destroyed. Brigham objected to errors in the book and wanted to destroy all of the printed copies before he had it reprinted. Most the changes had the effect of reducing the focus on the Smith family, and focusing more on the Church itself. (Brigham was likely unwilling to let those he regarded as apostates, such as William Smith, get any 'reflected glory' in Lucy's telling.)



Question: Did Brigham Young attempt to suppress and destroy all copies of Lucy Mack Smith's Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith?

Editing history of Lucy's biography

Lavina Fielding Anderson recounts the history of Lucy's biography:

The project, which began in the winter of 1844-45, ended almost exactly a year later with the creation of two finished manuscripts (in addition to the rough draft). One of the finished manuscripts stayed in Nauvoo with Lucy and eventually came into possession of Orson Pratt, an LDS apostle, who took it with him to England and published it in 1853. It generated considerable controversy; and Brigham Young, twelve years after the fact, ordered the Saints to deliver up their copies to be destroyed. A “corrected” edition was published, but not until 1901-03, first serially by the Improvement Era and then as a compilation. This project was authorized by Young’s third successor, Lorenzo Snow, and implemented by his fourth, who also happened to be Lucy’s grandson, Joseph F. Smith. Meanwhile, the second finished copy had gone to Utah where it now reposes in the Historian’s Office. [11]

Dan Vogel notes:

Once published, Smith's Biographical Sketches was suppressed by Brigham Young, who condemned it as inaccurate, ordered its destruction, and instructed church historians to begin working on a corrected version. Young's concern centered on Smith's favorable portrayal of her son William, whom Young disliked (see Bushman 1984, 194, n. 4; Shipps 1985, 91-107). Pratt issued a statement in 1855 claiming that he believed Lucy's manuscript 'was written under the inspection of the Prophet [Joseph Smith]; but from evidences since received, it is believed that the greater part of the manuscripts did not pass under his review, as there are items which are ascertained to be incorrect' (Deseret News 5 [21 March 1855]: 16) [12]

Brigham Young did attempt to destroy all copies of Lucy Mack Smith's Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, but we do not have enough information to know the reason why

Critics assume, in the absence of information, that it was because there was information which would embarrass the Church.

Brigham Young began to complain about errors in Lucy's history almost as soon as it was published in 1855. He assigned George A. Smith and Elias Smith to begin working on corrections in 1856; Elias was still working on them in 1866. It was published by President Joseph F. Smith in 1902, based on the corrections by GAS and Elias Smith. It is not known exactly what the changes were that were made, nor do we know the relationship of the 1954 edition mentioned in the letter to the original or to the 1902 version (Preston Nibley edited a version, but we are not sure if it is the one mentioned or not). Orson Pratt himself pointed out that he had erred in suggesting the manuscript had been completed prior to the death of Joseph Smith.

Brigham's response was unusual, both for being out of all proportion to the actual errors that existed and for coming principally more than a decade later. Anderson suggests that his reaction had much more to do with the rift between Pratt and Young than with the contents of history itself.

Anderson also notes that,

[T]he main differences between Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft and Pratt’s 1853 publication are omissions and additions...About 10 percent of Lucy’s original material was omitted, much of it personal family references and Lucy’s original preface." [13]

The revisions were apparently made to transform Lucy's history from a personal family history and center it more on Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Church. There were several main changes between Lucy's rough draft and the version published by Orson Pratt.

  1. Lucy's preface, in which she introduces herself, was omitted.
  2. The story of Lucy's father, Solomon Mack was omitted.
  3. The story of Lucy's illness in 1802-1803 was revised.
  4. Lucy’s reference to folk magic was omitted in Orson Pratt's version. Lucy originally stated "… Let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor and went <at> trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of buisness [sic]."


Notes

  1. Life of John Taylor p. 255.
  2. The following critical works use this quote from Brigham to claim that Latter-day Saints must accept polygamy as a requirement to enter heaven. Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers; Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 233, 422 n. 48-49. ( Index of claims ); George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), xiv, 6, 55, , 356. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review)); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 29, 258.( Index of claims )
  3. Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added) See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.
  4. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:527 (journal entry dated 12 February 1870). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
  5. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:31 (journal entry dated 24 September 1871). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
  6. "Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org (2001, [updated 2005])
  7. Millennial Star 21:283
  8. History of the Church, 6:616. Volume 6 link
  9. 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), 6:616. Volume 6 link
  10. 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), 6:616. Volume 6 link
  11. Lavina Fielding Anderson (ed.), Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir on Signature Books website.
  12. Dan Vogel, "Lucy Smith history, 1845," (editorial note), Early Mormon Documents 1:227.
  13. Lavina Fielding Anderson (ed.), Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir on Signature Books website.