Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/The Foundation for LDS Scholarship/Writing Prompt 3

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Response to "The Foundation for LDS Scholarship: Writing Prompt 3"

A FairMormon Analysis of: The Foundation for LDS Scholarship, a work by author: Anonymous

Response to claims made in "The Foundation for LDS Scholarship: Writing Prompt 3"

Summary: The authors of the website ask the following question:

Writing Prompt 3: If LDS teachings run counter to what a church member's conscience tells them is right, what is the best course of action for that church member to take?

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Response to claim: "According to Mormon doctrine, women will spend eternity on the side lines serving their priesthood-holding husband and raising his spiritual children"

The author(s) of The Foundation for LDS Scholarship make(s) the following claim:

According to Mormon doctrine, women will spend eternity on the side lines serving their priesthood-holding husband and raising his spiritual children. Mormons leaders preach that it is morally wrong for women to aspire to do the things that men can do now here on Earth and what men will be able to do later, up in heaven.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The idea that "women will spend eternity on the side lines serving their priesthood-holding husband" is not "Mormon doctrine," and such a concept is not taught within the Church. Mormon leaders do not preach that is is "morally wrong for women to aspire to do the things that men can do."


Response to claim: "Historically, the LDS church taught that men not only may be sealed to multiple women, they are required to do so"

The author(s) of The Foundation for LDS Scholarship make(s) the following claim:

Historically, the LDS church taught that men not only may be sealed to multiple women, they are required to do so. The church downplays this part of their history now, but Brigham Young taught that, "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..."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous 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.

Logical Fallacy: Contextomy (Citing out of context)—The author has created a false attribution in which he or she removed a passage by an authority from its surrounding context in such a way as to distort or reverse its intended meaning.

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: [1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]


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.[5]


Question: Did other Church leaders believe that plural marriage was a requirement for exaltation?

Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor did not believe that polygamy was a requirement for exaltation

When a debate in the School of the Prophets arose when one claimed that "no man who has only one wife in this probation can ever enter [the] Celestial kingdom," both Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor disagreed.[6]

George Q. Cannon believed that there would be men in the Celestial Kingdom with only one wife

George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, noted in 1884 that "he believed there would be men in the Celestial Kingdom that had but one wife," and in 1900 a counselor to Wilford Woodruff remembered Brigham Young "proposed that we marry but one wife."[7] Cannon said that "I am perfectly satisfied there are men who will be counted worthy of that glory who never had a wife; there are men probably in this world now, who will receive exaltation, who never had a wife at all, or probably had but one."[8]

Wilford Woodruff and others claimed that they had never heard Joseph Smith teach that one had to have more than one wife to be exalted

In 1892, Wilford Woodruff and others were asked, in essence, "if Joseph Smith had ever taught you at Nauvoo or anywhere else during his lifetime, that in order for a man to be exalted in the hereafter, he must have more than one wife?"

Woodruff
I don't know that I ever heard him make use of that expression or use that form of expression.
Bathsheba W. Smith
I never heard of that.
Joseph C. Kingbury
No sir. He did not teach me that. He did not say anything about that....I heard it preached from the stand that a man could be exalted in eternity with one wife.[9]

Daniel H. Wells stated the plural marriage was only practiced after one had a thorough understanding of the doctrine

Daniel H. Wells, second councilor to Brigham Young, made it clear that plural marriage was then a commandment, but it was necessary to obey only when they had "a thorough understanding" of the doctrine and "other circumstances [were] favorable" for practicing it:

It [plural marriage] was a doctrine of the church that when male members came to a thorough understanding of the revelation on the principle of plural or celestial marriage, and other circumstances being favorable, if they failed to obey it they would be under condemnation, and would be clipped in their glory in the world to come. The circumstances that would excuse a person would be physical incapacity and the like....The doctrine was enjoined upon all male members of the Church whose circumstances were favorable to their taking a plurality of wives.[10]


Response to claim: "the LDS church refused for almost two hundred years to release any information about Joseph Smith's multiple wives"

The author(s) of The Foundation for LDS Scholarship make(s) the following claim:

"the LDS church refused for almost two hundred years to release any information about Joseph Smith's multiple wives

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false


Improvement Era (1946): "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?...It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth"

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946):

Several approaches to eternal marriage may be made: Two living persons may be sealed to each other for time and eternity. A living man may be sealed for eternity to a dead woman; or a living woman to a dead man. Two dead persons may be sealed to each other. It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth.

Further, under a divine command to the Prophet Joseph Smith, it was possible for one man to be sealed to more than one woman for time and eternity. Thus came plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints. By another divine command, to Wilford Woodruff, a successor to Joseph Smith, this order of marriage was withdrawn in 1890. Since that time the Church has not sanctioned plural marriages. Anyone who enters into them now is married unlawfully, and is excommunicated from the Church.[11]

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)


Response to claim: "the church even excommunicated members who talked openly about his wives, church leaders recently acknowledged that the claims for which they excommunicated people were actually true"

The author(s) of The Foundation for LDS Scholarship make(s) the following claim:

the church even excommunicated members who talked openly about his wives, church leaders recently acknowledged that the claims for which they excommunicated people were actually true

Author's sources:
  1. Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, on LDS.org

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The document that the authors use to support their claim, the Gospel Topics essay "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," does not claim that " the church even excommunicated members who talked openly about his wives."

Response to claim: "Black people were prohibited from receiving the priesthood until 1978 and the reason given was that they had not been "valiant" during their pre-mortal lives"

The author(s) of The Foundation for LDS Scholarship make(s) the following claim:

Black people were prohibited from receiving the priesthood until 1978 and the reason given was that they had not been "valiant" during their pre-mortal lives. According to official Mormon doctrine that was taught at the time black skin was a mark placed on these people so that others would know that these "non-valiant souls" were cursed by God.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The idea that Blacks were not "valiant" during their pre-mortal lives was never "official Mormon doctrine." Some Church leaders personally believed this to be the case (including Bruce R. McConkie), and they taught it. The concept has been repudiated by the Church.


Gospel Topics: "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else"

"Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.[12]—(Click here to continue)


Joseph Fielding Smith: "We know of no scripture, ancient or modern, that declares that at the time of the rebellion in heaven that one-third of the hosts of heaven remained neutral"

We know of no scripture, ancient or modern, that declares that at the time of the rebellion in heaven that one-third of the hosts of heaven remained neutral. ... That one-third of the hosts of heaven remained neutral and therefore were cursed by having a black skin, could hardly be true, for the negro race has not constituted one-third of the inhabitants of the earth. —(Click here to continue) [13]


Question: Was the idea that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven" ever official doctrine?

The "neutral in the war in heaven" argument was never doctrine. In fact, some Church leaders, starting with Brigham Young, explicitly repudiated the idea

This idea was repudiated well before the priesthood ban was rescinded. President Brigham Young rejected it in an account recorded by Wilford Woodruff in 1869:

Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Nutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said No they were not. There was No Nutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebelion. All took sides. He said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Nutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary. All spirits are pure that Come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cane are Black Because He Commit Murder. He killed Abel & God set a Mark upon his posterity But the spirits are pure that Enter their tabernacles & there will be a Chance for the redemption of all the Children of Adam Except the Sons of perdition. [14]

The First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith also rejected this idea

there is no revelation, ancient or modern, neither is there any authoritative statement by any of the authorities of the Church … [in support of the idea] that the negroes are those who were neutral in heaven at the time of the great conflict or war, which resulted in the casting out of Lucifer and those who were led by him. [15]

Joseph Smith never taught the idea that those born with black skin were "neutral" during the war in heaven

Brigham Young, when asked this question, repudiated the idea. Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal:

December 25, 1869: I attended the School of the Prophets. Many questions were asked. President Young answered them. Lorenzo Young asked if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said no they were not. There were no neutral spirits in heaven at the time of the rebellion. All took sides. He said if anyone said that he heard the Prophet Joseph say that the spirits of the Blacks were neutral in heaven, he would not believe them, for he heard Joseph say to the contrary. All spirits are pure that come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cain are black because he commit[ted] murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity. But the spirits are pure that enter their tabernacles and there will be a chance for the redemption of all the children of Adam except the sons of perdition. [16]

The idea that anyone who came to earth was "neutral" in the premortal existence is not a doctrine of the Church. Early Church leaders had a variety of opinions regarding the status of blacks in the pre-existence, and some of these were expressed in an attempt to explain the priesthood ban. The scriptures, however, do not explicitly state that the status or family into which we were born on earth had anything to do with our "degree of valiance" in our pre-mortal life.

Other religions would not have had reason for such a teaching because they do not believe in the pre-existence or the "war in heaven."

The scriptures themselves do not state that anyone was neutral in the pre-existence.


Question: Did Church leaders ever teach that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven?"

Yes, some Church leaders promoted the idea as a way to explain the priesthood ban

Despite the explicit denial of this concept by Brigham Young, the idea that people born with black skin as a result of their behavior in the pre-existence was used by several 20th century Church leaders in order to try and provide an explanation for the priesthood ban.

The First Presidency, in a statement issued on August 17, 1949, actually attributed the ban to "conduct of spirits in the premortal existence"

The First Presidency stated in 1949:

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality. [17]

Joseph Fielding Smith said in 1954 that there were no "neutrals in the war in heaven," but that rewards in this life may have "reflected actions taken in the pre-existence

In the 1954 book Doctrines of Salvation (compiled by Bruce R. McConkie), Joseph Fielding Smith stated that "there were no neutrals in the war in heaven," but suggested that the rewards received in this life reflected actions taken in the pre-existence:

NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits. [18]

Bruce R. McConkie said in 1966 that they were "less valiant" in the pre-existence

The most well known of these was the statement made by Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine. McConkie offered the following opinion:

Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin...but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, based on His eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate. [19]

These statements by Church leaders reflected ideas which were prevalent in society during the 1950s and 1960s

These statements by 20th century leaders did not represent thinking that was unique to the Church, but instead reflected ideas which were much more prevalent in society during the 1950's and 1960's.

When the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978, McConkie retracted what he had said previously

Elder McConkie retracted his previous statements regarding the priesthood ban when it was lifted in 1978:

Forget everything I have said, or what...Brigham Young...or whomsoever has said...that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. [20]


Question: Did the Church repudiate the idea of neutrality in the "war in heaven?"

President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation

Some members and leaders explained the ban as congruent with the justice of God by suggesting that those who were denied the priesthood had done something in the pre-mortal life to deny themselves the priesthood. President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation:

President Kimball "flatly [stated] that Mormonism no longer holds to...a theory" that Blacks had been denied the priesthood "because they somehow failed God during their pre-existence." [21]

The modern Church rejects this theory

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form. [22]

Modern Church leaders teach that everyone who came to earth in this day was "valiant" in the premortal existence

Elder M. Russell Ballard, talking of today's youth, said in 2005:

Remind them that they are here at this particular time in the history of the world, with the fulness of the gospel at their fingertips, because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence. [23]

Notes

  1. 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 )
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. "Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org (2001, [updated 2005])
  6. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 3: Theology (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 208. citing Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, Minutes (10 February 1873).
  7. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 208., citing Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 8:235 (journal entry dated 9 March 1884). ISBN 0941214133. and John Henry Smith as cited in John P. Hatch, editor, Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund, 1890–1921 (10 January 1900), 72.
  8. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 75. ISBN 0252026810.
  9. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 194., citing Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent's Testimony, Part 3, p. 66, question 698; p. 205, question 600; p. 225, questions 1028–1029; p. 319, questions 590–91.
  10. Daniel H. Wells, "Local and Other Matters... The Reynolds Trial," Deseret News Weekly (15 December 1875): 732, cited in Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 206–207.
  11. "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)
  12. "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
  13. Joseph Fielding Smith, "The Negro and the Priesthood," Improvement Era Vol 27, Num 6, pg 565 (April 1924)
  14. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:511 (journal entry dated 25 December 1869). ISBN 0941214133.
  15. First Presidency letter from Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, to M. Knudson, 13 Jan. 1912.
  16. Wilford Woodruff's Journal, entry dated Dec. 25, 1869.
  17. First Presidency Statement (George Albert Smith), August 17, 1949. off-site
  18. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954) , 1:65-66. (emphasis in original)
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (1966), p. 527.
  20. Bruce R. McConkie, "New Revelation on Priesthood," Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 126-137.
  21. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, chapter 24, page 3; citing Richard Ostling, "Mormonism Enters a New Era," Time (7 August 1978): 55. Ostling told President Kimball's biographer and son that this was a paraphrase, but an accurate reporting of what he had been told (see footnote 13, citing interview on 10 May 2001).
  22. "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics, lds.org. (2013) off-site
  23. M. Russell Ballard, "One More," Ensign, May 2005, p. 69.