Question: Did Joseph Smith create the temple ceremony as a way of teaching polygamy to certain members while keeping it a secret from the general public?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith create the temple ceremony as a way of teaching polygamy to certain members while keeping it a secret from the general public?

Hundreds received their endowment prior to traveling west, most of whom did not practice plural marriage

The temple ceremony coincided with plural marriage as practiced by the early saints. This has caused some to speculate that Joseph Smith create the temple ceremony as a way of teaching polygamy to certain members while keeping it a secret from the general public?

The endowment was given to hundreds of people before the Nauvoo Temple was abandoned and the Saints traveled west. Nobody has ever claimed that all of those were involved in plural marriage. It would have been impossible to use the endowment to teach polygamy to only "certain members" while keeping it from the rest. Everyone who received their endowment would have known about it.

In fact, in 1864 George A Smith indicated that at the first endowment, approximately 60 of those who participated apostatized.

George A. Smith, General Conference, Thursday, April 7, 1864 forenoon. [Deseret News 13. 29 April 13, 1864): 224-5; Millennial Star 26. 23 (June 4, 1864): 353-7; Journal History 6-10 April, 1864]. Elder George A. Smith delivered a discourse on the influence of false spirits. The Gospel was preached to accomplish the salvation of the people, and with that object they received it, and knew that they had the world afterwards to contend with; yet, many had permitted some trifling, unimportant object thrown in their path, to cause them to stumble. He had been acquainted with the Church almost from the beginning, and dark clouds had almost constantly attended its growth and progress….After the first endowment was given, some sixty persons apostatized and essayed to form a new church, that would get along easier with the world than the Church established by the commandment of God, but they had dropped into oblivion. [1]

One of those first to leave the Church were the van Deusen couple. Craig Foster wrote about them, and included this comment, taken from their book, published almost immediately after they left:

The initiates are led through a series of rooms which are said to represent the Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve, as well as what he describes as "a Burlesque on all the Sects." The final room, representing the celestial kingdom of God, is the setting for the teaching of the "Spiritual Wife Doctrine," or polygamy. The people are told that all former marriage contracts, as well as the laws of the land, have been "cut asunder"[1]: "It is now the woman's privilege to choose whom she sees fit; if she likes the one she has been living with, she can keep him; if not, she is at liberty to ship him and take another; and it is the man's privilege to have one, two, four, ten, or twenty . . ."[2]

Notes

  1. Increase McGee Van Dusen and Maria Van Dusen, Positively True. A Dialogue between Adam and Eve, The Lord and the Devil, called the Endowment: As was acted by Twelve or Fifteen Thousand, in Secret, in the Nauvoo Temple, said to be revealed from God as a Reward for Building that Splendid Edifice, and the Express Object for which it was built (Albany: C. Killmer, 1847). 10, 15-16.
  2. Ibid., 16. in From Temple Mormon to Anti-Mormon: The Ambivalent Odyssey of Increase Van Dusen Craig L. Foster. Dialogue, 27. 3, (Fall 1994): 276