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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Living Waters University: Oscar the Mormon

I just had to share this one. I would have believed the same--any truly honest Mormon would agree with this young man. Yet it blows me away that I once believed it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The History They Don't Teach on Sundays

Mormons, how much do you know about church history? I’m sure there’s a lot you can tell me about some of it—the First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the names of some of the cities where Mormonism was based in the first couple decades such as Kirtland and Nauvoo, some of the persecutions they faced, the trip to Utah, and you’d probably end with the Salt Lake Temple taking 40 years to build. If you’ve read up a bit and have a good memory, you might even be able to tell me some dates and specifics.

Ye the average Mormon can give very little history from the time the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on. And unless you’re a Mormon apologist—perhaps not even then—the Mormon reader to whom this question is directed probably aren’t an exception to this rule. Why is that, do you think?

Was it lack of interesting history or teachings? Even brief research shows that it’s the exact opposite.

Was it lack of records? Hardly. There were scribes recording faithfully, producing multi-volume collections of sermons (e.g. the Journal of Discourses, referred to as the JoD) under the direction and approval of the leadership. Plenty of people kept journals.

Was it the kind of teachings and history going on? Most definitely.

Some of Brigham Young’s teachings, delivered from the pulpit as from God and as good as scripture (JoD 13:264) have outright been denounced, begging the question, who was right, and how can the wrong prophet be a true prophet? Either Brigham Young was right and the later prophet(s) proved to be false by denouncing God’s truths, or Brigham Young was false. Whichever was false, it potential renders all subsequent prophets false as well.

So what are these things that are hidden and denounces? Let’s look at a few. (Note: this is far from a complete list, not the least because my studies on this time period are relatively limited as yet.)

Blood Atonement

Multiple times, Brigham Young taught blood atonement from the pulpit. This is basically the idea that Jesus’ blood doesn’t’ cover all sins, so we have to have our own blood spilled to cover the most serious transgressions. Some have speculated that this is why Utah kept execution by firing squad long after every other state had abandoned it.

“Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands. … There is not a man or woman who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The Blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it; and the judgments of the Almighty will come, sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for breaking their covenants.” (JoD 3:247)

“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground. … It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit. As it was in the ancient days, so it is in our day; and though the principles are taught publicly from the stand, still the people do not understand them; yet the law is precisely the same.” (JoD 4:53-54)

This strange and convoluted doctrine was denounced later on, and it has been falsely denied that it was ever taught. Church published documents (primarily the JoD, still sometimes sold at Deseret) contain the doctrine.

“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, profession Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (JoD 1:50)

“Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true.” (JoD 5:331)

Brigham Young was the absolute authority in early Utah—he could even tell the women how to wear their hair. He even called himself a dictator in a few instances. His word was law, both in civil and religious matters.

Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young's bodyguard and a disreputable enforcer of Young's law.

Racism/Teachings on Blacks
Brigham Young strongly taught that darker skin color was due to a curse from God for lesser righteousness. This is reflected in the Book of Mormon when the Lamanites were cursed with darker skin because of their sinful ways. Blacks were thought to have been less valiant in the pre-existence. This doctrine did not change until the 1970’s, when social pressure and church expansion outweighed the teachings of previous prophets and the ban was lifted, becoming one of the declarations at the end of D&C.

“When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity.” (JoD 2:143)

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. … How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon t hem, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof.” (JoD 7:290-291)

“Treat the slaves kindly and let them live, for Ham must be the servant of servants until the curse is removed. Can you destroy the decrees of the Almighty? You cannot. Yet our Christian brethren think that they are going to overthrow the sentence of the Almighty upon the seed of Ham. They cannot do that, though they may kill the by thousands and tens of thousands.” (JoD 10:250)

Strange and False Teachings
Here are some things that will make Mormons do a double take. Mormons, before you read this, remember these are church published and approved sources that these quotes originally came from. Like all the quotes above, these are from Brigham Young unless otherwise noted.

“Does the earth conceive? It does, and it brings forth. … Where did the earth come from? From its parent earths.” (JoD 6:36 Heber C. Kimball)

“…no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are.” (JoD 7:289)

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? …when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth with it is celestialized.” (JoD 13:271)

Mountain Meadows Massacre
September 11, 2001 is not the first massacre for religion in America. On September 11, 1857, in southern Utah, approximately 120 unarmed non-Mormon men, women and children were murdered in cold blood by Mormons and Indians. This massacre of Americans by Americans was surpassed only by the Oklahoma bombing in 1995. Only one man was convicted for this horrible act, and went to his death declaring that Brigham Young had made him a scapegoat. There is much indicating that Brigham Young at least knew of the impending attack on the travelers, if not that he ordered it. See http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no98.htm for more information.

As we can see, there are many practices and teachings from this time that just plain don’t look good or sound good for the Mormon church. While they cannot be done completely away with while non-Mormons have so much reliable documentation on them, this time period is studiously untaught on Sundays. Why? Well…you tell me.

The Polygamy of Joseph Smith

A little-known face about Joseph Smith amongst the average Mormon is his polygamy. Glossing over their marital unrest and the many terrible things Joseph put her through, glowing reports of Emma's faithfulness, strength, and beauty are given, but never are his relationships with over 30 other wives mentioned.

Some Mormons may think that Smith's polygamy is even a lie, but historical evidence--grudgingly admitted by the church historians, leaders, and apologists who are confronted with it--is not lacking. Even the church-owned genealogy website, familysearch.org, lists multiple wives.



1 Spouse: 


2 Spouse: 


3 Spouse: 


4 Spouse: 


Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

5 Spouse: 

Abt 11 1843 May

6 Spouse: 

17 Jan 1842

Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

7 Spouse: 

18 Jan 1827

South Bainbridge, Chenango, Ny

8 Spouse: 

Sealed 19 1852 Jan

Salt Lake City, Ut

9 Spouse: 

26 Jan 1846

10 Spouse: 

27 Oct 1841

Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

11 Spouse: 

3 Feb 1846

12 Spouse: 

3 Feb 1846

13 Spouse: 

May 1843

Smith's Store, Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

14 Spouse: 

1 May 1843

Smith's Store, Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

15 Spouse: 

12 Jun 1843

Nauvoo, Illinois

16 Spouse: 

29 Jun 1842

Smith's Store, Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

17 Spouse: 

27 Jul 1842

Nauvoo, Hnck, Il

18 Spouse: 

Aug 1842

Smith's Store, Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

19 Spouse: 

20 Sep 1843

Nauvoo, Illinois

20 Spouse: 

2 Nov 1843

21 Spouse: 

11 Dec 1841

Smith's Store, Nauvoo, Hancock, Il

22 Spouse: 


23 Spouse: 


24 Spouse: 


As you can see, this list is incomplete--there aren't over 30 wives on this list. But, being on the Mormon website, it does show that it is not denied by the Mormon church that he had multiple wives...and a lot of them.

Smith's polygamy in and of itself might not bother some Mormons, as it was commanded and practiced by the church for a time, the command still being scripture in D&C 132. Some of the facts about his wives would bother many Mormons, though.

One is Joseph Smith consistent denial of polygamy, both publically and privately, even as he took wife after wife. In fact, his denial became scripture for a time--a section of D&C affirmed monogamy, and was later removed when D&C 132 was made scripture. D&C 132 wasn't even given until July of 1843--look at the dates for some of the marriages above. A lot of them happened before this revelation was given.

Joseph Smith also hid his many marriages from Emma, despite D&C 132: 61 
"And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else."
Since Joseph Smith did not obtain Emma's consent for most of his polygamous marriages, he was in adultery, according to his own revelation.

Then is the fact that about a third of his wives were already married to other men. Even if his other choices in wives could be justified, this obvious adultery cannot. One such wife above was Zina Huntington--she married Henry Jacobs in March 1841 and Joseph Smith in October of the same year. Her legal husband was still living and she still lived with him. Brigham Young later married her and had her live with him instead of her legal husband, sending her husband off on missions, and she eventually rejected her legal husband in favor of polygamy.

Another third of his wives were teenagers, the youngest being Helen Kimball, not quite 15 when she married the prophet under promises of exaltation for her whole family if she would do so. While marrying this young may not have been illegal or unusual, it was illegal and unusual for him to do so with eleven girls when he already had a healthy, living legal wife.

There is also the complete contradiction between different sets of Mormon scriptures on polygamy.
Jacob 2: 24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

D&C 132: 33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham. 34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. 35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

Does this not seem a direct contradiction? In the Book of Mormon it is said that it was abominable for David and Solomon to have many wives and concubines. In D&C 132 (which incidentally also threatens Emma if she doesn't let Joseph Smith practice polygamy) it says that it was commanded and that those same men were not in sin!

The Bible supports the Book of Mormon, though. Although polygamy was tolerated, it was never commanded (except in the case of the marriage of a brother's wife if the brother died, which was not for the purpose of polygamy or intimate enjoyment, but for children to protect and preserve the woman and family). In almost every case of polygamy we see (Abraham, David, Solomon) we see that polygamy does not go so well. Yet these things are exactly what Joseph Smith turned around and claimed to be God's revelation and command later!

Probably most overlooked is the parts in D&C 132 which plainly state that polygamy is necessary--in fact, eternal polygamous marriage, not just eternal monogamous marriage, was the new and everlasting covenant.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

 32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.

 64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
 65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

After all is said and done, this is what we end up with: Joseph Smith, claiming to be led by God,
  • Lied to the public
  • Lied to his wife
  • Violated even the D&C 132 polygamy guidelines
  • Opposed the Bible's teachings
  • Opposed the Book of Mormon's teachings
  • Broke civil law
  • Committed adultery
  • Caused women to commit adultery
  • Led thousands astray to do the same, and still is, as can be see by Fundamentalist polygamy and unfortunate cases such that of Warren Jeffs

What is it the Bible says about false prophets?
"By their fruits you will know them."

Eternal Marriage?

One of the most compelling Mormon teachings is that of eternal family and marriage. The idea of being with loved ones eternally is comforting and compelling. But what did Jesus say about that?

Allow me to set the stage. In Jesus' day, the Saducees did not believe in resurrection--they're "sad, you see." So some of these men get together and decided to ask Jesus a question, to either get him to agree with them or trap him.

The question was based on a part of the Law that required a man to marry his brother's wife if his brother died without giving her children. As my understanding goes, this was not for the purpose of polygamy or the man's enjoyment of multiple wives, but to protect the widow and to carry on the brother's family name by giving her children in her first husband's name.

The Saducees set up a scenario in which this type of marriage was practiced, with multiple brothers marrying a woman as each one died without given her children. They then asked Jesus which brother would be married to her after death. They were likely hoping Jesus would answer in one of a few possible ways. Either he would agree with their beliefs that there was no resurrection so that none would get her, or he'd specify a brother and they'd start throwing scenarios at him to try to prove him wrong. I supposed Jesus could have also said that all the husbands would get her, which even Mormons don't teach, and Jesus would have been rejected for saying this ad scripture never tolerated polyandry, more or less condoned or commanded it.

Instead, Jesus stumped and surprised his questions and listeners. first, he asserted that there would be no marriage in heaven, but that people would be like angels. What specifically he had in mind about angels I'm not sure, but no matter what it was, I doubt he meant that couples will be reproducing spirit children for their own planets. In fact, there is no indication anywhere that I know of that angels reproduce at all, and that being one of the main reasons for marriage in this life, it seems this function--and the covenant that makes is sacred--won't be necessary after death.

Second, he trumped the Saducees by pointing out that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that he is not the God of the dead--the logical conclusion being that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and therefore resurrected. Not only did Jesus answer the question that he was asked, he also answered the implied question.

Let's now think about this from the Mormon perspective.

First, this story is in more than one Gospel and found in early manuscripts, making it a reliable text, so we can't claim that this part was just put in by men looking to make their own doctrine. Eternal marriage is the more pleasant teaching, so it would be less likely for them to have chosen no marriage in heaven as a doctrine to add in later, anyways. The apostle Paul's own singleness and teachings support that eternal marriage was not required by Jesus.

We can also not say that Jesus and the Saducees weren't talking about faithful Jews, either, as the Jews in this scenario were fulfilling a requirement in the Law. There was no talk of worthiness or lack thereof. A Mormon can't assume, therefore, that this applies only to those who don't make it to the Celestial Kingdom.

That limits the conclusion to exactly what Jesus intended--after death, the resurrected faithful will not be married as they are in this life. He doesn't say anything about whether we recognize or love our spouse still in heaven--I personally believe we do--he just says that marriage as we know it will end.

This means that eternal temple marriage--which incidentally was NOT practiced in the Old Testament temple--marriage for eternity, and producing spirit children are not actually either requirements or part of God's eternal plan for us.

I would also submit that focusing on marriage and family so much idolizes it and puts it above God. If being together forever with family is the main goal, then being together forever with God is not. Even a good thing can become an idol when it is put above God.

I love my husband dearly. Just seeing him come through the front door, or getting a quick kiss before one or the other of us leaves for work or whatever else we might be parting ways to do, makes me happier than any other things of this world has or could make me. But that will be absolutely eclipsed by living in the presence of God after death. I fully expect to still know and love my husband there, but our mutual focus will be on God, not each other. Many of the purposes of earthly marriage will be unnecessary at that time, anyways. Does that make me a little sad sometimes to think that I won't share the same exact relationship, or a better version if it, with my husband after death? I'd be lying if I said no. But I only feel that way because I cannot fathom the joy and love that will exist at that time.