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Why did Mormons practice plural marriage? Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
August 15, 2020 7:12 pm

Why did Mormons practice plural marriage? Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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August 15, 2020 7:12 pm

This week we take a look at the July 2020 Ensign magazine and an article on why Mormons practice plural marriage in the early years.

Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever

Viewpoint on Mormonism. The program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints from a biblical perspective viewpoint on Mormonism, is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry since 1979.

Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's viewpoint on Mormonism.

Did God really command Joseph Smith to practice plural marriage? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry. And with me today is Erik Johnson, my colleague at M r M.. We continue looking at an article that was published in the July 2020 edition of Inside magazine. It's a small article. It's titled Why Did They? Speaking of Latter-Day Saints practice plural marriage in the early days of the church. It's written by Kate Holbrook. And as we mentioned yesterday, Kate Holbrook works for the LDS Church History Department on her bio. It says she's a popular public speaker and was voted Harvard College's Teaching Fellow of the Year for her work as head teaching fellow in a course that enrolled nearly 600 students. As we mentioned yesterday, polygamy is a very complicated subject, and it would be almost impossible to answer all the questions regarding this doctrine of Mormonism. In a very short three paragraph article, as this is another large paragraphs, but still three paragraphs is not enough to cover it. Our complaint is that even though Ms. Holbrook is trying to answer what obviously are questions that modern Latter Day Saints still have regarding this practice, and you have to remember that it was several years ago that the church came out with the gospel topics essays on this very subject, too. Apparently, this question is still being asked for it to be in this kind of a format in the July 20, 20 edition of Inside. We don't think that she really answers the question very well for many Latter-Day Saints. That would probably be enough. They don't need to know any more. But we would hope that people looking at what she says in this article would only raise more questions, that they would look deeper into the subject. And that's why we're looking at it this week.

This doesn't appear to be an article that was going to be very in-depth. It was just a cursory look. But I wondered when I first read this why somebody like a Richard Bushman wouldn't have written something on this, because it is a very deep and complicated issue. And this is not her expertize. She has APHC, but it's not in the history of the church. And so the things that she says, I'm just kind of befuddled why it's even in this magazine, if you only have three paragraphs to work with to deal with such a big issue.

Do you think, Eric, that it might be because she's female?

I think that could very well be. And I mentioned that yesterday because this is an issue that would bother LDS women much more than LDS men, because many Latter-Day Saints women do not want to even consider the idea that they'll have to have their husbands shared with many other women. But that's what Mormonism teaches. Bruce McConchie said very clearly that the next life is going to involve polygamy.

And Bruce McConkey was a Mormon apostle. But let's look at what she says.

Continuing on in this first paragraph, Joseph dragged his heels for years to implement this practice, but eventually he did implement it because he wanted to be obedient to God's commandment to him.

Let me stop you there, because one of the arguments that we hear Latter-Day Saints raising in support of plural marriage is that God commanded Joseph Smith to practices. They also will tell you that God commanded Abraham to practice it as well.

Now you can search the entire book of Genesis where Abraham is mentioned and his story is told, and you will not find anywhere that says that he was commanded by God to practice plural marriage. It's just not there. But yet we have heard many Latter-Day Saints try to use that as an argument when she speaks of it being God's commandment to him. Meaning Joseph Smith. You could say that's true, especially in the early years. And we will talk about that in the next sentence. But let's look very carefully at what Section 132 says about this. If you look at Section 132 in the statement that's given before it actually begins. It says that this is a revelation given through Joseph Smith, the prophet at Norbu, Illinois, recorded July 12. 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and also plurality of wives. But there's another sentence at the very end of that introduction where it says, although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the prophets since 1831. Now, if you want to believe that Joseph Smith gave this revelation entirely by memory. Go ahead. I have a hard time believing that because remember, it was recorded in 1843. But according to this introduction, he knew about this since 1831. But if you look at the very beginning of this, what does it say in verse one?

Eric says, verily, thus say it, the Lord onto you, my servant Joseph. That inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand where and I, the Lord justified my service, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.

There's the context. That context is that Joseph Smith allegedly was inquiring of God about this doctrine of having many wives in concubines. Remember, that context is very important. What does it say in verse two and three?

Behold and lo. I am the Lord. My God. And we'll answer the as touching this matter.

What's this matter? The matter of having many wives and concubines.

Verse three. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I'm about to give on to you. For all those who have this law revealed onto them must obey the same.

What law? What does it pertain to the doctrine of their having many wives in concubines? You see, the context seems to flow here. Now we go to verse four for Behold.

I reveal on to you a new and an everlasting covenant. And if he abide not that covenant then are ye damned. For no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

There is the threat. If you do not live by this new and everlasting covenant, the new and everlasting covenant described above, which seems clear from the context regarding having many wives and concubines. If you do not do this, you will be damned. So it wasn't just a commandment to Joseph Smith. It seems that as of 1843, when it's recorded as a revelation. Now it seems to be binding on everyone.

How many Latter-Day Saints do you think who read this? Think that this is talking about polygamy?

And yet the context, as we read in verse one, is very clear. But especially in foreign countries where they may not know very much about the history of polygamy. And they're reading this. What are they thinking of? Well, they're thinking of celestial marriage in the temple that they have to get married in the temple. So they they interpret it in a 21st century context. And without having the background and understanding of the 19th century context, you're going to misunderstand the meaning of doctrine and covenants Section 132.

And I lay the blame for that misunderstanding at the feet of all Mormon leaders. After nineteen oh four, when the second manifesto came out and the church got serious about excommunicating members who were engaging in plural marriage, they had to change the definition of what this new and everlasting covenant of marriage was all about and what they did by leaving it in Section 132. They merely redefine it. It's no longer really speaking of many wives and concubines. It's now merely speaking of marriage in eternity, which of course must be performed in a Mormon temple. And it is only by being married for eternity to your spouse that you can hope to gain celestial exaltation. But we find that it goes on in this same section where it mentions the new and everlasting covenant, again in verse 27. What does it say in verse 27?

The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that e commit murder wherein he shed innocent blood and is sent on to my death after he ever received my new and everlasting covenant. Say, if the Lord God and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned say at the Lord again the phrase new and everlasting covenant is made.

But if you look again at the. Context prior to that verse, verse 27, it seems to still be referring to marriage. The man marrying a wife, verse fifteen, verse 18, a man marry a wife, 19, a man, Mario wife is still talking about marriage. But in verse 30, it goes on to say Abraham received promises concerning his seed and of the fruit of his loins from whose loins you are, namely my servant Joseph. Which were to continue so long as they were in the world, and as touching Abraham and his seed out of the world. They should continue both in the world and out of the world. Should they continue as in numerable as the stars, or if you were to count the sand upon the sea shore. You could not number them. But then what is it, say in verse 31?

This promise is yours also because you are of Abraham and the promise was made onto Abraham and by this law is a continuation of the works of my father wherein he glorify himself. Verse 32. Go ye therefore and do the works of Abraham enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved entry into my law and you shall be saved.

Again we look at the context. It's talking about not only Abraham having many children, but we have to assume he's having these many children as a result of these polygamous relationships he's having. And when it mentions the new and everlasting covenant inverse. Twenty seven. Did Joseph Smith do that? See, this is the point. In yesterday's show, we mentioned how the one rare exception that Kate Holbrook lists for the practice of plural marriage can be found a Jacob to 30, and that is if God wanted to raise up seed or to have more offspring within these Mormon families. But Joseph Smith didn't do that. There's no evidence of Joseph Smith having offspring through these polygamous relationships either with those who did not have living husbands at the time or those who did. There's no evidence of this whatsoever. So it sounds like he didn't fulfill what's being mentioned here in verse 32 go. You therefore do the works of Abraham, enter ye into my law and you shall be safe. You can see that according to Section 132, it seems to be saying that if you hope to be saved, you must enter into this new and everlasting covenant of plural marriage. Now we know they've changed the definition since then, but this is the way it read originally. Lest you think I'm taking this out of context, let me just cite Franklin D. Richards, who was a Mormon apostle, in a conference message in October of 1885, five years before the signing of the manifesto that abolished polygamy, at least on paper. He said it was difficult for men and women from all parts of the world who had lived in the monogamy order all their lives to accept this doctrine of the eternity and plurality of marriage. It was a new and ever lasting covenant, and if you abide not that covenant, then are you damned?

Say if the Lord.

Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our Web site at W w w dot m or M dot org, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.

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