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Gospel Topics Chapter 6 Turner Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
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May 13, 2021 9:18 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 6 Turner Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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May 13, 2021 9:18 pm

John G. Turner wrote a response to the “Peace and Violence” Gospel Topics essay, and this week Bill and Eric discuss his review and more about one of the 13 original essays published by the church.

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Looking for a book that clearly explains the differences between Mormonism and Christianity? If so, Mormonism 101 by Mormonism Research Ministries Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson may be what you're looking for. Mormonism 101 covers a number of topics that will give you a better understanding of the Mormon faith.

Mormonism 101 is available at your favorite online bookstore, or if you're in the Salt Lake City area, at the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore, across from Smith's Ballpark on West Temple. 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. So glad you could be with us for this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism.

I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. The LDS Gospel Topics series, a scholarly engagement, a book that was released by Signature in late 2020. The book has 13 chapters written by various authors, and each chapter critiques one of the original Gospel Topics essays that were released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between the end of 2013 and the end of 2015.

And we should make this very clear. This book deals with the 13 original essays, because if you go to the Gospel Topics essays section on the Church's official website, you're going to notice that there are not 13 essays listed there. For the time being, we're going to look at what these authors wrote on the specific original essays that were part of the 13 Gospel Topics essays.

Chapter 7 is titled Through a Glass Darkly, and of course that's a phrase that you can find in 1 Corinthians 13, 12. It comes up in the essay, and that's probably why author Gary James Bergera used that phrase in the title of his article. The whole title is Through a Glass Darkly, Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage.

How does Mr. Bergera start off, Eric? He writes, The LDS Church's release on October 22, 2014 of an unsigned scholarly-oriented article on the beginnings of the Church's past practice of plural marriage, part of its Gospel Topics series of essays, quickly attracted considerable public attention. The essay admitted that the Church's founding prophet, Joseph Smith, had married some very young women, had married other men's wives, and had concealed many of these polygamous marriages from his first wife, Emma Hale Smith. The essay represented an important departure from previous Church efforts to minimize the controversial practice.

I think that sentence that you just read, the essay represented an important departure from previous Church efforts to minimize the controversial practice, is a very important sentence because there is evidence to show that. Now, the footnote to that sentence is footnote number two, and it tells the reader to see the discussion in Newell G. Bringhurst, quote, Where Have All of Brigham Wives Gone? Now, I've not read that discussion that is mentioned here, but I would not be surprised at all if, according to that title, it's talking about the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Brigham Young. After it came out, one of the complaints was that it made Brigham Young appear like he was a monogamist. It doesn't talk about Brigham Young's plural wives, which is interesting because most Latter-day Saints don't have a problem at all with Brigham Young having many wives. But I remember before this essay came out, many times when talking with Latter-day Saints, if you brought up the fact that Joseph Smith had many wives, you would get a strong rebuttal from many Latter-day Saints. I've told the story on this show before, how you and I, Eric, were visiting Temple Square, and we were standing in front of the Christus statue having a discussion with a female LDS missionary. The subject of Joseph Smith's plurality of wives came up, and she was adamant that that was not true, that he only had one wife, and that was Emma Smith. There was nothing we could say to convince her otherwise.

She felt for sure that Joseph Smith only had one wife. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, Eric? I wonder what she thinks now that the church has admitted this.

I'm sure she's had to change her mind, and I wonder if our conversation ever comes back to her memory. I want to point out, it did come out October 22, 2014, and it was an unsigned scholarly-oriented article. We've talked about this in the past weeks, about how none of these were signed, but are published on the official church website. But it does say this, part of its Gospel Topics series of essays. Still, that's no longer true, because this is now a Gospel Topics article, but no longer is included as one of the official 13 essays. And you had mentioned at the beginning of the show that the 13 essays is what this book is covering, but if you go to the church's website today, there are only 11 there because they took the three essays on polygamy and turned it into one.

So that information is actually old, even though this book is written in 2020. And you did a pretty in-depth comparison between the one that's posted now as a Gospel Topics essay, and the other three that used to be, but are now in another section on the website. The new essay takes only 11 sentences from this essay. And it's a five-page essay, so that's not very much. Eleven sentences, and so a lot of information that was in the original essay is not found in the new essay, in the compilation.

Well, Mr. Berger goes on to say, the essay begins with a word of caution. And it says, many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. Plural marriage was introduced among the early saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential. They did not discuss their experiences publicly or in writing until after the Latter-day Saints had moved to Utah from Illinois, and church leaders had publicly acknowledged the practice in 1852. The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin. Few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscence are not always reliable.

Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue. Like the participants, we see through a glass darkly and are asked to walk by faith. Now there again is that reference, as I mentioned earlier, to 1 Corinthians 13, 12, and that's where Mr. Berger gets the title for his chapter. He's going to talk about this memory-based reminiscence, and I tend to agree with him to a certain extent, that sometimes remembering an event that took place sometimes decades before can be a little bit skewed based on facts that happened between the time that event took place and the time that the person is discussing it. But before we get into what Mr. Berger says about that, let me just say this. Even though there may be some bit of discrepancies, as Mr. Berger sees, I think for those of us on the outside, and the complaint that he makes is a lot of these later reminiscence tend to show Joseph Smith in a more positive light than had those statements were recorded early when it happened. I don't know if that really matters for us as outsiders, because I think anybody who's not a Latter-day Saint are going to see some of these things that these people recalled and still find them to be disgusting, because we do not see Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. Furthermore, we find it really repulsive that Joseph Smith would use his status as a quote-unquote prophet to get people to go along with whatever he told them.

So I don't know if our complaint would be exactly the same as Mr. Berger's in this next paragraph. He writes, Such factors impact the accuracy of the sources regarding Smith and plural marriage and mean that any history of the beginnings of Mormon polygamy will be, at best, incomplete. This is not to suggest that all attempts at recreating that history are unavoidably flawed.

Some are more factually accurate than others. Merely that scholars need to exercise special caution in excavating and interpreting the story of Mormon polygamy. And I can understand his complaint, because if you want to be as accurate as possible and you see a danger in quoting people's comments years, even decades after the fact, you do run a risk of the actual history being skewed a bit, even though it's a primary source.

See, that's what can be real tricky. A lot of the testimonies that we have are by women who were involved in polygamy, were even married to Joseph Smith, you might say. But is there a risk that talking about their experiences decades after it happened, because Smith died in the 1840s, could those memories be skewed based on a lot of other events that happened since that time until the time that they are telling the story? I think he makes a good case for that. And I sympathize with his complaint in that, although I still stand by the fact, I think as outsiders, we don't have any sympathy to Joseph Smith.

We don't have to be culled into thinking he was a noble person for doing this, because we find everything having to do with it to be as being, as I said, disgusting. But the Latter-day Saint has a different situation here. They have to be able to read this essay and still walk away somehow having a reverence for the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And that was the task that these unknown scholars or scholar had to accomplish in order to put this essay together. I've used this story before, Bill, but in 2007 at the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, we decided to try something to illustrate a point.

What we ended up doing is we had a total of 33 women who dressed up in pioneer garb and had a sign around their neck explaining which of the 33 wives of Joseph Smith they were and stood out in front of where the temple is in Manti, in the street before it. And so people came up and were very angry, many of them, saying this was all a lie. It was an anti-Mormon lie that Joseph Smith only had one wife. We did the same illustration on two different Fridays in 2017 after this Gospel Topics essay had come out. And in the two nights being out there for three hours at a time, we didn't have one complaint. And in fact, most people already knew.

They weren't surprised by it at all. It showed that this essay had an incredible effect in informing many Latter-day Saints who had always assumed, yes, Brigham Young had many wives, but Joseph Smith, he only had Emma. And I think that was troubling for many. And I think what was really troubling for many, even the second time, was because a lot of the women who participated in this live illustration were close to the age of the plural wife that Joseph Smith married. So when you see a 14-year-old, let's say, standing out there, a 14-year-old young lady looks pretty young, and that has an impact on people. And they can always argue, well, you know, they married a lot younger back then. Well, we're going to talk about that, because that comes up in the essay.

But I think that had a shocking effect on a lot of people. Because remember, Joseph Smith, when he's marrying some of these really young women, he's in his late 30s. In Monday's show, we're going to continue talking about this chapter, Chapter 7, Through a Glass Darkly, Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-18 21:47:52 / 2023-11-18 21:53:02 / 5

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