Share This Episode
Viewpoint on Mormonism Bill McKeever  Logo

Gospel Topics Chapter 7 Bergera Part 1

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
May 16, 2021 9:30 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 7 Bergera Part 1

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 662 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

May 16, 2021 9:30 pm

Today we begin a series on a chapter on polygamy written by Gary Bergera, in response to the Signature book on the Gospel Topics Essays. For more on the Gospel Topics Essays, see

Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
Truth Talk
Stu Epperson
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Alex McFarland Show
Alex McFarland

Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith.

Mormonism 101 is available at your favorite Christian bookstore or online at 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. 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 Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. On Friday's show, we started looking at a chapter in the book, the LDS Gospel Topics series, a scholarly engagement, a chapter titled Through a Glass Darkly, Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage. It was written by a man named Gary James Bergera, and it deals with the Gospel Topics essay that was titled Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

This particular essay was released by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 22, 2014. We were only able to get to the very introduction of what Mr. Bergera is going to cover, but he does make an interesting observation. And one of his complaints about what is in this essay titled Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo is that a lot of the first-hand accounts from people who were involved in plural marriage were recorded long after the fact. And Mr. Bergera says that narratives such as that are subject to numerous influences and are fragile. In other words, he feels that a lot of these, though first-hand accounts, but written down years later, tended to paint Joseph Smith, as he's going to say, in a more reverential way.

So that's giving you a little bit of a background of what we covered on Friday. So today we're going to look at the bottom paragraph on page 198. He writes, Despite the initial caveat, the Church's essay proposes a reconstruction that, in my opinion, too uncritically accepts the reliability of the primary sources and adopts a defensive reading of those sources that minimizes, if not misrepresents, the underpinnings of Smith's teaching. The essay paints a reverential portrait of Smith as a prophet of God that emphasizes his spiritual qualities and avoids serious consideration of erotic appeal and other factors in the implementation of plural marriage. It presents Smith as a very reluctant polygamist who only accepted the sexual component of plural marriage after an angel with a drawn sword visited him three times and threatened him with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully by consummating his marriages. Now let's talk about this paragraph, because again, going back to what I said earlier, he notes this essay paints a reverential portrait of Smith as a prophet of God that emphasizes his spiritual qualities and avoids serious consideration of erotic appeal and other factors in the implementation of plural marriage. What does that tell us? I think it explains why an essay that is supposed to be transparent, or at least more transparent than in the past when it comes to Joseph Smith's plural marriages, is going to make him look like he's doing this out of a solemn duty to the God he claims to serve, that it's not something that Smith is making up to fulfill his own erotic appeal.

That's the phrase that Mr. Burgerer uses. But when you think about it, should that not be a part of the equation? Are we going to assume, based on what we know about Joseph Smith, that there wouldn't be any erotic appeal at all that would cause him to implement plural marriage?

See, I have a real hard time with that, and so when I read this essay when it first came out, that is something that's very telling. It does paint him in this kind of a picture, especially with this whole story about the angel who had a drawn sword, where if he did not go forward in practicing plural marriage, that God would use this angel to actually destroy him unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully. Or as Gary Burgerer says, by consummating his marriages.

Wouldn't that be something we expect from a good con man? I really don't want to do this, dear. Please, please don't think that I have any lust for you as an individual. No, I'm only wanting to do this because God has told me to, and if I don't, I'm going to be killed by this angel who has a drawn sword threatening me to go through with this. Based on the information we have, Joseph Smith did what many carnal, sexually-oriented men would do. They would take advantage of the situation by claiming that God told them to do it. I have talked to a lot of Latter-day Saints who have left the Church because of these Gospel Topics essays, Bill, and I'm going to suggest that this one essay that he's covering here regarding Kirtland and Nauvoo is the one essay that has taken more people out of the LDS Church, especially women. When I find out somebody used to be LDS and it was a Gospel Topics essay that did it, I ask, which one? And they'll say, well, this one.

Why? Because I never knew that Joseph Smith had multiple wives. I said, but according to the essay that he did it because God told him to, and they don't buy it.

A lot of people are not buying this, but what do you have? If you're the LDS Church and you're trying to be transparent, and you're trying to explain all of this, I think that you're going to have to come up with the emphasis on obeying God rather than men. And he did what he had to do because otherwise, he's going to be disobeying God. I don't think, Bill, most Latter-day Saints bought that. Well, I know certainly most non-Latter-day Saints, they wouldn't buy into that either because let's not forget this is happening after Joseph Smith is already married to Emma. So the idea that God would somehow send an angel to threaten Joseph Smith to marry, quote unquote, an individual woman when he's already married legally to Emma Smith certainly sounds out of bounds, probably one way of saying it, for most people who see the New Testament as giving us guidance on sexual behavior.

There's just no way a person is really going to buy into that. Unless, of course, you really want to be a Mormon and you really don't care about the truth of the matter, you just want to be a Latter-day Saint. And let's be serious, we have met Latter-day Saints who are like that. Is this about protecting the prophet at all costs?

I would say it certainly is. And I think that's why Mr. Berger has a problem with this. But he doesn't feel that they took enough time to at least even address that there could be some kind of, as he says, erotic appeal which led him into this. Well, you can understand why the Church isn't going to do that. Once the Church admits that any of these relationships were based on erotic appeal, now you see Joseph Smith as nothing more than a fornicator or an adulterer. You don't see him doing anything righteous, and I think that's the problem most of us on the outside looking in had, because we do see him as an adulterer, and obviously he's doing it because of erotic appeal.

He's not doing it because God told him to, because God would never tell him to do that. But if you're a Latter-day Saint and you love Joseph Smith as your prophet, you're going to make excuses for him. On page 199, it continues and says, according to later reminiscences and hearsay testimony, Smith concluded that the Old Testament practice of polygamy was part of the dispensation of the fulness of times that God had commanded him to restore. And then in parenthesis it says this, the essay does not point out that nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is polygamy specifically commanded for God's people generally, nor does the essay explain why other ancient practices, circumcision for example, were not so privileged in Smith's restoration program.

End of parenthesis. Well, I think we can certainly imagine why circumcision wouldn't be something that he would be excited about. I don't think any male would be excited about that, but when it comes to the polygamy issue, I think Mr. Berger makes a good point when he says the essay does not point out that nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is polygamy specifically commanded for God's people generally. However, if you go to the first paragraph, the second sentence of this essay says, in biblical times the Lord commanded some of his people to practice plural marriage, the marriage of one man and more than one woman. Now, when we did our critique of this essay several years ago, we noticed that in the footnotes, and by the way, let me talk about those footnotes right now. If you were to print this article out now, you would not get all the footnotes and resources that used to print out with the article. When you go to the footnotes now, when you click on the footnote, a window comes out from the side with just that one footnote. But to print that out, you have to highlight it and then print it out as just that one footnote. It doesn't highlight all the footnotes.

It makes it very difficult for you to print out all of the footnotes to this article, things that we like to read because they really really explain what's being said in the text. But in this footnote, footnote number two, it lists Doctrine and Covenants section 132, 34-39, Jacob 2-30 from the Book of Mormon, and Genesis 16. What's interesting about those footnotes, of course only one of them is from the Bible, Genesis 16. But section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants talks about Genesis 16, and it inserts in its account the fact that Abraham was commanded to take on Hagar as a plural wife. That's not what Genesis 16 says. It doesn't say he was commanded to do that at all. That's an assumption that Joseph Smith inserts in order to make it appear that that's what's left out of Genesis 16.

You're bringing up a great point. This is what they cite on the footnote, Doctrine and Covenants section 132 verse 34, God commanded Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. That is not found in the text, but if you don't know your Bible very well and you're reading from the Doctrine and Covenants, I guess you would assume, oh yeah, God did command Abraham to do that. Not once, as is pointed out here in this chapter, did God ever command anybody to ever marry a plural wife. But what about the other reference, Eric? Jacob 2-30 from the Book of Mormon. That seems so out of place for this sentence. Yeah, this is what it says, for if I will say at the Lord of hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people, otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

And what are these things? Well, it certainly isn't polygamy, folks. If you read the context of Jacob chapter 2, it's actually a command not to practice polygamy. So they quote verse 30, which merely says, if I want to, I'll do it and I'll make it a commandment. But he never did, as far as we know, until way later than Joseph Smith contradicts what's in Jacob chapter 2. And remember, the only reason God would change his mind, according to Jacob chapter 2, is if he wants to, as it says, raise up seed. Well, Joseph Smith doesn't leave behind any record of these plural marriage relationships having children. So he seems to have violated the whole purpose for polygamy, according to Jacob chapter 2. This is why I feel that footnote in the first paragraph is very, very misleading. If you would like more information regarding mormonism, please visit our website at
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-18 07:25:00 / 2023-11-18 07:30:16 / 5

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime