So LDS Church, how do you really feel about pedophilia*? Apparently, it's excusable.
Last year the LDS Church Newsroom and History Dept released press statements and an essay, both declaring that it doesn't matter what times were like in the 1800s, racism is wrong! They offered meek excuses about the culture and times, but courageously, the LDS church used the words "disavow" and "unequivocally condemn".
“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” (LDS Topic on Race and Priesthood)In the past couple of days, we saw the release of another topic essay on Joseph Smith's polygamy. In it, the church admits "Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates" including with:
“[T]he youngest was Helen Mar Kimball…who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.”That is, when she was 14 years old, and Joseph Smith was 37 years old! (23 years her senior!)
Joseph Smith used coercive tactics to get young (and little) Helen's hand in marriage, saying to the teen girl, “it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.”
Helen felt that “this promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing…”
After her marriage to Joseph, Helen, still a young teen, lamented that, “like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.”
Regardless of whether Joseph had sex with Helen (the essay writers suggest it was for "eternity-only"), she felt "abused" and she felt a loss of freedom. She "willingly gave" herself so that she could "purchase" a reward. Perhaps Helen initially thought she had married Smith "for eternity alone" but soon found out differently. She said Joseph protected her from the attention of young men, and that her marriage was "more than ceremony," suggesting that she did have or would have a sexual relationship with Smith. (See this reference, pp. 499-501.) It sure sounds like she traded a lot for her "spiritual" virtue.
This form of child abuse and "spiritual" (if not literal) pedophilia* is very disgusting.
Yet, the essay writers attempt to excuse it with this claim:
“Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”
As if pedophilia was in style in Smith's time, therefore, it's just fine to dismiss. Further, young marriage practices or not, polygamy to teen brides was not normal in that era!
Apostle Neil Andersen tried this same excuse at the October 2014 general conference:
“We might remind the inquirer that some information about Joseph, while true, may be presented completely out of context to his own day and situation.”
But then later in his talk, Andersen said:
“The negative commentary about the prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the second coming of the savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who need your help.”On the one hand Andersen wants to excuse Joseph Smith by using the context of his day and situation, so that we don’t scrutinize him by our higher standards on a 37 year old Joseph Smith, the prophet, marrying a 14 year old teen girl. On the other hand Andersen, knowing the Internet is revealing the true character of Joseph Smith that they could formerly hide, calls on the idea that immorality increases and is more rampant in the latter days as we move toward the end-times.
Andersen wants Joseph to eat his teen cake and have his slice of latter-day wickedness too.
Sorry, Mr. Andersen, you can’t have it both ways. Either we excuse the unacceptable dalliances by our more modern strict views on pedophilia, or dismiss your view that modern culture is more sexually perverse than Smith was. To cherry-pick your moral codes by era and give Joseph a pass while condemning those who view pedophilia as evil is just plain irrational and backwards. Give credit to critics who decry pedophilia no matter where they see it--whether in Warren Jeffs or in Joseph Smith. Be honest and willing to admit your leader had some sick behaviors.
I challenge the LDS church to finally disavow and unequivocally condemn underage marriages and pedophilia, whether past, present or future. The emotional, psychological and even spiritual abuse perpetuated on young girls by its leaders sickens the world.
Furthermore, as Grant Palmer recently pointed out "it is generally unknown that he was accused of illicit sexual conduct with a number of women from 1827 on, until his death in 1844." Many of these women were not his so-called wives, but others that spurned his advances of spiritual wifery and swinging playfulness. That list included Miriam and Rhoda Stowell, Eliza Winters, Marinda Nancy Johnson, Vienna Jacques and several more.
This kind of abuse extended from Joseph to Brigham (married a 16 year old at 45!) to Woodruff (15 year old girl), Snow (15 year old girl) and Joseph F. Smith (17 year old girl). They all need to be condemned and disavowed like the pedophiles they are.
Stand up LDS essay writers and condemn this behavior! It's sure the LDS apostles won't.
In hindsight, Andersen's pre-emptive promotion of Joseph Smith just weeks ahead of the polygamy essay and confessions of Smith's teen girl dalliances--well, it appears Andersen craftily and calculatingly gave that speech to head off calls to the church for condemning Smith's untoward behavior.
They're going to have to craft speeches on the other prophets with teen brides soon enough, if they choose to defend the polygamous teen-marriage practice of their leaders.