The LDS Church did it again. They caved to public peer pressure. They admitted that they illegally practiced plural marriages after they promised in a manifesto not to do so. They confessed this sin only decades after very meticulous and thorough historian D. Michael Quinn called them out on it in early 1985.
In their latest Topic article on plural marriage, the LDS Church confesses thusly:
" plural marriage...was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s. Thereafter, for more than half a century, plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints."Understand, "more than half a century" from the early 1840s means that it continued past 1890 when LDS president Wilford Woodruff pronounced, "in the most solemn manner, declare that...We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice."
Now the LDS Church very subtly admits Woodruff, the fourth prophet, was a liar. The Topic confesses:
"On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years. In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages."In the last Topic on Race, they told us that 11 prophets from Brigham Young to the first part of Spencer Kimball's tenure as LDS president, their mouthpieces of God declared false doctrine and continued false practices of racism and denying their version of salvation to a large class of people. They admitted as well that their Book of Mormon, their Book of Abraham and Book of Moses are false concerning the dark skin curse they preach in the canon of scripture held sacred by LDS members.
Now, we find out they also lied about polygamy in their own scripture. In Official Declaration 1 of the D&C, Woodruff didn't qualify the exceptional basis or the Mexico and Canada angle. He said (in 1890), "We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice."
I am very happy to see the LDS Church admitting that from 1890 to 1904 their prophets lied. LDS president Woodruff in the most solemn manner declared that they weren't practicing polygamy. He even crossed his fingers when he said it, adding: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray... If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray..."
Given this admission of a lie and the pronouncement that God would remove him if he lied, can we finally agree that since God didn't remove him or any of the subsequent liars--I mean prophets--that their God is absent, if not invisibly non-existent?
All that aside, what I really want to address is the whitewashing the new Topic gives on sexism. The plural marriage article says this:
"Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all."Hm. Let's examine one case. Thirty-seven year old Joseph Smith's attempts to "convince" Helen Mar Kimball, at age 14 (23 years his younger), to marry him after he'd already married several other women (including other men's wives) were coercion at best. Said Smith to Helen: "If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred."
Before he'd ensured her of exaltation, Helen said of the idea of marrying an already married man, "my sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure."
After laying the guilt of her entire family's salvation on her accepting Joseph Smith's proposal, she said, "This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."
She called herself an ewe lamb and after marrying Smith, said she "thought myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur."
The thoughts of this young 14 year old girl break my heart, as a father of a young teen girl. Remember, she was just a newborn baby girl when Joseph Smith was 24, the year he published the Book of Mormon and began his designs on other women. I wondered, as I read the plural marriage topic article, if this was in the mind of the current Topic writers when they wrote:
"[P]lural marriage was a religious principle that required personal sacrifice. Accounts left by men and women who practiced plural marriage attest to the challenges and difficulties they experienced, such as financial difficulty, interpersonal strife, and some wives’ longing for the sustained companionship of their husbands."And
"Virtually all of those practicing it in the earliest years had to overcome their own prejudice against plural marriage and adjust to life in polygamous families."And
"Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women. Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages; remarriage was also readily available."All the talk about how the poor polygamists suffered...it's as if they're trying to turn them into victims. Well, at least they're half right. The women were victims of exploitative men.
The LDS Topic writers defend against this charge of exploitation, saying:
"Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization. For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants."
Really? Willing participants? This is hardly the case, when your core scripture reveals the following words of the Lord:
"For behold, I (God) reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned." (Doctrine and Covenants 132:4)
In that same section of LDS Scripture, Joseph Smith's first and only legal wife, Emma Smith, was told:
"But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord... But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds. And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses." (D&C 132:54-56)
Emma was told that if she didn't accept polygamy and let Joseph marry other women, the Lord would destroy her and then Joseph would marry as many wives as he wanted. She'd better not take other men, and she'd better forgive him his trespasses in the barn with Fanny or else!
So, with this established doctrine on the frontiers of Utah in Mormon polygamy compounds, with no where in thousands of miles and no money to help these wives escape, the LDS Church tells us the women had a choice and that they were willing participants. Right.
Sigh. The spin the LDS Historians put on this... It's as if they're whitewashing the women and spinning them dry. Sexism still reigns in Utah, in the halls at Church History dept, among the writers of essays trying to come clean. The dirtiness of their words still clings.
The Topic article never addresses the trespasses of child brides by several of the early LDS prophets. I won't get into the details, but this graphic which Bart at Mormoninfographics produced (we collaborated on it in August 2013) summarizes the child brides of prophets nicely.
Note: it's interesting how the historians writing the topic say, Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization. This sounds suspiciously a lot like the justifications the LDS Church gives for its defense of traditional marriage.
“Again I told her [Emma] I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!! She told me this story too was verily true.”
- William McLellin, 1872 letter to Joseph Smith III, see In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton, p. 35