Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Legally Defending The Immoral

Do you know Joseph Smith's opening pickup lines that netted him 33 wives and far more one-nighters?  Read on...

The LDS church topic essay on Joseph Smith's attempts to excuse his immorality 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.”

I already reported on how Elder Neil Andersen used the same tactic in his general conference talk.  Here are the details of this legalistic defense, straight from the page at FAIR Mormon, an apologetic LDS group who spend a lot of time getting down and dirty with Joseph Smith's philandering ways.

FAIR writes:

"...vocal atheist Christopher Hitchens savages Joseph as a "serial practitioner of statutory rape." ..."
"Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a victim that is deemed too young to provide legal consent ..."
"The very concept of a fifteen- or seventeen-year-old suffering statutory rape in the 1840s is flagrant presentism. The age of consent under English common law was ten. American law did not raise the age of consent until the late nineteenth century, and in Joseph Smith's day only a few states had raised it to twelve. Delaware, meanwhile, lowered the age of consent to seven.
"In our time, legal minors can often be married before the age of consent with parental approval. Joseph certainly sought and received the approval of parents or male guardians for his marriages to Fanny Alger, Sarah Ann Whitney, Lucy Walker, and Helen Kimball. His habit of approaching male relatives on this issue might suggest that permission was gained for other marriages about which we know less.
"Clearly, then, Hitchens' attack is hopelessly presentist. None of Joseph's brides was near ten or twelve. And even if his wives' ages had presented legal risks, he often had parental sanction for the match. "

Did you catch that?  Here's an image capture of these statements, since FAIR is notorious for editing once others point out their extreme apologetic gymnastics.
(click on image to zoom in)

Let me bulletize FAIR's legalese:
  • Joseph Smith was involved with young teens 
  • Age of consent laws didn't apply in his era
  • The age of Joseph Smith's "partners" were above the 10-12 year range of consent laws
  • Besides, Joseph got permission from the parents of the teen girls
  • Joseph may or may not have had sex anyway, even if the girls were unable to ever marry any other man while Joseph lived
  • Technically Hitchen's argument is presentist. was technically legal for Joseph Smith to have sexual relations with a girl as "old" as 14.  However, a little moment of thought will tell you that clearly it wasn't acceptable in 19th century America, even on the frontier to have sex with teen girls especially when you were already married.  That's why Joseph Smith hid polygamy. It may be why there were attempts to castrate Joseph (when he was tarred and feathered) according to both Fawn Brodie and Todd Compton. And polygamy seems likely part of the reason he was killed and his followers were driven west.

What was left out of FAIR's legal argument:
  • Polygamy was illegal in the mid 19th century
    • Joseph was having sex with multiple young girls and other married women
  • Coercion was used to get agreement from the girls and their parents
  • Joseph was already married, and his wife often didn't know of his philandering
  • Hitchens--the atheist--was far more morally correct than the religious apologists
  • Statutory Rape is a legal term, but immorality is what the LDS Church often preaches, except when it needs to excuse its prophets.

Isn't the purpose of prophets to guide the Lord's people morally, not legally?   Will they excuse Joseph Smith on legal grounds while exculpating him morally?  How can they call that prophetic?  Do their prophets lag behind the public opinion by so far?  How can they praise that man?  When will they disavow and condemn him

Maybe with a little more revelation they can...

Here's a revelation:  Joseph Smith was involved in so many illicit sexual exchanges, that if you comb some of the papers in Illinois or Missouri in his days, you may randomly come across stories of him that have nothing to do with revealed polygamy and all to do with Joseph Smith's typical character.

For example, from the July 15, 1842 edition of the Sangamo Journal. (State of Illinois, ss. McDonough County.) is this excerpt:

"Personally appeared before me, Abraham Fulkerson, one of the Justices of the Peace in and for said county, Melissa Schindle, who, being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that in the fall of 1841, she was staying one night with the widow Fuller, who has recently been married to a Mr. Warren, in the city of Nauvoo, and that Joseph Smith came into the room where she was sleeping about 10 o'clock at night, and after making a few remarks came to her bed-side, and asked her if he could have the privilege of sleeping with her. She immediately replied NO. He, on the receipt of the above answer told her it was the will of the Lord that he should have illicit intercourse with her, and that he never proceeded to do any thing of that kind with any woman without first having the will of the Lord on the subject; and further he told her that if she would consent to let him have such intercourse with her, she could make his house her home as long as she wished to do so, and that she should never want for anything it was in his power to assist her to -- but she would not consent to it. He then told her that if she would let him sleep with her that night he would give her five dollars -- but she refused all his propositions. He then told her that she must never tell of his propositions to her, for he had ALL influence in that place, and if she told he would ruin her character, and she would be under the necessity of leaving. He then went to an adjoining bed where the Widow ____ was sleeping -- got into bed with her and laid there until about 1 o'clock, when he got up, bid them good night, and left them, and further this deponent saith not.
"MELISSA (her X mark) SCHINDLE. Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 2d day July, 1842. A. FULKERSON, J. P. (seal)."

Here is the image scan for those that need the evidence (please look it up at this link and zoom in to see for yourself).

(click on image to zoom in)

Faithful Mormons may want to discount Melissa Schindle's legal sworn statement as anti-mormon lies. 

Remember, she made a legal statement to a justice of the peace.  FAIR and LDS essay writers want to excuse Joseph on technical, legal grounds for his dalliances with young teen girls.  Their reliance on legal arguments should be good enough to accept Melissa Schindle's legal case.

We also know the LDS Church hid these facts for decades, more than half a century after historians dug them up. The leaders only now disclose them in essays because they're so painfully available online and their dishonesty was far more troubling than Joseph's 170 year old philandering.

So who do you trust, the apologists or the young Melissa?

The church intentionally lied to you for years.

M. Schindle had nothing to gain and much to lose by coming forward.

There's a trend that Joseph used to encourage women into bed.  Notice how Joseph tried to wear down Mrs. Schindle (mrs.--she was apparently married).  This is how he operated.  He tried a direct approach, then coercion using his religious status and that didn't work.  Offer her a place in his house, and if that failed he'd toss some money in and see if she can be bought.  Then if she refused all his attempts, he threatened her with ruin of her reputation.  

If she's young enough and Smith was friends with the parents, he enlisted them as co-conspirators in his underaged debauchery, making them immoral as well.

The bottom line is, the LDS church wants to defend Smith, a serial underage rapist (if not statutory) using legalese, but they want members to adhere to a stricter moral code, not to date before 16, not to marry too young or too old, to have children and remain monogamous.  

The hypocrisy must be tiring.

I've heard chatter by LDS on the plural marriage essay with the response that Joseph Smith and the other men commanded to practice plural marriage were victims of the trials God placed on them. They obeyed, despite the hardship. This sympathy, enlisted from the LDS spin essay, is only nonobjective sheep following their church. 

The church bias shows up in the essays by trying to enlist sympathy for Joseph Smith and not much for his victims (teen girls, married women and their spurned husbands). For example, the husband of Joseph's fifth (or sixth by some lists) wife (who was Zina Huntington Jacobs). Her husband, Henry Jacobs, knew of her marriage to Joseph and continued to live with her afterward. Soon however, Henry was sent on several missions by Joseph Smith to Chicago, upstate NY, and Tennessee. He rarely saw his wife and the two children she raised singly. After Joseph died, Brigham Young took Zina for a wife (since B. Young took almost all of Joseph's wives), and once again Henry was sent on a mission to England. Zina moved in with Brigham and Henry never got to be with her again. He lamented in letters to her: "...the same affection is there...but I feel alone.." He died without his wife. There are many tales like this where families and couples are hurt by leaders taking and exchanging wives.
(Ref. "In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith" Todd M. Compton, pp. 81-82; 84,88, 90-94)

Similarly, the young bride Helen Mar Kimball who was kept locked away from young men and alone for Joseph cried, "I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself an abused child.."
(Ref. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, T. Compton, p. 502)

If there were victims for whom to have sympathy, Joseph is the least of them.

The fact that the LDS Essay enlisted your sympathy for that man and not for his victims shows the bias and removes your objectivity on this subject.


  1. Bravo! You've laid down the cards on this one. Keep them up! Every reveal on their hypocrisy whittles away at their intergrity.

  2. Is rapist too strong? Had Melissa Schindle turned him down (as she did) and then he proceeded to have sex with her against her will then the rapist label would fit.

    1. You're right. "Attempted rapist" sounds *so* much better.

  3. Great find on the newspaper. There are other great stories on Bennet and more in that same edition. Combing...

  4. I love this library. great find David! Check it out, Brigham pledged to have only 26 wives in this little snippet.

  5. Did Joseph use physical force? No. Did he manipulate and use cohersion? Yes. Then consent wasn't given by these women and the term rape is valid

  6. Excellent.

    Now, can we do something about this creepy paisley background?

  7. the law says that underage girls cannot consent to sex no matter what, so that is always rape. But even if the girl was not underage, it is still rape if valid consent is not given. There is also a presumption in the law that when you threaten or or make false promises in order to induce consent, it voids the consent. Sex without valid consent is always rape no matter the age.

  8. A young girl came to YW meeting wearing a blouse that exposed her shoulders. A "well meaning" church leader placed toilet paper on her exposed shoulders, humiliating the poor girl. Lets here it for Mormon puritanical values!

  9. David T., Seriously?

    "And in the words of the former prophet, who told us men to treat women as possessions.
    Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2007 General Conference, Priesthood Session:
    "Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions."

    Or to be concerned if a woman is overly educated, more than her man.
    Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2006 Priesthood Session:
    "...young women are exceeding young men in pursuing educational programs. And so I say to you young men, rise up and discipline yourselves to take advantage of educational opportunities. Do you wish to marry a girl whose education has been far superior to your own?""

    You know perfectly well that Gordon B. Hinckley did not mean women are possessions as you are implying! How could you be so twisted in your mind to even hint at this? If your mind wasn't so twisted you'd understand that he is saying to be good to your wives, to treat them well! And I personally would never have taken offense to this. I would view this as husbands and wives belong to each other!

    And then the second statement is clearly his way to motivate the young men in the church to get an education! To get them to understand that it is just as important for them to get an education.

    This is just further proof that you take things out of context then twist it to your twisted desired view.

    1. There was no implying what the church leaders said that was sexist. The hardest part can be getting female true believing members to recognize it.

      As Carol Lynn Pearson wrote: it's in the air. Maleness is better than femaleness. That's why heavenly mother has no name and God has 600. That's why we use the sisters' talks at general conference for bathroom breaks. That's why preparing food (historically an overwhelmingly female dominated activity) is done by boys when any power or authority is connected with it (sacrament). That's why a girl can tell the same lame joke from the pulpit and get crickets where a boy would get forced sympathetic laughter. We don't come out and say men are just better. But we don't have to.

    2. Matt J.

      Odd that your view is so different than mine. I can't speak for all women, but I do not have that view at all. I see the men treating the women very well in this church. And even though there may be many names for Heavenly Father, someone are not used in a good or sacred manner. It is likely there is a good reason there isn't a name for Heavenly Mother.

  10. Additionally, do you have any proof that it is wrong for women to stay home until their children are school age? It wasn't that long that women did stay home to take care of their children. Just because society is now saying women have to work or need to work to be fulfilled doesn't meant it is right!

    What is it with people that feel that it must be okay, or right if society is approving?

    1. Do you see this talk by Ezra Taft Benson as prophetic, sexist or just boring?

    2. Matt J.,

      I don't consider this talk boring or sexist. The Lord did lay a foundation for us, and he clearly laid out a the plan for both the male and female. What women and men apparently don't get, don't understand is that motherhood is the MOST POWERFUL position any one person can hold A full time mother has the opportunity to raise up a leader, a president, and executive a lawyer etc. She has the power to teach a child compassion, empathy, trust, service etc. However, now being a mother apparently is something to shun and be ashamed of.

      I don't know about you, but I think that is crazy!

  11. AnonymousNovember 1, 2014 at 10:31 PM:

    Why shouldn't a woman **be** a leader, a president, and executive a lawyer - why is it so POWERFUL position to raise one up?

  12. malkie,

    Absolutely a woman can be a leader! Considering how long humans live,. a woman can be a mother AND a leader, president, executive, lawyer etc.