Abstract: In early 1830 Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, a 269,938-word volume that discusses religious themes intermingled with a history of ancient American peoples.1 Claiming it was scripture like the Bible,2 in 1841 he declared it to be “the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion.”3 Yet, many changes in the text of the Book of Mormon can be detected when comparing the original manuscript to the version available today. These changes have served as a lightning rod for some critics who imply that a divinely inspired book should not require any alterations. This article examines the types of changes that have occurred while trying to assign levels of significance and identify Joseph’s motives in making those alterations in the 1837 and 1840 reprintings of the book.
Abstract: In the past decades much of the debate regarding Joseph Smith and plural marriage has focused on his motivation — whether libido or divine inspiration drove the process. Throughout these debates, a small group of observers and participants have maintained that Joseph did not practice polygamy at any time or that his polygamous sealings were nonsexual spiritual marriages. Rather than simply provide supportive evidence for Joseph Smith’s active involvement with plural marriage, this article examines the primary arguments advanced by monogamist proponents to show that important weaknesses exist in each line of reasoning. Continue reading
A Review of Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Women and Men. Pivot Point Books, 2016, 226 pages with endnotes. $19.95.
Abstract: The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy boldly declares “that plural marriage never was — is not now — and never will be ordained of God” (21) and that the Mormon religion is guilty of “extraordinary spiritual abuse” (22) due to the practice. Seven distinct problems associated with plural marriage are identified, four of which have merit: polygamy history is often messy; earthly polygamy is unfair to women; widows and widowers are treated differently regarding future sealings; and the cancellation of sealings has not always paralleled the desires of the participants. Three additional issues form the bulk of the discussion and are based upon assumptions about eternity: polygamy is required in the celestial kingdom; child-to-parent sealings may be unfair in eternity; and eternal polygamy will be everlastingly unfair to women. This review addresses these observations, noting that the idea that all exalted beings are polygamists is false, revelation has not defined the exact nature of earthly parent–child relationships in the afterlife, and the dynamics of eternal plural marriage have not been revealed. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy seeks to reinforce fears of the unknown while ignoring the abundant messages that God promises eternal joy and happiness to those who live worthily. Continue reading
Abstract: In the October 2015 issue of The Journal of Mormon History, Gary Bergera presents a richly illustrated article, “Memory as Evidence: Dating Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages to Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs, and Presendia Buell” (95–131). It focuses on a page from the “Historian’s Private Journal,” which Bergera dates to “specifically September or thereabouts” of 1866 (99). Wilford Woodruff’s handwriting on that page describes Joseph Smith’s plural marriage sealings and dates his marriage to Louisa Beaman to “May 1840,” to Zina Huntington on “October 27, 1840,” to Presendia Huntington on “December 11, 1840,” and also to Rhoda Richards on “June 12, 1843.” The first three dates on the historian’s document are important, as Bergera explains: “If accurate, Woodruff’s record not only pushes back the beginnings of Joseph Smith earliest Nauvoo plural marriage by a year but it also requires that we reevaluate what we think we know — and how we know it — about the beginnings of LDS polygamy” (95–96). The key question is whether the information on that page can be considered “accurate” in light of other available documents dealing with these plural sealings. During the remaining thirty-four pages of the article, Bergera presents an argument that 1840, not 1841, is the most reliable year for the Prophet’s earliest Nauvoo plural unions. This essay examines why his analysis of the records appears to be incomplete and his conclusions problematic. Continue reading
Abstract: Part 2 of this response to Denver Snuffer’s essay entitled “Plural Marriage” posted on March 22, 2015, will primarily address non-plural marriage issues as discussed in the last twenty pages.1 Snuffer’s portrayal of adoption teachings and practices is analyzed and shown to be in error, along with his interpretation of presiding priesthood quorums as described in the Doctrine and Covenants. His primary thesis, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in apostasy, is also examined including Snuffer’s personal need for the Church to have fallen away in order to create an opening for his new visionary voice. The lack of evidence supporting such an apostasy is also reviewed including the obvious absence of any prophesied latter-day “dwindling in unbelief.” Snuffer is compared to other dissidents who have come and gone over the past century showing his claims are not unexpected or original. While the Latter-day Saints could be more obedient, a core group of righteous members and leaders has always existed in the Church through which the Lord could perform His restorative works. Continue reading