LDS Perspectives Podcast: “Tough Questions about Mormon Polygamy,” with Brian and Laura Hales

Listen on the website, or through the direct audio link.

Few aspects of Joseph Smith’s life have been scrutinized more in recent years than his personal practice of polygamy.

Some readers’ first exposure to Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy comes from reading sensational headlines. Exaggerations and assumptions fill internet discussions, podcasts, and newspaper articles, so it is hard to know where to go for accurate information.

The temptation by some authors to fill in historical gaps often results in distortions that stir up emotions and create tantalizing soundbites that, even if largely fictional, may generate unnecessary fear and confusion.

Polygamy is part of the collective Mormon past that many struggle to understand. Current members have no cultural or religious basis to situate plural marriage. Members in pioneer Nauvoo shared that same struggle. When Benjamin Johnson first heard of it, he recalled: “If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been more shocked or amazed.”

Early Mormon polygamy is a historical puzzle that can at best be awkwardly reconstructed from fragmentary recollections. But it is apparent from reminiscences that those who practiced it were convinced it represented a religious practice instituted by God.

Church Historian Matt Grow noted that the more complicated the history, the more nuanced conclusions should be. Mormon polygamy was undoubtedly complicated, warranting provisional conclusions. In this interview, Daniel C. Peterson of the Interpreter Foundation interviews Brian and Laura Hales about the most common questions asked about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

Join us for this candid discussion about what can and cannot be known about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy. This episode is a joint production of LDS Perspectives and the Interpreter Foundation. Access a transcript of “Tough Questions about Polygamy” at the LDS Perspectives website.

 

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Lisa Olsen Tait, “Susa Young Gates and Genealogy Work”

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Lisa Olsen Tait claims that Susa Young Gates is the most important Mormon woman that most have never heard of.

Susa grew up in a time when cultural gender roles were changing and women’s opportunities were expanding in exponential ways. Susa took advantage of these opportunities and was active in civic and religious spheres as a writer, editor, educator, and LDS Church leader.  She also started both the Relief Society and Young Women’s magazines.

In the 1880s, she accompanied her husband Jacob on a mission to the Sandwich Islands. There she developed a deep and enduring friendship with Elder Joseph F. Smith.

It is perhaps because of her passion for genealogy work that the Prophet Joseph F. Smith shared with her a vision he had concerning the redemption of the dead. The doctrine was not new, but it was comforting to have it articulated in one place. Susa recorded the prophet’s dictation and the vision was first distributed in Church magazines.

Join Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast as he discusses with women’s historian Lisa Olsen Tait the reception history of Doctrine and Covenants 138.

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Rachel Steenblik and Caitlin Connolly, “A Heavenly Mother”

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Last summer Russell Stevenson sat down with Rachel Steenblik and Caitlin Connolly, two women who have studied the concept of a divine feminine–or Heavenly Mother.

Rachel was the primary researcher on a BYU Studies article that identified known references to a Heavenly Mother in the Mormon historical record. Caitlin was commission to paint Heavenly Mother by Deseret Book.

Though it is assumed that we have a Heavenly Mother, she is rarely mentionioned in LDS Church discourse, with a preference to referring to Heavenly Father or Heavenly Parents.

Steenblick notes that most members are aware of the reference to a Heavenly Mother by Eliza R. Snow in “O My Father.” However, her song was not the first reference. W. W. Phelps wrote two pieces–one a few months before the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death and one a few months after. And in the nineteenth-century Church, a Heavenly Mother was not unfrequently referenced.

Three prophets of the twentieth century, Spencer W. Kimball, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Harold B. Lee, stated that women were created in Heavenly Mother’s image.

Contemporary Old Testament scholars see the divine feminine, or a Heavenly Mother, in scripture, though it is difficult for the lay person to identify those references.

Both women feel discussions of a divine feminine are important because they help to answer the question for women: “Where do I belong in the eternities?

The Church’s gospel topic essay “Mother in Heaven,” the BYU Studies article, and a new book published by Deseret Book can help encourage dialogue on this important topic.

Check out to the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives.

LDS Perspectives Podcast: David F. Holland, “The Problem of Pain.”

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David F. Holland is a respected scholar and Professor of New England Church History at Harvard Divinity School. On October 29, 2016, he spoke on the topic “Latter-day Saints and the Problem of Pain” at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU in Provo, Utah.

Recently LDS Perspectives host Nick Galieti interviewed David Holland about his presentation at BYU, his further explorations on the seemingly paradoxical problem of pain, as well as the role pain and suffering play in the journey of the Christian disciple.

David reflects on counsel given to his father from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, prior to an address Holland’s father gave at BYU. The counsel was to be sensitive to the unseen problems that inform the varied histories of audience members, “There are scars that go unnoticed, but you must see them. You must tread with caution on the hallowed ground of another’s suffering.”

Holland shared that two members of his New England area stake committed suicide within a week of each other. It is in this backdrop that David spoke in simultaneous roles as an admittedly amateur-philosopher and historian-scholar.

He reviewed a history of the role of pain and suffering in early American religious settings, as well as proposed answers to the questions many still carry about the relationship of pain to our mortal experiences. Answers for which the restored gospel of Latter-day Saint theology meets in rich and profound ways.

Holland elaborates on how historically religions saw pain and suffering as the voice of God declaring his displeasure with their actions. Others felt discord with the concept of a deity that only spoke when displeased.

The people of early America, when faced with this paradox of “a choice in which God could either be cruel or mute, they increasingly chose the silence.” Thus a mute God, and a rigidly closed cannon became part of how many religious Americans viewed life and religious practice.

Many today view God, or their concept of God, as the answer to pain and suffering. If there is no reprieve from pain, then there must be no God. With so many today feeling the pains of depression and other mental health issues, Holland postulates that “[Mental illness] is the next great frontier of our ministry [as Latter-day Saints].”

LDS Perspectives Podcast: Vanity Prayers, with Leta Greene

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Leta Greene never thought she would grow up to be a beauty consultant and motivational speaker. But she has overcome the scars of emotional and physical abuse and feelings of awkwardness and ugliness to excel at life by choosing happiness.

Leta has developed a system of changing the way women perceive themselves through daily validation or “vanity prayers.” She has learned that nobody can give from an empty well. One of the most important things women need to nurture is their relationship with themselves.

Through her experiences, she speaks to setting healthy boundaries to protect against emotional and physical abuse and listening to our inner compasses in our interactions. She advocates only allowing into our spheres of influence those we love, trust, and who take responsibility.

The way women perceive themselves is often the biggest “glass ceiling” they need to break in order to excel and achieve their dreams. Leta gives us some tools to begin thinking in new ways. Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews Leta Greene about harnessing our inner beauty.