"The Mormons" on Frontline/The American Experience

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InOregon
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Postby InOregon » Mon 07 May, 2007 02:00 pm

Pizzo, I'm short on the time I need to write a longer and probably better thought-out response, but I want you to know I totally agree. (Shocking, I know!) I'm frustrated at times by the way the church distances itself from its history and denies the practice of polygamy, even though it's still in force in much more subtle ways.

I think new members joining the church SHOULD know some of the darker parts of our history. I would be horrified to enter into a marriage with someone whose past I only found out about AFTER we were married, and joining the church is exactly like entering into a marriage. The problem with not talking about our history is that people will find it--and from sources that aren't going to paint our history in a positive light.

That said, I still have a strong testimony of the gospel. I don't have a problem with the fact that Joseph Smith did some crazy stuff--he's human, after all. The fact that imperfect men are called to be prophets forces us to focus and rely on the only men we know to be perfect--Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
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Postby Lowdoggy Dogg » Mon 07 May, 2007 02:03 pm

pizzocalabro wrote:
Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:Re: J. Smith and multiple wives, is there much to talk about though? Since the Church no longer practices polygamy it isn't a doctrinal issue that is pertinent to the present. It seems hard enough for members to read the standard works on a daily basis, much less delve into history. I do think it has great historical interest, but it isn't pertinent to the Church's mission.

D&C 132 is still in force the last I heard, and one of that section's main messages is that plural marriage is necessary for salvation. So, since the LDS Church is in the business of helping people be saved, I'd say that polygamy is still a doctrine that is pertinent to the present.


As jds88 pointed out, sec. 132 doesn't say that. It is essential for someone to enter the everlasting covenant of marriage to achieve exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, but for salvation in the celestial kingdom the requirement is baptism and confirmation.

pizzocalabro wrote:Also, polygamy is still practiced in the LDS Church, although not civilly--i.e., a man can still be sealed to multiple women at once (if his previous wives die or divorce him civilly) and all of those subsequent sealings are considered just as binding as the first, even if he still only has one wife in the eyes of the law. The same is not true for women--only one sealing partner at a time, thus the headache divorced women have to go through to be sealed to a second husband.


I don't think this can be accurately called polygamy, or polygyny if we want to be precise about the correct term for marrying more than one woman.

pizzocalabro wrote:Furthermore, I think it's deceptive to gloss over the truth about Joseph's multiple marriages . If I were a potential convert to the LDS Church, I would want to know that Joseph married multiple women who were concurrently married to other men, or that he secretly married fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls. I would want to know he used peepstones to search for buried treasure. I really don't think people can make an informed decision about these things unless they have all the facts.

This is not to say that these things should be taught in the discussions, but they should be openly admitted, especially in this day and age when such facts can be immediately found and verified with a few quick searches--but you'll almost never find this information in official Church documents or on official Church sites. It's not right that the only people who talk about the peepstones are anti-Mormons--Mormons should know about them, too. If Joseph Smith truly was a prophet, seer and revelator, the fact that he did some strange things at certain times in his life won't be able detract from that, if his message is strong enough. Likewise, if the LDS Church really is Christ's only true church, it will be strong enough to survive its own history--there are several quotes from Church leaders to that effect.


Agreed, but with the caveat that the conversion to the Church is predicated most importantly on a spiritual witness. I'm not downplaying the importance of knowledge, but it does not a conversion make. The Church's mission is to bring people to Christ.
Last edited by Lowdoggy Dogg on Mon 07 May, 2007 05:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Eric's Fat Brother » Mon 07 May, 2007 02:11 pm

pizzocalabro wrote:Furthermore, I think it's deceptive to gloss over the truth about Joseph's multiple marriages . If I were a potential convert to the LDS Church, I would want to know that Joseph married multiple women who were concurrently married to other men, or that he secretly married fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls. I would want to know he used peepstones to search for buried treasure. I really don't think people can make an informed decision about these things unless they have all the facts.

This is not to say that these things should be taught in the discussions, but they should be openly admitted, especially in this day and age when such facts can be immediately found and verified with a few quick searches--but you'll almost never find this information in official Church documents or on official Church sites. It's not right that the only people who talk about the peepstones are anti-Mormons--Mormons should know about them, too. If Joseph Smith truly was a prophet, seer and revelator, the fact that he did some strange things at certain times in his life won't be able detract from that, if his message is strong enough. Likewise, if the LDS Church really is Christ's only true church, it will be strong enough to survive its own history--there are several quotes from Church leaders to that effect.


This is an issue that I have dealt with at various times with this message board, actually. A disaffected or former member of the LDS Church will say something in a very anti-Mormon sort of way, and I will delete it, and then I will get a private message complaining about censorship and "why are you ashamed of your religion" and blah blah blah. Overall, Pizzo, I completely agree with you that a person's testimony should not be shaken by any "strange" things previous Church leaders did or said (generally Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Bruce R. McConkie, of course). And I definitely agree that the Church itself will be able to "survive its own history." The reasons I have for deleting some things that I have deleted, and I can only guess that the Church's reason for not focusing on these things is similar, is this: while I am not worried about the CHURCH falling apart, I AM worried about individuals. If I knew for a fact that every LDS person who visits this board had a testimony that was based on a firm spiritual confirmation, I would have no problem having those issues discussed openly here; but when there may be people whose testimonies are hanging by a thread as it is, and especially when the points are being raised by anti-Mormons, it will not stay on my board.

I know this discussion isn't about this board, but the board is my frame of reference for understanding why the Church may distance itself officially from certain things, which is why I just wrote that long paragraph.
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Postby Eric's Fat Brother » Mon 07 May, 2007 02:15 pm

Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:As EFB pointed out...


Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:I agree with EFB...


I also want to say that twice in this thread, Lowdogg has agreed with something I wrote, only excepting the first time, he was actually agreeing with shrff, and the second time, it was jds88. Hey, at least you're TRYING to agree with me...
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Postby Card » Mon 07 May, 2007 02:37 pm

Interesting discussion here. I watched the PBS documentary. I thought it was basically good. It was interesting to note what parts of the expansive history of the latter-day church they chose to highlight, as well as from which interviews they chose to quote. I liked reading the selection of complete interviews they had on their site, as well.

With regard to learning about Joseph Smith's young wives and all of the "shady" past of the church, I'd have to say I'm glad that it's not taught in church because who cares? I don't. It's sure not doctrine, nor does it aid me in reaching salvation. I know a lot of this stuff, and I still don't care because it's not relevant to anything, just like how my bishop's college life is irrelevant to me.

And, yay for people who are interested in learning about it. I am semi-interested, too, but less in an in-church atmosphere and more in an at-home-by-myself atmosphere. Even though, we did talk about some of that stuff in a church history class I once took.

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Postby Lowdoggy Dogg » Mon 07 May, 2007 06:15 pm

Eric's Fat Brother wrote:
Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:As EFB pointed out...


Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:I agree with EFB...


I also want to say that twice in this thread, Lowdogg has agreed with something I wrote, only excepting the first time, he was actually agreeing with shrff, and the second time, it was jds88. Hey, at least you're TRYING to agree with me...


This is really funny to me, and the answer is silly and demonstrates my occasional tendency to do things too fast. On both occasions, jds88 and shrff, they have cute pictures of little kids in their avatars, and I made the assumption (ass-u-me) that it was EFB.

I should have known better than to believe that he'd make so much sense in the same thread. :wink:

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Postby pizzocalabro » Mon 07 May, 2007 08:37 pm

js88 wrote:Section 132 says no such thing. John Taylor did receive some revelations to that effect, but those are not now and, to my knowledge, never were included in the LDS canon of scripture.

The wording of D&C 132 is controversial. The accepted interpretation back in the 1850s-1880s seems to have been that "The New and Everlasting Covenant" referred not just to the sealing ordinance/marriage covenant, but specifically to the law of Plural Marriage, with Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith going so far as to state categorically that those who would become Gods were those who entered into polygamy (Journal of Discourses, see [1] and [2]). After the Manifesto, the language softened a bit, to where prophets and apostles talked about those who accepted the practice of polygamy in their hearts, even if they couldn't practice it. I was always taught that the principle of Plural Marriage (and the penalties regarding disobedience to it) were still in force, but were in abeyance during this life, or at least until the Millennium. Since I have been unable to find any references to support this interpretation, I guess I'll have to chalk that up to overzealous Sunday School teachers.

Lowdoggy Dogg wrote:
Also, polygamy is still practiced in the LDS Church, although not civilly--i.e., a man can still be sealed to multiple women at once (if his previous wives die or divorce him civilly) and all of those subsequent sealings are considered just as binding as the first, even if he still only has one wife in the eyes of the law.
<snip>


I don't think this can be accurately called polygamy, or polygyny if we want to be precise about the correct term for marrying more than one woman.

Well, as I said, it's not civil polygamy. But I would argue that it is plural marriage, and is therefore celestial polygamy. (And, by the way, polygamy is a perfectly correct way for referring to a man marrying more than one woman--it would only have been incorrect if I had called it polyandry.)

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Postby pizzocalabro » Mon 07 May, 2007 08:38 pm

Penelope wrote:My ex-husband had to do the same thing I did when he wanted to be married in the temple again. When I remarried, both I and my ex had to write letters to the First Presidency explaining the circumstances of our divorce. When he remarried about a year later, we both had to do the same thing again. So it may be a headache for divorced women, but their ex-spouses are also in for the same work and waiting if they want another temple marriage.

I didn't know this, but upon doing further research, you're right. Guess you learn something new every day!

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Postby pizzocalabro » Mon 07 May, 2007 08:39 pm

InO, you're fabulous as always. I'm not sure what else there is to add, but any time you want to post or PM me a longer and better-thought-out response, feel free. :-)

Eric's Fat Brother wrote:The reasons I have for deleting some things that I have deleted, and I can only guess that the Church's reason for not focusing on these things is similar, is this: while I am not worried about the CHURCH falling apart, I AM worried about individuals. If I knew for a fact that every LDS person who visits this board had a testimony that was based on a firm spiritual confirmation, I would have no problem having those issues discussed openly here; but when there may be people whose testimonies are hanging by a thread as it is, and especially when the points are being raised by anti-Mormons, it will not stay on my board.

I have two responses to this:

First, what about someone who posts disquieting (though verifiable) information about the LDS Church in a non-anti-Mormon way? Would you still feel the need to delete the post (assuming it was pertinent to the topic at hand and didn't break any other rules)?

Second, I don't know about other people, but I get mad when people want to coddle me. I mean, I'm not Mormon anymore, so I don't have to deal with it in that context, but it always made me angry when it turned out my Primary teachers had "lied to me" for my own good, and then my seminary teachers, and then my institute teachers, and on and on and on. And then, it turned out that the Church itself was sitting on sensitive documents and archives that it wouldn't let anyone touch, not even staunch, devoted Mormon apologists intent on writing the history of so-and-so. I just think that after a certain point it's counterproductive. I think that the main reason people who leave the Church over stuff like this is exactly that--they feel they've been lied to. Admitting the truth would tend to defuse that anger, I think. [Just to be clear: I was not one of those people. But I have many acquaintances who do fit this description.]

I mean, don't put the testimony-shaking material in the Sunday School manuals, but at least let historians have access to it. I don't know.

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Postby Eric's Fat Brother » Mon 07 May, 2007 09:06 pm

pizzocalabro wrote:First, what about someone who posts disquieting (though verifiable) information about the LDS Church in a non-anti-Mormon way? Would you still feel the need to delete the post (assuming it was pertinent to the topic at hand and didn't break any other rules)?


Yes, probably. Although I also think that things are less "disquieting" when not presented in a "See, your church is wrong and evil and you are stupid" sort of way. But yeah, if the situation came up (and it probably already has, although I can't remember any specific instances) I would certainly err on the side of deleting.
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Postby steelem » Mon 07 May, 2007 09:34 pm

Of course, the more pertinent question is: do you hear Strong Bad's voice in your head when you hit delete?

DELETED!

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Postby shrff » Tue 08 May, 2007 10:09 am

pizzocalabro wrote:Second, I don't know about other people, but I get mad when people want to coddle me. I mean, I'm not Mormon anymore, so I don't have to deal with it in that context, but it always made me angry when it turned out my Primary teachers had "lied to me" for my own good, and then my seminary teachers, and then my institute teachers, and on and on and on. And then, it turned out that the Church itself was sitting on sensitive documents and archives that it wouldn't let anyone touch, not even staunch, devoted Mormon apologists intent on writing the history of so-and-so. I just think that after a certain point it's counterproductive. I think that the main reason people who leave the Church over stuff like this is exactly that--they feel they've been lied to. Admitting the truth would tend to defuse that anger, I think. [Just to be clear: I was not one of those people. But I have many acquaintances who do fit this description.]

I mean, don't put the testimony-shaking material in the Sunday School manuals, but at least let historians have access to it. I don't know.


I have tried to get access to some of this stuff in the course of my own research, and was rebuffed by the Church History Department, yet I don't blame them. A case study illustrates my reasons for this.

In the 1970s, BYU archaeologists excavated the original Smith farmhouse in Palmyra. The current replica is pretty much built right on top of the original foundation. During the excavation of the outhouse, several pipes and broken alcohol bottles were recovered. The researchers were able to discover, through historical research, that the only member of the Smith family who smoked was Lucy Mack Smith. Thus, there was a good chance that they had found pipes that has once belonged to the mother of the Prophet. Booze, of course, was extremely common in rural households of the day for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Those seeking to harm the Church picked up on this, and began branding the Smith's as hypocritical, even though this was decades before the Word of Wisdom.

The Church can't be blamed for withholding information in its control that could be used/twisted by apostates and enemies. Not can the Church be blamed for distancing itself from polygamy and other controversial issues. If there weren't so many people actively trying to destroy the Church, and scholars that eventually become apostates, I imagine that those archives would be open. If Arrington wasn't upset about what happened, the rest of us don't really have a leg to stand on.

Ultimately, I think Jeff's moderation policy and the Church's policy are pretty similar.
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Postby Penelope » Tue 08 May, 2007 10:48 am

Interesting response, shrff.

I wonder, too, if the church leaders have become even more cautious about historical documents since the Mark Hoffman scandal of the 80's. He fooled so many people. While it's unlikely that there are tons of expertly forged documents floating around, I don't think it's impossible that there could be some.
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Postby Card » Tue 08 May, 2007 11:09 am

I still feel like we're sort of missing the point here. I think that the point is that all of these things we're talking about regarding Joseph Smith are not the gospel. And I think that's exactly why these topics aren't taught in church meetings regularly. They're histories, and even history isn't necessarily accurate, depending upon which account you're reading. I have an ancestor who lived around the time and location of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. It's not like every single sentence in his journal would be consistent with everyone else's at the time. So perhaps something that impedes a person's access to historical documents is an inability to rely on the accuracy of the accounts.

And regarding polygamy: I have no idea what male/female ratio of people will be eligible for exaltation in the hereafter. If it's less than 1:2, then it would appear that polygamy would not be necessary for ALL people to receive an eternal increase. But, if it's greater than 1:2, then it would seem silly (to me) for a just God to cut someone off just because of the availability of a certain gender.

Sometimes I think that our culture gets in the way of reason.

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Postby Momma Snider » Tue 08 May, 2007 06:41 pm

Really good points! I had never even thought of the ratio thing, but it makes sense.

I haven't watched the show except for the first half hour or so. That one historian with the dark hair and the smirky voice just ticks me off too bad. But I have a question. One thing I heard them say was that Joseph Smith continued to add to his story of the First Vision every time he told someone, until several years later he said the Father and the Son had appeared to him. Does anyone know where they got that? Had anyone heard it before? I've never heard anything like that from even the anti-est of the anti.

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Postby Card » Tue 08 May, 2007 08:05 pm

Momma Snider wrote:I haven't watched the show except for the first half hour or so. That one historian with the dark hair and the smirky voice just ticks me off too bad. But I have a question. One thing I heard them say was that Joseph Smith continued to add to his story of the First Vision every time he told someone, until several years later he said the Father and the Son had appeared to him. Does anyone know where they got that? Had anyone heard it before? I've never heard anything like that from even the anti-est of the anti.


I actually liked that historian. Well, at first she sort of grated on my nerves, but then I ended up really liking her perspective and listening to what she had to say. I read her posted interview on the pbs site and thought it was really interesting.

Anyway, in one of my classes at the university we talked about the different written versions of Joseph Smith's account. I can't remember how many there were (I want to say three), but I recall that the one that became scripture was essentially the most recent written version. I think that the other versions highlighted differenct aspects of the experience.

But, I'm not positive. I think I'll look into that. It'll be a good refresher.

And didn't he tell a minister of the experience shortly afterward?

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Postby Matt » Tue 08 May, 2007 09:34 pm

This site has a bunch of information on the varying accounts. I believe the owner of the site is LDS.
goto 10

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Postby Huzzak » Tue 08 May, 2007 10:02 pm

This is an article on the same subject from the Ensign. I read it while my companion spoke with our mission president of how my previous companion had seriously screwed up the area. It was pretty late.

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Postby WiseNLucky » Sun 13 May, 2007 06:05 am

I finally got to view both parts of the documentary yesterday. I really enjoyed it.

I think if anything was missing, it was the discussion around the ability to receive personal revelation, in particular about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet. People watching the documentary were presented with fair discussion of a number of topics. But they had to be asking themselves why any normal person would follow a religion of this sort, one that had so many strange underpinnings. There were only a very few discussions from members themselves about their own testimonies and none about the need in general to obtain a personal testimony.

I'm surprised that people I work with haven't come to me with questions; I can only assume they didn't watch the programs.

As to why the church doesn't embrace the parts of its history that do not fit neatly into the marketing package they are trying to deliver, I think it has to do with time. Centuries have gone into distilling so many pieces of a huge cannon of work from various prophets over the years into the points that are absolutely necessary to obtain salvation. Since you have limited access to the eyeballs and brains of the people investigating the church, you have to get everything important in before you get to the point of information overload.

I got a lot of my early exposure to the church from the local Church of Christ university library. The guy who introduced me to the church had only the scriptures to share. After I read them and wanted more, he had no advice for me except to talk to missionaries. So I wandered down to the university library near my home to find shelves and shelves of material, most of it virulently anti-mormon. The CoC undoing was that they also had a very good selection of materials from the church and its leaders. I probably read two anti-books for every for book and the difference was notable. The "for" books would present the principles and invite me to pray to find out if they were true. There seemed to be a nascent goodness to the path. The anti books were trying so hard to make the whole thing look evil that they came across as evil themselves. When I began finding pleas to avoid prayer about whether there was any truth to what was being taught, and to avoid people teaching the message other than to inform them of their evilness, I felt an overwhelming sense of deception and negativity and darkness -- the exact opposite of the books I was reading that encouraged me to do good to my fellow beings.

I'm with the others, though, that the church should do more to accept its history and provide access to materials that are true, even if they are uncomfortable. They can then vigorously combat the parts of the anti message that are not true. I have faith in the testimonies of individual members, that they will survive knowledge of the humanness of their leaders. To imply otherwise doesn't make sense to me.
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Postby shrff » Fri 29 Jun, 2007 10:47 am

This article will be appearing in the September Ensign. It seems to be a definitive statement by the Church on the Mt. Meadows Massacre, and will be accompanied by a book on the subject written by several members of the Church History department.

The article concedes that Church members plotted the massacre, carried it out, and then tried to cover it up.

I hope that this concession will finally provide some closure to this issue, and that the memories of descendants and relatives of those that were murdered can be peaceful instead of angry.
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