Friday, November 21, 2008

Does the Book of Jacob support polygamy?

Chapter 2 of the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon addresses polygamy. The Utah LDS say it supports polygamy and the RLDS say it doesn't. Which is correct?

From the Utah LDS Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:22-35 reads as follows:

22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.

23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

The Utah LDS interpretation of this scripture is clearly described on the "Origins of Polygamy Among the Mormons" page of the Mormon Polygamy Web site as follows:

The Book of Mormon, translated in 1829, makes mention of polygamy and, while it seems to forbid polygamy, it recognizes that sometimes God commands men to practice polygamy.

Jacob 2:27-29 reads:

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. (Jacob 2:27-29)

Anti-Mormons and other critics of Mormonism see this passage as contradictory to later Mormon teachings, but such critics fail to quote the next verse, which explains the conditions under which polygamy may be practiced:

For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30)

Polygamy is thus to be practiced as a religious principle and only when commanded by God. It should never be used to gratify lusts and can only be practiced properly under God’s direction and for his purposes.

As I understand this explanation, verse 30 is the only verse out of this entire passage of scripture that the Utah LDS say supports polygamy. According to the Mormon Polygamy Web site, which I believe is representative of the Utah LDS belief about polygamy, all the other verses in this passage of scripture support the position that polygamy is an abomination before the Lord.

In my experience of understanding the scriptures, I have found that proper interpretation of a verse comes from the meaning of the verses surrounding it. Jacob 2:30 must be interpreted in light of the meaning of the surrounding verses. To do otherwise could render a meaning opposed to the meaning of the surrounding text and thus would make no sense. It is clear from reading Jacob 2:22-35 above that the scriptures before and after Jacob 2:30 plainly state that having many wives as well as having concubines is a whoredom and an abomination before the Lord. And He forbade Jacob's people to have concubines and more than one wife. The Lord was not pleased with David and Solomon for doing these things and He was not pleased with the people in Jacob's time for also doing these things and justifying their actions by what David and Solomon did. In addition, the Lord stated that these actions were breaking the hearts of their wives and daughters and indicated that if they continued to pursue such activities, He would "visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction..." (verse 33). Thus, to take verse 30 out of the middle of this entire passage, which strongly states that polygamy is evil, and render the meaning of verse 30 to be that "Polygamy is ... to be practiced ... only when commanded by God," is ridiculous. Such an interpretation is out of context with the meaning of the surrounding verses. Even more, it makes God changeable, which He is not.

So, if Jacob 2:30 shouldn't be interpreted that polygamy is acceptable when God commands it, then what is the meaning of this verse? Verse 25 says that the Lord led these people out of Jerusalem to give them an opportunity to become righteous. In this context, verse 30 means that if these people are going to become righteous, He must give them commandments to obey Him. If He doesn't, "they shall harken unto these things," or in other words they will commit these whoredoms and not become a righteous people. This interpretation of verse 30 is in context with the meaning of the surrounding verses and can be the only plausible meaning given to it.

Thus, in my opinion, Jacob 2:22-35 supports the position that polygamy is evil. Knowing this, Joseph would have never engaged in this activity. And the Lord, being unchangeable, would have never given him a revelation telling His people to practice polygamy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why is the Temple Lot Suit important?

It's interesting to note that throughout the Internet, whether comments are made by Utah LDS, ex-Utah LDS, Christians against Utah LDS, or Community of Christ (formerly RLDS), the discussions about Joseph and polygamy rarely mention the Temple Lot Suit. It's as though the trial never happened. Yet, it is one of the most important documents existing that proves Joseph is innocent of teaching and practicing polygamy.

About the Temple Lot

According to The Temple of the Lord, by Richard and Pamela Price (you may purchase a copy online), the spot for the temple in Independence, Missouri (See RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 57:1) was dedicated in 1831 by Joseph Smith, Jr. and ten elders of the LDS Church (See The Temple of the Lord, p. 21). The dedicated spot for the temple was on a 63.27 acre tract which was purchased by the original LDS Church on December 19, 1831 (See ibid., p. 35) but deeded in the name of Edward Partridge, Bishop of the Church (See ibid., p. 38). After the LDS were driven out of Independence, the property was deeded over to Martin Harris. However, because of Missouri Governor Boggs' Extermination Order, it was unsafe for Harris to come to Jackson County Missouri to record the deed. Thus, the Harris Deed, which was a warranty deed (the seller warrants that it is legally theirs to sell) was never recorded (See ibid., pp.41–50).

About two years after Joseph's death in 1844, Brigham Young led several thousand LDS to Utah. On the way they stopped near what is now the Omaha, Nebraska area and camped for the winter, calling it Winter Quarters. While at Winter Quarters, Mr. Pool from Independence, Missouri contacted Brigham Young, who had a plural marriage with Emily Partridge, the daughter of the deceased Edward Partridge. Pool asked Young if Edward's wife and children would sell to him a quit claim deed (the seller doesn't guarantee they have the right to sell the property but will quit claiming ownership of it) for the Temple Lot. The Temple Lot is the city block between the RLDS Stone Church on the north and the RLDS Auditorium on the south that was designated by Joseph as the spot for the temple and which is a part of the 63.27 acre tract that the original LDS Church purchased (See ibid., pp. 73–86). The Partridges agreed to the deal and sold a quit claim deed to Pool for the land. The Pool Deed eventually changed hands until it was purchased by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), who owns it today (See ibid., pp. 52–61).

In addition to the Pool Deed, in the 1870s a warranty deed was recorded that transferred all the properties of the original LDS Church in Independence, Missouri from Edward Partridge to Oliver Cowdery on behalf of Cowdery's children. Based on this deed, a quit claim deed for the Temple Lot was sold to the RLDS Church (See ibid., pp. 63–72). Thus, both the RLDS Church and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) owned quit claim deeds to the Temple Lot.

About the Suit

In the early 1890s, the RLDS Church sued in court (Circuit Court of the United States, for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division, at Kansas City, Missouri, Judge John F. Philips) the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) who had possession of the land. The RLDS Church wanted the court to decide which church was the rightful owner of the Temple Lot. The Utah LDS Church assisted the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) in their defense. The presence of the Utah LDS Church in the trial was so notable "that Judge Philips in his decision spoke of it as 'the power behind the throne.' They furnished many leading witnesses, including Wilford Woodruff, president of the Utah church, Lorenzo Snow, president of the Utah twelve, and at least two of the women who had become notorious by reason of their claim that they were plural wives of Joseph Smith the Martyr" (The Church in Court, compiled and arranged by Elbert A. Smith).

Since neither party owned a warranty deed to the land, Judge Philips had to determine who was the proper successor to the original LDS Church which had purchased the 63.27 acre tract containing the Temple Lot. Thus, he had to determine the original beliefs of the church as well as the beliefs of the churches represented at the suit to decide which church was the legitimate continuation of the original church and entitled to the property.

The Utah LDS Church, Church of Christ, and the RLDS Church brought forth their best witnesses to testify how their church continued the beliefs of the original church. The Utah LDS Church tried to prove that the authority for the doctrines unique to their organization, including polygamy, came from the teachings and practice of Joseph Smith, Jr. The RLDS Church brought evidence and testimony that these doctrines were an invention of Brigham Young and other Utah LDS leaders and were not taught or practiced by Joseph. After many testimonies and cross examinations, Judge Philips rendered, in part, the following decision:

"There can be no question of the fact that Brigham Young's assumed presidency was a bold and bald usurpation. The Book of Doctrine and Covenants (printed in 1846) page 411, containing a revelation to Joseph Smith, January 19, 1841, gave unto them "my servant Joseph, to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and a prophet." The book clearly taught that the succession should descend lineally and go to the firstborn. Joseph Smith so taught, and, before his taking off, publicly proclaimed his son Joseph, the present head of Complainant Church, his successor, and he was so anointed.

"The Book of Mormon itself inveighed against the sin of polygamy.... Conformably to the Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrine and Covenants expressly declared "that we believe that one man should have but one wife, and one woman but one husband." And this declaration of the church on this subject reappeared in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, editions of 1846 and 1856. Its first appearance as a dogma of the church [the dogma of polygamy] was in the Utah Church in 1852.

"Claim is made by the Utah Church that this doctrine is predicated of a revelation made to Joseph Smith in July, 1843. No such revelation was ever made public during the life of Joseph Smith, and under the law of the church it could not become an article of faith and belief until submitted to and adopted by the church. This was never done.

"It is charged by the Respondents, as an echo of the Utah Church, that Joseph Smith, 'the Martyr,' secretly taught and practiced polygamy; and the Utah contingent furnishes the evidence, and two of the women, to prove this fact. It perhaps would be uncharitable to say of these women that they have borne false testimony as to their connection with Joseph Smith; but, in view of all the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged intercourse, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that at most they were but sports in 'nest hiding.' In view of the contention of the Salt Lake party, that polygamy obtained at Nauvoo as early as 1841, it must be a little embarrassing to President Woodruff of that organization when he is confronted, as he was in the evidence in this case, with a published card in the church organ at Nauvoo in October, 1843, certifying that he knew of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that the 'secret wife system,' charged against the church, was a creature of invention by one Doctor Bennett, and that they knew of no such society. That certificate was signed by the leading members of the church, including John Taylor the former President of the Utah Church. And a similar certificate was published by the Ladies' Relief Society of the same place, signed by Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, and Phoebe Woodruff, wife of the present President Woodruff. No such marriage ever occurred under the rules of the church, and no offspring came from the imputed illicit intercourse, although Joseph Smith was in the full vigor of young manhood, and his wife, Emma, was giving birth to healthy children in regular order, and was enciente at the time of Joseph's death" (The Temple Lot Case, Price Publishing Company, pp. 543–551).

The Importance of the Suit

The importance of the Temple Lot Suit in relation to Joseph's character was that in a court of law, Joseph was found innocent of teaching and practicing polygamy. The Utah LDS Church brought forth their best witnesses that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy to prove they were the continuation of the original church. Yet, in an unbiased court of law, the Utah LDS Church could not prove that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy, even with two witnesses who claimed to be Joseph's plural wives. In fact, the witnesses they produced—their best ones—were not credible witnesses according to Judge Philips.

So debates can continue and books can be written alleging all sorts of hideous acts by Joseph involving polygamy. But the fact still remains that in an unbiased court of law, where best evidence is presented and allegations have to be proved and witnesses have to be credible and every man is innocent until proven guilty, Joseph Smith, Jr. was found innocent of teaching and practicing polygamy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Are the original statements that Joseph was a polygamist true?

Not long ago I searched online and found Historical Record 6, edited and published by Andrew Jenson. I read for the first time the original statements made by some of the alleged plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr. and others having "knowledge" of these events. The interesting thing about these statements is that they make up the core of evidence used by the Utah LDS Church and most historians to "prove" that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. Without these statements, they have no substantial argument. Thus, in this post I wish to discuss a little of the background of these statements and make some observations regarding them.

Joseph was killed in 1844, but the first recorded statements regarding his alleged polygamist activities were made in 1869. So, if Joseph was the designer and promoter of polygamy within the LDS Church, why did the Utah LDS Church, after 25 years, try to obtain evidence of his alleged polygamist activities? I believe the answer is that they had none. All who discuss the subject of Joseph and polygamy agree that Joseph never publicly taught or practiced polygamy. Thus, no evidence existed from him on this issue. In addition, all agree that Brigham Young and other leaders acknowledged that they themselves secretly practiced polygamy in Nauvoo and justified their actions by saying Joseph instituted this practice within the church. They taught this idea to those they led west and in 1852 produced a revelation, allegedly from Joseph, authorizing the practice of celestial marriage or polygamy. Because the members of the Utah LDS Church trusted their leaders, they believed them when they said that Joseph started polygamy in the church. Thus, at that time the leaders had no need to try to prove this idea. However, beginning in the 1860s when Joseph's sons came to Utah as ministers of the Reorganized Church to preach against polygamy and to prove false the polygamy accusations against their father, the Utah LDS Church had to scramble to obtain evidence to support their position that Joseph practiced polygamy. (See Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Joseph the Martyr's Testimony of Innocence Upheld by His Son, Joseph Smith III.)

In the statements found in Historical Record 6, there are only a six witnesses that I consider key to proving whether Joseph practiced or taught polygamy. They are key witnesses because they were in positions to have had first hand knowledge of the truth of this matter. The rest of the witnesses based their testimonies on things that they allegedly heard Joseph say or that others said about him. While this might be corroborating evidence for the key witness' testimonies, of itself the corroborating statements don't prove Joseph was a polygamist. If key witness testimony doesn't hold up as true, then corroborating testimony doesn't matter. In addition, since Joseph couldn't defend against these allegations, to be fair and prevent lying, the testimony of a key witness should have corroborating testimony from at least one other credible witness. I consider four of the key witnesses to be Eliza Roxy Snow, Eliza M. Partridge, Emily D. Partridge, and Lucy Walker because they alleged that they were plural wives of Joseph. Emily D. Partridge, and Lucy Walker also gave testimony to this effect in the Temple Lot Suit. The other two key witnesses are William Clayton and Joseph C. Kingsbury. Clayton allegedly recorded the celestial marriage revelation as Joseph spoke it and Kingsbury copied it the next day. Only Kingsbury gave testimony in the Temple Lot Suit regarding his involvement with the revelation. (A PDF file of all their Temple Lot Suit testimonies is also online.)

When I first read all the polygamy statements from Historical Record 6, I was amazed how clear, articulate, and detailed they were, considering they were made anywhere from 25 to 40 years after the reported events (the last statements were made in the mid-1880s). I found it amazing because I can barely remember the events of last week let alone 25 to 40 years ago—even those events that were life changing. When I compare the allegations of Emily D. Partridge, Lucy Walker, and Joseph C. Kingsbury published in Historical Record 6 with their testimonies in the Temple Lot Suit, their allegations broke down under cross examination. While in the polygamy statements their recollections of events 25 to 40 years earlier were clear, articulate, and detailed, their statements under cross examination in the Temple Lot Suit a few years later were vague, rambling, and contradictory. Their testimonies in the Temple Lot Suit clearly don't support their previous statements published in Historical Record 6. How can this be? My answer is that the original statements were false and as such didn't hold up under cross examination in a court of law.

William Clayton didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. However, in his statement published in Historical Record 6 he said, "The copy [of the celestial marriage revelation] made by Joseph C. Kingsbury is a true and correct copy of the original in every respect." Since Kingsbury's testimony in the Temple Lot Suit under cross examination clearly showed that his original allegations were false, William Clayton's above allegation has to be false, making his entire statement published in Historical Record 6 also false.

Eliza Roxy Snow also didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. In her statement in Historical Record 6 she said, " It is a fact that Sister Emma, of her own free will and choice, gave her husband four wives, two of whom are now living [Eliza being one] and ... she taught them the doctrine of plural marriage and urged them to accept it." Historical Record 6 also shows Eliza Snow and Joseph Smith were married 6/28/1842. However, as an officer of the Ladies Relief Society in Nauvoo, Eliza signed the following statement which was printed October 1, 1842 in the Times and Seasons (an LDS Church paper printed in Nauvoo): "We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practiced in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.... Emma Smith, President. Eliza R. Snow, Secretary" (Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 940). In the same October 1, 1842 Times and Seasons, p. 939, Joseph stated, "Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.... We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church." Obviously, since Eliza didn't know of any other system of marriage other than "one man should have one wife" three months after her purported plural marriage to Joseph, her 1879 statement in Historical Record 6 was not true. Her statement in 1842 is considered more reliable, because of its closeness to the event, than the one made by her 37 years later. In addition, in 1879 she was living in a plural marriage with Brigham Young and as such could have been influenced to support his position that Joseph started polygamy in the church. For more information on the contradictory statements of Eliza Snow, read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Chapter 10.

In Historical Record 6 an affidavit signed by Eliza M. Partridge stated "on the 11th day of May, 1843, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by James Adams, a High Priest in said Church, ... in the presence of Emma (Hale) Smith and Emily D. Partridge." She gives no other particulars of the marriage. Eliza M. Partridge didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. So for her statement to be considered true, it must be validated by other credible means. Her statement is corroborated by the statements of Emily Dow Partridge, Lovina Walker, and William Clayton in the same section of Historical Record 6. However, I don't believe Emily Dow Partridge and William Clayton to be credible witnesses for the reasons given above. In Historical Record 6 Lovina Walker testified that in 1846 Emma Smith told her that she witnessed Joseph's marriage to Eliza and gave her consent to it. However, throughout Emma's life, she gave consistent testimony to various people at different times until her dying day that she was Joseph's only wife. Because Lovina Walker's one time testimony conflicts with Emma's life long testimony who was in a position to know the truth, I can't give credibility to Lovina's testimony. As a result, I don't believe Eliza's three corroborating witnesses to be credible and their statements shouldn't be used to corroborate Eliza's statement. Thus, I believe Eliza's statement that she was a plural wife of Joseph must be discarded because it lacks credible corroboration.

To me it is obvious that the statements of the key witnesses published in Historical Record 6 are not true. And if the statements of the key witnesses are not true, then the statements of the other witnesses published in Historical Record 6 can't be used to corroborate their testimony, making this entire body of evidence inadequate in proving Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. Thus, in my opinion the position of the Utah LDS Church and historians that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, based on this body of evidence, is false.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did Joseph lie about polygamy?

As I said in the previous post, I believe Joseph wasn’t a liar and deceiver. He endured great hardships for his beliefs. A liar and deceiver wouldn’t have done so, but would have quickly moved on to “greener” and more lucrative pastures. In addition, the events of his life certainly showed he didn’t use those who believed him to further his power, fame, or fortune. And thus, since He wasn’t a liar and a deceiver, then he was who he said he was: a prophet of God.

The Utah LDS also believe he was a prophet of God and that he was responsible for the introduction of the celestial marriage doctrine (also called spiritual wifery or polygamy) into their church. They believe God revealed to him this doctrine giving him a revelation in 1843 on this subject, which is now section 132 of the Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants. However, Joseph never publically taught this doctrine, but in fact, stood against it. (Joseph always denied association with this doctrine. See Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy). According to the Utah LDS, since he brought forth the revelation, but openly denied his association with it, he must have secretly taught and practiced this doctrine. Thus, they believe he openly lied about not being a polygamist.

While I respect their position, I don’t understand it. Once a person has lied to me or purposely deceived me, I have great difficulty trusting them in the future. In future associations with them, I’m skeptical as to whether they are being truthful and honest with me. It’s only after their future actions continue to show me they are trustworthy that I can trust them again. If I believe Joseph lied about not teaching and practicing polygamy, how can I believe he didn’t lie about the Book of Mormon, or his revelations, or the Inspired Version of the Bible? I can’t, regardless of the reasons for his lie.

Since I do believe he was a prophet of God, how do I resolve this issue? Simply, I believe he didn’t lie about it and someone else did. Now this would be a very foolish position for me to take if there was no historical evidence to support it. However, there is. Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, by Richard and Pamela Price, presently contains over 2 volumes of documentation supporting the position that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. Polygamy came into the church by three different conspiracies, with the last one initiated by Brigham Young and other church leaders, including several in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. As Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy shows, Joseph actively tried to stop it, but because it was practiced in secret (as Brigham and other leaders alleged Joseph did), he couldn’t eradicate it prior to his death. After Joseph’s death, the church was thrown into chaos. The people trusted the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and as a result, Brigham Young, who was president of that quorum, was able to take control of the church. The group he moved west was only about 10,000 church members (See RLDS History of the Church 3:27) of the approximately 30,000 members living in and around Nauvoo, Illinois and the 150,000 to 200,000 members worldwide (See ibid, 3:1). Although relatively small in number, this group was the most organized of the subsequent factions of the church and took with them the church structure (priesthood quorums and organization), church records (including unpublished writings of Joseph), and church moneys. In Utah, Brigham and the leaders of this group continued to practice polygamy and gave credit to Joseph for it inception. The celestial marriage revelation was first made public in 1852, 8 years after Joseph's death, which made it impossible for Joseph to confirm or deny its truth and, thus, seriously discredits the validity of that document. It was publicly presented by Orson Pratt in 1852 in Utah at the request of Brigham Young in order to give public sanction to the practice of polygamy. The Utah LDS Church has not been able to produce credible evidence that Joseph was the founder of polygamy in the church and that the celestial marriage revelation was written by him. (Read the decision rendered March 16, 1894, by Judge Philips in the Temple Lot Case.)

As I search the Internet what amazes me is that all the sites discussing Joseph’s alleged practice of polygamy and his deceitful cover-up never consider the possibility that he may have been telling the truth. It is assumed he taught and practiced polygamy and just lied about it. It appears to me that this narrow reasoning comes from the teachings of the Utah LDS Church over the years and from the many historians who have bought into this position. Nevertheless, I do believe Joseph Smith, Jr. did not teach or practice polygamy. He was a prophet of God and he didn’t lie to his people.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Was Joseph a liar and a deceiver?

There is much information on the Internet indicating Joseph Smith, Jr. was a liar and a deceiver and thus an imposter and a false prophet. And he did these things for his own personal gain: money, power, and fame. However, this is just not true. To help support my position, below is a quote from the RLDS History of the Church which provides some sound reasoning on this issue.

“This testimony [about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon] was related to hundreds of people before it was written in 1838, as many witnesses now living can testify, and was adhered to, and often reaffirmed without variation, to the time of his [Joseph’s] death, in June, 1844. Strange though the claims contained in this testimony are, yet it would be stranger still to think he [Joseph] could suffer as he did for the sake of establishing what he knew to be false. There was absolutely no inducement for him to do so. Neither wealth, fame, nor ease came to him as a result of his thus unflinchingly maintaining this unpopular cause. Thoughtful men who choose to believe his work a delusion, are compelled to admit his sincerity.

“The following statement of Mr. Smucker is a case in point:—

“‘If he were an impostor, deliberately and coolly inventing, and pertinaciously propagating a falsehood, there is this much to be said, that never was an impostor more cruelly punished than he was, from the first moment of his appearance as a prophet to the last. Joseph Smith, in consequence of his pretensions to be a seer and prophet of God, lived a life of continual misery and persecution. He endured every kind of hardship, contumely, and suffering. He was derided, assaulted, and imprisoned. His life was one long scene of peril and distress, scarcely brightened by the brief beam of comparative repose which he enjoyed in his own city of Nauvoo. In the contempt showered upon his head his whole family shared. Father and mother, and brothers, wife, and friends, were alike involved in the ignominy of his pretensions, and the sufferings that resulted. He lived for fourteen years amid vindictive enemies, who never missed an opportunity to vilify, to harass, and to destroy him; and he died at last an untimely and miserable death, involving in his fate a brother to whom he was tenderly attached. If anything can tend to encourage the supposition that Joseph Smith was a sincere enthusiast, maddened with religious frenzies, as many have been before and will be after him—and that he had strong and invincible faith in his own high pretensions and divine mission, it is the probability that unless supported by such feelings, he would have renounced the unprofitable and ungrateful task, and sought refuge from persecution and misery in private life and honorable industry.’— Smucker['s History of the Mormons]. pp. 182–183.

“This reasoning seems to be good. If it is weak at all it is in this: that Joseph Smith could be sincere and his testimony not true. Was his testimony of that character that he could be deceived regarding it? When his sincerity is admitted (and surely Mr. Smucker gives good reasons why we should admit it), is it not virtually admitting the truth of his testimony?” (RLDS History of the Church 1:19–21)

My observation of life is that people lie and deceive for personal gain because these acts are motivated by self-interest. As the above reasoning points out, if Joseph was a liar and deceiver, what personal gain did he receive from it? He received none. At the time of his death in 1844, there were approximately 150,000 to 200,000 church members worldwide who believed him (See RLDS History of the Church 3:1). If he was motivated by self-interest, wouldn’t he have used this large church membership to make himself rich and powerful and above the law? Many others have done so from their devoted followers. But he didn’t because I believe he wasn’t motivated by self-interest. He endured great hardships for what he believed and not for personal gain. And if he wasn’t motivated by self-interest, he couldn’t have been a liar and a deceiver. And if he wasn’t a liar and deceiver, then he was what he said he was: a prophet of God.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why is Joseph's name had for both good and evil?

It is a point of great interest to me that Joseph Smith, Jr. who died in 1844, over 160 years ago, is still so hated today and is thought of as an evil person. This is very evident in the anti-Joseph Smith sites, discussions, blogs, news reports, etc. on the Internet today. What amazes me so is that Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, doesn’t bring a response from people with as much antagonism, hatred, anger, etc. as does Joseph. Yet, all Joseph claimed to be was a prophet of God, like Moses. So why is it that those who believe in his teachings revere him, while those who don’t, think he is evil? The answer to this comes from the first visit of the angel Moroni to him. According to Joseph’s writings, several years after the event, in Times and Seasons, volume 8:

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God I discovered a light appearing in the room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and … that God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (RLDS History of the Church 1:12–13, emphasis added).

Joseph’s name today is “had for good and evil” just as the angel said. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. If this event really happened, and I believe it did, why did God through His angel tell Joseph his name would “be had for … evil?” So Joseph would not be discouraged and give up when he heard people saying evil, untrue things about him, which I believe they have for almost 190 years (his first vision was in 1820). If later in his life Joseph was going to turn into an evil man, as some say he did, God wouldn’t have warned him that his name would “be had for … evil.” When an evil person does evil things, it’s no surprise to them when people say they’re evil. However, when a good person does good things and people say they’re evil, it is a surprise and it is hurtful and discouraging. When God warned Joseph his name would “be had for good and evil,” he was telling Joseph that he would be accused of doing evil things, but because those accusations would be false, he should give them no heed. The angel didn’t say Joseph would be evil, just that his name would “be had for … evil.”

Of course, some people say Joseph made everything up—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything. They say he was a deceiver—a liar and an evil person. For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment he was evil. That would mean that the above words weren’t spoken to him by an angel, but Joseph made them up. He made up that an angel told him his name would “be had for good and evil.” I have known a few people in my life that I consider evil. However, they always tried to present the image that they were good and never once did they state that people would say they’re evil. Because being evil, they didn’t want to create the possibility in other’s minds that they might be evil, and thus their true intent revealed. In my opinion, if Joseph was evil and made up everything he said, he wouldn’t have stated that some people would think he was evil. He wouldn’t have wanted to put seeds of doubt in people’s minds as to his authenticity. Thus, I believe Joseph didn’t make this up. I believe that the above event happened as Joseph said it did. And I believe everything he said was true—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything.

Please keep in mind as you read the upcoming posts that while I believe Joseph was a prophet of God, I also know he was a man and men make mistakes. Moses, a prophet of God, made a mistake at the water of Meribah. As a result, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–13; Deuteronomy 32:49–52). Joseph made the mistake of giving the first 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon to Martin Harris. As a result, he lost the privilege of continuing to translate the book until he had sufficiently repented of his error (See RLDS History of the Church 1:3; RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 2 & 3). However, these were the mistakes of honest, godly men, not evil ones. So when considering Joseph and the work he did, I acknowledge he may have made errors in judgment and action, because he was a man. But he wasn’t an evil one. The evil that people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are not mistakes of an honest, godly man. They are the acts of an evil one. And in the following posts I will try to show that the evil acts which people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are false and that he was truly a good, honorable man and a prophet of God.