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Ministering to Mormon & African Polygamists (Part 5 of 6)

So far, we’ve talked a lot about faith crises of people who leave over church history or LGBT issues.  They aren’t the only are people who leave, however.  Some people develop a testimony of polygamy and join polygamist groups.  I asked David Ostler about how to minister to these people as well.

GT: I recently attended the Sunstone meetings, and I attended a session in which they had close to a dozen women that got up and stated why they decided to become polygamists. It seems like sometimes we talk about the left side of the church and the right side of the church. I can’t tell you how surprising it was for me to hear over and over and over again, from these women, “Yeah, I took Seminary in high school. I got married in the LDS temple, and now, I’m a polygamist.”  I just thought, “I don’t understand that at all.”

David:  You know, I must confess, I haven’t researched that one.

GT:  Because I think, this [book] does seem to talk about the people who are concerned about the church history and LGBT issues, and things like that. But there is another side of the church.  The church does have to keep an eye out the people that believe in the Adam-God doctrine and polygamy and that sort of thing. Do you have anything for them?

David:  So I think it’s the same thing. I think we meet people where they are and try and lift them to Christ. We do that with compassion and love and the like. Goodness. Brigham Young thought the Adam-God theory was right. So, he lived with that for years and years, and we don’t worry about Brigham Young’s faith. Maybe some do. But from a traditionally believing perspective, we recognize him as a prophet and a great man in the church, and yet he had beliefs that he held that now we don’t hold. So I think we can tolerate some different beliefs.

He told me about some of his experiences as a mission president in Africa, and how the Church deals with African polygamists.

GT:  Believe it or not, at least I’ve heard, the Community of Christ or the RLDS Church for years denied that Joseph ever practiced polygamy. And then I believe, I want to say it’s the 1970s, so John Hamer or somebody will have to correct me if this is not correct, but they started teaching in India and Africa, places that had polygamy and they said the question is, do you baptize a polygamist? If they’re Muslim polygamists, the Community of Christ actually started baptizing polygamists, if they promised not to take any more wives. So it’s interesting to hear that about Sierra Leone, do we have a policy on that?

David:  Yeah, we have a policy, we don’t baptize people who are in polygamy. We can’t baptize children that are living in a polygamist home. I remember one of my first Sundays, we went out to a branch a long ways away from the mission home and I sat in on the youth class, and it was being taught by this wonderful 17 year old sister.  She was doing a great job teaching, and so afterwards, I asked, “When did she get baptized?”  She says, “Well, I’m not baptized.”  “Really? Well, we’d be happy to teach you.”  She says, “Well, I can’t get baptized until I’m 18 because my parents are polygamists.” So she was accommodated into the church.

GT:  And she taught a class?

David: She taught a class. She joined the faithful community and I’m sure she was baptized after her 18th birthday.

Check out our conversation…

I asked David Ostler what the church should do with polygamists, and was surprised he had experience with African polygamists!

Don’t miss our previous conversations with David!

321: Creating a Better Church Atmosphere

320: 3 Ways to Help People Keep Coming to Church

319: How Active Members Get Ostracized at Church

318: Helping Leaders Understand Faith Crisis

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