I’m excited to have a newcomer and an old-comer on the show. This is Newell Bringhurst’s 3rd time on the show and Craig Foster’s first! They’ve co-written 4 books: 3 on polygamy and one on Mormon Presidential candidates. It wasn’t just Joseph Smith! We’ll dive into candidates like George Romney, Bo Gritz, Sonia Johnson, and Eldridge Cleaver! Plus we’ll take a deep dive into polygamy. I’ll even ask if D&C 132 could be de-canonized as some critics ask, and I think their answer will surprise you! Check out our conversation…..
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Mormon Quest for the Presidency
GT 00:46 All right, well, welcome to Gospel Tangents. I’m here with two amazing historians. We’re at the home of Craig Foster. You’re a first time guest here on Gospel Tangents. Could you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself, where you went to school and that sort of thing?
Well, I graduated from BYU. I did all of my degrees at BYU, which usually is, what do they call that? Academic suicide? That’s what happened. I have a bachelor’s and two masters from BYU. One was in history, and the other one was in Library and Information Sciences. I worked for over 30 years at the family history library in Salt Lake City.
GT 01:34 So I believe Dr. Richard Bennett, my name twin, he was a library science guy as well, right?
Craig 01:40 I think he was yes. I think along with his history degrees, he also was library [science.]
GT 01:47 Fantastic. Do you work– where do you work now?
Craig 01:51 I’m retired.
GT 01:52 Oh, you’re retired.
Craig 01:53 I just recently retired.
GT 01:55 You’re too young to retire.
Craig 01:56 I know, but I spent over 30 years at the Family History Library and then retired.
GT 02:06 So we can ask you all about family history or history, and you got everything covered, right?
Craig 02:11 Yeah, and if I don’t know it, I’ll make it up.
GT 02:13 (Chuckling) Well, great. Newell, you’re a three-time guest, now, I believe, here on Gospel Tangents.
Newell 02:20 Right.
GT 02:21 So, remind people where you used to work and sort of thing.
Newell 02:27 I’m a retired professor of history and political science from the College of the Sequoias, which is located in Visalia, California, where I taught for 25 years.
GT 02:38 Well, fantastic. Well, great. Well, you guys have teamed up on a couple of books.
Newell 02:44 Well, four books.
GT 02:45 Four books. We’re here to talk about polygamy. But let’s talk about, especially, since you mentioned political science, because you have a political book that you guys worked on together.
Newell 02:55 Well, we worked on a book entitled, The Mormon Quest for the Presidency. It went through two editions. It was obviously stimulated by the emergence of Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate in 2008. We started work on it in 2006-2007. What it, basically, consisted of is short biographical sketches of 10 people who had Mormon backgrounds or involvement with the Church, who sought the highest political office in the United States, the presidency. Of course, we start out with Joseph Smith, and we dealt with the older Romney, George Romney, who ran in 1968, and then Mitt Romney. Those were the three most prominent people with a Mormon background who ran for president.
Newell 03:58 But we also included some more obscure figures, including Eldridge Cleaver, who I’m now doing a current research for an expanded study. He was one of them. He wasn’t a Mormon when he ran in 1968. But he later joined the Church. He was one and the other one that’s had an interesting reputation was Sonia Johnson, who ran as a Green Party candidate in 1984. Of course, she was excommunicated for her strong advocacy of ERA [Equal Rights Amendment.] Then, there are some other lesser well-known [candidates.] Well, one of them that was not so less-known was Orrin Hatch. He actually launched a candidacy for president in the year 2000, running against George W. Bush in a crowded field. He didn’t get past the first primary, but, he achieved prominence as a leader of the Republicans in the Senate. So, his prominence made him a choice for inclusion in the book. Then, we included some other interesting people. Ezra Taft Benson, who later became president of the LDS Church, he was a contender in 1968 and he sought to be on the ticket as a vice-presidential running mate with George Wallace on the American Independent ticket. That was an intersting case study, because he, unsuccessfully, approached President David O. McKay for permission to do that. At the time, he was a senior apostle and President McKay said, “Well that wouldn’t look very good for the church,” running on this racist, 3rd party ticket with George Wallace, because we’re already having enough difficulty with the issue of blacks and the race issue.
GT 06:02 George Wallace was the guy, “Segregation now. Segregation today. Segregation, forever.”
Newell 06:07 Correct and that was an interesting–and he also toyed with the idea, before he was trying to get on with George Wallace, of being on a separate presidential ticket as a presidential candidate on this constitutional [party. It was] called the Spirit of ’76 political party that they were trying to form. It was actually an offshoot, kind of political action group, with the John Birch Society, like a PAC [political action committee.] They had a close association with the John Birch Society. He was proposing to be on a ticket with Strom Thurmond as his running mate. But, all in that same 1968 election, but it showed the political activism and involvement and extreme right-wing politics of Ezra Taft Benson.
GT 07:10 Very good. Craig, what were your contributions to that book?
Craig 07:15 Well, I wrote about Mitt Romney, for example, and wrote about a couple of the others. Another one that that ran in ’68 was George Romney.
GT 07:36 So, George was running against Ezra.
Newell 07:39 Yeah, running against Ezra.
Craig 07:41 If I remember correctly, he was in ‘68.
Newell 07:44 Yeah, ’68, there were three potential candidates, three present and future Mormons that ran in ’68. Eldridge Cleaver, who later became a member of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson, and, of course, George Romney. That was a real tragic story, in a way, because he was the front runner, going into that election. He was clearly the front runner for the nomination. And he made the mistake, speaking honestly, and forthrightly saying that we’d been brainwashed on Vietnam. Because, by that time, we were deeply involved in the Vietnam War. He said, “We’re being brainwashed by the Johnson administration. Because every time Lyndon Johnson, he didn’t say this, but the joke was that you could tell when Lyndon Johnson was lying, because his lips moved. But, anyway, so he called out Johnson for being brainwashed on the Vietnam War. That was turned, viciously, against him. Because I think of what could have happened in this country, if George Romney had been elected, because Richard Nixon, eventually emerged as the candidate. We had Watergate, resignation, and extreme distrust in the government. Whereas George Wallace, in my opinion…
GT 09:14 George Romney.
Newell 09:15 Yeah, George Romney, was an extremely honest, straight-speaking individual. I think [Romney was] one of the better Republicans that we’ve had, in that time.
GT 09:28 He went on to be the Housing and Urban Development [Secretary.]
Newell 09:31 Yeah, under Nixon. Yeah. And his wife ran, unsuccessfully for the Senate. A lot of people sort of forget that, that she ran in 1970 for the Senate. So, they were very much of a political activist family, and young Mitt Romney was campaigning for his mother when she ran. I think he was on his mission when his father ran for president ’68.
GT 09:57 And so Craig, you were the primary author for George Romney?
Craig 10:00 No, he [Newell] was the primary.
GT 10:03 Okay.
Craig 10:04 I helped with George Romney, and I was the primary author of Mitt Romney, and to be brutally honest, I can’t remember who else now.
GT 10:17 (Chuckling) It’s been a while.
Craig 10:18 It’s been a while.
Newell 10:19 Yeah, we, might also mention, and Craig hasn’t mentioned this, that we were going to configure the books somewhat differently than we did. Actually, there was a spin off. You might want to talk about that, your book that came out that you’ve had published by Greg Kofford, you might want to tell Rick about that.
Craig 10:40 Yes, well, we did so much research on Mitt Romney. And obviously, not all of it could fit into our volume.
Craig 10:52 So, what I did was, because of all the research that I did on Romney, and I did quite a bit dealing with the Mormon question, basically, of Romney’s being a Mormon, that I wrote a book that came out the same year, as our other one. [It was] entitled, A Different God: Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon question. So, I really focused on that question. I wrote biographical parts about Romney and his life and career. But then I went into more detail on his Mormonism and how that became an issue there in the primaries. Because that’s where the Religious Right had, at least at that time, had a lot of influence, was in that process of the primaries and with the grassroots. Ultimately, I think that was one of the major reasons why Romney lost the first time, was because of his Mormonism.
GT 10:52 Right.
GT 12:17 [When he lost] to John McCain.
Craig 12:18 He lost to John McCain, exactly. By the time that he ran again, I think that, in part, some of the prejudices had been broken down. I know that there were those who did not vote for Romney, purely because was a Mormon. There are others who didn’t vote for him, because they didn’t think he really was conservative. But, I know that there were some who didn’t vote for him because he was Mormon in both his 2008 run, and his 2012 run. So, that book dealt more specifically with that.
GT 13:02 Well, very good. The other interesting one, if you guys could just comment on it, because I just heard an interview with Sonia Johnson on Radio West this week. Can you talk a little bit about her unsuccessful bid for presidency?
Newell 13:16 Well, she was running as a third party candidate, and she didn’t really garner all that many votes, because it was the Citizens’ party. Actually, I mistakenly said the Green Party, but the Green Party grew later out of the Citizens’ party. It was put together, at that time. She was, as I recall, the first candidate that was–it was kind of an environmentalist, kind of a leftist party, not as far left as the Peace and Freedom Party, under which, Eldridge Cleaver ran in ’68. But, she ran on women’s rights on environmental issues. I must confess, I can’t recall the number of votes, the percentage of the vote, but I’m pretty sure it was under 1%. It wasn’t a huge number of votes. And because it was a small, fledgling party. She didn’t even get on the ballot in all 50 states. I think it was only a small percentage of, actually the states, I think. It was, as I recall, I don’t think it was even 20 states.
Craig 14:41 Yeah, I don’t think it was, either. I’m trying to remember, but you’re correct about that. It was under 1%.
Newell 14:50 Yeah, well under.
Craig 14:51 Of the votes, that her party, she and her party [received.]
GT 14:57 There’s one more I want to ask you about and then we’ll move on to our topic at hand. Bo Gritz.
Newell 14:57 Yeah.
Newell 15:03 He was another one. Yes. And he ran under the–what was the label of the party? I forgot now.
Craig 15:11 I’m trying to remember.
Newell 15:11 Constitution, I think it was the Constitution Party.
Craig 15:16 It was Constitution–I thought it was Constitution and something else.
Newell 15:20 Yeah. And he was an extreme–I guess you’d call him a right-wing, somewhat conspiratorial, apocalyptic, seeing the end times not that far off, anticipating the coming of the millennium.
Craig 15:38 He made most right-wing look moderate, compared to him.
Newell 15:41 Yeah, he made Ezra Taft Benson book like a flaming liberal in terms of politics.
Newell 15:50 [He was] kind of an interesting character, though, because I guess–maybe I’m speaking out of turn, but it was–Craig’s brother kind of embraced his candidacy. So you might want to go into a little bit of that family confessions.
GT 15:50 (Chuckling)
Craig 16:07 He did. He kept trying to talk me into voting for him. I would just smile and say, “No.” Then, after…
GT 16:22 I think we all have relatives like that.
Craig 16:25 After the election, when some of his racism came out, and my brother, he came to me. He made the comment, something like, “Why didn’t you tell me about that?”
Craig 16:38 And I said, “Well, I wasn’t really sure.” And, so he loudly said that he regretted voting for him. But, yeah, he was a gung-ho supporter, at least through the election.
Newell 16:54 He got on even fewer ballots in fewer states than, Sonia Johnson, did, back in ’84.
GT 17:04 I’ll bet he got more votes in Utah than Sonia did.
Newell 17:07 Yeah, I believe you’re right about that. Because the bulk of the votes that he got, were in two states: Idaho and Utah. That was the bulk of his support.
Why Polygamy/D&C 132 Can’t be Decanonized
GT 17:24 Well, let’s move on to the topic that we brought here. You guys have written three books, called the Persistence of Polygamy. Why don’t you show those. Hold those up there, Craig. Tell us about, first of all, kind of give us an overview of all three volumes, and then we’ll dive into each one.
Craig 17:33 Yeah.
Newell 17:33 He was very much of a regional candidate as well.
GT 17:39 Very good. All right.
Craig 17:42 Okay. Well, we have the Persistence of Polygamy: Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormon Polygamy. The essays deal with plural marriage during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. And we really do address the origins, questions of when did it start? How did it start? Et cetera. So, that pretty much covers that.
Craig: Then, we have The Persistence of Polygamy: From Joseph Smith’s Martyrdom to the First Manifesto, 1844-1890. There are some really good essays in there dealing with the continuation of plural marriage, talking about the time of the raids, and also covering issues such as plural marriage in the LDS Church, the question of blacks and priesthood, and was there a connection to plural marriage with that?
Craig 18:58 Also, in The Persistence of Polygamy, in the first volume, we had an appendix, in which we identified the known wives of Joseph Smith, and talked about the dynamics of why these women might have been approached by Joseph Smith to be plural wives, as opposed to other women.
Craig 19:26 Then, in The Persistence of Polygamy, the second volume, we have the wives of the prophets from Brigham Young through Heber J. Grant. So, [volume two has] all of the polygamists, other than Joseph Smith, since we had already covered him, but we discussed that [the other prophets’ polygamy] in this volume.
Craig 19:46 Then, in the largest volume, which Newell made a very good point that this has more pages than the two volumes combined, is The Persistence of Polygamy: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy from 1890 to the present, what was the present at that time. In that, again, [there are] some wonderful essays dealing with the early days of fundamentalism, dealing with aspects of the fundamentalist groups, and going along with Joseph Smith’s plural wives, Brigham through Heber J. Grant’s plural wives, we have the plural wives of the leaders of the polygamous groups. So, [there’s] an essay dealing with that, but also essays on other topics. Did you want to add anything Newell?
Newell 20:52 Yeah, I was just going to say that we had originally intended [on] only doing one volume, when we started out on this project back in 2007, [which] is when the genesis of this project came about. We quickly found that it wasn’t going to be adequate to do it all in one volume. I might further add that each volume has its own distinctive characteristics in terms of the way that we structured. In the first volume, where we were talking about Joseph Smith, we deal with a point, counterpoint approach, in which we tackle very controversial aspects of how Joseph Smith dealt with and handled polygamy.
Newell 21:44 For example, there are two counter essays covering under-age women that Joseph Smith married. Was that out of the norm for that time, in terms of men marrying teenaged wives. Craig, in one essay, argued that it wasn’t that far out of the norm, whereas Todd Compton argued that it was not quite within the norm of what was acceptable in that society.
Newell 22:22 There were other essays, for instance–I think one of the outstanding features that I thought was brought out very clearly, was the impact and influence of Doctrine & Covenants 132. There were actually three essays in Volume One, dealing with Doctrine & Covenants 132, which is the foundation scripture for polygamy. I dealt with the structure and texture to show that 132, while it was a foundational basis for polygamy, dealt with more than just polygamy. It wasn’t just a polygamy revelation, but it dealt with a wide array of doctrinal developments that form the foundation of the faith right down [to] today, specifically eternal progression and worlds without end, and the whole idea of the importance of Temple marriages for here and for time and eternity.
Newell 23:42 I tried to show that there’s been a lot of controversy over 132 and [there was a] focus on, well, why don’t we just get rid of 132, and we get rid of this polygamy problem? I said, that’s not possible, because 132 is such a complex, complete revelation, that that wouldn’t be possible. Craig dealt with 132 from the point of view of establishing kinship. So, he took a somewhat different approach. I took more of a structural approach. Then, a third essay in the volume that deals with 132 is the response of the Community of Christ to 132, how they grappled with that, because it’s equally controversial within the RLDS community, or now Community of Christ.
GT 24:41 What do you have to share on 132 there?
Craig 24:44 Well, as Newell said, I approached it in terms, very much in terms of the eternal progression and the eternal family. We looked at it as a culmination of what Joseph Smith had learned and then taught over the years regarding the eternal family, the nature of family. So, my focus was very much on kinship, the eternal family, and all of those aspects of it coming together as the results of his developing doctrinal questions dealing with that. It’s hearkening back to the fact that I spent my career doing family history and being involved with aspects of family history, including temple work. So, for me, that’s how I looked at it. I wanted to approach it from that background there.
GT 26:06 So, Newell brought up a good point there. You’ll see, especially in the ex-Mormon community, calls to de-canonize 132. I just had a question on Facebook. Somebody asked me, “Is polygamy still doctrine?” My answer was, “As long as 132 is canonized, it’s still doctrine.”
Craig 26:26 Yes.
GT 26:27 What would you say to people that would say, “Let’s get rid of 132?”
Craig 26:34 I would say exactly the same thing that Newell said, “You cannot get rid of 132, without throwing out a lot of other very important doctrine, within the church, doctrine dealing with eternal families, eternal progression. All of that is just in 131, and 132. There is so much there. There are so many doctrinal layers, so to speak. Plural marriage is just one aspect of 132. So, you either throw out the whole thing, or I guess you could go and try to wedge out where plural marriage is mentioned. But what you would be doing is you’d be watering down the whole section. I have responded to people who have suggested, “Well, let’s take out the polygamy part, or let’s get rid of 132.” My comment is, at least from where I’m coming from doctrinally, “I cannot imagine how you could get rid of that, and still have what we believe in terms of eternal families, celestial marriage, eternal progression, all of that.
GT 28:01 So, one of the parts that, really, I struggle with, is the part where the Lord says to Emma–I want to say Joseph says, because it feels more like Joseph to me, but, that Emma will be destroyed, if she doesn’t embrace this. Could we cut out those verses? Would that be okay with you?
Newell 28:22 Well, I think it’d be like, if you start saying, what should we take out of there? It’d be like, unwinding a ball of twine or something. Where would you stop? Because, if you read it very carefully, and study it very carefully, which I did in the process of putting this essay, because I have to confess, I was somewhat ignorant of the impact and implications of 132. When I started studying, and I thought, “Wow, this is probably both the most complex and the most controversial revelation that Joseph Smith brought forth, during his ministry. As Craig has said, it represents the culmination of Joseph Smith’s theological evolution, by the time of his martyrdom, comes forth and one, in July of 1833.
Newell 29:37 As a historian, as an observer of the evolution of Joseph Smith’s theological development, which is something I’ve become more and more interested in, as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always wondered where Joseph Smith would have gone with all of this, if he hadn’t been killed abruptly in 1844. Because, by this time, he’d moved to other controversial theological aspects. For example, and that’s beyond the scope of polygamy. [He’d moved onto] the idea of having himself crowned king and establishing the kingdom of God on earth. He was moving very rapidly in that direction. I even had this conversation a little bit with Mike Quinn. Some years ago, because he had done so much work in this area. “Where do you think he would have gone?” We speculated back and forth in detail that I won’t go into–one of my more interesting discussions with the late Mike Quinn. I said, “Where do you think Joseph would have gone? We went back and forth a little bit. It’s kind of interesting, ironically, because he, as a strong, true believer, who has been excommunicated, and me, as a skeptic and doubter who is still a member of record of the Church, I mean, it’s kind of comical, in a way. But, to me, that’s what makes studying LDS history and doctrine so endlessly fascinating.
GT 31:13 Endlessly. This is why I’ve been doing this for six years.
Newell 31:19 (Chuckling)
GT 31:19 What do you think there, Craig?
Craig 31:22 On what?
GT 31:25 I personally want to excise the parts about Emma.
Craig 31:27 Oh, yes. Okay. That’s right. So, I look at that, and I have studied 132. I’ve read it a number of times and studied it very carefully. I don’t particularly like that part either. But, I don’t view it as harshly as a lot of people do, in terms of did that mean, God was going to strike Emma down any moment? I don’t think that was the message that was trying to be put across. I wonder if Emma even took it that way. I think that ‘be destroyed,’ meant more along the lines of eternal progression, as opposed to a…
GT 32:27 But still, that’s quite a threat.
Craig 32:29 Big bolt of lightning coming out.
GT 32:30 That’s a bigger threat than on her life, isn’t it?
Craig 32:31 That is a very big threat, obviously. But, that is, to a degree, what Joseph was trying to teach to everyone at the time, I believe. [It] was that in order to continue progressing, this, this, and this had to take place. And not the least of which being celestial marriage. So, do I have a problem with it being in there? Probably not, just because I would feel like I was missing something, if it wasn’t in there. And if we learned tomorrow, that, yeah, here’s a whole part that was taken out of what was originally presented, then I would feel like I was missing out because…
GT 33:29 The Church is hiding something.
Craig 33:30 Yeah, exactly. I want to have the full picture as much as possible. I always want to have the full picture, even when it’s uncomfortable. And that part is a little uncomfortable, to say the least. But, that’s how I view it. So, I would be disappointed if we took it out, because I’d rather that we address it, talk about it, maybe not even agree with each other. But at least we’re we’re aware of it. We are aware of a fuller picture than what we would be otherwise, and then we can discuss it. Probably all of us go away with, to one degree or another, thinking, “Well, that was a little harsh.” Because it was.
GT 34:20 It was harsh very harsh.
Craig 34:22 Yes.
Newell 34:23 Yeah.
GT 34:24 Another question I’d like to bring up for both of you is Denver snuffer. I know he now believes that Joseph wasn’t a polygamist, but when he wrote his book, I believe it was Passing the Heavenly Gift, if I have that right. He said that 132 really was four revelations, and that the sealing power and the polygamy were conflated together. I don’t know how you feel about that. I don’t know that that’s historically accurate. But, emotionally, I like that. I would love to decouple the sealing power from polygamy. Do you agree that you could read 132 that way, that you can decouple sealing from polygamy?
Newell 35:18 Well, I don’t think so. Because the whole idea of polygamy is it was partially, to not only bring in righteous seed into the world, as you know, in conjunction with the doctrine of pre-existence, but by having an increase in progeny, this enables you to go evolve toward godhood and become a god over a world of your own. I mean, that’s implied and strongly suggested. `Because it’s all interconnected. I mean, it wasn’t just all of a sudden, “Oh, let’s put polygamy in there.” I mean, Joseph Smith, in my opinion, carefully thought out this whole theological superstructure that the idea of eternal progression, the idea of polygamy, the idea of sealing for time and eternity, were all linked together. I know I’m no theologian, but I would tend to disagree with that, because I see this as…
GT 36:34 There is no way to decouple.
Newell 36:34 Yeah, because I see it as interrelated. I see it as carefully thought out or inspired, depending on your belief. He either carefully thought it out, or he was divinely inspired, that this all kind of goes together. How do you feel about that, Craig?
Craig 36:52 Well I’m going to sound like a politician now. So, we’ll go back to our earlier discussion now. I’m going to say, yes, and no. Let me explain the yes part, and then I’ll explain the no part. I do see aspects of the sealing power, being not completely tied to plural marriage. That is because we have sealing of children to parents. We also do have sealing of spouses, where they were monogamous. However, I’m emphasizing on the sealing of children to parents. Obviously, that would not always involve a plural marriage.
Craig 37:52 But the no part is, I think, as Newell, I think, very correctly stated, in terms of eternal progression, and all of that, I think that the sealing power does, basically, emphasize the plurality of wives as part of eternal progression. But, I think that it’s very complicated. And that’s why I said yes and no. Because to me, speaking as a genealogist, there are aspects of sealing power, that wouldn’t, per se involve a plurality of wives, and that would be sealing of children to parents.
Newell 38:42 I’d add one other thing, somewhat of a different aspect of this whole idea of polygamy and sealing. As we’re all well aware, the Church is still practicing polygamy today, in a sense. When the spouse of a Church leader dies and he remarries, generally, they usually, all of the General Authorities–and, I’m thinking of Dallin Oaks and, I believe, President Nelson. They’ve married. They’ve remarried because their first wives died. The sealing power there is they’re going to have both of those wives with them in eternity. I don’t know if it’s policy or if it’s just practice, that when a high church official, be it an apostle, or somebody in the First Presidency, when their spouse dies, they almost always, I don’t know cases otherwise, they select somebody who hasn’t been married before, as their second wife. That was certainly the case with Harold B. Lee, whom am I just did a biography [on.] Because, he had been sealed to his first wife. Then, she died before him and he remarried. So, he was practicing polygamy when he married that second wife and will be sealed to her in the hereafter. So you’ve got that aspect of sealing, as a part of polygamy.
Craig 40:22 I’m going to respond to that. Interestingly enough, I had a similar discussion just a little over a week ago, with a fundamentalist friend who is the head of one of the fundamentalist groups. We’ll leave it at that. We’re not going to give any names. But we talked about that. Because I commented that that’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, “Well, Dallin Oaks and Russell Nelson, they are polygamists.”
Craig 41:04 My comment is, “No, they’re not polygamists, because to be a polygamist, you have to have two living wives.” Now, once they die, then they’ll have a plurality of wives, and then there you go. But right now, they’re not polygamists. Yes, they have been sealed to two different women. By the way, that does seem to be a thing with the leaders of the Church. However, I have friends who have had a spouse die, and have then been sealed to someone else in the temple. So, it comes right down to just regular rank and file members will have the same situation, where they are sealed to more than one, with one living and one dead. But to me, that is not, at least, it is not currently polygamy. Now, once they die, then they’ll have two wives in the hereafter.
Craig 42:17 But policy with the Church, we would tell people this all the time if they came into the Family History Library, and they’d say, “I had an ancestor. She was married to three different men, and they each died.” Or she was married to a couple of men, and divorced the one, but all of these kids came from the one that she divorced. How shall we do that in terms of sealing?
Craig 42:50 And we would say, “Seal her to all of them.”
Craig 42:53 And they’d go, “Seal her to all of them?”
Craig 42:55 We would always say, “They’ll figure it out on the other side.” So, in terms of sealing, you have…
GT 43:04 So, we believe in polyandry?
Craig 43:06 We believe in polyandry. You have men being sealed to more than one woman. You have women being sealed to more than one man. Because we figure, on the other side, after all is said and done in the mortality, that they’ll figure out what works best.
GT 43:26 I’m glad you mentioned that. Because I know that came up in Greg Prince’s book on the McKay biography, that it was actually Howard W Hunter that suggested, “Hey, we don’t know. If a woman’s been married to multiple men, a lot of times, we don’t know who she wanted to be sealed to.”
Craig 43:41 Exactly.
GT 43:42 So, we just seal her to all of them, and President McKay approved that.
Craig 43:44 Yes.
GT 43:45 So, we do believe in polyandry, just not living polyandry. You’ve got to be dead.
Craig 43:50 (Chuckling)
GT 43:52 So, interesting.
Dating the Fanny Alger Affair
GT 43:54 A couple of other questions I want to ask you guys about, because it’s funny to me how often I’ve talked about polygamy and people still ask me the same questions. The Fanny Alger affair, I think it’s dated between 1834 and 1836. There are some people, Blake Ostler and Don Bradley, that make the case, and I think it’s a pretty good case, that the sealing to Fanny occurred after the visit of Elijah in the temple in March of 1836. I know Brian Hales, and most other people, put it a little before that, 1835, before the temple. I know Mark Staker has made the case. I think he’s a minority opinion, that when Peter, James and John restored the Melchizedek priesthood, that they gave Joseph and Oliver the sealing power as early, depending on when you want to date Melchizedek restoration, to either 1829, to even as late as 1831. Mark makes the case that, even if we go with 1831, that was before Fanny Alger, and so Joseph had the power to seal. Where do you guys weigh in on that controversy?
Craig 45:23 Well, first of all, I do want to mention that Don Bradley had an essay in here about that.
GT 45:31 Oh, good.
Craig 45:31 Yeah, because it was an excellent one, and it is titled, “Mormon Polygamy before Nauvoo? The relationship of Joseph Smith, and Fanny Alger.” It was in that essay that he first put forth his argument regarding Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger. He came right out and asked, “Was it an affair? Or was it a plural marriage? And if so, why wasn’t it an affair, or why was it? Why wasn’t it a plural marriage? Or why was it?” I think he did a very good job in explaining that. I want to give a little teaser for those who have not read the book or read his essay.
GT 46:28 I heard his presentation at MHA about 10 years ago.
Craig 46:30 Okay, so you remember what he found.
GT 46:32 Yes.
Craig 46:34 That was really very interesting of what he found in Oliver Cowdery’s letter. So, that is definitely, I think he does a good job of placing it as a marriage, and when it was. Now for me, personally, that’s how I view it. I don’t view…
GT 46:56 You think it was after the Kirtland dedication?
Craig 46:58 I think that it was a plural marriage. Now, I think that the sealing power was not restored until the vision in the Kirtland Temple. So I don’t support Mark Staker’s argument. I do think that the sealing power was restored at that time. However, I also take the approach that even if the relationship had begun beforehand, that wouldn’t be the first time that there had been aspects of a doctrine taught or practiced before it was officially taught or practiced. Does that make sense? So, I personally wouldn’t have a problem. But I can understand concern of other people about that. Was the timing correct or not? For me, that’s never been an issue, because I’ve seen examples of different things happening throughout Church history, maybe not taking a plural wife before you’re supposed to. But I’ve seen other aspects. So I usually am fairly open, in regard to, “Okay, I can see that.” For example, a teaching about, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man they become.” Well, that was certainly being taught, or at least being discussed, before Joseph officially taught it. So, I use that as an example of where the principle was there. It was being discussed before it officially started.
GT 49:01 Well, that phrase came from, was it Wilford Woodruff?
Craig 49:04 Lorenzo Snow.
Newell 49:04 Lorenzo Snow, yeah.
GT 49:05 In the 1880s or something?
Craig 49:07 When he first came up with this and talked with Joseph about it. He talked with Joseph in about 1840–was it ’43, early ’43? [He talked with Joseph,] before Joseph ever taught it, and he said, “That is correct principle. God revealed that to you, but don’t be openly preaching that until I do.” So, that’s just one example there of where it was in the works already. It just had not been officially made official yet.
GT 49:48 Do you have anything to add there, Newell?
Newell 49:50 No, I think you pretty well covered it. Although, getting back to the whole Fanny Alger thing, I guess I’m still skeptical whether it really was a polygamous marriage. I’m kind of in this other camp. Because there’s a such a little amount of evidence, even that which Bradley has managed to dig up. I tend to think that the first real, what I would call, recognized, I’m saying recognized plural marriage would be Louisa Beaman. Because that would coincide with the evolution of Joseph Smith developing theology on that whole structure of what polygamy is meant to accomplish. There was discussion about plural marriage with Indians and stuff like that, as early as 1831. But I think it was in the realm of, well, ideas, maybe with eugenics, the idea that by intermarrying with Indians, they’d be helping them to become ‘white, delightsome’ as discussed in the Book of Mormon. It wasn’t widely practiced. But, there were these discussions going on, and speculation on what should be correct doctrine and practice. But, like Craig said, these things were implemented somewhat later after the initial discussion. Joseph Smith might have discussed with Fannie Alger that, “I consider you my plural wife.” He could have done that as early–and this is all speculation when he was involved with her, for whatever reasons. But I don’t see the real beginnings of the implementation of polygamy coming until considerably later. Then, right after, Joseph marries Louisa Beaman and starts taking other plural wives, then he starts teaching it to others. [He taught it to] Brigham Young and others of his followers. There’s no evidence that he was teaching it to any of his followers, at the time that he was involved with Fanny Alger. That’s my take on it.
GT 50:34 Louisa Beaman would have been 1841. Is that right?
Newell 52:11 Yeah, I think it’s 1841. Yeah. Yeah.
GT 52:34 So, do you guys have a date for when you think the–do you think it was an affair, not a sealing, Newell?
Newell 52:41 Oh, boy. Yeah. The complexity of Joseph Smith’s character, I think, maybe there was one side of him–and maybe I’m humanizing him too much–that really, he was attracted to her and maybe felt that God intended for them to have this relationship. Because they were so attracted to one another. In his mind, he felt that he was maybe practicing the precursor of polygamy, or in his mind, he believed it to be polygamy. But, it wasn’t. It didn’t fit in with the other aspects of the theological development surrounding, as articulated in D&C 132. That’s how I see it. Because, as I say, Joseph Smith was a complex character. I think that [he was] very charismatic. I’m sure there was an attraction, probably, maybe a mutual attraction. But I don’t know if I would put it in the realm of really a full-scale, polygamous marriage, in the theological sense.
GT 54:06 And then it just happened in 1835, is that what you’re your guess is probably?
Newell 54:10 Yeah, isn’t that when Bradley dates it, around ’35, ’34, ’35?
Craig 54:15 Yeah, ’35. In the book, we put here anywhere from 34 to 35 or so. I view it as the beginning of plural marriage, and that it went so wrong. It was such an unpleasant experience for all involved that Joseph Smith held off trying to go into plural marriage again.
GT 54:48 Because he never did in Missouri, at all, right?
GT 54:50 That was much later, though, wasn’t it?
Craig 54:50 Well, there’s circumstantial evidence that Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris, that he may have been sealed to her. But there’s you have absolutely no evidence that it was anything other than just a sealing. I think…
Craig 54:52 No, it was circa about 1838.
GT 54:56 Oh, really?
Craig 54:57 …is what the estimates are? I think Brian Hales would say that it was around that time period. I think he, too, would argue that it was probably just a sealing. Then you have the marriage in 1841 of Louisa Beaman. Then after that, Zina, etc. I think, once again, I’m just surmising, if we can all speculate.
GT 56:08 Right.
Craig 56:10 The early days of plural marriage involves a lot of speculation. I, personally, think that he tried a plural marriage with Fanny Alger and it was such an unpleasant experience that, in his mind, “Okay, I’m done with that.” Then, he was prodded along. “Okay, I’ll be sealed to to this woman. Is that good enough?”
Craig 56:40 “No.” And [he was] prodded along until he really, finally, went into it, starting to marry a number of women. That’s how I look at it. I could be completely wrong. But, based on what I’ve read, what I’ve studied, I look at it that way. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m just speculating, based on available sources.
GT 57:10 All right. Well, anything else? We should finish up on volume one before we move on to volume two?
Newell 57:17 Yeah, I think we’ve pretty well covered volume one.
Polygamy from Martyrdom to Manifesto 1844-1890
GT 57:19 Okay. Well, let’s jump into volume two, then. That’s after Joseph’s martyrdom to the manifesto, right? 1844 to 1890. What should we know about volume two?
Newell 57:35 Well, I think Volume Two, it goes into, of course, the period from the martyrdom to the Manifesto. The unique feature, I think, about Volume Two that causes it to stand out, I think, from other studies of this period in polygamy is, what we did in that was include an examination of other groups, other than the mainstream LDS Church under leadership of Brigham Young, who either embraced or rejected polygamy. We get into the Cutlerites. We get into the followers of Lyman Wight, and we get into…
GT 58:24 If you go to the Lion House, it’s hard to get them to even admit that he practiced polygamy.
Newell 58:24 The Strangites, especially, because James J. Strang was the major rival to Joseph Smith, during the period of right after the martyrdom. That was the major opposition group. So, we’ve tried to include essays from writers who would discuss these other groups. The essay that I did, in particular, for that volume was actually focused on how Brigham Young has been perceived by writers, his involvement in polygamy. I entitled that “Whatever Happened to all of Brigham Young’s Wives?” Because, in a lot of the writings, particularly the writings about the life of Brigham Young, after the Manifesto, was to play down the practice of polygamy and certain early biographies and writings on Brigham Young. [This downplaying was to] give you the impression that you he never even practiced polygamy. So, that was what I tried.
Craig 58:24 Strangites.
Newell 59:36 (Chuckling) Yeah, because it became persona non grata or uncomfortable to discuss this. We’re going to leave this behind. It was similar to what happened after they lifted the black priesthood ban. We want to move on. We don’t want to discuss this anymore, because we want to become considered as respectable and a part of mainstream American society. That’s what drove a lot of the biographical works on Brigham Young, particularly those that had official church imprimatur on that. They were just loathe to deal with the fact of Brigham Young’s polygamy. Craig, your essay, your contribution to that volume was–go ahead.
Craig 1:00:40 My contribution was the wives of the prophets. For each of the volumes, I was the one that looked at the wives. So, I was the one that did the appendix in the first volume. Then, I did the essay. It was originally going to be an appendix. But it was so big that Newell said, “Go ahead and put this into the main body. It makes more sense being there.” So, that’s what we did. Then, in this one, I looked at the wives of the fundamentalist leaders. But, yes, it was a fun essay to do in just finding out the similarities and the differences of the wives of each of these leaders and the connections that they had.
Craig 1:01:41 Another essay I want to mention that I didn’t do, but I think is a really fun one, is the late Lewis Wiegand. He was a member of the Community of Christ, and he wrote an essay. He had stumbled upon this when he was doing research. There were a number of families that were polygamous families that belonged to the RLDS Church.
GT 1:02:11 Oh, really?
Craig 1:02:12 Yes, they had gone west with Brigham or whatever the situation, and then they were go-backs. They went back to the Midwest and joined the RLDS Church, and they were told that they could keep their plural wives.
GT 1:02:33 Clear back in the 1860s?
Craig 1:02:34 Yes. So, they had plural wives. Now some no longer lived with–would pick one wife and no longer lived with them. Others lived with their wives.
GT 1:02:46 Oh, I didn’t know this.
Craig 1:02:47 And going along with that, remember Dick Howard’s essay which…
Newell 1:02:52 On polygamy among, yeah. His essay, at the time, Dick Howard/Richard Howard was a historian for what was the RLDS/Community of Christ Church. That is a fascinating essay about when the RLDS was proselytizing in India, they came across a number of Indians interested in joining the Church, who were polygamists. They have plural wives and they wanted to become members of the RLDS [Church] and so they had a big, it was a major discussion. It turned into a major issue within the Community of Christ/RLDS Church. They finally said they can become legitimate members. The bottom line was, they can become legitimate members of the RLDS Church, and they issued official mandates to that effect.
Craig 1:03:58 They established official policy.
GT 1:04:00 What year was this, approximately?
Newell 1:04:01 This was in, let’s see the dates…
Craig 1:04:03 [It was] 1967 to 1972. The debate went on for that long until they…
Newell 1:04:11 They decided, yeah.
Craig 1:04:12 They made that decision.
Newell 1:04:13 And I think they had, even, a provision, a section in their Doctrine and Covenants, which affirms to that fact.
Craig 1:04:21 Yes.
Newell 1:04:22 They went so far as to canonize that as official church policy. I was going to go back to Craig’s excellent essay that became a part of the main body on presidents who had plural wives. I think one of the evocative things is that the last president to have practiced polygamy or have plural wives was none other than Heber J. Grant, who was president during my lifetime. I was born in 1942 , and he was president till ’45. By that time, his first two wives had died. So, he just had one wife. But the interesting paradoxical thing about Heber J. Grant, that has always intrigued me is that, despite the fact that he practiced polygamy, he became, probably, the most ardent, staunchest foe of polygamy, by cracking down on the fundamentalists. I find that absolutely paradoxical. It seems so counterintuitive that here he was. He practiced the principle and then he turns with vigorousness against the fundamentalists who are emerging. Because he sees them as an existential threat to the mainstream LDS Church. And by the systematic, I would say almost persecution, requiring loyalty oaths, and everything else, he helped to spawn the growth of fundamentalism. It’s just like early Christian martyrs, which you’re aware of. By the persecution by Diocletian, and others of early Christian martyrs, that spawned the explosive growth of Christianity within the Roman Republic. You could make a similar argument that Heber J. Grant’s vigorous going after fundamentals, really, as Mike Quinn has stated, “Transformed them from a ragtag movement into a cohesive force.” We talk more about that, of course, in volume three. But I find it ironic that he was the last polygamous president of the LDS Church; another curious paradox.
GT 1:07:03 Well, it’s funny because I remember I had a conversation with Benjamin Shaffer. He’s in a fundamentalist group, Christ’s Church, and he said that he’s the true Brighamite and that my church are Grant-ites, because Grant really changed things. And I think you kind of tell why. It’s this persecution of the…
Newell 1:07:27 Fundamentalists.
GT 1:07:28 Was Grant the one that went after Richard Lyman?
Newell 1:07:33 Yes, that came down. And that’s a curious case, too, the more you read about that. Because he claimed that he was practicing polygamy when they caught him with that other woman that he was involved with. I’m a little bit skeptical. It’s hard to say how sincere he was, whether he was just trying to justify an extramarital affair, or whether he considered that he was really practicing polygamy. It almost has eerie parallels with Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger, when you stop to think about it.
GT 1:08:15 So, tell people more, because Richard Lyman was an apostle. Do you want to tell more about that Craig?
Craig 1:08:23 What is interesting is that he had first met this lady, and for the life of me right now, I can’t remember her name. But he met her because he was counseling her.
GT 1:08:35 Is that in your Harold B. Lee book? I think it was.
Newell 1:08:36 Yeah, I talk about that, when they kicked him out.
GT 1:08:39 Do you remember her name?
Newell 1:08:40 Oh, boy, I’ve got the book.
GT 1:08:42 I’ll toss you the book here.
Craig 1:08:45 He was counseling her because she had previously been involved in a polygamous relationship. So, that’s how he first her was counseling.
GT 1:08:56 Oh, she was in another relationship?
Newell 1:08:58 Yeah, before that. Exactly.
GT 1:09:00 So she’s the polyandry person.
Craig 1:09:01 (Chuckling) She had ended that relationship. But, then, they entered into their own polygamous relationship. But I was going to tell you really quickly while he’s looking, that just to give you an idea of the impact that really plural marriage had on the Church, just using the the LDS leaders, the presidents of the Church. With these six men from Brigham Young through Heber J. Grant, that there were 98 wives and 225 children, and each of these men…
GT 1:09:53 From the prophets, is that is that what you’re saying?
Craig 1:09:55 Of the prophets. This means that for the first 150 years of the Church, from 1830, to almost the middle of the 20th century, [the Church] was presided over by polygamists. And to give you an idea of the continuing impact. I have here where I wrote that the last of these 225 children of these polygamous leaders to die was Frances Marion Grant, the youngest daughter of Heber J. Grant and Emily Harris Wells. Frances was the widow of the late U.S. Senator Wallace F. Bennett of Utah, and the mother of past U.S. Senator Robert F. Bennett. She died in 1995, 165 years after the founding of the Church and 151 years after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith.
GT 1:11:06 She was Bob Bennett’s mother?
Craig 1:11:07 She was Bob Bennett’s mother, and she was the last of the 225 children born to these LDS leaders. So, pretty much in everyone’s lifetime, that’s going to be reading these books, at least right now, we had remnants of plural marriage with the children of these leaders.
GT 1:11:39 Which makes it why it’s so hard to de-canonize 132, right?
Craig 1:11:43 Yes. Well, very much so, if you want to look at it just in that way.
GT 1:11:47 Yeah. I’m also trying to remember the Short Creek raid. Was that under Grant as well?
Newell 1:11:55 That was David O. McKay, 1953.
GT 1:11:57 Okay.
Newell 1:11:58 Yeah, that was under McKay.
Polygamy & Priesthood/Temple Ban
GT 1:11:59 Okay. Very interesting. Well, what other issues should we talk about between 1844 and 1890?
Newell 1:12:09 Lets, see. Well, we’ve got…
Craig 1:12:11 Another essay that I really like was by Stromberg.
Newell 1:12:18 Yeah, Laurie Winder Stromberg. Yeah, the one on the plural wives that were incarcerated in the state penitentiary. Because you don’t often hear about the women that were incarcerated for practicing polygamy.
GT 1:12:38 No.
Craig 1:12:38 She addressed, very quickly, about women who had to go on the underground, who had arrest warrants for them. But then she spent most of it on the women in the prison. Newell, go ahead and explain a little further on that. It’s fascinating.
Newell 1:13:01 Well, that’s pretty well, that pretty much covers it. I mean, they arrested them, and they imprisoned them. It wasn’t a huge number. I think it was 20-25. But it was significant enough that it showed that there wasn’t discrimination, whether it was male or female. They wouldn’t testify or disclose against their husbands. So, that’s why they were incarcerated. It was really a violation of basic civil rights.
Craig 1:13:31 There were at least three or so of them in the prison and then some were incarcerated in the city jail or something. But, really fascinating. My own great-grandmother, I’ve looked at the arrest warrant for her, and they didn’t even know her name. She used, as an alias, her mother’s maiden name. So, one of the warrants was for that alias. Then another one was for, I think it said, “Unknown Butler,” because Butler was the married name. There were like two or three arrest warrants for her. It brings it home. Of course, you had so much plural marriage in your own family that you can really relate to the underground. I mean, it wasn’t only men that were on the underground. We often forget that aspect that these women, they went through a lot. They went through a lot in many ways. They went through more than the men, I think, in terms of their having to also go and hide and go out of state to avoid arrest or move from one town to another, use aliases, et cetera. We think of the men, a lot, but the women they went through…
Newell 1:15:20 I was going to mention two other essays that are in this volume that are aspects that are overlooked during this critical middle period. One of them was the the essay written by Connell O’Donovan, which deals with Brigham Young, African Americans and schism and the beginnings of black priesthood and temple ban. He gets into the fact that there was the William McCary affair.
GT 1:16:00 Right.
Newell 1:16:00 Because he was a practitioner. He broke off from the mainstream church when he was practicing polygamy.
GT 1:16:07 He was a former slave, right?
Newell 1:16:09 Yeah, a former slave. There’s, in fact, been an excellent biography written by him, subsequent to this essay that Connell O’Donovan wrote about William McCary and his practice of polygamy, particularly with white women. I mean, one of his wives, who was with him, was the–I can’t recall her name. She was…
GT 1:16:39 Lucy Stanton.
Newell 1:16:40 Thank you, Lucy Stanton, that cause celebree within the LDS Church, and was a major factor in prompting Brigham Young to go toward the practice of black priesthood denial. This was as early as 1847, although it wasn’t formally announced to the main body of the church until after the arrival of the saints in Utah in 1852. But, this was a seminal event and the perpetuation of polygamy, or perpetuation of black priesthood denial was–just, they couldn’t [accept] the unseemly association that polygamist Africans practice polygamy. [Mormons didn’t] want to be associated with that image. That [is,] if we, allow blacks to be full members of the church, they may want to take plural wives. There was that logic or the reasoning that was in there.
Newell 1:16:42 But the other essay that I thought was really evocative, that takes a little bit of the opposite approach in terms of expanding the role and the assertiveness of women, is the one by Andrea Radke-Moss. [In that essay,] she talks about polygamy as being a major catalyst for getting women actively involved in the political process. I think [it’s] one of the most evocative essays in the entire chapter, showing how Mormon women, “We’re going to prove that we’re not downtrodden, shrinking violet types. We’re going to go out there and and militantly support the practice of polygamy. [We’re going to show it] as being a legitimate part of our faith and our practice, and getting actively involved in the political arena, creating this female activism. One of the interesting, I guess, byproducts of this is that Utah wanted to give women the right to vote during the territorial period, and would have been the first part of the United States to do so. But then it was nullified by the anti-polygamist act, the Tucker…
Craig 1:18:12 Well, they did have the right to vote.
Newell 1:18:57 They had the right to vote and they took it away from them.
Craig 1:19:16 They took it away, the Edmunds-Tucker.
Newell 1:19:17 And so when they wrote the first Utah constitution in 1896, it included the right of women to vote. A lot of it was due to this political activism on the part of women in defending the practice of polygamy throughout the late 19th century.
GT 1:19:36 Very good. Well, I guess that’s a pretty good summary of volume two.
Newell 1:19:42 Yeah, I think that pretty well covers it.
GT 1:19:45 All right.
[End Part 1]
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