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Critiquing Polygamy Essays & Sources (Part 3 of 7)

One of the thorniest issues in the LDS Church is justifying the past practice of polygamy.  In fact, there are 3 Gospel Topics essays devoted to the topic.  Dr. Newell Bringhurst and Dr. Matt Harris will critique these essays and tell us the strengths and weaknesses of the essays.

Newell:  Gary Bergera wrote the first of the three [polygamy] essays, which deals with Joseph Smith and the origins of polygamy and critiques the way in which the Topics essay on Joseph Smith and polygamy dealt with that issue, and it’s a very balanced essay, I must say. I think all three of our essays, including George Smith’s, as well as my own and Gary’s, we’ve tried to carefully point out the strengths of the essays, the respective essays, as well as the shortcomings.

Gary gives credit to the essay for its frankness, and pointing out Joseph Smith’s controversial nature of marrying younger women, of the polyandry, that is, Joseph Smith marrying women who are already married to other men, as well as concealing the practice from Emma Smith, in the early stages.  So, he gives [credit]– but the thing that he really hits hardest on is the selective use of documents in writing the Gospel Topics essays, that the author or authors of the Gospel Topics essays, downplay sources, that are not only unfavorable, but more contemporary to the practice of polygamy during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. One of the real problems with documenting Joseph Smith in the practice of polygamy, is the lack of contemporary documentation for the time that Joseph Smith lived, when polygamy was being practiced. So, the great reliance is on secondary sources and the few primary sources that are available concurrent with the time of Joseph Smith, tend to be critical because throughout his ministry, Joseph Smith continually denied that polygamy was being practiced, saying “No, it’s not being practiced.”

So, that was the real trick is how to handle the documentation. He gets into the issue of memory and selective use of documentation and so on. The thing he really hits the hardest on is two issues: number one, Gary is very critical of the fact that the essay continually emphasized Joseph Smith as a reluctant polygamist, as this guy, that was– there was the angel, holding a sword over his head, commanding him to practice polygamy, and that this guy was really, he just really was repulsed by the idea that–  and he [Gary] says that just doesn’t ring quite true. He says there was a deliberately playing down of Joseph Smith, the sexuality, the idea that polygamy was a means of multiplying and replenishing the chosen seed and so on. The other thing he’s critical of, is the downplaying of the theological underpinnings, based on the use of D&C 132. He’s also critical of the fact that some of the most important books are not even cited in the Gospel Topics essay, particularly Lawrence Foster’s Religion and Sexuality, George Smith’s book, Nauvoo Polygamy: But We Called It Plural Marriage or polygamy.

Find out what else he said!  Check out our conversation….

Dr. Newell Bringhurst critiques the 3 polygamy essays at

Don’t miss our previous

conversation with Newell and Matt!

454: Are Gospel Essays Hidden or Public?

453: Swedish Rescue & Gospel Topics Essays

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Ascension of Brigham Young (Part 5 of 7)

Denver Snuffer will tell us about how the Law of Adoption affected Brigham Young’s plan for succeeding Joseph Smith.  We’ll focus more on the sealing power, and the polygamy affidavits were used to support polygamy that helped Brigham Young’s ascension to leadership in the Church.

Denver:  But the idea of Adoption had a profound effect on the history of the Church. Because Brigham Young led the first company, they come in. This is the place. They settle down. He has himself anointed a king and a priest in the log cabin that was built. Then the king returns across the plains, back to Winter Quarters. On his way back, he runs into the company that had John Taylor and Parley Pratt in it. John Taylor and Parley Pratt had some kind of sealing adoption organization put together for the companies. They lead in the migration. When Brigham Young met them, they had reorganized the companies that they were in, contrary to the way that Brigham Young had adopted folks together in the ceremonies in Nauvoo.

So now they were in defiance of the priesthood by what they done. Well, they were members of the Quorum of the Twelve. The vote that was taken on August 8 of 1844 was that the Quorum of the Twelve would take care of the Church, not Brigham Young. It was the Quorum. So, John Taylor, and Parley Pratt didn’t regard Brigham Young as having any right to rule and reign or dictate over them. They were doing what they thought best after they saw how the company functioned. They realigned the adoptions as they were going West. Well, Brigham Young fumed from there all the way back to Winter Quarters.

Check out our conversation….

Snuffer tells his version of how Brigham Young used sealing ordinance to consolidate his leadership and power in the LDS Church.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Denver!

440: Why Denver Changed on Joseph’s Polygamy

439: Denver’s Outreach to Hebrews/Native Americans

438: Is Trinity in Lectures on Faith/Book of Mormon?

437: New Scriptures in Remnant Movement

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Why Denver Changed on Joseph’s Polygamy (Part 4 of 7)

In Denver Snuffer’s book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, he argued that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.  Since that book was written, Denver has changed his mind and now believes Joseph was a monogamist.  How did he come to change his mind?

Denver:  The Fanny Alger stuff, and you’ve got all of these points to triangulate from. What do you make of it? I can tell you that story and make Joseph Smith an adulterer, and a plural marriage practitioner, or I can tell you that story, and I can make Joseph Smith absolutely chaste, and that what happened there was not by any stretch, a sexual liaison. Fanny Alger would have nine children from a husband.

Denver:  Joseph Smith fathered eight children through Emma Smith. They were both at the peak of their fertility when the two of them had something going on, and yet there was no progeny. There was no child. In fact, there’s no child born, that was fathered by Joseph Smith, other than the children that came through Emma Smith. So if you’re going to turn Joseph Smith into something that is akin to the narrative tour by the LDS Church, one of the questions that ought to enter into your balancing of what happened, is the absence of any progeny when you’ve got a fertile man, and you’ve got fertile women who bore children to other men, but never bore a child for Joseph Smith.  What effect ought that have on your thinking and interpretation of the historical events?

Denver: You consider nothing that got written down or got introduced after June 27, 1844. You are limited, absolutely, to the material that got its existence, put pen to paper before that date. Okay. What do you have? What do you have to support Joseph Smith practicing plural marriage with sexual relations with other women than Emma?

While I understand that Denver is a lawyer, it seems inapproprate to throw out all evidence after the death of Joseph Smith.  Do you agree or disagree?  Check out our conversation….

Denver Snuffer explains why he now believes Joseph didn’t practice polygamy.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Denver!

439: Denver’s Outreach to Hebrews/Native Americans

438: Is Trinity in Lectures on Faith/Book of Mormon?

437: New Scriptures in Remnant Movement