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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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Jane Manning James’ Pioneer Life in Utah (Part 4 of 5)

Dr. Quincy Newell discusses early black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning’s marriage to Isaac James.  The two travelled to Utah in one of the earliest wagon companies to settle in Salt Lake City.

GT:  Did they go with the first pioneer companies?

Quincy:  I don’t think they’re in the first wave. They’re in the second wave, now I’m remembering. Patty Sessions delivers Jane’s child essentially, on the trail in Iowa, at a place called Keg Creek. So Jane is traveling pregnant, which can’t have been fun. At some point, they get hooked up with the George Parker Dykes company. They continue to stay with and work for Dykes and his family when they’re in Winter Quarters.  Dykes goes off with the Mormon Battalion, and he writes letters home to his wives, who he refers to as Mrs. Dykes, to sort of cover up the fact that there are multiple Mrs. Dykes’s. He makes several remarks about, make sure you treat Isaac and Jane well, take care of them and so on.

GT:  Polygamy is such a can of worms. So, she gets into the Salt Lake Valley.

Quincy:  She’s in one of the first companies to enter the Salt Lake Valley. So they arrive in the summer of 1847. She has had another child, so she has given birth to a child on the way to Winter Quarters, and she’s pregnant with another child by the time they get to Salt Lake. They set up on some of the property that belongs to Brigham Young and continue working for him for some time, and then they get a piece of land down in the First Ward, I believe, and set up a farming operation. Jane starts doing laundry pretty soon as well.

We will discuss her other marriages, and her prominent role in Pioneer Utah.

Quincy:  So in 1870, Jane and Isaac get divorced.

GT:  1870?

Quincy:  1870. That’s the necessary background. So in the 1880s, and 1890s, when Jane is starting to request endowments and sealings, she requests endowments. She requests sealing as a child to Joseph Smith. And she requests sealing in marriage. And occasionally, she will request sealing and marriage to Walker Lewis, which is a really interesting move on her part. And I think it’s maybe because Walker Lewis has the priesthood.

GT:  That’s a fact I think most people don’t know.

Quincy:  Right. So if you request sealing to a black man who doesn’t have the priesthood, well, then there’s a sort of procedural problem there, right?

GT:  Yeah. Isaac, her husband didn’t have priesthood.

Quincy:  Exactly. And so, she may be thinking, “Well, okay, I will request sealing to somebody who does have the priesthood, but who is also black, so they can’t object to it being an interracial marriage. And they can’t object that he doesn’t have the priesthood. So I should be good to go.”

Quincy:  Yeah, they say no to that, too.

Quincy:  But so that’s, as far as I know, that’s the only evidence that we have Jane and Walker Lewis knew each other. I am not totally persuaded that that’s evidence that they knew each other. She may only have known of him but known that he had the priesthood.

GT:  So this was just kind of a strategic move on her part.

Quincy:  It may have been, It’s hard to say. There’s a lot about Jane that’s hard to say.

Check out our conversation….

Jane Manning James was part of the second wave of pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Quincy!

315:  Jane’s One-Of-A Kind Sealing to Joseph Smith)

314: 19th Century Sexual Politics

313: Was Jane a Slave?

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John Hawley’s Polygamy Wrestle (Part 7 of 8)

Early Mormons believed polygamy was essential to salvation, but pioneer John Hawley struggled with the doctrine.  Would he agree to take on another wife?

Mel:  So John says he’s going to get married polygamously.  His brother had had three wives, who was down to one by them.  I’ll need to tell you the story of Sarah Ann Hadfield in a moment, one of those wives.  John pulls a wagon out, crosses little Pinto Creek to the north, and the axle fell off, the rear axle fell off. Robert Hawley, his great-grandson who has now gone to the ages, told me the family lore is that John took that as a sign from God that he was not to take a second wife.

Mel tells what John finally decided about polygamy.  Check out our conversation….

John P Hawley struggled whether he should take a polygamous wife.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Mel!

280: Brigham Knew about MMM?

279: Hawley’s Opposition to MMM

278: Mormon Pioneers in Texas & End of Wightites

277: More on the Zodiac Temple in Texas

276: Lyman Wight & Mormon Colonies in Texas

275: Intro to Hawley