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“Forever Families” a Hurtful Doctrine?

Many LDS members find comfort in the idea that Families can be together forever.  But does it have a darker side?  What happens when a family member leaves the Church?  In our next conversation with Christ’s Church apostle David Patrick and Seventy Benjamin Shaffer, we’ll find out that both were former members of the LDS Church.  Have they been cut off from their families?

Benjamin:  Right. So we believe that families are forever. But I view this statement that families can be together forever as essentially one of the most vile and apostate teachings that has ever been perpetrated upon the Latter-day Saints.

GT:  You just offended all of my LDS listeners. {chuckling}

Benjamin:  I’m so sorry. Let me explain the difference…So families are forever is what I believe. The Doctrine and Covenants makes it clear that the same sociality which exists amongst us here will exist amongst us hereafter, which basically means that if you’re viewing the sealing ceremonies, if you’re viewing these concepts of the eternity of families as an eternity of association, then I think we’ve got a really big problem. Because essentially, what they’re then saying is, is that if you don’t follow our rules, if you don’t make it to the temple, then you’re not promised an eternity of association with your loved ones. That would mean, you’d have to have some kind of enforcement method where people can’t be with their families anymore. This is kind of what I would call the geographic view of the Three Degrees Of Glory, like they’re separated so fundamentally by geography, that people in one Kingdom can’t visit the people in another. If that’s the view that you take, then God’s a monster by that kind of reasoning. Essentially, what you’re saying is, is that the single mother who didn’t pay her tithing and didn’t get sealed to her child, or the single mother, therefore, who isn’t sealed to the Father, and therefore, dies without having those opportunities–you’re saying that you’re going to tear these children from their mother’s arms. This is worse than the slave auction block. We’re not just talking about separation for life. There’s a separation for eternity. It’s just absolutely heinous.

David:  Benjamin, do you think the most Latter-day Saints are not going to be as maybe literal about the word can be together forever, and you may be a little bit more literal than they are?

Benjamin:  Perhaps, but I think that the thing is, is that when you have your whole family, everybody’s in good standing with the church. It’s true. You don’t really think about it that way. But the moment anybody leaves the church, the moment someone apostasizes, people do start to panic. I’ve seen it over and over again.

David:  Yeah.

Benjamin:  If somebody starts leaving the church, they say, “Well, but does that mean I won’t be with you in eternity?” It’s like one of the first things that a lot of LDS people immediately go to when somebody, even if somebody just drinks a beer or something, is “Oh my goodness, you’re putting our eternal family at jeopardy”. That’s why I think it’s a really invidious doctrine. It’s not that your average LDS family when everyone’s in good standing is even thinking about it. They’re all just feeling happy. They’re going to be together forever. It’s all good. But yeah, when someone leaves, I think it is fairly universal for people immediately to go to that more terrifying understanding of,  “Wait, does this mean then that we are separated?” I think that’s why it’s dangerous.

Have you thought of it that way before?  Are forever families a two-edged sword that both provides comfort and pain?  David & Benjamin talk about the impact on their families.  Check out our conversation….

“Forever Families” is a comfort for the LDS, until a family members leaves. Then it is hurtful.

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

386: Why Polygamists are Threatening to LDS Church

385: God in a Box or Pyramid?

384: Documentary Hypothesis & Adam-God

383: Intro to Adam-God Theory

382: Scriptures of Christ’s Church

381: Intro to Christ’s Church

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Explaining Polygamy from non-Mormon Viewpoint (Part 2 of 6)

What is the best explanation for polygamy from a non-Mormon view?  Dr. Larry Foster from Georgia Tech gives his best explanation for the practice.

Larry:  So it wasn’t like God suddenly said, “You should start polygamy.”  Joseph Smith asks God, according to the revelation that was written, recorded in 1843 that is now section 132 of the Utah Mormon Doctrine and Covenants, he asks, “Why did you allow the Hebrew patriarchs like Abraham, Solomon, and David and all these other people to have plural wives?” Then God tells him, “It’s time to reintroduce the system in a different form in preparation for the millennium.” That’s reading a few extra things into it.

Then similarly, the argument that he was just mentally disturbed, there’s some definite possibilities there, but you have to ask, is there an assumption that anybody who would think that they wanted to introduce polygamy would automatically have to be mentally disturbed? Then you’d have to say, “Well, all those people in the Bible were mentally disturbed.”  I don’t think that that would hold up.

But I do think that there are some definite psychological peculiarities about Joseph Smith that I’ve argued–several different interpretations that might work to try to help explain how unusual psychology and narcissistic and possibly bipolar manic depressive tendencies might have contributed in sort of encouraging him to move toward polygamy, and maybe sincerely believe it was God’s will, but mainly, might have been his own desires that were sort of feeding back into, “It’s coming from God,” sort of thing.

Check out our conversation….

Georgia Tech professor Dr. Larry Foster gives a non-Mormon explanation for polygamy.
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Celibacy, Polygamy, & Free Love in 19th Century (Part 1 of 6)

I’m excited to have a non-Mormon polygamy expert on the show.

Larry:  I’m Dr. Larry Foster. I’m a professor at Georgia Tech. I’m sort of an oddball at Georgia Tech because I’m probably the only professor who teaches courses in religion regularly. People also wonder why a non-Mormon like myself would have spent at least four decades–more than that really, studying the Latter-day Saints without converting, why not convert? Or non-Mormons saying, “You must know all the dirt? Why aren’t you an anti-Mormon?” So, I’ve actually written a couple of scholarly articles explaining that. I’ll try to explain some of that to you today, if you would like.

GT: That was my first question was, why would a non-Mormon be so interested in Mormonism?

Larry:  Yeah, well, it’s sort of a backdoor route.  I went to a very liberal, experimental college–Antioch College in southern Ohio in the late 1960s, which was a very turbulent period, as I think most of you remember: the Vietnam War protests, civil rights protests, other sorts of things going on. I thought I was fairly liberal when I went to Antioch, but I decided that I was the last living conservative on earth when I was at Antioch.

But when I was getting ready to do my undergraduate thesis in history, I decided to try and see if there were any other periods in history, when there had been similar sorts of tensions and confusions. I’d seen lots of people experimenting with alternative communal arrangements and read about them and visited different places. My hobby is to just visit new and alternative religious groups and see what they’re like, and so forth. I wondered if there was any other period when things were as turbulent and how they had handled them. I discovered there was a period that was very similar to the 1960s, surprisingly.  It was before the American Civil War, in the 1830’s and 1840’s and especially in New York State.  New York State was sort of the California of that period of almost anything you could find in present-day-California, you could find in New York State in the 1830’s and 40’s. It was a hotbed of all sorts of religious and political and social experimentation. I decided to look at two groups in that area that was sometimes called the Burned Over District because of so much revivalistic fervor burning over the area repeatedly. So I took two groups that I thought were polar opposites:

The Shakers who were a celibate, Protestant semi-monastic group that basically prohibited sexual intercourse among its members and lived in separate communities apart from the rest of the society, and the Oneida community in Central New York State, which developed a system of complex marriage, in which they argued that all adult members of the community were heterosexually married to each other and could exchange sexual partners within a very complex system of controls that they actually had to make sure that they didn’t–nobody got too excited about any one person formed exclusive relations. Here’s two complete opposites.  Shakers are celibate.  The Oneida community says, “Go to it for everybody.”

GT:  Polyamorous, would that be the way to describe it?

Larry:  No, I wouldn’t call it that.  It’s much more controlled than polyamorous.

We talk more about all three groups.  It was really interesting to see him compare the 1830s to the 1960s!  Check out our conversation…

Dr. Larry Foster compares diverse marriage practices of Mormons, Shakers, and the Oneida Community.

We’ll be talking about polygamy all month!  You may want to bone up on our previous conversations with Brian Hales!

053: Did Hales Write the Gospel Topics Essays? (Hales)

052: Emma Denied Joseph Practiced Polygamy?  (Hales)

051: Polygamy & the Temple Lot Case (Hales)

Dr. Brian Hales, Author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

050: Joseph’s Youngest Teen Brides  (Hales)

049: Mormon Polyandry:  More Than One Husband? (Hales)

048: What are the Theological Justifications of Polygamy? (Hales)

047: Fanny Alger Part 2:  Marriage or Adultery? (Hales)

046: 1st Plural Wife Fanny Alger: Time or Eternity Polygamy?  (Hales)

045: Polygamy Rumors – Declaration on Marriage (Hales)

044: Does D&C 132 Conflict with Genesis? (Hales)

043: Canadian Polygamy – Should it be Legal?