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Breaking Sealings: Who has the Power?

In a previous conversation with Dr. Bill Smith, we talked about how polygamous sealings were considered nearly permanent.  There are cases in which those can be broken.  After Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young claimed sole possession of the sealing power. Many apostles disagreed. How did it get resolved? Dr. Bill Smith explains in this interview. Does more than one man hold the sealing keys? And who is in charge of breaking sealings?  Is it just one man, or are there several people who can do it?

Bill:  I think that—opinions sort of vary with this but Brigham Young’s divorces where a sealing was involved, I think Brigham Young’s divorces that he granted were taken as dissolving the sealing.

GT:  Theological?  Ok.

Bill:  Which is in perfect harmony with the idea that sealing.  You could do it and you could undo it.

GT:  As prophet he had power to loose.

Bill: Yes, so that’s another big point in the discussion of the book is that in the revelation it’s very clear that only one person at a time has this authority to decide you can be sealed, you can’t be.  Or, you can engage in polygamy, you can’t, kind of thing.  This has all evolved onto a single person.  It even says historically, this is the way it has always been.  I don’t know how serious to take that, but it supports the idea that it’s really a one-man job.  So, who has the authority to decide?  This is a huge issue in succession.  Because obviously the guy who has this one-man authority is the guy to be in charge, right?

At one point, Joseph tries to separate his church presidency from his temple priest position as the one guy.  People don’t like this.  They are worried about it.  They don’t want to accept Hyrum as the church president and Joseph as saying.  Unfortunately, he is addressing a group, a very small group who is acquainted with his temple theology.  The people who aren’t are really upset by this.  “We don’t want Hyrum to be the prophet.  You are.”  He can’t be the prophet.

So, he takes it all back that afternoon.  But yes, he is really speaking to this idea of where things are, and I can’t go into the background here, but his sort of presidency of the High Priesthood sort of vaults him into the position of the one guy.  So, after he has died, after he is dead, the apostles weren’t in that tradition of High Priesthood. They weren’t in there at all.  They try to write themselves in at first, and then they say you can’t really do that.  It doesn’t work.  So, we have to a new tradition about this.

Is adultery grounds for breaking sealings?

Bill:  Adultery is a really touchy point within the revelation.  It’s a little bit confused.  Also, the whole thing is tied up in this idea where I mention in Matthew about the binding and loosing thing.  That is sort of Mark Staker’s thing about Peter, James, and John.  That’s connected in there.  So, the text is not perfectly clear.  That’s another point I try to make about the revelation.

Check out our conversation…..

After Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young claimed only he held the sealing power. Many apostles disagreed. Bill Smith tells how the issue was settled.

 

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How 132 Would Affect Future Revelations on Women & Gays

With General Conference coming up this weekend, Dr. Bill Smith and I speculate on some possible future revelations coming up!  Would Official Declaration 3 deal with Gays?

GT:  You mentioned a couple of things that were very interesting to me, especially in light of the Family Proclamation.  D&C 132 is kind of the foundation for forever families.  But you mentioned singles and you also mentioned gays.  How do those relate to section 132?

Bill:  Well I think that section 132 is by evidence, at least by internal evidence, it’s very much in the vein of thinking of sex as being in terms of heterosexual sex, of course not necessarily one-man and one-woman sex, but one-man, multiple-women.  So, I think that’s the point of the revelation.  It doesn’t really speak to the possibility of gay marriage.  It doesn’t open that possibility at all.  Whether that can be addressed in some other way, I don’t know, but the revelation, that’s not on anybody’s mind.

GT:  Right.  So, do you see that as being a possibility of a future revelation?

Bill:  Anything is possible.  I don’t know.  Whether people would feel that there is dissonance with section 132 and any further revelation that expanded some kind of approval of gay relationships, gay marriage, I don’t know.  That’s for another generation, I am guessing.  But yes, that might be something that would be addressed.  I don’t know.

Of course we do this in relation to Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants, which is one of Mormonism’s most important revelations:  The New & Everlasting Covenant of marriage.  Is there room in this revelation to accommodate gay marriage?  In our next episode, Dr. Bill Smith will answer that question, and discuss how it might impact future revelations dealing with not only gays, but women as well.

Bill:  Well there’s something of equal probability I think is that we have an official declaration that says that women can be ordained.

GT:  Would that be more likely?

Bill:  Boy I don’t really know.  I think yes, it probably fits better with the current paradigm than say gay marriage would be, recognizing gay marriage.

.,.

GT:  Do you see 132 being compatible with say female ordination?

Bill:  Yeah, the polygamy parts seem to partake of the typical sort of patriarchal kinds of views of the 19th century, the 18th century and back.  In terms of incompatibilities, that’s where that would lie.  In terms of ordination practices, those kinds of things, I don’t see an incompatibility there, structure.  I mean it would be easy to enfold women into priesthood structures if that was to take place.  I don’t see a problem there.  I don’t think it would be possible to stop that because you had the same kinds of issues with blacks and the priesthood when the ‘78 change was announced.  They were very clear that this meant that there weren’t any restrictions on their participation in any way.

Is this Official Declaration 4?  Check out our conversation…..

Here are some others episodes you may be interested in.

093: Greg Prince on History of LDS Policy Toward Gays

092:  How to Polygamists Feel about Gay Marriage? (Wilde)

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

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

012: Kirtland Era Polygamy (Staker)

 

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Is Polygamy a Ticket to Heaven?

Some Protestants, such as Born-Again Christians, believe that one can be saved in heaven—assured salvation.  Did early Mormons believe in something similar?  Was polygamy a ticket to heaven, not just for the man, but for his wives and children as well?  Dr. Bill Smith will talk about this in our next conversation.

Bill:  The idea is that the elite Mormon men, those with—maybe I should use the word assured salvation, like Joseph Smith, it was a great thing to be a child of somebody like that theoretically.  It was a great thing to be their child because as Joseph says, “On the other side of the veil, I will claim what I seal.”  In other words, anybody he is sealed to is guaranteed to go into heaven with him.  Because he is guaranteed in the revelation in fact that he’ll be going to heaven. So, this is important.  It’s an important story for important people.

That sounds doubly bad I guess in the present day.  It sounds sexist.  It sounds elitist, but in fact that’s the way it worked out.  A lot of people engaged in polygamy, a lot of women engaged in polygamy, not as many men of course, but it was really a story in terms of descendants, a story of elite Mormon men, because they are the ones that had 30 wives, or 15 wives, or 25 wives, or more.  Most of those men had children with most of those wives.

Dr. Smith talks about how the theology of assured salvation has changed over the years.  We will also talk about one of the major justifications of polygamy: raising seed.  If that was so important, why didn’t Joseph have children with wives other than Emma?

Bill:  I can’t really answer that except to say that the record on the ground seems to suggest that at least with some women, other than his wife, he was having sex. But I think it is impossible to argue beyond reminiscent accounts and that sort of thing, whether or not that was really going on.  I think it’s probably a sure thing that it did happen, but with who and how often?  That’s really hard to say.

Check out our conversation, along with our previous conversations about Emma Smith and Oliver Cowdery…..