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Interesting Defenses of Polygamy (Part 4 of 6)

A non-Mormon man wondered if he might be able to participate in polygamy.  Helen Mar Kimball wrote a scathing response to this man while offering a strong defense of polygamy.   Dr. Larry Foster discusses this interesting defense of polygamy.

Larry:  There was a very interesting defense of polygamy by one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, Helen Marr Kimball, who then became married to Whitney– Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, later, but I forget which Whitney she was married to, but she was briefly a plural wife of Joseph Smith. She wrote a defense of why we practice plural marriage. She starts with a very interesting story about a man who had written her. He described a very complicated situation in which he was unable to have sex with his wife.  He loved her. He was taking care of her, but it was impossible to have sex with his wife, and he wondered if he were to become a Mormon, if it’d be acceptable for him to have another wife. She wrote back to him, chastising him and saying, “This is terrible. You’re awful.” I guess he was living in this type of relationship and he wanted to see if it could be regularized as a Mormon. And she said, “This is terrible, your great sin,” and so forth. But if it had been under the authority of the Mormon Church, it would have been okay. This is very interesting to me. She was a very thoughtful writer. She appreciated the problem that he was in, but she really gave him an earful about how he really needed to repent.

GT:  It wasn’t under proper authority.

Larry:  It wasn’t under proper authority, and I don’t think she ever got to the question of what would happen if he joined and tried to do it?

We will also discuss Brian Hales‘ three-volume work on polygamy (Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3).

Larry:  Brian Hales, he’s done great work by giving us a 3-volume, 1600-page collection with accurate transcripts of virtually all the stuff that relates to polygamy, pro, anti, but he interprets it wrong, ahistorically.  I think his major goal is to actually argue that none of these women that were sealed to Joseph Smith, who were married to other men actually had sex with him in this life, that they were only sealed for eternity and did not have sex with him in this life.  I think this has been almost definitively disproven by Michael Quinn.  Michael Quinn is one of the most knowledgeable and most reliable, I think, historians of all aspects of Mormonism, especially 19th century Mormonism.  He’s done a lot on the 20th century as well.

GT:  Let me jump in there, because, and I’ll be a Brian Hales defender for just a moment, because I do know that he’s done at least two DNA studies with Dr. Ugo Perego.

Larry:  Right, but this is about possible children by some of these women.

GT:  But I know that Sylvia Sessions Lyon was one case, and he’s since changed his opinion since he wrote those books, but he was arguing with Sylvia Sessions that she was married to Brother Lyon, I can’t remember his first name–it was consecutive marriages.

Larry:  It doesn’t hold up.  If you look at the detail, and that’s what Michael Quinn has done, but here’s the thing about that particular case. In that particular case, she’s told her daughter.

GT:  Josephine Lyon.

Larry:  Josephine Lyon, just before she died, she said, “I wanted you to know this, I have kept this from you all these years, but you’re really Joseph Smith’s progeny.”

GT:  Yeah.

Larry:  Well, then we did the DNA testing and it showed that she wasn’t.

GT:  Right, she was a daughter of Brother Lyon.

Larry:  Listen to this. What does the fact that she told her daughter that she was Joseph Smith’s progeny mean? She then knew that she had had sex with Joseph Smith, even if that particular example of the sex didn’t produce progeny from him. It was exceedingly controversial to have children in Nauvoo from 1841 to 1844 as a polygamist.  It was illegal. It would have been totally disapproved up by most Mormons who were taught to have to be strictly monogamous and thought that was heinously sinful to have more than one marital partner, or relationship of any sort, outside of marriage. So, any children that would have been born, would have been covered up. I know we have some examples of how that happened.

Check out our conversation….

Helen Mar Kimball wrote a very interesting defense of Mormon polygamy.

 

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Mormon Dissent Leads to Salt Sermon (Part 3 of 7)

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1836, Joseph Smith finally came to Missouri, but dissent against his leadership followed him. Early leaders including Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers, and even W.W. Phelps were disillusioned with his leadership. This led Sidney Rigdon to call out dissenters in his famous Salt Sermon. Dr. Alex Baugh tells us more about this tumultuous time.  After getting kicked out of Jackson County, the state of Missouri created Caldwell County specifically for Mormons.

Alex: The county’is created and actually signed into law by Lilburn W. Boggs on the 29th of December 1836, passed both the House and the Senate to create this county for us.

GT: Now I’ve heard you call it the Mormon reservation.

Alex: Well, it kind of almost is. They’re kind of saying, “Okay, we’re going to block off this chunk of land for the Mormons. The expectation was, I mean, it was a gentleman’s agreement, but the idea was, if any Mormons come to Missouri, that’s where they gotta stay, that’s where they gotta live. But the point is, you can live anywhere you want. But the Latter-day Saints were grateful and I think I saw that as a temporary solution. But things deteriorate once we start getting up there, because number one, we begin moving into some other areas. We have some localities of pockets of Latter-day Saints elsewhere. Well, hold it, we weren’t supposed to do that. The thing that I think probably triggered the animosity again, was well, several things. But one of them is, of course, Joseph Smith, finally ends up, him and Sidney Rigdon and the First Presidency coming to Missouri. All this time, headquarters has been in Kirtland. Boy when Joseph arrives, he arrives March 14, 1838, him and Sidney. And boy, that sent a signal, “Mormons are here to stay, this is their homeland. They want to settle this as Zion. We’re not in Jackson County, but we’re there in Missouri now, and that’s the headquarters. So, they’re worried a little bit about again, political numbers, we start going outside. In May Joseph goes up to Daviess County, and declares that this one area is Adam-ondi-Ahman. We begin settling up there. We purchase land down in Carroll County, a little community called De Witt, start settling outside there, so that that causes problems as well. But Caldwell really worked out quite well for a couple of years there and we had our own government, we had our own–we even elected our own legislator to the Missouri legislature, John Corrill. We could form our own militia, and, boy, we can defend ourselves if we have to. The problem is, of course, the dissent that started in Kirtland comes to Missouri, and no sooner did Joseph Smith to get there, then, within a month, Oliver Cowdery is excommunicated, David Whitmer is excommunicated. Just right before he came, W.W. Phelps was excommunicated, John Whitmer. These men stay in Missouri, stay in Far West. They cause problems. McClellin is another one. Then, unfortunately, of course, we have the rise of the the Danite company, and these men decide that we’ve got to get rid of these guys. We got to cleanse the church. So these dissenters should not even be with us. We have the salt sermon of Sidney Rigdon, and it was a clear indication, “You’re not welcome here and we’ll help you move.” And where do they go?

Alex: June 17, I believe it was, he gives the Salt Sermon, 1838 and then that’s where he says, “You’re no longer welcome here. If the salt has lost its savor, it’s no good, but to be trodden under foot by men.”

GT: So he’s going after Mormon dissenters.

Alex: Right.

Check out our conversation….

Sidney Rigdon called out Mormon dissenters with his Salt Sermon.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Alex!

329: Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County

328: Trouble in Missouri 1833

 

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Does Mormonism Have Racist Theology? (Part 5 of 5)

As we conclude our discussion of black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning James, we will talk about this question: what role does race play in LDS Theology?  Many black church members have been told they will be white in the resurrection.  Is our theology an example of white supremacy?  Dr. Quincy Newell will answer these questions.

Quincy:  [Jane] was well respected in the community, in part because of her relationship to Joseph Smith. She was one of the last people alive, who had known him in person, and so she was sought out for her memories of the Prophet. And Joseph F. Smith spoke at her funeral. She was she was celebrated and lauded as an upstanding member of the community, well-respected and to be missed. But, at the same time, one account of the funeral said that Joseph F. Smith talked about how she would receive all of her wishes in heaven, and that she would have a white and glorified body. And that’s not an exact quote, but he did say she would be white.

And, there’s a really interesting aspect to imagining that scene. If you think about Joseph F. Smith standing in front of a congregation that includes a lot of black faces, and talking about how Jane, this respected black woman in the community is going to be white in heaven, that’s all kinds of problematic.

GT:  And I know a lot of people are going to have a hard time with that. Because they’re like, “Well, that’s not racist.”

Quincy:  No, but that’s racist.

GT:  Oh, I know it is. I know I’m going to get comments on that. But anyway, even as late as 1978, I remember President Kimball, who we all laud for this wonderful [revelation], talked about Indians who would become a white and delightsome people. And I know he said that with the best of intentions. And it’s hard, I think, especially for really Orthodox people to say that’s a racist statement. But it’s a racist statement. And so it’s hard because I know a lot of black people, Indians, whatever nationality, have had to deal with this. I hate to call it white supremacy.

Quincy:  It’s white supremacy.

GT:  But that’s what it is.

Quincy:  Yeah, it is.

GT:  And so what can we say to people to get them to understand that that really is racist theology?

Quincy:  Not being an LDS theologian, that is a challenging question for me to answer. So I think there are Mormon theologians who are far more able to address this question than I. But I guess I would start with the idea that the Bible says we are all made in God’s image. I was raised as a Protestant. And so, I think of God as beyond gender, beyond race, not having either one of those characteristics. I know for Mormons, that’s different. But I think that you have to start with the question of, why is the default image of God, an old white guy? Right?

Check out our conversation….

When we say that black people will become white in heaven, is that a form of racist theology?

Don’t miss out other conversations with Dr. Quincy Newell!

316: Jane’s Pioneer Travels to Utah

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

314: 19th Century Sexual Politics

313: Was Jane a Slave?