There have been lots of rumors on the internet that the reason the LDS Church got rid of the temple/priesthood ban was because they were going to lose their tax-exempt status. Is that true? Dr. Matt Harris from Colorado State-Pueblo will answer that question. He will talk about both the Nixon and Carter administrations, and even include a letter from former President Jimmy Carter!
Matt: On the internet, there are lots and lots of chatter about people saying that President Carter had instructed the IRS to crack down on the church. And I’ve seen this i`n probably, I don’t know, half dozen to a dozen places and people are so emphatic about it. [They say] Yes, he did this. One of them even went through his journal which is published and had conjectured that during President Carter’s visit to Salt Lake in 1977. That’s when he laid down the law in 1976-77.
Anyway, it’s just conjecture. That’s all it is. So anyway, I wrote President Carter a note. I asked him, “This is what it’s been said about you, that you used the IRS to crack down on the Mormons and put pressure on them to lift the priesthood ban.” And he wrote back a wonderfully written letter, and he said, “I have no recollection of ever doing that. However, I did help the Mormons with welfare and some work getting them something in Africa.” He didn’t elaborate. So President Carter said that.
GT: This is a recent letter?
Matt: This is three or four years ago.
Matt: Yeah. And I should add too, I have family in Atlanta. During one of my trips to see my brother and my sister years ago, I spent a lovely day at the Carter Library looking for these kinds of things. And there were big thick Mormon files but nothing that dealt with the IRS.
GT: It’s weird to be doing history on living people.
Matt: It is because they fight back. When they’re dead, they can’t. They don’t fight back. So it’s a challenge writing contemporary history. Because they they’re alive. They read it.
Were you aware of this? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our other episodes with Dr. Matt Harris!
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?
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.”
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.
David Ostler is the author of “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.” This book is designed for LDS Leaders to better understand a faith crisis, and how to help members in their wards and stakes to better empathize and maintain members who struggle with issues of faith. David has interviewed several hundred people to better understand their perspective and shares that knowledge with all of us.
David: When I started studying faith crisis, disaffiliation, my own background is in evidence-based medicine. So, you know, it’s like, what does the data say? It’s the first question we ask. So I spent time trying to understand what we knew about the problem, what people had written, what studies had been done, what data had been collected. Like most problems, we all have impressions about a particular area, but when we go in and study it systematically, sometimes we find those impressions are not entirely accurate. For my own life, that’s been the case often. But certainly with this topic, I found it to be the case. So I wanted to, as I learned about this for myself, and then ultimately, as I wrote the book, to make sure that I had the best information that can be brought on it, and where it wasn’t available to see what I could do to create more information there. So with regards to Leading Saints, and Kurt Francom, we were able to, using the leaders that subscribe to his newsletter, to be able to survey them and understand what local leaders thought about faith crisis, issues of faith, how they were responding and the like. So that’s been kind of a fun thing for me to get to know Kurt and that community a little better.
Check out our conversation…
And don’t miss our previous conversations with Kurt Francom!