The amazing Gina Colvin interviews me (John Dehlin) on the 10th Anniversary of Mormon Stories Podcast. We discuss my early years growing up in the church, my difficult mission experiences in Guatemala, my time at BYU during the turbulent early 1990s, my faith crisis while working at Microsoft, my 10 year journey with Mormon Stories Podcast, my excommunication earlier this year, and my thoughts/plans about the future (with Mormon Stories and Mormon Transitions).
J Seth Anderson and Michael Adam Ferguson were catapulted into the public spotlight when they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married by the state of Utah. Seth and Michael both grew up in LDS homes, completed full-time missions for the Church, and throughout their twenties, undertook tortuous journeys to renegotiate their relationships with both the institution and with the faith of their childhoods.
Since November 2012, Seth and Michael have been embroiled in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against a gay conversion therapy organization in New Jersey named JONAH: Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On June 25, 2015, a New Jersey jury unanimously found JONAH liable for multiple counts of consumer fraud and unconscionable business practices.
For a link to the Ferguson v. JONAH – Unofficial Trial Transcripts, click here.
This trial has significant implications for LDS LGBT individuals, primarily because:
- The Journey Into Manhood program is co-founded by LDS church members Rich Wyler and Dave Matheson, and has had direct participation and support from NorthStar Founder and BYU Professor Ty Mansfield.
- Ty and Danielle Mansfield have been put forward by the LDS Church including on the MormonsAndGays.org web site as role models for gay Mormon men (encouraging mixed-orientation marriages, which are reported to have divorce rates of around 70% and very low quality of life ratings).
- Ty’s Book “Voices of Hope” is published by Deseret Book, and is the main LGBT-themed book sold at Deseret Book today. Jeff Bennion and Preston “Pret” Dahlgren, who were both interviewed in the JONAH trial, are also both contributors to Voices of Hope, and were also featured on the recent My Husband’s Not Gay TV show on TLC.
- For decades, LDS participants in both Evergreen International (the now defunct LDS reparative therapy-sponsoring organization) and NorthStar have reported strong encouragement to participate in Journey Into Manhood (and other reparative therapy-based programs) from their organizational leaders and/or members.
- Considerable research has been conducted on the dangers of religion-based sexual orientation change efforts and mixed-orientation marriage, which should call into question the LDS Church’s historical and current approaches to dealing with its LGBT members.
Seth and Michael recently completed their graduate work at the University of Utah–Seth finishing his master’s degree in social history focusing on the history of sexuality in the Western United States, and Michael defending his PhD dissertation in bioengineering in which he developed new analytical methods for monitoring brain activity using fMRI.
Seth and Michael are actively involved in education and advocacy on behalf of LGBT and queer individuals, including the project Team Truth–a grassroots campaign they are creating with advocates and allies to end the lies and harm of gay conversion therapy.
Dr. Dave Christian has served as a psychologist to believing and post-Mormons for decades.
In this episode, Dave begins by discussing his LDS pioneer ancestry, and his early years in the LDS church as a faithful, science-loving boy from St. George. He then discusses early doubts he began to have regarding his LDS faith as he explored the field of epistemology (the study of how we know things). In spite of these doubts, Dave chose to serve an LDS mission in the Australia Sydney Mission (1979 to 1981 timeframe), and during this time struggled with the pressure tactics employed by his mission president (Orson Wright). Ultimately, to Dave’s surprise, Orson Wright was removed from the mission for propositioning the sister missionaries of the mission to be his polygamous wives — and the reasons for President Wright’s removal from the mission were covered up by LDS Church leadership including Thomas S. Monson and Joseph B. Wirthlin.
This episode provides a fascinating look into the issues of: 1) how we come to feel as though we “know” things, and 2) how LDS church members (and members of other religious faiths) can be manipulated into claiming religious knowledge through emotional means.
Dr. Christian is available to provide psychotherapy in Utah, and Skype-based coaching outside of Utah. To contact Dr. Christian for an appointment, check out his contact information here.
Julienna Viegas-Haws has a fascinating story. Her mother is from the Belgian Congo. She was raised in Belgium. Her mother converted to the LDS Church when Julienna was a child, and credits the LDS church with saving her life. Julienna was raised a highly devout Mormon girl in Belgium, and served a mission on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.
After a life of full devotion to the LDS Church, Julienna began to experience cracks in her orthodoxy testimony when her husband began questioning/doubting the LDS Church’s truth claims.
While Julienna remains committed to LDS Church activity, she recently penned an article with the Salt Lake Tribune entitled “What do progressive Mormons want? A dialogue about change.”
In this two-part episode for Mormon Stories Podcast Julienna tells her story, and discusses possible changes that the LDS Church can make to become a healthier organization for its members.
On August 2, 2015 I was asked to deliver the sermon for the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah. The topic was my experiences as a Mormon that led up to my excommunication.
My appearance on the Friendly Atheist podcast with Hemant Mehta and Jessica Bluemke.
Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. He is a former National Board Certified high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago, where he taught for seven years.
Jessica Bluemke is a contributor to Friendly Atheist and a graduate of Ball State University. She lives on the north side of Chicago and performs stand-up comedy in her free time.
For decades, and heavily over the past ten years, Mormon historians, podcasters, and critics have been urging the LDS Church to be more open and honest about Joseph Smith’s use of folk magic and a peep stone/hat in his production of the Book of Mormon text.
On August 4th, 2015 the LDS Church released the third volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, which includes the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. It also released photos of the seer stone that Joseph Smith used as a scryer to search for buried treasure, and that he also placed in a hat to produce the text for the Book of Mormon. (for detailed discussions of Joseph’s use of a seer stone in the Book of Mormon’s creation, see CES Letter, Mormon Think, or D. Michael Quinn’s “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View.”
An October 2015 Ensign article is set to appear called “Joseph the Seer” which attempts to explain Joseph’s practice of using a seer stone.
In this episode John Hamer, J. Seawright, Micah Nickolaisen, Jamie Hanis Handy, and Jonathan Streeter join us to analyze these events.
Whatever else there is to say,
About all this…
Whatever else, there’s this, at least.
It’s quite a thing.
This thing that’s been done.
This thing we’ve all seen.
What we’ve been through.
It’s quite a thing – no question – to sit in a quiet chapel,
As someone rises,
In the middle of a talk.
As someone rises,
And walks to the back,
And throws open the curtains,
To let the sunlight stream in.
Where before we’d mistaken…no…
Where before we’d been offered
It’s quite a thing,
That there’s daylight.
In the chapel.
Illuminating dark corners.
Oh, the faces…
Brothers and Sisters,
It’s been quite a thing, hasn’t it?
To sit there, stunned, eyes adjusting?
To look up, tentatively, and look around, and see,
By light of day,
Here and there,
On faces we thought we knew,
But could never know – not really – by candlelight.
And oh, the warmth of the resulting embraces, by light of day.
And it’s quite a thing to say, now,
Quietly and with a modest, reverent resolve,
And a little sorrow, respectfully…
“There was as much shadow as light here…before… by candlelight.”
“This isn’t the chapel I thought it was.”
“I need to go… now… I think… for awhile.”
And it is quite a thing to dare, now,
To believe for a bold moment,
That one way to honor those pioneer ancestors,
Who pressed west by candlelight,
Is to release the echo of their grip
On those handcarts.
And set them down, in daylight,
And head south, or north, or back east.
Just maybe anywhere but west, for now.
It’s quite a thing to set out, so.
Echoes of prayer still on our lips, and
With a self-conscious smile, then, heads cocked,
To pause, and listen, loving ourselves,
The words of our mouths.
In this episode we interview Lindsay Hansen Park about the completion of her Year of Polygamy podcast project.
Dr. Kristy Money is impressive on so many levels.
- She graduated from BYU at age 19, completing a Ph.D. in counseling psychology at age 25 (dissertation on LDS suicide)
- She serves on the Ordain Women board of directors as a co-founder of OW, assembled the famous “6 discussions” for Ordain Women, and is the host of Ordain Women podcast.
- She has authored three incredibly influential op-eds for the Salt Lake Tribune:
- She is the creator of the http://voicesoflove.org project (in support of same-sex love within Mormonism), which is a response to Ty Mansfield’s Voice of Hope project (promoting either mixed-orientation marriages or celibacy).
- She is currently serving on the Mormon Mental Health Association Board of Directors.
- Her journey has been featured in the New York Times and in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- She is currently facing church discipline for her efforts with Ordain Women, and for speaking openly in her congregation about matters of racial injustice.
In this 3-part interview we discuss her early years growing up in the church in South Carolina, her intellectual awakening at BYU, her experiences as a psychologist, and her various efforts of Mormon activism, culminating in her now being silenced by her bishop, and threatened with church discipline. She also discusses the incredibly high personal price she’s paid for her work, which has led to almost complete isolation from her parents and siblings.
Below you will find an audio recording of a meeting held June 13th, 2015 — which some are calling the “Boise Rescue.” During this three-stake meeting in Boise, Idaho, Elder Dallin H Oaks and Richard E Turley Jr. spoke to LDS Church members about the dangers of apostasy, and of following “false prophets.”
As a bit of background, there have been recent reports of several LDS church members in Boise, Idaho apostatizing from the LDS Church due to their holding of beliefs similar to those of recently excommunicated Denver Snuffer and Rock Waterman. The basic thrust of these beliefs is that Joseph Smith was, indeed, a prophet of God, but that the modern LDS Church has strayed from the teachings found in the Book of Mormon and in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is presumed that Elder Oaks is referring to Denver Snuffer and Rock Waterman as false prophets in his Boise talk, although the LDS Church denies any connection. See KUTV’s June 17th, 2015 story here for more details on the denial, featuring Denver Snuffer himself.
The “Rescue” label comes from an initiative launched by the LDS Church in Sweden in 201o called the “Swedish Rescue,” wherein they sent Elder Marlin K. Jensen and church historian Richard Turley to Sweden to attempt to stem the tide of Swedish LDS church members leaving the church over historical issues (led in part by former LDS Area Authority Hans Mattsson).
An analysis on the New Order Mormon site by an attendee can be found here.
On June 3rd, 2015 Alan Rock Waterman (blogger at Pure Mormonism) was excommunicated from the LDS (Mormon) Church for blogging about his beliefs and differences with LDS Church policies. In this episode Rock and his wife Connie retell the experience of his disciplinary council.
Rock Waterman is a prominent Mormon blogger who maintains belief in all of the fundamental LDS Church truth claims (e.g., God, Jesus, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon). His beliefs are similar to those of Denver Snuffer, in that he believes that the modern, corporate LDS Church is failing to follow many of the teachings of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and consequently has strayed from Christ’s and Joseph Smith’s core teachings.
In this episode we discuss Rock Waterman’s recent notice that he will be facing an LDS disciplinary council for apostasy on Wednesday evening June 3, 2015 at 7:30p.m. at the stake center at 2745 Eastern Ave. Sacramento, CA 95821.
Interestingly, Rock has been told by his church leaders to stop blogging at his blog (Pure Mormonism), but these same leaders have acknowledged that they have not spent much time actually reading his writings, have been instructed by an LDS area authority to hold a disciplinary council on Rock, but have been unwilling to tell Rock which of his teachings or statements are problematic.
Some of Rock’s most popular blog posts are included below:
- Are we paying too much tithing?
- Go ahead and skip that temple wedding
- How Corporatism Has Undermined and Subverted The Church of Jesus Christ
- Who is Changing Mormon Doctrine?
Rock’s Disciplinary Council Letter:
In this episode Marisa and Carson Calderwood discuss their excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 21, 2015 for apostasy.
See here for a list of the five handouts Carson shared with his disciplinary council participants.
See here for statements from Carson’s witnesses in the disciplinary council.
Here is a link discussing how to raise children without religion.
Below is the video mentioned by Marisa.
- She is a “multi-generation life long Mormon” with a multi-racial/international perspective on Mormonism. Specifically, she is a New Zealander of Māori, English, Irish, Welsh, German and French descent.
- She is a professor (i.e., lecturer) at the University of Canterbury, with an emphasis on “the history and future of ideas.”
- She is an insightful thinker and writer, and writes for a fantastic blog called KiwiMormon. She also hosts the A Thoughtful Faith podcast.
- She is an important and somewhat fearless voice for progressive Mormon thought, and advocates very publicly and strongly for issues such as female ordination (serving on the Ordain Women board), same-sex marriage, and intellectual freedom within the LDS Church. She is also a staunch opponent of polygamy (including Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants), and of the recent round of excommunications within the LDS Church.
- While retaining her activity in the LDS Church, she is an unflinching supporter of “Mormon heresy,” and openly expresses doubt and/or disbelief regarding various orthodox LDS teachings including the idea of an anthropomorphic God, the LDS Church as the “One True Church,” exclusive LDS priesthood authority, and the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.
- She also has an incredibly fascinating story, which includes an adolescence of considerable trouble-making, a scandalous early divorce from her own bishop/husband, and several other stories of general delight and intrigue.
This is Gina’s story. I am certain that you will enjoy it immensely.
Taylor Knuth-Bishop was an active LDS Church member and seminary graduate who considered himself “heterosexual with same-sex attraction” until he met the love of his life, Sean Knuth-Bishop. Taylor and Sean fell in love and were eventually legally married during the now-famous 2014 Grammy performance wherein Macklemore, Madonna, and Queen Latifa married 33 same-sex couples during the performance of “Same Love.”
Taylor and Sean have been living a happy life in New York City in the theatre industry, but recently (after moving home for the summer) Taylor was contacted by his LDS bishop and informed that he will be tried in a disciplinary council for the simple act of being legally same-sex married to Sean. This is Taylor’s story.
(Note: I have been informed this week of two other gay couples who are facing LDS Church discipline for the same reason.)
- Here is a link to the engagement video mentioned in the interview:
- Here is a link to the 2014 Grammy wedding ceremony.
- Here is the letter Taylor received from his bishop, Morgan J. Roberts.
- Here is a link to Taylor’s response to his bishop.
- More photos of Taylor, Sean, and Taylor’s wonderful family.
- Information about Taylor’s Art program for LGBT youth and young adults:
This event, organized by Kate Kelly, was held in New York City on Saturday, April 25th, 6:30pm. Billed as “A Curated Revue of Hilarious Tales from Mormondom,” it entailed a delightful evening of Mormon (and post-Mormon) storytelling and humor.
- Sean Carter: Harvard Law graduate and professional legal humorist (www.lawhumorist.com). Sean is the author of the first-ever comedic legal
treatise – “If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit?: Your Humorous Guide to the Law.” His syndicated legal humor column has appeared in general circulation newspapers in more than 30 states. Sean was baptized into the Mormon Church in May, 2011.
- Jill Wagner: High school Spanish teacher and Story League Legend whose family comes from the Mormon colonies in Juarez, Mexico http://www.storyleague.org/legends/jill/.
- Steven Puente: Licensed social worker practicing in a methadone clinic in Bronx, NY. Steven is a featured performer at The Moth (http://themoth.org/posts/storytellers/steven-puente), and Steven was featured in a New York Times story about young, hip Mormons (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/fashion/young-mormons-find-ways-to-be-hip.html).
- Troy Williams: Returned missionary, Executive Director of Equality Utah and unofficial ‘gay Mayor of Salt Lake City.’ Troy worked at 90.9 FM KRCL for 10 years and was the executive producer and host of RadioActive. In 2009 he co-wrote the one-woman show, The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon, and was also the producer on the TLC original series Breaking the Faith.
- Sara Burlingame: Faith organizer at the Human Rights Campaign, from Cheyenne, Wyoming and spends more time investing in the Mormon community than any never-mo…EVER! Sara has never been a Mormon, but she has been an artisan bread baker, a poet, a Bahai and an enthusiastic casserole consumer. She is a perma-blogger at Feminist Mormon Housewives, among other fabulous endeavors.
- Elna Baker: writer and performer of humorous stories. Her stories have been featured on radio programs such as NPR’s This American Life, The Moth, BBC Radio 4 and Studio 360. Author of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir.
Many LDS Church members are unaware that a secret LDS temple ordinance called the “Second Anointing” is regularly being administered by LDS Church apostles to elite friends, family, and leaders (mostly stake presidents, temple presidents, mission presidents, and LDS general authorities, along with their wives). In this ordinance (according to reports) an apostle washes the feet of the couple in the temple, anoints them on the head with oil such that their “calling and election is made sure” (guaranteeing them a place in the Celestial Kingdom), and then invites the couple to retreat to a room in the temple, wherein the wife washes her husband’s feet, and then lays her hands on his head to give him a special priesthood blessing.
Over the past few years, we have received reports of several LDS Church members (specifically in Europe) who have lost their LDS faith AFTER receiving their Second Anointing.
In June of 2012 I interviewed Tom Phillips, former LDS church stake president in London, England U.K. In this interview he discusses the following:
- His early experiences as a bishop and stake president in the LDS church, along with his friendship with LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland.
- His experience receiving a secret/sacred LDS church ordinance called the “Second Anointing,” wherein he was anointed by the hands of Elder M. Russel Ballard, and assured exaltation in there hereafter.
- His subsequent loss of faith over historical and scientific issues with the church.
- His direct correspondence with then friend, LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, over these troubling issues.
- The pain, suffering, and ultimate divorce that he and his family experienced as a result of his faith crisis.
- Additional details about Tom’s story can be found here.
At the time I conducted this interview I was in deep discussions with my stake president, Mark Jensen, over my status with the church, and my ability to baptize my son. Out of fear of church discipline, and as a sign of good will to President Jensen, I decided to not release this episode via Mormon Stories podcast, and instead granted permission to Tom to do with it as he saw fit.
Over the subsequent months and years I have come to regret this decision made largely out of fear, and want to publicly apologize to Tom for it. I now feel it is appropriate to release this interview, not because I seek to show disrespect for the LDS church or its temple ordinances, but because Tom’s story is a very poignant example of the pain and suffering that can come about as many LDS members continue to experience legitimate struggles with the LDS church’s truth claims.
Since this interview openly discusses secret/sacred LDS temple ordinances, listener discretion is strongly advised.
Micah Nickolaisen has been an important participant in the Mormon Internet for the past three years. His activism began in 2012 as co-founder of both the “A Thoughtful Faith” and the “Exploring Sainthood” podcasts/communities – both of which sought to encourage thoughtful and faithful LDS Church activity/participation.
After losing his faith/confidence in the LDS Church in 2013, and in reaction to the Kate Kelly and John Dehlin excommunications in 2014/2015, Micah co-led several projects which sought to bring attention/visibility to problems within in the LDS Church. Micah co-founded the “Strangers in Zion” project, wherein LDS Church members were encouraged to request disciplinary councils (in lieu of resigning their membership). Micah was also a co-founder of the recent “Any Opposed” initiative wherein several LDS Church members expressed vocal opposition to church policies/practices during the April 2015 LDS General Conference.
In this three-part interview Micah discusses his early years of strong devotion to the church. He then discusses his participation as a pro- and then a post-Mormon activist. In the final episode, Micah discusses his newfound interest in the formation of secular communities for post-religious individuals (e.g., Sunday Assembly and Atheism 2.0).
On April 15th, 2015 six board members from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities met with over 100 current and former Brigham Young University students to get the most authentic feedback possible regarding religious and academic freedom at BYU — without the administration present.
The full audio recording of this meeting can be accessed below (warning: audio quality is sub-optimal). For a recap of the meeting, check out this thread on Reddit, along with this thread. And here is a link to the transcript of the student commentary.
At present, if an LDS BYU student loses their religious faith while at BYU, they are at risk of being kicked out of the university, with additional risk of losing their job, their housing, and up to several years of academic credit.
As the LDS Church continues to emphasize the importance of Religious Freedom, it is worth asking whether or not the LDS Church grants religious freedom to its own students at BYU — since most students who lose their faith do not choose it. Instead, for many, a loss of faith is often the result of sincere academic study. It is also worth noting that one’s status at BYU is not jeopardized in any way if he/she coverts INTO the LDS Church while a BYU student….only if he/she converts away from the LDS church. To many, this feels like hypocrisy.
For more reporting on the meeting, see here.
In this episode we interview Kirk and Lindsay Van Allen, who are currently facing LDS Church discipline for publicly rejecting Joseph Smith’s revelation about polygamy, which can be found in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
- Kirk and Lindsay’s original blog post can be found here.
- The apologetic response from Brian and Laura Hales can be found here.
- Kirk and Lindsay’s response to the Hales can be found here.
This episode also covers Kirk and Lindsay’s discussions with their stake president and with an LDS area authority, neither of whom had read the LDS church’s recent essays on polygamy before they spoke with the Van Allens.
For Gina Colvin’s wonderful interview with the Van Allens, see here.
Marisa Pond Calderwood was raised devoutly LDS in Bellevue, Washington. She was deeply committed to the church as a teen, but she also excelled in school and dreamed of obtaining a Ph.D. in Genetics. After receiving the prestigious Gordon B. Hinckley scholarship at BYU, she married Carson Calderwood after her freshman year. Although she remained devoutly LDS for well over a decade, Marisa struggled with feeling like she lost herself and her dreams once she married Carson, especially after going through the LDS temple and receiving the impression that women were ”less than” men in the LDS church. Over the next several years Marisa had four children with Carson, but she also began having chronic headaches, and sinking deeper and deeper into depression.
Finally, once Marisa began to allow herself to consider the possibility that the LDS church might not be true, she began feeling better about herself, her headaches subsided, and she and Carson found a happiness and an authenticity in their marriage that they never knew before. Today Marisa and her husband Carson are being threatened with excommunication for speaking openly about their doubts and disbelief. They expect to receive their summons to a disciplinary council within the coming week.
Carson Calderwood is an LDS dentist and father of four living in Maple Valley, Washington. He served an LDS mission in Argentina, married his wife, Marisa, in an LDS temple, recently served as an LDS seminary teacher in Maple valley for two years, and served faithfully in the LDS church for almost two decades. After experiencing significant questions and doubts a few years go, Carson realized how many local LDS church members were struggling over matters of faith, and began trying to help local members of his ward and stake find joy and healing amidst their LDS faith crises.
After showing public support for Ordain Women, and after publicly expressing his doubts about several LDS church truth claims (e.g., polygamy, polyandry, Book of Mormon and Abraham historicity), Carson is now being charged with apostasy by the LDS Church, and by his Maple Valley, Washington stake president. A disciplinary council for Carson is set to be scheduled within the next few days or weeks.
This is Carson’s story, wherein he explains why he objects to LDS disciplinary councils for apostasy, and why he would prefer to be excommunicated than to resign his LDS membership and walk away quietly.
Mormon Stories alumnus John Hamer returns to talk about Community of Christ as a viable spiritual home for transitioning Mormons in this two-part video series. John Hamer was raised LDS, but became a doubting teenager and left organized religion altogether as an adult. In 2010, he joined Community of Christ and currently serves as pastor of its congregation in downtown Toronto, Canada.
In part 1, John Hamer sits down with John Dehlin and makes the case for “non-literalistic” religion. (The presentation is illustrated with John Hamer’s amazing diagrams, so the podcast audience is advised to watch the YouTube version.) John Hamer describes how a church with Restoration roots has evolved beyond doctrine and dogma to become inclusive of the LGBT community and a wide diversity of individual beliefs.
In part 2, John Dehlin challenges John Hamer with tough questions, including whether it is possible for some transitioning Mormons who feel real betrayal to join a church that traces its origin to Joseph Smith, or, indeed, any organized religion. The resulting dialogue was wide-ranging and intensely fascinating. Regardless of where you are in your own Mormon journey, you’ll surely find John Hamer’s case for Community of Christ thought-provoking.
In this episode, co-released with Mormon Stories, Wendy Williams Montgomery, John Dehlin, and Dan Wotherspoon speak about the difficult dynamics at play in discussing with loved ones, whether family, friends, or ward members, about differences in faith positions after one party or another has shifted. In contrast with the types of challenges presented to people by “outsiders” to their faith, a change in stance and the new worldview presented by those who were once in sync with you (or at least perceived to be in sync) can be far more devastating. Their shifts often feel very personal, a rejection of something we hold most dear. And they have no excuse! They once knew what we know and now challenge and say they are seeing more clearly or experiencing something else more richly? For those who are the ones who have shifted, a loved one’s negative reactions to that person’s change also can feel quite personal. Why don’t they trust me that I’m on a good path, that I have information or insights that open the world to me in new ways? Why are they choosing stubbornness and clinging to ideology and dogma over really exploring and staying in close relationship with me no matter where my faith journey takes me?
How can we see these and other dynamics more clearly? What is “our” responsibility as those who have been the one whose perspectives have shifted? How can both parties better understand the challenges of this situation and learn to have compassion for each other? What are key virtues needed in such relationships? What are some “dos” and “don’ts” for negotiating this difficult interpersonal terrain?
Please listen and then share your stories and insights in the comments section below!
My excommunication appeal dated March 10, 2015 can be found at this link. It includes an accompanying brief written in support of my appeal written by my close friends Nadine Hansen and Kate Kelly.
For the record, I appealed for the following reasons:
1) Having now experienced the excommunication process, I consider it to be more inhumane, and more medieval than I could have imagined.
2) I believe that the church violated its own rules and procedures with the process, and feel like they should be held accountable for this.
3) I feel like I want the First Presidency to either explicitly support or reject the decision, for accountability’s sake, and for closure’s sake.
Many have asked why I included Kate Kelly in my appeal letter. It is for three main reasons: 1) she is a dear friend, 2) she understands the painful and barbaric nature of excommunication better than anyone, and 3) she is a great lawyer.
Sincere thanks to all my friends and listeners for the support over the past year. While this has been a very difficult ordeal for our family, your encouragement and support has made a world of difference.
John and Margi Dehlin
What I’m about to say to you may seem shocking, but please read through it completely to understand where I am coming from. I have come to the belief that D&C 132 and Joseph’s teaching of polygamy isn’t, wasn’t, and never will be revelation of God, that polygamy is not of God but rather an idea of men. I believe that it is self-evident that a loving God would not be the author of such confusion, obvious inequality, and emotionally/psychological damage. I believe firmly that if there ever was a practice and verse of scripture that has failed the test of fruits of the spirit, D&C 132 and polygamy would be a sure bet.
Galatians 5 reads:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Yet, apparently in Mormondom there is a law that does not mesh with the fruits of the spirit. That law is plural marriage. It is a subject that causes many peoples’ stomachs to wrench with disgust. It is a topic that is avoided and often disregarded as something that only God understands, yet plural marriage has and continues to affect the lives of every Latter-day Saint. You don’t believe me?
In my own life my parents had taught me that polygamy was the marriage system of heaven. My mother would say, “How else would Heavenly Mother be able to give birth to billions of spirit children, unless she did not have fellow women to help her?” People in my very Mormon community would say things like, “When they bring back polygamy…..” or “If the prophet asked you to practice polygamy, would you do it?”, as if it would be the ultimate faith and devotion to God. My wife has even more disturbing experiences. She was taught that the more righteous the man, the more wives he would have in the life to come. This created a harsh dichotomy in her mind. She wanted to marry a righteous man and yet didn’t want to share her husband in polygamous heaven. She was told that it was a principle designed to teach women humility and to overcome jealousy. (Because no man would ever be jealous or upset over having to share his spouse.) I’m sure Mormon readers, especially women, have stories of your own. The doctrine of plural marriage continues to deeply affecting much of the church culture to this day. From the way we treat women, to the way church business is conducted, to temple practices, plural marriage still colors the filter we look through. If you do not believe me, you need to follow this link to learn more.
The reason I have decided to write this post is to stand up for the women hurting from this painful teaching. I’m doing it for my posterity, so they will know where I stood on the issue. And I’m doing it for every polygamous wife that has ever felt the agony of watching their spouse kiss and love another woman. I’m doing this for every faithful woman that wrestles with the tortuous thought of a polygamous “heaven”. I’m doing this in an effort to help people realize, that with honest study and prayer, you can come to see that polygamy should be thrown into the dust bin of mistakes, never to be resurrected again, and that those rejecting polygamy still remain faithful to God. Let me show you why I believe what I believe-
From personal experience, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been of the opinion that a primary purpose of polygamy was to bring forth more children. God requires polygamy to raise up a righteous generation, yet God has shown in scriptures that monogamous couples are preferred for the of start civilizations, dispensations, and righteous generations.
Adam and Eve, the first people.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Noah and his wife, our first parents after the flood that destroyed mankind.
9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah…
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
Lehi and Sariah, the first parents of the ancient Americas
1 Nephi 1
5…and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
In each case Adam, Noah, and Lehi all had one wife at a time. When there was dire need to repopulate the Earth with a righteous population, these men found that a loving equal was all that they needed to brave a new world. The scriptures continue to support monogamy in D&C 42:22, 1 Timothy 3:2,12, D&C 49:16, Jacob 2 and 3, Ephesians 5:31 and the list goes on. There are many scriptures that support the overarching idea that a man should cleave unto one woman and none else.
Science, itself, has shown that those in polygamous relationships have less children than monogamous couples would. For example: if a man had three wives, and each of his wives had three children, there would be 9 children born. Statistically, three men married to those same women would have an average of 12 children instead of only nine. If God was looking for quick repopulation, polygamy is not a good way to go about it.
It is self-evident that monogamy is the only type of relationship where total fidelity, trust, and equality can be accomplished. This is something a polygamous relationship cannot provide. In polygamy, marital relationships are perverted beyond something recognizable to any modern Mormon. The Proclamation to the Family, heralded as the blueprint to a successful, godly society states,
All human beings-male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such,each has a divine nature and destiny…Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, andto teach them to love and serve one another…We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
Let’s take Brigham Young for example, He was said to have approximately 55 wives. A loving husband and father would surely spend an equal amount of time loving and caring for each wife and her children. Unfortunately, for Brigham Young’s wives that would mean that Brigham would help change diapers and play catch, less than one week a year. Many of his wives lived together in dorm-like settings. This would mean they may have seen the president of the church more often than one week a year, but the quality time a monogamous relationship is more likely to achieve, was not possible. These incredibly strong women were forced to be basically single parents, loyal to absentee husbands, in a place they called Zion. Many of them relied on each other to help raise their children so adequately supplied to them. Happiness and love was an afterthought. Zina Huntington, one of Brigham’s and Joseph Smith’s wives depressingly stated:
“It is the duty of the first wife to regard her husband not with a selfish devotion… she must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy… we believe in the good old custom by which marriages should be arranged by the parents of the young people.” -New York World, November 17, 1869, as cited in The Lion of the Lord, pp. 229-230
Brigham Young seemed to ignore the lack of love and care with these words:
My wife, though a most excellent woman, has not seen a happy day since I took my second wife;’ ‘No, not a happy day for a year,’ says one; and another has not seen a happy day for five years. It is said that women are tied down and abused: that they are misused and have not the liberty they ought to have; that many of them are wading through a perfect flood of tears, …And my wives have got to do one of two things; either round up their shoulders to endure the afflictions of this world, and live their religion, or they may leave, for I will not have them about me. I will go into heaven alone, rather than have scratching and fighting around me. I will set all at liberty. ‘What, first wife too?’ Yes, I will liberate you all.”I know what my women will say; they will say, ‘You can have as many women as you please, Brigham.’ But I want to go somewhere and do something to get rid of the whiners; I do not want them to receive a part of the truth and spurn the rest out of doors.”-Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, 1856, pp. 55-57
This comment was an ultimatum given to the women of Utah with a choice that they shape up, or leave and face damnation. Of course, many women did not leave with the threat of eternal damnation over their head. Nevertheless, there was something disturbing to these women that caused grumblings and commotion in the church. It wasn’t just the wives of Brigham Young that suffered. I feel disheartened for the wives of Heber C. Kimball, who struggled for his financial and loving support, when he said:
“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business… I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece.”-Deseret News, April 22, 1857
Apostle George Q. Cannon further contradicts the proclamation to the family with this statement,
“It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome, with her arts, sciences and warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded. She was a mono-gamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.”-Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 202
I’m confused, and who wouldn’t be? I understand why the above statements were made. The presidents and apostles defended something that they thought was of God. They were trying desperately to make something work that could not be fixed, they needed it dressed and painted to look presentable to the world. They convinced themselves that polygamy had a purpose and was sensible, yet failed to see that it was a puzzle piece that did not fit in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s discuss the arithmetic of polygamy. Whoever invented polygamy didn’t think the numbers through very well. Polygamy as a long term, multi-generational, possibility, requires an obvious greater number of women. A wise God, knowing polygamy as heavenly form of marriage, did not populate the Earth accordingly. In fact, if anything God did the very opposite of what polygamy requires. It is estimated that for every 100 females born in the world there are 107 males born. There is already a shortage of girls in the world and polygamy compounds the problem. D&C 131 makes the case for man’s eternal happiness and exaltation even more dire in the face of the doctrine of plural marriage.
1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
Most Latter-day Saints consider marriage a blessing, an essential step in progression toward perfection, and most importantly a covenant with God to enter his presence. Let me emphasize that it is a REQUIREMENT. Unfortunately, not only will 7 men be left out of marriage possibilities per 50 couples, which is troubling, but polygamy makes marriage an even more daunting endeavor. If every “righteous” man was to take an extra wife, that would reduce marriage possibilities by half. Now instead of 7 men left as bachelors, we have a staggering 57 men unable to find a spouse. That would be 57 men unable to enter the kingdom of God, even if they desperately desired to do so.
If polygamy is the choice form of marriage than there will be some obvious demographic problems with heaven. If every man had three wives, that would mean heaven would be composed of 25% men and 75% women. That seems like some drastic gender inequality. On the one hand, women are forced to share a man because of the sheer lack of them, and on the other hand, it is just as appalling to realize that a loving God would save so many more woman than men. What is it about a man’s gender that predisposes so many less of them to be saved?
If we take it a step further and follow the example of Brigham Young, then heaven looks like a miserably anemic place for men. Brigham Young married 55 women, which if allowed as a possibility in heaven, would mean that 98% of the heavenly populace would be women and only a 2% minority of men. That surely doesn’t sound like heaven for women. Finding an exalted man would be as hard as finding a natural redhead in Spain, you just might want to bring your camera, when you die, to photograph that rare species. If, on the other hand, the demographics of heaven were more aligned with mortal demographics, instead of multiply wives, it would seem that women would need to take multiple husbands. It feels just a little more painful when the tables are turned, doesn’t it?
D&C 132, STRANGER THAN FICTION
That being said, let’s dive into D&C 132, the scripture that was said to be revelation concerning the plurality of wives. This is the same revelation that justified the practice from Joseph Smith to President Joseph F. Smith. It is the principle that led indirectly to Joseph Smith’s arrest and death, when he ordered the burning of the Nauvoo Expositor, which published his secret practice of plural marriage. It is this revelation that has continued the justification of polygamy among Mormon splinter groups, to this day. It is this revelation that has spread ideas of eternal plural marriage in the next life and the possible return of the principle in this life. But what does this chapter actually say? So, in proper LDS fashion, please pull out your scriptures and turn to D&C 132
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—
Abraham is first mentioned as a practitioner of polygamy, which is no secret. It is common knowledge that the practice of multiple wives was not only acceptable in nomadic cultures, but was also a means of status, and a culturally acceptable way to build a tribe. We should not confuse the cultural acceptability of a practice as a sign of God’s tacit approval. The Lord, in the Old Testament, makes no mention of giving any wife to Abraham. It is presented as an idea of Sarah. As she was unable to produce any children for Abraham, she decided that the culturally acceptable practice of polygamy might be a good solution. It could even be said that a lack of faith, by Sarah and Abraham led to that tumultuous polygamous relationship. The Lord had promised Abraham offspring, yet Sarah could not bear any children. We know, from the story, that Sarah did actually bear a child, Isaac. But instead of waiting for the Lord to deliver on his promise, she told Abraham, “I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children.” There was no God involved. In fact, this relationship between Hagar and Sarah would breed discontent and jealousy and eventually lead to the expulsion of a child and woman into the desert, away from their family. Does that seem like a gift from God?
Isaac did not have multiple wives, He was married to Rebekah.
Jacob also practiced polygamy, but once again there is no mention of a command from the Lord. He was tricked into marrying Leah, and Jacob realized that Laban, her father, was the mastermind of the deceit. Jacob was so intent on marrying Rachel that he continued working for Laban, in order to finally marry the woman of his dreams. Zilpah and Bilhah were handmaidens of Jacob’s other two wives, none of which were God commanded relationships. In fact, the scriptures are pretty clear that Zilpah and Bilhah were used by Leah and Rachel in a twisted game of one-upping each other.
Moses is just pure speculation, Moses married Zipporah and she is not referenced very much afterward. Moses later marries an Ethiopian woman. There is no reference of plural wives or having two wives at one time.
DAVID AND SOLOMON
It is no secret that David and Solomon had many wives, if you could call them that. Many were concubines, lesser-wives, or as Webster’s 1828 dictionary refers to them “an inferior kind”. Let’s be honest, when there are hundreds of wives to one man, they are not wives in the modern sense, they are property. And I can confidently proclaim that there are no concubines, or “property wives” in the eyes of a loving God. There are only women. Their inherent value does not change by their title or by the way they are treated. Jacob, of the Book of Mormon, makes it clear that David and Solomon were not acting under the direction of God. Jacob 2 states:
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
THE DOCTRINE AND PRINICPLE
It is important to realize that in verse 1, the revelation states that it is a doctrine and a principle to have plural wives. Many people reason away D&C 132 because they believe that polygamy was a practice and separate from a doctrine. Verse 1 says otherwise. Let’s go on-
3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
The Lord is saying that if you KNOW the law, you MUST OBEY the law. This should mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not following the command of the Lord. or are we?…Monogamy is commanded by the Lord in every other scripture. Is God bipolar? I thought our God was the same today, yesterday, and forever.
4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
Again the Lord is saying you must practice the new and everlasting covenant or you can’t enter his presence. Reiterating the importance of the covenant. This, once again, makes it very difficult for men to enter the kingdom of God if all the women are already married.
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
What has caused more confusion in the church than polygamy? What has called into question the character of Joseph Smith more than his secret practice of taking plural wives? Why have we ignored this topic for so long and concealed the fact that Joseph was a polygamist? It may be because it’s confusing and not from the Lord.
15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
Did you catch that, The God of D&C 132 is saying that Mormon marriages will pave the way for us to become gods, while all of our single members will become our servants. This God puts so much weight on becoming married in the new and everlasting covenant, that any other unions will be dissolved. Those loving and righteous people will live as single angels, doing our bidding for eternity. This sounds great for my wife and me, but I can’t help feeling concerned for my non-temple married friends and the single adults in the ward. D&C 132 even lays it out clearly, marriages do not happen in the here-after. Which means that God is a respecter of persons. This God seems more interested in saving and exalting married temple goers, than Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and other people, who have done far-more good than I ever will, but were never married in the new and everlasting covenant. It means that God is a respecter of a woman’s ability to get married more than her innate worth as a person. This verse seems to place the entire value of a person on their ability to snag a spouse. Does that sound like the God you worship?
19 … if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection… and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions…and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.
I find it most interesting that God said that the only thing that would prevent a covenant married man from entering heaven would be murder. What about abuse, extortion, adultery, torture, child abandonment, or racist hatred? Wouldn’t those prevent others from possibly entering the kingdom of God. I am definitely not the judge of anyone’s salvation, but it seems clear to me that a loving God would not make such a claim, that anything short of murder is permissible, as long as you enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. So is God a respecter of married persons? As long as you have made the right covenants, you can do whatever you want and “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 28:7-8) Does that sound reasonable?
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
This would be a fair comparison if Isaac was really offered as a sacrifice, but in the most widely used story of the Abrahamic/Isaac sacrifice, Abraham did not actually kill Isaac. In other words, polygamy was not really a test, more like an ultimatum. The early saints actually followed through with the “test” of polygamy and practiced it for nearly 80 years. There was no killing of Isaac involved. Neither should forced polygamy have been involved.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness…
38 David also received many wives and concubines, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me…
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things.
Do women have a choice? “received” and “giving”? Are women given as prizes to the most obedient males? Granted, I believe God works with our cultural practices, but polygamy was no longer considered a cultural norm at the time of Joseph Smith. If anything was a revelation from God it was the suffrage movement of the 20th century that turned women from property into people. If there is anything that is evidence of a restoration, it is the final realization of women’s rights. A truer restoration is that of a women’s God given equality and independent mind and personhood, which existed long before Abraham and King David. We needed a restoration of the importance of women.
It seems curious that very little from Old Testament times was “restored” in this “restoration of all things”. Why wasn’t blood sacrifice restored? Why wasn’t the old dietary laws of no pork or shellfish restored? Why weren’t Levite males the sole possessors of the priesthood like in the times of old? Luckily, Joseph wasn’t commanded to circumcise himself, like they were of old. None of that was restored, yet the primitive practice of polygamy made a triumphant return.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
What happened to the agency for Emma? The Lord respects the agency of mankind SO much that humans are allowed to commit murders, run prostitution rings, embezzle millions of dollars, torture, and molest, without instant judgment reigned down upon their heads. The Lord, in His mercy, seems to allow them time to change and repent. Yet Emma Smith must practice polygamy or the Lord will DESTROY her? This sounds much different from the Lord of D&C 3 who stated to Joseph,
10 But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;
11 Except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.
The Lord is merciful and He tells Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, the man that the translation of the Book of Mormon hinges upon, the one who communed with the Father, that if he does not repent and translate…he’ll become ordinary. Yep, ordinary. Most likely cut off from the Spirit. The same way that all of us are when we sin. It seems that God is much more willing to be merciful to Joseph than he is to Emma. Joseph’s transgressions will lead to being ordinary; Emma, on the other hand will be destroyed. Does God love Joseph more than he loves Emma? He seems to be willing to give Joseph multiple opportunities for learning and growth; Emma not so much. It is interesting to note that Mormon splinter groups, that continue to practice polygamy, use this scripture to scare women into continuing to practice polygamy. These women are taught that they too will be destroyed if they don’t practice polygamy. Let’s continue with D&C 132
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
This is one of the most damming of verses for the earlier practitioners of plural marriage. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others, by definition, committed adultery. Both presidents of the church married women who were already married and several women who were not virgins. Joseph Smith even lied, or as the church officially stated, he used “carefully worded denials” about the fact that he had many wives to the public and to Emma Smith. This does not help the case for the revelation or the obedience of church leaders to the commandments of God.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
In this verse we learn that if a women commits adultery she will be destroyed. No such warning exists in this chapter for men committing adultery. Yet, if we apply this scripture to men, then the earlier leaders of the church should have had reason to fear for the destruction mentioned in the above scriptures. But previously we learned that as long as a person married in the new and everlasting covenant doesn’t murder someone they will be exalted. So….definitely don’t kill someone, but maybe adultery is okay? I’m not sure. I’m really confused now. Also, why is this God so obsessed with virgins? We should also reject the idea that women are “given” to men to multiply and replenish the Earth. Is this a commandment to multiply and replenish? Yes! But D&C 132 completely ignores any other womanly attributes. Women are not just wombs, but equal partners that I would hope a loving God would recognize for more than just their virginity or wombs. Tithing is also a commandment, we don’t teach men that all they can hope to be is a tithe payer. We don’t have lesson after lesson on the value of men being their ability to pay tithing to God. I, likewise, don’t believe that God views women primarily in their virginity and ability or lack of ability to bear children.
66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.
I don’t profess to be a scholar or a scriptorian. But, what eventually was revealed was the abandonment of the practice under pressure from The United States. I will not judge the character of Joseph Smith or his contemporaries, that is job only for God. What I sought to do here was show that we should look at our scripture and the words of the leaders of the church with honesty. And when I look honestly at D&C 132 and the fruits of such words, I do not see God, but the works of men. How about you?
In this episode, Jedediah Rogers discusses his new book published by Signature Books entitled “The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History.”
Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith had both millennial and temporal aspirations for the organization he called the Council of Fifty, named after the number of men who were intended to comprise it. Organized a few months before Smith’s death in June 1844, it continued under Brigham Young as a secret shadow government until 1851. Minutes from the earliest meetings are closed to researchers but contemporary accounts speak of a deliberative body preparing for Christ’s imminent reign. It also helped to sponsor Smith’s U.S. presidential bid and oversaw the exodus to present-day Utah.
One member downplayed the significance of this secret legislative body in 1849 as “nothing but a debating School.” On the contrary, a typical meeting included decisions regarding irrigation, fencing, and adobe housing, after which the group sang a song written by Parley P. Pratt: “Come ye sons of doubt and wonder; Indian, Moslem, Greek or Jew; … Be to all a friend and brother; Peace on Earth, good will to men.” Two weeks later, the council called for “blood to flow” to enforce its laws.
As the nineteenth century waned and the LDS Church moved toward the American mainstream, ending its emphasis on the imminent End of Days, there was no longer a need for a Church-managed municipal group destined to become the millennial world government. The council became irrelevant but survives today as a historical artifact available in fragmented documentary pieces which are presented here for the first time.
Jed is a co-editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly and the Senior State Historian at the Utah Division of State History. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University and received his doctorate at Arizona State University in 2011. Recently, Jed was the editor of the Signature Book documentary, The Council of 50 – A Documentary History.