I recently received an unexpected response for having sent a video presentation to some people I’m close to. This video makes a very compelling case that Joseph Smith didn’t teach or practice polygamy. I’ve included a link to it at the end of this post. I was taken aback by their various responses and was saddened by some of their comments, which seemed to dismiss the content of the video.
As I’ve pondered this experience, I’ve tried to see things from their current perspective. But, admittedly, this one is hard for me, perhaps because I have never liked the idea of Joseph being a polygamist. It’s always felt inconsistent with Joseph’s mission and message.
One person I sent this information to simply does not think that getting the history on polygamy right is important at all. Somehow Joseph’s character is inconsequential to him. All he knows is God commanded Joseph and Joseph obeyed. “The Church is true. Nothing else matters.”
It seems as though some people are more worried about their narrative staying “true” than they are about the truth itself. I do sympathize with the dilemma, but truth does matter and lies matter. Do we really believe the words to the song — “do what is right, let the consequences follow…?”
Black Lives Matter (#BLM) (since this is a current theme and because I’m using this thematic play on words) is a great example of why the truth matters. Simply look around and see what someone’s false beliefs can inspire them to do. Anyone looking at the title of the organization might be fooled into thinking that #BLM has something to do with caring about “lives.” Look a little more closely and you’ll quickly discover that the organization is a hate filled, Marxist, murderous, anti-family, racist, immoral, disgusting organization that seeks to overthrow our way of life. The content of their message and the effect their beliefs have on them and on society matters a great deal. To suggest otherwise is simply intellectually dishonest.
Let’s look at some other examples.
Many LDS people (myself included) believe that our nation was founded by inspired men. Men of character and honor who God brought together and upon whom His Spirit descended in order to fulfill prophecy in the birth of this great nation on this land of promise. Those who may not share this belief, love to rewrite history to fit their own narrative. False rumors against Thomas Jefferson, for example, were conveniently resurrected to defend Bill Clinton on the eve of Congress deciding whether to remove him from office or not. Revisionists and those who have an agenda want desperately to have it be “settled history” that Jefferson was sleeping with his slave Sally Hemings. This a) helps people like Clinton get away with the crime of adultery with an intern and b) undermines people’s faith in the idea that many of our Founder’s may have actually been honorable, moral, inspired men. Does the truth about Jefferson and our Founders matter? I say it does.
If I had sent a video that exonerated Jefferson of the charges of immortality and fornication, would I have received a different response? These people all generally like Jefferson and I think they’d say he was a man of God. Would they have been upset with me for sending them something that restored faith in him as a person and vindicated him of those false charges? And if that presentation happened to make John Adams, who many believe was complicit in sharing those false claims, look less honorable — would they still have responded so defensively?
If you love this country and love its Founders, aren’t you interested in knowing the truth about our history? And aren’t you especially interested when you find things that defend what you believe is true? Doesn’t it matter? If Adams or any president proves to be less honest than say Jefferson (hypothetically) and less inspired, it doesn’t necessarily make America untrue. But whitewashing history surely doesn’t make the such contradictions go away. Is your faith so fragile in our Founders that you only read books that echo your own current uninformed beliefs? If not, why do so in your study of Church history?
None of these things prove that the United States of America was never “true” or inspired. But I think a clear minded person recognizes that if Jefferson was an immoral man and so were ALL of our Founders, that it absolutely would undermine the integrity of the foundation our nation and thus it matters. This is precisely #BLM’s message. “America was never good because it was conceived by white, racists liars.” Do we not defend against such lies?
To take a modern example, does it matter who went to Jeffery Epstein’s Pedophile Island? Does it matter that Epstein was a pedophile? A sex addict? Does what you know of him cause you to make reasonable judgments? Would you have let him babysit your 12 year old daughter or support his causes? Does it bother you that he was murdered in prison and no one knows who did it? Does it matter that a Prince and at least one American president were regular visitors on the Island? Is the truth not important? Do we just NOT go down that road because we’re afraid of what we might find out?
Laman and Lemuel I think were sincere in their belief that they were tricked into leaving their homeland and were thus robbed of their land of inheritance and consequently their happiness. Their otherwise innocent version of the facts led to the annihilation of civilization. Laman and Lemuel’s beliefs/lies mattered. They led to millions of people dying horrifically, unnecessarily, and prematurely.
I guess we could sanitize everyone’s history and say none of it matters. “The Book of Mormon is true and so disregard the foolish teacher who says beware of false prophets and judge them by their fruits.“ Just because something is or was true does not guarantee it cannot become false when its leaders corrupt it. Wouldn’t you agree? The Constitution is “true” but it must be upheld and defended by virtuous people. It is the oldest Constitution in the world. Any nation is welcome to use it as their own. But could Putin succeed in establishing freedom in Russia by simply adopting and copying our Constitution? Of course not. No one can just copy it unless they are willing to do so upon the principles of righteousness. And the same is true for whether or not we can keep it “true.” This same principle applies to any institution, even a Church we “want” to never fall into apostasy.
Do you think it matters to an investigator of the LDS Church whether Joseph was a pedophile or not? Let’s be really clear — if the Church’s current history is true then:
- Joseph was an adulterer. The Church says he took his first plural wife without Emma’s knowledge or consent AND 12 years before even he received the revelation on plural marriage.
- Joseph was a polygamist and consummated those marriages sexually.
- Joseph was a pedophile. He married underage women.
- Joseph was a liar. He openly preached against polygamy and secretly practiced it.
- Joseph was a hypocrite.
Of course, according to the Church, Joseph was commanded by God to do all these things.
But does the truth matter? If you have a child having a faith crisis because they’ve read the Church’s Essays, might these details matter to them?
If the presentation I sent to my friends is correct, then:
- Joseph Smith was not an adulterer.
- Joseph was not a polygamist.
- Joseph was not a pedophile.
- Joseph was not a liar.
- Joseph was not a hypocrite.
If teaching your friend who is interested in learning more about the Restored Gospel, which set of facts would you rather have on your side? The first set that potentially undermines everything you may share? Or the second set, that is way more consistent with the beautiful message of the restored gospel? More importantly, do you want to share the truth or do you want to unwittingly spreads lies? WE have a duty to find out the truth on the matter OR we lead people astray. And lastly, do you care more about a “church” than you do about the Restoration?
Let’s look at the train wreck of polygamy. What did that teaching inspire? What did it yield? It did not produce more offspring. That’s a fact. Women had fewer children who were polygmaIst than the average non polygamist woman. There was no shortage of men — that’s completely false. Are we so comfortable lying for the Lord as Mormons that we don’t seek to correct the record when lies are shared? What other lies are we comfortable sharing? Unpaid ministry? The brethren seeing God as did Joseph? The Lord attending Thursday meetings? If those are lies, do we not want the truth? Do we really want to simply let the lies go uncorrected for the greater good? I can promise you one thing, if you lie to someone (even if by simply not correcting the record) it is likely to lead to a far more serious faith crisis at some point as a result.
Polygamy in the Church led to wife swapping, whoredoms, murder, adultery, wife stealing and abuse. Does it really not matter one iota to you that it may not have been started by Joseph Smith? And if it wasn’t do you not think it important to defend our dear brother Joseph at all costs? Regardless of whatever we think the implications may or may not be?
Here’s an example a little closer to home. Let’s say that someone starts a rumor about you at work that you are fooling around with your secretary. Do you care if no one comes to your defense, assuming there is no truth to the allegations? Do you think the rumors could lead to other adverse consequences if not corrected or addressed? Do you think the company could suffer as a result of the falsehood going uncorrected? Worse, imagine now that the rumor is that you secretly believe in polygamy and you are entering into secret marriage covenants with other men’s wives, with teenagers, all behind your wife’s back. Would these lies matter? Would they affect the way people treat you? Respond to you? Would people quit because of the rumors? Would the organization and its mission suffer? If this is you being accused, do you want the company when you’re gone to publish lies that confirm that the rumors were true? When they’re not? Do your kids want their father’s legacy to be those lies? Do you want your kids and grandkids to use those lies that they now believe to be truths to justify their own immoral actions? Again, does the truth matter?
A dear friend made an great point the other day. According to Brigham Young, anyone who rejects the teaching of polygamy and does not enter into it, cannot be saved in the highest degree of the Celestial KIngdom. As far as I know, those words have never been renounced. To the contrary, President Nelson and Elder Oaks and others are often cited as living that “higher law.” So, if polygamy was started by Joseph and it is the higher law and we must accept it and practice it at some point, then why isn’t the Church pushing for its legalization? It would be a brilliant legal move in my opinion and may have prevented gay marriage from becoming legal. But, now that gay marriage is legal, why not push for it if you believe in it? If it was true then, why is not true today? Better yet, IF it becomes legal, will the Church re-instate it? And why wouldn’t it? And more importantly, would you practice it? Now would you want to know for sure if Joseph really taught it? Would the truth matter to you now? Your bishop tells you you need to marry the 16 year old from the Sunday School class your’e teaching. You need to go home and break the news to your wife. Are the historical details meaningless to you now? Your wife may leave you. Your boss may fire you. Your kids may lose all confidence in you. Does whether the doctrine came from Joseph or Brigham matter now? If it was a lie promoted by Brigham, are you still comfortable proceeding? If it leads you to hell, and to whoredoms, do you really just want to trust your bishop rather than figuring this out for yourself?
I sent this video that I’m including here below to many of my friends and family because I think enough of them to share things I find persuasive, lovely, exonerating, and good. Because I love the truth and I love the Lord. And I love Joseph. I did not send it to them with some hidden agenda or with any grand scheme in mind. I sent it to all my kids as well and shared it with my wife. That’s how good I think it is. I do not know the producer of it. I don’t know his beliefs or his religion. All I know is I think he does an amazing job of shedding light on a really important topic. And it excited me. Certain people’s response was deflating and reminded me that people are afraid of truth. It threatens them and they fear what it may lead to. Surely Joseph was right when he said:
“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].
I truly believed this group of friends would respond normally and maturely (in fairness two of them did):
“Hey thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out! (After watching it…). “Wow, that was really interesting! Made me think! Not totally sure I agree with all the conclusions but will certainly study the topic further… Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad we share a mutual love for Joseph and Emma!”
This is how people might reply who are not threatened by someone who they know loves them and who is sharing something they are excited about. The way they chose to respond shuts down dialogue, makes people feel foolish, and frankly reminds me of how so many leaders in the Church treat people they disagree with. Testify louder! Rebuke. Correct. Stay true to the Brethren at all costs. Be intellectually dishonest. Don’t reason. Don’t ponder such things. Don’t pray over such things. Protect the flock by silencing ideas and by turning off the mic. In short, passive aggressive and fearful and controlling.
As I have learned the truth about Joseph and Emma, it has strengthened my faith in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, Lectures on Faith, the JST Bible and in all the Teachings and mission of Joseph Smith. Surely he was a prophet of God! And as he proclaimed, he was surely guilty of sins, but NOT the ones he is charged with. And the truth on that subject matters. I invite you to watch this video and ask God which version of the history of polygamy is true.