This morning I read this op-ed by Kristy Money, in response to the recent Mormon Church’s essay on Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy & polyandry. Kristy is an active member of The LDS Church, who works diligently to help Mormonism progress. While I decided to leave the religion two years ago, I greatly respect and admire Kristy and many others like her, whom decide to stay in the faith and promote change. It’s a tough and thankless job, as you often get ridicule from both believers and non-believers. Her op-ed is fantastic and extremely important. Please read it.
Here are my thoughts on Kristy’s op-ed and the LDS Essay discussing Joseph Smith’s Polygamy:
Kristy’s article is a very well written and educated response from a believer’s perspective. While I take the logical non-believing view that Joseph Smith was simply a man who started a religion, got high on his power/authority and started acting like so many other men in his shoes by taking on additional wives, many of them teenagers, I can appreciate Kristy’s integrity. She’s standing up for what’s right and moral by asking the Mormon church to be clear that Joseph Smith was absolutely wrong in taking on teenage brides. As a psychologist with a PH. D from BYU, she clearly states the issues surrounding the Mormon church not acknowledging this heinous act, as it relates to victims of sexual abuse and the potential of this essay enabling future sexual predators within the Mormon religion to excuse their deviant actions by claiming “God told me to do it, same as Joseph,” much like the abductor of Elizabeth Smart. In fact, the Elizabeth Smart case is a perfect example of why the Mormon Church’s essay was so wrong from the perspective of the sexual predator and the victim.
It’s remarkable, appalling and laughable that in 2014, the Mormon Church’s official stance on why Joseph participated in the awful practice of polygamy & polyandry is, “The Angel with a Flaming Sword made him do it.” Many people, including religious leaders, use the excuse of “God made me do it” to justify horrific criminal acts. We hear stories of people committing murder, theft, fraud and pedophilia because “God” or “The Devil” “Made me do it.” When we hear this, we immediately discard it as lunacy and know the person suffers from a severe mental illness or deficiency. Yet, millions of believing Mormons are being told that Joseph married at least 33 women, many of them teenagers (as young as 14), some were already married to their living spouses and they even admit some of those polygamous relationships were sexual… The primary reason he did this was because God told him to do it and threatened him with a flaming sword…. How do we know this? Because Joseph said so… And Mormons are totally cool with that rationale, if you can even call it that. Totally Cool. Most Mormons won’t even consider the other more likely and reasonable explanations why Joseph took on so many wives. Nope. Joseph, like so many others throughout history (i.e. David Koresh and Warren Jeffs), simply said, “God told me so” and Mormons by the millions are accepting it as literal gospel.
There was a great blog post by Rational Faiths on this topic, God using an Angel with a flaming sword to force Joseph into polygamy. I’ll quote a little from the post:
Really? God sent an angel with a sword to Joseph Smith to tell him about polygamy(1)? Is that what we are going with? Are we all ok with that? If God is in the business of sending angels down, wouldn’t it be nice if he sent Joseph a message that was more useful than say the terrible practice of polygamy? I know, I know, “God works in mysterious ways”, but I can’t help myself of thinking of some useful things that could have been revealed in this moment. If I was in the business of sending messages to humans via angels with a sword this would have been my wish list of realistic messages: 8. People of any color besides white are not cursed – AT ALL, they are to be seen and treated as equals.
9. Slavery is evil.
10. Women should be seen and treated as equals. (this one might be a tough one for the time period, but maybe move out to the rocky mountains to practice this one).
12. Polygamy should not be practiced, for it will cause your death, the death of your brother and the persecution of your followers.
13. One should never marry any person under the age of 18.
Sums up my thoughts perfectly on the idea of God employing an angel to force Joseph Smith to marry and have sex with many women. Surely, an omniscient, loving and omnipotent God would have a much better message, should he choose to use a heavenly visitor to threaten the murder of one of his “prophets.”
I particularly like the fact that Kristy Money calls out the Mormon church for requiring grown men to meet privately with girls to discuss, in great detail, their sexual experiences:
“….please consider revisiting the policy that male priesthood leaders conduct worthiness interviews (discussing sensitive topics such as sexuality) alone with women and girls as young as 8 years old. This issue was raised earlier this year in a New York Times article. Other women could be present in the room or even conduct them.”
This practice is beyond disturbing. I know many women and men, who go through those closed door meetings, only to walk out feeling further victimized and assaulted. It is highly inappropriate and harmful. The practice needs to stop immediately.
To put it simply, if your religion requires a young woman to routinely meet with a grown man in a private closed door meeting to discuss the intimate details of her sexual experiences, including masturbation, thoughts and anything beyond a simple kiss on the mouth, then YOU ARE WRONG! The Mormon culture of shame and authoritarianism is extremely destructive. This also goes for these same meetings with young men.
In fact, as I think about this practice more, my heart breaks for any kid who is LGBTQ and gets pulled into a meeting with a man, who is not their father or psychologist, and he requires them to tell him all the details surrounding their sexual experiences, including their private thoughts. The vast majority of these men in Mormon leadership positions are absolutely NOT educated or trained to be a counselor and they likely hold extremely homophobic opinions or at the very least, are not likely to be educated or view homosexuality as natural, but instead view it as a sin that needs to be eradicated.
Just over a week ago, a friend who is a Mormon Bishop, told me that he asked a teenage girl to meet with him because he “heard that she had some lesbian experiences.” Wow. How frightening. While this man is a good man and I know his intentions are good, this teenage girl did not ask to speak with him. He is forcing the meeting, as she likely has no idea that she can say “No.” Also, this specific Bishop has opinions that I would call homophobic, so the very idea that he’ll be giving any type of advice to an LGBTQ girl is horrifying to me. I’ve been thinking about that young woman since hearing the story and the knowledge of what her parents religion is doing to her makes me sad and angry. I hope she has the strength to be authentic and is able to love herself, regardless of what her parents or religious leaders might tell her. Too many young Mormon kids are thrust into these meetings and after years of not being able to “change,” they commit suicide. I don’t know this teenage girl but I hope she is strong enough to know that she is right and can live her life the way she chooses and discard her Mormon leaders because they are wrong.
I need to address one more issue surrounding the Mormon essay we are discussing. The essay says:
“Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”
This clever wording gives the reader the impression that marrying or having sex with 14 year old girls was not frowned upon in the mid 1800’s. This is wrong, when you look at the marriage statistics of that era. Here is an excerpt from Encyclopedia.com –
American brides and grooms married somewhat later than their European counterparts. By 1860 most Americans were in their early to mid twenties when they married, with the average age somewhat lower in the South. Slave women married in their late teens and began their child-bearing years around the age of nineteen.
Yup, mid twenties was the average marrying age. 19 for slave women. More dishonesty from LDS Inc.
David Twede does an excellent job of discussing the problems and contradictions Mormon Leaders have created for themselves, in Legally Defending the Immoral. My thoughts on this topic go back to a story that every young Mormon kid is taught about Joseph Smith to illustrate the persecution he suffered at the hands of his detractors, “The Anti-Mormon Mob.”
The story I was told when I was younger was the Joseph Smith was feeding his infant child, when an angry anti-mormon mob barged into his house, drug him outside and tarred and feathered him because they hated the church and the Book of Mormon. That’s the version I got in Sunday school, as a teenager. Here’s a more accurate version of the events, as documented by Grant Palmer in his essay, Sexual Allegations Against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo:
Similar sexual allegations were made against Smith in Hiram, Ohio, at the John Johnson home on March 24, 1832. Joseph and Emma were living with the Johnson family at the time. Luke Johnson, who was appointed a member of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835-also a brother to Marinda wrote: While Joseph was yet at my father’s, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation [castration]; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. The mob, in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug [aqua-fortis, a poison] into his mouth. The mob [then] became divided [because they] did not succeed,. put poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him. [then] part of the mob went to the house that Sidney Rigdon occupied, and dragged him out, and besmeared him with tar and feathers Persons identified as being part of this attack besides Mason and Dr. Dennison, included Simonds Ryder, Warren Waste, Jacob Scott, a man named Fullar, and Eli Johnson. Many of these men had recently apostatized from the church. Simonds Ryder said the mob action of March 24 occurred because, “a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Smith.” Eli Johnson was more specific. He was troubled because Smith and Rigdon were urging his brother John Johnson to “let them have his property,” and was “furious because he suspected Joseph of being intimate with his sister [actually she was his sixteen year old niece, Nancy Marinda Johnson, and he was screaming for Joseph’s castration.” Unsolicited sexual behavior may have been the immediate reason. The attack took place “in the middle of the night,” suggesting a crime that would arouse prompt action. Remember the operation was planned in advance of the attack by procuring the services of Dr. Dennison, which suggests a crime of passion may have been committed. More information is needed.
According to this version of the story, Joseph was tarred and feathered because he was stealing people’s property through his ultimate power and authority in Nauvoo and he was having, or at the very least attempting to have, sexual relationships with women, including teenagers; taking on some as polygamous wives. In fact, Joseph’s sexual exploits is a frequent and consistent reason for people, once very close to him and in leadership positions, leaving the Mormon church. Quoting from Grant Palmer’s essay:
Oliver Cowdery was probably the first to openly talk about the (Fanny) Alger affair. In November 1837, he “insinuate[d] that Joseph Smith Jr. was guilty of adultery” in a conversation with George W. Harris and again with Apostle David W. Patten. In a letter to his brother Warren Cowdery on January 21, 1838, Oliver was more blunt. He referred to Smith’s deed as “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Algers.” Obviously, Cowdery had lost respect for his close associate. On April 12, 1838, Oliver was excommunicated, with nine charges listed, the second being for “seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jr by falsly insinuating that he was guilty of adultery.”
William Law, a member of The First Presidency, and his wife Jane left the church because of Joseph’s sexual and polygamous endeavors. Joseph even tried to get William and his wife to participate, desiring for William to be Emma’s second husband and Joseph taking on Jane, but they rejected his proposal and were excommunicated when they started speaking out against Joseph. The Law’s started the Nauvoo Expositor to expose the Mormon Polygamy culture in Nauvoo. Reading their account of what these young girls had to endure, after many of them left home and traveled from Europe to join The Mormons, is heartbreaking. I’d encourage everyone to read the full paper but I’ll give you a rather lengthy quote below (I’ve tried to edit it as best I can but still show the depravity these young girls suffered). Here’s a quote from The Nauvoo Expositor (emphasis added).
It is a notorious fact, that many females in foreign climes, and in countries to us unknown, even in the most distant regions of the Eastern hemisphere, have been induced, by the sound of the gospel, to forsake friends, and embark upon a voyage across waters that lie stretched over the greater portion of the globe, as they supposed, to glorify God, that they might thereby stand acquitted in the great day of God Almighty….. They are requested to meet brother Joseph, or some of the Twelve, at some insulated point…. The harmless, inoffensive, and unsuspecting creatures, are so devoted to the Prophet, and the cause of Jesus Christ, that they do not dream of the deep-laid and fatal scheme which prostrates happiness, and renders death itself desirable, but they meet him, expecting to receive through him a blessing, and learn the will of the Lord concerning them, and what awaits the faithful follower of Joseph, the Apostle and Prophet of God, when in the stead thereof, they are told, after having been sworn in one of the most solemn manners, to never divulge what is revealed to them, with a penalty of death attached, that God Almighty has revealed it to him, that she should be his (Joseph’s) Spiritual wife; for it was right anciently, and God will tolerate it again: but we must keep those pleasures and blessings from the world, for until there is a change in the government, we will endanger ourselves by practicing it …. She is thunder-struck, faints, recovers, and refuses. The Prophet damns her if she rejects. She thinks of the great sacrifice, and of the many thousand miles she has traveled over sea and land, that she might save her soul from pending ruin, and replies, God’s will be done, and not mine. The Prophet and his devotees in this way are gratified. The next step to avoid public exposition from the common course of things, they are sent away for a time, until all is well; after which they return, as from a long visit…. Her lot is to be wooed and won; her heart is like some fortress that has been captured, sacked abandoned, and left desolate. With her, the desire of the heart has failed — the great charm of existence is at an end; she neglects all the cheerful exercises of life, which gladen the spirits, quicken the pulses, and send the tide of life in healthful currents through the veins. Her rest is broken….. Look for her after a little while, and you find friendship weeping over her untimely grave; and wondering that one who but so recently glowed with all the radiance of health and beauty, should so speedily be brought down to darkness and despair, you will be told of some wintry chill, of some casual indisposition that laid her low! But no one knows of the mental malady that previously sapped her strength, and made her so easy a pray to the spoiler. She is like some tender tree, the pride and beauty of the grove — graceful in its form, bright in its foliage, but with the worm praying at its heart; we find it withered when it should be most luxuriant. We see it drooping its branches to the earth, and shedding leaf by leaf until wasted and perished away, it falls in the stillness of the forest; and as we muse over the beautiful ruin, we strive in vain to recollect the blast or thunder-bolt that could have smitten it with decay. But no one knows the cause except the foul fiend who perpetrated the diabolical deed. Our hearts have mourned and bled at the wretched and miserable condition of females in this place; many orphans have been the victims of misery and wretchedness, through the influence that has been exerted over them, under the cloak of religion and afterwards, in consequence of that jealous disposition which predominates over the minds of some, have been turned upon a wide world, fatherless and motherless, destitute of friends and fortune; and robbed of that which nothing but death can restore….. It is difficult — perhaps impossible — to describe the wretchedness of females in this place, without wounding the feelings of the benevolent, or shocking the delicacy of the refined; but the truth shall come to the world. The remedy can never be applied, unless the disease is known. The sympathy, ever anxious to relieve, cannot be felt before the misery is seen.
Now, go back and look at how the Mormon Church says marriage at the age of 14 was acceptable in that era, saying nothing of the illegal act of polygamy, defending Joseph Smith and his follower’s horrific actions of taking multiple child brides. Once again, Mormon Leaders are, at best, telling half truths, as they focus solely on the legality of the marriage age but their real intent is to give their members enough ambiguity so they can say it was a time we don’t understand and marrying young girls was acceptable back then.
The Truth….. Marrying and sleeping with young girls was so culturally reprehensible that Joseph lied about it to keep it secret, even from his wife. He was persecuted, tarred & feathered, and ultimately killed largely because of his polygamous/polyandrous/adulterous actions. Polygamy and child brides were so unacceptable in that society that it forced Brigham Young and his followers to travel thousands of miles to the desolate Utah Territory, where they could do as they pleased. Yet, the U.S. Government sill found it so deplorable, illegal and a threat to society that polygamy was one of the reasons they went to war with Utah in 1857. In 1890, The U.S. Government finally won the polygamy battle and forced Mormon Prophet Wilford Woodruff to issue the “1890 Manifesto,” banning the practice of polygamy, although Mormons still continued it for decades afterwards, continuing to deceive The Government.
Knowing all this, please explain to me how anyone can look at history and say with full integrity that it was accepted in that era? It simply wasn’t and it is extremely dishonest to give any impression to the contrary. I find it revealing for a Church, who proudly proclaims to be “The One & Only True Church on Earth Lead Directly by Jesus Christ Himself,” to routinely use tactics of deception, ambiguity and spin; particularly when it relates to their founder, Joseph Smith.
Yet, I can understand why they must use those Public Relations techniques. There are so many horrible allegations surrounding Joseph Smith throughout his life, both of the sexual and fraudulent nature, that once a person takes a step back and looks at the entire picture, taking into historical accounts given by both Mormon and Non-Mormon historians, it is plain to see Joseph was acting as a man and behaving in the same way too many men with great power and authority do, pleasing their selfish appetites for money, control and sex. Knowing these facts, a person often finds themselves asking such questions like…. Why would God choose of man of Joseph’s immoral character to be held in such high regard as Jesus Christ? I’ll quote from the Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 135:3, speaking of Joseph Smith:
“The Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it…”
Does Polygamous Joseph sound like that guy? Also, why do the Mormon people sing songs about him like, Praise to the Man, and other such songs that fall just short of worshipping him? Mormons today stand at the pulpit every month and testify that Joseph Smith was The True Prophet of God. What about this man is worthy of such praise or worship? It’s actually pretty sickening to know that for 34 years of my life, I revered and admired this man, as I too believed he was worthy to stand on the right side of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, the fact that a member of the Mormon church had to write this op-ed, explaining the very serious and destructive issues surrounding this recent essay, is all the proof one needs to know that the Mormon leaders are absolutely NOT directed by God but are simply men, acting as powerful men do, trying to keep their control and power that is only given to them by believing Mormons. Mormons sing a song called, How Firm A Foundation. Well, this is a lie they frequently tell themselves. The Mormon Church’s foundation is weak. It’s built on lies, revised history and on the “divine” power and authority of men like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who were, by any other standard, truly corrupt and wicked. That foundation is breaking, thanks to technology (the internet) and heroic Mormons and Historians who have told the truth, often receiving character assassinations and excommunication as their reward.
The Mormon men in leadership today only have the power the Mormon people give to them. Without it, they have and are nothing. It was a day of euphoria when my wife and I sent our Bishop a letter telling him that he has no authority over us and we defined the role he would be allow him to play in our lives, which is none. If only more members of The LDS Church would do that…..