mormon polygamy and other fun stuff

12/10/97 - 1/3/98 Message Archive

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 1/3/98
I enjoyed your pages very much. They are a stunning labor of love, and the links are wonderfully helpful.

Thanks! It's good to know that the pages are coming in handy for others too.

I have a specific question about polygyny and wondered if you could suggest some avenues for investigation. I'm an attorney without any personal LDS background curious about the legal consequences of polygyny after the death of the husband.

What happened to the wives? Did they have to marry a new man en masse, or could the set be broken up?

This is a good question which I haven't seen addressed in the polygamy books I have read. I don't think they would have *had to* have done anything certain, and I honestly don't know what tended to be the case. Brothers occasionally picked up the wife (or wives) of a deceased brother similar to the Old Testament, but I don't know if this happened in most (or even many) of the cases.

What happened to the children after the death of the family patriarch? Would they go with their genetic mothers, or be given to... whom?

I have never heard of a case where they were taken from the mother. I can't imagine this happening if the mother was still well and living.

What about property division? Did all children inherit equally, or were the offspring of senior wives given prominence? Dowries -- would they be returned to the bride, or become part of the patrimony? And so on.

I'm not aware of any studies on the subject. I would guess that the inheritances were equal in most cases, and I don't even have a guess on dowries.

You review many books on polygyny. Have you noted any book in particular that addresses these issues?

Not these particular issues. I've read two books specifically on Mormon Polygamy and several others that dealt with the issue although it wasn't the main focus (like "No Man Knows My History", "The Mysteries of Godliness : A History of Mormon Temple Worship", "Joseph Smith III : Pragmatic Prophet", "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith", "The New Mormon History : Revisionist Essays on the Past", "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power", and "Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess"). I don't think Todd Compton's new book addresses these issues either (except with the instance of Joseph Smith taking his brother's wife when he died).

received 1/3/98 (in response to my comments above)
There's another book you might want to take a look at, "Sister Wives" by Cleo Jones. It is fiction by an LDS woman based on records of the polygynous times, a good though unnerving read. Most libraries can get it via inter-library loan if it's not on the shelf.

And of course you know about Margaret Atwood's famous futuristic work The Handmaid's Tale, which tries to give emotional insight into what it is like to be a junior wife under a religious regime... :)

She doesn't say specificially that the LDS polygyny was her model, but from reading it, it's very clear that her 21st-century theocracy is based on 19th-century Utah.

received 12/31/97
Would you say that one could not invoke the scientific method on anything that is not repeatable? For instance, you can take a drop of blood and run many tests on it to get the correct type. You can run multiple tests on an individual over their lifetime. A control can be established and this test is repeatable. An event in history would not be repeatable.

Shermer discusses this in his book which I gave a 'thumbs up' to. He thinks (correctly in my opinion) that a fairly accurate picture of many historical events can be painted by using science. This doesn't mean that the events can be tested or repeated, but good historians can use some of the aspects of the scientific method to analyze the various sources and come to something of a consensus (which of course can always be changed based on new and/or better evidence coming to light). For instance, if 5 people say one thing and one very biased person says something that contradicts the 5, the scientific method would tell us to ignore the one (or at least to regulate the weight of the contradictory opinion to a small (foot)note).

We can say that a person attended a morning lecture. This event is not repeatable because you can't go back in time to see if the person was in fact at the lecture. Just curious because I have been pondering how others perceive the scientific method.

In this example, science would tell us to get testimony from those at the morning lecture (who don't have a stake in whether or not the person is in attendance), check the attendance logs, examine the registrations, etc. to see if the person in question was probably at the lecture. Based on the above evidences (and other creative methods those using the methods of science could come up with I'm sure), 'science' can come to a conclusion (which of course is still tentative pending further data).

received 12/30/97
You said you read the Bible and the Book of Mormon a dozen times. Well obviously you can't read. God did not have sex with Mary.

Where did I say he did? I haven't mentioned this topic on the site but since you bring it up, I'll mention it here. President Joseph Fielding Smith in "Doctrines of Salvation" said, "Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man and that Man was God". Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, "Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers."

If you want my opinion on the subject, the god of Biblical and Mormon lore doesn't exist and Mary was no virgin.

In several of your responses I've read quotes from the Mormon Prophets that have been changed, (no we're not against blacks, and they are just as equal in our church as anyone else!) and many Mormon beliefs that have been turned around and miss interpreted.

Please point out any quotes or Mormon beliefs that I have changed or misinterpreted. I don't think I've ever referred to the Mormon opinions on race on the site. What page are you referring to?

I will correctly quote some Mormon General Authorities on the subject of race for you though. This may be dated and I admit the church no longer (publicly) says these kinds of things, but it does make for an interesting history lesson don't you think? Apostle Mark E. Petersen in "Race Problems - As They Affect The Church," Address delivered at Brigham Young University, August 27, 1954 said, "Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves".

In the 1966 edition of "Mormon Doctrine" Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, "Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes" and "the negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, ...but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate".

I could go on with countless other quotes from people like Peterson, McConkie, Brigham Young, and John Taylor but I think you get the point. I'm very glad that many members of the Mormon church no longer feel this way and that the leaders no longer make such comments in public or in their books.

If you're going to do this page; do as you said yourself . . . BE HONEST. For the people who read this page. Find out for yourself. Read the Book of Mormon (and if you need to you should wear glasses) Read and pray about the Mormons and find out about them yourself. If all you learn about us is what you read from people who dislike the Mormons, then you won't get the whole picture and won't ever get introduced to the truths of our chrurch. You should read our literature, and form an opinion of it yourself.

I already have. I was a propagator of that literature for decades. Perhaps you should read a little more of my site before commenting next time. And please make specific references to specific statements I have made rather than generalize about things you think I have said that I haven't even commented on.

received 12/24/97
Frequently when I visit your site, it perks my interest toward various books and subjects that keep working there way onto my "to read" list. If you ever decide to discontinue your Web page(s), how about giving a few weeks notice, leaving me ample time to do some note taking.

I don't plan to ever discontinue it. Should my ISP give me the boot, I will always find another, or in a worse case scenario, just upload everything to geocities or another free service.

I browsed through the "newsy" section (i.e., the last few pages) of my wife's most recent copy of the Ensign the other day. There was a description of FARMS becoming an official unit of BYU. I pointed this out to my wife, and like most members she said, farms? What's farms?

This is probably one reason why the church is pumping money into FARMS. If members perceive it to be an arm of the church, they will likely support it (with donations, book purchases, etc.). It will also give them much 'free' publicity in just such venues as you saw it in. The church now funding FARMS means that tithing bucks are now being spent on FARMS propaganda. It also means that FARMS is less independent than they used to claim to be which means that they will probably become even more orthodox and even less scholarly (as if they were ever scholarly or objective to begin with).

I read a book by Jared Diamond a few years ago titled: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal. I noticed he also has a new book titled: Why Is Sex Fun? : The Evolution of Human Sexuality, after reading a review of this book it appears parts of this book is also covered in The Third Chimpanzee.

I'll look into these. Thanks!

I'm currently reading "Kinds of Minds" and "The Language Instinct" after just finishing "Next of Kin". This topic of "mind", "language", and "consciousness" is really fascinating to me now.

received 12/19/97
I wanted to send you a quick note of praise and thanks for the fine work you have done in assembling resources for free throught and intelligent exploration of religion and philosophy. I would ordinarily digest the contents more completely, and attempt to have something more insightful to add, but on seeing your notes on Unitarian Universalism, I felt I had to respond immediatley with my delight--it is a great thing to find such a kindred spirit in the vast expanse of intolerance and close-mindedness (on both sides of the isle) of the Web.

Thank you for pulling all this material together. It is a real treat to have it.

Thanks for writing. It's nice to know that there are other open-minded, tolerant individuals out there actually reading what I put on the web. Judging from what usually turns up in my mail bag, I sometimes wonder if such people exist. ;)

received 12/18/97
Alright, alright, I would like to just send you off an email first telling you are a FREAK! Now dont take that too bad, I have bcc an anti christ that I know and well it is a term of respect! LOL

Thank you. I've been called many things by many people professing to be religious, but this is the first time I've been called a freak. I can add 'FREAK!' to the ever-growing list.

Hey, Why did you bury your email link so deap? Do you not want feedback? Or are you really trying to weed out the blast email that comes with running a anti christ page like you do?

My pages receive over 4,000 hits per day. If I paraded my email address all over the site, I'd receive hundreds of messages a day. As it is, I still receive more email than I can handle. I post only a fraction of them to this feedback section.

Moreover, I do not see your reason for not believing in the LDS church?

In one word: honesty. For many more words, read the feedback section and the rest of the site.

Forward your reasoning, Ill read it, and Ill tell you if your wrong or not. Several people refer to me as the guru of info... Well because it prevents mis understandings.... LOL just kidding, but I would be interested to know why you left. Also, as a comment as a fellow web page junky, I do like your site (design wise) and find it fairly easy to navigate (except for the email link) through and check different topics.

Thanks. I bet you didn't know an 'anti-Christ' 'freak' could be capable of decent web design. ;)

I utalize 4 sites to actually work on my page, however I do not have them as interweaved as you do. Do you find that you have problems keeping your links strait, what do you use to keep them strait?

I haven't had any problems with my own links. I'm not sure how someone could confuse their own internal links. Just put everything in one directory and there is virtually no way to have dead internal links.

Oh well, If you feel so inclined you are more than welcome to paruse my site and give it the once over, twice over, or even as many give it the bird LOL hehehehehehee

I checked it out, but didn't see much content. Most of your internal links, as you stated above, don't work.

received 12/16/97
I wanted to say I really appreciated finding these pages. I have spent the past couple years trying to do as much reading as I could to explore different ways of thinking about God and faith and related topics, and I am glad to find a lot more books to read (though I have read several on your lists). I have found a lot of Web sites that promote only their own view about God (usually either unquestioning faith in the Bible or complete rejection of religious thought), but few willing to be open to honest questioning.

Some of the books that I have appreciated reading that do find the answer to be faith in the Christian God are books by J.B. Phillips (Your God is Too Small) and by Philip Yancey.

I look forward to reading a number of books from your list.

received 12/13/97
I have looked at the summaries/reviews of many of the books you've posted on the Mormon Ring. The authors make some interesting points, although I doubt the validity of some of them (two examples are: Deborah Laake - "Secret Ceremonies : A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond" who was an insecure, unstable person who let some jerk convince her that he had received revelation that she was to be his wife, so she married him. He was bossy and domineering, claiming that right because he was male, and didn't treat her that well. Eventually, she gets fed up and left him, blaming the Mormon church for everything that had gone wrong in her marriage. (When I lived in North Carolina, I met a Mormon who had been a friend of hers.) Anyway, the Mormon church has come out recently with a proclamation that says husbands and wives are partners and that abuse of spouse or children is not acceptable. From what I gather, she made no attempts to go to the church or the police and stop the abuse; she put up with it for years and then she walked out.

My memory is a bit foggy on this book as I read it about 2 years ago, but I'm fairly certain that she doesn't blame everything on the church. I think she is correct in her assessment that Mormonism can create a certain naiveté that makes it difficult for members (especially women) to think and act for themselves. An example of one of the oaths she had to take (in order to get married in the Mormon temple) shows why she may have 'put up with it for years' before walking out. Before 1990 this is what women had to agree to before a Mormon temple wedding (and numerous times thereafter):

Each of you bring your right arm to the square. You and each of you solemnly covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar that you will each observe and keep the law of your husbands, and abide by his counsel in righteousness. Each of you bow your head and say "Yes."
Having never been through one of the Mormon temples, I cannot comment on the validity of her descriptions of the ceremonies. However, it's my understanding is that part of the ceremony involves promising to never reveal what goes on inside, and if she broke that promise how much can she be trusted? I just don't see her as being a reliable source.

I have been through the temple (countless times) and her description is dead on correct. The oaths required are ridiculous in that you don't know you are going to have to take them or what they involve until it is too late. The only time they tell you that you can refuse to take the oaths is before anything happens. Who is going to walk out when you don't even know what they will be yet? To walk out once you hear them would be unthinkable (although many later wish they had). An oath taken in such a condition should not be binding Imo. The process of the oath taking (especially before 1990) isn't much better than the process of having confessions beaten out of people who didn't commit any crime.

and Roger Launius "Differing Visions : Dissenters in Mormon History").

I haven't read this one, but Launius is a very well respected historian. He is, in fact, the head historian for NASA. I doubt he has done much distortion (if any) in his book. Do you have any examples?

I think your page lacks balance because it does not seem to have books written by Mormons defending the religion or explaining the practices (priesthood

See this one and this one.


See this one, this one, and this one.

visions, Joseph Smith)

See this one and this one.

that are criticized here.

I don't think the above books necessarily 'criticize' the topics you'd like to see more on. They are more or less objective and look at both sides of the issues. All are written by Mormons and a couple of them are by Joseph Smith himself.

Why don't you lists some books that give another perspective so that people can develop a more complete understanding of Mormonism? There's a book called Mormon Doctrine by a Mormon named McConkie. It's set up like a dictionary or encyclopedia, going through one point of doctrine after another explaining the Mormon doctrine on hundreds of subjects. There are probably others but this is the only one I've had contact with and it was very interesting.

I've read Mormon Doctrine. Most members will swear up and down that what McConkie claims is Mormon doctrine is definitely *not* doctrine--but rather just his opinion. It's a book based on faith though. I'm far more interesting in books that deal with history and other aspects of Mormonism in an objective or scholarly manner.

received 12/12/97
Regarding this page... I appreciate your interests in intellectualism. It is an absolute must as you pointed out by a citation of LDS scripture. However, I get the impression you think intellectualism and faith cannot co-exist. Please do not cite a book (such as the Doctrine and Covenants) and accept that particular citation as absolute truth and ignore or dismiss the thousands of other verses as inconsequential or untrue. The nature of scripture demands you be on one side or the other.

I'm of the impression that scripture is man-made. The scripture that I quoted at the above site happens to be one that I like. I realize and readily acknowledge that there are other scriptures that say just the opposite of the one I quoted. I wish Mormon scriptures weren't so contradictory and that they all came out on the same side as the one I quoted above.

Regarding the above site: what is your point? If the endowment is the same today as of old and Masonry is a degenerated form of the endowment, what does that matter? Are you wanting to validate Masonry as something more than it is by linking it to the endowment process?

No, not at all. My point isn't that Masonry is a degenerated form of the endowment. Masonry is clearly a recent, (although not as recent as Mormonism) man-made system which Joseph Smith borrowed parts of to create his endowment. The endowment of today is not the same as that of old (1840s). It has undergone much revision and evolution over the years.

I understand the importance to a Mason of knowing the origins of the practices of Masonry, but is it important to an LDS temple-goer to know what possible spin-offs exist from the temple endowment? I'm curious to the why of that web page and would be interested in a response if you care to give one.

Masonry came before the endowment. That much is very clear. The endowment is a spin-off of Masonry.

The why to that web page is long and detailed. In a nut-shell, I made the page to sort out the possible options of belief that are available to Mormons. Most don't bother to think about where the endowment came from. The point of the page (and the rest of my site really) is to get people to start to think.

received 12/11/97
The recent sesquicentennial hoopla I have been seeing from the main stream media and from LDS circles, including that from my wife, has perked my interest recently. My attempt to describe this event as an "invasion" to other Mormons is usually met with denial and/or disagreement. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a few years back. I own two copies of Wounded Knee, one for loaning, and the other my permanent copy. This book does not cover much of Utah, although the Colorado indigenous Utes are covered in significant detail.

I have heard, as a listening Mormon, through the years how the valleys of Utah were, in effect, a "vacant" wilderness awaiting the lords people. I have read Escalantes & Dominguez's 1776 Utah exploration journals and the Utah valley appears to have been relatively populated with native tribes. The Salt Lake valley may have been somewhat less permanently populated during the summer of 1847 but it was certainly part of the natives livable "resource range". In this vain I recently read and purchased Madsen's book titled The Shosoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre. I now have a body of historical material, however meager, to support some of my sesquicentennial perspectives (I may articulate further on this book later).

Christianity sure seems to be getting more fashionable among many Americans lately. All through various levels of the American culture and media Christianity almost seems to be discussed and implied as an accepted facet of reality. The more I investigate religion, the more preposterous and bizarre the wide spread acceptance of it becomes to myself. The Santa Claus, Invisible Pink Unicorn on the Dark Side of the Moon, Dragon in my Garage (i.e., Demon Haunted World) analogies seem to be so drop dead accurate it almost seems ridiculously obvious. When I parked my car at work today, the vehicle on one side of me had a sticker, "The Big Bang - God did it, and Bang it happened", a sticker on another vehicle stated "Creation is the Power of God, Evolution is the Mind of Darwin". Evolution seems to be a concept where many Christians seem, and I think sometimes feel, some level of vulnerability.

A few months ago when I was easing my Brother-In-Law into a little more of my rejection of Mormonism, I brought up evolution. I think he may feel some level of contradiction with the matter. Therefore he doesn't want to dwell on this topic long and usually changes the subject. Religion can become a long winded and contentious matter of discussion at times. Many times I try to simplify things by stating, you believe this, a symbol of a "Christian fish", and I believe this, a symbol of a "Darwin fish". Amen.

And amen.

received 12/10/97
I really enjoyed the Thoreau sermon you posted and the other pieces you wrote and attached to your web site. I'm a retired UU minister and intend to visit your site often for that opiate of the UU "intellectual stimulation". Oh yes, and it (UUism) is NOT a religion.

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