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Friday, November 14, 2014

Questions about Joseph Smith and Polygamy

As the article, It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives by Laurie Goodstein printed November 10, 2014 in The New York Times, Ms. Goodstein asks several questions. I've wondered how I could answer; Yes, No, maybe, sort of. Real life is rather complicated and simple answers don't always fit, so I'll give you the information and let you decide for yourself.

Have leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really tried to keep hidden about Joseph Smith's plural wives?

This information has been around for over a hundred years in records and journals. A lot of the details are rather sketchy since few records were kept, but scholars could find it. Since most of us aren't scholars and didn't want to invest that amount of time in research, in a way it was "hidden".
Since the information was available, some people were taking bits and pieces and posting it  in expose form on the internet. The Church decided that more accurate information was needed, so they asked scholars to summarize the information for us. Now the information is no longer "hidden" for it has been posted on the lds.org web site. Now we are getting to a level most of us can handle!

The Church is hiding it on their web site. It is not even on the main page.
I am a person who answers feedback on lds.org and I don't know how many people have asked that the information they want be put on the main page, "where it would be easy to find" and asked "why are we hiding it!" The truth of the matter is lds.org is not one web site. It is enormous! It is 240 web sites with many links within each site. It covers everything from Addiction Recovery to Welfare.
It is a fact of internet life that you have to find information through links. Perhaps we could put everything on the main page, but it would have to go on for miles!
Here is how to find information; just type Polygamy or Plural Marriage or Joseph Smith in the search box in the top right of the page. It will give you many links that you can choose from.

Did Joseph Smith really marry 40 women?
It all matters how you define marriage. If you consider it living together, then he did not. Here is some information about it.
During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone.
Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary. Some of the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith later testified that their marriages were for time and eternity, while others indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone.
Despite claims that Joseph Smith fathered children within plural marriage, genetic testing has so far been negative, though it is possible he fathered two or three children with plural wives.

Did Joseph Smith really marry a 14 year old? 
Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens. Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations. After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage.


Did Joseph Smith really marry friends wives?
Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.


There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church. These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime...
These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships. This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice. After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.
Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages. Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life.

Do Mormons believe in plural marriage in the next life? 
Joseph also taught that men like Pratt—who had remarried following the death of his first wife—could be married (or sealed) to their wives for eternity, under the proper conditions.
The proper conditions are keeping the commandments of God. If people live righteously so that they make a a wonderful marriage, the Lord will allow that relationship to continue in the eternities. (That's what I'm trying and hoping for!)  If the couple divorces, or either of them do not want to be married after they die, then they will not be married. If a wife does not want her husband to have a plural wife, then he will not (see my article on Plural marriage). The Lord does not use force. He does not enslave women. We all have our freedom to choose. Could heaven be heaven if it were otherwise? Would anyone want to be in a miserable relationship forever! I wouldn't call that heaven!

Would a loving God make a man choose between the wives he had on the earth? Can people only love one spouse? Must the other wife (or wives) be abandoned for eternity? I don't see how you can stop loving another person, and it wouldn't be fair to ask a person to do so. 

I am not "troubled" by the thought of plural marriage after this life. This is a situation that few people will need to consider. If they did, all would be so loving that it would all work out. 

(see my other two articles  Plural Marriage and Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage)

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