Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 16
Response to claims made in "Chapter 16: Lamanites, Seed of Cain, and Polygamy"
|Chapter 15: The Temple||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
|Chapter 17: Joseph Smith|
Their views do not move us toward the solution or definition of problems that public debate is for. Instead, they deal with the phony and the titillating and the shocking, and raise once again questions that were decided long ago.
—Tom Braden, "I Was the Target of a Hate Campaign," LOOK (October 22, 1963), 60.
- NOTE: Commentator Sally Kohn, in a post titled "The Definitive Guide to Bigotry in the 2012 Republican Primaries (So Far)," Colorlines, News for Action (August 31 2011) spectacularly misinterprets the reference, confusing Joseph Smith, Jr. with Joseph Fielding Smith, and LOOK magazine with Life magazine,
In 1963, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was quoted in Life Magazine defending his religion’s racism, saying, “Darkies are wonderful people.” (emphasis added)
- One respondent notes, "That's a pretty impressive trick-- considering Joseph Smith died in 1844."
- For a detailed response, see: Mormonism and racial issues/Blacks and the priesthood/Double standard.
- In the above article, we peruse LOOK magazine and its 1963 article titled "A Memo From A Mormon," from which the authors cherry-picked their quote from Joseph Fielding Smith. We discuss the double standard that anti-Mormons apply to the LDS Church while nervously whistling past the graveyard of their own troubled religious history.
- Critics appeal to an audience that is ignorant of the abysmal history of most of Christianity's dealings on race issues. They are obviously hoping their target audience will not notice that Latter-day Saints have always had integrated churches while other Protestant churches struggle with the residual division brought about by their own prolonged discrimination or outright expulsion of black members.
- LDS are, of course, not immune from the same human foibles. We, like all Christians, might wish that we had played a larger role in correcting social injustices. We must all look at our past and learn from it. But for the here and now, the LDS do have a decided advantage in our centralized leadership and our historical practice of maintaining congregations based on geographical boundaries rather than personal preference or race. Our members have never traveled past a white or black church to get to their own. We cannot fire ministers who do not succumb to the wishes of a congregation to remain racially segregated. Yet, we join all concerned followers of Christ in acknowledging that we have work ahead of us in putting aside differences accumulated through centuries of misunderstanding and intolerance.
- Last, it is time to ask a question of those who continue to pit racial groups against one another in the name of Christ. Are they guilty of engaging in a subtle but virulent racism by reducing the black race to nothing more than a convenient brickbat in their polemical assaults on other Christians?
- For a detailed response, see: Lamanites/Curse
- In 1981 the Church changed "a white and a delightsome people" to "a pure and a delightsome people."
- For a detailed response, see: Book of Mormon/Textual changes/"white" changed to "pure"
- In contrast, we offer the authors an abbreviated tour of the Bible:
Many shall be purified, and made white… (Daniel 12:10)
When I looked for good, then evil came [unto me]: and when I waited for light, there came darkness… My skin is black upon me. (Job 30:26, Job 30:30)
Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. (Joel 2:6)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalms 51:7)
- Are the authors completely ignorant of the repeated biblical use of black and white as symbolic references to good and evil? An African-American minister, Frederick Price, has a point that the authors and any others of similar mindset should contemplate:
If God cursed Ham and the curse was blackness so that all of his children came out black, then what shade of black would they be? Black people come in every shade-but if God cursed Ham, it would mean that every cursed black person would have to be the same shade… If Ham were cursed, the color could never change, because it would not be determined by genetics, it would be determined by the curse. The only way that a child could come out a different shade than a parent who carries the curse would be if the curse changed.
- The authors, not satisfied to leap frog through LDS belief and history, prattle on about a few hopeful expressions by LDS leaders that the disappearance of any "curse" would literally manifest itself in a change of skin color. However, scholars such as Forrest Wood plainly state that the Christian justification of slavery would come "crashing down" without a belief in a curse and "could be sustained only on the assumption that God either changed the color of Ham's skin instantly or that of his descendants in a relatively brief period. This was orthodox Christian thinking."
- For a detailed response, see: Blacks and the priesthood/The "curse of Cain" and "curse of Ham"
Question: Did the Church suppress a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1831 which encouraged the implementation of polygamy by intermarriage with the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people?
The only evidence for this revelation is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831
It is claimed that the church "suppressed" a 1831 revelation in which the Church was commanded to make the Indians a “white and delightsome” people through polygamous intermarriage. The basis for this claim is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 (30 years after the revelation was said to have been given) in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831. At present, the only evidence that an 1831 revelation was given is the 1861 document written by Phelps.
According to critics, Joseph Fielding Smith, who was Church historian at the time, stated that the principle of plural marriage was revealed to Joseph Smith in a revelation given in July 1831. Critic Fawn Brodie claims that Joseph Fielding Smith told her about the revelation but would not allow her to see it. Critics conclude that the “real reason” that the revelation was not released was because it commanded Church members to marry the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people.
The text of W. W. Phelps' 1861 recollection of the revelation
In 1861, 30 years after it was said to have been given, W. W. Phelps wrote from memory his recollection of what he claimed was the revelation given in 1831 by the Prophet:
Part of a revelation by Joseph Smith Jr. given over the boundary, west of Jackson Co. Missouri, on Sunday morning, July 17, 1831, when Seven Elders, viz: Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Ziba Peterson, and Joshua Lewis united their hearts in prayer, in a private place, to inquire of the Lord who should preach the first sermon to the remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites, and the people of that Section, that should assemble that day in the Indian country, to hear the gospel, and the revelations according to the Book of Mormon.
Among the company, there being neither pen, ink or paper, Joseph remarked that the Lord could preserve his words as he had ever done, till the time appointed, and proceeded:
Verily, verily, saith the Lord your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, the light and the life of the world, ye can not discerne with your natural eyes, the design and the purpose of your Lord and your God, in bringing you thus far into the wilderness for a trial of your faith, and to be especial witnesses, to bear testimony of this land, upon which the Zion of God shall be built up in the last days, when it is redeemed. …
[I]t is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome, and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.
Gird up your loins and be prepared for the mighty work of the Lord to prepare the world for my second coming to meet the tribes of Israel according to the predictions of all the holy prophets since the beginning; …
Be patient, therefore, possessing your souls in peace and love, and keep the faith that is now delivered unto you for the gathering of scattered Israel, and lo, I am with you, though ye cannot see me, till I come: even so. Amen.
Phelp's wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years
A note written by W. W. Phelps in the 1861 document implies that marriage with the Indians coincided with Joseph Smith's planned intent to institute polygamy.
About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph, privately, how "we," that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives of the "natives" as we were all married men? He replied instantly "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah; by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation."
It is important to note that Phelps wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years.
Question: Was Ezra Booth commanded to take a wife from among the Indians?
The only contemporary report of a possible revelation on marriage with the Indians was written in a letter to the Ohio Star on 8 December, 1831 by Ezra Booth
The only contemporary report of a possible revelation on marriage with the Indians was written in a letter to the Ohio Star on 8 December, 1831 by Ezra Booth, who had apostatized from the Church. This letter was republished in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. Booth states that,
...it has been made known by revelation, that it will be pleasing to the Lord, should they form a matrimonial alliance with the natives; and by this means the Elders, who comply with the thing so pleasing to the Lord, and for which the Lord has promised to bless those who do it abundantly, gain a residence in the Indian territory, independent of the agent....
Booth makes no mention of polygamy, and instead implies that the "matrimonial alliance" was for the purpose of gaining "residence" in the Indian territory
Booth makes no mention of polygamy, and instead implies that the "matrimonial alliance" was for the purpose of gaining "residence" in the Indian territory. One would think that if Booth, given his opposition to the Church at the time, had been aware of something as controversial as a proposal that polygamy be instituted among the Indians, that he would have been highly motivated to proclaim this in a public forum. In fact, Booth actually states that in order to marry one of the natives, that one elder needed to be "free from his wife." Booth does go on to say:
...It has been made known to one, who has left his wife in the State of New York, that he is entirely free from his wife, and he is at pleasure to take him a wife from among the Lamanites. It was easily perceived that this permission was perfectly suited to his desires. I have frequently heard him state that the Lord had made it known to him, that he is as free from his wife as from any other woman; and the only crime I have ever heard alleged against her is, she is violently opposed to Mormonism. But before this contemplated marriage can be carried into effect, he must return to the State of New York and settle his business, for fear, should he return after that affair had taken place, the civil authority would apprehend him as a criminal (emphasis added).
This quote implies that it was not to be a polygamous union.
It was always implied that the process of becoming "white and delightsome" was to be achieved through the power of God—not through intermarriage
There are quotes from Church leaders indicating that they believed that the Indians were becoming "white and delightsome." However, it was always implied that the process of becoming "white and delightsome" was to be achieved through the power of God—not through intermarriage. Critics cite a statement made by Spencer W. Kimball in the October 1960 General Conference, 15 years before he became president of the Church:
- I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today ... they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised.... The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.
Although this is an interesting statement by President Kimball, it has nothing whatsoever to do with polygamy or intermarriage with the Indians. It is simply President Kimball’s own observation that he felt that the Indians were becoming a “white and delightsome” people through the power of God. Then-Elder Kimball was likely unaware that Joseph Smith had edited the Book of Mormon text in 1837 to say "pure and delightsome," possibly to counter the idea that the change referred to was predominantly physical, rather than spiritual. This change was lost in future LDS versions of the Book of Mormon until 1981.
There is no evidence that the instructions contained in the revelation regarding intermarriage with the Native Americans were actually implemented
There is no contemporary evidence, other than that provided by Booth, that anyone was even aware of the revelation at the time that it was supposed to have been given. The only evidence that a revelation was even given is the 1861 document by W. W. Phelps, which he recalled word-for-word from memory 30 years later at a time when the Church was actively and publicly justifying the practice of polygamy.
It is also interesting to note that the typical critical argument against polygamy is that a revelation on polygamy was not received until 1843 and that prior to that time that Joseph Smith was living in adultery with his plural wives. Yet, in this case, the critics are perfectly content to argue the case for a revelation on polygamy actually existing in 1831 as long as it can be tied to making the Native Americans a "white and delightsome" people. While there is evidence that Joseph was discussing plural marriage by 1831, it is difficult to believe that Phelps' text is an exact rendition of any revelation Joseph may have shared with him.
- Here is the full quote, with the sentence that the authors removed highlighted:
You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation; and they cannot tell. I can tell you in a few words: They are the seed of Joseph, and belong to the household of God; and he will afflict them in this world, and save every one of them hereafter, even though they previously go into hell. When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break the covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people.
- Why is this one missing sentence so important that it had to be removed by the authors? This was said in an era in which there was active debate in the scientific and Christian community as to whether all races came from a common ancestor, an argument that was ultimately settled by Darwinism. This sentence leaps out as a declaration that Native Americans are not just descended from Adam and Eve--they are from the favored seed of Joseph.
- Thus, the authors' attempt to use Brigham Young's racist-sounding but unfortunately typical nineteenth-century verbiage as an indictment against the modern Church brings up the question of their intellectual integrity. We have learned from sad experience that when anti-Mormon writers use ellipses, it is most likely not because the information is irrelevant but because there is something which must be removed to keep the picture uniformly bleak and, well, titillating.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:332.
- Brigham's quote,
I feel to bless this people, and they are a God-blessed people. Look at them, and see the difference from their condition a few years ago! Brethren who have been on missions, can you see any difference in this people from the time you went away until your return? [Voices: "Yes."] You can see men and women who are sixty or seventy years of ago looking young and handsome; but let them apostatize, and they will become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil. If we will stand up as men and women of God, the yoke shall never be placed upon our necks again; and all hell cannot overthrow us, even with the United States to help them. It is not pleasant to the natural feelings to be obliged to talk in this manner about fellow-citizens with whom we have been reared; but when they act like the Devil, it is impossible for us to bow to their unjust and illegal mandates without becoming as corrupt as they are. It is an honour to resist the wicked; and my name will be had in, honour, and so will Joseph Smiths, and so will your names, for not bowing to their iniquitous doings.
The 1978 "Revelation" and the Seed of Cain
Question: Was the idea that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven" ever official doctrine?
The "neutral in the war in heaven" argument was never doctrine. In fact, some Church leaders, starting with Brigham Young, explicitly repudiated the idea
This idea was repudiated well before the priesthood ban was rescinded. President Brigham Young rejected it in an account recorded by Wilford Woodruff in 1869:
Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Nutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said No they were not. There was No Nutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebelion. All took sides. He said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Nutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary. All spirits are pure that Come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cane are Black Because He Commit Murder. He killed Abel & God set a Mark upon his posterity But the spirits are pure that Enter their tabernacles & there will be a Chance for the redemption of all the Children of Adam Except the Sons of perdition. 
The First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith also rejected this idea
there is no revelation, ancient or modern, neither is there any authoritative statement by any of the authorities of the Church … [in support of the idea] that the negroes are those who were neutral in heaven at the time of the great conflict or war, which resulted in the casting out of Lucifer and those who were led by him. 
Joseph Smith never taught the idea that those born with black skin were "neutral" during the war in heaven
Brigham Young, when asked this question, repudiated the idea. Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal:
December 25, 1869: I attended the School of the Prophets. Many questions were asked. President Young answered them. Lorenzo Young asked if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said no they were not. There were no neutral spirits in heaven at the time of the rebellion. All took sides. He said if anyone said that he heard the Prophet Joseph say that the spirits of the Blacks were neutral in heaven, he would not believe them, for he heard Joseph say to the contrary. All spirits are pure that come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cain are black because he commit[ted] murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity. But the spirits are pure that enter their tabernacles and there will be a chance for the redemption of all the children of Adam except the sons of perdition. 
The idea that anyone who came to earth was "neutral" in the premortal existence is not a doctrine of the Church. Early Church leaders had a variety of opinions regarding the status of blacks in the pre-existence, and some of these were expressed in an attempt to explain the priesthood ban. The scriptures, however, do not explicitly state that the status or family into which we were born on earth had anything to do with our "degree of valiance" in our pre-mortal life.
Other religions would not have had reason for such a teaching because they do not believe in the pre-existence or the "war in heaven."
The scriptures themselves do not state that anyone was neutral in the pre-existence.
Question: Did Church leaders ever teach that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven?"
Yes, some Church leaders promoted the idea as a way to explain the priesthood ban
Despite the explicit denial of this concept by Brigham Young, the idea that people born with black skin as a result of their behavior in the pre-existence was used by several 20th century Church leaders in order to try and provide an explanation for the priesthood ban.
The First Presidency, in a statement issued on August 17, 1949, actually attributed the ban to "conduct of spirits in the premortal existence"
The First Presidency stated in 1949:
The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality. 
Joseph Fielding Smith said in 1954 that there were no "neutrals in the war in heaven," but that rewards in this life may have "reflected actions taken in the pre-existence
In the 1954 book Doctrines of Salvation (compiled by Bruce R. McConkie), Joseph Fielding Smith stated that "there were no neutrals in the war in heaven," but suggested that the rewards received in this life reflected actions taken in the pre-existence:
NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits. 
Bruce R. McConkie said in 1966 that they were "less valiant" in the pre-existence
The most well known of these was the statement made by Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine. McConkie offered the following opinion:
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. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin...but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, based on His eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate. 
These statements by Church leaders reflected ideas which were prevalent in society during the 1950s and 1960s
These statements by 20th century leaders did not represent thinking that was unique to the Church, but instead reflected ideas which were much more prevalent in society during the 1950's and 1960's.
When the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978, McConkie retracted what he had said previously
Elder McConkie retracted his previous statements regarding the priesthood ban when it was lifted in 1978:
Forget everything I have said, or what...Brigham Young...or whomsoever has said...that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. 
Question: Did the Church repudiate the idea of neutrality in the "war in heaven?"
President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation
Some members and leaders explained the ban as congruent with the justice of God by suggesting that those who were denied the priesthood had done something in the pre-mortal life to deny themselves the priesthood. President Kimball was reported as repudiating this idea following the 1978 revelation:
President Kimball "flatly [stated] that Mormonism no longer holds to...a theory" that Blacks had been denied the priesthood "because they somehow failed God during their pre-existence." 
The modern Church rejects this theory
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form. 
Modern Church leaders teach that everyone who came to earth in this day was "valiant" in the premortal existence
Elder M. Russell Ballard, talking of today's youth, said in 2005:
Remind them that they are here at this particular time in the history of the world, with the fulness of the gospel at their fingertips, because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence. 
Gospel Topics: "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else"
"Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.
The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.—(Click here to continue)
- George F. Richards, Conference Report, (April 1939), 58.
- History of the Church 5:217-218.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290-291.
- John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:304.
- John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 23:336.
- John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negros and the Priesthood, 49.
- John J. Stewart, Mormonism and the Negro, 33.
- McConkie, Mormon Doctrine 1958 edition, 477.
- Mark E. Petersen, "Race Problems-As They Affect the Church," 27 August 1954.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10:110.
- One statement alone, given by Bruce R. McConkie to Church seminary and institute teachers shortly after the 1978 revelation granting priesthood to all races, answers each and every objectionable statement or action that the authors can dredge up from bygone eras:
There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things… All I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness, and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more. It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year . It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.
- Last and most important, the defining scripture that is binding on Latter-day Saints says, "he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."6
- For a detailed response, see: Blacks and the priesthood
- Yet, Joseph Smith had preceded this remark by saying:
They came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine off many of those they brush and wait on.:217
- If the authors are seeking to truly inform and educate the reader concerning Mormonism, why would they not want to disclose this part of Joseph's thinking? In fact, why would they not want to elaborate on Joseph's revolutionary solution for abolishing slavery? Instead of commenting on the revulsion of Mormon leaders towards the widely accepted standard of abuse and cruelty, they choose only to make known the rather common thinking of the day that demanded races remain separate.
- Here is the portion of the sermon that the authors neglect to show the reader, however:
If the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had the right to pass an anti-polygamy bill, they had also the right to pass a law that slaves should not be abused as they have been; they had also a right to make a law that negroes should be used like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.
- Compare this to the views of the founder of American evangelicalism, George Whitefield, who "urged kinder treatment of slaves, but noted that cruelty can have the positive effect of heightening 'the sense of their natural misery,' thereby increasing receptivity to the Christian message." Or the stories of "Christian slaveholders, including clergymen, 'brutalizing their slaves' which 'abound in the narratives of former slaves.'"
A Doctrine that was Always to Be
- Brigham said that blacks would not obtain the priesthood until the resurrection. This was reiterated by later LDS leaders.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:143.
- Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, 142.
- Smith, The Way to Perfection, 101.
- Lund, The Church and the Negro, 45, 47, 104-105.
- For a detailed response, see: Blacks and the priesthood
Polygamy: One Man, Many Wives
244 - The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy
Question: Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?
"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things"
Jacob 2:24-29 states:
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.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
Critics of the Book of Mormon generally refrain from citing the very next verse:
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30).
The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord may, under some circumstances, command the practice of plural marriage. As one member of the Church explained:
Jacob 2:30 is the key verse for understanding why Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other nineteenth-century Mormons were justified in their practice of polygamy, but that this is the exception to the Lord's law, not the rule.... Mormons believe that the period when polygamy was publicly sanctioned (1852–1890)—and the longer period in which it was privately approved (the early 1830s to 1904)—were exceptions to God's basic law that Jacob spelled out in verse 27.
Question: Is plural marriage required in order to achieve exaltation?
Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"
Critics of the Church point to a statement made by Brigham Young to make the claim that Latter-day Saints believe that one must practice plural marriage in order to achieve exaltation:  Brigham Young once said,
The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.)
This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. They do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by those trying to worry modern-day readers):
Brigham Young also said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith"
We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.
Brigham was stating that the command to practice plural marriage was from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God
It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:
- The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
- To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
- It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
- Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.
Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as present-day members do not.
Question: Did Brigham Young believe that one could not enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they were a polygamist?
Wilford Woodruff: "President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all"
I attended the school of the prophets. Brother John Holeman made a long speech upon the subject of Poligamy. He Contended that no person Could have a Celestial glory unless He had a plurality of wives. Speeches were made By L. E. Harrington O Pratt Erastus Snow, D Evans J. F. Smith Lorenzo Young. President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all.
Wilford Woodruff: President Young...said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord
Then President Young spoke 58 Minuts. He said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.
Seminary Teacher Resource Manual: "We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation"
"Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org:
Note: Avoid sensationalism and speculation when talking about plural marriage. Sometimes teachers speculate that plural marriage will be a requirement for all who enter the celestial kingdom. We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation.
246 - The Doctrine and Covenants denied polygamy
Question: Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include a statement of marriage that denied the practice of polygamy at a time when some were actually practicing it?
Polygamy was not being taught to the general Church membership at that time
The Article on Marriage was printed in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109. The portion of the Article on Marriage relevant to polygamy states:
Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. 
This was true—the Church membership generally was not being taught plural marriage, and were not living it at that time.
The statement itself was not changed between the 1835 and 1844 editions of the D&C
In fact, the statement remained in the D&C until the 1876 edition, even though plural marriage had been taught to specific individuals since at least 1831, practiced in secret since 1836, and practiced openly since 1852. The matter of not removing it in 1852 was simply due to the fact that a new edition of the D&C was not published until 1876.
The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication
While some have suggested that the article was published against Joseph's wishes or without his knowledge, the available evidence suggests that he supported its publication. It was likely included to counter the perception that the Mormon's practice of communal property (the "law of consecration") included a community of wives.
The statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith - it was written by Oliver Cowdery
This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) 
Some have suggested that the manner in which the conference was called suggests that Joseph was not the instigator of it, since it seems to have been done quite quickly, with relatively few high church leaders in attendance:
The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. 
However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." 
On July 7, 1878, Joseph F. Smith discussed Oliver's awareness of polygamy at the time of this publication:
To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832. About this time, or subsequently, Joseph, the Prophet, intrusted this fact to Oliver Cowdery; he abused the confidence imposed in him, and brought reproach upon himself, and thereby upon the church by "running before he was sent," and "taking liberties without license," so to speak, hence the publication, by O. Cowdery, about this time, of an article on marriage, which was carefully worded, and afterwards found its way into the Doctrine and Covenants without authority. This article explains itself to those who understand the facts, and is an indisputable evidence of the early existence of the knowledge of the principle of patriarchal marriage by the Prophet Joseph, and also by Oliver Cowdery. 
However, there continues to be debate about whether Oliver Cowdery knew about--or prematurely practiced--plural marriage in the 1830s.  Oliver would learn about the Fanny Alger marriage, but his reaction at the time seems to have been wholly negative.
The original D&C 101 article outlined the general practice of performing a Latter-day Saint wedding, explained LDS beliefs about the marriage relationship, and denied that the Saints were practicing polygamy.
Question: Was the practice of polygamy general knowledge among Latter-day Saints in 1835 when the "Article on Marriage" was published?
Knowledge of the practice of polygamy among the Saints was limited prior to the 1840s
Some have argued that rumors of "polygamy" may already have been circulating as a result of the Prophet teaching the concept to some of his close associates. However, Brian Hales has argued that there are few if any extant attacks on Joseph or the Saints about polygamy prior to the 1840s:
...if the article was designed to neutralize reports about Joseph Smith and his alleged "crimes," polygamy would not have been included because that allegation was not made then nor at any other time during the Kirtland period according to any documentation currently available. In other words, assuming that the denial of polygamy in the "Marriage" article [of D&C 101] was specifically tied to rumors of Joseph Smith's behavior is problematic, unless other corroborating evidence can be located. 
On the other hand, charges of polygamy or "free love" or having wives in common were often made against new or little-known religious or social groups. As Hales reports:
Some [nineteenth-century utopian societies] experimented with novel marital and sexual practices, which focused suspicion on all the groups....Accordingly, early Latter-day Saint efforts to live the law of consecration, even though it sustained traditional monogamy, were instantly misunderstood....
John L. Brooke...wrote: "Among the non-Mormons in Ohio there were suspicions that the community of property dictated in the 'Law of Consecration' included wives."...
It seems plausible, even likely, that beginning in 1831, some uninformed individuals assumed that the law of consecration included a community of wives as one of its tenets, even publishing such claims, although there is no indication that this is how the Mormons themselves interpreted the law of consecration. Understandably, Church leaders would actively seek to deny such untrue allegations in a document on marriage to be included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. 
Gilbert Scharffs notes:
The original Section 101 (never claimed as a revelation but approved as a statement of belief) did state that monogamy was the practice of the Church at that time. The section was not written by Joseph Smith and was voted upon by members in his absence. Perhaps the section was intended to prevent members from getting involved with plural marriage until such a time as the practice would be authorized by the Lord Church-wide. When that became the fact, the current Section 132 replaced the old Section 101. 
- Polygamy continued to be practiced in Utah after the Manifesto.
- Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 155.
- For a detailed response, see: Polygamy/Practiced after the Manifesto
- Polygamy, as practiced by various groups today, is not "consistent with the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young."
- For a detailed response, see: Polygamy
- 2 Nephi 5:21; quoted in Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 234. ( Index of claims )
- Frederick K.C. Price, Race Religion and Racism: A Bold Encounter With Division in the Church (Los Angeles: Faith One Publishing, 1999), 149.
- Forrest G. Wood, The Arrogance of Faith: Christianity and Race in America from the Colonial Era to the Twentieth Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), 88.
- The source is said to be a letter from Joseph Fielding Smith to J. W. A. Baily dated September 5, 1935.
- Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 184, footnote. ( Index of claims )
- Ezra Booth letter, Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio), 8 December 1831.
- Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 220. (Affidavits examined)
- David Whittaker, "Mormons and Native Americans: A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 no. 4 (Winter 1985), 33–60. off-site
- Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 220. (Affidavits examined)
- Spencer W. Kimbal, Improvement Era (December 1960), 922-23.
- Brigham Young, "Re-Organization of the High Council, Etc.," (8 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:336., partially quoted in McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 235.
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:511 (journal entry dated 25 December 1869). ISBN 0941214133.
- First Presidency letter from Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, to M. Knudson, 13 Jan. 1912.
- Wilford Woodruff's Journal, entry dated Dec. 25, 1869.
- First Presidency Statement (George Albert Smith), August 17, 1949. off-site
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954) , 1:65-66. (emphasis in original)
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (1966), p. 527.
- Bruce R. McConkie, "New Revelation on Priesthood," Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 126-137.
- Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, chapter 24, page 3; citing Richard Ostling, "Mormonism Enters a New Era," Time (7 August 1978): 55. Ostling told President Kimball's biographer and son that this was a paraphrase, but an accurate reporting of what he had been told (see footnote 13, citing interview on 10 May 2001).
- "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics, lds.org. (2013) off-site
- M. Russell Ballard, "One More," Ensign, May 2005, p. 69.
- "Race and the Priesthood," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
- Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978.
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 5 link
- Brigham Young, "The Persecutions of the Saints, Etc.," (8 March 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:110., quoted in McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 241.
- Brigham Young, "The Persecutions of the Saints, Etc.," (8 March 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:111.
- Richard O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 26
- Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 167.
- Jana Riess, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated & Explained (Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005), 82.
- The following critical works use this quote from Brigham to claim that Latter-day Saints must accept polygamy as a requirement to enter heaven. Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers; Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 233, 422 n. 48-49. ( Index of claims ); George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), xiv, 6, 55, , 356. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review)); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 29, 258.( Index of claims )
- Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added) See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:527 (journal entry dated 12 February 1870). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
- Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:31 (journal entry dated 24 September 1871). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
- "Doctrine and Covenants 132," Seminary Teacher Resource Manual on LDS.org (2001, [updated 2005])
- Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
- History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
- Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
- Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 20:29.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 156–158.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 161–162.
- Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 166, 168.
- Gilbert Scharffs, "Marriage Is Ordained of God", The Truth About "The God Makers" off-site
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