Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Presentism
|Loaded and prejudicial language||
A FAIR Analysis of: Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage"A work by author: George D. Smith
|Note: This is a review of claims and/or responses to misrepresentations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found in this work. The inclusion of an author's work here does not imply that he or she is "anti-Mormon," or that none of his or her works have value. Those who do not wish to examine the claims contained in what some would consider an "anti-Mormon" work are advised to proceed no further.|
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Presentism, at its worst, encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation. Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior. . . . Our forbears constantly fail to measure up to our present-day standards.
—Lynn Hunt, “Against Presentism,” Perspectives 40/5 (May 2002) off-site
“Presentism” is an analytical fallacy in which past behavior is evaluated by modern standards or mores. We take our twenty-first century way of think and assume that individuals living in the nineteenth century should have viewed the world the same way that we do today. This section lists some example of presentism as found in Nauvoo Polygamy.
Divorce in the nineteenth century
On the flyleaf and on page 345, we see a claim that Bishop Edwin Woolley married a plural wife without having her first divorce her legal husband. On page 333 we see that Parley P. Pratt's "last wife, Eleanor McComb McLean…was sealed to him without divorcing her legal husband, who fatally shot Parley near Van Buren, Arkansas…." The author does not note that practices regarding marriage and divorce differed substantially from the 20th or 21st century. The author also tells us nothing about McComb's tyrannical and abusive husband, making him appear the wronged party.
The age of wives
The book repeatedly emphasizes the ages of Joseph's younger wives. The point is made that Joseph was age 36, versus Sarah Ann Whitney at age 17. (p. ix) On page 53 we find reference to Joseph's friend "whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married." Page 198 states that Joseph experienced a "conflict of interests between building a church community and [Joseph's] continuing affection for young women."
The marriage of cousins in the 19th century
The author notes on page 205 that Rhoda Richards "was her husband Brigham's cousin" and that this fact "was apparently secondary to the grander scheme of interlocking the hierarchy in marriage." Later, on page 325, it is mentioned yet again that after Joseph's death, Rhoda Richards was sealed to "her cousin Brigham Young." Here the author again relies on presentism to provide a hostile interpretive lens. It was not unusual for first cousins to marry. Nineteen of the present-day states permit unrestricted marriage between first cousins, and most countries have no restrictions at all on marriage between cousins. In its exploitation of the presentist fallacy, the author’s remark is utterly irrelevant in its historical context.
The leadership structure of the 19th century Church versus that of today
Page 69 points out the John C. Bennett was "Assistant President of the Church." Modern readers should be cautious in projecting the role of the current First Presidency on Joseph's day. In the modern Church, the First Presidency is almost always composed of two apostles who have extensive experience in ecclesiastical affairs called to serve with the President. In Joseph's day, this was not the case. Most of Joseph's counselors in the First Presidency were to betray his trust, including Jesse Gause, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, William Law and John C. Bennett. While some of these counselors received keys, Bennett did not. None were apostles prior to their call.
Freedom of the press
On page 408 we see that Joseph arrested after the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor for violating "freedom of the press." The author addresses Dallin H. Oaks' response to this claim by stating that "Dallin H. Oaks asserted that the 'abatement of newspapers publishing scandalous or provocative material' was not considered a violation of freedom of the press at the time….drawing no distinction between the destruction of a newspaper without a trial and a libel charge being tried in the courts." The author's "reply" to Dallin Oaks is a non sequitur. Oaks (and Firmage and Mangrum) demonstrate at length that both Illinois and U.S. law had ample precedent in case law and practice for the abatement of the Expositor.
|A FAIR Analysis of Critical Works|
- American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows— (Index of claims)
- An Insider's View of Mormon Origins — (Index of claims—Use of sources)
- Archaeology and the Book of Mormon
- Ashamed of Joseph: Mormon Foundations Crumble
- Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism/Inside Today's Mormonism — (Index of claims—Use of sources)
- Behind the Mask of Mormonism
- Specific works/Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
- Specific works/By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus
- Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism
- Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon
- Decker's Complete Handbook on Mormonism
- Early Mormonism and the Magic World View — (Index of claims—Use of sources)
- Specific works/Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism
- Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History
- From Captain Kidd's Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism
- In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith — (Index of Claims)
- Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon
- Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record
- Is the Mormon My Brother?
- Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
- Joseph Smith and the Origins of The Book of Mormon (2nd edition)—(Index of claims)
- Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined
- The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) — (Index of claims)
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- Letters to a Mormon Elder
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- Mormon America: The Power and the Promise — (Index of claims)
- The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power — (Index of claims)
- The Mormon Mirage: Seeing Through the Illusion of Mainstream Mormonism
- Mormonism 101—Index of claims
- Mormonism (Kurt Van Gorden)
- Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? — (Index of claims)
- The Mysteries of Godliness—A History of Mormon Temple Worship
- Nauvoo Polygamy — (Index of claims—Use of sources—Prejudicial language—Presentism—Mind reading—Censorship—Romance—Assumptions—Magick)
- New Approaches to the Book of Mormon
- New Mormon Challenge
- No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith — (Index of claims)
- One Nation Under Gods — (Index of claims—Use of Sources—Prejudicial language—Absurd claims—Presentism—Mind reading—Rewording—Omissions—Sarcasm)
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- Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example — (Index of claims)
- Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess
- The Changing World of Mormonism — (Index of claims)
- Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon
- Under the Banner of Heaven — (Index of claims)
- Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture