On this episode, we take a look at the essays recently published, by the church, about polygamy in the early church. There were two essays totaling almost 7000 words with lots of mormon speak and convoluted history. They are clearly worth deconstructing from the naked perspective. This episode only tackles the first of the two essays entitled 'The Manifesto and the end of Plural Marriage'. Next episode we'll tackle the church's claims on Joe's polygamy, when we analyze 'Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo'.
Episode 6 Notes
Welcome to Episode 6 of the Naked Mormonism podcast. I'm Bryce Blankenagel, and thanks for joining me. Up to this point I have released the back log of 5 episodes, which dealt with the history of some of the early people in the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, including a little about Joseph Smith himself. The way that I want to construct the podcast is in a linear storyline format, meaning I want to talk about things as they happen throughout a historical narrative. In addition to this, there will need to be entire episodes devoted to the introduction of each new character as they come in. So far, the podcast has mainly been just that, introduction of significant people. The narrative itself, hasn't even advanced into the translation of the plates into the Book of Mormon yet.
Last episode we introduced Oliver Cowdery, or Cowdung Allover. This was Joe's right hand man of action and counsel. At the end of that episode, I said that Episode 6 would be the historical analysis of David Whitmer, who was the last big hitter we need to know about before we advance the narrative into the translation of the plates. Well, unfortunately I became sidetracked in my research for David Whitmer, by the massive PR shitstorm that the LDS church is dealing with right now. I'm referring to the essay they released addressing Joseph Smith's 30 to 40 plural wives in Ohio and Illinios, which has caught some recent news coverage. Up to this point the church has been as opaque as possible with the history surrounding Joe's harem. Even missionaries are taught to try and derail conversations that digress into Joe being a polygamist. This seems to be a complete about face on their policy, or, at very least, a bold, evidence based stance to take on the issue. While this may seem like a commendable action, this admittance is happening only amidst massive public desention on evidence concerning Joe and his wives. They actually released two essays totaling almost 7000 words on their own website, exclusively, late at night on October 22, 2014. In my humble opinion, I don't think they wanted the common press getting ahold of this, but, I think they did want to have the information on their website in a confusing manner just to satisfy prying eyes.
So, let's see if it satisfies our prying eyes. This means we will be suspending the historical analysis for two episodes, so we can analyze these essays they released. I really wanted to cover the entire polygamy issue at one time, but this is a good way to introduce us to the entire Mormon doctrine and stance on the issue. But, after this, we'll dive back into the historical analysis with the introduction of David Whitmer, just as promised, but I do think it's necessary to occassionally do episodes like this when there are current events the church is involved in.
I simply plan on reading both in their entirety to try and make sense of it all. I'll be adding my slightly abraisive commentary as usual, and possibly refuting claims if at all necessary, but I'll also investigate important references they use if the claim seems to be outrageous or worthy of analysis.
The first essay is called "The Manifesto and the end of Plural Marriage", and it lays things out pretty plainly. So here it goes, from the Lds.org website.
For much of the 19th century, a significant number of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced plural marriage—the marriage of one man to more than one woman. The beginning and end of the practice were directed by revelation through God’s prophets. The initial command to practice plural marriage came through Joseph Smith, the founding prophet and President of the Church. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church.
This had to be done because Utah was applying for statehood and was consistently denied, amidst other political pressures. The government had even passed laws at the time making polygamy illegal, which carried a up to an $800 fine and 5 years in prison. This ended up with some of the members of the church, who were practicing polygamy, getting bounties placed on their heads. That makes for a pretty bad reputation when you are trying to get statehood, which amounted to the Mormon Theocracy issuing this 'Manifesto' banning plural marriage. We'll read the manifesto momentarily when it becomes more pertinent.
The end of plural marriage required great faith and sometimes complicated, painful—and intensely personal—decisions on the part of individual members and Church leaders. Like the beginning of plural marriage in the Church, the end of the practice was a process rather than a single event. Revelation came “line upon line, precept upon precept.”
These complicated, painful, and intensely personal decisions will come to light as we get further into the essay.
Antipolygamy Laws and Civil Disobedience
For half a century, beginning in the early 1840s, Church members viewed plural marriage as a commandment from God, an imperative that helped “raise up” a righteous posterity unto the Lord.2 Though not all Church members were expected to enter into plural marriage, those who did so believed they would be blessed for their participation.
And thus we see the problem with blind faith in one's leaders. This is not a singular occurence throughout history, 'Revelations' like this have come through people like Joseph Smith for a long time, because alpha male cult leaders often like to fuck lot's of their followers, no matter who they are betrothed to.
Between the 1850s and the 1880s, many Latter-day Saints lived in plural families as husbands, wives, or children.3
Well it also happened in the 1840's and even a fair amount in the late 1830's, it's just that the evidence is a little less abundant for those occurences, so the church won't readily admit to those ones yet.
In many parts of the world, polygamy was socially acceptable and legally permissible.
Yea, primarily in third world, or generally uncivilized places, where that's been the tradition for generations. Not so much when you are talking about a civilized, and staunchly religious, protestant sect that started as a grassroots movement from one "prophet of god". The Government didn't want to take a soft line with the mormons, because they were worried their actions might set an example for the next crazy religious sect, that wanted to steamroll the government, just like the church had done up to that point.
But in the United States, most people thought that the practice was morally wrong. These objections led to legislative efforts to end polygamy. Beginning in 1862, the U.S. government passed a series of laws designed to force Latter-day Saints to relinquish plural marriage.4
In the face of these measures, Latter-day Saints maintained that plural marriage was a religious principle protected under the U.S. Constitution. The Church mounted a vigorous legal defense all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879), the Supreme Court ruled against the Latter-day Saints: religious belief was protected by law, religious practice was not. According to the court’s opinion, marriage was a civil contract regulated by the state. Monogamy was the only form of marriage sanctioned by the state. “Polygamy,” the court explained, “has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe.”5
Latter-day Saints sincerely desired to be loyal citizens of the United States, which they considered a divinely founded nation. But they also accepted plural marriage as a commandment from God and believed the court was unjustly depriving them of their right to follow God’s commands.
I want to voice my opinion on this. I don't know where you listeners tend to fall on the marriage equality issue, but I want to try and draw a parallel, just so I can refute it in a second. These people were obviously fighting for their right to marry as they please, not unlike the LGBT movement is doing right now. So if men can marry men and women can marry women, what's to stop a guy from marrying a bunch of women or a woman marrying a bunch of doods. Well, I think adult consent is the hingepin for marriage. Are both parties wanting to be married to each other, and is there a significant power difference in the situation, meaning is it an guy just wanting to marry his 14th 14 year old, or are the two participants, in the marriage, essentially peers. This seems to refute any of the claims saying gay marriage is like legalizing pedophelia or bestiality, because that's simply absurd. And beyond that, to try and make the claim that marriage is for only one man, and one woman, is equally absurd. Love and marriage should be between consenting adults. That is the only requirement, and that requirement even allows for polyandry or polygamy, as long as all involved individuals are consenting adults, and there isn't a major power differential among the participants. That's an easy criteria for successful marriages, practically speaking.
Confronted with these contradictory allegiances, Church leaders encouraged members to obey God rather than man. Many Latter-day Saints embarked on a course of civil disobedience during the 1880s by continuing to live in plural marriage and to enter into new plural marriages.6 The federal government responded by enacting ever more punishing legislation.
Between 1850 and 1896, Utah was a territory of the U.S. government, which meant that federal officials in Washington, D.C., exercised great control over local matters.
Goddamn government! Always overriding the power of small theocratic nation states. If only our government would do that today, in a few states that almost fall under that "theocracy" description.
In 1882, the U.S. Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which made unlawful cohabitation (interpreted as a man living with more than one wife) punishable by six months of imprisonment and a $300 fine. In 1887 Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act to punish the Church itself, not just its members. The act dissolved the corporation of the Church and directed that all Church property over $50,000 be forfeited to the government. (Temples)
This government opposition strengthened the Saints’ resolve to resist what they deemed to be unjust laws. Polygamous men went into hiding, sometimes for years at a time, moving from house to house and staying with friends and relatives. Others assumed aliases and moved to out-of-the-way places in southern Utah, Arizona, Canada, and Mexico.7
Where they still reside to this day, actually. I recall a time when visiting moab, our family had to stop at the gas station in town. I remember seeing two large cargo vans that seat 15 people sitting at one of the gas pumps. And I clearly remember watching the kids come out of the store and pile into the vans. I asked my parents why they were dressed so funny, I was fascinated that they were all in church clothes but it wasn't even sunday. That, is when I learned about the doctrine of polygamy, and I remember wondering why it was such a big deal. If only I would have known that probably half of the teenage girls that came out of the store were betrothed to one guy in his 50's, I might have found it to be a little bit weird. Beyond that, I don't think my parents even told me that they were a break off sect of the church we go to, I just thought they lived differently than us and that was that.
Many escaped prosecution; many others, when arrested, pled guilty and submitted to fines and imprisonment.
This antipolygamy campaign created great disruption in Mormon communities. The departure of husbands left wives and children to tend farms and businesses, causing incomes to drop and economic recession to set in.
Well yeah... When one guy is supporting 6 families and using the kids as slave labor, and he is removed from that picture, it kind of fucks up all the families that are involved. That's why the government doesn't want to go after polygamist colonies nowadays, because you basically orphan a bunch of kids and legally widow a bunch of women of very simple means with no other way of life. That is a PR shitstorm for the government, even though egregious sexual acts are committed to these teenage girls on a daily basis.
The campaign also strained families. New plural wives had to live apart from their husbands, their confidential marriages known only to a few. Pregnant women often chose to go into hiding, at times in remote locales, rather than risk being subpoenaed to testify in court against their husbands. Children lived in fear that their families would be broken up or that they would be forced to testify against their parents. Some children went into hiding and lived under assumed names.8
Despite countless difficulties, many Latter-day Saints were convinced that the antipolygamy campaign was useful in accomplishing God’s purposes. They testified that God was humbling and purifying His covenant people as He had done in ages past. Myron Tanner, a bishop in Provo, Utah, felt that “the hand of oppression laid on the parents, is doing more to convince our Children of the truth of Mormonism than anything else could have done.” (This is textbook christian persecution complex, we see it in the bible, we see it back then, and it's still happening today. I really wish I understood the social mechanism, that spurs that false ego in countless religious sects.) Incarceration for “conscience’ sake” proved edifying for many. George Q. Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency, emerged from his five months in the Utah penitentiary rejuvenated. “My cell has seemed a heavenly place, and I feel that angels have been there,” he wrote.10
That is a pretty crazy holy man complex. This guy was in prison for almost half a year because he was fucking teenagers, and said that his jail cell was just another house of the lord where angels visit. Such delusions of grandeur in a person, lead civilized men to rationalize uncivilized things and hurt others in doing so, and this is no exception.
The Church completed and dedicated two temples during the antipolygamy campaign, a remarkable achievement.
There's the LDS evangelical model right there, spread out further to consume more resources and souls, no matter what else is going on in the world or who is against you.
But as federal pressure intensified, many essential aspects of Church government were severely curtailed, and civil disobedience looked increasingly untenable as a long-term solution. Between 1885 and 1889, most Apostles and stake presidents were in hiding or in prison. After federal agents began seizing Church property in accordance with the Edmunds-Tucker legislation, management of the Church became more difficult.12
After two decades of seeking either to negotiate a change in the law or avoid its disastrous consequences, Church leaders began to investigate alternative responses. In 1885 and 1886 they established settlements in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law, where polygamous families could live peaceably. Hoping that a moderation in their position would lead to a reduction in hostilities, Church leaders advised plural husbands to live openly with only one of their wives, and advocated that plural marriage not be taught publicly.
I have to ask, if god is commanding a person to do something, and then makes it impossible to do that thing in a legal manner, don't you think god would have seen that coming and would know what to do, so they could still practice polygamy and not get harrassed by the government? I mean, just because you are being persecuted by the government, doesn't mean you are doing the right thing, or that you're part of the right group. The same goes for evidence and facts. You don't get to say the facts don't matter because you're church is true, and by default, everything that isn't from the church is false. We are all human beings, and we all have to play by the same rules down here, if you can't follow the rules of a given society, then you don't belong in that society. I digress... Anyway, back to it.
In 1889, Church authorities prohibited the performance of new plural marriages in Utah.13
Church leaders prayerfully sought guidance from the Lord and struggled to understand what they should do. Both President John Taylor and President Wilford Woodruff felt the Lord directing them to stay the course and not renounce plural marriage.
When it says president John Taylor and president Wilford Woodruff, that's just typical Mormon Jargon. John Taylor was the prophet and president of the church in 1887, but Wilford Woodruff was in the first presidency of the church up to that point and only became the actual prophet when John Taylor died. That is why it refers to both of them as president, because anybody that is in the first presidency of the apostles gains that title.
This inspiration came when paths for legal redress were still open. The last of the paths closed in May 1890, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, allowing the confiscation of Church property to proceed. President Woodruff saw that the Church’s temples and its ordinances were now at risk. Burdened by this threat, he prayed intensely over the matter. “The Lord showed me by vision and revelation,” he later said, “exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice,” referring to plural marriage. “All the temples [would] go out of our hands.” God “has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it.”
On September 25, 1890, President Woodruff wrote in his journal that he was “under the necessity of acting for the Temporal Salvation of the Church.” He stated, “After Praying to the Lord & feeling inspired by his spirit I have issued … [a] Proclamation.”16 This proclamation, now published in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1, was released to the public on September 25 and became known as the Manifesto.17
How about I just read the Manifesto right now. It's only like 5 paragraphs, and it sums everything up really nicely for us.
To Whom It May Concern:
Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy—
I, therefore, as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.
One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Isn't it funny how prompt the church is to receive a revelation from god at just the right time before something REALLY bad happens. In fact, there have been a few times throughout Mormon history, where they are holding to some socially unacceptable thing until somebody really puts the screws to them. Then suddenly, revelation FROM GOD comes to the prophet, or the entire quorum of apostles and first presidency, that they should change the exact thing they are doing wrong in order to stay away from social obscurity. It happened with polygamy in the 1890's, it happened with blacks in the priesthood in the 1970's and it just now happened on October 22, 2014, as the facts surrounding Joseph's plural wives are becoming more abundant and irrefutable. Speaking of, lets continue reading the essay they released.
The members of the Quorum of the Twelve varied in their reactions to the Manifesto. Franklin D. Richards was sure it was “the work of the Lord.” Francis M. Lyman said that “he had endorsed the Manifesto fully when he first heard it.”19 Not all the Twelve accepted the document immediately. John W. Taylor said he did “not yet feel quite right about it” at first.20John Henry Smith candidly admitted that “the Manifesto had disturbed his feelings very much” and that he was still “somewhat at sea” regarding it.21 Within a week, however, all members of the Twelve voted to sustain the Manifesto.
The Manifesto was formally presented to the Church at the semiannual general conference held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in October 1890. On Monday, October 6, Orson F. Whitney, a Salt Lake City bishop, stood at the pulpit and read the Articles of Faith, which included the line that Latter-day Saints believe in “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” These articles were sustained by uplifted hand. Whitney then read the Manifesto, and Lorenzo Snow, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, moved that the document be accepted as “authoritative and binding.” The assembly was then asked to vote on this motion. The Deseret News reported that the vote was “unanimous”; most voted in favor, though some abstained from voting.22
Rank-and-file Latter-day Saints accepted the Manifesto with various degrees of reservation. Many were not ready for plural marriage to come to an end. General Relief Society president Zina D. H. Young, writing in her journal on the day the Manifesto was presented to the Church, captured the anguish of the moment: “Today the hearts of all were tried but looked to God and submitted.”23 The Manifesto prompted uncertainty about the future of some relationships. Eugenia Washburn Larsen, fearing the worst, reported feeling “dense darkness” when she imagined herself and other wives and children being “turned adrift” by husbands.24 Other plural wives, however, reacted to the Manifesto with “great relief.”25
So, that was a big piece to chew on, but I read that much in succesion to get all the useful information about the saints reactions to this motion. I did that so we could paint a proper picture of everything that was going on.
Try to picture yourself in Utah, as part of a faithful Mormon polygamist family at the time. This was in, only partially civilized, newly settled Utah. After the death of the founding prophet of the church Joe, Brigham Young lead your family out here to the "Promised Land". I don't know how many people are familiar with the Wasatch front in Utah, where the pioneers first settled, but it's a VERY inhospitable place to try and settle a community.
Even with the rocky mountain countryside becoming slightly civilized. There were still a lot of dangers surrounding the saints, even through the 1890's when the manifesto was released, but this was God's promised land to all Latter Day Saints? Native Americans were snatching supplies and stealing livestock, the Salt Lake Valley experienced Hot Summers and crop destroying bitter cold winters. The soil and climate are challenging and arid, and the biggest body of water that's nearby, has a higher salt content than most oceans, rendering it useless for anything people actually need water for. Utah is classified as a desert, with unforgiving mountain passes, deadly weather, and a dramatic resource famine, yet this was the place that God had set apart from everywhere else on the entire earth, through all time and space, for his true saints to live?
As challenging as it is to swallow the fact that you live in a shitty environment, you live under the rule of a theocracy, run by a man with direct conduit to God, and every member is each other's moral policeman. Things don't seem to get much worse than this, as we have seen throughout human history. But you are a faithful member of the church. Not only are you faithful to the church, you believe that Wilford Woodruff is the direct pipeline to the will of God, and whatever he says, is what God truly wants to happen. You live in a polygamist family as the son or daughter of one of possibly 13 other sister-wives, headed by one faithful man, that holds a leadership position in the church. You're essentially raised in a commune of your distant relatives, by your distant relatives, without any sense of a proper healthy family. What you do see, is your male cousins and brothers maturing to marital age, and being kicked out of the family, to save the good meat for the old fuckers of course, and your female cousins and sisters being taken for wife, by your father, or his friends, as soon as they "mature". The entire structure of your family and everything in your environment is built on the single principle of massive family structures, with a single head patriarch.
Being everything you know, and the only reason you're in God-Forsaken
Utah to begin with, the church has shaped everything in your world to be
how it currently is. And one day, the prophet releases a statement
saying that the church no longer practices polygamy. Think of the
precarious situations that now abound. The structure of the entire
society has broken down and it doesn't have any short-term solution in
sight for all these now orphaned children and, essentially widowed
You know for a fact that your father will only take one of the families to stay with him, and will have to jettison the remaining wives and children to find another man to support them, or to be driven into homelessness, or special support communes for the remaining families, whatever, pick your horrible fate.
Not only does your family get kicked out of the massive 3 story house that was packed wall to wall with children and wives, but you also have to move from place to place with your mother and possibly another sister-wife or two, and alllll your siblings, until you find someone willing to take you in across town. And what's even worse than that, is the next time you go to church, you see the polygamist family that lived down the street from you, still together and happy because they didn't want to follow the manifesto. Nor did they consider the manifesto to be actual revelation from God, they just thought it was something Woodruff had released to get the government off the saints collective back.
No matter what happened, all you know is, none of it makes any sense. Your family is torn apart, your mother is no longer being abused by your father, but she doesn't have a plan or any means of supporting everybody left in the aftermath. And you feel like everything is all part of the omnipotent God's master plan because that's what everybody around you has said about it.
Does this example serve at all to illustrate what life in the early Mormon church was like? I don't know what it is or how to classify what happened, but all I can say is, if God is responsible for this whole shindig going down, that's a pretty stupid goddamn god. Could this god not forsee governmental opposition to his revealed command? Could this god not figure out that the church was going to have problems with the government when they tried to raise their own little theocracy? I'm sorry, but Elohim is not a god worthy of worship, if this is the best he can do, for the saints of the most perfect gospel, restored through the most perfect prophet that ever lived. Those are simply characteristics of either an inept god, or an absentee god. I kinda think it was the latter of the two.
After the Manifesto
Latter-day Saints believe that the Lord reveals His will “line upon line; here a little, there a little.”26 Church members living in 1890 generally believed that the Manifesto was the “work of the Lord,” in Franklin D. Richards’s words. But the full implications of the Manifesto were not apparent at first; its scope had to be worked out, and authorities differed on how best to proceed. “We have been led to our present position by degrees,” Apostle Heber J. Grant explained.27 Over time and through effort to receive continuing revelation, Church members saw “by degrees” how to interpret the Manifesto going forward.
At first, many Church leaders believed the Manifesto merely “suspended” plural marriage for an indefinite time.28 Having lived, taught, and suffered for plural marriage for so long, it was difficult to imagine a world without it. George Q. Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency, likened the Manifesto to the Lord’s reprieve from the command to build temples in Missouri in the 1830s after the Saints were expelled from the state. In a sermon given immediately after the Manifesto was sustained at general conference, Cannon quoted a passage of scripture in which the Lord excuses those who diligently seek to carry out a commandment from Him, only to be prevented by their enemies: “Behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.”29
Nevertheless, many practical matters had to be settled. The Manifesto was silent on what existing plural families should do. On their own initiative, some couples separated or divorced as a result of the Manifesto; other husbands stopped cohabiting with all but one of their wives but continued to provide financial and emotional support to all dependents. (If they were in a financial situation to do it which almost never happened) In closed-door meetings with local leaders, the First Presidency condemned men who left their wives by using the Manifesto as an excuse. “I did not, could not and would not promise that you would desert your wives and children,” President Woodruff told the men. “This you cannot do in honor.” 31
So, let me get this straight, Woodruff issued the manifesto banning plural marriages, then, when members of the church tried to divorce citing the manifesto as the reason why, Woodruff condemned them for doing so. How futtbucking bass akwards is that shullbit? If god is not the author of confusion, like it states 1 corinthians 14, then he is sure doing a horrible job at following his own tenants, because this shit is confusing. Not just for us now, looking back on it, but it must have been extremely confusing for the people that were actually involved with it during this time.
Believing that the covenants they made with God and their spouses had to be honored above all else, many husbands, including Church leaders, continued to cohabit with their plural wives and fathered children with them well into the 20th century. (That's what I described in the little hypothetical earlier with the polygamist family that lived down the street.) Continued cohabitation exposed those couples to the threat of prosecution, just as it did before the Manifesto. But these threats were markedly diminished after 1890. The Manifesto marked a new relationship with the federal government and the nation: prosecution of polygamists declined, plural wives came out of hiding and assumed their married names, and husbands interacted more freely with their families, especially after U.S. president Benjamin Harrison granted general amnesty to Mormon polygamists in 1893.33 Three years later, Utah became a state with a constitution that banned polygamy.
Basically, the mormons went on polygamy probation for 3 years to prove to the government that they weren't a theocracy, which resulted in official statehood in 1896.
The Manifesto declared President Woodruff’s intention to submit to the laws of the United States. It said nothing about the laws of other nations. Ever since the opening of colonies in Mexico and Canada, Church leaders had performed plural marriages in those countries, and after October 1890, plural marriages continued to be quietly performed there.34 As a rule, these marriages were not promoted by Church leaders and were difficult to get approved. Either one or both of the spouses who entered into these unions typically had to agree to remain in Canada or Mexico. Under exceptional circumstances, a smaller number of new plural marriages were performed in the United States between 1890 and 1904, though whether the marriages were authorized to have been performed within the states is unclear. ( I would really like to address this right now, but I'll save it for the full out polygamy episodes when they come up in the storyline, as opposed to addressing it here in these lite version episodes on polygamy.)
The precise number of new plural marriages performed during these years, inside and outside the United States, is unknown. Sealing records kept during this period typically did not indicate whether a sealing was monogamous or plural, making an exhaustive calculation difficult. A rough sense of scale, however, can be seen in a chronological ledger of marriages and sealings kept by Church scribes. Between the late 1880s and the early 1900s, during a time when temples were few and travel to them was long and arduous, Latter-day Saint couples who lived far away from temples were permitted to be sealed in marriage outside them.
I find this fascinating. The Mormon temples exist for three basic purposes. Baptisms for the dead, endowments, and marriage sealings. That literally constitutes 95% of all the tasks that occur in the temple if you include the custodial, and clerical work. If marriage sealings can be done outside of the temples, and still be considered valid in the eyes of god, what other temple ordinances can be done outside of a temple. I would love to throw up a miniature version of a viel in my front yard, made from plywood and chicken wire with sheets draped over it, just to do endowment ceremonies for all to see outside the bleached white walls of the temple. That may draw some attention, but at least the ritual would be valid in gods opinion, because he apparently doesn't actually care if Mormon ritual shit is done in a temple or not.
I really hope that any never-Mormon people that are listening became interested with the whole viel thing I just described, because that's all part of the temple ceremonies we will be covering when Joe ascends to a master free-mason. But it's waaaay too much to jump into now.
The ledger of “marriages and sealings performed outside the temple,” which is not comprehensive, lists 315 marriages performed between October 17, 1890, and September 8, 1903.36 Of the 315 marriages recorded in the ledger, research indicates that 25 (7.9%) were plural marriages and 290 were monogamous marriages (92.1%).
This is citing a historical document in the church history library. I don't have access to it, nor does the general internet public so we can't verify the accuracy of this study without seeing the book in person. However, the Lds.org page that has this essay we've been reading, and citation, does expound a little on the topic. It's unclear how accurate the information is, as it was not a historical document that existed for the sole purpose of recording plural vs. Singular marriages, it only existed to document marriages that happened outside the confines of temple walls, and it even did fairly poorly at that. There was something that this essay says referring to the historical document that I want to highlight, honestly, I kind of find it disturbing, it's something it said at the beginning of this paragraph we just started reading. It said "the ledger of marriages WHICH IS NOT COMPREHENSIVE, lists 315 marriages performed in a 13 year period. These are the only ones we have positive proof of and can verify as plural or singular. The church readily admitted that there were marriages that were unaccounted for, and we truly can't know how many marriages were performed. Actually, some of the events that happen after the Manifesto was voted on, pretty well assure that multi-wivery abounded throughout Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Canada, Mexico and probably almost anywhere that had a concentration of isolated mormons during that time. I wanted to point that out to illustrate that we need to research all sides of a claim when it is made, and I intend to do that when I dive further into polygamy.
Almost all the monogamous marriages recorded were performed in Arizona or Mexico. Of the 25 plural marriages, 18 took place in Mexico, 3 in Arizona, 2 in Utah, and 1 each in Colorado and on a boat on the Pacific Ocean. Overall, the record shows that plural marriage was a declining practice and that Church leaders were acting in good conscience to abide by the terms of the Manifesto as they understood them. (Apparently it's all in the interpretation when it comes to god and divine revelation. Weird how that works)
The exact process by which these marriages were approved remains unclear. For a time, post-Manifesto plural marriages required the approval of a member of the First Presidency. There is no definitive evidence, however, that the decisions were made by the First Presidency as a whole; President Woodruff, for example, typically referred requests to allow new plural marriages to President Cannon for his personal consideration. (Oh yea and two apostles resigned because they considered polygamy holier than the manifesto from their prophet. Can an apostle do that? Growing up in the church, I never saw an apostle resign because of disagreements within the quorum, I didn't think that was a thing. I mean they are all sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators twice a year by every mormon that watches conference so how the hell can there be disagreements as to god's will?? It makes no SENSE!!) By the late 1890s, at least some of the men who had authority to perform sealings apparently considered themselves free to either accept or reject requests at their own discretion, independent of the First Presidency. Apostle Heber J. Grant, for example, reported that while visiting Mormon settlements in Mexico in 1900, he received 10 applications in a single day requesting plural marriages. He declined them all. “I confess,” he told a friend, “that it has always gone against my grain to have any violations of documents [i.e. the Manifesto] of this kind.”39
It just blatantly said that some of the apostles took liberty to okay a marriage without the approval of the rest of the quorum. Who was running this thing? Where was the peaceful accord among God's finest 15?
The Second Manifesto
At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church. When discovered, these marriages troubled many Americans, especially after President George Q. Cannon stated in an 1899 interview with the New York Herald that new plural marriages might be performed in Canada and Mexico.40 After the election of B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, to the U.S. Congress, it became known that Roberts had three wives, one of whom he married after the Manifesto. A petition of 7 million signatures demanded that Roberts not be seated. Congress complied, and Roberts was barred from his office.
Well, we just voted in Gordon Klinginschmidt to be a senator of colorado, but at least he doesn't have three wives simultaneously. One wife and a harem of concubines? There's no evidence of that, but he's a politician and that seems entirely possible. But at least he doesn't let the whole world know it. B.H. Roberts probably had an agenda, and didn't seem too apologetic about it, actively having 3 wives when he was running.
The exclusion of B. H. Roberts opened Mormon marital practices to renewed scrutiny. Church President Lorenzo Snow issued a statement clarifying that new plural marriages had ceased in the Church and that the Manifesto extended to all parts of the world, counsel he repeated in private. Even so, a small number of new plural marriages continued to be performed, probably without President Snow’s knowledge or approval. After Joseph F. Smith became Church President in 1901, a small number of new plural marriages were also performed during the early years of his administration. (He must have been excited to stretch his new prophets legs and get a good ol' fashion daughterswap goin with some of his pals.)
The Church’s role in these marriages became a subject of intense debate after Reed Smoot, an Apostle, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1903. Although Smoot was a monogamist, his apostleship put his loyalty to the country under scrutiny. How could Smoot both uphold the laws of the Church, some of whose officers had performed, consented to, or participated in new plural marriages, and uphold the laws of the land, which made plural marriage illegal? For four years legislators debated this question in lengthy public hearings. (Just what we love in congress, fighting over meaningless dogshit personal topics and ignoring the big topics at hand. At least we can empathize with that.)
The Senate called on many witnesses to testify. Church President Joseph F. Smith took the stand in the Senate chamber in March 1904. When asked, he defended his family relationships, telling the committee that he had cohabited with his wives and fathered children with them since 1890. He said it would be dishonorable of him to break the sacred covenants he had made with his wives and with God. When questioned about new plural marriages performed since 1890, President Smith carefully distinguished between actions sanctioned by the Church and ratified in Church councils and conferences, and the actions undertaken by individual members of the Church. “There never has been a plural marriage by the consent or sanction or knowledge or approval of the church since the manifesto,” he testified.43
In this legal setting, President Smith sought to protect the Church while stating the truth. His testimony conveyed a distinction Church leaders had long understood: the Manifesto removed the divine command for the Church collectively to sustain and defend plural marriage; it had not, up to this time, prohibited individuals from continuing to practice or perform plural marriage as a matter of religious conscience.
Not only were they blatantly ignoring the recommendation that was stated in the manifesto, but they considered it to be a hollow legal document that was brandished to get statehood. They continued practicing without remorse for many years after the manifesto, which was also against the states constitution. I can't figure out why people didn't want them in congress or the senate.....
The time was right for a change in this understanding. A majority of Mormon marriages had always been monogamous, and a shift toward monogamy as the only approved form had long been underway. In 1889, a lifelong monogamist was called to the Quorum of the Twelve; after 1897, every new Apostle called into the Twelve, with one exception, was a monogamist at the time of his appointment.44 Beginning in the 1890s, as Church leaders urged members to remain in their native lands and “build Zion” in those places rather than immigrate to Utah as in previous years, it became important for them to abide the laws mandating monogamy.
During his Senate testimony, President Smith promised publicly to clarify the Church’s position about plural marriage. At the April 1904 general conference, President Smith issued a forceful statement, known as the Second Manifesto, attaching penalties to entering into plural marriage: “If any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage he will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules and regulations thereof and excommunicated therefrom.”45This statement had been approved by the leading councils of the Church and was unanimously sustained at the conference as authoritative and binding on the Church.46
The Second Manifesto was a watershed event. For the first time, Church members were put on notice that new plural marriages stood unapproved by God and the Church. The Second Manifesto expanded the reach and scope of the first. “When [the Manifesto] was given,” Elder Francis M. Lyman, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained, “it simply gave notice to the Saints that they need not enter plural marriage any longer, but the action taken at the conference held in Salt Lake City on the 6th day of April 1904 [the Second Manifesto] made that manifesto prohibitory."
A-maze-balls, once again this was not a ban on polygamy, it only banned NEW polygamist marriages. And any violator of the rule would go through the "Church Tribunal" to determine guilt which was a total wink-nod to anybody that still wanted to do it. Even better than that, it gave the leadership more control over who could have lots of wives. Also, any marriages that were currently active when the second manifesto came out, were never anulled or dissolved, they were simply grandfathered in. So, anybody, whether they were a higher up, or just your average church goer, that wanted another wife, could just bump elbows with the apostles and whisper "Hey, your not gunna tell the government on me are ya?". And then that shit was done and swept under the rug, with liability resting equally on the shoulders of every polygamist man. Well done church, I have to admit. You guys got the Government off your back, and fundy factions of mormonism still practice polygamy to this day, because it's an eternal commandment of god, that was never officially retracted by the church.
Church leaders acted to communicate the seriousness of this declaration to leaders and members at all levels. President Lyman sent letters to each member of the Quorum of the Twelve, by direction of the First Presidency, advising them that the Second Manifesto would be “strictly enforced.”48 Contrary to direction, two Apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, continued to perform and encourage new plural marriages after the Second Manifesto. They were eventually dropped from the quorum.49 Taylor was later excommunicated from the Church after he insisted on his right to continue to perform plural marriages. Cowley was restricted from using his priesthood and later admitted that he had been “wholly in error.” (these guys probably just got caught by the wrong person, or fucked up somehow, and the other apostles didn't like them actin a fool, so they got the axe)
Some couples who entered into plural marriage between 1890 and 1904 separated after the Second Manifesto, but many others quietly cohabited into the 1930s and beyond.51 Church members who rejected the Second Manifesto and continued to publicly advocate plural marriage or undertake new plural marriages were summoned to Church disciplinary councils. Some who were excommunicated coalesced into independent movements and are sometimes called fundamentalists. These groups are not affiliated with or supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (aka Warren Jeffs and his ilk) Since the administration of Joseph F. Smith, Church Presidents have repeatedly emphasized that the Church and its members are no longer authorized to enter into plural marriage and have underscored the sincerity of their words by urging local leaders to bring noncompliant members before Church disciplinary councils.
That was vague and broad enough. The reality is, the LDS church tries its damndest to stay as far separated from polygamist sects as it possibly can. Not only does the church not bring members into these "Disciplinary councils", but it instead tries to stay divorced from the fundies and wash it's hands of the situation altogether. The church wouldn't survive the PR nightmare of ripping polygamist families apart on national news, and they are well aware of that fact. There may be a small handful of these situations where disciplinary action was taken, but let's not kid ourselves, the LDS church prosecuted polygamy the same way the Catholic church prosecutes priests that are buttfucking little kids, which is to say, almost not at all.
Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s standard for marriage, unless He declares otherwise, which He did through His prophet, Joseph Smith. (This totally allows for plural marriage later on if the practice is ever considered socially acceptable. The only thing that would need to happen is the current prophet revelating the ban off of polygamy. It could be done in an afternoon with the proper motivation and societal allowances.) The Manifesto marked the beginning of the return to monogamy, which is the standard of the Church today. (Even though it might not be tomorrow) Speaking at general conference soon after the Manifesto was given, President George Q. Cannon reflected on the revelatory process that brought the Manifesto about: “The Presidency of the Church have to walk just as you walk,” he said. “They have to take steps just as you take steps. They have to depend upon the revelations of God as they come to them. They cannot see the end from the beginning, as the Lord does.” “All that we can do,” Cannon said, speaking of the First Presidency, “is to seek the mind and will of God, and when that comes to us, though it may come in contact with every feeling that we have previously entertained, we have no option but to take the step that God points out, and to trust to Him.”
That was the end of the first of the two essays on plural marriages in
the early church. You may be asking why it didn't talk about Joseph
Smith at all. Me too, in fact, everybody was wondering that when the
first essay was released. So the church almost immediately released the
second essay entitled Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo. The first
essay that we just finished reading has a lot of really good
information, and is cited well. However, I can't help but think there
might be some information left out.
This essay only talked about the manifestos and the practice of polygamy shortly leading up to and shortly after 1890. Joe had been dead for over 45 years when the first manifesto was released, but the entire doctrine of polygamy was more or less his brain child. I want to analyze the second essay waaaay more than this one, because it'll have some real dirt on Joe that the church has been hush-hushing or blatantly denying for so long. But, this episode has gone on way too long, and there is waaaay too much info on the second essay to contain in this episode with it's analysis. Luckily, the second essay is almost 900 words shorter than the first one, so it might not be quite as painful to go through with a fine toothed comb.
But anyway, that's it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed the information offered, even if it was a little dry. I hope you join me next time for the full reading and analysis of the second essay, which is the one about Joseph Smith, that has raised so much controversy in recent news. I still don't have very many subscribers, nor have I received much feedback on the show. But I'm really curious to see if all you listeners are enjoying what's here. I would love some feedback or recommendations to make the show better. Just to let you know, I will be jumping back into church history with David Whitmer in episode 8, so if that's what you are listening to the podcast for, please hang in there for a little bit longer. Also, hit me up on facebook, and twitter, or leave an itunes rating, preferably positive, so the show can reach a more broad audience. Only if you think the show is worthy of it though.
Anywho, thanks for listening. Talk at ya next time, here, on the Naked Mormonism podcast.
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