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99A “on this episode” - “Mormons in Kenya”
Rest of 99 A
99 B C with New segment “The Angel’s Trumpet”
History to Epilogue
Rest of 99 B C
Ep 99 – I’ve Had Enough Trouble with This Thing
On this episode, we wrap up 1841 and get into early 1842. Jo revises the Book of Mormon and calls it the most correct book of any on the earth. Ebenezer Robinson’s belief in the morality of monogamy likely conflicts with his position as chief editor of the Times and Season so Brigham Young has to step in and stop that from being a problem. The book of Abraham is finally published and we discuss how many wives Jo took in the rest of 1841 and 1842 alone, his most active year in building his harem. After that we discuss a recent Deseret News headline reporting on President Nelson’s sermon to a congregation of Mormons in Kenya.
Ebenzer Robinson “Not Enough Trouble”
Ebenezer Robinson Autobiography
Manuscript History of Brigham Young
“The Return” edited by Ebenezer Robinson
Times and Seasons editorial roles
History of the Church vol. 4
Children of Joseph Smith
Church Membership Growth Rates
LDS Growth Trend Case Studies
Nelson – ‘Dowry is not the Lord’s way’
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Joseph Smith gave a sermon on November 28, 1841 in a small council with some select elders.
“I spent the day in the council with the Twelve Apostles at the house of President Young conversing with them upon a variety of subjects. Brother Joseph Fielding was present, having been absent four years on a mission to England. I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
Mormons today are quick to parrot this same line. The Book of Mormon may have some issues, but it’s the most correct book of any book on earth. This assertion is far too problematic to contend with here, but I’ll just say, if the Book of Mormon is indeed the most correct book on the planet, why have hundreds of apologists and scholars been working to prove its most basic truth claims to no avail for more than a century? Truth is self-evident and doesn’t require faith for it to be true. A rock is always a rock regardless of how many people want to sincerely believe it’s actually a phaser-gun.
Prior to the death of Don Carlos Smith, Don’s good friend, Ebenezer Robinson had begun a project to publish a Nauvoo edition of the Book of Mormon. Robinson was sent on a mission to Cincinnati to collect the paper and typeset for this purpose in mid-1840. The mission was met with measured success. Robinson was able to find a typeset and paper at a reasonable price in Cincinnati and put them on board a steamer headed for Nauvoo.
“I soon found the other foundry, and as I entered the office, I saw three gentlemen standing by the desk, in conversation. I asked if Messrs. Gleason and Shepherd were in. A gentleman stepped forward and said, "My name is Gleason." I said, "I have come to get the Book of Mormon stereotyped." Mr. Shepherd stepped forward and said, "When that book is stereotyped I am the man to stereotype it." I then handed him the book and told him what size type I wanted it done in. He took the book and went to a case of type the size I had named, and set up one line and counted the ems in the line, then counted the number of lines in the page and multiplied the two numbers together, and then counted the number of pages in the book, and multiplied the number of pages by the number of ems in a page, when he said the stereotyping would amount to five hundred and fifty dollars. I told him that I had one hundred dollars to pay in hand, and would pay two hundred and fifty dollars more in three months, or while he was doing the work, and the remaining two hundred dollars within three months after the work was done. He said he would do that, and sat down and immediately wrote out a contract accordingly, which we both signed, which contract I have to this day.
I then told him I wished to see a bookbinder and contract for the binding of two thousand copies of the book. He said I will go with you to a good bookbinder around on Main Street, and taking me by the arm, we went directly to the bookbinder, who said he would bind two thousand copies in good leather for two hundred and fifty dollars; which was twelve and a half cents apiece.”
Robinson had the contract signed for 2,000 copies of the Book of Mormon to be printed by a gentile printer. However, it was run by the prophet before the final manuscript went to print. From EoM.byu.edu:
“Joseph Smith compared the printed text with the original manuscript and discovered a number of errors made in copying the printer's manuscript from the original. Thus the 1840 edition restores some of the readings of the original manuscript.”
Ebenezer Robinson would continue in printing jobs connected with Mormonism for the rest of his life. He wrote of the circumstance surrounding the whereabouts of the original manuscript in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting which Jo used to correct printing errors for this Nauvoo 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon.
In 1889, Ebenezer Robinson began working as editor and printer for the Whitmerite Church periodical known as “The Return”. In the August 1890 edition, Robinson gave his first-hand account of an interesting occurrence right before the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Nauvoo Temple in April 1841.
“After the brethren had assembled at the southeast corner of the foundation, where the corner stone was to be laid, President Joseph Smith said: ‘Wait, brethren, I have a document I wish to put in that stone,’ and started for his house, which was only a few rods away, across Main Street. I went with him to the house, and also one or two other brethren. He got a manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon, and brought it into the room where we were standing, and said: "I will examine to see if it is all here," and as he did so I stood near him, at his left side, and saw distinctly the writing, as he turned up the pages until he hastily went through the book and satisfied himself that it was all there, when he said: "I have [had] trouble enough with this thing," which remark struck me with amasement, as I looked upon it as a sacred treasure.
It was written on foolscap paper, and formed a package, as the sheets lay flat, of about two or two and a half inches thick, I should judge. It was written mostly in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting, with which I was intimately acquainted, having set many pages of type from his handwriting, in the church printing office at Kirtland, Ohio. Some parts of it were written in other handwriting.
He took the manuscript and deposited it in the corner stone of the Nauvoo House, together with other papers and things, including different pieces of United States' coin. I put in some copies of the Times and Seasons; all were carefully encased in sheet lead to protect the contents from moisture, and a stone had been cut to closely fit into the cavity which had been made in the corner stone to receive these things, which stone was fitted in its place and cemented, when it was thought the papers and other articles would be preserved without decay or injury for ages, if not disturbed.”
“I have [had] trouble enough with this thing”. From the mouth of Joseph Smith when talking about the Original Manuscript of the BoM after the 1840 Nauvoo edition of the BoM had been published, he’d had trouble enough with this thing. But, to be clear, the Book of Mormon had caused a lot of trouble for Jo. He didn’t just publish the 1830 edition and rest on his laurels, he was caught up in constant revision, correction, and interpretation of his seminal work since it hit bookshelves.
It should be noted at this time, as we’ve previously discussed, Ebenezer Robinson was opposed to polygamy as Jo was beginning to ramp it up in mid to late 1841. It was secretive, but the rumors were becoming too abundant to ignore. Since the death of Don Carlos Smith in August of 1841, Robinson was left as sole editor of the Times and Seasons. To fill the gap and meet the editorial workload of the Times and Seasons, a friend of Robinson’s by the name of Gustavus Hill was brought in to
The Church periodical needed to be under Jo’s control in order to make sure unapproved information didn’t make its way into the Church’s primary propaganda arm. The brethren met to determine what should be done when the Times and Seasons was beginning to wander slightly out of their control. In addition to their concerns about the Times and Seasons, the brethren had somehow flipped on whether or not Ebenezer Robinson had full approval to publish the 1840 Nauvoo Book of Mormon along with other standard works. Remember, the 1840 Nauvoo edition had been edited by and given the approval of Joseph Smith. However, in late 1841 and early 1842, that prior approval of the prophet was coming into question given Robinson’s later handling of certain information making its way into the Times and Seasons.
In a December 1841 conference with the elders, a motion was brought up for discussion.
Vogel HoC 4:457
“Attended a council of the Twelve Apostles at President B. Young’s. Present, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Pratt, Lyman Wight, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.
It was voted that Ebenezer Robinson be solicited to give up the department of printing the Times and Seasons to Elder Willard Richards.
Voted that if Bro. Robinson does not comply with this solicitation, Elder Richards be instructed to procure a press and type, and publish a paper for the Church.
Moved by Elder Young, and seconded by Elder Woodruff, that Lyman Wight and John Taylor present these resolutions to brother Robinson.”
Ebenezer Robinson was skating awfully close to the line of apostasy. The brethren decided the Times and Seasons was getting out of control and needed to be reined in. This is how information was controlled in the early Church. People were allowed to publish anything they wanted about the Church, as long as it wasn’t critical and the content passed the approval of the brethren first. We couldn’t have any of those hard truths getting out there and poisoning the well of all the eager gentile investigators.
In January of 1842, Brigham Young tells of the meetings concerning the printing office and the grade of propaganda Ebenezer Robinson was publishing. From the Manuscript History of Bloody Brigham Young.
“--17-- I met in council with the Twelve at Joseph's office. We consulted in relation to the printing and publishing, the council being unanimously opposed to E. [Ebenezer] Robinson's publishing the Book of Mormon, and other standard works of the Church, without being counseled so to do by the First Presidency…
We returned to Nauvoo on the 27th.
--28-- The Lord having revealed, through Joseph, that the Twelve should take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, I bought the printing establishment, for and in behalf of the Church, from Ebenezer Robinson, at a very exorbitant price. The reason I paid such a price was, because the Prophet directed the Twelve to pay him whatever he asked. One item of his bill was $800, for the privilege of publishing the Times and Seasons, or goodwill of the office.”
Just like in last episode, when Jo was in a sticky situation, Bloody Brigham Young asserted his position as unofficial right-hand man by bailing Jo out. Brigham always had a little money squirrelled away which really came in handy when Robinson wanted $800 just for the name of the Times and Seasons, which says nothing of the asking price for the press and typeset.
Here are the actual terms of the contract from the HoC 4:502:
“Friday Feb 4th, 1842… Closed a contract with Ebenezer Robinson for the printing office on the corner of Bain and Water Streets, also the paper, fixtures, bookbindery, and sterotype foundry, by proxy, namely Willard Richards, cost between 7 and 8,000 dollars…” ($220k in 2017 dollars)
It should be noted that Brigham’s action was begrudgingly done in response to a revelation Jo gave concerning the printing press which corresponds with this Jan 28, 1842 revelation from the HoC 4:492
“I received the following revelation to the Twelve concerning the Times and Seasons, given Jan 28, 1842:--
Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons according to that manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord. Amen.”
With that revelation delivered through Joseph Smith and the corresponding entry in the Manuscript History of Brigham Young, the printing press, typeset, and name of the Times and Seasons were transferred from Ebenezer Robinson to Brigham Young on behalf of the Church. The Times and Seasons started as an independent propaganda publication of the Church, now it was time to put it into the hands of brethren who more closely shared Jo’s covert interests. The Times and Seasons may have been purchased by Bloody Brigham, but he transferred the ownership to the Church, and Jo assumed the role of chief editor for a very short time.
Jo’s editorial role in the Times and Seasons was largely ceremonial. White-out Willard Richards was quickly employed as the editor who was doing the majority of the grunt work while Jo was too busy to actually contribute an editor’s pen to the daily grind of regular printing duties. A few days after this transaction was made, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff were appointed to management positions of the printing office per Brigham Young’s manuscript history. While Jo did acquire the position of editor 2 weeks after this, his time was so fully absorbed in other affairs that editing and printing duties regularly defaulted to White-out Willard Richards, John Taylor and Willy-goat Wilford Woodruff.
So, what were these other affairs which so completely occupied Joseph Smith? Well, marital affairs under the guise of righteous polygyny was a major occupation of his. We’ll get to that in a minute.
We’ve covered, seemingly ad nauseum, Jo’s various business enterprises to build his kingdom on the Mississippi. Everything needed to be constructed from the ground up and eager businessmen were eager to capitalize on the Mormon refugees. Land prices were fluctuating quicker than bitcoin, public works projects were dreamt up and commissioned, yet never completed. A constant influx and outpouring of people moving in and out of Nauvoo, Saint and gentile alike, in hopes of gaining their salvation or American dream respectively. The dividing line between friend and foe waxed blurry with every newcomer inducted into the ranks of trusted elder of the Church. Popular press was constantly ignoring the best parts of Mormonism and overstating the worst parts with no real idea of what was truly going on behind closed doors in Nauvoo. A constant stream of propaganda needed to flow from Nauvoo to combat the overwhelming negativity with which the majority of the populous viewed the deluded, fanatical sect. Politicians needed coercion and lobbying, judges needed to be reminded of their place, and apostates needed punishment.
Here’s a fun little excerpt from Bloody Brigham about just one apostate who started to gain a bit too much notoriety to ignore.
“March --11-- Attended the high council, at the trial of Francis Gladden Bishop, who had set himself up as a prophet and revelator to the Church. After his revelations were read, which were a bundle of nonsense and folly, they were committed to the flames, and he was cut off from the Church, and delivered over to the buffetings of Satan.”
Apostasy was still a manageable problem in Nauvoo, wait another 2 years and that will cease to be the case. These were all pressures convoluting to make life rather challenging for the 37-year-old prophet.
Then, tragedy struck in the Smith household again. Joseph and Emma Smith’s child bearing was fraught with difficulties from their first child in 1828 which lived for a few hours but was so disfigured that little Alvin wasn’t viable. The twins, Thaddeus and Louisa, both died a few hours after childbirth due to being born premature. Of their adopted twins, Joseph and Julia Murdock, Joseph had perished in 1832 before reaching 1 year of age due to complications of sickness. Finally, Joseph Smith III was born in November of 1832, he reached maturity and would eventually lead the LDS reorganization in the early 1860s. He would only make it to twelve years old before his father was assassinated in Carthage.
Frederick Granger Williams Smith, born in 1836, would make it to 25 years old before he passed away during the early stages of the reorganization. Alexander Hale Smith would age to maturity and live a ripe 81 years by his brother, Joseph III’s, side as a leading figure of the RLDS.
You can go listen back to episode 94 when we talked about the death of Joseph’s brother and son, both named Don Carlos. Joseph’s son was a mere 14 months old when he died, adding yet one more tragedy to an already stressed marriage fraught with hardship.
On 6 Feb, 1842, Joseph and Emma had yet another child who was stillborn. Familial tragedies always take their toll on any person, but for somebody like Joseph Smith, who was already stressed with so many other irons in the fire, we can truly never know what the death of yet another child did to him and Emma.
Personal tragedy was yet one more pressure to add in the mix. Joseph also had a very unique business proposition coming along in March of 1842, exhibiting Egyptian papyri written by the hand of father Abraham himself.
From HoC 4:508:
“Thursday, March 1, 1842.—During the forenoon I was at my office and the printing office, correcting the first plate or cut of the records of Father Abraham, prepared by Reuben Hedlock, for the Times and Seasons, and in council in my office, in the afternoon;… at which time I explained many important principles in relation to progressive improvement in the scale of intelligent existence.
I commenced publishing my translations of the Book of Abraham in the Times and Seasons,…”
Yes everybody, we’ve arrived at the Book of Abraham. All this time 2.5 years podcasting on Mormon history and we’ve finally made it to the polarizing Book of Abraham. And I hate to do this, but we’re going to withhold a proper examination of it for another day. I’m sorry to blueball everybody on this bucket of fun, but we have a few other aspects of early 1842 Nauvoo history slated for the next couple episodes, after which we’ll do the Book of Abraham a proper service with adequate due diligence.
1842 was Jo’s most active year for taking polygamous wives. 1841 ended with Jo having taken Lousia Beaman, Zina Diantha Huntington, and Presendia Lathrop Huntington. Those were his Nauvoo sealings as of December 1841. Fanny Alger in Kirtland and Lucinda Pendleton Morgan in Missouri were always Jo’s first polygamous wives, but Nauvoo was a new grand theatre in which he could conduct and solemnize dozens of marriages with little repercussions.
In 1842 alone, Jo took Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, widow of his recently deceased younger brother, Don Carlos Smith, Sylvia Sessions, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Patty Bartlett Sessions, Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde, Elizabeth Davis, Sarah Kingsley, Delcena Johnson, Eliza R. Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney, and
Martha McBride. That’s 11 of Jo’s 33 wives married to him just from Jan-Aug 1842. Nancy Maria Winchester may be wife #12 as the surviving information surrounding her sealing are comparatively less abundant being taken from a scant 2 accounts which claimed she was one of Jo’s wives. If we can ascribe an 1842 date to their marriage, Winchester would have been 14 when she married Joseph Smith. Most historians have dated their marriage in 1843, putting her at 15, but the evidence is so incredibly scant that historians can’t be certain of a proper date for their marriage.
It is interesting to note that Benjamin Winchester, older brother to Nancy, was called into a disciplinary council on Jan 12, 1842. The details surrounding this council go no further than Brigham Young’s manuscript history with this entry:
“--12-- Met in council with the Twelve, and suspended Benjamin Winchester for disobedience to the First Presidency.”
That was the older brother to Nancy Winchester who was disciplined in Jan, 1842 for disobedience, historians have no further knowledge concerning the details of what Benjamin did to deserve derision from the Council of Apostles. The dating of Benjamin Winchester’s discipline and the coinciding marriage to Nancy Winchester with unknown dating sometime from Jan 1842 to Nov 1843 presents a possible confluence of events where historians could closer date Jo’s courting efforts of Nancy, even if the marriage itself wouldn’t happen for many months after this disciplinary council of Benjamin.
A simple hypothetical could be constructed to explain the available evidence. Jo was spending a little too much time around Nancy Winchester, maybe getting a little too friendly, and her older brother started asking too many questions and was called in and disciplined for disobedience. Benjamin was disparaged and his concerns of Jo’s affinity towards his little sister, Nancy, were well-founded as Jo continued to court and coerce her for a number of months before he finally popped the question. This scenario isn’t theoretical, it’s hypothetical, but it seems to explain the available evidence in my mind. You judge it for yourself.
Here's what Todd Compton writes of Nancy Maria Winchester’s marriage to the prophet from 606 of In Sacred Lonliness:
“On May 27, 1842, Nancy Maria herself was inducted into the Relief Society. Nancy Winchester, probably the mother, continued to contribute to the society in 1842. On July 28, 1843, she was appointed to a four-woman committee in the Nauvoo Third Ward “to search out the poor and suffering—To call on the rich for aid and thus as far as possible relieve the wants of all.”
Nancy Maria must have married joseph Smith at about this time. Our best evidence for the union is Andrew Jenson, who lists “Maria Winchester” as one of Smith’s wives; in addition, Orson Whitney, the son of Nancy Maria’s friend, Helen, also identified her as a Smith wife. These two witnesses, taken together, make a good case for Nancy as a plural spouse of Joseph. Though there is no date for her marriage to the prophet, the best hypothesis is that the ceremony took place in 1843, since the last recorded plural marriage to Smith took place on November 2, 1843. If so, she became his wife at the age of fourteen or fifteen. Nothing more is known of this union.”
We must continue to keep polygamy in mind moving forward. The weight of polygamy on Jo’s decision-making is worth taking note of. Look, a person’s sexuality doesn’t necessarily affect who they are. There’s nothing saying unequivocally that cis-hetero monogamy is the optimal sexuality. There are a lot of claims out there that this is the best system and anything other than cis-hetero monogamy is somehow disgusting or evil, but no real evidence to substantiate said claims. The fact that Jo wanted to have sex with so many women has absolutely zero impact on who he is as a human being. How his sexual desires impacted who he was as a human being and the decisions he made in order to realize his desires.
There’s the inherent hypocrisy in preaching chastity and excommunicating people for “unchristianlike conduct with women” while simultaneously having a harem of concubines. People feel rightfully betrayed by such a discrepancy in doctrine and practice of the founding father of Mormonism. But also, if you want to have sex with a bunch of people, just go do it! Don’t tell people they can’t and then make religious exemptions for you to do it. Also, don’t lie to your partners about your other partners. Honesty and transparency keeps poly relationships alive and consensual. Just keep it among informed consenting adults. Now we can argue about the definitions of those three crucial words, but those are the criteria for a moral relationship, all other details are merely incidental.
My point with this digression is that Jo was violating all of those criteria and was being dishonest with his relationships and allowed absolutely no transparency. That’s 5 strikes against the way Joseph Smith conducted himself sexually. A person’s sexuality isn’t important to who they are, but the decisions they make to satisfy those desires are what deserve our attention.
It’s not irrational to conclude that Ebenezer Robinson was removed from his job of editor and printer of the Times and Seasons because he wasn’t friendly to the idea that the prophet may have some girlfriends in addition to Emma. It’s not irrational to conclude that Benjamin Winchester was punished for asking too many questions when the prophet got a little too friendly with his teenage sister.
Decisions were made by Jo and his trusted elites which enabled him to violate all the criteria for healthy poly relationships. Jo used his position of prominence in his community to coerce women of all ages into non-consensual relationships, all while keeping all the relationships secretive through complete dishonesty and corruption. He did this all while preaching monogamy and chastity from his Christian bully-pulpit.
When the assertion is made that Joseph had 33 wives and therefore did something immoral, we lose sight of why what he did was wrong. A lot of incredibly good and moral people have had 33 partners in their lives. A lot of good and moral people have never had a partner. A lot of terrible people have had dozens or no partners whatsoever. Simply put, the number of people with whom we have intimate relationships has no bearing on who we are as a human. Those relationships may alter who we are, but the number has no impact on who we are or how moral we are as a human being. How we acquire those relationships is where character judgements can be made. That’s where the conversations that matter should be focused.
Naked Mormonism isn’t just a show about Mormon history. From time to time headlines crop up with the modern Brighamite sect of Mormonism which deserve our attention. For this purpose, we need our own news segment which leads us to proudly debut, “The Angel’s Trumpet”.
It couldn’t be counted on any number of hands how many talks have been given in Church and General Conference on the importance of tithing. From seemingly innocuous talks about a person paying their tithing when they’re in a tough situation and a forgotten bank account emerging with the exact amount the family needed, to talks about a single mother choosing between fixing her car to get to work to feed her children and still paying tithing in spite of financial hardships; these talks can be found in wardhouses nearly every month and every general conference has at least one talk on tithing. From a belief perspective and, more importantly, a business perspective, tithing is crucial to the LDS business model. When tithing was made strictly mandatory in the early 1900s, the Church was recovering from serious financial destitution whilst attempting to be accepted into the mainstream of American Christianity and reap all the benefits it affords. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s that a temple was built outside of North America, and that was in a rich European country. The 70s and 80s were really good for the Church and many other extremely wealthy corporations. Since the 50s the Church has acquired hundreds of thousands of acres for cattle ranching, orchards, and commercial developments, built multiple commercial shopping centers and owns media, insurance, and counselling services in addition to multiple non-profit food production companies, thrift stores, and psychiatric and family services.
The integral piece to making this whole system run successfully is the income the Church pulls in from tithing. This money is essentially untraceable for any outside watchdog committees and it’s completely tax-free. Arguments can be made that making donations tax-free and tax-deductible can stimulate non-profit organizations to provide social goods and services where government or for-profit entities might be lacking. You give a church a tax break, maybe they’ll build a hospital or school, or commission some wells to be dug, or at very least provide spiritual guidance and a sense of community to impoverished areas. The arguments can be made that this is a good thing, but those arguments have little applicability to what we see really play out in practice. I’m not saying whether the arguments are good or flawed, just that they can be raised and deserve to be contended with appropriately.
What we’re about to discuss, I believe, reveals a bit about the Church’s priorities and current status. In episode 97, Lawsuits, politics, and temples, we discussed much of the church’s financial and political outlook given some indicators provided during April 2018 General Conference; I’d recommend listening to it if you haven’t as a precursor to this segment. The relevant information is that we can easily track the Church’s growth by where they build temples. Tithing is a compulsory tenet for temple attendance so the Church puts temples in areas where the tithing income will pay for the temple.
If we’re to believe growth indicators by the Church’s own published statistics, it’s simply hemorrhaging members right now. With the constant death rate of the older Mormons made up of the of greatest and baby boomer generations along with the younger Gen X and Millennial generations simply not attending anymore, the Church may actually be experiencing a historic negative growth. Tithing income would be the best indicator of what current membership really looks like, but those numbers aren’t available to the outside so we simply have to view the statistics made available and extrapolate possible conclusions based on that information.
This negative growth trend is noted by believing and ex-believing forums alike. From a believer’s blog in an article titled “4 Things every member can do to reverse the record low baptism rates”
“The growth of the Church is stalling. The number of convert baptisms is at a 30 year low. Missionary effectiveness as measured in Missionary to Convert ratio has plummeted through the floor to a 40 year low. And the growth percentage of the church is at a 50 year low. We effectively have twice as many missionaries as we did in the 80’s, yet we are having the same amount of convert baptisms, if not less.”
From a faithful blog on Cumorah.com.
“As of late December, the Church in the United States reported no net change for the number of congregations for the entire year. To contrast, the Chruch in the United States has historically reported a net increase of 100-150 new wards/branches a year during the past decade…
Membership growth rates have also continued to decelerate. Annual membership growth rates decreased to the lowest level reported by the Church since 1988 during 2016 (.9%). To contrast, the Church generally reported annual membership growth rates of approximately 2.0% in the late 1990s and early 2000s, approximately 1.5% between the mid-2000s and early 2010s, and approximately 1.0% in the mid-2010s. Decreases in the number of convert baptisms due to the increasing influence of secularism on society, ineffective or inconsistent proselytism approaches, higher mortality rates among Latter-day Saints due to an aging LDS population, and reduced birth rates have all appeared to contribute to this noticeable decline in American membership growth during the twenty-first century.”
This same article posts other hold ups including lack of progress in Mexico, congregational decline in South Korea, stake/ward/branch consolidations in Europe due to stagnation, a Russian mission closing, and overall lack of progress in Asia.
But, one place with astronomical growth is Africa. Some indicators show Church growth to be hovering around a solid 7.5-8% compared to less than 1% in America.
‘Dowry is not the Lord’s way’: In Kenya, LDS President Nelson says tithing breaks poverty cycle
Published: April 16, 2018 8:59 pm
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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Anna Waithira has Margaret Wanaki on her back as she lines up to attend a special devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Editor's note: Deseret News and Church News writers are chronicling the ministry of LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson as he and other church officials travel to Europe, Africa and Asia. Tad Walch reports today from Kenya.
NAIROBI, Kenya — To listen Monday to an LDS Church president's voice in person for the first time, East African Mormons traveled hundreds of miles in dust-covered buses, bouncing and swaying over dirt roads, broken streets and omnipresent speedbumps that keep speeds under 50 mph.
They received a message tailored for eastern Africa, where many tribes continue to insist that grooms or their families provide a dowry or pay a price for a bride.
"That's not the Lord's way," President Russell M. Nelson told about 2,000 Kenyans and other Africans Monday night inside a large, oval, wooden event center styled after traditional huts in Nairobi, Kenya. "The Lord's way is to be married in the temple, for time and all eternity, with your children sealed to you."
He added that if he'd had to pay for his wife, "I would have missed five children, because only with my last five was I out of debt."
Ravell Call, Deseret News
President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stand together as President Nelson gives a blessing during a special devotional in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
President Nelson also said tithing can break cycles of poverty in poor nations and families.
"We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation," he said. "That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing."
The law of the tithe was followed by ancient peoples as taught by Old Testament prophets. LDS faithful believe God restored the law and its blessings for those who follow it by giving one-tenth of their income to the church.
Many Africans began saving money and planning their travel more than a month ago to attend what was billed here as a special devotional. It also was the third stop on President Nelson's first international trip since he became the church's leader in January.
He set his watch on the podium and spoke without notes, declaring that those in the audience are pioneers.
"You folks are pioneers right here in Kenya. You might not think of yourself as pioneers, but you're just as much pioneers now as Brigham Young and the Saints were, following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith."
His 35-minute address was worth 16 hours of rough travel, said Palaasi Charles, 49, of Jinja, Uganda.
"Oh, much so. Much so," said Charles, part of a group of 29 Ugandans who left Jinja by bus at 2 p.m. Sunday and arrived in Nairobi at 6 a.m.
They spent the day on a nearby lawn watching and photographing warthogs and baboons and waiting in line to secure seats closest to the podium.
Ravell Call, Deseret News
People line up to attend a special devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
"I wish I'd come with my family," said Charles, a first counselor in the Jinja LDS Stake presidency. He said he will return home and relay the special devotional's messages to his family and the Mormon congregations in his area.
"I will share with them the importance of us having temple recommends," he said, "that tithing is going to break the cycle of poverty, the importance of educating our children and doing away with dowry as part of our culture."
He and others are looking forward to construction of an LDS temple in Nairobi, announced in April 2017. Church leaders have not announced the temple site yet.
"I don't know how long it will take to build that temple," President Nelson said, "but let's have a little contest: See if you can build your lives to be ready and your ancestral documentation to be ready for when the temple comes."
He said it is easier for church leaders to build a temple than it is for them to build a people ready for the temple.
He also emphasized the importance of prophets, the Book of Mormon, the Restoration of the priesthood, family and worshipping Jesus Christ. He said one of the great lessons of his 93-year life is that people are God's children and he speaks to them.
"It's no different for you than it is for me," he said. "You can get personal revelation for your own circumstances, just as naturally as I can for my circumstances. You get it for your family and yourself, and I get it for the whole church."
A total of 67 members of four LDS branches in the Eldoret area 200 miles northwest of Nairobi met at 9 p.m. Sunday, but their bus did not show until 12:30 a.m. They arrived at 7 a.m. and began a 10-hour wait for the meeting.
"We've been planning and preparing to make this trip since we learned he was coming," said Jane Malakwen, a food package maker and second counselor in the Sosiani Branch Relief Society. "We didn't sleep, but we are not tired. We are full of energy to see the prophet.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He is the second prophet to come here in the history of the church."
Ravell Call, Deseret News
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during a special devotional in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley visited in 1998 and 2005.
Another speaker on Monday night, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also encouraged east Africans to prepare for the temple. He asked them to qualify, receive and carry the temple recommend required for entrance, even before the temple is built.
He also asked them to begin recording their family histories and to attend the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa "as often as the circumstances and the finances and transportation will allow."
"Nothing will bless you more," he said, "nothing will unite your family more, nothing will bless your children more, nothing will bless your ancestors more. Quite frankly, there is nothing that will bless you in any way more than your attendance at the temple, a place of peace, a place of revelation, a place of joy, a place of comfort, a place of purity, all the best things in life."
Malakwen made the bumpy trip from Eldoret to Nairobi in part to see Sister Nelson, who said, "My experience over the years has taught me that being in the presence of a righteous African woman and a righteous African man is to be in the presence of spiritual royalty."
Sister Nelson also said the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi built a boat, LDS Church founder Joseph Smith oversaw construction of circular Nauvoo Temple windows and President Nelson pioneered heart surgery by living "not after the manner of men," a Book of Mormon phrase.
"We need to live our lives, build our marriages, increase our means of livelihoods by increasing our knowledge and skills according to the way the Lord would show us, not after the manner of men."
Ravell Call, Deseret News
Rashid Agesa, left, Fidel Martial and Ann Kerubo sing during a special devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Nephi, Joseph Smith and President Nelson instead followed eternal laws, she said.
"Think about something you need," she added. "What would make your life better right now? What are the eternal laws that govern that blessing? What eternal law would you need to live so that you could receive that blessing?"
The eternal law that governs finances is tithing, Sister Nelson said.
Then she said dowry and bride price are manners of men. She relayed a message from one of her African friends, and said "You, the Saints of Kenya, could set an example of joyfully freeing our young people from the chains of this practice and thus begin living 'not after the manner of men.'"
Sister Patricia Holland paid tribute to the Nelsons. She said Sister Nelson's experience as a nurse and a therapist honed a maternal instinct that bolsters everyone around her.
"In fact, she has more confidence in us than we have in ourselves," Sister Holland said.
She said President Nelson is a strong man, but never harsh: "He is one who is of the Savior's gentleness and the Savior's compassion."
The evening was a dream come true, said Sister Laourich Acii, a 23-year-old Ugandan serving in the faith's Kenya Nairobi Mission.
"In a short duration," added James D'Souza, who lives on the outskirts of Nairobi, "he taught us so much."
How this article has been dealt with in my echo chambers has been absolutely delightful to watch. The amount of cognitive dissonance and frustration this action by the prophet has caused in believing circles has been even more fun to watch. It’s abundantly clear that Tad Walch and the Deseret News didn’t understand how the public would deal with this when the article was published and I don’t see any rational way for them to deal with the backlash. This is Dr. Evil stroking a white cat levels of villainy for so many reasons.
Let’s not talk past each other about this. The church spends $40mn a year on humanitarian aid. It organized 60,000 people to help vaccinate African children starting in 2003. It has provided water filtration for 380,000 Africans in 2017 alone. It’s trained thousands of volunteers in 3rd world countries to provide neonatal care and donated 55,000 wheelchairs to disabled people in 2017 alone. This are all good things and the reasons why we provide tax exemption to religions, based on the assumption that the amount they save in not paying taxes will go to help communities in need world-wide. These are all valid arguments that the Church provides for people’s needs worldwide and $40mn/year in humanitarian effort is more than most religions. Let’s validate those arguments and commend the Church on the aid it provides.
With that information in mind, let’s view it with a larger scope. Temples, which can cost anywhere from $5-35 mn to build dependent on land prices and a number of other factors, are one of the Church’s primary investments. They build temples in areas where they can recoup the investment cost from tithing. Eventually temples pay for themselves and begin making the Church money after enough years of regular temple recommend holders paying tithing.
Plans for the Church to expand it’s African market have been in the works since the early 90s and there’s currently a temple in planning stages in Kenya where this meeting was held. From ldschruchtemples.org:
“In February 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley—accompanied by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—embarked on an international tour of five African countries and locations in Canada, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde.
During the afternoon of February 17, 1998, President Hinckley arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, where he addressed some 900 members in a conference room at his hotel. Members were elated to meet the prophet and traveled from as far as Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda to be with him. Because not all could afford a trip to Nairobi, some members joined their money together to send representatives who could come back and relate the experience of being with the prophet of the Lord. During his remarks, President Hinckley said, "There isn't the slightest doubt in my mind that the time will come if you will walk in faith and patience that a temple will be built in this land to serve the needs of this people. Now, don't count on it for a few years,…but it will be so."
Finally, during the April 2017 conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for the Nairobi, Kenya temple. The same article continues:
“It will be the eighth temple constructed on the continent of Africa. There are three operating African temples including the Aba Nigeria Temple, Accra Ghana Temple, and Johannesburg South Africa Temple. Two temples are under construction including the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple and Durban South Africa Temple. And two other temples, in addition to Nairobi, have been announced: the Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple and the Harare Zimbabwe Temple.
There are two stakes and four districts operating in the nation of Kenya with three stakes in neighboring Uganda. Many other Saints living in the outlying regions of East Africa, who currently must travel to the distant Johannesburg South Africa Temple, will be immensely blessed by the Nairobi Kenya Temple.”
Any business model which requires expanding to areas with limited internet access, infrastructure, and a woefully lacking education system to survive should cause anybody to take pause. And let’s wrap this into a central point. The church spends a lot of money on humanitarian aid.
Is the tradeoff of giving the Church billions of dollars in tax breaks worth the millions it gives back to the world in humanitarian aid? Does it spend more time and resources helping people than it does for its own aggrandizement?
A twitter thread perfectly captured the perspective that allows what Nelson said to these Africans to be a moral teaching. I won’t say the handle because I don’t want to dox the person here, but I’ll just read it to you. This is the perspective we need to validate in order to talk about the central issue of whether or not it’s truly moral to ask people living on a dollar a day to give 10% of their money to a multi-billion dollar corporation.
“I see a lot of shade being thrown President Nelson's way for telling poor saints in Africa to pay tithing. I can't speak to their experiences (I have never lived with the poverty some of them have), but I do feel the need to defend tithe paying to those bagging it on Twitter.
Growing up, my parents were poor. Neither of them had the opportunity to attend college, and my dad has spent his entire life working production jobs to provide. They're in a good place now, but when I was a kid, it was rough.
They were on WIC to feed us, and I remember one Christmas my parents had saved everything they had to get me an Easy Bake Oven. We spent several weeks primarily eating Easy Bake recipes because we had nothing else.
Around this time, my parents got really good at paying tithing. The crazy thing is, poor as we were, I never felt it. My dad got hit by a car and couldn't work for six months. They paid what they had in money and time. Cash and food frequently showed up on our doorstep.
I did well enough in school to get scholarships at BYU & USU. I knew my parents couldn't afford tuition. I ended up switching schools the week before school started & though they initially told me it would be impossible to claim my scholarship, they stunningly made an exception.
I was unemployed for six months after college due to anxiety, but I paid what tithing I could from an internship. I walked into a local store to apply on a whim and the hiring manager immediately stopped to say hi. She later said she felt an overwhelming feeling to hire me.
Not even a month ago, I found out that my hours were getting cut to 16 a week, this after my roommate moved out and left me paying $600 a month for rent and $260 a month in car payments, excluding phone and utilities. The idea of paying tithing terrified me, but I paid it.
I put out a plea for a new job and place to live on Twitter. I later learned I couldn't move out or I'd immediately have to pay $1,200. Not only did you guys recommend places to work, but you sent money through Venmo. I cried all week because it was just enough to get me by.
Within a week, I learned that my car payment due dates had been put off for a year and I didn't have to make another payment for a year. Then employees in a department I used to work in kept getting sick and they've asked me to help, which has given me overtime.
Paying tithing gets you opportunities, moves obstacles, and gets you by. I can't explain it any other way. It is so hard sometimes. I've been poor and every penny feels like $10, but tithing works.
I'm not going to pretend that it makes you rich -- I've never been that -- but I know that blessings come from tithes, whether those blessings be giving souls put in your path, money being stretched farther than expected, or opportunities to earn.”
Given that perspective that tithing manifests blessings in ways we can never understand and God will always have our back if we just pay our tithing, the line of logic that Nelson used to tell these Kenyans that tithing will get them out of poverty seems to validate itself. I can’t imagine any economics major who would agree with the logic that giving up 10% of your money to a worldwide company who uses the money for temples which don’t help the poor makes you richer by any stretch of imagination, but that’s the logic or lack thereof being used to make Nelson’s sermon a moral one.
There are many ways to view this issue. I’ll simply say for myself that I think this was a truly deplorable and ignorant thing to do. Nelson and his entourage have never lived at any level of poverty these people live with every single day. This prophet has never been hungry because he truly couldn’t afford food. He’s never had to deal with not knowing where he’s going to be sleeping at night. He’s never known what it’s like to live in a completely different world aside from 2 years of his life on his mission when he was largely insulated from anything truly terrible from happening. Worse than that, he can’t even get his mind into a place where what he was teaching could be viewed as immoral. Instead of trying to view this from a believing Mormon’s perspective or from an economics perspective, I’ll leave you with a final thought on how this teaching conflicts with Mormon doctrine.
“36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not liftthemselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?
41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.”
History to Epilogue
Protest on June 3rd going to church with buttons.
Contact mark about publishing graphs of stats with resignation letters.
Force their hand, either change the interviews or see a mass exodus in your own testimony meetings.
We didn’t have a patreon only episode this week. To be frank, I was too wrapped up in a couple of other projects to get out the Monday Patreon only episode like usual. The first project I’m not at liberty to discuss yet but it should be in the public sphere relatively soon. The other project was a presentation at the Satanic Temple Seattle congregation where a friend and I gave a presentation on the role of Lucifer in Mormonism. It was a really fun presentation and the local Satanic Temple chapter is full of a lot of really great people. I want to give a shout out to Lilith and Bevin for setting up the logistics of the presentation, and to Tarkus and Vapula for their help with the video equipment, and a huge thanks to everybody who attended. I should be putting up the video on the Naked Mormonism YouTube channel pretty soon, I’ll update you guys when it airs.
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