Faith Friday – LDS Essays on Polygamy

Several years ago, I wrote briefly about one of my faith journeys
here and had several people private message me and ask about the my
process – how to wrestle with doubts and still keep true to the faith. Unfortunately
I did not do a good job then of responding to their inquiries – it was all too
new and fresh to have very much perspective on it. Lately, I have felt some
perspective and have decided to continue to add my own faith journey to the
conversation. I dedicate these Friday posts to Faith. Sometimes it will be LDS,
sometimes it will be other faiths, or it might just promoting goodness in
general.
For my friends who are not of my faith or not religious,
pardon me for these personal, religious posts. However, I know many who
struggle with issues of faith, particularly LDS church history, doctrine and
practice and I have felt compelled to add my voice and faith to these topics.
First up in Faith Friday is to congratulate the LDS church on
it’s latest essays on polygamy in the early LDS Church. The essays can be found
here, here and here. I greatly appreciate more transparency on some of the LDS
churches history and practices, especially directly from the LDS church itself.

 

My latest quest for knowledge about the church started in
earnest when those outside my faith tradition knew more about certain aspects
of my religion than I did. For some, that might not have bothered their
sensibilities, but for me, it was important to gain my own understanding and
truth about certain items. Is what they were saying true and if so why was I
not taught it from within my own church tradition?
For me, as I have grappled with these issues and what they mean, I have come to a flexible
contentment with my questions. I studied, I wrestled, I applied logic and I
applied many hours of prayer and pleading to understand. Why yes, it is true that there is much in what people say about the early LDS church that is not taught in the Sunday School lessons or is in the general consciousness of some people. However, the information is available and becoming more so especially with some of the stride this year taken by the church.
So onto some personal thoughts on the essays themselves.
While the principle of polygamy might have had it’s place
for whatever reason (I’ll leave that to the historians to debate), the implementation of
it was not seamless or without fault.  Receiving revelation is a messy business and is used primarily as a tool for growth, personal or collectively. Most of the time revelation is figured out by trial and error and in that process people make mistakes. ALL people, men and women, those in authority and those who are not, can make mistakes when applying revelation.  Joseph married young women, 15 years old (legal
at the time), he married women who were already married to other men and he
married women secretly so Emma and others wouldn’t know.  Joseph did consummate some of these marriages – though not all of them, for reasons the essays outline.And while the principle of polygamy might have come from God, the step by
step instructions did not flutter down from heaven and as such had to be
interpreted the best way Joseph knew how and this might have caused some
collateral emotional damage – especially to Emma.
Sometimes we as church members come down harshly on Emma in regards to polygamy and her faith. The truth is, we have very little personal firsthand accounts on this topic from either Joseph or Emma themselves. They both kept remarkably silent on the topic,
especially considering how much conflict we think it might have caused.  We simply do not know much of what
transpired between them relating to this subject. How did Emma and Joseph do this together? They
remain silent on this. Most of what we have are not journal entries or letters but official announcements or the writings of others around them during this period. Just as Mary, the mother of Jesus, kept sayings in her heart to ponder, it seems that Joseph and Emma also choose to, for the most part, keep things things in their hearts to ponder.Fact is, it was a hard situation not only for Joseph and Emma but also for some of Joseph’s wives and other men who were called to live it. I admit, I do not understand. Perhaps one day we can sit and chat with them and get a feel for their hearts and in so doing better inform our own hearts and testimonies. Until then, I am content to move forward in faith, suspending my disbelief and focusing on the patterns of goodness in the gospel that I do regularly feel and understand.

Moving on to the last part of the essays, it took people in the LDS church a while to not
practice polygamy anymore. It seemed to be in their blood and it took them a
while to realize something they had created such effort towards had been flipped on
it’s head and now was not a practice that needed to happen. It was a messy
practice to get into and apparently a messy practice to leave as well. In this
regard, faith is a funny thing. It asks us to be 100% obedient and at the same
time requires 100% flexibility of us in any given circumstance.
Having said all that, I hope you will read the essays and form your own opinions and faith about what happened – about polygamy, about Joseph and Emma, about the Manifesto and the end of the practice. If it seems overwhelming, take it in smaller parts. Research but never cut God out of the equation in helping to form new understandings or leniencies.
So what do these essays speak of for Heaven? Since I believe our souls live on, primarily in family units, it begs the question, will my husband have 25 wives or 1? My guess, is that there
are all different answers to that question and quotes from prophets and apostles speak to both side – yes, there will be polygamy in Heaven and no there will not be polygamy in Heaven. I choose to believe it might be both ways.In my experience with God, the Father, He is individualistic. My path is not always your path and so forth. My belief is that Heaven is the same way. Some man might take 5 women if all
are in agreement.  Some men might have 1
wife because that is what both of them want. I don’t see heaven as a one size
fits all. Revelation is not that way – why would Heaven be?
Anyway, kudos to the church for recognizing this topic head
on. Is there more that could be said, probably. However I am content for now with this
direction.
I am happy to hear your thoughts and comments. However, please don’t make personal attacks in your comments. These are my thoughts as I have grappled with this topic and others. You are welcome to
believe what you believe. My only point is it is good to know a little
bit about actual church history so we can have an informed opinion that is
also filled with faith. If you have particular topics you would like to see posted or added to Faith Friday, please let me know.

 

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