Survey says . . .

A recent Gallup poll explored what Americans think of Mormons. One finding: “When asked what comes to mind first when they think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church, the most listed term was ‘polygamy.'” In light of this finding, what (if anything) do you think should be done by individual church members, by LDS scholars, by LDS leaders, by the Church’s PR people, by missionaries, etc.?

72 comments for “Survey says . . .

  1. March 6, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Get down on our collective knees and thank Heavenly Father that most Americans don’t associate us with the priesthood ban?

  2. March 6, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    We can’t change the situation by ignoring it, but whenever we address it we run the risk of strengthening the association — “Oh, those are the people who keep talking about polygamy.”

  3. Julie M. Smith
    March 7, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Good one, Russell.

    Ardis, I hadn’t thought of it that way–it really is a rock-and-a-hard-place.

  4. subrosa
    March 7, 2007 at 12:10 am

    Collective memory is such a powerful thing, as evidenced by the fact that with over 100 years of trying to \”forget\” our 19th polygamous past we still haven\’t done much to change the way that we are viewed by non-Mormons. Polygamy has been compared with slavery more than once, and here\’s another aspect of the comparison: just as the South is still struggling with its memory of their own peculiar institution, so are we. So President Hinkley can continue telling people that we polygamy is in the past, and everyday members can awkwardly explain that that \”ended\” in 1890, but we\’re still a long way from disassociating polygamy from our image. Maybe if we had a Mormon president…

  5. Johnna Cornett
    March 7, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Maybe if we had a Mormon president? Rather, maybe if we stopped widowers from being sealed to their second wives. Or better yet, let widows be sealed to second husbands.

    I’m grateful it’s not the priesthood ban.

  6. Razorfish
    March 7, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Part of the Gallup poll I saw noted that a very small percentage ( ~10%) did not have an opinion favorable or unfavorable regarding the Church. In other words we are leaving “neutral ground” in terms of being an unknown entity. The Church is emerging out of the wilderness of obscurity, but now faces the challenge of misidentity or mistaken identity.

    With the propagation and ubiquitous nature of the Internet, a thoughtful, ambitious non-member researcher can find out all the secrets and hidden mysteries of the church. This includes all the warts and blind spots of our collective history that is now resurfacing.

    Regarding our PR efforts: what are we trying to accomplish greater assimiliation or greater identity? The Community of Christ is a perfect case study for why abandoning distinctive beliefs in the hopes of greater inclusion and ecumenical unity is a disaster.

    However, I’m tired of being labeled a “cult” by some over zealous evangelicals because of our distinctness or because of our alleged heretical doctrine as defined by our so-called Christian friends. A Catholic co-worker was shocked that I celebrated Christmas (because I was Mormon). These are some great teaching moments, but sometimes I’m tired of having to correct the record.

    I look forward to the day when we (as a church) will be fully embraced as Christian with a seat at the table with the rest of our Protestant and Catholic friends. A day when Mormon carries less of a perjorative connatation, and more of an expression of the ideals and values that each of its members carry in their hearts.

  7. Ronan
    March 7, 2007 at 4:50 am

    Enlist the massive missionary force in the PR effort. Instead of spending 60 hours a week proselytizing and baptising no-one (e.g. in Europe), get them to do very visible “Mormon Helping Hands” service instead. Do this for ten years, and Lamoni may yet get a favourable impression of Ammon.

  8. Vince
    March 7, 2007 at 6:05 am

    Members in the UK have for a long time been perplexed by the lack of legal action taken against the illegal practice of polygamy by individuals and splinter groups in Utah/Arizona. I know this is changing with the Warren Jeffs’ case, and I also know the disaster that was the 1953 ‘Short Creek Raid’. However, by not acting to root out the practice, the British media have for decades been able to present regular images to the public of continuing ‘mormon’ polygamous practice.

    We realise that state and church is separate, but the church speaks out on so many other areas of moral concern, and individual members in the law enforcement and legal systems should be trying to live up to Section 134.

  9. March 7, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Ronan #7: Exactly. Although in some European countries, where the state is supposed to take care of everyone, service by individuals and especially religious groups can be hard to come by.

    I would add to that: increase the flexibility of FT missionary’s lives. The issue of polygamy is compounded in the eyes of some people by the oddness of the lives of full-time missionaries, the ‘face of the church’ as it were. The symbolism of the obsessively well-dressed and clean-cut young men and women is anachronistic and weird, and the combination of that with the whispers of the polygomous past works against the idea of a living church. The issue isn’t whether we are trying to assimilate or not–it has more to do with representing how the church and its doctrines actually operate in the lives of the members of the church.

  10. Lamonte
    March 7, 2007 at 8:27 am

    Razorfish said, “I look forward to the day when we (as a church) will be fully embraced as Christian with a seat at the table with the rest of our Protestant and Catholic friends.”

    That’s a perplexing statement for me. On the one hand it would be nice to be considered an equal partner with others whom we recognize as Christians. And yet isn’t our message that their brand of Christianity is at least flawed, if not wrong. Else why would it be necessary to be baptized into our church if one is already a legitimate Christian? I have a feeling that this position on our part is contributing to the unfavorable feelings on their part. Can we change that perception? Should we change that perception? Perplexing questions all around.

  11. CW
    March 7, 2007 at 10:41 am

    #5: It’s my understanding that women CAN be sealed to second husbands while still sealed to their first. There are many cases where a young wife loses her husband and remarries and has children and a long life with a second husband. The expectation is that it will all be worked out hereafter. I don’t think there’s any expectation that she will REMAIN sealed to both, as possibly the expectation is that in the next life men can be sealed to multiple women.

  12. Last Lemming
    March 7, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Vince,

    Since Warren Jeffs is being prosecuted as an accomplice to rape, not for polygamy, the British media will not likely be satisfied any time soon. As long as practitioners behave themselves Big Love style, there is nothing to prosecute. Men who are legally married to one woman but who undergo a religious marriage ceremony with multiple woman are legally indistinguishable in the U.S. from married men who have one or more mistresses. Prosecuting only the former would be blatant religious discrimination. The fact that it was done successfully in the 1880s does not make it OK.

  13. March 7, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I think part of why the polygamy-image has persisted is that it’s easy to make fun of. How many comedians have you heard poking fun at Mormons using polygamy?

    Maybe we should give them something else to poke fun of. I suggest Battlestar Galactica.

  14. cantinflas
    March 7, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Johnna Cornett alludes to one of the biggest double standards so-called Christians hold Mormons to. They deride us for the practice of polygamy, while many condone illicit relationships with mistresses that can be more destructive than any relationship our church has ever condoned. Furthermore, a mainstream Christian has no problem remarrying, in full belief that his earthly relationships will continue into the next life. How is this not the exact same as polygamy according to his belief structure?

    As I mentioned on another ‘naccle post on the same poll, it is easy to imagine a respondent to these questions answering questions about their comfort with our beliefs rather than our people, and I think those are very different questions, with very different answers. I wish they had also asked “Do you know any Mormons?” and something about comfort level having a Mormon neighbor, or if the person has had a mormon neighbor.

  15. March 7, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Part of the Gallup poll was the following question “Next, we’d like you to think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. What comes to mind when you think about this religion? [OPEN-ENDED] 2007 Feb 22-25” http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=26758

    The highest reponse was of course Polygamy at 17%. When I tell people I’m a Mormon of course the first question almost always is “How many wives do you have, ha ha? My response is usually, “Three, ha ha.” They then reply, “Really?” And I say, “No, one is all I can handle.”

    For me the next highest numbers are the important ones. Thet are “Good people/Kind/
    Caring/Strong morals 13%” and “Salt Lake City/Utah 14%”. Both positive in my mind. The Church will be judge by the fruit that it bears. We are the fruit of the Church our behavior will determine how we are preceived by the reat of the World. I can tell you (Ilive outside of Utah) most people see us as good helpful people with strong morals. That is how we win this battle by being the best we can be and by following the commandment “Love Thy Neighbor”.

  16. paula
    March 7, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    There is an article in the New York Times this week, about a polygamous family in Nevada. One son plays basketball for UNLV. I was surprised they were so willing to be so open about it– apparently not worried about prosecution at all. It’s posted at mormonstories:
    http://mormonstories.org/?p=233

    And CW, I’d be very interested to hear actual documented cases of women being sealed to a second man without a cancellation of sealing, while the woman is still alive. We do seal women who are dead to more than one man, but I’ve never found any cases of a live woman being able to be sealed to a second man, in current times. Living women are expected to make a choice.

  17. March 7, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    I think it’s just a reflection of how ignorant the average American is about Mormonism. Plural marriage was a handy hammer with which to hammer on the Mormons back in the day, and its impact hasn’t gone away.

    12 — I don’t think you could make a case that Warren Jeffs has contracted a plural marriage, because, from what I’ve heard, these folks only marry one wife legally. Illegal cohabitation might apply if cohabiting with someone you weren’t legally married to were illegal anywhere, but it’s certainly not illegal anywhere in this country. The things you’re going to be able to get the FLDS for are going to be things like rape of a child and welfare fraud, but I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to make a bigamy case there.

  18. Ryan Bell
    March 7, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Re # 5: Yeah, the church’s practice with post-mortem temple sealings is definitely keeping the rest of the country from forgetting about our polygamist past.

  19. KyleM
    March 7, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    As long as Section 132 is in the D&C, there is implicit acceptance of polygamy as a doctrine acceptable before God (if not necessary for exaltation). The (possibly correct) thought is that the only reason we don’t practice polygamy currently (if they even know we don’t) is because the government forced us to stop.

    It will also forever be a point of emphasis by anti-mormons as a way to discredit Joseph Smith and other early leaders.

    It also doesn’t help that many of our modern day “excuses” of the practice don’t make sense or are historically inacurate. How many times have we heard that there were alot more women in Utah than men when the statement is not only untrue, but misleading since the practice began well before settlement in Utah?

  20. Lamonte
    March 7, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    KyleM – I certainly don’t disagree with what you are saying but I wonder if you could exand your comments about the reasons for polygamy. Ultimately I thought the reason was that the members were simply asked to do it. But there must have been a “practical” reason for the commandment. I’ve always been taught (or did I just assume) that there were, infact, more women in the church. This circumstance existed primarily because women were more accepting of the gospel AND because many of the men were killed during the era of persecution. Because of our belief that a man and woman must be married to make it to the celestial kingdon AND because the social norms of the day did not allow women to be the aggressor in proposing marriage (has that changed in the modern day?) it was necessary for women to find a way to be married or sealed to one of the fewer men that were members of the church. OK, so these reasons sound a little silly now that I state them out loud but I’d be interested in your understanding. Thanks.

  21. Ben H
    March 7, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    With others, I think the main issue is overall ignorance about us. I think more PR is the best answer to this kind of bad PR. Just more exposure that is not so slanted. More information. That said, I think there is a lot of room for our missionary program to be made more effective on this front.

  22. Starfoxy
    March 7, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Re #18 I agree. Few people outside of the church, and not everyone in the church, understands or even knows about post-mortem temple sealings, so halting that practice isn’t going to have any immediate effect on non-members’ opinions about the church. However, the majority of members aren’t really certain what the church teaches about polygamy. We often say we don’t practice it, while we still allow serial polygamy though temple sealings. We excommunicate those who teach it or actively live it, but leave D&C 132 in place with no explanations or commentary. If you ask five different members about polygamy (who what where when and why) you’ll get five different answers ranging from “it was always a mistake that God allowed our leaders to make” to “God is waiting until we are righteous enough to live it again” to “What are you talking about? We never practiced polygamy.”

    We can’t expect the rest of the world to forget about our polygamous past when then vast majority of members can’t even agree on what we believe about it. They won’t forget about it until long after we’ve forgotten about it.

    I am also very glad that the Priesthood ban wasn’t the number one answer.

  23. March 7, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Larry Ogan (#15),

    Until very recently, my husband and I lived in the Berkeley, California area. On several memorable occasions, socially progressive acquaintances who knew we were Mormon seemed concerned that we might fear undeserved mistreatment at their hands and assured us that Jay’s “other wives” were welcome in their homes just as I was. I never knew whether to laugh or cry…

    SV/TNS

  24. Tom
    March 7, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    As long as Section 132 is in the D&C, there is implicit acceptance of polygamy as a doctrine acceptable before God . . .

    Couldn’t the same thing be said about the Old Testament? Doesn’t the canon of every Bible-based religion implicitly condone polygamy?

  25. Julie M. Smith
    March 7, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Good comments, all.

    Tom asks, “Couldn’t the same thing be said about the Old Testament? Doesn’t the canon of every Bible-based religion implicitly condone polygamy?”

    No, because other Christians see OT practices as done away in/by/through Christ.

  26. Matt W.
    March 7, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    As a convert I can say that all I knew about Mormonism before I joined the Church was what was taught in “Paint Your Wagon” and the fact that they had an affordable college in Hawaii. (When I asked my mother about it, she said I couldn’t go to BYU because they make their students go on a two year “pilgrimage”, I don’t know how she got that information though…) No other outside information made it to me.

    So the solutions I see are:

    1. Make popular movies for a national audience with characters who display positve Mormon character traits and who mention they are Mormon.

    2. Keep having good academic programs with low tuition rates in exotic locations.

  27. Adam Greenwood
    March 7, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    “Enlist the massive missionary force in the PR effort. Instead of spending 60 hours a week proselytizing and baptising no-one (e.g. in Europe), get them to do very visible “Mormon Helping Hands” service instead. Do this for ten years, and Lamoni may yet get a favourable impression of Ammon.”

    We’d get more benefit from reassigning those missionaries to high-baptism areas. More service efforts don’t always translate into good PR and good PR probably would not translate into a significantly increased number of baptisms. Which is why the Salvation Army isn’t a booming denomination. Better PR would make life easier for most of us, but its a cross we’re called to carry.

  28. Adam Greenwood
    March 7, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    “On several memorable occasions, socially progressive acquaintances who knew we were Mormon seemed concerned that we might fear undeserved mistreatment at their hands and assured us that Jay’s “other wives” were welcome in their homes just as I was. I never knew whether to laugh or cry…”

    I am extremely disappointed that you and your husband didn’t convince some puckish lady friend of yours to come along on your next visit. Bad form, I say, bad form.

  29. Last Lemming
    March 7, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    I don’t think you could make a case that Warren Jeffs has contracted a plural marriage, because, from what I’ve heard, these folks only marry one wife legally.

    True enough. The same was true of mainstream Mormons in the 19th century. They almost never contracted more than one marriage through civil authority.

    Illegal cohabitation might apply if cohabiting with someone you weren’t legally married to were illegal anywhere, but it’s certainly not illegal anywhere in this country.

    Actually it is still illegal in seven sates (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohabitation ). But that is irrelevant to my point. The “polygamy” associated with Mormons does not, and has never met the legal definition of polygamy, but rather that of illegal cohabitation. That is what various Church leaders did time for in the 19th century. Since it is now legal most places, including Utah and Arizona, there is no reason to expect law enforcement to “do something about it.”

    The things you’re going to be able to get the FLDS for are going to be things like rape of a child and welfare fraud, but I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to make a bigamy case there.

    Agreed, and I fully support prosecution wherever such abuses occur. But Vince’s comment made it sound like the British media expect prosecution of actual polygamy or, failing that, of illegal cohabitation. Since the first is extremely rare and the second is usually legal, it just ain’t gonna happen.

  30. March 7, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Serenity Valley #23

    I have always chosen humor to deal with what I consider ridiculous teasings and comments. In my youth some of my relatives in Missouri would comment on the fact that they could not see my hooves and horns. They had been raised to believe that all Mormons had them. I allowed these kind of comments to roll of of me.

    If we become overly serious and defensive about some of the comments we will be hearing as this new attention to Mormonism emerges into the public dialogue, we will lose this opportunity the Lord has given us to be better understood and spread the fullness of the Gospel.

  31. March 7, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Serenity Valley #23

    I have always chosen humor to deal with what I consider ridiculous teasings and comments. In my youth some of my relatives in Missouri would comment on the fact that they could not see my hooves and horns. They had been raised to believe that all Mormons had them. I allowed these kind of comments to roll of of me.

    If we become overly serious and defensive about some of the comments we will be hearing as this new attention to Mormonism emerges into the public dialogue, we will lose this opportunity the Lord has given us to be better understood and spread the fullness of the Gospel.

  32. Madden
    March 7, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Don’t we want to be a “peculiar people”?

    I don’t think making Mormonism mainstream is the answer.

  33. KyleM
    March 7, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Lamonte (20) –

    Here are the most common defenses for plural marriage that I’ve heard. I’ll stick with the faith promoting reasons, and a quick response.

    1. It was a commandment from God. – Duh

    2. Restitution of all things included plural marriage. – This passes the laugh test, but barely.

    3. It created a common cause, us vs. them, to unite the saints. – I think there were plenty of doctrines in the church that already did that.

    4. To raise up seed in the church, or a mighty generation. – So one man and ten wives can raise more seed than ten men and ten wives?

    5. The women far outnumbered the men on the frontier. – The US census says just the opposite. So did Elder Widstoe in Evidences and Reconciliations. Why the polyandrous marriages of Joseph? Why did it start before the saints migrated to Utah?

    6. Polygamy was to take care of widows and older single sisters without marriage prospects. – Most plural wives were younger than the first wife. This did happen, but it was not common.

  34. March 7, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    If you define the word peculiar as special like in the Bible Dictionary and not as odd, I would ask does being special mean being different?

    I do think that mainstream Mormonism could change people to live more positive lives, be better neighbor and in turn make the World a better and safer place to live? Yes.

    The World currently defines as good people who practice an odd and eccentric religion. Do I want to change that perception? Yes.

  35. Kaimi Wenger
    March 7, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Lamonte,

    There are some very good sources on this — Stanley Ivins has an article about problems with the “more women” explanation, which was in Utah Historical Quarterly and was reprinted in Quinn’s book, New Mormon History. Also, there’s some discussion in Van Waggoner’s book on polygamy. The “more women” explanation just doesn’t hold water, given the real numbers.

    Ultimately, the reason for the practice is probably not knowable. Some scholars, such as Richard Bushman, suggest that it was a natural development of Joseph Smith’s restorationist ideals. Other more critical writers (i.e., Brodie) suggest that it was about sex, or power, or both.

  36. Kaimi Wenger
    March 7, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Kyle,

    That’s a pretty good summation of potential replies.

    Another explanation that Bushman and others have suggested is the tribal/dynastic function of plural marriage. Early on in the church, it was viewed as very important to have a particular family connection to a church leader. Some plural marriages were clearly dynastic in nature.

    Also, I think that the restitution argument is stronger than you suggest. Joseph really _was_ interested in restoring a lot of elements of Old Testament (and in some cases, New Testament) religion. He was building symbolic temples, abolishing private property, founding cities, writing new volumes of scripture. Plural marriage isn’t that much of a stretch, I think, given his clear restorationist zeal.

  37. March 7, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you Kaimi. Your explanation really helps me to to better understand why something I felt was cpompletely wrongheaded would be instituted. I need to dive back into Bushman’s Joseph Smith Biography and see what I missed. Do you have any other resources for your explanation?

  38. DavidH
    March 7, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    18 and 22. I think Johnna’s comment 5 was not about “post mortem” sealings but allowing a living male to be sealed to more than one woman. Of course, this practice exists not just in the case of widowers being sealed to an additional wife after the first wife dies, but can also happen while the first, divorced spouse is still alive (and the sealing is still in place).

  39. Julie M. Smith
    March 7, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    Larry Ogden, I think Compton’s _In Sacred Lonliness_ makes more or less the same argument.

  40. KyleM
    March 7, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Kaimi,

    The dynastic aspect of polygamy was certainly present. I believe there is still a sense of Mormon “royalty” even today. I don’t know how we reconcile polygamy being a commandment with this though. What basis is there in the modern church for these being anything but social occurrences? Our lineage is based on priesthood, and not DNA. Our function in the modern church has little if anything to do with our revealed tribal lineage. We all fulfill the three missions of the church. Leaders don’t ask us our tribal lineage or who our parents are when giving us a calling. JFS felt awkward about presenting his son’s name to the Q12 to be called as an apostle. I understand the social significance of being a Smith, Kimball, Young, etc. I don’t see doctrinal significance, though, and I don’t believe this explains a commandment from God.

    Regarding the restitution idea, I like to think that things were restored for a purpose greater than simply restorations sake. In any case, the Utah style polygamy was more biblical than the Nauvoo style polygamy. Was it simply a matter of circumstance and timing as many of the practices in the church progressed after Nauvoo? Was JSJ was told to restore the doctrine, but the policies on the how’s, when’s and who’s was left up to him? Did these policies then matured under BY to where polyandry didn’t occur and all parties in the marriage had to consent?

  41. Razorfish
    March 7, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Regarding #10 –

    Razorfish said, “I look forward to the day when we (as a church) will be fully embraced as Christian with a seat at the table with the rest of our Protestant and Catholic friends.”

    “That’s a perplexing statement for me. On the one hand it would be nice to be considered an equal partner with others whom we recognize as Christians. And yet isn’t our message that their brand of Christianity is at least flawed, if not wrong”

    I agree with you, but the point I’m trying to suggest, is that while we are approximately the 4th largest Christian church denomination in the US, we still find ourselves being challenged as “Christian” or of worshiping some “other Jesus” than the rest of Christianity or the Jesus spoken of in the scriptures. Doctrines such as exaltation, KFD, and grace plus some combination of works (priesthood / temple ordinances), are uniquely peculiar to our own faith.

    While not suggesting we abandon these beliefs, I’m simply hoping that we will overcome the “stigma” and high negative bias that is attached to the label “Mormon.” Nobody questions a Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc of being Christian. It just seems that sometimes, we are still elbowing the Scientologists, JW, and others to get out of the “Cult category”. I’m just waiting for the day when the “cult label” will be a mistaken notion of the past.

  42. March 7, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    I’m sick of apologizing for polygamy.

    As if polygamous marriages in Brigham Young’s Utah were any worse than monogamous marriages of the time. Spare me! Brigham Young’s Utah was probably the most exemplary and admirable spot in the entire American West at the time. Ever read about the range wars in Wyoming?

    And a guy who responsibly tries to commit to and take care of two women at the same time is somehow more freakish and reprehensible than Kobe Bryant who probably can’t even remember the names of all the women he’s slept with and dumped?

    I don’t practice polygamy. I have no desire to. It doesn’t resonate with me. We’ve moved on. But I also see absolutely zero need to apologize for my great-great grandfather Aaron Johnson and his 13 wives. Polygamy was a bold social experiment with pros and cons and complexities which got stomped on by Manifest Destiny. Period.

    And I have no desire to assimilate my religion into the American Unitarian collective.

    I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ. But I have almost no interest in whether we get the coveted “Christian” label (with all its baggage) or not. We are different. We are radically different from mainstream Christianity.

    We are almost as different from mainstream Christianity as the churches established by Peter and Paul were from Judaism of the time. We are a whole new world religious movement, not some quirky little offshoot from American Protestantism.

    A whole lot of people in this world are dissatisfied with “historical Christianity” for a variety of reasons. Why not give them the alternative they’re searching for? Why bother reaching out to the people least likely to embrace our message and purpose?

    The movement to secure inclusion in the Christian country-club is not only a waste of time, it’s also disingenuous. We are not “just like them.” Neither do we intend to be like them at any point in the near future. If we had our way, we would convert every last mother’s son and daughter of them to the true Gospel of Christ and commission all their sects and creeds to history.

    Christian ministers and pastors know this. You’re not going to fool them into thinking this isn’t what we’re about. We are a new world religion on the move. Our aim is to change the playing field they’ve enjoyed for centuries irrevocably.

    Of course we’re a threat. I’d be insulted if they didn’t consider us a threat!

  43. Adam Greenwood
    March 7, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    2. Restitution of all things included plural marriage. – This passes the laugh test, but barely.

    Really? To me this is one of the more compelling explanations.

  44. manaen
    March 7, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    42.
    What Seth said!

  45. manaen
    March 7, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    “Peculiar” in the scriptures is used to mean “belonging to,” not “oddly different,” although we frequently seem determined to be such.

    See the one-paragraph explanation in the Bible Dictionary.

  46. March 8, 2007 at 1:11 am

    I agree we don’t need to apologize for polygamy. Nor do we want to change what we know as truth to be accepted by other religions. But the days of isolationism are over.

    In comment #41, it says, “And yet isn’t our message that their brand of Christianity is at least flawed, if not wrong” President Hinckley says, “Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service.” I think I will follow the counsel of the Prophet. I personally have stopped saying we are the only true Church and instead tell people, both members and non-members, that we have the fullnes of the Gospel.

  47. KyleM
    March 8, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Re 43: Yeah, really. Why restore something strictly for the sake of its restitution? There is a more compelling reason for practicing plural marriage. It’s most likely the same reason they practiced it at various times in the Old Testament. I haven’t figured out what it is, but it’s got to be better than “because they used to do it.”

    Now you can say that Act 3:17 foretold of polygamy being reinstated as part of restitution of all things (though I may or may not disagree with you), but you can’t say it’s the reason.

  48. Vince
    March 8, 2007 at 7:14 am

    Blain & Last Lemming #29 – You are right – the British media, and thus UK LDS members aren’t very good at the subtle nuances of the US law. Most do talk of it as an illegal practice regardless of it now being largely legal cohabitation.

    To throw the cat amongst the feral doves – if, as some are arguing, the reason polygamy was stopped was to obey the law/allow the church to remain, assets intact; how come, now there IS a legal right to cohabitat, the principle of plural marriage hasn’t been reinstated?

  49. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Ok, peculiar means “special” or “exclusive”–but doesn’t that still mean a degree of separatism.

    I’m not advocating isolationism, but I don’t think we should be concerned about being “accepted” by the general public.

    Look, we’re different and that’s OK.

  50. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Vince,

    Polygamy is illegal in Utah as written in the Utah Constitution. Other states have similar laws on the books. It could be challenged, however, in light of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court’s decision regarding sodomy laws. The argument would be based on it being the private actions of consenting adults. That said, I don’t expect that to happen for a few reasons. First, no one bring charges under polygamy laws because they are hard to prove. Second, polygamy doesn’t have the support that homosexual relationships have.

  51. Kaimi Wenger
    March 8, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Madden,

    Utah’s statute has been subjected to legal challenge in light of Lawrence. The Utah Supreme Court, in a divided decision, rejected that challenge.

  52. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Really?

    I’ll have to look it up. I think it’s an interesting challenge.

  53. March 8, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    48 — I’ve wondered the same thing, for a number of reasons. I think the biggest is that things went so badly the last time around that nobody wants to do it again. Personally, I’ve thought that the reason the practice was ended was because of the harem-building aspects of the later portions of pre-Manifesto plural marriages, where the wives kept getting younger, and the husbands kept getting older — a very different thing than an order of the priesthood that one was called to. I think it would be more difficult to even try to control such a thing in this day and age — Mormons these days get pissy about doing their home teaching regularly, so I don’t see them either taking a bishop’s suggestion about adding a wife to the family well, nor do I see them deciding to wait for a bishop’s approval to add a wife if they took a mind to.

    I think this area is going to get a lot more interesting in the next decade or two.

  54. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Kaimi,

    State v. Holm, the Utah Supreme Court case, applies to minors taken in bigamous practices. It doesn’t address the specific issue of whether consenting “adults” have a right to practice polygamy. The Utah Supreme Court points this out in their opinion. Further, Scalia, in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, basically says the 14th Amendment can now be used to protect polygamous relationships. The Utah Supreme Court concurrence says this is “far-fetched,” but I’m not sure.

  55. Kaimi Wenger
    March 8, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Madden,

    Take a look at the Holm _dissent_ — Chief Justice Durham pushes in exactly that direction. The majority pretty much ignores the argument, though.

  56. March 8, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    “I think the biggest is that things went so badly the last time around [with polygamy] that nobody wants to do it again.”

    I think the biggest reason the principle of plural marriage hasn’t been reinstated is that, in all likelihood, most or all of the church leadership have privately decided that polyagmy was an abberation, abnormal, at best a one-time thing (as suggested by the BoM) and not an eternal principle (as stated by 19th-century prophets), to say nothing of being counterproductive to the current mainstreaming agenda of the church, and thus should not be reinstated absent explicit revelation to do so. And moreover, since I sincerely doubt anyone in the church leadership is actively praying about that question, I don’t expect such a revelation to come, well, ever.

  57. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Russell,

    I’m not aware of any comments made by 19th-century prophets that indicate that polygamy is NOT an eternal principle. I’d be interested to read them, if you’d be so kind to share. I always believed, especially in light of the Doctrine and Covenants, that polygamy was an eternal principle, which will be practiced after this life.

  58. Kaimi Wenger
    March 8, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Vince,

    In Islamic countries in Africa where polygamy is still legal, new converts must give up their plural wives when they join the church. This creates the interesting anomaly of people saying, in effect, “I can’t practice plygamy anymore now — I became a Mormon.”

  59. March 8, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Madden,

    What I wrote may not be clear. I mean that, whereas Jacob in the BoM makes reference to polygamy as a possible exception to a rule, many 19th-century prophets did hold it to be an eternal principle…and that, in my view, it appears that church leaders today are more inclined to Jacob’s view of things than, say, John Taylor’s.

  60. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Ok, ok, ok.

    I just reread your thread, and I get it.

    As a side note, I’ve always been troubled with LDS questioning the past practice of polygamy. Most notably, Mitt Romney called the practice “bizarre” in the NYT. What’s the deal Mitt?

  61. March 8, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    “Mitt Romney called the practice ‘bizarre’ in the NYT.”

    Yeah, I was struck by that too when I first read it. I mean, I think there are plenty of Mormons–and going along with what I said before, probably not a few general authorities as well–who think the same way; it’s a not unreasonable thing to believe. Even if I had some doubts about how he understands the whole question of polygamy, I wouldn’t necessarily be troubled by Romney thinking that way; on the contrary, I would have been intrigued to see a public figure like himself articulate such a position. Problem is, the news of the last week or two has left me suspecting that’s just another one of those things which he says in front of microphones that he doesn’t really mean.

  62. Dan
    March 8, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Madden,

    Most notably, Mitt Romney called the practice “bizarre” in the NYT. What’s the deal Mitt?

    That was a wink and a nudge to the Evangelicals Mitt is courting.

  63. Jonathan Green
    March 8, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Or it might be a case of what Romney said losing something in the article. When I looked at one article because of the headline, Romney’s actual words didn’t seem quite so dramatic. Maybe there’s another article out there with a more complete quotation.

  64. Madden
    March 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Dan,

    You’re probably right, but I don’t appreciate Mitt throwing the Church under the bus to meet those ends. I understand the political implications, but I wouldn’t call the Church’s practice of polygamy “bizarre.”

  65. March 8, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    What’s up Mitt?

    Pretty simple really. He’s a part of the popularity-first-and-foremost faction of the LDS membership. A lot of American Mormons seem to have this insufferable need to kiss-up to the establishment and its patrons. If that means soft-pedaling on inconvenient religious baggage, so be it.

    There is a strong strain of Mormonism that desperately wants to be mainstream. And they’ll seek it even at the expense of being Mormon.

  66. Harold Curtis
    March 9, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Seth #42

    1. Excellent rant.

    2. Go Brother.

    3. Are you one of the three Nephites :)

  67. Last Lemming
    March 9, 2007 at 10:51 am

    And moreover, since I sincerely doubt anyone in the church leadership is actively praying about that question, I don’t expect such a revelation to come, well, ever.

    I generally agree with Russell’s analysis, but I think “ever” overstates things. A dramatic change in the demographic facts on the ground could prompt some praying for a revelation. But absent that, we’re going to be monogamous for the foreseeable future.

  68. March 9, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Geez! I hope not.

  69. Last Lemming
    March 9, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Seth,

    I assume you were responding to Harold Curtis’ question about being one of the 3 Nephites and not to my assertion that we’re going to be monogamous for the foreseeable future.

  70. March 9, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    You may assume that if you wish.

    =)

  71. March 12, 2007 at 3:39 am

    What\’s wrong with the LDS church being associated with polygyny? The church stopped the practice with the declarations of 1890 and 1904 but made clear that this was because of political and social opposition that would have made the operation of the church difficult if not impossible if the practice were continued at that time. It\’s an important doctrine of the church and rather distinctive, I would say.

    I think that I would associate polytheism, rather than polygyny with the LDS church, given that this is an even more distinctive belief and central to the church\’s soteriology and cosmology. It\’s what fundamentally separates Mormonism from the monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and established the faith as a new religious tradition, although one with many Christian, gnostic, and folk beliefs and influences.

  72. March 15, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    I for one am thankful for polygamy — as I am descended through the second wife of great-grandfathers on both my mother\’s and father\’s lines.

    During seven years of living in Philadelphia (1996 – 2003), the only person who raised the issue of polygamy with me was a co-worker from Pakistan who is a Muslim. He spoke openly of his uncles who had multiple wives (although his own father didn’t), and indicated that he himself had chosen not to practice polygamy.

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