This is a little conversation that you all can see in the comments section, but I thought it would be nice to include it as a post. It relates to my post “Various Interpretations of Historical Issues” which relates to my post “Mormon Histoy: 9 Historical Problems I wish I Had Known About“. I’m including it because I want everyone to be aware that I mean these posts as a form of an introduction to the issues. I still need to do a lot of research on the details surrounding these issues.
From a Friend:
wow. I’m still finishing thinking about the God stuff. You move quick! My thoughts:
1.I’d be very careful about using anything from Fawn Brodie. her work is old and she’s been widely discredited in many places by now. I’d at least read Rough stone rolling p.324-326 to get a different perspective. Polygamy is problematic for me too. But I’m pretty careful about the whole Fanny Alger “affair” thing. Levi Hancock says he made the marriage proposal to Fanny and her family, and officiated at the wedding and was also told polygamy was a way of raising a righteous posterity for the second coming. The other crazy thing is that Fanny left the church and married someone else but never spoke badly of Joseph Smith. I’d think if she felt taken advantage of she surely would have. There’s evidence of an early revelation about polygamy (before the Fanny thing), so maybe Emma had already told Joseph her feelings about it (which in my mind means Joseph shouldn’t have done it even based solely on her feelings). I would have been right there with Emma and Oliver Cowdrey, upset about it, but that doesn’t mean that Joseph didn’t think he was justified. The marriage, Fanny’s later reactions etc. seem to show me it wasn’t a traditional affair that a convenient revelation about polygamy justified. Polyandry sealings are crazy, but at least they weren’t sexual except for that one lady who was estranged from her husband at the time and has possibly the only case of a child by Joseph (Joseph was almost always with Emma). I’m not justifiying polygamy, and I’m certainly open to the idea that Joseph made mistakes here, but I think it’s important to not overly speculate either.
2. as far as the temple ceremony being old…parts of it at least pre-dated anything Masonic, such as the Kirtland washings etc. Don Bradley pointed out parts were in the 116 lost pages. As far as the masonic parts covering up polygamy hummm. maybe, but there were women in the temple too (as a side note the marriage ceremony is not masonic and aparently was done outside of the temple with Fanny etc.).
3. Joseph also knew that the saints would likely be driven out again because of polygamy and he was right. Even so, I think if he really believed it from God he should have just taught it openly and let things fall where they would.
4.ya I agree that interpretation of that story should go. The saints certainly did consider the W of W as council, but i think most gave up whiskey and getting drunk at least after it, though they probably still drank on occasion until like you said prohibition made it a bigger deal. It seems to me that most saints also differentiated between slightly fermented wine and beer of their own making and stronger stuff (as does the w of W).
5. I wouldn’t say Joseph was telling those stories long before the Book of Mormon. In Lucy’s history she says Joseph would come home from his annual instruction with Moroni and tell them stories, so this would be the few years before he got the plates. Either Joseph was up there fabricating the whole thing and creating some false plates on this one day a year over 3 years (he got the plates on the 4th year right?), an impressive feat considering that no one reported him buying material as heavy and expensive as lead (which could possibly match in weight to the reported dimensions). Also the witnesses who saw the plates and examined the insciprtions etc. I think the thing confusing to me is that if Joseph was talking about their warfare and travel why doesn’t it match better with what we find archeologically? Of course most people in the book of Mormon walked everywhere, but in a couple places it seems the kings had access to a wheeled carrier and animals of some sort. There are rare engravings of people riding deer and a rare horse bone or so but it sure would be convenient if things could have matched perfectly.
6. I guess i posted about Danites earlier, but there’s good reserach out on the mountain meadows massacre now. If they’d received Brigham Young’s warning soon enough not to do it, maybe it would not have happened.
7. I think the similar names to where Joseph smith lived is a little crazy. I think Fawn Brodie used that but some of those places weren’t named until after Joseph smith lived (i haven’t looked into this for a while though). The spaulding manuscript theory is pretty much completely discredited now. I’ve read View of the Hebrews and find it mildly similar in ideas but not a lot more. I don’t know why he didn’t use the evidences that view of the Hebrews used (good thing because they were wrong even the ones he talked about in Nauvoo) if he was using that book. The language of the book of Mormon appears to me to the language Joseph smtih thought of as sacred–king James English. I’ve struggled with this in the past but presently feel fine about it.
8. prophets are not infallble, but I think God does work with their mind and culture in the same way he does us. I think they help the saints to do good things as a community, and I think they offer the ordinances of salvation.
9.yup, we should think about what they say. It’s not a blind obedience church. Not even Joseph smith wanted that.
10. Ya, this used to bug me but I agree with the whole Egyptian alphabet thing since the characters used do seem closest to the same characters and descriptions on the fake plates. If Joseph smith thought it authentic I”m not sure why he just dropped it suddenly even if it persisted in myth for many years past that.
This is just me and my imperfect thoughts. I struggle with some things that cause me occasional doubt too, but there seem too many good reasons for belief to just throw the towel in for me at least. Love you.
Thanks for responding. This post did come kind of out of nowhere. I guess I started feeling like I keep mentioning there are church history issues and then never really saying what they are, so I kind of just decided to throw an outline out there. But then, as I was thinking about it, I realized that people might want to know a couple different interpretations of the information. Honestly, this outline wasn’t well researched at all. I need to do more of that and post better posts about it in the future. I suppose it was a rough introduction.
To respond to you:
1. I think the interesting/difficult thing about the polygamy and polyandry situations is that given all the first, second, and third hand accounts of what happened, you can tell the story just about however you want. Even though I agree that I don’t think it was a “traditional” affair, there are some quotes out there that make it sound like the Fannie situation was a traditional affair. And for people who think of Joseph only as a man, and not as an inspired person or as a prophet, the idea that he had an affair and then covered it up makes the most sense (whether the evidence supports this BEST is another question. I was just reading this article: http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-joseph-smiths-sexual-polyandry-and-the-emperors-new-clothes-on-closer-inspection-what-do-we-find, and I really liked the tables and such in it that summarized the viewpoints of various writers and historians who have written about Joseph’s polygamy and polyandry. I think there is evidence to support pretty much whatever viewpoint a person takes, but I’ll keep reading more. The more I read though, the more I think that people decide the evidence supports whatever conclusion they come to. In other words, if I believe Joseph is a prophet, then the evidence can suggest that he was not breaking any chastity laws, and if I believe is was a proud, horny guy then there is evidence to support that too. But, like I said, I need to keep reading
2. I definitely need to read more on the ancient parts of the temple ceremony. I have read very conflicting things so far about this, so I need to keep reading.
5. I need to read more about the plates too. From what I have read so far, the information seems contradictory. Some people lifted a box with the plates and described the weight, but anything could have been in the box. Other people saw the plates, but the way it is described, it could have been a vision, not an actual, physical viewing of the plates. I need to read more on this too.
6. The Mountain Meadows Massacre: Again, there’s conflicting evidence. Brigham Young on one hand seemed to want retribution against the people of the United States, and specifically against the people of Missouri and Arkansas (Arkansas because some Mormons blamed the people of Arkansas for the murder of Parley P. Pratt) (I read there was a rumor going around that some of the people who killed J.S. were in the party at Mountain Meadows), and on the other hand didn’t want to cause further problems with the U.S. government. Either way it seems that his violent language about blood atonement and the people of the U.S. paying for the crimes they had committed seemed to create a lot of tension with the Saints. Whether the leaders of the church are directly implicated or not seems very unclear since they had contact with the people who attacked the wagon train at M.M. shortly before the attacks and yet there is no actual statement about what was said during those meetings (at least no statement I have seen). The whole situation seems to have been fueled by anger, vengeance, and rumors, and then covered up and swept under the rug as much as possible. In my opinion, there were a lot more guilty parties involved, probably including some high up leaders, than there were people who paid for their crimes.
7. For sure I need to do more research on the BoM anachronisms and the books that are similar to the BoM. It gives me some hope that maybe some of the latter have been discredited. But for sure I am kind of generally unimpressed with evidence FOR the BoM as a historical book. I still hope I’m wrong, but the evidence FOR it seems so limited, while the evidence against it seems so extensive. I want to read more for sure because I would love to be wrong, but at the moment I guess I am happy to maybe try to embrace it as a spiritual, but not a historical, book. I’ll keep you posted though as I start reading about this (which will probably take me a while to getting around to doing).
Thanks so much for your comments! You have read SOOOO much, it amazes me! I always learn new things and you always are great for fact checking me. Thanks!