Thursday, June 5, 2008

Contra Poligamia

My wife and I bumped into a young lady ("Kristi") with children at deseret book today. She related to us that her husband is associating with a polygamist sect and that she was looking for something to try to help the situation. A conversation ensued, we exchanged email addresses, and I sent her the following email. What would you add?

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Kristi,

My wife and I enjoyed meeting you and your children today at Deseret Book. I have thought long and hard about what book or material might give you the information you seek. What mostly comes to mind, however, are bits and pieces of stuff from here and there. I do not wish to intrude or violate your privacy in any way, but I wish to be as helpful as I can be in any way.

By way of disclaimer, I do not pretend to have the answers to everything nor do I believe I have any right to tell you what to think or what to do except as you give me permission. You and your priesthood leaders are entitled to receive revelation and direction for you and your family while I am not. However, I sincerely believe the Lord often puts people in our path who needs our help or who we can help. So, I will try to offer any help I can if it be agreeable with you and the Spirit.

Also, I do not believe I know more than you or am more informed in anyway. I do not wish to ever give you the impression that I'm talking down to you in any way. If I ever come across strongly, it's not meant to offend in any way.

I know there are about a thousand things you're thinking about and trying to understand. Out of all of them, what would you say is the most troublesome?

While thinking about "Mormon fundamentalism" (a total misnomer!) and the situation you find yourself in, I have had the following thoughts. Please forgive any typos or grammar problems

Testimony.
As you research and study, you will uncover things you may not understand. That's okay! I've found that often I have much to learn and understand. Don't be afraid of new knowledge. However (and this is very important!), don't discard what you do know because of what you don't know. I image that you, like myself, have read the Book of Mormon and have come to a conviction that it is indeed true. I imagine you have received a witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is Christ's true Church. Don't ever betray those things in a moment of uncertainty. This is the most important thing I could ever say to you on the topic.


Authority. A basic and essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is priesthood authority. Priesthood authority comes by revelation and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority before a person can administer the ordinances of the gospel (Article of Faith 1:5). D&C 42 is termed "the law of the Church." It defines church organization, practice, discipline, and so forth. One important, emphatic verse reads "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church" (verse 11). This verse alone should destroy all pretense to authority for the splinter groups. "it shall not be given.." means not now, not then, not ever. All splinter groups claim authority from some secret ordination by a man or an angel when the Lord himself has said it cannot happen that way! One must receive priesthood authority from those who have been "regularly ordained by the heads of the church" not by some back room secret ordination. No matter what any one says, that is what our scriptures say and is the truth!

Keys of Sealing Power. The keys of sealing power are held only by one person, the president of the church. D&C 132:7--"And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead."

Several things in this verse stand out to me. First, there is only one person who holds the keys of this power. It was Joseph Smith while he was alive. Today it is President Monson. No one else holds the keys! Second, it must be "by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed [the president of the church]." Plural marriage can only be performed if a commandment comes from God to do so by revelation to the president of the church. That revelation came to Joseph Smith. The revelation to end it came to Wilford Woodruff and was confirmed and completed by Joseph F. Smith. If the practice were to return, it would be by revelation to the living president of the church who holds the keys.

The Church not to Apostatize.
Most splinter groups insist that the church has apostatized in some form or another. This contradicts the revelations of God, however. First of all, the dream recorded in Daniel 2 saw the coming forth of the Kingdom of God in the last days. It says "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (verse 44). The Church, according to this prophecy, will not be destroyed nor given to another people until the Millennial day which is approaching.

Most members of the Church are well aware of President Woodruff's statement found in the appendix to the Doctrine and Covenants: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." I believe that statement, although it can't be used to convince a splinter group. Why? Because they believe Wilford Woodruff had already led the church astray and therefore could be lying in this statement. The funny thing is that this concept did not originate with Wilford Woodruff, but with Brigham Young:

"Brother [Heber C.] Kimball says you must keep alive, and give nourishment and vitality to the body, comparing the Church to a tree; that you must help your Prophet and Revelator and keep that portion of the tree alive. God keeps that alive, brethren and sisters. I thank you for your prayers, your integrity, &c., but I feel to-day as I did in Nauvoo, when Sidney Rigdon and others intended to ride the Church into hell. I told them that I would take my hat and the few that would go with me and build up the kingdom of God, asking no odds of them. If you support me, you support yourselves; if you do not choose to do this you will dry up, blow away and be damned....The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth." (Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 9:289).

In other words, God would sustain and "keep alive" the heads of the church without the help of the members. Further, He will not permit them to lead the church astray "if you are found doing your duty." Well, with polygamy, the church did it's duty. The brethren and sisters suffered great persecution, went to jail, struggled and toiled while defending that principle. It would be incredibly uninformed for someone to accuse them of not doing their "duty" when the Lord ended plural marriage.

So why did plural marriage cease? "Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good" (D&C 56:4). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings" (D&C 124:49). The Lord gives and repeals commandments as his will according to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Many examples of this could be given. Let me know if you'd like a few.

Not all statements by the Prophet are "prophetic." Joseph Smith said a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such. A friend of mine says "Catholic doctrine says that the Pope is infallible, and no catholic believes it. Mormon doctrine says the prophet is not infallible and no Mormon believes it!" The truth of the matter is that the president of the church is just as much human as you or I. While entitled to revelation for the church and although he holds the keys of the priesthood and kingdom of God, God doesn't give him a new brain, a new personality, or new philosophies when he becomes president of the church. So, if you study hard, you'll find that the prophets sometimes contradict each other and even themselves on some issues that are not core doctrines or principles of the gospel. This shouldn't bother any latter-day saint any more than seeing differences in opinion, personalities, and philosophies of our bishops, priests, elders, stake presidents, or anyone else. It's the same for the president of the church.

Scriptures are the Standard Works.
The scriptures are the standard works. They are the measuring stick (that's what "canon" means!) whereby to judge the doctrines and teachings of the church. If there is a conflict between the clear teaching of scripture and the views of a leader of the church, the scriptures take precedence. "It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine." (Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation, 3:205)

Monogamy is the norm, not Polygamy. Lehi didn't practice polygamy. Neither did Nephi, Alma, Mosiah, Mormon, Moroni, Abinadi, Jacob [Nephi's brother], etc. The Lord actually forbade most polygamy among the Nephites (see Jacob 2). Paul forbade polygamy for elders and bishops (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:5-6). However, Jacob 2:30 makes clear that the Lord may command it under certain circumstances. So, polygamy is not the norm, it is the exception. That is the scriptural fact, and that takes precedence over the opinions of any person.

Polygamy not required for Exaltation. It follows that if many prophets and even whole dispensations did not practice polygamy, it can't be required for exaltation. Further, D&C 132:19-20 makes it clear that polygamy is not part of the formula for exaltation. "And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood...they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them."

"A man" sealed to "a woman" can be exalted, not a man sealed to "two or more women."

Kristi, I hope some of this helps. We can't ever force another's beliefs, but we should do all we can to bring the truth to light (D&C 124:11-16). The only person's belief you can ultimately control is your own. I hope these things I have mentioned will help you first and foremost.

So, what are the most troubling issues you are confronting?

Sincerely,
Andrew

17 comments:

Tobey said...

The challenge with these arguments is that many Mormon Fundamentalists -

Do still consider the LDS Church to the be the Lord's church, albeit wayward.

Strongly believe in the need for authority.

Believe in a continual line of succession of the Priesthood keys (in their group) from Joseph Smith to the present day.

Believe the LDS Church still continues to fulfill a divine role.

They would argue that their beliefs are more in line with the scriptures, especially regarding practices the Church no longer carries out.

And they rely on the many quotes from past prophets that polygamy was / is essential to exaltation.

Perhaps he is associating out of curiosity, perhaps he has just made good friends with someone who is a Fundamentalist, but whatever the case I would encourage her to discuss with her husband as much as possible anything he is studying in a calm and reasonable manner.

It is easy to be over-alarmed at what may be just intellectual curiosity, or to drive someone away because of unreasonable demands ("you can't study that or I'm going to report you to the Bishop").

The man, even if he is working through some challenging issues, should be considerate of his wife's worries, and they should seek to understanding one-another.

Andrew I. Miller said...

tobey,

thanks for your comments.

Zerin said...

This blog entry has made me wonder if we were Baptists what might we say to someone whose husband was studying Mormonism.

I hope we would say: "study it with them, study it deeply and thoroughly, be open-minded, try to understand their views, put aside your preconceptions, and don't be afraid to question."

It seems this sort of response would lead to better respect for those who differ in some aspects of their beliefs, as well as helping us to be better informed about their views and our own faith.

Andrew I. Miller said...

Zerin,

While I can appreciate your views on the subject, I wouldn't encourage most LDS to "study" the splinter groups' views in order to better understand them. The fact of the matter is that the doctrines of the restored gospel make it absolutely clear that fundamentalist claims to authority cannot be true. Unfortunately, there are some members of the church who are gullible enough to buy into their false notions which will lead them to hell.

Zerin said...

Andrew,

Whilst I understand that its possible that those without a good grounding in the scriptures and teachings of the prophets may lead themselves astray, I believe that those who will use the scriptures and revelations as a basis in their studies have little to fear.

I'm not recommending everyone go out their way to study ever Christian and LDS sect, but if they come across one in their lives - a friend, a spouse or sibling - and they wish to be able to help them, then they will need to begin by understanding not only their own beliefs but the beliefs of those they are trying to get through too.

As missionaries we ask the same of those of different faiths, and I feel it would be arrogant for us not to be prepared to do the same. Brigham Young used to give Protestant preachers who came to Salt Lake the podium in the tabernacle to speak from if they wanted, but reserved the right to challenge what he might say.

Studying the beliefs of those who I have come into contact with - Catholics, Muslims and even RLDS Church members (although not FLDS) has only strengthened my testimony of the Gospel.

When we talk of people "studying themselves out of the church" I worry that we give credence to the view that our beliefs cannot stand up to investigation.

There is a quote from an old Church magazine (Improvement Era) that impressed me so much I memorized it. I guess it sums up what I think pretty well, and I'm glad I've found a chance to use it -

"The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding."

There is, of course, a risk in studying others views (if we do not have and keep the proper Spirit in doing so), but I fear there is a greater risk of our faith being shallow and more easily attacked and lost if we try to hide ourselves from every notion that might conflict with it.

Andrew I. Miller said...

Like I said, I wouldn't encourage any one to study their beliefs. There's a difference between not encouraging someone and discouraging someone. I wouldn't discourage them either. I believe that it is important to be informed and to scrutinize our own views, etc, but that doesn't mean every individual ought to do so or ought to be encouraged to do so. Some people, even with solid testimonies, don't have solid enough grasp on some issues to be able to study such things without being led astray.

MoMan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew I. Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MoMan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew I. Miller said...

MoMan, while I appreciate the substance of your post, I will not discuss such things openly here. If you wish to continue the discussion by email or on you blog, that's fine.

MoMan said...

Andrew,

I'm saddened that my remarks were not deemed suitable. I intended to speak boldly, but not offensively.

Feel free to comment on my remarks at -

http://straighteningthecrooked.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/strong-reasons-or-weak-ones/

Your brother in the Gospel,

MoMan

Andrew I. Miller said...

moman,

I did not find your statements offensive personally, but I do not wish anyone to be advocating plural marriage on my blog.

Thanks,
Andrew

AJ said...

Andrew,

You quote from D&C 132:7 and then say that only the President of the Church holds the keys to plural marriage.

In the quote I see that only one holds them and at that time it was Joseph Smith. Nowhere do I see that the President of the Church is always the one that holds them.

I have read that Joseph Smith wished to appoint Hyrum to be President of the Church so he could focus less on the temporal and more on the spiritual level of things. Joseph claimed that he would preside over the Priesthood while Hyrum presided over the Church. The Church refused at that time to sustain his desire. And that as pertaining to the Priesthood he would preside over Hyrum, while Hyrum would preside over him in the Church.

I believe you also see the same in the Church when it comes to the home ward of the President. Except when the President is there in official capacity, he is under the guidance of his Bishop and Quorum president. They assign him home teachers and families to home teach. He on the other hand has to approve the Bishop (I hear the First Presidency has to approve all calls to Bishop).

Considering the above, I would like to know if you know of anywhere in the Standard Works it specifies that the one who holds the keys to marriage has to be the President of the Church. I know in various talks it is intimated that the President of the Church holds all the keys, yet I cannot find the supporting scriptures in the Standard Works.

Kind regards,
AJ

Andrew I. Miller said...

aj [quote]:"I have read that Joseph Smith wished to appoint Hyrum to be President of the Church so he could focus less on the temporal and more on the spiritual level of things. Joseph claimed that he would preside over the Priesthood while Hyrum presided over the Church. The Church refused at that time to sustain his desire. And that as pertaining to the Priesthood he would preside over Hyrum, while Hyrum would preside over him in the Church." [end quote]

Could you furnish a reference for all of your allegations? I've read a lot of church history and never seen any evidence for any of those things except Hyrum being appointed president of the church.

aj [quote] "Considering the above, I would like to know if you know of anywhere in the Standard Works it specifies that the one who holds the keys to marriage has to be the President of the Church. I know in various talks it is intimated that the President of the Church holds all the keys, yet I cannot find the supporting scriptures in the Standard Works." [end quote]


There clearest scriptural example is this:

"Unto whom [Joseph Smith, Jr] I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood: " (D&C 81:2)

There are others, of course. The keys of the kingdom are synonymous with sealing power (Matthew 16:19), therefore, the President of the High Priesthood always hold the keys of sealing power.

I realize that many splinter groups believe that they have the keys, but they would have to give a scripturally based foundation for the idea that the keys would no longer remain with the president of the church. The ordination that supposedly occurred in secret in 1886 also violates many other scriptural principles.

Anonymous said...

In reference to who can hold plural marriage keys, isn't a simple matter of delegation? The Prophet holds all the keys and then he delegates. If the Prophet states that you can no longer do plural marriage sealings, then no one who has been set apart to perform marriages can do plural marriage sealings.

aj said...

I have done some looking for the source of my "quote", unfortunately it has been a few years since I read it and I am not sure where it is. I will let you know when I find it.

As for your response, the quote is quite clear that the keys belong to the Presidency of the High Priesthood. Is this synonymous with the Presidency of the Church?

The quote is quite interesting in itself since it places the keys with the Presidency and not just the President. The President would have the ultimate power however, since he can release any of the others in the Presidency.

Bruce in Montana said...

While I enjoy you blog, I must take issue with the idea that enough scripture and prophet quotes will ever prove the fundamentalists wrong. There are many very intelligent fundamentalists who can support their claims as solidly as the most learned mainstream LDS. If they couldn't, there probably wouldn't be any fundamentalists.
When a situation like this arises, a person must (should) seek a personal witness to what is true. That takes guts, especially if the possibility exists that what you have always convinced yourself of as being true, might not be.