Monday, January 21, 2008

Relief Society / Priesthood Manual & Polygamy

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

For the first time in recent memory, a new manual Mormons will use to study the writings of founder Joseph Smith acknowledges Smith's role in introducing the practice of polygamy.
   The acknowledgment may not seem groundbreaking to many Mormons or historians, nor will it likely satisfy most critics, but its inclusion in an official course of study is a departure from past practices and may signal a new openness about Mormon history.
   The change is "not a response to critics who think the church has not been straightforward about its involvement with plural marriage in the 19th century," said David Marsh, manager of curriculum development for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "It is included . . . to illustrate a few of the doctrines or principles that do not have application to our day and which are therefore not included in the book."
   Still, it is noteworthy.
   The church launched its church presidential writings course in 1998 with Brigham Young. In Sunday meetings, the all-male priesthood and the all-female Relief Society used the same manual to separately examine Young's thoughts on a particular topic. Critics quickly noted, though, that the book's biographical sketch of Young listed only one wife, not the more than 50 women he had married. The volume made no mention of polygamy, a practice Young followed and defended throughout his life.
   Nor was polygamy acknowledged in the manual about President Joseph F. Smith, who had five wives, or the one about President Heber J. Grant, who had three.

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