Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mormon.Org FAQ on polygamy

Excerpts of Mormon.org FAQ: Polygamy by Hawkgrrrl at MormonMatters.org.  (Note that this is quite a step for the church to ask its members to openly address the topic of polygamy -- and provides an interesting glimpse at church member rationale for the practice).

The church has initiated a new online profile campaign on mormon.org in which those interested in the church can "meet" actual members who've posted pictures of themselves, personal experiences with the church, and their own answers to a variety of questions about Mormonism. 

Some of the answers to the difficult questions are problematic for various reasons):

  • some answers contain factual errors, including some doctrinal mistakes (see below)
  • this exposes some of the most common speculations and assumptions that are comfort food to lay members on these tough issues; there's an upside to this, too.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for the church to clarify or deal with some incorrect assumptions.
  • some of the answers are not going to be very appealing to those outside the church.

 Why did your church previously practice plural marriage (polygamy)?

Reading through the posted responses, ...

  • ... I've heard many theories about why God commanded it but, as far as I can tell, none of the theories can be proven....
  • My great, great, great grandmother was a polygamist. ...The legacy she left continues to inspire me to be stronger and better. I believe she was a polygamist wife for the benefit of her posterity.
  • The Prophets have said "to raise up a righteous generation unto the Lord." The righteous women in the Church outnumber the righteous men. ...

The old romantic paternalist argument that women are more righteous than men.  It is demonstrably false that there was a shortage of marriageable men in the early days of the church. 

  • See the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon where the then current Prophet banned the practice because of the unrighteousness of the people. Will the practice ever come back officially? ...
  • Let's look at some facts: in the 19th century, about three quarters of the world's population lived in countries or societies where polygamy was sanctioned or even encouraged. In non-polygamous societies, like Europe, having a "mistress" was common and acceptable by society. I think it's much more honorable to be legally and lawfully wedded to two wives, than to have one wife and a "mistress".
  • It's my understanding that scarecely 3 percent of Church members practiced polygamy.

The 3% estimate is disproven.  More accurate estimates indicate 20-30%.  And the other issue is that it contradicts the notion that only the righteous practiced it (so between 70 and 97% of all church members were unrighteous?)

  • However, when the representative who speaks for God a prophet says that God wants you to do something, you do it. That is what happened back in the day. God told Joseph Smith that He wanted them to practice plural marriage and so they did.
  • God has commanded humans to practice polygamy in many different instances throughout history.

It was the infertile wives (Sariah, Rachel and Leah) and conniving fathers-in-law (Laban) who were behind polygamy in the OT.  There is no scriptural account in the OT of God commanding polygamy....

  • It was from God's order out of necessity to take care of many women who were widowed with children and those who were alone.

 There are MTC volunteers who are reviewing for content and accuracy, so I suppose it is consistent with whatever average missionaries believe is accurate. 

The entire article (plus comments) can be read here.

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