Episode 73: The Birth of Mormon Fundamentalism

Written by Lindsay Hansen Park on . Posted in year of polygamy

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Comments (6)

  • Lindsay

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    Lindsay, Thank you so much for these amazing podcasts! I feel like in the other podcasts, there has been a fairly interesting case made for why the fundamentalist groups thought they had authority. There was a lot of doublespeak, the apostles were making the case that patriarchs had the ability to seal, apostles and even the prophet were authorizing secret sealings, while later denying it. I feel like Brian Hales decided his conclusion (that the LDS church has the authority) before examining the Fundamental experience. His conclusion is that the LDS church absolutely always had the keys. That’s not a bad opinion to have (I am LDS and feel like they have the best claim on authority), but there is a good amount of evidence to show that it isn’t that clear cut. I felt like he used a lot of proof-texting of scriptures as evidence of that conclusion.

    For example, he says that D&C 132:7 clearly shows that only one person ever has the ability to seal. This isn’t clearly shown by that. Prophets, apostles, temple sealers and patriarchs were performing sealings in the 19th century. There are hundreds, if not thousands of temple sealers that are given this authority today. There is never just 1 person that holds this authority. With all of the doublespeak with prophets and apostles, no one really knew what was going on, for a good 30-40 year stretch. The presidents of the church were sealing in secret and claiming that it had been done away with in public. I really feel like Hales used verse 7 to suit his own purpose.

    He also claims that the powers of a patriarch in D&C 124:124 are obviously only in regard to patriarchal blessings. I feel like this is hardly self-evident. Here is the text of that verse:

    First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the SEALING BLESSINGS OF MY CHURCH, even the HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you.

    It is hardly clear, whether or not this also includes the power to seal couples. In fact, in section 132:7 talks about how sealings need to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Our modern interpretation is that this doesn’t include the ability to seal couples, but I don’t think this was clear in the 19th and early 20th century. In fact, I don’t think it had been vetted to figure out exactly what it meant. Overall, I think it is disingenuous to claim that these were mostly free agents acting without a sense of authority. I think most were confused where the authority was and which leaders had it.

    Lindsay, I’ve really appreciated the perspectives of the different groups, that you have presented. I was just sad to see that reduced by Brian Hales to them simply trying to justify their actions without the appearance of authority. I think that they did and still do believe they have authority. It seemed clear to them at the time. To simply point out how they are wrong based on proof-texts diminishes their experience IMHO.

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  • Lindsay

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    I actually feel like there is a case to be made that D&C 124:124 is simply saying that Hyrum Smith has been sealed by the spirit of promise. It says nothing about sealing blessings on peoples’ heads.

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  • Anna

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    Thank you Lindsay for this extraordinary series. I have learned so much.

    I would also like to hear different perspectives on fundamentalist sects. Brian Hales was excellent but clearly did not think the fundamentalist groups had any real reason to believe they had the priesthood keys. I think, in the Church, we often reduce fundamentalist beliefs as all about making up excuses for old men to have sex with young girls. This series has taught me that there are a wide variety of fundamentalist beliefs that are not like those of Warren Jeffs. It is helpful to understand the messy aspects of succession and polygamy so we can judge for ourselves what we believe and why we believe it.

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  • Jorge

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    Excellent work Lindsay. Brian Hales is very knowledgeable and intelligent, although his conclusions in my opinion can sometimes undermine his credibility. Having said that, I’ve listened to other Polygamy series podcasts, and I’ve yet to hear the claim that this practice was instituted for the sole purpose of establishing proper lineage.

    For example Joseph Smith, having a direct lineage from Joseph sold in Egypt, and therefore the rightful “heir” for the restoration of the gospel etc, etc. Where does this narrative fit in? I haven’t heard that since my seminary year almost 20 years ago.

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  • Lauren Ard

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    Thanks for having Brian Hales on. I think it’s great that you have a spectrum of beliefs on your podcast, and important for all of us to think that, even if every LDS Church member knew the “real” history of polygamy, it would not necessarily mean that they would all stop believing in the practice. The information is still subject to interpretation. (I do think MOST people would have a radical change of faith, if not a loss of faith, but not everyone.)

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  • TAB

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    Thank you to Brian Hales for this guest appearance and for this wonderful series!

    I don’t want to take this discussion off course, but if we are discussing the concept of eternal relationships and believe that there is an afterlife, then we should be compassionate about what the possibilities of eternal relationships may be and what our concepts of what should be allowable relationships in the eternities. If we think non-serial heterosexual monogamy should be the only allowable form of continuing relationship, then we should understand what that belief requires of many relationships that would have to end.

    Advocating for agency and respect for a variety of types of eternal relationships

    Polygamy, to most feminists and modern followers of the Mormon faith tradition, often raises profound feelings of anger, pain, unfairness, sexism, dishonesty, misogyny, abuse, patriarchy, misuse of authority, and shame. Polygamy has been practiced in ways sustain male privilege, was frequently not consensual to all involved, and was outrageously unfair and hurtful. Many Mormons loth the Church’s history with polygamy, and with just cause; I concur.

    That said, l ask us to think about eternal relationships and assume that there is an afterlife and that individuals can choose to continue intimate loving relationships forged in this life into the eternities. I also ask us to consider agency and consent as fundamental building blocks of fairness and foundational principles in a post-mortal existence where relationships may endure.

    Given that the choice of whom we love and wish to enter intimate loving committed relationships with are among the most personal and profound choices we make, if we respect agency and consent, are we justified in condemning or restricting others in their choices of whom they form consensual, loving, committed relationships with, or to restrict which of those relationships they should be allowed to continue in the next existence and which have to end?

    Is there something inherent about heterosexual monogamous non-serial relationships that such is the only acceptable form of loving relationship that should be allowed in this life or allowed to continue in the next existence?

    So those of us who have loved a person in this life and they have died and have loved another person after that, should we be required to pick which person we will be associated with in the eternities? Assuming all consent to continue the relationships, does our insistence on monogamy as the only fair type of relationship, justify us to make someone have to end a relationship they don’t want to end because monogamy is right?

    Now here I must note that the privilege of having serial sealed marriages is now not only restricted to men in the LDS Church, but women too can be sealed to a subsequent husband upon the death of a spouse so this privilege is NOT limited to men. Eternal polyandry is currently practiced in the LDS Church as is eternal polygamy and eternal blended relationships (men sealed to more than one woman who in-turn may be sealed to more than one man). Most Mormons embrace monogamy as the only fair type of relationship and assume that “God will sort it out, and everyone will be happy with their one spouse for eternity.”

    If everyone consents, why must we restrict eternal relationships to heterosexual monogamy?

    My opinion is that our agency and consent will be honored and we can choose to be in whatever types of consensual committed loving relationships we wish to be involved in and can, with the full consent of all others involved, continue such relationships in the eternities.

    So same sex marriages are fine and monogamous heterosexual or same sex relationships are great, just both parties commit to only marry one person in this lifetime and continue that pledge of fidelity in the eternities. AND also individuals may consent to continue other types of loving committed relationships too including polyamorous relationships involving consenting men and women as a group, polyandry involving one women and more than one man, polygamous relationships involving one man and more than one women, and blended or networked relationships involving men committed to other men or women who in-turn are committed to other men or women but not every person involved is in a relationship with everyone in the group.

    If this offends your sense of propriety, that’s fine, just remain monogamous or don’t form any relationships at all. But let’s be careful in thinking our view of justice and fairness should enable us to restrict others from consensually entering and maintaining committed loving relationships of their choosing.

    I believe God/the Divine/Heavenly Parents do respect agency and consent and love all humanity and will respect and allow all forms of committed consensual loving relationships to continue in the eternities as well as allow some who choose not to be in a relationship to find exaltation as well. A few adjustments in doctrine are needed to achieve this expanded plan of salvation including the ability to enter and exit relationships in the eternities, but we seem to manage such and blended families, polyamorous families, same sex couples, cooperative parenting, and such well enough in this life when we are our best selves, so with ages to refine our character there is no reason we shouldn’t expect that those who chose to be in relationship of any possible type in the eternities should not be able to manage it.

    D&C 132:66 can give us hope: “And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.” This is a promise that more will be revealed regarding the eternal nature of relationships and is one of the few points of doctrine in which God has said that more is coming. My hope is that we will open our minds and hearts and be compassionate and accepting of those who choose consensually to enter loving committed non-traditional relationship structures both in this life and who hope for the continuance of such relationships in the eternities. Given that polygamy is not the only option to monogamy, feminists like me can embrace and support others in entering non-exploitive consensual relationships regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, number, or type. We can make a case for neither polyamorous/polyandrous/polygamous eternal relationships nor heterosexual monogamous relationships being a requirement for exaltation.

    Feminists can adopt and transform the horrors of polygamy into an affirming foundation for acceptance of consent to enter all types of relationships and hope for the continuation of relationships in a next existence. We do not have to exorcize non-monogamy from our doctrine or thinking to support eternal gender equality; we just have to expand our concept of what eternal relationships are allowed.

    This path forward of acceptance helps us embrace our lesbian sisters, our gay brothers, our bisexual brothers and sisters, our transgendered siblings, our polygamous/polyandrous ancestors, our polyamorous friends, the multiple loves of our lives, and have peace that the eternities can be a place where committed loving consensual relationships can continue and be honored by us and by God. Militant heterosexual monogamy may not be the path we should require of all humanity much less ourselves; it is not the only redemptive path for women.

    Our Mothers in Heaven may smile upon us when we realize that the divine masculine is just an option not a prerequisite.

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