Episode 94: Polygamy Controversies: John C. Bennett

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

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  • Charles

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    Hi Lindsey,

    I have seen and heard some of your postings on polygamy. I am intrigued by the fact that you are still a member of the LDS Church. So, do you still believe or have a testimony that God called Joseph Smith as a Prophet?
    I think the work you have done to uncover and explain a lot about polygamy is excellent in that it generates a lot of info for those that are interested in understanding the subject from the historic point of view, albeit a lot is still based on rumors and secondary and tertiary sources, been so many years removed. You will have admit that there is a lot of fill-in-the-gaps in this subjects.

    As good as your work is, it is still a little bit problematic for me because of the motivation that drove all that effort. The reason, I think, is because the motivation really directs the effort and leads it, making it seem bias. What I am trying to say is that depending on the motivation, we may become blind to certain aspects of the whole history.

    In your interview with John Dehlin you stated that you have a testimony that polygamy is wrong. So, on hearing that, I became curious on two aspects. 1) Do you consider polygamy a different thing than Plural Marriage sanctioned by God? 2) When you say that are you referring more to current practice by the different contemporary groups?

    The reason I decided to write to you is because I am not totally clear on your position. In one of your sites your introduction says you had a “visceral” reaction against polygamy. And in proceeding with your research you have delved into historical/academic/etc. narratives that seem to have led you to doubt your belief that Joseph Smith was called by God to do the work he did. Is this a correct assumption?

    Now, I too have a huge problem with polygamy, specially when it is not ordained by Father in Heaven. I can see that it can, and has been abused and lent itself to satisfy the lusts of man and opress other human beings, daughters and sons of a Loving Father. This is unacceptable in any way shape or form. A lot of the anti mormon argument start from the principle of a closed mind in relation to what should and should not have come from God. For example, the very polygamy matter was viscerally opposed in the times of Joseph Smith and from that period on because American society had and still has Victorian concept of what was/is and what was/is not moral or correct. That Victorian influence is still plaguing us. And, I submit to you that you are driving that effort on polygamy history only because that influence is still very much alive. So, when you say that polygamy influences everything in Mormon history (or something to that effect), in reality, what should have said is, Victorian mores still influences how polygamy and other matters are dealt in our day. With all respect, it seems to me you are a product of that.

    Why I say that? Up to this day we still read the bible for example, under the Victorian and protestant influence. For example, we read the story of nativity ignoring some interesting facts. For example, the story says that God the Most High chose a virgin that was already “married” to another man to be the mother of His Divine Son. Now, this becomes very alarming when you consider that that virgin was an underage woman, as she was probably 13 or 14 years old.

    If we use your historian/academic motivations to analyse that account then we would have to “reconstruct” the whole story of Christianity.

    The subject becomes even more alarming if you were an LDS that believes or have a testimony that mankind has a Celestial Mother who is the Wife of a Celestial Father, as in this case, the story of the nativity becomes a clear case of polygamy.

    So, I hope you understand why I asked the first question above. I am not saying or stating anything here, all I am giving you is some interesting perspectives, which you may even have already considered yourself.

    In light of that, I would say that no matter the amount of history we narrate, we will never really comprehend certain things if we don’t humble ourselves and realize that academic or historian perspective are so extremely limited, that they will only give you a small fraction of the truth.
    The reason for that is because we are always stuck with our own core of personal beliefs. Now, belief is necessary for us to survive in this world. It is through beliefs that we interpret the world around us. However, belief should be also questioned, analysed and discarded if they don’t lead us to faith and ultimately to a testimony of the truth.

    Have a great day,
    Charles

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