On the 2nd February Kirk van Allen wrote a critique of Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In his analysis he concluded that as far as he could see polygamy was morally wrong. For this assertion he recently reported that he has been asked by his local church leaders to revise the blog removing all suggestion that he does not personally agree with the official position that polygamy was inspired. In other words it appears that this monogamous Mormon man is being required to accept polygamy as revelatory – on pain of discipline.
Kirk and Lindsay van Allen are a young Mormon couple who have lived a religiously uneventful life of Mormon adherence. Yet over the last couple of years both have been troubled by polygamy reading the LDS.org polygamy essays and delving into other historical and doctrinal literature. They even decided to do a close reading of Section 132.
I speak with Kirk first, and then Lindsay about what lead them to delve into polygamy as a doctrinal proposition, and what ultimately lead them to outright reject it as a Christian doctrine.
The Van Allens are entitled to their opinions, but there are numerous historical and theological problems with their claims and reasoning. It is unfortunate that such superficial analyses of a sacred topic can gain such traction on the internet. To review an ongoing exchange regarding their published beliefs, see:
I think its because their opinions resonate with so, so many people Brian. Analysing polygamy has long been the terrain of experts and scholars. These are regular people trying to make sense for it themselves, without the apologetics or the ‘expert knowledge’. They are doing what most Mormons are required to do – read the scriptures in order to understand the doctrine. So this is what they have done – and doing this simple thing has gained this story traction – cause when you actually read section 132 – it reads real nasty.
Brian Hales, I have to be honest and say that I am a bit jarred/appalled by your choice of these words: “superficial analyses” & “sacred topic”.
Is polygamy truly such a sacred topic and practice as not to be discussed by lay-men- and women? It certainly is a topic that has caused, and still causes, an extreme amount of anxiety, sorrow and heartbreak for women and men! – This anxiety exists among those that consider it a possible future, not to mention those that are involuntarily sealed to more than one spouse.
If this heartbreak is part of “the sacred” and not to be discussed then many will have to choose to leave “the sacred” behind in order to maintain a reasonable amount of mental health in this life.
The way I see it is that if we, as a church, can once-and-for-all repudiate this practice then all the suffering past and present might have had SOME sort of a purpose in leading the way for other religions/cultures (that still practice it) to do the same; to leave it behind.
I think their analysis on the topic has been thoroughly looked at and as Gina said, what they’ve concluded is what thousands of others has as well. Polygamy is not of God, it hurts and confuses.
If their “opinion” is so easily disassemble because it’s an “opinion” then by all means, so is your take on it.
You seem a bit like a dog with a bone on this.
If it is not of God then Abraham was not of God.
No real evidence that Abraham even existed
“Round four” was a disappointing read, though clearly well named to reveal the competitive and combative nature of your apologetic response.
Lindsay and Kirk are not “unbelievers” except in the practice of polygamy. Neither are they “on their way out”, but they are hoping to remain active and serving in the church. They are, on other topics, relatively orthodox in their beliefs. Of course, admitting that goes against strategy, doesn’t it? To acknowledge that active, believing members can look at the scriptures and Mormon history and come to conclusions which don’t justify or exalt every single act or word of authorities is to condemn the cult of personality which has been a idolatrous plague on the church for many years. Is fear of such condemnation how you justify the marginalizing language and ad hominem jabs? Or is your pride just wounded?
Thanks heavens there are faithful members, an increasing number of them, willing to honestly assess the complexities of our religion and grapple with them, without the need of slavish obeisance to an incoherent and inconsistently applied pseudo doctrine of hero worship and prophet deification.
When you find your arguments have gone the way of the RLDS’ repudiation of polygamy, all will have come full circle. ‘Til then – don’t pull a groin muscle.
Bro. Hales – Do you think that Kirk and Lindsay Van Allen should be disciplined by the church for expressing their opinion on their blog?
Brian Hales comment is not only smug and self-righteous but flatly wrong-headed. For generations, thoughtful and faithful Mormons have debated whether polygamy was evidence that Joseph got carried away with himself, proof that he, despite the restoration, was a “fallen prophet.” Whatever. The alleged actions of the van Allen’s local church leaders are quite heavy-handed and inappropriate as reported, particularly in light of church’s admirable efforts to share unexpurgated church history, warts and all, with the world. Those church leaders in Missouri need to get with the program.
Actually, it was your response, Brother Hales, that I found painfully contorted and seeped in confirmation bias. The rationalizations given for the way polygamy was practiced in our church do not hold up to scrutiny. Hearing members defend a practice that caused (and continues to cause) immeasurable heartache and abuse makes me question whether or not I can, in good conscience, raise my daughter in the church.
First, I want to thank Brian for the Maria Woodward quote on Emma. Since we have so few primary writings from her we have to look at the secondary sources to find out what she was thinking and feeling on these matters. Perhaps after lighting fire to the original Clayton transcribed section 132, she softened somewhat as pertains to the principle. Also the Joseph smith quote “Here, brother Brigham, you seal this lady [widow Fanny Young] to me” may seem light hearted, but we are talking about eternity here. I think all of us are thankful for Wilford Woodruff wrestling over the issue. As quoted in the AHC diary April 5, 1894, Wilford Woodruff said, “Heretofore we have not permitted wives to be sealed to their dead husbands unless such husbands were in the Church, nor have we permitted children to be sealed to dead unbaptized parents. This is wrong I feel.” Going back to the BY quote from 1874, on pg 166.
“it was in July 1843, that he received this revelation concerning celestial marriage. This doctrine was explained and many received it as far as they could understand it. Some apostatized on account of it; but others did not, and received it in their faith. This, also, is a great and noble doctrine. They say, “This is rather a hard business; I dont’ like my husband to take a plurality of wives in the flesh.” “If we could make every man upon the earth get him a wife live righteously and serve God, we would not be under the necessity, perhaps, of taking more than one wife. But they will not do this; the people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives.
Now, where a man in this Church says, “I don’t want but one wife, I will live my religion with one,” he will perhaps be saved in the celestial kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has hid up. “Here is that which thou gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent,” and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single for ever and ever. But if the woman is determined not to enter into a plural marriage, that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. Well, that is very good, a very nice place to be a minister to the wants of others.” Here we have an example from BY that celestial marriage = plural marriage doctrine, and a difficult one that some apostatized over. Then we see his attack on a monogamous interpretation of the celestial marriage revelation.
I think it would serve you well to consider the effect of apologetics with an apparent attitude of arrogance while cherry picking your data and using logical fallacies to support your predetermined position.
Apologetics like yours helped convince me that the Church is not what it claims.
You too are entitled to your opinions, but don’t be shocked when many find your justification for those opinions lacking.
I have thoroughly searched this subject out and the lies that have been perpetrated by the lds church since pre Utah days is heinous and despicable.
I searched this out after a personal visitation of Joseph Smith. I knew from him that the polygamy charge was a lie. What my challenge has been for two years has been to find the paper trail that would expose the lies this church has made up and spread about Joseph Smith.
The church and its leaders will be damned for this before all other things… though they teach heresies and false doctrine and deny the doctrines of salvation and all the teachings in the Book of Mormon.
you all need to repent before the time when there is no more time to repent.
I think we can forgive an analysis which doesn’t require a redefinition of every word in the English language to put Joseph on a pedestal.
The reason their posts resonate and your rebuttal, which MANY have read, doesn’t as much to many is because they are taking the information in the context it was written and other church leaders have referred to rather than rebuilding a whole new context and then applying 132.
Thank you for this thoughtful podcast with the Van Allens. I found their dedication to searching and pondering to be inspiring, even though what they found was not as uplifting as they may have hoped. We are all invited to search, ponder and pray. No where in that directive is there anything that tells us to limit our efforts to topics of no import and/or of lesser a lesser sacred nature. I’m not certain, because I’m just one woman, but I don’t think the Hales speak for many main-stream Momons. No apologist speaks for me, I know that. Justifying the unjustifiable is a slap in the face to those who lived it. We don’t need to justify what our past leaders have done. Just identify the wrong, try our best to right it and move on. That’s all any of us can do.
I’m the g-g-g-granddaughter of numerous polygamists, includiing Ezra Taft Benson and his 5th wife–the amazing Elizabeth Gallaher. I only know one story about her and that is that while crossing the plains as a teen, she got so fed up with wearing ridiculously long and uncomfortable skirts that she and her sister burned theirs in the fire. They continued the trek in pantaloons only. I come from a long line of pants-wearing feminists I suppose. I wonder how her spirit was damaged when she was made the 5th wife of an old man. Breaks my heart to even think about it.
All my love and support to the Van Allens whose voices are speakng for so many of us.
Brian: “There is no scripture or other statement from presiding leaders that polygamy will be commanded in the hereafter.”
Bruce R. McConkie: “Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium (Isa. 4)”.
– Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed. pg. 578
I am disgusted by Brian Hale’s comment as well. What a bully. Thank you for the podcast.
Polygamy will forever be the ball and chain of the Mormon religion. I’m glad the internet has helped pave the path for more open, honest and thoughtful dialogue about the controversial subject.
I agree with you 100% with both of your observations on Bro. Hale and polygamy. I personally do not believe that D&C 132 was of God. I believe it was Joseph’s way to gain more control over the Nauvoo saints; he had a high sex drive or maybe both reasons. I discovered about JS’s polygamy and polyandry in August of 2012. This hidden history was the needle that broke the camels back and threw me into a faith crisis. After doing additional reading and then the essay that the church published in October 2014 on Nauvoo polygamy, confirmed all the “anti-Mormon” material I read before. Polygamy is of men and not God and the church lied to all of us by not bringing this bit of history into the correlated material that is taught at church every Sunday. Of course there are other gems of history that the church has now admitted to, which is great, but too late for me.
Great podcast – thank you!!
Brian Hales: I think you have missed their point. Section 132 doesn’t make sense to the Van Allen’s or to a lot of regular ol’ members, including me. I shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D in Religious Studies to decipher such “sacredness,” especially if it is going to drastically reconfigure my marriage relationship throughout the eternities. Doctrine ought to be simple, consistent, and easily understood. The fact that Sec. 132 is everything but that is, to my discerning mind and spirit, a BIG RED FLAG.
Scholarly exegesis aside, my heart tells me something is seriously wrong with polygamy, and the third member of the Godhead has yet to lie to me. Given the amount of spiritual revulsion that exists in members’ hearts–especially women’s hearts–regarding polygamy, it appears that the Holy Spirit isn’t backing up the text.
Truth begs scrutiny, invites inquiry, and welcomes examination. It demands analysis, applauds debate, and withstands every test. It is a friend of skeptics, adores controversy, and does not shy from criticism. It is fearless of future discoveries, embracing them with open arms. It laughs at scorn and ridicule, bristles with contempt at sophistry and spin, and has no use for apologetics. Truth endures, timeless and timely, living in the past, the present, and in every possible future.
What, then, do we, as seekers of truth, have to fear from any of the forms that truth takes? Absolutely nothing! Rather than turn away or run from our fears, we should face and confront them instead. We should be well informed, earnestly studying and prayerfully considering the evidence. We have been promised that if we will truly seek, we will find answers; knock, and doors of understanding and wisdom will be opened to us.
Christ provided this bit of wisdom for evaluating truth: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”
The fruits of polygamy are overwhelmingly bitter. Heartache, sorrow, deception, favoritism, jealousy, abuse, neglect, competition, resentment, loneliness, and a legacy that continues to haunt the Latter-day Saints, in the form of splinter groups that are involved in many unspeakable atrocities and evils, all claiming to have sprung from this twisted tree. A test? Unlike the Abrahamic test, there was no “ram in the thicket” provided for poor Emma. A tribute to the remarkable character of women coerced into this practice, to be sure, who made the best they could of an awful situation.
If polygamy is “of God”, then my moral compass is completely broken, for I cannot see its fruits as anything but rotten. I share the sentiment of the Van Allen’s, that it’s past time for some further light and knowledge from above, to either clarify or repudiate this practice. It is deeply disturbing that, over a century later, “we do not know” is still the most ubiquitous (and prophetic) commentary available from our leaders on a topic that allegedly even God himself deemed necessary to violate the prime directive of agency to threaten the prophet with an angel and a flaming sword for compliancy, but nobody seems to actually know why! Begging the question — has anyone even bothered to ask, in the years since?
Great thoughts. You mentioned the parallel that is often made to polygamy: The Abrahamic sacrifice. That Abraham BOUND his son on the alter infuses polygamy with and defines polygamy by characteristics of force, constriction, compulsion, domination, and control. Flaming sword, anyone? Destruction? Leveraging eternal life/damnation?
Additionally, I have yet to figure out what polygamy has to do with Jesus Christ’s birth, atonement, death, or resurrection.
I disagree with the Hales on this issue, as it appears many of the commenters here do. What is important, in my mind, is the ability to have open, honest, and respectful conversation. Brian has contributed much to the volume of material that allows us to have that conversation, and for that I am grateful. May we continue to discuss polygamy, especially when we disagree, in order to find the truth. I joined and continue to participate in ATF because of the respect that abides there and hope it will permeate other forums where Mormonism is discussed, breaking down the walls that so effectively inhibit the needed conversation.
Polygamy as practiced in our history does not withstand even cursory scrutiny very well- and it doesn’t take a scriptorian to get that. I’m afraid Brother Hales will have to get used to the concerns of the members who are most affected by this doctrine and do not have a testimony of its validity- especially the women, who are not quite as credulous as the first round of women required to practice it, especially as we have the benefit of how those fruits bore out and continue to plague us. I’m afraid the LDS men who are looking forward to this practice in the afterlife are far outnumbered by the women who are not.
We still teach polygamy as doctrine, and we all know it. I’m a couple weeks away from teaching Sec 132 in early AM Seminary, which should be fun… If you read the comments by Elder Oaks, a modern-day polygamist, at the bottom of the online lesson #140 of this year’s seminary manual, it is clear that he still believes that he’ll be with both of his wives in the hereafter. The lesson also says that Joseph started practicing in 1841, which contradicts the new essay about polygamy’s beginnings by acknowledging Fanny Alger in the mid-1830’s. Hard to keep this story straight. Lyndsay at fMh is the boss when it comes to all things polygamy – listen to her Year of Polygamy series and you get an honorary degree in Mormon polygamy.
What does the manual instruct you to teach?
Great podcast and comments!
Inasmuch as Brian C. Hales uses the angel-sword folklore to defend LDS polygamy (and the Church in recent articles quotes him in doing the same), my brother and I wrote a small article addressing the seven major problems with that folklore. I list the links to that article for anyone interested in hopes it might be helpful.
THE ANGEL-SWORD THAT FORCED LDS POLYGAMY: A CAUTION AGAINST DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE
View online: http://goo.gl/Whfsvk
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/hKzgXh
Thank you for this information. You have been the greatest help to me! I am sharing this with everyone! I cannot stomach the “angel and the sword” mythology. You are finally helping us make sense of this stuff and in turn making it possible for us to stay faithful Mormons.
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as a investigating non-member I just wanted to say thank you for your post and insights.
I just cannot agree with the “God is testing us” meme that so many apologists use. Maybe the “test” is that we have to listen to the apologists and their faulty logic, “just believe in spite of evidence” arguments?
Regarding Brian Hales’ comment, I think he is a wonderful example of total faith in the church, warts and all, a faith I do not share or relate to. I think the moment I realized I worshiped a different Mormon God from Brother Hales was when he was interviewed on the Year of Polygamy podcast and asserted that he believed that God temporarily commanded polygamy (and the accompanying pain for Mormon women, their oppression, and basic treatment as objects to collect), just like God temporarily commanded other things that seem bizarre or wrong, like animal sacrifices. 0.o
The God I worship would not throw his daughters under the bus just to test of how far his children would go to be obedient. The God I worship doesn’t view his daughters like animals – to be sacrificed, even temporarily, as a loyalty test. That God is not worth worshiping. The God I believe in, or at least want to believe in, is not petty. He’s not a bully. That God is not believable to me.
What is believable is the tendency, demonstrated again and again, that men with (religious) power are prone to use it to manipulate others for their own aim. It’s believable that a charismatic, handsome prophet, convinced of his divine calling, will convince himself and others that he’s entitled to whatever he desires.
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Who knew that Brian Hales work would lead so many women to once and for all renounce polygamy?
I only have Masters degree in a non-history field so what do I know, but I’ve been studying this in a very dedicated fashion ever since I listened to Brian Hales podcast on fair mormon. and
I am predicting that within five years the church will denounce polygamy. We are the last generation to suffer through this and pass it on to our daughters and grand-daughters. Let us be done with twisting ourselves into knots to make polygamy “OK” as we explain it to our kids. I still remember my Mom giving us the party lines about why the Utah saints “had ” to practice polygamy. My Mom didn’t know better, but I do, and we all do now.
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I am beginning to think that the LDS church recruits people like Hales to go on line, read posts they consider ” anti-mormon” and then refute or “protect the image of the church” with their arguments. I have been going through many sites about mormonism and I can see a pattern between all these so called ” defenders” of the church. People need to realize that if they are recruited for these kinds of things and they are toting the truth in order to be loyal to the church, the moment they are unfaithful to the truth, they are being unfaithful to themselves and to the Lord. People need to choose if they will serve the Lord/ truth or false idols/ twisting the truth to follow liders who lie/idols of flesh and bones.
I discovered this site recently and loved the pod-cast. The general trend regarding many “hard” questions seems to be ignoring them, even to avoid answers.
I don’t understand this. I have questions about history, LGBT issues, polygamy, etc, and there are no answers. Why?
Lindsay, you touched on something very interesting–the questions. I’ve discovered that many questions are prescribed. Asking if the Book of Mormon is true, for example, is an approved questions (if there is such a thing). Asking, however, why or if Joseph talked with Emma about Fannie Alger BEFORE he got involved…well, that gets you called into your bishops office and asked: “Do you read your scriptures? Are you saying your prayers? Are you attending your meetings?…..etc”.
Gina, I recently discovered your podcast and have been loving it. Thank you for providing this for us. This episode was fascinating. I’ve been trying to find Kirk’s original post/website and it seems to have been taken down. Do you know where I can find it? Also, any idea what has happened with them regarding discipline? Thanks!
Til Death Do Us Part – The Problem of Remarriage
Gina, I’ve enjoyed much of your work, and thank you for opening needed conversation. I join with those who are disturbed by polygamy – on earth or in the afterlife – and for many of the reasons commonly cited: it devalues women; it creates confusion and angst within individuals and marriages; and it deeply contradicts the natural desire for exclusive intimacy (most) people yearn to create and protect in marriage. There is an aspect of this which is not being discussed, however – remarriage for time only, by husband or wife, following the death of a spouse. This creates many of the same challenges for me as eternal polygamy and current sealing practices.
If we reject eternal polygamy at all on the basis that it divides and dilutes marital exclusivity and intimacy (emotionally, physically, and spiritually), how can we justify remarriage for time only following the death of a spouse? We are taught to avoid even emotional affairs or even flirtations after marriage in order to (1) preserve the trust of our spouse, and (2) avoid the loss of our own feelings for our spouse. Yet when my spouse dies, or when I die, somehow we assume it appropriate (“a matter for individual choice”) for the survivor to box up that exclusivity with the deceased spouse, and then give it, as fully and in as many dimensions as before, with a new spouse. And If we complain that a re-sealing may run afoul of of the feelings and agency of a deceased spouse, why doesn’t a remarriage for time only – by either spouse – present those same risks?
It seems to me that at least some of the questions and concerns raised by eternal polygamy are raised by question of remarriage for time only, even if one counter-argues that remarriage for time will come to an end. By then the exclusivity and intimacy expected that was the basis between the couple when they married has been breached. Feelings will have been divided, feelings may have changed (for the survivor or the decedent) as the result of the remarriage, and one or the other, or both, may desire a different arrangement in the next life. Why do many assume our deceased spouse would look down from the spirit world with approval if we remarry?
Of course there are problems with this scenario. A young husband in my ward was killed in Afghanistan, leaving the early 20s wife with a dilemma: remain unmarried and lonely (although life is but a blink if we really believe in eternal life), remarry for time only but then have to say goodbye to the second man with whom she built a life and family, or cancel her sealing to her first husband. She chose the third option. Individuals must make choices the best they can, but then let them choose one sealing.
Carol Lynn Pearson, in her provocative book “The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy” proposes a partial policy solution for such dilemmas (as well as the imbalance for women created by the current sealing policy): Let everyone be sealed to whomever they wish and let the messes work themselves out hereafter. At least that’s egalitarian. Why not, instead, require a different, equally egalitarian choice that is simultaneously more consistent with our view of monogamy: require men and women alike to choose one sealing only in this life. Cancel a sealing if you wish, and be re-sealed if you wish, but you may only have one.
For me, this whole topic raises an even deeper question concerning marriage and sealing: What are we actually saying to each other when we are married and sealed? Most of what the church gives us is Dr. Gottman or Dr. Phil-style (and helpful) tips on how to be happy in marriage, combined with basic gospel principles for being good christians within marriage. But what, if anything, do we covenant and promise to one another, and what expectations am I taught I can have? Is it “We will be faithful and exclusive to each other – forever?” or, truly only “til death do us part?”
Even though Bryan Hales and other Mormon apologists don’t agree with them, it’s hard to see where the Van Allen’s conclusions aren’t reasonable and rational, consistent with the evidence, and fully justified.
Absent any actual evidence that “God” or any other deity had anything to do with the invention and manufacture of D&C 132, and absent anything in its history or content that requires a deity for explanation, why would anyone even suppose that Joseph Smith didn’t manufacture it all by himself? And for the express purpose of giving to himself—but attributing it to “God” — the appointment, power, keys, authority, justification and excuses and forgiveness for all of the extra-Emma girls and women that he had already been accumulating and to provide for more. And to call it part of the “restoration of all things.” And which clearly included in Smith’s thinking the concubines — four times D&C 132 pairs together “many wives and concubines.” If “God” revealed it, and if he didn’t really mean to authorize concubines, why would be even confuse things by bring it up?
It seems the default’ and most reasonable position should be that Joseph Smith is the sole author, owner and proprietor of D&C 132, and that he had the reasons and motives to manufacture it and promote is as a “revelation from the Lord.” It seems that any argument that it’s a “revelation from the Lord” should be based on actual evidence of involvement by this supposed lord.
As to the morality of D&C 132, or of Smith’s polygamy and wifery, and it’s relationship to Emma—or as to their and his honest connection to the polygamy and concubines in the Biblical accounts & culture—is there a compelling argument anywhere that Van Allen’s conclusions are irrational or unjustified?
Personally, one can also be skeptical that a god whose glory is supposedly intelligence would deliver a revelation, in person, in the 1st-person voice, in such thoroughly contrived and artificial Biblical King James English & Jargon. Although Section 132 isn’t as bad as other sections in the D&C, it’s the same phony and even grotesque 1st-person voice that liberally peppers the D&C. And then disappeared suddenly and entirely from Mormonism as soon as Joseph Smith died. Where did that god go, and why?
That being said, the Mormon church is absolutely right in excommunicating any Mormon who doesn’t buy into their standard narrative, and who also produces wholly rational and justified reasons and arguments. Fighting against “anti-Mormon hatred and bigotry” is one thing, but how does the Mormon church fight against a “wholly justified” that requires neither?