Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: The collective witness of Joseph Smith's family’

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Published: Thursday, Dec. 12 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

Did Joseph Smith's wife Emma, know of the revelation of plural marriage and if so, did she approve of it?

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"The suffering that Joseph Smith endured...argue powerfully for the sincerity of his prophetic claims."

Michael Servetus was a Spanish physician, humanist and polymath versed in mathematics, human anatomy,and medicine. He was the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation and condemned by Christians, arrested, tortured and burnt at the stake as a heretic.

Pomponio Algerio was a law student at the University of Padua and was tortured and executed by civil authorities in Rome in 1556. Maintaining his composure while he was boiled in oil, he stayed alive for 15 minutes before dying. At his trial, he wore his academic hat and gown to remind the tribunal that he had the right to freely express his ideas

According to Peterson's poor reasoning, the suffering that Servetus and Algerio endured argue powerfully for the sincerity of Servetu's humanist claims and Algerio's ideas against the ruling religious thought of the day.

Peterson's logic is nothing more than a flawed piece of reasoning called "The Galileo Gambit" or the notion that if one is vilified for his ideas, then he must be right.

Tom Johnson
Spanish Fork, UT

Yes, Emma Smith did know of the revelation on plural marriage to Joseph. She accepted it at times, cooperating and being present for four of Joseph's plural marriages, and at a later time thought it was a false revelation and worked to undermine it.

1.96 Standard Deviations
OREM, UT

JoeBlow-

To add to Tom Johnson's post, keep in mind Emma also had a conviction of Joseph's prophetic calling. This created internal conflict since she knew Joseph was a prophet but personally had challenges about polygamy (for example, jealousy could have been an issue). It would have been very hard to be in her shoes.

The principle in Emma's situation is something that all of us may face. We can know Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world (conviction), but be internally conflicted when trying to keep the Savior's teachings because of our weaknesses. For instance, Jesus taught we need to forgive others, but I may personally have challenges forgiving. This doesn't imply we shouldn't forgive or that Jesus was not divine.

Same goes with polygamy -- Emma's challenges with polygamy don't undermine the divine call of Joseph Smith or the revelation itself that polygamy was needed at that time.

Does this example work for you?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

How typical was the Smith family? Aside from being uneducated indigent people in dire financial straits, they were also religious seekers and mystics who attended revivals of an array of itinerant preachers.

Did Joseph’s parents and siblings ever sense anything odd about their son and brother dictating the Book of Mormon manuscript from behind a blanket draped to shield him from view as he translated? Within a family, does one question such things? This is a fascinating case study in the psychology of religion.

Church member
North Salt Lake, UT

Emma didn't find out about the revelation until much after. In fact very few people in the church knew about it at first. Joseph practiced it for a few years with only a select few people who knew. He told Emma later when she was starting to hear rumors and she started to suspect things.

So that begs the question. Why would God want him to keep that doctrine from people, including his wife? it is something I have pondered over the years.

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

Married men today commonly have affairs. Regarding polygamy, isn't it just possible that Joseph Smith abused his power and standing in order to pave the way for extramarital conduct?

Shouldn't that at least be considered when trying to understand these actions?
Why would one discount this "most logical" of explanations?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

JoeBlow,

"....Why would one discount this "most logical" of explanations?"
______________________________

The most logical explanation isn't necessarily the most palatable. In this case, it infers that a Joseph Smith's libido was the driving force for receiving the revelation on celestial marriage. The very thought of that is offensive to LDS faithful who recoil from even giving due consideration to such a possibility.

laVerl 09
St Johns, AZ

Historical records show that Joseph received the revelation around 1831 and didn't make it public until 1843. There all kinds of interpretations one can put on this delay, but as a psychologist, the one I can identify with the strongest is that in loving Emma the way he did and living in a monogamous society, he didn't want to make it public until she could accept it as the word of God and help him teach it as acceptable to God. Because she was on again and off again, he had several half-hearted attempts at getting it out in the open. It was this lack of certainty and delay that allowed public sentiment to grow against him--especially when he excommunicated his close friend John C. Bennett who took extra wives without going through the proper channel. The general public, not having had access to what was the "proper" channel, was unduly influenced by Bennett's protestations and counter accusations of Joseph's behavior. It was then, and still is now an easy subject to throw dirt on.

Church member
North Salt Lake, UT

To Craig Clark

It might be offensive but it doesn't mean that it is not true.

Verdad
Orem, UT

As a matter of fact, I'm quite confident that Professor Peterson would be perfectly happy to grant the sincerity of both Pomponio Algerio and Michael Servetus. I can't think of any reason why he would deny that they honestly held their views.

Peterson doesn't seem to me to have been arguing that Joseph Smith's endurance of suffering and persecution prove Joseph's claims true, but only that it seems, on the whole, to indicate that he was sincere.

kvnsmnsn
Springville, UT

JoeBlow posted:

=Married men today commonly have affairs. Regarding polygamy, isn't it just
=possible that Joseph Smith abused his power and standing in order to pave the
=way for extramarital conduct?
=
=Shouldn't that at least be considered when trying to understand these actions?
=Why would one discount this "most logical" of explanations?

In my opinion, the possibility should be considered. Considering the evidence, Joseph Smith certainly could have abused "his power and standing" when he engaged in polygamy. But, also in my opinion, everyone has the right to a fair trial, even in the court of public opinion. People with consciences should give fair consideration to the possibility that Smith was telling the truth, that God did in fact actually command him to take multiple wives. Why is that such a hard possibility for people to imagine?

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: Kvnsmnsn, a hard possibility for people to imagine?

The *Apostles did not maintain any .O.T. pattern of polygamy and the 'Early church' condemmed it. . “(*Paul)…appoint elders in every city as I directed you,… the husband of ONE wife,..(Titus 1:5-6).

Justin Martyr (c.160) rebukes the Jews for allowing polygamy: "Your imprudent and blind masters [i.e., Jewish teachers] even until this time permit each man to have four or five wives. …." [ANF, vol. 1, p. 266]

Irenaeus (c.180) condemns the Gnostics for, among other things, polygamy: "Others, again, following upon Basilides and Carpocrates, have introduced promiscuous intercourse and a plurality of wives..." [ANF, vol. 1, p.353]

Tertullian (c.207) ".-Marriage Lawful, But Not Polygamy.

RE: Verdad, “ persecution prove Joseph's claims true”.

(D.H.C. v 6. P 408,409) “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I..

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

kvnsmnsn,

"....People with consciences should give fair consideration to the possibility that Smith was telling the truth, that God did in fact actually command him to take multiple wives. Why is that such a hard possibility for people to imagine?"
______________________________

That's not hard to imagine at all. I grew up believing that. It was taught to me when I was young and I never thought to question it back then.

Beart
SAINT LOUIS, MO

I think the "principle" will be shown to be a policy rather than a doctrine, as it was approved of ad useful at different historical times. This is why the "fullness of the Gospel" does not appear to contain a requirement that every man have more than one wife. Often, people also overlay today's standards, labeling Joseph a pervert for marrying a 14 year old - that age being the age of consent in numerous states until after the mid 20th century.

I am always a bit distressed that the importance of the testimonies of those bearing the Smith name today seem so unimportant: Eldred G. Smith, the patriarch of the Hyrum Smith family (and of the CHURCH) through Hyrum's seldom mentioned first wife Jerusha[sp] and the remaining members of the Samuel Smith family, who appear to have been shoved aside by the descendants of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith, as if they don't much matter. What a terrible disservice to these faithful folks who also kept the faith. Even the descendants of Joseph, who are returning steadily, seem unimportant. A pity for a family that suffered so much for the rest of us all over the world.

d_rolling_kearney
Sacramento, CA

RE: Weber State Graduate

"According to Peterson's poor reasoning, the suffering that Servetus and Algerio endured argue powerfully for the sincerity of Servetu's humanist claims and Algerio's ideas against the ruling religious thought of the day.

"Peterson's logic is nothing more than a flawed piece of reasoning called "The Galileo Gambit" or the notion that if one is vilified for his ideas, then he must be right."
____________________________________

Your own flawed logic is what is called a "Straw Man" argument, where one creates a false premise and rails against it.

What Peterson is saying is that a person's SINCERITY is testified to by their willingness to die for what they believe, not the TRUTH of their claims. So, yes, "According to Peterson's... reasoning, the suffering that Servetus and Algerio endured argue powerfully for the >>>sincerity

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

It is odd, the polygamy thing. He hid it from the member for years, he broke all of the rules of polygamy that were outlined in his own revelation, yet it is still accepted that he was doing it as a commandment. This is what is perplexing. He outlined a certain set of rules that one had to follow to be in a polygamous relationship, yet didn't follow those rules himself.

G L W8
SPRINGVILLE, UT

Many of us with pioneer ancestry who practiced plural marriage know of the extremely difficult challenges faced by those who were involved. Nevertheless, we know from Jacob 2:23f that monogamy is the standard, unless, as mentioned in verse 30, the Lord commands to "raise up seed" unto Him. To me, in a fledgling LDS Church, it was essential for righteous women to be tied to a righteous man, so that posterity could be born that could be raised in the faith. That's insulting to orthodox Christians of today, of course. But the conditions back then on the American Frontier were vastly different; it took time for even the orthodox churches to establish themselves firmly. Once the LDS Church was firmly established in the west, and was strong enough to survive, Wilford Woodruff received the revelation to discontinue the practice and return to the standard of monogamy. BTW: this pattern follows the exact situation prevalent in Abraham's day, when people willing to follow Jehovah were very few in number. (Please be aware that this explanation is oversimplified, but I'm running out of words.)

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

@ Verdad

Perhaps you missed the last part of Peterson's article:

"That father and mother believed his report and suffered persecution for that belief shows that he was truthful."

To a reasonable person, it's clear that Peterson equates persecution with truth. An obvious reference to "persecution" in this article is an unmistakable implication that if one is persecuted for his claims, such as Smith and his family, then he must somehow must have been "truthful." Why is this even a point of argument?

@ d_rolling_kearney

The "straw man" is both yours and Verdad's to own since you have introduced a superficial scarecrow yourself...the play on the word sincerity.

The argument that persecution somehow only equates to the "sincerity" of one’s claims over a profession of "truth" is an incredible bend on Peterson unmistakable implication. It's quite clear among LDS writings, testimonies, conference talks, and discourses that Smith's persecution and martyrdom unequivocally testifies to the ostensible truthfulness of his claims.

Most LDS people willingly admit such a universal position within the church, except perhaps you. However, I believe the logic of your posts convey "sincerity" on your part, but perhaps not truth.

Kimber
Salt Lake City, UT

I have always struggled with the polygamy issue in the church. Even if I was not a woman it this would be true. I've listened and evaluated many opinions and have come up with my own. I believe those that say that polygamy is just "glorified adultery". I don't believe that it was every really commanded by God. It is practiced sometimes in the Bible, but was never "commanded" there. It was a custom with some, just as it still can be in third world countries. Whenever women obtain equal rights in society, it is condemned. I think that it stands to reason that since men can tend to not be monogamous, they would look for justification. I am of the opinion that had Joseph lived, he would have stopped this practice (there is a story that Emma burned the original manuscript in the fire and that Joseph had been heard saying that this law would be his downfall and it was).

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