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Defending the Faith: The collective witness of Joseph Smith's family

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  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    Dec. 24, 2013 6:30 p.m.

    No number of witnesses is ever going to convince people who simply refuse to believe, but I will say this month: few people would have followed any profiteering Protestant preacher of the same time period to their graves the way that they did Joseph Smith. Martyrdom is one of the things that distinguishes a true prophet from a charlatan. Had Joseph Smith been a fraud, he would have given up when the persecution got too intense, taken whatever money he made from this adventure (which was NONE) and run. But no. He sealed his testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Restoration of the Gospel with his blood, as so many of the Lord's appointed servants had done before him. This in and of itself does not prove that he was a true prophet, but it is powerful evidence on his behalf. And I am ever grateful to him for his sacrifice, and the knowledge I have thereof.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Dec. 16, 2013 2:05 p.m.

    Is it ever true that a person would rather die than concede a mistake? Rather die than admit to a painful truth?

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Dec. 16, 2013 8:48 a.m.

    jzer

    The spirit is the most unreliable guide anybody could rely on. I have received my answer over and over... and that is that it isn't true. So why did you get a different answer then me?

  • jzer Haworth, OK
    Dec. 15, 2013 8:17 p.m.

    Sincere seekers of truth can know the truth, for sure, by the power of the Holy Ghost. Those who despise or do not want to know the truth will never be given such a witness. The arguments of men mean nothing to one who has received that witness for himself.

  • Wastintime Los Angeles, CA
    Dec. 14, 2013 6:02 p.m.

    "But what can we learn from the behavior of his parents, siblings and wife? "

    Why does Prof Peterson use the word "wife" here? Is he ignorant of the many wives or does he seek to mislead people?

    I have a much bigger problem with pedophilia than I do with polygamy. I believe the average age women got married back then (according to the 1850 census) was a little over 21 years-old (not 14-16).

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Dec. 14, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    RE: laVerl , … polygamy was "restored" in our day. Acts 3:19-21 states clearly that before Jesus comes again there must be a "restitution of ALL things“?

    Acts 3:22 Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you.

    By quoting Deut 18:15 Peter declared that Jesus was the eschatological “prophet like [Moses]” , who reveals the plan of God and the way of God.

    Mt 17:11(NET) He answered, “Elijah does indeed come first and will RESTORE all things. 12 I tell you that Elijah has already come. Yet they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way, the Son of Man will suffer at their hands.” Jesus not JS.

    RE: A Guy With A Brain,”did God command(N.T. polygamy)?”

    Jesus, “… you shall not commit adultery… ,honor your father and mother(not Mothers), Mt 19:17-19.

    God distinguishes father and mother from all other persons on earth, chooses them and sets them next to Himself, occupying the highest place in our lives next to God

  • Pops NORTH SALT LAKE, UT
    Dec. 13, 2013 11:26 p.m.

    According to the Book of Mormon, God did not approve of David's polygamy. However, he put up with it. That should be a clue as to what lengths God sometimes has to go to in order to accomplish his purposes through fallible men. People like to point to the faults of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young to "prove" they weren't prophets. All they really prove is that they were human, and that God is willing to work through humans in spite of our flaws.

    For the false doctrine of the infallibility of prophets to be correct, God would have to eliminate the moral agency of any man before he could be a prophet. How likely is that?

    Is it possible that a prophet, or a Bishop or Stake President, or Scoutmaster, or father, could harm others through their fallibility? Of course it does. But it isn't our place to rebel because of it, at least not if we have faith in Christ, who can and will make us whole with regard to whatever harm others might inflict on us because of their faults.

    The answer is simple: faith and obedience.

  • Pops NORTH SALT LAKE, UT
    Dec. 13, 2013 11:15 p.m.

    @WSG:

    What does it mean for a person to "be truthful"? If I don't agree with with something you say, but which you truly believe, does that make you untruthful? Or does that simply make you mistaken from my perspective? For a person to "be truthful" is the same as for a person to "be sincere" because both imply that the person presents things as they believe them to be with no intent to deceive. Now, had Dr. Peterson said, "be correct", that would be a different matter.

    Joseph Smith did pound a stake into the ground that transcends sincerity, and that stake is the Book of Mormon. He literally believed to his dying breath that it came from God. We don't have to rely solely on his sincerity or the sincerity of other witnesses, however, because we still have the book. We are free to examine in and analyze it for as long as we wish. We can put it to the test, as I have. It stands as an eternal witness not only of Christ, but also that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God.

  • A Guy With A Brain Enid, OK
    Dec. 13, 2013 6:51 p.m.

    I've never understood all the gnashing of teeth over polygamy.

    God commands what He commands. Period.

    If God commands a man to have more than one wife, He commands it and then how is that immoral?

    And, yes, means if God were to tell a man that his wife needs to marry another husband ('reverse' polygamy, whatever the word for it is....polyandry?) then that should be immediately done as well. (And, yes, as my posting name implies I am a male.)

    Just who directs whom?....does man tell God what to do or does God tell man what to do?

    Abraham and David practiced polygamy in the Old Testament, as sanctioned by God. Does any serious Christian really believe that 'nothing' in the Old Testament is of any value or relevance? Were 'all' things done away with the New Testament? Really? Seems to me that Jesus said absolutely nothing about abolishing the Ten Commandments.

    Quit getting hung up on the physical intimacy of the relationship and instead simply focus on doing some honest research, which definitely includes prayer to the one who knows all things (God) with the only question of importance: did God command it or not?

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Dec. 13, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    laVerl 09

    There are alot of things from the bible that have never been 'restored' in our day. That excuse just doesn't hold water.

  • laVerl 09 St Johns, AZ
    Dec. 13, 2013 9:40 a.m.

    No one so far has mentioned the primary reason that polygamy was "restored" in our day. Acts 3:19-21 states clearly that before Jesus comes again there must be a "restitution of ALL things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
    Like it or not, it HAS been part of our Judeo-Christian history. Abraham (2), Jacob (4), David (hundreds) and Solomon (thousands) are examples of "in your face" Biblical prophets and kings ordained of God.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Dec. 13, 2013 9:38 a.m.

    "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 hardly explains why Joseph Smith took already married women as his wives. Some of those wives were married to LDS men in good standing in the church

    "Interestingly, after the Manifesto, it was the upper echelon of the Church that was most resistant to the change, even under threat of excommunication."

    That does beg the question of why these "upper echelon" church leaders were resistant. Did they not feel that the Manifesto was sent from above?

    To further Clarks assertion, it appears that the most logical explanation seems to be too unpalatable to be considered.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 13, 2013 8:46 a.m.

    GL W8,

    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.
    ______________________________

    To sire a new people, a new nation via strong breeders? That's anthropology but early Mormonism did have a tribal aspect that set it apart from the denominationalism that proliferated in Christendom after the 16th century Reformation. It fits the concepts of the new Jerusalem and shining city on a hill. Mormons had difficulty getting along with their neighbors in part because they saw themselves as a chosen people of divine destiny.

    Mormon polygamy was always an elitist institution in the Church. The vast majority of the Saints never practiced it. Joseph Smith promoted it only within an inner circle of leaders. Under Brigham Young it was concentrated among the more privileged and wealthy. Interestingly, after the Manifesto, it was the upper echelon of the Church that was most resistant to the change, even under threat of excommunication.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Dec. 13, 2013 8:11 a.m.

    RE: G L W8, Wilford Woodruff received the revelation to discontinue the practice and return to the standard of monogamy.

    Polygamy continued despite the promise to abandon it. In 1899, then Apostle Heber J. Grant President would plead guilty to unlawful cohabitation and be fined $100. In 1906, sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith "pleaded guilty before Judge M. L. Rictchie in the District Court Friday to the charge of cohabitating with four women in addition to his lawful wife." He was fined $300, the maximum allowed.

    J S had 34 wives from 14-56 years old, 10 were still married to other men, i.e. Orson and Marinda Hyde(John C.)Bennett was the most intimate friend of Joseph for a time. He boarded with the prophet. He told me once that Joseph had been talking with him about his troubles with Emma, his wife. ‘He asked me,’ said Bennett, smilingly, ‘what he should do to get out of the trouble ?’ I said, ‘This is very simple. Get a Revelation that polygamy is right, and all your troubles will be at an end.’” (Dr. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits: Joseph Smith the Prophet — His Family and His Friends, 61-62)

  • G L W8 SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 13, 2013 6:41 a.m.

    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 may be 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.)

  • B ob Richmond, CA
    Dec. 13, 2013 12:46 a.m.

    You can think, review, compare, theorize, imagine, and come at it from different angles...but your conclusions will be open to revamping based on what ever new evidence or thought or retrospection heads your way. Logic does not bring conviction. To have conviction of Joseph Smith being a prophet of God...that can only come from the God who made him a prophet. You can try to explain why Joseph Smith can be thought of as a prophet and be all scholarly about it...or you can just really want to know, kneel down, ask Heavenly Father if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and then be still and listen for an answer.

  • Kimber Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:51 p.m.

    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).

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 8:31 p.m.

    @ 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.

  • G L W8 SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 8:30 p.m.

    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.)

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Dec. 12, 2013 5:45 p.m.

    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.

  • d_rolling_kearney Sacramento, CA
    Dec. 12, 2013 3:02 p.m.

    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

  • Beart SAINT LOUIS, MO
    Dec. 12, 2013 1:46 p.m.

    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.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 12, 2013 1:03 p.m.

    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.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 12:59 p.m.

    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..

  • kvnsmnsn Springville, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 12:37 p.m.

    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?

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 11:06 a.m.

    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.

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 10:52 a.m.

    To Craig Clark

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

  • laVerl 09 St Johns, AZ
    Dec. 12, 2013 10:45 a.m.

    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.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 12, 2013 10:31 a.m.

    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.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Dec. 12, 2013 10:12 a.m.

    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?

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    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.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:43 a.m.

    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.

  • 1.96 Standard Deviations OREM, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:29 a.m.

    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?

  • Tom Johnson Spanish Fork, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 8:52 a.m.

    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.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 7:35 a.m.

    "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.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Dec. 12, 2013 6:12 a.m.

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