Thursday, April 24, 2008

Polygamy in the 1880s from FLDS and LDS sources

Salt Lake Tribune blogger Brooke Adams links to two FLDS websites.

One of these, the FLDS Truth website, includes a history of the church, beginning with a September 27, 1886 revelation given to John Taylor.

My son John, you have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant how far it is binding upon my people.

Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.

Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness—because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I HAVE NOT REVOKED THIS LAW, NOR WILL I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory MUST obey the conditions thereof; even so, Amen.

However, it should be noted that the official LDS website does not mention any such revelation. Here is what the LDS website says about Taylor's last years:

Under the direction of the Lord, the Saints had practiced plural marriage in the Church since the days of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. During the 1860s and 1870s, the United States government passed legislation outlawing plural marriage and denying statehood and other rights to the Utah Territory and its citizens. Convinced that the legislation was a violation of the freedom of religion spoken of in the Constitution, the Church used its influence to have the issue brought before the United States Supreme Court. In 1879, just two years after President Taylor assumed the leadership of the Church, the United States Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s anti-polygamy law of 1862. In 1882 and again in 1887, the United States Congress passed additional laws that allowed the federal government to disincorporate the Church as a legal entity and confiscate all Church property in excess of $50,000 (which included four temples in various stages of completion, the Tabernacle, meetinghouses, and many other properties). The legislation was designed to take away basic civil rights of Church members, including the right to vote. These developments opened legal channels for the prosecution of Latter-day Saints who were practicing plural marriage. The Church continued to make legal appeals, but to no avail.

Amid the growing strife over the issue of polygamy, President Taylor was informed that government officials planned to arrest him soon. Having exhausted all legal appeals, he had to decide whether to obey God or man. In his last public discourse, he told the Saints, “I cannot as an honorable man disobey my God … and trample these holy and eternal obligations under foot, that God has given me to keep, and which reach into the eternities that are to come.” 30 From the day he delivered this sermon until the day of his death almost two and a half years later, he hid in various locations throughout Utah. Rather than turn away from the Lord’s instructions regarding plural marriage, President Taylor chose to go into hiding as a way to obey the Lord and hopefully decrease the persecution against the Church. Elder B. H. Roberts recorded, “When President Taylor retired from public view on the evening of the 1st of February, 1885, it was not out of any consideration for his personal safety, or ease or comfort, but for the public good and in the interests of peace.”

Though absent from public view, President Taylor continued to provide leadership to the Church through letters and verbal instructions to trusted associates. However, the confinement, the separation from family and friends, and the stress of his responsibilities began to take their toll. Early in 1887, his health began to fail. For several months he resisted his illness and told others that he would soon recover, but by July it became apparent that his condition was serious. On the evening of 25 July 1887, President Taylor passed away peacefully at the home of Thomas Roueché in Kaysville, Utah.

But the main LDS church speaks of a different revelation, given to the next President, Wilford Woodruff:

It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. . . .
I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. . . .
The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.
The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?
The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for . . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.
. . . I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. . . .
I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. (Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.

This of course raises the question - if the motivating decision in renouncing polygamy was the law of the land, what would happen if an LDS temple were established in a country in which polygamy was legal? This is probably a moot point, inasmuch as no Muslim country is about to allow the construction of an LDS temple. But the United Kingdom is a different matter:

Alleged bigamist Tom Green claims he's simply following old-style Mormon practice, by having five wives, and that it's his right under religious freedom. Now that the new Human Rights Act as come into force in the UK, we could all have the right to have more than one spouse. Members of the Muslim Parliament in Britain are hoping that the new Act, will make it possible for polygamy to be legalised.

Under Muslim law a man is allowed up to four wives but he must be able to show that he can treat each woman equally and provide a separate home for each one. At present it's believed there are 300 polygamous families living in the UK....

According to a Home Office spokesman, if polygamy is legalised it will allow everyone, not only Muslims, to have more than one spouse. 'You cannot limit legislation to one group,' he said, adding that polygamy or polyandry are unlikely to be made law in the UK. 'Some rights are very broad but will have to be taken into account with existing laws. It will be up to the courts to decide. We are a one-man, one-woman society and this is unlikely to change'.

But it should be noted that the LDS site also includes a page that states the following, in part:

Today Church members honor and respect the sacrifices made by those who practiced polygamy in the early days of the Church. However, the practice is outlawed in the Church, and no person can practice plural marriage and remain a member.

The standard doctrine of the Church is monogamy, as it always has been, as indicated in the Book of Mormon (Jacob chapter 2): “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none. … For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

In other words, the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise. Latter-day Saints believe the season the Church practiced polygamy was one of these exceptions....

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the following about polygamy in the Church's October 1998 general conference:

“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.

"If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of thelaw of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, 'We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law' (Articles of Faith 1:12).”

However, even here the justification for polygamy violating "the law of this Church" is based upon being subject to the civil authority.

And it should also be noted that the aforementioned Tom Green was excommunicated from the LDS Church in the 1980s.

And it's just a bizarre coincidence that the cases involving the FLDS children are taking place in Tom Green County.

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