Category Archives: LDS History

“O My Father” sung to “Gentle Annie”

First, before you play the video below, go over to Keepapitchinin (one of my favorite LDS blogs) and read this post about an LDS missionary pamphlet printed over 100 years ago that is absolutely exquisite. Or, better yet, start the video, then go over to the Keepapitchinin post and scroll appropriately through the pages of the pamphlet while listening to the audio of the video:

The link to this video came from a comment by Jacob J (of New Cool Thang) to that post.  ..bruce..

A people set apart: Mormons and Prop 8

There has, of course, been much discourse on the bloggernacle about Proposition 8 in California and the Church’s involvement in it. Leaving aside the various arguments on the merits of gay marriage itself, the merits of the arguments on both sides of Prop 8, and the merits of the Church’s involvement in passing Prop 8, I was struck by a different thought today:

It may well be that God inspired Pres. Monson to take this approach to put all of us within the Church in a difficult position.

I am struck as I read through the ‘nacle at the number of posts that in one way or another express the thought, “Why can’t we be more like other churches and/or society at large?” This shows up in any number of ways, but I see it time and again. Often it’s a fervent wish that we would do away with one or more Church practices, doctrines, or historical events (missionary program, tithing, Word of Wisdom, garments, temple recommends/restrictions, the First Vision, priesthood restoration, the endowment, all-male priesthood, lay ministry, succession in the Church presidency, etc.). It certainly has shown up in the discussions on Prop 8, where the most recent post I read today used the word “fiasco” to describe the Church’s (successful) effort to support Prop 8.

My own reading of both Church and scriptural history suggests that the Lord often requires of His people practices and beliefs that prevent easy assimilation into the surrounding culture. And assimilation is what a lot of us would like. We’d like to fit in, to not have people look at us funny, to not have to explain about gold plates and special underwear. We’d like people to admire us unreservedly for being Latter-day Saints and to welcome us into their embrace, whether secular or ecumenical.

Ain’t gonna happen, at least not in my opinion. In fact, the way I read the scriptures, the gap is going to widen, not shrink. And we really are going to have to decide where our loyalties lie, regardless of our opinions about the merits of Prop 8 and/or gay marriage in general.

Of course, I find it funny and ironic that some of the same ‘naclites who complain about the Church doing this or that for “PR purposes” are now complaining about what a “PR disaster” the Church’s support for Prop 8 is.  Examine again the educational level and professional accomplishments of those who comprise the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Do you really think these people weren’t clearly aware of just what would happen with the Church throwing such active support behind Prop 8? What they did, they did with the full knowledge and expectation of what the backlash would likely be, both short term and long term. After all, the Church had already been through this thirty years ago with the Equal Rights Amendment; President Monson and Elders Packer and Perry were in the Twelve back then as well, while several other Apostles (Ballard, Wirthlin, Scott, Hales) were General Authorities as well. That opposition was a constant news item and source of controversy not for days or weeks, but for months and years.

For that matter, those exact same individuals were likewise present for and involved in the Church’s decision to change its policy regarding blacks and the priesthood; I’d strongly recommend reading Edward Kimball’s 80-page article on that decision in the latest issue of BYU Studies (vol 47, no. 2).

And yet the Church took its activist stand for Prop 8 anyway. I think that actually argues for this being an inspired decision, because a purely rational one — from the sense of acceptance by society at large — would be at most to issue a simple disapproval.

In short, while any of us can (and clearly many do) disagree with the Church’s actions in this matter, I think it’s foolish and contrary to the facts to claim that Church leadership went into this decision out of fear, bigotry, and/or short-sightedness. I suspect it required very careful deliberation, discussion, and prayer — not to mention serious legal and political advice — and that they made the decision with eyes wide open as to the almost-certain backlash.

The real question is, how do we deal with our own feelings, particularly those who disagree with the Church’s actions? Even if we believe the decision to be a mistake, if our decision is to publicly criticize and excoriate the Church and its leadership, then what mercy and treatment do we expect from Christ (or, for that matter, from Church leaders and members) for our own follies, mistakes, and weaknesses? As I wrote back in 1994:

What is critical in this process [i.e., dealing with what we see as errors by Church leaders] is that it should be done with the same confidentiality, sensitivity, understanding, patience and forgiveness — in short, the same Christ-like behavior — with which we would desire our own imperfections and errors to be handled. The Savior taught that “if they brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother.” (Matt 18:15) The Savior goes on to say that if that brings no results, we should inform the Church — which I would interpret as meaning the appropriate divinely-appointed stewards, not our circle of friends, the members of our ward, or the readership of Sunstone and Dialogue [not to mention the entire Internet]. We would probably be outraged, and rightly so, if we found that a church member — much less a church leader — was publicly criticizing our performance in our church duties; we’d even be upset over private criticism, if it was shared with those not involved in the situation. Yet all too often, we feel little compunction — and, worse yet, a great deal of self-righteous satisfaction — about doing the same, whether privately, over the net, in print, or even over the pulpit or lectern.

Given the above, the idea of a “community response” [by Latter-day Saints] to the statements, decisions and actions of church leaders is as appalling and inappropriate as would be a “community response” — complete with private discussion and correspondence, newspaper ads, public lectures and published articles [and again, blog postings] — as to how well any one of us is carrying out his or her stewardships within the Church and within his or her family. It ignores the dignity of the individual, and commandments toward charity, tolerance and forgiveness, and the channels which the Lord set up to deal with these issues. I suspect the Lord will not justify us in such a course, and that — whatever the errors of those we criticize — upon us will remain the greater condemnation.

As always, your mileage may vary.  ..bruce..

Some words of wisdom for Sarah Palin

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose:

“I am often made aware of the utter uselessness and folly of seeking to vindicate my character…from the simple fact that although foul aspersions can be bruited far and wide, held to the fluttering breeze by every press and rolled as sweet under every tongue, yet while the vile slander is fairly refuted and truth appears in the most incontestable manner it is permitted to lie quietly upon the shelf in slumber the sleep of death or if by chance it should get published in some obscure nook or corner of this great republic be most religiously suppressed as tho in fear that the truth should be known and believed.”

— Brigham Young writing to (then) U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, 1855 (quoted in 40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young, Orton & Slaughter, Deseret Book, 2008, pp. xiv-xv)

Doesn’t look as though the interwebs have changed things all that much.  ..bruce w..

[cross posted from And Still I Persist]

1835: Yale professors believe there are blue unicorns on the moon!

Also intelligent (if primitive) bipedal beavers and “man-bats”.

No, really.

Here’s a great write-up of the “Great Moon Hoax” perpetrated by the New York Sun back in 1835. In short, the Sun published a story that claimed that Sir John Herschel — a very real and prominent astronomer — had observed life on the moon:

The article continued on and offered an elaborate account of the fantastic sights viewed by Herschel during his telescopic observation of the moon. It described a lunar topography that included vast forests, inland seas, and lilac-hued quartz pyramids. Readers learned that herds of bison wandered across the plains of the moon; that blue unicorns perched on its hilltops; and that spherical, amphibious creatures rolled across its beaches. The highpoint of the narrative came when it revealed that Herschel had found evidence of intelligent life on the moon: he had discovered both a primitive tribe of hut-dwelling, fire-wielding biped beavers, and a race of winged humans living in pastoral harmony around a mysterious, golden-roofed temple. Herschel dubbed these latter creatures the Vespertilio-homo, or “man-bat”.

What’s interesting in the post is the account of how the Sun‘s article was received at Yale:

Yale College was alive with staunch supporters. The literati—students and professors, doctors in divinity and law—and all the rest of the reading community, looked daily for the arrival of the New York mail with unexampled avidity and implicit faith. Have you seen the accounts of Sir John Herschel’s wonderful discoveries? Have you read the Sun? Have you heard the news of the man in the Moon? These were the questions that met you every where. It was the absorbing topic of the day. Nobody expressed or entertained a doubt as to the truth of the story.

I bring this up because of the regular resurfacing of the claim — based on a 2nd party account in the Young Women’s Journal some 40 years after the fact — that Joseph Smith said “as early as 1837” that there were men on the moon, dressed “like Quakers”.  He may well have said that, but if he did, he likely was reacting to the Sun‘s article, especially given the cited timeframe. Beyond that, his claim — conservatively dressed humans — is a bit more sober and feasible than “blue unicorns”, “bipedal beavers” and “man-bats”.

Something to keep in mind the next time the issues is raised.  ..bruce..

P. S. And, no, this still isn’t Part 2 on LDS exobiology.

Book of Mormon origins (cont.)

For those who did not read my previous posting (“New light on Book of Mormon origins!“) closely enough, let me state plainly: it was a satire. It was, however, satire with a point, and (IMHO) a very sharp one at that. (Sadly, I predict that this information may show up — as a serious argument — on some anti-Mormon websites, as has happened elsewhere on the net with other satirical efforts.)

That post came about because I happen to be re-reading Arrian’s The Campaigns of Alexander at the same time that my wife and I — in our nightly joint reading of the Book of Mormon — are working our way through the ‘war’ chapters in Alma (Alma 45-63). In fact, the pattern for the past few weeks has been that I come to bed, read a chapter out of Alma out loud to my wife, and then (as she turns over to go to sleep) I read quietly out of Arrian for a while before going to sleep myself. Night after night, I was struck at the points of similarities between the two accounts — not the overall narrative, obviously, but much of the details and incidental points.

And while my previous post is written satirically, make no mistake: all of the similarities I list between Arrian’s Anabasis Alexandri and the Book of Mormon are real, and there’s quite a few more, to boot (which I will continue to add to the original post).

For me, the question is: how could a 19th Century farm boy with little education — and with no access whatsoever to the century-plus of movies and TV shows that we take for granted — so accurately describe various aspects of pre-Christian era warfare as they would appear and be chronicled in an ancient historical document? It really is quite striking how much Arrian’s account of Alexander’s campaigns sounds like Mormon’s account of Moroni’s and Helaman’s campaigns.

I have read both the Spaulding manuscript and Views of the Hebrews, and have seen the attempts (profoundly unconvincing, in my opinion) to draw parallels between them and the Book of Mormon. Jeff Lindsay just wrote about an even more laughable attempt to draw general (categorical, not detailed) parallels between the Book of Mormon and works of fiction, such as The Lord of the Rings. The Book of Mormon reads like none of these.

I have also seen the rather contorted efforts to show that Joseph Smith somehow could get access in upstate New York to various obscure, rare, or even not-yet-extant works (atlases, translated documents, etc.), often available only in Europe at the time of the Book of Mormon’s translation, in order to put passing references (e.g., “Nahom”) into the Book of Mormon. I don’t remember whether it was Wilfred Griggs or Kent Brown who — in reference to such efforts — joked about wanting to write an article, “Joseph Smith in the British Museum: The Lost Years”, so I gave both of them credit in my footnote.

And, of course, there are the efforts to explain the Book of Mormon as somehow being a natural production of Joseph Smith’s background, 19th Century Northeast America. Others have done a far better and more scholarly refutation of such claims than I can; my point is that, again, Mormon sounds far more like Arrian than like anything coming out of the early 1800s in upstate New York.

I appreciate the dilemma of those seeking a purely naturalistic explanation for the Book of Mormon, but it’s a dilemma of their own choosing. It reminds me very much of pre-Corpernican efforts to account for movements of the planets — with the unnegotiable foundational premise that the whole universe revolved around the Earth. This model ended up going through tremendous contortions, epicycles upon epicycles, but with this difference: the pre-Corpernican epicycles actually predicted planetary motion with great accuracy. In my opinion, the various naturalistic ‘models’ of the Book of Mormon fall apart once you move outside of their careful set of special pleadings. The simplest, most consistent, and most effective explanation of the Book of Mormon is the one Joseph Smith — and the book itself — gives.

So, no, I don’t think Joseph Smith somehow got hold of Rooke’s 1812 translation of Anabasis Alexandri and drew upon it in writing the Book of Mormon. I think that Joseph Smith translated a genuine ancient document, and that the Book of Mormon and Anabasis Alexandri sound a lot alike because they share a common focus, milieu and era. ..bruce..

Some observations on polygamy

[I belong to a private e-mail list for attendees of an invitation-only technology conference that has meeting annually for nearly 25 years. Early in May, as the news was breaking about the Texas raid of the FLDS YFZ compound, some comments were made by a few posters, drawing some rather uninformed and incorrect correlations between the FLDS Church and LDS Church culture in general, citing as sources (a) a former LDS Church member and (b) a non-LDS person who had lived for some time in Utah. I ended up making two posts to that list, which I reproduce here in slightly edited form.]

[First post — made 05/02/08]

I appreciate your efforts to shed light on the mess down in Texas. However, the next time you want to opine on and analyze LDS history, thought, and doctrine, you might try actually asking someone who has a thorough understanding of it and has studied it extensively in the context of both historical and mainstream Christianity.

Latter-day Saints (by which I mean members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13+ million members worldwide, over 50% of those outside of the United States) are almost universally appalled by the various polygamous offshoots, most of which are quite tiny, insular and parochial in comparison. Note that support for such groups is grounds for denying a temple recommend (required to enter and participate in LDS temple ceremonies) and actual involvement is immediate grounds for excommunication. There is no sympathy, winking, or collusion between the LDS Church and these various tiny denominations; the relationship is frankly far more like that of the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant groups that arose during the Reformation, each side considering the other hopelessly apostate.

There is also very little similarity between the cultural and organizational behavior of the LDS Church vs. that found in these offshoots. Far from running around in suits and bonnets, and living in isolated communities, Latter-day Saints tend to be heavily integrated in their communities and cultures wherever they are found. There are over 27,000 LDS congregations worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica — and there may be one down there for all I know. Also note that the LDS Church has provided $750 million [correction: over $1 billion] in humanitarian assistance worldwide [PDF] in the last 22 years, the vast majority of which has gone to people who are not members of the LDS Church. All of this assistance has come either directly out of the pockets of the LDS members themselves or from the production of the LDS Church’s extensive welfare system, which itself is run largely from volunteer labor of LDS members.

Also note that many Evangelical Christians consider us too liberal in our lifestyle and behavior (we’re great fans of music and dancing, and our view towards abortion and related issues, while still conservative, is more liberal than that found in Evangelical — or for that matter, Catholic — circles). Anyone who seriously contends that Latter-day Saints are conformist sheep controlled by the Church hierarchy would be laughed out of the room by anyone who (like me) has actually served in an LDS bishopric. (Here’s Joseph Smith’s own observation: “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [corn muffin] for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle [mallet].”)

As for education and intellect, I’ll cheerfully put up the LDS Church’s record against any other religion . For every Sonia Johnson (and there really have been only a few dozen such excommunications over the past 20 years), there have been scores of excommunications for extreme right-wing behavior and hundreds, if not thousands, of excommunications for involvement and participation in polygamous groups.

In short, trying to make statements or draw conclusions about the LDS Church based on the behavior of the FLDS group down in Texas is about like trying to make statements about Methodist and Baptists churches by the behavior of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple.

Finally, I will cheerfully admit — as will most Latter-day Saints — that the LDS-heavy culture in Utah does get a bit, ah, strange at times. A close friend of mine — who served as an LDS bishop over a mostly-Latino congregation down in El Paso, Texas — put it best, paraphrasing from “Hello, Dolly”: “Mormons are like horse manure. Spread them around, and they make things grow; pile them up in a heap, and they tend to stink.”

[Second post – made 05/05/08]

Most (though not all) modern LDS-derived polygamous churches descended from a group of seven Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who were excommunicated in the 1923-1941 time frame for practicing polygamy (the “Council of Friends”).The diagram at the bottom of this website gives you something of an idea of how most (though not all) of these churches are related. The FLDS Church is the largest of the surviving polygamous churches, most of which are either very tiny or defunct.

Still, the FLDS Chruch has only about 10,000 members total, most of whom were born into the FLDS Church and were never members of the LDS Church. The same is true of most of the other polygamous churches; they occasionally recruit outside people (Latter-day Saints or not), but tend to be largely descended from the original recruits (who were mostly Latter-day Saints) in the early to mid 20th Century. (Note that by contrast, the relatively small city of Parker, CO, where I live, has about 4000 Latter-day Saints in and around it, and there are about 130,000 Latter-day Saints in the entire state of Colorado.)

There are also stark contrasts between how the FLDS Church (and some of the other polygamous churches) practice polygamy vs. how it was practiced among Latter-day Saints up through 1904. For example:

The FLDS practice the “Law of placing,” or assignment of marriages, combined with a high level of control of the membership. This contrasts greatly with the LDS. We have no arranged marriages and the average age for LDS marriages is 23. Throughout LDS history, free agency has been a ruling principle. In 19th century LDS plural marriages women were freely allowed to marry, divorce, and leave the community. My own great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Clark Crouch, was in a plural marriage, and she divorced her husband and left the community with no ramifications. There was no danger of having her children reassigned to anyone else. It was more difficult for men to obtain a divorce, as it was believed that the men should provide economic and social support since there was no state welfare program and women had limited employment opportunities. Kathryn M. Daynes discusses the economic underpinnings of plural marriage in her book titled “More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910.” . . .

Another difference with the FLDS church is their idea that more wives equals a greater chance of exaltation. While our critics like to claim we believed that, Brigham Young stated quite clearly that not everyone would, or should, practice plural marriage. Several members of church leadership–including apostles–were not polygamists. Some of Brigham’s more controversial statements, when read in context, seem to use plural marriage as an example to focus on the idea of being willing to follow God rather than whether or not you actually practiced plural marriage. If plural marriage were required for heaven, why did some members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, our top leadership group, not practice it?

If you would like to read more about fundamentalist Mormonism, I recommend the book “Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto” by Brian C. Hales.

— Scott Gordon, (The FAIR Journal — email sent 5/4/2008)

There are some other stark contrasts as well. In the Utah Territory in the second half of the 19th century, when the practice of polygamy was at its peak, Brigham Young emphasized the need for advanced education for LDS girls and women. On one occasion he stated:

“We wish, in our Sunday and day schools, that they who are inclined to any particular branch of study may have the privilege to study it. As I have often told my sisters in the Female Relief societies, we have sisters here who, if they had the privilege of studying, would make just as good mathematicians or accountants as any man; and we think they ought to have the privilege to study these branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed. We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic [medicine], or become good book-keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large. In following these things they but answer the design of their creation. These, and many more things of equal utility are incorporated in our religion, and we believe in and try to practice them.” (Journal of Discourses 13:61; address given July 18, 1869)

LDS women (mostly plural wives!) were heavily involved in national and international women’s rights movements and traveled to the Eastern US to participate in and speak at women’s conferences. Only the first page of the just-linked article is available, but it does set forth the basic situation; also see An Advocate for Women: The Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, 1870-1920 by Carol Cornwall Madsen (BYU Press/Deseret Book, 2006), as well as this transcript from the PBS Special, “The Mormons”. In 1872, LDS women (again, mostly plural wives) started their own intellectual journal, The Women’s Exponent, which was published for over 40 years.

For that matter, women in the Utah Territory were the second (after those in the Wyoming Territory) in the United States to receive the right to vote, in 1870. That right was stripped by Congress in 1887 in the effort to end polygamy and reduce the political influence of the LDS Church, but it was restored — 25 years ahead of the 19th Amendment — when Utah gained statehood in 1895. In fact, the actual language put into the Utah State Constitution was, “The rights of citizens of the State of Utah to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall enjoy equally all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.” (1896 Utah State Constitution, Article IV, Section 1, “Equal political rights”).

In short, it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic contrast between the TV images and news accounts of the (apparently) highly-sheltered, controlled and under-educated girls/women at the FLDS compound in Texas and the broad, active, literate, and — for its era (we are talking about the 1800s) — quite liberated roles and activities of Latter-day Saint women in the Rocky Mountains during the last half of the 19th Century. ..bruce..

Rough stone polished

While out walking this morning, D&C 128 came up on my iPod Shuffle. I have always loved this section, even as a teenage convert, because Joseph Smith’s voice and character seemed to come through so clearly. The section itself — a letter dictated by Joseph Smith (and transcribed by William Clayton) on September 6, 1842, while hiding out from attempts to arrest him and extradite him to Missouri1 — is a wonderful blend of (to draw upon Nibley) mantic (revelatory), sophic (logical), and yes, even rhetoric (“Courage, brethren! And on, on to the victory!”). But even in his rhetorical — and one might argue ecstatic — flight at the end of the section, he still brings it back to where it started: records and recorders (cf. v. 2-4 with the end of v. 24). And then, the flight done and the circle closed, he signs off with a very mild and calm

Brethren, I have many things to say to you on the subject; but shall now close for the present, and continue the subject another time. I am, as ever, your humble servant and never deviating friend, Joseph Smith. (D&C 128:25)

What struck me today, listening to this section, was the contrast with Joseph’s earliest autographical writings. Here’s a portion of his 1832 ‘History’ that Joseph wrote himself (as opposed to dictating to Frederick G. Williams) some 10 years before dictating D&C 128; I’ve modernized (or corrected) spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as making some decisions regarding clauses and sentence breaks, so as just focus on the composition itself (and to account for whatever ‘polish’ William Clayton may have given his transcription of D&C 128):

I was born in the town of Sharon in the State of Vermont North America on the twenty-third day of December DC 1805 of goodly parents who spared no pains in instructing me in the Christian religion. At the age of about ten years, my father Joseph Smith Sr. moved to Palmyra, Ontario County, in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labor hard for the support of a large family having nine children; and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the family, therefore we were deprived of the benefit of an education; suffice it to say I was merely instructed in reading, writing and the ground rules of arithmetic, which constituted my whole literary acquirements. At about the age of twelve years, my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, believing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God; thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly; for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my soul. Thus from age twelve years to fifteen, I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind: the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. My mind became exceedingly distressed, for I became convinced of my sins and by searching the scriptures, I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith, and there was no society or denomination that build upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament, and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, that he was no respecter to persons, for he was God.2

Joseph by this point had already received quite a bit of polishing — he had dictated the entire Book of Mormon, plus close to half of the revelations that would eventually end up in the Doctrine and Covenants. Yet even so, I see a difference between Joseph’s style here and that found in D&C 128 some 10 years later. Joseph’s writing in his 1832 ‘History’ tends to plod along, winding through long, long sentences. D&C 128 has a lighter, clearer style, and there is a sense of structure and purpose, and even of joy — that Joseph knows where he’s going with all this, that he’s excited about it, and that each new strand he brings up gets woven into the overall tapestry. Even when he goes off on that ecstatic flight at the end, he does so for a purpose and — as noted above — he brings it back to his original topic and weaves it into the tapestry as well (cf. Jeff Bennion’s excellent post over at Mormon Mentality on Joseph Smith not being a “mystic”).

FWIW; YMMV. ..bruce..


1. The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Lyndon W. Cook, Seventy’s Missionary Bookstore, 1981, pp. 284-285.

2. Adapted from The Papers of Joseph Smith: Volume I: Autobiographical and Historical Writings, Dean C. Jessee (ed.), Deseret Book, 1989, pp. 3-6.


Some quotes on Native American ancestry

Meridian Magazine has an excellent set of quotes dating back to the 1920s — including from Church publications and General Authorities speaking in General Conference — cautioning members (e.g.)

against the error of supposing that all the American Indians are the descendants of Lehi, Mulek, and their companions, and that their languages and dialects, their social organizations, religious conceptions and practices, traditions, etc., are all traceable to those Hebrew sources. [from a Book of Mormon study guide, 1927]

These quotes, in turn, are taken from the FAIR Wiki article on the same topic (which, unlike the Meridian article, has detailed citations).

This issue remains important, because I still see a few commenters in the Bloggernacle claiming that the limited geographical model of the Book of Mormon, as well as the recognition that not all Native Americans descend from Lehites and Jaredites, are “late” (i.e., recent) responses to mainstream archeological and genetic (DNA) research of the past few decades.  That’s just not true. Limited geographical models started before 1920, with Willard Young (son of Brigham Young) proposing a Mesoamerica-only geography of the Book of Mormon, complete with the Hill Cumorah in Guatemala) sometime before 1920, while Louis Edward Hills (of the RLDS Church) proposed a Central Amercia/Mexico-only model (with Cumorah in central Mexico) in 1917.

Likewise, the Meridian article and the FAIR Wiki article from which it draws make it clear that Church materials and leaders were anything but unanimous in claiming Native Americans all descended from Book of Mormon peoples. I’ve previously cited from Hugh Nibley’s writings in the Improvement Era (the Church’s official magazine and precursor to the Ensign) back in the early 1950s, but these new quotes go back a generation earlier. ..bruce..

Modern-day polygamy…in Iraq

A report from the frontlines:

Some of these guys are very active.  One old toothless sheik has a very young son from a very young new wife.  While I suspect it is possible that there might be more men on the job, nobody is particularly surprised by this.  A local mayor mentioned in passing that he had three wives and fourteen kids.  He also said, perfunctorily, that he was getting married next week.  When I pressed him on the fact that he didn’t seem that excited, he explained that he was just marrying his sister in law.  His brother had died and somebody had to take care of her.  He got the job to keep it all in the family. 

The extended family is one of the pillars of the polygamy.  We tend to project the system into the American context of a nuclear family just with a couple additional women.  That is not really how it works here.  It is more of a welfare system married (literally) to a system of tribal or dynastic alliances.  Tribal affiliation is the key to success for individuals.  You can be born into a tribe or you can marry into a tribe and if you are particularly clever you can marry into up to four tribes.   This both complicates and simplifies genealogy because after a few generations there are lots of overlaps, so you have fewer family lines but a lot more permutations among them.

Just out of curiosity, have there been any scholastic papers comparing and contrasting historical LDS polygamy with contemporary Islamic polygamy?  ..bruce..