Faith-Promoting Perceptions

On April 10, 2008 the Reuters blog, FaithWorld, discussed the “fundamental” PR problem the LDS Church is facing these days with the shakedown at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ YFZ Ranch in Texas. Blogger Ed Stoddard wrote somewhat sympathetically about the unfortunate “polygamous Mormon” stereotype being perpetuated among an undiscerning public. The general trend is to recognize no distinction between LDS Mormons and FLDS Mormons; to most people there is no difference.

I agree that this misunderstanding is unfortunate. Mormonism (and Fundamentalist Mormonism) should be evaluated based on what it actually is, not what it is perceived to be. I think most Mormons would agree with me in theory, yet in defending their Church their declarations sometimes rely primarily on faith-promoting perceptions. Consider this comment left by a reader of the Reuters blog:FLDS girls on bikes

“When I hear about these psycho polygamist sects making national news and the news agencies referring to them as ‘Mormons’ and ‘followers of Joseph Smith,’ it just makes me sick. These people are about as much followers of Joseph Smith as terrorists are followers of the Muslim faith! There practices are considered apostate and evil, and anyone who abuses a child, in OUR faith, is worthy of death (subject to the laws of the land, which we put before our own laws). Oh, how I wish people would search out the truth about us instead of believing what they hear from whoever they hear it from.”

This Mormon’s perception is that Fundamentalists have nothing to do with Mormonism’s founding prophet. He doesn’t seem to realize that the polygamists do follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, though they do not follow the marital teachings of later LDS prophets, from Wilford Woodruff on. The Mormon commenter calls the Fundamentalists “psycho” polygamists whose practices are “apostate and evil” and says anyone who abuses a child is worthy of death. But Joseph Smith himself engaged in marriage to young girls, sometimes resorting to threats and manipulation in an effort to secure them as plural wives.

Another interesting comment on the issue is found in a reader’s response to an article in Deseret News:

“I am LDS in Texas. FLDS, and all others who practice polygamy in Texas, Utah, or wherever, are nothing more than pedophiles and slavers who use laws protecting religious freedom to get away with it.”

This Latter-day Saint’s faith-promoting perception is like that of the Mormon quoted earlier. She does not seem to recognize similarities between FLDS polygamy and polygamy in the early days of her own Church. If these modern day polygamists — practicing The Principle for the very reasons Joseph Smith and Brigham Young claimed God required plural marriage — are “pedophiles and slavers”, what does that make the founders of her faith? How were they any different? She might argue that they were commanded by God to do what they did, but the FLDS members believe they are obeying God as well.

Certainly the parallels between Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs’ FLDS teaching and behavior are not exact, but history confirms that the FLDS understanding of God’s requirements for exaltation are more closely aligned with Joseph Smith and early Mormonism than are the doctrines of today’s LDS Church. While ignoring this truth might be a welcome faith-promoting perception for Mormons, it causes me to echo the commenter on the Reuters blog: “Oh, how I wish people would search out the truth about [Mormonism] instead of believing what they hear from whoever they hear it from.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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72 Responses to Faith-Promoting Perceptions

  1. Michael P says:

    I am curious, only the men have been speaking out for polygamy from our Mormon friends. What do the ladies have to say in regards to this practice?

  2. jer1414 says:

    Just because the Bible records men multiplying wives for themselves, does not mean it’s acceptable. We also find men (like David) committing murder, etc. That doesn’t mean it’s a commandment or in any way acceptable. Notice Gen. 2:24 “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” it does not say clings to his “wives”. Also Deut. 17:17 “And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away;” This is what happened to Solomon, who was drawn away to the false gods of his many wives. These are just a few quick examples. As Falcon mentioned, the Bible no where justifies polygamy. I’m surprised at how some people are quick to call polygamy such a heinous crime, and at the same time justify it.

  3. Lautensack says:

    Jacob5,
    You are correct, there is no scripture in the bible that states “thou shalt not commit polygamy.” Unfortunately the biblical case is not made from a thou shall not but from something far different.

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:25-33

    The question here is did Christ give Himself up for multiple churches, such as the “Church of Scientology” and the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints,” in the same way? Are both churches mentioned spotless? Are they both the bride of Christ? Or did Christ give Himself up for the church of God that He purchased with His own blood? We also have the qualifications for elders/bishops (same word in Greek) being the husband of one wife, literally translated “one woman man” thus those in leadership positions who are keeping watch over the souls of the Church of God, who are to be above reproach are to have only one wife.

    Lautensack

  4. Ralph says:

    Lautensack,
    Exactly my point, you did not put the full context in. It states in the paragraph that if one accepts/believes with all their hearts in polygamy and are ready and willing to practise it, it is as if they did practise polygamy. So if they were not chosen by God to be in that relationship then they were still able to achieve the highest degree in the CK. That is what is meant by this part of the quote ”…if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith…” This is echoed in the scriptures about other things – Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he; Mosiah 4:24-25 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received; Matt 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. So one did not have to be in a polygamous relationship, but they had to accept and believe in that teaching with all their hearts.

    As for your other comment about Jesus and the Church vs husband and wife, that is your interpretation of those verses.

    Jer1414,

    You refer to Deut. 17:17 “And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away;” This can be taken to mean an excessive number of wives – it does not explicitly say that they were only allowed one wife. David had over 300 wives and concubines but it still says in 1 Kings 15:5 that this was OK with God, it was the adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah where David went wrong.

  5. Ralph says:

    Falcon,
    I think you missed Jacobs point. You said – ”The practice is flat out morally wrong and I think it’s time…to condemn Joseph Smith and all those who practiced it Jacob was pointing out that there were men (prophets of God) in the Bible who practised polygamy, and if we need to condemn all who practised it, as you state, then all of these OT prophets also need to be condemned. This would then negate their teachings and written scripture. The same goes with David and Solomon. In doing this we then need to remove Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs and Songs of Solomon, as far as we know about, there could be more. As you said, there are no references to God commanding polygamy in the Bible, but if these prophets (Moses, Abraham, Jacob/Israel) were worthy to be called of God while they were openly practising polygamy then why not Joseph – why do you refer to him as being a fallen prophet without referring to these others as the same? Then as pointed out with David, the Bible states 1 Kings 15:5 Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. This implies that David taking more than one wife was OK by God. In fact with the comment “turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life” one could also infer that God commanded David to take more than one wife – except for Bathsheba. So again the question is, if you can accept the founding fathers of the Biblical God to practise polygamy and be OK with God in doing so, why do you reject the POSSIBILITY of Joseph Smith being a prophet and practising polygamy, which was not against the law at the time.

  6. Lautensack says:

    Ralph,
    For the sake of discussion allow me to be direct in asking how you would interpret Ephesians 5:25-33. Simply saying that is my interpretation, and yours is equally or more valid is not valid unless you give me your alternative interpretation of the passage. The burden of proof falls on you to show me where my exegesis is flawed.

    Again let me be direct in asking are you be ready and willing to practice polygamy if God granted you this “blessing”? If you are willing how can you know that these FLDS members have not been granted it by God and are not the true branch as they are not moved by the “philosophies of men” aka the United States Government?

    Also one must note that in the earliest years of Mormonism yes it was true that polygamy was practiced by the elite, why was that because that was the fullness of Celestial Marriage.

    Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false…The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part… But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fulness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. – JoD 20:28

    For more on the fullness of celestial marriage as first believed I suggest reading Joseph F. Smith’s full talk in the JoD 20:24 as well as Orson Pratt’s, JoD 1:58.

    Lautensack

  7. Michael P says:

    Ralph- three quick points.

    First, I’d love to hear you answer Lautensack’s question: are you fully prepared to engage in polygmous relationships if it is opened up to you?

    Second, I condemn the OT saints who practiced polygamy as sinners in that regard. It was a sin, and they ought be called out for it.

    Third, do you care to share where anything good came out of polygamy in the Bible?

    Thanks!

  8. falcon says:

    Ralph,
    This is pretty easy to answer. A false prophet isn’t false because of his sin, because we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. A false prophet is false because of what he teaches and the false revelations he proclaims. I can’t really recall, anyway, any OT prophet practicing plural marrage. I’m talking prophet here. Joseph Smith was a false prophet for what he taught. He was an individual that came out of the magic arts genre of the time and founded a religion that corrupts all of the basic tenants of the Christian faith. The fact that he took other men’s wives as his own was dispicable enough without even talking about the young girls. He then covered his sinful behavior by corrupted his followers. This personal sinful behavior then became a doctrine hence adding to the evidence of being a false prophet. The Community of Christ, which has Mormon foundations, has the integrity to see Joseph Smith for what he was and say it outloud.

  9. Lautensack says:

    Falcon,
    Just to be fair to scripture and the biblical definition of a prophet, Abraham and Jacob were prophets and polygamists. Most people believe that the prophets started with Moses, however the biblical definition of a prophet is a spokesman for God, who spoke directly with God. This would include people like Abigail, Deborah, and Esther, who were all women? On a side note I wonder how the LDS deal with Judges 4&5, since a female is a judge over of all of Israel?

    Lautensack

  10. falcon says:

    Lautensack,
    Thank you for the correction. I was thinking more in terms of the prophets who wrote and prophisied to the Nation Israel. I think the point is well made however, that polygamy wasn’t God’s plan for his people. The Mormon concept of polygamy is tied to the whole doctrine of progression to godhood and going off to the celestial kingdom with goddess wives and procreating spirit children and ruling a personal heavenly kingdom. This concept is not only foreign to the Jews but also to Christians.

  11. Ralph says:

    Lautensack,

    My interpretation of that scripture (Eph 5:25-33) is as it stands, that we as husbands must be ready to live and die for our wife just as Jesus did for the church. Although it equates the church as the bride/wife of Jesus this in no way entails, neither does it state that a man can’t have more than one wife. Thus that is your interpretation.

    As for the questions from both you and MichaelP, I will do whatever God wants me to do. I may not like it sometimes but my faith will allow me to do anything at all that God wants – Is your faith sufficient to do the same if He (God) asked you to do something that you found offensive, against the law, or had no immediate logic behind it?

    I do not believe that the FLDS are the true ‘branch’ of the LDS church, but I have personal proof of this which you will not believe/receive.

    As for anything good coming from polygamy – (1) the 12 tribes of Israel through which God has promised to bless the whole world with His Gospel. (2) Jesus Christ – He came from the relationship between Bathsheba and David, through Solomon. He is also from the 12 tribes of Israel meaning He came from Jacob and his polygamous marriage (I think Leah was Judah’s mother) (3) Moses – he is attributed to starting the whole Judeo/Christian movement because the first 5 books in the Bible were supposedly written by him, so without Moses God would have found someone else but still we do have the Bible and truth about God through Moses. That’s 3 off the top of my head, I could possibly think of some more given the chance.

    As far as modern-day polygamy, I do not live in America and I do not have any polygamous ancestors so I cannot comment about that. You will have to ask others for that part of the answer.

  12. Michael P says:

    Ralph, why would you have to marry more than womanif it were opened up to you? I didn’t think Mormons ever “had” to marry more than one wife, butyou just said you would do it against your will. Why would you have do that?

    You also state you would do anything your church told you to do? On a level, are you serious? Anything? Coming down a level, would you accept the Nicene Creed if Monson revealed its truthfulness?

    As to good things from poygamy. Are you saying the twelve tribes came from polygamy? David repented from his sin with Bathseba, and locked his concubines up. The rest is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? Moses? This is also a bit of a stretch, as there is evidence he never practiced polygamy.

    Here’s another question: since polygamy is currently banned, why the extreme effort to defend it?

  13. Lautensack says:

    Ralph,
    So according to your position Christ might very well have died for any number of churches, as a man would die for any one of wives, even though the words used in the Greek are in the singular.

    As for polygamists starting Judaism and thus being the forerunners to Christianity, I never said that God could not use Evil men, in fact that is all He uses. He uses men who are vial, wicked, and have offended His holy name. However we must never Justify their sin, Peter Denied Christ, Paul was a murderer, as was David, Moses sinned against God, Abram temporally lacked faith in God, thus entered into polygamy, Jacob was just a wicked sinner all of His life. God used evil men and until we see the sinfulness of sin we do not know how truly damning it is, for God is angry at the wicked every day. I can say that these men were wicked as I am wicked, and yet God used them, at the same time I can disdain their sins.

    Finally yes, God has asked me to do some very difficult things that I didn’t like, but I did them anyways why because He told me to in His Holy Word. Perhaps polygamy is something too close to home, so allow me to change the question, if God told you to steal, would you? If God told you to commit adultery, would you? If God told you to murder your parents would you?

    Lautensack

  14. Ralph says:

    MichaelP,

    I like what you have done with my statement. You said “You also state you would do anything your church told you to do? (emphasis mine). I said “I will do whatever God wants me to do.” BIG difference. I know you don’t accept that I may believe in the true God, but still misquoting like that doea not help your credability. Please be careful how you quote others next time.

    Lautensack,

    As for your last questions – if that is what God asks of me then I will do it. He has asked people to steal and murder in the past, so there is a precident that He might do it in future.

  15. Michael P says:

    Ralph, I can accept the criticism. It is fair,a nd I certainly do not mean to intentionally distort. Though can I also ask this: under what circumstances would you be placed under the difficult position of whether or not to practice polygamy? Would you listen to God apart from the Mormon church, or would you only listen after the church says its OK?

  16. Lautensack says:

    Ralph,
    So if God asked you to murder your parents you would, ok. What about my other question commit adultery? Just for kicks lets throw in another, if God asked you to commit blaspheme and idolatry would you? Also where in the bible does God command men to steal? I would ask, where does He command men to murder but that becomes a tricky subject, distinguishing between murder and killing.

    Lautensack

  17. Jacob5 says:

    I love the rhetorical what if statements. I remember, what if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it to? There have been instances where immediate commandments seem to contradict previous commandments. “Thou shalt not kill.” was given before the Israelites were told to wipe out all other inhabitants in Canaan. David was allowed to eat of the sacrificial offerings that were only to be eaten by the priests. But in many cases there were purposes for them. The people in Canaan would had in many cases had developed inquitous lifestyles that were counter to Gods purposes. David had to stay alive to fulfill his position as King and for obvious other future reasons.
    Let’s throw this into the works. How many people here have been circumcised (based on a religious principle, not a clinical principle)? But was it not a commandment? You may say that Christ did away with that. I would say no. The practice of circumcision was still carried on with the Jewish christians who complained that the non-Jewish christians were breaking the commandments by not being circumcised. Now did the apostles discontinue circumcision? No, they simply said that it was not necessary for the those not of the Jewish people.
    You all are arguing a moot point. The fact is that plural marriage is no longer practiced on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Those who had already been sealed to their wives were allowed to continue to live out their lives in that situation, but no new sealings were sanctioned or ordained by the church authorities. It even came to the point where people were excommunicated.
    These so-called “sects” were simply people who split off because they didn’t agree with the church leaders discontinuance and eventually split up into severy small groups that wouldn’t even count for 3% or our churches current membership, and that is if all those different offshoots were actually grouped together.

  18. Michael P says:

    Actually, Jacob, its not moot. Ralph said this “I will do whatever God wants me to do. I may not like it sometimes but my faith will allow me to do anything at all that God wants” in regards to plural marriage. He is leaving it open for its practice in the future.

    To us, it is cut and dried, no polygamy. To you, its not so simple. Yes, its banned now, but what would happen if your church said it was OK? That would be speaking for God, and then it would be practiced. And what would be the requirements? Ralph might be insinuating it would be necessary (maybe not). But could it be?

    As to the God speaking thing, who would say it was of God and allow polygamy. Ralph said if God spoke to him, he would practice it. But would he be excommunicated if the church didn’t agree?

    I hope you see this is not a moot point, and has important conclusions.

  19. Ralph says:

    Lautensack,

    A Biblical reference of God commanding someone to steal is found in –
    Exodus 11:2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.
    This also indicates God commanded people to lie, as the Israelites were leaving Egypt NEVER to return – In other words they were taking the jewellery for keeps, NOT borrowing.

    As for your other questions, I would choose God over my parents, in fact my father once told me to do that if it ever came down to a choice. Although I love my parents very much if for some reason God told me to kill them then I would. Would you? How far does your faith go? I do not know of any instances in the Bible of God telling anyone to commit adultery or to blaspheme and go into idolatry so I know God would never do that, so if I got any impression/thoughts/feelings like that I know it would not be from God.

    MichaelP,

    Always the ‘hard-to-explain’ answers. I know that the prophet is a man of God and tells us what God wants for the Church. So I need to determine the difference between my thoughts/feelings and what God says through the prophet. Sometimes it can be different (and it has) but that is mainly for the ‘small’ things. But for the ‘bigger’ things like polygamy, I will listen to the prophet’s voice as that is where God has said it will come from. So in part answer to your question I would wait until the church says its OK. That’s the best I can explain it, and I know you will probably twist it to make it say I am listening to the Church, but for me, its from God as I would first seek confirmation if I was told to take part in it. As for your comment to Jacob5, according to Isaiah 4:1, it will be an accepted thing of the future in general population, so maybe for the church it will again become practice. Only God knows as He sees the bigger picture.

  20. Michael P says:

    Ralph, first, the Isaiah 4:1 is certainly not conclusive, and I would be hesitant to bet on it as you present.

    Second, I hope you see the problem in your response to me. You go to the church for confirmation. We go to the Bible. We may then go to other sources, such as other more mature believers, commentaries, etc. Of course prayer is a part of it from the beginning, but our first source is the Bible, as Acts 17:11 demonstrates.

    And yes, the answer really proves my initial response: once the church tells you. You may think God speaks through the church, but you cannot act until the church gives the go ahead. Do you test the church, or do you take it at its word?

  21. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    I feel I must contend earnestly for the truth, here. Ralph wrote,

    A Biblical reference of God commanding someone to steal is found in –
    Exodus 11:2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.
    This also indicates God commanded people to lie, as the Israelites were leaving Egypt NEVER to return – In other words they were taking the jewellery for keeps, NOT borrowing.

    Lying is a flaw in humankind, not an attribute of God (Numbers 23:19). God’s Word tells us He will not tempt people to sin (James 1:13). His Word also tells us that lying is a sin, stealing is a sin, etc. Because we know God is holy (Revelation 4:8) and righteous (John 17:25), we must look at any text that seems to suggest otherwise with a critical eye.

    A concordance definition of the word here translated as “borrow” says, “to inquire; by impl. to request; by extens. to demand.” This definition is borne out in most Bible translations. The only one I could find that translated the word “borrow” was the KJV. Additionally, the biblical text indicates that God gave the Israelites “favor” before the Egyptians, which caused the Egyptians to give their riches gladly. In the end, while the Israelites had begun by asking for (and planning) only three days to go into the wilderness to worship and sacrifice to their God, the Egyptians themselves drove the Israelites away for good. If God’s instructions to His people look like He was advocating deception, it is only because we know the end of the story and are privy to knowing ahead of time what God knew all along.

  22. Lautensack says:

    Ralph,
    I do not know any instances where God has told His children to steal the word borrow in Exodus 11:2 is “vyiShalu” from the root sha’al (Shin Alep Lamed) which is a Qal Imperfect Third Common Plural Plus Vav Consecutive of the word “To ask for, to inquire of, or to seek.” I am not sure why this was translated to borrow in the KJV. However the Hebrew word to steal is “ganav”(Gimal Nun Bet) as you can see the roots of the two words are not even close. The word for borrow in this sense is that you speak, to receive something lent in hopes to return it, come from the final word of Deuteronomy 28:12. The word is “taliveh” is a Qal Imperfect Second Masculine Singular from the root “lavah” (Lamed Vav He). Also in Exodus 12:36 it says that the Egyptians gave them what they asked for. Again the word “vayashaaloom” from “sha’al” is used here. This time a Hiphil Imperfect Third Masculine Plural Plus Vav Consecutive Plus Third Masculine Plural Suffix. This means that what was asked for was given. So no, God has never commanded men to steal, nor to lie. Sorry for the lesson in language, and to answer your questions, if the Lord has said thou shalt not, then I must not no matter how much I feel as though I should do otherwise. God has spoken, should I deny His word because I feel otherwise?

    Lautensack

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