Lying for the Lord

In his apologetic book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research), Michael R. Ash hopes to calm those Mormons who are thinking about leaving the Mormon Church when presented with information by “anti-Mormons.” I’m writing a review of the book that should be online at soon, but I thought it would be interesting to include part of the review here:

Official Declaration—1, which was signed by Mormon President Wilford Woodruff in September 1890, is found at the end of the LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants. The “Manifesto,” as it is known, denied that polygamy was still taking place within the LDS Church. The Manifesto says, in part:

“We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory. … Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.”

It continued with this lie:

“There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”

Salt Lake Herald 7 October 1890

The next month, Lorenzo Snow—the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who later became the Mormon prophet—moved to accept Woodruff’s “declaration concerning plural marriage as authoritative and binding.”

The last line in the declaration declares, “The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous.”

As it has been clearly shown in such books as Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard Van Wagoner (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1989) and In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1997), polygamy continued within the LDS Church until 1904 when the Reed Smoot hearings took place in Washington, DC. This fact is acknowledged by Ash on page 218 when he writes,

“Church leaders recognized what they needed to do to appease the government—even if that meant being duplicitous; publicly rescinding polygamy while privately continuing the practice.” (sic)

However, Ash classifies the lies told by the LDS leadership as mere “civil disobedience,” which sounds pretty heroic.  Incredibly, he writes on pages 218-219:

“From the inception of the practice of polygamy the Latter-day Saints were engaged in civil disobedience. While the decision to defy anti-polygamy laws was a painful one…(they) decided to follow their consciences, ready to accept the penalties if convicted. Their highest moral obligation was to follow God’s commandments.”

On page 219, Ash asks the questions,

“What if you lived in World War II Europe and were harboring fugitive Jews? What if you were asked if you had any Jews in your home? Would it be wrong to lie to save their lives?”

He answered the questions this way:

“In this scenario, the morally higher ground would be to lie to save a life, especially if this choice was confirmed by personal revelation. Likewise, in some pre-Utah, and post-Manifesto situations, some Saints felt it necessary to lie, in fact, to save their spiritual lives and to protect their fellow members from physical attacks.”

He added,

“The Saints took the same approach to civil disobedience as advocated by Gandhi—a position of non-violence. With the first Manifesto some Saints chose the lesser of two evils—they would deceive the government by abandoning the public practice of polygamy rather than surrender their religious practice completely. They were backed in a corner and this was the only way they felt they could live the commandments and keep the Church alive.” (p. 219)

Further justifying the lies, Ash writes this:

“The Saints found themselves in a war in which they were the underdogs. They did not feel that they were being fairly represented in the governmental system—heavily influenced by religious enemies—and therefore they didn’t feel obligated to jeopardize their existence by dealing forthrightly with their persecutors.” (p. 22)

What’s your opinion? Does Ash make a good case for the lies told by the LDS leadership?

This entry was posted in D&C and Pearl of Great Price, Mormon History, Polygamy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Lying for the Lord

  1. Violet says:

    'Besides, since we are saved by faith alone despite our works, then it doesn't matter if we practice polygamy or not, does it?'

    So, you view the 'saved by grace, through faith alone' crowd as looking for a license to commit sin and get away with it. Also, you view yourself as superior to those who 'believe we are saved by grace, through faith alone.'

    Its not fair. If Charles Manson, begs for forgiveness, believes Christ died for his sins, its a free gift, and he accepts that gift. Golden ticket. He's in.

    If someone, such as yourself, is Mother Theresa, and on the last day, believes in his heart, he had to do good works to 'get in heaven', then he is out. It has nothing to do with who deserves to be in heaven. Its all Him.

    It is completely unfair. The faithful, who sit in our pews every Sunday, are no better than anyone else. I am no better than the smoker, drinker, non-believing person.

  2. Violet says:

    part 2.

    Polygamy, all day long. And on the last day, if the polygamist repents and says, 'Its all you Christ Jesus. I did nothing on this earth to deserve your grace, forgiveness and mercy.' Then the polygamist, 'is in'. Its not about works. Ephesians says we cannot boast.

    Mormons boast and do believe they are more 'deserving' of God's love. That is the problem. Its judgment, superiority and karma. My friend used my good nature, kindness, because she knew I would never say 'no' and she got more 'done'. We are a DONE religion. Not a DO religion. Christ did it all. We do good because we are loved and to show God's love through us. We are free to do more because we have no burden and because we are loved. Sure, I'll admit, some Christians are jerks. But can you admit that some Mormons are too?

  3. f_melo says:

    "It is completely unfair. The faithful, who sit in our pews every Sunday, are no better than anyone else. I am no better than the smoker, drinker, non-believing person."

    Violet, great comment! Your comment reminded me of the Words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:

    "18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."

    God indeed destroyed the wisdom of the wise!

  4. f_melo says:

    "I'll admit, some Christians are jerks. But can you admit that some Mormons are too?"

    You know, while the church discourages people to talk about other religions during sunday school classes, etc. because there could be people visiting that would get offended(which i´ve seen happening a few times – one of those people was my girlfriend who was patient enough to come attend church with me), when there is no one visiting you´ll hear some pearls, people boasting of how the church is superior then those devil-blinded catholics because they are the ones with the authority, or those crazy evangelicals that believe in the abomination that you don´t have to do anything to be saved. I lost count of how many times i heard in priesthood meetings teachers commenting on how a 12 year-old had more authority from God in his toes than the Pope and the entire Catholic Church, and how they were the only ones who really knew Jesus and entire Christian world was deeply ignorant and in darkness.

    There´s also a good bit of mocking of Protestant doctrines among missionaries and among more knowledgeable members, the Trinity being one example, the "how could Jesus pray to Himself" kind of thing…

  5. Ralph said

    I love that last sentence – "the civil authority has nothing to do with the matter" if a man wants to marry more than one wife as it is found in the Bible.

    Your thinking truly defies logic here Ralph. First off what you quoted cannot be found in the Bible. Then we do have accounts of men in the Bible having more than one wife, but thats was because men are sinners and their hearts are wicked. Just because someone did something in the Bible does not mean God commanded it. I read about Homosexuals in the Bible, Do I believe you will decide to marry another man?

    I see the Bible tells us King David and Moses killed people, will I read about committing murder, just because it's in the Bible, You see where I am going, I could go on, but thats really lame logic just saying, well It's in the Bible.

  6. Ralph said

    Jacob 2:30 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.

    Ralph, you really are a piece of work. You quote from some book, that is not the Bible to try and say, Look at what God said. Show me from the Bible, Not the BoM. Then you claim that if God wants to raise up seed he will use plural marriage. God does not need plural marriage to raise up seed, He used Adam and Eve and look at us know, the whole world is covered with people.

    If you want to claim God needs plural marriage to raise up seed, Then I could just as easily claim, I kill people in the name of God to stop the world from being over populated, or to make sure that evil people are not Born. You can twist logic to say anything you want.

  7. falcon says:

    Here's the flip side of this. Let's stretch for our old buddy Ralph and say that polygamy, as practiced by some in the OT was just fine with God (I get the creeps even writing that because it isn't OK with God). So the point of polygamy was, what? To produce more babies? That's kind of dumb. It takes nine months by my calculation for that to happen and having one man impregnate a whole bunch of women isn't going to increase the number of babies born. Several men can impregnate several women and the number of babies won't change but the ratio of man to woman/baby will.
    And finally, these OT polygamists weren't thinking that they were going to become gods if they had a harem. Joseph Smith wanted a bunch of sex partners and found a way to do it that satisfied his own twisted mind. Anyone who endorses this is as twisted and perverted as Smith was. Yea, and then call it a highly spiritual principle that only some can understand and receive. Ingenious!

  8. RalphNWatts says:


    You know how I feel about polygamy because you asked me about 7 weeks ago in a post under the heading “The Dark Side of a Dark Doctrine”. I told you I do not like the idea of having another wife and would not choose to practise polygamy if the laws of the land permitted it. I did say that if the prophet told me to, I would, but it would not be by choice. So stop spinning garbage about me liking polygamy when you already know I don’t.

  9. RalphNWatts says:


    I don’t groove on polygamy and if you have read my past comments you already know that. And no where above do I say that I do either. I will refer you to the post I have referred Fmelo to as proof.

  10. RalphNWatts says:


    Those words were Martin Luther’s not mine. This blog page is trying to call out the LDS for practising polygamy behind the government’s back and lying about it. Martin Luther is basically backing up that idea with that last statement of his – the civil authorities have nothing to do with matters of the Bible and faith, so we should practise our religion as we wish to as long as it is Biblical.

    As far as murder goes – Moses and David got away with it from what I understand from past comments made by Evs on this blog. So again FAITH DESPITE WORKS.

  11. Violet says:

    Power, authority, total control. If you have 4500 grandchildren, then you produce loyalty, strength in numbers, the fittest, strongest, and you will be a king. Wayne Bent explained it this way. His entire life was a sacrifice for everyone else in the 'tribe'. He had wives, complete total control, submission of their lives and money, and finally asked for young girls to 'be with him' only in the most holy way, because he was the son of god. Narcissist, sociopath, something very twisted. Could not agree with you more falcon. Good point. If he wanted more babies, there were plenty of men who would have given him their time, talent, treasure, money and entire lives if JS asked them. Its so unbelievable. Like a fairytale and who profited? Jesus? Jesus wanted BY to have 54 wives. Incredible.

  12. RalphNWatts says:


    I agree and so do most LDS that we are no better than the smoker, drinker, non-believer, etc. I also agree that the final judgment and allocation of our eternal life is all up to Jesus.

    I do think that some LDS have the wrong idea and think they are better than anyone else and live with that attitude. But they are, from my experience, few and far between. Unlike many Pentacostals, Born Agains and Baptists that I have met who keep going around telling everyone they meet and do not believe that same as them, that they (ie the other person not the believer) are a sinner and are going to hell if they don't accept Jesus into their life. And then turn around and say that they (ie the believer not the other person) are going to heaven and are saved and have life better than the other person.

    But I disagree with what you said about the final judgment being unfair. It will totally be fair and all will see and believe that it is fair regardless of what they believed in on this earth.

  13. Martin said

    I've got to say that I disagree with Rick's eschatology.

    Please explain what it is that you think I believe and I will tell you if your correct or not. I am not exactly sure of what it is you think I believe. Then you said something about Cherry picking verses. The Church I attended and it is not the only church in the world that is like this, But we teach the Bible, Chapter by chapter and verse by verse. This way we use Scripture to interpret scripture. We take what Paul said and use it, I have not shunned to declare the entire gospel. To many churchs always talk about the same few things and avoid some books or verses. So please fill me in as to what you think I believe. I think it's only fair if your going to say you dont agree with me, then tell me exactly where and why I am wrong.

  14. Ralph said

    So stop spinning garbage about me liking polygamy when you already know I don’t.

    Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. You keep quoting Martin Luther and act as if we should agree with him and when we dont you seem to act surprised. We/I keep telling you I dont agree with a lot of what he said and he is not the final authority the Bible is.

    Then you quoted from the BoM saying God commanded polygamy and we dont believe the BoM is the word of God and I dont care how much you quote from it, it is not true.

    Moses and David did not get away with Murder, they did commit murder and a price came with their choice. But how does faith despite works have anything to do with them committing murder. that mad no sense, Please clarify.

  15. Violet says:

    Just when I want to really dislike you, Ralph, you go ahead and say something reasonable. Can't type. Listening to new episode of Heart of the Matter. Totally hooked.

    I agree with 'people who don't believe the same as them, that they . . . ' I do like 'seekers' though. People, especially young ones like Sarah, who are looking for answers. Good for them that they want to be educated.

    I don't enjoy lds neighbors who tell only the 'rose colored side' of mormonism and kind of forgot the 'man progress to become gods', or Jesus and God are not the same, or 'We are striving to become gods.'

    All I got was 'social, social, friends, friends, academia, no-smoking no-drinking and BYU is free. BYU is free. I'm in. Wait . . they left out a few details. That really is upsetting too.

    Believe what you want. All day long. Be upfront about it though. Knew them for four or five years, and they never mentioned anything 'bizarre', just 'We are Christians, just like you.' Really.

  16. Martin said

    like Rick, I can't be sure what the future holds.

    I know what the future holds since the Bible tells me, and unless God lied I can trust what Jesus and the Bible tell me for what the future holds.

  17. f_melo says:

    I know that, but i do that because you keep insisting on defending it. How can you defend something you personally don´t like? If i were you i would be hoping God just forgot about it and move on – but you seem to want to prove that it is right and it is commanded of God in the Bible, which isn´t true.

    You also didn´t answer my question. The Mormon church prohibited the practice because the US government outlawed it, but why don´t they allow it in countries where there are no laws against it? I mean, is it an eternal principle or not? Or is that from men?

  18. falcon says:

    Oh come on Ralph. Now you want to start back-peddling? I've dealt with you several times on this issue in the past and you twist yourself into a pretzel defending Joseph Smith's polygamy and polygamy in general. I've seen you produce what you think is definitive, but as it turned out flawed, documentation regarding the age of marriage of girls in the 19th century.
    You worship at the altar of Joseph Smith and will go to any lengths to defend what most people would view as a perverted practice which he started to satisfy his own needs. He lied to women telling them that an angel with a sword appeared to him insisting that he start marrying more women or he (angel) would kill him. The guy was a liar of the first order and you support him and his practice.
    You own this one Ralph. Repudiate the practice if you don't groove on it.

  19. f_melo says:

    "I agree and so do most LDS that we are no better than the smoker, drinker, non-believer"

    If that is so, why aren´t those people allowed in the Temple?

    "I do think that some LDS have the wrong idea and think they are better than anyone else and live with that attitude"

    Honestly, why do you think that is? Where do they get those ideas from?

    ". It will totally be fair and all will see and believe that it is fair regardless of what they believed in on this earth."

    You really just demonstrated you have no understanding of what Grace is. If God is going to be just the way you propose we all, without exception, will go to hell receive the punishment for the multitude of sins we committed. See, even you believe the judgement isn´t going to be fair – that´s why Jesus had to die, so that your sins wouldn´t be counted against you in the judgement day. So, i know you think you´re holy because you have special priesthood powers, but remember, even that does not excuse your sins.

    It also seems that you believe that, let´s say, Satanists are going to be saved if they behaved like good Christians, you know, gave money to charity, taught their children good moral principles, etc. That statement definitely proves you have no idea what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. Of course, according to your beliefs they will have to accept Jesus while dead, so that their ordinances can be performed for them – so they don´t have to believe in Jesus in this life but while dead in the Spirit World.

  20. f_melo says:

    "Moses and David got away with it from what I understand from past comments made by Evs on this blog"

    Not according to EV´s buddy – according to God Himself as written in the Holy Scriptures. Did you ever read God condemning Moses to outer darkness?
    Also the Scriptures say that God forgave David, i can´t find the verse right now, but i remember is one of those that JS changed to say God did not forgive David. Of course JS pulled that out of his hat, because he had no manuscript to translate that from.

    " So again FAITH DESPITE WORKS."

    So again you have no idea what the Grace of God is. Remember, Paul persecuted (and probably helped in the murdering) of lots of Christians and God forgave him and called him to be an apostle…

  21. Violet says:

    You are right. God is fair and just. And you are definitely right about '. . who keep going around telling everyone they meet and do not believe the same as them, that they. . . '

    What disturbed me about mormonism though is that they give you the 'milk' before the 'meat'. Baptism for the dead, tithing 10% to get temple recommend, need recommend to get to celestial, or man progressing to become gods, or becoming a god of own planet, or Jesus and God are separate and Jesus and Satan were brothers. All that is relevant but was omitted in any discussion. Too sacred I know.

    If my child became a mormon and I didn't, I could not be present at the 'ceremony'. Some of these things are kind of important.

    All I got was families, eternal sealing, social, social, friends, friends, BYU is free. Yes. BYU is free!

  22. Rick,

    I thought that this would be your response.

    Here's a question for you: when facing the future, does your confidence rest on the fact that you think you know how it will play out, or does it rest on your faith in a God who can bring you through any circumstance?

    There's an interesting exercise someone brought to my church a few years ago and it goes something like this;

    1 List out all the reasons why you think you're going to heaven.
    2 Then, strike out every reason that has the word "I" (or "my") in it.

    What you've got left, if they relate to Jesus, are the only reasons that stand up before the judgment of God.

    I am justified before God because Jesus died for my sins and I am raised to life in his resurrection, not because I've had a sneak peak into his diary. My "knowledge" of what the future holds will not save me; Christ will, and I believe him.

  23. Martin, Your response does not answer my question, You implied I am wrong in what I believe, yet you never stated exactly what it is you think I believe or where I am wrong. Then your "exercise" is a little flawed because you say, remove anything that says I or My in it. Well if I said, I am saved by the Blood of Jesus, then according to what you said, I must strike that from the list because it contains (I) in it.

    Also you must never read what I write or have some crazy ideas about me, since I have made it very clear over and over, I am saved by GRACE ALONE, I am covered in the shed blood of Jesus ALONE. I never said I am saved because I believe the future holds….

    I never said I am saved because I believe the Bible predicts the future and I am basing my salvation upon what I believe the future holds. So I a not sure where your getting these ideas about what I think, I am pretty sure I have been more clear in where I stand and what I believe than anyone else here on this blog. Not saying others are not, but I am very outspoken and vocal on where I stand and what I believe.

    I will not dodge questions, and when I get accused of it by anyone I tell them maybe I missed it so please ask it again.

    Martian said

    I am justified before God because Jesus died for my sins and I am raised to life in his resurrection,

    I believe that and never stated otherwise.

    Martian said

    Here's a question for you: when facing the future, does your confidence rest on the fact that you think you know how it will play out, or does it rest on your faith in a God who can bring you through any circumstance?

    Since you asked, let me share this with you, I hold to the belief Jesus walks with me through everything. Well over a year ago, maybe closer to two years ago, I was working as a baker and I was making 16.20 an hour. But then I lost my Job ad was out of work for two months, I could not collect unemployment. I brought it to Judges appeal and lost.

    So I ended up losing my house to foreclosure went back to school and it costs me 43,000 dollars to go back. Then I am and still am as of today working 2 part times jobs. One job is at best 15 hours a week at 12 dollars and hour, the other job is an on-call position and I might only work one day every two weeks at 9 dollars and hour. Thats the restaurant business. Then as a result of no money I have so much debt and unpaid bills I am looking at filing for bankruptcy.

    Then I start a three month externship for school April 4th, it will last 3 months and will be unpaid. So for 3 months I will not be working at all or getting a dime. So to say the least things are tough, we are living with friends, I have 5 in my family, My wife and 3 kids, living with a husband and wife friend.

    God told me and my wife about a year before this all happened that it would. I trusted God and still do, I still walk with Him and am not shaken or moved by this. So if you could please explain where you get these ideas about me that would be great, if you now think, I was wrong, then please tell me what you were thinking, and where you got these ideas about me. Was it something I said? If so, what was it that I said? Thanks, Rick b

  24. Rick,

    I have spent all of my Saturday forming a response, much to my wife's irritation. It's lengthy and a little off-topic, so I invite you (and other readers) to read it on my blog here…

    You can leave comments, or email me and I will post them for you.

    Incidentally, if you wish to sustain a meaningful dialog, may I suggest you don't deliberately misspell names. Whether you intend it or not, your moniker and the tone of your posts exude values that are in stark contrast to Isaiah 42:3.

  25. What names did I misspell, and how does that effect what I believe in anyway? And any names I misspelled was totally an accident.

  26. First off Martin, The Moniker "The Hammer" was given to me by Falcon. Does that name bother you? Also if your trying to say I dont live up to or some how put me into the Isaiah 42:3 verse, That is speaking about Jesus Not me.

  27. All,

    I posted Rick's reply on my blog here…

    (PS It's "Martin", not "Martian", though some of my closest friends do wonder…)

  28. I am sorry if I spelled your name wrong, that was an accident.

  29. mmmm says:

    I can't find the specific comments here now after registering, but a couple of you claim to have mormon acquaintances who told you BYU is free. That's just inaccurate. I graduated from there in 99, and my brother and his wife w/in the last 2 years. We all paid tuition. Like pretty much any school, only those with full scholarships don't pay. A simple Google search clears that up. Mormons pay a lower tuition there than non-Mormons, but we pay.

    So are the mormons you know the whack job or ignorant Mormons (every religion has those), or are you misunderstanding/misconstruing their words? Of course, either way, that makes me wonder about anything else you mention that you think you gleaned from those Mormons. Maybe this isn't the only issue for which your understanding is off?

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