Carol Lynn Pearson, who describes herself as one of the “wise-woman elders” of Mormonism, has written a book documenting how the specter of eternal polygamy pains those who have embraced Mormonism.
For many Mormons as old as me, Carol Lynn Pearson was *the* Mormon poet. Her poetic voice was clear and inspiring in her initial books of her poetry, widely quoted in Mormon circles. Her life appeared to be unusually graced until her beloved husband came out as gay. Pearson’s book about her husband was published in 1986, after her former husband died from complications related to AIDS.
Pearson started as precocious and innocent girl believing the promises of 1970s Mormonism and has arrived at the status of elderly and wounded woman, crying out to God and us listeners with her stories of how entitled polygamous patriarchy harms everyone, but particularly the female members of the Mormon tribe.
As a reviewer, I am simultaneously irritated with Pearson while applauding her clarity in pointing out the damage stupid beliefs about eternal polygamy can cause.
I am irritated because she sees Mormon plural marriage through a lens I no longer see as valid, a lens through which she describes Joseph Smith “taking” 30-40 wives, including some with legal husbands and at least one as young as fourteen. I would have rendered that phrase that Joseph Smith covenanted with ~40 women, including some with legal husbands and one woman who may have been as young as thirteen. But I would have pointed out that in every case that has been examined, the few children borne by these women during this time have been positively confirmed to be the biological children of the legal husband (with no confident reports that any otherwise unmarried women conceived at all). And I point out the vast sexual heresy that engulfed Nauvoo in 1841-1842, to which I posit Joseph was responding to by entering into covenants with associated teachings, covenants that appear to have been asexual for the most part.
Yet I applaud Pearson because the pain she describes is the very reason why I feel it is so critical to unearth the forgotten sins of our past, the truths it appears our pioneer forebears had righteously buried in full repentance before their Lord, Jesus Christ. Continue reading
Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick give us a delightful volume discussing Joseph Smith’s seer stones, exploring a portion of Mormon history that was excised along with the mortal practice of plural marriage among the Saints.
Here’s the gist:
Joseph and seemingly most of his colleagues used stones to see things that were otherwise hidden. This included his age peers, respectable members of the local community, and noted Protestant church leaders. When Mormon missionaries traveled to England, they found individuals in England who were similarly using stones to see hidden things. See pp. 158-159.
The Bible has a tradition of prophets seeing things in various miraculous ways, such as visions and dreams. But the ways God used to convey his wisdom also included such methods as writing on walls. The authors include a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn of Belshazzar’s Feast (1636), where writing appeared on the wall of the temple and was interpreted by the prophet Daniel (p. 119). The Bible also includes discussion of items used for divination or to see hidden things (the Urim and Thummim, the white stone John mentions in Revelation). Continue reading
I was delighted to learn that the Fort Collins temple was holding an open house while we would be traveling through Colorado. Thank you M*!
It’s been a while since I’d gone through a temple open house. I think the most recent experience for me was the open house for the Nauvoo temple over a decade ago. Things are mostly the same, but slightly different. And I had delightful experiences talking with those not of our faith during my visit to Fort Collins. Continue reading
This past Saturday I attended the temple with my husband. This was the first time I’d experienced the endowment ceremony since coming to believe that Hyrum Smith, rather than Joseph Smith, may have been the third man Martha Brotherton described in her 1842 affidavit.
In my post earlier this summer suggesting Hyrum was implicated in promoting illicit intercourse, I described honored figures of the past who had fallen into transgression, only to repent and become the greatest. I mentioned Saul of Tarsus, Alma the Younger, and Moses’ brother Aaron.
I completely overlooked Adam and Eve, the iconic figures who transgressed and yet were then promised the salvation of Christ could redeem them.
For those not familiar with the endowment, let me repeat Glen M. Leonard’s description. The endowment:
[set] forth a pattern or figurative model for life. The teachings began with a recital of the creation of the earth and its preparation to host life. The story carried the familiar ring of the Genesis account, echoed as well in Joseph Smith’s revealed book of Moses and book of Abraham. The disobedience and expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden set the stage for an explanation of Christ’s atonement for that original transgression and for the sins of the entire human family. Also included was a recital of man’s tendency to stray from the truth through apostasy and the need for apostolic authority to administer authoritative ordinances and teach true gospel principles. Participants were reminded that in addition to the Savior’s redemptive gift they must be obedient to God’s commandments to obtain a celestial glory. Within the context of these gospel instructions, the initiates made covenants of personal virtue and benevolence and of commitment to the church. They agreed to devote their talents and means to spread the gospel, to strengthen the church, and to prepare the earth for the return of Jesus Christ.
I have previously made reference to the commitment to personal virtue, the requirement that the endowed individual refrain from sex with anyone other than a legal spouse. What I had failed to understand was the power of the creation narrative for those affected by the heresy of illicit intercourse. Continue reading
Saul (seated) holding the coats of those stoning St. Stephen, from the tympanum of Saint Étienne du Mont, Paris
As we consider scripture, we see great individuals who have overcome a terrible past.
Saul, later Paul, began his career of tormenting Christ’s followers by volunteering to hold the clothing of those who stoned Stephen, a believer. He went on to actively persecute Christians, until he was stopped by a divine revelation on the road to Damascus. Yet he went on to become one of the greatest of the early Christian apostles.
Alma, son of the Alma who had been a priest in the court of King Noah, went about actively destroying the Church of God. It is unclear how much of the later apostasy and warfare that troubled the Nephite and Lamanite peoples were directly attributable to the youthful actions of Alma “the younger.” Yet the younger Alma went on to become a great political and religious leader, honored in his own time as well as by modern Mormons.
I have suggested that some early Mormons were like Alma the younger and Saul/Paul. We know them and honor them for their great goodness. But I detect the traces of a troubled past of which they repented.
This past month, as a tangential result of my foray into an alternate Mormon-themed website, I tumbled across something that has stood in plain site, yet unseen across the decades. It makes sense of things, yet it does not make me glad. I am now persuaded that someone I previously saw as uncorrupted had an episode in their past that rivals the evil of Saul and the youthful Alma. Continue reading