About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Suicides correlated with disbelief

Today, while sitting at home while white covered the Eastern seaboard, I noticed this Dailywire article:

https://www.dailywire.com/news/28449/cdc-youth-suicide-skyrockets-70-over-last-decade-ben-shapiro

Suicide is increasingly chosen by both the young and old, affecting all economic brackets, races, and genders. Ben Shapiro asserts the common factor is a growth in disbelief. Folks despair because they lack purpose, he asserts.

While I would prefer it had the Ben Shapiro used more careful language, it’s interesting to hear an assertion that suicide is inversely correlated with belief in God.

Thoughts? I’m reflecting on how this arguably more global finding informs us regarding the assertion that marginalized Mormons are more vulnerable.

Blindness and the Golden Hammer

Here is a chapter I’ve added to the draft of the 2018 version of Reluctant Polygamist, to help explain why the current narrative about Joseph Smith is what it is. Feel free to critique as you see fit.
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In 1962 noted philosopher Abraham Kaplan addressed the American Educational Research Association at UCLA. Kaplan urged scientists to exercise good judgment in the selection of appropriate methods for their research. To illustrate how inappropriate the instrument at hand could be for a job, Kaplan joked, “Give a boy a hammer and everything he meets has to be pounded.” [1]

Kaplan called this “The Law of the Instrument,” and it has also been known as a Birmingham screwdriver, Maslow’s hammer, or the golden hammer. Whatever the name, over-reliance on a familiar tool is considered a cognitive bias, a systematic pattern of irrational judgment.

When it comes to judging the actions of Joseph Smith, historians outside of the Church hierarchy have relied over-much on explaining “polygamy” as arising from Joseph Smith’s personal sexual obsession.

Meanwhile, both detractors and defenders of Joseph Smith have fallen into the trap of inattentional blindness, the inability to perceive conspicuous truths that are unexpected. [2] This blindness accounts for the fraught interactions between historians and the LDS Church in recent decades. Continue reading

Ablative Saints and Grant Palmer

In the past I have talked about those who fall away from the Church, referring to them as akin to the layer (called ablative) of the space shuttle that is designed to wear away when the going gets rough. Not that anyone is pre-destined a prior to lose their belief, but that when we put ourselves in a dangerous place, breaking away is a higher risk.

This past week I’ve had the change to visit with relatives and we had time to talk at length. My uncle is well-known to various individuals of note. He went to high school with Carol Lynn Pearson and played basketball with her now-deceased husband, Gerald. He was counselor to Richard Bushman when Bushman was an Elder’s Quorum president. When he wished to bring his Chinese wife into America and needed a sponsor for her, he reached out to Mitt Romney.

As discussion drifted to my interest in early LDS history, I became aware that this uncle harbors deep antipathy to Joseph Smith and polygamy, largely based on his belief in Grant Palmer book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, published in 2002 by Signature Books. As my uncle expounded on his views, I realized he had bought into a fun-house mirror view of the history I know so well. Curious, I purchased Palmer’s book, then found both an online history of Palmer’s eventual decision to leave the Mormon Church (circa 2010) and a detailed FairMormon analysis of Palmer’s claims.

Palmer’s book is a bit like “Letter to a CES Director,” only clothed in a more refined veneer of plausibility.

For those who have been affected by this book, I recommend you read the FairMormon analysis of Grant’s claims.

Grant wanted to believe that he was not creating a challenge to members of the Church, that because he continued to profess belief in Jesus Christ he should be allowed to remain in full fellowship with the Saints. And it may be true that the publicity associated with the Church discipline he faced exposed Palmer’s heterodox views to many more people (free publicity Signature Books was pleased to exploit).

If the God Mormons believe in and the associated afterlife is what really occurs, I imagine Grant Palmer is having a chance to re-evaluate the choices of his final decades. And as those particularly damaged by Palmer’s work join him in that afterlife, interesting conversations will transpire.

In the meantime, it is fascinating to see how people will use the power of their past associations with the Church to argue for their current belief that it is wrong. As for me, I’ve studied enough that I am not swayed. If you are facing similar challenges from loved ones, I wish I could help strengthen you. In the mean time, lean of Christ and those who have taken the time to study the weaknesses in the arguments flung at our heads.

As Elisha said to his frightened servant, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)

Oliver Cowdery and the New and Everlasting Covenant

Olivercowdery-smOliver Cowdery was at Joseph Smith’s side for nearly a decade at the beginning of the restoration.

They started their association working together on the Book of Mormon starting in May 1829. Within days they reportedly received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist so they would have the proper authority to baptize one another.

Oliver Cowdery was also involved in the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1

Oliver Cowdery would marry in 1832, becoming husband to Elizabeth Ann Whitmer. This made Oliver brother-in-law to all the witnesses of the Book of Mormon other than Joseph Smith’s relatives and Martin Harris. 2

Oliver Cowdery was at Joseph’s side on April 3, 1836, when the two reported receiving a glorious vision of Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah.

Elijah’s return had been foretold for millennia. The prophet Malachi had prophesied Elijah would return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children. Jewish Passover seders continue to set a place for Elijah, sending a child to the door to see if Elijah is come.

The visit of Malachi is described in D&C 110:

“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.”

It was apparently in the spring of 1836 that Joseph Smith covenanted with Fanny Alger. 3 If this occurred, the obvious officiant would have been Oliver Cowdery. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood was originally associated with a June 3, 1831, conference of the Church. Later it was asserted that the Melchizedek Priesthood must have been restored in association with a vision of Peter, James, and John near the Susquehanna in 1829. Whether near the Susquehanna in 1829 or in Kirtland in June 1831, Oliver Cowdery was present.
  2. Elizabeth’s brothers were David, one of the three witnesses, and Christian, Jacob, Peter Jr., and John, all of whom were among the eight witnesses. Hiram Page was Elizabeth’s brother-in-law through marriage to her sister, Catherine.
  3. See Bradley, Don, “Weighing the Case of Fanny Alger,” The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume I, pp. 14-58.

Improvement and Progression (and another edition of a book)

Last year I published the sixth edition of Reluctant Polygamist, and declared that I was done.

I figured that people had had three years to e-mail me and tell me I was wrong. What possibly could arise from the woodwork to cause me to face updating the index yet again?

And then I read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A House Full of Females. And Joseph Johnstun told me why Marietta Holmes could not have been killed as a direct result of mob attack. And a Taylor relative explained which great-grandchild of John Taylor had gotten involved in post-polygamy plural marriage. And Andrew Ehat told me about the account of Oliver Cowdery urging Joseph to practice plurality, apparently during translation of the Book of Mormon. And Johnny Stephenson made a fuss about Law’s river-side brick “house” not being his actual residence (though Law did own the big brick building on the river).

And other things.

None of this changes the core premise, that Joseph Smith was an honorable leader who used covenants to protect and save his people. But it eventually became worth updating the text.

This draft of the 7th edition of Reluctant Polygamist has the final text, with significant changes noted by being in blue text (added names are highlighted, darn the need to make the index correct…). This is a gift to you who have followed me since 2013, so you can see the changes without having to read the entire thing all over again.

You’ll know I’m really, truly, never going to come back to this when the audio book is released. So I think I’m good to promise that this version really is the final time I’ll update the book.