The “Mormon Matters” Theology

Back on October 29, 2011, I wrote a post attempting to summarize the “Theological Liberal” narrative “as it saw itself” and therefore tried to write about it in a wholly positive way as best I could.

But that post really only touched on the points of Liberal Theology that are considered the most positive aspects and are typically trotted out for public consumption.

As I did this post on John Dehlin, the thought occurred to me that my understanding of Liberal Theology came substantially from my time at Mormon Matters. The three biggest influences were Clay Whipkey and John Hamer – the two “open” theological liberals that didn’t mind talking about their beliefs – and John Dehlin himself, who is not as open, but not exactly closed either. John, in particular, pointed me to Karen Armstrong’s book, which taught me quite a bit. (See also my comprehensive response to her book.) Continue reading

The Apostles and Their Wives

[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Vilate Murray [Kimball]
(Daughters of Utah Pioneers)

There are various stories recounting that Joseph told men to give their wives to him. Alternately, there are instances where a woman who was married to another man then entered into a covenant relationship with Joseph Smith.

For the moment we will deal with events that appear to have occurred prior to January 1843. In my prior post, The Angel, the Sword, and the Heron Seduction, I discussed Joseph covenanting with three women who were married to other men. These ladies were Zina Diantha Huntington [Jacobs], Presendia Huntington [Buell], and Mary Elizabeth Rollins [Lightner]. DNA analysis of descendants shows none of the children these women birthed 1 is actually related to Joseph Smith. Therefore it is reasonable to speculate that these “marriages” were ceremonial in nature. Joseph’s “marriage” to the Huntington sisters appears to have been partially based on the command from the angel with the sword and partially inspired by Dimick Huntington’s desire to link the Huntington family to Joseph Smith in eternity. Mary Elizabeth Rollins’ “marriage” to Joseph was based on the command from the angel with the sword and the urgency caused by Joseph’s early fears about the seductions taking place in Nauvoo.

In 1842, Joseph “marries” four additional women who are already married:

Sylvia Sessions [Lyon],
Patty Bartlett [Sessions],
Elizabeth Davis [Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee], and
Sarah Maryetta Kingsley [Howe Cleveland].

As discussed in Wives of Sorrow, it appears these women acted as detectives during the hunt for the men seducing women in Nauvoo. These “marriages” then were a combination of Joseph teaching the correct doctrine and swearing these women to secrecy in pursuit of the men and women teaching or believing false doctrine about the nature of marriage and sexuality.

By summer 1842 Bennett had been exposed as ring-leader of the sexual predators. Bennett counter-attacked Joseph in the press, claiming Joseph was the one who had been propositioning women. As with all the most effective lies, there was a kernel of truth. Joseph had been talking with women about the New and Everlasting Covenant. However Joseph’s aim does not appear to have been the easy sex Bennett and his ring of Strikers had elicited from the hapless women of Nauvoo. This easy sex was the kind of sexual misconduct Bennett was accusing Joseph of seeking. Bennett supported his assertion by telling a story alleging Joseph had made improper advances to Sarah Pratt, wife of his apostle, Orson Pratt.

Bennett’s tale about Sarah Pratt would prove a double-edged sword for the apostles in Joseph’s church, as well as their wives. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Obviously DNA analyses are only possible for those children who lived long enough to have children themselves. However those wishing to imagine Joseph as a sexual partner to these women are left with no data to support their hypothesis.

Revising the Libertarian Understanding of Marriage

I think that many Latter-day Saint libertarians have fundamentally misunderstood marriage. As a libertarian this refers to me — I once thought of marriage as a civil contract, and I once supported the position that the government should remove itself completely from marriage. This is the way libertarians have often thought about the issue:


We should take all of the legal benefits and obligations of marriage (survivorship, duty to fidelity, duty of care and support, autonomy in family affairs, etc.) and unbundle them from the idea of “marriage.” Marriage would then be a solely religious commitment that has no legal consequences or implications whatsoever (any more than baptism does). Couples who marry could privately contract with each other (via a civil union) for the legal entitlements that marriage usually entails. Judges could not enforce any such obligations unless the partners explicitly consented to them by contract. Such civil unions or private contracts would be available to anyone who so wanted to commit themselves, be they man and woman, man and man, sisters, roommates, best friends, etc.


At least, that was the general idea. I bought into it for a long while. Not anymore. Continue reading