Racial Strife – reflections on the Norfolk 17 and Virginia’s campaign of Massive Resistance

imageLast night our family attended a high school production of a new play, A Line in the Sand by Chris Hanna. The play tells the story of the Norfolk 17, black children who had petitioned to attend their neighborhood high schools in accordance with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

The State of Virginia decided to close the schools rather than admit black students. For months the children’s lives became polarized as the legal battles raged and individuals had to face the consequences of the resulting brinksmanship.

As with all high school productions, there was much to congratulate and much that could have been improved. The students had been encouraged to research the history of the situation, and the play had begun with comments from the perspective of the immediate aftermath of the black students being admitted to the white schools. In these brief statements, we were told that one of the students had been stabbed on her way to class, that she lay bleeding, while no one went to her aid. Unaware that this was not part of Chris Hanna’s original script, the members of my family waited in dread for the final scene which we presumed would show this confrontation. Continue reading

What the Church Taught About “Polyandry” in 1943 (and also 1960)

imageI wanted to set the record straight about what the Church taught about what we sometimes now call “polyandry” throughout the 20th century. I will probably need to do more research to build a full timeline about how the Church understood such marriages differently over time — as happens when histories get passed down through the generations. But here is a stark example of how it got taught.

Many of you — if you didn’t even know until recently that Joseph Smith was sometimes sealed to women that were already civilly married — might be surprised that the church did have a teaching on the subject. In fact, I have been aware of these “polyandrous” marriages since I was a fairly young adult. Why? Because I went down to my local Deseret Books store and picked up a copy of John A. Widtsoe’s Evidences and Reconciliations and read it.

Widtsoe was a famous scientist that also happened to be a Mormon apostle. He had a column in the Improvement Era called “Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day” where he answered people difficult gospel questions, not unlike the answers to questions column in the modern Ensign magazine or even these new essays that the Church is putting together. These columns were then collected into a rather famous book called simply Evidences and Reconciliations. I had been eyeing the book for years since my mission hoping to eventually buy it and read it.

One of the questions posed to Widtsoe was “Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?” And as part of his response, he says the following:

Another kind of celestial marriage seems to have been practiced in the early days of plural marriage. It has not been practiced since Nauvoo days, for it is under Church prohibition. Zealous women, married or unmarried, loving the cause of the restored gospel, considered their condition in the hereafter. Some of them asked that they might be sealed to the Prophet for eternity. They were not to be his wives on earth, in mortality, but only after death in the eternities. This came often to be spoken of as celestial marriage. Such marriages led to misunderstandings by those not of the Church, and unfamiliar with its doctrines. To them marriage meant only association on earth. Therefore any ceremony uniting a married woman, for example, to Joseph Smith for eternity seemed adulterous to such people. Yet in any day, in our day, there may be women who prefer to spend eternity with another than their husband on earth.

Such cases, if any, and they must have been few in number, gave enemies of the Church occasion to fan the flaming hatred against the Latter-day Saints. The full truth was not told. Enemies made the most of the truth. They found it difficult to believe that the Church rests on truth and virtue.

The literature and existing documents dealing with plural marriage in Nauvoo in the day of Joseph Smith are very numerous. Hundreds of affidavits on the subject are in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City. Most of the books and newspaper and magazine articles on the subject are found there also. (For a fairly condensed but complete discussion consult Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, Vol. VI, pp. 219-236; Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, pp. 67-94; Woman’s Exponent, Vol. III and IV; The Deseret News, especially in 1886) Continue reading

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

It is an amazing time to be a Mormon.  It is also a challenging time.

Why is it challenging? Because we are going through a period of inoculation. The Church sees that the Internet is full of information, both true and false, accurate and inaccurate, biased and non-biased. In the last decade, it has brought forth lots of information officially and unofficially, through the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and providing materials for books on Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Recently, they have published official papers online about the First Vision, Temple clothing, Polygamy, etc.  Many have probably seen the furor over Joseph’s 40 wives that the media has recently jumped on worldwide, as if it were previously a secret! Continue reading

Awesome info regarding many questions about Mormonism

When I was alerted to the fact that there were new and cool articles at lds.org about polygamy, I was sad that there wasn’t a list so one could easily find out when neat new content had been added.

As a result of the media furor over the supposedly shocking Church admission that Joseph married many women, the Church published a response to provide context. This includes a list of the scholarly articles, along with the dates they were published (making my heart happy).

A complete list of the in-depth essays is listed below:

Are Mormons Christian? November 20, 2013
First Vision Accounts November 20, 2013
Race and the Priesthood December 6, 2013
Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah December 16, 2013
Book of Mormon Translation December 30, 2013
Book of Mormon and DNA Studies January 31, 2014
Becoming Like God February 24, 2014
Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints May 13, 2014
Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham July 8, 2014
Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo October 22, 2014
The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage October 22, 2014

If you’ve got some free moments, I highly recommend reading through these.