Response to Michael W. Fordham
Rejoinder by Richard Abanes
In 2000, Mormonism 101 (Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson) was published by Baker Books. Within a few years, a group of Mormon apologists provided a rebuttal to the chapters in the book. We decided to respond to many of the chapters, including some written by our friends in ministry.
In order to make this review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder
Nothing but Foul Balls
The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR)—a non-profit, Internet-based organization—claims dedication “to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS (Mormon) doctrine, belief and practice.” But the materials produced by FAIR are, in my opinion, rarely based on “well-documented answers.” Consider, for example, “Mormonism 201—3 Pitches, 3 Strikes, and McKeever and Johnson Are OUT” by FAIR-affiliated LDS apologist Michael W. Fordham. In this article, Fordham seeks to refute chapter sixteen of Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, which discusses: 1) polygamy; 2) Book of Mormon changes related to racist LDS doctrines; and 3) Mormon teachings on the “Seed of Cain.”
Fordham’s objective is to not only defend Mormonism, but also portray McKeever and Johnson as dishonest, spiteful, ignorant anti-Mormons who know little, if anything, about LDS belief and history. Hence, Fordham’s allusion to baseball in the title of his article. But it is Fordham who, to borrow his sports analogy, cannot seem to make even a base hit. He wastes his time up at bat by hitting nothing but a series of foul balls. And by the end of his article, the bleachers are empty, the fans are gone, and Fordham is left alone, swinging wildly at invisible pitches—since even the other team has left the ballpark.
Although I would have very much enjoyed dissecting Fordham’s entire article, I simply ran out of time, and to be honest, patience and stamina. Nearly every sentence called for some kind of correction. Consequently, given my time constraints and the fact that I have many other projects on which to work, the following response only deals with the myriad of errors contained in the first part of Fordham’s article, which covers polygamy, its relation to the Bible, LDS doctrine, and early Mormon history.
Fordham begins his rebuttal to McKeever and Johnson by alleging that they “do not understand what the Bible actually says” and that “they use a double standard in attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Moreover, he accuses McKeever and Johnson of having “a severe lack of research, knowledge, and honesty, as well as shortsightedness.” Although each of these accusations are serious, the most disturbing charge—i.e., that McKeever and Johnson have a “severe” lack of honesty”—comes very close to libel since it directly attacks the integrity and motivation of McKeever and Johnson. Dishonest, or lacking honesty, is defined as “meaning or meant to deceive, defraud or trick people.”
Obviously, dishonesty is something one must do with full knowledge of his or her actions. This is a prime example of a personal attack being coupled with an undocumented accusation. Does Fordham have any public statements from McKeever or Johnson wherein they admit to presenting false information? No. Are their any copies of documents wherein McKeever or Johnson indicate that they use deception to bolster their arguments? No. Does Fordham have any witnesses who would be able to provide testimony regarding just where, or how, or when McKeever and Johnson employed “a severe lack” of honesty in their statements? No. Does Fordham present any proof at all of such behavior by McKeever or Johnson? No. But he still has no problem making the accusation. FOUL BALL!
Fordham continues his article with the sub-heading “Polygamy—Evil Incarnate, or God Sanctioned?” which immediately prejudices readers against McKeever and Johnson. How so? By indirectly attributing to them something they never actually say—i.e., that polygamy is “Evil Incarnate.” The descriptive term “Evil Incarnate” sounds quite severe, especially to Mormons, many of whom have polygamist ancestors. Who wants to think of their great-great-grandmother as being involved with “Evil Incarnate”? Such terminology quickly makes McKeever and Johnson look unrealistically antagonistic in their criticisms of polygamy.
Interestingly, when Fordham actually quotes McKeever and Johnson, the best he can do is cite them as saying: “Another controversial issue of Mormonism was the teaching of polygamy.”Controversial? The word “controversial” is a far cry from “Evil Incarnate.” But setting up McKeever and Johnson as ruthless “anti-Mormons” is crucial to Fordham’s arguments. He, therefore, sinks to the level of using loaded language and false attribution (albeit subtly) via his sub-heading, which leads readers to think that McKeever and Johnson decry polygamy as “Evil Incarnate.” In reality, they simply counter Mormon claims that polygamy is God-ordained and biblical. It is true that polygamy is discussed by them as being wrong, but no more wrong (or sinful) than a host of other things humans do in contradiction of God’s Word (e.g., divorce). Nowhere do McKeever or Johnson say polygamy is “Evil Incarnate.” FOUL BALL!
Fordham then presents the underlying premise of his entire view of plural marriage critics—i.e.,“Polygamy is controversial only because it is misunderstood.” But this is simply a false assertion. Polygamy is very well understood by theologians and history scholars. Additionally, the particular form of polygamy that was practiced by Mormons has been discussed at length in many volumes; More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System (Catherine Daynes, associate professor of history, Brigham Young University); Mormon Polygamy: A History (Richard Van Wagoner, clinical audiologist, BYU graduate); Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (B. Carmon Hardy, professor of history, California State University); and In Sacred Loneliness: the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Todd Compton, Ph.D., classics, University of California), to name but a few.
Oddly, after asserting that polygamy is controversial “only because it is misunderstood,”Fordham does not demonstrate that it is indeed misunderstood. He simply talks about how it is“practiced in many cultures throughout the world today,” which is not disputed by either McKeever or Johnson. Contrary to Fordham’s erroneous assessment of the situation, the“controversial” nature of polygamy with regard to Mormonism centers exclusively on whether or not it is a form of marriage that the Christian God and/or the Bible condones, advocates, or commands. That is the issue, not whether polygamy is understood. It is understood perfectly well.
Nevertheless, Fordham goes on to quote two statements, one from Murdock’s World Ethnographic Sample (as cited in Anthropology, Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember) and one from Society (Ian Robertson), that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand—i.e., does the Christian God and/or the Bible condone, advocate, or command polygamy. These quotes merely confirm that polygamy is practiced in numerous cultures/societies, which is something we already know. Noteworthy is the fact that other cultures/societies also practice female circumcision, polyandry (more than one husband for a single wife), use of hallucinogenic drugs, euthanasia, abortion, and social nudity as well as religious nudity (e.g., some African tribes, naturalists, Wiccans). Does this mean God approves of such things, or that such things should be practiced by Christians? Of course not. Fordham’s quotes, therefore, are meaningless.
Fordham continues: “Although most of the modern Christian world ignores this information, Brigham Young understood this fact of humanity. ‘I look at the world, or that small portion of it which believes in monogamy. It is only a small portion of the human family who do believe in it, for from nine to ten of the twelve hundred millions that live on the earth believe in and practice polygamy.'” Again, in the plainest of terms—Who cares? Whether or not polygamy is practiced elsewhere is irrelevant. Ninety-nine percent of the world could be practicing polygamy, but that still would not make it right. What does scripture say? What does God say? These are the relevant questions, not whether or not polygamy is practiced throughout the world. FOUL BALL!
Next, Fordham says: “It is interesting to note that although this statement by McKeever and Johnson is correct [i.e., polygamy was, and still is, looked on by many Bible-believing Christians as a detestable arrangement], these very same Bible–believing Christians have no problem with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, etc., practicing plural marriage. These very same Bible–believing Christians are happy to accept Abraham and Moses as true prophets of God, yet they condemn Joseph Smith, and the rest of the early Latter-day Saints, for having plural wives. This double standard of judgment is inconsistent with true scriptural teaching or acceptance.”
In reality, there are quite number of Christians who have a problem with Old Testament polygamy. The plural marriages of Abraham, David, and Solomon have never (at least to my knowledge) been depicted by mainstream Christian pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians as non-problematic, or in other words, completely acceptable. On the contrary, Old Testament polygamy is commonly viewed by Christians as an ungodly lifestyle compromise that God tolerated due to the hardness of men’s hearts, similar to the way divorce was tolerated (Mark 10:4-5).
The Bible itself depicts various instances of polygamy as examples of men straying from righteousness. David, for instance, fed his lust to the point of taking the wife of a man whom he then had murdered (i.e., Uriah). Solomon showed disobedience by taking multiple wives, which in turn contributed to his fall into idolatry. And Abraham not only disobeyed God, but demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s promises by impregnating Hagar. His act reflects the pagan practices of his surrounding culture. As The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:
In Mesopotamia, marriage contracts frequently specified that a wife who proved infertile should give her handmaid to her husband in order to produce children for the household. This situation underlies the procedure whereby Sarah’s handmaid Hagar was given by her to Abraham as a wife (Gen. 16:3) for purposes of procreation. In accepting this polygamous relationship Abraham was acceding to local custom rather than obeying the divine decree or trusting God’s promise to him concerning descendants [vol. 3, 901].
Also inaccurate is Fordham’s statement about Christians being “happy to accept Abraham and Moses as true prophets of God, yet they condemn Joseph Smith, and the rest of the early Latter-day Saints.”
First, Abraham was not a prophet in any way similar to the way Joseph Smith claimed to be a prophet—e.g., the Jewish patriarch had no following of devotees who looked to him for doctrinal instruction/leadership, nor did Abraham make prophetic declarations about future events. Abraham also did not live under explicit New Testament proscriptions against polygamy (see SWING #6).
Second, concerning Moses, there is no biblical evidence whatsoever that he was a polygamist. The LDS assumption that Moses was a polygamist stems from a single biblical verse that mentions an Ethiopian woman, or Cushite, as the wife of Moses (Numbers 12). But what Mormons fail to recognize is that by the time scripture mentions this Cushite (Ethiopian) as being the wife of Moses, his first wife (Zipporah) was possibly/probably dead. One must say “possibly/probably” here because we know little about Zipporah from scripture. We do not know when Zipporah died or when the marriage of Moses and the Cushite took place. And we certainly do not know if Moses married the Ethiopian while Zipporah was still alive. No such information is actually given in the Bible. To say otherwise is an assumption made by polygamy supporters. FOUL BALL!
Fordham continues: “The Bible does not condemn polygamy, and in fact clearly indicates that many God fearing men practiced it.”
This is a very interesting argument because Fordham has actually juxtaposed two entirely unrelated issues. The first issue (i.e., whether or not the Bible condemns polygamy) is the subject of our debate. But the second issue (i.e., “that God fearing men practiced it”) is not being debated at all. Moreover, the second issue has no bearing whatsoever on the first issue. Just because polygamy was practiced by some Old Testament godly men, who also were sinners, it does not logically follow that God endorsed their behavior. Godly men in the Old Testament also lied (Abraham), resorted to murder (David), and committed incest (Noah). Does this mean such practices were appropriate or God-ordained? Hardly.
Also, by linking the two unrelated issues, Fordham diverges from the kind of parallelism that the grammatical structure of his argument demands. In other words, Fordham’s argument should have read: “The Bible does not condemn polygamy, and in fact clearly commands God-fearing men to practice it.” But Fordham could not make such a statement because nowhere does God condone or command polygamy. So he was forced to juxtapose two unrelated issues: 1) whether or not the Bible condemns polygamy; and 2) whether or not God-fearing men practiced polygamy. FOUL BALL!
Fordham adds: “The problem modern day Christians have with polygamy arises in the idea that, for them, polygamy is equated with adultery. But is plural marriage really adultery? The Bible condemns sexual relations outside of marriage, which adultery certainly is. Polygamy is not adultery since any physical relationship would be with your married partner. Only outside of the marriage relationship is sexual relations condemned in scripture.”
This is a straw man argument since adultery does not enter into the polygamy question. In fact, the very definition of adultery given by Fordham basically mirrors the definition given in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which states: “Adultery. In Scripture, sexual intercourse by a married man with another than his wife, or by a married woman with another than her husband”(vol. 1, 58).
The actual problem “modern day Christians have with polygamy” has more to do with clear New Testament passages that explicitly instruct believers, especially church leaders, to live in monogamous relationships. Additionally, a number of Old Testament passages indicate that the ideal marriage union is monogamy, not polygamy. Consider the following:
1) The marriage pattern set forth in the Genesis creation story seems to indicate that the biblical ideal for marriage is monogamy. In Genesis we read that after God decided the first man (Adam) should not be alone, Eve (one woman) was created for him. This is our first indication that one woman for one man is God’s desire. Singular pairing is reinforced by God declaring: “I will make a helper for him” (Gen. 2:18). In other words, God made one helper for Adam. Again, the ideal relational union seems to be one for one, rather than several for one. The oft-quoted instructive passage that follows underscores yet a third time the one to one coupling: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife [singular] and they shall be one flesh”(Gen. 2:24).
2) The first place polygamy appears in the Bible (Genesis 4:19) is significant. It involves Lamech, the first polygamist. Far from being an admirable character, he is a member of the violent Cainite tribe, a descendant of the infamous Cain (Gen. 4:1-8), and a man in whom is seen “[t]he powerful development of the worldly mind and of ungodliness” six generations removed from Adam (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 edition], vol. 1, 73). In his “sword song,” for instance, Lamech boasts of killing a man and a boy, then brags that anyone harming him would be avenged (Gen. 4:23-24). Is this really the kind of character God would use to introduce such an allegedly blessed practice as polygamy? Probably not.
3) The results of polygamous unions in the Old Testament are decidedly negative, aggravating sins normally associated with marriage in general, and producing strife and turmoil unique to polygamy. Incessant fighting, bitterness, anger, and jealousy plagued Abraham’s two wives (Sarah and Hagar), both of whom suffered great emotional anguish, especially Hagar (Gen. 21:8-16). Jacob’s wives (Rachel and Leah), although sisters, were relationally torn by bitterness (Gen. 30:15). Friction between Elkanah’s wives (Hannah and Peninnah) caused heartbreak and anger in Hannah (1 Sam. 1:1-10). David resorted to murder to have another wife (2 Sam. 11). Solomon’s polygamy turned him into an idolater (1 Kings 11:1-8).
4) There is a complete absence of any Old Testament verse wherein God extols polygamy as virtuous. Yet there exists a very explicit verse warning Hebrew kings to not multiply wives because it would turn their hearts away from God (Deut. 17:17).
5) In the Proverbs written by Solomon, marriage-related verses do not enjoin polygamy but rather suggest monogamy: “A virtuous woman [not virtuous women] is a crown to her husband” (Prov. 12:4). “Who can find a virtuous woman? [not women] for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her [not in them]… Her husband [not their husband] is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders” (Prov. 31:10-11, 23).
6) Malachi 2:13-16 shows that as late as the 5th century B.C. fidelity between one wife and onehusband was “still being promoted as a paradigm of the relationship that ought to exist between Israel and her God exalted and used as a picture of the relationship between God and Israel” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, 901).
7) Several New Testament verses direct not only Bishops/Elders to have one wife, but also enjoin each man to have his own wife (1 Tim.3:2; Titus 1:6; 1 Corinthians 7:2).
8) Biblical symbolism is used to depict the church as the bride of Christ; a bride (singular), who is lovingly cared for by the Savior (Joel 2:16; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:24-31; Rev. 19:7; 21:2-9). This illustration is transferred over to the marital relationship between one man and one woman. Such an analogy (i.e., Christ/Church to Husband/Wife) would be rendered meaningless/invalid by polygamy. Ephesians 5:33 adds: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife [singular], and they two shall be one flesh… [L]et every one of you in particular so love his wife [singular] even as himself; and the wife [singular] see that she reverence her husband.”
As anyone can see, adultery has no bearing whatsoever on any of the above eight points by which we can infer that God, far from advocating polygamy in the Old Testament, tolerated it in the lives of men through whom He chose to work in human history. FOUL BALL!
After quoting McKeever and Johnson on the “proliferation” of polygamy among Joseph Smith’s followers, Fordham responds with a number of assertions—all false. He begins: “To say that polygamy was ‘prolific’ among the early Saints is a flagrant exaggeration. The enemies of the church have greatly exaggerated the extent to which polygamy was practiced among the early church members.”
This remark suggests that Fordham does not know what the word “proliferation” means. It is defined as either a rapid spread of something, or a multiplication of something. It does not necessarily mean a large number of something, which is what Fordham apparently thinks. Additionally, if Fordham would have read McKeever and Johnson’s chapter a bit closer, he would have found exactly what they stated when it came to making a numerical estimate of saints involved in polygamy. On page 245 they write: “For years Mormon leaders taught that the practice of polygamy was necessary for a man to receive exaltation, yet the majority of the membership remained monogamous“ [emphasis added]. FOUL BALL!
Swings #8, #9 ,#10, #11, #12
Fordham then gives five so-called “well-documented answers” using various LDS sources. Consider the following comparison of Fordham’s references with factual information:
“Anywhere from 2%-4% of the Church membership practiced plural marriage from 1843 to 1890.”
“Recent studies suggest that the number of Mormons living in polygamous families between 1850 and 1890, while varying from community to community and year to year, averaged between 20 and 30 percent. In some cases the proportion was higher. The practice was especially extensive with Mormon leaders, both locally and those presiding over the entire church These calculations would indicate that, during the entire time the principle was practiced, the number of men, women, and children living in polygamous households amounted to tens of thousands.” “While estimates vary, most scholars agree that between 10 and 20 percent of Mormon marriages before 1890 were polygamous.” “The extent to which polygamy was practiced in Utah will probably never be known. Plural marriages were not publicly recorded, and there is little chance that any private records which might have been kept will ever be revealed… From information obtainable from all available sources, it appears that there may have been a time when 15 or possibly 20 percent of the Mormon families of Utah were polygamous.”
“Permission from the first wife was sought, and approval from the appropriate [priesthood] leader was required to practice plural marriage.”
“Though the first wife’s consent was supposedly required by scripture, it was not always sought or willingly given.” “Mormons insisted that women were not forced into plural marriages but rather controlled the process: they could refuse to enter into plural marriages, while first wives could decide whether their husbands could marry others. Of course, Mormon women were subject to heavy pressure from husbands, neighbors, and LDS officials who exhorted them to ‘live their religion’ by contracting plural marriages or risk denying their faith. Most women in polygamous marriages apparently accepted the difficult principle, either because they believed God commanded it or because they had little other choice.” “[Jessie Embry] states that some first wives “freely gave their consent or even encouraged their husbands to take another wife, some gave their consent only because they feared the repercussions in the next life for saying no in this one, and ‘a few’ were not consulted… Orson Pratt explained in 1853 that the first wife did not have absolute veto power over her husband’s entering plural marriage… [I]f her basis for refusing was insufficient, the husband would be justified in marrying again without her consent ‘if permitted by revelation through the prophet'” [emphasis added]. “Some, like Emma Smith, opposed their husbands’ taking additional wives. In such instances the man had two options. Either he could respect his wife’s wishes and remain monogamous, or he could, as Joseph Smith did, ignore her objections and take plural wives without her consent”
This issue was covered in the Reed Smoot Congressional hearings in March 1904 that involved President Joseph F. Smith and Senators Joseph Weldon Bailey and Albert J. Beveridge. During one cross-examination, the dialogue went as follows:
Mr. Smith: “The condition is that if she does not consent the Lord will destroy her, but I do not know how He will do it.
Senator Bailey. Is it not true that …if she refuses her consent her husband is exempt from the law which requires her consent?
Mr. Smith. Yes; he is exempt from the law which requires her consent.
Senator Bailey. She is commanded to consent, but if she does not, then he is exempt from the requirement?
Mr. Smith. Then he is at liberty to proceed without her consent, under the law.
Senator Beveridge. In other words, her consent amounts to nothing?
Mr. Smith. It amounts to nothing but her consent.”
“The man had to be able to financially support all his wives and any children involved.”
Although it is true that the men who became polygamists tended to be wealthier than those who did not enter into plural marriage, financial care of wives was by no means a constant within the Mormon marriage system. Richard Van Wagoner’s Mormon Polygamy: A History reads: “Since the number of wives permitted was never defined some men married beyond their means.” Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness states: “Here we see another characteristic of polygamy: the men often were willing to add plural wives to their families, but after the marriage took place found they were unable to support the multiple families adequately, and the wives often had to rely on siblings and teenage sons.”
Consider, too, the following remarks from various other sources. “Poverty faced [B.H.] Roberts and his families always. Though he was offered non-church options for making a living he chose to write for church publications, and he accepted additional church callings. He was a Seventy. Proudly he saw his work as a missionary and mission president as a ‘divine’ calling.” “The Apostle Orson Pratt is one of the most persistent polygamists in Utah, and he has nothing to give his wives for their maintenance. They struggle on as best they may, striving in every way to earn a scanty sustenance for themselves and their children. Some of them live in the most wretched squalor and degrading poverty. He, in the mean while, goes on foreign and home missions.” “[Orson Pratt] was living in Salt Lake City. He had left his young wife and her children in Tooele—a place about forty miles distant. There they lived in a wretched little log-cabin, the young mother supporting her little ones as best she could. When her last child was born she was suffering all the miseries of poverty, dependent entirely upon the charity of her neighbors. At the time when most she needed the gentle sympathy of her husband’s love that husband never came to see her.”
“The man had to be a member in good standing with the church.”
Although this statement by Fordham is accurate, the reason for its accuracy is not noted. What Fordham fails to explain is that polygamous LDS men were usually “in good standing” because they were, for the most part, the more influential and powerful Mormon leaders: “[C]hurch rank was more important than wealth in predicting a plural marriage…[A] man was significantly more likely to remarry or enter plural marriage in the five years subsequent to his increase in church rank than in the five years preceding it…Apparently, a man’s entering plural marriage was not a prerequisite for advancement in church rank but was a responsibility accompanying the increase in rank, although some never took on the additional responsibility of plural wives.” “Bishops were also expected to set an example to the communities in the matter of plural marriage. New men were chosen to replace recalcitrant bishops who refused to take additional wives.”
“Generally plural marriage involved only two wives and seldom more than three.”(Interestingly, in his endnote for this citation, Fordham gives no page number for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism from which he quotes [i.e., p. 1094]. He may have chosen to not include the page number because, coincidentally, on the opposing page [i.e., p. 1095] the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states: “The exact percentage of Latter-day Saints who participated in the practice is not known, but studies suggest a maximum of from 20 to 25 [percent] of LDS adults were members of polygamous households.” This comment directly contradicts Fordham’s contention that only 2%-4% practiced polygamy.)
With regard to polygamy generally involving only two wives, this is basically a true statement. But Fordham’s use of the decidedly subjective terms “generally” and “seldom” communicates a less than complete/accurate message—i.e., that there were not a lot of men who took more than two wives. In actuality, although the majority of Mormon males did indeed take only one extra wife, there still were many men who took more women: “Of 1,784 polygamists, 66.3 percent married only one extra wife [approx. 1182 men], Another 21.2 percent were three-wife men [approx. 378 men], and 6.7 percent went as far as to take four wives [approx. 119 men]. This left a small group of less than 6 percent who married five or more women [approx. 105 men].”
What is the final result of Fordham’s five arguments in support of polygamy? FIVE FOUL BALLS!
Fordham’s attempt to discredit McKeever and Johnson, as well as all critics of polygamy, continues with this comment: “Quite the contrary to what critics of the church would have you believe, you could not practice this principle just because you wanted to. There were guidelines to living this principle, just as there were among the prophets of old.”
But once more we see Fordham’s willingness to use faulty arguments and false information. The first part of Fordham’s comment (“Quite the contrary to what critics of the church would have you believe, you could not practice this principle just because you wanted to. There were guidelines to living this principle”) is a straw man argument because few evangelical critics, if any, maintain that there were no restrictions or rules governing LDS plural marriage. There were indeed certain restrictions on polygamy, and this is recognized by critics of polygamy. The second part of Fordham’s comment (“just as there were among the prophets of old”) is not entirely accurate in that it implies that the Old Testament was used by Mormons as some kind of guide for restrictions/rules over LDS polygamy and that every aspect of LDS polygamy was carefully established and monitored. But such was not the case.
According to Kathryn Daynes, associate professor of history at BYU: “[T]he Campbells [Eugene and Bruce] are correct when they declare [in their article “Divorce Among Mormon Polygamists”], ‘There is little indication that [the Old Testament] was used as a serious guide to their marriage regulations.’ The practice of plural marriage was accepted among Mormons because they believe that God had commanded it through his prophet Joseph Smith, and the rules regarding plural marriage appear to have been accepted on that same basis…[M]ost scholars agreed thatt the living arrangements for plural families were never institutionalized. Housing arrangements, methods of distributing resources, the husband’s system for spending time with each family, and the wives’ relationships all varied.” FOUL BALL!
Fordham then makes another accusation: “It would appear that McKeever and Johnson would like their readers to believe that almost everyone practiced it, the only reason was lust, and it is not a Biblical principle. They are wrong on all three counts.”
This is an odd charge to make since nowhere in Mormonism 101 do McKeever and Johnson say “almost everyone” practiced polygamy (and, as mentioned earlier, they wrote that the majority did NOT practice polygamy). Neither did they ever state nor insinuate that “the only reason was lust.”FOUL BALL!
Fordham then notes, as an aside, “Personally, I think the previously mentioned figure of 2%-4% is low, and that a more correct number of the total membership involved in plural marriage would be closer to 9%.”
One can only wonder, though, why Fordham would even bother to quote the 2%-4% figure, since he does not even agree with it. FOUL BALL!
In hopes of positively portraying how women were viewed by 19th century Mormon men, Fordham points out: “Women have always been regarded with high regard by the church. Utah was one of the first places where women could exercise the right to vote. Utah women had been given the vote by the territorial legislature in 1870.”
But this is only a half-truth. Fordham neglects to mention why women were given the vote. It had much less to do with the “high regard” LDS men had for women and more to do with Mormon attempts to use the political system to insure the continuation of polygamy. In fact, the idea to give women the vote did not even originate with Mormons. Note the following explanation of the history surrounding this issue by David L. Bigler, award-winning journalist and avid student of Utah and Western history:
To the surprise of Congress, nearly six thousand women of all ages filled every seat in the old tabernacle at Salt Lake City… to protest proposed legislation to destroy polygamy and theocratic rule in Utah…If public support of Mormon women for polygamy took Congress by surprise, it was not the only eye-opener the theocratic territory would deliver to the anti-polygamy crusaders…In 1869Indiana Congressman George Julian introduced a bill “to discourage polygamy in Utah by granting the right of suffrage to the women of that Territory.” Predictable it was that women’s suffrage societies in the East would quickly endorse the measure. But it was entirely unexpected when William Hooper, Utah‘s delegate to Congress, told the sponsor he, too, thought it might be a good idea. What happened next looked like an ingenious ploy to head off punitive federal legislation [emphasis added]. In their next session, Utah legislators enacted just such a law giving women the right at age 21 to “vote at any election.”
In The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America, Sarah Barringer Gordon, who holds a degree in religion law and history, makes a similar opinion:
Contrary to the predictions of Eastern suffragists, who argued that “the vote of the [Mormon] women will be found a powerful aid in doing away with the horrible institution of polygamy,” the women’s vote followed the standard Mormon pattern [i.e., block voting], increasing the Mormon majority to more than 95 percent in territorial elections…As one apologist put it, “[N]o sooner was suffrage granted to the Mormon women, then they exercised it as a part of their religion, or as the performance of women’s life duties, marked out for her in the economy of divine providence. In this apostolic spirit, they took up the grant of political power.”
These observations show that Fordham, at the very least, has put a propaganda spin on the issue of women’s suffrage. Women being given the vote was not so exclusively linked to LDS men holding females in high regard. Mormon males, in fact, tended to look upon women as a commodity similar to livestock or property. During a conversation with Henry Jacobs—the husband of Zina Huntington, who had been married to Joseph Smith at the same time she was married to Jacobs—Brigham Young told Jacobs: “The woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is a spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed to him. I am his proxy, and she, in his behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please and get another.” And when Phineas Cook complained to Brigham about his circumstances, saying that his wife “was nearly tired out,” Brigham said that “when his women got tired, he could take them home and change them for fresh ones.”
Women were basically viewed as objects to be owned, as evidenced by a notation in John D. Lee’s journal. He recounts his conversation with a new arrival to Utah named Nancy Gibbons. In explaining why he had not sought a relationship with her, Lee cites the fact that another individual had paid her way to the territory: “I told her… that inasmuch as he had brought her from Tennesseethat he likely had claims on her.” This perception of women as little more than chattel was so pervasive throughout Utah that swapping of wives was looked upon as something acceptable if a high-ranking authority were to make such a request. Jedediah M. Grant admitted: “If President Young wants my wives I will give them to him without a grumble, and he can take them whenever he likes.” FOUL BALL!
Swings #16, #17
Not content with twisting historical fact, Fordham resorts to humble posturing: “Now, I make no claim of being a scholar. In addition, the 9% is my own personal opinion, which is not based upon detailed or thorough research. However, most research gives around 4% participation in plural marriage, so my 9% figure gives the critics a ‘benefit of the doubt,’ so to speak…I would have to ask, is 4%, or even 9% ‘prolific’ as McKeever and Johnson state? Not really, in fact, its (sic) not even close to being so.”
In truth, however, as the aforementioned documents demonstrate, Fordham’s “benefit of the doubt” figure of 9% is still woefully shy of the figure most scholars present as accurate. And why should anyone even listen to Fordham on this particular point since he admits his opinion “is not based upon detailed or thorough research”? FOUL BALL!
Fordham continues: “When critics speak about polygamy as practiced by the church, they always speak of polygamy as if the entire church practiced it, and that simply was not the case.”
This is not only a straw man argument, but is a completely unsubstantiated accusation. Who has spoken of polygamy “as if the entire church practiced it“? Fordham gives no examples. If Fordham even has any such persons in mind, do they “always” speak of polygamy “as if the entire church practiced it“? Fordham gives no examples. FOUL BALL!
Fordham goes on: “And they exaggerate the morality of it (the Bible does not condemn it, and in fact, gives rules for participation in such).” But, as previously mentioned, the Mormon system of plural marriage in the nineteenth century bore little resemblance to any form of polygamy found in the Old Testament. The LDS marriage system did not even follow the restrictions laid down by God for those who, contrary to the established ideal in Genesis of a one man/one woman marriage, decided to enter into polygamy. For example, Smith and early Mormons blatantly disobeyed Old Testament prohibitions on a man marrying a woman and her sister (Lev. 18:18) or a woman and her mother (Lev. 20:14). Of this latter sin, the Bible says: “If a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness; they shall be burnt with fire both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.”
Yet Joseph’s wives also included at least one mother/daughter pair (Patty Bartlett and Sylvia Sessions) and three sets of sisters: Delcena and Almera Johnson; Sarah and Maria Lawrence (aged seventeen and nineteen, respectively); and Emily and Eliza Partridge. Brigham Young took two sets of sisters as spouses (Clara/Lucy Decker and Mary/Lucy Bigelow). And eight of Young’s own daughters shared husbands: Luna and Fanny wed to George Thatcher; Mary and Caroline were given to Mark Croxall; Alice and Emily married Hiram Clawson; and Polly and Lovina were sealed to John D. Lee. Heber C. Kimball married fives sets of sisters (Clarissa/Emily Cutler; Amanda/Anna Gheen; Harriet/Ellen Sanders; Hannah/Dorothy Moon; and Laura/Abigail Pitkin).
Consequently, if Fordham wants to argue that early Mormons were relying on, or supporting, their polygamy by the Old Testament, he still has a serious problem because the early saints were in direct disobedience of God’s restrictions on polygamy. FOUL BALL!
Fordham then seeks to downplay the disparity between LDS polygamy and scripture by making the false statement: “Although we cannot know, or even make an educated guess, as to how many people practiced polygamy anciently.”
Although we indeed cannot know exactly “how many people practiced polygamy anciently,”we do know that in ancient Israel, after the age of the patriarchs, the standard marriage form was monogamy. Only a few royal figures engaged in polygamy in contrast to the rest of Israel. And none of them were praised by God for their polygamy. FOUL BALL!
After restating his initial assertion about the inconsistency of viewing Abraham and Moses as prophets, while at the same time condemning Joseph Smith, Fordham alleges: “In order to criticize Joseph Smith, or the doctrines of the church, it is essential that a double standard of judgment be used.” But as I have shown: 1) there is no evidence that Moses was a polygamist; and 2) Abraham’s polygamous relationships actually demonstrated his lack of faith and disobedience.
Nevertheless, Fordham adds: “The principles the prophet Joseph Smith set forth as part of the restoration of the gospel can be found in the Biblical text. The problem arises in the fact that Christians today accept the creeds of man over the scriptures.” Once more, however, Fordham has made two false assertions in an attempt to support polygamy. One, he implies that the kind of polygamy practiced by Joseph Smith and early Mormons in any way resembled Old Testament polygamy and the restrictions applied to it. Two, he fixates on a few obscure and unclear biblical passages on polygamy at the expense of the many explicit biblical passages indicating that God’s ideal for marriage is monogamy (see SWING #6). It is interesting that Fordham accuses the Christians of accepting the creeds of man over the scriptures in regards to polygamy when it was the Mormons themselves who abandoned this practice when men, i.e., Congress, declared it illegal. FOUL BALL!
After making so many false statements, groundless assertions, and unsubstantiated claims, one might be tempted to think that Fordham would begin presenting some truly solid evidence to bolster his position. But instead, he resorts to misrepresenting evangelical Christian beliefs by declaring that McKeever and Johnson “deny that man is created in the image of God.”
In actuality, Christians do accept that man is created in God’s image, but interpret the word “image” in a less literal way than Mormons. Christians see the word “image” as being in reference to God’s communicable attributes—e.g., love, intelligence, creative capability, to name but a few qualities. Mormons, however, see “image” as reflecting God’s corporeal nature—i.e., a man, with body, parts, and passions. The same holds true for verses in the Old Testament that mention God’s eyes, back, or hands. Oddly, when it comes to other biblical passages that speak of God as a consuming fire or gathering people under his wings, Mormons suddenly say these verses are notto be interpreted literally. Hence, Fordham is not only inconsistent in his biblical exegesis, but also misrepresents evangelical Protestant doctrine.
Next, Fordham unhesitatingly makes the erroneous assertion that “those who reject Joseph Smith, must, with the same logic and arguments, reject the ancient prophets.” But as I have shown, someone can reject Joseph Smith and, with all logic still intact, accept the ancient prophets as sinful men whom God chose to use.
At the same time, however, an understandable question is: What is the difference, then, between Joseph Smith and someone like Abraham? Why should someone like Abraham be excused, while Joseph is condemned?
First, we do not have Joseph and Abraham living in comparable times/cultures. Abraham lived in a culture surrounded by pagan societies wherein polygamy was the norm. And so, Abraham seems to have adopted that way of life as his pattern of behavior despite the pattern of monogamy laid down at creation by God. Abraham lived under the direct influence of a polygamous culture. Imagine living in a culture where it was actually normal and sanctioned to smoke marijuana on a regular basis. Even a Christian, after years of living under such circumstance, might easily be tempted to indulge in such a practice, although God had many years earlier established drug-free living as his desire.
Second, Abraham nowhere said God told him to enter into polygamy. In fact, faithless Sarah was the one who brought Hagar to him, not God. Neither David nor Solomon ever claimed that it was God’s command to enter into polygamy. Joseph, however, did. And therefore, if polygamy is not of God, Joseph was attributing to God something that was sinful.
Third, Abraham at no time advocated polygamy or commanded it of others, whereas Joseph did.
Fourth, Abraham never asked for other men’s wives. Joseph did, which goes far beyond any representations of polygamy in the Old Testament. Joseph seems to have had little reason to enter into polygamy except to satisfy his seemingly insatiable libido. FOUL BALL!
After quoting McKeever and Johnson as saying “Biblically, polygamy was merely tolerated by God,” Fordham condescendingly remarks: “I would love to see McKeever and Johnson give Biblical references to this statement. Where does the Bible say polygamy was only ‘tolerated’ by God? Since when does God allow mankind to make up his own laws of morality? What scripture says God allows man to do as he pleases and God will tolerate it? This is really an absurd statement.”
What is absurd, however, are Fordham’s comments and rhetorical questions. First, God has allowed mankind to make up his own laws for thousands of years—e.g., the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1700 B.C.) and the Assyrian law Code (c. 2000 B.C.). Second, although no scripture “says” that God tolerates man’s sinfulness, it is an obvious fact of life. Maybe Fordham should read the newspaper more often. Or he might want to simply read any one of a number of biblical passages wherein followers of God lied, engaged in incest, committed murder, betrayed the savior, and succumbed to all manner of human weaknesses and frailties. Abraham, for example, lied by telling a king that Sarah was his sister (only a half-lie actually, since Sarah was his half-sister, but nevertheless, it made the king think he could take Sarah as a wife). Did God tolerate this behavior?—Yes. Because Abraham lied, does that mean God condones or advocates lying?—No. Moreover, God tolerated divorce to a point where Moses actually provided a writ of divorce for the Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts, but that was never God’s ideal for marriage (Matt. 19). The same holds true for polygamy.
As for Fordham’s most curious comment about wanting a scripture wherein it says God tolerated polygamy, it borders on disingenuous since there also exists no place in the Bible that explicitly says God condoned, advocated, or commanded polygamy. In other words, no verse reads: “Thus says the Lord, you shall multiply wives unto yourself for it is a godly thing in my sight.” And yet Mormons seem to infer quite a bit from some fairly unclear and non-explicit passages. The question is: Which inference is more likely—1) that God commanded polygamy; or 2) that Godtolerated polygamy. The biblical evidence for God tolerating polygamy is much more substantial.
Fordham, however, ignores all of the biblical indications that God’s ideal for marriage is monogamy (see SWING #6). He boldly states:
Plural marriage was part of the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 21:15 , 25:5). God gave David his wives (2 Samuel 12:8). God said that polygamists will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28). Does this sound like God “merely tolerated” plural marriage? On the contrary, what McKeever and Johnson should have said, if they wanted to be honest, truthful, and accurate, is, “Christians today merely tolerate the fact that God sanctioned polygamy in ancient days, and refuse to accept that He would do so today.”
It is at this point that Fordham’s article moves from being mildly disturbing to truly grievous. His use, or rather abuse, of scripture to force polygamy into the Bible is a prime example of the desperate lengths to which some Mormons will go to justify the immorality of their early leaders. With regard to Exodus 21:10, Fordham seems to have missed its context. This passage is referring to slavery. It has nothing to do with condoning or advocating polygamy, but rather, is simply talking about slaves and their proper treatment.
v. 7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant [i.e., a slave], she shall not go out as the menservants do.
v. 8 If she [the daughter] please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed [i.e., she could be bought back]. . . .
v. 9 And if he [i.e., the Master] have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her [i.e., in reality, a slave] after the manner of daughters.
v. 10 And if he take him another wife; her food her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall not be diminished.
In other words, God is simply saying, paraphrased, “Look, if you’re going to have a slave taken as a wife, and if you take another wife, don’t you dare cast that slave wife out on to the street. You better take care of her too.” Rather than advocating taking another wife, God is merely trying to protect a slave, which was yet another thing that was tolerated (i.e. slavery). This same principle of protecting innocent parties is at work in Deuteronomy 21:15 and 25:5.
Nowhere in any of these texts does God condone polygamy. In fact, concerning the Exodus passage, if one is going to use it to justify polygamy, it also should be used to justify slavery since the two issues in context are related and inseparable. Where does God explicitly condemn slavery? Why does God make provisions for slaves in the law? Because he is condoning it? Of course not. Polygamy, like slavery, was tolerated, even to the point of making provisions in the law that would protect women and children in either slavery or polygamy. And Moses, as previously mentioned, also made provisions for divorce, but that was not what God intended for the marriage relationship.
Fordham also misapplies 2 Sam. 12:7-9, which reads: “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”
First, for David to have been given the “wives” of Saul would have been extremely difficult since we know: a) Saul had only one wife and one concubine (1 Sam. 14:50); and b) Abner appropriated Saul’s concubine for himself (2 Sam. 3:7).
Second, in the East it was the general custom for a king’s successor to take everything possessed by that king. His country, his throne, his harem, his treasures, his everything! Enumerating such things indicated a complete turnover of power and authority. What we have here is God saying to David, basically, “What is your problem? I gave you everything there was to give. I gave you Saul’s total kingdom. Nothing was held back from you, yet you still behave like this.” There is no documentation that indicates that David actually took any wives from Saul.
Even if for the sake of discussion we say that God did give David some as yet unknown wives of Saul, they would constitute an aspect of Saul’s kingdom that would naturally go to David. This statement, then, would still be less of a promotion of polygamy and more of an expression of God communicating a well-known Eastern tradition involving the transfer of kingly authority. The remark by God falls terribly short of any stamp of approval of polygamy. Again, there are the parallels to divorce and slavery. God allowed these activities, tolerated them, even made provisions to protect women and children involved, but there are no endorsements of them. As for marriage, the biblical ideal and pattern is monogamy. FOUL BALL!
It is at this point that one of Fordham’s most bizarre comments appears: “God said that polygamists will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28).”
In reality, these simple verses about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob simply say that they will be in kingdom of heaven. They are not, as Fordham seems to think, some kind of tacit endorsement of polygamy. Nor are they doctrinally-packed passages that are somehow saying polygamists (as a group) “will inherit the kingdom of heaven.” These verses are merely declaring that the patriarchs will be in heaven. As for their lifestyles and personal actions while alive, the verses are not contextually addressing any such issues. It is clear that the patriarchs will be in heaven despitetheir polygamy, just as they will be in heaven despite their other shortcomings and failures.
Abraham will be in the kingdom despite his lying (Gen. 20); Isaac despite his lying (Gen. 26:6); and Jacob despite his deceptive nature (Gen. 27). Using Fordham’s cock-eyed reasoning, we also would have to admit: “God said that liars will inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28) or “God said that deceivers will inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:28). FOUL BALL!
Fordham eventually moves on to legal issues relating to polygamy and LDS views related to obeying the laws of land. This is a fatal mistake when one considers the plethora of illegal activities by Mormons throughout LDS history, especially in connection to polygamy. Fordham begins by making a criticism against McKeever and Johnson based on their comment: “Many Mormons insist that the reason plural marriage is no longer practiced is because it violates the law.”
To be sure, this statement by McKeever and Johnson is subjective in that no documentation is given (although I, too, have heard many Mormons make such an argument). And Fordham legitimately criticizes their lack of documentation to support the subjective word “many.” Such a criticism, however, in my opinion, is terribly nit-picky. Of course, that is itself a subjective observation. So I cannot objectively fault Fordham for raising an objection against the undocumented nature of the word “many.”
Going on in his criticisms, however, Fordham quotes McKeever and Johnson: “Such an argument [about violating the law] begs the following questions, Does God really care what American law says? If it were truly God’s will, wouldn’t He expect plural marriage among His people, despite the law? A Mormon may argue that present circumstances reflect God’s will regarding this subject, but a Mormon who chooses such a defense will find no support for this from leaders prior to 1890.”
Fordham uses this quote to begin a rambling diatribe about how neither McKeever nor Johnson understand: 1) the Mormon view of the Constitution; 2) the law-abiding history of Mormons; and 3) the Bible’s admonitions to obey the laws of the land. All of Fordham’s arguments (and insults), however, are irrelevant. Why? Because he is addressing the statement of McKeever and Johnson as if they were saying people should disobey the laws of the land when, in fact, their whole point was that early Mormons originally were the ones who: 1) found it necessary to disobey the laws of the land to implement polygamy; and 2) deliberately continued to disobey the laws of the land after Utah obtained statehood and even after the 1890 Manifesto allegedly made polygamy no longer an accepted practice for the Saints.
McKeever and Johnson point out these facts to demonstrate that there was a time in LDS history when Mormons did not care about their actions (polygamy) being in direct violation of U.S. laws. It was, after all, God’s will. McKeever and Johnson ask the natural question: “If it were truly God’s will, wouldn’t He expect plural marriage among His people, despite the law?”
Early Mormon polygamists would have unflinchingly answered yes. Today’s Mormons, however, would answer differently. This is the inconsistency that McKeever and Johnson are demonstrating. But Fordham seems unable to comprehend this simple point, as evidenced by his comment:“McKeever and Johnson obviously have no Biblical knowledge of God’s view of the law of the land either.” He condescendingly adds: “Let me help them out in this matter.” Then he quotes 1 Peter 2:13-14, as if McKeever and Johnson were advocating breaking laws, when in actuality they were: 1) pointing out Mormon inconsistency on polygamy (pre-1890 vs. post-1890); and 2) showing the flip-flop in teachings from LDS leaders (pre-1890 vs. post-1890).
Most problematic for Fordham, however, is his apparent ignorance with regard to the deception and illegal activities of LDS leaders before and after 1890 (the year polygamy allegedly was banned by Mormon authorities). Fordham confidently declares: “God’s will is that we obey the law of the land. As I pointed out in chapter 9, depending on the circumstances, God can change His mind, and in fact, He has done so in the past, as confirmed by the Bible.”
But history shows that not only did nineteenth Mormons disobey the law of the land regarding polygamy, but they did not even obey their own 1890 Manifesto. The very LDS men who validated the Manifesto and presented it to the church as a binding restriction, violated it until at least 1904 and even a few years later. Consequently, many LDS leaders were not only law-breakers, but hypocrites and liars. Such less-than-admirable conduct can be traced all the way back to Joseph Smith, when deceptions were numerous concerning his amorous adventures. To quote an old cliché: a fish rots from the head down. I submit the following as evidence.
February 12, 1833: “Sec 121. Bigamy consists in the having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive. If any person or persons within this State, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, the person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the penitentiary, not exceeding two years. It shall not be necessary to prove either of the said marriages by the register or certificate thereof, or other record evidence; but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible to prove a marriage in other cases, and when such second marriage shall have taken place without this state, cohabitation in this state after such second marriage shall be deemed the commission of the crime of bigamy, and the trial in such case may take place in the county where such cohabitation shall have occurred” (Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, p. 198-99).
1832/33: Twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Smith illegally takes a second wife, sixteen-year-old Fanny Alger, in clear violation of Illinois laws against bigamy and adultery.
1835: Fanny moves into Joseph’s home as his maid-servant and adopted daughter—and secret wife. Moreover, contrary to Joseph’s own private practices, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants is published and falsely declares: “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again” (D&C, CIX, 1835 edition, 251).
1835: Smith (while in Ohio) begins to perform illegal marriages. For example, when one of his faithful disciples—widower Newel Knight—wanted to get married, Joseph violated Ohio law on November 23, 1835 by marrying Knight to the undivorced Lydia G. Baily (Brodie, 183). D. Michael Quinn notes: “In addition to the bigamous character of this marriage, Smith had no license to perform marriages in Ohio.” To justify the union, Smith used his theology, saying: “‘I have done it by the authority of the holy Priesthood and the Gentile law has no power to call me to an account for it. It is my religious priviledge [sic].'”
1838/39: Smith illegally takes his third wife, Lucinda Pendleton.
1841: Smith illegally takes three more wives—i.e, Louisa Beaman; Zina Diantha Huntington; and Prescendia Lathrop Huntington Buell (while she was married to Norman Buell). Smith also probably “marries” Clarissa Reed Hancock, the wife of Levi Hancock, while her legal husband is on a mission.
1843: Smith receives his revelation on plural marriage, although it is kept secret for nearly ten years, and shared privately only with a select group of his inner circle. He illegally takes another wife, 19-year-old Emily Partridge, on March 4, 1843. Four days later he illegally takes Emily’s sister, Eliza, as a wife. But one week later, Smith’s publication Times and Seasons, prints the following lie concerning polygamy in the church: “We are charged with advocating a plurality of wives…[T]his is as false as the many other ridiculous charges which are brought against us. No sect has a greater reverence for the laws of matrimony or the rights of private property; and we do what others do not, [we] practice what we preach.”
1843-1844: Smith not only continues to perform illegal marriage ceremonies without a license, but does so for participants without proper licenses giving them civil permission to enter into marriage. This became a common practice since “Kirtland was full of converts who had left behind them spouses who could not be persuaded to join the church.” Instead of obtaining licenses from the State, these couples received marriage certificates from Smith that were “according to the rules and regulations of the Church of the Latter-day Saints.” Moreover, Smith and other high-ranking LDS leaders continue to illegally acquire multiple wives (contrary to the Illinois law against bigamy). By 1845, about twenty-five families among 20,000 people living in Nauvoo know about polygamy. The remaining Nauvoo citizens are led by LDS authorities to believe that charges of polygamy being leveled at church leaders by dissenters are nothing but vicious and unfounded anti-Mormon slander.
1844-1846/47: Plural marriage, although still illegal in Illinois, is gradually extended to a broader segment of the LDS community. Augusta Adams Cobb (1802-1886) is divorced by her husband, Henry Cobb (1798-1872), in Boston, 1846, on grounds of the crime of adultery with Brigham Young at Nauvoo.
1851: Brigham Young, now in the territory of Utah, publicly admits his polygamous lifestyle.
1852: Orson Pratt preaches the first public sermon on polygamy and Smith’s 1843 revelation is publicly revealed.
1852-1870s: Polygamy is virtually unchallenged in Utah.
1873: LDS leader George Q. Cannon, after being elected as a representative, keeps his seat by boldly lying to the House Committee on Elections about having multiple wives. Contradicting his lifestyle in Utah, he flatly denies that he was living with four wives, going so far as to maintain that he is not cohabitating with any wives, “in defiant or willful violation of the laws of Congress.”Cannon even denies ever stressing the importance of polygamy as “paramount to all human laws”and claims that he never said he would obey polygamy “rather than the laws of any country.” All of it was untrue.
1882: The anti-polygamy Edmund’s Law is enacted, which called for heavy fines and imprisonment for those guilty of “unlawful cohabitation.”
1883: Rudger Clawson illegally marries Lydia Spencer.
1884: Clawson and two other LDS are convicted under the Edmund’s Act.
1885: LDS president John Taylor and his two counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, go into hiding to avoid arrest for illegal cohabitation.
1885-1886: Hundreds of prominent Mormons follow the example of Taylor by disappearing into isolated parts of Utah or going on foreign missions. Their plural wives and children then hinder law enforcement officials as much as possible by giving false testimony, denying marital relationships, and refusing to answer questions posed by court authorities. Agnes W. Roskelley, for example, taught her children to tell strangers “that they didn’t know what their name was; they didn’t know where they lived; they didn’t know who their dad or mother was.”
1886: Mormons establish polygamous communities in Mexico and Canada, where polygamy is also illegal, but where authorities are more likely to not interfere with the settlements.
1887: A total of 327 Mormons are convicted under anti-polygamy laws. Virtually every prominent Mormon is in prison, just released from prison, or is a fugitive.
1888: A plan is adopted where fugitive Mormons, in return for light sentences/fines, will give themselves up. But even after this deal was stuck, high-ranking Mormons refused to abide by U.S. laws, even after promising to do otherwise.
1889: 334 Mormons are convicted under anti-polygamy laws.
1890: 1,300 Mormons are jailed under anti-polygamy laws.
1890: The LDS Manifesto allegedly halting the practice of polygamy is issued.
post-1890: LDS leaders, including Wilford Woodruff Joseph F. Smith, continue to illegally practice polygamy, in direct violation of the 1890 Manifesto. Moreover, approximately 262 additional plural marriages occur between October 1890 and December 1910. LDS president Joseph F. Smith himself tacitly approves of at least 63 plural marriages between 1902-1904.
D. Michael Quinn, summarized the statistics during a lecture he delivered in 1991: “All First Presidency members either allowed or authorized new plural marriages from 1890 to 1904, and a few as late as 1906 and 1907. One Church President married a plural wife, and three Counselors in the First Presidency performed marriages for men who had living wives already. A Presidency’s secretary proposed polygamous marriage in 1903, and another Presidency’s secretary performed a polygamous marriage in 1907. Of the sixteen men who served only as Apostles…eight of these sixteen men married post-Manifesto plural wives. Three of them who did not do so, performed plural marriages. Two of them who did not do either of the above, arranged for plural marriages…Now, looking at the men individually. Wilford Woodruff…personally approved 7 new plural marriages, to be performed in Mexico. He also approved polygamous ceremonies for a couple of Mexican residents as early as 1891. He delegated George Q. Cannon, his first counselor, to give approval for plural marriages from 1892 to 1898. That approval was in the form of written letters… Woodruff himself married a new Plural Wife in 1897…[Lorenzo Snow] cohabited with his youngest plural wife who went to Canada briefly, in 1896, to bear his last child. And in so doing, he violated the testimony that he had given publicly in 1891, that the Manifesto prohibited cohabitation with plural wives…[Joseph F. Smith] In 1896 as a counselor, he performed in the Salt Lake Temple a “proxy plural marriage” for Abraham Cannon, which had been approved earlier by the First Presidency…Smith instructed Seymour B. Young of the First council of seventy, to perform two plural marriages in Mexico. And later that same year, second counselor Smith authorized Patriarch Alexander F. MacDonald to perform new plural marriages in Mexico for any Mexican residents who requested them. …George Q. Cannon was Presidency counselor and next in line to be Church President from 1899 to 1901. He personally authorized new plural marriages performed in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, from 1892 until his death in 1901. This included plural marriages performed for 3 of his sons and 3 of his nephews.”
Contrary to Fordham’s contention, then, early Mormons were apparently not all that interested in abiding by the laws of land; that is, not until the late 1800s when statehood became a serious issue to Utah territory residents. These historically verifiable facts show the error of Fordham’s subsequent comment: “The leaders of the church, even the early leaders, were committed to obeying the law of the land. The United States government had no law against polygamy at the time. The most common ‘argument’ from Latter-day Saints that I have heard is that revelation was given to the prophet, to halt the practice.”
Conveniently, Fordham completely ignores the teachings of early LDS leaders that polygamy as a practice would never be repealed by God since it was essential to exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. Wilford Woodruff, in fact, told the saints in 1881 that if they were ever to “give up polygamy,” they also would have to give up revelation, prophets, apostles, temple ordinances, and the church itself. Woodruff additionally posited: “[W]hat are we going to do under the circumstances? God says, ‘we shall be damned if we do not obey the law [of Abraham].’ Congress says, ‘we shall be damned if we do’ . . . Now who shall we obey? God or man? My voice is that we obey God.”
And in 1884, at an LDS General Conference, George Q. Cannon declared that any appeal for a new revelation to “lay polygamy aside” was a “[v]ain thought” because such a revelation would be useless “unless indeed the people should apostatize.” Is Fordham prepared to say that the LDS Church is now in a state of apostasy? If not, then Cannon and other pre-1890 LDS leaders apparently were wrong on a number of points in regards to polygamy. Perhaps they were wrong to begin starting it in the first place. Are they really the kind of prophets one would want to follow? Fordham never answers these questions. FOUL BALL.
Fordham then alleges: “Our critics show their ignorance of LDS doctrine by asserting that according to the early church leaders, plural marriage is what is necessary for entrance into the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom. The doctrine was not plural marriage, but eternal marriage. That is what the Doctrine and Covenants clearly state (sic). The fact that early church leaders were living the plural administration of the principle, does not change what the doctrine is…There is a difference between the doctrine, and the way it is administered. The doctrine was eternal marriage. The administration of the doctrine could be singular or plural. Even though plural marriage ended, the doctrine, eternal marriage, continues to be practiced today.”
Sadly, it is Fordham who is in error. His argument, which equates “celestial marriage” with “eternal marriage” (rather than plural marriage), actually was not the original teaching of the church. Fordham’s answer can be traced to shortly after passage of the 1882 Edmunds Act. According to professor of history B. Carmon Hardy, Fordham’s parroted response about “eternal marriage” dates back to the late 1800s when “an article in the Deseret News asserted that celestial marriage was not the same as plurality. Rather, Mormon authorities began saying that celestial marriage involved only a union for eternity and that this was what they taught their people. In his attempts to persuade Congress that Utah should be granted statehood, Franklin S. Richards insisted not only that plural marriage was permissive but that celestial marriage meant nothing more than being sealed to a single partner for eternity.” Numerous quotes from early LDS leaders support Hardy’s findings that “plural” marriage originally was the same thing as celestial marriage and, as such, was essential to exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom:
Brigham Young, 1855: “[I]f any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned; and I will go still further and say, take this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord has given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned [emphasis added]”
Brigham Young, 1862: “Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it…[T]his is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise [emphasis added].”
Brigham Young, 1866: “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them and they refused to accept them [emphasis added].”
Mormon Resolutions of Protest, 1870: “First, resolved, that the Supreme Ruler of the universe has the right to command man in the concerns of life, and that it is man’s duty to obey. Second, whereas, according to the positive knowledge of a large number of persons now assembled, the doctrine of celestial marriage, or plurality of wives [synonymous terms], was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and by him established in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a revealed law of God; therefore be it resolved, that we, the members of said Church, in general mass meeting assembled, do now most earnestly and solemnly declare before almighty God that we hold that said order of marriage [plural marriage] is a cardinal principle of our religious faith, affecting us not only for time, but for all eternity, and as sacred and binding as any other principle of the holy gospel of the Son of God. Third, resolved, that celestial marriage, or plurality of wives, is that principle of our holy religion which confers on man the power of endless lives or eternal increase, and is therefore beyond the perview of legislative enactment; the woman being married to the man for all eternity by authority of the Holy Priesthood, delegated from God to him [emphasis added].”
Wilford Woodruff, 1873: “President B Young Spoke 1 Hour & 18 Minuts. In his remarks He said that a Man who did not have but one wife in the Resurrection that woman will not be his but [be] taken from him & given to another But he may be saved in the kingdom of God but be single to all Eternity”
Joseph F. Smith, 1878: “Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity or non-essential to the salvation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said and believe that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one, I wish here to enter my solemn protest against this idea for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part…But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessing pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it [emphasis added]”
First Presidency of the LDS Church, 1891: “We formerly taught to our people that polygamy, or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith, was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come. That doctrine was publicly promulgated by our President, the late Brigham Young, forty years ago, and was steadily taught and impressed upon the Latter-day Saints up to a short time before September, 1890. Our people are devout and sincere, and they accepted the doctrine, and many personally embraced and practiced polygamy [emphasis added].”
Melvin J. Ballard, 1934: “I grant you that there have been those in the past, including some of the leaders of the Church, who have in times of stress urged the brethren to enter into plural marriage and have left the inference that plural marriage was the only marriage that would obtain in the highest degree of Celestial Glory [emphasis added].”
Apparently, Fordham is either ignoring, or ignorant of, these and many other statements by early LDS leaders. FOUL BALL!
Next, Fordham quotes the following statement from McKeever and Johnson: “Almost without exception, pressure from the United States to eliminate polygamy was looked on as a direct refusal to recognize God’s will.”
Instead of actually responding to this statement, Fordham launches into a tirade, saying: “Why don’t McKeever and Johnson spend some time trying to say how evil the ancient prophets were because they practiced plural marriage? Is it because they have a double standard? God did not condemn them for this practice, and in fact sanctioned it on occasion.”
But Fordham gives no examples of God actually sanctioning polygamy. He only lists a number of biblical verses, just a few of which relate directly to polygamy. The others either relate indirectly to polygamy or have nothing to do with the issue at all. Consider the following verses listed by Fordham, none of which include an explicit sanction of polygamy by God:
polygamy merely mentioned—”Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham” (Gen. 16:1-3); “Esau took wives of the daughters of Canaan” (Gen. 36:2); “Gideon had three score and ten sons and many wives” (Judges 8:30); “and the lives of thy wives and the lives of thy concubines” (2 Sam. 19:5, concerning David, king of Israel); “for he sent unto me for my wives” (1 Kings 20:7, concerning Ahab, king of Israel); “Ashur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives” (1 Chron. 4:5); “for they had many wives and sons” (1 Chron. 7:4); “Shaharaim had two wives” (1 Chron. 8:8); “Rehoam had eighteen wives and three score concubines” (2 Chron. 11:21); “Abijah married fourteen wives” (2 Chron. 13:21); “Jehoida, the priest of God, took two wives” (2 Chron. 24:3); “[A]nd if he take him another wife” (Ex. 21:10, for more information on this second verse in Exodus, see previous discussion under Swing #24).
polygamy only implied—”Hagar bare a son of Abraham” (Gen. 16:15; Jerubbaal had seventy sons (Judges 9:5); Jair, a judge in Israel, had thirty sons (Judges 10:3-4); Abdon, a Judge in Israel, had forty sons (Judges 12:13-14).
polygamy not even an issue—”[T]he Lord healed the wife and maidservants of Abimelech” (Gen. 20:17). Regarding this verse, Fordham seems to think that God’s healing of a pagan king’s harem at the request of Abraham is somehow an endorsement of polygamy. But no such endorsement of polygamy is actually present in the text. “Judah said to Onan, go in unto thy brother’s wife” (Gen. 38:8). This verse simply refers to Onan fulfilling levirate marriage custom that called for a man to impregnate the wife of his deceased brother, if that brother had not had any children before dying. “Moses married Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian” (Ex. 2:21). This verse simply refers to Moses getting married. The related verse Fordham mentions—”Moses married an Ethiopian woman” (Num. 12:1)—also is nothing but a reference to Moses getting married (see previous discussion under Swing #4). These two passages give no confirmation indicating that Moses married the Ethiopian while Zipporah was still alive.
Fordham’s most interesting reference allegedly proving that God sanctioned polygamy is Isaiah 4:1—”in that day seven women shall take hold of one man“—a verse that has for many years been touted by Mormons seeking to legitimize polygamy using the Bible. Unfortunately for Mormons, this passage predicts the rise of polygamy as a result of divine condemnation, not divine blessing. And the location of the prophecy’s fulfillment is Israel, not America. The context of Isaiah 4:1 (context being something Fordham commonly ignores) revolves around judgment on Israel. God denounces the women of Jerusalem in chapter 3, verse 16, saying: “Because the daughters of Zionare haughty, and walk about with extended throat, and with blinking eyes… Jehovah will uncover their shame.”
The Lord’s condemnation continues through the remainder of chapter 3, which concludes: “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.” Chapter 4, verse 1 explains the ultimate result of the judgment and condemnation: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” Renowned biblical scholars C. F. Keil and F. Delitizsch make the following remarks in their well-known commentary on the Old Testament:
When war shall thus unsparingly have swept away the men of Zion, a most unnatural effect will ensue, namely, that women will go in search of husbands, and not men in search of wives…The division of the chapters is a wrong one here, as this verse is the closing verse of the prophesy against the women, and the daughters of Zion, every one of whom now thought herself the greatest as the wife of such and such a man, and for whom many men were now the suitors, would end in this unnatural self-humiliation, that seven of them would offer themselves to the same man, the first man who presented himself, and even renounce the ordinary legal claim upon their husband for clothing and food (Ex. 21:10)…if he would only take away their reproach (namely, the reproach of being unmarried, ch. 54:4, as in Gen. 30:23, of being childless) by letting them be called his wives…In ch. 4:1 the threat denounced against the women of Jerusalem is brought to a close. It is a side-piece to the threat denounced against the national rulers. And these two scenes of judgment were only parts of the general judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem and Judah, as a state or national community.
Also significant is how Fordham conveniently quotes only “in that day seven women shall take hold of one man,” but leaves off the rest of the prophecy that reads: “We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name.” Is Fordham willing to say that the wives of early LDS leaders agreed to not take any financial support from their husbands? Certainly not. Was there any war that made men so scarce that multiple LDS women began seeking out a single man to marry? Hardly. It was always LDS men seeking more wives. Why does Fordham not mention that this is actually a passage describing the results of judgment on Israel? FOUL BALL!
Fordham states: “Do McKeever and Johnson not believe God is the same today as yesterday? McKeever and Johnson are not the only critics who want to condemn the LDS Church because of the early practice of plural marriage. However, when they do, they also condemn the prophets and peoples in the Bible. Some of the ancient prophets had plural wives. If this is no longer acceptable by God, then God has changed his mind! Something Christians say he doesn’t do, since God does not change. This is a contradiction…The Bible also states in some places that we are to have only one wife, yet it is clear that plural marriages were accepted by God. …To condemn the early Latter-day Saints for living the same principles as the olden prophets, is to condemn the earlier prophets. To condemn the older prophets, is to condemn the Bible. To condemn the Bible, is to deny Christ. Joseph Smith, by restoring, under direction from the Lord, the principle of plural marriage, has shown that God does not change.”
Fordham is setting up yet another straw man argument here—i.e., that Christians do not condemn Old Testament polygamists. Evangelical Protestants do indeed condemn Old Testament polygamists, accepting that God tolerated such behavior just as he tolerated divorce and slavery. Because of the hardness of men’s hearts, God allowed Moses to make provisions for divorce, slavery, and polygamy in the law. Consequently, Fordham’s arguments about double standards, God changing his mind, and Christian inconsistency are groundless. FOUL BALL!
In an attempt to distance the 1890 Manifesto from any kind of political pressure that may have been an influence on LDS leaders, Fordham writes: “Anyone who thinks that polygamy ended because of political pressure from the government of the United States should remember that LDS history is one which shows that the church left four states…Does any critic of the church seriously doubt that the Latter-day Saints would not have packed up and moved out, rather than violate a commandment which came from God? It is entirely possible that church headquarters could be in Mexico, Canada, or even some other country today, had not the Lord given a revelation to Wilford Woodruff to cease the practice of polygamy at the time.”
Once more, however, Fordham shows a stunning lack of knowledge regarding the history of his own church. First, it is doubtful that the headquarters of any polygamy-practicing church could have been established in Mexico or Canada. Polygamy was illegal in those countries as well. Second, by 1890 there was virtually nowhere left for the Mormon Saints to go.
Utah had been denied statehood more than once and was quickly becoming the only territory still not part of the United States. When Utah finally became a state in 1896, the only surrounding areas still not admitted to the union were Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. Fleeing to any of these places would have done nothing. Third, although Fordham refers to a so-called “revelation” given to Wilford Woodruff, no such revelation has ever been published.
Finally, there is ample evidence that LDS leaders did indeed bend to political pressure to save the church, which was in danger of complete deconstruction as a result of the May 19, 1890 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the government’s right to close the LDS Church, seize its property, and redistribute it (Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. United States). Woodruff had only two choices: 1) allow federal marshals to literally dismantle and sell off the unfinished Salt Lake Temple, which would occur simultaneously with the closure of the LDS Church; or 2) announce a discontinuation of polygamy. Woodruff chose the latter option, expressing it via an official Manifesto that was released on September 25, 1890.
Historical evidence suggests that the Manifesto was adopted only to save the church and that divine “revelation” had very little to do with the proclamation. Moreover, the LDS authorities who approved it knew that it would hardly affect them since they already had their plural wives. There also exists the possibility that Woodruff’s Manifesto may have been adopted merely as a temporary stop-gap solution that Mormon leaders intended to repeal after statehood had been secured. Its wording and the way leaders publicly released it dramatically differed from every other “revelation” that had been given to the Saints:
• Before being issued, this so-called “revelation” was written, re-written, edited, and re-edited many times behind closed doors by various persons ranging from Mormon politicians, to LDS apostles, to non-Mormon legal advisors.
• It was addressed “To whom it may concern,” a decidedly secular phrase that failed to hold the authority of a “Thus saith the Lord” declaration.
• It was publicly issued as a press release from Washington by John T. Caine, a Utah delegate in Congress, rather than being presented to the congregation by church authorities at a church conference, which was how other revelations had been presented.
• It was only signed by Wilford Woodruff and not the First Presidency.
• Woodruff carefully worded the Manifesto to read “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” [emphasis added], which meant that the entire declaration was Woodruff’s personal advice, rather than a command from God. Thus, a sort of theological loophole was given for disobedience.
Despite these oddities associated with the 1890 Manifesto, the U.S. government granted Utah statehood in 1896 in good faith. The number of new plural marriages rose almost immediately, which prompted the ever vigilant Salt Lake Tribune to accuse LDS leaders of deception. These charges certainly were not unfounded. The very year statehood was granted, Joseph F. Smith, who would later become Mormonism’s president, boldly defied the Manifesto during a dedication speech for the Payson, Utah, meeting house, saying: “Take care of your polygamous wives; we don’t care for Uncle Sam now.”
Then, in 1901, church authorities (via the state’s legislature) attempted to pass the Evans Bill—a measure designed to take the teeth out of federal anti-polygamy statutes by banning the prosecution of adultery except on the complaint of a close relative, and additionally stating that“no prosecution for unlawful cohabitation shall commence except on complaint of the wife or alleged plural wife of the accused.”
The bill was wisely vetoed by Governor Heber M. Wells, who feared severe reprisals from the U.S. government, the American people, and the media. But despite all his efforts to avert a public relations disaster, national periodicals alerted the country to the LDS Church’s attempt to revive polygamy. The Literary Digest claimed that the bill’s objective was to “gradually restore and continue” plural marriage. The Outlook pointed out that while Utah’s state constitution made it impossible to legalize polygamy, the legislature had passed a law that would “practically prevent all prosecution for polygamy.”
A nationwide uproar developed, with a formal protest being sent to the U.S. President and Senate by the Ministers Association, which accused LDS leaders of “uniting in themselves authority of church and state” and using that authority to foster polygamy “regardless of pledges made for the purpose of attaining statehood.” This highly visible issue culminated in an exhaustive investigation of the LDS Church by the U.S. Senate. On the line would be the future of Mormon Senator Reed Smoot, whose congressional seat was hung in the balance beginning in 1903. FOUL BALL!
Despite his best efforts, Fordham’s article fails to justify polygamy as a biblical, God-ordained form of marriage. Rather than being grounded in solid biblical exegesis and/or historical fact, Fordham’s rebuttal of McKeever and Johnson is based primarily on: 1) half-truths; 2) personal insults; 3) misapplication of biblical texts; 4) straw man arguments; and 5) historical misrepresentations.
Although such propaganda tactics are common in LDS literature, it is unfortunate that many people today continue to trust individuals like Fordham to give them the straight story, so to speak. Hopefully, this response will assist honest truth-seekers to understand more clearly the issue of polygamy, its place in the Bible, the Christian view of it, and how some Mormons seek to defend it.
is a nationally known author/journalist specializing in the area of cults, the occult, new religious movements, and world religions. He has written/co-authored a dozen books, including a book on the history of Mormonism called One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church (Four Walls, Eight Windows, 2003). In 1997, Richard was awarded The Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America for his “outstanding work on intolerance in North America.” Also in 1997, Richard won the Evangelical Press Association’s “Higher Goals in Christian Journalism Award” for his article on cults that appeared in Moody Magazine.
Fordham quoting John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Collector’s Edition Fourth Printing, 1995), 390.
B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1992), 17.
Jeffrey Nichols, Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City, 1847-1918 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 17; cf. D. Michael Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power(Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 329 and Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 91-92, and Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives Than One (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2001), Chapter Six.
Stanley S. Ivins, “Notes on Mormon Polygamy,” in D. Michael Quinn, ed., The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 170-171.
Fordham quoting Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), “Brigham Young and His Twenty-One Wives” (photo caption), vol. 4, 1606.
Van Wagoner, 90.
Van Wagoner, 96.
Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904), vol. 1, 201.
Fordham quoting Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 25, 97 .
Van Wagoner, 90.
Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 199.
Melvin T. Smith, “Review of The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts,” Utah Historical Quarterly, online at http://www.signaturebooks.com/reviews/autobiog.htm.
Ann Eliza Web Young, Wife Number 19 (Hartford, CT: Dustin, Gilman & Co., 1876), online at http://antimormon.8m.com/youngchp8.html.
Fanny Stenhouse, Tell It All (Hartford, CT: A.D. Worthington & Co., 1875), 522, online at.
Fordham quoting Brigham H. Roberts, Character of the Mormon People, Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 1, 185, edited by Ben E. Rich, 2 volumes (Chicago, Henery C. Etten & Co., 1913).
Eugene Campbell, Establishing Zion (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 71.
Fordham quoting Ludlow, “Plural Marriage,” vol. 3, 1094.
David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998), 283.
Sarah Berringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 97.
William Hall, The Abominations of Mormonism Exposed (Cincinnati, 1852), 43-44. Hall Claims to have heard this statement by Young. It was confirmed by T.B.H. Stenhouse in The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1873; 1904 edition, published in Salt Lake City, Shepard Book Company), 185-186.
Rhea Allred Kunz, Voices of Women Approaching Celestial or Plural Marriage (Draper, UT: Review and Preview Publishers, n.d.), 87. Quoted in Van Wagoner 83.
John D. Lee, Journal of John D. Lee, under February 23, 1847, published at Salt Lake City in 1938 by Charles Kelly. Quoted in Nels Anderson, Desert Saints: The Mormon Frontier in Utah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942; paperback edition, 1966), 404.
Jedediah Grant. Quoted in T.B.H. Stenhouse, 294.
D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 88.
Joseph Smith, quoted in Quinn, Origins of Power, 326, see endnote #32.
Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Vintage Books, 1995; original edition by Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 462.
Times and Seasons, March 15, 1843, vol. 4, no. 9, 143.
George D. Smith, “Mormon Plural marriage,” Free Inquiry (Summer 1992), vol. 12, no. 3, 34-35.
Stanley P. Hirshon, The Lion of the Lord. pp. 192-194: “Augusta Adams Cobb,…married Henry Cobb, a prosperous Boston merchant, about 1822 and bore seven children. ‘Augusta lived quietly until Young came east to preach in the summer of 1843. She heard him, converted to Mormonism, and with her two smallest children headed for Nauvoo.’…Augusta continued on to Nauvoo and onNovember 2, 1843, without divorcing her first husband married Young. A few months later she briefly returned to Boston, where she saw her other children and told Henry she was leaving him forever…Augusta returned to Nauvoo and on February 2, 1846, was sealed to Young for eternity. The following year Henry Cobb, still in Massachusetts, divorced her.”
House Misc. Doc. 49 (43-1), 1873, Serial 1617, 5.
Jesse Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 22.
Van Wagoner, 159. Anthony W. Ivins performed 29 of these marriages, which according to a March 7, 1911 letter he wrote to his son, were done with the approval of the LDS church hierarchy. He stated: “You may depend upon. I have never performed a marriage ceremony without proper authority”; cf. Hardy, 389-425 for a listing of post-1890 plural marriages.
D. Michael Quinn, “Plural Marriages After The 1890 Manifesto,” lecture delivered in August 1991 at Bluffdale, Utah, online at http://www.ldshistory.net/pc/postman.htm.
Wilford Woodruff, April 3, 1881, JOD (Liverpool: Albert Carrington, 1882; lithographed reprint of original edition, 1966), vol. 22, 147-148.
Wilford Woodruff. Quoted in Van Wagoner, 111.
George Q. Cannon, October 5, 1884, JOD (Liverpool: John Henry Smith, 1884; lithographed reprint of original edition, 1966), vol. 25, 321-322). Cannon stated: “Men say, ‘Oh, if you will only get a revelation concerning polygamy, if you will only lay polygamy aside, you will no longer have any opposition to contend with; if you will only conform to modern ideas concerning your domestic institutions, we shall have nothing to say against you. The opposition that finds now such strong support will be deprived of its war-cry and of the sympathy of thousands which sustain it at the present time—they will be deprived of this and you will go along like the rest of the churches, without having to suffer from the opposition and the hatred that are now manifested against you.’ Vain thought!—a thought that is only expressed by those who know nothing of the character of this work, who are not familiar with the history of this dispensation, and who judge of the effects of such movements by their human knowledge and the experience that they have with other systems. This system which God has established, this great work of our God, cannot be measured by human thoughts…Therefore, those who understand this work, know very well that anything of this kind—unless indeed the people should apostatize—would have no such effect as our friends in many instances think it would have.”
Brigham Young, July 14, 1855, JOD (Liverpool: Orson Pratt, 1856; lithographed reprint of original edition, 1966), vol. 3, 266.
Brigham Young, July 6, 1862, JOD (Liverpool: George Q. Cannon, 1862; lithographed reprint of original edition, 1966), vol. 9, 322
Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, JOD (Liverpool: B. Young, Jr., 1867; lithographed reprint of original edition, 1966), vol. 11, 268-269.
These resolutions were prepared by a committee of thirteen Mormon leaders and adopted by attendees of a meeting called to protest the passage of the McCullum Bill.
Wilford Woodruff Journal, vol. 7, 152. Available on the New Mormon Studies CD ROM: Comprehensive Resource Library (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2000).
Joseph F. Smith (Journal of Discourses 20:28-29
First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Petition For Amnesty,” December 19,1891, available online athttp://www.polygamyinfo.com/Petition%20For%20Amnesty.htm.
Letter to Eslie D. Jenson, July 21, 1934, online at.
C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), vol. 7, 97-98.
George Reynolds, at the Reed Smoot hearings in 1904, “I assisted to write it,” in collaboration with Charles W. Penrose and John R. Winder who “transcribed the notes and changed the language slightly to adapt it for publication.” Moving far beyond that statement, John W. Woolley told his polygamist followers in the 1920s that “Judge Zane [a non- Mormon] had as much to do with it [the Manifesto] as Wilford Woodruff except to sign it,” and Lorin C. Woolley told Mormon Fundamentalists that Wilford Woodruff was not the author of the Manifesto but that it was actually written by Charles W. Penrose, Frank J. Cannon, and “John H. White, the butcher,” revised by non-Mormon federal officials, and that Woodruff merely signed it. Moreover, Woolley and his Fundamentalist followers have accused George Q. Cannon of pressuring Presidents Taylor and Woodruff to write a manifesto abandoning plural marriage, and at least one Fundamentalist called him “The Great Mormon Judas.” The authorship of the Manifesto remains controversial. Frank Cannon says, “He told me he had written it himself, and it certainly appeared to me to be in his handwriting. Its authorship has since been variously attributed. Some of the present-day polygamists say that it was I who wrote it. Chas. W. Penrose and George Reynolds have claimed they edited it. Thomas J. Rosser stated that, when a missionary to Wales in 1908, he asked the mission president, Charles W. Penrose, during a missionary conference, if the Manifesto was a revelation from God. “Brethren, I will answer that question, if you will keep it under your hats,” Penrose said. “I, Charles W. Penrose, wrote the Manifesto with the assistance of Frank J. Cannon and John White…Wilford Woodruff signed it to beat the devil at his own game” (D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890- 1904,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 18, no. 1, 11-12, online at http://website.lineone.net/~mahonri/Quinn_Post_Manifesto_ Dialogue.txt; Proceedings Before The Committee On Privileges And Elections Of The United States Senate In The Matter Of The Protests Against The Right Of Hon. Reed Smoot, A Senator From Utah, To Hold His Seat (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904), vol. 2, 51, 52; and Thomas J. Rosser, letter dated August 4, 1956, missionary to England and Wales during 1907 and 1908, online at http://website.lineone.net/~mahonri/cpmr.htm.
Joseph F. Smith. Quoted in William Edward Biederwolf, Mormonism Under the Searchlight(Chicago: Glad Tidings Publishing Co., 1915), 65.
Quoted in Samuel W. Taylor, Rocky Mountain Empire (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1978), 8.
Quoted in Samuel Taylor, 9-10.
Quoted in Samuel Taylor, 10.