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Polygamy: A Horror Story

As I came to understand the things of Mormon history, it became apparent to me that I would one day put it all into writing.

I wanted my blog to be a shadow of Alma 37. The prophecy tells us that in the last days there will be a servant of God with a seer-stone, named Gazelem, who exposes the things of darkness and brings to the light the secret works of abominations.

I of course do not claim to be this servant, but I’ve wanted my blog to have that same calling.

Mark 4:

22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

Some time ago, I perused Grant Palmer’s anti-Mormon book, “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins,” and was blown away by how ridiculous the effort was to manifest what secrets have been hidden.

I originally read it as a non-believer, and thought it was thoughtfully written. Now I find all his contentions worthless. He was an institute director for the LDS church for 35 years. You’d think all that studying would have opened his eyes to the truthfulness of God’s word.

In his disillusionment of the church, his faith has fallen to pieces. He claims to still believe in Christ; but Christ says, “My sheep hear my voice.”

When the Lord speaks, his sheep hear it.

Anyone that rejects the Book of Mormon, or the revelations of Joseph Smith, are not in the fold of God.

Likewise, anyone that believes in false prophets, are not the sheep of Christ, but the sheep of the devil. (Alma 5)

Needless to say, I certainly hope that many will recognize the error of their ways and accept the fulness of the gospel when the times of the Gentiles comes in for the last time–

Just because someone is deceived, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance.

We all fall short in one area or another.

Yet righteousness is the standard we all need to be striving for.

I was criticized by an adherent to Denver Snuffer who told me that I should not point out his flaws. Prophets aren’t perfect, right? Some are, actually.

Mosiah 23:

14 And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.

Denver Snuffer is not of God.

Those of God are not deceived; they recognize the voice of the Lord. Denver has continually rejected the revelation and vision of Section 110, which contains Christ speaking.

He has also broken the commandment of monogamy and remarried. He is not a man of God, and therefore I will not trust him as a minister of the gospel.

Does remarriage disqualify him? Not necessarily, because I believe Joseph Smith committed a similar folly as well, most-likely in 1835. But this didn’t disqualify him from eventually receiving more revelation, which to me is evidence that the prophet had to have repented shortly thereafter.

In Nauvoo, however, the prophet entered sin once more, and revelations ceased entirely.

The Saints had it put upon them to recognize the voice of Christ through the bleakness of their awful situation. All of us are in the same position as the church in Nauvoo. We have to decide who to trust as ministers of the gospel. We have to figure out who is of God and who isn’t.

Years ago, when I learned to recognize the voice of God as I parsed through the teachings of man, I realized that Section 132, and polygamy in general, was entirely false.

Finally, I understood the passage of Isaiah that purports seven women shall take hold of one man.

In my younger years, I used to think that was evidence for the truthfulness of polygamy. I now understand what Isaiah was actually saying:

1 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.

2 In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy,

The beautiful branch of the Lord is not the polygamists, but those that ESCAPED Israel.

As the folly of serial marriage comes more heavily among us (perhaps in a literal polygamous sense) the holy ones will escape the practice and be in Zion/Jerusalem.

Understanding this folly is detrimental for us to not be offenders of the same. Understanding it is also the antidote for not having a crisis of faith.

Denver Snuffer is not the kind of man who will exploit his position of influence to increase sexual opportunity. Yet nonetheless, he does not provide the antidote to understand these things.

Denver has not removed Section 132 in their church; he has only revised it. It was placed in their new edition of scripture as Section 54. Sure, he removed the uncomfortable bits, but this doesn’t make the movement any more ahead of the game than the LDS church. They still believe in polygamy.

A long time ago, in the book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift,” Denver wrote that by marrying Fanny Alger, Joseph had completed his Abrahamic sacrifice, which gave him the sealing power. This is telling for a man who claims to being regularly tutored by angels and God.

By including his own version of Section 132, he proves that he has not changed his mind on this matter. He may softball it and say Joseph was not sleeping with his wives, but he believes Joseph was commanded by God to take multiple wives nonetheless.

Another way to go about this contradictory doctrine is to believe Joseph Smith was entirely innocent and that polygamy was attributed to him to justify the LDS-practice of it in Utah.

I myself, at one point, fell victim to this way of thinking. It really is much easier to believe Joseph Smith to have been innocent of all charges.

But this is not rooted in historical or prophetic truth. I am now completely convinced that if one does not accept Joseph to have been the one to begin the practice, while knowing the practice to be wrong, it will lead to a crisis of faith.

To provide evidence of this, I want to use (in all respectfulness) an example of someone whose comments online brought much light and truth to my soul…yet this someone believed Joseph Smith to be innocent in this regard. The following comments showcase how this erroneous understanding will inevitably lead to a loss of faith in God’s word.

2013:

As the Book of Mormon prophets who saw our day foretold, everyone in the Church has been deceived by false prophets who preach & practice false doctrines & whoredoms since Joseph died. We must awake to our awful situation in the Church and realize we are in the same situation Alma found himself in in his corrupt Church.

Soon Christ & Joseph will return to earth to restore the true Church to the earth. We must live according to the holy scriptures until then and not listen to the contrary doctrine of so-called prophets today.

For Joseph warned that those who are deceived by falsehoods & false prophets will lose their exaltation & standing in the Celestial Kingdom. And he said most people fall for these false prophets, thinking them to be true ones, because they don’t test them & their doctrines to see if they are preaching contrary to Christ & the scriptures that Joseph gave us, that would be the BoM & the original D&C (1835 edition)

2013, another comment elsewhere:

I believe in the pure testimony of Joseph Smith, despite all the rumors and hearsay against him, usually by evil or easily deceived people. Why do I believe him and not them? Because of his fruits and the way he lived and the Gospel he taught and the way he treated and loved Emma. If you know what true love looks like you can see if other’s have it or not. I believe he possessed true love for Emma and thus would not have ever done such vile and abusive things to her and his children or other women.

[…] But if we don’t possess such everlasting unconditional love, (most LDS don’t even ‘believe’ in it anymore today), then we can’t trust ourselves to see or discern correctly yet or be able to judge true prophets from false ones. For it takes a true prophet to know a true prophet. Those who posses true charity, true love, are prophets, it’s that hard and rare to possess.

The two comments from the same time period highlight an important factor. The first indicates that the commentator has an amazing understanding for the things I attempt to teach on this blog. The second, however, reveals that they are an adherent to the ‘Joseph Fought Polygamy’-theology.

This was the difference between her and I.

Years later, however, many differences begin to emerge.

From 2016:

I agree that those who don’t keep Christ’s commandments are in apostasy, and thus that would include the leaders of the Church, past & present, including Joseph Smith, even if, as evidence suggests, that he was innocent of polygamy and only had 1 wife, Emma.

But we must remember that the so called ‘words of Christ’ were written down by very fallible men, many years after Christ had come and gone, and probably weren’t even written by his Apostles. And when we see that even some of Christ’s words contradict each other it even further suggests that the ‘words of Christ’ were tampered with, so as to put them all in doubt.

The above poster has by this point lost all faith in the Restoration movement, even doubting the words said by Christ in the gospels. What caused their loss of faith? I don’t hesitate to suggest it was due to a refusal in accepting Joseph Smith to have been the one to instigate polygamy.

The Saints must find Joseph guilty. That’s the only way to understand the awful situation we’re in; and it’s the only way to do something about it.

After many long years of contemplating these controversies, I’ve attempted to put together a timeline that outlines the trajectory of how these things played out, to make sense of what happened. I hope it will be of interest to those seeking the truth. 

*

January 19, 1841

Joseph Smith receives Section 124 – church has lost the fulness of the priesthood (1834) and will be rejected if they do not build the Nauvoo House

The Nauvoo House never even came close to being made, let alone completed.

 

March 1841

Joseph Smith receives Section 125 – church no longer considered Saints

The Lord’s lack of recognition that the members of the church are Saints is why I believe the church was (already) rejected by this point. However, they are still given commandment to gather if they choose to keep the commandments. This is because the Lord will work a reformation among them before delivering them over to Satan. (BoC 4:5-6) During the rejection of the church, Joseph Smith completes his atonement offering. Yet even after his death, the members continued in disobedience and a reformation was never realized.

 

April 5, 1841

Marries Louisa Beaman, beginning Nauvoo polygamy

In his 1838-recount of history, Joseph admitted to displaying the weakness of human nature. Before being visited by Moroni, he was praying for forgiveness of his “follies.” (JS-History 1:29) I believe Joseph was hinting—by his use of wording—that the weakness he inherited was that of lust. D&C 64:14-15 corroborates with 35:7 to suggest that the folly of the Gentiles—the sins of a crooked and perverse people—is connected with adultery. After the apostasy of the Gentiles in 1834, Joseph was susceptible to sin in a way he had not yet experienced. Christ had removed his name from the church—May 3, 1834—removing the fulness of the priesthood. Joseph became liable to commit adultery, not just experience lust, because he was then married. I expect the reason he was married previous to his ministry was to orchestrate Joseph’s opportunity to commit—or not commit—the sin of the Gentiles. Due to his relentless callings and never-ending flow of revelation, he was in constant communion with God. With the 1834 apostasy, this changed, and Joseph stopped abiding in the Lord and sinned with Fanny Alger. However, he was made clean in Section 110 as the Lord appeared in mercy to him at the Kirtland Temple. This enabled him to perform the atonement statute in Nauvoo as an unspotted lamb. I find it unlikely that Joseph began to commit adultery (again) as early as the recorded date of marriage for Louisa Beaman—although one piece of evidence does exist to suggest so. Instead, I find it most compelling to conclude this arrangement was originally a sealing in which there was no intention for sexual impropriety. I’ve theorized that the marriages in which no sexual relations occurred may have in fact been a blessing unto future generations who would be joined to Joseph Smith’s “house” in the which a special anointing was placed upon. (D&C 124:56-57) The marriages that can be absolutely determined as having been sexually motivated only seemed to have occurred between February to May of 1843. Benjamin Winchester speculated sexuality to have taken place in this time-span between Joseph and Louisa, and I feel this makes the most sense in the context of all subsequent plural marriages contracted by Joseph.

 

June 1, 1841

Sidney Rigdon publicly pronounced as a prophet, though date of ordination not known

We have to announce that Sidney Rigdon has been ordained a Prophet, Seer, and a Revelator.”
-Times and Seasons

D&C 43:3-4 tells us that no one will receive revelation or commandments except Joseph, unless he stops abiding in the Lord. If he does stop abiding in the Lord he will only have the power to appoint another to receive revelation in his stead. Although Joseph may have believed his brother Hyrum was to be his successor, Hyrum fell for polygamy even going so far as to command the High Council in 1843 to obey the revelation commanding polygamy. Sidney Rigdon was the true successor who could have given true revelations to the church. Upon entering into a sealing ritual with Louisa Beaman, Joseph could no longer receive revelation, which is why his revelation on polygamy was not a commandment to the church. In Section 127, Joseph ascribes himself only as a prophet and seer—with no mention of being a revelator. His attempt to provide a legitimate revelation in 1843 was futile.

 

July 1841

Brigham Young returns from mission and is told to leave family no more

Send my word abroad, and take especial care of your family.”

Although I in times past have believed this revelation to be a fabrication of Brigham to justify his lack of future missionary service, I now believe it to be authentic. Because the church no longer had authority to preach the gospel—having been rejected as a church of Christ—they were still called to bring a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel to the world. This is why Brigham is given the mandate to “send” the word, not preach and not publish. That Brigham began to publish new—or tamper with old—revelations is the sign that the generation was delivered over to Satan. This deliverance up to the enemy was destined to last four generations.

 

July 1841 – February 1843

Marries fourteen women wherein there is no evidence of sexuality

-Starting in 1842, these men engage in plural marriage: Theodore Turley, Brigham Young, Jonathan Holmes, Reynolds Cahoons, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, William D. Huntington

 

February-May 1843

Marries six women all of which sexuality is said to have occurred

-Starting in March, these men engage in plural marriage: Lorenzo Dow Young, Orson Pratt, Joseph Bates Noble, Orson Hyde, James Bird

 

June-August 1843

Parley Pratt, John Adams, William Felshaw, Amasa M. Lyman, Hyrum Smith

With the inclusion of Orson Hyde, the Pratt brothers, and Hyrum Smith, I conclude this to be a fulfillment of 2 Nephi 27:5…the eyes of the prophets and seers were covered due to the iniquity of the people.

 

August 12, 1843

Revelation on plural marriage given to High Council

Now, you that believe this revelation and go forth and obey the same shall be saved, and you that reject it shall be damned.”
-Hyrum Smith

 

September 20, 1843

Marries Malissa Lot – last sexual partner of Joseph Smith

Q. Were you married to my father?

A. Yes. …

Q. Was you a wife in very deed?

A. Yes.

Q. Why was there no increase, say in your case?

A. Through no fault of either of us, lack of proper conditions on my part probably, or it might be in the wisdom of the Almighty that we should have none. The Prophet was martyred nine months after our marriage.”

 

October 5, 1843

Joseph recorded by William Clayton saying:

No man shall have but one wife.”

After having sexual relations with Malissa Lot, I assume Joseph repented thereafter and realized the wrongfulness of polygamy, accepting himself to have been deceived in the manner. This is why evidence supports a conspiracy that Joseph fought polygamy and was wrongfully accused of being involved with its inception. He did in fact fight against it, but this occurred most heavily after Malissa Lot, during the last nine months of his life.

 

November 2, 1843

Marries Fanny Young, fifty-six-year-old sister to Brigham Young

John Taylor, Edwin D. Woolley, Erastus Snow, John D. Lee, Ezra T. Benson (who eventually replaces non-polygamist John E. Page) become polygamists; William Smith said to have become polygamist during Joseph’s lifetime

This final sealing of Joseph Smith suggests that Joseph may have continued to believe in the truthfulness of sealing arrangements. Perhaps his marriage to Brigham’s older, widowed, sister, was an attempt to promulgate his concept of eternal families in the which there is no license to have conjugal relations with multiple women. It is by this time that the Law of Adoption has been introduced, and sealings between men occur obviously with no sexual motivation to do so. Although it cannot be determined if sealings are to ever be an ordinance of the fulness of times, I imagine Joseph began by this point to correct course and return back to what he believed his original intention was: to create bonds between families and enjoin the Saints as one people through sacred covenants. Although Joseph was guilty of committing adultery with other women as part of his atonement offering, he recognized by this point that he had made a terrible mistake with his revelation on polygamy. The high leaders of the church, having entered into polygamy, had not yet began having children through their plural sealings to women—except, perhaps, Heber C. Kimball. This set the scene for what would occur after the death of Joseph Smith: the Saints could either accept Sidney Rigdon who could receive revelation and sort out the matter of polygamy, or they could choose the Quorum of Twelve and be delivered over to Satan. By choosing the leadership of the Twelve, polygamy would explode into an ordinance of higher exaltation and the church would remain rejected.

Brigham Young – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Willard Richards – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Orson Pratt – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Orson Hyde – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Parely Pratt – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Amasa Lyman – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

John Taylor – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

Ezra T. Benson – Bears polygamous children only after Joseph’s martyrdom

George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff – Marry and bear polygamous children after martyrdom

Lyman Wight – Marries and bears polygamous children after martyrdom as a member of the Quorum but excommunicated in 1848

By not heeding God’s anointed servant, Sidney Rigdon, the Saints rulers—from Brigham to Lyman—are covered by God as were the seers, Joseph and Hyrum. For not hearkening to God’s voice, they are all moved out of their place in Nauvoo as warned (D&C 124:45) and have remain ungathered for four generations, receiving the judgment of God upon their heads. (D&C 124:50-53)

 

February 1, 1844

Times and Season announcement:

As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.”
-Signed by Joseph and Hyrum

 

May 12, 1844

I had rather be a fallen true prophet, than a false prophet; when a man goes about prophesying and commands men to obey his teachings, he must be either a true or false prophet.”

Joseph Smith did not believe himself to be a false prophet because he did not command men to obey the plural marriage revelation he received, his brother Hyrum did. However, he realizes that he may have been a fallen true prophet.

 

May 21, 1844 

I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not. God judges men according to the use they make of the light which He gives them.”

In humility, Joseph accepts that he is not righteous. Considering the fact that he was given more light than any of they—to whom he was speaking—and committed a malignant sin against the wife of his youth, Joseph realizes that he is not as righteous as he wishes he could have been.

By this point, Joseph may have realized that his actions in Nauvoo were the result of the atonement statute he was called to participate in. I do not believe his May 21 statement was a reference to his Nauvoo actions, but to his sin of adultery committed in Kirtland with Fanny Alger.

 

May 26, 1844 

What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago. […] I am at all times willing to give up everything wrong, for I wish this people to have a virtuous leader.”

This is what Joseph attempted to do. He gave up the abounding and effortless opportunities to commit sin and stopped committing adultery. Although he lied and said he was innocent of the charges held against him, this may have been a genuine claim. Perhaps his repentance emboldened this, and he did feel innocent of his crimes by the point of this sermon.

 

June 1844

Hyrum tells the Nauvoo City Council that the revelation he had read to them a year earlier, “had no reference to the present time”

It appears that Hyrum realized that he too had been deceived. Like Joseph a month earlier, it does appear that Hyrum is lying in this instance. They both probably (albeit wrongfully) believed that lying was the only way to undo the damage they had been instruments in doing. Or perhaps it wasn’t a lie…perhaps the original revelation—the one that William Law says Section 132 does not accurately represent—was a revelation that did in fact constitute the law of polygny that existed within the law of Moses and carnal commandments.

 

April 6, 1844 

I feel in closer communion with God and better standing with God than ever I felt before in my life.”

Around this time, William Marks recants: “Joseph, however, became convinced before his death that he had done wrong; for about three weeks before his death, I met him one morning in the street, and he said to me, “Brother Marks… We are a ruined people.” I asked, how so? He said: “This doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife system, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived.”

 

April 7, 1844

The King Follet Sermon

I want your prayers and faith, the instruction of Almighty God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, that I may set forth things that are true and easily comprehended and that will carry the testimony to your hearts. Pray that the Lord may strengthen my lungs and stay the winds.”

I want you all to know God, to be familiar with him. And if I can bring you to him, all persecutions against me will cease.”

After studying all four accounts of the King Follet sermon, I have determined that Joseph did not teach false doctrine on this fateful day. I will not endeavor to explain what Joseph was trying to make clear. That Joseph’s words were misinterpreted to suggest God the Father had a God above him—or that God was once a fallible sinful man—is the result of an apostate people whose ears were not able to hear the truth. Joseph was not able to bring God to the people on April 7, 1844; and so persecutions against him did not cease. He fulfilled the atonement statute and died at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844.

I believe that Joseph went to his death, truly having, “a conscience void of offence towards God.” (D&C 135:4)

His attempt to teach truth unto the people during his King Follet sermon is the perfect representation of his entire ministry. Everything Joseph did those fourteen years was either rejected or misinterpreted.

*

You never knew my heart,” said Joseph, at the close of the Follet sermon. And he was right: those of that generation did not; and those who did at one point understand Joseph had their eyes covered by God due to the iniquity of the world.

But today stand a great many who do know Joseph’s heart.

We know he meant well—even if he did in fact make a serious mistake in Kirtland. We’ve studied God’s word and understand that Joseph’s life in Nauvoo does not actually represent the man himself. We know Joseph loved God and felt great sorrow for his sins, as we all have for our own.

I look forward to the day he ascends from spiritual prison with those he preached to therein—to be sanctified before all of the people. (D&C 115:19) We who wait and watch for these things have laid hold to every good thing, as Mormon directed us, and we are eternally grateful for the good things Joseph labored to bring us. The preparatory work he began in 1830 has not gone by in vain.

It proved to us that the holy scriptures are true; that God does inspire men and call them to work miracles among the children of men.

When I am called at the trump of the ark-angel, and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then.”

The world has mocked the work of God’s great prophet for four generations. Those claiming to succeed him have only further defamed his accomplishments by misconstruing his teachings and refusing to take his true revelations seriously.

Although Joseph may have at one point been a fallen prophet, he was always a true prophet. He did not fail; the people did.

I have attempted to organize an accurate timeline of what may have occurred during his ministry in respect to the folly of adultery which came among the Saints. The LDS church was infiltrated by the sins warned against by God, yet there’s no telling what really happened. All we know is that the words of God revealed through Joseph Smith in The Book of Mormon and 1844-Doctrine and Covenants are the greatest source of light and evidence of God’s hand in the world since the ministry of the Twelve, who were with Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.

I apologize if I have in any way misrepresented Joseph or the events of the trajectory of the restored church. The historical record is a messy one, and should not be relied upon. An understanding of Joseph Smith can be deepened by examining all historical pieces of evidence—but really, we’ll never quite know the truthfulness of these documents. All we can do is believe God’s word and receive the manifestation of the Spirit.

For now,” says Neil L. Anderson, “give Brother Joseph a break!”

Like him I know that “in a future day” we will have “one-hundred times more information” and this information will come “from our all-knowing Father in Heaven.”

Until that day, this is my best,

-G.azelem

 

7 replies »

  1. Enjoyed this post and the history you’ve researched. I’m very curious about your King Follett perspective. I wasn’t aware there were four version of it, so I’m now out looking for them. I’m going to try to study them from what you’ve hinted here as your perspective.

    It would be very interesting if Joseph didn’t ever teach in a plurality of gods. It would change some of my thinking.

    In doing some of my past research, I came upon the history of Lorenzo Snow’s famous couplet. He wrote it sometime around 1840. According to what I found, he showed it privately to Joseph Smith who proclaimed to Lorenzo that it was true doctrine.

    The way I see it is that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and God was using him to deliver the wayward Saints over to the idols in their hearts. The Saints wanted to believe in multiple gods, they wanted to believe God was changing and had once been a mortal man, they wanted to believe that they too could be exalted just as God is. To me, the King Follett discourse then fits into this narrative.

    The way you are saying it is that rather than Joseph teaching it, the Saints heard what they wanted to hear. I need to find those other accounts and go through the discourse again. If you do get a chance to expound on your views about the King Follett discourse, I’d be interested.

    Like

  2. Hey Mike, good to hear from you again.

    We have four substantial reports on the sermon, as well as a couple others. For your reference, the following link contains a break down of seven as they all coincide with a side-to-side comparison:

    http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1844/7Apr44.html

    I completely agree that a true prophet will answer the people according to the idols in their hearts.

    But what does this mean, exactly…

    Can I prophet straight out tell something untrue? Or do they teach truth and use the right phrasing of words to suggest in the minds of the hearer what they want to hear?

    Did Joseph Smith *know* that his words would be construed to suggest the opposite of what he thought he meant to say?

    When Lorenzo shared his couplet with Joseph, did Joseph say it was true doctrine not realizing what Lorenzo was really inferring? Because perhaps the prophet was saying, “Congrats, you get it! Jesus Christ, our God, was once man; and we may become like God, purified like Christ.”

    I used to think Joseph taught false doctrine on purpose, and that the King Follet Sermon was a deliberate choice to do so; or that he was corrupted and began teaching false doctrine without realizing it–yet these days I find it more compelling to reject these scenarios.

    Perhaps when Lorenzo approached Joseph with the couplet, Joseph said in his mind, “You’re gonna think I’m agreeing with you that God the Father was a man with a God above him–and that we will one day be a God to be worshiped in our own world–but really I’m agreeing with your statement as *I* see it, not the way *you* see it.”

    I think the real role of a true prophet who teaches those with idols in his hearts is to not teach false doctrine but to teach true doctrine while knowing (subconsciously or not) that this true doctrine will not be received correctly.

    It wasn’t what Joseph said, it was what he didn’t say. He didn’t preface or conclude the Follet sermon with a staunch warning that he wasn’t suggesting something contradicting the scriptures. He seemingly chose to not clarify.

    If Lorenzo didn’t have idols in his heart, Joseph might have have said, “You don’t mean to suggest God the Father was a mortal man who sinned like us do you? … You don’t? Okay, well in that case you are correct that Jesus is God and that we may be like him once we have been born of God and no longer sin.”

    I find it the most in harmony with my understanding of God to believe that a true prophet doesn’t need to outright speak false doctrine; he only needs to not speak out against heresy. That’s all it would take.

    Yet regardless, Joseph Smith was not commanded to teach, he was to reveal. So all his sermons represent his role as the prophet who, “speaks presumptuously.” (Deut 18) But did he really *directly* teach the people to go after other gods? Or did he just not speak in the name of God because he was not commanded by God to teach!?

    God told us that Joseph Smith was not to be mighty in speaking. (2 Nephi 3:17) This could have been because of an inherent lack of recognition that he needed to spell out his exact thoughts and straighten out any potential falsehoods that could become associated with his teachings. Is this why Joseph Smith was the prophet? Because he could accidentally popularize heresy and deliver the Saints over to Satan without Joseph himself ever knowing it?

    Or…was the King Follet sermon all but a carefully orchestrated opportunity for the people to either hear the truth or embrace false doctrine wrongfully through him due to a purposeful reluctance to not clarify?

    In other words, did Joseph know exactly what he was doing when he refused to stamp out the potential consequences of the deep doctrines he attempted to share? Did he know that God wanted him to allow his sermon to be transformed into the emerging blasphemies that pervaded the minds of his deluded people? Or did the Saints incessant expectation to hear from Joseph inevitably result in the failure of not bringing a knowledge of God to the people as he so desired?

    Lots of questions, and no way to know for sure. I recently spoke to my mother in regards to these things. She demanded me answer them conclusively; but in the end, the exact nature of how these things played out is irrelevant once when we determine that all of it is a result of not believing and submitting to what God reveals. Confusion is a result of not living the commandments, so it is fitting that the later years of Joseph’s ministry are not to be readily resolved. It’s confusing and contentious because it’s not of God.

    I find it valuable to not dwell on what is so confusing and focus on what is *not* confusing; namely, the commandments we are to live that we are to use as a standard for the dispensation of the gospel when the light shines.

    Thank you for the comment and allowing me to further develop what I insinuated in this article. It’s a difficult journey making sense of the oddities that arose in the histories of the church. It doesn’t seem like I’ll ever fully get what went on in the mind of Joseph Smith, but I know he brought forth the word of the Lord and I choose to dwell on what he revealed, rather than what he taught, or attempted to have taught, or erroneously taught.

    Again, the confusion didn’t come from God. It came from man, and ultimately through the adversary as God allows it to be so during times of hidden darkness.

    -G.azelem

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  3. I think confusion can come through God, when we don’t adhere to what He has told us. Take the example of the two prophets in 1 Kings:

    JST 1 Kings 13
    18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also, even as thou. And an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water, that I may prove him; and he lied not unto him.

    God sends two conflicting instructions to different people. To the first prophet He tells him to not eat bread or drink water and to no go back the same way. To the second prophet, He tells him to bring the first prophet back and to give him bread to eat and water to drink.

    The key to this conundrum is that God intends to prove the first prophet. God wants us to trust Him directly, to have direct communication with Him and to trust it. He does not want us to trust the words of another man. So God sets this up to have one set of instructions directly from God to the first prophet, and the second set of instructions delivered by a man, another prophet, through God.

    The test was if the first prophet would heed the words God gave him directly or if he would instead heed the words of another man, even though they also came through God.

    In Joseph Smiths’ time, God wanted the exact same thing, he wanted each person to directly communicate with Him and follow God. However, the people preferred a prophet instead of God. So why wouldn’t God then use that prophet to tell them the follies of their hearts (Ezekiel 14:4)? Just like he did in 1 Kings, God used a prophet to test His people, to see if they would listen to Him directly or instead would put their trust and faith in the arm of flesh.

    I did a quick review of the link to the King Follett discourse and I believe the evidence is quite strong that Joseph was teaching false doctrine there. One of the key falsehoods taught was that God once was a mortal who worked out HIs kingdom with “fear and trembling”. Four accounts confirm that language. Joseph is specifically speaking of The Father, in contrast to the Son. There’s no way of having this be Christ’s time on earth, nor is such language justified as applied to Christ. It diminishes God to something less than omnipotent, something that is not eternal and unchanging.

    I just can’t see any way to make this speech adhere to true doctrine. It fits much better into the case where God is proving His people to see if they will blindly follow the arm of flesh or if they will follow God.

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    • I agree with what you’re saying; I think I just approach it from another view.

      The things of God can *seem* confusing…but God isn’t. If we’re confused we’re not aware of what God is trying to do.

      The first prophet of Kings 13 was definitely confused–but he shouldn’t have been! It’s actually quite basic. When God commands you something, obey. If a prophet is told by God to tell you something contradictory, don’t listen. It’s a simple test. It doesn’t need to be considered confusing. The JST of Kings 13 is indispensable in this regard, because it proves the second prophet was legitimate. He didn’t lie.

      When God delivers things that people can’t understand or blinds people, the *why* of it does make sense. It’s only confusing to the blind who can’t imagine God having done that.

      That’s why I think it’s accurate to say that the things of God are not confusing. If we’re confused we’re not thinking the way God thinks. If we find God confusing we haven’t been illuminated by his Spirit.

      The restoration movement has confused me for years, but the confusion was not from God; it was from the traditions I inherited, (D&C 123:7) and my continuous attempt to try and blend this worldview with the word of God.

      If we had a blank state approaching scripture, we’d pick up the D&C and not be confused at all.

      We’d follow the narrative of Joseph Smith and the Saints and instantly realize that everything went downhill when the covenants were broken and take note that God ceased speaking to the Saints after warning to reject the church. It’s our biases that make it confusing when in actuality it’s not confusing at all.

      For a hypothetical example, imagine if someone had never encountered a mormon in their life…and yet they were intimately familiar with the same scriptures. They’d stand foot in a mormon church and be instantly flabbergasted by everything said and done.

      Reading and believing the word of God BEFORE assembling with a confused and deluded people would lead to no conundrum.

      This order of experience would allow for someone to easily determine a sensible explanation for everything seen and heard if they already possessed the truth.

      “Of course Joseph Smith stopped making sense after Section 124; they obviously didn’t build the house they were commanded to make. God left the people to their own devices and told Joseph to give off all sorts of red herrings. And why should I even care about the travelling twelve? They haven’t been given a large stamp of approval by the Lord. The apostles of Section 84, on the other hand, are a real example of priesthood leadership. Why would I live my life according to a church that followed the travelling twelve?”

      In a parallel world (like the one above) we wouldn’t even need to read Mormon history to understand this stuff. Extensive research and study is only serving to reverse the effects of indoctrination.

      If we weren’t influenced by a hundred variables every single day, nothing about God would be confusing.

      I hope that made sense; if not, I guess it was confusing and not inspired 😉

      And you just had to challenge my take on the King Follet sermon, didn’t you! You might be inspiring me to write a full post on this, to properly flesh out what I’ve alluded. I think I might have to one of these days.

      ..This reminds me of when I realized that Section 124 was speaking of the Nauvoo House and not the temple. It would have been easier for the narrative to have remained about the temple, but easier isn’t always better. The truth is what we’re looking for. And once we find the truth, nothing God has ever done will seem confusing.

      So even if it’s easier to say Joseph Smith flat-out taught false doctrine, I haven’t reached a point of perfect clarity on these matters, so I find value in considering an alternative view on what may have been said and done.

      -G

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  4. I agree with you and think you said it better than I did. We often get confused, though God isn’t.

    It’s really difficult to start with the blank slate and not allow the years of indoctrination to get in the way. Perhaps there is some way of viewing the King Follett sermon in a better light, though I think we can clearly see it as a basis of false belief in the church today. The question comes down to whether the people heard what they wanted to hear or if Joseph taught false doctrine.

    My position is that it doesn’t reduce Joseph’s prophetic calling or status if he did so. Moses is still a great prophet even though one could argue he taught false doctrine by asking the people to praise him for causing the water to flow from the rock. I would put Joseph in a similar category, and see the false teachings as a result of his eyes being covered.

    If you are able to complete you King Follett analysis, I would be interested in reading it.

    On an odd note, I was listening to Radio Free Mormon and he was going over the different accounts Joseph produced of the First Vision. To him, they are full of contradictions and support an argument that Joseph was making it up/changing the account. It occurred to me that if you overlay the timings of the different First Vision accounts, you can actually see how they apply to the fullness and loss of the fullness of the Gospel.

    In 1832, Joseph talks about seeing the Lord (singular) and of seeking forgiveness for his sins. This is when the fullness was on the earth, the Saints were given the opportunity to receive grace – the forgiveness of their sins. The singular vision of the Lord can be seen as an emphasis of the unity of the Father and the Son and the church being united with Them.

    In 1835, the vision is more about a quest to find the true church – and in fact the fullness had been lost. Joseph sees concourses of angels, he sees both personages of the Godhead, though not standing together. I see this as starting to see more of the distinction of the Father and the Son, as the church is walking away from the one true God. The concourses of angels, seems like the new focus on the gathering of Israel, the one thing that will save the church. Joseph introduces the sounds of something ominous stalking him in the forest, though he doesn’t see it. Isn’t this Satan getting ready to take hold of the Saints?

    In 1838, Joseph now sees both the Father and Son standing next to each other. That’s quite a distinct separation of Their unity. Perhaps indicating even further that the saints are failing to take advantage of the opportunity to repent. He is told again that none of the churches have the truth. No mention of sins being forgiven. This version also includes the overpowering of Joseph by darkness, the devil and the forces of evil before the pillar of light overcomes it. What a metaphor for what was happening/going to happen to the church!

    It’s probably just a half-baked idea, but I started to see the different accounts as really given to and pertaining to the church and saints at the time they were recorded. If I just used my logical brain, or just applied the years of indoctrination, I wouldn’t see it like that. I would probably be caught up in the variations and discrepancies like the Radio Free Mormon guy. But if I step back and look at what was really going on, each account seems to fit it’s time and tells a bigger story.

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    • Hey again!

      In regards to the first vision accounts, take a look at a post I did that will surely resonate with you…

      https://themarvelouswork.com/2017/03/16/why-mormons-dont-talk-about-jesus/

      *

      I spent about two hours trying to write a post that explained the King Follet Sermon and ultimately realized I was incapable of doing so. Either I’m dumb to think it doesn’t contain false doctrine or too dumb to articulate why I think it doesn’t. Down the road I will break it down nonetheless with no intention other than providing the most accurate representation of what was said–much like I did here with what I believe to be an accurate portrayal of Joseph’s stint with polygamy.

      In the meanwhile, I’d love to just point out to you the original epiphany I had as I read the King Follet Sermon back in April. I noticed just how LONG the sermon was. For such a blasphemous talk, I was surprised to realize the majority of it was teaching things such as, “The baptism of water with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it is necessary and inseparably connected.”

      For a talk that people claim Joseph Smith was teaching God was once a mortal man and that we will all be a God of our own world, I was surprised to see how little the sermon dwelt on those eyebrow-raising concepts. My thought was that if Joseph was really trying to teach a radically new concept on the nature of God, that would have been the whole point of the sermon, but the point of the sermon seemed directed elsewhere.

      -G.azelem

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  5. Thanks for the link. I remember reading your article before and really liked the way you explained how we, the LDS Jews, are only starting to believe in Christ. I hadn’t seen it that way before and it makes so much sense.

    I’ll have to re-read the sermon. I agree it wasn’t all about this new doctrine, but he does highlight that he’s going to be teaching something new and seems intent to prove he is still getting revelations. At least that’s my recollection of it. Regardless, it has been disastrous for the saints.

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