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Commendation and condemnation for John D. Lee

January 4, 2010

John D. Lee is one of the more interesting characters of LDS history.  To his detractors he was the malevolent leader of the Mountain Meadows Massacre; to his devotees he was nothing but a scapegoat vilified by Brigham Young, who excommunicated Lee for his management of the tragedy.  But Lee was a much more complex figure whose private life was as fascinating as his public persona.

The year Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in Carthage Illinois, a baby named Mary Ann was born to John and Marcy Williams.  The Williams had joined the LDS movement early in its history—most likely during the Nauvoo period.  They later joined the westward headed wagon trains to Utah.  They were not the most prominent of Mormon families, but Mary Ann would marry John D. Lee, one of the most prominent leaders of the early church.  Lee describes the event in his diary: “In 1856 I was married to my sixteenth wife, Mary Ann Williams.”  In total, Lee was married to 19 women but, as he explains, he viewed the total number as eighteen only.

The last wife I got was Ann Gorge.  Brigham Young gave her to me, and I was sealed to her in Salt Lake City by Heber C. Kimball.  This was my nineteenth, but, as I was married to old Mrs. Woolsey [his fifth wife] for her soul’s sake, and she was near 60 years old when I married her, I never considered her really as a wife.  True, I treated her well and gave her all the rights of marriage.  Still I never count her as one of my wives.  That is the reason that I claim only eighteen true wives.


Lee married Mrs. Woolsey because she was the mother of one of his other wives, nineteen year old Rachel and his future wife sixteen year old Emoline.  He held the sincere belief that a marriage sealing to a worthy man was necessary for celestial exaltation.  At the time of his marriage to Mrs. Woolsey and her older daughter Rachel, Lee was a young man of 32.  Yet, this marriage to “old Mrs. Woolsey” showed his desire to provide security for a widow.

His sixteenth wife, Mary Ann Williams, was at the opposite end of the spectrum.  She was born September 11, 1844 and was married and sealed to Lee in 1856.  Her descendants admit that this would have made her a very young bride at age 12 and question the reliability of her birth date.

Mary Ann was first mentioned in Lee’s diaries April 4, 1858, where she was named as one of two wives who accompanied him on a trip to Cedar City. This was rather peculiar, however, for at that date, she would have been only thirteen years of age, if she was in fact, born on the date given above. The 1860 census had her born two years earlier, in 1842. Her age was listed as eighteen years, so that if the 1842 year was used as her birth, in the 1858 entry, she would have been sixteen.

As is the case with census records, names, dates and ages are often in conflict with one another.  It is possible that Mary Ann was not born in 1844, but genealogical records indicate that her mother had a child in 1835, 1836, 1838, 1840, 1842, 1844, and 1846.  While they hold her 1844 birth date in suspicion due to her extremely young age at marriage, her descendants maintain use of the 1844 birth date.  We can only speculate at the reason she was listed as eighteen in the 1860 census.

Whatever marital conflicts arose between the young teenage bride and a man nearing his 50s came to a head in 1857—with both Mary Ann and John applying for Brigham Young’s assistance.  The conflict must have persisted to 1859 for that is when Lee acknowledged the incompatibility of their union.  Showing compassion upon Mary Ann, John is reported to have agreed to a separation.

“I told her that If [I] could not make her happy that she should have her liberty, and if there was any other man that she could be more happy with, to say so & I would use my endeavors to have her seald [sic] to that man.”

As it would turn out, there was such a person.  While Mary Ann viewed the older John D. Lee as a “father figure,” she had a much different perception of his eighteen year old son, John Alma.  As peculiar as the situation was, the senior Lee granted Mary Ann and his son their desire and on January 18, 1859 he held a large party at his own home where he performed their marriage ceremony himself.

Mary was still a very young woman at the time of her second marriage.  If her birth date is accurate, she would have separated from her first husband and married to her second at age 14.  But there is every indication that her marriage to John Alma was a happy one.  They raised a family of seven children together, the first one having been born just ten months after their wedding.

John Alma and Mary Ann died in 1881.  Although it was a premature death for them both, they lived long enough to witness the disgrace, excommunication, arrest, and murder conviction of their father and former husband.  John D. Lee was transported to the Mountain Meadows Massacre site in 1877 and was executed by firing squad.  He was the only man executed for the crime.

An honest person who approaches the darker past of LDS history has to deal with the strange conundrum of violence and lust in the leadership blended with great human compassion.  The same man who is held accountable for the slaughter of 120 men, women, and children also cared enough for an old widow needing celestial exaltation.  The same man who once married a pre-teen also allowed her the freedom to wed his own son.

Is John D. Lee the result of the restoration of God’s One True Church to the earth?  His story may be dismissed, but there are a multitude of other similar examples of extremely complicated marriage relationships and authoritarian civil control in the early LDS period.  Jesus gave the marks of a true Christian in his address to the disciples.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,

except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches:

He that abideth in me, and I in him,

the same bringeth forth much fruit:

for without me ye can do nothing ((John 15: 1, 4-5).

Was the fruit of the early LDS church a result of abiding in the Vine?  Is it wise to divorce the past and miss the events that are so disturbing to us today?

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2010 3:21 pm

    There is no such thing as monsters. People will always surprise you.

  2. faithoffathers permalink
    January 4, 2010 9:09 pm

    Judas was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Should we dismiss what Christ taught because Judas was an unloyal and conspiring wretch?

    How many Christians have done horrible things? Should the Christian faith be dismissed because a minority of supposed adherents demonstrate bad behavior?

    I suggest a more objective assessment of the “fruit of the early LDS church.”
    And a judgemental, arm-chair quarterback approach to a single man does not an objective assessment make.

    fof

  3. Stephanie permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:07 am

    Judas was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Should we dismiss what Christ taught because Judas was an unloyal and conspiring wretch?

    I guess it depends on how you see things. If there was evidence of collusion between the apostles in the betrayal of Christ that would be a different story. Sometimes I think that certain members of the LDS past have been vilified to such an extant that objectivity is really damaged. I don’t want to jump to conclusions about what YOU believe so I won’t presuppose your opinion about the relationship of Brigham Young / other LDS leaders to the Mountain Meadows massacre and teenage marriage. Perhaps you could share your opinion on this. Some people feel that the climate of the LDS leadership at the time contributed to the massacre. Maybe this isn’t your view. It sounds as though you think that John D. Lee was responsible, but then you also accuse me of being judgmental, so maybe you don’t think he was responsible.

    Interestingly, he was posthumously reinstated to the LDS church in the 1960s but I’m not sure what the factors were in that decision.

  4. January 5, 2010 4:25 am

    There’s an account of World War II where an American company had just finished a few really tough engagements with the Germans. The commander noticed that one of the soldiers had been pretty enthusiastic about his work of shooting German soldiers – a bit too much actually. He was also minorly wounded and needed to head back to HQ and get patched up.

    the commander told the soldier to escort a bunch of captured prisoners back and get himself looked after. “Yes sir!” said the soldier a little too enthusiastically for the commanders comfort. He also didn’t like the look in his eye.

    So he ordered the soldier to give him his ammo. Then he took one bullet and put it in the soldier’s gun. “You’ve got one round. You drop one of the prisoners, the rest will jump you.” Looking a lot more surly, the soldier marched off with the prisoners. The German officer who spoke English however, looked significantly more relieved.

    Stories like this happened all over the European and Pacific fronts. It wasn’t just Nazis shooting prisoners and committing crimes.

    Thing is, these were good men. But the dehumanizing terror of battle, and the deadening of emotion necessary to allow you to shoot a man did strange things to these guys. They were under a unique set of stresses, and living every day with a situation that was, let’s face it, completely unreasonable. Some of them went rather dark in combat. Many of them are considered heroes. And rightfully so.

    But we don’t know what those kind of stresses are like.

    And no one – NO ONE – here knows what the stresses on the early Mormon settlers were like.

    Stephanie, you try losing everything you have to bigoted mobs, not once, but three times, being driven out of your own country into a desolate wilderness where you lose half your friends and family to sickness. Then cutting out a life in a remote desert through back-breaking labor only to get word that they still won’t leave you alone – in fact, they’re sending an army to wipe you out for no better reason than religious bigotry.

    Then a company of the same population that killed your people, stole everything you had, and raped, plundered, and insulted wants to walk across your new home (accompanied by rumors that they killed your prophet and are poisoning your wells).

    Would you be much inclined to draw fine civilized distinctions at that point?

    The real miracle of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is that the entire train wasn’t instantly hung in the Salt Lake City square. If it had been ANY group but the Mormons in 1800s America, I can guarantee you, they wouldn’t have survived long enough to head south.

    I don’t condone the massacre. But I don’t throw condemnations around either about people that honestly, you and I don’t know squat about.

  5. Stephanie permalink
    January 5, 2010 5:40 am

    Seth,

    I’ve read a lot of WWII memoirs and agree with you about war crimes and the horrific cost of war at the human level. I’m having a little bit of difficulty comparing a religious movement to a World War. To me a better comparison would be an analogy to the Puritans or Pilgrims who both came to the U.S. to for a chance at religious freedom. One only needs to take a very cursory glance at the Puritans to see red flags all over the place. To me they are similar in their desire to have a church-run state. I just watched a documentary on the Salem Witch trials and was really struck by how profoundly their legal decisions were impacted by their theology. Similar arguments used for the early Mormons would apply to an even greater degree to the Puritans. After all, they had experienced extreme hardship, were extremely pious, worked extremely hard. Yet, these are never given as causes for the Salem Witch fiasco. Instead historians typically point to the Puritan’s theology and theocracy. And nobody cries foul. Why can’t we point to the theology and leadership of the early LDS church as a cause of some of the fiascoes? Instead of having this as an option, outsiders are labeled “judgmental” and “condemning people we don’t know squat about.” Honestly, I know a lot more about Brigham Young and Joseph Smith than I do about Reverend Parris and Cotton Mather. What amount of information is required for me to be able to have an opinion about them?

  6. faithoffathers permalink
    January 5, 2010 7:17 pm

    Stephanie,

    Brigham’s message to the local mormon leadership regarding the immigrant parties was:

    ““In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements, we must not interfere with them untill they are first notified to keep away. You must not meddle with them. The Indians we expect will do as they please but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of[.] [I]f those who are there will leave let them go in peace. While we should be on the alert, on hand and always ready we should also possess ourselves in patience, preserving ourselves and property ever remembering that God rules.”

    This message was dated September 10th, but arrived 3 days after it was penned. Unfortunately, the massacre occured on September 11th, two days before the message from Brigham Young arrived. The Sep. 2007 Ensign includes an article which I suggest for reading.

    I agree with Seth that it is our tendancy to look back and judge others without the slightest ability to do so. His point is very appropriate. Those people had experiences and fears and stresses that we cannot understand or appreciate. I think the same could be said of almost any group of people, not just this group of mormons.

    To accept human failings as conclusive proof against a religion or doctrine is naive at best. Consider the attrocities that have been perpetrated in the name of Christ over the last 2000 years. (I am not one who claims religion in general has been a bad influence- I believe the opposite is true). You obviously do not dismiss Christ’s teachings or His gospel based on those events or people.

    While the ability to discern in our search for truth is given to us all, we are commanded by Christ not to judge unrighteously. Thank goodness God sees and knows the heart of every person and is in a position to judge us all.

    I simply disagree with your analysis and conclusions. I am not in a position to conclude what level of responsibility falls on Lee’s shoulders or on the climate that resulted from so much prior persecuation. It was a heinous event- something no member of the church would defend. But I think God is the only one to hand out judgements in these awful situations.

    fof

  7. Stephanie permalink
    January 5, 2010 10:04 pm

    fof,

    I think I understand the points you are making. Essentially you are asking people to reserve judgment on the actions of others. That the unrighteous deeds of some don’t cast light upon an entire group of people. Based upon your statements I think you hold the position that John D. Lee was accountable for the massacre, and not the culture of the LDS leadership.

    Consider the attrocities that have been perpetrated in the name of Christ over the last 2000 years. (I am not one who claims religion in general has been a bad influence- I believe the opposite is true). You obviously do not dismiss Christ’s teachings or His gospel based on those events or people.

    I certainly don’t hold Christ responsible for the immoral acts of people claiming His name. Mormons are among those who claim the name of Christ. I don’t place any blame on Christ for the Mountain Meadows massacre, the Crusades, the Salem Witch trials, the Branch Davidian compound, or the mass suicides in Guyana.

    I believe freedom of religion only extends to a certain point. Once the law is broken that liberty is relinquished. Historically the LDS left Illinois to protect their decision to practice bigamy. It was on the way out west that the massacre occurred. I disagree with your “hands off” approach to history. Not only do we as humans have a right to pass judgment on civil matters, we have been commanded to follow the law. I highly doubt that a similar, non-Mormon incident would induce you to have such a non-judgmental response. Are you unable to have an opinion about the Salem Witch trials? What about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple? Do you not have an opinion about the Crusades? If you give an opinion would a Catholic jump all over you for being judgmental? I don’t think anyone would look at these historical events and categorize them as a result of “fears and stresses.” Catastrophic events such as these are not random acts and I find it somewhat closed minded to view them that way.

    I agree with you that only God can hand out judgment, but we as Christians should be always seeking to discern between good and evil. Your church is not immune from this. At every TR interview the bishop asks a series of questions to see whether or not your life reflects your beliefs. Would you condemn a bishop for being “judgmental” if he inquired a little bit into your affairs? No. He is trying to see whether or not you are worthy to enter the temple. This isn’t being judgmental, its just being honest about the facts.

    Stephanie

    P.S. I hope you enjoyed the Fiesta Bowl as much as I did last night. What a great game!

  8. January 6, 2010 12:58 am

    I don’t consider the religious beliefs to be the primary motive behind the witch trials.

    Likewise, no one bags on the Native Americans for the atrocities they committed either during the 1800s.

  9. January 6, 2010 1:00 am

    In essence, Mormons are America’s whipping boy for a variety of things.

    End of story.

  10. January 6, 2010 1:20 am

    First of all, I’m sorry if I’ve sounded accusatory or have come across too strong. I understand what a difficult thing this is to discuss. When I watched September Dawn a couple years ago I was horrified and disgusted and the film left a really bad taste in my mouth. I felt that the filmmakers really had an agenda that they were trying to push across–basically placing all the blame on Brigham Young. Historically speaking the film left a lot to be desired. I really hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt that I don’t share that viewpoint at all. My Mormon ancestors were coming across the U.S. during that same time period. It could very easily have been them participating in the massacre.

    The second thing that I want to point out is that these discussion often lose a sense of objectivity. For example, your perception is that the Mormons are a whipping boy. But this is nothing but a victim mentality and is not very accurate when, in this case, the Mormons were the perpetrators and not the victims.

    And, again, I don’t see how the American Indians are at all similar to a religious movement. They were at war with the American settlers and there were many lost on both sides of the battlefield.

    I’m interested in your statements about the witch trials not being religiously motivated. The very name itself, witch trials, speaks to their belief in witches. There would be no witch trials if they didn’t believe in witches. This was a central belief to the Puritans who saw Satan as an active member of the unseen world. They believed that women were lustful by nature, a condition that made them especially susceptible to making a pact with the devil. Notice that it was primarily women who were the accused. Other causes that most likely influenced the trials were political, financial and cultural. But I don’t know anyone who would write a book on the Salem witch trials that would overlook the Puritan’s extreme Calvinism and beliefs in the supernatural world. Those beliefs are the foundation for the witch hunts.

  11. January 6, 2010 5:19 am

    We Mormons were “at war” with the rest of the nation. We already HAD taken casualties.

    How easily people forget this.

    We were about to be annihilated for all we knew. I don’t think you appreciate the atmosphere of utter panic that was in Utah at that time. We had just been violently driven out of numerous homes, murdered, stolen from, and generally abused.

    Then the US government sent a freaking army out to get us. Presumably to wipe us out. We were scared stiff.

    That said, I understand that you are presenting a much more nuanced view of the situation here Stephanie, than what I’m railing against. I’m just generally irritated that this incident is used as a convenient club against Mormonism so often.

    And I do appreciate the distancing from September Dawn.

    To watch that movie, you’d think that Brigham Young was like some crazy hermit in a horror film who sits in his cabin mumbling and then randomly terrorizes a pair of unsuspecting photogenic young suburban campers.

  12. The Red Dart permalink
    January 6, 2010 4:09 pm

    Stephanie, have you read this book already? Or has anyone else here?

    http://www.amazon.com/Massacre-Mountain-Meadows-Ronald-Walker/dp/0195160347/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262794096&sr=8-1

  13. January 6, 2010 10:14 pm

    No I haven’t. Have you read it?

  14. The Red Dart permalink
    January 7, 2010 5:18 am

    No, but it seems like an important book on the subject.

  15. January 11, 2010 2:53 am

    TRD,

    One of the authors of this book gave a talk at the 2007 FAIR conference. If you want to see it here is the link. He talks some about the massacre but mostly addresses the reasons why it occurred in comparison to other mass killings. He isn’t a great speaker but it is worth watching if you are interested in the topic.

    Stephanie

  16. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:56 am

    “Fruits” are a fickle thing. Be careful though, trying to convince Mormons that the LDS Church is false by pointing out the “evils” of Mormon living is a fool’s errand. Not to sound haughty, but I think most Latter-day Saints would consider their faith and culture more conducive to good “fruits” these days than other Christian faiths. In spite of the endless drone of critics who attack the historical method Mormonism, we are very proud of the product.

    Stick with the stock lateral anti-Mormon assaults. They are more mysterious and cause the squemish Mormons who don’t “get it” (a covenant society) to wring their hands.

    Sure sure, Evangelicals are zealous and very good “Christians,” but it is not the same. I realize Mormonism is not for everyone. That’s cool.

    I know this is all my opinion, but Mormons have a pretty good case for the good life (when the faith is followed, unlike John Lee). Trust me, sure we’re biased, but truly most Mormons like myself look out into a scary world spinning out of control and find no fixed spot. Isolated Protestant life rafts where everyone goes it on their own, or in disjointed groups is not appealing. That is not Israel.

    The LDS faith will continue to appeal if for nothing else on this principle of Zion and that is the binding factor in LDS life. No other faith has a healthier formula for internalizing the precepts where the rubber meets the road day to day. There is nothing like it in the world, certainly not in Protestant Christianity which is now facing a crisis of creeping ambivilence. No disrespect, but the Bill Maher’s of the world are winning. Handily.

    So my advice as a Latter-day Saint is not to use the “fruits” argument. Frankly, it rings hollow. Stick with Joseph’s rascality or Brigham’s obscure 1870’s rants, that will make those LDS kids feel stupid for sure.

  17. January 12, 2010 8:58 pm

    Not to sound haughty, but I think most Latter-day Saints would consider their faith and culture more conducive to good “fruits” these days than other Christian faiths. In spite of the endless drone of critics who attack the historical method Mormonism, we are very proud of the product.

    Ethan,

    Can you please show me the specific ways that LDS are superior in their fruits to other Christians that you know? I’d hate for this to get into a debate of “My dad’s bigger than your dad.”

    Stephanie

  18. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:31 pm

    Steph:

    I warned that it was my (informed) opinion. I know that sounds harsh. I don’t want to take anything away from Protestant living. I just believe anyone in LDS culture who is truly striving to live up to the temple covenants made with God in a family/social setting have a unique experience compared with other faiths.

    Again, all Christianity is marvelous. I just think there are some intangibles that Mormonsim brings. It has everything to do with the Zion concept which is unique to us. Prop 8 was just a layer of that. Most Christian leaders were waning until the LDS Church unleashed its organizational prowess. And we are taking the heat thank you very much!

    Bottom line: If there were a real melt down in society (maybe current conditions in the world are closer than we think) I want to be in Zion. I truly believe it is organized in an almost governmental way that can get things done and mobilize during tough times. I just find it safer.

    I haven’t mentioned the “lifestyle” elements. Mormons are just very good people. When I walk past Bill McKeever’s troupe or the protesters at General Conference I would not want to be in their camp. It seems almost hellish to me. I like the society of the Saints.

  19. January 13, 2010 12:08 am

    Ethan,

    I understand what you are saying, but these are facts that any cultural or religious group could claim. Just because something feels “right” to you doesn’t mean it feels right to someone else. Once I was in temple square while some event was going on in the convention center (I’m not sure if that is what the building is called, and no, I wasn’t dressed as one of Joseph’s plural wives). As I watched the masses walk into the building it looked completely surreal to me. I could not relate to the people walking into the building. They all looked the same–every man was in a suit with a white shirt and tie, every woman was in a dress. You might have felt completely at home in such a group. I did not feel at home. How we feel really means nothing.

    Stephanie

  20. January 13, 2010 12:12 am

    I need to clarify what I meant by saying that our feelings mean nothing. Our feelings are important, but they can’t be used as evidence against another religion. I can’t say that Mormonism is wrong because Evangelical Christianity feels right to me. You can’t say that the fruits of Mormonism are better than the fruits of traditional Christianity because you feel like they are. I feel like they aren’t! Now we are back to “my dad is bigger than your dad!”

  21. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:59 am

    Perhaps that may be so. However, the fact remains that most active LDS feel a deep, almost ethnic bond with the faith, culture and identity that allows them to recognize the marvelous fruits which come from being LDS.

    In that light we are back to my original comment, namely that I don’t believe you will win many LDS hearts by pointing out deeds or “fruits” (Mountain Meadows) of Mormonism that you hope will undermine the faith. We are proud of our product and lifestyle and the effect it has on shaping our character. Even though it’s not for everyone, the fact is most Mormons see the fruits as offering more.

  22. January 13, 2010 1:14 am

    I can see what you are saying, Ethan. There have been times in Church during worship that I feel so bonded to the body of Christ. I’ve had almost ethereal experiences in this way–feeling myself connected to those around me and those who have gone on before. This is a beautiful experience. Do I see fruits in Christians around me? Absolutely. I’ve seen people freed from addictions, I know people who have been miraculously cured, I see it in the way people give their time and money, in their study of the Word. Bible colleges and seminaries all across the country and the world are an example of how much Christians want to know God and to know His Word. Missions work has encompassed the globe and new people groups are being reached all the time. The church has spread even in countries that are hostile to Christianity–including a booming surge of Christianity in China. Missions work now focuses on training locals to evangelize. Organizations like Gospel for Asia are able to use native missionaries to preach the gospel in countries that are almost completely non-Christian. Driving through any town you can find a local mission that reaches out to the homeless–regardless of their faith background. When I think of fruit, I think of it both personally (how I feel and how I’ve grown in Christ since I’ve been saved) and corporately.

    Stephanie

  23. January 13, 2010 2:42 am

    Isolated Protestant life rafts where everyone goes it on their own, or in disjointed groups is not appealing.

    Ethan,

    I just wanted to share with you from my “insider” perspective of Protestant Christianity because the way you describe it indicates to me that you do not have very much experience with or understanding of our culture. Sure, we have some disjointedness, but I just thought you might like to hear how I have experienced this world as a non-denominational participant in multi-denominational Christianity. I wrote a blog post about it awhile back if you are interested.

    https://ilovemormons.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/reflections-on-my-experiences-in-multicultural-christianity/

    God bless,

    Jessica

  24. January 13, 2010 5:53 am

    You do have to admit however, it had quite the catchy ring to it.

    “Protestant life rafts”….

    That’s a great slogan, actually.

    Too bad I can’t use it, or Jack will throw something at me. And I’m trying to reform.

  25. January 13, 2010 6:26 am

    You?! Trying to reform?

    No wonder you’ve been so dull lately.

    As far as life rafts go, better to be on the life raft than on the LDS RMS Titanic.

  26. January 13, 2010 7:25 am

    No, that’s the Roman Catholic Church.

    The LDS Church offers the reliable safety of well-run (if slightly cramped) enemy U-boats.

  27. Al Griswold permalink
    January 23, 2010 2:09 am

    I wonder why Evangelicals take so much time to scour through Mormon history and have such zeal in broadcasting all our warts and defects. Bottom line….those are NOT fruits of the Spirit or what a true Christian should be doing. These are actions inspired by the devil who is full of condemnation and contention. I joined the LDS Church because I saw what the Evangelical world was all about. They claim they love their neighbors and even this site is named “I Love Mormons.” Yet I would bet not too many Mormons are feeling the love after the bilge that goes on on this site. Maybe if you took more time sticking your heads in your Bible to learn just what the Savior taught about love instead sticking you nose in the history and beliefs of your neighbor you might have more time to cultivate a more Christlike site…i.e. “fruits.”

  28. January 23, 2010 4:48 am

    Hi Al,

    Welcome! First of all, I would like to apologize for any miscommunication that may have occurred here. Topics such as these are inevitably difficult to address from either perspective. I acknowledge my own bias and recognize that none of us are truly able to approach history without a tainted framework of our own belief set.

    While I don’t know your own personal history with Christianity and Mormonism, I have encountered quite the opposite experience from what you are describing. I suppose this is why we see things differently. Let me explain. I began studying Mormonism as a result of moving into an area heavily populated by LDS. At first I was a little taken aback by some of the comments by my LDS acquaintances. I couldn’t believe the comment that one of them made — right in front of me — about a particular Evangelical church in our area not being “True.” Since I had little experience with LDS up to that point I didn’t understand the context from which she was speaking. Another LDS friend had to explain what she meant — that only the LDS church is the True Church.

    It was only after researching LDS materials that I came to realize that one of the very foundations of Mormonism is the belief that all the other Christian denominations are incorrect. Some try to phrase this softly by saying that they do have some good but they don’t have the “fulness of the gospel.” Others are much more blatant in describing the problem. Joseph Smith’s own testimony includes God as saying this about other churches:

    I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

    Any serious reading on the topic of the alleged Great Apostasy from the LDS perspective will show a tremendous onslaught of attacks towards the early Christians and the early church. I have to admit to being shocked at the portrayal of the early church from the LDS viewpoint.

    I totally get what you are saying about sticking to the Bible and loving other people. Again, I’m truly sorry if this came across as unloving. That is the last thing in the world that I want to portray to you or anyone else. While the Bible speaks of love, it also warns about false teachers and false prophets that will deceive Christians (2 Pet. 2:1-3; Matt. 24:23-27). How do you determine who is a false teacher or a false prophet?

    Stephanie

  29. January 23, 2010 5:39 am

    I wonder why Evangelicals take so much time to scour through Mormon history and have such zeal in broadcasting all our warts and defects.

    Because evangelicals think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not “the only true and living church” on the face of the earth, and some evangelicals believe that exposing the historical warts and defects will help Latter-day Saints to see that and come out of the church. It will also warn other Christians to stay away, and let’s face it, Mormonism pulls more of its converts from traditional Christian faiths than anywhere else. You’re the ultimate sheep-stealers. So the desire to look out for our own is part of it.

    Besides, Mormon apologists and scholars have been pouring through our history and broadcasting our “warts and defects” for ages now. See How Greek Philosophy Corrupted the Christian Concept of God by Richard Hopkins for an example.

    I joined the LDS Church because I saw what the Evangelical world was all about.

    That’s the biggest non sequitur I’ve ever heard. Poor behavior on the part of one religious group convinced you of the truthfulness of the claims of another religious group? Or did you just sign up so that you could “stick it” to the evangelicals you disliked so much?

    Either way sounds like a terrible reason to join any religion.

  30. Al Griswold permalink
    January 23, 2010 7:29 am

    Stephanie,
    I happen to know other Christian groups have truth statements so I don’t know why that would brother you so much. And there are Evangelical that don’t even believe that Catholics are Christians. So you might want to skip the caracature of how shocked you were that Mormons have a truth statement. (gasp)
    It really too bad that you did not quote more of what Joseph Smith said because the same state of affairs of the Churches then are the same today and you just proved it.

    Here let me add to Joseph Smith’s own testimony, the link can be found in your post:

    5 Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.
    6 For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.
    7 I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.
    8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.
    9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.
    10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
    11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

    And as far as what the LDS Church has written on the Great Apostasy doesn’t hold a candle to all the polemics that have been written the last 500 by Protestant faiths against the Catholic Church and how they are the whore of Babylon. So anything that you can say against the Mormon Church such as:

    “While the Bible speaks of love, it also warns about false teachers and false prophets that will deceive Christians (2 Pet. 2:1-3; Matt. 24:23-27). How do you determine who is a false teacher or a false prophet?”

    Remember….those same polemics can be turned on you and your beliefs and probably have been at some point in history….my….how soon ones forget. You ought to go back to your own history and take some lessons. Because to tell you the truth…I’m not feeling the love. You might want to change your title.

    Oh…and BTW….I’ve lived in non-Mormon cultures as a Mormon and got worse treatment than what you described….just imagine what they said about Mormons.

    Ardith Leann

  31. Al Griswold permalink
    January 23, 2010 8:19 am

    Ms. Bridget Jack Meyers,
    I remember you from a post on “Divide? not so much” and it seems that you are now talking out of both sides of your mouth. On one hand you snuggle up to Mormons and tell them what you think they want to hear and then behind their backs you show your real colors.

    Funny…in your article you didn’t claim all of this that Mormons need to come out of their religion because they are so wrong. But I guess the “Boundary Maintenance” role you have taken on you are going to make sure there is no more “sheep stealing” if you have anything to say about it. I bet the Catholics felt the same way about you guys several hundred years ago. So our apologist and scholars of just over a 100 years have nothing on you guys. Protestants is the applicable name….because ones like you sure like to protest.

    By the way…did you hear about the new video put out by Evangelicals about witnessing to Mormons. They have found out that Mormons are different as they know the scriptures the usual methods have not worked. They say past tactics may fill the pews and energize the Evangelicals, but they are not the best tools for ministering to Mormons. Saw it being discussed on another LDS forum. At least they are finally realizing that demeaning someone’s sacred beliefs or digging up warts and defects in their history isn’t a good way to make friends or influence them. Unfortunately, the only model they’ve seen is combative.
    As one LDS poster said:
    I found this comment at the beginning of the video very interesting.
    QUOTE
    Traditionally, Christian Churches were Anti-LDS instead of being pro-truth. A new policy that went out…no more bashing.
    CLOSED QUOTE
    I have often observed that traditional Christians…especially some Evangelicals…have an attack mentality. Rather than witness what they believe (pro-truth) they are anti other religions. Mormonism is just one of their targets.
    It has been my opinion that this has a lot to do with a lack of confidence that the affirmative (pro-truth) message is too weak to convert Mormons. Thus, the usual approach is to attack and destroy a Mormon’s belief and then attempting to fill the vacuum with traditional Christian views.
    The video feels like a long line of Evangelical declarations regarding ‘loving’ Mormons. Most of those so called “loving” attempts were really covers for the usual old attack witnessing.
    It will be interesting to see how this concept rolls out.

    Just so you know….I didn’t join the Mormon Church because of poor behavior on the part of one religious group convinced me of the truthfulness of the claims. But I can say that after converting I could sure tell the difference in how each one conducts themselves on the whole. Mormons witness what they believe, you might try it some time. I haven’t a clue what Christian sect you or the others belong to but I guess even if you are not the same sect the motto goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” So I guess it okay for all the different Christian sects to gang up on Mormons in your view because we do what the Savior taught to do….go two by two to spread “HIS Gospel” not the warts and defects of our neighbors. That’s what pro-truth is….preaching his Gospel not some other gospel of hate, discontent and fear to keep others away them you.

  32. January 23, 2010 3:45 pm

    Al Griswold ~ it seems that you are now talking out of both sides of your mouth.

    Show me where anything I have said here contradicts anything I wrote at T&S. I merely explained to you why a site like this would exist. It’s not my preferred method of interacting with Mormons, but I’m not horribly opposed to it either.

    On one hand you snuggle up to Mormons and tell them what you think they want to hear and then behind their backs you show your real colors.

    Please. If I really wanted to diss you guys “behind [your] backs,” I wouldn’t post everywhere under my real name. I specifically chose to post under my real name EVERYWHERE that I post because I want my interactions on the Internet to be an open book.

    in your article you didn’t claim all of this that Mormons need to come out of their religion because they are so wrong.

    I didn’t claim that here, either.

    But I guess the “Boundary Maintenance” role you have taken on you are going to make sure there is no more “sheep stealing” if you have anything to say about it.

    How did you arrive at this conclusion? See my first paragraph in this comment. I think your over-the-top reaction to this site reveals a serious lack of self-awareness concerning how the LDS church does treat and has treated the rest of the Christian world.

    I bet the Catholics felt the same way about you guys several hundred years ago.

    I’ll bet that they did. I’ll also bet that the Protestants didn’t do a lot of whining and crying about the hostile reactions they got from Catholics after they’d denounced them as apostate and corrupt. They knew they’d declared theological war and they took what they got.

    They did get upset about the physical persecution, executions and torture, but that’s another story.

    Protestants is the applicable name….because ones like you sure like to protest.

    LOL. Is that supposed to be a clever put-down? That’s almost as good as the one about how the Pharisees weren’t “fair-you-see.” Ha-ha.

    By the way…did you hear about the new video put out by Evangelicals about witnessing to Mormons.

    Nope. Haven’t heard a thing about it. What video was this and who was it by? Is it the video series being done by the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies?

    At least they are finally realizing that demeaning someone’s sacred beliefs or digging up warts and defects in their history isn’t a good way to make friends or influence them.

    Good for them. Your own church realized this c. 1990 when they stopped using the temple ceremony to bash the rest of the Christian world, particularly Protestants. I’m glad progress is being made on both sides.

    I didn’t join the Mormon Church because of poor behavior on the part of one religious group convinced me of the truthfulness of the claims.

    Which isn’t what you said in your first comment, but I’m glad you’ve reversed your incoherent position.

    I haven’t a clue what Christian sect you or the others belong to

    Doesn’t sound like you care, either. But for your information, I recently joined the Evangelical Covenant Church.

    But I can say that after converting I could sure tell the difference in how each one conducts themselves on the whole. Mormons witness what they believe, you might try it some time.

    You mean like this blog post I did a few days ago explaining the issue of “why I am not Mormon” where I specifically rejected the practice of listing the LDS church’s warts and instead spoke about the positive things I love in my faith?

    Thanks for your concern, but I think I’ve got it covered.

    So I guess it okay for all the different Christian sects to gang up on Mormons in your view because we do what the Savior taught to do

    It’s okay for evangelical Christians to create a unified response to Mormons because Mormonism denounces the entirety of the non-LDS Christian world, and if you understood evangelical theology as it pertains to the Body of Christ, you would never express shock that the different Protestant sects would work together on something. I don’t agree with the method many evangelicals choose for interacting with Mormons, but I understand why sites like this exist, and I’m not opposed to that.

  33. January 23, 2010 7:08 pm

    Ardith,

    I’m sorry to have called you “Al” in my first response! I didn’t realize “AL” were initials and not your first name. 🙂

    I noticed that you didn’t answer my question. Do you mind thinking it over and giving me a response? I’ll repost it here. “How do you determine who is a false teacher or a false prophet?”

    One of the perceptions of non-Mormons is that LDS do not study their own history. There are many scholarly LDS who write and research LDS history, but most of the laypeople do not. Even basic historical facts have been washed from official LDS sources. If you don’t believe this, try to find any information on Joseph Smith’s polygamy at lds.org. You will find no information. It is as though it never happened.

    I believe that honest seekers should always examine history. Thank you for posting more of Joseph Smith’s testimony. Have you ever examined the historical context of that testimony? Mormon writers from mormonthink.com have researched the area where Joseph Smith lived and have come to the conclusion that many other scholars have. There was no religious tumult in the area at that time. His testimony makes no sense in the historical context of the time.

    There should be no fear in looking at the past. I asked in the original post, “Is it wise to divorce the past and miss the events that are so disturbing to us today?” While you criticized the approach and Evangelicals in general, you have not interacted with the contents of the original post at all.

    Stephanie

  34. January 24, 2010 1:41 am

    I try to avoid snuggling Jack.

    I leave that to other Mormons.

  35. January 24, 2010 2:46 am

    Snuggling Mormons?! Where do people get these crazy ideas . . .

    Oh, wait.

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