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What happened to the British Mormons?

January 10, 2010

During the early polygamist period of Nauvoo, members of the Church were strictly secretive about the practice of plural marriage.  Although Joseph Smith himself was married to more than 30 women, Emma would adamantly deny that he ever started the principle of celestial marriage.  But the reality was that her relief society friends and acquaintances had been engaging in plural marriage to her husband for years in front of her face and behind her back.  No doubt most of the prominent members of Nauvoo would have been aware of the practice, even as they continued to deny it to outsiders.  George D. Smith articulates the problem in his book Nauvoo Polygamy.

Even pioneer families in Utah looked back on the Nauvoo period with a degree of confusion, unable to state with precision “some cause or other” for their expulsion.  Nevertheless, if one had asked what people knew about plural marriage from 1846 on, almost all Mormons who had been in Nauvoo would have known about it, even while they continued to deny it to “gentiles.”  European Mormons were a different matter.  They would have scarcely believed the rumors (2008, p. 444).

Mormon missionaries had been sent across the Atlantic as early as 1837 and had started a growing work in England.  In fact, according to Church records, 100,000 converts emigrated to Utah prior to the turn of the twentieth century.  British emigrants made up almost half of the population of Utah by 1870.

Unlike the Saints in Nauvoo who, if not aware of all the details of celestial marriage had at least been subject to rumors, the British members were completely out of the loop.  When the LDS church finally proclaimed the doctrine of plural marriage from the pulpit, they also sent a polygamy mission to England to inform the Church there of the revelation.  William Clayton received the unenviable commission for this task and discovered that the doctrine was fiercely unpopular across the pond.

Baptismal rates declined 88 percent and over fifteen-thousand members were purged from the church rolls from 1853 to 1859.  Clayton told Young that his “unfortunate mission of 1852-3” was the “most unpleasant and bitterest period of my life.”  His discussion of plural marriage was at once turned into a charge of having had “unlawful intercourse with women” (Smith, 2008, p. 445).

Although the numbers are surprising, the British response may be normal for Victorian England.  But that does little to explain the reaction of staunchly religious Americans who were descendants of Pilgrims and Puritans.  In fact, the very reason that Joseph Smith was imprisoned in the first place has everything to do with society’s perception of polygamy.  What caused the Nauvoo LDS to accept a doctrine that caused baptismal numbers to free-fall in England?  Is there a difference in the way polygamy was “eased in” to the American Church that made it appear so benign to the members?  It started with the leader, who then passed it along to close personal friends.  One by one certain women began to be inducted into the principle.  Rumors filtered out which were at first squashed and later acknowledged.  The British Mormons would not have had this background, nor the culture and leadership of Nauvoo.  Does this make them more objective at dealing with the polygamy revelation?  After all, they had accepted LDS doctrine up to that point.  Did they simply lack the faith to initiate the next step of their commitment?  Or was it the Nauvoo Mormons who were wrong in their acceptance of this doctrine?

66 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2010 6:41 pm

    I have often thought of the women & men who converted to Mormonism in England during this time period , when plural marriage was not openly taught and preached. What was their reaction when they arrived? How did the women react when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after leaving family & friends in England and risking their lives to cross the plains, only to find themselves with plural marriage? I can only imagine the shock, the deep shock and discouragement they must have faced.


  2. January 11, 2010 8:15 pm

    Just think gloria how converts to Judaism felt when they found out they had to have their foreskins removed. Or how people investigating Christianity felt about following a God so disgraceful that he died on a cross like a filthy criminal.

    The vast majority of people in Utah didn’t practice polygamy. Never more than 10% at any one time. So it’s not like you had to if you didn’t want to. My family history has plenty of instances of women turning down offers.

    And, when you compare the alternative of living in Dickens’ England, it was a vast improvement in many ways. The 1800s were a nasty time to not be rich in England.

    So somehow, I think they got over it.

  3. January 11, 2010 11:42 pm

    What a helpful and thoughtful blog post. I hadn’t thought of it from this perspective. It certainly throws some light on the fact that, not only was this done in secret and lied about, but they were coy about who among the Mormons knew about it.

  4. January 12, 2010 1:55 am

    And they refused to bathe Mike.

    You forgot that part.

  5. January 12, 2010 6:34 am

    We know that Seth. You can still smell them.

  6. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:29 am

    What a negative historical reading. You make it sound as though European migrations evaporate after the “public” announcement of polygamy. You fail to mention the hordes of Europeans who slogged their way to SLC for decades after.

    I am willing to bet a State of Deseret the size of alaska that polygamy was not a deal-breaker. Make the drive from Alberta to Colonia Juarez and stop at over 500 LDS settlements. Or go the other way from Denver to San Fran. If you have a few weeks make the whole loop and then zig zag through the core. If Utah had better lawyers it would have been a nation. (Did I forget Oahu? Google “Iosepa”)

    Was there a polygamy backlash? Of course. It wasn’t helped by the sinister propaganda. The concept of plural families (not marriage) was the law of consecration in overdrive. The children who came out of these families became the anchor families in the Church, strong as hell. Read the journals of the women. Nobody reads what they thought they were doing. It is eye-opening. When it worked it was marvelous. I’m sure Moses would agree.

    And don’t forget that Christ may have had at least three wives who made his reception chilly as well. (Not “official” LDS doctrine but well documented nonetheless). Before you guys pull out your bloodied Dan Brown hatchets consider this:

    1. The Bible never states Christ wasn’t married.
    2. The Hieros Gamos concept of the sacred Bridal Chamber is a long lost Christian/Jewish tradition.
    3. Jesus was joined at the hip with several women. This female companionship would have been unthinkable for Rabbi teachers.
    4. Jesus’ mother ran the show at the wedding at Cana. Why, if not her own son’s ceremony?
    5. Celsus, a 2nd Century anti-Christian Platonist, spoke out againt Jesus’ polygamy to destroy the Church (1700 yrs before Mormonism).
    6. The risen lord slapped the Apostles in the face be first appearing to the women he considered more important.

    Consider these non-canonical NT texts that pre-date our NT originals:

    The Gospel of Philip says “Christ came to Earth for the express purpose of bringing men and women together in eternal life. Thanks to him those who are united in the Bridal Chamber will never more be separated. “for there is glory above glory and power upon power. The Holy of Holies and the Bridal Chamber, these are the ultimate. Though sin still enslaves us, when the truth is revealed the perfect life will flow for everyone that those who were separated may be united and fulfilled. All who enter the Bridal Chamber may beget in the light—not after the manner of nocturnal mating. Whoever becomes a Son of the Bridal Chamber will receive the light and when he goes out of the world he shall already have received the true instruction through types and images (ordinances).”

    In “The Hymn of the Pearl” (1st Century) the Christian comes to earth from his heavenly home, leaving his royal parents behind, for a period of testing upon the earth. Then, having overcome Satan, he returns to the heavenly home via “whisperings” and signs that signify the Crucifixion at a veil, where he is given a garment and robe marked with “signs of the King”. The first person to greet him on his return is his heavenly mother, who was the last one to embrace him as he left to go down to earth. Sacred feminine and motherhood is presented as holier than even the Father and therefore omitted from discourse to prevent mockery. This was discovered in the early 20th Century!!

    The Gospel of Philip and the Apocalypse of Adam tell how Adam and Eve were united in celestial union before the creation of the world but, upon descending to the earth, became separated, with death entering into the scene.

    These are not LDS texts. They are 1st Century originals (the oldest NT text are 4th Century). They are not gnostic since gnostics were specifically anti-marraige. Did Joseph Smith guess correctly? Well, If an ancient Beatles White Album was discovered in a 2000 yr old cave would we still think John Lennon was the author? No.

    1Cor. 11:11 is clear that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” A sober challenge for eternal marriage foes desiring to be “in the Lord.”

  7. January 12, 2010 6:09 pm

    I love the way Mormonism is constantly being repackaged. Eternal Families? Come on! You urge us to read some of the journals of those early polygamous wives, I suggest you read some of the statements by Mormon leaders about polygamy. Consider these words from Jedediah Grant:

    “When Joseph Smith was alive, his declaration to me was as the voice of Almighty God. Why? Because he had the Priesthood of God on the earth… When the family organization was revealed from heaven – the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, ‘Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?” “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this church…

    If Joseph had a right to dictate me in relation to salvation, in relation to the hereafter, he had a right to dictate me in relation to all my earthly affairs, in relation to the treasures of the earth, and in relation to the earth itself. He had a right to dictate in relation to the cities of the earth, to the natives of the earth, and in relation to everything on Land and on sea. That is what he had a right to do, if he had any right at all. If he did not have that right, he did not have the priesthood of God, he did not have the endless priesthood that emanates from the eternal being. A priesthood that is clipped, and lacks length, is not the priesthood of God; if it lacks depth, it is not the priesthood of God; for the priesthood in ancient times extended over the wide world, and coped with the universe, and had a right to govern and control the inhabitants thereof, to regulate them, give them laws, and execute those laws. The power looked like the priesthood of God. This same priesthood has been given to Joseph Smith and has been handed down to his successors…

    What would a man say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, ‘Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build up the kingdom of God.’ Or if he came and said, ‘I want your wife?’ ‘O yes,’ he would say, ‘here she is, there are plenty more.'” (Journal of Discourses, vol.2, pp13,14)

    Very life affirming for any woman who treasures her dignity I am sure!

    Think about this fo a moment. Not only was Joseph Smith practicing polygamy illegally, while lying about it, but he was declaring all previous covenants null and void and taking other men’s wives to himself. How low does he have to go before someone in the Mormon Church says, “Wait a minute, that’s not right!”

  8. January 12, 2010 8:16 pm


    I’m sorry they’re no longer pushing McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine.”

    Maybe with therapy, you’ll get over it someday.

  9. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 8:16 pm

    Yes, eternal families. Why are you so eager to mock the sacred eternal gender workmanship of God? Why have gender in heaven at all? Will you be a male in heaven? Why? If you woke up a female tomorrow would that disturb you? Why? How central is your physical gender to your core being? Just a little? Is it negligable physically or psychologically??

    We resurrect as MALES and FEMALES. We are both, here and there.

    Actually, If you can logically tell me why we retain relics of sexual gender in the eternities I will leave Mormonism. From what I understand Protestants have absolutely NO doctrine for gender roles in heaven. What a massive oversight! Mormona victa. The Holy of Holies, The Tree of Life in the Garden, The Celestial Room, Christ’s mysterious “Bridal Chamber”…each of these has to do with the most inner sanctum of three degrees or concentric rings and each pertain to eternal marriage. The bulls-eye of these rings is marriage. The symbolism has been butchered. What a loss!

    Genisis 1:27: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; Male and Female he created them.” (There is no period in this sentence, no grammatical break between God’s likeness and being both male AND female). The image of God is both male and female. A marraige union. The creation drama is absolutely literal, including the image of God in gender. Do you even know the nature of God?

    And yes, read the women’s journals. They are not victims like you are so eager to paint them. They gloried in their families. Stop side stepping by qouting disgruntled apostates with axes to grind. These plural families were engaged in a sacred consecrated effort to build up the kingdom of God and dedicate a life of Holiness to the Lord.

    It’s an Israelite thing, I don’t expect you to understand ancient Judeo-Christian cultural heritage that has been viciously obscured by centuries of pious “Christian Fathers” who were really just Greek schoolmen with platonist philosophical conditioning designed to make laughable Hebrew customs more palatable to a more sophisticated pagan Greco-Roman worldview that held the early Jews and Christians in utter derision. They couldn’t stomach Christ’s more secret (sacred) teachings such as the mysterious (and shocking) 40 day literature. Jesus’ swan song gospel is a nuclear explosion of light and knowledge. The “Greek” Fathers didn’t like it one bit. There was no way they were going to champion this suicidal message so they ripped it out.

    Not unlike modern Christians. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pagan philosophy (mingled with scripture) is having a field day. The picture that has lately emerged of the ancient world tells a much different story of what Jews and Christians really believed. (Hint: it has litle to do with the 4th Century violent bickering that established orthodox Christianity). Read Margaret Barker’s work on the first Temple cult ritual. She’s a non-LDS Brit. Of course these have been swept under the rug because they are upsetting to the tidy sanitized Platonist message of modern Christianity. Of course it’s heresy!

  10. January 12, 2010 8:20 pm

    My question to the LDS readers here is “why” did the LDS elders who preached Mormonism in England not reveal that plural marriage was part of the LDS gospel?

    I guess I just don’t understand why if something is true, one would hide it from others?

    Didn’t these women have the right to know that they were going across the world to more than likely become the 2nd or 3rd wife of a Mormon man?

    One of the thing that frustrates me about Mormonism is that the truth is not openly taught. I think people, past and present have a right to know what they are getting themselves into. Anything less than that is deception.


  11. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 8:38 pm

    The issue is much more nuanced than the generalized picture you paint.
    If what you say is true then there would be countless journals of the shocked and bitter UK women who got to Zion only to find they were destined for lives of “bondage.”

    Find me the stacks of journals that indicates such widespread deception. They don’t exist. Wouldn’t these women have screamed if what you say is true? Where are the records (apart from a small sliver of dissenters)?

    Why do they have such reverence for Zion? Keep in mind that less than 10% of Mormons were polygamist. So no, they were not “likely” to be married off. Also, no person was ever forced into polygamy. Autonomy reigned supreme. Those who did glories in the principle. Read the journals of the women, folks.

  12. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 8:44 pm

    Also, Gloria, Jesus had many secret teachings that sent the Jews bonkers. If Jesus had merely preached the “sensible” upstanding platitudes that fill the NT with happy warmness, they probably wouldn’t have been so adamant.

    Have you read the 40 day literature? It wasn’t canonized because it scared the crap out of the Greek fathers. Acts 1:3 is as far as they dare go. 40 days of epic POST-RESURRECTION one-on-one with the disciples, gone! Vanished! What was so secret about these six weeks?

  13. January 12, 2010 8:54 pm


    First of all, welcome back! I think you have been on a hiatus for a while. 🙂

    I agree with you that women were not “forced” into polygamy. As far as I know there are no records of women being taken in bonds to the wedding chapel.

    I’m very sorry that you took my post as a “negative historical reading.” Personally I don’t feel that looking at statistics is being negative. William Clayton was extremely discouraged with his task of telling the British Mormons about polygamy. In less than a decade the baptismal rate in Britain declined 88% as a result of the polygamy revelation. These are simply historical facts that need to be analyzed honestly.

    You said: Those who did glories in the principle. Read the journals of the women, folks.

    I have read fairly extensively on the topic of polygamy as it relates to Mormonism. Which journals are you referring to that speak glowingly of the principle? I’m not sure if you could say that this is an across-the-board experience. Many women married into polygamy later divorced their spouses. Furthermore, there was tremendous angst among the men who had wives taken from them and married off to higher ranking leaders.


  14. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:02 pm

    Here’s a sneak peek (all of these texts pre-date our oldest NT originals by centuries and they were not discovered until long after Joseph Smith died):

    2 Jeu 44: Standing with the apostles in the prayer circle, the Lord tells them, “I will teach you all the ordinances necessary that you may be purged by degrees and progress in the next life. I have taught you all these things. Now we will stand in a circle, and you will repeat after me this prayer, and we will go through all the ordinances again. For you to achieve other places” (topoi), but they must be performed in this life. Unless one performs them here, he cannot become a ‘Son of Light.’

    “They are those upon the right hand of the Father, for it is by their faithfulness in these things that they show they are worthy to return and inherit the kingdom. Without the ordinances, therefore, there is no foothold or foundation to anything in this life. If you want to go to the Father, says 1 Jeu, you must pass through the veil (holy of holies).”

    “You can’t understand it now, but you will. Your faith is being tested here. It is through the ordinances that one makes this progress in knowledge, so that those who receive all available ordinances and teachings here shall pass by all the intermediate topoi and shall not have to give the answers and signs, nor stand certain tests hereafter.”

    “In fact,” says the Pistis Sophia, “without the mysteries one loses one’s power. Without the ordinances, one has no way of controlling matter, for such control begins with the control of one’s self. The ordinances provide the very means and the discipline by which light operates on material things. You don’t understand this now,” it continues, “but your level, or taxis, in the next world will depend on the ordinances you receive in this world. Whoever receives the highest here will understand the whys and the wherefores of the great plan.” “You can’t understand it now, but you will.”

    In the Pistis Sophia, at the end of the teaching and the performing of the ordinances, the Lord ordered the apostles and their wives to form a circle. (The apostles’ wives are in on all this.) He stands at an altar on one side, and then all recapitulate the ordinances after him.

    2Jeu 45: Before forming the circle, the Lord has them sing a hymn, and, when it is finished, the apostles and their wives all form a circle standing around the Lord, who tells them that he will lead them through the ordinances of eternal progression. Clothed in their holy garments, they form a circle, foot to foot, arm resting upon arm, and Jesus says that he will take the part of Adam and lead them all. They are to say “‘Amen” to each of the phrases of the prayer; then he gives the prayer.

    The prayer circle is mentioned not only in the Acts of Peter, but also by Irenaeus, Augustine, and Commodian, in 1 Jeu and 2 Jeu, the Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Coptic Gnostic Work, the Pistis Sophia, in the Council of Ephesus, and in other places.

    “In any world,” say 1 Jeu and 2 Jeu (incidentally, 2 Jeu appears to be one of the most important early Christian manuscripts ever discovered, older than anything we have in the New Testament), “as a Jeu becomes a Father in a new world, the Fathers then appoint new Jeus [Jehovahs] for new worlds, who in turn will become Fathers,” etc., ad infinitum. “Each Jeu has created for its hosts ten thousand times ten thousand.” In the Sefer Yetzira (some think this is the oldest Jewish work in existence), “the earth and planets are but atoms in an infinity of like systems.” This is a very old, orthodox Jewish work, a great and mysterious work.

    “He who has fulfilled all the ordinances and has done good work cannot be held back,” says the Ginza. “We are taught the principles of salvation, so that we cannot be held back in this world. Those who receive certain teachings and carry out their instructions in this world cannot be held back in this world or the next.”

    Untitled Text 8: “Whenever that life-giving spark is sent to initiate a first step of creation in the material world, it is always followed by three Sent Ones who come down to give proper instructions. So in any world, those that receive the spark (the word sent from God) will also find three helpers sent to instruct them.”

    “When Adam was placed on earth, three messengers were sent to oversee him, with myself at their head,” says the Lord to the apostles during the forty days. “1 taught Adam and Eve the hymns, and the order of prayer, and the ordinances which would help one to return to the presence of the Father.I’m sending three, God says to them, giving them instructions. He said to the pure Sent One, his Son, ‘Go call Adam and Eve and all their posterity and teach them concerning everything about the Kingdom of Light and the Worlds of Light. Be friendly with Adam and keep him company, you and the two angels which will be with you. Warn them against Satan; also, teach them chastity.”

    Nibley compiled these scriptures. There are dozens more.

  15. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:05 pm

    Now how did Joesph Smith get all of these correct? Most of these were found in that last 100 years and before that we had no knowledge of any of this.

  16. January 12, 2010 9:10 pm


    Please refer to the comment policy about copying and pasting from other websites without citation.

    All quotations must be cited. Copying and pasting from other sources without citations is considered plagiarism, is often investigated by other bloggers, and anyone engaging in plagiarism can expect to be called out by other bloggers or the admin.


  17. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:19 pm

    The idea that legions of angry LDS women left the Church over this is distortion, I reject the notion that the men were in this for libertinism. That is illogical, there are much easier ways to fool around. This was a huge burden on all of them. A real refining fire, as in old times. Those with faith received enormous blessing and enrichment. and righteous progeny: the glory of God.

    The horror tales come from those who did not get the spirit of it. And those where unjustified abuses occured. In my book those are outside the vision and scope of the principle and I see them as anomolies. The fact is many people embraced this and it brought them deep (sacred), consecrated, Holy experiences.

  18. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:22 pm

    Stephanie, I qouted the source for the qoutes as Nibley. Also, they are mainly direct translations from the texts. Don’t detract from the staggering implications these discoveries have for LDS theology. Someone needs to explain how an uneducated farm boy in 1830 knew explicit detailes of Christ’s 40 day ministry that were discovered in the 20th Century.

  19. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:23 pm

    See here for a much longer comprehensive list of Mormon doctrinal teachings during the 40 days:

  20. January 12, 2010 9:23 pm


    I never said anything about angry LDS women. I never said anything about men “in it for sex.” I never said anything about horror tales. I simply said that the Mormonism in Britain became unpopular after the polygamy revelation and wondered why this might be so.

    Which journals are you referring to that speak glowingly of polygamy? I’m just curious, since you said that we should read them.


  21. January 12, 2010 9:27 pm


    It is okay to quote as long as your are citing your sources. The above post you are referring to is a compilation of at least two websites, here and here, and the language of the non-cited material is also plagiarized. Please keep in mind that we are trying to have a conversation, not a copying and pasting contest.


  22. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:49 pm

    Actually, the qoutes are solely from the one website I linked above.

    For one thing, your post implies that after Clayton made the “announcement” all of the UK fell off. That is not the sole reason why. The decade of your stat does not factor in the barrage of anti-Mormon publications that also had a negative impact on the general attitudes in Britain. The 1850’s was when these really heated up here and there. The mis-info was potent and did its work well. Like today.

    I doubt that most Britons had accurate views of Mormons. I have heard UK tales of girls locked in the highest towers of the SLC Temple, who only escaped by jumping out into the Great Salt Lake and fleeing. Or of a sinister LDS tunnel that led from Liverpool to SLC where horny Mormon men kidnapped innocent UK girls for their herums. These were popular (oh the ignorance!) myths. This was what the Elders were up against from an early date. You don’t factor any of that. You present it as though every European had a full, fair picture of how things really were. That is naive.

    When the missionaries cleared things up, people came. In droves. I am still waiting for the records of the British women who were “duped” into immigrating. Can you show these were widespread?

    I’ll get you some journal resources for the women asap. There are many.

  23. January 12, 2010 9:54 pm




    That was quicker than I expected. You got to number 5 very quickly

  24. January 12, 2010 9:54 pm


    I found your info you shared from Nibley interesting to say the least. ( but then again, Nibley was an interesting fellow)

    Would you kindly cite resources to back up your claims that LDS women who converted to Mormonism from England enjoyed and rejoiced in living the principle of plural marriage? My reading has led me to the journals of women who deeply struggled with it, and found it challenging to say the least. I would be interested in reading your resources .
    Thank you,

  25. January 12, 2010 9:58 pm

    I am still waiting for the records of the British women who were “duped” into immigrating. Can you show these were widespread?

    I never implied that British women were duped into immigrating. Why would I think that? I think that you are assuming that I am an anti-polygamist man-hater. On the contrary, I believe that the women involved in polygamy were just as responsible as the men. They both made their own decisions. Was there manipulation involved? Possibly, but we can’t know this. It is pure speculation. We simply have to look at the facts that adult women married adult men in compound marriages. I do not at all consider the women “duped” any more than I consider the men duped. I do find a distinction in the case of teenage girls. The marriage of Helen Mar Kimball to Joseph Smith is an example where I believe there was pressure from her Dad and Joseph Smith to be married at age 14. My feeling is that consenting adults are responsible for their own behavior but leave kids out of it.

    Here is a question for you. If polygamy was all sunbursts and rainbows why did Emma Smith deny that her husband was involved in it? She had the opportunity to continue to live in plural marriage and to go west with the Saints, but instead she chose to remain in Illinois and deny the past. Why?


  26. January 12, 2010 10:09 pm


    Sorry, I didn’t realize at first that those quotes were from the same website. It looks like one website was maybe quoting the other website or they were both quoting one of Nibley’s texts.


  27. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:20 pm

    Nibley’s work on the 40 days changed my view forever. I haven’t even touched the baptism for the dead teachings from Solomon to Jesus. It is hardly a Mormon invention! Check this out:

    I know you are trying to be open-minded. No worries!

    Helen Mar was young, no question. But that was not that odd back then. Someone did a study of famous Americans with 14 year old wives and I was surprised at some of the names. I don’t remember, but they were very respectable men.

    Emma was rocked by personal tragedy on all fronts. I’m surprised she didn’t move to Sardinia and become a monk after what she went through. I don’t blame her actions one bit. What we do know is that she lived the principle with Joseph. Also, remember, even good solid monogomy is tough. Husbands and wives squabble all the time. When poly marriages derailed it is perfectly understandable. The divorce rates were far less than current Evangelical/LDS rates today. Keep it in context.

    My main point is that the PRINCIPLE was not inherently wrong. As evidenced by the many times it obviously worked fine.

  28. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:22 pm

    I’m still working on the journals.. I’ll dig up some sources when I get a breather.

  29. January 12, 2010 10:26 pm


    Please site your source that “all of these texts pre-date our oldest NT originals by centuries” (P52 dates 100-150 AD). While you are at it explain what that even means. The writng of the apocryphal books predates the existing manuscripts of the New Testament canon?

    The Nag Hammadi Library itself dates to the late 4th century AD, the apocryphal Gospel of Philip dates late second to early third AD, Hymn of the Pearl, a pasage from the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, dates late second early third AD, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Adam dates late second to early 4th AD etc.

  30. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:36 pm


    Without getting into an early Christian dates taffy pull, let me just remind you that the EARLIEST NT text manuscript we have is at least 4th Century. The earliest OT text is a staggering 900 AD, 1500 yrs after the fact! That puts the majority of these apocryphal texts closer to Jesus. Also, they are not just a scrap here or there. These were unearthed all over the ancient world. They form a consistent worldview of early Jewish and Christian belief. Frankly, it’s hard to dismiss them. Although that is exactly what the councils did.

  31. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:40 pm

    Also, the precise dates are a distraction from the question you should be asking:

    How did Joseph Smith get this info that was not discovered then?

    You mentioned the Hymn of the Pearl. A pre-NT text discovered in the 1880’s and not widely published until 1908. This Hymn is the entire LDS plan of salvation, including a pearl of great value, sacred garments with markings, robes, ascension rites with sugns, tokens and “whisperings,” a heavenly mother, three guides who assist the Christian, etc…

    I mean come on.

  32. January 12, 2010 10:54 pm


    What does the date of an existing manuscript have to do with the original date of composition?

    For instance the Apocalypse of Adam mentions Mithras rock birth and cannot be dated prior to the late second century.

    What council rejected these texts, was it a local council, an ecumenical council?

  33. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:05 pm

    Again, the point is how did Joesph Know about such teachings?

    What does the date of an existing manuscript have to do with the original date of composition?

    This should be obvious. Textual transmission from numerous transcribings increase corruption. Especially when we now have the earlier versions in apocrypha that DISAGREE with the later manuscripts. Always go with the earlier version. This issue is a can of worms as it gets into the heated subject of Biblical infallibility. A discussion for another time perhaps.

    Let’s just enjoy for the moment these amazing apocryphal 40 day teachings that underscore sacred marriage and ascension rites. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the loftier business of Brigham’s off the cuff racist remarks or something, since those are so much more central to LDS validity… 🙂

  34. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:14 pm

    Also, it is clear from teachings such as the loss of the literal resurrection (Catholic), trinity (Not empirically taught in the bible) and such, that Greek Platonist (pagan) philosophy was massaged into the text between Jesus and the councils of Nicea, etc, where much of the “official” doctrines were established 400 yrs after the fact.

    This is a popular thread, but most advanced scholars agree that what the councils decided through contention was not necessarily what the early Church taught.

  35. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:18 pm

    In spite of this quagmire, the important thing is we now have these early texts. Make of them what you will. Many Protestant scholars have dismissed them because they simply don’t like the crass literalism of these eschatological views. Seems irresponsible to me.

    If it is just “gnostic” mumbo jumbo, then we have to say that all the early Christians/Jews were gnostics. After so much of it piles up you really have to address it seriously.

  36. January 12, 2010 11:31 pm


    Are they in your canon?

    You have made a number of claims regading dates and councils Ethan. Can you support them or not? Now you go on to claim that the Roman Catholic Church does not teach a literal resurrection. Please document that as well.

  37. Ethan permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:41 pm


    Actually, I won’t document it for you. No disrespect. I could actually easily wade into the stacks to locate every date, council and pin up of Plato on the walls of Augustine’s spa. but that’s still not the point. I understand that these texts are perplexing for you, I’m not trying to wave them in your face to say “ah ha! see!”

    I am just wondering, regardless of relatively irrelevant dates, how you reconcile the teachings unearthed in our grandparents lifetimes that corraborate the controversial doctrines of Joseph Smith. Dates are a smoke screen and I have no wish to go there since it won’t change the facts on the ground.

    We have pre-existence, sacred marriage, baptism for the dead, temple rites, and more in these texts. I just want to know how Joesph Smith got so lucky?

  38. January 12, 2010 11:57 pm


    If the dates did not matter why did you bolster you argument by presenting them? If these apocryphal texts present Mormon doctrine why aren’t they in your canon? I also think your claims fall flat when these passages are read in context, these books simply do not coincide with Mormon teaching.

    Are you going to substantiate your claim that the Roman Catholic Church does not teach a literal resurrection? Or is that irrelevant as well?

  39. January 13, 2010 12:05 am

    The R.C. not teach a literal resurrection??????

    I was raised in the R.C church and believe me the resurrection of the dead is a central teaching/doctrine, as is the literal resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Ethan:: I am perplexed.

    Kind regards,

  40. January 13, 2010 12:17 am

    Actually, I would say that the closer you get to Jesus life, the worse and worse the transcription and texual transmission practices were.

    Most of the people copying down Paul’s original sermons were barely literate, for example. Same with other stuff. It always had the brand of amateurism all over it. And people weren’t exactly academically rigorous about transmitting pure texts.

    Constantine changed all this when he nationalized Christianity and unleashed a horde of highly trained quality Roman scribes on the important texts. But by that time, the damage had been already done and any chance for a faithful transmission of the original sermons was lost. The window was already closed.

  41. January 13, 2010 12:18 am

    Stephanie, if you’re going to use the book “Nauvoo Polygamy” as a source, you may want to be aware of this webpage indexing the claims that book has made and responding to them:

  42. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:19 am

    The dates matter inasmuch as they are generally OLDER (yes, they are older) than the surviving NT manuscripts we have that form the basis of our modern NT. That is relevant. The precise date of “how much” older each on is doesn’t matter in this regard.

    They are older manuscripts. Period. So where NT texts differ, there is no good reason we shouldn’t go with the apocryphal accounts that are closer to Jesus.

    As for resurrection. I am talking about the Greek philosophical tendancy adopted by the early fathers to DE-literalize the crass physical implications in the eschatology of later Christianity. Whatever the RC position today, the fact remains that the father’s, especially Augustine, who took a carving knife to eschatology (and protology), spiritulized everything from the nature of God to the resurrection. This is Church history, of which Catholics claim descent. Why are you denying it?

    On my mission to RC Portugal I often had to argue with people about how the risen Lord ate with the greasy, physical apostles. Surely he would “never” descend so low as this.

    Does God (Jesus) have a body? If you agree then you are approaching the Mormon/early Christian position.

  43. January 13, 2010 12:19 am


    I am well aware of their critiques, including this one. 🙂


  44. January 13, 2010 12:31 am


    “I am talking about the Greek philosophical tendancy adopted by the early fathers to DE-literalize the crass physical implications in the eschatology of later Christianity.”

    Does Jesus have a body? Yes, this is the position of the CREEDS.

    Who did this? Wander over to CCEL and open up the Ante-Nicene Fathers and present your case.

  45. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:33 am

    Is Jesus God?

  46. January 13, 2010 12:39 am

    I “confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man” with the entire catholic Church.

  47. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:47 am

    Here are some qoutes from the Fathers regarding the hyper spiritualizing:

    “With perfect impunity and the greatest of ease they proceeded to do violence to the Scriptures, blithely disregarding the original teaching . . . They never consulted the Scriptures, but busily worked out elaborate structures of syllogisms . . . They cultivated the arts of the unbelievers and took to hair-splitting discussions about the once simple faith of the Holy Writ.” -Eusebius

    “The vulgar speak of God as of a person, but they are wrong . . . The (Pagan) philosophers, on the other hand, held very nearly the same opinion of God as we do. Plato’s opinion especially is virtually identical with our own . . . so that any one might conclude either that all present-day Christians are philosophers, or that all the ancient philosophers were Christians.” (Min. Felix, 210 A.D)

    Tertullien complained of Greek appraoch infecting Church thought: “O miserable Aristotle. Who taught them dialectic, the art of proving and disproving…”

  48. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:47 am

    Does God have a body?

  49. January 13, 2010 1:06 am

    The Person of Christ does.

    From the part of the page that Nibley chose not to quote,

    “And what they say might be plausible, if first of all there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Justin and Miltiades and Tatian and Clement and many others, in all of whose works Christ is spoken of as God.”

    Oops you forgot to chech the origional source.

  50. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:18 am

    Eusebius is calling attention to SOME philosopher theologians who “do violence” to the word by corrupting it with pagan philosophy. But….

    He calls attention to OTHER philosopher theologians who are, according to him, writin in behalf of the *truth*.”

    How does Eusebius discern between which transmission is correct? How do we know the other Greek philosophers weren’t just as bad or worse?

  51. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:20 am

    Do you hold that Eusebius was ordained of God to pass judgements on such matters? By what authority?

    He looks like an academic, speculating schoolman to me.

  52. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:22 am

    At least the Pope pretends to hold real keys of authority to unravel such gridlock.

    Have you forgotten what occured later at the councils because of this? Strife, contention, fist fights, bickering and beard pulling of the most greivous kind….

    But then there was “light.”
    Well, thank God for the philosopher schoolmen!

  53. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:24 am

    I am trying to recall an instance in the Bible of such councils do decide all fundamental doctrine.

    Can you provide a scriptural source to show precedent for such man made settlements in the Bible?

  54. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:38 am

    That’s what i loiek most abnout Joseph Smith: No education. No schoolman. His revelations came in intense, rapid fire bursts of complex, consistent theology. Absolutely NO specualtion whatsoever.

    And then, of course, 100 years later hundreds of ancient scroll texts emerge from the dust containing specific teachings which he was ridiculed for. No Plato here.

  55. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:39 am

    yikes, typing woes

  56. January 13, 2010 1:51 am

    Eusebius of Caesarea was a Church historian and a Bishop in the early Church. These writings are his opinions and I am not aware that I have claimed any special authority for him. Councils, Creeds, and confessions are binding because they are biblical, I claim no other authority for them then they are derived from the word of God, the ultimate authority.

    As far as Church councils deciding Doctrinal matters you might should check Acts 15

    Is there a problem with being an academic in the study of God? Is there a problem with being a Schoolman in the service of God? What is wrong with being a philosopher “writing in behalf of the *truth*”

    What is particularly wrong with Scholarship? Haven’t you been quoting Hugh Nibley all night? I mean you didn’t exactly dig into the Fathers for all those quotes did you?

  57. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 2:07 am

    “…the word of God, the ultimate authority.”

    Here’s the problem. These scholars were just arrogant enough to think that they could tell the world what the bible “really” meant.

    The United States has only been a country for apprx 200 years.

    By the time these councils sat down to establish the core doctrines 400 years had past. Think of George Washington, then double his distance from you in time.

    Are you telling me with a straight face that the manuscripts, which didn’t even begin surviving until 400 AD (Think Pocahontas Jamestown), came down free from transmissional error? Or that with all the potential corruptions these doctors of Greece were able to divine the true intent of every writer’s word?

    Remember, not everyone at Nicea or elsewhere got their way. There were many conflicting positions. Which ones won out, the guy with the loudest voice? Obviously, I have serious issues with this approach. It’s not biblical like Joseph Smith’s or Peter’s approach. When did letters to Churches stop becoming canonical epistles? Where does the NT end? Why?

  58. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 2:31 am

    Yes, I am aware of BOM changes. However, I have a replica 1st edition and read it often. There are no fundamental doctrinal changes that affect it’s original message, no more than 2000 years of biblical twister, unless you use the apocryphal originals that pre-date the NT copies, but then you would have to accept the LDS theology of the early Church.

    Somehow we got off on infallibility. Fun, but a rather dead horse.
    Let’s get back to marraige and gender roles. Anyone care to offer a use for our resurrected anatomy in heaven?

  59. January 13, 2010 2:40 am

    I’ll use mine to slap some sense into Gundeck.

    Or… wait… was it the other way around?


  60. January 13, 2010 2:59 am

    Pocahontas? I don’t think she read Hebrew or Greek, maybe reformed Egyptian.

    You deny 1800 years of Church history, learning, study, failures and triumphs most of all an abiding faith in the revelation of God in the Work of Christ Jesus by claiming to have the restored and only true church and talk about arrogance? Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and Pentecostals all agree on certian key ecumenical doctrines that you deny, and you speak of arogance?

    Nicea has stood the test of time, the examination of the Scriptures by the Church of Christ. Every Generation is responsible for the Faith, but we would robing ourselves to dismiss the churchmen, scholars, martyrs, pastors, philosophers, and laity who have gone ahead of us.

    Is God incapable of guiding His Church? Is God incapable of guiding his councils? Is God incapable of sustaining his Scripture? Or is God only allowed to speak the way you say he can.

    Where does the New Testament end? Patmos. Why? God was finished with the period of enscripturation, the Gospel had been established, the true apostolic Gospel had been preached, the foundation was laid etc. The redemptive work of Christ had been accomplished and explained by his apostles, the comforter had been given and the Church established to be ruled by Deacons and Elders. The Church now is in union with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. In submission to Christ, His bride, the Church gives all glory to Him and with all of the Saints praises Him “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come…Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

    You have shown your ability to regurgitate Dr. Nibley and I have hijacked this thread, so I now return you to your regularly scheduled program.


  61. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 3:32 am

    Nibley is worth a recap. It seems to be lost on you.

    and yes, Polygamy…

    Cultural biblical tradition, in other words. Let’s talk about why you slap all the great patriarchs in the face by defaming and belittling a core, divinely instituted covenant of marriage. Or is that part of your bible buffet? Pick and choose like Agustine. Sure we cherish the lovely beattitudes, but turn a blind eye to prophetic polygamy. Admire Daniel courage, but write off the temple as expendable. You have your own brand of Nicea, and why not?

    I hope I’m not around in heaven (Terrestrial Protestant of course) when Jacob & the great Patriarchs of Jehovah take you to the mat for all the hours you spent mocking their sacred family relations. Mary, Martha & Elizabeth could have a few words as well. Be careful not to mock what God has ordained.

    Thanks for the chat Gundeck. but, I can’t take your claims of infallibilty or succession seriously. I agree with the Platonist Greek philosophers on one thing: Logic.

    Not contradictions and blatant violations of natural law such as 3 in 1 Gods, paradoxes and contradictions. Ex nihilo, even though that breaks every law of physics, especially the first law of conservation, E=MC2, or eternal matter/light, which happens to be a Mormon/1st Century position.

    Or Earth being the center of everything (barbaric), Aristotle taught that. Yet, Mormons and early Jews/Christians teach of endless cosmos (see cover of Dec. 2009 National Geographic), a universe (pluraverse) with worlds without end that scientists now assure us likely has endless planets with life on them. What a waste of space in your theology. What of those galaxies and worlds? Not eternity but eternities. Defunct gender roles in heaven, sexual relics for NO purpose. etc etc.

    But keep telling yourself it makes sense somehow.

  62. January 13, 2010 4:48 am

    Let’s get back to marraige and gender roles. Anyone care to offer a use for our resurrected anatomy in heaven?

    Oh Ethan. I have some terrible news for you.

    LDS leaders have consistently taught that resurrected bodies have flesh and bone, but no blood.

    Guess what men need blood in order to have?

    Sorry, but there will be little practical use for your resurrected anatomy in the Mormon heaven in the next life. I hope that’s not too much of a let down for you (pun intended).

    And by the way, welcome back!

    (My apologies in advance to Jessica for this comment. I tried to be delicate, really, I did.)

  63. January 13, 2010 4:54 am


    I don’t particularly care about Polygamy or the Changes in the BoM, there is no manuscript history to compare it to.

    I don’t think we were ever on infallibility. You made a number of claims concerning the dates of various books. These are claims that I dispute. You believe that Nibleys parallelism between Mormon doctrine and ancient texts has significance, I don’t think this even has merit when you examine the texts in their entirety.

    I do not want to tell you what you believe, a practice that you embrace with great Niblleyesk vigor, but I have never understood Mormonism to be dualistic and the Nag Hammadi Library is full of Gnostic dualism. So unless you are willing to accept all of the doctrinal implication of embracing the Nag Hammadi Library I don’t see how individual or particular parallels helps your case. I don’t think we have the option to pick and choose passages from a book and call them Scripture. We also have the testimony of the early Church about these books. I know the thought of accepting the scholarship of the African theologian Augustine goes against your beliefs. But there you have it.

    I am still particularly interested in your source for the dates of Nag Hammadi Library and the New Testament manuscripts.

    I do not believe that a comparison to the estimated composition date of the Nag Hammadi Library to the production dates of the existing New Testament manuscripts is informative or helpful, simply because you are comparing two different standards. If you want to compare the composition dates of the New Testament books to the composition dates of the Nag Hammadi Library I think you will find that the New Testament is thought to be composed much earlier than the contents of the Nag Hammadi Library. But these dates are pointless unless you are willing to accept the entirety of the teachings from the various Nag Hammadi mss.

    I also think that if you look at the production dates of the existent New Testament mss you will find that with the exception of Alexandrius the most important early mss predate the Nag Hammadi Library.

    Just to help

    P-45 (parts of the Gospels and Acts (very damaged)) 200-250 AD
    Vaticanus (Gospels -Matthew without Revelation) 300-325
    Sinaiticus (generally complete) 350
    Alexandrius (missing Matthew) 400-460

    Nag Hammadi Library 350-400

    Should you decide in the future that you want to discuss infallibility I would suggest “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible” by B. B. Warfield. It is a little dated but it is plainly the best biblical argument for a Reformed doctrine of Scripture I have read. I would also recommend the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 1 so you know what I actualy beleive not what you claim I beleive. You should also check out the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerrancy. I think the Chicago Statement is particularly helpful in clearly defining inerrancy and infallibility (or did you not know there was a difference?) and is helpful for people who deny this doctrine to see what it actually means. It will be helpful for you to understand that far from denying textual variations and transmission issues the Church has been aware of them since the Hexapla.

  64. January 13, 2010 4:59 am


    The best laugh all day, and I heard some good Jokes at work today. Thank you.

  65. January 13, 2010 5:49 am

    I think the “Pocahontas” thing was merely an attempt to show how long ago 400 years is.

    For the record, I do think God is CAPABLE of preserving a perfect Bible.

    I just don’t think he did.

  66. Ethan permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:11 am

    Nice of you to drop in…

    Blood is so passe. I wouldn’t be caught dead in it!

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