Monthly Archives: December 2008

Polygamy in the Bible…

The “Biblical Appeal to Precedent” is one of the most common justifications LDS use for Joseph Smith introducing the practice of Polygamy.  But I don’t find the argument that “they did it in the Bible” to be convincing.  Here’s why:

– The prophets of the Bible may have been committing error in their practice.

– The Bible may be incorrectly reporting the details of their polygamy.

– The Prophets of the Bible never denied their polygamy, or kept if from their first wives (that we know about, of course).

– The Prophets of the Bible never took women who were married to other men. Obviously, the incident with David and Bathsheba comes to mind, and we know how God felt about that.

– The polygamy of the Bible may have been a cultural practice only, such as slavery. The fact that God apparently tolerated something thousands of years ago doesn’t necessarily argue for its status as a doctrine or divinely instituted practice.

I think it’s interesting to read about Biblical polygamy, but when I consider Joseph Smith’s practice of the practice, I find it largely irrelevant (other than suggesting a possible inspiration for Joseph’s institution of the practice in the first place.)

So if you insist on trying to explain why Joseph Smith introduced polygamy, please stick with the only answer you can be sure about:  Joseph Smith thought God had commanded him to do it.  Anything beyond that and you may find yourself in argumentatively dubious waters.

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Two Worlds of Mormonism

If you think about it, the Church (i.e. the members and leaders) have to live in two worlds.

In one world, we believe in the Gospel of Christ as taught in the New Testament; you know, the Jesus who wasn’t intent on acquiring worldly goods, or forming a corporation, or building buildings, and who told a rich man that he would be more righteous if he sold his worldly goods and gave them to the poor (Matthew 19:21). The same Jesus we believe repeatedly berated the Nephites for desiring “fine” clothing (but not once does he get after them for being immodest, and if “Apocalypto” is any indication, you can bet there were many topless women in the crowd when he came to visit them.)

On the other hand, we believe that Jesus now directs his Church to acquire vast tracts of real estate, to make investments and run his Church as if it were a major world corporation. More than once, He has steered His Church’s finances to the brink of bankruptcy and insolvency, but He always comes out on top. He doesn’t mind if his followers wear suits that cost many thousands of dollars, or expensive designer dresses, but he totally freaks out if a woman shows a half inch of her “midriff”. And he doesn’t like it if a woman wears more than one pair of earrings (or guys wear any at all).

Lucky for us, God doesn’t appear to be the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. The light of Christ is eminently compatible with the light of capitalism, and both are shining brightly in His modern Church. Maybe he wasn’t waiting for the religious freedom of America to restore his Church, but instead He just needed a lightly regulated capitalist society where his Church could become all that it could be.

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Symbolism By Proxy

Some mathematically inclined LDS may get a little frustrated to do the math on “proxy ordinances”. (Proxy Ordinances are baptisms and other rites performed in the Temples on behalf of the spirits of those who lived and died on Earth without doing them while they were here.)  If you do the math, it’s quite possible that LDS aren’t even doing enough proxy ordinances to keep up with the people who are dying each and every day, let alone all those who have gone before throughout time.  This would be like bailing water from a leaky boat, but realizing the water is pouring in faster than you’re bailing.

But if we learn anything from proxy ordinances, it’s that the actual person doesn’t even need to be bodily present for the ordinance. They just need to acknowledge the performance of the ordinance at some time or place, and it still counts.

That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that “proxy ordinances” could count not just for one person, but for whole groups of people. So you could baptize someone “for and on behalf of everyone who lived in the country of Germany from 1749-1773”. Then all those spirits would just need to point to that ordinance and say “Yes, I accept it on my behalf” or “No, I choose not to accept it.”

Maybe we could just do one proxy baptism for the entire human race that died without the chance to be baptized. That’s the wonderful thing about symbolism. It scales really well.

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Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions

I guess this is why they don’t call it “FAIR” anymore…?

Last week, I was surprisingly banned from the Mormon Apologetics and Discussion board (MAD).  Surprising not that it happened, but that it happened over what I considered to be a pretty innocuous post.

Ironically, my lovely TBM wife thought the offending posts were hilarious. For those who don’t want to make the trip, here is what did it:

(In a discussion about the church’s current PR troubles started by Scottie and titled “Mormon Message Control”:)

Quote:
Perhaps the best evidence that President Hinckley was a prophet is that he checked out right before Romney, the FLDS and Prop 8 hit the fan.

…and I almost forgot Shawn King’s blunder. We won’t be seeing President Monson on Larry King’s show until well after pigs have evolved wings of some sort.

You are done on this board. Mod

That’s it.  Honestly, I didn’t mean it to be offensive in any way. It was based on a simple observation that President Hinckley’s tenure as Prophet was really a “golden age” for the Church’s public image, what with the Olympics and several Larry King interviews giving the Church unprecedented exposure. Even the Church’s support of Prop 22 in California went largely unnoticed.

Then, within months of his death, we have the negative exposure brought on by Romney’s run, followed in short order by the bungling raids on the FLDS (and the attendant public confusion and PR mess for the LDS), and then the riots of Prop 8 outside our Temples. And any hope of getting President Monson on Larry King to discuss these issues is dashed by Shawn King’s untimely dalliance and sabatoge of the marriage.

Obviously, I don’t really think President Hinckley saw the way 2008 would play out for the Church and speeded up his demise. (But even in that case, the recent bio of President Kimball mentioned President Kimball’s expressed desire to slip to the next life as his body succumbed to advanced illness, so having a Prophet desire release from this earthly existence wouldn’t be without precedent). Heck, President Hinckley was even talking about how anxious he was to be with his wife again, and he had such a prominent sense of humor I would bet a month’s tithing that the spirit of President Hinckley laughed when he saw my post.

But ultimately, the idea was just a funny way to book-end the observation. And like I said, it was worth it to see my wife smile :).

After some thinking, and reading the responses at MAD, I was worried that I may have misjudged the offensive nature of my comments over on MAD, so I decided to perform an experiment and do a field test.

We had a family Thanksgiving gathering of about 14 adults. All the adults are active LDS, with 4 I would classify as solidly “TBM”. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to maneuver the conversation to the point where I could logically comment about President Hinckley “checking out” in advance of Romney’s run, the FLDS fiasco, and the Prop 8 fallout (as well as knowing that his days on Larry King were also coming to an end.)

The joke got a huge response, and no one was offended that I could tell. My wife knew exactly what I was doing, so I think she laughed the hardest. But no one raised so much as an eyebrow at the joke.

It must have been the delivery.

Update: On 12/25, Mercy robbed Justice and my account was reactivated faster than an inactive-LDS-in-a-GC-talk.   The hunger strike is hereby canceled.  If I ever before doubted the goodness and mercy of Mod, I will never do so again.

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