The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student

June, 1828: Joseph Smith and Martin Harris take a break from translating the golden plates onto foolscap because Emma Smith is about to deliver a baby. Harris desperately wants to take the 116 pages to his wife in order to justify the time and money he is investing in Smith. Smith reportedly prays twice for permission to let Harris show the manuscript to his resentful wife. Twice he’s told no. Harris persists and Smith, who imagines (financial) value in winning Lucy Harris back to his prophetic corner, prays a third time. And this time, the wearied Lord tells him Harris may take the pages. Cue foreboding music.

You know the rest of the story. Months after Emma is delivered, Smith journeys to Palmyra to learn why Harris hasn’t returned with the manuscript. Smith finds a distraught Harris, who admits the pages are missing and assumed stolen. Grief-stricken, Joseph loses his ability to translate further. After a period of repentance, his gift is restored.

Moral of the story: Don’t tempt God. Respect His answers. It’s often said that the Lord agreed to let Harris take the manuscript to teach his prophet a lesson about the difference between following the Lord’s will versus following his own. I propose it also teaches what happens when our study and faith is grounded in faulty assumption.

Like all lessons of history and scripture, the lesson of the lost manuscript is meant for more people than just Joseph Smith. Continue reading “The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student”

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Unpacking the Polygamy Wound

Most families (and most individuals) lug a couple of proverbial storage trunks around with them. Into these, we pack the unpleasantries. The first trunk hides away the things we hope go unnoticed, often facts about our history we’d rather no one realize or things we’d like to forget. In the second trunk, we store our unexamined behavior and ignorance because out of sight and out of mind seem to belong together. We don’t reach into the first often, but we reach into the other too often. It shouldn’t surprise us that Mormonism also hauls around the same two trunks; after all, Mormonism is a collection of human beings, each linked as family in the way of strong cultures. The existence of these two storage trunks in Mormonism doesn’t diminish the many wonderful things each openly displays, like our love for God and one another. Yet, we can’t fully know ourselves unless we examine the things we’d prefer not to look at, nor can we grow fully. Continue reading “Unpacking the Polygamy Wound”

Polygamy Culture, Pt II

My recent post regarding polygamy culture, followed as it was by this interview from Sisters Quorum, has raised some controversy. The discussion has rankled some LDS members who perceive the phrase as an attack on Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. In other quarters, some claimed “polygamy culture” is just patriarchy. Today I’ll address both these arguments in brief, acknowledging that, like any developing concept, growth and adaptation are likely ahead. Continue reading “Polygamy Culture, Pt II”

Polygamy Culture

There’s “rape culture,” and then there’s “polygamy culture.”

Most people understand that “rape culture” is a term that identifies ways a society blames female victims for the inappropriate (and often criminal) behavior of men. The classic example is the man who asserts a woman “was asking for it by wearing that short skirt.” Polygamy culture, on the other hand, is one in which a man is, essentially, justified (or too-readily forgiven) for inappropriate sexual behavior while the woman who refuses him is villainized.

Both rape and polygamy cultures are generous to the man and critical of the woman; however, polygamy culture excuses itself, not by blaming the woman, but by claiming, in one form or another, that the compassion of God rests with the man. In polygamy culture, the woman is either seen as unrighteous for not giving consent or not seen at all. Too many Mormon women are abused by polygamy culture.

These are a few examples of what polygamy culture looks like: Continue reading “Polygamy Culture”

The Bishop, the Mission President, and the Sexual Predator…Now What?

It sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, but the reality is, Joseph Bishop, a former LDS bishop and repeat mission president, is also a sexual predator. In the recent MormonLeaks audio release, a former female missionary confronts Joseph Bishop, her MTC Mission President in the 1980’s, about his attempted rape of her in the basement of the MTC, and then levels additional accusations of sexually predatory behavior with other women, including another young female missionary. He withholds confession of the attempted rape (he just doesn’t remember that pesky detail; it was so long ago), but aligns himself with adulterous husbands and accepts the title “sexual predator” without denial. To make matters worse, priesthood leaders up the chain of command—specifically Carlos E. Asay (deceased) and Robert E. Wells (emeritus)—took no disciplinary action against him. In fact, they allowed him to remain in his positions of authority and did not prevent him receiving other assignments in which he had private, intimate contact with vulnerable women. Needless to say, people are talking. Screaming. There is justifiable, warranted outrage. But the one thing that I have not heard anyone say is “I don’t believe it. This could never happen.” Continue reading “The Bishop, the Mission President, and the Sexual Predator…Now What?”

The Pedestal and Ecclesiastical Abuse

Stake President Russell Clayton has apologized to Tiercy Hadlock in an email, copied below for easy access. To understand the context, you must listen to the recordings of their meetings and read Clayton’s follow-up emails. However, in summary, Clayton rescinded Hadlock’s temple recommend, then threatened her with a formal disciplinary hearing on the grounds of apostasy when (he asserts) she didn’t follow his direction to “stop talking” about the “emotional affair” between her husband and another female ward member.

Surely some think his apology should be the closure that makes it all go away. But it isn’t much of an apology. He doesn’t apologize for priesthood abuse, for bullying her, for placing the needs of the organization ahead of her needs as an individual. He sounds as if his aim is to resolve the problem at the point at which it intersects with his life as a leader and not at its root–her life. His apology for “not understanding her feelings” ignores her legitimate complaint of ecclesiastical overreach. And that’s the crux of the matter for me: a woman’s legitimate grievances are too often de-legitimized  as emotional and non-rational muckraking.

Continue reading “The Pedestal and Ecclesiastical Abuse”

Power and the New Class of Sinners

SunflowerButterflyLike most progressive Mormons engaging in the discussion about inclusion levels of the LGBTQIA community within the Church, I’ve argued in favor of love—that love is a behavior, that Christlike love practices empathy and inclusion. There is no concrete opposition to that, since love is an abstraction, so what I hear from “opposing” voices sounds a lot like, “We do love; we want to include” followed by a caveat. In truth, most orthodox, mainstream LDS are sincere in their desire to love and include, but they both justify and endorse policies of exclusion without hesitation. It’s a baffling dichotomy. But this weekend, at General Conference, the fog lifted for me. I’ve had it all wrong. This isn’t about a lack of love. It’s about power and submission. It’s about the corruption of ethics and ideals and how we’ve exchanged them for easily quantifiable “standards” that bind a subservient class to the will of its leadership. It’s about control. Continue reading “Power and the New Class of Sinners”