Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God Conforming to Men

Something keeps coming up in the discussions of polygamy I see wandering about the web. I have heard it said that polygamy probably wasn't God's commandment because if it had been, the Church would not have discontinued the practice.

My question is why?

Why is it not possible that God could have the Church conform to legal laws when the tension between legal and spiritual laws becomes so tight, the Church as a whole faces extinction?

Wouldn't the Lord prefer we follow the laws of the land than have His authority and restored gospel lost from the earth again, especially when He promised that would not happen?

Isn't God adapting His laws to men what most of the Old Testament and Law of Moses is about?


  1. SR, I'm with you! I posted on this issue of changes in the church, as well.

    The Lord teaches clearly in Jacob that he may implement or stop polygamy as he sees fit. And his living prophet at the time stated that the direction came from God.

    It's all too easy for us -- removed by decades -- to ascribe motivations that we do not understand.

  2. "Why is it not possible that God could have the Church conform to legal laws when the tension between legal and spiritual laws becomes so tight, the Church as a whole faces extinction?"

    To me D&C 124:49 shows conclusively that it is possible.

  3. "Why is it not possible that God could have the Church conform to legal laws when the tension between legal and spiritual laws becomes so tight, the Church as a whole faces extinction?"

    Because then the moral relativists in the Kingdom wouldn't have their simplistic explanations for how the Gospel *must* fit their left-wing worldview.

  4. It's certainly very possible that's would COULD have happened. Except that the history of polygamy in the LDS church doesn't conform to this possible explanation. While LDS church leaders publicly stated that the church was following the laws of the land and had discontinued the practice of polygamy, privately the practice continued and went underground for a number of years, with full support from the FP and Qo12.

    So where does that leave your possibility? Did God actually have the LDS church conform to the state? If so, why did leaders continue the practice surreptitiously? It seems to me that their actions argue explicitly against the possibility of which you speak.

    If not, then the leaders of the LDS church were lying for political advantage; God didn't command the discontinuation, but the church pretended so in order to lessen the political backlash against the church.

  5. Kari, you should check your facts. In fact, it was not with FULL support of the FP and 12. There was quite a bit of disagreement among them in those years between the declarations on polygamy. And there was the nasty issue of what to do with already established families. There's an interesting treatment at BCC (, but also in Arrington & Bitton's Mormon Experience.

  6. And just because God commanded it, Kari, doesn't mean that every person easily fell into line. That is the gap between what men should do and what they do.

    How would you feel if some group you believed in suddenly changed a core policy? I would guess that you'd have some struggle adapting, too, even if you believed it was a valid change.

  7. Paul, I've read the BCC discussion, as well as Daymon Smith's dissertation. My choice of words was poor. However, I would argue that there was significant support from the FP and Qo12 with regards to ongoing polygamous marriages. At least for the first 10 years post-manifesto.

    SilverRain, the issue isn't how the rank and file react. In this case it's specifically how the leadership reacted. You claim that the cessation of polygamy was a commandment from God. But if a significant number of his prophets, seers, and revelators interpret the manifesto not as a commandment, but a duplicitous statement aimed at protecting the President of the church and the church itself, what does that say about the "commandment" itself?

    If it was truly a commandment, God wasn't very clear to his prophets, now was he?

    This isn't about struggling to adapt to a valid change; these prophets didn't view the manifesto(s) as valid change.

  8. Kari, leadership are PART of the "rank and file" as you say. They don't wear gold stars on their bellies, they don't have some secret ticket to heaven. They are just people, too. If you've studied Joseph Smith's life, for example, you would see many instances where the Lord had to coax him into doing His will.

    The Church's first directive is to bring the gospel to this dispensation. What you see as duplicity was their survival. Perhaps you have never had to fight for your life or your beliefs with your life on the line. But I can understand why things happened the way they did within the framework of divine revelation and direction of the Church.

    If the Manifesto was purely to preserve the lives and dignity of the leadership, it came rather late to the game. Don't forget that many of the leadership around at the time of the Manifesto had already proved their willingness to lay down their lives for the Church.

    And your last sentence proves my point. They didn't view it as a valid change because their minds and hearts had not yet aligned to the will of God, which in this case was to conform at that time to the forceful dominance of the government. There are multiple examples of the hand of the Lord working in the minds and hearts of Church leadership to bring them all to understand his will in unanimity.

    It makes clear sense to me, based on the Lord's way of dealing with me.

  9. Silver Rain, I appreciate your response.

    Kari, would argue that Daymon Smith's series of posts make an excellent case for the ambiguity that existed at the time, without ascribing the sinister motives that you do. Of course, you may read things differently.

    Additionally, I believe that God can be as clear as he wants to be, and it's not up to me whether he's been clear enough or not.

  10. Ultimately we each look at religion and the LDS church in a different light. I disagree with your take on this part of LDS history, just as I'm sure we'd disagree on other aspects of religion.

  11. Thanks, Paul.

    Fair enough, Kari. Fortunately, my testimony isn't based on your understanding or vice versa. We are each responsible for our own salvation.


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