A recurrent criticism cropping up in the discussion on Egan’s New York Times article is that polygamy inevitably creates “Lost Boys.” These are young men that get kicked out of a polygamous community to reduce competition for a resource in short supply –that of marriage partners. One commenter put it this way:
A simple polygamous example involves 6 people:
one man has 3 wives
two men have none
In this model, one man’s gain is another man’s loss. I would like to explore, through some preliminary statistical analysis, why this isn’t an adequate model for 19th century Mormonism, but it may be relevant to contemporary FLDS. I say “may” because I do not have enough data about the FLDS to make a judgment. I can, however, address whether the criticisms lobbied at them apply to 19th century Mormonism.
This week New York Times blogger Timothy Egan made a sophomoric attempt to connect the modern FLDS church’s practice of polygamy to that of early Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Excerpt:
[Mitt Romney's] faith was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith Jr., an itinerant treasure-seeker from upstate New York who used a set of magic glasses to translate a lost scripture from God. His personality was infectious, the religion very approachable.
It would have been just another Christian faith had not Smith let his libido lead him into trouble. Before he died at the hands of a mob, he married at least 33 women and girls; the youngest was 14, and was told she had to become Smith’s bedmate or risk eternal damnation.
Smith was fortunate to find a religious cover for his desire. His polygamy “revelation” was put into The Doctrine and Covenants, one of three sacred texts of Mormonism. It’s still there – the word of God. And that’s why, to the people in the compound at Eldorado, [Texas,] the real heretics are in Salt Lake City.
As his biographer, Fawn Brodie, wrote, Joseph Smith “could not rest until he had redefined the nature of sin and erected a stupendous theological edifice to support his new theories on marriage.”
It is hard for me to imagine more factual errors and loaded language that could be squeezed into four short paragraphs.
Some time ago, I posted an entry complaining of Governor “Finn’s” crack about Mormon doctrine. Anti-Mormons respond to our taking offense by claiming that we don’t like it when Christians “speak the truth in in love” about us. Up to now, my reply is that anti-Mormons state our beliefs in such a way as to make the Church seem bizarre, even sinister. While that is still true, I think I’ve found another reason.
Imagine this dispatch from the New Yuck Times:
“Tumbleweed, NV, April 21st: Government officials raided an offshoot Baptist compound yesterday following an alleged 911 call from a 16-year-old girl claiming that her husband had beat her with a one-inch-thick stick. In all, 500 women and children were evacuated.
“Said Mustangranch County Sheriff Darius Dust, ‘We had to move. The founder was already convicted of statutory rape and incest. We just couldn’t afford to have any more abused kids.’
“Dust was referring to the founder/pastor of the First Redneck Baptist Church, Reverend Jerry Lee Lulu, convicted last month of marrying his 13-year-old first cousin. Lulu founded the Church because he was concerned that the Redneck traditions of the Old South in Appalachia was becoming lost in the rapidly-modernizing world. Lulu’s group fled their original settlement in Lorettalynn, WV, after local authorities announced a probe of illegal activities. In addition to allegations of statutory rape and spousal and child abuse, Coaldust County, WV District Attorney John B. Goode claimed that there were credible charges of “moonshining,” or making illegal alcohol. However, the group fled the jurisdiction before charges could be filed, and Goode declined to press the matter further. ‘I just figured that it was now Nevada’s problem,’ Goode explained.
“At the request of state authorities, the Tumbleweed Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assisted in the evacuation by providing a caravan of busses and cars, and housing the evacuees in their Mustangranch Nevada Stake Center. Said Bishop Harry Dingy, of the Tumbleweed Ward, ‘What a wonderful opportunity to minister and show hospitality to our non-LDS neighbors!’”
If the details of the above story disturb you, maybe you can see why this article disturbs me.
In a display of total disconnect that would put Canadian lawyer Bob McCue to shame, along comes “Aleksandr Zinkovsky, head of the department of psychiatry at the Tver State Medical Academy,” who says that Latter-day Saints “have a low level of intelligence” because “they practice inbreeding.”
While this slur might impress neo-Communists in Tver, Russia, it is entirely unconvincing to better-educated people, like the readers of the Financial Times, which in 2006 rated the business programme at LDS flagship Brigham Young University as the 45th best–in the world.
Mormon Times has become an instant sensation on the internet and a regular stop in my surfing patterns. I have enjoyed working with FAIR volunteers and editor Joe Walker to help provide some content for their web page. Today I found a news report about Elder Ballard admonishing BYU-Idaho graduates to use their knowledge to help combat the growing tide of internet anti-Mormonism. The article summarizes and quotes Elder Ballard as follows: Continue reading
The Olivewood Bookstore in Provo has done it again! After February’s fireside featuring John Sorenson, for an encore they brought in another prolific Mawell Institute scholar, Daniel C. Peterson. Dr. Peterson did not disappoint, but if you missed it, don’t fret as it was captured on video and I have updated this blog now that it has been made available on YouTube. The event was well attended. John Clark and John Sorenson were in the audience. Bill Hamblin arrived late, but seeing that no anti-Mormon contingent had materialized to disrupt the event as they had threatened, did not stay long. I met a few personalities who I originally became aware of over the internet, but I don’t know if they wanted to be outed in this space.
Blogger and apologist extraordinaire Jeff Lindsay discusses John Clark’s 2005 FAIR Conference presentation, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon and Archaeology.”
Jeff, as usual, injects some good humor into his writing:
For this post, I’m not interested in getting dozens of the standard uninformed comments about how there is “no evidence for anything in the Book of Mormon.” And yes, I already know that there are serious questions about the evidence for horses, silk, metals, and iPods in the Book of Mormon.
I don’t know about iPods, but there is conclusive evidence that there are handheld electronic devices in the celestial kingdom. (See Revelation 7:9.)
I offer up this quote for your collective consideration:
“Because of their Masonic characters the ceremonies of the temple are sacred and not for the public.”
October 15, 1911; Messages of First Presidency, 4: 250.