Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Comments on Denver Snuffer's Talk on Polygamy

I really, really don't have time to write this right now. And, because of the oversight those to whom this post is directed have already committed, I have very little hope it will do any good. My mind is drawn to what Abraham said to the rich man: they have the words of Moses and the prophets, if they haven't heeded them, what good would my words do?

Forgive me, again, for not taking the time this post deserves. I will have to leave it as a chain of breadcrumbs that the interested can use to guide their own questions.

1. Did Denver ever credit God as the source of any part of his argument? How many times did he explicitly say this was his belief/opinion/etc.? (Note: The only time he said something was from revelation was when he gave, word for word, an instruction he received regarding the law of adoption, which was not connected to plural marriage by Denver.)
2. If what Denver said was not revelation, should you weight it any heavier than you would any other man's opinion? Do you accept anything Denver might say as God's word, even if it didn't come from God? If so, how are you different than those who believe the same about Thomas Monson, their bishop, their home teacher, etc.? Is this not idolatry, as you have made a man equal to God?
3. How long have you spent in prayer asking God about plural marriage? Have you spent at least the two hours that you were willing to listen to some man's opinion on the topic?
4. Have you ever read any history on the topic? At a minimum, have you yourself poured over the convenient bound history edited by Brian Hales?
5. Do you think that your effort has been sufficient to merit a response from heaven?
6. Do you trust God enough, and distrust your own wisdom enough, to accept whatever he might tell you about plural marriage?
7. EVEN IF Denver is right about plural marriage, don't you think you should have faith enough in God that you would be willing to accept the alternative hypothesis? If it offends you to think that God should desire such a thing, doesn't that give you something to work on?

Here are some questions that anyone should ask with regard to what was in the talk:
1. Is the lack of children fathered by Joseph evidence that he did not have sex with his wives? What would that require, as women are only fertile 6 days per month, with no guarantee during that time.
2. If plural marriage was uniquely connected to Joseph assembling a family, why would the means of achieving this be to enter into an order that society prevented from including physically living with a woman and, as Snuffer portends, did not include children? What kind of a family is that?
3. If plural marriage was uniquely connected to Joseph assembling a family, why did he bring other men into the system?
4. If Joseph Smith's polygamy did not include sex, why did William Law, a previously faithful confidant of Joseph, apostatize? Law's own reasons are enumerated in the first copy of the Nauvoo expositor. They included plural marriage and Joseph having been ordained king of the world. The latter, we know, actually occurred during the council of 50 meetings. Is Law as trustworthy witness?
5. If Joseph Smith's polygamy did not include sex, who added that? Did those men he plurally sealed have sex with their wives before Joseph's martyrdom? If not, do you think that group, who opposed Brigham Young's power grab, would have cried foul about it?
6. Why did Nauvoo Saints who did not support Brigham Young's claim to power (having opted to join the RLDS instead) still claim that Joseph Smith practiced sexual polygamy, when to do so required also saying that Joseph repented of it before death, since it was not a doctrine accepted as true by the RLDS?

Conclusion:
I strongly agree with Denver that we ought to focus on the things that Joseph restored. I agree that we don't have actionable detail available regarding plural marriage. I think we both agree that the clearest, surest message of the restoration is that we all can and need to establish a real connection with God. How do we do it? By seeking him directly. I disagree that it is useful or appropriate to draw conclusions about plural marriage without revelation on the subject. It seems obvious to me that, should God reveal something contrary to Denver's opinion on the subject at some later time, a lot of people are going to be on the wrong side of the issue due to their idolatry of Denver. This is not Denver's fault, as he has counseled people many times to question everything he says and not to be his followers. This talk did not increase our understanding of plural marriage. However, it should reveal to those who enjoyed it so some things they could work on: their idolatry in Denver Snuffer and their faith to do whatever God asks, even if they don't understand why.

Should we be reticent to engage in plural marriage? Absolutely. Saul was destroyed for failing to wait on the Lord in offering the prescribed sacrifice. Does this mean God will not command men to practice it? No. God is free to command anyone to do anything, and his disciples will obey. Our reticence towards plural marriage should extend to all things restored through Joseph Smith about which we do not have sufficient detail. Joseph spoke about animal sacrifice. I do not have details from God about how to do it, therefore I abstain. God has not commanded me to do it. Therefore I abstain for fear of offending him. I agree with what Joseph said: "I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise." (Oct. 5, 1843.) DHC 6:46.

Joseph gave a temple garment, but the details of it have been lost to history. Joseph provided an endowment ceremony, but only the First Presidency have access to the Nauvoo manuscript (discovered only a few years ago) or the more recent Brigham Young transcript (which survived only because the St. George temple president refused to destroy it as commanded in the 1920s by the apostle who wrote the new version). We need not try to implement ancient worship like sacred dancing that we know nothing about. We need not spend our time on other unknowns like frequencies and colors and sacred shapes. And so on.

We have enough to focus on that is crystal clear. We need not offend God by filling in the blanks of what we do not know or understand. We should, however, spend time on trying to connect to God through studying the scriptures, praying to disabuse ourselves of our preconceived notions, helping others, and doing absolutely everything the Spirit says.