Mormon Doctrine on the Dustbin (Part Three)

Posted: July 7, 2019 in Fred Anson, LdS Temple Theology, Mormon Doctrine on the Dustbin, Mormon Studies, Official Mormon Doctrine

A painting by C.C.A. Christensen of the original Nauvoo Temple burning after being set to flame by an unknown arsonist on October 9, 1848.

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging Mormon Doctrine on the Dustbin (Part Three)principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the third in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

10) The original 1835 D&C 101
The following is an excerpt from the LDS periodical, Times and Seasons dated Saturday, October 1, 1842 (3:939). This edition included section 101 (CI) from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, plus an addendum denouncing John C. Bennett’s “secret wife system.” The date is significant because by October 1, 1842, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was already “married” secretly to several women.

ON MARRIAGE.
According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority.-We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil [fulfill] your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”

The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.

[This is where D&C 101 ends]

We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

S. Bennett, N. K. Whitney,
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon, John Taylor,
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
W. Woodruff, Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.

Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor [Counselor],
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor [Counselor],
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
Mary C. Miller, Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler, Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon, Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter, Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law, Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks, Rosannah Marks

(the above write up and analysis is courtesy of our friends at Mormonism Research Ministry)

11) Pre-1990 Temple Endowment Blood Oaths
On May 4, 1842, Joseph Smith instituted the endowment ritual in Nauvoo, Illinois. At three different stages of the endowment, participants were asked to take an oath of secrecy regarding the gestures of the ceremony (Kearns 1906, p. 8). The participants promised that if they were ever to reveal the gestures of the ceremony, would be subject to the following:

  • Stage 1: “my throat … be cut from ear to ear, and my tongue torn out by its roots;”
  • Stage 2: “our breasts … be torn open, our hearts and vitals torn out and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field;”
  • Stage 3: “our body … be cut asunder and all your bowels gush out.”

Each of the penalties was accompanied by gestures known as the “execution of the penalty” which simulated the actions described in the oath (Kearns 1906, p. 8).

  • Stage 1: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb just under the left ear. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the tip of the thumb swiftly across the throat until the thumb was just under the right ear, then dropping the hand and arm quickly to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 2: The participant placed his or her hand in a cup form over the left breast. The execution of the gesture was made by pulling the hand-cup swiftly across the breast, then quickly dropping the hand and arm to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 3: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb on the left of the torso, just above the left hip. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the thumb swiftly across the stomach until the thumb was just above the right hip, and the hand and arm were quickly dropped to the side of the participant’s body.
    (source: “Penalty (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website)

A side-by-side comparison of the pre and post-1990 ceremonies can be found by clicking here.

12) Pre-1927’s Temple Endowment Oath of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance that was used in the in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 went as follows:

You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

The Oath of Vengeance against the American people and the Government for the death of Joseph Smith was a very important part of the temple ceremony for many years. Because of this temple ceremony vow of vengeance upon this nation, a protest was filed in 1903 in the United States Senate to have Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle who had been elected a Senator from Utah, removed from office on the grounds that he had taken this treasonous oath in the endowment ritual. It became the subject of a United States Senate Investigation.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906).

John Hawley, a former Mormon, made these statements in his Congressional testimony concerning the Smoot investigation:

I went to Salt Lake City in 1856. They gave the endowments of washing and anointing, and then there was an oath taken in Utah to avenge the blood of the prophet… In taking the endowments at Salt Lake there was the oath required, and the oath that was required was to ‘avenge the death or blood of the prophet.’ We were made to swear to avenge the death of Joseph Smith the Martyr, together with that of his brother Hyrum, on this American nation, and that we should teach our children and children’s children to do so. ‘The penalty for this grip and oath was disembowelment,’ I would not have discussed the method of these endowments when I was a member of the Utah Church. The penalty for revealing or disclosing these secrets was disembowelment. The grips and tokens of the priesthood were what we were not to disclose… I kept the obligation while living in Salt Lake City.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906)

However, and bizarrely, despite this seditious oath being publicly exposed during the Reed Smoot hearing the LdS Church still continued to use the vow of vengeance in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 after which it was dropped.

13)  Blood Atonement
In Mormonism, blood atonement is a controversial doctrine that taught that some crimes are so heinous that the atonement of Jesus does not apply. Instead, to atone for these sins the perpetrators should be killed in a way that would allow their blood to be shed upon the ground as a sacrificial offering.

The doctrine is no longer accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), but it was significantly promoted during the Mormon Reformation, when Brigham Young governed the Utah Territory as a near-theocracy. Sins that Young and other members of his First Presidency mentioned as meriting blood atonement included miscegenation [the mixing of different racial groups through marriage], apostasy, theft, murder, fornication, and adultery.

Young taught that the doctrine was to be a voluntary choice by the sinner, and only to be practiced under a complete theocracy (which has not existed in modern times). Young considered it more charitable to sacrifice a life than to see them endure eternal torment in the afterlife. In a full Mormon theocracy, the practice would be implemented by the state as a penal measure.

The blood atonement doctrine was the impetus behind laws in the territory and state of Utah allowing capital punishment by firing squad or decapitation. Though people in Utah were executed by firing squad for capital crimes under the assumption that this would aid their salvation, there is no clear evidence that Young or other top theocratic Mormon leaders enforced blood atonement for apostasy or non-capital crimes like miscegenation. There is, however, some evidence that the doctrine was enforced a few times at the local church level without regard to secular judicial procedure. The rhetoric of blood atonement may have contributed to a culture of violence leading to the Mountain Meadows massacre.
(source: “Blood Atonement”, Wikipedia website, bracketed text added for clarity.) 

14) Pre-1978 OD-2 Black Priesthood Ban
Beginning in the late 1840s, individuals of black African descent were prohibited from ordination to the LDS Church’s priesthood—normally held by all male members who meet church standards of spiritual “worthiness”—and from receiving temple ordinances such as the endowment and celestial marriage (sealing). The origins of the policy are still unclear: during the 20th century, most church members and leaders believed the policy had originated during founding prophet Joseph Smith’s time, but church research in the 1960s and 1970s found no evidence of the prohibition before the presidency of Brigham Young

On September 30, 1978, during the church’s 148th Semiannual General Conference, the following was presented by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:

In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously. [Official Declaration 2Doctrine and Covenants, a standard work of the LDS Church]

On that day, the general conference unanimously voted to accept the revelation “as the word and will of the Lord.”

Following the revelation, black male members were allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. Black members and their spouses regardless of race were allowed to enter the temple and undergo the temple rituals, including celestial marriages. Black members could be adopted into a tribe of Israel through a patriarchal blessing. Black members were also allowed to serve missions and hold leadership positions. Proselytization restrictions were removed, so missionaries no longer needed special permission to teach black people, converts were no longer asked about African heritage, and marks were no longer made on membership records indicating African heritage.
(source: “1978 Revelation on Priesthood”, Wikipedia website) 

The 1978 Official Declaration 2 revelation also sent the 1949 and 1969 First President’s statements on race to the dustbin. Here they are in full:

First Presidency statement (President George Albert Smith)
August 17, 1949

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

The First Presidency

(Statement of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, August 17, 1949, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City)

First Presidency statement (President David O. McKay)
December 15, 1969

To General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops.

Dear Brethren:

In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

First, may we say that we know something of the sufferings of those who are discriminated against in a denial of their civil rights and Constitutional privileges. Our early history as a church is a tragic story of persecution and oppression. Our people repeatedly were denied the protection of the law. They were driven and plundered, robbed and murdered by mobs, who in many instances were aided and abetted by those sworn to uphold the law. We as a people have experienced the bitter fruits of civil discrimination and mob violence.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired, that it was produced by “wise men” whom God raised up for this “very purpose,” and that the principles embodied in the Constitution are so fundamental and important that, if possible, they should be extended “for the rights and protection” of all mankind.

In revelations received by the first prophet of the Church in this dispensation, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Lord made it clear that it is “not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.” These words were spoken prior to the Civil War. From these and other revelations have sprung the Church’s deep and historic concern with man’s free agency and our commitment to the sacred principles of the Constitution.

It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.

However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not within the purview of the civil law. The first amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affecting those of the Negro race who choose to join the Church falls wholly within the category of religion. It has no bearing upon matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation.

This position has no relevancy whatever to those who do not wish to [p.223] join the Church. Those individuals, we suppose, do not believe in the divine origin and nature of the church, nor that we have the priesthood of God. Therefore, if they feel we have no priesthood, they should have no concern with any aspect of our theology on priesthood so long as that theology does not deny any man his Constitutional privileges.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principle of continuous revelation. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, “The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God….

“Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state.”

President McKay has also said, “Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood.”

Until God reveals His will in this matter, to him whom we sustain as a prophet, we are bound by that same will. Priesthood, when it is conferred on any man comes as a blessing from God, not of men.

We feel nothing but love, compassion, and the deepest appreciation for the rich talents, endowments, and the earnest strivings of our Negro brothers and sisters. We are eager to share with men of all races the blessings of the Gospel. We have no racially-segregated congregations.

Were we the leaders of an enterprise created by ourselves and operated only according to our own earthly wisdom, it would be a simple thing to act according to popular will. But we believe that this work is directed by God and that the conferring of the priesthood must await His revelation. To do otherwise would be to deny the very premise on which the Church is established.

We recognize that those who do not accept the principle of modern revelation may oppose our point of view. We repeat that such would not wish for membership in the Church, and therefore the question of priesthood should hold no interest for them. Without prejudice they should grant us the privilege afforded under the Constitution to exercise our [p.224] chosen form of religion just as we must grant all others a similar privilege. They must recognize that the question of bestowing or withholding priesthood in the Church is a matter of religion and not a matter of Constitutional right.

We extend the hand of friendship to men everywhere and the hand of fellowship to all who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein.

We join with those throughout the world who pray that all of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ may in due time of the Lord become available to men of faith everywhere. Until that time comes we must trust in God, in His wisdom and in His tender mercy.

Meanwhile we must strive harder to emulate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose new commandment it was that we should love one another. In developing that love and concern for one another, while awaiting revelations yet to come, let us hope that with respect to these religious differences, we may gain reinforcement for understanding and appreciation for such differences. They challenge our common similarities, as children of one Father, to enlarge the out-reachings of our divine souls.

Faithfully your brethren,
The First Presidency

By Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner

(source: FAIRMormon website)

15) Male-to-Male Adoptive Sealings per “The Law of Adoption
The law of adoption was a ritual practiced in Latter Day Saint temples between 1846 and 1894 in which men who held the priesthood were sealed in a father–son relationship to other men who were not part of nor even distantly related to their immediate nuclear family…

Brigham Young had been sealed by the law of adoption to Joseph Smith, and in January and early February 1846 (before leaving for the Rocky Mountains on 15 February 1846), Young was sealed to 38 young men by the law of adoption in the Nauvoo Temple.[Brooks, Juanita (1992) [1961], John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, p. 73, ISBN 0-87421-162-XOCLC 42329435] On 23 February 1847, Young “went to see Joseph” in a dream and Young said that he spoke with Smith about the law of adoption.[Manuscript History of Brigham Young, February 23, 1847]

On April 6, 1862, Young said of the law of adoption: “By this power men will be sealed to men back to Adam, completing and making perfect the priesthood from this day to the winding up scene.”[ Journal of Discourses, volume 9, page 269.] It is reported by Young’s grandson, Kimball Young (chairman of the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University) that Brigham Young stated in a letter that there will be a future time “when men would be sealed to men in the priesthood in a more solemn ordinance than that by which women were sealed to men, and in a room over that in which women were sealed to man.”[Young, Kimball (1954), Isn’t One Wife Enough?, New York: Holt, pp. 278–280, OCLC837920]…

In a church general conference address on 8 April 1894, Wilford Woodruff stated that “I have not felt satisfied, nor has any man since the Prophet Joseph Smith who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt there was more to be revealed on this subject than we have received … and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is let every man be adopted to his father.”[Irving, Gordon (Spring 1974), “The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation”, BYU Studies, 14 (3), p.312]

Thus, as of 1894, the practice of the law of adoption ceased in the LDS Church.
(source: “Law of Adoption (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website) 

(click to view full image)

16) Polyandry: The Practice of One Woman Being Married to More Than One Husband
The gospel/church sealing ordinance of polyandry created and practiced by Joseph Smith was discontinued after the Nauvoo Illinois period according to Mormon apostle John Widstoe (“Evidences And Reconciliations”, p. 343).

Mormon researcher and apologist Brian Hales claims that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s known polygamous wives were still married to living husbands:

My research supports that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives had legal husbands. It could be that in Joseph Smith’s history, polygamy is the most difficult thing to understand. Within polygamy, Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women, is the most difficult. So we’re talking about a pretty tough subject today. And I can tell you already, that if it were easy, someone would have already explained it decades ago. But I think we’ve got it figured out.

Now there are two questions: “Why did he do it”, and “Did the women really have two husbands?” Answering the question of why he did it requires us to introduce some new topics. Joseph taught that marriage can be eternal and that everyone must be sealed to be exalted. These are not new to us, we’ve all heard these. But outside of Mormondom, these are kind of new ideas. Emmanuel Swedenborg had talked about eternal marriage and he died in 1772. But really, nobody talked about eternal marriage. The idea that you had to be married to get the highest salvation, that’s still a really new and somewhat different teaching.
(Brian C. Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?”, Proceedings of the 2012 FAIR Conference”, August 2012)

Why polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo is a mystery just as much as to why it was discontinued after the Saints left Illinois. It is an odd and unusual anomaly that now lays in the dustbin.

The charred remains of the Provo Tabernacle after it was gutted by a fire on December 17, 2010.

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.