Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An Inconvenient Truth: Lowry Nelson was right; The First Presidency was wrong

Darius Gray has inspired me to embrace the full truth, not just the convenient truth. I look to the past not to find fault, but to learn lessons that should inform us to be better today. With that said, I have found many important lessons from the 1947 correspondence between Lowry Nelson and the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I consider it a prequel, of sorts, to Greg Prince's "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism." I find in Lowry Nelson an example of someone who followed his conscience to seek and to speak truth, even though the leaders he sustained at the time weren't ready for the truth. Please consider the magnitude of this ordeal and the fact that he actually was right and they were wrong. Perhaps we can all learn to be more humble about what we "know" to be true, and speak the truth in love:

In the Direction of His Dreams 
Memoirs of Lowry Nelson

Ch. 16 (pp. 334 through 349)

Again The Church And I

My reference in the previous chapter to the fact that I taught summer school at Utah State University would justify no further comment except for the fact I received a very upsetting letter. Because the ensuing correspondence was destined to put me in conflict with the authorities of my church, it is justifiably part of this chronicle.

The disturbing letter came from Heber Meeks, an old friend of my college days at Logan. Heber was now president of the Southern States Mission of the Mormon Church, with headquarters in Atlanta. He informed me that he had been in Cuba on instructions of the First Presidency to investigate the possibility of doing missionary work there. In Havana, he had met Chester Young, a friend of mine, who informed him that I had spent a year studying rural life in Cuba. Heber went on to say:

I would appreciate your opinion as to the advisability of doing missionary work particularly in the rural sections of Cuba, knowing, of course, our concept of the Negro and his position as the Priesthood.

Are there groups of pure white blood in the rural sections, particularly in the small communities? If so, are they maintaining segregation from the Negroes? The best information we received was that in the rural communities there was no segregation of the races and it would probably be difficult to find, with any degree of certainty, groups of pure white people.

I would also like your reaction as to what progress you think the Church might be able to make in doing missionary work in Cuba in view of, particularly in the rural section, the ignorance and superstition of the people and their being so steeped in Catholicism. Do you think our message would have any appeal to them?

I was stunned. My reply to Heber, dated June 26, 1947, in part, was as follows:

The attitude of the Church in regard to the Negro makes me very sad. Your letter is the first intimation I have had that there was a fixed doctrine on this point. I had always known that certain statements had been made by authorities regarding the status of the Negro, but I had never assumed that they constituted an irrevocable doctrine. I hope no final word has been said on this matter. I must say that I have never been able to accept the idea, and never shall. I do not believe that God is a racist. But if the Church has taken an irrevocable stand, I would dislike to see it enter Cuba or any other island where difference races live and establish missionary work. The white and colored people get along much better in the Caribbean and most of Latin America than they do in the United States. Prejudice exists, there is no doubt, and the whites in many ways manifest their feelings of superiority, but there is much less of it than one finds in the U.S.A, especially in our South. For us to go into a situation like that and preach a doctrine of “white supremacy” would, it seems to me, be a tragic disservice. I am speaking frankly, because I feel very keenly on this question. If world brotherhood and the universal-God idea mean anything, it seems to me they mean equality of races. I fail to see how Mormonism or any other religion claiming to be more than a provincial church can take any other point of view; and there cannot be world peace until the pernicious doctrine of the superiority of one race and the inferiority of others is rooted out. This is my belief. 
The Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists have, as you know, done a great deal of missionary work in the island, and have rendered Cuba a great service in maintaining schools, hospitals, etc.; however, they have limited their work largely to the urban centers. There is a great service to be rendered rural Cubans if the right approach were made. Mormonism is well adapted to render such service with its system of lay leadership and many activity programs. Many rural Cubans have nothing in the way of organized social life. To them, the family is the basic institution, and beyond it the neighborhood. Our Church would provide them with something very sorely needed. It would develop leadership among them, provide them with hope and aspiration, give them a feeling of importance as individuals which they have never had. They have been exploited by priest and politician; they have been led to believe that the government is not any of their responsibility and that the Church is the business of the priest and the bishop. While there is a great deal of individuals among them, they have definite and discernible feelings of inferiority when it comes to matters of leadership. 
I am talking about the white people now; the rural people are predominantly white. That is, they are as white as Mediterranean peoples are—Spanish, Italians, etc—who have been in contact with “color” for centuries. There are no pure races; on this anthropologist are in general agreement. Of course, this does not mean that Negro blood exits throughout the white race or vice versa. There is grave doubt, however, as to the purity of the Nordic, Mediterranean, or even the Negro. Because I think our system of religious organization could serve the rural Cuban people as no other system could, I am sad to have to write you and say, for what my opinion is worth, that it would be better for the Cubans if we did not enter their island—unless we are willing to revise our racial theory. To teach them the pernicious doctrine of segregation and inequalities among races where it does not exist, or to lend religious sanction to it where it has raised its ugly head, would, it seems to me, be tragic. It seems to me we just fought a war over such ideas. 
I repeat, my frankness or bluntness, as you will, is born of a fervent desire to see the causes of war rooted out of the hearts of men. What limited study I have been able to give the subject leads me to the conclusion that ethnocentrism, and the smugness and intolerance which accompany it, is one of the first evils to be attacked if we are to achieve the goal of peace.

On the same date, June 26, [1947] I wrote President George Albert Smith of the Mormon Church as follows:
Dear President Smith: 
I am in receipt today of a letter from President Heber Meeks, an old school friend, copy of which I am enclosing together with a copy of my reply. It is self-explanatory.

Perhaps I am out of order, so to speak, in expressing myself as I have. I have done so out of strong conviction on the subject, and with the added impression that there is no irrevocable Church doctrine on this subject. I am aware of statements and impressions which have been passed down, but I had never been brought face to face with the possibility that the doctrine was finally crystallized. I devoutly hope that such crystallization has not taken place. The many good friends of mixed blood—through no fault of theirs incidentally—which I have in the Caribbean and who know me to be a Mormon would be shocked indeed if I were to tell them my Church relegated them to an inferior status. 
As I told Heber, there is no doubt in my mind that our Church could perform a great service in Cuba, particularly in the rural areas, but it would be far better that we not go in at all, than to go in and promote racial distinction.
I wanted you to know my feelings on this question and trust you will understand the spirit in which I say these things. I want to see us promote love and harmony among peoples of the earth.
I was shortly informed by Joseph Anderson, secretary to the First Presidency, that I had failed to enclose a copy of my letter to Heber Meeks. This I promptly supplied, and in due time received the following reply, dated July 17:

Dr. Lowry Nelson
Utah State Agricultural College
Logan, Utah 
Dear Brother Nelson: 
As you have been advised, your letter of June 26 was received in due course, and likewise we now have a copy of your letter to President Meeks. We have carefully considered their contents, and are glad to advise you as follows:
We make this initial remark: the social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof. 
The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God’s children stand in equal positions before Him in all things. 
Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God’s dealings with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham’s seed and their position vis-à-vis God Himself. Indeed, some of God’s children were assigned to superior positions before the world was formed. We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does. 
Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the preexistence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born have relationship in the life heretofore.
From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church Leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel. 
Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now. God’s rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed. 
We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the church and is contrary to Church doctrine.                       
Faithfully yours,
(signed) Geo. Albert Smith
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
David O. McKay
The First Presidency

As much as I was “stunned” at Heber Meeks’ question regarding my knowledge of the existence of people of “pure white blood,” this letter from the First Presidency was shocking. I knew these men quite well, especially Presidents Smith and McKay. I knew all of the McKay family; the youngest son, Morgan, had been a member of my fraternity in Logan. I referred in an earlier chapter to the assistance of Dr. and Mrs. George R. Hill during my illness. Mrs. Hill was a sister of David O. McKay I adored the whole family. I had associated with President Smith in Boy Scout work. When he came to Minneapolis (in 1943?) he made a special point of having a talk with me. President Clark I knew only casually. He was a member of the First Presidency when I was called “on the carpet” earlier, as already described. [in chapter 9 “The Church and I”]

There is no doubt in my mind that he drafted this letter to me. A lawyer by profession, he had spent most of his career in political positions in Washington: Undersecretary of State in the Harding-Coolidge era and Ambassador to Mexico under Hoover. It was while he was ambassador that he was named a Counselor to President Grant. However, he continued to spend most of his time in New York with the Foreign Bondholders Association until the 1930s.

But the draftsman is only incidental. This was the law and the gospel on the subject. One revealing paragraph put words in my mouth that seem to favor intermarriage. This was gratuitous and I resented it, although I did not put my feeling in writing. It reveals the fear, as expressed by Southern whites, of “mongrelization.” It was probably a basic factor in the continuation of the policy.

My reply, dated October 8, was a long one:

University of Minnesota
Department of Agriculture
University Farm, St. Paul 1 
October 8, 1947 
The First Presidency
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
47 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 
Dear Brethren:
Your letter of July 17th sent to me at Logan was forwarded here, but I had already left for Europe and so did not get it until I returned to my office September 8. I want to thank you for it, and the attention you gave me. The letter is, however, a disappointment to me, as you may surmise it would be from what I said in my letter to President Meeks.

It seems strange to me in retrospect—as it must have seemed to you—that I should have never before had to face up to this doctrine of the Church relative to the Negro. I remember that it was discussed from time to time during my boyhood and youth, Priesthood meetings or elsewhere in Church classes; and always someone would say something about the Negroes “sitting on the fence” during the Council in Heaven. They did not take a stand, it was said. Somehow there was never any very strong conviction manifest regarding the doctrine, perhaps because the question was rather an academic one to us in Ferron, where there were very few people who had ever seen a Negro, let alone having lived in the same community with them. So the doctrine was always passed over rather lightly I should say, with no Scripture ever being quoted or referred to regarding the matter, except perhaps to refer to the curse of Cain, or of Ham and Canaan. (I went back and re-read the latter the other evening. It was difficult to find any element of justice in Noah’s behavior toward Ham, since the latter merely reported to his brothers that his father was lying there in a drunken state and in a nude condition., and the other boys put a cover over him. Because Ham reported his father’s condition, he was cursed.)

But anyway, I really had never come face to face with the issue until this summer. In the meantime, since my youth, I have chosen to spend my professional career in the field of the social sciences, the general purpose of which is to describe and understand human behavior. I probably should have had less difficulty with some of these problems—such as the race problem—had I remained in agronomy and chemistry, my undergraduate fields of specialization. Be that as it may, my experience has been what it has been. As a sociologist, I have sincerely tried, and am still trying, to understand human social relations: the varied forms of organization, the process of conflict, cooperation, competition, assimilation, why peoples and cultures differ form one another, etc.

As one studies the history and characteristics of human societies, one comes to recognize certain basic principles. One of these is social change. Any given society over the years undergoes changes. It is forever in a state of flux. Some scholars have regarded such changes as progress, and have even considered that progress is inevitable. Others chart the rise and fall of civilizations and think in terms of cyclical change. Others express still different hypotheses, but none of them considers society as a static entity. 
Another principle which stands out as one studies the development of cultures is the tendency of institutions to resist change. Although they are established, or grow up, originally as means to the end of satisfying the ends in themselves. It seems to me that Jesus was trying to get this point over to the society of his day, when he spoke of putting new wine in old bottles, and that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. This was an affront to the legalism of the Pharisees, and others of similar outlook, and of course the institutions had to be protected even at the cost of His crucifixion. 
Another principle that has come to occupy a central position in the analysis of human behavior is that of ethnocentrism. As defined by William Graham Sumner, who first developed the concept, it refers to the “view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything and all others are sealed and rated with reference to it.” (The Folkways, p. 13.) Insofar as the “out-group” differs from the “in-group” it is regarded as inferior by the latter. A people with a different skin color would be automatically assigned to an inferior status. A language different from that of the in-group is, of course, an “inferior” one; and so on. This tendency is common to all groups. 
Now, what does this add up to in my thinking? It means that (1) if one accepts the principle of cultural or social change and applies it to the Hebrews, the Old Testament history of the group is interpreted accordingly. In their early stages of development they had beliefs and practices, many of which were subsequently supplanted by other ideas. Jehovah to the Hebrews of the Pentateuch was essentially a tribal deity. It was not until Amos that the idea of a universal God was proclaimed. And the concept of God as Love was an essential contribution of the mission of the Savior. (2) This, to me, represents “progressive revelation.” It seems to me that we still have much to learn about God, and some of our earlier notions of Him may yet undergo modification. (3) The early Hebrew notion of the colored people with whom they had contact in the Mediterranean basin was, quite naturally that those people were inferior to themselves, a consequence of their extreme ethnocentrism. 
Why did they not have something to say about the Japanese or Chinese or the American Indian? To me the answer is that they did not know these groups existed. But one can be pretty certain that if they had known about them, they would have developed some similar explanation regarding their origin to that concerning the Negro, and would have assigned them also to a position less exalted than their own. 
(4) And once these things got written down—institutionalized—they assume an aura of the sacred. I refer in this respect not only to the Scripture, but to more secular documents as well—the Constitution of the United States, for instance, which many people do not want to change regardless of the apparent needs. So we are in the position, it seems to me, of accepting a doctrine regarding the Negro which was enunciated by the Hebrews during a very early stage in their development. Moreover, and this is the important matter to me, it does not square with what seems an acceptable standard of justice today; nor with the letter or spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I cannot find any support for such a doctrine of inequality in His recorded sayings. 
I am deeply troubled. Having decided through earnest study that one of the chief causes of war is the existence of ethnocentrism among the peoples of the world; that war is our major social evil which threatens to send all of us to destruction, and that we can ameliorate these feelings of ethnocentrism by promoting understanding of one people by others, I am now confronted with this doctrine of my own church which says in effect that white supremacy is part of God’s plan for His children, that the Negro has been assigned by Him to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water for his white-skinned brethren. This makes us nominal allies of the Rankins and the Bilbos of Mississippi, a quite unhappy alliance for me, I assure you. 
This doctrine pressed to its logical conclusion would say that Dr. George Washington Carver, the late eminent and saintly Negro scientist, is by virtue of the color of his skin inferior to the least admirable white person, not because of the virtues he may or may not possess, but because—through no fault of his—there is a dark pigment in his skin. All of the people in India—who are not Negroes according to ethnological authority, but are Aryan—would presumably come under the Negro classification. I think of the intelligent, high-minded, clean-living Hindu who was a member of the International Committee over which I had the honor to preside at Geneva from August 4 to 10, this year. He drank not, smoked not, his ethical standards were such that you and I could applaud him. Where should he rank vis-à-vis the least reliable and least admirable white person in Ferron? Or I could name you a real Negro with equal qualifications. 
Now, you say that the “social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof.” I may not have the same concept of “social” as you had in mind, but it seems to me the only virtue we can recognize in men is that expressed in their relations with others; that is, their “social” relations. Are the virtues of honesty, chastity, humility, forgiveness, tolerance, love, kindness, justice secondary? If so, what is primary? Love of God? Very Well. But the second (law) is like unto it. 
I must beg your forgiveness for this intrusion upon your time. I realize that I am only one among hundreds of thousands with whom you have to be concerned. My little troubles I must try to work out myself. But I desire to be understood. That’s why I have gone to such length to set down here the steps in my thinking. I am trying to be honest with myself and with others. I am trying to find my way in what is a very confused world. After seeing the devastation of Europe this summer, I am appalled by the sight of it, and the contemplation of what mankind can collectively do to himself unless somehow we, collectively—the human family—can put love of each other above hatred and somehow come to a mutual respect based upon understanding and a recognition that others, although they may be different from us, are not by that fact alone inferior. Are we becoming so legalistic (after the fashion of the Pharisees) that we cannot adjust our institutions to the changing need of mankind? Are we, as some have charged, more Hebraic than Christian? 
Sincerely your brother, 
(signed) Lowry Nelson, Professor of Sociology LN:ed

Dr. Lowry Nelson
University of Minnesota
Department of Agriculture
University Farm
St. Paul 1, Minnesota 
November 12, 1947 
Dear Brother Nelson: 
We have your letter of October 8 in further development of the matter discussed in your earlier letter. 
We feel very sure that you understand well the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men however well-founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all kindness and in all sincerity that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning. You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can reorient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed word of God. 
Faithfully yours,
(Signed) G. Albert Smith

I showed this correspondence to some friends, perhaps three or four all told. They wanted copies and I gave them to them. In a short time I began receiving letters from persons in various parts of the country saying they had obtained a copy and congratulating me. I do not recall getting an unfavorable comment. I really began to feel some guilt for having released the letters to friends without permission of the First Presidency. Especially when it became apparent that the sub-rosa circulation was so widespread. But, after all, there was no secret about the doctrine, except for those who like myself were uninformed that the dogma was fixed. Kimball Young wrote me that he was surprised that I didn’t know the doctrine was in force. But, unlike Kimball, I had never served a mission for the Church, and certainly missionaries must be instructed on the matter before they leave.

In any case, I had decided to dismiss the matter and do nothing more about it. Then, in 1952, a friend in Salt Lake City, sent me a clipping from the Church Section of the Deseret News that set me off again. The story had to do with two missionaries in South Africa who were asked by a woman church member on her deathbed to do her “work” in the Temple when the boys returned to Salt Lake. Since she lived in that part of the world, the men had to make sure that her blood was not “tainted” before they could proceed to gratify her dying wish. The story recounts their search for her genealogy and their happy discovery that she was born in Holland. So the lady’s request was granted and photos of the men with their wives appeared with the story, all rejoicing.

I was disgusted and sat down and wrote an article entitled “Mormons and the Negro” and sent it to the Nation magazine. It was published in May 1952. For the first time, this policy was out in cold print for the world to see. The Negro press was alerted and the story was widely published. Some of my friends were rather shocked, even disappointed, that I had published it. Their reasoning was typical of Mormon liberals who always try to get things changed from within. But this had never worked out. Only when polygamy became a serious embarrassment to the church did it finally agree to stop the practice. The Church at that time was suffering from what today would be called a tarnished image. It was unable to obtain statehood for Utah because of the practice, although Utah had long since met the usual requirements for this. I figured there would never be any change in the Negro policy until the facts were widely known and pressure could be brought to bear from without as well as from within.

Pressures there were, both by blacks and by their white sympathizers. The Brigham Young University athletic teams were subjected to demonstrations wherever they appeared. Stanford University severed athletic relations with BYU. However, nothing happened for a long time. The Church leaders evaded any pressure for change by saying they were “waiting for the Lord to speak”—that is, for a “revelation.” In addition to increasing pressures on the Church from the outside, agitation for the change of Church policy by liberals from within continued, resulting in numerous excommunications, until, in 1978, Prophet Spencer W. Kimball announced a new revelation granting the Priesthood to blacks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Holy Hope For Holy Leadership

I have very modest expectations for LDS ecclesiastical leaders. This keeps me from going insane whenever I hear of so many boneheaded policies, statements, and disciplinary decisions that cause so many to express concern about leadership rouletteI love and sustain my leaders, but to quote J. Golden Kimball, "I love some a hell of a lot more than I do others."

Recently I've written about my belief that most priesthood leaders read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42 and sincerely desire to lead in their calling "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." However, the scripture also tells us it is "the nature and disposition" of almost all of them to be easily prone to "unrighteous dominion", therefore, I have a healthy respect for the fact that "many are called, but few are chosen."

Krister Stendahl was one leader, not of our faith, who naturally understood that this is how the Lord himself leads--through genuine kindness, unfeigned love, and persuasion. He reportedly offered his Three Rules of Religious Understanding at a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden in response to opposition to the building of a temple there by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His rules are as follows:

(1) When trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.

(2) Don't compare your best to their worst.

(3) Leave room for “holy envy.”

His comments were particularly timely for the Latter-day Saints then, but I find rule #3 particularly relevant for Latter-day Saints today after observing Pope Francis these past two years. My "holy envy" for Pope Francis means I admire him and wish leaders like him would find greater scope and influence within Mormonism. The Lord revealed to the Latter-day Saints that there were other "holy men that ye know not of" (D&C 49:8). In light of this scripture and Stendahl's rule #3, I think that all Latter-day Saints should want to get to know Pope Francis better.

I'd like to start by recommending "Who Is the Pope?" by Eamon Duffy.

This excerpt especially captures not only what I love about Pope Francis, but confirms why I love my local stake president, who leads with love and understanding and isn't blinded by his own authority:
In a series of interviews and speeches, Francis has deplored clergy who “play Tarzan”—church leaders too confident of their own importance, moral strength, or superior insight. The best religious leaders in his view are those who leave “room for doubt.” The bad leader is “excessively normative because of his self-assurance.” The priest who “nullifies the decision-making” of his people is not a good priest, “he is a good dictator.”  
Bergoglio has even said that the very fact that someone thinks he has all the answers “is proof that God is not with him.” Those who look always “for disciplinarian solutions,…long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists” have “a static and inward-directed view of things,” and have turned faith into ideology. And so the experience of failure, of reaching one’s own limits, is the truest and best school of leadership. He has declared himself drawn to “the theology of failure” and a style of authority that has learned through failure to consult others, and to “travel in patience.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

"I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

"The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.  
The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please.” This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof… 
Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498 [499] Joseph Smith said further: “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.” 
...In the advocacy of this principle leaders of the Church not only join congregations in singing but quote frequently the following: 
“Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven.”
And yet today, in 2015, I'm afraid that masterful message still has not permeated our church the way it needs to--filtered through to all layperson and leader entrusted to administer the church. There continue to be pockets of LDS "leaders" who still think it their duty to compel and coerce the Latter-day Saints into believing one way or another.

This week a Mormon man in Missouri was threatened with excommunication unless he takes down his blog post. In my eyes his blog post holds up a magnifying glass to a revelation I myself have expressed serious concerns with after having actually tried to read it objectively. As Joseph Smith said: "Truth will cut its own way," and Kirk Van Allen's post was a confirmation of the truth about my concerns--and then some. In short, it's a thorough and well-written close up look at Section 132--the revelation on plural marriage. I wish I had written it myself, since my conscience tells me to embrace all truth not just convenient truth, and in my view Kirk exposes the truth.

Even if Kirk's logic was faulty and his ideas completely based in ignorance, President David O. McKay insisted that a man in this Church had a right to believe as he pleased. Thus, even if I hated Kirk's post and totally disagreed with it, the ultimatum to remove it under disciplinary threat flies in the face of the 11th Article of Faith, which claims for each individual the privilege of following "the dictates of our own conscience" and believing "how, where, or what they may."

This kind of religious persecution needs to be exposed for what it is: an attack on the "timeless argument which connects the dignity of human life with respect for individuals and their right to think and act from an informed, reflective, and even prayerful conscience." I say these things and publish my thoughts because, along with Stephen L Richards (who ended up serving as a counselor to David O. McKay in the First Presidency) "I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear" the idea that not all scripture in our cannon is equally inspired.

I feel compelled to stand for freedom of conscience. And I stand with the confidence of Hugh B. Brown (another counselor to David O. McKay in the First Presidency), who called each person to "exercise your God-given right to think through every proposition that is submitted to you and to be unafraid to express your opinions, with proper respect for those to whom you talk and proper acknowledgment of your own shortcomings." Calling for the preservation of freedom of the mind "in education and in religion", President Brown said: "We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts."

In another masterful address of his own, President Brown expressed: 
We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”
He reiterated this all again in his "final testimony"--the last chapter of his memoir. I would like to believe that church leaders today understand President Brown's prophetic voice, but in light of "leader routlette" I don't believe it with much confidence. I do believe with confidence that most priesthood leaders read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42 and sincerely desire to lead in their calling "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." Yet, because it is "the nature and disposition" of almost all of them to be easily prone to "unrighteous dominion", I also have a healthy respect for the fact that "many are called, but few are chosen."

Cracking down on a faithful member of the church following the dictates of their conscience and blogging about truth as they understand it, even if it makes some uncomfortable, is the very definition of dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure, intolerance, and unrighteous dominion. The irony is that actually reading the blog with an open mind might lead to learning something new, or at least allow one to better confront "wrong thinking." Even more ironic is the fact that the LDS Church today would excommunicate someone for believing and practicing polygamy, but Kirk is being threatened with excommunication for disbelieving polygamy and speaking against it as an inspired practice. 

In October of last year I published my opinion that plural marriage wasn't inspired by God and even expressed concerns with D&C 132. I wrote: "It's hard for me to believe a loving God threatening that Emma would be 'destroyed' if she didn't accept polygamy. Some Mormons might embrace this Old Testament-like voice of God without a problem. I tend to blame the heavy-handedness on the human filter dictating the revelation--and maybe not getting the language quite right. Hard to 'feel the Spirit' in that section." Kirk's post helps me (and others as far away as New Zealand) understand why that particular section doesn't pass the "fruits of the spirit" test.

I recall Mitt Romney, being interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, voicing his personal opinion on national television: “I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy”. Would that we could all feel free to likewise publicly speak our minds, even if it's to say that we can't imagine any revelation more awful than D&C 132. Joseph Smith was once said to have expressed the following: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." Regardless of the accuracy of that quote, Kirk and I share the opinion that it feels more of a revelation of man than of God.

Lester E. Bush was ostracized for publishing his landmark article "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview." Today we think of him as a hero because he spoke the truth, even when the truth wasn't convenient for the Church. Exposing the history was a huge piece of the puzzle that eventually led to the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. Because the truth he exposed in his article went against the traditional narrative at the time, which turned out to be wrong, he was shunned by LDS ecclesiastical leaders and "Lester and his family withdrew quietly but completely from church activity, the tragic side of 'the long-promised day'.”

I think we all need to apply what Darius Gray once said about facing up to this difficult episode of our history: "The issue isn’t about finding fault but about learning to be better...For those who feel you are defending the Church please know you are not alone. I have defended it for nearly 42 years and have zero interest in causing any harm...However, I do hope that we, as an institution and as individuals, can come to understand that false teachings are still very much with us and that it is required of us to seek truth — and to speak truth."

If we're self-critical and honest about the past and our history, the truth is that the fruits of polygamy have largely been negative. I can’t bring myself to believe that D&C 132 represents God's true voice even if I wanted to--even if social pressure would make it tempting to just go along with it. My conscience can't accept it as coming from a loving God and no "loving" threat of excommunication can change that. Should I be excommunicated for sharing this opinion? The whole question is ridiculous to me and yet it's Kirk's reality right now. I am not out to inspire negativity--I want to inspire truth seeking. I’ll be damned if I sit back idly and fail to apply the lessons of the past whenever group-thinking and towing the line is enforced, regardless of what individual conscience says. Therefore, in solidarity, I republish the original post (with permission) below: 

D&C 132: A revelation of men, not God


What I’m about to say to you may seem shocking, but please read through it completely to understand where I am coming from.  I have come to the belief that D&C 132 and Joseph’s teaching of polygamy isn’t, wasn’t, and never will be revelation of God, that polygamy is not of God but rather an idea of men. I believe that it is self-evident that a loving God would not be the author of such confusion, obvious inequality, and emotionally/psychological damage.  I believe firmly that if there ever was a practice and verse of scripture that has failed the test of fruits of the spirit, D&C 132 and polygamy would be a sure bet.
Galatians 5 reads:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Yet, apparently in Mormondom there is a law that does not mesh with the fruits of the spirit. That law is plural marriage. It is a subject that causes many peoples’ stomachs to wrench with disgust. It is a topic that is avoided and often disregarded as something that only God understands, yet plural marriage has and continues to affect the lives of every Latter-day Saint. You don’t believe me?
In my own life my parents had taught me that polygamy was the marriage system of heaven. My mother would say, “How else would Heavenly Mother be able to give birth to billions of spirit children, unless she did not have fellow women to help her?” People in my very Mormon community would say things like, “When they bring back polygamy…..” or “If the prophet asked you to practice polygamy, would you do it?”, as if it would be the ultimate faith and devotion to God. My wife has even more disturbing experiences.  She was taught that the more righteous the man, the more wives he would have in the life to come.  This created a harsh dichotomy in her mind.  She wanted to marry a righteous man and yet didn’t want to share her husband in polygamous heaven.  She was told that it was a principle designed to teach women humility and to overcome jealousy.  (Because no man would ever be jealous or upset over having to share his spouse.)  I’m sure Mormon readers, especially women, have stories of your own. The doctrine of plural marriage continues to deeply affecting much of the church culture to this day. From the way we treat women, to the way church business is conducted, to temple practices, plural marriage still colors the filter we look through. If you do not believe me, you need to follow this link to learn more.
The reason I have decided to write this post is to stand up for the women hurting from this painful teaching. I’m doing it for my posterity, so they will know where I stood on the issue. And I’m doing it for every polygamous wife that has ever felt the agony of watching their spouse kiss and love another woman.  I’m doing this for every faithful woman that wrestles with the tortuous thought of a polygamous “heaven”. I’m doing this in an effort to help people realize, that with honest study and prayer, you can come to see that polygamy should be thrown into the dust bin of mistakes, never to be resurrected again, and that those rejecting polygamy still remain faithful to God. Let me show you why I believe what I believe-
From personal experience, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been of the opinion that a primary purpose of polygamy was to bring forth more children. God requires polygamy to raise up a righteous generation, yet God has shown in scriptures that monogamous couples are preferred for the of start civilizations, dispensations, and righteous generations.
Adam and Eve, the first people.
Genesis 2
 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Noah and his wife, our first parents after the flood that destroyed mankind.
Genesis 7
There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah…
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
Lehi and Sariah, the first parents of the ancient Americas
1 Nephi 1
5…and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
In each case Adam, Noah, and Lehi all had one wife at a time. When there was dire need to repopulate the Earth with a righteous population, these men found that a loving equal was all that they needed to brave a new world. The scriptures continue to support monogamy in D&C 42:22, 1 Timothy 3:2,12, D&C 49:16, Jacob 2 and 3, Ephesians 5:31 and the list goes on. There are many scriptures that support the overarching idea that a man should cleave unto one woman and none else.
Science, itself, has shown that those in polygamous relationships have less children than monogamous couples would.  For example: if a man had three wives, and each of his wives had three children, there would be 9 children born.  Statistically, three men married to those same women would have an average of 12 children instead of only nine.  If God was looking for quick repopulation, polygamy is not a good way to go about it.
It is self-evident that monogamy is the only type of relationship where total fidelity, trust, and equality can be accomplished. This is something a polygamous relationship cannot provide. In polygamy, marital relationships are perverted beyond something recognizable to any modern Mormon. The Proclamation to the Family, heralded as the blueprint to a successful, godly society states,
All human beings-male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny…Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and carefor each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another…We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
Let’s take Brigham Young for example, He was said to have approximately 55 wives. A loving husband and father would surely spend an equal amount of time loving and caring for each wife and her children. Unfortunately, for Brigham Young’s wives that would mean that Brigham would help change diapers and play catch, less than one week a year. Many of his wives lived together in dorm-like settings. This would mean they may have seen the president of the church more often than one week a year, but the quality time a monogamous relationship is more likely to achieve, was not possible. These incredibly strong women were forced to be basically single parents, loyal to absentee husbands, in a place they  called Zion. Many of them relied on each other to help raise their children so adequately  supplied to them.  Happiness and love was an afterthought. Zina Huntington, one of Brigham’s and Joseph Smith’s wives depressingly stated:
“It is the duty of the first wife to regard her husband not with a selfish devotion… she must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy… we believe in the good old custom by which marriages should be arranged by the parents of the young people.”  -New York World, November 17, 1869, as cited in The Lion of the Lord, pp. 229-230
Brigham Young seemed to ignore the lack of love and care with these words:
My wife, though a most excellent woman, has not seen a happy day since I took my second wife;’ ‘No, not a happy day for a year,’ says one; and another has not seen a happy day for five years. It is said that women are tied down and abused: that they are misused and have not the liberty they ought to have; that many of them are wading through a perfect flood of tears, …And my wives have got to do one of two things; either round up their shoulders to endure the afflictions of this world, and live their religion, or they may leave, for I will not have them about me. I will go into heaven alone, rather than have scratching and fighting around me. I will set all at liberty. ‘What, first wife too?’ Yes, I will liberate you all.”I know what my women will say; they will say, ‘You can have as many women as you please, Brigham.’ But I want to go somewhere and do something toget rid of the whiners; I do not want them to receive a part of the truth and spurn the rest out of doors.”-Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, 1856, pp. 55-57
This comment was an ultimatum given to the women of Utah with a choice that they shape up, or leave and face damnation. Of course, many women did not leave with the threat of eternal damnation over their head. Nevertheless, there was something disturbing to these women that caused grumblings and commotion in the church. It wasn’t just the wives of Brigham Young that suffered. I feel disheartened for the wives of Heber C. Kimball, who struggled for his financial and loving support, when he said:
“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business… I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece.”-Deseret News, April 22, 1857
Apostle George Q. Cannon further contradicts the proclamation to the family with this statement,
“It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome, with her arts, sciences and warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded. She was a mono-gamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.”-Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 202
I’m confused, and who wouldn’t be? I understand why the above statements were made. The presidents and apostles defended something that they thought was of God. They were trying desperately to make something work that could not be fixed, they needed it dressed and painted to look presentable to the world. They convinced themselves that polygamy had a purpose and was sensible, yet failed to see that it was a puzzle piece that did not fit in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s discuss the arithmetic of polygamy. Whoever invented polygamy didn’t think the numbers through very well. Polygamy as a long term, multi-generational, possibility, requires an obvious greater number of women. A wise God, knowing polygamy as heavenly form of marriage, did not populate the Earth accordingly. In fact, if anything God did the very opposite of what polygamy requires. It is estimated that for every 100 females born in the world there are 107 males born.  There is already a shortage of girls in the world and polygamy compounds the problem. D&C 131 makes the case for man’s eternal happiness and exaltation even more dire in the face of the doctrine of plural marriage.
D&C 131
In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
Most Latter-day Saints consider marriage a blessing, an essential step in progression toward perfection, and most importantly a covenant with God to enter his presence. Let me emphasize that it is a REQUIREMENT. Unfortunately, not only will 7 men be left out of marriage possibilities per 50 couples, which is troubling, but polygamy makes marriage an even more daunting endeavor. If every “righteous” man was to take an extra wife, that would reduce marriage possibilities by half. Now instead of 7 men left as bachelors, we have a staggering 57 men unable to find a spouse. That would be 57 men unable to enter the kingdom of God, even if they desperately desired to do so.
If polygamy is the choice form of marriage than there will be some obvious demographic problems with heaven. If every man had three wives, that would mean heaven would be composed of 25% men and 75% women. That seems like some drastic gender inequality. On the one hand, women are forced to share a man because of the sheer lack of them, and on the other hand, it is just as appalling to realize that a loving God would save so many more woman than men. What is it about a man’s gender that predisposes so many less of them to be saved?
If we take it a step further and follow the example of Brigham Young, then heaven looks like a miserably anemic place for men. Brigham Young married 55 women, which if allowed as a possibility in heaven, would mean that 98% of the heavenly populace would be women and only a 2% minority of men. That surely doesn’t sound like heaven for women. Finding an exalted man would be as hard as finding a natural redhead in Spain, you just might want to bring your camera, when you die, to photograph that rare species.  If, on the other hand, the demographics of heaven were more aligned with mortal demographics, instead of multiply wives, it would seem that women would need to take multiple husbands.  It feels just a little more painful when the tables are turned, doesn’t it?
That being said, let’s dive into D&C 132, the scripture that was said to be revelation concerning the plurality of wives. This is the same revelation that justified the practice from Joseph Smith to President Joseph F. Smith. It is the principle that led indirectly to Joseph Smith’s arrest and death, when he ordered the burning of the Nauvoo Expositor, which published his secret practice of plural marriage. It is this revelation that has continued the justification of polygamy among Mormon splinter groups, to this day. It is this revelation that has spread ideas of eternal plural marriage in the next life and the possible return of the principle in this life.  But what does this chapter actually say?  So, in proper LDS fashion, please pull out your scriptures and turn to D&C 132
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—
Abraham is first mentioned as a practitioner of polygamy, which is no secret. It is common knowledge that the practice of multiple wives was not only acceptable in nomadic cultures, but was also a means of status, and a culturally acceptable way to build a tribe. We should not confuse the cultural acceptability of a practice as a sign of God’s tacit approval.  The Lord, in the Old Testament, makes no mention of giving any wife to Abraham.  It is presented as an idea of Sarah.  As she was unable to produce any children for Abraham, she decided that the culturally acceptable practice of polygamy might be a good solution.  It could even be said that a lack of faith, by Sarah and Abraham led to that tumultuous polygamous relationship. The Lord had promised Abraham offspring, yet Sarah could not bear any children. We know, from the story, that Sarah did actually bear a child, Isaac. But instead of waiting for the Lord to deliver on his promise, she toldAbraham, “I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children.” There was no God involved. In fact, this relationship between Hagar and Sarah would breed discontent and jealousy and eventually lead to the expulsion of a child and woman into the desert, away from their family. Does that seem like a gift from God?
Isaac did not have multiple wives, He was married to Rebekah.
Jacob also practiced polygamy, but once again there is no mention of a command from the Lord. He was tricked into marrying Leah, and Jacob realized that Laban, her father, was the mastermind of the deceit. Jacob was so intent on marrying Rachel that he continued working for Laban, in order to finally marry the woman of his dreams. Zilpah and Bilhah  were handmaidens of Jacob’s other two wives, none of which were God commanded relationships.  In fact, the scriptures are pretty clear that Zilpah and Bilhah were used by Leah and Rachel in a twisted game of one-upping each other.
Moses is just pure speculation, Moses married Zipporah and she is not referenced very much afterward. Moses later marries an Ethiopian woman. There is no reference of plural wives or having two wives at one time.
It is no secret that David and Solomon had many wives, if you could call them that. Many were concubines, lesser-wives, or as Webster’s 1828 dictionary refers to them “an inferior kind”.  Let’s be honest, when there are hundreds of wives to one man, they are not wives in the modern sense, they are property. And I can confidently proclaim that there are no concubines, or “property wives” in the eyes of a loving God. There are only women. Their inherent value does not change by their title or by the way they are treated. Jacob, of the Book of Mormon, makes it clear that David and Solomon were not acting under the direction of God. Jacob 2 states:
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
It is important to realize that in verse 1, the revelation states that it is a doctrine and a principle to have plural wives. Many people reason away D&C 132 because they believe that polygamy was a practice and separate from a doctrine. Verse 1 says otherwise. Let’s go on-
Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
The Lord is saying that if you KNOW the law, you MUST OBEY the law. This should mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not following the command of the Lord. or are we?…Monogamy is commanded by the Lord in every other scripture. Is God bipolar? I thought our God was the same today, yesterday, and forever.
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damnedfor no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
Again the Lord is saying you must practice the new and everlasting covenant or you can’t enter his presence. Reiterating the importance of the covenant. This, once again, makes it very difficult for men to enter the kingdom of God if all the women are already married.
Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
What has caused more confusion in the church than polygamy? What has called into question the character of Joseph Smith more than his secret practice of taking plural wives? Why have we ignored this topic for so long and concealed the fact that Joseph was a polygamist? It may be because it’s confusing and not from the Lord.
15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriagebut are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
Did you catch that, The God of D&C 132 is saying that Mormon marriages will pave the way for us to become gods, while all of our single members will become our servants. This God puts so much weight on becoming married in the new and everlasting covenant, that any other unions will be dissolved. Those loving and righteous people will live as single angels, doing our bidding for eternity. This sounds great for my wife and me, but I can’t help feeling concerned for my non-temple married friends and the single adults in the ward. D&C 132 even lays it out clearly,  marriages do not happen in the here-after. Which means that God is a respecter of persons. This God seems more interested in saving and exalting married temple goers, than Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and other people, who have done far-more good than I ever will, but were never married in the new and everlasting covenant.  It means that God is a respecter of a woman’s ability to get married more than her innate worth as a person.  This verse seems to place the entire value of a person on their ability to snag a spouse.  Does that sound like the God you worship?
19 … if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection… and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions…and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrectionand enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.
I find it most interesting that God said that the only thing that would prevent a covenant married man from entering heaven would be murder.  What about abuse, extortion, adultery, torture, child abandonment, or racist hatred?  Wouldn’t those prevent others from possibly entering the kingdom of God. I am definitely not the judge of anyone’s salvation, but it seems clear to me that a loving God would not make such a claim, that anything short of murder is permissible, as long as you enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. So is God a respecter of married persons?  As long as you have made the right covenants, you can do whatever you want and “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 28:7-8)  Does that sound reasonable?
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
This would be a fair comparison if Isaac was really offered as a sacrifice, but in the most widely used story of the Abrahamic/Isaac sacrifice, Abraham did not actually kill Isaac. In other words, polygamy was not really a test, more like an ultimatum. The early saints actually followed through with the “test” of polygamy and practiced it for nearly 80 years. There was no killing of Isaac involved.  Neither should forced polygamy have been involved.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness…
38 David also received many wives and concubines, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were givenunto him of me…
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things.
Do women have a choice? “received” and “giving”?  Are women given as prizes to the most obedient males? Granted, I believe God works with our cultural practices, but  polygamy was no longer considered a cultural norm at the time of Joseph Smith.  If anything was a revelation from God it was the suffrage movement of the 20th century that turned women from property into people. If there is anything that is evidence of a restoration, it is the final realization of women’s rights. A truer restoration is that of a women’s God given equality and independent mind and personhood, which existed long before Abraham and King David. We needed a restoration of the importance of women.
It seems curious that very little from Old Testament times was “restored” in this “restoration of all things”. Why wasn’t blood sacrifice restored? Why wasn’t the old dietary laws of no pork or shellfish restored? Why weren’t Levite males the sole possessors of the priesthood like in the times of old?  Luckily, Joseph wasn’t commanded to circumcise himself, like they were of old.   None of that was restored, yet the primitive practice of polygamy made a triumphant return.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall bedestroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
What happened to the agency for Emma? The Lord respects the agency of mankind SO much that humans are allowed to commit murders, run prostitution rings, embezzle millions of dollars, torture, and molest, without instant judgment reigned down upon their heads.  The Lord, in His mercy, seems to allow them time to change and repent.  Yet Emma Smith must practice polygamy or the Lord will DESTROY her? This sounds much different from the Lord of D&C 3 who stated to Joseph,
10 But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;
11 Except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.
The Lord is merciful and He tells Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, the man that the translation of the Book of Mormon hinges upon, the one who communed with the Father, that if he does not repent and translate…he’ll become ordinary. Yep,  ordinary.  Most likely cut off from the Spirit. The same way that all of us are when we sin.  It seems that God is much more willing to be merciful to Joseph than he is to Emma.  Joseph’s transgressions will lead to being ordinary;  Emma, on the other hand will be destroyed.  Does God love Joseph more than he loves Emma?  He seems to be willing to give Joseph multiple opportunities for learning and growth;  Emma not so much. It is interesting to note that Mormon splinter groups, that continue to practice polygamy, use this scripture to scare women into continuing to practice polygamy.  These women are taught that they too will be destroyed if they don’t practice polygamy.  Let’s continue with D&C 132
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
This is one of the most damming of verses for the earlier practitioners  of  plural marriage.  Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others, by definition, committed adultery. Both  presidents of the church married women who were already married and several women who were not virgins. Joseph Smith even lied, or as the church officially stated, he used “carefully worded denials”  about the fact that he had many wives to the public and to Emma Smith. This does not help the case for the revelation or the obedience of church leaders to the commandments of God.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adulteryand shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
In this verse we learn that if a women commits adultery she will be destroyed. No such warning exists in this chapter for men committing adultery.  Yet, if we apply this scripture to men, then the earlier leaders of the church should have had reason to fear for the destruction mentioned in the above scriptures.  But previously we learned that as long as a person married in the new and everlasting covenant doesn’t murder someone they will be exalted.  So….definitely don’t kill someone, but maybe adultery is okay?  I’m not sure.  I’m really confused now.  Also, why is this God so obsessed with virgins?  We should also reject the idea that women are “given” to men to multiply and replenish the Earth. Is this a commandment to multiply and replenish?  Yes!  But D&C 132 completely ignores any other womanly attributes. Women are not just wombs, but equal partners that I would hope a loving God would recognize for more than just their virginity or wombs.  Tithing is also a commandment, we don’t teach men that all they can hope to be is a tithe payer.  We don’t have lesson after lesson on the value of men being their ability to pay tithing to God.  I, likewise, don’t believe that God views women primarily in their virginity and ability or lack of ability to bear children.
  66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.
I don’t profess to be a scholar or a scriptorian. But, what eventually was revealed was the abandonment of the practice under pressure from The United States. I will not judge the character of Joseph Smith or his contemporaries,  that is job only for God. What I sought to do here was show that we should look at our scripture and the words of the leaders of the church with honesty. And when I look honestly at D&C 132 and the fruits of such words, I do not see God, but the works of men. How about you?