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Hellfire, Exceptions, and Rules

Happy Father’s Day!

Having recovered from yesterday’s detour into the nascent DC Comics cinematic universe, we return to the Stallionic line-by-line response to Mike Adams, whose anti-Mormon rant against the possibility that Latter-day Saints are, in fact, Christians, was built on charged assertions that are either flat-out wrong, misleading, or irrelevant.

He devotes over 450 words of his 800+ word column to polygamy as practiced by Joseph Smith, so clearly he thinks this is his trump card. But since the Bible says nothing about polygamy in general, Joseph Smith’s polygamy has to be particularly reprehensible in order to smear everyone in the church who came after him. It’s worth noting, however, that his most vitriolic charges against Joseph Smith are insinuated rather than stated. Look! Smith forced himself on young girls! Except he didn’t. Look! Joseph slept with ladies married to other men! Except he didn’t. Look! Joseph stole Heber C. Kimball’s wife! Except he didn’t. Look! Joseph kept ladies from marrying their sweethearts! Except he didn’t.

A pattern has emerged.

Adams offers just enough information to allow his readers to infer the most damning conclusion about Joseph Smith’s perfidy possible, while sliding past any details that might exonerate him. That’s worth noting as we get to Adams’ final indictment of Joseph, which includes what, at first glance, appears to be solid evidence that Joseph was, in fact, using his station to coerce a girl to marry him against her will.

Here’s how Adams describes it:

I am sorry that after her mother died, Joseph Smith approached teenager Lucy Walker with a command that she marry Smith with the threat of eternal damnation as the punishment if she refused. I am sorry that the year before Joseph Smith died, he said the following to Lucy: “I will give you until tomorrow to decide (whether to marry me). If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.”

Game over, right? Well, remember the pattern. There is much about this story that Adams isn’t telling you, because it doesn’t make for nearly as sordid a tale.

To begin with, I can find no direct quote with reference to this marriage citing eternal damnation, hell, or anything similar in either Lucy Walker’s writings or anyone else’s. It is likely, then, that Joseph said anything like that in his proposal, as, if he did, that would likely be the money quote that would prove, beyond question, that Joseph was a beast. The best Adams has got is this bit about “the gate will be closed forever.”

What gate?

The inisinuation is that this is the “Pearly Gate,” the gate to heaven, and that, if he turned the prophet down, the door to paradise would be slammed in her face. But that’s a really odd formulation, especially since Mormon theology rejects a static heaven or hell. Something else is clearly going on here.

In addition, Joseph had recently excommunicated a guy named John C. Bennett – no relation to yours truly – because this was his M.O. in picking up ladies – he tried to make them “spiritual wives” and threatened hellfire if they didn’t sleep with him. Joseph found this reprehensible and booted him out of the church. Seems unlikely, then, that he would then turn around and apply the same tactics, especially since none of his other wives reported this kind of threat.

So what’s the full story?

It begins four months prior to the supposed hellfire ultimatum. He taught Lucy Walker the principle of plural marriage and then proposed to her, and she said no, absolutely not. “Oh that the grave would kindly receive me that I might find rest of the bosom of my dear mother!” she wrote, but four months before she consented, not 24 hours. Four months. And during that time, Joseph didn’t mention the proposal at all. He finally approached her and issued the money quote with the gate in it, which Lucy Walker refused emphatically. If she truly feared eternal torment as a consequence of her defiance, it was unlikely that she would be comfortable writing, as she did, that after she shut him down she would “emphatically forbid him speaking again to me on this Subject.”

Joseph, rather than bring out the fire and brimstone, did something else entirely. From Lucy Walker’s writings:

“He walked across the room, returned, and stood before me. With the most beautiful expression of countenance, he said, ‘God almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew.'”

“God almighty bless you?” Peace and joy? That’s not quite “Demons will feast upon your innards,” is it?

Incidentally, Joseph’s promise, according to Lucy Walker, was fulfilled to the letter. In her own words, with her own poor spelling:

“My room became filled with a heavenly influence. To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud… My Soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being. And I received a powerful and irristable testimony of the truth of the marriage covenant called ‘Celestial or plural mariage.’ Which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life.”

So the entire case against Joseph in this case rests on one word – gate. What did Joseph mean that the gate would be forever closed? In context, it looks as if he’s talking about the opportunity to marry him. He’d given her four months; she’d put him off. He finally said, “Look, fish or cut bait.” And her refusal even on that occasion spurred Joseph’s kindness, not threats. Try as he might, Mike Adams can’t really shoehorn this experience into a John C. Bennett kind of nightmare. (Again, no relation. At all.)

So that’s it. Adams has thrown everything he can at Joseph personally, and he’s missed every time. So he sums it all up by quoting the Book of Mormon – and, in the process, shoots himself in the foot.

I am sorry that the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claims to have transcribed from the golden plates given to him by the Angel Moroni, says the following: “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, Saith the Lord.” (Jacob 2:24).

Does anyone else notice the irony that any clear condemnation of polygamy in any Judeo-Christian scripture shows up – in all places – only in the Book of Mormon?

I love Jacob chapter 2. It demonstrates that, clearly and surely, the Lord establishes monogamy as the standard. The following verses after 24 are even better.

JACOB 2: 27-29
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or acursed be the land for their sakes.

Pretty clear, no? Everyone who tells me that all of us Mormon guys are secretly hankering for the Supreme Court to let us start marrying lots of ladies again are overlooking this scripture entirely. Adams would have you believe that Joseph was overlooking it, too. After all, how can you reconcile Joseph’s dozens of wives with the plain language of these verses?

You read on to verse thirty.

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

Key word there – “otherwise.” There are times and places where the Lord allows and even commands polygamy to “raise up seed.” But otherwise, it’s one man, one woman. Polygamy is the exception; monogamy is the rule. Joseph knew that; Mormons everywhere know that. Mike Adams, apparently, did not.

Tomorrow we finish all this up. Hopefully.

Man of Adequacy
Joint-Heirs with Christ

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