Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I really want to believe, but the Essays won't let me!
I don't believe that this church is what it says it is; I want to, I really do, but their own essays (essays the church put out this year to explain some of the problems with its history, who knew, huh?) won't allow that, because the church is saying in them, it's not what it says it is. I can't help that, I didn't write them, they did; at least I think they did, the essays are not signed by the author(s), but they are posted on the Church's website. So going back and pretending everything is the same as the way I was taught in Primary, Sunday School and Seminary just doesn't work. It's not my fault, I was the faithful spouse, I always remained true and never lied, I was faithful, always working in behalf of, supporting, and defending my "spouse" (the Church). I didn't know my "spouse" had a dubious past, I didn't know it covered up and changed it's history, I didn't know, I swear I didn't know!! And just as an unfaithful spouse will tear your world apart, cause you to fall to your knees in tears, rip at your very heartstrings, cause angst and threaten your family structure, so do you dear church "partner, spouse." You have caused tears, sleepless nights, confusion, anger, regret, distrust, confusion, and confusion, more confusion, did I mention that already? I don't know I'm a little confused!
In my youth, attending Seminary, I was just a little "sponge" absorbing all the wonderful things that were being taught, like:
Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon using the golden plates and Urim and Thummim. I was told it occurred just as the church's pictures show, Joseph reading from the plates to the scribe, translating through the power of God with the use of the Urim and Thummim, that was "kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord" for this very purpose. From the Church's essay I learn that Joseph found "in the ground...a small oval stone or 'seer stone'..." which he used "to look for lost objects and buried treasure." Joseph "often translated with the single seer stone...placed...in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument." Emma "described Joseph 'sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stones in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us." There was no mention of a hat in the lessons I was taught, or that Joseph used his own seer stone that he had found years earlier and which he used to look for buried treasure. Why would the Lord go to so much trouble to hide away the Urim and Thummim for this purpose, just to have Joseph opt to use at times, his own stone? I didn't get to ask that question in Seminary because this scenario was never taught. Why do the pictures show Joseph translating from the golden plates, and not from a seer stone in a hat? This good and faithful spouse would like to know, so I won't be so confused.
I was taught that the Book of Abraham was translated by Joseph Smith from ancient Egyptian papyri, which the church bought, that was written by the hand of Abraham himself. In the Church's essay on the translation and historicity of the Book of Abraham it says, "None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham's name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do no match the translation given in the book of Abraham...Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived." But I was never taught that in Seminary, so I couldn't ask how Joseph Smith could have claimed the papyrus were written by the hand of Abraham since they are from the wrong time period, and why the characters on the fragments do no match the translation in the book of Abraham. This good and faithful spouse would like to know so I won't be confused.
In Seminary I remember being taught the reasons for blacks being denied the priesthood. They had been less valiant in the preexistence, and they were from the lineage of Cain, who was cursed with a black skin after killing Abel, and that this was doctrine from God. From the Church essays I learn: "During the first two decades of the Church's existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood...There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith lifetime." "In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood...Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood. When one of these men, Elijah Abel, petitioned to receive his temple endowment in 1879, his request was denied. Jane Manning James...similarly asked to enter the temple; she was allowed to perform baptisms for the dead for her ancestor, but was not allowed to participate in other ordinances." The essay goes on the say that,"Today the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else." Wow, that's quite a lot to absorb! This good and faithful spouse (me) believed my untruthful spouse (the Church) when he said that blacks could not hold the priesthood because they were less valiant in the preexistence and were from the linage of Cain, which had a curse on it disallowing them to hold the priesthood. What about the revelation? I was told it was doctrine from God and we get our doctrine from God through revelation. When Brigham Young publicly announced in 1852 that blacks can't hold the priesthood, did he just come up with that on his own? My untruthful spouse didn't explain to me that blacks had been given the priesthood by Joseph Smith, my "spouse" withheld that information from me. So I didn't know to ask, how that could have been? It's all very confusing.
I remember learning about polygamy, oh thank heaven, I do remember being told about that! This can't be a cover up, I know I learned about that, and there were really, really good reasons for it, I remember that. Maybe because I'm a woman and had a vested interest in knowing that there was a really good reason for polygamy (just in case there was a day when I would be asked to share my husband with another woman) I would only want to do that if God really, really needed me to. And there were really, really good reasons for it. And there were lots of reasons I learned in Seminary, such as, the Church had to grow so there needed to be lots of children. Also, there were a lot more women then men, something to do with women being more righteous, so of course there would be more of those people in the Church. And this was the fullness of times, so everything had to be restored, including polygamy, even though the men really didn't want to do that, really they didn't! But Joseph asked about it, and if the Lord told him, he was then bound to obey it (That concept really lodged in my teenage spongy brain, don't ask God anything unless you are seriously going to live it) In fact, Joseph was so hesitant to marry another woman that an angel had to come and threaten his life with a sword. And not only that, if that weren't enough, their entire salvation was at stake! Okay, I get it! Death, salvation, God is very serious about this, this is the Mother of all doctrine, no pun intended. You just can't be sleeping with all these women and be in God's good graces unless he told you. Which he did in D&C 132. Of course, in D&C 132 it says the women have to be virgins, which would mean they had never been married before, and that wasn't the case in many of the plural marriages, and that the first wife had to consent, which didn't always happen, especially in Joseph's case, where Emma didn't know about most of his wives until long after the marriages. So again I turned to the Church's essays to clear up my confusion. It says "During the years that plural marriage was publicly taught, all Latter-day Saints were expected to accept the principle as a revelation from God" That's a bit toned down from what Joseph experienced, the angel threatening him with a sword and all. They don't mention that part. But they do mention there was a revelation, so there you go, even though they don't quote from it. But hey, its sourced once in the footnotes, so I know they know about it. And even though sharing your husband with other women is a really big deal, the essay does offer this warm comfort: "Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women. Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages..." Oh that's good, because divorce certainly wasn't a difficult circumstance to endure, especially in the 1800's, out in the West away from everyone, yeah, it's a good thing that was available. And the fact that the Church's main identity is 'families are forever', divorce really cuts at the heart of that, I'm glad the Church made divorce "available" for women, that makes polygamy so much less confusing.