Yesterday the NY Times ran an article about the Church's essay on Joseph Smith and his plural wives. The essay has been out for a few weeks, but most members were entirely unaware of it. Why, because the Church didn't announce the publishing of the essay or any of their essays, they just quietly put them buried on their website, but everyone knows about them now, thanks to the NY Times. So what's the reaction? Varied of course, for some it will be so shocking they will reject the church, for others it will be disturbing, but something they can live with, at least for the moment. My guess is that for the vast majority of members, they will just shrug it off, they will tell themselves they already knew that, and many did know about his polygamy. I did, but it's never mentioned, and I mean never mentioned, in lessons, in Conference talks, in the manuals, so you mostly forget. But what I'm sure the vast majority didn't know before, was the polyandry, the fourteen year old girl, and the number of women he married. So what's the reaction to this new information? Blindness. And I don't mean that in a negative way, but it is blindness. You can't jump out and scare someone, and not expect them to scream and run, and that's exactly what happened. The NY Times jumped out and scared Mormon's, figuratively speaking, and they will scream and run. They may not scream, well... maybe they will scream at you if you try to talk to them about it, but they will run. But can you blame them? They weren't looking to have their beloved prophet exposed on the front page of the NY times. They weren't even aware of most of the issues that were plastered there, how can they defend them, when they weren't aware of them, and it's not really logical of anyone to expect them to, is it?
I knew Joseph Smith was a polygamist. I knew that. But like I said, it's never talked about: polygamy really isn't talked about much. All you ever see are pictures of Joseph with Emma, and the portrait that the Church paints of him, as a kind, obedient, humble servant of the Lord, and devoted husband to Emma. That's all you ever hear and see, period! We sing, Praise to the Man, we praise that man, that prophet of God, that gave his life to bring forth the gospel of Christ, to bring forth the blessings of heaven. "None did more for the salvation of man, save Jesus Christ, then him," our leaders tell us. God anointed that prophet and seerer. This is the story that's taught in General Conference, in the manuals, and in our scripture. So can you blame someone for being blind? The only defensive move is to shrug it off. It's just another attack on the Church, another test of faith, to which you have covenanted to be true to, Mormon's will tell themselves. If there's one thing that Mormonism does better than most religions, is it ties everything in one package: your family, your social world, your God, your faith, your reason for existing, your future, the truth, your value system, your view of life, your view of others, did I mention family? It's all tied up together. Do I need to reemphasize the magnitude of all that? Your family, your view of the world, your God, your salvation, your truth, EVERYTHING is tied up together. What incentive could a person possible have in wanting to unravel that? Do you even understand what it takes to unravel that? You would put everything at risk, your family relationships, your friendships, your security system, your reputation, and possibly your salvation. And what if you're wrong? Everyone will tell you you're wrong. They will tell you how concerned they are for you, as they shut the door to your relationship with them. Your opinion about anything will now be tainted with apostasy. Your opinion will not matter in anyway, it won't even be allowed to be expressed for the most part, and you will be shut out. So given all of that, blindness is a quick easy answer. It's not even a conscious decision, it just kicks in automatically. It takes an incredible amount of time, energy, determination to know the truth, and integrity to put all of the things mentioned above on the chopping block, and say "go at it, I can take it." The truth is, most of us can't take it. And I don't blame anyone that falls into that category. But it would be nice, although not likely, if the blind ones could show a little respect for those who do ask the hard questions, to allow them the right to pursue truth as they see it. To give everyone the free agency that this Church so loudly touts, to make their own decisions without judgment from those who are supposed to be full of charity, to not be so "concerned" about those who have chosen a harder path, who seek truth no matter the cost.
Respect from both sides of the isle should be the goal. People have to live together in this big beautiful world. God wants us to love each other, more than anything else, and he puts us in these difficult situations to learn just that... love. If you think there is something bigger and better to learn in life, you may not know God as well as you think you do. Do you really think God's main objective is to just see if you can blindly hold on to what you perceive as the truth or have been taught as the truth, or do you think Gd's bigger goal is for you to learn to love others who think and do differently then you think they should. One beautiful thing about discovering that the Mormon church does not hold all the truth, and is in fact not all what it claims to be, is the ability to reject all your preconceived notions, and with this new discerning eye, look objectively at everything, no rock or stone is left unturned. And what you discover is that there are no belief systems or religions that don't have their dark side, unbelievable truth claims, and/or problems with their history. But, this gives you a never ending gift of compassion and tolerance and love for others in their life's journey. You don't hold the key to the universe and you know that other's don't either. But, you can certainly respect their life experiences and views, and faith that they hold, and if you're wise you will learn from them. I think God likes that. I think God planned it that way. But if you don't believe in God and think he has a plan like that, hey I respect that too, and I understand where you're coming from. I believe it's integrity that took you to that life view, and I know that you have not lost any of your morals as a result, and maybe have gained some, which that too, I can learn from.