Denver Snuffer on Plural Marriage


plural-marriage-diagramI invested a couple of hours this morning listening to the recording of Denver’s recent talk on plural marriage. These are my first-impression notes at the end of the day after pondering and praying about what I heard. I wasn’t there and I don’t have a transcript, which I am certain someone will have available within a few days. The recording is available in various formats.

Denver referred to a white-board illustration throughout the talk, a copy of which he provided on his website, and which I have included here. You may recognize the illustration of the Diagram of the Kingdom of God on the right. Various authors who have written about the subject have included it when attempting to explain Joseph’s view on the subject. Denver added the lineage.

I think the main point I would like to make is found in the upper left of the white board. We have next to nothing from Joseph on the subject of plural marriage. What we have is limited to section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which I accept as scripture, including the quote about there being only one person on the earth at a time who holds the sealing power and priesthood keys.

Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

joseph-smiths-polygamy-brian-halesAs I listened to the first eighty-five minutes I kept thinking to myself, “Why is Denver reviewing such basic stuff?” He went over the history of what we know about Joseph’s participation in the law of Celestial Marriage. Denver reviewed several legal case records – listed on the left side of the board – as well as writings from various sources, including Brian Hales’ three-volume set.

If you have no background in the history of Joseph’s participation in plural marriage, then the first eighty-five minutes will be extremely helpful. A member of one of the reading groups I belong to split the two-hour talk into twelve ten-minute segments. I have linked to them at the bottom of this page. If you have studied this subject extensively, start on track eight or nine.

I have written a few posts on the subject over the years, even though I don’t really find it all that fascinating. I think I last wrote about it in 2009 in a post entitled The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. At the time I was astonished at the response of many of my readers who said they had never heard that Joseph participated in plural marriage. It still amazes me to hear that today.

The Family of God on the Earth

diagram-of-kingdom-of-godThe good stuff starts in track nine on the law of adoption. The LDS Church doesn’t talk much about that any more. In fact, I don’t think it’s included in any official curriculum. Come to think of it, I don’t think plural marriage is included in any Sunday curriculum, including the History of the Church taught in the Gospel Doctrine class. I found one quote in the D&C teacher’s manual:

“In this dispensation, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and those closest to him, including Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, were challenged by this command, but they obeyed it. Church leaders regulated the practice. Those entering into it had to be authorized to do so, and the marriages had to be performed through the sealing power of the priesthood.” (Page 182)

I think the theme of the last thirty minutes of the talk can be summarized as the Lord’s plan to restore the family of God. Denver went over the Kingdom of God diagram on the right of the white board, noting again there is only one on the earth at a time who has the sealing power and the right of the Fathers – to ask and get answers from heaven for the family of God on the earth.

The True Purpose of Temple Work

Much of what he reviewed will sound familiar to members of the LDS Church, but I suspect many of the thousands who are being baptized these days are coming from the fundamentalist organizations. He discussed the importance of being sealed to the Fathers and defined that for his listeners. A key to understanding this doctrine is knowing who the Fathers are in God’s kingdom.

saltlaketemple1.jpgHe touched upon a fundamental difference in the true purpose of temple work – to be sealed to the Fathers. I can’t emphasize enough how important this concept is to our personal salvation. The work of finding our own ancestors is important but not nearly as important as being sealed to the Fathers. There must be a welding link from us to the Fathers, not just our own ancestors.

The way temple work is being done in the LDS Church is upside down. It is the opposite of the way the Lord intended. Enough time has passed – four generations – from the death of Joseph. The Lord intends to continue the restoration process of preparing the family of God. Denver read from his revelation book about why so few were resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection.

A Witness Has Come

josephsmith.jpgHe pointed out there will be relatively few resurrected at Christ’s return. You need to listen to the recording to understand why. He explained the importance of a witness to the restoration process beginning again and said, “A witness has come. I am him.” Without Joseph Smith you have no church. Listen carefully to the last two tracks, the last twenty minutes of the talk to understand.

I don’t want to share too much in this post. As I wrote at the beginning, these are first impression notes. I will be listening to the talk several times over the next few weeks. I look forward to the transcript. This is extremely important doctrine for us to understand. It is not being taught in the LDS Church today but was understood and taught by Joseph. Sadly, the restoration was cut short.

Denver testified Joseph was a virtuous man. He was not a wicked man. He condemned adultery and lust. He extoled the virtues of sexual purity. What Brigham did with Polygamy was not what Joseph taught or intended. The Lord wants to gather us as chicks under the wing. We must not go charging into the pass to be destroyed by the beast. Let us patiently wait upon the Lord for more.

 Part One  Part Five  Part Nine
 Part Two  Part Six  Part Ten
 Part Three  Part Seven  Part Eleven
 Part Four  Part Eight  Part Twelve

Update 4-2-15 – Denver has published a paper based on this talk. You can get it from his website or mine. It’s a large (10MB) PDF so give it a few minutes to load.

Loss of the Sealing Power


While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

An Evening with Richard Bushman


About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.

For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.

Open and honest discussion

It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.

There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.

A well-qualified historian

One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.

Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.  He knows early church history.

Serving faithfully in the church

And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple.  I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history.  I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.

I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.”  I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.

Believing in spite of knowing

This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?”  I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.

Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?

Shocked by our history

Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church?  For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey.  Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.

Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.”  Things were different back then, weren’t they?  The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.

History not being hidden

When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.

For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.

Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright

Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission.  Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.

We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review.  Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.

Consider carefully the source

For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil.  Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.

We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.

Get the facts straight

If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.

Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?

The Joseph Smith Papers

Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation.  In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.

I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.

We can believe the prophet

As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.

Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.

Changing Requirements of Perfection


After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed.  He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”

He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.

Perfection means completed

The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.

The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”

Flaws and errors removed

I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed.  That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior.  It is not something that I can accomplish on my own.  That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior.  Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets.  I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all.  We will all live again with immortal bodies.  But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.

Requirements of Salvation

So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation.  I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord.  I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction.  They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law.  The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that.  The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people.  I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites.  Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.

Baptism in ancient times

We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized.  When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept.  John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown.  I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world.  We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World.  Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation.  The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.

Temple ordinances required

I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel.  The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength.  Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains.  No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law.  But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday.  That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.

Word of Wisdom for our day

Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”  Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day.  Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.

Plural Marriage not required

Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement.  We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131.  But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation.  You can read that in section 132, verse 61.  It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery.  It is never worded that a man must take another wife.  Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.

Timing of the Second Anointing

We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we?  We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine.  To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article.  It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years.  I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught.  Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet.  I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing.  To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.

Dormant religious practices

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant.  I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship.  Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet.  Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever.  Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.

Be Faithful to Joseph

I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph.  I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing.  That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe.  After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith.  I believe Joseph.  I trust the brethren who lead this church today.  I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life.  I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership.  Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.

The plural wives of Joseph Smith


I’ve thought long and hard about the propriety of this essay. It is a sensitive subject and one that is so easy to misunderstand. It is also a sacred subject that I have seen dragged through the dregs of the ex-Mormon sites, and yet presented well on some Internet resources. Although some may claim otherwise, it is not a secret subject. It is just not taught in your basic church curriculum.

In today’s Internet age, this information is readily available. It was readily available when I was growing up but you just had to know where to look. The best official source for this information is on the Church’s Family Search site. Just enter Joseph Smith and his birth date of 1805 in the state of Vermont, click on search and then click on his ancestral file entry. There are his wives.

The list is not complete and includes a few wives who were sealed to him after his death. A more complete list can be found at the website appropriately titled, wivesofjosephsmith.org. The summaries presented of the wives are well done and quick, easy reading. If you want a more detailed treatise, read the book, In Sacred Loneliness, published by Signature Books in 1997.

The doctrine of celestial marriage

There is no way you can understand this unique aspect of the beginnings of the LDS Church without considering this a doctrine of the restoration. That’s an important concept to us and puts everything into perspective. Without this understanding, it is easy to think of Joseph Smith as a libertine and an adulterer. In fact, that is how the anti and ex-Mormons want you to view him.

It has always been the claim of the LDS Church that we are a restored religion. We believe that our doctrines and practices are a restoration of things known, taught, believed and performed by the patriarchs of the Old Testament. One of those beliefs and practices is what we call celestial marriage. It is also referred to as plural marriage by some but as polygamy by most people.

Although the revelation on celestial marriage, also called the new and everlasting covenant was recorded in 1843 as section 132, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831. We believe in the restoration of all things, and the practice of celestial marriage is just one of those things.

It is not viewed as adultery

A close reading of section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is still very much a part of the canon of the LDS Church reveals that the Lord appointed Joseph to restore all things (v 40) and was commanded to go and do the works of Abraham (v 32). The Lord affirmed that Joseph had the sealing power (v 46 & 48) and that the Lord had already given him plural wives (v 52).

Verses 61 and 64 point out that the first wife holds the keys of this power and therefore, she is the one who administers or allows her husband to enter into additional marriages. It is she that gives them to him. However, verse 65 makes it clear that if she doesn’t believe and accept the doctrine when taught, that he is justified to receive any additional wives the Lord gives him.

And that is exactly the situation Joseph was in. Emma didn’t like plural marriage although she did try to make it work on a couple of occasions. She accepted Eliza and Emily Partridge for a short season as well as Maria and Sarah Lawrence. Joseph and Emma were sealed during one of her periods of acceptance. However, it was short-lived and she then threw his other wives out.

Not practiced openly, denied publicly

Joseph taught this doctrine to his counselors in the First Presidency and to the Twelve Apostles. It was difficult for most to accept at first, but just as he did with the additional wives to whom he proposed, he invited his trusted associates to obtain a revelation and witness for themselves that the doctrine was true, ennobling and exalting. Most did and many of them followed his example.

However, the doctrine was not taught openly, and was, in fact, denied when it came up as it did quite often during the later Nauvoo period. Now that is a difficult thing for many of our critics to accept. It is bad enough that Joseph and a few other leaders participated in the practice of plural marriage clandestinely, but to then deny it and to publicly preach against it is just hypocritical.

The problem was that there were some who took license with this practice and then turned it into something that it was not meant to be. They called it “spiritual wifery,” and enticed women into adulterous relationships claiming that Joseph approved and sanctioned it. Joseph was forced to preach against it publicly because John C. Bennett was teaching and practicing it unlawfully.

Our critics are shocked

When people investigate the church and the subject of plural marriage comes up, most are familiar with Brigham Young as being the primary example of the practice among the early Latter-day Saint church. However, many are surprised when they learn that the Prophet Joseph Smith was the originator of the doctrine and the practice. Joseph had at least thirty wives.

I suppose that is shocking to learn because Joseph figures so prominently in the story of the restoration. The missionaries teach of the sacred experiences of Joseph in the First Vision, the visits of the angel Moroni, the appearances of old testament prophets in the Kirtland temple and of Joseph’s vision of the three degrees of glory, including his glorious testimony of the Savior.

Our critics have capitalized on this and delight to point it out with fervent zeal and language that makes it obvious that there is no acceptance or desire to understand that this could possibly be something that really was revealed by the Lord as a part of the restoration of all things in the last days. They do not want you to see celestial marriage as anything other than base carnal desire.

Not practiced today

I have written in a previous essay that I hold strongly to the idea of plural marriage still being an eternal doctrine. Latter-day Saints no longer practice it, and have not for over a hundred years. Of course there are those who claim to be Fundamentalist Mormons who live in polygamy, and are mostly in Utah, but they are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This topic will continue to be of interest to those who learn about the LDS Church, and will be for a long time to come. It is a curiosity because it is not the social norm in the United States or in most of the Christian world. It has been in the news a lot lately with the FLDS raids in Texas and with the show Big Love on HBO portraying polygamy as a big part of Utah life. It’s not.

The church goes to great lengths to point out that Mormons do not practice polygamy. There are numerous entries on the subject in the Newsroom and even a one page website that gives a great summary of the message that we want to get out to the world. You can find it on my sidebar. The doctrine may still be in our scriptures, but we do not practice it. Those who do are cut off.

Summary and conclusion

As I noted at the beginning, I have been hesitant to write this essay but have had it on my list to do for a long time. I want to have it available on my blog to refer readers to it as it comes up in dialog. I do not like the language our critics use to describe Joseph’s difficulties because he was the first to begin this practice in the last dispensation. Brigham Young had it much easier.

Yes, Joseph Smith had many plural wives. He entered into the law of celestial marriage by way of commandment from God. No, it was not easy for him to obey this commandment. His wife, Emma, who loved him dearly and believed in him as a prophet, nevertheless had a very difficult time accepting this revelation and did not want to share Joseph with the other women in his life.

You can read a lot more about this on various Internet sites listed below, and even the Wikipedia articles about each of his wives are presented fairly accurately. The church is not trying to hide this information and has not for many years. It is a part of our heritage and history. It is a sacred part of our religion that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith in these, the latter days.

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For additional information:

01. Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith website
02. Origin of Latter-day Saint Polygamy – Wikipedia
03. In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton – Signature Books
04. Review of In Sacred Loneliness from FARMS
05. SHIELDS review of In Sacred Loneliness
06. FAIR – Joseph’s marriages to young women
07. FAIR – Joseph Smith and polyandry
08. FAIR – How Emma felt about plural marriage
09. FAIR – Charges against Joseph of lustful motives
10. FAIR – Resources – Joseph Smith and polygamy

Shopping for a Celestial Marriage


The last line of Elder Nelson’s conference talk states that we “may be assured of exaltation in the kingdom of God.” What an amazing promise. He makes this wonderful declaration to the Saints conditional upon several requirements. In doing so, he is speaking on behalf of the Lord as a prophet and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is only repeating what the Lord has promised.

One of those requirements of course, is to be married in the temple and to have that marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Elder Nelson’s discourse is entitled Celestial Marriage, which is another name for temple marriage. What he taught on Sunday afternoon was not new. He did not share anything that we haven’t been taught in the church for as long as I can recall.

Teaching with patterns

And yet, there were some who claimed that what he said was harsh, crude, unfair and unkind. They seemed particularly upset that he had used a shopping analogy which he called, “patterns of the shopper.” Go figure. These are the same people that were upset at Elder Bednar when he taught us the parable of the pickle – one of my all-time favorite conference talks. I love parables.

In the shopper analogy, Elder Nelson referred to lesser alternatives. He said that wise shoppers study their options before making their selection. They focus on quality and durability. In contrast, some shoppers look for bargains only to discover that their choice did not endure well. And sadly, there are those who try to steal what they want. We call them shoplifters.

The analogy applied to marriage

Making the analogy, he said, “A couple in love can choose a marriage of the highest quality or a lesser type that will not endure. Or they can choose neither and brazenly steal what they want as marital shoplifters.” He later said, “Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options. They always breed misery.”

Elder Nelson was pointing out that some have decided a marriage outside of the temple is acceptable to them. He clearly stated that such marriages are of a lesser type, but can be upgraded at any time. His reference to shoplifters who try to steal a marriage was clearly intended to identify same-sex marriage as false, and not a marriage at all in the eyes of God.

More than a hopeful wish

But that may not have been the portion of his discourse that elicited the declaration of harsh by some who were watching and providing an online commentary. Elder Nelson clearly pointed out that to receive the reward of a celestial marriage requires more than a hopeful wish. It requires making a wise choice in this life and can’t be put off until the next, as many apparently suppose.

“On occasion, I read in a newspaper obituary of an expectation that a recent death has reunited that person with a deceased spouse, when, in fact, they did not choose the eternal option. Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father had offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift.”

The seven deadly heresies

This reminds me of a quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie in a discourse delivered at BYU many years ago entitled, “The Seven Deadly Heresies.” He tells the story of a man, not a member of the Church who lived a life that was after the manner of the world. His wife, who was a member, and as faithful as she could be under the circumstances, asked him one day:

“You know the Church is true; why won’t you be baptized?” He replied, “Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right.”

It was a complete waste of time

“He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not…deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him? There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.”

The quote above is the text that is found on the BYU website. But you can also listen to the recording and hear him say, referring to the fact that he died and the woman had his temple work done. “He did, and she did and it was a complete waste of time.” Now I know this has been discussed and dismissed by many on the online discussion forums, but it still rings true to me.

Reaction in online discussions

I have read blog entries from several individuals, whose husbands are not members, who said they just cringed when Elder Nelson was relating the pattern of the shopper. Some said they were glad their husbands were not present to hear the story. Others reported how discouraged and depressed they felt to realize that their marriage had been labeled to be of lesser value.

I’m not sure why this doctrine comes as a shock to so many when they hear it for the first time. I know Elder Nelson did not intend to offend anyone, especially those who did not marry in the temple. I can emphasize with those who feel that the leaders of the church are saying that their marriages are of a lesser value. But in the end, aren’t they teaching an important true doctrine?

Marriage can be upgraded

I know of many faithful individuals who have struggled with this all their married lives. Not understanding or accepting the doctrine, they chose to marry civilly when they were younger. As they matured in the gospel, it became clear to them that they had missed out on something very important. You can’t attend church on a regular basis and not hear this doctrine taught.

Upgrading a marriage can be a difficult task. Elder Nelson taught that it requires a mighty change of heart and a permanent personal upgrade. I admire those individuals who continue faithful in church activity over the years as they strive to qualify for both this personal upgrade and the marital upgrade. That mighty change of heart can take a lifetime to accomplish.

Summary and conclusion

I have written about this doctrine previously. Marriage is an earthly ordinance. It must be attended to in this life. It is true that we perform vicarious marriage in the temple for those who have passed on without the opportunity to obtain it in this life. But for those who have the choice to marry in the temple and choose to not do so, what promise do they have from God?

They have no promise. It is hopeful and wishful thinking to believe that God will allow them to take some extra classes or pay a little fine in order to receive the promised blessing of exaltation. After all, that’s what a temple marriage is all about. Exaltation is what God promises to those who choose a temple marriage and remain true and faithful to their covenants unto the end.

Temple sealing is an earthly ordinance


I find that at times, I have inadvertently offended others by the manner in which I use phrases that I have heard growing up in the church. For example, while commenting on a wonderful essay entitled I’m Okay; you’re Okay by guest blogger Denae on Mormon Matters the other day, I used the phrase in my response, “We have so much more to offer the world.”

Now, I know I’ve heard that phrase used in a General Conference talk or two, by some General Authority, or maybe a prophet or two. Ah yes, here’s one recent instance…“We have so much to offer. Just think of what we have to offer. Other people do not understand the true nature of God.” That’s from President Hinckley, Feb 07 Ensign, in the section Stand taller.

And from President J. Reuben Clark in Oct 1949 General Conference, “Well, I have had so many experiences that I cannot understand why we cannot plant the truth in the hearts of our people until no outside thing or movement in the world can have any influence with them. We have so much more to offer than any other church in the world.”

Importance of sealing ordinances

The subject of the essay was temple marriage. It is a subject about which I am passionate and have written several times. Denae’s point was that she married someone not of our faith and that she had no intention of trying to convert him. She does not believe that it is necessary to be sealed in the temple to be together with him in the eternities. She wrote:

“I can’t believe that God would really split up a family after death because they didn’t perform a specific ceremony…That doesn’t sound like a nice God; that sounds downright mean. So I don’t believe that my husband (and any potential future children) will be separated at death. Maybe in the hereafter we’ll have to do some extra work, maybe take some extra classes, something like that, but ultimately we’ll still be together.”

In addition to many others, I offered comments that expressed my understanding of the importance of the temple sealing. Among other things, I wrote, “I know God wants us to be together as families in the next life. That’s why we teach of the importance of receiving the sealing ordinance in this life. It cannot be performed in the hereafter.”

The sealing is an earthly ordinance

Denae wrote that she did not take offense at my response but several others apparently did. One labeled me an exclusionist with no empathy for those who do not enjoy my lack of self-doubt. I guess my strong assertion that the sealing was an earthly ordinance was something that he had never heard before, or if he had, that he did not believe or accept it.

Another claimed that my statement was not doctrinal and was very offensive to someone in Denae’s position. I’ll admit that it can be a tough thing to accept and that perhaps it may seem to be exclusionary. Nevertheless, it is doctrinal and has been since 1843. It is found in canonized scripture in verse 18 of section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him unto whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there…”

Ordinances by proxy in the temples

Because God is a merciful as well as a just God, he has made provisions for those who are unable to receive the sealing ordinances in this life. Many people fall into this category. Obviously, those who lived at a time when the sealing power was not upon the earth did not have the opportunity to take advantage of it. That’s why we build temples.

The Lord has made it abundantly clear over the years that provisions will be made for those who do not receive the sealing ordinance of marriage in this life through no fault of their own. If they are worthy of such a blessing, they will receive it. However, I remain convinced that the actual sealing ordinance will still be performed for them in a temple.

In other words, nobody can receive the blessings of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom without receiving this ordinance either in person or by proxy. There is no other way. That is a basic tenet of our doctrine and is unique to our LDS theology. The Lord said there is no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven. That is an earthly ordinance.

Promised blessings are conditional

What about those who were sealed to a spouse who proved unfaithful? We know from D&C 132 that unless the marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise that it is not valid. In other words, there are two parts to the marriage – the sealing ordinance by the authority of the priesthood and our part – worthiness and faithfulness to each other.

If we remain worthy and faithful, even if divorced, we will inherit the blessings of the sealing ordinance. We have been taught that the wife does not have to come forth to a husband that she does not love when she is called up to the resurrection. The important thing is that she received the sealing ordinance in this life or had it performed for her.

The same applies to the husband. If he is worthy and faithful, yet his wife decides that she no longer believes and does not live up to her part, he does not have to call her forth to be his wife in the resurrection. Whether they divorced or not is immaterial. My point is that it is a requirement to receive the sealing ordinance and to remain true and faithful.

Summary and conclusion

I feel the need to reiterate here that I am not speaking on behalf of the church. I believe that what I have written is doctrinally correct but I am open to correction. Some of what I have written in the last section is what I have been taught over the years in priesthood and Sunday school lessons. It is also an accurate summary of my own personal study.

Back to my statements in the opening section – I have no desire to offend. If I come across as too dogmatic or authoritative, please forgive me. I am not a church authority and am simply trying to express my understanding of what I consider to be an incredibly important doctrine. The sealing ordinance is something I cherish and want to understand.

And yes, I still maintain that we as a Church have so much more to offer the world. This doctrine of temple marriage and the sealing authority of the priesthood is the best example of what we can offer that nobody else can. The Lord has revealed that it is a requirement for exaltation and that is what we are striving for. We teach the ideals in this church.

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