William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Musings On The Book Of Mormon's Condemnation Of Polygyny

I commented:

Some years ago, I was trying to come up with a plausible explanation for why the BoM (in the book of Jacob) so strongly condemns polygamy, and why God commanded it in the D&C. Emma Smith (Joseph's first wife), as we all know, hated polygamy, even though, as I recall, she may have spoken in favor of it out of obedience to what she perceived to be God's commands.

My non-expert impression of Emma is that she was a rather possessive and jealous spouse who felt very threatened by the idea of Joseph being involved with anyone else intimately (not to say that is abnormal in the least, but that dynamic seems more present in the Joseph/Emma relationship than in the average marital relationship). Now, consider the likely fact that Emma was the scribe who was taking down Joseph's "translation" concerning the condemnation of polygamy in the Book of Jacob. (for a timeline of BoM translation, see http://eldenwatson.net/BoM.htm, which is not necessarily authoritative but which strongly suggests to me that Emma was the primary scribe during the Jacob translation).

For me, it seems this was more than coincidental. Joseph was probably giving Emma a "revelation" exactly along the lines of what she wanted to hear. For her, those passages condemning polygamy were probably just the assurance she wanted from her husband that he would not stray. D&C 132 (the revelation commanding polygamy), by contrast, was, I believe, given to Joseph without Emma's knowledge until several years later. I think these facts, along with the naturally-occuring tendancy in most men (and many women) to desire multiple sex partners, combine to make out a very persuasive case for the proposition that the Book of Jacob's passage condemning polygamy was dictated by Joseph, not be revelation, but for Emma's sake to assure her that he was committed to her and to convince her of his prophetic calling.

Naturally, my speculations probably do nothing for the TBMs who consider their testimony of the BoM to constitute irrefutable proof that the BoM is a not only authentic, but doctrinally accurate translation free of Joseph Smith's own personal opinions and musings. Those TBMs would probably not give much consideration to this coincidence, and would write it off as just that- coincidence and nothing more.

But my questions are as follows:
1) Does anyone have any evidence that the condemnation-of-polygamy passage in Jacob was transcribed by someone other than Emma?
2) Does anyone have any evidence that the condemnation-of-polygamy passage in Jacob was transcribed without Emma being present?
3) Other than your own spiritual witness concerning how to reconcile Jacob and D&C 132, do you know of any objective evidence that would weigh in favor of considering the book of Jacob's transcription by Emma a mere coincidence?

I'm not seeing where Jacob says the Lord can (or has) commanded the practice of polygyny. The verse to which the apologists are citing, Jacob 2:30, says,

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

As noted by one commentator (caveat: I do not agree with everything, but believe the commentator lends insight on the interpretation issue):

"In my experience of understanding the scriptures, I have found that proper interpretation of a verse comes from the meaning of the verses surrounding it. Jacob 2:30 must be interpreted in light of the meaning of the surrounding verses. To do otherwise could render a meaning opposed to the meaning of the surrounding text and thus would make no sense. It is clear from reading Jacob 2:22-35 above that the scriptures before and after Jacob 2:30 plainly state that having many wives as well as having concubines is a whoredom and an abomination before the Lord. And He forbade Jacob's people to have concubines and more than one wife. The Lord was not pleased with David and Solomon for doing these things and He was not pleased with the people in Jacob's time for also doing these things and justifying their actions by what David and Solomon did. In addition, the Lord stated that these actions were breaking the hearts of their wives and daughters and indicated that if they continued to pursue such activities, He would "visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction..." (verse 33). Thus, to take verse 30 out of the middle of this entire passage, which strongly states that polygamy is evil, and render the meaning of verse 30 to be that "Polygamy is ... to be practiced ... only when commanded by God," is ridiculous. Such an interpretation is out of context with the meaning of the surrounding verses. Even more, it makes God changeable, which He is not.

So, if Jacob 2:30 shouldn't be interpreted that polygamy is acceptable when God commands it, then what is the meaning of this verse? Verse 25 says that the Lord led these people out of Jerusalem to give them an opportunity to become righteous. In this context, verse 30 means that if these people are going to become righteous, He must give them commandments to obey Him. If He doesn't, "they shall harken unto these things," or in other words they will commit these whoredoms and not become a righteous people. This interpretation of verse 30 is in context with the meaning of the surrounding verses and can be the only plausible meaning given to it.

Thus, in my opinion, Jacob 2:22-35 supports the position that polygamy is evil. Knowing this, Joseph would have never engaged in this activity. And the Lord, being unchangeable, would have never given him a revelation telling His people to practice polygamy."

I commented:

The idea that Jacob 2:30 supports polygamy is the product of an afterthought, invented by those who are unwilling to entertain the possibility that either the Jacob passage (altogether condemning polygyny) or D&C 132 (commanding polygyny) could be incorrect and not God-inspired.

As for who was the scribe for the Jacob passage, I'm not seeing where Watson says Oliver was the scribe for Jacob chapter 2 (or for that matter, the scribe for the entire book of Jacob, although there is a notation that Cowdery's handwriting was in one of the chapters). Even if Oliver were the scribe for Jacob chapter 2, Emma was most likely present. In any event, while I'm on the topic, does anyone know whose handwriting is in the transcription manuscript for Jacob chapter 2, or where it is possible to get that information? Are scanned versions of the original manuscripts anywhere on the web?

Here are the pertinent verses quoted from the Book of Mormon:

"22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
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 awhoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many bwives and concubines, which thing was cabominable 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 arighteous 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.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any aman among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the achastity of women. And bwhoredoms 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.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up aseed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their bhusbands.
32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our afather, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
35 Behold, ye have done agreater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the bstrictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds."

Now, here's the challenge: Find one hundred non-LDS, reasonably-educated, native English speakers who are not familiar with your position (that Jacob 2:30 stands for the proposition that the Lord sometimes commands polygyny), and survey them, asking the following question:

Based upon your review of this passage, and assuming it to be authentic revelation from God, do you believe the passage supports, cuts against, or is indifferent to the proposition that God sometimes commands His people to practice polygyny?

If your survey reveals that a majority of people agree with your interpretation, I am willing to reconsider my view that a plain reading of the Jacob 2 passage on its face universally condemns polygyny. If, however, as I suspect, the overwhelming majority of survey takers respond that their impression is that the passage raises no reasonable dispute concerning the acceptability of polygyny, and that the passage universally condemns it, then I believe it would be fair for you to at least acknowledge that your interpretation of Jacob 2:30 is a strained, faith-based-only, interpretation. Does that sound fair to you? Are you willing to take the challenge?

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