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“I think that it is far better to make a bold admission of facts and truth, and do it now, than wait until it is forced down out throats at a later date when it will be more embarrassing to [the Church]. I am convinced that we must face the future with a little broader view than we have done in the past (I mean certain people in the Church) or we are going to lose our young people and have no power to hold them.”—T. Edgar Lyon, April 18, 1932
Early 20th Century Mormonism -- Both Similar and Different
Reading through T. Edgar Lyon’s biography has offered a fascinating look at the church in the early twentieth century. I took note of this unintentionally humorous quote, which demonstrates that some things haven’t changed in roughly 80 years:
When John Hart had called Ed [Lyon] to teach seminary [in Midway, Idaho], he had also advised him to “buy a house, start a family, and vote the Republican ticket.”
T. Edgar Lyon Jr., T. Edgar Lyon: A Teacher in Zion, pp. 112
Yet in the large majority of instances, you get a sense of how different it must have been to be a member of the church then:
[Sidney B. Sperry] was a popular teacher in the seminary system who had recently returned to BYU with a master’s degree from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Sperry had studied with some of the greatest Old and New Testament scholars in the world, and he ignited a fire in the seminary system which the new, critical approaches of close textual analysis, archaeological investigation, and historical exegesis. …
The Church Educational System had decided to cement ties with the University of Chicago, particularly its Divinity School, by bringing Professor [Edgar J.] Goodspeed to conduct one of the religious education classes in Provo during summer 1930. Sidney B. Sperry had sold Elder Joseph F. Merrill on the idea, and Merrill, in turn, had convinced President Heber J. Grant of the value of bringing such a scholar to BYU. …
Goodspeed so ignited [Ed] Lyon and other Church educators that Elder Merrill, with President Heber J. Grant’s approval, invited Goodspeed to speak in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in one of the regular Sunday fireside sessions. This was a heady time for many in the Church, a time when General Authorities — B. H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, and Joseph F. Merrill particularly — were reaching out, embracing serious secular scholarship and applying it to the study of Latter-day Saint theology and history.
T. Edgar Lyon Jr., T. Edgar Lyon: A Teacher in Zion, pp. 115, 117-118
I understand that the modern church is still involved in academic religious research, but I believe most if it is limited to the efforts of BYU professors and FARMS (correct me if I’m wrong). Can you imagine a time when apostles were seeking out critical, secular scholarship to be applied towards Mormon history and theology? Scholarship that could potentially damage the image of the church with its revelations? You get a sense that these men were truly confident that their religion would hold up to academic scrutiny. The modern church, by contrast seems to play its cards on the defensive these days. Correlation, as an example, appears to be a testament to how cautious higher church leaders are in regards to the average member knowing “too much” about the finer details of Mormon theology and history.
I’m not condemning the modern church, necessarily — I just find the change in attitude over the course of several decades to be fascinating. It makes you wonder what the attitude of the church will be another 80 years from now.
Fun Family Vacation Idea: The Site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre
Good morning class. We’re going to discuss a little history today.
I read yesterday in the Salt Lake Tribune (“Not the Deseret News since 1870!”) that the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is now a national historic landmark. What is the Mountain Meadows Massacre, you probably don’t wonder to yourself? Oh, it’s that one time when a bunch of Mormons murdered a bunch of emigrants, no big deal.
The Story of "Mormonism",
The Story of “Mormonism”,
Two volumes collected in one edition formatted for the Kindle.Excerpt from Volume I:CHAPTER IIn the minds of many, perhaps of the majority of people, the scene of the “Mormon” drama is laid almost entirely in Utah; indeed, the terms “Mormon question” and “Utah question” have been often used interchangeably. True it is, that the development of “Mormonism” is closely associated with the history of the long-time Territory and present State of Utah; but the origin of the system must be sought in regions far distant from the present gathering-place of the Latter-day Saints, and at a period antedating the acquisition of Utah as a part of our national domain.The term “origin” is here used in its commonest application — that of the first stages apparent to ordinary observation — the visible birth of the system. But a long, long period of preparation had led to this physical coming forth of the “Mormon” religion, a period marked by a multitude of historical events, some of them preceding by centuries the earthly beginning of this modern system of prophetic trust. The “Mormon” people regard the establishment of their Church as the culmination of a great series of notable events. To them it is the result of causes unnumbered that have operated through ages of human history, and they see in it the cause of many developments yet to appear. This to them establishes an intimate relationship between the events of their own history and the prophecies of ancient times.In reading the earliest pages of “Mormon” history, we are introduced to a man whose name will ever be prominent in the story of the Church — the founder of the organization by common usage of the term, the head of the system as an earthly establishment — one who is accepted by the Church as an ambassador specially commissioned of God to be the first revelator of the latter-day dispensation. This man is Joseph Smith, commonly known as the “Mormon” prophet. Rarely indeed does history present an organization, religious, social, or political, in which an individual holds as conspicuous and in all ways as important a place as does this man in the development of “Mormonism.” The earnest investigator, the sincere truth-seeker, can ignore neither the man nor his work; for the Church under consideration has risen from the testimony solemnly set forth and the startling declarations made by this person, who, at the time of his earliest announcements, was a farmer’s boy in the first half of his teens. If his claims to ordination under the hands of divinely commissioned messengers be fallacious, forming as they form the foundation of the Church organization, the superstructure cannot stand; if, on the other hand, such declarations be true, there is little cause to wonder at the phenomenally rapid rise and the surprising stability of the edifice so begun. … Bíg d¡sсoǖnt!j~ Būу 0ne, Уoǖ will lovе It!!
"My father was from Mexico" vs. "Marriage has always been between one man and one woman"
Today, let’s look at a delightfully paradoxical set of Mitt Romney’s talking points.
The “my father was from Mexico” one is true, for what that is worth.
The Romney family has a fascinating history in every nation they’ve touched - Romney is the great-great-grandson of Parley Pratt, who started out as a Baptist, became one of the original “apostles” of Mormonism, and was shot and then stabbed to death by the husband of the woman he took as his twelfth wive. The man stabbed him out of frustration with the fact that kidnapping was not considered a crime if one parent was involved, and Pratt and his new “celestial wife” had taken her children. His death led to some really horrible/entertaining levels of crazy stuff, including a massacre, last words implying religious martyrdom which were written down 38 years after he died, the poisoning of Native American children, and the Mormon church blaming the entire state of Arkansas for his death for some reason. Also, in a 2008 effort by his ancestors to move his body to Salt Lake City, his chosen resting place, there wasn’t even a freaking body there, which is awesome from a storytelling perspective. Where is it? Was he really murdered? Did he just run off with new wives? Who knows?
(Fun bit of trivia: Jon Huntsman is the great-great-great-grandson of Parley Pratt, making him a distant relation to Mitt Romney.)
ANYWAY, moving downward from the marriage between one man and twelve women, we get to Helaman Pratt, one of Parley’s thirty children (and you thought your grocery bills were high!), who had three wives to help produce his fair share of Parley’s 266 grandchildren.
When polygamy is banned in the United States, Helaman makes a run for Mexico rather than divorce two of his wives, and I’m not saying he’s a bad guy for it, because it’s more dickish to abandon two wives and a houseful of kids than it is to flee the country. I’m totally for not abandoning your offspring.
One of these offspring, Anna Amelia Pratt, then meets Gaskell Romney, who Mitt bears a striking resemblance to. They practiced monogamy, like most people who have 265 first cousins crowding around at holidays are likely to want to do, and had five sons, including George Romney, father of Mitt.
In 1912, seventeen years after they got married, Gaskell and Anna moved back to the United States because the Mexican Revolution was getting pretty bloody and, hey, one wife was the right number to have back at home, so why stay in this mess? They ditched their stuff, which had mostly been taken over by one side or the other anyway, and headed back to Salt Lake City, where they raised their little businessmen in as much peace as Mormons ever really get. Mexico even kicked them some “sorry our army took your shit” money, which nobody expected.
Now, George and Mitt are pretty well known and you guys know how Google works, so I think that’s a solid rundown of basic Romney/Pratt history.
This is the important part:
1. Mitt Romney’s father was only from Mexico because his American grandparents were outlaws, and
2. Mitt Romney’s great-grandparents were outlaws because they did not believe in one man/one woman marriage.
This brings me to the second Romney talking point. Romney’s statement that “I agree with 3000 years of recorded history. I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman…,” is in conflict with history to an extreme level. Historically, monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is not even sort of the norm. Even within Romney’s family, marriage between one man and one woman has only been practiced since 1895.
I’m not suggesting that polygamy is something we should adopt, and I’m not saying that leaving the United States for thirtyish years doesn’t count. What I am suggesting is that it is not okay to say “my father was from Mexico” when pandering to Latino voters and then to forget why he was born there as well as the rest of your family history when trying to justify telling other people who they can and cannot marry.
You can tell us that you disagree with marriage equality for personal, moral, or religious reasons. I will not agree with you, but I will believe that you are being honest. You cannot, however, be allowed to get away with lying about the history of marriage itself.