When to keep your mouth shut

So, my visiting teachers came over yesterday. I like these women. They are nice, fun, smart. Best of all, they actually come EVERY MONTH! I really appreciate them. One of them is the education counselor, and since I am the RS teacher, we talk about the lessons a lot. And since this year is Wilford Woodruff, we naturally started talking about polygamy, and how the manual is going to get around the whole Manifesto thing. The other sister said that this whole church history lesson she has been getting about JS this year, etc, was a little freaky, but wow, polygamy? Wilford Woodruff was a polygamist? Actually, yes, indeed he was. Then she said it. "But Joseph Smith wasn't a polygamist, was he?" Um.... Now, I know that FMH and T&S has talked about this before, but I'm going to bring it up again. What do you say when somebody says something like that? Do you burst her happy church history bubble? Do you fill her in on all of the funky church history stuff that she is missing? Do you let her know that indeed, JS was a polygamist, and every prophet after him was too, way up until George Albert Smith in 1945? I actually told her that yes, JS was absolutely a polygamist, and she said, "While he was married to Emma?" Um.... "Well, was he having sex with these women?" Um.... "Well, they were just all getting sealed to him because they didn't really understand the temple, right?" Well.... Then the counselor jumped in and said, "There was so much that they didn't understand back then, so there were a lot of people making a lot of mistakes. Don't you think that's right, Heather?" Yeah. Sure. Whatever. I think my visiting teacher was sufficiently freaked out, and we started talking about the Book of Mormon instead. Safe, easy stuff, right? "Wait, there are people who don't think JS wrote the Book of Mormon?' Um....


Blogger hairyshoefairy said...

I understand. I'm a RS teacher in a branch with lots of fairly recent converts and new people every week investigating. One week in RS another woman was teaching about the creation and how Christ is sometimes called the Father and the Son. A woman, less than a year in the church, was confused and to straighten it out said, "So Heavenly Father had Christ, and Christ had all of us." WOAH! Okay, let's clear this up right now! Another woman in our class clarified and we moved on. It seems fundamental and basic, but I guess maybe it's just that way to me b/c I grew up in the church and have heard it since I can remember (and am deeply grateful for that). I've learned, especially since being in this branch, many of the things that I find "simple" can so easily become "complex" and "strange" when looked at as a brand new concept.

1/13/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

This is a great story, Heather. I say don't keep quiet. Better give the truth than be later found out as witholding information. You do not have the benefit of ignorance. Now this does not hold in all cases, but something as fundemental as Joseph Smith...and when you are asked direct questions...

1/13/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Kage said...

straightforward is always best. A friend once thought you pee and give birth out of the same hole, I wish I had clarified for her, but did not.

1/13/2006 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Kaimi said...


Good topic. This one comes up sometimes. Some of our ward friends think we're weird because Mardell discussed Joseph's polyandry with her friend. Umm, oops. I'm still figuring out how to best discuss these kinds of topics if and when they come up -- it's not easy.


Wait a minute -- you're saying that it's _not_ the same one? Why has no one ever told me this?!

1/13/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Nate Oman said...

I think that it is generally best to be up front and honest about things. On the other hand, there is a sort of gossipy and iconclastic way of "revealing" things that is both childish and spiritually destructive. The other thing to think about is how much time people have for this particular discussion at this particular time. As fun as it can be to discuss the history of polygamy, it is not always best to turn every discussion that might peripherally touch on it into an involved discussion of polyandry or the various methods that Heber J. Grant used to hide out from federal prosecuters...

1/13/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Brother Joseph said...

"Joseph's polyandry"?

I didn't realize that he was getting sealed to men too. :-|

1/13/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Laura W said...

As a (not terribly recent) convert, I know I appreciate it when people take the time to clear up my misconceptions.

On one hand, I'm fairly familiar with the more controversial issues so there are not too many surprises there. On the other hand, I've apparently confused a lot of the Presbyterian doctrine I grew up with the basic tenents of being LDS. For example, it was only a year or two ago that I understood that the protestant trinity was not the same as the God, Christ and the Holy Ghost.

1/13/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

As a convert whose sapling faith was shaken when confromted with these "other" parts of church history, I can say, JUST BE HONEST!

While I have said this eleswhere in the BN, the subltle secrecy about the things our modern sensiblities find offensive about CH do not help the novice. It is better to be prepared for what the Anti's are going to throw at you, and to have gotten your information from a source you trust. I wish the church addressed this a little more in Sunday School or RS.

I'm good now, but I seriously contemplated if I had done the right thing when family started showing me all the "secrets" from the Church I chose to join.

If you shine a light in the dark, it isn't scary anymore- That said, I do understand Nate'd point about diverting too many times onto this subject.

1/13/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Heather, I would have laughed and said, "you're kidding, right?" I would have just told her the truth.

As I see it, you know.

How she takes it is her problem. We all gotta grow up someday.

1/13/2006 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Here's an answer:

Yes, Joseph was a polygamist. (geeze, weird that he would follow the revelation that HE received from God...)

Yes, while he was married to Emma.

Yes, he could have been having sex with his WIVES --although, frankly, it's none of our business...

Yes, they understood the Temple just fine.

No, there weren't mistakes because you are talking about the prophet of the Restoration and was he known to make mistakes like forcing women to marry him? Not likely.

But I think an even better answer to these questions might be (as my mother always said) "We'll figure it all out in the Millenium" --granted, that was her way to avoid the same such topics that her young teenage daughter (me) would ask her about...LOL

1/13/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Sheldon said...


Your husband caused my wife and I to have the same problem. He posted his "Pirates of Penzance" song "I am the Very Model of a Mormon Intellectual" over at T&S and my wife and I thought it would be fun to perform it for the mandatory family "talent show" on Christmas Eve. It went very well, it was fun and everyone laughed, until the awkward moment when my 16 year old brother asked, "wait - so what is polyandry, anyway?"...

1/14/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mardell said...

My main problem with answering these questions is that I tend to express my opinion along with the facts and it weirds people out. I have opinions that should not be expressed around goody-two-shoes mormons.

1/15/2006 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

Mardel the trouble factory. Um hum.

I agree. Be honest. But that still leaves open the quesiton of just how much one reveals for any given question. But . . . as has been said, you have to judge that by the question, the person, the time of day, and the alignment of Pluto.

Where are the simple answers? I miss them. Look under the couch cushions.

I'm not making sense anymore. Time for bed.

1/15/2006 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger a spectator said...

Everyone has agreed that honesty is the best and I won't argue, but I would say, "especially in this case." If this question came up in Sunday School, there would be a lot of jumping around, but right there in your home amoung friends--this is the perfact atmosphere for your VT to get the truth comfortably, from people from whom she can seek clarification. I sure she would appreciate your insight (eventually).

1/15/2006 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I've been pondering (but not really searching or praying yet) about this topic since it was posted. I have this tendency to say less rather than more and hope, like Cheryl's mom, that we'll figure it out later.

Here is what I've been pondering: Where does one find the "real" answers? I mean, if the official history/dogma has been sanitized, what else are we supposed to read?

I guess what I'm hoping to obtain [I know it is off topic but it would be really helpful] is a reading list.
When I went to BYU and started finding publications such as Sunstone/Dialogue, etc., there were people who intimated that being in possession of such writing was wayyyy too left of center, the equivalent of the Dark Arts, on the fast track to apostacy, etc. (Or was that Student Review??) As an adult, I realize that probably is not the case.
So, where can a woman go who wants to read history written by faithful LDS that will tell history that isn't revisionist, apologetic, etc?

1/15/2006 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

The best book out there on Joseph Smith is, of course, "Rough Stone Rolling", by Richard Bushman. If you want a biography of Brigham Young, read the one by Leonard Arrington ("Brigham Young, American Moses).

A good book on polygamy is "More Wives than one", by Catherine Daines.

A good sketch of all the presidents is "Presidents of the Church", which is edited by Leonard Arrington.

One volume histories of Mormonism include "The Mormon Experience", by Leonard Arrington, or "The Story of the Latter-Day Saints", by James Allen and Glen Leonard.

These are all recommendations from my husband, who boasts that he was the best Mormon library this side of the Mississippi. And we have the sagging bookshelves to prove it.

And yes, he's read all those books I just mentioned. Me, I'm busy reading, um, other stuff.

1/16/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous James T said...

Oh yeah, I hear ya with the mulitple wives issue. What I have the hardest time explaining is the seer stone issue. People get so freaked out when they hear when and how he found and used his stone. It is just another one of those strange things that so few of the members really know about.

1/17/2006 02:14:00 AM  

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