THE NATURE OF MAN
As a member of the Mormon Church, I was told that I was a valiant spirit in the pre-existence, that I was very special, and that I was being rewarded by having the Gospel, the true Church of Jesus Christ, in my life. We were taught that we are more blessed, more special, more correct, more protected, more righteous, and more worthy of God's favor than anyone else. Many Mormons suffer from the 'Chosen People Syndrome.' I was never comfortable with the idea that I was one of God's chosen. I did not feel better or more blessed than those outside the Church. In fact, with life's trials so overwhelming at times, I couldn't imagine how I was more blessed than others. However, there was comfort in belonging to God's true church, and I was proud to proclaim that I was a Mormon. My state of mind on one hand became an odd combination of believing that I was just the same as everyone else, but on the other hand feeling special. It was difficult for me to understand this two-faced duality.
I had entered a deeply significant belief system where I could enjoy the blessings of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, be sealed to my family in God's Holy Temple for time and all eternity, and have a personal relationship with my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Most of the teachings of the Church seemed to have an honorable and positive purpose. When I became an active Mormon the world and all of life took on a whole new meaning. This mortal existence didn't seem to be very important anymore. I began enduring this life rather than living it, preparing for a glorious future in the hereafter.
Larry advanced quickly in the Priesthood and was called to serve in the Bishopric. He spent a great deal of time away from home helping others and attending countless meetings. I disliked the fact that he did not spend much time with Lori and me, but I was very proud that he had been called to such an important position.
My first calling was to teach the twelve-year-old class in Sunday School, which I loved. I related well to the young people and they seemed to like me. I was excited about the lessons and felt I was learning more than my students. I would study hard and gather all the information about the subject matter that I could find. It was important to me to be thoroughly prepared so that I could answer any questions they might have. I purchased Joseph Fielding Smith's Answers to Gospel Questions and Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine. These two books are reference materials for many in the Church whenever there is a question about doctrine.
We had every intention of following the Prophet, Pres. David O. McKay. He looked like such a gentle man with his snow-white hair and soft-spoken voice. I loved to listen to him as he spoke often about families being forever.
In 1967 we had the opportunity of meeting President McKay at his home in Huntsville, Utah. We were thrilled to be in the presence of the living Prophet. We explained to him what had happened to our daughter Cindy and how devastated we were. We told him how grateful we were to have found the Gospel. He was very kind and told us that sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways. He suggested that the death of our little girl could be the Lord's way of getting us to embrace the Gospel. Did this mean that we were the cause of Cindy's death? After receiving council from President McKay, Larry and I looked at our daughter's death as a blessing, for without her death we might never have found the 'Only True Church' on the earth today.
This kind of thinking turned fact and reality upside-down. Cindy's death was a human tragedy, not a blessing. God did not KILL her so that Larry and I might become active in the Mormon Church. That kind of thinking places God in the role of the worse kind of murderer, the willful KILLER of a child. Here again comes The Double-Bind: If Larry and I had been active members of the Church, God would not have had to kill Cindy. This kind of thinking meant that it was our fault that she had to die because we weren't active Mormons. The principles of reason, logic, truth and honesty were being eroded away. Again, trust in the real world was being replaced with fanaticism, fear, and faith in a fabricated world.
Within a few months of activity in the Church, we became totally converted to the Mormon way of life. At some point we were introduced to the doctrine of polygamy; not that we were to practice it but rather that it was a principle that we would have to embrace in the next life if we wanted to make it to the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom. This doctrine seemed very sexist, cruel, vague and confusing. When I expressed my feelings about polygamy to our leaders and members alike, I was quickly advised not to worry about it, that I would feel differently in the hereafter. We were told that polygamy was a higher truth of the Gospel and that someday I would embrace it. Nevertheless, it bothered us whenever the subject came up. We never resolved this concern; we just learned to live with it, as we had done with so many other concerns.
The doctrine of polygamy is found in D&C, Section 132. It was a revelation given to Joseph Smith on July 12, 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois. The first four verses read:
1. "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that
inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the
Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and
Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having
many wives and concubines."
2. "Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter."
3. "Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same."
4. "For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory."
Then in verse 54, speaking to Emma (Joseph's wife) concerning the doctrine of polygamy, the Lord said, "for I am the Lord thy God and will destroy her if she abide not my law".
Joseph Smith established the doctrine of polygamy in 1843, which held his wife Emma, and all Mormon women in bondage for many years. When Emma found out about the revelation she was angry and mortified. Initially Emma denounced the revelation on polygamy. She felt betrayed by the man she loved. When Emma found out that Joseph was already involved in the practice and objected, Joseph told her she would be destroyed if she did not believe or was not obedient in ministering to him and aiding him in his desire for more wives (D&C 132: 64). Emma had not been physically battered, but she was emotionally battered with the promise of complete destruction if she did not go along with his demands. Emma was trapped in The Double-Bind. She had only two choices, both negative:
If she consented to Joseph living the law of polygamy (plurality of wives) against her own feelings and their original marriage contract (the law of monogamy under which she married Joseph in 1827), the Lord would not destroy her. She would be denying her own feelings but obeying her husband and God. Obedience would place her under the control of the Binder and she would be labeled good.
If she chose not to allow it, she would become the transgressor, which would allow Joseph to freely take on other wives without her consent. Worse yet, Emma would be cut off and destroyed. She would be disobedient and therefore unworthy to be the wife of the Prophet. The revelation said further: "And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide my law....Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor." (D&C 132: 64-65)
The Pattern destroys the real possibility of love for both The Binder and The Bound. Because of Joseph Smith's subtle manipulation, Emma was caught, having to choose what she inherently knew was wrong. She agreed to obey her husband and stayed the strong, but non-human, obedient, 'Elect Lady.' Thus Emma lost her identity.
At this point Emma was given some say in who became the other wives. She chose two women to become her sister wives, Emily and Eliza Partridge (ages 19, and 23) thus activating Joseph's new law. Emma had no idea that these girls had already been secretly married to Joseph two months earlier. Joseph tried to buy Emma's loyalty by purchasing her a carriage. Possessions were to take the place of the intimate companionship she had formerly had with her husband. Intimidation and the threat of God's eternal wrath dehumanized and bound her and forced her to obey Joseph, who became the owner of her mind, body, and soul, i.e. The Binder.
From the beginning of their relationship Emma had trusted Joseph. They secretly eloped and married against her father's wishes. She fell into The Pattern and naïvely entered Joseph's upside-down world of power and control. Although the revelation on polygamy was recorded in 1843, it is evident from Church historical records that Joseph had been practicing polygamy since 1831. This practice, according to Missouri State law, was considered adultery and was punishable by law. Joseph and the other leaders had been deceiving the members of the Church and prospective converts, denying that they were involved with polygamy, while rumors abounded.
William Law, Joseph Smith's second counselor, was deeply concerned over Joseph's monopoly of the management of real estate in and about the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. Even more than that Law was deeply troubled about Joseph's infidelity. With sorrow and suspicion Law watched Joseph's ever enlarging circle of wives. The last straw was when Joseph approached Law's own wife, Jane. Law threatened to expose Joseph before the whole world if he didn't confess his sins before the High Council, and repent. According to Law, Joseph said, "I'll be damned before I do." (No Man Knows My History, Fawn Brodie, p. 369) Shortly thereafter William Law and Dr. Robert D. Foster started a newspaper called The Nauvoo Expositor. One issue was published and the second one was going to print when Joseph found out that Law was going to expose Joseph's secret practice of polygamy. Joseph panicked and had the press destroyed and the building burned. Now he had committed a criminal act against the U.S. Constitution. (Amendment I of the Bill of Rights states "American citizens have the right to freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.")
Joseph was arrested for this crime and subsequently killed. But he did not die a martyr, as I had been taught. John Taylor, the third president of the Church, was in prison with Joseph and Hyrum at the time, he tells the following in the Gospel Kingdom, p. 360: "Joseph opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times... afterwards [I] understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed, died." The same account is in the History of the Church, vol. 6, p. XLI and pp. 617-618. According to John Taylor, Joseph acted as a Mason at the time of his death. He tells that Joseph went to the window and made a Masonic distress sign after his gun was empty, hoping that Masons, if there were any among this mob, would rescue him according to the Masonic oath to defend one another, right or wrong.
We were taught that the early Saints practiced the doctrine of polygamy because there were too many women in the Church and not enough men to take care of them, hence, marriage seemed the only logical way to help these women, who in turn, would have children for the purpose of building up the kingdom of God on the earth. It wasn't until I started researching the untold history of the Church that I realized how untrue that account is, and how devastating polygamy was to those who were required to live it. After studying the darker side of polygamy I understood in some small way the pain the early women of the Church had to endure.
Larry and I used to chuckle when we read the account of his Great-great Grandfather Jorgen Smith and his first wife Fidsel Kristine Birkedahal and their feather bed. We no longer chuckle.
Jorgen Smith & Polygamy...
Fidsel Kristine Birkedahal, Jorgen's wife, did not approve of polygamy. In fact she hated it. When Jorgen said he was going to take a second wife Fidsel replied, "When you do, you and her [sic] will come in one door and the children and myself will go out the other." Nevertheless, Jorgen married 22-year-old Mette Marie Johannesen Villadsen, Larry's Great-great Grandmother. Fidsel was 38 when Jorgan brought Mette Marie home and said, "This is my other wife."
Fidsel, who only spoke Danish, put a little bundle under each child's arm, and went from Fountain Green to Richfield, Utah, where her parents sent money for a home. But Fidsel, being with child went back to Jorgen in Fountain Green. On March 22, 1863, Christine Marie was born and two years later on the 11th of May 1865 a pair of twin girls, Wilhimine [Minnie] and Caroline, were born. They all later moved to Ephraim, Utah.
Fidsel owned a copper-bottom teakettle that needed repair. Since Jorgen was a blacksmith and tinsmith he repaired all their kettles. The kettle came up missing and was gone for quite some time. Fidsel needed it for her hot water uses, and asked when was he going to bring it home. He did not answer her. One day he was standing on a chair tacking cloth on the ceiling of their home so the dirt wouldn't sift in. Fidsel thought of her teakettle, and again asked why he didn't bring it back. He told her that Mette Marie wouldn't let him. With that Fidsel became angry and grabbed Jorgen by his long white beard, jerked him off the chair and made him follow her all around the room. Needless to say, the kettle soon came home!
In those days a feather bed was given to the wife who was sleeping alone, and it was exchanged when Jorgen stayed with the other wife. Two weeks went by and Jorgen didn't come home. Fidsel picked up the feather tick and went to Mette Marie's. Opening the door, she threw in the feather bed and said, "Here is your old feather bed, I want my man." This couldn't go on, so Fidsel and her children again moved back to Richfield in March 1867. Just three months after the move, their 10th child, Joseph was born.
In her later years Fidsel lived with her children, and on December 28th, 1900, she passed away and was buried in the Richfield, Sevier County, Utah cemetery. She was 75.
Although the Mormon Church tells many faith promoting stories about those who lived in polygamy, it was not so for most polygamists. Like so many others, Fidsel experienced great sadness living as a polygamous wife and trying to raise her children. Not only had she lost her husband to polygamy, but she also lost six of their ten children. Little Christian died as an infant. Bertel was only about two years old and died a few days after Jorgen and Fidsel landed in America. Maria was about four months old when they came to America and she died a few days after landing. Then when Susan was about four she ate poison sego lily roots or berries and died. While living in Richfield their daughter, Theldren Maren [Mary] Smith, born July 28, 1851, in Nyby, Denmark, was killed by Indians just outside of town on March 21, 1867. Mary was almost 16 at her death (Treasured Trails, by Adelia Mott Pierce, p. 23).
There is no doubt that polygamy was hard on Mormon men as well. Jorgen eventually married three wives. Wilheimine Pederson, his third wife, died in 1882. In 1886 he divided his property with Fidsel, and he and Mette Marie moved to Pleasant Dale, (Notom) Utah to live. They were laid to rest in the Bicknell, Utah Cemetery. I often wonder if Jorgen really wanted to live the law of polygamy, or if he merely did as he was commanded?
Joseph Smith once told Heber C. Kimball that if he didn't enter into polygamy, 'he would lose his Apostleship and be Damned' (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 336). Likewise Brigham Young made this statement on August 19, 1866: "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (J of D, vol. 11, p. 269).
I was horrified when I learned about a young man living in Manti, Utah in 1859 who had been castrated by his Bishop for refusing to give up the girl he loved. Bishop Snow wanted the young girl to become one of his polygamous wives.
Castration by Mormon Bishop - Manti, Utah...
(Confessions of John D. Lee, photo reprint of 1880 edition, I pp. 284-286.)
"In Nauvoo it was the orders from Joseph Smith and his apostles to beat, wound and castrate all Gentiles that the police could take in the act of entering or leaving a Mormon household under circumstances that led to the belief that they had been there for immoral purposes. I knew of several such outrages while there. In Utah it was the favorite revenge of old, worn out members of the Priesthood, who wanted young women sealed to them, and many a young man was unsexed for refusing to give up his sweet-heart at the request of an old and failing, but still sensual apostle or member of the Priesthood. Warren Snow was Bishop of the Church at Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. He had several wives, but there was a fair, buxom young woman in the town that Snow wanted for a wife. She told him she was then engaged to a young man, a member of the Church, and consequently could not marry the old priest. He told her it was the will of God that she should marry him. The girl continued obstinate. The 'teachers' of the town visited her and advised her to marry Bishop Snow. Then the authorities called on the young man and directed him to give up the young woman. This he steadfastly refused to do. He was promised Church preferment, celestial rewards, and everything that could be thought of all to no purpose. He remained true to his intended, and said he would die before he would surrender his intended wife to the embraces of another. The young man was ordered to go on a mission to some distant locality, so that the authorities would have no trouble in effecting their purpose of forcing the girl to marry as they desired. But the mission was refused. His fate was left to Bishop Snow for his decision. He decided that the young man should be CASTRATED; Snow saying, ("When that is done, he will not be liable to want the girl badly, and she will listen to reason when she knows that her lover is no longer a man)." It was then decided to call a meeting of the people who lived true to counsel in Manti. The young man was there, and was again requested, ordered and threatened, to get him to surrender the young woman to Snow, but true to his plighted troth, he refused to consent to give up the girl. The lights were then put out. An attack was made on the young man. He was severely beaten, and then tied with his back down on a bench, when Bishop Snow took a bowie knife, and performed the operation in a most brutal manner. The young man has been an idiot or quiet lunatic ever since. To make a long story short, I will say, the young woman was soon after forced into being sealed to Bishop Snow. Brigham Young did nothing against Snow. He left him in charge as Bishop at Manti, and ordered the matter to be hushed up. This is only one instance of many that I might give to show the danger of refusing to obey counsel in Utah."
History makes it very clear that polygamy was a cause of, rather than a result of early Mormon depredation and persecution. Although it resulted in great misery for most of those involved, Brigham Young continued the practice, marrying over fifty wives himself.
Ann Eliza Webb, one of Brigham's wives, tells of her own mother's feelings when told she and her husband would be required to live the law of polygamy. "My mother has often said that the "Revelation" was the most hateful thing in the world to her, and she dreaded and abhorred it. But she was afraid to oppose it, lest she should be found "fighting against the Lord." And so polygamy effectively reduced women to mere commodities (Wife No. 19, Chapter 5 by Ann Eliza Young, 1875).
Heber C. Kimball said, "I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow" (Ibid, Chapter 17).
The Mormon position on women has changed very little since the beginning of the Church. The official view was then, and is now, that the woman's primary place is in the home where she is to rear the children and abide by the council of her husband and/or priesthood leaders. This attitude, together with the doctrine of polygamy and the absolute power claimed by the men of the Church has created a legacy of profound sexism that modern Mormonism has been unable to escape. Mormonism has created an ingenious system of oppression and control, in which opposition toward men (priesthood) is tantamount to arguing with God.
Why do women remain second-class citizens? Because the theology of most religions subjugate women, establish women as inferior, unclean, the original transgressor, and God-ordained servant to man.
I was usually comfortable with the general Christian teachings of the Church, although there were still moments of confusion. For the most part I enjoyed going to Church each Sunday. I looked forward to the instruction and also being able to see the many new friends I had made. I felt important and validated by their love, friendship and religious kinship.
Within the Church there is a tremendous sense of oneness. We were all working toward one main goal, and that goal was to be worthy, through our obedience, our works, and our faith in God and the Church teachings, to obtain eternal life with our families, our friends, Christ and our Father in Heaven.
With great sincerity our friends and leaders told us how they believed The Book of Mormon to be the divine Word of God and a true record of scripture. Their sincerity was very touching as they assured Larry and I from the bottom of their hearts that they knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, The Book of Mormon was true, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored to the earth. They assured us that we could know too, by sincerely asking God, with real intent. (Here again the Double-Bind was implemented. The burden of proof of Joseph Smith being a prophet of God and The Book of Mormon being divine revelation is no longer on Joseph Smith or the Church, but it was now on us. They no longer have to prove anything. It's not their problem; it's ours. If we don't receive an answer it is because we aren't exercising our faith or we aren't sincere enough.)
Spiritually proving The Book of Mormon and the Mormon Church to be true required no corroboration of fact, just a sincere heart. Because of the warm feelings I felt in my heart through activity in the Church, I assumed that I had received a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost, as promised by Moroni in The Book of Mormon. The 'burning in the bosom' (as Church members referred to it) became a reality in my life. * I swept away the voice of reason and gradually put all my concerns and questions aside. The requirement of blind faith and unquestioning obedience became my way of life. I, too, began to testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that through him the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Priesthood had been restored, that The Book of Mormon was true, and that we belonged to The Only True Church on the earth. I testified that our current Prophet was inspired and directed by God. I felt like I had acquired an unshakable testimony. It was a noble and envied objective, and I sincerely felt it.
* "Mormons aren't alone in using the 'Burning in the Bosom' method of
ascertaining truth. There are three other well-known religions in this country
that use the technique of asking you to read their particular scriptures and
inquire of God if it is true. They are: the Jehovah Witnesses, the Hare Krishna,
and the Unification Church. Like Mormons, members of these religions are known
to approach their religious activities with a blind, sometimes fanatical zeal.
They all know that theirs is the 'True Church.' " (What the Mormon
Missionaries Don't Tell You, (2001) by Gerald Paul)
I didn't read any books that weren't Church approved, or any of the so-called anti-Mormon literature. I was warned that if I read these things I would be allowing Satan to influence my life and I would lose my testimony. I was told that those who were handing out the anti-Mormon literature near the temples and at Mormon Pageants, were not only there to continue persecuting the Saints but were also under the influence of Satan.
We were taught about a war in heaven where spirits of varying degrees of valiance and devotion to the truth had struggled for power. Satan and one-third of the spirits destined for this life came out in open rebellion against Heavenly Father. These spirits sought to destroy the agency of man. They were cast out of Heavenly Father's presence and denied a body of flesh and bone for all eternity. They are known as the Devil and his angels. The other two-thirds stood affirmatively for the Father's plan for Christ to become the Redeemer of the World in the great plan of salvation. There were no neutrals. Of the two-thirds that followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote: "Those who were less valiant had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of his brother Abel, being a black skin. These spirits are known as the Negroes" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 526-527).
The Prophet Brigham Young said, "The Blacks are cursed with a flat nose and black skin" (J of D, vol. 7, pp. 290-291). He also said, "if the Priesthood was ever given to the Blacks, on that very day and hour, if we should do so, the Priesthood will be taken from this Church" (Brigham Young Addresses, p. 61).
This was the gospel message of truth taught by the Mormon Church for over 140 years. Then with civil rights groups complaining about LDS racism, the federal government threatening to revoke the Church's tax-free status, and athletic teams refusing to play against BYU, the Church decided it was time for a revelation.
On June 9, 1978 the leaders of the Mormon Church said they had received a revelation allowing all worthy male members entrance into the Church Priesthood (D&C, p. 293). On June 13, 1978 The Salt Lake Tribune reported. "President Kimball refused to discuss the revelation that changed the Church's 148 year old policy against ordination of Blacks, saying it was a personal thing. Kimball said the revelation came at this time because conditions and people have changed. It's a different world than it was 20 or 25 years ago. The world is ready for it, he said."
Although I never considered myself as racist, the devastating fact is I had
bought into a dysfunctional religious message that has caused human pain and
suffering beyond imagination.
We were attending a ward with friends in Salt Lake City when the new revelation was revealed to the congregation. I'm ashamed to say up until that day I hadn't given much thought about the blacks not being able to hold the Priesthood or attend the temple. There weren't any blacks in our ward and very few in our community. I remember as the revelation was read, thinking, "I'm so glad that God has changed his mind and now allows all worthy men in the Church to hold the priesthood, and all worthy members to attend the temple." The husband of the couple we had been visiting that day had quite the opposite reaction. He was extremely upset. Fred was a seasoned scriptorian, and in spite of the counsel to trust our leaders (for they will never lead us astray) he disagreed with the revelation. He quoted several scriptures saying, "The Negro are not allowed to hold the priesthood or go through the temple, no matter how they live." He quoted the words of General Authority, Bruce R. McConkie who said, "The Blacks are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow there from, but this inequality is not of man's origin, it is the Lord's doings" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 526-527). He also quoted this scripture: "For God does not walk in crooked paths; neither does He turn to the right hand nor to the left; neither does He vary from that which He hath said" (The Book of Commandments, chapter 2, verse 1). He quoted other scriptures to make his point.
As Fred was venting his anger I remembered a scripture I had read in the D&C 38:16 that said, "God is no respecter of persons…" Such contradictions. Who is confused, God or man? What would Martin Luther King, Opray Winfrey, Colen Powell, Bill Cosby, and other caring black people say about all of this? I wanted to speak out and tell Fred how I felt, but my fear that he knew so much more than I did kept my lips tightly sealed. I never saw myself as being a prejudiced person or discriminating against another race, but by failing to speak up that day I not only became a participant in the racism, I distorted and crippled who I really was. I was abandoning my true identity.
It wasn't until I started researching the untold history of the Mormon Church that I discovered that a colored man by the name of Elijah Abel was ordained to the priesthood in the early days of the Mormon Church. Abel was intimately acquainted with the prophet, Joseph Smith. He was ordained an Elder on March 3, 1836, and a Seventy on April 4, 1841. In 1883 he served a mission in Canada and also performed missionary labors in the United States. Two weeks after he returned from his mission he died due to exposure while laboring as a missionary in Ohio (Mormonism: Shadow and Reality, Gerald & Sandra Tanner, p. 267).
Then there is the question about Brigham Young's statement that if the
priesthood were ever given to the blacks, it would be taken from the Church. How
can the Church justify the inconsistency of divine revelation?
The Book of Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price introduced the first and only scriptural basis for denying the priesthood to the blacks. It describes Pharaoh and the Egyptians as descendent of Ham and Canaan (the progenitors of the Negro race) and under the curse of Cannan, therefore disqualifying them from the priesthood (P of G P, Abraham 1:21-22, 26-27).
The Indians... (Lamanites)
While studying The Book of Mormon I came across the scripture that said the Indians' skin color would change to white if they accepted the Gospel. It also said that they would become a "white and a delightsome people." I saw nothing wrong with their skin color or the way they acted. This passage of Mormon scripture reads:
"...their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people" (BOM 2 Nephi 30:6). (Underline added)
In 1981 the LDS Church leadership decided to change the most correct book on earth (according to Joseph Smith) and substituted the word pure for the word white. Mormon apologists insist that this was a clarification since the word was never meant to refer to a person with dark skin pigmentation who would magically turn white based upon a conversion to the Mormon gospel; rather, it referred to a cleaner state of heart. This assumption is definitely not supported in the Book of Mormon since 2 Nephi 5:21 says, "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."
I am now convinced that despite the comments from past Mormon leaders and their scriptures, skin color has nothing to do with a person's spirituality or worth. To say 2 Nephi 30:6 was altered merely for clarification and had nothing to do with skin color is without merit.
When and where did we cross over the line of humanity, and brand other humans good or bad based on the color of their skin? We associate white with purity and goodness. White is the symbol of positive and protective energy. White represents wholeness of spirit. We associate God and angels with white. Mormon temples are usually beautiful white buildings, where the people all dress in white. In contrast, we associate the color black with evil. We dress villains in black. The character that played Satan in the temple drama was dressed in black. Black is the symbol of destruction. Black represents anger, despair, and rage. We call the Devil the Prince of Darkness.
Black and white are nothing more than colors on the color chart. Each is necessary to create the other colors. If we choose to make a distinction between one who is good versus one who is evil, can't we acknowledge a personality that is good as being a soul who brings love to the world, and then acknowledge a personality that is splintered and capable of doing evil as a soul in the state of the absence of love?
Understanding that evil is simply the absence of love challenges the perception of what we were taught and which the Church is still teaching. Evil needs to be understood for what it is. It has nothing to do with the color of one's skin, his race or nationality. An evil person is one who is morally wrong or bad, one who hurts others and knowingly causes harm. Evil unrighteously judges another and violates the rights and dignity of fellow humans. Surely we harm ourselves when we judge others because of the color of their skin, and when we deny the oneness of mankind. Racism has recently lost its credibility through DNA science. We are all much more alike than we are different.
The Indian Placement Program...
Shortly after Larry was called to serve in the Bishopric we were introduced to a program called The Indian Placement Program. *
At the request of the Prophet and under the supervision of the Bishop, many families including ours were asked to take an Indian (Lamanite) student into our home, treat them as our own, take care of physical and monetary needs, but most of all teach them the Gospel. We were told that because the Indians had anciently rebelled against the truth and had not accepted the Gospel during Book of Mormon times, God had placed a two-fold curse upon them. First, they had been cut off from the presence of the Lord and had thus died spiritually, and second, they had become a dark, loathsome and filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations. (I Nephi 12:23) We were told that it was up to us to help remove the curse from our Indian daughter, Alberta, and that by our willingness to take her into our home, and teach her the Gospel of Jesus Christ she would become white and delightsome (BOM 2 Nephi 30:6).
Since it's beginning the Mormon Church has taught that a dark skin is a sign
of God's displeasure. Alberta was a beautiful dark-skinned Navajo Indian child.
She was shy, small-in-stature, and 12 years old when she came to live with us.
She had beautiful long black silky hair. Alberta very seldom made eye-to-eye
contact, (a Navajo tradition)
but on those rare occasions when she did I sensed that she was lonely and sad. I knew Alberta missed her family and her way of life. To place her with total strangers and in
* The Mormon Church's 'Indian Placement Program' was an idealistic program. The basic idea was that Indian children and youth, usually from isolated areas and often less than adequate homes would be placed in white homes for the school year. These kids were often fish out of water, from a different culture with limited social skills. Here is a [deranged] quote from President Spencer W. Kimball on the program:
"I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today...they are fast becoming white and delightsome people...For years they have been growing delightsome, as they were promised...The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogan's on the reservation. Truly the scales of darkness are falling from their eyes, and they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people. "
"At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl was several shades lighter than her parents...There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated." (Improvement Era, Dec. 1960, pp. 22-23)
such a different culture and environment seemed so unfair. Nevertheless, we followed the counsel of the Prophet and took her in.
We did all that we could to make her feel welcomed and loved, but it just wasn't enough. She eventually went back to her own people. Larry and I felt like we had failed to save this little Navajo child. We felt guilty and ashamed for not being able to convert her to the Gospel. Today, I feel confident that she is where she belongs, with her own people, her own beliefs, and her own customs, living a life of her own choosing.
Over the next few years we had three more children. A beautiful little girl, a bouncing baby boy, and another beautiful little girl. Nothing can compare in beauty and wonder as the arrival of these precious little ones into the world. One of life's greatest moments comes when a mother or father holds their newborn in their arms for the first time. These little ones bring with them innocence and unconditional love, qualities that some of us adults continually struggle with.
Shortly after our youngest daughter was born we moved to Mesa, Arizona. We made many new friends there. The Church members were very kind to us and we were thankful to have so many good friends. Again, they became our family. We had a great group of friends that we went camping with, as we all enjoyed mountain biking, cooking over an open fire, the beauty of nature, and the serenity of the mountains.
Larry and I served in many Stake (leadership of a group of Wards) and Ward (one congregation) positions while living in Mesa. We loved working with the youth in the Young Men and Young Women programs. We found working with young people to be both challenging and fulfilling. These were callings where you had to rely on your own belief in the Church, as the youth were frequently questioning everything. Larry was the Scoutmaster and Young Men's advisor for many years. He became very close to the young men in our ward. He had their respect and trust, and he had a genuine concern for their welfare.
The boys rarely had their own testimonies, and many of them struggled with the idea that someday they would be expected to go on a mission. Not to go on a mission would bring about whispers of transgression, and humiliation and pain to the family, so the pressure was on. If he chose to serve a mission a young man was considered a spiritual giant, which brought all kinds of rewards. Praise, honor and admiration were his, especially from all the young women. If he chose not to serve a mission, or returned home early from his mission without an obvious medical problem, he was branded as unworthy, unfaithful and a failure. The shame and psychological damage that was done was almost always irreversible. The young man was caught in The Double-Bind: "I'm expected to fulfill a mission. It's the right thing to do. I'm good if I go on a mission, I must be bad if I don't."
Among many callings, I served in the Relief Society Presidency as Education Counselor to one of the best friends I have ever known. Norma and her husband had lost a child in a car accident, and the fact that we had both lost a child seemed to bond us together. After two years of service she was released and I was called to be the Relief Society President. I had no idea what this calling would require of me.
We had a wonderful and dedicated Bishop who was very easy to work with. I'll never forget the day I received a call from him asking Larry and I to meet him at a member's home. I could tell from his tone of voice that something was terribly wrong. One of the brethren in the ward had taken a gun and shot himself through the head, and his wife and teenage daughter were hysterical. The little training I had received to be a Relief Society President had never prepared me for this. I was very close to the young lady, as I had been her Young Women advisor. There were no words to lessen their pain. The young woman kept saying, "How could daddy do this?" I held them and we shed many tears together.
The Bishop asked Larry if he would help him clean up the shed where the father had taken his life. Larry later said it was the hardest thing he had ever been asked to do. I met with the wife and daughter many times over the next several months. Their biggest concern was whether or not they could still be an eternal family. Suicide is a gray area in the Mormon Church and so I could never give them a straightforward answer. All I could say was, "I'm sure things will be all right." But I didn't know that for sure. I just said it to help them get through the pain, and give them some kind of hope.
About six months later I received another phone call from the Bishop, again asking me to meet him at one of the member's home. His voice had the same grave tone as before. A young father of three small children had been killed in a car accident. We were called to break the news to his wife. She had been out shopping and the police were unable to locate her. The Bishop and I sat in her front yard anticipating what we would say when she arrived. When she drove up and saw both of us sitting there she immediately knew something was wrong. Since her children were with her, she asked, "Has something happened to Phil?" We nodded our heads in the affirmative. She then said, "Is he dead?" I choked on the words, "Yes, he is gone." She was amazingly calm. She took her four children into the house and invited us to follow. The children were all too young to understand what was happening. After she settled the children down she turned to the Bishop and said, "I will be fine if you will give me a blessing." I admired her strength and wondered if I would have that kind of strength if anything ever happened to Larry.
If Church members are living the commandments, and have been married or sealed in the temple, there can be a feeling of peace when something terrible happens, but if all things are not in order as with the brother who took his own life, there is anxiety and fear of what eternity holds in store.
Being the Relief Society President was the most rewarding yet challenging of all the callings filled. While serving in this position, Larry was called to serve a two-year Stake Mission (missionary work in our own community). We were both gone from home a great deal of the time, and I was in a whirlwind trying to take care of the family, helping Larry with our business and fulfilling my own Church calling. After two years I was released as President, and called to serve with Larry on another Stake Mission.
We were on a mission to save ourselves, our family both living and dead, and others who had never heard or accepted the Gospel. This Church program is called Every Member a Missionary. We were instructed to bring no less than one family per year into the Church. We would select a person and/or family and begin fellowshipping them by asking them to our home for dinner, inviting them to attend different ward activities, such as Christmas programs, ward and stake dinners, sports and Boy Scout activities, road shows, dance festivals, etc., and then subtly introduce the Gospel to them with the focus being that their family could be together after this life if they were to join the Mormon Church. If we did all that we could to bring them into the Church and they rejected the teachings, we would then become less and less involved with them in order to start working with a new family.
I often wondered, "If I had just worked a little harder, or cared more,
or followed the Spirit more closely, maybe I could have helped save more
souls." Being told over and over again that we will be held accountable for
the souls we could have saved ate away at me constantly. It was fashionable to
retell motivating stories of our pre-mortal commitment to bring the Gospel to
certain people we would meet in this life. These stories did nothing to ease my
anxiety, and neither did Church filmstrips such as "My Name is Thad."
Thad was a little boy who had an uncanny knack for converting every unsuspecting
person he met. I asked myself frequently; "Am I going to suffer for
eternity because I didn't bring the Gospel to my friends, or I allowed a young
girl to go inactive, or I didn't activate our families?" My only hope was
that someone else could reach them with the gospel message.
We taught our children what we had been taught, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church on the earth today. We told them that Heavenly Father and Jesus had told Joseph Smith that the rest of the churches were an abomination to them. We told them they were special, (elite) that they were the 'Saturday's Warriors' and had a great work to do. (Saturday's Warriors refers to both a musical play as well as a Mormon belief that we are living in the final time frame prior to The Second Coming and are steadfast warriors to further the building of Zion.)
We counseled our children to date only Mormons, warning them if they dated anyone who was not a Mormon they would probably never make it to the temple, thus we would not be together in the Celestial Kingdom. We were concerned for their welfare if they played or associated with children that were not of our faith. If someone moved into the neighborhood, one of the first questions we would ask was "Are they Mormons?" I was frightened of the world, and the outsiders who could influence our children. I felt like they couldn't be trusted and we had to be vigilant parents.
I'm ashamed to say that the crux of all this is we taught our children to be
prejudiced and that God has favorites. We taught them the truth as it had been
taught to us and they internalized it, as we had. Through fear we inhibited our
children from having many rich and wonderful experiences with people of all
nationalities and walks of life. We bred into our children much of the fear that
we were experiencing, while trying to be perfect. We bore our testimonies to
them that the Gospel was true. They trusted us. Larry and I had unconsciously
turned the real world upside-down for our children. We had become ambassadors to
The Binder, and our children like us, became The Bound. All of us were entrapped
in The Pattern. Little did I know then that the testimony I declared to my
children and others of the truthfulness of the Mormon Church would someday come
back to haunt me.
We had total trust in our leaders and did all that they asked of us. We had put our many concerns and unanswered questions on the shelf and did not talk about them anymore. We were taught that God had called the leaders to their positions and we were happy in our beliefs, or so we thought. The pressure to be perfect was still a heavy burden to carry, but like our family of friends we gave it our all.
Just before we moved to Arizona, Larry was diagnosed with the crippling disease rheumatoid arthritis. He was in such horrible pain that some days he was only able to crawl from the bed to the bathtub, which I would fill with hot water, so that he could get some kind of relief. He was given several Priesthood Blessings, none of which helped. We left those blessings feeling unworthy and frequently struggled to comprehend the level of faith that must be required to receive this kind of healing. Maybe if we prayed and fasted more, attended the temple more, read the Book of Mormon more, did more missionary work, took more callings in the Church, increased our faith, etc., then maybe our Father in Heaven would heal him. Or perhaps God had given this malady to Larry to test his faithfulness and endurance. Was God testing him like He had tested Job? Was Larry a pawn between God and Satan?
After several years and many blessings Larry said, "No more!" It was too hard for him to get his hopes up time after time only to be let down. We didn't lose our faith in the healing power of the priesthood; we just resigned ourselves to the idea that God knew best. I convinced myself that there are two kinds of faith. Causing faith, which would cause someone to be healed, and confidence faith which would be confidence in God's decision not to heal, but puts us to the test.
We were promised that if we had family prayer and family home evening that
none of our children would go astray. According to Mormon scripture, parents are
responsible for their children's sins if they go astray because of a failure on
the part of the parents to teach their children. Our oldest daughter was a
teenager by then. She was going through some of the same teenage pains and
growth that most of us feel during those crucial years. She was trying to figure
out who she was. She had always been a free spirit, something that we admired in
her. But at this time in her life she was making some poor choices. Was there
something extra we could have done to help her? It haunted me day and night. I
went to Larry one day sobbing. I said, "I think it's easier to lose a child
in death than to lose one spiritually." (Where was my mind when I made that
statement?) Maybe it's because we had been promised that we could be with our
deceased daughter, Cindy, who was already in God's care, when we go to the next
life. We were concerned for our teenager. We suffered with the uncertainty that
she might not make it to the Celestial Kingdom.
We did everything we thought our Father in Heaven required. Why hadn't it worked? What had we done wrong? We felt guilty, and that it was our fault that she was struggling so. (The Double-Bind was again activated.) We worried continually about our children's eternal salvation. The thought of living in the Celestial Kingdom without any one of them was too painful to bear.
MISS MOLLY MORMON
In spite of Larry's rheumatoid arthritis he fulfilled his Church callings and was a successful building contractor. I remained at home as counseled by the Prophet and took care of our children. I was happy and fulfilled at being a full-time mother and wife. I had stepped into the stereotype of little Miss Molly Mormon. I walked the walk. I talked the talk.
I ground my own wheat, and baked bread. I studied my scriptures and other Church approved literature, made green or strawberry Jell-O at least twice a week, woke the children up early for prayer and scripture study and in so doing felt the anger and frustration of unwilling children to fold their arms, hold still, stay awake and listen to the words of the Lord. I made the Family Home Evening charts and placed them on the refrigerator and posted weekly family responsibilities. I prepared the two and one half-minute talks for our children and had them memorize them. Then I sat proudly in the congregation as they recited the talks I'd written, praying that the Spirit would be with them.
I dressed the girls in cute little dresses I had made. I was being very frugal. I dressed our son in a cute little suit with the prescribed white shirt and conservative tie that were expected of all Mormon boys. During the summer I even sewed our oldest daughter's swimming suit because there weren't any in the stores that were modest enough by Mormon standards. That one backfired on me. The wrath of a teenager who does not look like the rest of her peers is not a pretty thing to behold.
I wore my temple under-garments both day and night knowing that they would protect me from the Adversary. I obeyed the Priesthood (the brethren) even when what they said made no sense. (Wow! I actually said it.) I attended the House of The Lord (the Temple) regularly, hoping that someday I would understand the mysteries of the endowment, but if I didn't, that was okay. I had been told that our Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, President David O. McKay was still learning many great and important things as he continued to attended the Temple. I took my Church callings and visiting teaching assignments very seriously and never missed a meeting or visit, unless I was practically on my deathbed. I was determined to be a one-hundred-percenter. Numbers i.e. results, are very important to the Church leaders. Statistics are an integral part of Mormonism. Its like a religious conquest: let's see who can get the most members, build the most church buildings, and erect the most beautiful temples.
I never refused a Church calling. After all, we had been told that those
callings came from the Lord and that He would not ask us to do anything that we
could not do.
1 Nephi 3: 7 was quoted often by the leaders, "For I know the Lord giveth no commandment [calling] unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing [calling] which he commandeth them."
We were not only counseled to be prepared spiritually but also temporally. We tilled the soil, planted the seeds, and reaped the harvest. We planned and saved until we were able to put away a two years' supply of food. There was a general feeling in the Church that the great and dreadful day of the Lord was coming soon. Joseph Smith had said so, although the time-frame in which he said it would happen had long since passed.*
While attending a stake conference one of the General Authorities said, "The time of the Lord is nigh, we feel that by the time the 15th LDS temple is constructed the Savior shall return." We were excited and apprehensive about his message. The Ogden temple was the 14th temple and the Provo was the 15th. We are still waiting and wondering, as did my parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents. What happened to the revelations and promises of Joseph Smith and the General Authorities that The Second Coming was nigh at hand?
We had been active in the Church for about seven years when I came home from Relief Society one day so emotionally overwhelmed and physically tired that I wasn't sure I could endure to the end. The lesson that day had been about saving our dead ancestors, and that without us doing our genealogy and temple work they didn't have a chance to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. I told Larry that there was no way I could do everything they wanted me to do. Maybe I took everything too seriously. But I believed in my religion. How could I do anything less than live it? The level of commitment required by the Church was almost always more than could be reasonably achieved. I tried so hard to be the perfect Mormon. Yet my most frequent companion during my experience in Mormonism was the feeling of inadequacy. I was emotionally and physically bankrupt. I became ill and found myself entertaining thoughts like, "I'm glad I'm sick, so I can rest." At the same time I entertained feelings of guilt for not being able to take care of my responsibilities to our family and my Church callings. We didn't tell anyone of our personal struggles because we thought that everyone else in the ward was doing just fine. So we carried our shame and guilt deep inside. We studied the scriptures more, struggling with those things that didn't make sense, attended the temple more, gave more service and took more callings. We were on a spiritual roller coaster. The big question was; "Could we do enough, give enough, and be enough to please God, so that our family could be together in the next life?" I prayed daily that we could.
* Mormons are advised from the pulpit to have an emergency 72-hour kit, a one
or two years supply of food, medical supplies, and water. They are counseled to
'watch and be ready' for the Second Coming of Christ. In 1835 Joseph Smith
prophesied that the coming of the Lord was near and that 56 years should wind up
the scene. (History of the Church, vol. 2, p.182) He taught that the righteous
would be able to read the signs of the times (P of GP, Matthew 1:37). And that
the unrighteous shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do
wickedly shall burn as stubble at the second coming. (P of GP, J.S. 1:37)
In many ways the teachings and doctrine of the Mormon Church resemble spouse and/or child abuse. The abused (The Bound) so often feel like it is their fault that they can't do enough to please everyone, when in the real world it is understood that the problem is the abuser's (The Binder). Had I traded one abusive lifestyle, my childhood, for another, my religion? In retrospect, the answer is obvious.
For the most part our children grew up in Mesa. Our son went on a mission to the Tulsa Oklahoma Mission in 1986. He was called to serve as an assistant to the President not long after he arrived. We were so proud of him! He always had good leadership qualities. He wrote telling us of the many spiritual experiences he was having. My heart was full of joy. It had only been a few months before he left on his mission that he had asked me, "Mom, how do you know if the Church is true? I pray to God, but I never get an answer." I was at a loss for words, but gave the following reply, "Son, if you don't get any particularly strong feelings, don't worry about it. The feelings will come. All you have to do is have a sincere heart and real intent. Just keep working at it." The only other thing I could say was, "You'll know someday, but until then you can live on mine and your dad's testimonies." I was sincere in what I said, not realizing what I was doing. Being co-dependant on someone else's beliefs is not a healthy or honest way to live.
In recent years I have learned that children who are raised in an atmosphere of co-dependency are generally unable to make their own decisions as adults. Quite often they rely on others to do the thinking for them.
Was I unintentionally teaching my son to lie? As soon as our children were able to talk I had urged them to 'bear their testimony' in testimony meeting. They mouthed the words that I put into their ears. "I know that Joseph Smith was a pwoffut and the Book of Mommun is twoo. Nameofjesuschristamen!" They knew nothing of the sort. But they were praised for saying something they did not even understand. Now I see they were being encouraged to lie. (This kind of repetition of meaningless mantras is, of course, one of the techniques in brainwashing.)
A few months after talking with my son about his concerns he was ordained (on his 19th birthday) to the Melchizedek Priesthood and set apart as a full time missionary. His mission began with several weeks of intense training (some would say 'brainwashing') at the Missionary Training Center (MTC). We weren't allowed any contact with him while he was at the MTC, but when he arrived at his mission in Tulsa Oklahoma, we wrote to each other weekly. We were only allowed to talk to each other on Mothers Day and Christmas. I missed him terribly; my only comfort was that I knew he was doing the Lord's work. He served an honorable two-year mission. We were so proud of him. He returned home just before Christmas. It was good to have him back home again, but it was not to last very long. Just before he left his mission, the Mission President told him that his next mission was to go home and find a fine young Mormon girl to marry in the temple and start an eternal family. He did as he was counseled, and was married four months later in the Arizona Temple.
Our son's wife struggled with the thought of getting married so quickly. She
had just received her call to go on a mission to France. She was torn between
the call to go on a mission, and the counsel she was now receiving from her
Stake President saying; "A woman's most important calling in this life is
to marry a righteous priesthood holder and raise a family." She chose to
follow his counsel and got married. Eventually all of our children were sealed
in the House of the Lord. Maybe, we would all make it to the Celestial Kingdom
In 1989 Larry retired and we moved to Manti, Utah so we could be closer to his parents who were suffering poor health. Our intentions were to help them in any way we could. We fell in love with the beautiful rural town of Manti. It was so quiet and peaceful. Larry had been born there, although his parents had moved away a short time later. Many of his family still lived in the area, some active in the Church and some not. It was good to be reacquainted with them, most of whom we had not seen for years. We bought a cute little Victorian home and restored it. With all the work we had to do on the house in addition to helping Larry's parents, we requested that the bishop allow us a time-out from Church callings. He graciously did so.
Except for our youngest daughter who was attending Ricks College in Idaho, the rest of the children were still living in Mesa. But that was to change. One by one they all eventually moved to Manti. We were always a close family and enjoyed being around one another. By this time we had seven little grandchildren. Being a grandparent is definitely the icing on the cake.
Eight months after we arrived in Manti our bishop was released and a new Bishopric was formed. Larry was again called to serve in the Bishopric. Throughout the previous years his crippling arthritis had taken its toll. Nevertheless, he accepted the call. Between the physical pain and the demands of the new position, Larry was under tremendous stress working in the Bishopric. Our new Bishop was a man of little tolerance. His skill in working with the ward members left a lot to be desired. Many members of the ward who were uncomfortable with this Bishop would often bypass him and go to Larry for advice and help.
Ever since I can remember, Larry has had a way with people, young and old. He has always established and maintained a climate of trust. Larry is a good problem solver and an amazing man. Men like to be around him because he has integrity, courage, and moral strength. He's what is referred to as a man's man. Women like to be around him because he's tender, kind and wise.
Larry tried to direct the ward members to the Bishop but they wouldn't listen. They found the Bishop insensitive and unnecessarily judgmental. The Bishop didn't like being circumvented and turned his anger toward Larry. He was homegrown and didn't like putting up with us 'outsiders' who were not born and reared in Sanpete County. I had never experienced this kind of hostile attitude before, but for some reason many of the local residents felt this way. Our family was relatively well received as long as we didn't try to change the way things were done there. Change seemed to be a real threat to those who had lived there most of their lives.
I was eventually called to serve as Homemaking Counselor in the Relief Society. The Relief Society President was a special, warm-hearted, older sister. Her family was grown and her husband had passed away several years earlier. She devoted a great deal of her time to helping others and giving encouragement to those who needed it.
While we were still serving in our Ward callings we were also called to serve in the Manti Temple as ordinance workers. I felt so special the day we received the phone call from the Temple President. I thought to myself, "We must be in God's favor. Why else would he call us to serve in his Holy House?" (A form of eliteness? Maybe a more fitting word is arrogance.) After serving as general temple workers for a year we were called to be assistant supervisors directly under the President and Matron of the temple. The same feelings of being special came up again. We not only had a ward family, but also a temple family. We met many wonderful people. With all our Church callings and our children having moved to Manti we found, or should I say, took very little time to be with Larry's parents. It's too late to change any of that now, as they have both passed on.
The Manti and Salt Lake Temples are temples where the ceremony is what they call 'live,' unlike other temples where the drama is presented by motion picture. In the Manti and Salt Lake Temples there is no film. Men and women who have been appointed and set apart as temple workers do everything in person. When we first started serving as temple workers we were very excited to accept the call. During our experience in the Mormon Church we were told and believed, that the temple was the most sacred place on earth, and that in the temple one could get closer to God than anywhere else on earth. We were told that this was literally The House of the Lord. We were also taught that the adversary, that is, Lucifer, could not dwell in this holy place, and yet after serving only a short time we were amazed at all the conflict we saw between the temple workers and the Temple President and Matron. Many of the temple workers were not happy with the leadership. It was not an environment of peace and tranquility.
Most of the time I was assigned to help the new brides get ready for their marriages. There was usually a long line of brides and grooms on Friday and Saturdays. It was as though we were running a factory. I tried to make it personal for them, but it wasn't always easy. I especially tried to be involved with the girls who weren't able to have their (unworthy) mothers there to help them. How could I have participated in something so cold and impersonal as a Mormon wedding? I cry when I recall those moments.
As I reflect back on the two years I served as a temple worker I am sad and ashamed at the pain I caused others. I remember two different times while greeting new prospective brides at the entrance, I was approached by their mothers asking, "Is there any way we would be allowed to see our daughters get married? We will be very quiet and not disturb anything." I had to look them in the eyes and say, "I'm sorry you are not allowed to go any further than the waiting room." They were deeply hurt with my reply and left with tears running down their cheeks. I can't imagine what it would have been like if I had not been allowed to attend the weddings of my daughters and son, and thought of as an unworthy parent.
We escorted the prospective brides to the dressing room and made sure their wedding dresses were totally modest. If they weren't high on the neck, long sleeved, and at least down to the knees, we would put inserts under their dresses. We would then dress them in the temple ritual clothing, which would cover up their beautiful gowns, and escort them to the sealing room. There was no music, no beautiful flowers, no decorations or bridesmaids. There was only a short talk given by a brother called a Temple Sealer, then a short wedding ceremony, where the words were usually memorized. And then there was a very impersonal exchange of wedding rings, which wasn't part of the ceremony. I would then hurry them out of the sealing room in order to prepare the room for the next couple. The time allotted for each wedding was about twenty minutes.
There were strict rules to follow in the temple and a feeling of secrecy that evoked a sense of fear of unknowingly doing something wrong, or making a mistake. It seemed as if we were being placed in a dysfunctional home and couldn't get out. Eventually the Manti Temple Presidency was changed. We hoped things would get better, but then other problems appeared:
A few months before we left Arizona and moved to Utah I had been experiencing some irregular heartbeats and fibrillation. The doctor felt it was nothing serious, more in the nature of a concern because of my family history. There had been many members of my family have heart attacks or die from heart disease, including my mother. He said I needed to slow down and eliminate as much stress as I could. I tried to follow his instructions the first few months after moving to Utah, but it didn't last long. I was again physically and emotionally running faster than I had strength. My life felt like a run-away train, and I didn't know how to put on the brakes. My heart was reminding me that I had better slow down by skipping beats and then going into uncontrollable fibrillation, filling me with anxiety and fear. I didn't want to have a heart attack or stroke that could take my life or make me an invalid. My heart doctor put me on heart and anxiety medication and told me to rest.
Outwardly I was everything a good Mormon should be, but inwardly my body and subconscious were screaming for help. I told the temple president that I would need a leave of absence. Although I continued to serve in my ward calling I still felt guilty for not being able to fulfill my calling in the temple. Larry had given me a beautiful blessing, but my heart continued to beat irregularly. The temple president would call almost every other day asking how I was. He was a kind man and his concern genuine. He suggested that if I would increase my faith the Lord would heal me. Try as I did, nothing happened. He continued to encourage me to exercise more faith. The temple president gave me another blessing. Still nothing. I thought, "Why would God call me to serve in his Holy House and then not heal me? What had I done wrong?" I was tormented with guilt for not knowing what to do to get enough faith to be healed.
MORMONISM BORN ANEW IN MANTI
Shortly after Larry had been called to the Bishopric in Manti, an interesting and well-educated couple became members of our ward. Their names were Jim and Elaine Harmston. A few weeks after moving into our ward, as was the custom to get acquainted with new members, the Harmston family presented the Sacrament Meeting program. They captivated the audience, myself included. Larry was quite impressed with Jim and his knowledge of the scriptures, the history, and doctrine of the Church. Both Jim and Elaine were very intelligent and willing to serve wherever they were called. Jim was called to serve as the Scoutmaster, and Elaine as a primary teacher. Jim told Larry he felt like a fish out of water working with the scouts, because he had always been called as a Gospel Doctrine teacher or an instructor for the Priesthood. Regardless, he did a great job.
Larry was in charge of the Young Men's, Young Woman's and Boy Scout program in the ward. He spent a lot of time with Jim, who spoke often about being discontent with the Church leaders in Salt Lake. He said he was tired of the pablum they were feeding the members, and wanted the meat of the Gospel in its pure form. Larry and I didn't think much about his comments at the time, and never realized the impact the Harmstons would have on the town of Manti.
It started with Elaine teaching and saying things in her primary class that were not in the lesson manual. Brought to the attention of the Bishopric by one of the parents, the Bishopric called her into a meeting and instructed her to just teach the approved lessons. A few weeks later Jim came to our home and asked us if we would like to go with him to see some ancient writings that were written on some of the ledges behind the Manti Temple. He said the Angel Moroni had written them. (Did this statement parallel the claim Joseph Smith made concerning the Book of Mormon?) We were skeptical when he said they had been written by Moroni, but our curiosity got the best of us and we went with him. There were some writings there, but I was not convinced that Moroni had written them. Jim told us that these writings indicated that there were some plates buried in the ground nearby which had been placed there by the Angel Moroni. (Was he referring to some new Gold Plates?) He also told us that they had found brass boxes containing early writings of various prophets, but they were keeping the location and contents of them a secret for fear that someone would steal or destroy them.
Because of the strange things the Harmstons were saying and teaching, they
were both eventually excommunicated from the Church. Some of the other members
of the Church who were sympathetic were either disfellowshipped, excommunicated,
or threatened with excommunication if they continued associating with Jim and
Elaine. It sent quite a shock wave through the town. It was hard to tell which
members still believed in the teachings of the Mormon Church and which ones were
following the Harmstons. Jim soon declared himself a prophet and said that the
Mormon Church had fallen into apostasy at the time of The Manifesto (which
outlawed Polygamy). Later he declared himself the reincarnated Joseph Smith and
started his own church, which he calls "The True and Living Church of Jesus
Christ of the Last Days."
Jim Harmston's Church is just one of over 250 break-offs of the Mormon Church. Like the Jim Harmston Group, The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints trace their polygamist doctrine to the teachings of Joseph Smith. The FLDS Church is one of the fastest growing polygamist groups in America. They are located on the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Proponents of the polygamist lifestyle say they are merely practicing their religion, a right stated in our nation's Bill of Rights. Opponents say the lifestyle fosters abuse against young girls, who, anti-polygamy activists say, are often forced into marriage. Is the lifestyle an ongoing commandment from God or a religious excuse for abuse? For further information see the May 4th, 2003 issue of The St. George Spectrum. www.thespectrum.com.
The Church of the Lamb of God, started by Ervil LeBaron is the most notorious and violent of the polygamous offshoots of the Mormon Church. LeBaron's son, William Heber LeBaron, who is currently serving multiple life sentences after having been convicted of four cult-related murders in Texas wrote, "Early Mormonism had many peculiar beliefs. One of those peculiar beliefs was the practice of male church members having multiple wives, or polygamy. The founder of the church, Joseph Smith, taught that God revealed to him that in order for male members of the church to be exalted to the highest level of heaven and become gods themselves, they had to have multiple wives sealed to them in Mormon marriage ceremonies. This was one of Mormonism's most controversial doctrines. In the late 1800's, after the Mormons settled in the southwest with the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City, the federal government of the United States outlawed the practice of polygamy and began cracking down on the Mormons who practiced it. For years, Mormons put up fierce resistance, but finally capitulated in 1890, after federal troops moved into Utah, and the government arrested over 1,000 polygamists and confiscated all of the church's property.
In the manifesto of 1890, the leader of the Mormon Church agreed to
discontinue the practice of polygamy. It was not until the early 1900's that the
church itself began a serious crackdown on church members who continued to
solemnize polygamous marriages. This crackdown created a serious dilemma for
sincere Mormons because the church's founder, Joseph Smith, taught that God
Himself revealed to him that the practice of polygamy was mandatory in order for
male members to be exalted to godhood. It was one thing for church leaders to
placate the U.S. government by agreeing to stop practicing polygamy, but for the
church itself to crackdown on polygamy, now that was an entirely different
matter. Many Mormons continued to marry multiple wives. When they were found
out, they were excommunicated by the church and prosecuted by the government.
Numerous male priesthood-holders broke away from the main "apostate"
church and began forming their own little sects to keep the mandated practice of
polygamy alive. These sects were formed all over the southwestern United States
Jim took new prospective members through an intensive eighteen-hour conversion course. Out of curiosity one of the Bishops in Manti went through the course. He later told us that what Jim taught was very convincing because he parallels the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church when it was first organized. He said he could see why so many members of the Church were leaving to join the Harmstons.
One of our good friends and his wife became involved with The Group, as they were called. They invited us to have dinner with them one evening. We knew they had been talking to Jim, but didn't realize they had converted. To keep their identities confidential I will call them Sue and Sam. Sue told us she had gone to the temple, and while sitting in the Celestial Room had received a witness that what Jim was teaching was the truth. I was stunned! The Harmston Movement tore friendships and families apart, just as Joseph Smith's had done, and is still doing. After being involved with The Group for a few months Sue and Sam decided they no longer wanted to be a part of Jim's movement. Sam confided to Larry that the Harmstons were secretly using the temple for some of their own temple ordinances. Larry expressed concern and talked to the Temple President about it. We were still working in the temple at this time. The President was reluctant to believe that anyone would misuse The House of the Lord; however, it was eventually confirmed by a second source. Not only were The Harmstons using the temple during the day but also at night. One of the temple security guards had joined Jim's group and was giving them access to the temple after hours. This man and others were released from their jobs, and the security at the temple was increased. There were rumors going around that Jim and his followers had plans to take over the temple. All of the temple workers were instructed to report anything suspicious to the temple president.
During this period it was hard to distinguish between what was the truth and what was idle gossip. So many of the facts were being distorted. The Group was buying up property in Manti and the surrounding towns in Sanpete County. They were stockpiling food and gathering arms. The community was in a frenzy. The Group was preaching that this was the gathering place of the Saints (Zion) and that it was the only safe place on the earth. They regarded Manti the same as the early saints had regarded Nauvoo: as a refuge for the present and a promised land for the future. Like Joseph Smith they were teaching that 'The Second Coming of The Lord' was nigh at hand.
Probably because he was so easy to talk to, much of what The Group was doing was brought to Larry's attention by people who saw what was going on as well as by those who had become disenchanted with Jim and his teachings. Much of what Larry was told needed the intervention of not only the local Church leaders, but also the leadership in Salt Lake City. The General Authorities in Salt Lake requested that Larry visit with them. In that visit Larry expressed concern to the General Authority that he remain anonymous in order to protect his family. The reply was, "I'm sorry we are unable to do that." Larry was shocked! Had he done the right thing by coming forward and putting himself and our family at risk of being hurt? During that visit and subsequent ones Larry discovered like so many others that the Mormon Church is a rigid, top-down, patriarchal power structure that does as it pleases.
The Group became aware of Larry's intervention on behalf of the Mormon
Church. Sam told us that one day while he was riding with two men who belonged
to The Group, the two men were talking about the Book of Mormon scripture in 1
Nephi 4:13, where it states that "it would be better if one man perish than
a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." Not knowing that Sam was
our friend they went on to mention Larry's name, the names of two Bishops and
the Temple President. They suggested that perhaps this scripture should be
applied to them. Two days later one of the women in The Group came to our home
and said to Larry, "I just want you to know that things could be made very
uncomfortable for you and your family, so be careful and look out."
It became obvious that The Group was threatening the Gentiles (non-believers) and teaching many of the very same things that Joseph Smith and his followers had taught when they organized the Mormon Church. It was like looking at Mormonism in its infancy. The difference was that we, the Mormons, were now playing the role of the nonbelievers (the Gentiles), and the Harmston group was playing the role of Joseph Smith and the early Saints. The emotions were the same. We had just traded places.
The parallels between the Harmston Church and the Mormon Church are numerous:
1) Joseph Smith and Jim Harmston professed to have found some ancient writings.
2) Harmston claimed the LDS Church had fallen into apostasy when the Church gave in to the political demands of the United States and banned the sacred practice of polygamy. Joseph Smith's story of the First Vision stated that Christ's Church had anciently fallen into apostasy.
3) The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days had a communal dream for Manti, somewhat the same as Joseph's dream for Nauvoo.
4) Some of the town's people wanted to drive The Group out, just like the people of Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri had driven the Saints out of their towns.
5) Just like the non-Mormons in Missouri we were afraid that Jim would gather his followers together and gain political power in city and county government and take over. Many of the citizens of Sanpete were in opposition to this new church with its strange doctrine and theology. Few realized that it was fundamentally the same doctrine taught by Joseph Smith.
The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Day's mission was and is to restore misguided Mormons and the rest of humanity to a true relationship with God by restoring the Gospel as it had been presented by divine revelation to Joseph Smith. Jim declared that he had received a vision to do so. He preached of hastening the millennium and bringing salvation to the people of the earth. They reintroduced polygamy as it had been given to Joseph Smith on July 12, 1843, which according to Mormon scripture was never to be taken from the earth. The Harmston Group felt justified in what they were teaching. They also felt like they were being persecuted for living their religion, just like the Mormons had felt in Missouri and in some ways still feel today.
For the first time I started to understand how the people in Missouri felt, especially since The Group was preaching that they belonged to the Only True Church on the earth, and that our church, the Mormon Church, had fallen into apostasy and was an abomination before the Lord. Those words now ring clear as the same words Joseph Smith used when starting his church saying that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, declared that all other churches were an abomination to them. Just as Joseph Smith had taught his followers, Jim Harmston also asserted that his followers alone, were the chosen people and that their development was a new social order that would hasten in the Millennium.
Believing you are the chosen people of God, a belief which bonds Mormons together and bonds Jim Harmston's group together as well, helps explain their lives, the foundation of their identity. No one in our little rural area was hurt physically, but many were hurt emotionally because of fear and prejudices, and many people on both sides lost a great deal. We lost a higher place within us, where logic and reason bring people together to experience a oneness. When we send out hostile energy we must be ready to suffer the consequences. When we send out love and harmony it comes back ten-fold. This is the Law of the Universe. Through the centuries many great teachers have taught this Universal Law. Why can't we live it? Where was my mind and heart when I went against the natural Laws of Humanity?
Next : Section D
Note: Copyright 2003 Tammy and Larry Braithwaite. Please do not copy or reproduce this electronic book without the express written permission of the authors. The authors do wish to hear from readers of their story. They also offer a printed copy of this book.