Brian Mackert Responds to FAIR's Critique of the "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith" DVD
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The following is a rebuttal to the comments the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (hereafter: F.A.I.R.) made in its review of the film "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith". It will respond specifically to the section: Guilt By Association and Further Distortion of History. Thus, I will respond only to the comments that concern the claims that I (Brian Mackert) made in film. As I read through the review that F.A.I.R. offers for the "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith" documentary film, I noticed a disturbing pattern. Watch for them as you read and you will spot them as well! F.A.I.R.’s review comments are italicized.
· The F.A.I.R. authors make far too many assumptions about what the producers of the film do or do not want the viewers to know.
· The authors seem to think it possible to present an exhaustive treatise on the LDS Church without boring the audience. Even Evangelical reviews of the film complained about how long it was. The film already pushed the envelope of what an audience can endure.
· Many of the points debated by F.A.I.R. aren’t even claims made in the film but are presented in order to try and distract or re-direct the topic of discussion away from one that they cannot possibly win.
· The arguments that they raise do not stand under further scrutiny.
"Claim: 'In 1842 he [Joseph Smith] married, in an eight month period, eleven women. Took a five month break, and then in 1843 he married fourteen women, five of which he married in the month of May alone. So when we understand the timeline in which Joseph Smith married these women, how quickly he was marrying women we see that Joseph Smith had a voracious appetite for a new sexual partner.' - Brian Mackert (Former Fundamentalist Mormon)
Once again, the video treats a complex issue with superficiality. It would probably be helpful to allow the early Saints to speak for themselves. B.H. Roberts, an influential leader explained:
The Saints did not accept into their faith and practice the plural-wife system with the idea that it increased the comfort, or added to the ease of anyone. From the first it was known to involve sacrifice, to make a large demand upon the faith, patience, hope and charity of all who should attempt to carry out its requirements. Its introduction was not a call to ease or pleasure, but to religious duty; it was not an invitation to self-indulgence, but to itself-conquest; its purpose was not earth-happiness, but earth-life discipline, undertaken in the interest of special advantages for succeeding generations of men.
—B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1991), 557"
Being able to hear from the people who were actually involved in an event would help us better understand it. Example: It would help us understand the insanity that took place in the Jonestown "Kool Aid" mass suicide if we were able to speak with the participants before they died; but alas they are all dead and we are left with the situational facts to identify what happened.
Isn’t it interesting that F.A.I.R. begins by asking that the "early Saints" be allowed to speak for themselves, and then defers to B.H. Roberts (1857-1933) a later leader who wasn’t even alive during these events to speak for them?
F.A.I.R.'s review addresses my comments as if I had overlooked the possibility of hardships or other trials imposed on those who practiced polygamy. No one in the video makes the claim that the practice of plural marriage was solely for Joseph Smith's sexual gratification, only that it clearly brought him a high level of sexual gratification.
The F.A.I.R. review does not address the main point made by the film, which was to look at the timeline of how quickly Smith married these women. Because there is evidence that Smith did have sexual relations with some of his plural wives, sexual relations cannot be completely ruled out when looking to other plural wives unless the marriage sealing took place by proxy after his death. Why? Because if Smith had sex with one plural wife it helps us better understand his definition of celestial marriage and whether or not it entitled him to have a sexual relationship with these women. One cannot ignore the sexual benefits Smith enjoyed as a result of marrying twenty-five women in a two year period. F.A.I.R.'s response is only an attempt to redirect the attention of the reader off these facts. The only sacrifice that I saw demonstrated while living in a polygamist family was on the part of the women. Often plural wives had to endure long periods of separation from their husband, frequently without his financial support.
Mormonism points to Old Testament examples of polygamy; however in these examples the men involved were able to provide for their multiple families. Generally speaking, in the Mormon practice of polygamy everything was done in secret, which translated into loneliness for these women. Most of these women were in a frontier environment and had to fend for themselves. When their husbands did visit them, it was often without providing any help in sustaining her family.
This fact is well documented in the pro-Mormon book, "In Sacred Loneliness" by Tom Compton. Let's look at some of the sacrifices made by Smith's congregates. In doing so I don't believe that you will find much of a sacrifice or hardship being placed upon the shoulders of Smith himself, only those to whom he introduced the principle of plural marriage.
Todd Compton wrote:
"The first chapter in the story of Smith, the Kimballs, and polygamy is that of Vilate's offering, which Orson Whitney, Helen's own son, recounted in his biography of Heber. In early 1842, apparently, Joseph approached Heber and made a stunning demand: ' It was no less than a requirement for him to surrender his wife, his beloved Vilate, and give her to Joseph in marriage!' wrote Orson. Heber, naturally was 'paralyzed' and initially unbelieving. 'Yet Joseph was solemnly in earnest.'... For three days Heber endured agonies. Finally asked to choose between his loyalty to Mormonism and his intimacy with his wife, Mormonism and Smith won out. 'Then, with a broken and bleeding heart, but with soul-mastered for the sacrifice, he led his darling wife to the Prophet's house and presented her to Joseph.' 'Joseph wept at this proof of devotion, and embracing Heber, told him that was all that the Lord required.' It had been a test, said Joseph, to see if Heber would give up everything he possessed...
This prefigured the next test for the couple, which was nearly as difficult as the first: Smith now taught Heber the principle of polygamy and required him to take a plural wife... Smith had already selected Heber's first plural wife... to add to the trial, Joseph commanded Heber to keep the plural marriage secret even from Vilate 'for fear that she would not receive the principle.' Helen wrote, 'This was the greatest test of his [Heber's] faith he had ever experienced... the thought of deceiving the kind and faithful wife of his youth, whom he loved with all his heart, and who with him had borne so patiently their separations and all the trials and sacrifices they had been called to endure, was more than he felt able to bear.'
According to Orson, 'Heber was told by Joseph Smith that if he did not do this he would lose his apostleship and be damned.' As so often, Joseph Smith taught polygamy as a requirement, and to reject it was to lose one's eternal soul. Once one had accepted him as a prophet, one had to comply or accept damnation.... Heber and Vilate had passed through the fiery ordeal of two polygamic tests. One more, this one involving Helen, still awaited them.... Polygamy was inching closer and closer to the unsuspecting teenager... Orson Whitney wrote, 'soon after the revelation [to Vilate] was given, a golden link was formed whereby the houses of Heber and Joseph were indissoluble and forever joined. Helen Mar, the eldest Daughter of Heber Chase and Vilate Murray Kimball, was given to the Prophet in the holy bonds of celestial marriage.’... As Helen told the story, polygamy entered her life when her father approached her one day... in the early summer of 1843. 'Without any preliminaries [my father] asked me if I would believe him if he told me that it was right for married men to take other wives.' Helen's response was instinctual Victorian: 'The first impulse was anger... My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure; for to mention such a thing to me I thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him short and emphatically, No I wouldn't!... This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him.'...
Helen listened in disbelief and complete dismay. She wrote that, for her, this first interview 'had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann to me as Joseph's wife. This astonished me beyond measure.' However, before introducing Helen to the subject of her possible marriage to Smith, Heber had apparently already offered her to the Prophet. In her 1881 reminiscence Helen wrote, 'Having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet's own mouth. My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seamed [seemed] to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched untill they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrifise [sic] but the Lord Required more. 'Heber thus ended his first interview with Helen by asking her if she would become Joseph Smith's wife. If possible, Helen was even more astounded than before. She wrote, 'I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty four hours after my father introduced to me this principle & asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph.' Undoubtedly, unbelief and rebelliousness were part of these temptations.
In a published account Helen described her indecision during this twenty-four-hour period, but her trust in her father turned the scales toward accepting polygamy: ‘[He] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours... I was skeptical—one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter... I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure... and no one could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions.’
The mention of twenty-four hours shows that time pressures were being placed on the prospective bride, just as Smith had applied a time limit to Lucy Walker.
The next morning Joseph himself appeared in the Kimball home and personally explained 'the principle of Celestial marriage' to Helen. In her memoir Helen wrote, 'After which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father's household & all of your kindred.[‘] This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.' As in the case of Sarah Whitney, Joseph gave the teenage daughter responsibility not only for her own salvation but for that of her whole family . Thus Helen's acceptance of a union that was not intrinsically attractive to her was an act of youthful sacrifice and heroism.
The only person still reluctant to see the marriage performed, after Helen had accepted the proposal, was Vilate. Helen wrote, 'None but God & his angels could see my mother's bleeding heart— when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied "If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say." ' This is far from a glowing positive bestowal of permission... Despite Vilate's obvious deep reluctance to see her daughter enter plurality, the ceremony took place. In May 1843... she was married to Joseph... it appears that Helen, when she married Smith, understood that the marriage would be 'for eternity alone,' and that it would leave her free to marry someone else for time. But apparently this was not the case, as is shown by a number of factors. First, there is no evidence elsewhere that Smith ever married for eternity, only not including 'time.' For instance, in the marriage ceremony used for Smith and Sarah Ann Whitney... they both agreed 'to be each other's companion so long as you both shall live' as well as for eternity... So apparently Helen had expected her marriage to Joseph Smith to be for eternity only, then discovered that it included time also." (In Sacred Loneliness, 495-500)
Compton also observed: "Often plural wives who experienced loneliness also reported feelings of depression, despair, anxiety, helplessness, abandonment, anger, psychosomatic symptoms, and low self-esteem. Certainly polygamous marriage was accepted by nineteenth-century Mormons as thoroughly sacred – it almost defined what was most holy to them – but its practical result, for the woman, was solitude." (xiv-xv)
And again confirming Smith's sexual gratification, Compton wrote:
"Emily Partridge Young said she 'roomed' with Joseph the night following her marriage to him, and said that she had 'carnal intercourse' with him.
Other early witnesses also affirmed this. Benjamin Johnson wrote: 'On the 15th of May... the Prophet again Came and at my hosue [house] ocupied [sic] the Same Room & Bed with my sister that the month previous he had ocupied with the Daughter of the Later [late?] Bishop Partridge as his wife. ‘According to Joseph Bates Noble, Smith told him he had spent a night with Louisa Beaman... many of Joseph's wives affirmed that they were married to him for eternity and time, with sexuality included. Eliza Snow... wrote that 'I was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith for time and eternity, in accordance with the Celestial Law of Marriage which God has revealed." (12-14)
"When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, 'Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?' 'I would tell him to go to hell.' This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church... If Joseph had a right to dictate me in relation to salvation, in relation to a hereafter, he had a right to dictate me in relation to all my earthly affairs, in relation to the treasures of the earth, and in relation to the earth itself... What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, 'Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build up the kingdom of God.' Or if he came and said, 'I want your wife?' 'O yes,' he would say, 'here she is, there are plenty more.'... Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not, but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed. The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, 'I want your gold and silver, or your wives,' I should say,' Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.'" (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, pages 13-14)
Todd Compton makes this observation regarding Jedediah Grant's sermon:
"Grant disapproves of those who were asked to give up their wives and refused... He states that Smith did not want every wife he asked for, which implies that he wanted some of them... the fact that at least eleven women were married to Joseph polyandrously, including the wife of prominent apostle Orson Hyde, shows that in many cases Joseph was not simply asking for wives as a test of loyalty; sometimes the test included giving up the wife." (18-19)
Getting truthful unbiased historical information like this from a pro-Mormon writer is refreshing. Compton makes it painfully clear that accepting polygamy did require sacrifice on the part of those who Smith let in on the principle. I will concede the point that polygamy required sacrifice with the caveat that any sacrifice involved wasn't on Smith's part. Compton also makes it clear the level of coercion and religious manipulation Smith resorted to in order to acquire his plural wives. The tail of the Kimball family's ordeal lists for us the many methods employed by Smith:
1. Smith first approached Heber C. Kimball requiring his beloved wife Vilate.
2. Smith was earnest/persistent in his pursuit of acquiring Vilate.
3. Smith linked refusing him with disloyalty to Mormonism and asked him to choose between Mormonism and his intimacy with his wife.
Whatever Smith's motives for not taking Vilate when Heber finally acquiesced to Smith's demand, whether it was a test or not isn't the point. The point is that Heber and his family was softened up by the relief that Vilate would not have to become Smith's wife while at the same time accepting the principle of plural marriage.
Smith then employed his next tactic to soften up the Kimball's by teaching the principle of plural marriage to Heber and required he enter into it which would make Heber an accomplice and co-conspirator. Let's look at the methods Smith employed to get Heber and Vilate to accept the principle:
1. Heber was threatened with the loss of his position in the community and in the Church; he was threatened with the loss of his apostleship.
2. Heber was also threatened with eternal damnation, the loss of his very soul.
3. After accepting and entering into polygamy with a plural wife hand picked by Smith, Vilate and Heber were then offered a bond that would eternally link their households and therefore bring a higher degree of salvation for the Kimball's. Smith must have felt completely confident in making his next request now given the fact that both Heber and Vilate were now accomplices and co-conspirators with Smith. The next request came in the form of a celestial marriage of their daughter Helen to Joseph Smith.
4. Helen writes that she was offered to Smith and given a 24 hour time limit to think it over. Remember that for those who were presented with the principle, the consequences were huge! Eternal damnation or an assured higher degree of salvation was at stake-- not just hers, but her entire family. Helen wasn't the only girl who was forced to face this frightening responsibility--to do what their instincts knew to be right and damn themselves and their families to hell, or give into plural marriage and secure not just their salvation but their entire family's as well.
5. Helen was under the impression that her marriage to Smith was for "eternity only" and not for "time". She later found out it was for both "time and all eternity". Smith had done a "bait and switch" on her.
Armed with the information above, do you think the film could have possibly included all that information without putting the viewer to sleep? I think not! For the sake of brevity, the statements made in the film are summary statements that as you can see can be validated.
For online access to the quotes cited follow this link.
To go to a website where you can order the book "In Sacred Loneliness", click on this link.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Even neutral observers have long understood that this attack on plural marriage is probably the weakest of them all. George Bernard Shaw, certainly no Mormon, declared:
Now nothing can be more idle, nothing more frivolous, than to imagine that this polygamy had anything to do with personal licentiousness. If Joseph Smith had proposed to the Latter-day Saints that they should live licentious lives, they would have rushed on him and probably anticipated their pious neighbors who presently shot him.
—Bernard Shaw, The Future of Political Science in America (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1933)."
This is a fallacy. Why? Because not all of Smith’s followers were aware of the practice of polygamy and many of Smith’s followers who knew of the practice were either accomplices or coconspirators. The truth is that many who knew dissented; accusing him of adultery and some even went as far as to start a newspaper to voice their accusations. This newspaper only printed one issue before it was destroyed by the LDS Church under Smith’s orders as the Mayor of Nauvoo; the name of the paper was the "Nauvoo Expositor". It was because of the destruction of this paper, which exposed Smith’s practices, that Smith was later arrested, detained in Carthage Jail, and later murdered by an angry mob.
Human nature is not the measure of truth on a matter. Many men throughout history have followed blindly those who use religion as a method of control without wavering (the Jonestown Kool Aid Mass Suicide is a perfect example), so why should Smith’s followers be any different? As pointed out in the video one of the men who helped in the "translation process" of the Book of Mormon called Smith’s affair with one of his plural wives a "dirty nasty filthy affair." Yes! Let’s let the early Saints speak for themselves and let’s stop hearing from revisionist historians, B.Y.U. professors, and NON-LDS writers who cannot possibly speak for them and weren’t there at the time! An outsider cannot possibly give you the insight that an insider can. While Shaw’s comments seem to make a valid point, it doesn’t take into consideration the well-documented manipulation and politics that took place with the men whom Smith received brides from, and how they were allowed to enter into polygamy themselves in exchange. These events clearly demonstrate coercion by Smith in getting these men to give their consent. Smith employed religious manipulation to achieve his goals in acquiring a new bride. It is a well-documented fact that he offered those whom he proposed plural marriage a higher degree of salvation for both them and their entire families; and those who refused were threatened with having their soul damned for eternity.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Furthermore, Joseph Smith would not permit sexual misconduct. For example, he refused to countenance John C. Bennett's serial infidelities. If Joseph was looking for easy access to sex, Bennett—mayor of Nauvoo, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and military leader—would have been the ideal confederate. Yet, Joseph publicly denounced Bennett's actions and severed him from the Church. Bennett became a vocal opponent and critic."
Actually Smith ignored Bennett’s sexual misconduct and didn’t do anything about it for about a year and a half after it was brought to his attention. Here is the account of Bennett’s misdeeds and Smith’s knowledge and lack of action in regard to it:
"According to Joseph Smith, as soon as Bennett became a Mormon (Bennett's date of baptism is disputed but was either in Sept or Oct of 1840), Smith received a letter from an unidentified person cautioning the Mormons against him. Knowing that it was not uncommon ‘for good men to be evil spoken against,’ however, Smith kept quiet about the letter.
In February of 1841 Smith sent George Miller to McConnelsville to delve into Bennett's past. On March 2,1841, Miller reported back that ‘during many years his poor, but confiding wife, followed him from place to place, with no suspicion of his unfaithfulness to her; at length however, he became so bold enough in his departures, that it was evident to all around that he was a sore offender, and his wife left him under satisfactory evidence of his adulterous connections; nor was this his only fault; he used her bad otherwise.’ Miller concluded that Bennett was ‘an impostor, and unworthy of the confidence of all good men.’
Despite this information, neither Smith nor Miller took any known action against Bennett. In fact, Smith appointed him assistant president of the Mormon Church in April 1841. Miller himself permitted Bennett to become the secretary of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge in December 1841.
On June 15, 1841, Hyrum Smith and William Law, then in Pittsburgh, wrote to Joseph Smith corroborating the content of George Miller's letter. According to Smith, he read the letter to Bennett, ‘which he did not attempt to deny, but candidly acknowledged the fact.’ Whatever happened, Bennett and Joseph Smith clearly had a temporary parting of the ways. Bennett, who had been living with Joseph Smith's family, moved into other quarters.
Oliver Olney reported in his journal that in early April 1842 it was common gossip that members of the Twelve Apostles were ‘very intimate with females.’
On April 10, 1842 Joseph Smith 'pronounced a curse upon all adulterers, and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons.' and [sic.] those who had made use of his ‘name to carry on their iniquitious designs.’ The individuals to whom these remarks referred were unnamed. p. 85
On May 14, 1842 the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting brothels in the city. An eyewitness later claimed that Bennett had built one. The city council ordered it ripped down as a public nuisance. Lorenzo D. Wasson, Smith's nephew, reported that he had knowledge of ‘Bennett and his prostitutes.’ Whatever Bennett's connection to the brothel, if any, it is unimaginable that it could have survived without the knowledge of the leaders of the church, yet due to a tacit acceptance, perhaps because the brothel was protected by Bennett, or it might have been an integral part of an emerging system of sexual experimentation then underway in Nauvoo, as Bennett later implied.
On May 17, 1842 Bennett resigned as mayor and voluntarily left the Mormon church. Two days later Joseph Smith was elected Mayor and Hyrum Smith was elected as vice-mayor. P. 86
On the morning of May 26, 1842 Bennett met with sixty to one hundred of the Masonic brethren. According to Smith, Bennett ‘acknowledged his wicked and licentious conduct toward certain females in Nauvoo, and that he was worthy of the severest chastisement, and cried like a child, and begged that he might be spared, in any possible way; so deep was his apparent sense of his quilt and unfitness for respectable society; so deeply did he feign, or really feel contrition for the moment, that he was forgiven still.’ Joseph Smith pled for mercy for Bennett. This seems curious, though perhaps this is consistent with Joseph Smith's pattern of forgiving sinners after public confession. Alternately, as others have speculated, Smith and Bennett might have come to agreement: if Bennett publicly confessed his sins, Smith would forgive him. Still others have suggested that Smith's reluctance to break with Bennett might have been based on his fear that Bennett would publicly reveal his knowledge about plural marriage and Joseph Smith." (The Saintly Scoundrel - The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett by Andrew F. Smith pp. 79, 80, 85, 86, 90)
How could Smith continue to promote Bennett in spite of the reports he got concerning his character? How could Smith tolerate a brothel in Nauvoo? Pointing out John C. Bennett only helps illustrate other aspects of the documentary film in that Smith had a poor performance record as a prophet of God. The following revelation was given in January, 1841, and is in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 124:
"Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.
And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord, I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory." (16-17)
Did God who can see and know the future see the "work which he (Bennett) hath done" in being a womanizer and in creating the brothel in Nauvoo? This same man did not have his sexual misconduct revealed by Smith until his falling out with Smith and eminent departure from the LDS Church. Using Bennett makes for a very poor argument given the above revelation from God which is part of the LDS Canon. The fact that Bennett and Smith were the best of friends is easily established in the Historical Record. Why did Smith wait until Bennett left the LDS Church to expose him rather than exposing him back when he first got the letter and subsequent reports on his character? It appears that the claim of guilt by association is only supported when one looks into the history of John C. Bennett and his role as a leader in the early days of the LDS Church. "Birds of a feather flock together." Birds are also territorial and drive off their competition.
Remember, F.A.I.R. asked that we let the early Saints speak for themselves and we still haven’t heard from them in this review. Instead we have only heard from Mormon apologists, revisionist historians, and outsiders claiming to speak for the early Saints.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"The critic cannot argue that Joseph felt that only he was entitled to polygamous relationships, since Joseph went to great efforts to teach the doctrine to Hyrum and the Twelve, who embraced it with much less zeal than Bennett would have. Nor do the film producers mention the women who accepted and defended the principle as God's will."
The claim in the film never said that Smith claimed sole entitlement to the practice of polygamy. F.A.I.R. is taking up an argument that wasn’t even made. When one reads the pro-LDS book "In Sacred Loneliness" the historical record is clear that many men were let into the practice in conjunction with Smith’s request for a female that they were the Priesthood Head over. So we see coercion by Smith promising entrance into this secret practice, and a higher degree of salvation in exchange for the right to take a family relative as a plural wife. Hyrum was simply an accomplice to many of Smith’s activities. Hyrum and other LDS leaders knowing and being involved in the practice of plural marriage does not somehow validate Smith’s behavior and does not diminish the claims made by the film about Smith or his methods in acquiring for himself many wives.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"One can read volumes of the early Saints public writings, extemporaneous sermons, and private journals. One can reflect on the hundreds or thousands of miles of travel on missionary journeys and Church business. If the writings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, George Q. Cannon, Helen Mar Kimball, Zina D. Young, Martha Q. Cannon and many others cannot persuade someone that they were honest men and women (even if mistaken) then one should sincerely question whether such a person is capable of looking charitably upon any human, let alone any Mormon.
But, the producers of 'Search for the Truth' [the 'Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith' DVD] have already demonstrated that they will not treat Latter-day Saints or their beliefs with honesty and respect, much less charity. As a result, their conclusion is unsurprising, even though the historical record tells a different story."
In debating tactics and strategy what F.A.I.R. has displayed above is known as "Ad Hominem": to attack the person rather than the topic of discussion or the argument. The writers at F.A.I.R. have gone out of their way on numerous occasions so far to try and tell you what the motives and intentions of the film’s producers were. Just because someone points out error doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of charity. To imply that the producers of the film aren’t capable of charity just because they point out error is an attack upon their character without justification.
People are capable of believing in something whole heartedly without that item being true. Example: For many years people believed whole heartedly that they earth was flat, but it didn’t make it true. The film did not attack the character of any of the people listed above by F.A.I.R. with the exception of Joseph Smith—the alleged prophet of the Lord. Instead the film pointed out the error of their beliefs and didn’t call them dishonest or say that their beliefs weren’t whole heartedly embraced.
The film does focus on the character of Smith because Smith’s character is open to scrutiny given the evidence against him. The love and compassion shared by the producers of the film was in the hope that Mormons who see the film would come to a correct belief and understanding of Christ and the Gospel. This stands as a witness against this method of attack on their character. Many of the Mormons who have rejected Mormonism as a result of watching this film and who have accepted Christ have commented about how struck they were by the love and compassion expressed in the film.
Film claim: "Warren Jeffs has been wanted by the FBI, he's been profiled on America's Most Wanted, he's been in the headlines a lot lately and the Mormon Church tries real hard to distance themselves from him." [Images of Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith side by side on screen.] - Brian Mackert (Former Fundamentalist Mormon)
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"It is not surprising that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not wish to be mistaken for Jeffs, since Jeffs is not a member of the Church and never has been."
Trying to dodge the bullet by claiming Jeffs isn’t a member of the LDS Church only shows F.A.I.R.’s unwillingness to address the whole point of the claim made in the film, and demonstrates for the reader that the claim made in the film is true: "the Mormon Church tries to distance itself from him (Jeffs)," and Fundamentalists Mormons like him.
The film never claimed that Jeffs is a member of the LDS Church, or that he ever was. However the reader should be aware that Jeffs and his followers are the descendants of many of the founding families of the LDS Church who can trace their family histories in the LDS Church to the days of Joseph Smith. Many of them, like my ancestry, are seventh generation Mormons. These Fundamentalists are practicing Mormonism for the most part in the same way that it was practiced by the LDS Church in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Mainstream Mormons are horrified by the conduct and behavior of Jeffs and his ilk in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, often pointing the finger of accusation for the abuses that they visit upon their congregates, without ever once considering that these Fundamentalists are living Mormonism in the same style exemplified by Joseph Smith.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"The video now slanders Joseph Smith through the tactic of 'guilt by association' by pointing out to the viewer that Jeffs appeals to some of Joseph Smith's teachings."
The film didn’t only claim that Jeffs appealed to the teachings of Joseph Smith, but specifically that Jeffs appealed to the behavior, conduct, deeds, character, and teachings of Joseph Smith! That was the whole point of the claim made in the film. Not guilt by association, but guilt by behavior, conduct, deeds, character and teaching. Smith gave Jeffs an example to follow!
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Christians ought to realize the dangers of such tactics. The name and teachings of Jesus Christ Himself have been invoked for such purposes as:
· the Crusades
· the persecution and murder of Jews
· the persecution, torture, and murder of "heretics" or "witches" by Catholics and such Protestant Reformers as Calvin and Zwingli
· justifying and protecting slavery by Southern Baptists prior to the American Civil War
· acts of political terrorism
Because these evils were done by those claiming justification in the name of Jesus, is He therefore to be condemned?"
Christians can easily demonstrate that the above acts are not in keeping with the teachings or conduct of Jesus Christ and that those who practiced them were teaching others to do so in error. The accusation is only valid if you can show that the conduct and teachings of Jesus supported their teachings and behavior. Unless these acts were exemplified for them by the conduct and teachings of Jesus Christ Himself, then this argument is comparing apples to oranges.
Jesus didn’t commit or teach the acts of any of the groups listed above by F.A.I.R., but Smith both taught and practiced the behavior that Warren Jeffs has demonstrated. Remember that the claim made in the film is that Joseph Smith committed the same acts we see in the conduct of Jeffs and the evidence supports the claim. Therefore it isn’t guilt by association. It is guilt by conduct and teaching which Jeffs simply followed. The horrific reality of Smith’s behavior is well-documented and now illustrates the hypocritical position of the LDS Church in condemning Warren Jeffs while upholding Joseph Smith--the man who taught Jeffs through his actions and teachings.
The bottom line is this: man is not the standard of what is right or wrong; God is! Pointing to the wrongs of other men does not justify Smith’s behavior; two wrongs do not make a right! I heartily join the members of F.A.I.R. in denouncing the behaviors of the groups listed above who called themselves "Christians". I as a Christian do not condemn Christ for the behaviors of these so-called Christians. I do condemn those who carried out these actions and taught others to do the same and I am capable for seeing those actions for what they were--non-Christian. Why is it that when looking at Smith and his conduct, which likewise should be seen for what it was and condemned along side those of Warren Jeffs, can’t F.A.I.R. and the Mormon Church do likewise?
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Warren Jeffs claims to follow Joseph Smith, but ignores key aspects of Joseph's teaching and doctrine. For instance, a revelation to Joseph Smith made it clear that:
it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, 'except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority' and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
— D&C 42:11 (emphasis added)
Jeffs claims priesthood authority gained via a 'secret' ordination by past Church leaders, but Joseph Smith made it clear that no such ordination would be performed or considered valid."
Once again the argument isn’t whether or not Jeffs had priesthood authority. This is just an attempt to redirect your attention away from the real issue. We are discussing Smith’s conduct and teachings as they relate to Jeffs practicing and teaching the very same thing of polygamy! Pointing out that there were some aspects Jeffs ignored in aligning himself with Smith doesn't affect the claims made in the film. What F.A.I.R. needs to do is concentrate on the conduct and teachings of Smith that directly influenced the conduct and teachings of Jeffs. Anything short of that is simply an attempt to distract or redirect your attention--smoke and mirrors!
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Claim: 'The amazing thing to me is that Warren Jeffs simply is following in the footsteps of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith married underage girls....' - Brian Mackert (Former Fundamentalist Mormon)
...The DVD wants its modern viewers to judge the age of Joseph's marriage partners by modern standards rather than the standards of the 19th century. From a 21st century perspective the reader is likely to see marriages of young women to much older men as inappropriate, since under 21st century law, for example, older men marrying younger women could be found guilty of statutory rape."
Well I do have to admit that this is by far the best logical argument made by F.A.I.R. Unfortunately however; it is a fallacy to assume that what wasn’t against the law back then is morally right. Slavery wasn’t against the law back then, but I’m sure that my LDS friends at F.A.I.R. would have no problem in agreeing with me that slavery is morally wrong regardless of whether or not it was legal. After all, even the early LDS Saints recognized this and opposed slavery.
Statutory Rape is not applicable and it is not the charge being made in the film. The charge made in the film is that Smith married underage girls in respect to their physiological development. It is a proven fact that girls today reach puberty earlier than they did back in the 19th century. The exact difference between a girl reaching puberty in Joseph Smith’s day and that of a modern girl is 3.7 years. In other words, a 14 year old girl in Smith’s day (Helen Mar Kimball’s age when she married Smith) was physiologically identical to that of a modern day 10 to 11-year-old girl. A 16-year-old girl in Smith’s day (Fanny Alger’s age when she married Smith) was physiologically identical to that of a modern 12 to 13-year-old girl. Just like slavery is morally wrong regardless of whether or not it was legal, marrying a girl who hasn’t reached puberty is also morally wrong even if the laws of the land don’t protect these girls from sexual predators like Smith! Unless F.A.I.R. is willing to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with marrying a 10 to 13-year-old girl today (the physiological contemporary of Smith’s day), then they haven’t a leg to stand on in their arguments to this claim.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"It is significant that none of Joseph's contemporaries complained about the age differences between polygamous or monogamous marriage partners. This was simply part of their environment and culture; it is unfair to judge 19th century members by 21st century social standards.
To read more:
· [Joseph Smith's] Marriages to young women: includes charts showing age differences in monogamous marriages in and out of the Church."
You can show all the charts you like about age differences in and out of the Church and it still doesn’t address the claim made in the film that these were pre-pubescent girls. So once again, unless F.A.I.R. is going to conclude that there wouldn’t be anything morally wrong if it were made legal by the law of the land to have sex with pre-pubescent girls, they really don’t have an argument. Is it possible that this is what F.A.I.R. is telling us: that as long as it’s legal you can have sex with a pre-pubescent girl? I hope not!
Here is an interesting article from "Rethinking Mormonism" which provides documentation refuting the notion that marrying under aged girls was a cultural norm and that shows that the girls Smith married weren’t physiologically mature enough for marriage or procreation, even prepubescent:
LDS Mormon Teen Polygamy
Was it normal to marry 14 year-old girls in Joseph Smith's time?
"’And I will bless Joseph Smith and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.’
‘And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.’
‘But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused [to Joseph Smith], shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto Joseph Smith to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.’ - Doctrine and Covenants Section 132:55, 62-63
Many LDS Church leaders and historians suggest that sexual relations and the marriage of Joseph Smith and his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball, fourteen at the time, was ‘approaching eligibility.’
There is no documentation to support the idea that marriage at fourteen was ‘approaching eligibility.’ Actually, marriages even two years later, at the age of sixteen, occurred occasionally but infrequently in Helen Mar's culture. Thus, girls marrying at fourteen, even fifteen, were very much out of the ordinary. Sixteen was comparatively rare, but not unheard of. American women began to marry in their late teens; around different parts of the United States the average age of marriage varied from nineteen to twenty-three.
In the United States the average age of menarche (first menstruation) dropped from 16.5 in 1840 to 12.9 in 1950. More recent figures indicate that it now occurs on average at 12.8 years of age. The mean age of first marriages in colonial America was between 19.8 years to 23.7, most women were married during the age period of peak fecundity (fertility).
Mean pubertal age has declined by some 3.7 years from the 1840’s.
The psychological sexual maturity of Helen Mar Kimball in today’s average age of menarche (first menstruation) would put her psychological age of sexual maturity at the time of the marriage of Joseph Smith at 9.1 years old. (16.5 years - 12.8 years = 3.7 years) (12.8 years - 3.7 years = 9.1 years)
The fact is Helen Mar Kimball's sexual development was still far from complete. Her psychological sexual maturity was not competent for procreation. The coming of puberty is regarded as the termination of childhood; in fact the term child is usually defined as the human being from the time of birth to the on-coming of puberty. Puberty the point of time at which the sexual development is completed. In young women, from the date of the first menstruation to the time at which she has become fitted for marriage, the average lapse of time is assumed by researchers to be two years.
Age of eligibility for women in Joseph Smith’s time-frame would start at a minimum of 19 1/2 years old.
This would suggest that Joseph Smith had sexual relations and married several women before the age of eligibility, and some very close to the age of eligibility including:
Fanny Alger 16
Sarah Ann Whitney 17
Lucy Walker 17
Flora Ann Woodworth 16
Emily Dow Partridge 19
Sarah Lawrence 17
Maria Lawrence 19
Helen Mar Kimball 14
Melissa Lott 19
Nancy M. Winchester [14?]
And then we have these testimonies:
‘Joseph was very free in his talk about his women. He told me one day of a certain girl and remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible to talk like this.’ - Joseph Smith's close confidant and LDS Church First Councilor, William Law, Interview in Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 1887
When Heber C. Kimball asked Sister Eliza R. Snow the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith, she replied, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’ - Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.
Short Bios of Smith's wives:
Did Smith have sex with his wives?:
Whatever the average age of menarche might have been in the mid 19th-century, the average age of marriage was around 20 for women and 22 for men. And a gap of 15 to 20 years or more between partners was very unusual, not typical. Whatever biology might have to say, according to the morals of his time, several of Joseph Smith's wives were still inappropriately young for him.
It is a pure myth that 19th-century American girls married at age 12-14.
For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder, from Little House on the Prairie fame, was born in 1867, which puts her later than Joseph Smith but still in the 1800s. She tells of hearing of the marriage of a 13-year-old girl, and being shocked. She also notes that the girl's mother 'takes in laundry,' and is sloppy and unkempt--implying that "nice" people don't marry off their teenaged daughters. Laura, herself, became engaged at 17--but her parents asked her to wait until she was 18 to marry.
You merely need to go to your local courthouse and ask to see the old 19th century marriage books. Take a look at and pay attention to the age at marriage. Sure a very few did, but it was far from the norm. The vast majority of women married after the age of twenty.
In fact, look up the marriage ages in the Smith family before polygamy. You'll find that one of the Smith girls was 19. The rest of them, and their sisters-in-law, were in their early 20s when they married. The Smith boys' first wives were in their 20s. The same pattern was true for the various branches of my family and the rest of American society at the time.
On the extremely rare occasions women younger than 17 married, it was to men close to their same age, not 15 to 20 years older.
The case is even true in pioneer Utah among first marriages. Mormon men in their twenties started out marrying someone their own age. Then later these older men married girls under twenty to be their plural wives. But the first wives were the age of the husband and married over the age of twenty. This is still the case is the rural Utah polygamist communities.
Coale and Zelnik assume a mean age of marriage for white women of 20 (1963: 37). Sanderson's assumptions are consistent with a mean of 19.8 years (Sanderson 1979: 343). The Massachusetts family reconstitutions revealed somewhat higher mean ages. For Hingham, Smith reports an age at first marriage of 23.7 at the end of the eighteenth century (1972: Table 3, p. 177). For Sturbridge, the age for a comparable group was 22.46 years (Osterud and Fulton 1976: Table 2, p. 484), and in Franklin County it was 23.3 years (Temkin-Greener, H., and A.C. Swedlund. 1978. Fertility Transition in the Connecticut Valley:1740-1850. Population Studies 32 (March 1978):27-41.: Table 6, p. 34).
Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 63; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1980), 6; Nancy F. Cott, "Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England," Feminist Studies 3 (1975): 16. Larkin writes,
Dr. Dorothy V. Whipple, Dynamics of Development: Euthenic Pediatrics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966)"
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Joseph Smith went to other men's wives and said that God had revealed to him that they were supposed to be his spiritual wives. - Brian Mackert (Former Fundamentalist Mormon)
The video also does not wish its viewers to understand that Joseph's plural marriages were motivated by the doctrine of sealing rather than carnal motives."
F.A.I.R. doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that many sexual predators hide behind a venire of religion to shield themselves from scrutiny. They use religion as the justification of what they are doing. This is exactly the same methodology used by Smith--a religious means to achieve a carnal end and satisfy a carnal desire/motive. Smith didn’t invent this methodology, but he did demonstrate his skill at implementing it.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
"Members of the Church believed then, as now, that the entire human family must be sealed together in order to return to God's presence. Rather than deferring such sealing until family history work is completed during the Millennium, they would seal families to each other, and then seal a family member to Joseph Smith—given that those so sealed to Joseph were usually close friends, this might be called a kind of 'adoptive friendship.'
Members do not seem to have understood this process as one of abandoning an earthly spouse for Joseph, but rather a desire to be with Joseph and his close friends, by having them all sealed together by the Melchezidek priesthood, the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God (D&C 76:57, D&C 107:3-4, Alma 13:1-9).
The point was that by sealing together through Joseph (holder of the dispensational keys) into the family of Christ, the entire family was confident of being together in the eternities, not only with each other, but with their dear friend and prophet Joseph Smith.
Members have, since the administration of Wilford Woodruff, refrained from sealing their family lines to Church leaders, and await more family history information—during the Millennium, if need be—to complete the sealing of the human family back to Adam, who will then present his posterity to the Lord Jesus Christ."
Once again a perfect demonstration of the sexual predator--religion is used as a means to justify and accomplish his carnal ambitions. Once someone subscribes to this religious line of thinking, it isn’t hard to take it one step further by declaring to a newly sealed plural wife that the marriage isn’t binding unless it is consummated, thereby putting the finishing touch on the whole scheme which was to bed these women in the first place. If Smith held the power to seal families to him to enter the celestial kingdom, why was a marriage sealing required? Many Mormon apologists like F.A.I.R. try to say that the reason for Smith's marriages wasn't for sex or marrying many women, but to ensure a higher degree of salvation for his friends by sealing their houses together for eternity. There are records of men sealing other men to themselves as adoptive sons. If so, then why didn’t Smith just seal these friends and their families to himself so that he wouldn’t take up the appearance of evil in being married to a married woman whose husband was still living with her and thereby tarnishing both his and her reputations? The Mormon apologists’ argument makes no sense at all. The only reason Smith had for sealing these women in a marriage sealing was because it would afford him opportunity to consummate the union.
F.A.I.R.’s Continued Review:
Plural marriage as practiced by 19th century Latter-day Saints is an uncomfortable topic for many because it is easier to revile it than to understand it. Understanding plural marriage requires the compilation and mastery of a great deal of historical information. Many credible historians and scholars are attempting to do this but the film producers do not use them. They have relied on accusations and innuendo designed to shock rather than inform the viewer. Helen Mar Kimball, a plural wife of Joseph Smith, expresses the sentiments of those men and women who suffered the censure of others who so freely judged them."
And one such LDS historian does just that in his book "In Sacred Loneliness," which was the source of much of the information presented in the film. It is a pro-LDS work which reveals just how Smith used religion and manipulation to gain the approval of fathers and husbands to marry the women he married. Just because the public censures you doesn’t mean that the practice is of God. Should we declare that any child molester who claims God told him to do it, and then experiences a backlash of disapproval from the public surely was righteous simply because he was censured? Of course not! Persecution is not always the stamp that proves something is of God. Many times persecution comes because the thing is evil, not just in the eyes of the public, but in God’s eyes as well.
Brian’s Appeal to You, the Reader:
As demonstrated, F.A.I.R. isn’t interested in presenting the truth about LDS Church History or the man Joseph Smith. They exist to offer a voice against the arguments made by Mormon critics. They only present things in a way that puts Mormonism and Joseph Smith in the best possible light. They attempt to revise history rather than accurately commenting on it. There is a reason that their arguments aren’t accepted by any other institution and that is because of their obvious bias towards the preservation of the Mormon Faith.
In their review of the film it has been clearly demonstrated that they assume too much about what the producers of the film do or don’t want the viewer to know. They also assume it is possible to hold an audience’s attention while presenting a completely exhaustive treatise on Mormonism. Even F.A.I.R. was not completely exhaustive in their arguments. Many of the points they brought up weren’t even claims made in the film and amounted to nothing more that a diversion or redirection from the claims of the film. As such, they provided nothing more than filler material. They also attempted to distort events and facts which are easily refuted.
When I was a Mormon, some Christians I knew called Mormonism a "cult." I was offended. I started to study the differences in Mormonism and Christianity. I set out to prove Mormonism right and Mormon Critics wrong. In the process I found Mormonism could not stand against honest objective scrutiny. My prayer for you my friend is that you will honestly and objectively research the arguments of Mormon Critics and let God lead you to the truth.
Brian J. Mackert
Former Fundamentalist Mormon