1985 in Sitka — Meeting a Personal Hero

During the winter of 1985, I had been working for nearly seven years in researching and writing a book about Alaska’s early alcohol history.  I had a lot of ideas floating through my head about writing this book.

I actually felt a little proud of myself for sitting down to write in sufficient detail and expertise to know that within a couple years I may get my book published.  (It actually WAS published three years later in 1988.)

I was living in Sitka, Alaska and heard through news reports that a famous writer would be staying in Sitka for a few months while researching his own book about Alaska history.

The writer was the famous James A. Michener.  He was using the library of the local Sheldon Jackson College as the base for his writing and stayed in a small cottage called “Adams Cottage”.  This cottage was less that a half mile from my house.   Sheldon Jackson College was founded at roughly the same time as Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  It was operated by the United Presbyterian church.  The subject of his new book was Alaska.

I knew that Mr. Michener was internationally recognized as one of the great American writers.  He had written books about Hawaii, the South Pacific, Texas and many other books.  He was now seventy eight years old and was staying in Sitka right next to where I lived!  I resolved to meet Mr. Michener – who had written nearly 40 books and had received the Pulitzer Prize  for fiction in 1948 for “Tales of the South Pacific” when I was only five years old.  He was now 78 years old and was in good health.  (His book was made into a musical called “South Pacific” by Rogers and Hamerstein.)

I told a friend of mine (Mike Jefferies, a US Coast Guard pilot) to join me in walking over to the cottage that Mr. Michener was staying in with his wife, Mari.  He accepted my offer to accompany me — not fully realizing WHO it was that I planned to meet.

I knocked on the cottage door and was greeted by Mr. Michener himself.  Before I could sputter out  who we were and why we were standing in his doorway, he had invited us inside and sat us down on the living room sofa.

A more cordial host will never be found in my lifetime.  He was the epitome of graciousness and hospitality and asked me questions about my own research and writings.  I was awestruck.

I came away from that spontaneous interview with a great admiration of that man.

I learned a lesson that evening:  If I ever get the chance to meet a famous person, nothing will happen unless I get off my butt and go out and try to make it happen.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I was reminded about his event last week when Mike and his wife, Merrilyn came over for dinner.

Categories: alcohol | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Fish Chowder – Monkfish

This recipe will work well with virtually all kinds of fish.  I initially worked out this recipe because I had heard of a “monkfish” and had never tasted it.  I wanted to see what it tasted like, so I worked on a recipe that would go well with it.

My first problem was finding a store that stocked monkfish.  I finally found it at the “Whole Foods” store in Boise, Idaho.  It is not typically stocked in the neighborhood Fred Meyer or Costco or Albertsons.

A monkfish is an ugly fish with a delicious meat that has been referred to as a “poor man’s lobster” because of its taste and texture.  It still commands about $15 per pound, so it is not particularly the cheapest kind of fish to buy.  You can easily substitute sockeye salmon or halibut, but they are not particularly inexpensive fish either.  (NOTE: I am from Alaska and when I use salmon, it will be either sockeye salmon, silver salmon or king salmon – other species of salmon  are not nearly as flavorful or have good enough texture for my cooking.)

Here are the ingredients for my Monkfish Chowder:

3 TBS butter                                            1   1/2 cups chopped white onion

6 large mushrooms (I use portabello brown mushrooms)

2 stalks celery                                         6 cups chicken broth

4 cups peeled & diced red potatoes    1 tsp Old Spice seasoning

salt and pepper to taste                         1/2 cup flour

4 cups half & half                                    1/2 lb bacon

2 lbs monkfish

Start by melting 3 TBS butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat on the top of the stove.  Mix in 1 1/2 cups of minced onion and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add sliced mushrooms and sliced celery stalks.  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Add 5 cups chicken broth (hold out 1 cup for thickening).  Peal and dice red potatoes till you have four cups of diced potatoes.  You can use other kinds of potatoes, but the firmness suffers a little.

Bring the mixture to a low boil and add Old Spice seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to boil or simmer till the potatoes are cooked.

While the mixture cooks, dice the monkfish into small pieces.  One of my pet peeves is to make a fish chowder that has more vegetables than fish.

Add the monkfish to the mixture and allow to cook for five minutes.

Take one cup of chicken broth and stir in 1/2 cup of flour till it is not lumpy.  This is the thickener.  Add the thickener to the entire mixture.

Last of all, stir in 4 cups of half & half.  Heat the chowder till it is about 180 degrees.  Don’t overcook or the chowder will burn on the bottom with the milk added to it.

Dice the bacon into small pieces.  Saute the  bacon in a frying pan.  Drain the bacon grease and scatter the bacon on top of your chowder as you serve it.

I added the bacon, because my son Kyle likes virtually anything with bacon on or in it, so maybe he will try to make this recipe.


Categories: Cooking | Tags: | 2 Comments

Lies, Lies and More Lies

A recurring frustration that people often have with politics, corporate and religious organizations is the feeling of anger that you (I)  have when they have been lied to.

Government Officials Lying

I recall the feeling of betrayal that I felt against the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, when I found out that his testimony before the United Nations about the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq as a  justification for war against Iraq was fundamentally a lie and misstatement.  (A summary of the issues in this event is located on the internet at the Institute For Public Accuracy.)

Powell up till that realization was one of the government officials that I trusted and admired.

I knew from years of my own government service that it was the DUTY of public officials (at least in the military) to support the leaders of the country — no matter what.  I am reading a new book by Robert Gates about his service as Secretary of Defense (“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War“) and in it he relates how angry Pres George Bush II was at Admiral Mike Mullen when Admiral Mullen gave his honest (negative) appraisal of the situation of the war in Afghanistan.  His appraisal went against what Pres Bush had been saying about the progress in the war and came close to getting him fired as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Honesty can get you into trouble as a government employee — or politician.

Industry officials Lying

Similarly, business corporations are fundamentally opposed to being candid and forthright about dangers that their products and techniques present to our citizens.  The dangers of pesticides were not admitted by pesticide businesses until long after the book, “Silent Spring“, by Rachel Carson exposed the dangers she documented.  The safety of automobiles was not questioned until after the book “Unsafe At Any Speed“, by Ralph Nader showed the dangers of automobiles.  Many changes that have been mandated by US laws included safety belts, safer door latches and impact inflatable bags that protect occupants.

The car wreck above happened within about five miles of my home last month.  The man driving the car survived because the car crumbled as it was designed to do while shielding him inside.  He owes his life to changes in car manufacturing that have come about due to automobiles that are better designed to withstand impacts such as this.

I remember the protestations made by the car industry of the need to make safer cars many years ago.  I also remember the contempt that the industry displayed toward the whistle blower, Mr. Nader and his allegations of the industry deliberately ignoring small and relatively inexpensive changes that they could have taken on their own initiative.

I also remember the pretended anger of the tobacco companies when they were accused of marketing products that cause many health problems in those who smoke.  They even produced “scientific” studies that they funded and designed that purported to show that smoking was safe and not in need of any new governmental regulations.  We know the results now of the negative aspects of the use of tobacco products.

 Religious Leaders Lying

I occasionally read exit stories of people who have become extremely dissatisfied with their religious leaders.  One common thread is that they have felt betrayed by either the organizational church through doctrine, indoctrination or teachings of one kind or another — or they feel that a church leader lied or grossly misrepresented the truth.  It makes little difference if the “Prophet” really believed his own predictions or if if he/she was only out to hood-wink the church’s followers.

The most obvious might include prophecies and predictions of Christ’s coming on a certain date — or the end of the world as we know it.   If the calculated date comes and goes without the event happening, we can be fairly confident that the prediction was either a hoax or a lie.  With the advantage of the internet and looking in retrospect, we can decide if the Church or the prophecy was accurate.

A religious organization called “Heaven’s Gate” and led by a self-proclaimed prophet, Marshall Applewhite is one example of a prophecy gone wrong.  He predicted that a space ship would visit earth at the time a comet (Halle-Bopp) was visible in the sky and the faithful would be taken up into eternal life.  Applewhite and his believers committed mass suicide as the comet approached and we now see that his predictions were false.

In the early 1840′s, a preacher named William Miller predicted the end of the world would happen soon and gathered many followers.  When the world did not end in 1844, as predicted, his followers became disillusioned and scattered to other religions.  The event became known as Great Disappointment.

The specific date of Christ’s return was to be on October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly.   One of his followers (called Millerites), wrote of his expectant waiting:

I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come;– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain– sick with disappointment.

It is difficult for me to put myself in the place of people who were so immersed in following their religious leaders as to sell or give away  all they had and then sit on the porch waiting expectantly for Jesus to return only to be hood-winked at the scam.  Yet, I was brought up in the “Mormon” church where I was often taught in meetings about the “wonderful” discussion by Joseph Smith Jr. about how I should follow church leaders without question.  Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

So, as a member of the “Mormon”  church, I should believe and follow church leaders without questioning, complaining or asking for changes.  How easy is it for any religious leader to lie to church members when they only follow like lemmings?

When a number of Catholic priests were accused of child sexual abuse, the church leaders minimized the problems and being inconsequential.  But only as incontrovertible evidence became common knowledge,  was anything significant done to stop or minimize the problem.  There was evidence that the church only moved the accused priests to other parishes where they could often continue to abuse children.

When religious bodies are sued in courts, the results of the settlements are often secret and unavailable to authorities and the general public.

Church leaders will sometimes hide information — just like governments or corporations do to make them appear to be totally devoid of problems.  I consider this as dishonest as lying.  They hide financial documents.  They claim exemption from scrutiny.  They claim to be correct — even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I am gratified that the “Mormon” church started in 2013 to publish more complete historical essays about sensitive topics of their history.  Till then, reliable information about polygamy, Book of Mormon changes, different First Vision accounts and other topics seemed to be only shoved under the carpet.  Joseph Smith’s prophecies are well documented, but not fully discussed — even by members in the church.

One topic that irritates me — maybe more than it should — is the implied acceptance of Old Testament accounts of reality.  This flies in the face of science and historical information that is ignored by fundamentalist Christian religions.  While the official line of the church leaders is essentially, “We don’t exactly know HOW God created the earth”, it subtly, but constantly takes the side of ancient Christianity in historical information.  For example, science gives NO credibility of the 7,000 year Creationist version of mankind and earthly history — or to the reality of a 900-year-old man who saved human-kind by building a ship in which he put all living animals.  Yet in February 2014′s Ensign magazine there is an article about Noah as though he actually lived and accomplished all that is recorded in the Old Testament.  I consider this kind of information to be deceitful as much as an outright lie.

The official statements glorify education and knowledge, but the application still relies on inaccurate Biblical records and the elevation of tradition over science.

How can members of these churches feel that they share “TRUTH” when they disavow the reality of science knowledge as much as the Catholic church denied the celestial findings of Copernicus?

Categories: obedience | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Goin’ Home – Our Reunion Mentality of Heaven

Before he died two weeks ago (executed by lethal injection for murder), Dennis McGuire thanked the family of the woman he raped and murdered in 1989 for their “kind words” in a letter he apparently received from them.

I’m going to heaven, I’ll see you there when you come,” he said.

While there is some disagreement as to whether Mr. McGuire’s spirit or soul will be “going to heaven”, by all accounts, he should be headed the opposite direction for the bad things he did in his life.

What is commonly thought by relatives and friends of recently deceased individuals is that the recently departed is headed for a reunion “in heaven” that will be wonderful and joyous.  It will be a emotional and happy reunion of friends and will be attended to by Jesus (“Heavenly Father”, or other God).

One obituary in the local newspaper is typical when it stated confidently: “XXXX passed away into the loving arms of our Lord on Friday, January 24, 2014.”

I have yet to see an obituary that said anything close to the following: “XXXX ceased living last Friday.  His soul returned to the stars from whence it came 55 years ago.”

It is not unusual for an obituary in Idaho to include language that indicates that the deceased was reunited with his/her loving parents/children/relatives/friends in heaven.  Some include reunions with loved pets of all kinds and descriptions.  Typically, these reunions will NOT include reunions with people we once loved, but who they were divorced from many years ago.

Yes, I know that there are many different ideas about what happens at the time our mortal life on earth ends.   Generally, the answers to such questions is left up to religion.  Some ideas of what it might be like defy intelligent consideration.  It is not unusual to believe that heaven will have streets paved with gold (as if gold has any value there) and we will have mansions of glorious size to dwell in forever.

When I finally realized that I was not afraid of death; that death is no more or less than a part of life, I was able to relax and enjoy life.  It no longer troubled me to not know more about where I came from or where I am going.   I had no fear that I had to please a judgmental God.

Categories: being good, family, fear, hell death | Tags: | 2 Comments

A Letter to A CES Director

A friend of mine posted to his blog some issues that he had to face as he made up his own mind about religion.


I am sharing this as a fairly good summary of issues that I have also found and that may help you in your sear for truth and happiness,





Categories: blacks, christ, Credo | Tags: | Leave a comment

Praying For Rain – The Intersection of Weather and Religion

I went to church with my wife last Sunday.  During the sacrament meeting, the Bishop gave some special remarks to the congregation about praying and fasting for rain.

We live now in Nampa, Idaho, where rainfall is traditionally scarce.  On occasion, the rainfall is lower than hoped for and residents are beseeched to fast and pray for rain.  This is not unusual in a desert area like ours.  From one year to the next, it can rain all that is needed or it can cease raining for so long that priests and ministers of all descriptions admonish believers to fast and pray for rain. American Indians are known for several different rain dances that they have used for millennium to summon the Gods to activate weather patterns that allow for rain.

The motivation can be for farmers and their crops  — or for recreational pursuits.  At times, rainfall over several years can cause problems of many different kinds.

The Bible has references that indicate that prayer can change weather patterns — as well as move mountains.

James 5:17-18

17 Elias was a man subject to like apassions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it brained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Prayers directed toward Gods of all kinds have been been used to try to change weather patterns that we don’t understand.  It is not just a Christian kind of activity.   All religions as far as I know have activities that are thought to be effective in causing rain.  Here is a list of some of the rain Gods that have special responsibilities to control rain on the earth:

There are many different gods of rain in different religions:

Aztec god Tlaloc, Millan Primary School in Mexico City

Keeping It Simple

When we see times of drought, we can easily conclude that all  we need is more rainfall.  But a more balanced approach to a solution probably could be to do more to conserve the water we have, practice farming methods that help retain water in the ground and use practices that more effectively retain water that we need.  We probably could do more to improve the quality of rain (avoid acid rain, etc.) and do reasonable actions that foster a spirit of “Stewardship” of our land and water resources.

In the talk in Church last Sunday, no mention at all was made of solutions other than to fast and pray for rain.  Both Idaho governments and corporations now are actively involved in cloud seeding — particularly to maximize the mountain snowpack to help farming in the spring.  Cloud seeding refers to using airplanes, ground based spray applications and chemicals to increase snowfall.  Divine Godly intervention is not  involved, but the effort has shown to be effective and useful as well as cost effective.

Does Prayer, Rain Dances and Other Religious Appeals To Diety Increase Rainfall?

Certainly a lot of people of all religions have some kind of faith that their meditations and prayer activities have some kind of positive result in getting God to listen and do something that He/She otherwise would not do.

As I understand, God knows what we need, loves us and has our best interests in mind.  He would not simply inflict drought on His children to force then to get on their knees, would He?  The positive actions of God in sending rain benefit BOTH the prayerful and the rebellious.  Rain falls on the just and the unjust in equal amounts.  Do God-fearing groups take the pressure off the god-less and Mother Nature through their prayers?

Even some politicians get involved — whether for the political benefits or the water, no one knows.

Even in present-day America, there are recent examples of legislators asking citizens to request precipitation from the deity of his or her choice. Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed a proclamation in June 2007 asking Alabamians to pray for rain to help break the drought that gripped a large swath of the country.

A few months later and following in Riley’s footsteps, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue held a controversial public prayer rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol in an attempt to break the drought through divine intervention.

More recently, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a proclamation declaring April 22-24, 2011 the “Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas” in order to end the devastating drought of 2011 that crippled much of the southern and central United States, but hit Texas especially hard. The worst of the dry spell, which cost the state economy many billions of dollars in damages and lost crops, lasted for over half a year (and still lingers to this day) before conditions finally allowed for more reliable rainfall to penetrate the heat dome and rejuvenate the parched landscape.

I have to also remark, that if we spend our prayer and meditation energy to change the will of God, shouldn’t we be asking for something more worthy of the followers of God instead of making a bit more local rain — like:

  • Solutions to world hunger
  • Ways to stop war
  • Ways to heal the sick and poor

I’m writing this today because it seems to me that it is always better to actually DO SOMETHING than to simply pray that God makes our lives easier and more comfortable?

Now, don’t misunderstand me!  I have nothing at all against prayer to focus our consciousness on problems that need to be addressed.  My problem is with shirking the responsibility for change to others, God or such entities in favor of just closing our eyes (literally) to the changes that will not be made without our doing MORE than just praying.

Categories: Prayer | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Removing myself from Religion — and the LDS Church in Particular.

It has been about five years since I resigned from the LDS church.  I had been a member from birth, through high school and seminary, through a mission to the Eastern Atlantic States in 1963-65. through forty years of marriage in the Salt Lake LDS Temple, through callings and activities from boy scout leader to Branch President (twice), counselor to bishops.

I notified my siblings and my children of my decision to resign from the church by emailing this letter (attached in its fullness).

I feel that it is time to share this very private correspondence on my blog.  I hope that it will help you in understanding what I went through.


I have some information to share with all of you. I have decided to give each of you the authorization to share it with your spouses, children, or other relatives, but not with non-relatives.
Ever since the horrible events of September 11, 2001, I have thought long and hard about people who use religion to kill, hurt, humiliate and otherwise act in hateful ways toward other humans. I have noted those who would try to get others to ‘follow’ people they consider to be prophets — and act in ways that would take people’s money, freedom, curiosity, common sense, and try to suppress those who ask ‘WHY?’
I have tried with every fiber of my being to follow the counsel of church leaders — even when Joseph Fielding Smith addressed me personally to proclaim [at a temple priesthood meeting] that Noah’s ark was a literal event that followed in every way the Biblical account. I tried to accept the unbelievable — that Noah put penguins and polar bears and every species on earth into a boat together, etc. etc.
I have seen the [LDS] church and others take all their donations and tell us not to ask questions about what they do with it.
I have seen the church tie donations to worthiness for priesthood blessings and temple attendance.
I have seen the church leaders change doctrine in the blink of an eye [cursed skin of blacks, polygamy, etc]
while telling us that they do not need to explain since their consensus demonstrates that God has spoken.
I have seen the explanations for the lack of Book of Mormon archaeology vary over the years — even to claiming that God hid all the evidence of B of M people so that we could use faith instead of evidence to believe.
Please note that I am not trying to convince you or anyone else that I am right and everyone else is wrong in this matter. I am only saying that I can simply no longer try to believe or teach others what is obviously unsupportable by common sense. I don’t know what to think of God. Maybe this is atheism. maybe it is agnostic. Maybe it is just being myself for a change and saying that it simply doesn’t make sense to me.
As of January 2, 2009, I resigned from the LDS church. I have felt not only good since then about this decision, but I feel that a weight has been lifted from me that bound me to lie and misrepresent my thoughts in hopes that others knew more about such things than I did.
I was NOT excommunicated. I resigned. If you doubt this, you can double check this fact with Ann. There was NO pending court action. There was no one that hurt my tender feelings. I did this by simply coming out of a figurative closet into the light of honesty.
Thayne Andersen
Categories: family, fear, mission | Tags: | 3 Comments

Marriage Experiments in the 19th Century in the US

The 19th century was an interesting one to study for sociologists.  Many different kinds of family and marriage structures made their appearance during this century.  The idea that there is only one kind of marriage was challenged on nearly every level.

I think that most people today are fairly unaware that the concept of “traditional marriage” (one man and one woman making promises) had many variations.   Sure, they know about polygamy, but what other kinds of marriage could there be?

Well, to start with, even the word, “polygamy” is misunderstood.  The marriage of one man to more than one woman is more accurately named polygyny.   The word, “polygamy” is actually the taking of multiple marriage partners of whatever sex.  Having one woman take more than one husband is polyandry.  In the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the “Mormons”), BOTH polygyny and polyandry was practiced and documented by some LDS leaders – particularly Joseph Smith, Jr., the first leader and prophet of the church.

But polygamy was by far not the only kind of experiment in challenging marriage in the 19th century.

The Shaking Quakers

Quakers had a significant influence in early US history.  Their simple, sturdy and functional furniture was one aspect of early Quaker life.  They also had firm ideas about healthy eating and sexual ethics.  They were among the earliest religious groups, for example, to accept homosexuality as normal (if not ideal) behavior.  William Penn was noted for his role in the early history of Pennsylvania.

Officially called “The Society of Friends“, the Quakers generally married in a traditional way.  But one small group of Quakers were called the “Shaking Quakers“.  These religious people believed that sexual abstinence — even in marriage — was preferable to a more intimate way of life.  They did not believe in marriage at all, but kept sexual abstinence as the highest way of life.  As the Apostle Paul declared in I Corinthians 7:8-10  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

The Shaking Quakers basically did not marry or have children or engage in marital sex, but maintained their membership only through missionary work.

Both Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, Jr. were exposed to members who were Quakers and their thoughts about marriage, family and sex.  Many early converts to Joseph Smith’s new religion came from Quaker backgrounds.  But LDS leaders always believed that the Old Testament teaching of Genesis 2:18 that “It is not good for man to be alone” was more correct than sexual abstinence.

The Oneida Experiment

Only about 15 years after Joseph Smith started the LDS church in New York, another religious leader, John Humphrey Noyes, started another special religion in New York: the Oneida Community.    Noyes had a system that we could refer to as “Complex Marriage”.  It was a form of “Free Love” — where any member of the community could have sex with any other member of the community — so long as it was done by free consent and not coercion.  Possessiveness and exclusive relationships were frowned upon.

John Humphrey Noyes quickly got into trouble with the law by being charged with adultery and statutory rape.  He had to flee to avoid jail — much like LDS leaders who were charged with inappropriate relationships with women.

Perhaps the reader has heard on Oneida silverware.  This was one of the items that was manufactured in this religious community that earned a reputation for quality and good workmanship.

Brook Farm

Ten years after Joseph Smith started his restored religion in New York, a group of religious people founded a transcendentalist colony in Massachusetts.  It encouraged industrious work in a farming setting.  It tested the principles of socialist labor in a collective environment.  It was called “Brook Farm“.  Nathaniel Hawthorn was a founding member of this communal experiment that was a kind of “United Order” that was soon to be tried in the LDS communities under the title of the Law of Consecration.  While not a genuine marriage experiment, it was another attempt at trying to put into practice an economic concept under which religious families (sometimes polygamous) could share all things without possessiveness.


My effort in this blog post is to suggest a setting for early Mormon thought regarding the restoration as it pertained to Mormon history.  Joseph Smith Jr., I think, saw himself as a leader in restoring things that others hadn’t thought about for centuries.  He started polygamy and even had “spiritual marriages” that were unlikely to be much more than that — devoid of very much physical affection due to the need to keep the religious marriage ceremony secret — from even Joseph Smith’s first wife, Emma.  He had no documented children other than those from his first wife.

Mormon polygamy was thought to be a concept that taught both the men and the women who practiced it to be non-possessive.  This lack of possessiveness was most probably one of the primary aspects of LDS polygamy.  It is also a trait of modern-day polygamy as presented on TV reality shows.  The participants have a sense of belonging and “family” without trying to be very possessive of individual affections.  They are still dominated by patriarchal men, but not in the same way as monogamous marriages.

LDS polygamy may have been a “mistake”, but it did accomplish a modern-day experience of what some Old Testament marriages might have faced in regard to sexuality, communal living and sharing.

Categories: Marriage, polygamy, sex, temple SLC mormon creation adam, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Polygamy In The World, Including Mormonism

Since starting this blog about two years ago, I have purposely tried to avoid a rather complete discussion of polygamy till now, as it seems to be a touchstone of sorts with dissatisfaction with the LDS (“Mormon”) church and is clearly a big issue with people who have not seen eye-to-eye with the church (i.e., apostates and “anti-Mormons”).  I did not “lose” my loyalty to the LDS church over polygamy.  On the contrary, I had looked seriously about this topic several times over the years and had come to the conclusion that it was “simply” a mistake in our history, and not much more.

As with other hot subjects, I have to start this topic by explaining  the teachings of my youth as I grew up in Meridian, Idaho  in a stalwart LDS home.  Polygamy was often a topic of discussion, but was not a particularly contentious one.

In high school seminary – and on into college at BYU, the topic of LDS history of polygamy often came up.  I doubt that any LDS youth in Idaho could say that they did not know about its occurrence in the early church.  How prevalent it was, understanding how it happened — and why, and the circumstances surrounding its origins and demise, however is an entirely different matter.

What I was taught in my youth – A Brief Summary

I knew (or thought that I knew) that polygamy was given as a commandment by God to Joseph Smith as a part of the restoration.  Since it was an Old Testament principle, it had to be a part of the Restoration.  The Saints were persecuted for practicing polygamy and other things, so they were forced to leave the United States to be allowed to practice their religion — and polygamy.  At that time, a large group of converts became disaffected with the practice of polygamy — including — and especially– , Emma Smith, Joseph Smith’s first wife and her son, who Joseph had promised would assume the succession of leadership after him.  Those who failed to emigrate with the saints – became organized into a large offshoot called “The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” and did not practice polygamy.  There were other disaffected groups, however, who practiced polygamy as a basic tenet of their religion.  [One fairly large group of "Mormons" today who still practice polygamy is the FLDS -- Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, headed today by their prophet Warren Jeffs from his jail cell in the Utah State Prison.]

The Law of Sarah: This was a part of “The Principle” that claimed that the first wife had to approve of additional wives and “give” them to her husband as part of her calling as the first wife.  This was in a similitude of Sarah giving Hagar to her husband, Abraham.   Abraham was a central character in the justification that Joseph Smith gave in justifying plural marriage.  [See D & C 132]  Although Joseph Smith used Abraham and Sarah’s example, he apparently did not completely follow it, because he did not tell his own first wife, Emma, about his first plural marriages, probably fearing her reaction.  In my opinion, this concept gave some degree of assurance that peace would more likely prevail in polygamous households instead of jealousies.

Eventually, after Utah became a US territory, the federal government Supreme Court found that the Mormon polygamy principle  was not protected by the freedom of religion clause of the Constitution.  The government was close to confiscating all the financial assets of the church.  Several LDS leaders [only males] were jailed for practicing polygamy.  After all, what is a man to do with multiple wives once they have been married and have started having children??  You don’t just tell the ugliest wives to leave, do you?

Some of the Mormon communities had people on the lookout for US Marshalls.  When the warning was sounded, the polygamous men would scatter to pre-selected hiding spots.  Persecution was sufficient to force many polygamists to move with their families to Mexico or Canada.

In 1890, the LDS leader, Wilford Woodruff issued a “Manifesto” denouncing the church’s early practice of polygamy for about 60 years.  Since the keys of “Celestial Marriage” — or “The Principle” (as it was taught) had been restored to the earth, the Lord would later require Mormons to practice it — after the laws of the land changed to allow it again.  [Interestingly, nothing in the "Manifesto" claimed to be any kind of "revelation" from God -- it only stated that the LDS leader would abide by the law of the land.  It has since been claimed by many LDS members, when talking about the topic, to be a "revelation".]  You can read the entire 1-page manifesto by clicking on this link.  Many books have been written about the early LDS practice of polygamy, none is better documented or more objective than the book about Joseph Smith’s first wife, Emma Smith, called “Mormon Enigma, Emma Hale Smith“.  [A former BYU professor has published a well-documented history of problems of the LDS church with polygamy between 1890 and 1904.  It can be downloaded by clicking HERE.]

Emma did not emigrate with Brigham Young and most of the Saints to Utah Territory and refused to believe to her dying day that Joseph willingly participated in polygamy.  She thought that he was put up to it by Brigham Young and others in the Quorum of 12 Apostles.

If a person asks questions today about polygamy to the missionaries, they are  referred to the official church newsroom site about polygamy.  At this web site, they will be told that the only reason the saints practiced polygamy was because it was a commandment.

Before I start dissecting this doctrine, I think I should point out that Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley made a statement during the course of a TV interview with Mormon-friendly Larry King, that he did not think the doctrine of polygamy was “doctrinal”.  [Larry King was a "serial polygamist", having been married eight times to seven different women, one of whom was Mormon.  Larry King was an atheist himself.]   His statement: “Gordon B. Hinckley: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.”  (Reference)

So that’s  it in a nutshell.  Now to get down to the nitty-gritty…..

Theories and Explanations of Why LDS Polygamy was Practiced

  • Joseph Smith claimed that polygamy was “commanded” by God.  He acted as though it was something that he did not really want to do and besides it was against the teachings and beliefs he was raised with.  However, being the God-fearing and obedient man that he was, he began multiple marriages so that he wouldn’t be killed by God for disobedience.  He claimed that an angel (with a sword) from God commanded him to marry many women in addition to his first wife, or he would be murdered by God.  “I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church.   An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him.  (- Sister Mary Lightner, Address to Brigham Young University, April 14th, 1905, BYU Archives and ManuscriptsThere are many other references to this fact.  A search of the official LDS website, www.lds.org reveals that this is the most common answer of LDS members to the question of WHY polygamy was practiced between the period of about 1830 and 1890 — simply because God commanded it, nuff’ said.

I am not at all sure WHY an angel would need a sword to kill anyone, but it certainly showed that he was serious about forcing Joseph to start polygamy.  Joseph Smith claimed to have foreseen the problems that polygamy would cause for the church, but decided that he would obey the angel anyway.

  •  It was part of the “restitution of all things”.  Mormons believe that there was a general apostasy of and from the original teachings of Christ.  Since there had to then be a ”restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21) and part of this included the keys of the practice of Old Testament polygamy as practiced by the Old Testament prophets.
  • It brought the Latter-day Saints together.  Part of ensuring that the new religion survived was BECAUSE polygamy gave them an identity separate and apart from other start-up cults and religions.  Of course, this included persecution due to polygamy, but this brought the Saints together and caused them to stay away from other religions.  They would have to endure persecution and injustice, be driven out of the United States, and have to establish their own colonies in “the tops of the mountains.”

This same explanation is given, by the way, of the failure of “Zion’s Camp” — that those who survived the cholera and deprivations became the most loyal and strong of Joseph Smith’s followers.

  • It raised up a mighty generation.  It was believed that the need to raise up a mighty generation would be fulfilled by increasing the birth rate of fertile female converts to the new church.  Polygamy allowed men who were strong in the faith to have more righteous children than would happen if monogamy were the norm.  Brigham Young, for example is known to have fathered over fifty children from over two dozen wives.

 Myths and Misconceptions About Mormon Polygamy

  • “Mormons practiced polygamy because women on the frontier far outnumbered men, and plural marriage gave every woman a chance to have a husband.”
    There is often a simple explanation about WHY polygamy might have been thought to have been a good idea — it was needed because there were so many poor faithful women on the frontier that some accommodation had to be made by wealthy men who could take care of them, protect them from the deprivations of frontier living and otherwise support them.  In point of fact, men often outnumbered women by up to three to one.  Women had to be imported (i.e., “mail order brides”) and those that came to the frontier often had “the pick of the litter” when it came to picking a husband.

  •  ”Polygamy took care of older women and spinsters so they had a chance to get married.”
    This explanation “sounds” good and believable, but it is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.  Most polygamists chose young wives (as they also do nowadays in the FLDS church) and generally avoid entanglements with less desirable, older, potential wives.  The new wives weren’t exactly spinsters who had been passed over for marriage — who were then rescued by a generous polygamist.
  • Polygamous men lived in harems and had about 20 wives each.”  Having a large number of wives was actually rare.  By far the most common was the polygamist who only married one or two extra wives.  If they could afford it, each wife would have a home of her own.  Relatively few Mormons actually lived in polygamous relationships — only 2 – 5% of even early Mormons lived that lifestyle.  A visit to Salt Lake City and the Lion House will give the visitor an interesting glimpse into how Brigham Young managed the day-to-day lives of some of his wives and their children.
  • Polygamy was all about sex.” Wrong!  Many marriages WERE for financial support only.  Some marriages were never about sex.  Many marriage ceremonies were performed only posthumously in LDS Temples “for time and eternity only” – meaning that sex was not allowed at all.  I do not wish to be judgmental, but photos of some of the wives do not at all show sexuality.

  • All 19th century Mormons practiced polygamy.  As pointed out earlier, never did more than 10% of the early Mormons practiced “the principle.”  Most Mormons did support the concept, however and believed that it guaranteed their entry into the highest order of heaven after their demise.  The wives of Joseph Smith are listed in a short article by clicking HERE.

What Are My Current Feelings About Polygamy?

I don’t get worked up over who people fall in love with and marry — so long as the following conditions are present:

  • They do it willingly and are not forced or coerced into the relationship because of pressure from family, potential spouse, religion or other entities.  (Part of the problems that Warren Jeffs got into was using a 12-year-old child in his polygamous sect.)
  • They are of an age where they can reasonably be expected to make a mature decision of this kind on their own. (In my mind this age is at least 16.)
  • There is a mechanism to allow any of the parties to the marriage to get out of it through divorce.
  • There is some kind of reasonable expectation of the support of the children emotionally and financially throughout the marriage and afterward.  Men who have a lot of children (Brigham Young had over 50) simply do not have the ability to be a father — only to pass on his genes.  I can only imagine what Biblical patriarchs did with the children of hundreds of wives, like King Soloman.

This means that I DO NOT support many of the Biblical definitions of marriage that can include:

  • Forced marriage of the victims of rapists
  • Arranged marriages
  • Marriages of children before puberty
  • Marriages that are not initiated due to close feelings of the parties involved
  • Marriages that are made purely to have children

According to current LDS leadership, a marriage is properly defined as a union between one man and one woman.  A special “Proclamation To The World” was made in September, 1995 about the current position of the LDS church.  To my knowledge, this was never put to the entire church for a vote, neither was it claimed at the time to be “revelation”.  No mention was made at the time about the church’s historical links to polygamy.  At the time, I considered this “Proclamation” to be at least a manipulation of the LDS church’s history — and I never hung it on a wall as suggested to do so by home teachers and the local Bishop.  This documents claims that only “A” husband and “A” wife are to be the basis of a family in the church.  The LDS church has since made it clear that they regard monogamous marriage as the only marriage they will recognize.  [unless, of course, you marry two or more wives who are then “sealed” in the temples — most commonly after a first wife dies and the husband then remarries)

As I became older and read more about LDS history, it became clear that the institutional church did not relinquish plural marriage until forced to by the US courts.  I wondered, “If one day in the future, the courts accepted plural marriage, then it will quickly return.”  But the Protestantization of church thinking about monogamous marriage put that thought to rest.

Polygamy was started by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the early 1830′s soon after officially organizing his new church.  I don’t want to get into the situation of over-emphasizing the importance of polygamy to the new LDS leaders, but there seems to be substantial evidence that Joseph Smith not only married other women without the consent of his first wife, but that he married women who were already married to others at the time.  His example was followed by all the other leaders of the LDS church up till the 1890′s.

At that time, the US Supreme Court was about to disenfranchise the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the leaders declared that they would no longer practice this concept.

I never thought that I, personally, would like to be polygamous.  Nor did I ever want more than one wife.  One wife is plenty for me.

I do have one well-documented ancestor who was polygamous.  It was my great great grandfather on the Andersen side of the family.  He came to the USA as a convert from Denmark.  His wife refused to come, however and he continued to support her financially while she stayed in Denmark.  At roughly the age of sixty, he married a woman who was also about the same age while trying repeatedly to get his Danish wife to join him in Utah.  He was officially polygamous, but only lived with one woman at a time.

Marriage Experimentation in the 19th Century

College classes that I took exposed me to US history in ways that I could never have predicted.  I learned that it was NOT LDS leaders who first brought up the concept of “Celestial Marriage” — that was taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as being necessary to enter the highest degree of heaven after mortality.  As early as 1749, a preacher from Sweden named Emannuel Swedenborg taught; “A central question with regard to marriage is whether it stops at death or continues into heaven. The question arises due to a statement of Jesus’ that appears to say that, indeed, “death do us part.” Paul, furthermore, questions marriage in the first place, as opposed to celibacy. For a detailed analysis of this issue, see Jesus and Paul on the Eternity of Marriage.

The quality of the relationship between husband and wife resumes in the spiritual world in whatever state it was at their death in this world. Thus, a couple in true marriage love remain together in that state in heaven into eternity. A couple lacking in that love by one or both partners, however, will separate after death and each will be given a compatible new partner if they wish. A partner is also given to a person who loved the ideal of marriage but never found a true partner in this world. The exception in both cases is a person who hates chaste marriage and thus cannot receive such a partner.

In a future post, I plan on discussing other marriage experiments in the USA during the 19th century.

Categories: family, Marriage, obedience, Personal history and life story, polygamy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ

One of the basic ideas I was taught by my parents and LDS church teachers was the idea that Jesus Christ was born to Mary — who was a virgin.  This means that she did not have sexual relations with any mortal man before getting pregnant with the baby Jesus.  Since Jesus was born to a virgin, he was both mortal AND immortal, since he had both a mortal Mother and an immortal Father.

This is basically the same teaching that is taught in Protestant and Catholic Christian churches.  It is normally considered to be fundamental to any Christian denomination – that Mary was a virgin when she got pregnant with the baby Jesus Christ.

While on my mission (1963-65), we sometimes discussed the news that many protestant theologians were of the opinion that the virgin birth did not happen — that it was only a myth.  I remember thinking how much better I was as a “Mormon” boy, to belong to a church that did not deny the miracle of the virgin birth.

“Mormon” theology does not make any “bones about it” — Jesus was born of a virgin.  This was a clear message from the most valued book about Jesus that was in LDS literature — “Jesus the Christ” by James Talmage, an early LDS apostle.  LDS leaders sometimes expressed their opinion about HOW the conception of Jesus happened, (some were pretty unbelievable) but the doctrine taught by these LDS leaders was never made official doctrine and is never talked about nowadays. (basically, this doctrine taught by Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and Ezra Taft Benson was that God the Father came down to earth, declared Mary to be his wife and literally had sexual congress with her. reference)  How else, they said, how could a male child be born to a female, or be be “God’s only begotten Son“?

When I heard LDS people say the phrase, “God’s only begotten Son” in a fast and testimony meeting, I occasionally might ask a friend nearby afterward, “I wonder if he/she knows what the word, “begotten” means in the context of that testimony?”  It means to be the biological offspring.  It means the result of sexual reproduction.

Exactly HOW a virgin woman could get pregnant is/was considered one of the wonderful mysteries of Christianity.  Many Protestant and Catholics believe that Mary was overcome in some non-sexual way by the Holy Ghost (the third member of the Godhead).

“Mormon Doctrine” Bruce R. McConkie:  “Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin, because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. Mary, his mother, “was carried away in the Spirit” (1 Ne. 11:13-21), was “overshadowed” by the Holy Ghost, and the conception which took place “by the power of the Holy Ghost” resulted in the bringing forth of the literal and personal Son of God the Father. (Alma 7:10; 2 Ne. 17:14; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.) Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father.  (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.) Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false.”

 The Last Bastion of My Belief

I had gradually taken a critical (skeptical) look at my beliefs in fundamentalist religion — the Adam and Eve story (now firmly a myth in my mind), the literal truths of the Old and New Testament, the historicity of the Book of Mormon and many other aspects of my church and religion.  I felt that I could still honestly bear my testimony, ignoring my growing and changing knowledge about religion and religious history and say, “I know that Jesus was the literal Son of God and our Savior“.   But the time had come.  I had to find out for myself if even this compact statement of faith meant anything to me.   I had to find out for myself if I still believed even that Jesus was born of a virgin.

If the narrative of Adam and Eve is simply a tribal story that has been handed down over thousands of years — and the “Fall” of man is a myth, then there is no “need” for a Savior that is born of a virgin, is there?

Is Virgin Birth Unique?

I looked to see if there were other stories of gods that were born in a miraculous, virgin birth?

As it turns out, there are numerable stories of the founders of many different religions who were claimed to be miraculous and were born to a virgin mother.

One pre-dated the Jesus narrative by 3,000 years and was named “Horus“.  There are so many similarities between the Jesus story and the Horus story that I had to ask myself — “Is it possible that these stories were woven into Christianity in order to gain heathen converts and make the transition easier?”

Another God who was born of a virgin — and who touted his dualism of being both God and human is the Greek God Dionysus.  There are several other examples in history/mythology.  Some of them are documented HERE.

Dionysus was a mythical God who was born from a union between the mortal woman Semele and the God Zeus.  He actually had several names by which he was known — one of them Bacchus.  Many paintings of Dionysus were painted by the great master painters.  Some of them can be seen by clicking on this LINK.  I visited the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia in 2001 with my wife.  The one painting that most impressed me was the Peter Paul Rubens painting of Dionysus.  It embodied gluttony, excess, sensuality  and drunkenness.  (Note: I consider the museum at the Hermitage to be the most interesting museum/art gallery in the world)

A child who is BOTH human and God presumably will have both mortal and immortal abilities — the ability to die OR not to die; the ability to eat OR not to eat; the ability to receive a mortal wound and still not die (unless he/she wanted to die); the ability to change the chemical makeup of common materials into other things simply through the power of his mind (as in turning water into wine); Have the ability to defy the elements, cause the wind to blow, walk on water, etc..

The point I want to make here is that there have been many supernatural claims of a virgin birth.  The child typically is male, has a mortal mother and a father who is a deity.   At the same time, that have been NO documented cases of a female human (other species can and do give birth through parthenogenesis) giving birth without sexual fertilization of the female egg.

Even if a young woman THOUGHT that she was a virgin – generally through ignorance or a lack of knowledge of how a baby is conceived – she may not be.   I read an autobiography of a Palestinian woman who found herself pregnant  out of wedlock in the 21st century, but who believed that she “never knew a man” and was so traumatized by her situation that she tried to commit suicide.  I don’t feel that I have the time or space on my blog to write about all the possibilities  of how this could happen, but they include being unconscious, drunk, in a coma, ignorant of sexual foreplay, rape, amnesia, blocking memories  and several other scenarios at the time she got pregnant.  Keeping young women ignorant of sex and birth control is still common in many countries, even today.

Other Explanations In Scripture Of “Virgin”

We read the word, “virgin” today and can easily assume that this word applies to the lady’s sexuality.  But there are other explanations about the meaning of the word in the Bible.

There are only two references in the New Testament of the claimed virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew and Luke’s narrative).   Other writers ignored the idea that May was possibly a virgin — including any of Paul’s writings.  The word “almah” in Hebrew (“עלמה“) refers to a young woman of childbearing age who has not yet had a child.  It is this word that has been translated to the English word, “virgin”.  A young woman may or may not be totally inexperienced sexually.    It is very possible (plausible?) that the concept of being sexually inexperienced is misapplied to this translation in both instances.   In my way of thinking, it is also possible that early editors of sacred script willfully used the wrong connotation in order to amplify the authority and miraculousness of  Christ in order to gain more converts or to emphasize his miraculous powers.

As I meditated upon all the evidence that I have found in my studies on this concept, I had to be honest and say: “I like the idea that a child could be born who was half God and half human.  I like the Christmas story.  I like the innocence that it conveys.  But I dislike that fact that I would have to discount ALL the physical evidence about how children are born.  I dislike the idea that any person, once born might not have to die at some time.  I simply cannot believe that Mary had a male child without sexual intercourse of some kindI dislike the idea that all humans are born tainted in some spiritual way and are in a fallen state unless a half-god/half human is born and dies at the hands  of evil.”

I still like a lot of the concepts of Fundamentalist Christian theology, but the effort to try to get me to believe with miracles, supernatural events, magic  and dogma instead of evidences and skeptical thought leave me unfulfilled and disbelieving.

Categories: christ, life birth born abortion, Miracles, mormon lds skeptic, Religion, sex, superstition ritual | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment