There seems to be an excessive reverence – almost deferral – to Joseph Smith even seen in the doubter/dissenter communities online that his supposed “mantle” of “prophet” requires a modicum of respect that suggests credibility to the most noted and, in come cases, eccentric of his teachings.
Such is the reason why there are actual debates on whether or not polygamy was and is a legitimate religious practice which thereby allows us to assume or propose some higher purpose to Joseph’s actions regarding what was and remains disprovable, his giving in to his urges and concocting spiritual “reasons and justifications” for what he was doing.
His 19th-century missionaries such as the Pratts, Woodruff, Kimball and others made a lot of hay along with questionable theological reputations by trotting out mostly Old Testament references to polygamy much in the same manner Southern Christians attempted to justify slavery using the Bible.
So it continues now with the surreptitious Church admissions on their website that Joseph’s bath water was not any more drinkable than that of Oil Can Henry.
Bottom line is that the polygamy proclaimed by Joseph as a revealed concept was then and remains entirely bogus. It was bogus then, it is bogus now and we only silly ourselves up by trying to pretend that somehow the Mystical, Magical Thinking Man-Child somehow had a special corner on God’s ear and mouth as regarded the rest of humanity.
Joseph truly made it up as he went along.
Contemporary truth of his making it up is sprinkled all over the world with each of those whited sepulchers paraded as Holy Temples reminiscent of the original sacred brick and mortar sanctuary described biblically as Solomon’s Temple.
Despite his and Brigham’s claims that the Temple Endowment represented the pure truth of what was practiced and supposedly taught of God in Solomon’s Temple, the source from which Joseph discovered just what he could make use of and formally install into his latter day version of Solomon’s Temple was not a piece of restored revealed religion.
Rather, the source from which Joseph effectively plagiarized and then made spurious claims about his and Jehovah’s ownership was in fact something beautiful and striking that originated as formal ritual in the 18th century with the Freemasons.
As the usual discussion continues about the similarities between Freemason and Mormon temple rituals, in truth those similarities have not changed going back to both groups in Joseph’s time. At issue is not who had them first, which is in its own way disingenuous on the part of Joseph’s and Brigham’s narratives about Freemasonry, but how and why God had to get Joseph into a Masonic Lodge in the first place when Joseph’s life had been nothing but God talking to him always out of the blue and never inside the halls of anyone else’s magic.
After Smith officiated in Brigham Young’s endowment in 1842 Smith told him, “Brother Brigham, this is not arranged perfectly; however we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed. I wish you to take this matter in hand: organize and systematize all these ceremonies”. Young did as Smith directed, and under Young’s direction the Nauvoo endowment ceremony was introduced to the church at large in the Nauvoo Temple during the winter of 1845–46. A spacious hall in the temple’s attic was arranged into appropriate ordinance “rooms” using canvas partitions.
Some within the LDS Church, particularly Smith’s contemporaries, have expressed the view that the endowment was given anciently by God in its original form at the Temple of Solomon, but that the form of the ritual degenerated into the form used by Freemasons.
Heber C. Kimball clearly supported this position: “We have the true Masonry. The Masonry of today is received from the apostasy which took place in the days of Solomon and David. They have now and then a thing that is correct, but we have the real thing”- Wikipedia
It is true that Solomon built a temple for the purpose of giving endowments, but from what we can learn of the history of that time they gave very few if any endowments, and one of the high priests [Hiram Abiff] was murdered by wicked and corrupt men, who had already begun to apostatize, because he would not reveal those things appertaining to the priesthood that were forbidden him to reveal until he came to the proper place.-Discourses of Brigham Young
Joseph and Brigham took that formal Masonic ritual and proposed their own version of what became the Salt Lake Church’s official Endowment. In reality and compared to the power of the real thing as a function of making good men better, Joseph came up with a mere cheap and shallow imitation.
Joseph made solemn oaths when he became an active Freemason. The following sums up Joseph’s behavior and situation:
” ‘Once a Mason always a Mason.’
He may take no interest in the order. He may dimit, [become unaffiliated], be dropped NPD [non-payment of dues], be tried for a Masonic offense and suspended or expelled, but he cannot “unmake” himself as a Mason, or ever avoid the moral responsibility of keeping the obligations he voluntarily assumes.”
– Introduction to freemasonry Entered Apprentice – by Carl H. Claudy (this source is not a Masonic secret and is legally and appropriately available to anyone)
Brigham Young is quoted at the Salt Lake Church website and what he said could be justifiably asserted about Joseph’s and his own behavior regarding their Masonic Oaths:
The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for he cannot safely reveal himself to such persons (Discourses of Brigham Young, 40–41).
I’ve always like this entry from an old friend, Robert Packham:
“Why are you breaking the covenants you made in the temple? Even though you may have left the Church, you made sacred promises to God in the temple not to reveal the sacred content of the Endowment! And yet that is what you are doing! Isn’t that immoral? Why should I respect a ‘covenant-breaker’?”
“I don’t understand how you could ever write about the things that you have. If I ever leave the Church I could never talk about the things in the Temple. Even if I were not to believe them, I still have sworn before God not to reveal them. I would be breaking an oath.”
If you are still hung up on the notion that Joseph might have been a prophet, that he might have had deep theological contributions to religious thought that somehow offset all the deception and moral betrayals regarding his polygamous practices and infidelities to marriage covenants and all other covenants then such cannot be helped.
But then should not the idea of truth and the implications of your own convictions pass the credibility and legitimacy test rather than have anyone else allow you to act apologetically about the Salt Lake Church, the leadership and the foundation narratives without challenge?
Doesn’t your own honesty require a self-examination and admission that as your own act of faith you willfully and intentionally have suspended disbelief; have refused to think critically and have taken someone else’s unprovable declarations as authoritative, trustworthy and something after which you can pattern your thinking and behavior? Do you not call such selective unquestioning trust “faith” when in truth it is nothing more than casual and habitual blind faith?
Can you then admit you make assumptions about reality, cosmology and the spiritual intersection between divinity and human beings that necessitates a divine relationship based on divine interference with human agency either by force or emotional coercion?
… such as an angel with a flaming sword?