Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Polygamy: Joseph, the Seer - Brigham, the Organizer

It seems to me, in reading the materials of the time, that Joseph was almost obsessed with the idea of the universal sealing of his people into a distinct community and people of God. The dynastic sealings and adoptions are particularly fascinating in this regard. Also, it's hard to imagine anything else that would have gotten the early saints driven into their own Promised Land and allowed them to solidify into their own "ethnic group" for so long.

The following is an over-simplification, but it appears to me that the more heavenly visionary Joseph (the seer) was fixated on the eternal teaching of a universally sealed family of God (the community of Christ), while the more earthly visionary Brigham (the organizer) was fixated on building a new House of Israel (the kingdom of God) through obvious blood connections. Polygamy fits well into both of those visions, and by the end of the 19th Century I think it had solidified both visions in a very real way.

Assuming from the start that polygamy in and of itself is a terrible thing makes it hard to justify in any way; removing that assumption makes it much easier - even if it still is easy to criticize certain aspects or results. I choose not to make that assumption.

So, I simply don't classify it as a mistake. I don't think the implementation was handled very well, and I certainly don't think Joseph understood it perfectly until the last few years of his life (if then), but I don't see it as a mistake. I also realize I am working from the soapbox of hindsight, so I try to keep 1 Corinthians 13 in mind and take as charitable a view as possible.


michelle said...

Bravo. Excellent post, including some really cool thoughts on how polygamy could connect both Joseph and Brigham and their visions of things.

I also applaud the notion of leaving room for charity rather than dismissing polygamy out of hand. I think it's impossible to come to any understanding or peace about the topic without such charity and open-mindedness about it.

Again, bravo. This may be one of my favorite posts on polygamy, actually.

I *really* like what you have outlined here with how it fits into Joseph's and Brigham's visions of things.

michelle said...

And that last sentence was obviously a repeat of what I'd already said...didn't see it it until it was too late. That's what I get for commenting when I'm tired. Must. Proofread.

ji said...

Your thought extends further -- to temple ordinances, for example -- only in Wilford Woodruff's day were people encouraged to be sealed to their own parents, rather than leading Church officers -- this doesn't mean that previous sealings were wrong, or that previous Presidents of the Church gave incorrect instructions -- line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. . .