02/09/2012 04:18 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Anti-Gay Mormons Rewrite Their Own History

As most people will know, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that overturned Proposition 8. The Proposition was an initiative that stripped away marriage rights from California's same-sex couples and was funded heavily by Mormons responding to a call by church leaders. Mormon money was what made the difference and funded its deceitful campaign.

Without a smoking gun we can only theorize why the Mormons did this. I have long felt they were trying to curry favor with fundamentalist Christians, who see them as a non-Christian cult.

After the court ruling, the Mormon Church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a statement:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today's decision. California voters have twice determined in a general election that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We have always had that view. Courts should not alter that definition, especially when the people of California have spoken so clearly on the subject.

Please note the precise wording they used: "a man" -- singular -- "and a woman" -- also singular. They did not say "between a man and women" or "between men and women," both of which would leave the number of female partners ambiguous. They claimed they believed marriage was only between a singular man and a singular woman. That is not dishonest and is current official church doctrine. But the next sentence is dishonest: "We have always had that view."

Joseph Smith, Mormonism founder, was a polygamist. In Doctrines and Covenants Smith even claimed that God directly told Smith's wife, Emma, to "receive all those [other wives] that have been given unto my servant Joseph." Of course, Smith claimed God was speaking through him and that God told Emma "ye shall obey my voice," and that she could not leave Smith for his multiple wives, and that "she shall be destroyed" if she didn't obey.

The biography Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith reports, "Mary Elizabeth Rollins claimed that Joseph had a private conversation with her in 1831; she was then twelve years old. She said Joseph 'told me about his great vision concerning me. He said I was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife.'"

This biography goes into detail how the "Prophet" practiced polygamy and demanded that Emma accept it as God's will. (Emma Smith left this Church after Joseph's death, refusing to follow his fellow polygamist Brigham Young, and went on to help found a competing, anti-polygamist Mormon sect now known as the Community of Christ.)

Another famous, documented incident was Smith going to Heber Kimball and telling him that God had ordered Kimball's wife to marry Smith. Kimball was distressed but eventually consented. Smith then said he was testing Kimball's faith; however, he did want Kimball's 14-year-old daughter Helen as a plural wife. Helen wrote that her father explained the church's doctrine of plural marriage and that she later was taught the same thing from "the Prophet's own mouth."

In 1862 Brigham Young, who claimed the role of "Prophet" after Smith's death, told the church:

Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire... The scarcity of women gave existence to laws restricting one wife to one man. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servitors in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it.

Young claimed that "our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him." Young told the church: "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned, and I will go still further and say, take this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord has given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promised that you will be damned."

Mormon "Apostle" George Cannon claimed that monogamy was destructive to society and only polygamous cultures survived. He said:

[Y]ou will not find among [polygamous cultures] woman prostituted, debased and degraded as she is through Christendom. ... It is a fact of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic... [Rome] was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.

Mormon "Prophet" John Taylor claimed "the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually ... [but it is] incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people."

It is no accident that North American communities where polygamy is widespread are peopled with followers of Smith and his Book of Mormon. When Utah sought statehood the idea was widely resisted by Congress because of Mormon polygamy. "Prophet" Wilford Woodruff then claimed a revelation from God ending polygamy. Yet the very next church leader, Joseph F. Smith, a nephew of the founder, had five wives and fathered 43 children (see below):


Mormons were sent to form polygamous colonies outside Utah. For instance, Mitt Romney's "great-grandfather had five wives and at least one great-great grandfather had 12." They did this in a Mormon colony set up in Mexico, outside U.S. legal jurisdiction. Romney's great-grandfather was a church "Apostle," and his brother Orson was the first Mormon official to publicly defend polygamy as God's will. Romney's grandfather married his fifth wife in 1897, seven years after the practice was supposedly discontinued. And unlike Newt Gingrich, Romney's ancestor had all the wives at one time.

Apparently, to help win favor from today's rabid "pro-family" evangelical movement, the Mormon leadership is quite happy to rewrite their own history so as to pretend that they always supported marriage being limited to one man and one woman.

It all reminds me of the scene from the wonderful 2003 film Latter Days where Aaron Davis is about to be excommunicated from the church for the "grave and grievous sin of homosexuality." His father is leading the inquisition and tells him he brought shame to his church, his family, and his ancestors. Aaron says, "Wait a minute, our ancestors? Dad, your grandfather had half a dozen wives. Same goes for every single person in this room. I'd say we were the original definition of alternative lifestyle."

His father demands, "Are you calling us hypocrites?" Aaron's response perfectly captures my feelings about modern-day Mormonism: "No, we've gone way beyond hypocrisy, Dad. Now, we're just being mean."