It was pouring down rain.
I was struggling.
I was raised a Mormon, and I was a devout one. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was a virgin until I was married at the age of 27 (yes, it was hard.) I went to church every Sunday. I read my scriptures, and I followed my church’s teachings and the advice of my church leaders… until they started telling me that I needed to “obey” my husband… who had been abusing me and my daughter.
That’s when I started to question them.
They had no idea how abusive he was, and I just wasn’t “okay” with them telling me I needed to subject myself and my daughter to his continual abuse.
I was raised to believe that they had some special gift bestowed on them from Christ through the “laying on of hands” and their induction into the strictly male-order of the Mormon Priesthood. We were taught that they had “the spirit of discernment” and they could know the truth of things. (So basically, they had really enhanced intuition and psychic powers bestowed on them.)
So when they were telling me I was wrong to protest my and my daughter’s continued abuses, my faith in what I was taught started shaking.
I also had to admit, that I had a real problem with the doctrine of polygamy. I was taught that even though it was unlawful to practice polygamy in modern society, that polygamy was the highest possible marital order, and that if I denied my husband the freedom to participate in polygamy, I was not worthy of him… and I needed to be so that I didn’t become a slave in heaven for eternity.
Mormons may not actively practice polygamy in their modern marriages, but they absolutely believe in it. So much so, that they believe that the marriage ceremonies they perform in their temples (for “time and all eternity” rather than “until death do us part”) last beyond this life. This is called “sealing”.
A man can be sealed to more than one woman, but a woman cannot be sealed to more than one man at a time.
In that way, Mormons still practice polygamy.
Mormons are also taught that a woman’s greatest calling, or role, in life is that of a wife and mother, and women that give their husbands more children, add more and more glory to their husbands. Male children are to be raised up to be the leaders of their families and leaders in the church and the world, and female children will grow up to be wives and mothers to these men.
This was hard for me to reconcile, because I was born with a 167+ I.Q., and gifted in both right and left brain processing, which I’m told is extremely rare. I was in the gifted program from the third grade on.
Why would God create me with such a brain, and then make me a woman, whose eternal existence is for no greater purpose than to simply be a life-support system for a uterus?
I just didn’t understand the way I was raised to think about women and my own purpose in life, and I was questioning the authority and leadership of the men whose hands I was supposed to entrust my life to.
I needed answers.
I grabbed my scriptures and headed out in the pouring rain to go for a drive.
I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t have a particular “feel” pulling me anywhere. I just knew I didn’t have much money, so I probably ought to stop somewhere not too far from home.
Somewhere ended up the parking lot at the local Taco Bell.
The sky was completely blackened with rain clouds, and the atmosphere was darker. I parked on the far end of the parking lot away from the doors to the restaurant.
I sat in the car for a while, crying, my forehead on the steering wheel, eyes closed. I don’t know what I was crying for the most.
After several minutes of struggling within myself, I finally opened my eyes up, looked out the side window and up to the sky. The rain pouring down rivulets along the window pane matched the tear tracks trickling down my face. I needed some answers.
Some REAL answers.
So God and I “had it out.”
I opened up a dialogue with a male super-being patriarchal figure who in my mind’s eye had white hair, white beard, flowing white toga and looked a lot like Zeus.
I told God, “I just want to know… is this really what you created me to be? Am I truly worth nothing except to be a vessel for children, and to be a servant to them and to my husband? Have I no other worth? Is this what You intended for my existence all along? Am I to be nothing more than this for all eternity? To have no contribution to this planet that could possibly rival that of a man’s contribution?”
The answer came back so swiftly, and so clear… like thunder, and yet I could hear nothing with my ears themselves. It came directly to my heart and mind.
“This is not what I intended.”
“Then WHY!!!?” I cried out.
“Because they are men,” came the reply.
(Don’t get me wrong here, the term “men” I heard did not come with the sexist connotation I know is hidden there. What I heard was the word “men,” but what my heart understood to be the meaning was “human.”)
“Because the people in charge are human, and they have wants, desires, and needs, and they sometimes use their personal desires to control others by claiming the satisfying of their desires is a command from the Divine.”
My upbringing and religious teaching was still clashing in my mind with what I hoped was the truth.
I just couldn’t understand how I could be so conflicted if everything I was taught to believe really WAS true.
I needed some assistance. So I turned to my scriptures, the way I had been taught… the way I had seen my mother do on several occasions when she felt the need for answers was dire.
I set my scriptures on their spine in my open lap, then I lifted my hands away and let both covers fall to their sides, the pages opening themselves where they may. They opened to the following passage in the Book of Mormon…
Jacob, Chapter 2
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.
I was confused. How did the Nephites being chastised against having many wives and concubines help me figure out whether or not I needed to continue going to church, or to leave it?
I was having difficulty drawing the connection to this scripture and to what was going on in my own life. My husband didn’t have many wives or concubines. I wasn’t in a plural marriage, and I wasn’t a concubine either. I needed clarification.
I closed my scriptures, and asked God, “Please give me some clarification on this” and let them open again.
This time, they opened up directly to the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132.
I started reading slowly… very… very… slowly…
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—
31 This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself.
32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.
33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham.
34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.
35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things. Ask what ye will, and it shall be given unto you according to my word.
51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold 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.
I was really confused now.
Did I just find a huge contradiction?
Why would the Book of Mormon say that what David and Solomon had done was an abomination, and then why would God turn around and reveal that it was not, that the plural wives and concubines were given to them by God?
Something wasn’t right here.
WHY HAD I NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE?
Joseph Smith claimed he had received “revelation from God” (as written in the Doctrine and Covenants) that plural marriage was a commandment of God.
He used the example of David and Solomon to support it.
I thought, “Wait a second… if Joseph Smith is claiming to have received this revelation, why is it clearly written in the Book of Mormon that this is an abomination?
JOSEPH SMITH “TRANSLATED” THE BOOK OF MORMON!” my mind screamed.
“HE TOLD US THAT GOD SAID THIS WAS THE MOST PERFECT OF ANY BOOK EVER WRITTEN, AND THAT EVERY WORD IN IT WAS ABSOLUTELY TRUE… NO MISTAKES!”
More importantly, Joseph told us that the Book of Mormon was WRITTEN FOR OUR DAY.”
This is what I had been taught to believe.
So HOW could Joseph Smith, who had supposedly “received” that revelation about the Book of Mormon—who claimed to have translated it by the gift and power of God, and had all these amazing experiences—HOW COULD JOSEPH NOT KNOW THAT PLURAL MARRIAGE AND CONCUBINES WAS AN ABOMINATION BEFORE THE LORD?!!!
What was going on here!
Why would God contradict Himself?!!!
Why would God SPECIFICALLY say in the Book of Mormon, “Seek not to excuse yourselves in these things by using the example of David and Solomon” and then Joseph Smith turn right around, and say he had received a revelation from God to do that very thing, justifying it by USING THE EXAMPLE OF DAVID AND SOLOMON?!!!
I was utterly astounded.
It took several long, almost endless minutes for this new information to sink in.
Its implications were deep…
All I could think was… “Wow… if I was Joseph Smith, still in my early 30’s, with an insatiable sexual appetite and bedding other men’s wives, coming out with a “revelation” like this was awfully convenient for him, wasn’t it.”
Also, the revelations concerning Emma and her destruction if she disagreed… those were pretty convenient, too.
I just couldn’t understand what was being presented to me.
And more, why would my scriptures open to these EXACT two passages when I asked for a direct answer from God about whether or not I should continue going to church?
It was NOT a coincidence.
I could not hold back the tears this time. They poured out of me in body-wracking sobs.
Everything I had ever been taught to believe about the divinity of Joseph Smith’s calling as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator… everything I had been taught to believe about the power of the Priesthood, about what happens when we die, about who I was and why I was here…
It all came from Joseph Smith.
And what I was awakening to, about Joseph Smith with these two scriptures was just one logical conclusion.
Either he lied about the Book of Mormon and its origins, its truthfulness, and its purpose, or he lied when he claimed he received a revelation that contradicted it.
How could he have done such a thing?!
I was so angry, and so emotionally devastated all at the same time.
I could not stop it as the foundation for my entire life started slowly slipping away and crumbling beneath my feet. I had nothing left to stand on. I was completely and utterly tossed about by the wind.
I felt lost.
Everything I had ever known and believed in… everything I had based my ENTIRE LIFE on was gone.
I had nothing.
I was nothing.
I didn’t know what was true anymore.
I couldn’t rely on ANYTHING I had been taught, because everything had come from my religion. I didn’t even know now if God even existed, and if God did, was it this male super-being that looked like a Greek Diety?
I cried for almost an hour.
I don’t know when I finally stopped, but I remember at some point, telling God (or at least the God I had come to know my whole life), “I feel like I need to explore a new path for a while.” I intended to stop going to church and explore the new things I have been learning about through my own studies.
There were other ideas that felt so wonderfully peaceful and joyful about it.
“I just want you [God] to know, that if at any point in this process, I feel like I’m on the wrong path… I know You know me well enough, that you know I’ll come back if this new path isn’t the truth.
“But I HAVE to find out, and I feel like this is what You want me to do.”
I finally felt peace.
I stopped going to church that day.
I stopped reading the Book of Mormon, and I stopped reading the other scriptures Joseph Smith had written.
I have never been back since that day.