Time to vote for the 2018 Brodie Awards!!!

2018-Brodies-200px The polls are now ready!! A huge thanks to everyone who nominated and shared with us this fantastic crop of amazing content from 2018!!

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Best New Podcast

Best New Blog/Channel/Site

Best Podcast

Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Site of Images/Memes/Comics

Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

Awards for Individual Works:

Best LDS-Interest Book (fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Song

Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image

Funniest Humor Piece

Best Parody or Metaphor

Most Poignant Personal Story

Best Life Journey Piece

Best History Piece

Best Activist Action or Movement Within Mormonism

Best Leak or Personal Recording

Best Watchdog Piece

Best Discussion of Activism

Best Op-Ed

Best Film or Media Presentation

Best Scripture Study Piece

Best From the Pulpit Sermon

Best LDS-Culture Piece

Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS

Best Theological Discussion

Best Discussion on Race

Best Discussion on Polygamy and/or Sexual Abuse within Mormonism

Best Discussion on Gender and/or Orientation

The polls will remain open until Sunday, February 17, 2019 @ 10a.m. Switzerland time. Good luck to everyone!!!

Last call for Brodies Nominations!!

2018-Brodies-200px Thanks for all of the additional nominations!!! I am really sorry for losing so many nominations between the first and second nomination threads — there was this cute little button marked “older comments” which I somehow didn’t notice when I did my earlier roundup. I hope I have everything now — if you see any errors, please comment below (or you can email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com).

I have mostly finalized the categories — I have moved some nominations from one category to another in order to try to even out the categories a bit. In particular, I think the categories of “Best Blog Post” and “Best Podcast Episode” are just too general, so I have moved those nominations to more specific categories. If you would like me to move any nomination to a different category, please say so in the comments — but keep in mind that I need at least three nominations per category. I still might have to eliminate some categories, but I will try to move the affected nominations to other categories. (If one of your faves is in an incomplete category — feel free to nominate some competition! 😀 )

I will keep nominations open for one more week because of the confusion over the lost nominations. So you have until February 3, 2019 to add your nominations.

Here’s what we have so far:

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast/Site

Best Podcast

Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Site of Images/Memes/Comics

Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

Awards for Individual Works:

Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Song

Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image

Best Humor Piece or Parody

Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory

Most Poignant Personal Story

Best Life Journey Piece

Best History Piece

Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism

Best Leak or Personal Recording

Best Watchdog Piece

Best Discussion of Activism

Best Op-Ed

Best Film or Media Presentation

Best Scripture Study Piece

Best From the Pulpit Sermon

  • Thomas Shaffer
  • This category needs two more nominations in order to go on to the voting phase

Best LDS-Culture Piece

Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS

Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion

Best Discussion on Race

Best Discussion on Polygamy and/or Sexual Abuse within Mormonism

Best Discussion on Gender or Orientation

The nomination guidelines are found here. I look forward to seeing the rest of the nominations!! 😀

Brodies 2018 – intermediate nomination roundup!

2018-Brodies-200px Thanks for all of the great nominations so far!! I haven’t added my own nominations yet, but I plan to do so this weekend, and then I’ll make the polls. So you have one more week (from this posting) to nominate and then two weeks to vote.

It would appear that the most hotly-contested race this year will be for “Best Podcast Episode” — with whole lists of episodes getting nominated per podcast!! It looks like people are maybe suggesting that each podcast should get its own category (eg. “Best Mormon Happy Hour Podcast Episode”, “Best Drunk Mormon Podcast Episode”). I could potentially do that if that’s what folks here want (feel free to discuss in the comments) — but I’d really prefer to keep the Brodies a little tiny bit competitive.

Here’s what I’d prefer to do: For each podcast, the podcaster can select (in the comments below) their best episode to go in the “Best Podcast Episode” category, and then we can move the others to the more specific categories based on the content (eg. humor, history, church watch, race/gender discussions, best title, etc.). Some of the specific categories haven’t gotten any nominations yet, but can still go to the voting phase if people nominate some pieces this week.

Here are the nominations so far:

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast This category could use some more nominations — note it is limited to blogs/channels/podcasts that first started posting during 2018 (or very late in 2017, eg. December).

Best Podcast

Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast

  • Drunk Mormon Podcast
  • This category needs two more nominations in order to go on to the voting phase

Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

Other potential categories that could use nominations: Best LDS-Church-Info Site, Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum

Awards for Individual Works:

Best Podcast Episode

Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)

  • Mormon Erotica, by Donna Banta
  • This category needs two more nominations, otherwise it will be merged with the “Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)” category.

Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)

  • Educated,
    by Tara Westover
  • This category needs two more nominations, otherwise it will be merged with the “Best LDS-Interest Book (fiction)” category.

Best LDS-Interest Song

Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image

Funniest Humor Piece or Parody

Most Poignant Personal Story

Best Life Journey Piece

Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism

Best Leak or Personal Recording

Best LDS Church Watch Piece

Best Op-Ed

Best Full-Length Media Presentation

Here are some potential categories that haven’t gotten nominations yet:

  • Best Post or Episode Title
  • Best Exit Story
  • Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory
  • Best Poem
  • Best From the Pulpit Sermon
  • Best Response to Apologetics
  • Best LDS-Culture Piece
  • Best History Piece
  • Best Scripture Study Piece
  • Best Discussion on Parenting
  • Best Discussion on Race/Gender/Orientation
  • Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS
  • Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion
  • Best Short Media Presentation
  • Best Book Review

For any category that has at least two nominations by January 27, 2019, I will either try to find an appropriate third nomination myself or I will merge it with another category so that reader nominations will not get lost. That said, it would be really nice if people who are following this could encourage their friends on social media to swing by and add their own nominations for the best LDS-interest content of 2018. 😀

Congratulations to X-Mormon of the year 2018: Sam Young!!!

sam_young Sam Young — a former Mormon Bishop — has spent the past few years shining the light on a shameful practice within the CoJCoL-dS: having untrained lay bishops give one-on-one, closed-door interviews with children and teens in which bishops are expected to ask the minors about their sexual experiences (chastity) and are allowed to ask for some pretty graphic and explicit details.

This is a problem that has been hidden in plain sight for decades. Those who were raised Mormon know about it. I’ve read TBM comments online explaining that the bishop sometimes needs to ask for graphic details in order to determine what type of repentance is required. And I guess the idea is that if the kid feels ashamed while being asked precisely what their hands and other body parts did, then that’s good — they should be ashamed.

The problem is that that sets up the perfect opportunity for abuse. Kids who think they deserve to feel ashamed certainly aren’t going to dare tell their parents about it, knowing the response is more likely to be “You did X?! You should be ashamed of yourself” rather than “X is a normal part of growing up, and this untrained middle-aged man had no business asking you about it.” Thanks to Sam Young for his tireless efforts to call attention to this practice that absolutely shouldn’t be treated as ordinary and acceptable.

Sam Young caught the public eye in 2016 by voting opposed in General Conference. Over the past few decades, this voting procedure in the CoJCoL-dS has morphed into just a “sustaining” vote (in which “no” votes are inappropriate). But Sam Young argued that according to the scriptures the church should be governed by common consent, hence the vote should be a real vote.

Since then he has been the primary organizer and driving force behind the Protect LDS Children organization. After hundreds marched with Protect LDS Children in protest of this policy and Sam Young went on a hunger strike, the CoJCoL-dS finally changed its policy — now allowing parents to sit in on the interviews.

Yay?

Well, yes, except that — in accordance with its usual M.O. — the CoJCoL-dS pretended that the change was a total coincidence that had nothing to do with the organization and demonstrations. In September of 2018, they thanked Sam Young by excommunicating him. Shame on the CoJCoL-dS, but a big thanks and round of applause to you, Sam Young — 2018’s “William Law X-Mormon of the Year”!!!

Please get your Brodies’ nominations in as soon as possible on the intermediate nominations roundup thread — anyone can nominate! You can see the results of the X-Mormon of the Year voting here.

Gerrymandered Out of Church

by Johnny Townsend

My mom had few friends in her life. As a kid, I watched her interact with neighbors just twice. My parents never hosted parties, never invited anyone over for dinner, rarely let my sister or me bring any of our own friends over. Once, on a visit back to Mom’s hometown in Mississippi, we ran into an old school friend of hers, and I watched, fascinated to see her so energized and happy. But after we returned to New Orleans, life returned to “normal.”

Then we converted to Mormonism, and suddenly, my mother had adult friends for the first time. Even as a self-absorbed child, I couldn’t help but notice how much happier having the new social network made both my parents.

Then our congregation—Jefferson Ward—split. We lived on the far outer edge of Metairie, a middle class suburb of New Orleans. To our immediate west lay Kenner, a town consisting largely of working class folks. Church leaders made the practical decision to loop our neighborhood into the Kenner Ward to provide the new congregation with more middle class men who could function as leaders.

All of Mom’s friends lived in what was now the Metairie Ward. LDS policy mandates that members attend the ward they have been assigned to. No shopping around for a different congregation is allowed. My mother, who lived only a few blocks from the friends she loved, was cut off from them almost completely.

Granted, there was no real reason these women couldn’t have continued socializing together outside of church. They all had their own cars. They had telephones. They could have met for lunch, gone to see a matinee. But an unfortunate aspect of Mormon friendship is how dependent it is on church. My mother may as well have moved out of state.

Now, I don’t know what other issues my mother may have had with Mormonism. She died of leukemia at the age of forty-three, a few months after I returned from my mission. We had very little time together as adults. It’s possible gerrymandering was her only “problem” with the Church, but it’s just as possible it was simply the final blow to her testimony.

My mother only attended church three more times in the remaining eight years of her life.

Mormons often say that those who “fall away” do so because they were “offended,” the implication being that members leave over trivial issues. But it isn’t trivial to discover that your best friends were never really your friends at all, just pleasant work acquaintances.

Mormons often speak rapturously about the benefits of LDS community. If it is really that great, then it is no small thing to rearrange random blocks of people. Even devout Mormon women aren’t Stepford Wives, interchangeable, with no personalities of their own.

My mom’s friends all came to her funeral. They pulled me aside and told me what a loss it was that she’d died so young.

They may indeed have felt loss, and I know I did, but even then, still a true believer, I knew that the person who’d suffered the greatest loss was the woman who’d died friendless.

It’s time to vote for William Law X-Mormon of the Year 2018!!!

X-Mormon-2018-300x223 Wow, we’ve got quite a list of X-Mormons to choose from in 2018!!


And here are the descriptions of the nominees:

The poll will remain open until Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. Switzerland time. And may the X-Mormon who made the biggest splash in 2018 win!!

Collecting Nominations for the 2018 Brodie Awards!!

2018-Brodies-200px The nomination process for X-Mormon of the Year is underway — please be sure to get in your nominations before next weekend when the voting begins.

Now, it’s also time to start on the Brodie Awards!! The Brodie Awards are a fun little yearly activity intended to give some extra recognition and signal boost to the best LDS-interest content published/posted during the past year. This is your opportunity to review your favorite pieces, find out about great works you may have missed, and even promote your own work!

As usual, I will start by posting a list of suggested categories (from last year), but the precise list of award categories depends on your suggestions. Please feel free to browse the sidebar for ideas on award categories we’ve used in the past for ideas. Below the suggested categories, I will post the nomination guidelines.

Year-long awards for people and groups:

  • Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best LDS-Church-Info Site
  • Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum
  • Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

Awards for Individual Works:

  • Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)
  • Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)
  • Best LDS-Interest Song
  • Best Poem
  • Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image
  • Best Post Title
  • Funniest Humor Piece
  • Funniest Parody
  • Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory
  • Best From the Pulpit Sermon
  • Most Poignant Personal Story
  • Best Exit Story
  • Best Life Journey Piece
  • Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism
  • Best Leak or Personal Recording
  • Best LDS Church Watch Piece
  • Best Response to Apologetics
  • Best LDS-Culture Piece
  • Best History Piece
  • Best Scripture Study Piece
  • Best Discussion on Parenting
  • Best Discussion on Orientation
  • Best Best Discussion on Gender
  • Best Discussion on Race
  • Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS
  • Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion
  • Best Podcast Episode
  • Best Short Media Presentation
  • Best Book Review

And here are the nomination guidelines:

  • Please nominate as many people, books, blogs, sites, podcasts, songs, articles, images, etc. as you want. However, please do not nominate more than two individual works by any one author/artist.
  • You are encouraged to nominate your own works. No one knows better than you do which pieces were your best. No more than two, though.
  • Please nominate works that first appeared during 2018.
  • Please try to nominate people and works that have some connection with Mormonism (eg. either the work touches on Mormonism, or the author is a current or former Mormon and/or is an active participant in our community).
  • A category must have at least three nominations in order to be included in the voting and awards phase.
  • You may suggest your own categories — however please do it as early as possible in the nominations process, to give others plenty of time to add nominations in your proposed categories.
  • Any other proposed changes to the categories or to the guidelines are welcome — feel free to discuss it in the comments.
  • The nominations will be open until mid-January, 2019, depending on my schedule. I will finalize the dates and categories and add my own nominations a few days before the nominations close and voting begins.

How to nominate: Just post your nominations as comment to this thread, but please include links to the works you nominate. If your nomination comment ends up in the spam filter, please email me (chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com) and I will fish it out.

I can’t wait to review all of the best works from 2018!!!

Beware the False Gods of Capitalism: A Letter to My Son

“The gods of capitalism and the gods of Mormonism are nothing but different faces of the same lie. And I would have you serve neither.”

Adapted from a letter written to my fourteen-year-old son.

Dear Son,

A few weeks ago, I texted asking for ideas for Christmas gifts for you. You suggested over-the-ear headphones. You may have noticed that I didn’t get you those, and I want to tell you why. As your mother, I felt like this year, it was more important to give you something that you need, rather than something that you want. As someone who has known and loved you since before you were born, I want to share some lessons I have learned in life.

The first and most important lesson is this: the idea that anything or anyone in this world can be separated from anything else is an illusion. Think about it. Everything in the universe was once compacted into a space smaller than the head of a pin. And we are part of that universe, part of that stuff that went flying through space, coalescing, heating, compacting, exploding, spreading, compacting again, evolving, becoming, decaying, renewing, again and again. There are no closed systems in our world. Harm in one part of our world reverberates throughout the entire system.

The illusion of separation, the convenient lie that if I don’t see it, I neither affect nor am affected by it, is the cause of most of our world’s suffering, human and otherwise. There is a prevalent mindset in our society that we have the right to never be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable by someone else. This attitude is particularly prevalent among people who have never experienced poverty and its accompanying inconveniences and discomforts. But it is an illusion, and it is this illusion that you must shatter, because at its extreme, people who believe that they are entitled to never be inconvenienced or uncomfortable grow up to be Donald Trump.

As I’ve gotten older, I have become so much less patient with lies and illusions. I was raised in a religion of lies. My parents believed and taught me these lies. I grew up in a community where almost everyone around me believed in these lies. When I became an adult, I started to question what I’d been taught. I left those beliefs behind and started developing my own beliefs, my own ways of relating to the world. My parents still believe these lies, so much so that they are spending all of what little money they’ve managed to save throughout their lives on continuing the spread of these lies. Some people never wake up.

We live in a country and an economy built upon lies. You are taught these lies in school, and almost everyone around you believes them. These are some of those lies: “People generally get what they earn and deserve. Those who have money worked for it and deserve to have it. We live in a free market economy, and those who don’t have money could easily get some with just a little hard work. They have no one to blame but themselves. Having money is evidence of someone’s merit and goodness. Those who have money have earned it. Those who don’t have money must not have earned it and don’t deserve to be helped. We have a right to acquire and hoard as much as we want, without any obligation to help those who have less. After all, if we have it, that must mean that we earned it and deserve it, and that they didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it. We live in a free country, and that’s what freedom means: the right to accumulate money without limits, the right to look out for myself and only myself, the right to not have to care what happens to others, the right to not share, the right to be left alone.”

We Americans treasure and violently guard our supposed freedom-to-acquire more than any other liberty. The United States has been extracting wealth from the rest of the world with military force since before it was officially a country, beginning with the land theft and genocide of the Native Americans. We currently have 800 military bases outside of our own borders. No other nation even comes close to maintaining that kind of a global military presence. The closest runners up are Russia, Britain, and France, who each have less than ten bases outside their countries. Some historians argue that we are already in the midst of what later generations will look back on as World War III. We have been involved in dozens of global conflicts, continuously, since before you were born. Why are we engaged in this killing and destruction around the world? Are we protecting freedom? If we’re talking about the freedom of corporations to continue profiting, acquiring, and hoarding without limits, then yes. But if we’re talking about the freedom of ordinary people to live lives of dignity, to have available to them the resources of life to which they should be entitled as organisms of this planet, then our military serves the exact opposite purpose. I worry that the wars that have been smoldering mostly unnoticed for years now may soon erupt into a recognized and officially declared war. I worry that the draft may be reinstated. I worry that you and your younger brother may be called up, drafted, sent to the front lines to kill and be killed to protect corporate profits. I will not stand by idle and silent while that happens. That’s why Mom always goes on and on about this stuff. The gods of capitalism and the gods of Mormonism are nothing but different faces of the same lie. And I would have you serve neither.

Greed has become the ruling principle of our society. Me first. The term our culture uses to describe this phenomenon is “individualism.” Individualism is held up as something to be admired, but it is another name for the illusion of separateness. It is another lie. You appear to have succumb to this lie, and this is not surprising, nor is it your fault. It is what you have observed in the behavior of those around you, in your dad’s family and in your culture. It is what you have been taught, both explicitly and implicitly. And it is a difficult illusion to shatter, because it offers so much comfort. How convenient to be able to manipulate the world around you to never encounter anyone or anything unpleasant or inconvenient, and how appealing to believe that it is your right to do so. Most people do not wake from this illusion unless difficult life circumstances force them to confront the world as it really is. My hope is that you can begin to wake up before such a jolt hits you.

The antidote to greed is connection. It’s understanding and empathy. It’s recognizing that despite external appearances of difference, we truly are all part of the same whole. That we are all from the same stuff, All One, is scientific fact, not just some hippie-dippy fantasy. We, the human race, and we, the rest of life, energy, and matter on this planet. We all belong to and are responsible for each other. And so instead of a gadget to fortify your illusion of isolation, I got you a book by a woman from a culture different from your own. I didn’t expect you to be fascinated with it, and that’s alright. I am planting a seed for now.

You are an intelligent and sensitive young man. From the time you were little, you’ve had an open and loving heart. Some of that sweetness seems to have been clouded over recently with some of the distractions of teenagehood, electronic and otherwise. You’re trying out different identities, trying to figure out who you are, and I think some obscuring of your true self is normal. I know that at your core, that open, loving heart is still there. You perhaps haven’t had as many opportunities to develop your heart as your mind and body, but it is just as important; it is all part of the whole, and one part can’t function fully without the others. Practice caring for others. Practice opening and connecting. Practice developing your heart.

I love you. I want the best for you. No matter what, I’m always here for you.

Love,

Mom

 

Leah Elliott lives in North Carolina with her partner, children, and stepchildren.

Collecting nominations for X-Mormon of the Year 2018!!!

X-Mormon-2018-300x223 Hey folks — it’s that time of year again! Time to decide which X-Mormon made the biggest splash in 2018!!

Sorry to be getting started a little late this year — maybe it’s just that the likeliest candidate has never been more obvious. I’m not going to say who I’m thinking of, because I hope you have some other ideas to give this candidate some competition. 😀

I will just say that — as always — getting excommunicated during the year in question is not a requirement… but it doesn’t hurt!

Please post all your nominations below for the X-Mormon who made the biggest splash in 2018!! Thanks, and I look forward to your nominations!

Joseph Smith as Peeping Tom

by “Faraday”

keyhole

This essay hopes to solve a great mystery: the origins of the naked part of the endowment.

The mystery

Most people know that the signs and tokens of the temple come from Freemasons. And the Adam and Eve part comes from the book of Genesis. But where do the washings and anointings come from?

The lost ceremony

In modern temples, “washings and anointings” refer to applying oil to the head, water to the feet, etc. These are like Biblical practices: kings had their heads anointed with oil, and Jesus famously washed his apostles’ feet. And in the 1836 predecessor to the endowment Joseph Smith did just that: washed feet and anointed heads. (The report also refers to “washing” but that seems to refer to washing their hands etc.). But from 1842 there was another part: you had to get stark naked, with a bathtub! Where did that come from?

Let’s get naked!

Most people don’t know that until the early 20th century, the “washing” required you to stand there naked, with no towel to cover you. Then you got in a bath: this was no symbolic dab of water, your whole body got washed! Here is one of those bathtubs, from the Salt Lake temple in 1911, courtesy of Wikipedia.

tub_Salt_Lake_1911

In modern times the “washing” is fully clothed and takes about a minute. In fact the whole endowment session, including all ordinances, is over in a couple of hours. But in 1842 it took pretty much all day. For example, when you were finally given underwear you were left sitting on your own for an hour or so (in the version described in the Naked Mormonism podcast). And it was a lot weirder: originally there were no washings for the dead: you only did it for yourself. So your first time was your only time. And this was the days before electric lights: this was a time of shadows, real blood oaths backed by real Danites, belief in all kinds of supernatural things. Getting naked and having someone wash you was just icing on the weirdness cake.

Where did the weird naked stuff come from? One clue is that the endowment is all about the priesthood. We are endowed with power to become kings, and kings are strictly male. So in the 1836 version it was all male. But in 1842 Joseph decided that women should be allowed in. And the ceremony should involve getting naked. Coincidence?

Naked endowments and Peeping Toms

It should be obvious to anyone that a naked bathing ceremony is a Peeping Tom’s dream.

“While the temple ceremony encouraged reverence and decorum, Brigham Young complained that church members sometimes peeked through partitions to observe others being endowed.” (source)

The peeping problem is so obvious, that only Peeping Toms would want a naked ceremony. So where did the idea come from?

The naked ceremony cannot be traced to Freemasonry. And it cannot be traced to anointing kings and washing feet: foot washing was about being humble, and head anointing was about becoming a king. But the naked washing was abut being promised health and strength. It’s just a different concept. We might try to trace it to baptism, except baptism is a completely different concept too and a separate ordinance. Just where did the naked bathing ceremony come from?

The revelation on polygamy

The endowment is closely linked to polygamy: it was invented to bind people in oaths of secrecy, and polygamy at the time was the biggest secret of all. So to understand the endowment we need to understand polygamy. The key text is Doctrine and Covenants 132, and the key passage is verse 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”

What was “the case of Uriah and his wife”? David spied on Bathsheba while she was bathing. David then sent her husband Uriah away to war, so that David could have Bathsheba for himself.

Marc-Chagall-David-and-Bathsheba

You might wonder how David came to be spying on Bathsheba bathing? This was because David owned the palace and temple, the highest buildings in Jerusalem. Everybody else had small houses. The women could bathe on their roofs for privacy. But David, in his office at the top of his castle, could see them all, and choose any he wanted. As long as Nathan approved.

Modern readers often skim over the “Uriah and his wife” passage without realising its significance. In Joseph’s day the Bible was far better known than it is now. The Uriah story was one of the best known stories of all: the fall of king David! A story of drama, sex, violence, reversals, it has everything! When talking polygamy, this is the most famous example of all! And in those almost-Puritan times, when seeing a woman’s ankle could make a man horny, imagine how this story stayed in a man’s mind. King David could stand on his balcony and see every woman, naked! And then choose to bed the ones he wanted! For a man like Joseph, that idea would tend to crowd out all others. Once referenced it would tend to stay in the mind, no matter what else was being discussed.

Modern readers also tend to forget what Joseph means when he said polygamy, or some aspect of it, was a sin. For years Joseph had been saying “spiritual wifery” was a sin while practising “celestial marriage.” To outsiders they look like exactly the same thing. But Joseph had to reassure his followers that he would never do anything like that. Until he was found out of course. So when Joseph says the Uriah’s wife episode was a terrible sin, that does not mean he would not do it. It just means it was on his mind, and he wanted to reassure followers that he would never spy on their wives in their baths. Oh no sir. Definitely not. Meanwhile, Joseph was planning a new ceremony that involved naked wives and bathtubs…

In the revelation Joseph says this was the only time David sinned. Why was it a sin? 2 Samuel 12 explains:

“The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. ‘Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’ David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'”

Note the analogy with the traveler and the rich and poor man. The sin was not in taking the lamb, but in being an asshole about it. In ancient times it was good to give your very best to a weary traveler. Clearly this lamb was the best, so yes, the rich man should have taken it. But he should have made a deal with the poor man: explained the situation and offered him ten sheep in return.

Joseph learned from David’s mistake. Joseph did not simply take women by force, like a rapist. The endowment was designed to first get people totally on board with whatever Joseph needed, and to promise them eternal riches in return. Then if people disobey and need to have their throats slit it’s their own choice. The endowment solves the Uriah problem.

I wonder if Joseph saw other parallels between himself and David. The previous year Joseph had sent Orson Hyde away on a mission so he could marry Orson’s wife. And the new endowment ceremony threatened death to any followers who did not accept Joseph’s way. And Joseph previously created the Danites, showing that he was serious about the death threats.

Finally, note that only a prophet (like Nathan) could decide which wives were justified and which were sinful. Luckily, Joseph was himself the prophet. Even luckier, Joseph was also the king. Well, technically the mayor of Nauvoo, but on 11 April 1844 the Council of Fifty declared him “our Prophet, Priest & King.” So if Joseph the king saw a woman and wanted her, it was not a sin as long as Joseph the prophet approved.

Seers and peeping

Joseph was a seer. He saw stuff. He told us “a seer is greater than a prophet”. Joseph began as a glass looker, a scryer, a peep-stone user. His whole schtick was that he could see things that are hidden. Whenever God or nature had ordained that thing was hidden (far away, or buried in the earth, or lost to history), Joseph could pull aside the veil and have a good old look.

Scrying, or seeing, explains everything. For example, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a classic example: a spirit guards buried gold, Joseph with his peep stone finds it, and on the night of the autumnal equinox the spirit gives it up. All of Mormonism is about seeing hidden things: spirits and angels and plates and translations that others cannot see.

Nothing can be hidden from a seer. Using a peepstone or crystal ball, or other means, they can see what they are not supposed to see, and nobody else will know.

crystal-ball

And what did Joseph look for the most, throughout his life? Apart from gold? He looked for women! As Grant Palmer (“Insider’s View”) reminded us, Joseph was accused of sexually harassing women in every single place he lived. Joseph just loved to see women’s private parts, and if possible then show them his. Leonora Cannon Taylor writes about one of Joseph’s chat up lines:

“…I had many tryals about this time [May-Sep 1843, when Joseph made polygamy public and began naked washing] but I am yet alive, “ [Her next diary entry reads] “Come Joseph Don’t be filling that up with balderdash, ‘how is your garden this year I’ll show you some summer apples my lady’ O Dear.” (source)

I am sure that readers can work out what Joseph meant by the lady’s “garden” and his “summer apples”. A lady’s “garden” is a well known euphemism. And Joseph’s “summer apples”? Apples are harvested in the Fall: summer apples are about the size of very large cherries, and summer is the time to play. If you get my meaning. No wonder Leonora’s reaction was “O Dear”.

As Leonora’s case shows, not all of the women agreed to show Joseph their gardens. This must have been extremely frustrating to him. Until one day Joseph received a revelation of how every single one of his friends’ wives could be naked before him. And specifically have their private parts touched. What an inspired idea!

Sacred ceremonies, including naked ceremonies, had to be performed exactly right. So the prophet, the seer, had to be able to see everything, including the naked part, whenever he wanted. But there was a problem with that. Joseph still remembered that time he saw Mirinda Johnson’s “garden”. And Mirinda’s brother Eli found out. Eli and his friends tarred and feathered Joseph, the mob screamed for Joseph’s castration, and he only barely escaped. That was a close call! Another problem was Joseph’s wife Emma. She had caught him in the barn with one of his lady friends. Another time when she found out about his extra-curricular gardening she kicked the other lady down the stairs. For some reason Emma was not convinced that polygamy was divine, despite God’s clear statement that Emma would be destroyed if she did not let Joseph have any women he wanted. Why couldn’t Emma understand?

Clearly Joseph had to be able to spy on the ceremony without anyone knowing. Not even Emma. Especially not Emma. But how?

A temple designed for a Peeping Tom

Let’s look at the endowment in general. The “Naked Mormonism” podcast shows how it was designed to disorient the woman. It was confusing, scary, full of strangeness and shadows and starting with nakedness, designed to make her feel helpless. The whole point was to get her to a state where she would bow her head and say “yes” to anything.

Now let’s look at the temple that was designed around the endowment. The Nauvoo temple was built for the endowment and has some interesting differences from the Kirtland temple. The Kirtland temple had its own pre-endowment elements (preaching, washing of feet, anointing of heads) but no naked women. The Nauvoo temple was “Kirtland plus naked women”. Can you see the difference?

temples

The difference is the offices. (And the baptistry, to get people used to the idea of bathing.) Pay special attention to the top floor. Naturally you would expect washings to take place in the basement, where the water was, right? Yet Joseph wanted the washing to take place on the top floor. When Joseph died, Brigham Young changed it to the bottom floor like any sensible person:

“Earlier in 1842 there had been suggestions that the upper story of the temple will when finished be used for the ritual purposes, but at the beginning of 1845 Brigham Young decided that upon each side of the font there will be a suite of rooms fitted up for the washings and also in the recesses on each side of the arch on the first story.” (Weeks, p.351)

Why use the cramped and inconvenient upper floor? One obvious reason is that there are no windows there. But look at the design. Despite having less space, the sides are lined with offices. This is where Joseph would do his work, or wait for his time in the ceremony. In other words, when the women (and men) are naked, Joseph would be just a few feet away behind a door. And for the new washing ceremony to be correct, Joseph had to be able to peep from his office whenever he wanted. Whether he used a keyhole, curtain, or crack in the door is anyone’s guess. But his offices had to be on the same floor as the naked women, and close enough to see every detail of what was happening. Because these sacred ordinances had to be done right!

One problem with the “temple designed for a Peeping Tom” theory might be that Joseph planned the temple in 1841, a year before he got the full Masonic treatment and decided naked women could be involved. But the inside design of the temple was not finalised until after Joseph decided he wanted naked women naked women. The design of the temple, like everything else Joseph invented, was constantly changing:

“Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois gained the impression from Mormons themselves that their temple was commenced without any previous plan and that the master builder from day to day during the progress of its erection received directions immediately from heaven as to the plan of the building. […] temple plans remained
general and fluid no complete plans being presented at any one time. […] changes in temple details from first drawings to final building were dramatic” (Weeks, pp 341-2)

In particular, the interior arrangements (and whether the offices were close enough to the flesh for him to see anything) were still being tweaked right up to the end:

“During April another visitor learned that the interior plan is yet undecided upon or rather the prophet has not received a revelation in regard to the interior arrangements. In June [1844] the prophet informed others that the temples interior structure and arrangement had not been decided on.”(Weeks, pp.347-348)

If these were just ordinary offices for ordinary business why would he care? Why not leave that part to the architect? And why put them on the same floor as the ceremony, squashed next to the naked people, unless being squashed together was the whole point?

Conclusion: the “wife of Uriah” principle

Here, then, are all the elements of the new naked bathing ceremony:

  1. A woman bathes naked. (And men, but the scripture focuses on the woman.)
  2. The king is in his office at the top of his palace, where he might “accidentally” see the bathing.
  3. The king then chooses the best polygamous wife.
  4. This is approved of God as long as all parties agree first, e.g. by being promised great rewards (in heaven)

If this is not the source of the naked bathing ceremony, please provide a better known source from the same general period. Study the Freemasons’ books. Study the Bible. I can wait.

Of course, we do not have video proof of what Joseph did. All we know is that he would be on the other side of a door or curtain while his friends’ wives got naked. Maybe he never peeped? Sure…

 

Sources

The original temple ceremony
(Part 2, the woman’s perspective)
Joseph Smith’s history of chasing women
(part 2)
Polygamy timeline
Endowment timeline
William Weeks, Architect of the Nauvoo Temple
Polygamy diaries etc.
Tarring, feathering, and almost-castration