Is Warren Jeffs really that different from Joseph Smith?
Jeffs, after staying quiet during his trial, opened up to the courtroom yesterday on the matter of his having raped a 12-year-old and impregnating a 15-year old. He blathered for almost an hour, like he was sermonizing. He said,
You are now touching that which is sacred.
This must cease.
If we do not live these laws we are damned here and hereafter. We believe in a marriage system of eternity called celestial marriage, wherein celestial means heavenly authorized, not to be intervened by government intervention.
Although many mainstream news outlets use words like “repudiated” when referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and polygamy, we know that the US Congress in the 1890s had to threaten to confiscate the Church’s temples in order to get the Church to end polygamy. The Church stopped because it absolutely had to, not because it came upon a kind of epiphany on the matter.
Mormons today follow the rules about who qualifies as an adult and are for marriage as the union of “one man and one woman.” But it’s not hard to imagine Jeffs as a Joseph Smith-like person caught in the 21st century.
The Church has had difficulty with the public associating it with polygamy. Perhaps church leaders are happy to see Jeffs on trial, thinking this is one more nail in the coffin of Mormon polygamy. I think, however, that Mormonism will always have to deal with polygamy, beginning within its own ranks. I have to wonder how many Mormons who bear their testimonies about Smith as a true prophet really know that much about him.
(Btw, if folks want to list all the ways that Jeffs and Smith are indeed different, then I’m all for that.)