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Radio Free Mormon: 172: A Bad Defense is the Worst Offense Part 3

Today concludes RFM’s discussion with Jonathan Streeter on the subject of Joseph Smith’s polygamy–and the lengths some apologists will go to in order to try and justify it!


14 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 172: A Bad Defense is the Worst Offense Part 3”

  1. For what it’s worth, I too thought “legal and lawful” sounded like the remnants of the redundant, verbose jargon that was common in days past, but modern legal professionals eschew. As a classic example, folks should see D&C 132:7.

    I would have failed that question too.

  2. Did I hear you imply that 50 year old women could not be sexually desirable? (About 20 minutes in.) That is wrong for so many reasons!

    Even if we only judge by superficial and mainstream appearances…

    1. Recall how five minutes earlier you discussed contraception. You pointed out that people in the past knew a thing or two. Well, the same argument applies to makeup and skin care. True, cosmetics were not quite as advanced, but the average woman in the 1840s had a more active life: so more slim, toned bodies. Natural variation and picking those with money does the rest: some fifty year olds will have been extremely attractive.

    2. The scary photographs? You would be scary too if you had to sit still for ages while primitive photographic plates were exposed, if you consequently had very little experience of being photographed, and if you had a completely different set of cultural expectations and fashions. Even supermodels can look scary in the wrong context.

    3. Power. The whole point of a harem, the thing that is sexually attractive, is power. Where is the power in persuading a weak and impressionable young person? But persuading the wife of your best friend, the most admired and important women in town? THAT is power. (Or so I imagine.)

    4. Variety of age and experience. Sure, 16 year olds might be the first choice, but after three or four of them, even Casanova will be looking for something more.

    5. Not everybody is shallow. For some people, a good mind and personality is the sexiest thing.

    6. Availability. This can work both ways. Some fifty year olds will seem unattainable, and thus more desirable. Others will be more attainable, more convenient and comfortable, without all the hassle of a teenagers parents (and possible tarring and feathering). They might even be star struck by the attention and eager to please, which is very good for the ego.

    7. Less risk. Teenagers have limited experience, so you don’t know what you’re getting for your investment. But with a town of thousands, and a network of gossip, Joseph would soon learn which older women might have a reputation or unusual tastes. He could pick just the ones to suit his needs.

    I’m not saying this is all moral or admirable. But there are many reasons to find a fifty year old woman attractive, regardless of Niepce’s plates.

    And the fact that I am in my fifties and recently remarried (very happily) does not factor into my opinion at all. 🙂

    1. Oh, geez, Chris! Now you’re going to chap my hide for what I said about why it was Joseph Smith married women twenty years older than he was?

      First, I did NOT say that fifty-year old women are not desirable. In fact, I BETTER not say that if I don’t want to be sleeping on the couch tonight!

      All I was saying is that this is one possible reason for Joseph to marry older women as a cover for the much younger women he was really interested in.

      But maybe Joseph was really interested in the older women and the teenage brides were the cover.

      Or any one of the other likely possibilities you list could be the reason.

      Now to my main point–I am talking with Jonathan Streeter extempore and off the cuff. I am going to say some things that maybe I wouldn’t say if I planned it all out in advance.

      Remember that comment I made to John Dehlin about people not wanting wizards? I knew that was wrong as soon as I said it. I would never have said it if I had planned it out. Because I don’t even believe it is true when I have the time to reflect on it.

      The thing is this–if I am going to be watching my every word to make sure I don’t say something off, I am not going to have the freedom I need to say all the brilliant, funny stuff I say that is right on.

      Does that make sense?

      I feel you are being tongue-in-cheek with your chiding and you are being good natured about the whole thing, and I appreciate that.

      But I want to post this not only for you, but so that everybody who listens to me and potentially takes umbrage at something I may say that is a bit “off” will hopefully extend me some charity and realize I am just making this stuff up as I go along in such impromptu and unrehearsed conversations with Jonathan Streeter, as well as John Dehlin.

      I try my best not to give offense. I am not always successful.

      (If you are offended by something I say in a podcast, imagine how church leaders feel when they listen!)

      It’s like Kurt Russell says in “Big Trouble in Little China”:

      “Sooner or later I rub everybody the wrong way.”

      Thanks to you, Chris, and everybody who takes the time to listen to my podcast!

      I appreciate you all!


  3. My question: If marrying underage children like 14 and 15 was so normal, why did Joseph wait until the day after her 18 birthday for the shame wedding? I mean if soooooo many people were getting married that young at in that time, why wait?

    My take: They really were not and it was NOT normal.

    1. Short answer: It was not normal.

      Apologists try to justify Joseph Smith marrying such young girls (of 14 and 15) as the norm, and then cite to abnormal statistics in order to justify it.

      In other word, they try to make the exception look like the rule.

      But I always think in this context of Edgar Allen Poe, who raised quite the scandal at the same time period by marrying his 13-year old cousin.

      Now was it because she was his cousin, or because she was thirteen?

      Similarly, we might ask about Joseph whether the scandal was because it was a polygamous marriage, or because some were as young as fourteen?

      Either way, the marriage of a man of Joseph Smith’s years with a girl of Helen Mar Kimball’s years was not the norm.

      Not in the 1840s.

      Not in Illinois.

      It is just another example of the lengths apologists will go to in order to justify Joseph’s practice of polygamy.

      At least that’s my opinion.


  4. RFM…..If an historian is supposed to gather records and discern the most probable truth, then Brian Hales is fired! I know history can be quite subjective, but Hales has a MASSIVE conflict of interest. He has zero credibility.

    Having him explain Joseph Smith is like having a corrupt police force do their own internal investigation.

    Here’s why…I liken the bias Hales has with Joseph Smith and the church to the codependant relationship a woman has with an abusive alcoholic husband. Stay with me on this…….

    Joseph is the selfish, entitled, boorish, loose cannon alcoholic addict who runs havoc on everyone around him, using up all the resources and room. He leaves a trail of heartache and wreckage in the wake of his insanity and expects everyone to fall into line with his crazy destructive insatiable compulsions.

    He goes out on the town with the friday pay check and drinks himself into delirium and comes home angry and stumbling, puking all over the living room , smashing into things and scaring his family.

    Hales is the wife who finally gets him tucked into bed while she spends the rest of the night cleaning up after him, erasing any evidence of his raging rampage and damage….nevermind the years of abuse she continues to suffer at his hands.

    She is protecting herself as much as anyone from the truth of her marriage. Part of that denial involves constructing excuses for her husbands behaviour which she NEVER confronts him about.

    The next day, she acts as if everything is fine and if someone notices that a lamp is broken or something is askew, she comes up with the explanations and excuses for her husband, ever shielding him from any kind of accountably.

    Why does she do this????….because she doesn’t think she can make it alone without him…his abuse has her psychologically and emotionally dependant on him, convinced that she is nothing without him….its classic

    Brian Hales cannot break up with Joseph Smith or the mormon church for the same reason.

    After listening to his mental contortions, I honestly don’t know who is sicker, Brian Hales or Joseph Smith.

    1. Dear Angie,

      I have previously heard the comparison of the LDS Church acting like an abusive spouse (or parent), but never have I heard anybody express the idea so eloquently.

      You do a masterful job!

      I hope to find time in an upcoming episode to read this comment in its entirety.

      Thanks so much for sharing it!


  5. First to Chris….thank you. I’m 57 and my husband finds me very sexy. He is younger than me not by much but he is.
    I agree with Angie…again.
    The argument of using the bible as any sort of precident….1% of the males mentioned by name in the bible were polygamous. 3000 men with names and 33 were polygamous…..never is polygamy sanctioned by god. Any time god speaks about it he says not to…Sarah and Abram showed total lack of faith in regards to the Hagar thing. They were told the TWO of them would have a baby, they both laughed and proceeded with Hagar and what about that? Sarah does have a baby and Hagar and son are driven off. God has to fix screw up by man, no pun intended. ….Wedding sealings. Where are they in the bible? Oh yea, they’re not. No such thing. Smith reads in Colossians about a holy sealing of promise and uses it to extort many people….The civil laws from Moses’ time are just that, civil. So nothing in the ceremonial laws. Nothing in the moral laws and a bunch of manmade civil laws And my favorite…Jesus comes along, law fulfilled and done away with so any fall back to a bible presidence is laughable. Now show me anywhere Jesus says what Joseph Smith started and was carried on by subsequent “prophets” is of Him?
    You guessed it…Smith was a bad man who has caused the suffering of many, many people. I love when Jonathan points out how Joseph Smith is like these cult leaders that turn the stomach.
    So once again it’s easy to show the carnal nature of LDS founder.

    1. Thanks for your comments, K!

      For the record (thanks, Chris!) I find my fiancee very sexy, and she is right around your age range, K.

      Mormons have traditionally had to go to the Old Testament to justify their practice of plural marriage, while simultaneously trying to distinguish what Jesus seems to have said on the subject of marriage in heaven.

      This may be one of the reasons Joseph presented as needing to restore all things from all previous dispensations; that would take into account the Old Testament as well as the New.

      I have talked on the phone with at least two people (one of them a man) who told me they had to turn off the podcast at some point because it was making them so sick and/or furious.

      Although I don’t want to discourage people from listening to the podcast, I think it is a good thing if this subject arouses such feelings.

      Predatory and coercive practices such as the ones Jonathan Streeter and I discuss should cause us to feel sick and furious!

      Which once again gives me a window into what must have been going on in the minds and hearts of the Whitney family while this was actually transpiring.

  6. I always find it curious that discussions like this that touch on the question of whether or not Joseph Smith had seen with his concubines – I mean, plural wives – don’t talk about Brigham Young. There’s enough grey area and missing information that one can defend most any perspective regarding Smith. But the added context of Young’s polygamous behavior provides a very strong argument that his mentor wasn’t completely different. The burden off proof shifts signing, in my view, especially for Brighamite Mormons.

    1. It is interesting, as you point out, Matthew, that while some Mormon apologists will twist like a pretzel to say Joseph Smith didn’t have sex with any of his plural wives, they don’t blink an eye at Brigham Young doing so.

      Good point!

    2. This time without the auto-corrupt typos…. I always find it curious that discussions like this that touch on the question of whether or not Joseph Smith had sex with his concubines – I mean, plural wives – don’t talk about Brigham Young. There’s enough gray area and missing information that one can defend most any perspective regarding Smith. But the added context of Young’s polygamous behavior provides a very strong argument that his mentor wasn’t completely different. The burden of proof shifts significantly, in my view, especially for Brighamite Mormons.

  7. Rfm, I know it is not orthodox critical Mormon thought, but I noticed that in the Joseph smith papers this Sarah Whitney document is created around 1870. As you know, contemporary evidence is not everything, but we are still left with only the Expositor and John C Bennett as publishers of evidence of polygamy in Joseph’s lifetime. The volume of the later evidence is convincing, but it all comes from members who lied for more than a decade, from 1840-1852, in denying polygamy. Why are those witnesses credible? The Temple Lot Judge did not accept them.
    Or are we just accepting that part of the Church’s essays, while in the same breath acknowledging the breadth of dissembling by the Church, because it is seen as an admission against interest? Is it really against interest? There is no possibility of denying Brigham’s polygamy. So isn’t attributing it to Joseph making the best of a bad practice?

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