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milipedefantasies

friend warry of LDS because it was founded by a pedophile?

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I'm not LDS but have a few family members who are. Was hanging out with a friend and they started going off about how Joseph Smith was a child sexual predator and married someone who was 14 and started the whole religion because he wanted to have sex with multiple women. I don't really have a response to this because I don't know if it's true or not.

What are your thoughts?

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My thoughts:  Of course those accusations are untrue.  Stuff like this can only be countered with facts.  And facts have to be known before they can be used.  I suggest you read up on church history.

Here's a fine place to start - Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days.

Happy learning!

Edited by NeuroTypical

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My thoughts -- and I don't know that they are coherent, because I'm not sure how well I understand the whole issue.

1) How are we defining pedophilia? Some say that a rigorous definition is "sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children". Others (especially in the 21st century) will tie it to age of consent or age of majority. The two most prominent "very young" of Joseph's wives are Helen Mar Kimball (married at 14) and Fanny Alger (16). Among Joseph's plural wives were a few rather young (by 21st century standards -- remember that age of consent when it existed in the 19th century was much younger than age of consent in our day) women.

2) Why use inflammatory words like "pedophilia" for this? The topic is difficult enough as it is, without "alleged trolls" entering the discussion brandishing inflammatory words like "pedophile" and claims that Joseph did it all for sexual conquest and such. Brandishing such language often indicates that the "troll" (alleged) is more interested in a fight than in honest discussion of a difficult topic.

3) I agree with @NeuroTypical that a study of history is the place to start. The "Saints" series is well written. In addition, there are several (like Brian and Linda Hales) who have done a lot of research into the Church's 19th century practice of polygamy. Someone who honestly wants to understand -- even if they end up judging that Joseph was "wrong" to implement and practice polygamy the way he id -- will be well served to study the history. Find out what is known, what is not known, and which allegations cannot be proven/disproven with the current evidences.

Without delving into the details of the discussion, those are my initial thoughts. It can be a difficult topic that can easily turn into an ugly fight. I think most of us on this forum are not interested in an ugly fight, if that is the only reason for bringing up the topic. For someone who really wants to understand, there is a lot that has been written from a lot of different viewpoints, and some of it is difficult -- especially to our 21st century sensibilities.

Edited by MrShorty

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10 hours ago, milipedefantasies said:

I'm not LDS but have a few family members who are. Was hanging out with a friend and they started going off about how Joseph Smith was a child sexual predator and married someone who was 14 and started the whole religion because he wanted to have sex with multiple women. I don't really have a response to this because I don't know if it's true or not.

What are your thoughts?

I'm puzzled why you would ask this question.  You ask about the origins of our faith which we hold in high esteem and you thought we'd say anything other than,"No, that's incorrect."

Well.  No, that's incorrect.  He was not a pedophile. And he founded the Church under the direction of God.  We have come to realize this truth.  We have had this testimony confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost.  Joseph was a boy who simply wanted to know the truth.  God answered that prayer.

We are now the beneficiaries of his question to the Almighty.  We have blessings from the Lord to guide us and direct us each day to do what is right, to stand as a witness of Christ in all times and in all places.

I know this to be true.  I know that Christ lives.  I know that He has redeemed us from death and hell.  And salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.

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10 hours ago, MrShorty said:

2) Why use inflammatory words like "pedophilia" for this? The topic is difficult enough as it is, without "alleged trolls" entering the discussion brandishing inflammatory words like "pedophile" and claims that Joseph did it all for sexual conquest and such. Brandishing such language often indicates that the "troll" (alleged) is more interested in a fight than in honest discussion of a difficult topic.

Troll or not (and I'm thinking this is a troll), he or she is just parroting what many (perhaps even most) conservative Christians say about Joseph Smith. Pedophile and heretic are the most common adjectives I have heard both on Christian forums and elsewhere (such as in some churches).  On CARM for example it was rare to try and have a conversation about Joseph Smith without someone bringing up pedophile.

That's one reason I post here instead of on Christian forums now days. 

Edited by Scott

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21 hours ago, milipedefantasies said:

I'm not LDS but have a few family members who are. Was hanging out with a friend and they started going off about how Joseph Smith was a child sexual predator and married someone who was 14 and started the whole religion because he wanted to have sex with multiple women. I don't really have a response to this because I don't know if it's true or not.

What are your thoughts?

Factually untrue and an extremely poorly formed argument I'e seeded used by low-quality anti's way too many times.  

 

 

As to what to do with your friend: a person can choose to be educated & respectful of people, or they can choose to be uneducated fool going off on random rants.  

It's your friend's choice as to what he wants to be.  It's also your own choice as to what you yourself want to be.   

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12 hours ago, MrShorty said:

1) How are we defining pedophilia? Some say that a rigorous definition is "sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children".

This is the accurate definition. Everything else is inflammatory. I encounter men who struggle with this awful attraction. It's a horrific cross to bear. The dating/marrying of younger teenagers is odd to us, but was relatively common throughout the 19th century. I'm certainly no expert on LDS history--not even a member. However, I'm not aware that even the strongest critics of the church argue that Joseph Smith had relations with prepubescent children.

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34 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

However, I'm not aware that even the strongest critics of the church argue that Joseph Smith had relations with prepubescent children.

Really?  

They do it all the time, especially conservative Christians.

Have you ever been on any non-LDS Christain forums where our church is discussed?

You might not do it, but a huge number of other conservative Christians certainly do.

Even conservative Christian church leaders do it.  

I'll even give you a name, address, phone number, and website of a church (I used to live up the hill from the church) who I know has done this:

https://www.google.com/search?q=baptist+church+craig+colorado&oq=bap&aqs=chrome.1.69i59l2j69i57j69i60l2.2887j0j4&client=ms-android-verizon&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#trex=m_t:lcl_akp,rc_f:rln,rc_ludocids:12796055084085710007

I don't know if the church has the same leadership as they did before though.

They also used to show Godmakers in that very church (and maybe they still do).

Also, just visit the CARM website (supposedly the largest Christian apologetic website there is) and go to the "Mormonism" forum.  I dare you to find more than one day in a row where you can't find a post accusing Joseph Smith as being a pedophile.

Edited by Scott

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1 minute ago, Scott said:

Really?  

They do it all the time, especially conservative Christians.

Have you ever been on any non-LDS Christain forums where our church is discussed?

You might not do it, but a huge number of other conservative Christians certainly do.

Even conservitice Christian church leaders do it.  

I think PC is drawing a distinction between a critic directly saying that Smith had relations with pubescent children, versus a critic carelessly throwing around terms like “pedophile”.

As to the OP’s primary issue about whether Smith founded a religion as a means of procuring multiple sexual partners:  the most plausible secular explanation for the Book of Mormon’s origin constitutes a massive conspiracy between Smith in Pennsylvania, and accomplices in both New York and Ohio.  It would have been *far* easier—and ultimately safer—for JS to move to New York City or Philadelphia or Pittsburgh and eke out a living there while availing himself of the cities’ plentiful brothels.

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27 minutes ago, Just_A_Guy said:

I think PC is drawing a distinction between a critic directly saying that Smith had relations with pubescent children, versus a critic carelessly throwing around terms like “pedophile”.

Plenty of critics have directly said that.  I will not link to them.

Instead I will link to FAIR's response to them:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Was_Joseph_Smith's_marriage_to_14-year-old_Helen_Mar_Kimball_indicative_of_"pedophilia"%3F

Edit:  I do not know why posting links isn't working for me.

Here is the first paragraph of the response on FAIR:

Critics of Mormonism claim that Helen Mar Kimball was prepubescent at at 14 at the time that she was sealed to Joseph Smith, and that this is therefore evidence that Joseph was a pedophile. Pedophila describes a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. However, there is no evidence that Helen ever cohabited with or had sexual relations with Joseph - in fact, she continued to live with her parents after the sealing.

I don't know if the marriage was consummated or not, but I do know that a lot of conservative Christians (and probably other ones too) do make accusations of pedophilia and that Helen Kimball was prepubescent.   They put it on their websites.

In fact, I'll PM you some examples.  For good measure, I'll send them to PC too.

Edited by Scott

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54 minutes ago, Scott said:

Plenty of critics have directly said that.  I will not link to them.

Instead I will link to FAIR's response to them:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Was_Joseph_Smith's_marriage_to_14-year-old_Helen_Mar_Kimball_indicative_of_"pedophilia"%3F

Edit:  I do not know why posting links isn't working for me.

Here is the first paragraph of the response on FAIR:

Critics of Mormonism claim that Helen Mar Kimball was prepubescent at at 14 at the time that she was sealed to Joseph Smith, and that this is therefore evidence that Joseph was a pedophile. Pedophila describes a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. However, there is no evidence that Helen ever cohabited with or had sexual relations with Joseph - in fact, she continued to live with her parents after the sealing.

I don't know if the marriage was consummated or not, but I do know that a lot of conservative Christians (and probably other ones too) do make accusations of pedophilia and that Helen Kimball was prepubescent.   They put it on their websites.

In fact, I'll PM you some examples.  For good measure, I'll send them to PC too.

Thanks (and also for the link you sent).  The examples you cite strike me as misuses of the term “[pre]-pubescent”, not as accusations that Smith had approached a child who had not begun puberty (i.e. younger than 11-12).   (Accusations of Smith approaching Mary Rollins in 1831 when she was twelve are problematic first, as you know, because Mary did *not* say Smith approached her about becoming a plural wife in 1831; and second, because when she first met Smith in February 1831 she was already less than two months away from her thirteenth birthday.  Twelve is about the upwards boundary where I’d call any kid “prepubescent”.)

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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11 hours ago, Scott said:

Troll or not (and I'm thinking this is a troll), he or she is just parroting what many (perhaps even most) conservative Christians say about Joseph Smith.

I wish I knew what to do about that, but I don't. Christianity often seems filled with divisions and intolerance for heterodox and heretical viewpoints. I don't know how to get broader Christianity to agree with us or to accept us as a Christian variant or even how to erase other divisions within the body of Christ. Most of the time I just try to focus on myself and let God worry about the rest of Christendom.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

I wish I knew what to do about that, but I don't. Christianity often seems filled with divisions and intolerance for heterodox and heretical viewpoints. I don't know how to get broader Christianity to agree with us or to accept us as a Christian variant or even how to erase other divisions within the body of Christ. Most of the time I just try to focus on myself and let God worry about the rest of Christendom.

To be fair, it's not just Christianity.  Anyone with a strong ideology will tend to look for reasons to criticize opposing points of view.  Sometimes that means completely mischaracterizing the facts.  Sometimes it means flat out lying.  Sometimes that means automatically believing something preposterous without even stopping to think for a moment about how absurd it is.

It all comes down to bias.

Edited by Carborendum

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10 hours ago, Scott said:

Really?  They do it all the time, especially conservative Christians. …

 

What I meant is that these groups do not accuse Joseph Smith of marry girls who have not reached puberty. I wouldn't surprise me if many opponents of your church misuse the word pedophile by applying it to teens.

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@Carborendum You are correct, this is more of an expression of general human nature than something specifically "Christian". It just seems like we as Christians don't necessarily rise above our human nature any more than non-Christians. It just seems disappointing sometimes.

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10 hours ago, Scott said:

Here is the first paragraph of the response on FAIR: Critics of Mormonism claim that Helen Mar Kimball was prepubescent at at 14 at the time that she was sealed to Joseph Smith, and that this is therefore evidence that Joseph was a pedophile.

I'll give you the win on this one. Critics appear to argue the pedophilia by saying Kimball was prepubescent at 14. They're in the weeds--deeply, at this point. Marriages to 14-year-olds are bizarre and abusive to our modern thinking. Right or wrong, they were relatively common back then. FAIR and CARM can argue the nuances...

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12 hours ago, Scott said:

Troll or not (and I'm thinking this is a troll), he or she is just parroting what many (perhaps even most) conservative Christians say about Joseph Smith. Pedophile and heretic are the most common adjectives I have heard both on Christian forums and elsewhere (such as in some churches).  On CARM for example it was rare to try and have a conversation about Joseph Smith without someone bringing up pedophile.

That's one reason I post here instead of on Christian forums now days. 

And atheists like Dawkins too.

That's funny that CARM calls Joseph Smith a pedophile when Christian Apologetics place Mary's age as between 12-14 when she got married to Joseph.

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1 hour ago, MrShorty said:

@Carborendum You are correct, this is more of an expression of general human nature than something specifically "Christian". It just seems like we as Christians don't necessarily rise above our human nature any more than non-Christians. It just seems disappointing sometimes.

Oh, I'd disagree.  I think we do.  But it simply isn't universal.

It just requires a "strong ideological mindset".  Anyone with a weak ideological mindset wouldn't have such tendencies.  But that can happen anywhere: atheism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Chrstianity.  One can even be a strongly ideological agnostic (as oxy-moronic as that may sound, they exist).

On the balance, I'd say that I've known MANY ideological Christians who try to seek after truth more than those of other ideologies.  But it is still the minority.  Just my personal experience, not backed up by any statistical data I'm aware of.

Edited by Carborendum

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Whether they had or had not reached puberty is not what disturbs many of them, it is the suggestion that Joseph Smith married anyone younger than the age of 16. 

There are some LDS publications today that try to state that this was normal during that time period...but in truth, it wasn't actually all that common.  Trying to portray it as that, is rather faulty in some ways.

NOW, before the past decade, before they posted the Church Essays (which I still hold is one of the leading causes of people leaving the church these days, ironically), the Church held that while Joseph had been sealed to several women (and many of them were actually posthumously), he had never actually had marital relations with most of them, including the younger ones.

It was an odd situation as the Brigham Young administration (meaning the groups under Brigham Young in the church, and some would say it was directly under the control or command of Young to do so, though that is pretty questionable in some respects as it worked for and against him legally in the case) tried to prove that Joseph Smith had marital relations with those he had been sealed with.  The testimony of this is called into question when some of those supposed women sealed to him weren't even connected to him until after his passing...

This led to a bunch of unreliable testimonies which, in some cases, it was known, their testimony could not have been true or accurate.  The testimonies happened DECADES after Joseph Smith died, in relation to another stormy court case which is another story in and of itself.  Other testimonies may have been accurate, but are impossible to know whether they were or were not because of the tainting of the false witnesses. 

A fairly interesting situation was one lady who swore her child was that of Joseph Smith's and thus was proof of Joseph having marital relations (at least with that women).  DNA evidence later proved that this group of people had no connection or relation to Joseph Smith through that lady.

Thus, the story is more murky that it appears on the surface, but as I stated, in the past the Church said Joseph was sealed to many, but most he had no marital relationships to in this life.  This was backed up by some of those who actually knew Joseph in real life and was in some ways a common belief held by most Mormon Groups (Mormon not being related specifically to the Church we are a part of, but ALL those who fall under the Mormon umbrella including the RLDS and other groups at the time up until at least late last century).

It was a common anti-Mormon argument on the otherhand to say that Joseph actually HAD marital relationships with those he was sealed to.  The most famous being two girls under the age of 16 as that can offend many a modern conscience in our modern world. 

WHY the church did a recent turn around in the past few years to say that he may have, and to change the dialogue the church had retained for several decades is an enigma.  I don't think it has helped with retention, nor has it helped convert more people.  In fact, I'd say by siding against our former leader's comments (since around the early to mid 1900s to around the 2000s) regarding Joseph Smith's relationships with other women outside his legal wife has actually been part of a harmful degradation where the church held to certain ideas in solid union with other groups against those who would tear down the church and all those associated with it.

Of course, this change can be seen in several areas (not just with his wives) where we have adopted the long toted anti-Mormon ideas rather than rejecting them as we used to.  This creates the difficulties as found I the OP's post.  We, officially, acknowledge the polygamy and that marriages of Joseph were both for eternity only and some were for here as well as sealings, thus such questions as asked above are given more legitimacy...from the gospel topics...

Quote

Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents.10 Little is known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.

Quote

Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary.24 Some of the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith later testified that their marriages were for time and eternity, while others indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone.25

Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.26 Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations.27 After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage.28

plural marriage in kirtland and nauvoo

I note that they (the article on the church site) do not state it was commonly acceptable nor common in this article (and it was not), only that it was legal (and in some areas of the world, it is still legal).  This obviously creates problems for many people today.  This is NOT something I would personally have advocated for the church to present so openly, as people who are in the west will find it a difficult thing to accept. The REASON is, even if it was not seen as such back in Joseph's time, an individual who did things like this today would be seen as a child predator.  It's not that the individual is before or after puberty, but that they are before the age which most of Western civilization sees as acceptable to do such things in modern society with it's modern morality.

Edited by JohnsonJones

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1 hour ago, JohnsonJones said:

it is the suggestion that Joseph Smith married anyone younger than the age of 16.

The church admits this, it's just not common knowledge among the members.  

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It was common enough that it wasn't scandalous at the time.

Today, average female marriage age: 27.6.  But still, many women get married at 18 or 19.   That's a difference of almost 10 years or 36% below the average.  But not considered scandalous.

In the 1800s average female marriage age: 22.  - 36% = 14 to 15 yrs.  (and BTW, the average age in the earlier 1900s dropped to about 20 years for a while).

Do the math, folks.

The fact is that marriage at 18 or 19 is a social construct.  It is adulthood according to the law of the land.  But people did marry younger than that age in the past.  It was NOT scandalous to do so back then.  We just have different sensibilities today.

Edited by Carborendum

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I found this Wikipedia article about "age of consent" to be informative. There's a link to an additional article on "marriageable age" that -- I thought -- adding some clarification and confusion because marriageable age and age of consent are not exactly the same thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent But, I think the conclusion is still the same. In the US in the 19th century, such a monogamous marriage would not have been scandalous. Maybe uncommon, but not scandalous.

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6 hours ago, prisonchaplain said:

What I meant is that these groups do not accuse Joseph Smith of marry girls who have not reached puberty.

Yes they do in almost those exact same words.  (I sent another link).

PS, I don't go out of my way to find all of these sites.   I just know which ones are used on the CARM forum.   I used to defend our church a lot on the CARM forum and even used to be a radio guest on their show on occasion.  That's why I know what the accusations are and where to find them.  

Edited by Scott

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