Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Sad Day for British Columbia: Two Mormon Fundamentalists Indicted for Polygamy (Revised)

Wally Oppal, pompous buffoon and British Columbia's current Attorney General, has finally caved in to the hysterical demands of illiberal ideologues and charged two of BC's Mormon fundamentalist men with polygamy. Words cannot express how I loathe this sort of thing, and I don't even know where to begin in trying...everything about it is totally wrong. It is totally outrageous.

Where to begin?

Canada passed a law in 1892 banning "conjugal" relationships, though not sex, with more than one person. This the anti-polygamy law under which BC polygamists are now being charged. is okay for Mr. Jones to have a wife but also a revolving door policy towards girlfriends. It is okay for him to sire kids with a bunch of them. It is okay for him to have a mistress, or 100 mistresses. But if Mr. Jones, with the full consent of all the women involved, lives with any of them as a husband, even sporadically, and/or supports them and his children financially as as a husband would, he ought to go to jail.

I don't get that. Can someone explain it to me? If government in fact has some compelling interest in, or some viable argument for, maintaining a monopoly over the legitimation of certain social/sexual relationships between consenting adults, I can't imagine what those might be. Certainly I've never heard any sensible account of either; and why government should worry about who hooks up with whom, or for how long, when it cannot even stop us from killing, maiming, raping, and stealing from each other, is quite beyond my comprehension.

Even granting that government could make some sort of sensible claim over monopolizing the legitimation of certain human relationships, I'm curious to know how they came up with the "one man-one woman" "one true definition of marriage" conclusion. After all, the Mormon fundamentalists they're charging are certain that they know the "one true definition of marriage", and that it is "one man, many women".

In truth, neither the province of British Columbia, nor the religious believers they are now prosecuting in the most bigoted fashion, knows anything about a "one true definition of marriage", because no such thing exists. There are only people; and in different cultures and different times, and according to their own desires or needs, they engage in all sorts of different marital relationships...and as far as I can see, the only thing that matters is that the participants consent, and that they are old enough to know what they are consenting to.

Every time anyone starts saying any of this, there are always people who pipe up and say, "What about the underage marriages?". But in reality, underage marriages have nothing to do with any of this - they can, and should be, prosecuted in polygamous contexts as much as in monogamous contexts. There is no, and never has been any, dispute about that. But it is not even what we are talking about here.

What we are talking about here is a form of relationship which, in its essence, is actually identical in nature to that practiced by many British Columbians, but which is being prosecuted in only one case: when a certain type of religious believer practices it on religious grounds.

And that is total BS, the definition of government bullying. I don't really see how some man-about-town with eight or ten ladies who he "sees" is doing anything essentially different than some guy who lives in Bountiful with eight wives. That the latter talks about Mormon founder Joseph Smith while the former talks about Hugh Hefner, makes, or should make, no difference. You can't punish a guy for committing Act X just because of the religion he belongs to, and then turn a blind eye to everyone else committing just the same Act X only on grounds that they're not religious at all.

Wally Oppal should be ashamed of himself. As the attorney-general, he is supposed to ensure that BC law is applied fairly. With this act, he is actually spearheading an effort to apply it in the most bigoted fashion.

If men and women wish to remain celibate, be monogamous, be gay, be straight, be in "open marriages", act like sluts, enter into polygamous or group marriages, and do so for whatever reason...who cares? What business is it of Wally Oppal's? He doesn't crack down on homosexual promiscuity. He doesn't crack down on everday heterosexual promiscuity. He doesn't crack down on all his buddies who have mistresses. But he cracks down on religious believers who do the same thing?

Not fair. Wally Oppal is a weak-willed bully who ought to be replaced by someone with respect for provincial and Constitutional law, and their fair application.


June said...

That's a very fair argument Tal.

Tyson Jacobsen said...

What's the over/under on the number of days it takes the LDS church to publish a news release distancing themselves from the FLDS or polygamy?

Chris Norris said...

You have summarised exactly what western governments base their popularity manifestos on in today's society.

Of course, various sectors of society have held sway in governmental circles for centuries and the resulting laws and constitutional actions have always led to a persecution of some minority or another. But in the 'good old days' society was a far simpler beast.

2008, and we live in purely an opinion and trend-based society where wars are fought, industries rise and fall, and social behaviours are all dictated by popular opinion (not remotely helped by the global media).

Governments are now guilty of guiding this trend-based society and will make chameleon-like sways to please and garner the support of the voting masses. Sways such as interpreting laws (such as polygamy) to be seen to stand side by side with the concensus of the population.

The infuriating thing is that behaviour like this tip-toes close enough to what is perceived as 'right' by society. This doesn't make it right and it makes a lot of injustices become tools to make the falsly righteous even more morally upstanding in the public eye.

Loving the blog space Tal.

marg said...

The problem with legitimizing or institutionalizing polygamy has next to nothing to do with whether adults engage in sex with multiple partners. The problem is the consequences of abuse inflicted against innocent parties, the resultant children of these families. The abuse varies. Some kinds of the abuse is mentioned in the link of the RFLD group in Texas - underage marriages, children born to underage married girls, children neglected by parents who don't remove them from sexual abuse situations. Other abuse not mentioned in that link, the raising of girls from a young age to do little more than make babies and who aren't aware or think other opportunities are available, nor given other opportunities. And in some polygamous communities eventually the young men are too numerous relative to available marriageable women and it has been known were kicked out.

Tal said...

Marg - your post typifies all that is most slipshod in orthodox thinking on this.

You write:

"The problem with legitimizing or institutionalizing polygamy has next to nothing to do with whether adults engage in sex with multiple partners. The problem is the consequences of abuse inflicted against innocent parties, the resultant children of these families."

---This is nonsense; the same argument could be made about monogamous relationships, since it is within those that so much abuse occurs, also. Government should crack down on the abuses, not the marital relationship depending on which government category it falls into. Such nonsense.

You wrote:

"The abuse varies. Some kinds of the abuse is mentioned in the link of the RFLD group in Texas - underage marriages, children born to underage married girls, children neglected by parents who don't remove them from sexual abuse situations."

---More nonsense. We already have legal prohibitions on underage sex. Where they are violated, offenders should be prosecuted. This prosecution should having nothing to do with what religion the offender belongs to, or whether he has one wife, no wife, or twenty. It's unbelievable to me how many people, in the name of humanitarianism, would basically undermine the whole rationale of liberal society. This is just all's like outlawing one man-one woman marriage on grounds that so much wife-beating occurs in such situations.

You wrote:

"Other abuse not mentioned in that link, the raising of girls from a young age to do little more than make babies and who aren't aware or think other opportunities are available, nor given other opportunities."

---If there is a need, provinces may insist that schools meet certain educational standards, which would provide information to students about more common ways of living. They could do all sorts of things to inform them about the outside world.

By the way, what's worse - religions teaching girls they should have babies, or pop culture teaching them they should dress like hookers, act like sluts, and use abortion as a form of birth control? See - once you get into empowering government to prosecute people for "not being the right way", you open the door even more widely to all sorts of government abuses; and you also cannot avoid turning everything into a war of specific moral codes, as opposed to an impartial enforcement of law based on individual rights.

This is what's really nuts here - the Bountiful religious fanatics aren't trying to impose polygamy on you. But you are trying to impose monogamy on them. So you are the illiberal ideologue, and the religious fanatics are the good liberals. You would FORCE them to live your way; but they are happy to let you live your way.

Let me try to put it as simply as I can. The abuses you cite are not at all exclusive to polygamy. Therefore, it is not polygamy which should be prosecuted, but the abuses.

Your argument is identical to making "living in a ghetto" a crime, "since lots of crime goes on in ghettos". It's ludicrous. You don't prosecute "living in a ghetto"; you prosecute the crimes committed inside the ghetto.

You write:

"And in some polygamous communities eventually the young men are too numerous relative to available marriageable women and it has been known were kicked out."

---What business is that of yours? I'd think you'd be excited that a few less people were practicing polygamy. Besides, what sense does it make to suggest as a "solution" to this "problem", that government lock up polygamous men?

By the way, in the interests of equality, shouldn't you also be clamouring for the incarceration of all the polygamist WIVES in Bountiful? They are consenting adults, just like the men. But you throw the men in, and not the women. What's your argument for that? That "they're all brainwashed"?

I bet - that's the best any illiberal ideologue can come up with: "*I* wouldn't choose polygamy; therefore, the only explanation for any other woman choosing polygamy is mental retardation or brainwashing. So I need to start incarcerating their husbands".

The polygamists look positively sane compared to the control freaks trying to throw them in jail.

two cents said...

I'm not here to say what the government should or shouldn't do. But speaking at the social anthropological level, the government has an interest in maintaining a just, or at least, stable society. That way they don't have to wear riot gear to keep things in line.

My argument is that polygamy requires the addition of social manipulation to enable a few males' access to multiple females and to prevent the other males from having a mate. That's nice for the elite, sucks for the rest.

To maintain this arrangement, the elite will have to (1) hoard resources, (2) control, guard, and maybe confine their women, (3) convey their elite social status to just a few of their offspring, maybe only the firstborn of the first wife, etc., (4) confine non-authorized males to a lower social class or possibly just get rid of some of them, and (5) maintain their elite position by force whenever it is challenged.

Historically, (3) has often caused a bloodbath among the male offspring. They jockey for inheritance by killing their brothers and half-brothers, sometimes their own fathers. At best, the use of banishment can take the place of fratricide. The women sometimes cause the intrigue by attempting to manipulate harem politics to try to make sure their son is favored over the sons of the other women.

It's a mess. It generates a caste system with elaborate hierarchies that shuffle the vast majority into near slave status with no basic human rights. Read the history of any Sultan, a handful of the earlier stories in the Bible, and the biography of Joseph Smith and it will all tell pretty much the same story.

Here's the kicker. I'm guessing that most of you who advocate this arrangement don't have what it takes to be the patriarch you think you'd be. You'd need the charisma of a cult leader, the managerial skills of a top executive, the power of a tribal chief with the weaponry to back it up, and a heck of a lot of income to keep it all going until it all blows up in your face (or maybe your sons' faces).

But if you're the kind of guy who argues for polygamy on, chances are you'd would be lucky just to be the castrated eunuch who gets to manage the women.

Tal said...

Two cents

Just to be clear - I am not *advocating* polygamy.

I am saying, for one thing, that it is unfair to incarcerate people for doing what, in essence, others do, on grounds that they are a tiny group with no political power. In the Jamaican ghettos of Toronto de facto polygamy is widespread. A more formalized polygamy is present in that city's Muslim community. Essentially polygamous relationships are also common on Canada's aboriginal land reserves. And...any politician with a mistress is doing essentially the same thing as Winston Blackmore. Wally Oppal might have one himself. But out of hundreds of thousands of people in Canada who are maintaining essentially "conjugal" relationships with more than one person (they only call them by a different name), only the people in one particular sect get prosecuted. That's not fair.

About all the other stuff you mentioned...

The centrepiece of your argument seems to be point 3. It is worth mentioning that polygamous relationships are very possible without ensuing "bloodbaths" (in fact, 19th century Mormon polygamy was characterized by a high degree of social order, and there are many polygamous Muslim communities similarly stable), and also, that such bloodbaths are often present in feudal systems where polygamy is not practiced, or at least is not recognized.

In passing, let me say that I always dislike the use of Joseph Smith as an example of a polygamist, because the Joseph Smith bios you mention all show conclusively that all he ever did was have sex, secretly, with other women and girls. (And as you will know, many of his conquests were already married to and living with other men, who didn't know that "the prophet" had nailed their wives).

That is, Smith NEVER acknowledged publicly any of his wives; NEVER acknowledged paternity of the children he sired; NEVER supported his "wives" or children financially; NEVER maintained anything like a "conjugal" relationship with any of them; NEVER did anything other than have sex with them after a brief "marriage ceremony". By contrast, Smith's successors - Young, Taylor, etc. - were actual polygamists.

In any case, even granting all your comments total validity, I would say first that I'm just not sure that formalized polygamy is even remotely close to becoming a societal norm, and thus, hardly the sort of "danger" government should be spending millions on.

Second, I would say that the marital (and divorce) norms we have now do not appear to have solved problems of social disorder. We have other forms of disorder, other forms of heartache, other forms of hypocrisy, other forms of suffering...

As I mentioned earlier, I am sometimes not sure who's really been brainwashed the most: a 15 year old girl who dresses like a hooker, gives her boyfriend blow jobs after PE, has pins and studs jammed through her face, has had an abortion, who has absolutely no concept of self-respect, and who thinks a "normal" relationship is doing whoever you feel like for the rest of your life, or some 15 year old girl in Bountiful, BC, in a petticoat who thinks she'd like to be a plural wife one day.

Pat said...

Can you please tell me where I can find true documented proof that Joseph Smith was having sex with girls? And also, what age was considered underage in Joseph Smith's time as many married very young then? Thank you.

Tal said...

Hi Pat

There are three books I would recommend which document Joseph Smith's sexcapades. Interestingly, all three of them were written by active, believing LDS historians, and all three of them are for sale at the official LDS bookstore, Deseret Books.

The first, and perhaps best, is "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith", a biography of Smith's long-suffering wife. Since you are concerned about reliability, I should point out that this book, as shown on its flyleaf, was recommended by the official church historian Leonard Arrington and won the Mormon History Association Book of the Year Award.

Yet, it shows Smith to have lied compulsively and repeatedly to Emma (and many others) about his shenanigans, documents his deflowering of numerous young teenage girls, including two sets of his own foster daughters, shows him to feel free to have sex with women who are already married to, and living with, their husbands (which obviously is in direct conflict with the Israelite polygamy depicted in the OT which Smith constantly used as justification), and even records that Smith became convinced that Emma tried to murder him through poisoning. Perhaps the most revealing moment in the book is when Emma begins to find out years later the true extent of her assassinated husband's philandering. She simply says, "then he deserved to die as he did".

With no shame whatsoever, the LDS church today, in its propaganda movies and literature for its general membership, paints "Joseph and Emma" as two lovebirds, who just had a few misunderstandings about "the divine nature of polygamy". In fact, the records show a tawdry, dysfunctional relationship characterized by murder attempts, violence from Emma toward Smith's "girls", brutal bullying on Smith's part (when Emma threatened to take a plural husband of her own - apparently she had a thing for one of Smith's colleagues, Smith announced that God would "destroy" her), and what appeared to be in the end a marriage of convenience a la the Clintons, with nothing to do with what we would call a loving, trusting, healthy marriage.

And if you're still wondering why such a thoroughly documented book would still be on sale at official church bookstores, all I can say is, we are often very confused as cult members.

Another book worth ordering is "Mormon Polygamy" by Richard S. Van Wagoner. It too is thoroughly documented. The only flaw I know of in this book is that it lists Helen Mar Kimball's age as 15 when she "married" Smith, but in fact she was 14. Actually, if you are concerned about proper documentation about this, the church's genealogy website lists a few of Smith's plural wives, one of whom is Kimball. You can then click on Kimball and find out just when she was born, and then do the math and see that she was only fourteen. Smith, if I remember correctly, was nearing forty at the time. You can also do a google search for Helen Mar Kimball.

By the way, it is a common misconception amongst Mormons that it was in some way "normal" for almost forty year old men to marry pubescent girls in 19th century New England. In fact it was not. The average marrying age was surprisingly high - early twenties (can't recall the exact figures at the moment). Smith's behaviour, had he not concealed it, would have been thought even MORE rotten by his contemporaries than it would now. Hence, his constant lying about it all.

Another book you could check out is "In Sacred Loneliness" by Todd Compton. It is long and sort of boring, but very well documented. It is also characterized by a few of Compton's bizarre attempts at denial. Compton, you see, is well aware that Smith's sexual behaviour has more in common with that of Vince Neil on a Motley Crue tour than anything resembling a Christian minister, but just cannot quite bring himself to acknowledge the brutal reality of it all...

In addition to googling Helen Mar Kimball, I'd google the Martha Brotherton affidavit, the Lawrence sisters, and whatever else comes to mind about Smith's Vince Neil-esque version of polygamy.

Pat said...

Thanks for the information as to where to look.I Googled what you told me and must say that I am not as against Smith as you seem to be regarding polygamy.I will get and read the book about Emma Smith.I know polygamy was not an easy thing to do but having read some things about it on line,it seems that many of the wives were very close to each other.Personally,I think it takes more out of a man to support several wives and families than some girlfriends on the side who only are used for sex and time away from the problems of a husband and wife relationship.As regards Helen Mar Kimball,her father urged her to be sealed to Smith so as to join their families and she came to like the polygamous way of life later.
I think DR.Bennett was a bad lot and a great deal of the insults attributed to Smith were,in fact, Bennett's own desires that were purported by him to come from Smith.I'm still learning though.

Tal said...


May I suggest you read some of the history before doing commentary?

Yes, Heber C. Kimball handed his young daughter over to Joseph Smith, just the same way he handed his wife Vilate over to Joseph Smith. Smith declined the older Vilate, but took the innocent and bewildered Helen, who by her own account, had no idea what was going on.

After all, Smith had convinced Heber that if he handed over his fourteen year old daughter, that it would ensure the exaltation of the entire Kimball family since they would now be "sealed" to Smith.

In any case, if you want to support Smith's pedophilia, go ahead, but don't do it on this board; it makes me want to puke.

Pat said...

I'm a little confused though Tal.What you said regarding the Canadian polygamists seems to not apply when you talk about Smith and the polygamous Mormons.Don't the Canadians have young wives too?
I am against polygamy but you seem to really have it in for Smith,while making a good case for the Canadian polygamists.Anyway, enough said as it seems to anger you.

smile said...

I think it is the duplicity of the politicians and Smith that ticks Tal off---not polygamy per se.

Tal said...


Who is the inconsistent one?

You evidently would condemn behaviour - including sex secured under false pretences, or by a foster father with young foster daughters, or with an underage girl - when perpetrated by a non-Mormon, but accept it when perpetrated by a Mormon prophet. Hm.

By contrast, my whole position as I have expressed it here, though you seem not to have noticed, is that polygamists should not be incarcerated no matter which religion they belong to, or do not belong to, providing all participants are informed, consenting ADULTS. Fifty women want to marry Brigham Young or David Koresh? I couldn't care less.

I am, however, a strong supporter of the incarceration of pedophiles. In fact, the state could execute them for all I care. That goes for any of the Bountiful polygamists, as well as for Mormons, Catholic priests, non-Mormons, and for anyone else, atheist or theist.

So tell me, Pat - where is the inconsistency in my position?

Pat said...

I can not understand many of the things Smith did but I imagine that the people involved,(who believed him to be a true prophet and also as they believed he restored Christ's church to the earth as fortold in the Bible would happen) I imagine it was a difficult dilemma for them.According to where you directed me, they did all agree to be his spiritual wives and some kind of marriage service was performed.Many people dispute the accusations as no reliable accounts of Smith fathering children can be found.Just hearsay. I don't know all the answers but I know I would not let any daughter of mine marry at 14,if it was to be a full sexual marriage and not one on paper only.

Tal said...

Well Pat, if you are a Mormon, and the prophet comes to you and tells you he is speaking as the prophet, and he has the support of the Twelve, and they all tell you that God wants you to hand over your fourteen year old daughter to the prophet to do with as he pleases, and he and the Twelve tell you that if you don't, you are in apostacy, and you've already committed to the belief that God won't let these men lead you astray...what do you do? Tell them no, and then "lose your exaltation"?

In any case, I'm not arguing that Smith should have been incarcerated for having many sexual partners, where they were informed, consenting, and adult. Where he is very vulnerable ethically is in deflowering young girls, and especially young girls who he had legal guardianship over. He is also vulnerable ethically because a very strong case could be made that Smith secured sex under pretences which he knew to be false; that is now considered a form of sexual violation in some countries, I think including the UK.

In terms of mere legality, that I know of, the state of Illinois did not have statutory rape laws at the time of Smith's sexcapades with his teenage foster daughters and Helen Mar Kimball. (Polygamy, however, was illegal there).

Draper Phil said...

This is the stuff I used to love reading at RfM. :) Miss those days!

Tisha said...

Yeah Phil, but the RFM boards had a hand picked audience.Anyone who had something good to say about the Mormon Church wasn't allowed to post.I thought they called that censorship.
The Mormon Church has many wonderful things about it and it seems,that with a comment that you miss the old days on the RFM boards,it is conflict and discord and tearing something down that you enjoy.

Draper Phil said...


Wow, such a venomous thing to say to me, someone you've never met and know nothing about - in response to a one-line comment I posted saying, effectively, that I miss posts like the comment Tal wrote in response to "Pat", the likes of which he used to post on RfM quite often. So... whatever. You are a troll, go away.

Tal said...


The "Recovery from Mormonism" - which I have not visited in years now, by the way - is a bulletin board devoted to ONE thing: *recovering from Mormonism*.

It is NOT devoted to *debating Mormonism*, or *defending Mormonism*, or "letting Mormon defenders and critics have their say". There are many other bulletin boards for that. The RFM board is for people who have concluded that Mormonism, however many good things it has to offer, can simply not be what it claims, and who have decided that, for that reason, they must move on for the sake of their conscience and integrity. That's it. That's not the sort of place to have debates...

You may doubt how successfully the RFM board achieves its mission; but its purpose is clear, and it makes no more sense for you or other Mormons to complain about how the RFM board doesn't allow amateur and church-paid church defenders on, than it does to complain about how AA doesn't allow drunks to come in and defend "alcoholism as a lifestyle choice" at their meetings, or about how women's shelters don't allow wifebeaters to come in to defend spousal abuse. Complains like yours are very silly.

Making them all the sillier is the LDS church's long and shameful history of outrightly deceiving its sincere members, through both lies of omission and commission, about its foundational church claims.

Come back when the church publishes an article in "The Ensign" acknowledging that the Book of Mormon's central premise - that Native Americans are the "seed of Lehi" - is false, that the Book of Abraham cannot possibly be what JS claimed it to be, that the Book of Moses was JS's own production, that half the "witnesses" admitted afterward they'd never seen any plates, that Smith's sexcapades can in no way be reconciled with even the loosest definition of marriage (shagging your teenaged housemaid twelve years before any "revelation" about polygamy?), that the emotional stirrings Mormons like to believe is "the holy Ghost" are felt by members of virtually all religions, that if it were reliable Hinckley never would have mistaken forged "scripture" for authentic scripture, or believed Paul H. Dunn's stories, and that, in the end, the whole thing is bunk, no matter how much we all might have loved it.

If you want to be a Mormon, be a Mormon; but please spare us all the complaints about how a recovery from Mormonism bulletin board exemplifies "censorship". If you're that concerned about lies of omission or commission, I suggest you pick up Grant Palmer's "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins", and then compare it to your LDS Sunday School manual.

Tisha said...

I have read the book by Grant Palmer and the others that came out in a clutch.
I see that the church is going to release the most comprehensive book about JS,(documented from Joseph's own diaries) that have ever been seen.
You and Draper Phil are like two litle Jr High boys snickering in the corner.
I tell you that you are going to look very stupid one day.I don't care what you think regarding that as you have gone out so far on a limb now that pride would not allow you to admit you may have been fooled.JS wasn't perfect,we all know that.So you and Phil go off and buy your Jr.High treats and I'll wait it out to see what becomes of you.

Brigham Young said apostates would never prosper and what have you done lately?ii
Normally,I would never say such harsh things to a person but I KNOW you and Draper Phil would do it to me in a heartbeat,because you are reactors,not actors.Actually ,you make me want to puke...oh , am I allowed to say tha?.It is so easy to push your buttons.I can already write your reply speech for you.

I want people out there to know that the "Mormon" church is a great church and I think they should invite the Mormon misssionaries over to get the truth ,as we see it and not as according to a few in the whole picture of things.Let people decide for them selves .Give them a chance to feel a spitit to spirit confirmation that it is a good church.....and don't go inviting the missionaries over to your house,Tal.How could the sweet small voice get through all your anger and hate.We have hate laws in this country,still,don't we.

Can you resist the fury Tal,to lash out like you always do?Can you walk quietly away,allowing me to have my say.I knew you couldn't with my last post. You are so predictable, I could set my clock by you.

Again people,this is only being said because he would do it to me in a heartbeat.

Draper Phil said...

This is where I feel like Mike Meyers in "So I Married an Axe Murderer" right after he meets "Ralph": Hellllllloo...

Tal said...

I couldn't have done a better parody myself, Tisha. Thanks!

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