Establishing the tribes of Israel: the real reason for plural marriage


Background

I haven’t ventured into any of the other the LDS blogs in a very long time. I usually just confine myself to this blog. However, on July 28th, 2009, while viewing the LDS Anarchy blog stats, I backtracked a referral link and found myself on the Mormon Heretic blog. Apparently OWIW had commented over there back in November and linked to one of his posts here.

Anyway, as it had been a really long time since I’d been at Mormon Heretic’s blog, I thought I would check out what was new. That’s when I saw he had two recent posts on polygamy. (See My perspective on polygamy—he also has the same post at Mormon Matters—and Bushman’s Perspective on Polygamy, Alger and Snow.) I was impressed by the number of comments that both posts contained. Granted, these comments were from just a handful of people, but still the fervor of the individuals indicated a great interest in the subject matter. I also found a link to The Faithful Dissident’s recent post on polygamy entitled, What Would You Do If Polygamy Came Back?, which also had a lot of comments (from many different people, this time).

I skimmed through the comments on all three posts (but didn’t read every word) and found the viewpoints interesting. I was struck by how much interest polygamy still garners among the people and how divisive a topic it still is, both the doctrine itself and how Joseph Smith practiced it. The Faithful Dissident’s post, in particular, seemed to confirm my assertion that most LDS would reject polygamy if it returned as an allowable practice among the membership.

A little while later, I came across another article, written by TruthSeekerToo entitled, Why I don’t believe in Polygamy. For the record, both TruthSeekerToo (obviously) and Mormon Heretic disbelieve that D&C 132 was a revelation inspired of God. And The Faithful Dissident and her commenters also seem to tend towards rejection of the revelation.

The elephant in the room

I had no plans on visiting the topic of plural marriage again on this blog. I thought what I had written already was sufficient. (See The Return of Polygamy, The many definitions of adultery, How the Lord will clean his church: a possible scenario, and Scriptural Discussion #16: David and Solomon.) But reading these other LDS blog posts on polygamy, and seeing just how uncomfortable a doctrine it was to them, I felt to explain one of the reasons why I find the revelation consistent with what I know about God and His gospel. I won’t tackle every aspect of this elephant, just one that I believe most have overlooked, and which may throw a fresh perspective on it.

I’m an open anarchist

Contrary to what you may believe, anarchists are not very accepting. There is every shade of anarchist out there and they bicker and fight among themselves as to which flavor is the best or proper one. Just saying you are an anarchist is not good enough for most of them. They want to know what kind of an anarchist you are. Are you an anarcho-syndicalist? An anarcho-capitalist? A green anarchist? An anarcho-primitivist? Etc. If you aren’t the “proper” type of anarchist, they will reject your believe system and argue with you over why it is wrong.

Fortunately, there are also other anarchists who are tired of such designations and who simply call themselves “anarchists without adjectives.” These are just anarchists, period. They accept all forms of anarchism.

I align myself more with the “anarchists without adjectives” and am accepting of all forms of anarchism, however, I do put a designation on my particular type. It’s called tribal anarchism and so I’m a tribal anarchist. I follow this principle because it is both scriptural and according to the nature of man.

Tribal anarchism may be on the rise

During a recent search on YouTube, I found some videos on tribal anarchism. Some of these videos are promoting what they call “national anarchism,” but it is really just a modified form of tribal anarchism. I find the appearance of these videos fascinating, as people (other than myself) are starting to understand the tribal nature of humanity and that tribal anarchy, and not any other type of anarchy, is the fundamental kind. This makes me wonder if tribal anarchism is gaining traction among the anarchists of the world. At any rate, it is encouraging to find anarchists promoting scriptural, tribal anarchism.

Here are the links to the YouTube videos and also to a web site of national anarchists (tribal anarchists) that are located in San Francisco, California.

I’m listing these with a disclaimer: Although the principles of tribal anarchy are contained therein, you may also notice a racist element that I don’t condone. If you can learn to filter out the racism and focus on the principles of tribal anarchism, this information may be of use as a learning tool. If you can’t, then don’t click on any of the following links.

The following five videos were posted by DSuploads:

Tribal Anarchism 1

Tribal Anarchism 2

Tribal Anarchism 3

Tribal Anarchism 4

Tribal Anarchism 5

Bay Area National Anarchists

You may ask, “What does this have to do with polygamy?”

Pretty much everything. The tribal aspect of the gospel, as well as the tribal anarchy aspect, is currently in a state of suspended animation. Through our patriarchal blessings, we LDS are told that we are members of this or that tribe of Israel, but the tribal functions are not in place. We are tribes in word, but not in deed, action or function. The Lord attempted, with Joseph Smith’s D&C 132 revelation, to begin to activate the tribal functions. In order to explain this, we need to come to some understanding of what a tribe is.

What is a tribe?

From Wikipedia:

A tribe, is a social group of humans connected by a shared system of values and organized for mutual care, defense, and survival beyond that which could be attained by a lone individual or family. A ‘tribe’ is defined in anthropology. When viewed historically or developmentally, a tribe is a mutual care system which, unlike a kingdom or state or other schema, is oriented around kinship and shared beliefs. Tribes can well exist simultaneously with other schema (see Schema (psychology)) such as states or other systems. They might consist of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states. Tribes are the most enduring and successful social survival system that has ever existed on earth. Tribes can exist within or without a state or kingdom and may or may not depend on the state or kingdom to endure.

Many anthropologists use the term to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and lineage).

Emphasis mine.

It is kinship that makes a tribe a tribe. Keep this in mind, as it is the key to understanding the revelation that is D&C 132 and Joseph Smith’s interesting polygamous marriages. Shared belief alone does not a tribe make. There must be shared belief and kinship.

Kinship

In his blog post, Mormon Heretic quoted from Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling book:

The personal anguish caused by plural marriage did not stop Joseph Smith from marrying more women. He married three in 1841, eleven in 1842, and seventeen in 1843. Historians debate these numbers, but the total figure is most likely between twenty-eight and thirty-three. Larger numbers have been proposed based on the sealing records in the Nauvoo temple. Eight additional women were sealed to Joseph in the temple after his death, possibly implying a marriage while he was still alive. Whatever the exact number, the marriages are numerous enough to indicate an impersonal bond. Joseph did not marry women to form a warm, human companionship, but to create a network of related wives, children, and kinsmen that would endure into the eternities…. He did not lust for women so much as he lusted for kin.

The implication, again, is that the Lord’s revelation to Joseph was designed to make the Gentile converts, now called Ephraimites, an actual tribe, meaning that everyone in the tribe needed to be related to each other by blood, adoption or marriage.

The tribal view of polygamy

FireTag, an RLDS member, commenting on Mormon Heretic’s My perspective on polygamy post, stated:

Our denomination’s crisis with polygamy came in about 1970. We began baptizing in an Indian-subculture in which the tribesmen were already living in polygamous marriages. After struggling so hard for a century to disassociate ourselves from this particular LDS belief, what were we to do?

The revelation brought to the church and confirmed by the general conference established for us the principle that “monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built” and authorized the First Presidency and the Quorum of 12 (Apostles) in their field jurisdictions to interpret that principle as directed by the Spirit.

The implementation ultimately meant that newly baptized polygamous people were allowed to remain in those marriages for the rest of their lives, but were not allowed to take additional marital partners into the marriage. The latter act would be treated as adultery or fornication under church law (I forget which).

This ruling became a schismatic issue for a number of people.

Emphasis mine. Notice that the problem only came when the non-tribal RLDS church came in contact with an actual tribe. Keep this in mind. We’ll revisit this dilemma later on down the post.

Tribes and polygamy go hand in hand

Polygamy may be abhorrent to most Americans, but in the global community it is common, normal and accepted.

Although the percentage of men in the world who have more than one wife is relatively small, as many as a third of the world’s population belongs to a community that allows it, says Israeli anthropologist Joseph Ginat.

There are many plural marriages in Africa, the Middle East and in Asia, said Ginat, professor of social and culture anthropology at the University of Haifa.

Many American Indian tribes allow polygamy; several experimental Christian groups practice it. And, of course, there are those famous offshoots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

American Indians: Polygamy was fairly widespread among American Indian tribes, said Patricia Albers, chairman of American Indian studies at the University of Minneapolis. There were plural marriages among the Dakota of Southern Minnesota, Ojibway of northern Wisconsin, Mesquakia of Iowa, and the Ho-chunk (formerly Winnebago). In the Intermountain West, plural marriage was common among the Shoshone and Paiute tribes; it was also practiced by the Utes and Navajos. “I don’t know any tribal nation in this general region that didn’t have it or disallowed it,” Albers said. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Blackfoot Indians of the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana were increasingly involved in buffalo-hide trade, and “families were more successful when they had more women engaged in processing of buffalo hides,” she said.

In many American Indian tribes, polygamy “was not a sign of subordinate position,” Albers said. “It occurred where women stood on fairly equal footing with the men in their communities.” Many tribes expected women to have responsibility, not only for her own children, but for those of her sisters as well. That could be one reason why the most common type of polygamy practiced by American Indians was sororal polygamy, or two sisters married to the same man. If a woman’s husband died, it was not uncommon for her to then marry her sister’s husband, Albers said. It was a way of “melding family units.”

(Excerpts from Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace, by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, September 20, 1998. Emphasis mine.)

If you take a look at the FLDS or other LDS offshoots that practice polygamy, who can say that these groups do not functions as tribes?

The only child left in state custody after being swept from a polygamist sect’s West Texas ranch was placed permanently with a relative on Thursday, ending one of the largest custody cases in U.S. history.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther signed an order giving permanent custody of the 15-year-old girl to a relative who is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The girl is not allowed to communicate with jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs, whom she allegedly married when she was 12, but is otherwise allowed to stay with church members.

The girl was among 439 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in April 2008 after authorities responded to bogus calls to a domestic abuse hotline. Texas child welfare authorities removed all the children from the Eldorado ranch, and they were placed in foster care until the state Supreme Court ruled authorities had overreached.

The 15-year-old initially was returned to her mother, but she went back to foster care last August after her mother refused during a court hearing to guarantee the girl’s safety. The girl has been allowed to live with a relative for several months, but Thursday’s order made the arrangement permanent and resolved the last of the Child Protective Services’ cases involving FLDS members.

“It’s clearly a huge relief. We’re extremely happy to get all the children back,” said FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop. “It’s been a long road for her, but we made it.”

He said the girl has been much happier living with relatives, who understand the insular sect’s culture, pioneer-style dress and religious beliefs.

(Excerpt from Judge resolves final Texas polygamist custody case, by Michelle Roberts, The Associated Press, July 23, 2009. Emphasis mine.)

The last sentence could have been worded just as accurately, “He said the girl has been much happier living with [her tribe, which understands the tribal ways she is accustomed to].”

The polygamy of heaven

D&C 132 is not precisely the Biblical polygamy. There are aspects of it, but it adds the additional dimension of polyandry. This makes the polygamy practiced in Joseph’s day more egalitarian than that practiced by Brigham and others. In fact, it resembles the unity of the heavens, in which all have all things common. This makes sense, as it is Joseph’s mission in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times to gather together all things in one, in Christ, both things in heaven and on Earth. (See Ephesians 1: 10 and D&C 27: 13.) So, going beyond the Bible is definitely a sign of the times we are living in.

Had Joseph succeeded in promoting D&C 132’s full doctrine among the people, the Gentile Ephraimites would have been converted into a bona fide tribe, but a tribe stronger and unlike any other tribe on Earth, as all would have been related to all through marriage sealings. It would have resembled the tribal family of the heavens. (See 379 Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), an article on the nccg.org web site, which talks about the heavenly family of God, His work of expanding it and the importance God places on family relations, or kin. Had the author used the word ‘tribe’ instead of family, he would have been closer to the truth, as the ‘family’ of God is infinite in number and complexity, resembling more a tribe than a nuclear family.)

Brigham Young’s polygamy was a diluted or limited form of what Joseph and his wives are said to have practiced. Brigham (and others) practiced polygyny, without the polyandrous aspects of the revelation. Although this did serve to create strong tribal relationships, it was not the heavenly ideal Joseph was striving to gather to the saints.

Modern LDS are not currently tribal, but soon will be

It is true that we call the people at church brother and sister so-and-so, and even though they may be of the same tribe as we (usually of Ephraim), we still view them differently than our real kin. They are members of our tribe in name only. They are our brothers and sisters in name only. Our real brothers and sisters, those of blood, take precedence over our church brother and sisters. We distinguish between our blood family and our church family. This is natural and normal in society and true for just about everyone.

Be that as it may, we must always remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to be lived by genuine tribes (composed of kin) and not just tribes in name only. (See The tribal nature of the gospel.) This means that there will be a tribal movement among the saints at some time in the future, which will activate the tribal functions. This also means that D&C 132, which is a tribal key, will likely at some point be lived again in its fulness.

Twelve tribes, not one tribe, under Christ

There’s one more point that I wish to address with this post. (This really is what4anarchy’s job as he is the resident tribist among the blog contributors, but I’ll do it for him anyway.) And that point is the tendency of Ephraimites to believe that their tribe is the main tribe of the restoration, meaning the leadership tribe, or tribe in which all or most of the church leadership will come from, in the time preceding the Second Coming. Also, the tendency of Ephraimites to believe that it matters not which tribe you belong to, that the important thing is that you are of the house of Israel. (This is said to non-Ephraimites to placate them into not minding that the Ephraimites lead the church.)

The truth of the matter is, though, that all of the tribes will have vitally important roles in the restoration and gathering and there will be an equal division of the leadership, each tribe directing itself under Christ. Once this tribal aspect of the gospel is understood, then the revelations given in this dispensation can be looked through tribal filters and be shown as being directed principally to the tribe of Ephraim. There are still more revelations that must come that will be for Ephraim, through the Ephraimitish prophets, but there also will be plenty of revelations that must come to the other tribes, through their own prophets.

Remember, the gospel is divided into twelve tribes, not one single tribe. Therefore, each tribe must have its own set of prophets, its own set of scriptures, its own leaders. (See, for example, 2 Nephi 29: 13.) Were this not so, there would be no point in having twelve tribes. One single tribe would suffice. And there would be no point in saying that the people of God even belong to a ‘tribe” if they were never to function as a tribe (composed of actual kin), but as just a group of unrelated people who believe in Christ (a church).

Polygamy ties into this because it is polygamy that activates the tribal functions of all the tribes. Also, as we know that other tribes are coming, and by this I mean literal tribes, composed of people related to each other, it is possible that these other tribes are living polygamy already. If the Gentile, Ephraimitish church is rejecting polygamy and the other eleven tribes show up and they are living polygamy, this creates quite a problem, as the Gentile church will end up spurning the literal seed of Abraham. Thus, D&C 132 prepares and allows the Gentile converts to act as the literal seed of Ephraim in all its tribal functions and to become assimilated among the other eleven tribes.

Conclusion

Tribalism is the nature of the gospel. The sooner we realize this, the easier it will be to enact the plan of salvation and fulfill the revelations of God that have already come forth and that will come forth, including that revelation contained in D&C 132. By getting a tribal view of the gospel, certain mysteries, such as polygamy, can make a little more sense.

The American Gentiles have a saying, when referring to what is really important in politics, “It’s the economy, stupid!” It might be appropriate for LDS to adopt a similar one, “It’s the tribe, unlearned one!”

(After all, we really shouldn’t be calling people stupid, now should we?) ;)

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