Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it. ~John-Roger and Peter McWilliams
Question #89606 posted on 05/02/2017 6:03 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

When the church first formally announced the doctrine of plural marriage in 1852, Brigham Young said, "Without the doctrine which this revelation makes known to us, no one could raise himself high enough to become a god." To me, this would seem to imply that Heavenly Father would've needed to have multiple wives before ascending to godhood (with the understanding that "As man now is, God once was."). Would that then imply that there are multiple Heavenly Mothers?

- Someone

A:

Dear Reader,

This is the kind of stuff that really damaged my testimony last year.

(It's back, guys)

Here's the conclusion I came to:

You can't believe that everything every prophet has ever said has been correct and divinely inspired and also believe that the Church is true. It's irrational. 

The way I was able to solve my cognitive dissonance on these topics was to maintain my belief in the Church (because of my testimony of scripture, my spiritual experiences, the good fruits of the Gospel in my life etc.) but concede that, hey, there are some things prophets have said and done that have just been flat wrong. And I accept that.

I feel like it's okay to say that maybe this Brigham Young quote is one of those instances of him just saying something wrong. Also, he could have been referring more to the entire idea of marriage? I would have to look into that more. But it doesn't really matter because there are certainly many other quotes like this one which we have to grapple with.

But maybe sometimes we grapple too much. Maybe we should, rather, look back to the simple things that are the foundations of our testimonies and accept that human imperfection is a real and incredibly pervasive element of the world we live in. It's supposed to be that we so that we can each have true freedom to mess up, learn, change, and become more like Christ.

That's all for now.

Love,

Vienna

A:

Dear everyone:

Interesting quote I found in this letter from Elder Orson Spencer:

When parentage is established after a wholesome and righteous order the consequence will be felt in every social and civil organization whatever both in this world and beyond the limits of this world. It is not in the power of any government or of any religious community or reform association to create good order and great prosperity, with a corrupt Patriarchal order at the foundation.

What that pure and perfect patriarchal order is, upon which the welfare of society so much depends it will be my object to show in this letter. Here let me say that the family order which God established with Abraham and the Patriarchs, was the order observed among celestial beings in the celestial world. And this family order is not only one at which God sits as the Head, and first pattern in the series of matrimonial examples; but it is of perpetual duration, both in and beyond this world. It is utterly absurd to suppose the anomaly of such an existence as a father without a mother. Every thing in the analogy of nature forbids such an idea ...

Have we not all, one Father? We are all His offspring. A large family to be ascribed to one father! But where is the Scripture that ascribes the origin of all diverse sons to one and the same mother? 

When God sets up any portion of his kingdom upon the earth it is patterned after own order in the Heavens. When he gives to men a pattern of family organization on the earth that pattern will be just like his own family organization in the heavens. The family of Abraham was a transcript of a celestial pattern. The likeness was drawn by a master artist who was perfectly familiar with the celestial pattern. Abraham's family was a fresh organization designed to effect the perpetuity and increase of God in an endless succession of families. And every family which God institutes upon the earth is fashioned like his own original family in the heavens. A heavenly family was a perfect family both as to the ordinance by which it was united and as to the laws which rewarded or punished the observer or violator of the same. Abraham's family was required to be equally perfect.

In short, your theory was embraced by at least one early Apostle. 

---Portia thinks that the exclamation point in "Plurality of Wives!" makes the title 

A:

Dear Someone,

[[Citation Needed]]!

With all due respect, that's a pretty questionable quotation. It looks like it comes form an 1861 book by a non-Mormon, reporting the 1852 words of Brigham Young. Or at least that's the best source anyone on Wikipedia has supplied for it as of my writing, and the only primary source I can find Googling. The author claims to have been present but doesn't cite any other source, so we're relying not just on his honesty but on his memory (or, maybe, if we're generous, his reconstruction of the sermon based on notes taken years before). He's also trying to sell a book to non-Mormon audiences and so might tend to embellish things. References to the Mormon "pontificate" and "pontiff" suggest he didn't necessarily have the strongest handle on Church practice and doctrine.

With that in mind, imagine a scale of quote credibility where 1 = "Use the Force, Harry--Gandalf" and 10 = quote supported by multiple credible primary sources, created using first-rate transcription practices, written immediately with after the event. This is probably about a 3. This is not unusual; anytime you see a quote ostensibly from the early Church there should be a big huge "citation needed" light flashing in your mind. (Heck, even stuff in the Journal of Discourses is probably only a 6 or so.)

So, now let's suspend disbelief on the "quote" and assume Brigham Young's words are being accurately reported. What revelation is he referring to? We need context to understand. (This is also typical of odd quotes from the early Church--the context often makes the ostensible weirdness go away.)

The book that published this "quote" then immediately includes D&C 132, so that's the "revelation." And D&C 132 says "And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them [...] they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever." So when Brigham Young says "Without the doctrine which this revelation [D&C 132] makes known to us, no one could raise himself high enough to become a god" he could easily just be saying "without the revelation about exaltation through eternal marriage, we couldn't achieve exaltation," and indeed that seems like a pretty reasonable thing to say. 

So, even if Brigham Young is being quoted accurately (dubious), his remarks don't necessarily refer to polygamy. And supposing Brigham Young did make an odd doctrinal statement, which wouldn't surprise me either, that still isn't important. Prophets are fallible humans. Any doctrine that is both true and important will continue to be taught by many authoritative witnesses and published in credible sources. Think how many talks you have heard on Christ, the Restoration, the Atonement, eternal families, etc. And how many you haven't heard on anything like that "quote" or the direction you're going with it.

So, in light of all this, regarding your actual question: it's effectively asking us to use a rumor of an irrelevant enigma to speculate on a sacred topic and I don't really want to go there. 

TL;DR Quote is sketchy and Vienna's conclusion is spot on: it's not something to get too concerned about.

~Professor Kirke

A:

Dear Someone,

Real quick: let's look at the introductory text to Official Declaration 1:

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7–8 and Jacob 2:27, 30)...

I think that's pretty clear. I've heard the "multiple Heavenly Mothers" theory (the first time was on exchanges with missionaries when I was in high school, I think), but in light of that quote, it just doesn't seem to hold up.

-Frère Rubik