Friday, October 28, 2022

Part 6 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these last five, shall we?

A mother and father play with their children outside
A mother and father play with their children outside

26. Polygamy

Although polygamy (being greedy and having more than one wife) still exists in the Mormon faith, it is not the usual practice this days. However, there are communities who still practice polygamy and it is accepted. I wonder if a rota is drawn up with wife A and wife B?

Polygamy or plural marriage no longer exists in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone practicing it before becoming a member must cease the practice and anyone practicing it after becoming a member, and without ceasing it, is immediately excommunicated and cannot be readmitted until they stop.

The writer of the article is, again (frustratingly), equating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the FLDS group and other unaffiliated groups. The FLDS may claim a common heritage with early LDS Church history, but that's where the similarity ends. They are 100% not members of the LDS Church.

Was the practice of plural marriage "greedy"? From the ahistorical point of view that the reason the early Saints participated in it was that the men wanted more sex with more women, then......I guess? But it was never like that. This "explanation" never made sense to me because of the social cost at the time of being considered by one's community as a sexual degenerate. There was far more to lose than to gain and most men were on record in their own words as having been opposed to it until the Lord, through personal revelation, persuaded them otherwise.

Now, if it meant helping women have marital property rights and social status rather than turning to prostitution or destitution in the times before women had equal rights, I would argue that it was more helpful than hurtful or "greedy" in that regard. At certain points in our church's history, there were far more women than men (especially after deadly persecutions, apostasies, and migrations). So there were a lot of husbandless/fatherless families to take care of. It was either plural marriage to keep things respectable under the fact that men were taking responsibility for their welfare by taking them in, or turning them away to fend for themselves in a heartless and cruel frontier world.

Plural marriage has never been a question with an easy answer because one man marrying multiple women has the exact types of implications one would expect. Social ostracization around plural marriage was a very real thing when it was first introduced all the way up until it was terminated by abrogating revelations. Hostility between the sister wives and jealousy between them for the attention of the husband are obvious issues as well. Having one man provide funding for such a large household is another. And the general situation of women being "property" in either singular or plural marriages, and rejected by society outside of any marriage, is yet another.

The differences between FLDS and LDS teachings on plural marriage are vast, though. The FLDS definitely check all the misogynist boxes. I witnessed a lot of it growing up near their community. And now it's the subject of multiple documentaries. I shudder to think about what I know about on that front.

By contrast, my LDS ancestors had several God-sanctioned plural marriages. As far as the family histories I have on hand show, with the normal exceptions brought about by the vicissitudes of life we all suffer, all were successful, thriving situations for everyone. From what I can tell, the women were revered, respected, and loved by each husband and they mostly got along with and loved each other. 

Except for just one. In that one, the plurality wasn't the issue, but the proposal by the husband to one candidate wife in particular. She was underage AND his stepdaughter! It was very much unaccepted by the community and the Church and was a huge scandal. He was run out of town by a mob for his attempt and died poor and alone in Mexico. His name was erased from the family record for decades until my grandmother discovered it in some old genealogy records. By then, all of us had taken on an entirely new last name and family identity through a different and much better marriage arrangement.

In most cases, the first wife had the right of first refusal. Another ancestor of mine asked his wife for permission to marry a second plural wife. She invited the woman over for dinner and matter-of-factly stated, "It will be nice when you become my husband's second wife, for I shall then have someone to attend to the washing, the meals, and the dishes." With that, the whole proposal was ended and he didn't take a second wife.

In answer to how the "rota" or duties were divided up, it was usually the women who decided together how children were cared for, food was prepared, the house was maintained, etc. In most cases, the husband was far too busy trying to scrape up as much sustenance as possible for a single large household or multiple ones to support them all to have much of a real say.

27. Basketball

This is a strange one – missionaries cannot play full court basketball, only half court. The reason is that the missionaries are insured by the Church and are more likely to get hurt and sustain injury if paying full court basketball. They also can’t play basketball in leagues or in tournaments.
I'm not up-to-date on the current general worldwide mission rules. In my time and location as a missionary in the mid-1990s, full-court basketball was not discouraged to my knowledge. Our preparation day activities consisted of little else given that there wasn't much to do during our one day of down time.

In places where full-court basketball is not allowed, the reason for the policy is, indeed, avoidance of injury. The Church's first priority is to keep missionaries safe, uninjured, and healthy. Also, it costs tens of thousands of dollars in sacred tithing funds and personal missionary funds to outfit, transport, train, and keep each missionary healthy while they serve. When a missionary gets a preventable injury, it's a big per-person expense not to mention a healthcare cost burden for the family and for the church.

Not playing in leagues and tournaments is more about keeping an appropriate and dignified separation between the missionary and the world as he or she serves. Where I served, a 6'5"+ tall American missionary who can dunk would have been a huge boon to local teams where the average height of players was just 5' tall. He would also have been a message-distracting attraction to the local young women. Maybe it could have been a missionary opportunity, but more likely it would have been too much conflict of interest and potential for distraction.
28. Dating

Forget dating, if you’re a Mormon. That is the case if you are under 16 years of age. Mixing with the opposite sex for reasons other than studying is strictly forbidden and if a couple of teens are caught together, they both have to undertake hours of studying to repent for their sins.
Nope. We do advise our youth to not date until the age of 16, and then only in groups (not "pairing off") until they are 18 or older. This is just as much for their personal protection from decisions they're not emotionally and intellectually ready to make yet as it is for any other reason. But plenty of LDS youth decide on their own to not follow these guidelines. Nothing happens to them in terms of Church discipline if they do date before 16 or pair off and "date steady" before 18.

And, no, there is nobody looking for teens dating under 16 years of age so they can punish them with hours of studying and repentance. That's just ridiculous if one has even a little knowledge of how the LDS church works. The FLDS, however, is an entirely different story. And they don't even allow dating. Underage girls just get assigned to usually adult or elderly husbands, with no choice of their own, and that's that.
29. No Smoking

It has always been forbidden for Mormons to smoke, not just for the health implications, which is understandable, but also that it neutralizes the purity of a person and all the goodness inside them. When it comes to their passing, they can only be part of the Afterlife if they have followed all the rules.

This is another Word of Wisdom prohibition as we covered earlier. The writer of the article started out right by correctly acknowledging the well-known health effects of smoking. 

Aaaaand then they ruined it by pretending that we think it "neutralizes purity", i.e. God no longer loves or is interested in helping people after they start smoking or if they can't quit. Or that they no longer have "goodness inside them". Or that they have no chance at happiness after death unless every single rule had been followed to the letter.

Utter nonsense.

God loves everyone. Everyone is a sinner and He sent Jesus Christ to help us do and be better. There are dozens and dozens of talks in our General Conferences where the prophets have taught that no matter how many times we mess up, Jesus is there to pick us up, dust us off, and help us try again. If only we let him. And if only we don't listen to the adversary, Satan, who tries to convince us that if we don't keep "all the rules", God won't love us. 

That was actually Satan's plan when he tried to overthrow God in the premortal life. He failed because, well, nobody can overthrow God and because a great number of us rejected being forced into obedience. We now get to choose our own path and Jesus is there to invite us to choose His path. 

In the end, those of us who choose to follow Christ will receive the highest glory God can offer...eternal life and exaltation with Him. And, as our loving Father, He will give us every chance and every benefit of every doubt to help us, through Christ's merits and grace, to return to live with Him. The most beautiful thing is that it's going to be most of humanity, once all is said and done!

To get anything less, a person has to actively reject that invitation over the multiple times it is and will be presented. And even the lowest of those levels of glory is so great to behold that Joseph Smith said it "surpasses all understanding" and that "no man knows it except him to whom God has revealed it". (Which is probably a big reason we're not made aware of it. We'd probably all "rage quit" this lone and dreary world to get there.)

For the very, very worst, there is a punishment called "Outer Darkness". The only people that go there are the ones with the most knowledge of God who then rejected Him in spite of it and to spite Him. They also deny the Holy Ghost and everything the Holy Ghost ever revealed to them. Which is just about everything. It's like, I don't know, five named once-living people (?), including Lucifer (a.k.a Satan) and his always non-corporeal followers, in all of scriptural history who we know of that had that level of knowledge. And we know almost nothing about specific conditions in Outer Darkness. God seems to have chosen to keep that information from us so we won't focus on it.

30. Popularity

Recent statistics have shown that conversion to Mormonism, Church of the Latter Day Saints, is growing at a rate of one million people a year. There is an almost even split of men and women and many of them have not followed any particular religion previously. It just goes to show that the rules attached to being a Mormon may not be as bizarre as we think!

I'm glad the author ended on this positive note. Though flattering, the "million people a year" number is a bit high. The Church's growth is, at its highest, a few hundred thousand per year between convert baptisms and organic growth within LDS families (more children "of record" in LDS households being baptized). While we would love it if a million people a year joined, we're not there.

Yet. If you look at the overall growth of the Church, there is a sharp incline in the mid-20th century. That increase occurred mainly due to improvements in general transportation, communication, and technology, as well as foreign language skills among our missionaries. As the world progressed in productivity and global access, so did the Church.

Even though our 16.8 million membership is a drop in the bucket compared to the over 8 billion people that exist in the world, our message is, indeed, appealing to a good number of people. We amplify our small numbers by having a strong focus on family values. 

Though we are often confusingly denounced as non-Christian in spite of the very name of our church, we appeal to people looking for traditional Christian ideals. People who have been disaffected from other faiths or a belief in God due to issues ranging from unanswered questions to horrific abuses have found their faith home among the various LDS congregations ("branches", "wards", and "stakes").

Some do leave, though it's not clear that they leave "in droves" as some critics contend. Even if that may be the case in North America and parts of Europe, which are experiencing a general decline in peoples' affiliation with any faith, it's not the case in Latin America and parts of Asia and the Asia Pacific.

In my experience reading ex-LDS stories on social media, most that are leaving do so for what they feel are more inclusive churches. Some leave for no other churches at all because they feel their issues with our doctrines, and Abrahamic doctrines in general, are too great to turn around and fill with any other faith. 

We feel sad (and, yes, a little bit upset, especially with mean, hateful, trollish types) when people leave. We who stay are staying for reasons we can't imagine leaving behind for anything else. It's sad to think of our brothers and sisters abandoning those amazing blessings. 

I hope this exercise has been helpful to people confused by what they read in the original article, especially if they know LDS people who don't fit the negative stereotypes it conveys. If you want to know more about us, visit and click on "About Us" or stop by any of our chapels on any given Sunday to experience one of our Sacrament meetings for yourself.

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We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)