“Well Known Facts”

April 10, 2008 | 69 comments
By

This week while we’re hearing lurid tales from Tom Green County, Texas, it is worthwhile to remember exactly how ugly were the lies once printed about our own people, some of them told unashamedly by federal appointees and officers of the 19th century court.

John T. Lynch, Salt Lake postmaster, was interviewed by a reporter from the St. Louis Republican, one of the nation’s prestigious newspapers, in 1882.

What effect does it [plural marriage] have on the morals of the community?

The worst, the very worst that could be imagined. It is a well-known fact that what the young men of Mormon parents see at home educates them to a life of licentiousness. I know from unimpeachable testimony that the majority of the young men who visit the houses of ill-fame in the city are of Mormon parentage.

How about Mormon girls?

Let me relate you a little incident. A few days ago I witnessed a curious transaction, in which the leader of the demi-monde of the city was one of the parties to the sale of some land. Before the sale was consummated a discussion ensued concerning the Mormon question. The woman was asked how many girls of that faith were in her establishment. She replied that there were 19 inmates, but of these only six were Mormons; but in explaining this she said if she were to admit all those of the Mormon religion that applied, she would have no use for any others. [1]

George C. Bates, former United States District Attorney for Utah, spun this little tale, widely published in 1882, claiming to have been on an official visit to southern Utah ten years earlier, where,

stopping to change horses and dine, I saw around the table five polygamous wives of one old bishop, and in and about the ranch some 36 large boys and girl of all ages from 10 to 16 and 20 years, and then and there I learned that these young Mormons all slept in one large, single room overhead in the Winter, like so many pigs, and in the hot weather of the Summer the are huddled together in the straw in the stable, living in promiscuous concubinage, and that several of the girls were bearing children to their cousins and brothers and uncles, as so many cows or ewes would do. This was a matter of daily happening, and was not discouraged, but winked at by the old Bishop, who stood high in the church, as a consequence of their religious teachings that every woman’s future happiness was enhanced by the number of children she bore, no matter who might be their fathers. [2]

I shouldn’t have to say this, but for clarity’s sake: I have religious objections to the practice of polygamy in 2008. I abhor child and spousal abuse. I despise coercion, especially in an area so sacred and eternal as marriage. I believe that with but the rarest of exceptions, underage marriages should be barred, with the ban being vigorously enforced.

And it may be that the FLDS are guilty of some or all of what they have been convicted of in the public’s mind — but because of our own history, because I know that people are eager to be titillated and willing — anxious, even — to believe the worst at the intersection of religion, sex, and secretive societies, I’m willing to suspend judgment until the evidence is in and the accused have had a chance to tell their side of the story.

Guy Murray at Messenger and Advocate continues to provide the best roundup of news and opinion on the Eldorado raid.

J. Stapley at By Common Consent has posted links to valuable resources on this topic.

[1] St. Louis Republican, reprinted as “A Batch of Falsehoods about the Mormons,” Deseret Semi-Weekly News, 22 June 1883.

[2] “How the Mormons Multiply,” Weekly Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), 18 February 1882.

Tags: ,

69 Responses to “Well Known Facts”

  1. ungewiss on April 10, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Amen, Ardis. Reading comments on Utah newspaper websites has been discouraging throughout this story–so much sensationalism and so few who seem interested in suspending judgment. I’m glad to read your post.

  2. J. Stapley on April 10, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    A fine post, Ardis. We should definitely be careful here.

  3. Jon W on April 10, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    That in a nutshell is my point of view. While things might be wrong lets not jump the gun with the media.

  4. Aaron on April 10, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I remember thinking back when the Branch Dividians were being raided – ‘geez, this looks like a modern day Hahn’s Mill.’ I’ve always tried to withhold judgment when the media/main stream society starts picking on a sect/cult/religious group that has a charismatic leader, loyal (to death) disciples, weird/unusual “practices”, etc.

  5. Russell Arben Fox on April 10, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Ditto Aaron. Though back in the spring and early summer of 1993, I unfortunately heard precious little sympathy for the Branch Davidians amongst the students and faculty at BYU. That was a gross violation of the freedom of religion and association and of the rights of parents to, up to the limits of abuse (admittedly a tricky and expansive concept, especially when sex and marriage are concerned), raise their children as best their conscience guides them. I hope we as a community (not to mention a country) can do better this time.

  6. Ellis on April 10, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for the perspective. This incident does nothing to give credibility to law enforcement! It makes them look like vultures just waiting around for a chance to swoop in without any real cause. It makes me uneasy.

  7. Aaron on April 10, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Russell, I was a freshman at BYU in ’93/94 (ouch!) and I too remember very little compasion towards the Dividians. Words like crazy, lunatics, etc. were tossed about freely. Some classmates were disparaging the Dividians in one of my religion classes(!) and I said, “I see a lot of similarities to Karesh and Joseph Smith.” One responded, “Except Joseph Smith wasn’t crazy.” “According to whom?”

  8. Neal on April 10, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    I am skeptical at this point that the accused will ever be able to tell their story.

  9. Scott Fife on April 10, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    To their credit, the FLDS Texas group was not armed to the hilt, did not fight back, and no poison Kool-aid. They have rightly chosen to fight this through the courts. Hopefully, the truth will prevail, whatever it may be.

  10. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 12:17 am

    This process at the FLDS compound was begun on the basis of an affidavit that an anonymous 16 year old girl telephoned and claimed she had been forced into a marriage with an older man and was pregnant. They have not been able to identify any of the young women they have taken into state custody as the person who allegedly called. At this point, it could have been a call made by someone under false pretenses in order to supply “probable cause” for a search warrant, which apparently is premised on the notion that while they are looking for the anonymous informant, they are taking into custody people they think have been victims of the crime of statutory rape, since Texas does not allow marriage by anyone under the age of 16, and the plural marriages are not conducted pursuant to law since that would constitute bigamy. While there may have been such crimes committed, or worse, I would be concerned that the circumstances will lead to coercive pressure on young teenage girls to give testimony against others, in an echo of the Salem Witch Trials and the Wenatchee, Washington “child sexual abuse” prosecution against the operators of a daycare center. After having conducted a nationally famous raid, the authorities will be under tremendous pressure to produce convictions, just as in the Dukle University rape allegations.

    Whatever the crimes that may have been committed by some members of the Branch Davidian group, they could not have justified their execution without trial through the instrument of fire, including the killing of innocent children who were allegedly the victims of the crimes. “We had to burn the village to save it”. Who committed the greater abuse of the children? However benign Attorney General Janet Reno might appear in person, she authorized that act of terrible and violent coercive force against people never convicted of any crime, and the similar violent assault against the relatives of Elian Gonzales in a simple child custody dispute. The banality of a tyrant does not mitigate the tyranny.

  11. MinJae Lee on April 11, 2008 at 12:30 am

    I’m glad to see someone else with this opinion. Given all the lies that have been told about what goes on in LDS Temples I hesitate to believe anything these people in Texas are telling us until the evidence is presented. The US has a long history of religious intolerance and lying about peoples beliefs is common. I hate it when non-Mormons tell me what goes on in our Temples and am shocked when they think they know more about it than I do because some ex-Mormon spoke in their Bible class and told them all about it. I have no confidence that what people in Texas are saying is true.

    I’m dissapointed to see comments from LDS people that accept these statements as facts with no other evidence – given our history I would expect a better understanding.

  12. Blake on April 11, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Good job Ardis. Imagine, they found beds in the temple and one of them was actually unmade! Horror of horrors! Capital punishment for unmade beds in the temple!

    The folks in Texas took all of the children on the pretense that if they didn’t, then the boys would be taught to be lecherous child rapists. I’m not making that up. That is the basis and the harm that supposedly justified the emergency action of removing 400+ children from the compound. It amounts to saying: “These boys would be taught to take plural wives and that’s unacceptable.” It is so much B.S. that it turns my stomach. They have the right to believe and teach what they will even under the Reynolds case. Is it possible to get justice in Texas?

  13. UtahDan on April 11, 2008 at 12:46 am

    This isn’t the 19th century and your sympathy is horribly misplaced. These are members of a pedophilia cult. Don’t let our shared past cause you to give the benefit of the doubt that is not remotely deserved.

  14. Jonathan Green on April 11, 2008 at 1:34 am

    I dunno, Russell. Given that the Branch Davidian thing ended with dozens of people dying in flames, I don’t think the concern about children’s safety was all that misplaced back then. The lack of massive stockpiles of arms and lethal resistance to government agents probably makes the two cases not entirely comparable.

  15. Sally on April 11, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Hearing the reports of beds in the temple for sex after marriages is discouraging. People already feel that strange things are happening in our own temples and I’m sure many will feel that we do the same there. And after seeing the police enter and search the FLDS temple, how long before they feel they need to inspect our temples also?

  16. Bookslinger on April 11, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Did anyone else get a weird feeling about the cover of the October 2007 Ensign?

    You know and I know that the bags they are carrying are for ceremonial temple-clothing, so they don’t have to rent the ceremonial temple-clothing, or in cases where the temple doesn’t rent clothing.

    However, to an outsider, they probably look like overnight bags. And then the headline reads “Come to the temple.” Would it be far-fetched for a non-LDS person to wonder: “Why are they taking overnight bags to the temple?”

  17. Peter LLC on April 11, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Scott (#9):

    Given that this is a historian’s post, I feel I should point out that it was Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid. I think mistakes like this raise another issue–when certain “facts” become cemented as common knowledge, they are never to be undone.

  18. LisaC on April 11, 2008 at 7:13 am

    I was particularly disturbed at the image of the men standing guard outside the FLDS temple to defend it. First, I hadn\’t realized they built a temple. Second, the \”marriage bed\” that was found inside….I am expecting questions from friends for sure! Third, it really does sound like a story that could have involved early LDS members 100+ years ago. I would stand up to defend our temple. I can image how that felt to those men…families missing, uncertainty about how the law was going to treat everyone, and last of all a violation of the most sacred place you know.

  19. Russell Arben Fox on April 11, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Given that the Branch Davidian thing ended with dozens of people dying in flames, I don’t think the concern about children’s safety was all that misplaced back then. The lack of massive stockpiles of arms and lethal resistance to government agents probably makes the two cases not entirely comparable.

    Sorry, Jonathan, but you’re mostly wrong here. The flames which killed the Branch Davidians may have been started by some suicidal, self-immolating members of the cult, or they may have resulted from an accidental fire begun by those defending the compound, or they may have been started by the attacking agents–we’ll never know for sure, because the ATF isn’t talking, and all the Branch Davidian leadership is dead. “Massive stockpiles of arms”? Yep, they had some rifles converted to semi-automatic; try to find a bishop’s basement anywhere in Texas that doesn’t include one or three of the same. “Lethal resistance to government agents”? The ATF fired first, eventually bringing in helicopters and tanks, all while the local county sheriff had maintained a cordial relationship with David Koresh throughout. No, of course the cases are not entirely comparable–the differences between 19th-century Mormon doctrine and practices and those of the Branch Davidians are pretty huge (that is, once you get past the charismatic, authoritarian leader, anitnominian rhetoric, and arranged polygamous marriages thing…), as are the differences between the 19th-century Utah Territory and present-day Texas. But the root principle–the clash between crazy religious visions on one side, and a state responsible for protecting its citizens on the other–is the same, and in both the Mormon and the Branch Davidian case, the decisions made definitely sided with those in power. (I am willing to forgive the Clinton administration for many things, but their refusal to demand any kind of real accountability from Janet Reno, who signed off on that operation, is a hard one to get past.)

    I’m going to have to write something about this.

  20. Aaron on April 11, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Suspending judgment until all the facts are in is generally a good principle. We usually want it to be done when it’s our sacred cow on the butcher’s block and not someone else’s. That said, I’m a little surprised at the defensiveness displayed here. What if the FLDS are in fact guilty of forcing young girls into marriages with older men? Perhaps that question gets a little too close to our own polygamous past. My great-grandmother, for example, was only 13 when she married my great-grandfather who was over 40 and already had another family. Did she enter into marriage out of romantic love and her own free will? I doubt it…but I will suspend judgment until I can ask her myself.

  21. Blake on April 11, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Aaron: I’m all for suspending judgment. Unfortunately, the judgment was already made before the evidence was gathered. Otherwise, removing all 400+ children is legally indefensible. They are now desperately searching for evidence to justify their massive invasion of Constitutional rights. The fact that there are beds in the temple at a time when they are under siege is not surprising at all. Did they sleep there regularly? Does the presence of beds even remotely imply having sexual relations? How long have the beds been there? Does an unmade bed imply even remotely that it was used for sexual purposes? Of course not. Yet that is the logical leap that is being made by the news media and law enforcement. It is a leap of logic so vast that not even Carl Lewis could span that gap. It is amazing that the news media and law enforcement in Texas don’t all have slipped discs from such mental gymnastics.

  22. David Kitchen on April 11, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Ardis,

    Thank you for this post. I agree that we should withhold judgment of the FLDS until the facts are shown, and I doubly agree that the media is going overboard. I find particularly troubling the prurient attention poured on the temple, with inferences that anything done in “secret” is to be presumed suspect.

    That said, I disagree with many of the comments that would have us side with the FLDS because of presecution we received in our past. From my view, the differences between the current Texas raid and what was done to the saints in Missouri and Illinois are much greater than the similarities. It is telling to me that the Church’s reaction has not been to side with the FLDS, but, quite to the opposite, to make the sure the media understands we have nothing to do with them (see lds.org / newsroom). Remember that the FLDS are apostates. The fact that they have built a temple does not decrease their distance from us; rather, in my mind, it increases the distance. I do not understand why members of the church are so quick to trust the word of apostates over government officials.

    As to the differences between this raid and our persecution: First, the motive is vastly different. We were persecuted mainly because our growth threatened the existing powers. Also because our religious beliefs were considered repulsive and because we did not own slaves. The FLDS are being raided because of serious allegations of child rape and forced marriages. The media discusses the groups’ weird beliefs (such as not wearing red), but that is not the motive of those involved in the raid.

    Second, the means are vastly different. We were presecuted by vigilanty mobocracy. We pleaded with the government for its involvement and were flatly refused (Missouri) and then given unkept promises (Illinois). That is the exact opposite of what is happening in Texas, where the people’s representative, Judges and Police, are carrying out the action. While government officials certainly can overract, and as you point out – lie, I would proffer that we withhold judgment of their actions just as we withhold judgment of the FLDS. Our canon still includes AoF 12 (we believe in … obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law) and D/C 124 (governments are instituted by God; men are to sustain their representatives; crimes are to be punished; men can defend themselves when the government cannot protect them). Let’s follow it.

    Lastly, I have to take even stronger issue with comparing our past with that of Jonestown and the Branch Dividians. Joseph is NOTHING like Koresh or Jim Jones. When those leaders’ backs were to the wall, they chose to kill off their people, including women and unaccountable children, rather than face whatever potential injustice the government could meet out. When Josephs’ back was to the wall, both in Missouri and Nauvoo, he commanded his people to give up their weapons and possessions, and then offered up himself to save the people. That is our example (and I would add Christ’s as well). We are not apocalyptal suicidists. We will take our lumps and then turn the other cheek, allowing God to meet out justice.

  23. gej on April 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

    It is my understanding that back in very early days of the St George temple when couples traveled for days by wagon to be sealed there were in fact rooms in the upper floor set aside for couples to stay overnight. Presumably furnished with beds and likely put to use as newlyweds are rumored to do. This was for convenience sake and not ritual. Of course it is possible for some of those sealings to have been between “underage” girls and older men. So while plural marriage is not practiced today by LDS folks we have striking similarities in our past history.

  24. David Kitchen on April 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

    We need to be careful about comparing “underage” marriages of today with those in the 1800s. Life expectancies have roughly doubled since the church was founded. Average age of first marriage has also significantly increased. For me, I am not so much troubled by the age of the bride as to whether she was able to choose the marriage – both in terms of maturity and absence of coersion.

  25. Ardis Parshall on April 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

    This rumored “honeymoon hotel” is fiction, not fact. Couples who “traveled for days by wagon” might find shelter with a relative, or a rented room in a private house, or would continue to camp out as they did coming to St. George and returning to their home — they did not room in the temple. That you have been told this rumor illustrates, once again, the prurient interest taken in other people’s intimate behavior which is now repeated in the FLDS story.

    The Manti temple did at an early date have a room fitted up as a bedroom for the convenience of the temple president who often worked long and late. Similar conveniences may possibly have been made for presidents in other pioneer temples, although I know of none for certain.

  26. Ugly Mahana on April 11, 2008 at 11:10 am

    It is part and parcel of obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law to question the actions taken by the Texas authorities. They are beneath the law and, as individuals and citizens, we must be certain that they do not act as or become a uniformed mob. Let me be clear. I have no reason to impugn the manner either in which Texas authorities determined on their current action or in which they are carrying it out. However, in part because the history that Ardis highlights, I do not give the authorities a free pass and I am very skeptical of the reports that justify the action and attempt to explain FLDS beliefs.

    Joseph Smith taught an individual responsibility to defend the religious rights of all. This principle was reaffirmed by Pres. Hinckley in October Conference 1995. Pres. Hinckley said:

    “We must be willing to defend the rights of others who may become the victims of bigotry.

    I call attention to these striking words of Joseph Smith spoken in 1843:

    ‘If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination” (History of the Church, 5:498).'”

    As others have pointed out, LDS history and belief rejects the beliefs of the FLDS. LDS church clarity on its relationship to the FLDS is an act of self-defense in an unfriendly world that no more validates state intervention in the lives of FLDS families and the affairs of the FLDS church than LDS disbelief in the Pope justifies interference in Catholic affairs or LDS disbelief in the appropriateness of female or homosexual ordination justifies taking children from Episcopal homes. As a member of the LDS church, I strongly believe that I have an individual responsibility to defend the rights of all to believe as they will and to “worship how, what, or where they may.”

  27. Eugene V. Debs on April 11, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Was it really a good idea for the FLDS to move to Texas? Was it pragmatic? Yes, Tom Green county is about as obscure and empty as you can get, but I don’t remember the Lone Star state as marked by an unusual tolerance for sexual outlaws. Discussions like this so often beat up on the immediate actions of the members of the state security apparatus sent to remove the threatening religious other. Fair enough–I’m sure the ATF and the Texas Rangers have some explaining to do in both cases. But no one looks at the strategic and tactical decisions made by the leaders of the “cults’ confronted by the state. At what point should David Koresh have said “ok, the ATF is clearly in the wrong, but they have more firepower. Since I’m responsible for the lives of women and children, I should walk out the front door and give myself up.” The FLDS mistake is more strategic–did they not believe that the good people of Texas just might play rough with them? That a rural Texas county would simply shrug its shoulders at the presence of a large polygamist compound?

  28. gej on April 11, 2008 at 11:28 am

    If I am wrong about the whole St George thing I apologize. Perhaps the next time one you travel down to St George you can inform the Vistors Center staff they are spreading unfounded rumors. That’s where I heard it.

  29. Ardis Parshall on April 11, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Wouldn’t be the first time missionaries repeated stories that were too good to be true! (I could walk less than 100 yards across the plaza and likely hear something just as good and just as fictive at the Beehive House this morning. The printed scripts are never good enough — too many of our missionaries are willing to spice up the story with unfounded but provocative details.

    (I didn’t mean to use you as an example, gej — I have no doubt whatsoever that someone did tell you this story, and that you repeated it in good faith. You simply provided me with an opportunity to once again be a know-it-all and point out another reason to be cautious about believing the Texas Ranger’s interpretation of anything he saw in the FLDS compound, until someone on the inside explains, since there is such a recognizable tendency to want to associate sex with religion and exclusion.)

  30. bbell on April 11, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I agree with Russell on the “weapons stockpile” issue.

    A trip thru the gun cases in Utah county, rural Idaho, and here in TX in LDS homes would reveal quite a few firearms. We once had a shooting activity for our Priests quorum and every boy/Dad brought at least one gun from home. The Bishop brought 5-6 himself.

    I am also waiting for more evidence before making up my mind about this case.

    TX was a very poor choice for the FLDS. I was really surprised when they moved here and bought the big spread. I thought right away that eventually the TX Rangers and CPS would intervene

  31. Jonathan Green on April 11, 2008 at 11:59 am

    No, Russell, it takes two to start a firefight, and if one of the sides consists of government agents with a warrant, there is no excuse of any kind. The desire of the police to arrest you does not make it self-defense when you fire back at them.

  32. David Kitchen on April 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Ugly Mahana,

    You are correct that government officials work under the law and should have their actions reviewed. I am not advocating a free pass. But I am willing to believe that they are acting appropriately until shown otherwise. Nothing so far has led me to believe they are acting out of bigotry, but rather out of a desire to save children from an abusive enironment. If you know of something showing bigotry in the government, please put it forward.

    On the otherhand, I am completely on board with you regarding the media, which is stirring the religious bigotry pot. “Cult experts” dissecting how hard it is for the children to live within a fanatical “bubble” make my stomach churn. But I think it wrong to project the media’s bigotry onto the officials who are actually carrying out the action.

    Lastly, I appreciate Joseph’s sentiments about dying for the liberties of others. But remember that the Lord counseled him to first seek redress from the appropriate government channels before engaging in any bloodshed. That is precisely what is happening here. As much as some may distrust the officials, I think we can all agree that their involvement is much preferable to mob action.

  33. Jon W on April 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    David #22

    I would urge you to look into the raids of polygamists, called crusades by their proponents against the church in the 1880s. These are very similar in shape to what is happening to the FLDS. One group has decided that immorality, in their perview, is worth prosecuting.

    Now abuse is abuse is abuse and it is completely unacceptable and should prosecuted, using facts, and actual details not lurid “Temple Marriage beds” which apparently comes from the investigator talking to former members of the FLDS.

    It reminds me of Katrina when everyone assumed there was all kinds of horrors going on in the Superdome, only to find out most of it was rumours and hype. We always should be careful taking the media reports because the media is an unfiltered tool, truth is not in their purview over “the story”.

  34. Ellis on April 11, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    For me the beliefs of the FLDS are irrelevant. The disruption of the lives of 400 children and women is. The idea that these women and children are helpless dupes of a system they have to be rescued from reminds me of the forced baptism of Jewish chldren iin Europe in past centuries.

    What I learn from this is that had the FLDS upgraded their practices to exclude marrying underaged women the raid would never have taken place. So now the police are searching for some kind of evidence other than a whispered tip from an alleged 16 year old they have yet to interview.

    “At what point should David Koresh have said “ok, the ATF is clearly in the wrong, but they have more firepower. Since I’m responsible for the lives of women and children, I should walk out the front door and give myself up.”

    Crisis intervention training that keeps police from shooting at anything that moves in a tense situation isn’t wide spread enough in the country today to assume that just walking out will prevent what happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge. I expect the moment for giving himself up passed the momlent the first ATF officer died. It just isn’t that simple.

  35. Russell Arben Fox on April 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    David,

    We were presecuted by vigilanty mobocracy. We pleaded with the government for its involvement and were flatly refused (Missouri) and then given unkept promises (Illinois). That is the exact opposite of what is happening in Texas, where the people’s representative, Judges and Police, are carrying out the action.

    I think you are overestimating the ease by which one can discern the difference between the mobs and the “duly constituted” militias of the 19th-century…or, for that matter, the difference between “the people’s representatives” acting on the basis of careful procedures and “the people’s representatives” acting on the basis of rumor and paranoia. (I’m not accusing the police in this case of doing the latter; just making a point.)

    Joseph is NOTHING like Koresh or Jim Jones. When those leaders’ backs were to the wall, they chose to kill off their people, including women and unaccountable children, rather than face whatever potential injustice the government could meet out. When Josephs’ back was to the wall, both in Missouri and Nauvoo, he commanded his people to give up their weapons and possessions, and then offered up himself to save the people.

    Nothing like Jim Jones, I agree–he was a psychopathic predator and paranoiac. But nothing like David Koresh goes too far, however. Koresh didn’t choose to kill off his own people (no one knows who started the fire, and an ATF tank smashing in the walls of the compound while spewing gas didn’t exactly make the investigation any easier). And somehow, your description of Joseph as somehow passive in the face of government action doesn’t exactly fit his rhetoric, especially as commander of the Nauvoo militia.

    My point is simply that the parallels are there; they can’t and shouldn’t be easily dismissed. I’m with Ardis: if crimes have been committed, I hope they are found out. And I’m grateful that the police in this case acted with apparent responsibility and caution, though obviously criticisms can still be made. But brushing our sympathy for the FLDS under the rug by saying that there’s no overlap between their and our (or the Branch Davidian’s) situation is flawed, I think. (More here.)

  36. Russell Arben Fox on April 11, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Jonathan,

    It takes two to start a firefight, and if one of the sides consists of government agents with a warrant, there is no excuse of any kind. The desire of the police to arrest you does not make it self-defense when you fire back at them.

    Of course not; I’m with you there. But who is looking to excuse the fact that a bunch of religious fanatics trained to expect the end of the world freaked out when a dozen armored vehicles swarmed their compound and disgorged a snipers before dawn one morning in April? I’m not; David Koresh is ultimately responsible for the deaths of seventy-two people. But he didn’t actually do the killing. And the actual killing could probably have been avoided–David Koresh had a friendly relationship with the local sheriff up until and through the standoff; the ATF couldn’t have dropped the semi-automatics for while and allowed the local cops to go search the place? (Again, more here.)

  37. Aaron C. on April 11, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    (there seem to be two “Aarons” on the board – surely, I am the dumber of the two)

    I don’t think anyone on here is justifying or defending forced underaged marriages. I just don’t like the media troubling the waters by making the FLDS out to be a freak show. A “pedophelia cult”? Really? And how do you know this? What I mean to say is I don’t know for sure what is going on in these compounds. Automatically believing what the media reports, especially in situations like this, is somewhat foolish. And yes, this isn’t the 19th century, but people still spread all kinds of horribly false rumors about LDS – today.

    So as I said before, I’m withholding judgment on behalf of the FLDS and the Sherrifs Office. Unfortunately, if similar past events are any indicator, we’ll never really know the truth.

  38. adcama on April 11, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Ardis, sorry for the threadjack……

    I’m sure everyone here commenting on the actions of the government at Waco has read the Danforth Report; http://www.waco93.com/Danforth-finalreport.pdf.

    Russell, your assertion that “the flames which killed the Branch Davidians may have been started by some suicidal, self-immolating members of the cult, or they may have resulted from an accidental fire begun by those defending the compound, or they may have been started by the attacking agents–we’ll never know for sure, because the ATF isn’t talking, and all the Branch Davidian leadership is dead” is not consistent with the facts (see page 6 of the Danforth report), namely that, without question, the Branch Davidians started the fire.

    Second, your statement that “Yep, they had some rifles converted to semi-automatic; try to find a bishop’s basement anywhere in Texas that doesn’t include one or three of the same. “Lethal resistance to government agents” is way off…..ATF had a search warrant and an arrest warrent for Koresh. The arrest warrant charged Koresh with unlawful possession of a destructive device, the search warrant entitled ATF agents to search for evidence relating to the unlawful possession of FULLY AUTOMATIC machine guns and destructive devices (grenades, etc). Investigation led agents to have probable cause (and a Judge agreed) that there was a lot more at the compound than a few “converted semi-automatic rifles.” The weapons the Davidians had, along with the claims they made about the purposes of those weapons, made the warrants justified. I might add that the warrants in this case were signed by a Federal Judge….not some back woods Texas Magistrate.

    Third, “the ATF fired first, eventually bringing in helicopters and tanks.” Are you talking about the initial execution of the search/arrest warrant by the ATF, or the raid by the FBI (not ATF) after the standoff? If you are referring to the former, the ATF had every right to arrest Koresh and search the compound and not be completely gunned down (page 133 of the above report) (despite questions as to whether the ATF should have chosen to alter plans for executing the warrants after Koresh was “tipped off”). The agents had warrants, which were based on probable cause, and those warrants….again, were signed by a judge (btw, the probable cause argument that Blake is making in the case of the FLDS is the most interesting argument to me).

    If you are referring to the end to the 51 day standoff when you say that “the ATF fired first”, it wasn’t the ATF, it was the FBI who had been charged with taking over the operation. Second, I would encourage you to read the Justice Department’s account of what happened on April 19th at http://www.usdoj.gov/05publications/waco/wacotwo.html before you say for certainty “who fired the first shot.”

    Finally, what is reasonable for the government in the case of the Davidians, who had shot 20 federal agents and who were not coming out? After 51 days, should the goverment continue to spend millions of dollars waiting? Koresh had advised negotiators that the safety of the women and children were in jeopardy….should the government have just retreated and discussed the allegations later? Seriously, what were they supposed to do?

  39. Kari on April 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    David (#24),

    I am not sure that “underage” marriages were as common as you think they were in the 1800’s. I hear that argument a lot from apologetics, but it just doesn’t seem to be true.

    For example see this abstract. The average age for first marriage in New England, for women, went from 19.3 in 1680-1709 to 25.3 from 1800-1809.

    Also, there is an interesting, extrapolated graph here that uses census data and estimates that the average age of marriage for women in the US (as a whole) from 1790 onwards was >20.

    And the rise of age of first marriage has really only risen greatly in the past 20 years. Throughout the 1950s and 60s the average age for women was ~20, after being higher earlier in the century.

    Additionally, the age of menarche has actually decreased over the same time. The average in 1804 was 16.5; in 1996 it was 12.8 (“Childhood growth and age at menarche ” BJOG 103(8):814-817). So it is quite reasonable to think that some of the underage, polygamous brides in the 1800’s were not even fertile yet. (Unless that was a condition for entering into that marriage. I am not aware of any information that would support that however.)

    Comparing marriage today and 170 years ago is fraught with difficulty, and, IMO, should never be used as a justification as the normality of teenage brides (particularly 14-year olds) entering into polygamous marriages in the early church.

  40. Kari on April 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    That last bit should read “justification for the normality of teenage…”

    Ardis, thank you for a fascinating post. You really should have received the Niblet for best blogger. I really enjoy your analysis and perception.

  41. Mark B. on April 11, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Aaron (#20):

    We might be related–I had a great-great grandfather who fits that description, but the young wife wasn’t my ancestor.

    Or, there were at least two such marriages in 19th century Mormondom.

  42. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    The FLDS strike me as an example of how the practice of plural marriage can go off the rails when its practitioners are not guided by and answerable to a true prophet of God, exactly the kind of abuses that Jacob denounced to the Nephites. But, speaking as a former prosecutor, they still deserve due process of law and the normal complement of legal rights of anyone suspected of crimes.

    Since the Branch Davidian matter also happened in Texas, you can be sure that the officials there don’t want to have a repeat of that fiasco. The original armed assualt in Waco, without warning, was a fantasy operation by a bunch of ATF agents playing soldier with their new bulletproof vests and helmets, instead of acting as law enforcement agents serving warrants. They had opportunities to arrest Koresh outside the compound, but intentionally wanted to pursue him inside so they could fish for other evidence as they looked through the buildings. The second armed assault was simple impatience. An armored vehicle breaking down walls to enter a building could cause all sorts of fires, from broken gas lines to heat from the engine, in addition to the intense heat that is generated by the combustion process that creates tear gas. It is not gas being let out of a pressurized cannister, but chemicals burning like solid rocket propellant (what powers the “air bags” in our cars), which is why police don’t use tear gas inside a building without fire trucks standing by to put out the inevitable fires.

    There have been a number of other confrontations since then of a similar nature, but police have been careful not to repeat the stupid actions at the Waco site which could all have been avoided if law enforcement had acted with more maturity.

    The fact that hundreds have been taken into state custody without violent confrontation shows that the people inside the compound are not suicidal. They have gone to court in an effort to limit the scope of search warrants.

    With respect to beds in their “temple”: When the Nauvoo temple was under construction, and then being used around the clock for temple endowments and sealings, there were brethren who stayed there overnight to guard it against mob violence. If statutory rape was taking place, it was being done inside homes. The focus on trying to argue their “temple” was a crime scene is to justify a fishing expedition for documentary evidence in that building.

  43. Ardis Parshall on April 11, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Kari (39) — To be nominated was honor enough. Oh, wait a minute …

  44. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Yep, they had some rifles converted to semi-automatic;

    Umm. What? Do you mean some semi-automatic rifles with the firing pins adjusted to shoot faster?

  45. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Kari: For example see this abstract. The average age for first marriage in New England, for women, went from 19.3 in 1680-1709 to 25.3 from 1800-1809.

    Which tells us very little unless we also know the standard deviation. Also one should note that the age of marriage in western and northern Europe was significantly higher than in the United States and Eastern Europe. So what effect was immigration having on these statistics.

    What’s very interesting is that in the mid 20th century the 1st percentile for women’s marriage was actually 16.5.

  46. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    To add, one should be somewhat careful about drawing nation wide conclusions from what went on in a single town: Nantucket.

  47. Kari on April 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    “The FLDS strike me as an example of how the practice of plural marriage can go off the rails when its practitioners are not guided by and answerable to a true prophet of God, exactly the kind of abuses that Jacob denounced to the Nephites”

    I appreciate your statement of faith Raymond, but many observers argue that JS himself went off the rails when it came to the polyandry and polygyny he espoused and taught. And many in the FLDS church view their leader as a “true prophet of God.” One man’s prophet is another’s misguided, duplicitous shyster.

  48. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Just a note, in case it wasn’t clear that 16.5 age was for Mass. and not the United States as a whole.

    As I mentioned over at BCC I put up two relevant pages.

    The Timing of Marriage in the Transition to Adulthood: Continuity and Change, 1860-1975

    Marriage Age Demographics in the United States

    They aren’t perfect as they don’t cover the crucial period from 1820 – 1850 when there were some pretty significant social and demographic changes in the United States going on. Also, my understanding is that the west during that period had younger marriages than the east. (West then meaning Missouri, Ohio and so forth) I couldn’t find on JSTOR any good papers on that. (Sorry, I’m doing this from my house so I can’t access other networks)

  49. Russell Arben Fox on April 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Do you mean some semi-automatic rifles with the firing pins adjusted to shoot faster?

    Converting them to full auto is what I meant. Sorry for the confusion.

  50. Troy on April 11, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I agree with many of these comments. In saying \”wait until the evidence is in\” we are not justifying the acts of these people. If it turns out that pedophilia was going on then it is only right to prosecute the actors to the extent of the law. All we are saying is dont believe the hype… the media sells, sells, and sells (their souls) and most journalists are fairly indifferent in getting the truth out, they care more about the \”truth and they see it\”.

    Don\’t punish people (like the Duke lacrosse players) before they have been proven guilty. We have courts in the country for a reason, lets not give the media that authority.

    Troy

  51. Kari on April 11, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Clark, I certainly understand the limitations to this data. However, my point was that “underage” marriages in the 1840’s was not “the norm”. You even make my point by drawing attention to the fact that the 1st percentile (in the mid 20th century, which had about the same average as in the 1800s for marriage age) is 16.5. By definition, the 1st percentile can be considered outliers, don’t you?

    As I am sure you are aware, two standard deviations is the generally accepted confidence limits in statistics, and includes 95% of the sample. 2.5% of the sample size gets cut off of each end (in this case, those who married young and those who married old). So if you are going to espouse the use of standard deviation, let’s keep that in mind.

    I don’t think that I’ve ever heard any social scientist argue that the 1st percentile of a population represents the norm. And that is what this discussion is about – the norm of marrying at a certain age. Was it normal for teenagers to marry in the 1840’s? Is normal in 2008?

    Certainly many mormon apologists have argued that it was normal in the 1840s. I believe the data doesn’t support this position, but am open to changing my mind. If you have better stats/studies I’m all ears.

  52. Kari on April 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I was typing during your last post Clark. I’ll be reading the two sources you mention. Do you have pdf’s available? It’s super hard reading documents like that online.

  53. Ardis Parshall on April 11, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Was it normal for teenagers to marry in the 1840’s? Is normal in 2008?

    If you continue this branch of the discussion, I would hope that “normal” is not the only acceptable measure. “Normal” implies average or typical or run-of-the-mill, and the youngest (or oldest or skinniest or blondest or richest) can never be “normal.” That’s the nature of superlatives.

    What you’re really asking is whether very young brides have ever been common enough not to provoke hostile reactions. Raised eyebrows maybe, but not “that’s disgusting! hand me my shotgun!”

  54. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    No – I just snagged them off of JSTOR. Sorry.

    Regarding 1st percentile. They are outliers. I certainly am not saying they are the norm. However something done by 10% of the popular is also not that unusual. Note, for instance, that far less of the population is Mormon than that.

    While I can’t claim to have read all the apologetic arguments (and certainly some are bad) I think the argument is that it wasn’t unusual not that it was typical.

  55. Clark on April 11, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    To add, you might wish to look at the graph from the 1850 census available at FAIR.

    I certainly don’t think this explains everything. But the idea of common or normal can be taken two ways. I don’t think apologist I’m familiar mean by that the mean, median or mode.

    I should add that FAIR certainly doesn’t use the word normal. The closest they come is this:

    The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.

  56. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Let’s get something out on the table, so we can polish it off and throw it away:

    “Normal” when it comes to Jospeh’s wives was NOT younger than 17. “Normal” for those wives was 20-40 – or very roughly his own age. The outliers were under 17 and over 50.

    I hate it when the ages of Joseph’s wives is presented as abnormal. The age range is about as normal a standard statistical distribution as you can get.

  57. Ugly Mahana on April 11, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Wow. I totally did not mean to issue a call to arms by quoting Joseph Smith. I hope David Kitchen (#32) was the only one who read my comment that way. I mainly intended to make the argument that it is as reasonable to view government actions with slight skepticism as it is to view them with slight confidence. Trust but verify. And what RAF said . . .

    What would evidence that Texas authorities were acting out of bigotry look like, anyway?

  58. Ken on April 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    “To add, one should be somewhat careful about drawing nation wide conclusions from what went on in a single town: Nantucket.”

    Especially given what we know of that town’s residents from popular limericks of the time.

  59. adcama on April 11, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Is my comment being censored? Lame…..

  60. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    My grandmother was married at age 16 in 1927 to my grandfather, about 25, in Salt Lake. She predeceased him by several years. Her parents were Danish converts, his were Swedish converts, all immigrants to Utah in the 1890s. He had a good job (he was the sole employee of Utah Power and Light west of the Jordan River, electrical lineman, appliance repair, meter reader and bill collector). They were married in the Salt Lake Temple. I can’t think of any objective reason to criticize them under the circumstances, and in light of how they turned out.

  61. Ardis Parshall on April 11, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    adcama — I found a very long comment by you caught in the spam filter and “freed” it, but for some reason it isn’t showing up on screen. I don’t know either why it was caught there, or why it isn’t appearing now. Kaimi? anybody?

  62. Guy Murray on April 12, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Ardis,

    Thanks for your words of caution–the “well known facts” and your link as well. Great comments on this thread as well.

  63. David Kitchen on April 14, 2008 at 10:54 am

    “What would evidence that Texas authorities were acting out of bigotry look like, anyway? ” – UM

    When the US government placed Japanese Americans in confinement during WWII because of their racial heritage, that was racial bigotry. A hypothetical example of religious bigotry could be DCFS workers removing children from fundamentalist evangelical homes because the children were being taught that the earth was literally created in seven days. In either of these cases, and particularly in the latter due to our history, I hope that I would speak up against the government action.

    In the case at hand, I have seen no suggestion that the government is acting due to the FLDS’s religious beliefs, but rather for the legitimate purpose of preventing child abuse. The broad sweep of the raid gives me pause to think they may be overreaching, but not to question their motivation. Again, if you have anything to suggest an alterior motivation, please do share.

  64. Ardis Parshall on April 14, 2008 at 11:35 am

    The broad sweep of the raid gives me pause to think they may be overreaching, but not to question their motivation.

    With this statement you disallow any claim of religious bias. I know of no one who has said that bigotry motivated investigation of the claimed telephone report of abuse — *nobody* here believes that religious belief covers sexual or physical abuse. The charges of bigotry are centered in what you have concealed by calling it “overreaching” — seizing all the children, even those whom no exaggerated description of FLDS belief could consider as being at imminent risk.

    It is more than “overreaching” if these children were taken not because they were at risk of anything the claimed telephone call reported — if they were taken solely because Texas thinks they are “weird” and extremely modest and don’t watch TV or play with the same Barbie dolls and Warcraft toys that your kids play with and prefer fresh carrots to Chee-tohs.

    I don’t know that those factors entered into official decisions, but they all loom large in the remarks of “ordinary” residents of Eldorado and vicinity. Unless the officials are of an entirely different breed from the populace they live among, your “overreaching” is my “religious bigotry.”

  65. just me on April 14, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Both children thought abused and those thought potentially to be abused may be removed from a single home when a suspected abuser is still present. when abuser is still present. And with Jeffs and/or his assistants reassigning family members within their cooperative community to reward the more observant fathers, etc., Texas officials must have determined that the whole lot has become entwining in a sense into one home, into one religio-familial entity.

  66. just me on April 14, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Both children thought abused and those thought potentially to be abused may be removed from a single home when a suspected abuser is still present. when abuser is still present. And with Jeffs and/or his assistants reassigning family members within their cooperative community to reward the more observant fathers, etc., Texas officials must have determined that the whole lot has become entwining in a sense into one home, into one religio-familial entity.

  67. David Kitchen on April 14, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    “With this statement you disallow any claim of religious bias.” (sorry, I haven’t figured out how to italicize yet)

    I was describing my observation, not all possible observations. Of course one can overreach because of a religious bias, and the hypothetical you offered is a example of just that. But there are also a myriad of non-bigoted ways to overreach. For instance, the government could say “because we don’t know which child called in the abuse report, we’re going to take all the children.” This can be seen as overreaching (I am withholding judgment until at least the 4/19 hearing), but it doesn’t mean the overreaching is religiously-motivated. The same overreaching could be done if a child at ABC orphange phoned in a report of abuse and officials carried off all the children.

    Again, please refer me to anything showing a religious motivation for the actions. Or for starters, you could link me to the “remarks of ‘ordinary’ residents of Eldorado and vicinity” you think demonstrate the mindset of the local officials. Until then, I argue that bigotry is a big enough accusation that it should not be made on mere inferences. Indeed, to do so would make us equally bigoted.

  68. Jonovitch on April 16, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Ardis, I thought you’d enjoy this. I forwarded this post to a friend, and when he tried to open it at work, he got this message:

    “Access to this website has been restricted because it is not considered appropriate for ExxonMobil use.
    Reason: The Websense category ‘Non-Traditional Religions and Occult and Folklore’ is filtered.”

    My only question is which one? :)

    Jon

  69. Ardis Parshall on April 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Jon: /sigh/