Interview with Dr. Todd ComptonóPart 12
AMS:†† Welcome back to the Apostate Mormon Show with Annie, and this is the last segment weíre going to do today with Dr. Todd Compton.† Itís been a fascinating discussion.† And, this last question I asked you is important to me.† Do you think in some way the LDS Church still teaches polygamy?
TC:†††††† UmÖ Yes, in some ways it does.† I think polygamy, for them, has just become this very uncomfortable subject.†
AMS:†† Oh, yea.
TC:†††††† Because, itís so deep in the doctrine and practice that they canít simply deny it.† And on the other hand, thereís so many problematic things about it that theyíre very uncomfortable with it, soÖ
TC:†††††† Itís very difficult.† But, just to give a couple of examples, thereís D&C 132, that is still in the Doctrine and Covenants.† I remember reading in ďMormon Doctrine,Ē by Bruce R. McConkie, talking about polygamy, and he was very positive about it.† And he said, ďthis holy practice will be restored in the millennium.Ē†††
AMS:†† Um, hum.† Oh, yea.
TC:†††††† And also, as you mentioned, you have people, men who the first wife dies and then they marry again.† They marry for time and eternity, which again is a polygamist marriage from an eternal perspective.† So, itís definitely there.† And you know, itís all over our history, if someone is interested in history, obviously.† In our family histories, and so, even if weíre not interested in reading a book of history, with the footnotes, itís often in the family histories.† On the other hand, I think the Church talks about it so little.† Even when you deal with D&C 132, they emphasize eternal marriage, they donít emphasize plural marriage, right?
TC:†††††† And, uhÖ Like people, when the wife dies, the husband re-marrying again.† You know, it isnít a big issue.† It has no practical application in this life, and so people donít make a big deal about it.
AMS:†† Yea.† Yea.†
TC:†††††† But I think people, basically, often just donít think about it.† When they think about it, often women today say, ďno, I donít want to marryÖ I donít want to practice that in the next life.Ē† They kind of have a monogamous point of view when they marry someone.† But, youíre right.† Itís very much on the books.† And itís very much in Mormon history, and in Mormon doctrine.† And, all those statements by 19th Century leaders that you have to participate in plural marriage to get the fullest salvation are still there.†
TC:†††††† At some point, the Church is going to need to deal with that, either by completely re-accepting all that, that was said about polygamy, or by saying, ďwell, they made mistakes and we donít believe thatÖĒ
AMS:†† Well, I thought they had dealt with the statements about ďyou must be a polygamist, or in polygamy, or you wonít be exalted,Ē simply by asking people to turn in their old copies of the Journal of Discourses.† But even as recently as a couple months ago, somebody in Utah came out with a book called ďMore than One - a Sacred Pioneer Heritage,Ē is what it is.† Thereís three or four billboards, if you travel on the freeway between Provo and Salt Lake, you will see three or four billboards advertising this book.††
TC:†††††† Yea, I was just up in Utah and I saw that.
AMS:†† Yea, and itís a little shockingÖ
TC:†††††† From what I understand, the guy whoís behind that, he believes in the eternal principle of polygamy, but he does not believe it should be practiced now. (Laughs)
AMS:†† Yea, wellÖ
TC:†††††† So, heís opposed to present day fundamentalists.† I should also mention something weíve talked about before, that manual, that Brigham Young manual where the Church took out all reference to polygamy.† Itís just another example of how ambivalent they are about it.† In many ways, they just donít even want it to be referred to.† In one way, thatís a good sign, in that it shows they are distancing themselves from polygamy.† In another way, itís bad, because itís dishonest, itís not confronting the problems that were there in the history.
AMS:†† And you know that the governor, Mike Leavitt, his brother is the guy who prosecuted Tom Greene, and recently I read in an interview that he said that polygamy was bad.† That itís a societal ill.† I kind of think, well, how can they say that when their beloved Prophet taught it?† And, practiced it to an extreme degree?
TC:†††††† Yes, Leavitt is a descendent of Dudley Leavitt, who I talked about earlier, who was a polygamist.
AMS:†† Thatís right!† So, itís everywhere.† But, itís almost like theyíreÖ well, I donít want to say ďmental illness,Ē but it seems weird to me that itís so pervasive in this culture, and yet nobody talks about it.†
AMS:†† And, if you do talk about it, thereís something wrong with you.†
TC:†††††† Yup, itís interesting, isnít it?
AMS:†† (Laughs)† Itís a very strange thing from an outsiderís perspective.† Of course, I call myself an outsider, but Iíve been in Utah for 12 years.† So, itís been a long time, but I still retain a lot of this shock at times, at things I hear people sayÖ I just go, ďwell, why donít you want to talk about polygamy?† Itís all over your history.Ē
TC:†††††† Yea, if they want to understand Joseph Smith, they canít understand him without the polygamist part of his life.
TC:†††††† You know, and itís so weird that people donít understand that he married 33 women, because that was an important part of his life, and heís such an important figure in Mormon history.
TC:†††††† Heís an important figure in American history, let alone Mormon history.
TC:†††††† In Mormon history, heís just overwhelming.† And to have this idea that well, thereís this whole portion of his life that is very important, but weíve got to play like it never happenedÖ Itís silly.† And counter-productive, and even dishonest.
AMS:†† Well, Iím with you.† I hope they change their minds about opening up and liberalizing a little bit.† I doubt Iíll be rejoining any time soon, but Iíll be rejoicing for the people around me.† Because, I think itís unhealthy to be living with those kinds of mental blockages, where youÖ You know, the cognitive dissonance Ė it can drive you insane!
TC:†††††† Yea, youíre right.† And, Iíve found people whoíve told me that when they discovered about Joseph Smithís polygamy, they were just severely depressed.†
TC:†††††† Where, if theyíd been exposed to it early, from sympathetic Church members, early in their life, it wouldnít have come as such a horrible shock.†
TC:†††††† And so, I agree with you.
AMS:†† Well, it has been a fabulous conversation.† Thank you so much for coming on the show.† I really admire your work.† I encourage everybody whoís listening to get a copy of your book and read it.† Itís a good read.† Itís written veryÖ tenderly, almost, about these women.† And, itís really, really well done.† (Laughs)† I donít know how to say it better than that.† Well done.† I really enjoyed the book, and I hope it continues to do well.†
TC:†††††† Well, thanks for those kind words and thanks for having me.†
AMS:†† Youíre most welcome.† This is Annie on the Apostate Mormon Show, and Iíve been talking for a very long time to Todd Compton.† Iím so grateful you stayed on as long as you did.† And, Iíll talk to you soon.† Bye, bye.
--Transcription by Archimedes