I'll pick up where we left off with the last post. To sum it up, for me I discovered three main reasons why plural marriage was wrong (although there are more):
1. Joseph lied to Emma, and we have ample evidence of this—none of it from anti-Mormon literature. When you have relationships behind your wife's back, that is called adultery. You can call it marriage, but it's still adultery. I don't believe in "Lying for the Lord." This is not an "oopsie" as in "Well, prophets makes mistakes too," but a fatal set of choices and actions by those in power that have crystallized in Mormon theology, a theology that has wreaked havoc on our understanding of gender relations for generations, down to this very day.
2. Brigham and Joseph used manipulation on the women they wanted to marry. We also have evidence of this. They alternately promised salvation (including for the woman's family) and personal damnation. I don't believe in a God who would willy-nilly pass out salvation OR damnation in such a haphazard manner based on one act of obedience or disobedience to a church leader. I also don't believe in heavenly manipulation.
Additionally, Doctrine & Covenants 132 is terrifying to read. Have you read it lately? All of it? Let me point out one phrase that makes it plain to me that women of the Mormon worldview are treated as property and uteri, not actual human beings with free wills and desires of their own:
v. 37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him [compare, by the way, the direct conflict between this statement justifying polygamy and Jacob 2:23–24. I'm pretty sure that things didn't work out so well for Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, either.]
v. 39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me
v. 51 A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you,
v. 52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph
v. 61 and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
v. 62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
v. 63 for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth
That's an awful lot of giving going on. In the temple sealing ceremony, while both spouses "receive" the other, only the woman "gives." Why? What gives!?
Doctrine & Covenants 132 is still "on the books"—it has not been renounced, rejected, or even qualified, except to say that we're not living all of it right now. I do not want to be associated with an organization who treats women as rewards of righteousness. God is not a doggie-treat giver, and I am not a doggie treat.
If God really gave freedom and choice to me, then I would not be something that God gives to a man, on account of his righteousness, for his pleasure and posterity. This assumes an automatic, hierarchical relationship with a preconceived set of expectations for the relationship in which the woman is for man's needs and wants but not vice versa. The church keeps saying that partners are equal in marriage (Proclamation on the Family) but still assumes this submissive relationship.
In short, I am not a given.
Church Becomes Really Painful
Sundays after all this plural marriage stuff grew progressively more and more painful, more than usual—in particular, to hear members say, "Joseph Smith was a true prophet" over and over, anything related to gender roles, and even "Evolution is satanic and a trick to keep us from believing in Adam and Eve" (I thought we were past that!). I felt like I had to be the police officer of Sunday School, making sure that people didn't say anything false that could be taken by unsuspecting souls as the gospel truth. But even the gospel truth was deeply unsatisfactory and, I feel, psychologically repressive for women. I was trying to bring awareness to these issues, but as long as there is a patriarchal structure I will not have an equal voice, the end.
My anxiety levels would skyrocket before church and before Mutual. It was like preparing for battle—a battle to maintain a space for my progressive, self-respecting self. It was exhausting.
Mr. T and I had talked about staying until the end of the school year, asking to be released from our rather public callings, and fading away. But after yet another Sunday where I came home weeping in frustration, Mr. T said that there was no need to prolong the agony for public appearance's sake. He brought it up and we began talking about leaving for real.
We spoke with the bishop, who was very sad but respectful, and we said we wanted to go to the temple one last time to make sure, but in any case we would need to be released from our callings. I have been grateful for our bishop.
Attending a final endowment session was our way of saying, "Hey God, we've studied this out in our mind and are making this decision based on the best of our ability to discern truth. Stop us if we're wrong." We saw the new temple movie and it was like my eyes were opened to all the male actors. Heavenly Mother doesn't exist, has no power of influence. Eve has her big moment and then is voiceless and unable to access God except through Adam. It was depressingly similar to the earlier films in placing women beneath men spiritually and temporally. I was disappointed but felt calm and at peace about rejecting these messages.
On our way out we asked two temple workers about temple cancellations for women—I had heard from a friend that a woman, divorced, cannot receive a temple cancellation until another man takes her to the temple. "Yes, that's policy," said the worker, who had been our officiator in the session. "But what if her husband was abusive and it's psychologically harmful for her to think of being sealed to him for eternity?" I asked. He looked at me and smiled. "Don't worry, God will make it all work out in the end, and she will be given to someone else."
Given to someone else.
The door clicked shut for me, and Mr. T and I left the temple and the church.
We did not leave the LDS Church because of sin. We did not leave because of disobedience. We left primarily because our hearts told us that the church's stance on gender is wrong and harmful.