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finita est.” And those belonging to any other denomination have no infallible rule in such matters, and hence are not in the position to successfully combat the doctrine of polygamy from a biblical standpoint.
Have you ever attempted to answer to yourselves satisfactorily the question, why the world has endured the open, shameless, and most wicked advocacy of polygamy by the reformers of the sixteenth century, while we are ready to pour out our wrath upon the Mormon Church for the same reason? The latter has advocated that principle openly and manfully, and readily underwent the most bitter persecution for it. In comparison to the utterances and acts of the reformers, the Mormons indeed deserve to be called saints.
The teachings of Luther in relation to chastity were so startling and shocking, even to his contemporaries, that his own bosom friend declares that in the whole of Christendom no one has ever dealt with such sacred and serious things in such a profane and beastly manner as did the great reformer. The life, and letters, and poems, of Beza are of such a nature that no sensitive Christian mind can peruse them without feeling the atmosphere of a pest hospital. No such accusations can truthfully be charged against the Mormons even by their worst enemies.
In the year 1523, Luther writes to the German nobility in relation to celibacy as follows: “Again I say if it should happen that one, two, hundred, thousand or more councils should decree that the clergy may marry, then I would rather trust to the grace of God for him who would keep one, two, three pro— and overlook it, than that he should marry according and in obedience to the decree of the council.” What do you, gentlemen, think would have happened if Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and their successors would have dared to promulgate such doctrines? For much less than that they had their houses burned and their property taken away, and their families exposed to starvation and danger in mid-winter.
Luther's high conception of matrimony is thus expressed by him: "The husband may drive away his spouse, God cares not,
let Vashti go and take an Esther, as did the
King of Ahasuerus." In a letter written by Luther to Spalatin whom he encourages to enter the matrimonial heaven, he writes, “I do not wish that you should be surprised that I, who am reputed to be such a lover, am as yet unmarried." “However, if you look for an example, behold here is a good one for you. For three wives at one time did I have, all of whom I loved intensely and lost two of them. The third one, which I now hold in my left arm, may also be snatched away from me at any time."
Carlstadt, Luther's disciple, also advocated the practice of polygamy. Upon hearing of it Luther wrote to Chancellor Bruecks, “I, indeed, must confess that I cannot forbid when one takes many wives, for it does not contradict the scriptures. There, gentlemen, is your “biblical standpoint." Beza, another of the "instruments of God," writes: "Evidently God has so created and moulded certain men that polygamy for them is either advisable, or, to avoid sin, absolutely necessary.'
History indeed tells us of many who under the teachings of the reformers came to the conclusion, that they were so "moulded” as to make the practice of polygamy for them imperative. Such individuals were not men in ordinary walks of life, but rulers and noblemen who adopted Luther's new gospel, and were sufficiently influential with Luther and Melanchton to receive their approval. One of these noblemen was the Landgraf Philip Von Hessen. This disciple of the new faith declared to Luther and his coadjutor Melanchton, that in order to avoid sin he must have another wife. It goes without saying that he received the desired "dispensation" from Luther to marry another wife in the life-time of his first wife, under the condition that he keep it a secret, not because it was against the law of God, but for fear that the common people might follow his example.
Hear what Luther says himself on that subject: "It was to us painful enough at the time, but inasmuch as we could not prevent it we wished to spare the conscience as much as possible.” “I understood and hoped that he (the Landgraf) would secretly take some honest lass and would sustain secret marital relations with her in some quiet home.” To
Philip himself, he writes, “In matters of matrimony the laws of Moses are not revoked or contradicted by the gospel." In his Table Talks, he declares, “That secret polygamy of princes and noblemen is legal before God, and is not unlike the relation of the patriarchs to their concubines."
The secret second marriage of Philip Von Hassen soon became public rumor and was a source of annoyance to the reformers. Luther was bold as usual and advised that the best is to deny the whole fact, and not to touch upon the legal aspect of the question at all;" for he well knew that polygamy at that time was a capital crime. But the Duke Henry of Braunschweig was not satisfied with a mere denial, and he soon published a pamphlet exposing the whole scandal. In it the Duke desires to know upon what right, civil or divine, or upon what scriptural utterances the Landgraf was permitted to be the husband of two wives. Some of his court theologians published a reply which is worthy a place here and will interest you in your investigations.
They first attempt to treat the whole thing as a mere idle rumor without foundation, but they say, "supposing such polygamous marriage was really and publically solemnized, and supposing that the Landgraf of Hessen intended to sanction polygamy generally by the enactment of a new law in favor of it, even then it will help decrease the evil of fornication and adultery * * which exists in the land, and is habitual among the Germans. Relative to your question by what right or custom or by what utterance of holy scriptures can Landgraf excuse his double marriage, it is found in the fifth Book of Moses, and in the twenty-first chapter, where it is provided how a husband of many wives should act toward the children of all of them in relation to property. Likewise you have the example of holy men. For were not Abraham, David, Joas, and many others holy before their God? It was therefore not wise for you to quote the Old Testament.
But if you speak of the New Testament, we would remind you of the saying of St. Paul that a bishop should be the husband of but one wife, and will ask you, if at the time of the Apostles it was not customary to have concubines, why then does the Apostle forbid the bishop having more than one wife?"
I cannot forbear saying now and here, that the quotation from St. Paul above mentioned is a malicious mistranslation, as you may satisfy yourself by an examination of the Greek texts.
Now, gentlemen, in the light of the historical facts herein stated, I beg to remind you that in 1883 the whole of Protestant Christendom celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Luther, and a scheme was well under way to erect a monument to his memory in the City of Washington, like the one in the City of Worms. On the other hand we are all of us ready to march upon the wicked City of Salt Lake and to exterminate the godless Mormons on account of polygamy. I say again that in comparison with the lecherous libertines of the sixteenth century, Brigham Young and his followers deserve indeed to be called saints.
As to the other "most crudely and unlearnedly stated dogmas of the Mormons," which you mention in your letter, I must beg leave to reply at a more convenient time. It is long past midnight, and I still dwell in the tabernacle of the flesh.
With due regard and good wishes to your undertaking, I am, gentlemen and friends,
Yours very sincerely,
JOHN M. Reiner.
COMMENT ON DR, REINER'S LETTER,
BY ELDER B. H. ROBERTS.
[The letter of Elder Roberts is addressed to the same company of gentlemen who had received Dr. Reiner's letter).
Gentlemen: Since in Doctor Reiner's judgment the subject of polygamy could have been left out of your investigations concerning “Mormonism,” owing to the “Manifesto" issued by President Woodruff, in 1890, which discontinued plural marriages in the church, I almost regret that he did not, with that remark, pass the subject, and proceed to the consideration of one more fundamental to what the world cals "Mormonism." I suppose, however, that in view of
your question he felt himself bound to say something on plural marriage; and as in any extended discussion of "Mormonism” something sooner or later must be said on that subject, as well say it now as at any other stage of the investigation.
The Doctor does not answer your question as to whether polygamy can be justified “from a biblical standpoint.”
He relies upon the authoritative decision of the Church of Rome to settle the matter for those of you who are Roman Catholics; while those of you who are Protestants he treats to a dissertation on the views of some of the sixteenth century "reformers" on the subject. And when I remember the Doctor's severity, not to say bitterness, against the Protestants, I cannot help but think that unconsciously he has taken a thrust at them over the shoulders of the Latter-day Saints. But however interesting all that may be, or however learned, it neither answers your question, nor does it represent the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the subject. So much by way of criticism on the Doctor's method of treating the subject; all of which, however, is intended in the kindest spirit, as I entertain a very high respect for the doctor's learning, and also honor him for his evident intention to speak fairly of a people who have suffered much at the hands of those who have often pretended to investigate their faith.
Before proceeding to the question as to whether a plurality of wives can be justified "from a biblical standpoint" or not, allow me to say that the Latter-day Saints never practiced plural marriage because they thought polygamy was justifiable from a biblical standpoint, or because Martin Luther and other sixteenth century "reformers” thought polygamy under some circumstances justifiable. The Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord why it was that he justified his servants, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and others, in the matter of their having many wives and concubines. In answer to that inquiry the Lord gave to him a revelation on the subject of marriage, revealing the doctrine of the eternity of the marriage covenant, that is, he made known to his servant the possibility of entering into the marriage covenant