Fascinating podcasts on polygamy in Mormon history

Aside from the occasional gorgeous dawn or sunset, the one advantage to commuting 2 1/2 hours each day–which has been a major factor in my near-silence on the blog for the last year or so–is that it allows me to listen to multitude of great podcasts that I might not make time to explore otherwise.

Came across a really stimulating series of podcasts on the history of polygamy within Mormonism.

There's a wealth of interesting stuff to choose from, but I especially recommend these 2 series from the Mormon Stories website:

  1. "Understanding Mormon Fundamentalist Polygamy", a long and engrossing 5-part interview with a prominent (and very articulate) Fundamentalist Mormon author and enthusiastic co-wife about the worldview, theology and subcultures of the various arch-conservative Mormon breakaway groups that not only believe in polygamy–the mainstream (LDS) church withdrew its sanction for the practice over a century ago–but consider it a sacramental practice necessary for attaining the closest relationship with God in the Hereafter ("exaltation" in Mormon parlance).  The contrasts drawn between Fundamentalist Mormonism and mainstream LDS Mormonism are, of course, very instructive.
  2. "An Introduction to Mormon Polygamy with Todd Compton", a three-part interview with a Mormon historian who, as they say, "wrote the book" on polygamy in early Mormon history.

One thing you really come away with is how Mormons were truly hounded in 19th century America over polygamy (and presumably also their unorthodox Christology)  and to a certain extent forced by circumstances to engage in dissimulation for survival. Neither the ostensibly constitutionally-enshrined principle of freedom of religion nor the fact that polygamy was practiced by many of the most revered figures of the Judeo-Christian tradition seemed to dull the obsessive zeal with which Mormons were pursued in American society, even after the practice was renounced by the LDS church in 1890.

There are numerous aspects of these discussions that I find interesting as an American Muslim. The constant awareness of the gaze of critics–as with Islam, a cottage industry exists in America to debunk and/or vilify Mormon faith–and the sense of responsibility to provide apologetical resources for one's besieged coreligionists is certainly familiar. At times, the discussions of the pros and cons for a particular historical theory in light of documentary evidence (a letter, a journal) and the credibility of its source remind me of hadith studies in Islam (and confirm how strikingly modern the methodology employed by the medieval hadith collectors often was).

I particularly appreciate how the show's host, John Dehlin, doesn't shy away from earnestly reflecting on sensitive and disputed topics (e.g., Mormonism founder Joseph Smith's various marriages and their significance).  It's an example American Muslim media could learn a lot from, as I'm sure there are legions of Muslims today who, for any of a number of reasons, struggle with analogous doubts but who rarely find the kind of straight talk in Muslim media that they most need to work these things out.

 


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