In my earlier post on evangelizing Mormon missionaries, I wrote of the apparent contradiction between Jacob 2:24, which depicts God as condemning David and Solomon for having many wives; and Doctrines & Covenants 132:38-39, which depicts God as saying that David and Solomon’s many wives were a gift from Him. This appears to me to be an inescapable contradiction. It can’t be both. Let’s look at the two counter-arguments Mormon commenters raised, and why I don’t think they help.
Of all of the Mormons who responded to those two posts, exactly three of them tackled this question. And each one of them raised the same argument, an argument which appears to me to be a total non sequitur: namely, that Jacob 2:30 leaves open the possibility that God will permit polygamy in the future. So we have Solito Britton, who wrote:
Some of Mormonisms past is bad (Mountain Meadows) other like polygamy is a doctrine people do not understand becuase they don’t study it within Momonism but from the outside. So let’s not play the “contradictions” as in Jacob 2:24 vs. D&C 132:38-39 (You forgot vs. 30 which does condone polygamy if God so choses. It’s funny how you condem the missionaries for using Amos for not reading the whole thing in context yet you omit the context and teaching in Jacob to falsly prove a point that Mormons are hypocrites, yet don’t move on through vs. 30.
The answer to the polygamy issue is the same, and can be found in Jacob 2:30, where the prophet says, basically, “If I have a specific reason for doing so, (“raise up seed” is the reason listed) then I will command plural marriage, at all other times, it’s an abomination.”
By the way, your contradictory scriptures on polygamy is really a misuse of scripture by avoiding context. That really wasn’t fair to the missionaries. The rest of the Book of Mormon scripture is as follows.
Jacob 2:30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
This is saying that there are times that God will give his people more than one wife, if there is a purpose like to “raise up seed.”
So this is something of the stock response. The problem I have with that response is that it seemingly doesn’t address the problem I cited to at all. In fact, in my initial post, I explicitly said:
I can see how God could theoretically say that plural marriage is right for David and not for Solomon, or vice versa, but can God says that plural marriage is both right for Solomon and wrong for Solomon?
All Jacob 2:30 says that while polygamy is wrong for David and Solomon, maybe it’ll be right for some other group in the future. Fine: I have no problem with the idea that, as I said in the original post, “just as the Jews are forbidden to eat pork, but not Christians, it’s possible that plural marriage is right or wrong for specific people, given the particular culture and context.” Where I have a problem is the idea that polygamy is right for David and Solomon and wrong for David and Solomon.
Two of the three commenters also tried a different approach. Namely, that David and Solomon were sinning when they took wives without permission, but not when they took wives with permission.
WRT the apparent contradiction between Jacob 2:24 and D&C 132:38-39, remember that text, without context, is only pretext. In Jacob, the context is against plural marriage, and the prophet is using the wives taken by David and Solomon without divine imprimatur as examples where plural marriage is wrong. In the D&C, the prophet is explaining why, for a short time, plural marriage will be allowed, and is using the wives that were given to David and Solomon as examples where plural marriage is right.
The Doctrine and Covenants say that their sin was not in polygamy, it was only in taking wives that were not given them by God, and mentions specifically the case of David. It does not say that Solomon didn’t do a similar thing.
I’m thankful that this response addresses my original argument. However, it’s not faithful to one of the two texts they’re trying to defend. Doctrines & Covenants 132:38-39 says:
David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
That’s more or less the position that Brad and NetZach present. Fair enough. But notice the second bold part: the only wife David is condemned for taking is Bathsheba from Uriah (and having him killed — see 2 Samuel 11). And he’s not condemned for taking any of his concubines: in fact, we’re explicitly told that every woman besides Bathsheba was a gift from God. So under D&C 132, all of David’s concubines were okay, and all but one of his wives were okay. Turn then, to Jacob 2:24:
“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”
David’s concubines were an abomination, and so was his having many wives. Notice that: he’s not being condemned for stealing Bathsheba, but for having many wives.
But if D&C 132 is true, Jacob 2:24 is false: in that case, it wasn’t an abomination for them to have many wives and concubines. At most, it was an abomination to take those wives and concubines without permission. But there’s a huge difference between those two things, like the difference between being wealthy (having a lot of stuff) and a thief (taking stuff that’s not yours to take). Jacob 2:24 condemns David and Solomon for being wife-wealthy and concubine-wealthy. D&C 132 praises David and Solomon for being wife-wealthy and concubine-wealthy, but condemns them for being wife-thieves and concubine-thieves.
So let’s pose it as a specific question; namely, “Was it Morally Wrong for David to have Many Concubines“?
- Jacob 2:24 says YES — not only was it wrong, but it was an abomination. “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”
- Doctrines & Covenants 132:38-39 says NO — not only was it not wrong, but these wives was a gift from God. “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife. ”
Of course, it’s logically impossible for both of these things to be true, and since God is all Truth, it’s impossible for both of these things to have been said by God. Scripture supports this, and St. Paul speaks of how God’s consistency (rooted in His faithfulness) is what distinguishes Him from worldly contradictions (2 Cor. 1:17-20):
When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
As far as I can see, Mormonism is “Yes, yes,” “No, no,” about even basic questions, like whether Solomon’s having many wives was an abomination, or whether David’s having many concubines was an abomination.
All that said, I’m always open to hearing the other side on this: are there better LDS responses out there? If not, are the two LDS arguments above stronger than I realize? If not, is there any way for all of the above to be true without it proving Mormonism false?