Wednesday, November 17, 2010

David and his concubines

I have much more to write at some point soon, but here's a quickie someone pointed out to me yesterday. I'm a little surprised I was not aware of the relationship between these particular passages of scripture, which appear very interesting when juxtaposed. D&C 132 is worth reading in its entirety, by the way. It gets good at about verse 50. Anyway, without further comment:

Doctrine & Covenants 132:38-39
38 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.
39 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.

Jacob 1:15 (Book of Mormon)
15 And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.

Jacob 2:23-24 (Book of Mormon)
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.


Allan said...

I think that the LDS answer to this is simply that when commanded by the prophet, polygamy is OK. When not commanded by the prophet, polygamy is evil. The BoM Institute manual says:

Jacob 2:23–30. Plural Marriage

Jacob made it clear that the Lord did not want the
Nephites to practice any form of plural marriage. He
taught that monogamy was the law unless the Lord
commanded otherwise (see Jacob 2:27–30).

In our time, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated:
“I have constantly said no man shall have but
[other than] one wife at a time, unless the Lord
directs otherwise” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, p. 324). It should be recognized that during
the time members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints practiced plural marriage, the Lord
commanded it.

So in the sense that David and Solomon had some wives not authorized by the prophet (Nathan, supposedly), they were being wicked. To the extent that their polygamous wives were authorized by Nathan, they were OK.

Saganist said...

This is an interesting interpretation, but I'm not sure it explains the direct contradiction between D&C 132:39 and Jacob 2:24. Either David was commanded by the prophet or the Lord to take wives and concubines, or he wasn't.

D&C says that David's wives and concubines were given to him by Nathan the prophet, and with none of them was he sinful, saith the Lord.

Jacob says that David's wives and concubines were an abomination, saith the Lord.

Which one is it really, saith the Lord?

Saganist said...

Also, since I didn't explicitly address it except by boldfacing the word "none", it seems clear to me that the D&C passage claims that all of David's wives and concubines were authorized. Likewise, the Jacob passage does not qualify itself by saying that only some of David's wives and concubines were an abomination. We are given to understand that all of them were an abomination.

According to my reading of these scriptures, there is no extent between 0% and 100% to which David might have taken unauthorized wives or concubines. That's why I say it must be either one or the other; because the scripture itself (especially D&C) says so.

Allan said...

The D&C doesn't actually say that David was sinful in NONE of the wives he took. There is a qualification regarding Bathsheba

In general, I agree with you though. I suspect that when Joseph Smith (or whoever) composed what is now the book of Jacob, that the implication was that taking polygamous wives was immoral. Similarly, when writing the D&C, Joseph was making the claim that taking multiple wives by David and Solomon was OK with authorization (which wasn't the case for Bathsheba). I doubt that it occurred to Joseph until it was too late that he had possibly created a contradiction with the BoM. (He probably wouldn't have cared anyway since he was used to creating evolving doctrine.)

But given that LDS members are more or less obligated to reconcile what it says in Jacob and what D&C 132 says, they are going to try to find a way to do it. One way to do that is to say that for David and Solomon, there are cases in which they took a wife/wives that they shouldn't have and also cases in which they took a wife/wives that they were supposed to do so.

So Jacob can call it an abomination (speaking to the cases when there was no authorization for the wives taken)and the D&C can say it is OK (speaking to cases when there was authorization).

What these sets of versus ought to highlight, at a minimum, is that the polygamy system is ripe for abuse. But they also serve as evidence that Joseph was making things up as he went along.

Saganist said...

I agree with what you're saying, although I do think that it's clear that the D&C passage does say that none of David's wives/concubines were sinful with the exception of Bathsheba, whereas Jacob says that his many wives/concubines were an abomination. I don't think there's room to conclude that some of them (besides Bathsheba) were authorized and others were not, even if some people may reach that conclusion in order to reconcile the passages and preserve their faith. I find the passages irreconcilable, but I'll admit I'm also not as motivated to reconcile them as others may be.

It's interesting to me that I never noticed this clear contradiction either as a believer, nor before or since. I personally had to reconcile a lot, since I was aware of most of the difficult issues before I joined the LDS church, but somehow this is one problem I never encountered. I would guess that most members are probably also unaware of it.

I totally agree with your assessment of what we should learn from these passages. I think it's a clear example of how Joseph Smith's theology/morality evolved as he went along.

dbd said...

To whom was Jacob preaching?

Jacob was preaching to his brothers Nephi, Sam, and Joseph; to their kidnap victim Zoram and possibly to a couple of older nephews (sons of Nephi and Sam).

With whom were these gentlemen practicing plural marriage? Nieces?

The numbers just don't add up; this is evidence that JS made up the BoM.

Carla said...

I always found this apparent contradiction interesting.