Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Church Essay on Polygamy and Weasel Words

I absolutely love the new essay from the Church, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, which provides more information about Joseph Smith's polygamy.  I am so smitten with it, that I laminated it, folded it, and now keep a copy of it in my wallet at all times so I can refer to it whenever I get into trouble and need to use some of what I call "weasel words" to explain myself. I suggest that everybody reading this do the same. You can access the new essay at.

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

I don't know if the phrase "weasel words" is a real term, but I use it to describe the lame explanations that people who have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar use to try to weasel themselves out of the mess they find themselves in. An example is former President Clinton who tried to explain that he didn't lie under oath when he denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky, because oral sex isn't real sex.

Well…I screwed up (a little bit), and I got busted. Technically, it wasn't really a "screw up" as much as it was "a series of unfortunate circumstances". But it's not my fault, and it's not like I did anything that Joseph Smith didn't do two or three (or forty) times.   

Unfortunately, I don't have a loving and tolerant wife like Emma was. My wife is more like a really pissed off Sandra Tanner when it comes to matters such as these, so much so, that she filed for divorce. The judge ordered a reconciliation meeting to see if there was any way to save the marriage.  Since I don't have any clue who will fix me breakfast and take care of me when I'm sick if she leaves, I decided to fight for my marriage.

I had just read the essay (you know, the one I keep in my wallet) and it gave me some ideas. I hired the best PR guy in the State of Utah (Arthur Dewey from the firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe) to attend the reconciliation meeting with me and see if he could get my wife to be reasonable about things. Prior to the meeting, I met with Mr. Dewey to plan an effective strategy based on using the  weasel words found in Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

Here is the transcript from that meeting:

Wife: Who’s this guy?

Me: This is my advisor, Arthur Dewey.

Wife: Why do you need an adviser?

Me: The judge didn’t say I couldn’t have an adviser. I’ll have one if I want to.

Wife: Ok…whatever.

Mr. Dewey: Mrs. Burns, your husband loves you very much. He wants nothing more than a return to the loving relationship you previously enjoyed.

Wife: My husband stumbled home drunk and there were lipstick stains on his shirt.

Mr. Dewey: There are several possible explanations for this…

Wife: The lipstick wasn’t my shade of lipstick…and I found condoms in his wallet. We don’t use condoms!

Mr. Dewey: Were the condoms unopened?

Wife: What?

Mr. Dewey: Did you find empty condom wrappers or did you find unopened condom packages?

Wife: They were unopened.

Mr. Dewey: The nature of the unopened condom packets suggests that the relationship between your husband and the condoms did not involve sexual relations.

Wife: I found panties under his car seat.

Mr. Dewey: Little is known about those panties…

Wife: They’re not my panties! But it’s irrelevant because he confessed that he had been unfaithful to me.

Mr. Dewey: Later reminiscences are not always reliable.

Wife: I looked up our credit card records. I found that he withdrew three-hundred dollars and paid for a hotel room last Wednesday, when he told me he had to work late.

Mr. Dewey: Few records of the time provide details. Many details about why he was at that hotel room are unknown.

Wife: I called that hotel and spoke to the desk clerk on duty that night. He told me my husband checked in with a woman that is a known prostitute.

Mr. Dewey: He pledged to keep your husband's involvement with those women confidential, nevertheless, rumors spread.

Wife: Women? You mean there was more than one prostitute? The clerk only mentioned one.

Mr. Dewey: The exact number of women is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary; furthermore, you don’t know that these women were prostitutes.

Wife: I do know. The desk clerk gave me the name of the prostitute he saw. I looked up her arrest record and she has several convictions for prostitution. I'm so devastated that he cheated on me.

Mr. Dewey: Hold on, Mrs. Burns, you can't assume that your husband had sexual relationships with those women just because he lied to you, withdrew a large sum of cash, and checked into a hotel room with prostitutes.  If you're going to make a claim like that, I really think the burden of proof falls upon you to produce evidence that your husband had sexual relationships with those prostitutes. 

Wife: I know he was screwing those hookers!

Mr. Dewey: Neither these women nor your husband explained much about these relationships. The precise nature of these relationships is not known.

Wife: I know he slept with them.

Mr. Dewey: There might have been the possibility of sexual relations.

Wife: It's not just the prostitutes. He forgot to log out of his email and I searched it. He had two messages from his secretary. The first message said that she was worried that he knocked her up. The second message was her expressing relief that it was a false alarm.

Mr. Dewey: Information about any affair your husband may have had with his secretary are virtually absent from the documentary record. Many aspects of their story remain known only to the two of them.

Wife: What about all those other women?

Mr. Dewey: Other women left no records, making it unknown what their relationships were.

Wife: This is BS. Complete nonsense. I don’t care what you say. It’s just wrong and inappropriate.

Mr. Dewey: Inappropriate by today’s standards, but legal.

Wife: Uh, it's not legal.

Mr. Dewey: It's legal to have sex with a woman.

Wife: Yes, but it's not legal to pay for it, but I don't care if it's legal or not. I don’t think we have anything left to discuss.

Me: But, honey, I love you. I didn’t want to do it…

Wife: Get out.

Me: But listen, there was this angel and…

Wife: Get out now.

Me: He had a really big sword. It was on fire…

Wife: I'm not kidding, you really need to leave.

Me: You know, you really need to learn how to doubt your doubts.  I'm finding your lack of faith very troubling.

Wife: GET OUT!!!

(Feel free to share your thoughts on the latest essay)


  1. I really don't know what your wife's problem is, this should come as no surprise to her. I always knew, I learned about it in grade 4. It was never a secret. If she wanted to know she could have done some research ;)

  2. You are very funny. I don't often laugh before 9:00.

  3. I see "weasel words" more as something that the Church uses to allow for plausible deniability in the future. In other words, they are non-committal words that can go both ways. They can imply something very specific without having to take ownership (or to use the Church's words - be accountable. As a side note, the Church is very unaccountable for all of the accountability that it teaches) for those things.

    Some examples:

    "Not everything on the internet can be trusted"
    This is a true statement that assumes we are all idiots. It infers that the internet somehow produces its own information and that people who read stuff there simply approach internet research as a matter of faith. Most people know how to check sources, and while not everything on the internet is true, validating sources is easier to do on the internet than it has ever been in the past. This is a weasel word argument because it is intended to suggest to people that most arguments against the Church on the internet are poorly sourced assertions that are not historically validated. It's a mischaracterization of fact, without having to state it. It's true that there are small instances where this is true, so the generalization is safe, yet it ignores that there is wealth of sourced information that is easily accessible...and which constitutes the basis of the most common criticisms against the Church.

    Jeffrey R. Holland regarding the Book of Mormon - "Teeming with Semitic complexity"
    This was boldfaced weaselness because it was an aggressively stated non-statement. In other words, it doesn't mean anything at all. Anybody can claim that something has Semitic corollary's, but it is quite another thing altogether to claim those corollary's as a basis for justifying that The Book of Mormon has ancient Semitic origins. It also begs the question of what Semitic "complexities" that Holland finds so compelling. Instead, he gave a sermon where he can simply insist that the book is loaded with "stuff", and then never have to actually say what the stuff is. There is nothing that can be refuted so, Holland can imply something without having to state it and risk being embarrassed publicly.

    "I know the Church is true"
    This is the most entrenched weasel rhetoric we use. It is another nothing-statement. It's simply an assertion that implies a deeply significant spiritual experience, without being responsible to explain that experience in any meaningful way. "I took Moroni's challenge, and God through his Holy Ghost, confirmed to my spirit, that the Book of Mormon is a true book". These kinds of statements are loaded with implication that begs for detail but is completely absent of any meaningful content whatsoever. This provides nobody with any kind of workable information that can lead to process execution or useful decision making. I have no way of proving that God's Holy Ghost did or did -not "speak comfort to their soul", but that's only because that kind of a statement doesn't offer any kind of an explanation how that sort of communication is supposed to work. Its a emotive hyperbolic assertion that is already in a full sprint opposite the direction of accountability.