A Brigham Young University employee’s attempt to offer an explanation of “Mormon polygamy” on the school’s Web site proved short-lived.
Jim Engebretsen pulled a polygamy page he had posted at polygamy.byu.edu on Monday afternoon after being told it violated university policy.
Engebretsen did not have approval to place the “personal project” on the school’s official Web site, said Carrie Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman.
But for at least three days, it appeared BYU might be tackling head-on a topic that has bedeviled its owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose own Web site approaches the subject of polygamy with great care.
By Common Consent, a blog site that offers LDS news and commentary, announced Engebretsen’s page Saturday under the headline, “BYU debuts a website devoted to Mormon polygamy.”
At the page, visitors could read about the origins of polygamy in the LDS Church as well as current LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s denouncement of its modern-day practice (the church abandoned plural marriage in 1890). The site offered scriptural references to polygamy, speeches on the topic by former LDS leaders and links to academic research on plural marriage.
Its approach was candid, to say the least.
Under the heading “Polygamy,” it posed such questions as “Did Joseph Smith marry young girls?” and “Did Joseph Smith lie about practicing polygamy?” with answers drawn from or linked to scholarly works at other Web sites.
The answers in short: Yes and yes, but times were different and the dishonesty was a form of civil disobedience, according to Gregory L. Smith’s linked paper at The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.
Engebretsen is the MBA director and an assistant dean for corporate relations and career placement at BYU’s Marriott School of Management.
He and two BYU professors – Daniel Peterson and Robert Millet – recently provided testimonials in support of the More Good Foundation, which seeks to help spread positive, accurate information about the LDS faith on the Internet.
The polygamy page was launched in that spirit, said Engebretsen, who worked with students to create the site and its content.
In his experience, Engebretsen said, polygamy ranks next to Mormon missionaries – a subject he also plans to take on in the future – as the most misunderstood aspects of the faith.
“It is a project to help people understand a little more about polygamy and our church history,” he said. “This is an attempt to put down factual information.”
Monday, Engebretsen acknowledged that as a relative newcomer to Utah and BYU – he moved here from Philadelphia two years ago – he was still “trying to figure things out.”
“I thought they had cleared more of the information than they had,” he said. “We’ll find another home for it. We were just trying to get good content out. I can understand why they don’t want it to be associated with BYU.”
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