The Early Histories of Joseph Smith, Part I: Ghosts & Angels

“The Moneydiggers” by John Quidor

by Johnny Stephenson

PART I: Of Ghosts & Angels

“[A] gold book discovered by … necromancy … & dug from the mines of atheism” or “the angel of the Lord has revealed to him …divine revelation”? ~Jesse Smith


When the “Gold Bible” stories began being noised about in August 1829, an interesting story was being relayed by the principle players in the drama which was then unfolding about a mysterious record that some Jo from Palmyra, New York had reportedly unearthed. One of the first accounts about what they were calling The Book of Mormon appeared in the Palmyra Freeman:

In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin. After having been thrice thus visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after having penetrating “mother earth” a short distance, the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! He had directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, “under no less penalty” than instant death! They were therefore nicely wrapped up, and excluded from the vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!” It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least) interpret these characters. (The Palmyra Freeman, August 11, 1829).

This was the story as told by Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and others, throughout the early years of the new Mormonite religion (and they were totally serious about the “instant death” part). In November of 1830, the Ohio Observer & Telegraph published another detail that was also being told along with the story above:

These men [Oliver Cowdery & Co.] have brought with them copies of a Book, known in this region by the name of the “Golden Bible,” or, as it is learned on its title-page, “The Book of Mormon.” They solemnly affirm, that its contents were given by Divine inspiration; was written by prophets of the Most High from a period of 600 years before, to that of some hundred years after our blessed Saviour’s advent; was deposited by Divine command below the surface of the ground, in or near the township of Palmyra, Ontario Co., N. Y., that an Angel appeared to a certain Joseph Smith residing in that place, who, they say, was a poor, ignorant, illiterate man, and made no pretensions to religion of any kind; — … [section of text illegible] … of this sacred deposit, and directed him forthwith to dig up and bring to light this precious record and prophecy. They affirm that the said Smith obeyed the heavenly messenger, when lo! a new Revelation — the Golden Bible was discovered!

In this account we learn that before Joseph prayed and was answered by the angel, he “made no pretensions to religion of any kind.” This is a detail that the early missionaries were repeating, the same one that Lucy Smith, William Smith, Samuel H. Smith and others recalled: that Joseph was caught up in the religious excitement in Manchester/Palmyra in the fall of 1823 and prayed for an answer to the question of “which church is right” and was answered by an angel, who told him about a “record” -which Joseph failed to acquire because he had selfish thoughts. He then repents, and gets the record four years later, after reporting to the angel every year to receive instructions on how to “restore” God’s kingdom. In August, 1832 William McLellin wrote to relatives about the new religion:

Some time in July 1831, two men [Elders Samuel H. Smith and Reynolds Cahoon] … said that in September 1827 an angel appeared to Joseph Smith (in Ontario Co., New York) and showed to him the confusion on the earth respecting true religion. It also told him to go a few miles distant to a certain hill and there he should find some plates with engravings, which (if he was faithful) he should be enabled to translate. He went as directed and found plates (which had the appearance of fine gold) about 8 inches long, 5 or 6 wide and altogether about 6 inches thick; each one about as thick as thin pasteboard, fastened together and opened in the form of a book containing engravings of reformed Egyptian hieroglyphical characters which he was inspired to translate and the record was published in 1830 and is called the Book of Mormon. It is a record which was kept on this continent by the ancient inhabitants. Those men had this book with them and they told us about it, and also of the rise of the church (which is now called Mormonites from their faith in this book etc…. (William McLellin, Letter to Relatives, August 4, 1832, The Ensign of Liberty, of the Church of Christ . . . Kirtland, Lake County, Ohio 1 (January 1848):60-61)

Painting by Ramsey

Notice that McLellin refers to the unnamed angel as “it”, not “he”. William McLellin had met Joseph in October of 1831 and stayed with him for three weeks. His story didn’t change. If Joseph was telling a different story, McLellin surely would have known and informed his relatives. But this is the account they were giving then. Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt told a similar story almost a year later:

In 1827 a young man called Joseph Smith of the state of New York, of no denomination, but under conviction, [guilt & sorrow leading to repentance] inquired of the Lord what he should do to be saved-he went to bed without any reply, but in the night was awakened by an angel, whiter and shining in greater splendour than the sun at noonday, who gave information where the plates were deposited… (Catholic Telegraph 1 (April 14, 1832):204-205).

In 1830 Peter Bauder had visited with Joseph Smith for a whole day and left this account:

… I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. (Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, p. 16-18).

“A secret treasure” is what he called it, and Joseph’s religious questions were answered by an unnamed angel, not by Jesus. Smith’s followers and family were testifying that Joseph did not make pretensions to religion of any kind, before encountering this angel in the mid 1820’s.

And what about those other stories, the ones also being told by Joseph and his family between 1823-1827? Was the account that Joseph would give later in 1832, that there was a Christian framework (not magical) surrounding his claimed visions the true one? That the only involvement that he had with money-digging was being hired for wages to literally dig for a silver mine? That his involvement with money-digging was only for “nearly a month”?

Why then, did Joseph’s family, neighbors and yes, some early Mormon “saints” claim that he was heavily involved with treasure digging and magical practices for many years, and that the story of the angel and the plates being told in 1828-29 was closely intertwined with those earlier experiences? Why are the plates referred to by those closest to Joseph as “treasure” over and over again? Were the stories about a ghost and buried treasure in the “Mormon Hill” and the Smith’s pursuit of it simply lies made up after the fact by those like Abner Cole, Willard Chase, Peter Ingersol, Martin Harris and dozens of others as some apologists claim?

And then we have the Mormon apologists who argue that one must agree with their view that Christianity and folk magic were inseparable or one cannot grasp what the evidence means and how Smith’s story developed. This is ridiculous for a number of reasons, which I will explore below, along with their other wild speculations about Folk Magic. What was normal or not normal during the Great Awakenings, was subjective and constantly changing and so trying to broad brush the folk magic aspect for all Americans and make the claim that treasure digging was simply an effort to restore primitive Christianity is disingenuous.

When one takes the time to analyze the evidence surrounding the claims made by Joseph of having those two visions (in 1820 & 1823), many problems arise, especially concerning the claimed 1820 “first vision”. I will address those problems below and in a follow up article address the apologist arguments that attempt to explain the inconsistencies, contradictions and conundrums of his first two written histories (1832 & 1834/5); but first let’s address the historical evidence surrounding those early years (1820-1830) and the historical narrative that can be pieced together from the evidence.

Camp Meetings & Revivals

In Joseph’s later narrative, he claims to have been prompted to seek an answer because of a great revival which had swept through the place where he lived in the spring of 1820. It is therefore extremely important to note something here. In 1967 Wesley Walters wrote,

“… the contemporary records [show] that the revival which Smith claimed occurred in 1820 did not really take place until the fall of 1824.” (pg. 61)

Strangely, the anonymously authored essay from 2013 published by the church references a camp-meeting which took place in mid-July of 1820, and they also don’t inform their readers that it was more than 25 miles from Palmyra. They reference the diary of Benajah Williams but don’t quote it:

The journals of an itinerant Methodist preacher document much religious excitement in Joseph’s geographic area in 1819 and 1820. They report that Reverend George Lane, a revivalist Methodist minister, was in that region in both years, speaking “on Gods method in bringing about Reformations.” This historical evidence is consistent with Joseph’s description.

No, the evidence is not consistent. “The place where we lived” is certainly not 25 miles away. Williams wrote:

“Sat. 15th Had a two Days meeting at Sq Bakers in Richmond. Br. Wright being gone to campmeeting on Ridgeway circuit I expected to find Br. J. Hayes at the Meeting & calculated to get him to take the lead of the meeting but when on my way to meeting met him going to conference & tried to get him to return but he thout[sic] not best as his horse was young, he said he could not ride through by conference by the time it commenced Then I thout what shall I do I shall have to take the lead at the meeting & do the p- (preaching) but the Lord prepaired him self a preacher it rained powerfully until 11 o’clock so that I was verry wet I called with some of the Brtheren at Br. Eldredges and took dinner then rode to the place appointed for meeting. & found Br. Lane a Presiding Elder from Susquehanna District with five more preachers. Br. Warner p. on Sat. Br. Griffing exhorted. We had a good prayer meeting at six in the evening.”

“Sab. 16th Our Lovefeast began at 9 & the Lord was present to bless & we had a shout in the camp. Br E Bibbins p- at 11 from…the lord attended the word & the people were satisfied with the Sermons. Br. Lane exhorted and spoke on Gods method in bringing about Reffermations [sic] his word was with as from the authority of God. & not as the Areons. After him Br. Griffin with life & energy & Br. Vose closed the Meeting after with some of the Brethren dined with Br. W. E….” (Diary of Benajah Williams, 15-16 July, 1820).

The story that Joseph told had a revival taking place “in his fifteenth year” in “the place where we lived”, before his claimed vision in the “early spring” and that the whole district of the country was affected also. And the Methodists were not the only ones affected, but the Presbyterians and Baptists were also. The Williams Camp Meeting was a 9 hour walk from the Smith farm. It was not a revival and it doesn’t fit the evidence at all. Here is the footnote from the anonymous essay:

  1. Benajah Williams diary, July 15, 1820, copy in Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling regularized.

What they don’t mention in the body of the essay is that this camp meeting took place in the middle of July not the “early Spring”. Mike Quinn, in a bizarre effort to question the character of Wesley Walters, wrote a paper in 2006 titled, “Joseph Smith’s Experience of a Methodist ‘Camp Meeting’ in 1820”, and for all the attacks on Walters had to admit, according to Dan Vogel that “the First Vision story contains elements from the 1824–25 Palmyra revival,” and so Walter’s “observation about the text and its relationship to verifiable historical facts remains essentially legitimate.”

Quinn calls what he is doing in his paper “conservative revisionism”, and this includes throwing out what Smith himself wrote, that his vision took place in the early spring of 1820. Quinn claims that this is wrong, that it took place in the early summer because of a cold spring… that Joseph essentially mistook the month of July for the month of March. This kind of tortured ad hoc “revisionism” is simply baffling. Quinn also touts this newspaper article as strong evidence that Walter’s was wrong:

Effects of Drunkenness. — DIED at the house of Mr. Robert M’Collum, in this town, on the 26th inst., James Couser, aged about forty years. The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. M’Collum’s house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication. He, with his companion who was also in the same debasing condition, called for supper, which was granted. Both stayed all night — called for breakfast next morning — when notified that it was ready, the deceased was found wrestling with his companion, whom he flung down with the greatest ease, — he suddenly sunk down upon a bench, — was taken with an epileptic fit, and immediately expired. — It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of the community too frequently resort for no better objewct, than to gratify their base propensities. The deceased, who was an Irishman, we understand has left a family, living at Catskill, this state. (Palmyra Register, June 28, 1820)

Again, a camp-meeting months after the claimed “early Spring” vision. So where is the reference to the claimed 1819 “revival”? The anonymous authors don’t provide any. But there is another Methodist preacher the Apologists mention, Aurora Seager, who was in the area in 1818 and this is from his diary:

I received, on the 18th of June, a letter from Brother Hibbard, informing me that I had been received by the New York Conference, and, at my request, had been transferred to the Genesee Conference. On the 19th I attended a camp-meeting at Palmyra. The arrival of Bishop Roberts, who seems to be a man of God, and is apostolic in his appearance, gave a deeper interest to the meeting until it closed. On Monday the sacrament was administered, about twenty were baptized; forty united with the Church, and the meeting closed. I accompanied the Bishop to Brother Hawks, at Phelps, and on the 14th of July I set out with Brother Paddock for the Genesee conference, which was to hold its session at Lansing, N.Y. (Diary of Aurora Seager, 1818, The Three Brothers: Sketches of the Lives of Rev. Aurora Seager, Rev. Micah Seager, Rev. Schuyler Seager, D. D. (New York, 1880), pgs 21-22).

Mormon Apologists love to tout this as evidence of “an unusual excitement .. among all the sects … [with] great multitudes”, but this was two years before the claimed 1820 vision and only speaks of Methodists. There is no mention of George Lane either (this is important). Here is the story the way Smith later crafted it:

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, [1820 according to Smith] there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, a“Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. … I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia. (Joseph Smith, History)

It commenced with the Methodists “in the place where we lived” then expanded (according to Smith) to “all the sects” in “that region of the country”. It wasn’t an isolated camp meeting 25 miles from the place where he lived (Palmyra). It wasn’t a camp meeting in the summer, or two years earlier, it was a great multitudes uniting themselves to the different religious parties, and this did not happen as Joseph describes until 1824. Walters was right, and still is.

The Manchester Mess

The Smith family’s Palmyra residences (approximate locations, top left, bottom left)

Joseph claimed the whole family moved to Manchester in 1820. But this isn’t true, they didn’t all move to Manchester until 1822 after they built a cabin which they completed before starting on a “frame house” the next year. The evidence for this is incontrovertible.

As Walters and Marquardt document in “Inventing Mormonism” the Smith’s moved to Palmyra in 1816-1817 and rented a house on West Main Street. (see map above top left) They lived there for about two years and then moved out to a small log cabin on some land that Samuel Jennings owned just at the southern edge of the Palmyra Township line. (see map above bottom left) This was not Manchester. Walters & Marquardt explain:

Joseph Sr. is first found in Palmyra on the road tax list for April 1817 as a resident on Main Street…. Joseph Sr.’s name occurs again at the same location in District 26 in 1818 and 1819. In April 1820 Alvin Smith’s name appears for the first time on the road tax list among the merchants on Main Street. Alvin had turned twenty-one in February 1819 and his absence from the 1819 road list may indicate he had been hired out. Residing on Main Street may represent the cake and beer shop the Smiths reportedly operated in town. However, Joseph Sr.’s name appears at the end of the list, showing he was now living outside the business district and near the Palmyra-Farmington town line, where the road district ended. The Smith family’s cabin would be mentioned two months later in the “Palmyra Town Book” as “Joseph Smiths dwelling house,” located about fifty feet north of the line dividing Palmyra from Farmington. It stood about two miles south of Main Street on property owned by Samuel Jennings, a merchant with whom the Smiths did business. When the road survey crew on 13 June 1820 laid out the extension of Stafford Road to join Main Street to the north, they used the cabin as a reference point. The survey reads: “Minutes of the survey of a public Highway beginning on the south line … in the town of Palmyra three rods fourteen links southeas[t] of Joseph Smiths dwelling house.” The Smith cabin location is further supported by Orsamus Turner, who in 1818 began work as a young apprentice printer at the office of the local Palmyra Register. He recalled that he first saw the Smith family in the winter of 1819-20 living “in a rude log house, with but a small spot underbrushed around it” near the town line. (pg. 3-4)

Location of Smith frame house & approximate location of log cabin

The fact that the Smith’s were still living in Palmyra in 1821 is supplemented by the birth of Lucy Smith in Palmyra: “Genealogy,” Manuscript History, A-1: 10 [separate section], reads, “Lucy Smith, born in Palmyra, Ontario Co. N.Y. July 18, 1821.” (Walters & Marquardt, pg. 12), and the road tax records.

The Smith’s did not article for the Manchester Farm until 1821, as Walters & Marquardt clearly show:

Lucy subsequently reported that the family contracted for 100 acres of “Everson” (Evertson) land held by the estate of Nicholas Evertson, an attorney in New York City who had acquired considerable land holdings in western New York before his death in 1807. It was June 1820 before Evertson’s executors conveyed to Caspar W. Eddy, a New York City physician, power of attorney to sell his holdings. Eddy traveled to Canandaigua, New York, the seat of Ontario County, and on 14 July 1820 transferred his power of attorney to his friend Zachariah Seymour. Seymour had long been a land agent in the area and was a close associate of Oliver Phelps, who with his partner Nathaniel Gorham had opened a land office in Canandaigua and had instituted the practice of “articling” for real estate. …Joseph Sr. and Alvin would have had to “article” for their land shortly after July 1820. Joseph Sr. is listed in the Farmington (Manchester) 1820 census (which was enrolled between 7 August 1820 and 5 February 1821), suggesting that the articling was completed no later than February 1821. The ages of the male family members were: under 10, 2 (William and Don Carlos); 16-26, 2 (Alvin and Hyrum); and over 45, 1 (Joseph Sr.). Female members were: under 10, 1 (Catherine); 16-26, 1 (Sophronia); and 26-45, 1 (Lucy Mack Smith). Both Joseph Jr. (age fourteen) and his younger brother Samuel Harrison (age twelve) were missing from the census. The new Smith farm encompassed approximately one hundred acres, one third of the original Lot No. 1 in that township. According to the assessment roll for 22 June 1820, the entire three hundred acres of Lot 1 were taxed to the heirs of Nicholas Evertson at that time. In the following year’s assessment (7 July 1821) only two hundred acres were taxed to the Evertson heirs, while the balance was assessed to Joseph Smith. …

Lucy mentions that “in one year’s time” after they contracted for the property, the land agent told them they should build a cabin on their land, which “we did.” However, it cannot be precisely determined from her account when this log house was built. That this refers to their Farmington farm and not the Palmyra property is clear from several key facts. First, the Smiths were living in the Palmyra cabin when the road supervisors mentioned it in June 1820 before the Smiths could have contracted for the Farmington land. In addition, William Smith, Joseph Jr.’s younger brother, declared concerning the Farmington/Manchester property, “The improvements made on this farm was first commenced by building a log house at no small expense, and at a later date a frame house at a cost of several hundred dollars.” William would hardly call a cabin built on Samuel Jennings’s land in Palmyra an improvement on their own farm across the line in Manchester. From the Palmyra road tax list it is clear that at least Joseph Sr. and Alvin were still living in Palmyra as late as April 1822. It is probable that the Smiths did not move to the Manchester farm until after the summer of 1822. It could not be earlier than July 1821 because Smith family genealogy mentions the birth of a daughter named Lucy, the youngest child of the family. The genealogy specifically states that Lucy was “born in Palmyra.” (pgs. 4-7)

There is even more evidence to show that the Smith’s did not move to Manchester until 1822, as Walters & Marquardt document:

When the one hundred acres first went on the assessment roll in July 1821, taxed to Joseph Sr., the parcel was valued at $700, $7 an acre. This was approximately what uncleared land in the area was selling for at the time. The remaining two hundred acres of Lot No. 1 were taxed to the Evertson heirs at a value of $1,400. The same value appeared in the 29 June 1822 assessment. However, by 24 July 1823 the value of the Smith property had jumped to $1,000. This is an increase of over 40 percent, yet the average property value for the whole township rose only 4 percent that year. This indicates that for the first time a cabin had been built and sufficient land had been cleared so that under New York law the assessed value had to be raised. (pg. 7)

So two years from the time they moved to Manchester would be 1824, when the great revival with George Lane took place. We know that Joseph Smith is conflating events, but is it due to memory problems as some suggest? That will be addressed in Pt. II.

Further evidence that Joseph’s timeline is wrong is that members of the Smith family did not join the Presbyterian Church until after the fall/winter of 1824 when George Lane was in the area:

With inexpressible gratitude to the great Head of the church, I am enabled to inform you that the work of the Lord is prospering gloriously on Ontario district…
From Catharine I went to Ontario circuit, where the Lord had already begun a gracious work in Palmyra. This is a pleasant village, situate on the great western canal, about twenty-two miles east of Rochester, and is now in a flourishing condition. In this place the work commenced in the spring, and progressed moderately until the time of the quarterly meeting, which was held on the 25th and 26th of September. About this time it appeared to break out afresh. Monday evening, after the quarterly meeting, there were four converted, and on the following evening, at a prayer meeting at Dr. [Clark] Chase’s, there were seven. Among these was a young woman by the name of Lucy Stoddard… [Was this the Smith’s also? They lived very close to the Chase family & Sophronia married Calvin Stoddard]
December 11th and 12th our quarterly meeting for Ontario circuit was held in Ontario. It was attended with showers of blessings, and we have reason to believe that much good was done. Here I found that the work, which had for some time been going on in Palmyra, had broken out from the village like a mighty flame, and was spreading in every direction. When I left the place, December 22d, there had, in the village and its vicinity, upward of one hundred and fifty joined the society, besides a number that had joined other churches, and many that had joined no church. (Letter of George Lane, The Methodist Magazine, “Revival of Religion on Ontario District”, pg 158-60).

The Smith family joined the Presbyterians during the tenure of Reverand Benjamin Stockton (who was the reason why Joseph Smith Sr. did not join, because of his comments about Alvin):

The installation of the Rev. BENJAMIN B. STOCKTON will take place this day at the Presbyterian Meeting-House in this village. — The exercises to commence at 11 o’clock A.M. (Wayne Sentinel, February 18, 1824).

The local papers proclaimed the revival and the large numbers of people who converted:

Religious.–An article in the Religious Advocate gives the pleasing fact that a revival of religion had taken place in the town of Palmyra, Macedon, Manchester, Phelps, Lyons and Ontario, and that more than 200 souls had become hopeful subjects of Divine Grace, &c. It may be added, that in Palmyra and Macedon, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, more than 400 have already testified that the Lord is good. The work is still progressing. In the neighboring towns, the number is great and fast increasing. Glory be to God on high; and on earth, peace and good will to all men. (Wayne Sentinel, 2 March, 1825)

The large numbers of people converting and joining to the various sects became so commonplace after this that the Sentinel stopped reporting about them.  D. Michael Quinn writes,

…even though New York’s Methodist Magazine reported that “not less than ten thousand people” attended the Sunday session (11 June 1826) of Palmyra’s several  day camp-meeting, the village newspaper ignored this revival in its limited reporting of local events. Titled the Wayne Sentinel at that time, the newspaper’s co-editors Pomeroy Tucker and John H. Gilbert obviously saw no point in telling residents…(pg. 31)

Then, on September 25, 1824 we have this peculiar notice in the Wayne Sentinel by Joseph Smith Sr. (a few days after the Autumn Equinox) and the date Joseph Jr. was supposed to bring his brother Alvin to the hill at the bequest of the Angel/Ghost:

WHEREAS, reports have been industriously put in circulation, that my son Alvin had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected, which reports, every person possessed of human sensibility must know, are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations — therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports, I, with some of my neighbors, this morning, repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body which had not been disturbed.

This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who may have heard the report, and of informing those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested they would desist therefrom; and that it is believed by some, that they have been stimulated more by a desire to injure [the] reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends. JOSEPH SMITH. Palmyra, Sept. 25th, 1824. (Wayne Sentinel, September 29, 1824)

Whose “reputations” would this injure? Why did this happen to the Smith family? There is no evidence that this happened to any other families in Palmyra.

I’ll explore that below. Joseph was “glass looking” in 1826, and there were no revivals in the Palmyra area as described by him in 1820, (with “great multitudes” of many different sects) and the major players in the Smith family narrative like Benjamin Stockton and George Lane were there in 1824, not before the Spring of 1820. Those like Mike Quinn and others want to claim conflation of events (1824 with 1820) but this isn’t reasonable for a number of reasons which will be discussed in Pt. II. Using that excuse is pretty much having your cake and eating it too, as is portraying Joseph as a pious magic using, money-digging prophet-in-training.

Having It Both Ways?

Mormon Apologist Larry E. Morris, in a forthcoming book informs us:

There are no substitutes for the primary documents, but in the case of the Book of Mormon, the “earliest sources” are not nearly as early as one would hope. … a host of crucial Book of Mormon events took place between September of 1823 and the end of 1827, but not a single document–no letter, diary entry, legal record, newspaper article, or anything else–mentioning the Book of Mormon has survived. Even for the crucial year of 1828, only two documents, neither the original, are extant. It is not until 1829 that contemporaneous documents are plentiful, with the June 26 Wayne Sentinel article having the distinction of sending out the first public notice of the Book of Mormon. (pg. 3)

Morris is right above, and yet, he (as others have before him) tries to make the argument that “treasure seeking was part of an attempt to recapture the simplicity and magical power associated with apostolic Christianity.” (pg. 10) This is simply ridiculous, people were treasure seeking because they thought they could get rich quick by doing so.

Morris calls magic and Christianity “inseparable and natural allies.” Morris quotes Alan Taylor over and over again, who claims that “treasure seekers were neither fools nor deceivers”, as if every single treasure seeker was an upstanding Christian who had pure motives for going after the treasure. But those who hired themselves out as “Peekers”, they were the deceivers, and why there were laws passed to stop them from doing so. It is certainly debatable that Joseph Smith Sr. and his namesake was foolish and a deceiver.

Morris also quotes Ronald Walker but leaves out that even Walker knows that the Smith’s were after treasure for their own personal greed and that in 1826 the Sr. Smith called it “filthy lucre”, and hoped that someday God would “illumine” the heart of his son Joseph! This was long after he supposedly had his two religious visions.

It is more like this “attempt” to “recapture … apostolic Christianity” was just an excuse to justify what they were doing, which even Jesse Smith (Joseph Jr’s uncle) scoffed at. And those court documents which accused Joseph of being a “glass looker” in 1826, are the earliest records that have to do with Joseph Smith, Jr. and his treasure digging ever found. These records predate any that mention of the Book of Mormon by at least two years.

The “record” or “gold plates” was called a “treasure” by Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, Sr., Joseph Knight Sr., Martin Harris, Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young, and others. David Whitmer later claimed that the angel was “the guardian of the plates”. Joseph Jr., was said to have found the plates by looking in a “seeing” or peep-stone. (See Martin Harris interview with Joel Tiffany – “In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.”)

The Stone or the Angel?

Joseph’s first written history (the religious story) claimed that it was an unnamed angel (not Moroni) who told him about the plates – and where they were:

when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold

an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night

and he [the angel] called me by name

and he [the angel] said the Lord had forgiven me my sins

and he [the angel] revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by th[e] commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them

and he [the angel] revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitents of of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations and it was on the 22d day of Sept. AD 1822

and thus he [the angel] appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day and then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being excedingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision but when I considred I knew that it was not therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them

behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made accquainted of with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them (pg. 4, paragraph breaks mine)

One thing stands out in this 1832 History that bears mentioning. In the earlier vision that he claimed to have in his 16th year, Smith doesn’t mention any “adversary” or Satan’s power. It is probably because in the later vision that he claimed to have in his 17th year he is told by the anonymous angel that he couldn’t get the plates because he needed to “be made accquainted of with the power of the advisary”. Later, Smith reverses this and has Satan appear prior to the appearance of the deity in the earlier vision.

Lest there be any doubt, six years later Smith wrote this:

I … went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited, and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there. (pg. 7)

And yet Martin Harris had certain knowledge that Joseph found the gold plates using his peep-stone before the mention of any angel. This was the man who was with Joseph from the beginning of the venture, who helped him with the “translation”, gave him money and sold his farm to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon. It is doubtful that Harris would get this detail wrong. So Joseph is not being truthful in the later versions of his history. And since magical folklore was so Christian according to Morris and other apologists, why would Joseph want to change his story and claim that an angel told him where the plates were? Why would it matter? Henry Harris recorded what Joseph Smith told him about how he discovered the gold plates:

The character of Joseph Smith, Jr. for truth and veracity was such, that I would not believe him under oath. I was once on a jury before a Justice’s Court and the Jury could not, and did not, believe his testimony to be true. After he pretended to have found the gold plates, I had a conversation with him, and asked him where he found them and how he come to know where they were. He said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit; that an angel appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was married, and that when he saw the woman that was to he his wife, he should know her; and she would know him. He then went to Pennsylvania, got his wife, and they both went together and got the gold plates… (Henry Harris, Mormonism Unvailed, 1833, 252.)

Having a “revelation”, and then looking in a peep-stone is not the same as having an angel show you where they were. Astoundingly, FAIRMORMON calls this (angel vs. stone)  a “false dichotomy” because,

Moroni could easily have told Joseph about the plates and interpreters. The vision to Joseph may well have then come through the seer stone, as some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (e.g., Section X) would later be revealed. One account from Henry Harris in Eber D. Howe’s anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed matches this theory well:

I had a conversation with [Joseph], and asked him where he found them [the plates] and how he come to know where they were. he said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his [seer] stone and saw them in the place of deposit.

But Joseph later says that the information came from the angel, (not a “revelation”) and never mentions finding them with a peep-stone. FAIRMORMON has it backwards, and so doesn’t quote the full Harris statement where the angel only appears after Joseph looks in his stone. Harris doesn’t claim that the angel told him about the plates at all; Joseph was claiming that his peep-stones were like the “all seeing eye” of God, cloaking his magical practices in religious terminology as so many others did.  What is rather hilarious is that Harris says that he would not believe Smith under oath! But this still doesn’t give them pause in using him to bolster their erroneous claim.

And yet, in 1832, Samuel H. Smith & Orson Hyde answered the question this way:

Q.-By what means did he discover the golden plates and who was with him when he made the discovery.
A.-The golden plates were discovered through the ministration of an angel of the Lord, by Joseph Smith-no one else was with him at the time of the discovery. (Boston Investigator 2 (Aug. 10, 1832).

And in their 1834/35 History Cowdery & Smith wrote,

An Angel appeared before me; his hands and feet were, naked, pure and white; he stood betwen the floors of the room, clothed with purity inexpressible. He said unto me I am a Messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things. He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham.

And finally, in 1838 Joseph Smith himself answered this:

How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?…Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me and told me where they were and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon ( Joseph Smith, Jr., Elders’ Journal 1:3 (July 1838): 42–43.)

It is perfectly clear that Smith was later claiming that the angel showed him “in the vision” where they were. Why? Because he was trying to hide the fact that he used a peep-stone and with it claimed to have found the plates and later used it to “translate” them.

So by 1832 Smith’s story had completely changed. This is important to note going forward: Smith’s constantly changing narrative to eliminate or downplay as many treasure-digging/folk magic elements from his later angel narrative as he could. Once again, it begs the question, Why? if folk magic and Christianity were so complimentary and intertwined as the apologists claim. Smith wasn’t “restoring” Christianity for who he deemed the corrupt elites, but for the “folk” who supposedly believed in all that magical stuff. So why would he run away from it? The apologist arguments can’t explain it.

It is also very important to note that Joseph locating the “gold plates” with his stone, is at its heart a treasure digging yarn, and those elements were still being related to Harris and others before he finally changed it to the wholly religious narrative we have today. (The angel told him – there was no peep-stone, only “interpreters’)

Having It Both Ways (Continued)

It seems that the apologists feel making the above argument (treasure seeking = Christianity) clears Joseph and his family of any shenanigans in relation to peep-stones, divining rods, money-digging, magic circles and parchments, incantations, rituals, necromancy and the like. It was all simply a part of their Christian folk lore beliefs and, of course, everybody else was doing it so how bad could it be? And way, way back in Old Testament days (thousands of years ago) they were using strange objects to do things with too! Problem solved!

They even claim that all these occult practices helped prepare the family to accept seeing angels sent from God, and accepting his message to young Joseph!

What it sounds like though, is simply whataboutism run amok: “What about this good Christian fellow/Preacher who used a divining rod” or “they prayed before they tried to contact the spirits of the dead”.. so all such practices were acceptable and promoted by Christians and hence were a normal part of apostolic Christianity! What about those ancient Old Testament Bible stories from thousands of years ago that mention divining cups and rods that turn into snakes, etc.? Problem solved! (They even had talking donkeys back then!)

In a paper Morris wrote, “I Should Have An Eye Single to the Glory of God”, which is critical of Ron Huggins’ Dialogue article, “From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism”, (which he expanded into his new book) Morris goes on and on about sources and then tells his audience that “…since we have no such sources, we have to do the best we can with what we have.” That’s exactly what Ron did. Still, Morris’s biggest criticism of Ron Huggins is that he did not answer point by point all the apologist offerings about folk magic. For example, Morris claims that,

Huggins should have drawn upon relevant scholarship, particularly Ronald W. Walker’s claim that “Mormonism was . . . born within an upstate New York matrix that combined New England folk culture with traditional religion.” And although Huggins is aware of this paper (pp. 27, 33), he fails to respond to Walker’s view that “magical treasure hunting was . . . part of the culture and religion of the folk . . . , a blend of humankind’s deep myths and Christian ideas.” Instead, Huggins narrows his discussion of treasure seeking to tales of Captain Kidd, introducing and concluding his article with mentions of the notorious pirate and his legendary plunder.

In other words, Ron should have presented all the Mormon apologist offerings in his paper, and downplayed any connection to Captain Kidd, the very subject that the paper was all about? Really? Write a Larry E. Morris approved article with sources he thinks are relevant? But hold on… Walker’s full quote reads:

Mormonism was also born within an Upstate New York matrix that combined New England folk culture with traditional religion. Joseph Smith’s family and many of his early New York converts were both treasure diggers and fervent religionists. But there is evidence that the Smiths were not always comfortable mixing the two. At young Joseph’s 1826 money digging trial his father was reported to have claimed that both he and his son “were mortified that this wonderful [seeric] power which God had so miraculously given to the boy should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.” Joseph Smith Sr “trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will concerning him.” (Page 450)

Notice that Walker separates the two, (treasure digging and religionists) and it is the Smith’s who combine them (as do others in that sub culture) and are conflicted about doing so! And if you read Morris’ quote, so full of ellipses, you would never know that Walker believes that even the Smith’s were not comfortable mixing them. So why would Ron Huggins even need to include any of Walker’s opinions in his paper? To support apologist speculations? Is that really relevant scholarship? Let’s see.

Walker quotes Joseph Smith, Sr. giving testimony at his sons 1826 Examination. This was six years after Joseph supposedly saw God and three years after he claimed the angel he later identified as Moroni/Nephi visited him. And then, of course there were the two visits in 1824 and 1825 at the Hill Cumorah. So when was the “Son of Righteousness” going to “illumine the heart of the boy”? And even after this, Joseph went back to looking for treasure! It was like those religious visions never really happened!

Morris wants to have it both ways as do all the apologists who try to justify the Smith’s practicing and believing in magic rituals and practices, the supernatural spirits that supposedly guarded buried treasure, and being able to locate such treasure using various instruments like dowsing rods and peep-stones as somehow being more than a subculture (even a widespread one at times) and therefore acceptable as legitimate Christian practices. (Christianity is not Old Testament Judaism). Didn’t Christ claim he had “fulfilled” the old laws and after the “gift of the Holy Spirit” none of that was necessary any more? That it would be a much simpler gospel, like love your neighbor as yourself?  But I digress. Another time perhaps.

Where is it listed in any of the many Church tenets of the Universalists, or Baptists, or Methodists, or Presbyterians, or other Christian churches of the day, the instructions about divining, or peeping with stones, or necromancy, or other “folk magic” practices?

Even though some individuals might practice such things, there is no evidence that any of the Christian Churches in America were promoting such things in a widespread manner as the apologists want you to believe. It was a subculture that was widespread among all Americans, both religious and non-religious, and as we shall see below, even the Mormons turned against it and claimed such things were ‘not of God’.

And if one wants to call “folk magic” a religion, well, there is the problem that God supposedly told Joseph in 1820 that all the different religions were false and to “go not after them”. And remember, after his claimed 1820 vision Joseph “…frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.” He claims that stuff (the money-digging) was offensive in the sight of God. Ah, but having it both ways allows Joseph to do all this offensive stuff and still be a legitimate, bona fide occult dabbling prophet-in-training, right? Because he claimed to “repent” then continued to do it. And continued to do it. But now… the apologists are claiming there was nothing wrong with any of it because so many other Christians were doing their own dabbling.

In this tortured paragraph, Eric A. Eliason touts a folklorist to try and show how magic and religion are really just the same thing and that you can demystify it all by realizing that it’s all culture clashes:

Folklorist David Allred reminds scholars how folklorists helped de-exoticize the common magic/religion distinction by showing them to be functionally and structurally very similar concepts whose differences have more to do with culturally constructed notions emerging from relationships of group identity, prestige, and power than they do from any intrinsic qualities of magic or religion. (pg. 80)

But what was Joseph himself saying when he put these words in the mouth of God to him in 1820:

[God said] all their Creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that “they draw near to me to with their lips but their hearts are far from me, They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof.” He again forbade me to join with any of them and many other thing[s] did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time. (p. 2)

Since magic and religion are not different from one another (according to the apologists), Joseph then continued to ignore the heavenly visitors he claimed he was continually seeing right up until he came to possess the gold plates in 1827. Surely this instruction from God includes Professors of Methodist/magic folklore or Universalist/magic folklore or Presbyterian/magic folklore, etc. Surely it includes practitioners of folk magic who were not affiliated with any of the sects of the day and all the magical “creeds”. If one wants to claim that Smith was commanded to “go not after” only organized religions, what is the reason why God would leave out folk religion/magic? And that begs the question why would God use the abominable “Christian” folk magic to train his prophet? Was the angel directing the young prophet-in-training to go out and peep for treasure? Does that somehow make one more prolific at “translating” ancient languages? Joseph never finds anything with his occult peep-stone but when it becomes a religious “seeing stone” he can “translate” whole books of scripture! Just call it urim and thuimmim and it’s all good. Just picture the angel: Joseph you’re too greedy, go out and work on the treasure hunting some more so you can hone those peep-stone skills and “translate” these gold plates that you won’t really need to have to do the “translating”. Really?

In the claimed vision though, Joseph’s God makes no distinctions. All were wrong according to Joseph though he only mentions three of the most “popular” denominations in his account.

It is certainly of interest to mention that in 1830, when Oliver Cowdery and a few others went to Ohio, Abner Cole published these statements they made to those they were trying to proselyte to the new Mormonite faith:

Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously — took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of “Heavenly origin.” Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, — that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that period, — that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk. Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally — Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should “step their feet” upon it. They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The Indians were the ten lost tribes — some of them had already been dipt. From 1 to 200 (whites) had already been in the water, and showed great zeal in this new religion — many were converted before they saw the book. Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them — commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!! Cowdery authorised three persons to preach, &c.  and descended the Ohio River. The converts are forming “common stock” families, as most pleasing in the sight of God. They pretend to give the “Holy Spirit” and under its operations they fall upon the floor — see visions, &c. Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem. (The Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831, See also issues of the Painesville Telegraph for this period).

Notice they were preaching that there was no religion on the earth for 1500 years. As we know, Joseph was to later declare that without the proper “authority” anything done in God’s name was invalid and an affront to him. But the Apologists would have you believe that there was an exception for their “Christian” folk magic and the shenanigans of Palmyra’s prophet-in-training.

Magic or Religion?

Joseph’s “official” story about seeing God and then an angel in 1820 and 1823 isn’t based on some magic subculture, because Joseph later denied that he was involved in it; (he was only a paid laborer) but since he was involved (as the evidence shows) he literally was ignoring the commands of both God and the angel according to his own “official” narrative. Three years after he first claimed to see an angel of God, Joseph Jr. testified in a court of law that,

…he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold-mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and informed him where he could find those treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them; that at Palmyra he pretended to tell, by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was, of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account its injuring his health, especially his eyes – made them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having any thing to do with this business.

According to this, Joseph is simply a reluctant Peeker who began his peeking right about the time he claimed that an angel visited him! His mother bragging about how her son “was in possession of certain means, by which he could discern things that could not be seen by the natural eye” was in relation to his use of a peep stone and perhaps a divining rod.

Joseph would later spend many months using that “means”, (his dark stone), to “translate” the Book of Mormon and continued to use it to receive “revelations”, which he claimed came from God — without complaining about it hurting his eyes. Joseph also told this to others (that the stone hurt his eyes):

McMaster sworn: says he went with Arad Stowel, and likewise came away disgusted. Prisoner pretended to him that he could discover objects at a distance by holding this white stone to the sun or candle; that prisoner rather declined looking into a hat at his dark coloured stone, as he said that it hurt his eyes.

He “rather declined looking into a hat” but then “translates” the entire Book of Mormon that way. It doesn’t make much sense that God would use a training method that hurt his eyes and then require him to “translate” that way does it? And then have the young Peeker turned Prophet continue to have to use the stone to get more revelations? Why wouldn’t God just send an angel with the messages? After all, they are messengers and God had to have a lot of those on hand, right? In one of the many versions of his claimed 1820 vision, Smith related that he saw “many angels” at that time. But when he needs one to help him, or protect him they can’t seem to be found.

Joseph also claimed that the “spectacles” or as they are described in the Book of Mormon “interpreters” were even harder to use than his peep-stone! This also confirms Joseph had two stones that he used for such purposes. Yet as Mormonism teaches, the Bible condemns such practices.

“There is no light in them”

In Isaiah we read,

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

I bring this up because the Mormon Church today (and in Joseph Smith’s day), separates them and condemns such magical practices, and uses the same verses to justify their condemnation:

This is not a revival of the spirituality characteristic of the ancient patriarchs and prophets of Israel, but is a type of magic and spiritualistic wizardry that the true prophets vigorously opposed. …It is clearly seen from the foregoing passages [in Isaiah] that belief in astrology, spirit mediums, etc., did not constitute the true religion taught by the prophets and patriarchs, but was characteristic of the false religions practiced by the surrounding nations that had departed from the Lord.

The above Bible verses contrast seeking out God with those who entertain “familiar spirits” the Peekers who “peep” and “mutter”.  Is using the name of God (in folk magic spells and incantations, etc.) an affirmation that something is approved by God? Basically, “it is because we said so”? Even Christ spoke of the difference when he said:

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly I never knew you… (Matthew 7:22-23)

How many times have you heard Mormons quoting that scripture in relation to “priesthood authority”? And the Mormons aren’t the only Christians who do so. One Bible scholar recommended by Mormon apologists (Cornelius Van Dam) claims that, “there is no convincing evidence that the Urim and Thummim were used after the time of David.” It seems that the prophets of ancient Israel had turned away from such objects and warning others that God no longer sanctioned those practices. (Some claim that it was in anticipation of the Messiah… those pesky other Christians, the “whore” and her “children”) I’ll have more of Van Dam and the “whore” below.

A Counterfeit Prophet?

As I mentioned, Joseph was told in 1820 and in 1823 to go not after them (any religion). Yet he continued to do so for years if, as the apologists inform us, folk magic is actually Christianity. And if it wasn’t, was that any better? As for Joseph’s use of “folk magic”, apostle/prophet Gordon B. Hinckley wrote,

I have no doubt there was folk magic practiced in those days. [of Joseph Smith] Without question there were superstitions and the superstitious. I suppose there was some of this in the days when the Savior walked the earth. There is even some in this age of so-called enlightenment. For instance, some hotels and business buildings skip the numbering of floor thirteen. Does this mean there is something wrong with the building? Of course not. Or with the builders? No.

Similarly, the fact that there were superstitions among the people in the days of Joseph Smith is no evidence whatever that the Church came of such superstition. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Ensign, November 1987, 52-53).

Why do those who are said to have actual authority teach that such things were not of God, and that it is mistake to claim that they are? Apologists are actually going against what church “authorities” claim by promoting what they do about the Smith’s continued practice of magic. Here is how Richard Bushman describes how “magic” was instrumental in getting the Smith family to believe in the angel Moroni:

Traces of a treasure-seeking mentality still appeared in the family’s reactions to the angel. His parents admonished Joseph to be rigorously obedient to the messenger’s instructions, just as exact compliance with prescribed rituals was required for successful money-digging. …When he married Emma Hale in 1827, Joseph was on the eve of realizing himself as a prophet. He may still have been involved in magic, but he was sincere when he told Emma’s father that his treasure-seeking days were over.  Magic had served its purpose in his life. In a sense, it was a preparatory gospel … After 1828, Joseph could no longer see that magic might have prepared him to believe in a revelation of gold plates and translation with a stone. It did not occur to him that without magic his family might have scoffed at his story of Moroni, as did the minister who rejected the First Vision. Magic had played its part and now could be cast aside. Magic and religion melded in the Smith family culture. …It may have taken four years for Joseph to purge himself of his treasure-seeking greed. Joseph Jr. never repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end. (Excerpts from Bushman, Richard L., Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, 51, 53-54, 69,)

Now it seems, the narrative is that folk magic prepared Joseph to become a Christian prophet. And it is important to note that Joseph did not identify the angel who supposedly told him about the gold plates as Moroni until about 1835, so he will be referred to as “the angel” when discussing any earlier accounts.

Larry Morris claims that “Joseph … acknowledges that implements used for supposedly “magical” purposes can also be used for what we call religious purposes—or perhaps it is the other way around.” (pg. 36) Yet, Apostle Dallin Oaks has stated:

Those who define folk magic to include any use of tangible objects to aid in obtaining spiritual guidance confound the real with the counterfeit. They mislead themselves and their readers. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents,” Ensign (October 1987), 63.)

These church members do not agree with either Bushman or Morris in claiming that the Smith’s use of magic was in any way sanctioned by God, or that Joseph would have used such practices to “prepare” himself for his encounters with God and reject the notion that “treasure seeking was part of an attempt to recapture the simplicity and magical power associated with apostolic Christianity.” Yet, it seems that the Church is kind of? sanctioning such use of magic by bringing it in the back door, with the series of Essays that were written to counter the claims of the CES Letter in 2013. The Anonymous Authors write that,

As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture. In a footnote, it says,

According to Martin Harris, an angel commanded Joseph Smith to stop these activities, which he did by 1826.

No, he didn’t stop by then. They get this wrong. Joseph claimed to speak with the angel every year for four years every September. Joseph was arrested in March, 1826. So when did the angel tell him to stop, in September, 1826 after he was arrested? If so, then why did Joseph Smith tell Samuel Lawrence there was a silver mine in Pennsylvania and entice him to go after it in the late fall/winter of 1826? Joseph returned to Palmyra, but soon returned to Pennsylvania and stayed at the farm of Joseph Knight, Sr. Dan Vogel writes,

While on the Knight farm, [November/December 1826]  Joseph participated in at least one extended treasure hunt. Emily Colburn Austin, sister of Newel Knight’s wife, Sally, reported seeing “places where they had dug for money” on the Knight farm. Austin was told that a dog had been sacrificed in the hope of breaking the charm that held “pots of money.” Joel K. Noble, the Colesville justice before whom Smith appeared in July 1830, said that “Jo. and others were digging for a chest of money in [the] night [but] could not obtain it. They procured one thing and another, together with [a] black bitch. The bitch was offered a … sacrifice, [blo]od sprinkled, prayer made at the time. [But] (no money obtained). The above sworn to on trial.” (pg. 89)

No money obtained. You will find that this is always the result of the Smith treasure hunts, except of course for the gold plates that mysteriously disappeared into the hands of an angel. If it was that easy, why didn’t God just have an angel get them from Moroni and then give them to Smith? Really! When Smith lost the Harris transcript an angel appeared and took the plates and “interpreters” from Smith. He then supposedly gave them back and then Smith gave them to him again after that.

It appears that if the angel did tell Joseph to quit money-digging, he didn’t listen. Even after marrying Emma in January, 1827 Joseph continued with his money-digging. Here is Dan Vogel once again describing the events as they transpired the year Joseph claims to have been worthy enough to get the plates:

Within days, [Josiah] Stowell transported the newlyweds to Manchester to board with Joseph’s parents in their frame house. How well Lucy and Emma got along is unknown, but the two undoubtedly shared some of the same attitudes toward their husbands’ drinking and money digging, both of which would become more prominent attributes of the Smith men during Emma’s brief stay in Manchester.

Joseph worked on his father’s farm and hired out as a laborer on other farms during the ensuing year. While he was working for William Stafford, he got into another drunken fight. Barton Stafford, son of William, remembered that on one occasion while working in his father’s field, Joseph “got quite drunk on a composition of cider, molasses and water.” In fact, Stafford said, he was so intoxicated he could barely stand and found it necessary to hold on to a nearby fence. After a while, “he fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him.” Emma, who was in the house visiting, came out and “appeared very much grieved at his conduct, and to protect his back from the rays of the sun, and conceal his nakedness, threw her shawl over his shoulders and in that plight escorted the Prophet home.”

Gordon T. Smith, Lemuel Durfee’s adopted son, related a story about Joseph’s drinking while the latter was working for the senior Durfee. Joseph’s presence at the Durfee farm on at least two unspecified occasions in August 1827 is confirmed in the employer’s account book. When Durfee’s wife discovered that Joseph had been sneaking drinks from the whiskey bottle in her pantry each morning before work, she switched the bottle for one containing pepper-sauce, which caused Joseph considerable discomfort.20

There was no shortage of alcoholic drink at the Smith home during Joseph’s and Emma’s tenancy. One of Lemuel Durfee’s account books records the purchase of large quantities of “liquor cider” by the family during the spring and summer of 1827.

Alcohol elicited more than Joseph’s anger, for Stafford reported that “when intoxicated, he frequently made his religion the topic of conversation.” When inebriated, anything Joseph had tried to repress seemed to bellow up like steam rising from a doused fire.

By the fall of 1827, the Smith men had resumed their treasure-seeking activities in Manchester in company with like-minded neighbors. While little is known about these activities, both Martin Harris and Lorenzo Saunders said that Joseph Jr. directed a treasure-digging company until he received custody of the gold plates Joseph Capron, who lived on the farm immediately south of the Smiths, reported that in 1827 Joseph put a stone in his hat and located “a chest of gold watches … north west of my house.” After performing various magical ceremonies, a company of money diggers, including Samuel Lawrence, attempted to unearth a treasure, but the “evil spirit” guarding the chest succeeded in carrying it off.

These treasure hunts may have been financially supported by Abraham Fish, a neighbor with whom the Smiths had other financial dealings. In a letter dated January 1832, six leading citizens of Canandaigua, some of whom were familiar with Martin Harris, reported having heard that Joseph’s money-digging company in Manchester was “for a time … supported by a Mr. Fish” and that when the gentleman “turned them off,” this was when Joseph turned his attention to finding “a box … containing some gold plates.

Amid her husband’s drinking, fighting, and money digging, Emma may have begun to have second thoughts about their marriage. Lorenzo Saunders, whose sister had become close friends with Emma, said that Emma was “disappointed and used to come down to our house and sit down and cry. Said she was deceived and got into a hard place.” Perhaps Emma was beginning to fear that her parents’ assessment of Joseph had been correct. She may not have been happy having to live with her in-laws and worried that Joseph was doing little to remedy the situation. (ibid, 90-91)

Are these the actions of a person who is supposedly meeting with an angel every year to discuss how to run the kingdom of God? That’s debatable. The Anonymous Church Essay authors also write:

Joseph did not hide his well-known early involvement in treasure seeking. In 1838, he published responses to questions frequently asked of him. “Was not Jo Smith a money digger,” one question read. “Yes,” Joseph answered, “but it was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.” (Selections from Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 43).

Of course he hid it. These anonymous authors can’t get anything right. Joseph claimed (over and over again) that he was only hired to dig, (as he does in his official History) he never mentions using a peep-stone, necromancy and other occult practices to locate the treasure and lost items in any history he was involved with. Smith never admitted any of this except at his Examination under oath and perhaps privately to those who knew about his past when he was drinking.

The Church Essay on “translating” the Book of Mormon is filled with apologist speculations, including footnotes and references to their speculative articles. Is “Gee, I got 14 bucks a month employed as a shovel technician for a silver mine, therefore I was labeled as a money-digger” a real answer? Not by a long shot.

This is how the church is “officially” dealing with this issue. Where is their official declaration or instructions in the priesthood manuals about the use of seeing stones and divining rods (No one would know by simply reading D&C 7 that it was originally about using one) and how to practice necromancy to contact the dead in search of lost treasure? Instructions on how to keep the treasure from slipping back in to the earth after you locate it and “bind” the spirit that is guarding it? How many times do we have to hear that it was OK for Joseph, but for no one else? And yet, this is how it was. And of course there are those who found veins of gold and sliver in Utah and attributed it all to the “priesthood” and to God.

Those who knew Joseph best made the most excuses for his behavior:

I saw Joseph the Prophet do, and heard him say, things which I never expected to see and hear in a Prophet of God, yet I was always able to throw a mantle of charity over improper things. (Lorenzo Snow, Statement, January 29, 1891, as cited in Dennis B. Horne, An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon (Clearfield, UT: Gnolaum Books, 2004), 175).

But some did not. Ezra Booth wrote to Edward Partridge in 1831:

Some suppose his [Joseph’s] weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and ‘were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.’ So Sidney asserted, and many others concurred with him in sentiment. (Letter of Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831).

When is the next Elder, or Seventy, or High Priest going to get up in Sacrament Meeting and explain how to use divining rods and seeing stones and how to contact the dead to find lost items and buried treasure and see who you are going to marry? It was all “Apostolic Christianity” right?

The First Cowdery Conundrum

Early on, Joseph attempted to legitimize the divining rod of Oliver Cowdery by including something in a “revelation”, but it seems that didn’t go over very well. In 1829 Joseph penned this to Cowdery:

A Revelation to Oliver [Cowdery] he being desirous to know whether the Lord would grant him the gift of Revelation & th …Translation given in Harmony Susquehannah Pennsylvania now …this is not all for thou hast another gift which is the gift of working with the sprout Behold it hath told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this thing of Nature to work in your hands for it is the work of God & therefore whatsoever ye shall ask to tell you by that means that will he grant unto you that ye shall know remember that without faith ye can do nothing trifle not with these things do not ask for that which ye had not ought ask that ye may know the mysteries of God & that ye may Translate all those ancient Records which have been hid up which are Sacred & according to your faith shall it be done unto you Behold it is I that have spoken it & I am the same which spake unto you from the begining amen

The Folk Magic Red Herring

At the Joseph Smith papers, they write:

This affirmation of Cowdery’s use of a “rod” as a divine gift illustrates the compatibility some early Americans perceived between biblical religion and popular supernaturalism. “From the outset,” according to historian Robert Fuller, “Americans have had a persistent interest in religious ideas that fall well outside the parameters of Bible-centered theology. . . . In order to meet their spiritual needs . . . [they] switched back and forth between magical and Christian beliefs without any sense of guilt or intellectual inconsistency.” (Robert C. Fuller, Spiritual, but Not Religious, Oxford University Press, 2001,15).

C. George Fitzgerald of Stanford made these comments about Fuller’s work:

The combination of individualism and rationality leads to a third component which is a common factor in each of the spirituality movements: the recurring rejection of established religion for being too doctrinaire and restrictive. His survey is quite comprehensive and includes just about every movement and its seminal founders… My appreciation for this fascinating chronicle of the development of spirituality within the US soured somewhat in the final chapter… Within every category, however, organized religion receives a lower score than spirituality. It felt like, mirabile dictu—Fuller the engrossing historian, morphed into an evangelist for spirituality. Even so, it is one of the best evangelical pamphlets (200 pages) I have seen on spirituality. 

The Joseph Smith Papers editors pretty much cherry picked Fuller because he’s an advocate of “folk magic”, or Spiritualism. The very thing that made Spiritualism appealing to Colonial Americans was that they were not confined by “organized religion” and its rules, but this is where Smith went with his own religion.

Whenever anyone used a peep-stone on their own, (as Hiram Page did) it was from “Satan” and not from God. Only Smith could tap into the divine for the church, all others were pushed aside or failed because they just weren’t Joseph Smith. He did not want to share power with anyone. He would delegate, but always had the final word. He claimed in Nauvoo that Hyrum would be the new “prophet” of the Church, but there is no evidence that Hyrum ever was, or that Smith was going to turn things over to him or anyone else. (See Council of Fifty Minutes of April 1844 where Smith bragged he was a “Committee of Myself“). Here is what Smith said on April 5th 1844:

 I dont want to be ranked with that committee I am a committee of myself, and cannot mingle with any committee in such matters. The station which I hold is an independant one and ought not to be mingled with any thing else. Let the Committee get all the droppings they can from the presence of God and bring it to me, and if it needs correction or enlargement I am ready to give it. The principles by which the world can be governed is the principle of two or three being united. Faith cannot exist without a concentration of two or three. The sun, moon and planets roll on that principle. If God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were to disagree, the worlds would clash together in an instant. He referred to brother Lot [Cornelius P. Lott] and his farming & said God would prosper him because he gets his mind right. When I get any thing from God I shall be alone. I understand the principles of liberty we want. I have had the instructions It is necessary that this council should abide by their instructions. From henceforth let it be understood that I shall not associate with any committee I want every man to get knowledge, search the laws of nations and get all the information they can. There can be no exceptions taken to any thing that any man can say in this council. I dont want any man ever to assent to any thing in this council and then find fault with it.

Fuller claims that, “most people saw magic and Christianity as distinct, but complimentary. Most were aware that Christian clergy urged them to stay clear of unbiblical beliefs about the supernatural. Yet in order to meet their spiritual needs the laity sometimes turned to magic and sometimes to Christian ritual.” (Why did the JSP edit this out of their quote?)

This was anathema in the church that Smith set up. And does this still go on even today? Sure, as we will explore below. But it is not as rampant as it was before the Second Great Awakening and the rise of the Age of Reason. (c. 1790) According to Fuller, this coincided with the decline of folk magic practices among the Christians. It is important to note that Smith hid and rejected his folk magic roots as he organized his church and developed his theology. The period of time between his two visions he characterized as a time of folly and mistakes, which he claimed to have repented of before the second vision of the angel.

And of course if you study what Fuller says, it is obvious that the Mormons are trying to create a red herring here. He writes:

Churched and unchurched religiosity have factored about equally in American’s understanding of the supernatural since the nation’s beginnings. The exact relationship between the two varied person by person. It seems that on the whole most people saw magic and Christianity as distinct, but complimentary.

This is footnoted by Fuller, and in the footnote he writes, “There is considerable scholarly debate about the exact relationship between the churched and unchurched elements of colonial religiosity.”

Of course there is considerable scholarly debate. So claiming that Ron Huggins didn’t use “relevant scholarship” was in the eye of the beholder, or simply Morris’ opinion and irrelevant to what Ron wrote. It would be including speculation that can never be tied to the Smith’s because no one knows exactly how Joseph himself viewed folk magic in relation to Christianity. But what we see in the evidence is that he continued to lie about his youthful involvement in it. And when he was a Methodist Exhorter, was he telling them all about his peep-stone, or when he tried to join the Methodists in Harmony, did he brag about his treasure digging past? – as it should not have been a problem according to Mormon apologists. According to the Lewis brothers, when confronted about his involvement in the occult, Smith walked away from the Methodists.

So really, what the Mormons need to say, (that they won’t say), is treasure digging was, perhaps, in the minds of some individuals (how many we will never know, but there is no evidence it was widespread) an effort to recapture the power of apostolic Christianity. And even this is debatable among historians. So is all this relevant to Smith’s treasure digging? No, because there is absolutely no evidence that the Smith’s connected the two in any meaningful way, and there is actual evidence that Smith rejected all religion (including folk magic) except what he would later “restore”. And precious little of what he was doing in the 1820’s became widespread approved practices in his church.

Treasure digging may have been a widespread subculture in early colonial America, but there is no way to know what the motivation of most individuals was except the obvious (to get rich), and there was so much fraud and conning going on in relation to it that laws were passed making what Smith was doing (“Juggling” or pretending to peep for treasure) illegal.

The Gift of What?

If there was any mixing of folk magic in Mormonism, it was systematically stamped out, changed and downplayed, like the “revelation” to Cowdery in 1829 who was initially told that:

“Shuredly as the Lord liveth which is your God & your Redeemer even so shure shall ye receive a knowledge of whatsoever things ye shall ask with an honest heart believeing that ye Shall receive, a knowledge concerning the engraveings of old Records which are ancient which contain those parts of my Scriptures of which hath been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit yea Behold I will tell you in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost which Shall come upon you & which shall dwell in your heart now Behold this is the spirit of Revelation … whatsoever ye shall ask to tell you by that means [the “sprout”] that will he grant unto you that ye shall know remember that without faith ye can do nothing…

Smith informs Cowdery that all he needs to do is ask with faith and God will “grant unto you”. Just ask, buddy. Just ask. Didn’t Jesus also say that? Smith divined to Cowdery that the “Holy Ghost” would come upon him and “dwell in his heart”. And yet, when Cowdery tried, he failed because he had “not understood”, he actually “supposed that I [God] would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me…”

And yet, that is what Joseph said God would do, he would give it to Cowdery if he simply asked in faith! This shell game by Smith was played with anyone who he deemed was a challenge to his authority or primacy. And we see here Joseph telling Cowdery that the Holy Ghost will come and “dwell in your heart”, but later, in Nauvoo, he contradicted this and said the opposite (correcting Orson Hyde) in 1843:

The Holy Ghost is a personage, and a person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart. A man receive the gifts of the H. G., and the H. G. may descend upon a man but not to tarry with him.

That is because Mormonism agreed with the doctrine of the Trinity in those early days. Today, the “revelation” to Cowdery reads like this:

Now this is not all thy gift for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 8, 2013)

This is so obscured that no one would ever know what the original was all about. And when was this begun? First, in Missouri with the Book of Commandments:

Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God; and therefore whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, that you shall know. (Book of Commandments, Chapter VII, 1833)

Then later, in Kirtland under Joseph Smith’s supervision it was radically changed:

Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron: behold it has told you many things: behold there is no other power save the power of God that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you; therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God, and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands; for it is the work of God. And therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you and you shall have knowledge concerning it (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section XXXIV)

How does the “power of God” cause a sprout “to be with you”? Because that is not what it says in the original. (The “sprout” was already with him) It says that God was the only one who could make this “thing of Nature to work in your hands.” Calling it the “gift of Aaron” is ridiculous.

No one would have any idea what this “revelation” is now talking about. If they were so proud of folk magic and using the implements of it, why was this changed so soon after it was originally given? This is “restoring” Apostolic Christianity?

And today, they do not have the original “revelation” in the current Doctrine and Covenants, (only a note that Sidney Rigdon changed the word “sprout” to “rod”) but instead have a changed, obscure “revelation” in its place.

In no way do they give an adequate explanation for why this “revelation” was changed, (they tell you to go to Fuller’s Book and to Ashurst-Mcgee’s article!) and they have a link to an article that has some of the text of the original “revelation” and pretty much gives the same information that the JSP give (the changes to it, not the reason why it was changed).

The Stone or The Holy Ghost?

In June of 1829 Joseph was calling himself a prophet and giving revelations through his peep-stone. In a revelation given that month Smith wrote,

And I Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it. These words are not of men, nor of man, but of me: Wherefore you shall testify they are of me, and not of man; for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you: For they are given by my Spirit unto you: And by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power, you could not have them: Wherefore you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words (Revelation, June 1829)

Remember though, that in April of 1829 Joseph wrote this revelation to Oliver Cowdery and received it through his stone:

Shuredly as the Lord liveth which is your God & your Redeemer even so shure shall ye receive a knowledge of whatsoever things ye shall ask with an honest heart believeing that ye Shall receive, a knowledge concerning the engraveings of old Records which are ancient which contain those parts of my Scriptures of which hath been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit yea Behold I will tell you in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost which Shall come upon you & which shall dwell in your heart now Behold this is the spirit of Revelation (Revelation Book 1, 11-12)

As David Whitmer explained,

The revelations in the Book of Commandments up to June, 1829, were given through the “stone,” through which the Book of Mormon was translated. …After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more. (David Whitmer, Address, 32, 53).

This begs the question if Joseph/God was instructing others what the “spirit of Revelation” was, (which was being told “in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost,”) then why was Joseph getting revelations by way of his seeing stone and why did he continue to do so and not follow his own instructions? It seems that as soon as someone else had “revelations” through a peep-stone that rivaled Smith’s, he decided that divining rods and peep-stones needn’t be the subject of any “revelations”.

Magic Is “Not of God”

That’s right, (according to Mormon “authorities”) and perhaps a few examples may be enlightening. First, here are Mormon apologists Terryl L. Givens & Phillip L. Barlow:

From a biblical perspective, determining whether Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking, seer-stone gazing, blessing of “magic” handkerchiefs and the like, were proper or not, should not be based on whether moderns see them as weird or similar to pagan practices, but whether or not Joseph Smith was an authorized prophet of God. Presumably, since Joseph Smith claimed to be God’s instrument for restoring biblical priesthood authority, he would have welcomed this basis for determination. …In … Mormondom, the seeming disappearance of “folk magic” either by abandonment or normalization into official practice is partly the result of Max Weber’s routinization of charisma process and partly the result of developing methods of exercising divine authority. What today might be regarded as mixing folk and official practices were seen in the past as an unproblematic unified whole. (The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism, by Terryl L. Givens & Phillip L. Barlow, p. 465)

In Mormonism folk magic and the priesthood was never “an umproblematic unified whole.” As for other so called Christians, I’ve seen those like Peter Popoff hawking his “Miracle Spring Water” which has the power to erase debt on television. So, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as Popoff is God’s spokesman, messenger, or prophet? Using objects to scam people is nothing new with Christians, it is still going on today, as John Oliver exposed a few years ago:

[John] Oliver and Last Week Tonight claimed to have corresponded with televangelist Robert Tilton’s Word of Faith Worldwide Church for seven months, first mailing him $20 in January along with a kindly-worded request to be added to his mailing list.“Within two weeks, he sent me a letter back thanking me for my donation, and claiming, ‘I believe that God has supernaturally brought us together.’” A couple of weeks after that, Oliver received an envelope with a $1 bill in it and a message that read, “Send it back to me with your best Prove God tithes or offering.”“That’s right,” Oliver said, “I had to send the $1 back with an additional recommended offering of $37, which I did. So at this point, we’re just two letters in and it’s like having a pen pal who’s in deep with some loan sharks.”Oliver claims that in March, he was sent three packets of colored oil that he was instructed to pour on letters and send back to Tilton by specific dates, accompanied with more money. He did it. Then in April, Oliver was sent a manila envelope with a check enclosed—only the check was for $5 from Oliver made out to Pastor Tilton’s church. Seven letters later, he received pieces of fabric and was told to mail them back to Tilton with more money, which he did. Oliver later received a letter with a single $1 bill inside, requesting that he place the bill in his Bible overnight, then send it back the next day with $49. In return, he’d receive a $1 bill that had been blessed. “That did not stop him,” Oliver said. “The letters kept coming. I received another oil packet, more prayer cloths, and even—and this is true—an outline of his foot which I was asked to trace my foot on and mail back to him with more money. So, as of tonight, I’ve sent him $319 and received 26 letters—that’s almost one a week. And again, this is all hilarious until you imagine these letters being sent to someone who cannot afford what he’s asking for.”

What was done about these occult practices in the Mormon church was all… arbitrary. If Joseph did it, it was all right. But let others practice “folk magic” and it was very problematic. We all know about Hiram Page, but what about the case of James Brewster, a young boy who claimed he was given a patriarchal blessing that he would be a “Seer, Revelator and Translator” by Joseph Smith, Sr., in the Kirtland Era?

He and his family were condemned by Joseph Smith for using a seeing stone and producing what Brewster called “An Abridgment of the Ninth Book of Esdras”, in the which he claims that the Church needed to remove to California to escape the judgments of God.

The Mormon side of the story was published in the Times and Seasons in December, 1842:

We have lately seen a pamphlet, written, and published by James C. Brewster; purporting to be one of the lost books of Esdras; and to be written by the gift and power of God. We consider it a perfect humbug, and should not have noticed it, had it not been assiduously circulated, in several branches of the church.

This said Brewster is a minor; but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a a stone; and has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, Ohio. His father and some of our weak brethren who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith, about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans, for which they were dealt with by the church. They were at that time suspended, and would have been cut off from the church if they had not promised to desist from their ridiculous and pernicious ways. Since which time the family removed to Springfield, in this state; and contrary to their engagement have been seeing, and writing, and prophecying, &c. for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield church. The father of the boy has very frequently requested an ordination; but has been as frequently denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priesthood.

We have written the above for the information of the brethren, and lest there should be any so weak minded as to believe in it, we insert the following from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,

“But behold, verily, verily I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jr. for he receiveth them even as Moses and thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him., even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.”

“And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hiram Page between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me, and that satan deceiveth him: for behold these things have not been appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants, for all things must be done in order and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.”  (Times & Seasons, Dec 1, 1842, 32)

According to the Times & Seasons notice, the moneydigging stories in relation to Joseph Smith and his family were classed as “ridiculous”, and what the Brewesters were doing was “pernicious”. This is integrating folk magic practices into the church? Hardly. And once again, condemnation of “seeing stones”. And we know that Joseph had a number of stones and that it was claimed that he used one to “translate” the Book of Abraham. Where is the “common consent” in accepting that as a “revelation” from God? When did the church members in Nauvoo ever vote on the Book of Abraham? Why didn’t Joseph present the Book of Esdras to the Church for a vote? Instead, it was immediately dismissed by the prophet and the article in the Times & Seasons ridicules it in the worst way as something beneath notice while the Book of Abraham was touted as a bona fide revelation and printed in the Times & Seasons.

On March 20,1843, James Brewster published a second pamphlet which answered the charges of him getting “revelations” from a seeing stone, and what he reveals about events in Kirtland certainly is very interesting:

As the writer of this notice did not favor the public directly with his name, I shall not pretend to say who it was, although I have good reason to believe it was written by Joseph Smith, or at least by his direction.

Firstly. The writer says he considers it a perfect humbug; but before the pamphlet was printed the manuscript was taken to Joseph Smith; he had it in his possession six days; and, at that time, he stated that he enquired of the Lord concerning it and could not obtain an answer. Since then, he told certain individuals that he did receive an answer that it was not of God.

Secondly. He says Brewster is a minor, but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a stone. Now, as for my “seeing and looking through or into a stone,” it is a perfect falsehood, and Joseph Smith and many of the first presidents of the church know it to be false, and at the same time knowing that they could not bring any thing against our moral character have endeavored to injure us by publishing these falsehoods.

Thirdly. And he has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, his father and some of our weak brethren who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans. This is a little nearer the truth than the second statement. The fact IS that my father ever regarded money diggers with the utmost contempt, but believing in the Gospel as preached by the Mormons, and, becoming a member of that church, removed to Kirtland, Ohio, While residing at that place Joseph Smith Sen’ the Prophet’s father, with others of high standing in the church, came to see us, and stated that they knew there was money hid in the earth, that it was our duty to assist in obtaining it, and if we did not the curse of God would rest upon us. We were foolish enough to believe them, not knowing at that time the weakness and folly of those men.

They also told us concerning their digging for money in the state of N. Y., and that the places where the treasures were deposited were discovered by means of the mineral rods and a seeing stone; likewise to prevent the Devil deceiving them they anointed the mineral rods and seeing stones with consecrated oil, and prayed over them in the house of the Lord in Kirtland, and then sent a man into the state of N. Y. to obtain the money that was supposed the mineral rods pointed out, but they found no treasure and returned empty.

Soon after this interview, I and my father were requested by J. Smith, Sen’r and Eld. Beaman to come to the house of the Lord. We went in and the door was locked; — after some conversation with J. Smith Sen’r, Beaman and Holeman.  Eld. Beaman called upon the Lord — they then proceeded to lay their hands upon my head and pronounced a blessing upon me, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and sealed it up on me by the power of the Holy Priesthood, which they held, J. Smith Sen’r then acting as first President of the Church in Kirtland. The prophetic blessing was that I should be a Prophet, a Seer, a Revelator and Translator, and that I should have power given me of God to discover and obtain the treasures which are hid in the earth.

The men above mentioned, went with me and my father several times in pursuit of the money, but it was not obtained. Joseph Smith Sen’r and Beaman, being old and feeble, thought best to remain in the Temple, while the remainder of the party went to dig. John and Asel Smith joined with those who remained in the Temple to pray and continue their supplications until a very late hour; this was repeated several times, and at length afraid of being discovered in the Temple they retired to a barn in a remote part of the town, and continued there the most part of the night, still no treasure was obtained. By this time my father was convinced that we should not succeed, and then gave up the business entirely. All this was carried on privately, being understood only by those concerned. Soon after this my father and his family, Kid. Norris and his family, in company with several others, members of the church, who were knowing to what had transpired, were dealt with by the High Council and Church in Kirtland— Joseph Smith Sen’r then acting as First President of the Church, and his brother John Smith First President of the High Council in Kirtland.

The Brewsterites, as we were called by the Church, were all condemned, although many of the Counselors by whom they were condemned, had been engaged with us in the money digging business. The writer in the “Times and Seasons” now says that “my father was assisted” by some of ”our weak brethren.” This is true, but he must remember that the names of those weak brethren are as follows: — Joseph Smith sen’r, John and Asel Smith, Eldr Beaman, then President of the Elders’ Quorum, Joshua Holeman, and many others, of high standing in the Mormon Church whose names we can produce if occasion requires. He also says it was those who had “some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging.” The following are the reasons we had for believing the stories. In Kirtland, Joseph Smith sen’r, the Prophet’s father, said in Council: I know more about money digging, than any man in this generation, for I have been in the business more than thirty years.” Father Smith, in private conversation with my father, told many particulars, which happened in N. Y. where the money digging business was carried on to a great extent by the Smith family. The writer of the article in the “Times and Seasons’- calls it a ridiculous and pernicious practice. I would ask him who was the author of this practice among the Mormons? If he has a good memory, he will remember the house that was Tented in the city of Boston, [Salem] with the expectation of find ing a ‘large sum of money buried in or near the cellar. If he has forgotten these things, I have not. And, if he is not satisfied with what I have written, he can have the remainder shortly.

Fourthly. The writer of the article says, that contrary to their engagements they have been seeing, writing, and prophecying, for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield  church. The father of the boy has frequently requested an ordination, but has as frequently been denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priest-hood. We were dealt with by the Springfield church. But the only thing found against us was that we had not joined that branch of the church, and supposed we had not acted wisely in all things. As for the ordination, my father has been ordained by the order of JOSEPH SMITH, without his requesting It, under the hands of J[ames]. Adams, High Priest and Patriarch; Elder Mariam, President — both of the Springfield church.

Fifthly. To close the notice the writer adds “we have written the above for the information of the brethren.'” I would only say that the information it contains is very incorrect, and I would advise the Editors of the “Times and Seasons” not to publish any more information concerning us except it is written by one who regards the truth.

I have written the above that the people may know who the ”weak brethren” are that assisted us in the money digging business. The Mormons may deny it, but every word it contains is true; and I might have written much more, but I think it unnecessary. But if the Mormons publish another line of falsehood concerning us, they shall have the history of the money diggers from the beginning.

Below will be found my father”s certificate, which goes to corroborate the statements I have given.


T, Z. H. Brewster, do hereby certify, that the above account of the money digging business is true. In the year 1837, in the month of May or June, we commenced the money digging under the kind care and protection of Joseph Smith sen’r, then first President of the church of Latter Day Saints. and, according to my best recollection, the foregoing statements are strictly true. I also believe the Gospel that is attended with the power and gifts revealed in the New Testament, and Book of Mormon. I also believe that God works by whomsoever he will, and reveals himself to all who faithfully serve him. I have no reason to believe that Nauvoo is a place of safety, but have every reason to believe that California is. I also believe that the pure in heart, and those who are desirous to serve God, will soon leave Nauvoo, that God may destroy the wicked and ungodly inhabitants thereof. I believe that Joseph Smith was called and chosen of God to bring forth the Book of Mormon, and to establish the church of Latter Day Saints. But I do not believe that the spirit of God will remain with him since he has forsaken the ways of truth and righteousness, and is now preaching and practicing those things which he in the beginning taught to be the works and inventions and secret combinations of the Devil, (see Book of Mormon, 3rd Edition — pages 320 and 538.) I also believe that ail liars, adulterers, fornicators, and whore-mongers shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the anger of the Lord.


Now they are praying over the rods and stones and anointing them with oil and taking them to the temple to help make them work. This (of course) was common to many money-diggers: to claim that their “gifts” were sanctioned by God, and to use some kind of religious ritual or prayer in their incantations or peeping. I found it interesting that Joseph Smith (if he was the one that wrote about the Brewster’s in the Times & Seasons), assumes that James used a seeing stone to get “revelations” or locate treasure, but James denied that he did. It seems that Brewster got his “revelations” through the Holy Ghost.

A mark is a mark and there were many Christians who desired money or were in debt, as well as others. These kinds of “magical” and pseudo Christian practices are still going on even today. (See below about the lottery and the modern use of divining rods).

Treasure Obsession

In 1837, Joseph Smith Sr. gave Wilford Woodruff a patriarchal blessing which stated:

Thou shalt have access to the treasure hid in the sand to assist thy necessities. An angel of God shall show thee the treasures of the earth that thou mayest have riches to assist thee in gathering many orphan Children to Zion. Thou art one of the horns of Joseph to push the people together to the ends of the earth. No power shall stay thee. At thy word the winds shall be stayed. Thou shalt walk upon the waters. At thy command the waters shall be divided. Prisons, chains, and vaults shall not hold thee /for thou shalt rend them in twain. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, April 15, 1837)

It is obvious during the Kirtland Era that Smith Sr. was still thinking about treasures in the earth and even blessing people that they would have access to them! And in Nauvoo, Smith Jr. was urging the “saints” to scout out locations in the far west, (even California) to look for a new place to settle. (Just in case) Some of Smith Sr.’s blessings are quite fantastical, as was this promise of being able to teleport to William Harris in 1836:

…thou shalt have all power, even to translate thyself and change into a shadow; so that if any shall smite at thee they shall only hit thy shadow, and thou shalt be in another place… (William Harris, 2 May 1836)

Sounds like an episode from the X-Files or Fringe. In a blessing given on December 9, 1834, Smith Sr. promised the recipient that they would be alive for the Second Coming of Jesus:

…thou shalt stand on Mount Zion when the tribes of Jacob come shouting from the north, and with thy brethren, the sons of Ephraim, crown them in the name of Jesus Christ: Thou shalt see thy Redeemer come in the clouds of heaven…

The “Saints” at the time were led to believe that these things would actually happen if they were “faithful” and that they were indeed within the realm of possibility. We all know that is was simply invention and false hope, as neither Smith Jr. nor Sr. were actual prophets, which is easily proven by their own pronouncements. (No one can turn into a shadow, or “translate” themselves to other planets and no Latter Day Saint who was promised they would live to see the Second Coming ever did. There are dozens of other examples of these failed prophecies and blessings.

There certainly is no crime in proclaiming to be a prophet or in spouting all the prophecies you can think up, nor in believing in those who claim to be.

A Farm for Revelations

But what about if you are commanded to give up your farm so that it can be given to the prophet’s father and his family? Lucy Smith writes that when they moved to Kirtland:

Mr. Morely gave me the use of a room which we occupied but 2 weeks when we moved onto a farm which was purchased by Joseph and the Church for the on this farm my family were all established…

 An unpublished “revelation” dated May 15, 1831 contains (according to Joseph Smith) Jesus instructions that the Smith family should take over the Williams farm:

let my Servent Joseph [Smith Sr.] & his family go into the House after thine advisary is gone & let my Servent Ezra board with him & let all the Brethren immediately assemble together & put up an house for my Servent Ezra & let my Servents Frederick [G. Williams]’s family remain & let the house be repaired & their wants be supplied & when my Servent Frederick returns from the west Behold he taketh his family to the west Let that which belongeth to my Servent Frederick be secured unto him by deed or bond & thus he willeth that the Brethren reap the good thereof let my Servent Joseph [Smith Sr.] govern the things of the farm & provide for the families & let him have help in as much as he standeth in need let my servent Ezra humble himself & at the conference meeting he shall be ordained unto power from on high & he shall go from thence (if he be obedient unto my commandments) & proclaim my Gospel unto the western regions with my Servents that must go forth even unto the borders of the Lamanit[e]s for Behold I have a great work for them to do & it shall be given unto you to know what ye shall do at the conferenc[e] meeting even so Amen——
What shall the Brethren do with their money——
Ye shall go forth & seek dilligently among the Brethren & obtain lands & save the money that it may be consecrated to purcchase lands in the west for an everlasting enheritance even So Amen

On September 11, 1831 Smith penned another “revelation” from Jesus:

…I say unto you that my servent Isaac [Morley] may not be tempted above that which he is able to bear & council wrongfully to your hurt I gave commandment that this farm should be sold I willeth not that my Servent Frederick should sell his farm for I the Lord willeth to retain a Strong hold in the Land of Kirtland for the space of five years in the which I will not overthrow the wicked that thereby I may save some & after that day I thee [the] Lord will not hold any Guilty that shall go with open hearts up to the Land of Zion for I the Lord requireth the hearts of the Children of men

This “revelation” commands Isaac Morley to sell his farm and turn over the money to the church. Joseph would set the date for the “Redemption of Zion” (according to the Spirit) as September 11, 1836 (after his “Saints” were driven out of Jackson County, Missouri), exactly five years after the 1831 “revelation” was given which claimed that was when time ran out for the “wicked”. Joseph would prophecy “by the authority of Jesus Christ” in 1833 that the only place that would be safe was Zion: which was in Jackson County, Missouri. He claimed that the letter was written by the commandment of God, and that “I declare unto you the warning which the lord has commanded me to declare unto this generation, rembring that the eyes of my maker are upon me and that to him I am accountabl for evry word I say …  imbrace the everlasting Covenant and flee to Zion before the overflowing scourge overtake you, For there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken fulfilled.”

What Smith prophesied was that in “not many years” the “United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the hystory of our nation pestalence hail famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of this Land to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country—” Of course, this never happened in Smith’s generation nor any generation since then. Zion was never redeemed and the Mormons blamed the people of Missouri, and also the United States Government.

So when a group of immigrants (who were thought to be from Missouri) were making their was through Utah Territory to California were ambushed at Mountain Meadows by Mormons and Indians, they picked September 11, 1857 to murder them.

In that same year 1833, Jesus speaks again about the Williams farm:

Behold I Say unto you my Servent Frederick G. Williams, Listen to the word of Jesu Chrit your Lord and your Redeemer thou hast desired of me to know which would be the most worth unto you, behold blessed art tho[u] for this thing. now I say unto you, my Servant Joseph is called to do a great work and hath need that he may do the work of translation for the salvation of souls— Verily verily I say unto you thou art calld to be a Councillor & scribe unto my servant Joseph Let thy farm be consecrated fr bringing forth of the revelations and tho shalt be blessed and lifted up at the last day even so Amen

The 144 acre farm was deeded over to Joseph Smith in 1834. Most of the “revelations” and “commandments” above were never canonized like a lot of other instructions and mundane items from the same period.

Official Practice?

Joseph Smith Jr. condemns the use of a seeing stone, something he was doing himself and showing to others in private. One must ask, why all the secrecy surrounding the use of such magical practices since they were supposedly absorbed into “official practice”? Why didn’t Joseph publish how he “translated” the Book of Abraham in 1842, and that he used a seeing stone (Urim and Thummim) as Wilford Woodruff claimed?

Truly the Lord has raised up Joseph the Seer of the Seed of Abraham out of the loins of ancient Joseph, & is now clothing him with mighty power & wisdom & knowledge which is more clearly manifest & felt in the midst of his intimate friends than any other class of mankind. The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim Ancient Records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam. which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us. Joseph the Seer has presented us some of the Book of Abraham which was written by his own hand but hid from the knowledge of man for the last four thousand years but has now come to light through the mercy of God. Joseph has had these records in his possession for several years but has never presented them before the world in the english language untill now. But he is now about to publish it to the world or parts of it by publishing it in the Times & Seasons, for Joseph the Seer is not the Editor of that paper & Elder Taylor assists him in writing while it has fallen to my lot to take charge of the Business part of the establishment. I have had the privilege this day of assisting in setting the TIPE for printing the first peace of the BOOK OF ABRAHAM that is to be presented to the inhabitants of the EARTH in the LAST DAYS … (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 2:155-6, 19 February,1842)

The “official” Urim and Thummim (the spectacles)  were supposedly given back to the angel. There are no accounts of Joseph teaching others to use the Urim and Thummim (the “interpreters”) or that it was a sanctioned practice in the church. No one but Smith ever claimed to have used the “interpreters” for anything, and it seems that for all of God’s elaborate preparations, Smith really didn’t need them. It”s almost as if they never existed at all, though he did continue to dabble with peep-stones, but only Joseph could use them to get “revelations” as we shall see even though he said everyone should have one.

We don’t see such practices absorbed into the Mormon Church of Joseph’s day, and when others “peeped” in the Utah Territory, they too, were discouraged, or ostracized or condemned by the “Priesthood”.

The Treasure Hunting Revelation

What are we to make of Joseph’s own treasure hunting side trip to Salem a year before he fled Kirtland, where he believed there was treasure to be found in the basement of a house there? Ebenezer Robinson wrote:

A brother in the Church, by the name of Burgess, had come to Kirtland and stated that a large amount of money had been secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow, and he thought he was the only person now living, who had knowledge of it, or to the location of the house. We saw the brother Burgess, but Don Carlos Smith told us with regard to the hidden treasure. His statement was credited by the brethren, and steps were taken to try and secure the treasure… (Robinson, The Return, pg 106)

Joseph Smith, along with his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery left for Salem on July 25, 1836. Joseph’s Manuscript History reads:

From New York we continued our journey to Providence on board a Steamer, from thence to Boston by steam <​At Salem.​> cars, and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, early in August, where we hired a house and occupied the same during the month, teaching the people from house to house, and preaching publicly as opportunity presented, visiting occasionally, sections of the surrounding cities and Country, which are rich in the history of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, in Indian warfare, Religious Superstition, Bigotry, Persecution, and learned ignorance. The early settlers of Boston, who had fled from their mother Country to avoid persecution and death, soon became so lost to principles of justice and religious liberty as to whip & hang the Baptist and the Quaker, who, like themselves, had fled from tyranny to a land of freedom; and the Fathers of Salem, from 1691 to 1693, whipped, imprisoned, tortured and hung many of their citizens for supposed witchcraft. and quite recently, while boasting of her light and knowledge, of her laws and religion, as surpassed by none on earth, has New England been guilty of burning a Catholic Convent, in the vicinity of Charleston, and of scattering the inmates to the four winds. Yes, in sight of the very spot where the fire of the American Independence was first kindled, where a monument is now erecting in Memory of the Battle of Bunkers Hill, and the fate of the immortal Warren, who bled, who died on those sacred heights to purchase religious liberty for his country, in sight of this very spot, have the religionists of the 19th. century demolished a noble brick edifice, and hurling its inhabitants forth upon a cold unfeeling world for protection and subsistence. Well did the Savior say concerning such “by their fruits you shall know them,” and if the wicked mob who destroyed the Charleston Convent, and the cool calculating, religious, lookers on, who inspired their hearts with deeds of infamy do not arise, and redress the wrong, and restore the injured four fold, they in turn will receive of the measure they have meted out, till the just indignation of a righteous God is satisfied. When will <​August 6​> man cease to war with man, and <​wrest​> from him his sacred right, of worshipping his God according as his conscience dictates? Holy Father, hasten the day… (Manuscript History Book B-1, pg. 749)

In the midst of all their sightseeing, Joseph pens this “revelation” about the treasure to be found in Salem:

I the Lord your God am not displeased with your coming this Journey, notwithstandig your follies. I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion; and many people in this city whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality: Therefore it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be lead, and as it shall be be given you. And it shall come to pass, in due time, that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth, pertaining to gold and silver, shall be yours. Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal merciful with her. Tarry in this place and in the regions round about, and the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of the my Spirit, that shall flow unto you. This place you may obtain by hire, &c . . . And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city, for there are more treasures than one for you, in this city: Therefore be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin, and I will order all things for your good as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen. (Revelation, August 6, 1836)

This claims that they are to be given “much treasure” and that there was more treasure than the one they anticipated retrieving from the basement of the house they claimed to have found. God claimed he was going to give them the wealth of the city, all the gold and silver. Robinson continues his narrative:

We were informed that Brother Burgess met them in Salem, evidently according to appointment, but time had wrought such a change that he could not for a certainty point out the house, and soon left. They however, found a house which they felt was the right one, and hired it. It is needless to say they failed to find that treasure, or the other gold and silver spoken of in the revelation.

On August 19, Joseph wrote these words to Emma:

...with regard to the graat [great] object of our mishion you will be anxtiou [anxious] to know, we have found the house since Brother Burjece left us, very luckily and providentialy, as we had one spell been most discouraged, but the house is ocupied and it will require much care and patience to rent or b[u]y it, we think we shall be able to effect it if not now within the course of a few months, we think we shall be at home about the midle of septtember (Letter to Emma Smith, August 19, 1836)

Burgess could not tell them what house it was, but they still found it? How did Joseph find the house? An interesting question. Some have speculated he used his peep-stone, which is possible. And they did rent a house (as Robinson reported) but they never did have the city given into their hands, or it’s wealth of gold and silver. And out of all the things he could have said to Emma about Salem, Joseph mentions to her the “great object of our mission” which was finding buried treasure.  And even if they did not rent the house they thought the treasure was in as Robinson thought, they never went back for the treasure. I mean, God promised them this treasure so why not return in a few months and obtain it? It almost sounds like another peep-stone adventure, with the promised treasure slip, slip, slipping away.

An apt bookend to the Salem venture, is a “Prospectus” about the trip written and published by Oliver Cowdery just a few months later in the Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate. (Where they glean some of the information written in the Manuscript History).

Cowdery begins by telling his readers that, “the end draws near, and that the time is not far distant when a breaking up of corrupt systems will commence, and discordant factions [of religions], at present so mysteriously interwoven, will be severed, preparatory to the universal deluge of misery which must envelop the wicked.”

Cowdery then writes about their journey through New York City (where they absolutely do not consult about their debts in Kirtland) and on to Providence and then Boston and Salem. He then copies and pastes long sections of the Salem Witch Trial accounts and gushes about their sightseeing trip about the town. Cowdery seemed especially perturbed by the ruins of a burned down Catholic Convent, and he laments that,

…our country has come to this, that the weak must be trodden down by the strong, and disorder, confusion and terror, must distract our land and sow the discordant seeds of party strife and party animosity in the hearts of ignorant men, led on by infatuated priests, to overwhelm the continent with blood, and spread destruction and devastation throughout our happy asylum, and expose us to the fire, the sword, the rack and to death! I confess I retired from this scene of mobbery with a heavier heart than from the far-famed Bunker hill, rendered doubly so, by the patriotism, virtue, integrity, connected with the righteousness of the cause in which our fathers died! (pg. 392)

But later in the “Prospectus” Cowdery published this: 

This man turns away from the only church upon earth which was founded upon and is governed by revelation (the rock upon which Christ said he would found it) and says he has no need of it. But perhaps he means that the church which is not founded upon that rock has no need of it, in which I concur. For the Mother of harlots [The Catholic Church] with all her daughters of harlotry, [The Protestant Churches] will never obtain revelations, though they will obtain power of the Devil to work miracles.” (p. 398)

Lest there be any doubt about what they were talking about, here is Apostle John Taylor in 1845:

The present Christian world exists and continues by division. The MYSTERY of Babylon the great, is mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, and it needs no prophetic vision, to unravel such mysteries. The old church [Catholic] is the mother, and the protestants are the lewd daughters. Alas! alas! what doctrine, what principle, or what scheme, in all. What prayers, what devotion, or what faith, `since the fathers have fallen asleep,’ has opened the heavens; has brought men into the presence of God; and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to an innumerable company of angels? The answer is, not any: `There is none in all christendom that doeth good; no, not one. (Times and Seasons, Vol.6, No.1, p.811)

“Party strife and party animosity” to be sure. I admit, the hypocrisy is truly stunning. And as for the great object of their mission to Salem that Smith spoke of to Emma? Cowdery doesn’t mention it at all. If this were all about other treasures besides gold and silver as the apologists claim, why not mention the “revelation”? And of course this important “revelation” about Salem and its treasures was never canonized.

Magic Is Still Not of God? Not Even A Little?

In 1859 Heber C. Kimball recounted a story about how when he returned from England in 1838 that Joseph and the presidency of the Seventies were fooling around with a seeing stone:

Following a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, at a quarter to 12 o’clock H. C. Kimball and D. H. Wells called. H. C. Kimball said this made me think of the time when I returned from England. [1838] Joseph was present and the presidency of the Seventies. They had met with a seer stone to see what they could see when I went in. Z. Pulsipher said, don’t be excited;  Brother Kimball is nothing but a man. They treated me very cooly and I went home and wept and the Twelve all rose up and shook hands with them and received them joyfully.

0. Hyde explained to Brother Kimball and Wells what we had done, and would like to hear from them. Brother Kimball said, I consider every ruling man in the Church that has the Holy Ghost as a prophet, seer and revelator, and he should have the spirit of that office.

February 23, 1859: Same meeting, Brother Kimball said Joseph nominated G. A. Smith to take the place of Thomas B. Marsh, and Lyman Sherman was appointed to take the place of Orson Hyde; but Brother Sherman was very sick and died shortly after. Brother G. A. Smith said when he heard of Brother Sherman’s death, he thought his time would soon come. Brother Kimball said it was not the will of God for a man to take Brother Hyde’s place. The Twelve can ordain men to the apostleship and give them all the power you have and you have all that we have got, but you cannot make a prophet only the natural way and a man cannot be a patriarch and not a prophet, for a man must have the spirit of a prophet before he can bless and prophesy. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. There are thousands of prophets among the gentiles and spiritualists that have not repented or obeyed the gospel. There are natural gifts to man. If they would receive the gospel, their gifts would be made more manifest. G. A. Smith read some in the Doctrine and Covenants. H. C. Kimball said, “I always believed that Lyman Wight would be saved. I never had any but good feelings towards him.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, February 23, 1859)

Of course they would believe that there were “natural” prophets, else how could Joseph Smith have found the treasure of Cumorah with his peep-stone? It appears that when they were trying to “see what they could see”, Kimball interrupted them and Zera Pulsipher had to proclaim that he was only a man, implying that they were trying to contact the dead through the stone. It appears that Kimball wasn’t too thrilled with this story as he told his audience that he considered “every ruling man in the Church that has the Holy Ghost a prophet, seer and revelator and he should have the spirit of that office.” Not a ringing endorsement of peep-stones and perhaps one reason why neither he nor Brigham Young used them.

A few years after the incident in Missouri, Woodruff writes that,

The Twelve or a part of them spent the day with Joseph the Seer and he unfolded unto them many glorious things of the kingdom of God, the privileges and blessings of the priesthood, etc. I had the privilege of seeing for the first time in my day the Urim and Thummim. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Dec. 27, 1841)

This was nothing more than one of Joseph’s seeing stones, which he supposedly used to “translate” the Book of Abraham. Brigham Young described the above meeting in his Manuscript History:

I met with the Twelve at Brother Joseph’s. He conversed with us in a familiar manner on a variety of subjects, and explained to us the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates, called in the Book of Mormon the Interpreters. He said that every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seerstone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it; he showed us his seerstone. (Brigham Young, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844, ed. Elden Jay Watson).

Yet, while Woodruff was in England, he called such practices “not of God”. This is from the journal of Alfred Rolland Cordon:

“Saturday Evening 27th Mar 1841 I attended A council Meeting Elders G. A. Smith and W. Woodruff and a good number of Officers. a charge was brought against bro W Mountford for using Magic, The case was as follows, This bro Mountford had in his posession several Glasses or Chrystals as he called them. they are about the size of a Gooses Egg made flat at each end. he also had a long list of prayers wrote down which he used. The prayer was unto certain Spirits which he said was in the Air which says he when I pray to them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, any thing that I want will come into the Glass. for instance if A Young woman had a desire to know who she would have for an Husband, she came to him and made the case known, and he brought out his Chrystals and prayed unto a certain Spirit then she must peep into the Chrystal and in it she would see the Young man that would become her husband Elder Woodruff made some observations on the subject. when it was moved and Unanimously carried that no such Magic work be allowed in the Church.” (Journal of Alfred Rolland Cordon)

The next day,

Meeting was Opened by Prayer by the President. It was Unanimoulsy carried that no such thing as Magic, Fortunetelling, Witchcraft or any such devices should be allowed in the Church. And that fellowship would be withdrawn from any who used or caused to be used any of the aforesaid things. It was also moved and carried that a letter of recomendation be presented to Elders, W. Woodruff and G. A. Smith. (Sunday, March 28, 1841).

So, where are the guidelines in discerning which peep-stones are a “urim and thummim” and therefore sanctioned by God? Nowhere to be found. What Woodruff and the Council here condemned are the same practices of the Smith family in Palmyra, and which Joseph continued to use throughout his life. Woodruff wrote up the incident this way:

I walked with several Brethren to Hanley & Sat in Council with many of the Officers. Among other business that was brought up was the case of a Brother Mumford who was ingaged in the Magic or Blackart fortune telling &c which prevails to a great extent in this Country. [England] But as he persisted in his course after being laboured with the Council Withdrew fellowship from him. He was holding the office of a Priest & one thing is worthy of notice that while the Priesthood was upon him, he could not see his majic glasses as before untill after he ceased to fill the Priest office & rejected our council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.74)

The President then brought up the case of a Br Moumford, who was holding the office of a Priest, from whome fellowship had been withdrawn by the council of officers in consequence of his practizing fortune Telling, Magic, Black art &c & called upon Elders Woodruff & Cordon to express their feelings upon the subject when Elder Woodruff arose, & spoke Briefly upon the subject, & informed the assembly that we had no such custom or practice in the Church, & that we should not fellowship any individual who Practiced Magic fortune Telling, Black art &c for it was not of God. When It was moved & carried by the whole church that fellowship be withdrawn from Br Moumford. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.75)

He calls what Monford did, “Black Art” which included fortune telling, finding lost things, treasure hunting, etc., He is basically saying that using the peepstone did not work when “the Priesthood was upon him.” Interesting he calls them “magic glasses”. Monford claimed that, “anything that I want will come into the glass.” 

Note that Joseph Smith had claimed, “…but he seamed to think more of the glasses or the urim a and thummem  then than he did of the plates for says he I CAN SEE ANYTHING they are Marvelus” (Joseph Knight Recollection)

What are we to make of this? Why is what Mountford did “the Black Art”? Is it the same as with “revelations’, they can only come through the leader of the church? Then why did Smith claim that everyone has a right to a seeing stone and to use one? Was Mountford claiming to speak for the church anywhere? I don’t see that.

So where are the church instructions on “seeing” or peep-stones? Nowhere to be found, although there is some mention of “white stones” that will be given to people after they are resurrected. (See D&C 130:10). But here on earth, the church made its position clear at a Conference in 1902, in an address by Apostle John W. Taylor:

I want to advise the young ladies, while upon this subject, not to follow after peep-stone women, fortune-tellers, or those claiming to have a familiar spirit, to get them to tell you the kind of a husband you will marry, or you young men the kind of a wife you will get. (Conference Report, Sunday, April 6, 1902).

Taylor continues by quoting the very passage in Isaiah that I quoted above, but adds a bit more:

“And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” (Isaiah 8:21-22, KJV)

Practitioners of Folk Magic will be “driven to darkness”. Taylor then tells the “Saints”,

Now my brethren and sisters, this has been literally fulfilled upon the idolatrous nations of the earth. Let us not be deceived, my brethren and sisters, or lead astray by those who are muttering and seeking to give the people a little temporal satisfaction, for it will result in incurring the displeasure of God upon us. (ibid)

He calls it idolatry and claims that the “nations of the earth” were also “driven to darkness” by such occult practices. Taylor actually tells the “Saints” to go to their Patriarch to get such information, but when has a church patriarch ever told anyone which husband or wife they were going to marry? My own patriarchal blessing simply said that I would “leave seed in the earth”, but I never had any children, much to my relief. No wonder people sought out the Peekers. They probably made things much more interesting. But… here’s an interesting response from “Ask Gramps” about this very subject. As you might suspect, he’s not down with the idea that patriarchs do any such thing and advises the young woman who asked to “change your approach”.

And yet, the Apologists go on and on about how we modern folk are getting it all wrong by not accepting “the Black Art” (That evil fortune telling) as part of Christianity and perfectly fine with the “folk” of the 19th century. It seems that as soon as Joseph and his chosen apostles and others got a little power, they also threw magic under the bus. (Unless they were doing it themselves or trying to justify the Smith’s use of it). Their condemnations are as arbitrary as the Apologists wanting to lump it all as lost Christianity. More from the apologists:

Today’s notions of which practices seem magical and which don’t can confuse our understanding of the past more than clarify it. Nineteenth century American aspirants to socially respectable circles might have denigrated glass-looking for lost objects and treasure digging as uneducated superstition. But the same people might have regarded the medicinal balancing of the four humors through blood-letting or timing crop planting by auspicious astrological signs listed in a farmer’s almanac as commonsensical and scientific. Joseph himself, as he moved from being a canny country boy to a cultured urbanite, reported giving up treasure seeking as youthful folly unworthy of his religious calling. Indeed, in court in 1830 it was testified and judicially accepted that Joseph Smith “had not looked in the glass for two years to find money, &c. (Early Mormon Folk Magic, 81)

And did Joseph give up his treasure digging in New York because he felt it was more “cultured”, or because he kept getting hauled before courts of law for doing it? And notice that they also show that the Church Essay is wrong, he didn’t quit doing it in 1826, this has him quitting in 1828! But we know that he didn’t stop looking in his stone, (per multiple accounts) or looking for lost treasure ten years later as the Salem “revelation” shows.

Woodruff was all about using home remedies, which many were in his day, but he wasn’t down with peep-stones and fortune telling; (unless it was Joseph) and Mountford used Christian prayers in the name of the Christian God as he summoned the Spirits of the Almighty with his stones. This shows that the home remedies and other mundane practices some call folk magic were not considered so by Woodruff.

Still Woodruff claimed it was all “not of God”. I suppose poor Wilford was simply confused also and his authority as an Apostle meant nothing (even though he had the ultimate authority overseas). It’s kind of routine for Mormon Apologists to throw former authorities under the bus if they get in the way of their pet theories.

Ghosts and Angels (Continued)

Here is the story that Smith himself told to Nancy Towles in October, 1831 which she put to paper soon after:

A certain man by the name of Smith, trained in the state of New York; and now about twenty-eight years of age: — professes to have seen, and held communion with an Angel from God. That, about four years since, [1827] as he was lying upon his bed, — (having just been reclaimed from a backslidden state,) [after 1823 visit] the room, of a sudden became light as day. When a beautiful personage, was presented to his view, — who requested, That he (Smith) should go to such a place, — as he had something wonderful, he wished to reveal. He accordingly went; and was directed by the angel to a certain spot of ground, where was deposited a “Box:” — which box contained “Plates,” that resembled gold: also, a pair of “interpreters,” (as he called them,) that resembled spectacles: by looking into which, he could read a writing engraven upon the plates, though to himself, — in a tongue unknown. These were delivered to him, as he asserts, to publish to the world. And when the things were committed to paper, “The box, &c. were to be sealed up; and deposited in the earth, — from whence they were taken.”

Smith himself claims that he was visited by the angel and got the plates immediately afterwards in 1827. He was in a “backslidden state” until the visit of the angel in 1827 (four years prior to 1831). It seems that Joseph was condensing his story and obscuring the dual visits of the angel. It is even possible that Joseph was formulating the new story of seeing Jesus when he was sixteen.

Allusion or Confusion?

This accords with his account in the Articles & Covenants of the Church, where Smith claimed to have seen an angel, became “backslidden” and then, four years later receives “power” from the angel to “translate” the record. Notice the similarities:

After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, [1823] he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, [1827] whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness; And gave unto him commandments which inspired him; And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon…

This could not be an “allusion” to 1820 or be speaking of the angel’s visit in 1823, because in 1823 Joseph did not get the “power’ to “translate” the Book of Mormon (the interpreters): that happened in 1827, and at this time that was the focus of the story they were all telling, that an angel appeared to Joseph in 1827.

The early missionaries were teaching this same thing, that Smith had no religious experience prior to the first visit of the angel in 1823/24; and they were all conflating events that took place in 1827 with those of the earlier story of his asking for forgiveness in 1823/24. Here are Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt:

Having repented of his sins, but not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse prayer. After retiring to bed one night, he was visited by an Angel and directed to proceed to a hill in the neighborhood where he would find a stone box containing a quantity of Gold plates.

Joseph is “convicted” and prays and is answered by an angel. There is no mention of four years going by, but instead they claim that,

The plates were six or eight inches square, and as many of them as would make them six or eight inches thick, each as thick as a pane of glass. They were filled with characters which the learned of that state were not able to translate. A Mr. Anthony, a professor of one of the colleges, found them to contain something like the Cyrian Chaldena or Hebrew characters. However, Smith with divine aid, was able to translate the plates, and from them we have the Mormon bible, or as they stated it, another Revelation to part of the house of Joseph.

This is not how Smith describes the events in later accounts which we will discuss in Part II. (He adds another, earlier vision and the “backsliding” then takes place between that vision and the one with the angel which is then firmly dated to September 22, 1823). But notice that Smith has every opportunity to relate the story of the claimed 1820 vision to Nancy Towles, but does not. And yet, a few months later (Feb. 1832), Joseph and Sidney Rigdon have a vision in which they claim to see “the glory of the Son” on the “right hand” of the Father. This vision was spoken of openly and published in July of 1832. Joseph continued to change his story, and would continue to do so even after it was published in the Times and Seasons.

“The Glass Looker”

Money-digging, as it was called, or scrying for lost treasure or objects by way of “glass looking” was a crime in New York State in Joseph’s day:

…all persons who go about from door to door, or place themselves in the streets, highways or passages, to beg in the cities or towns where they respectively dwell, and all jugglers and all persons who pretend to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretending to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost goods may be found… shall be deemed and adjudged to be disorderly persons…(pg. 114)

There was a good reason for this, as it was overwhelmingly used to con people out of their money. It’s like anything else, you can believe in dowsing rods and even use them to search for water, or treasure or whatever you like. But when you cross the line and use it to dupe other people, even though you and they might believe in it, is is breaking the law. But Joseph wasn’t doing this to help other people, he was doing it for monetary gain (according to Bushman it was greed) as these articles of agreement from 1825 show:


We, the undersigned, do firmly agree, & by these presents bind ourselves, to fulfill and abide by the hereafter specified articles:

First—That if anything of value should be obtained at a certain place in Pennsylvania near a Wm. Hale’s, supposed to be a valuable mine of either Gold or Silver and also to contain coined money and bars or ingots of Gold or Silver, and at which several hands have been at work during a considerable part of the past summer, we do agree to have it divided in the following manner, viz.: Josiah Stowell, Calvin Stowell and Wm. Hale to take two-thirds, and Charles Newton, Wm. I. Wiley, and the Widow Harper to take the other third. And we further agree that Joseph Smith, Sen. and Joseph Smith Jr. shall be considered as having two shares, two elevenths of all the property that may be obtained, the shares to be taken equally from each third.
Second—And we further agree, that in consideration of the expense and labor to which the following named persons have been at (John F. Shephard, Elihu Stowell and John Grant) to consider them as equal sharers in the mine after all the coined money and bars or ingots are obtained by the undersigned, their shares to be taken out from each share; and we further agree to remunerate all the three above named persons in a handsome manner for all their time, expense and labor which they have been or may be at, until the mine is opened, if anything should be obtained; otherwise they are to lose their time, expense and labor.
Third—And we further agree that all the expense which has or may accrue until the mine is opened, shall be equally borne by the proprietors of each third and that after the mine is opened the expense shall be equally borne by each of the sharers.
Township of Harmony, Pa., Nov. 1, 1825.
In presence of
Isaac Hale, Chas. A. Newton,
David Hale, Jos. Smith, Sen.,
P. Newton. Isaiah [Josiah] Stowell,
Calvin Stowell, Jos. Smith, Jr.,
Wm. I. Wiley.

Joseph signed this document about a month after he supposedly met with the angel at the hill Cumorah for the third time. Joseph was being paid by Stowell and it was to be borne by him and others as an “expense”. And if a treasure happened to be found, the Smith’s would benefit from that, as well. And he was looking for the treasure by means of scrying, which was illegal. This wasn’t religious, this was searching for “filthy lucre” as Joseph Smith Sr. confessed to a judge at the 1826 Examination. Every time that Joseph used his supposed “seeric” power to search for buried treasure or lost objects, he was breaking the law, and the law uses such language as “pretending” for good reason. This means if you went around and claimed to be able to discern things that could not be seen by the natural eye, you were disorderly and breaking the law.

I’ve read so many Mormon apologists argue that well, Josiah Stowell believed that Smith could actually see things in the earth, kind of like Superman with his X-Ray Vision, except he needed the help of a peep-stone. And so Joseph did nothing wrong, it was all Josiah Stowell’s idea. But that’s not how the law works. Stowell’s belief did not give the Smith’s a free pass to break the law.

How much treasure did Joseph ever recover for anyone with his crafty science of peeping in stones? None. As for the articles that he supposedly found for people, we find a good example of what Smith would tell others concerning his lack of success according to Josiah Stowell (who believed Joseph could really see things in his peep-stone):

…that [Joseph Smith] had looked through said stone for Deacon Attelon, for a mine – did not exactly find it, but got a piece of ore, which resembled gold, he thinks; that prisoner had told by means of this stone where a Mr. Bacon had buried money; that he and prisoner had been in search of it; that prisoner said that it was in a certain root of a stump five feet from surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail-feather; that said Stowel and prisoner thereupon commenced digging, found a tail-feather, but money was gone; that he supposed that money moved down

This is the prophet-in-training who was yearly meeting with an angel of God to learn how to run his kingdom? And this idea that it makes any kind of difference whether Joseph was found guilty in 1826. It doesn’t matter because we know he did what they claimed he did, he pretended to be able to find buried treasure, silver mines, etc. with a peep-stone and was getting paid for it. Smith was breaking the law. Juggling. Claiming that well, everybody else was doing it, matters not at all.

Slipping Away from Reality into the Absurd

Does buried treasure really move through the earth? Is that what apologists are claiming? That angels and demons and ghosts move buried treasure through the earth at their leisure? These stories are absurd, yet, many superstitious people believed them and Joseph reinforced that belief by including it in his Book of Mormon:

And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them. And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say: O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us. Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land. O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. (Helaman  13:31-37)

Is this not a treasure digging yarn written right into the Book of Mormon? It has all those exciting demonic elements of a treasure digging yarn: the disappearing swords and tools, and the slippery treasures that are swallowed up in the ground because of the curse of the land as the demons and angels close in to destroy their souls.

Was Joseph really seeing treasure chests of money that moved every time they dug for them? What an interesting way to solve that problem, if Joseph was confronted later about his money-digging he could simply explain that God had cursed the land and that was why he always failed when he tried. It’s right there on the gold plates! It’s scripture. And where did he learn about this, why from his father:

Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground — we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun.(Peter Ingersoll, Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. Y. Dec. 2d, 1833. )

Was Joseph’s clear practice of necromancy (during the time he was supposedly being taught by an angel of God every year) a restoration of ancient Christian beliefs? Not according to Christians of the day. Ronald Walker writes:

Probably the quality which most distinguished American treasure digger was his acceptance of the old cultural system that rapidly was passing into obsolescence almost from the founding of America’s first settlements, many community leaders rejected money digging. Seventeenth century puritan clerics such as Cotton Mather and John Hale called the wise men “devils’ priests and prophets” and their practices “witchcraft” Following European practice, the clergy’s long-standing opposition was given the force of law. A New York statute, for example, enjoined “all jugglers, and all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy palmistry or like crafty science or pretending to tell fortunes or to discover where lost goods may be found while observed lightly or more often in the breach (Joseph Smith was tried at least once for his money digging but was apparently neither fined nor imprisoned), such laws and the clerical animosity that lay behind them created in the minds of many educated men and women a dark and unsavory image of money-digging that often became caricature.

American literature reinforced this tendency. …Whether in the poetry of John G. C. Brainard, the humorous sketches of Washington Irving, or the satires of Franklin and Forrest, the result was uniformly the same. Though money-digging, like any human endeavor, offered much to scorn and even to pity, the belles-lettres of the period conveyed the prevailing values of the intellectual elite by treating the money-diggers in overblown and often unjustified images. (op.cited above, pgs. 451-2)

Was the treatment of money-diggers really unjustified? It was all a scam. Every time! And they had good reason to pass those laws because unless one was digging for money for one’s own benefit or amusement, those who went around promoting such nonsense were perpetuating a fraud on their neighbors. It is like the holy relics of the Middle Ages. People were persuaded to buy things like the “milk of the Virgin Mary, the teeth, hair, and blood of Christ, pieces of the Cross, and samples of the linen Christ was wrapped in as an infant.

No one ever found any buried treasure by way of peep-stones and divining rods and went around digging and peeping without wanting to be compensated for it. But there is coincidence and a broken clock is correct twice a day, especially when the Three Nephites are on the prowl.

Spiritualism is not Mormonism

Walker goes on to say that “money-digging may have influenced two of the nineteenth century’s major social and religious movements, Mormonism and Spiritualism. Its touch on American society was not light.” (ibid)

And yet, is Spiritualism a restoration of Apostolic Christianity? Apparently not, but there was a Mormon Spiritualist Church, founded by William S. Godbe. Ronald Walker writes,

There was also a spiritual, or spiritualist, dimension to their [The Godbeites] dissent. In October 1868 Godbe and Harrison traveled to New York City, ostensibly for business and recreation. They apparently used the occasion to seek direction from a spiritualist medium, Charles Foster. Fifty seances followed, confirming their religious doubts and mandating a radical restructuring of Mormonism. “The whole superstructure of a grand system of theology was unfolded to our minds,” Harrison later wrote. The system included a devaluation of the Book of Mormon  and Doctrine and Covenants, and the rejection of a personal deity, the literal resurrection, and the doctrine of the atonement.

Spiritualism was almost a perfect solution for the Godbeite doubters. Its parallels with Mormonism eased the pain involved in their transfer of commitment. Both movements affirmed the eternal nature of the individual and taught the validity of spiritual experience. Each had an upstate New York genesis. Moreover, their new spiritualistic view allowed Godbe and Morrison to validate their previous religious experiences. These now seemed mere preliminaries to their new, higher revelation. There also was an additional advantage: nineteenth-century spiritualism had a liberal, intellectual content that fit the Godbeite mood.

Yet the new movement was condemned by Brigham Young who published in the Deseret News that their ideas would “drive the holy priesthood from the earth.” George A. Smith claimed that “A blacker spirit never reigned in the heart of mortals than reigns in those two men.” (Harrison & Godbe). When Godbe asked Young if they were going to get the typical charges of immorality leveled at them as they were excommunicated, Young said that there were none that they knew of, but that “they must have committed some secret crime, or they would not now be found … opposing the policies of the servants of God.” (pgs. 70-71)

And haven’t we come full circle here? Young opposing the spiritualism that Mormonism supposedly sprang from! This is what the Christians of the day (who Walker calls “elites”) were doing with the magic practices embraced by many in New York, including Joseph’s neighbors.

They didn’t accept that magical treasure digging and necromancy was from God, it was all superstition – a counter culture movement that began to decline soon after it began to flourish in places like New York’s burned over district. Yet, they still participated in it, as many do today with the lottery, or by way of prosperity gospels.

The Spiritualism that grew out of such folk beliefs, was rife with fraud, as Ron Huggins points out in his excellent article. And yet, those like Brigham Young, believed that there were actual evil spirits performing such stunts at seances:

Is there any revelation in the world? Yes, plenty of it. We are accused of being nothing more nor less than a people possessing what they term the higher order of Spiritualism. Whenever I see this in print, or hear it spoken, “You are right,” say I. “Yes, we belong to that higher order of Spiritualism; our revelations are from above, yours from beneath. This is the difference. We receive revelation from Heaven, you receive your revelations from every foul spirit that has departed this life, and gone out of the bodies of mobbers, murderers, highwaymen, drunkards, thieves, liars, and every kind of debauched character, whose spirits are floating around here, and searching and seeking whom they can destroy; for they are the servants of the devil, and they are permitted to come now to reveal to the people.” It was not so once, anciently or formerly, when there was no Priesthood on the earth, no revelations from Heaven. Then the Lord Almighty shut up this evidence, and all intercourse between men on the earth and the foul spirits, so that the latter could not deceive and destroy the former with their revelations. But God has spoken now, and so has the devil; Jesus has revealed his Priesthood, so has the devil revealed his, and there is quite a difference between the two. One forms a perfect chain, the links of which cannot be separated; one has perfect order, laws, rules, regulations, organization; it forms, fashions, makes, creates, produces, protects and holds in existence the inhabitants of the earth in a pure and holy form of government, preparatory to their entering the kingdom of Heaven. The other is a rope of sand; it is disjointed, jargon, confusion, discord, everybody receiving revelation to suit himself. If I were disposed to go into their rings I could make every table, every dot, every particle of their revelations prove that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I could lay my hands on the table with them, and if I would consent to have the spirits wrap, I would make them prove every time that Joseph Smith was a prophet; but let me go, and another man come along, a wicked man, and he would have all the evidence he desired that Joseph was not a prophet of God. I could make them say, every time, that this is the Church of Christ; while a wicked man might enter the circle and he would be told that this was not the Church of Christ; and this is their system—it is confusion and discord. It is like a rope of sand. There is no order, no organization; it cannot be reduced to a system, it is uncertainty. That is the difference between the two spiritual systems—yes, this is the higher order of spiritualism, to be led, governed and controlled by law, and that, too, the law of heaven that governs and controls the Gods and the angels. There is no being in heaven that could endure there, that could abide the heavens unless he is sanctified, purified and glorified by law, and lives by law. But take the other party, and it is without law. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:281)

And it must be noted that Young’s point here, is that without the Mormon Priesthood, what was being practiced was counterfeit. Joseph supposedly did not receive the priesthood until 1829, and that is why God supposedly told Joseph to “go not after” them. And of course Young and Kimball had to invent the “natural prophet” who had power outside of the priesthood to account for what Smith was doing before he restored it.

And yet, those like Houdini proved it was all a hoax. Where was Young and others “gift of discernment’? What is very interesting is that when Houdini came up against the Medium Margery, who used all kinds of tricks to try and prove she was a real psychic, she failed when Houdini placed her in a fool proof box where she could not manipulate objects. But they found a way to sabotage Houdini’s precautions, and many people believed she was a true medium. If people want to believe, they will, even when they are proven frauds.

And why would Joseph doing those same things be any different? He didn’t have any priesthood in the 1820’s. He didn’t have any of those laws of God to guide him. And if he did, when he was supposedly talking to the angel every year for four years, he didn’t act like he did. Smith later claimed that the angel (later identified as Moroni) would reveal to him the priesthood, but all we see Smith doing during those four years is digging for buried treasure and getting arrested for doing it and then obfuscating these events in his later histories.

He was actually disobeying God, because he was going after things that he was told not to. Martin Harris later related that Joseph was told to “quit the company of the money-diggers”, but he just couldn’t seem to do so for a good seven years, even after a visit from God and an angel.

“the angels that tell where to find gold books…”

In fact, the very idea of associating buried treasure with angels of God was so repulsive to the Christian brother (Jesse) of Joseph Smith Sr., that he wrote to Hyrum on June 17, 1829:

Once as I thot my promising Nephew, You wrote to my Father long ago, that after struggling thro various scenes of adversity, you and your family, you had at last taught the very solutary lesson that the God that made the heavens and the earth w[o]uld at onc[e] give success to your endeavours, this if true, is very well, exactly as it should be—but alas what is man when left to his own way, he makes his own gods, if a golden calf, he falls down and worships before it, and says this is my god which brought me out of the land of Vermont—if it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity, & dug from the mines of atheism, he writes that the angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom & knowledge, even divine revelation, which has lain in the bowels of the earth for thousands of years [and] is at last made known to him, he says he has eyes to see things that art not, and then has the audacity to say they are; and the angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. 

He goes on to say that,

You say you have God for a witness— to prove the truth of what you write miserable creature, not to say perjured villain, how dare you thus trifle, in taking the name of God in vain, nay far worse than vain— that God with whom you thus trifle, is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity he cannot look on sin with any degree of approbation or complacency it is true he passeth by iniquity transgression and sin in his redeemed ones, he sees their shield, and for his sake recieves them to favour, but to such as make lead books, and declare to the world that they are of the most fine gold, calling on the great & dreadful name of the most High to witness the truth of their assertions, He says “depart from me ye that work iniquity,” and again “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, they shall be cast into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” these are the angels that tell where to find gold books.——

It is obvious that as a Christian, the idea of angels revealing where to find buried treasure or “gold books” was anathema to Jesse Smith, who concluded his letter with this warning:

Your father would not be implicated in this place, but for the message he sent by the hands of a fool to my brother Saml [Smith] this fellow says that you and your father are in this business very deep the fellow also believes all to be a fact, this to be sure, for no one unless predisposed to believe a lie would have heard a syllable from either of you on the subject, he says your father has a wand or rod like Jannes & Jambres who withstood Moses in Egypt— that he can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia or another fool story, many other things alike ridiculous. You state your Father cannot write by reason of a nervous affection this is a poor excuse, worse than none, he can dictate to others and they can write, he can If he knows not what to write, he can get your Brother’s spectacles he would then be as able to write dictate a letter, as Joe is to decypher hieroglyphics, if more should be wanting he can employ the same scoundrel of a scribe, and then not only the matter but manner and style would be correct… (Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, Dan Vogel, EMD 1: 551-52.)

Although there were many like Joseph Smith and members of his family who believed in the occult and that it was somehow sanctioned by God; there was a sharp divide among Christian believers and those that ascribed to folk magic practices – as the letter from Jesse Smith shows. There were also some Christians  who believed in such things as divining rods or treasure guardians, and sought to justify their use by claiming they were “of God”, but Jesse Smith wasn’t one of them. And you know what, people are still doing it today!

But … Everything’s Christian!

This idea that folk magic and Christianity were one and the same, and that Smith’s Latter Day Saints Church sprang out of his folk magic beliefs is an apologist fabrication. Christianity and the folk magic of the day were not the same. It would be like starting a church and claiming that the Christian God was really an alien, and later apologists could justify it because many Christians at the time believed in aliens. In other words Christianity and belief in aliens would basically be one unified whole, right? And isn’t it interesting that someone is teaching that very thing. Meet John Polk:

Hello, my name is Reverend John Polk. I am channeling “Yahweh”, the Judeo-Christian and Islamic creator-god-alien featured in the Bible, the Hebrew Bible and in the Quran. For thousands of years, up to this present day, he has been masquerading as the real God and is pulling a collective veil over the eyes of most of the world. Ancient alien astronaut theorists comprehend this reality, but most of humanity has no idea. Yahweh tells me the time draws near for full alien disclosure, so that we primitive Earthlings can be weaned off of the Mother Universe’s figurative bosom. He wants the world to know that he is an extraterrestrial, that he is not God and that all God-figures in all cultures are ET’s, not God. However, all creator-gods and Yahweh had wanted we humans to keep worshiping those creator-gods just like always. As collective humanity adapts to this knowledge, religion, culture and tradition need not change. For now, you may pray to the alien god you have worshiped all along but now, pray to the real God as well. The real God loves everyone regardless of their religion or belief system and therefore, he is the God for everyone.

Is this really any different than the apologists “folk magic restoration”? One could even say that this is the right time for Polk to come forth, because until the “Roswell Incident” people were just not attuned to aliens. The post Roswell Incident culture allowed more and more people to believe in aliens and for it to become more acceptable. This prepared the world for the prophet of the true God, Enlil, Reverend John Polk. At this website, they claim that,

…Reverend John Polk is a metaphysical minister who can communicate to angels, extraterrestrials, and even the alien-creator-God itself, Yahweh, who he refers to as Enlil (the Sumerian god of the air) and they form a pantheon of aliens, Annunaki, hybrids, and extradimensional entities than inhabit his multiverse. And according to the good Reverend, Jesus was an alien-human hybrid engineered by Yahweh. … And Reverend John Polk might be saying some unusual things, but if we’re going to take religious stories on faith – with burning bushes, water into wine, Joseph Smith’s golden plates, Mohammed and his flying horse, etc… well, then let’s listen to Polk’s message and see what he’s trying to communicate.

“He told so many stories…”

When Ron Huggins wrote his article on Joseph Smith and his fascination with Captain Kidd, he tried to produce a timeline, which is hard to do with Joseph Smith. Morris seizes on this and uses it to try and create a distraction about timelines. But the fact is, Joseph was simply telling different stories to different people. At times it was a religious yarn, and at times it involved a treasure ghost and magic. As Lorenzo Saunders remembered, “Jo. Smith told the story but he told so many stories, it was a hard thing to get the fact in any way or shape…” (Edmund L. Kelley interview with Lorenzo Saunders — read and signed by Lorenzo Saunders, 1884, EMD Vol. II, 159)  Yet Morris claims that,

The pattern is clear: the earliest witnesses emphasized the religious aspects of the story; accounts emphasizing “Captain Kidd” elements were later developments. This is the same pattern revealed with both newspapers and early letters and diaries. In every case, religious elements are included in the first accounts and are more common than the later magical elements. (pg. 33)

Actually, Morris doesn’t know what the “earliest witnesses emphasized”, because there are no extant accounts between 1823 and 1827 except the court documents that claimed Smith was a “glass looker”. So claiming that “the pattern is clear” that the earliest witnesses emphasized the religious aspects is disingenuous. Remember, Morris claims that what Ronald Walker wrote was extremely relevant:

At young Joseph’s 1826 money digging trial his father was reported to have claimed that both he and his son “were mortified that this wonderful [seeric] power which God had so miraculously given to the boy should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.” Joseph Smith Sr “trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will concerning him.”

The fact that there was a complaint made against Joseph in 1826 and he was “Examined” and found guilty of being a “glass looker” is significant. This is the only evidence from that period (1823-27), six years after he later claimed he saw God and three years after his religious angel story.

And yet a transcript that we have of the Examination, that Walker above quotes from, has Joseph’s father claiming that he hoped God would “some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will.” But “the boy” later claimed to have seen God and later claimed he was seeing an angel every year at the hill by their home previous to this Examination. This indicates that the religious elements of the angel story weren’t really emphasized until 1827, and many later accounts bear this out. This evidence is the smoking gun that Joseph’s religious story was invented after 1826.

The corroborating evidence encompasses not only the Smith family neighbors, but close friends and future followers of Joseph’s “restored gospel”.

But what about Ron Huggins? He got things essentially right as we shall see. Morris claims that Huggins does not account for “the complex interweaving of faith and folk culture”, but that has little to do with what Huggins postulates because it is irrelevant. He claims that Huggins is the one “obscuring the timeline” and hiding “crucial details”.  No, this is what Joseph Smith did.

Morris wants to write Huggins paper for him, which I find amusing. He tells us what Huggins should have done, whose Mormon research he should have used. I’ve shown how Morris only quotes selected extracts of Walker’s research, doing the very thing he accuses Ronald Huggins of doing, hiding crucial details. He claims that Huggins focuses on Captiain Kidd and therefore skews the entire debate, but that is what Morris does by claiming that the first person accounts (the ones crafted by the Smith’s) take precedence over others. (I mean, look at the timeline in the beginning of his new book and you will see it is the “faithful history” timeline.) But here is what Morris writes and it’s important to note:

Since Huggins claims that Joseph’s account changed from one thing (a money-digger’s yarn) to another (the religious story of an angel), the best way to test his thesis is to discover when various people talked to Joseph and compare their reports.

And not only Joseph, but Lucy, William, Joseph Sr., etc. It is also important to note that it was Joseph and Oliver who were claiming it was always a religious story, that there were no magical elements to it. But we know this was a lie, hence the apologetic arguments that the “restoration” sprang out of both.

(To be Continued)

The Irrational World of Brian Hales’ Polygamy (Part 2)

By Jeremy Runnells & Johnny Stephenson

Pt. I may be found here.

Part II: Method… Or Madness?

“Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.”  ― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

“Madness breeds madness.” ― Dan Brown, Inferno

Brian Hales mentions that scholars may critique your work.  Some of Hales own work was critiqued by Historian D. Michael Quinn in 2012 and 2013, and what Quinn had to say about Hales’ conclusions isn’t encouraging.  Aside from important weaknesses and incorrect arguments, Hales’ work is full of red herrings, flawed methodology and manipulation of the evidence. And it is important to note that Quinn only reviewed Hales’ conclusions about sexual polyandry in Smith’s marriages.

But Quinn doesn’t treat Brian Hales like Hales treated Jeremy Runnells. He takes what Hales has written and step by step makes his assessment. He doesn’t claim right off the bat that Hales is being deceptive to try and poison the well in advance.  Still, Quinn found a plethora of problems with Hale’s approach as an historian. Here are some of them:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing easily refutable claims” (pg. 6);  quotes secondary sources over primary sources (page 6);  Quinn also writes that “The best evidence is the original record of sealing, not someone’s century later commentary about it” which Hales quoted instead of the original record.

He states that Hales “brushes off the significance of some of the evidence he has cited,” (page 11); makes contradictory assertions (page 11);  conveniently shifts his standards of evidentiary analysis in his own direction (page 18); that Hales “apologetical observations contradict evidence (page 23); uses a red herring, (page 25); makes claims that have no basis whatever (page 27); strains credulity (page 27); uses “presentist bias” (page 33); accuses him of “misrepresentation” (page 64); of not consulting original sources (page 66); that Hales had an “academic obligation” to reveal certain information which he did not (page 66); of using a “vacuous red-herring when Hales does not quote a single exception from the “original records” about which he writes” (page 69); that Hales would not acknowledge crucial evidence that undermined his narrative (page 70 n. 46) which was that Joseph Smith forbid the practice of polygamy in Oct. 1843 (ibid); citing a source critical to his argument without a page number (page 72); uses flawed methodology and closed system of logic (page 73); worse (Quinn’s word) he has failed to acknowledge several of the contrary evidences in publications he has cited, (ibid); he makes “perplexing gaffes” in his use of evidence (page 73-74); he repeatedly questions the memory/accuracy of faithful Mormon witnesses that Hales disagrees with (page 74); does not use equal standards for evidence (page 74); of making “apologetical claims” knowing they were “improbable” (page 75);  that he did not acknowledge critical evidence until forced to by Quinn (page 78); gave “anachronistic assessment”, and “a fallacy of irrelevant proof”, and “chronologically false” assessments (page 80).

He overstates problem in proving a negative, (Hales – “You can’t prove a negative”) to which Quinn writes, “for example it is possible to prove that someone didn’t die on a particular date” (page 82); falsely accusing Quinn of stealing documents (84); another red herring (87); absurdity (87); claimed that Quinn said something he did not say (90); of another fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 90); that Hales wrongly corrected an accurate page citation by Quinn (page 91); of knowing of evidence but ignoring it to support his conclusions (page 94); claimed no documentation existed when it did (page 95); of not acknowledging evidence (page 98); making claims that were wrong (page 98); raising an apologetical smoke-screen by questioning well known facts (page 101); making ridiculous assertions about conspiracies (page 101); of fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 102); that Hales is  an unreasonable researcher (page 102); of using “multiple fallacies” (page 104); the purposeful absence of references (page 105); purposeful non-inclusion of first-person sources that contradict his argument (page 108); using “imprecise and less detailed” evidence to support his argument (page 108); exclusion of evidence (page 108); claims there is no “specific documentation” when Quinn provided it (page 110); wrongly stated something Quinn did not say (page 113) which was a “Stunning gaffe”, again a red herring (page 113); another red herring (page 115); irrelevant statements (page 115); “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes” (page 115).

On page 118 Quinn writes, “NOTHING (Caps in original) can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time” [This speaks for itself]; Also includes Hales in using the “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities” (page 118); of denying and ignoring evidence (pg.  123); using a closed system of logic (God knew Smith would be obedient so he was).

On page 124, Quinn compares Hales to Joseph Smith III, who refused to believe evidence he did not like, (page 124); accuses Hales of playing “a skillful shell game in which premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same” (page 125); ignores contradictions and other problems in evidence (page 126); omits significant facts (page 127); another wrong claim (page 127); does not cite sources he knows of (page 128); makes unqualified conclusions (page 128).[25]

Even with all this criticism, Quinn did agree with some of Hales’ conclusions and even complimented him a few times in his critique. This is something that Hales doesn’t do with Jeremy Runnells. (That is – be fair and acknowledge Jeremy’s sincere concerns or compliment him when he agrees that he got something right).  Instead, Hales goes from irrational to ridiculous. He writes,

Runnells declares early that he has concerns about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, alleging that “three key facts remain unchallenged: (1) Joseph Smith married at least 34 women; (2) he married at least 11 women who were married to other living men; and (3) he married underage girls as young as 14-years-old.”[26]

All of Jeremy’s observations are absolutely accurate, and Hales knows that they are. But here is how Hales ridiculously responds to this:

Runnells seems concerned that Joseph Smith was sealed to “at least 34 women.” It is actually 35 by my count.[27]

Is it a bad thing to be concerned that Smith was sealed/married to at least 34 women? This concerns many people both in and out of the church.  How though, does this show that what Runnells wrote is inaccurate or that he is lying? It simply doesn’t.

It’s obvious that Jeremy qualified his statement with two words, “at least”. With all of the other material that Jeremy includes in the Polygamy Section of “Debunking Fair,” one has to wonder why Hales would even respond to this, which is accurate (based on a consensus of polygamy historians, including Brian Hales).

And there is still debate over how many actual wives Joseph Smith had, ( claims it is “unknown”, Polygamy Essay, text at Note 24) but you don’t hear that from Brian Hales in this hit piece.  Jeremy Runnells cites the many historians that disagree with Hales’ count, but Hales doesn’t mention this either.[28] Hales then writes,

While it [the number of women Smith “married”] is a large number, it is important to note that at least 13, and possibly as many as 20, were non-sexual “eternity only” sealings. As Joseph Smith taught, every woman needs to be sealed to an eternal husband to be eligible for exaltation. Lucy Walker remembered the Prophet’s emphasis: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” None of the women left any complaints regarding their sealings to Joseph. Yet, Runnells seems bothered by this observation.[29]

Hales claim about “non-sexual ‘eternity only’ sealings” simply cannot be substantiated by any evidence that he presents, (which he admits elsewhere) so his comment here to Runnells is curiously disingenuous as is his comment about none of the women complaining. (Many did, as we shall see). And late remembrances by women who were trying to justify Smith’s spiritual wifeism should always be taken for what they are.

First, Hales doesn’t know if is 13 or “possibly as many as 20”, and his claim that “at least 13” were “non-sexual eternity only sealings” isn’t based on any credible evidence. He is simply making these numbers up. It’s an irrational claim. There is absolutely no evidence to prove that there was ever such as thing as a “non-sexual eternity only sealing” during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. (We will show this below).

There are only a few very late statements that are ambiguous at best and second hand stories with no supporting evidence to back up Hales claims. All sealings were for eternity, or for time and eternity (depending on the circumstances of the individuals), or time, but there are no known instances in the Nauvoo Era where sexuality in the marriage was specifically barred by ceremony or even alluded to. This is quite simply wishful thinking on the part of Brian Hales and he has absolutely no credible evidence to show that this was so.

There is credible evidence though, that there were one or two instances of pre-arranged “eternity only sealings” many years later between two living people with the caveat that they would be unconsummated, but that they were extremely rare. (We discuss this below).

Hales may be the only author who has published multiple volumes about Smith’s polygamy devoted to the point of view that he was only “sealed” to a large majority of his “wives” that were specifically set up to be “non-sexual marriages”.[30] This seems to be an obsession with Brian Hales and the reason is obvious, to try and mitigate the damage of Smith’s secretive “marriages” to other men’s wives which was considered adultery by Joseph’s own 1842 First Presidency Address. (Also discussed below).

Michael Quinn put Hales’ obsession with his idealistic version of Joseph Smith this way in relation to his denials of Smith’s obvious polyandry:

NOTHING [Caps and underline in original] can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time”.[31]

Hales then writes at Rational Faiths,

Runnells writes that Joseph “married at least 11 women who were married to other living men.” In fact, I count 14 (Sylvia Sessions, Sarah Ann Whitney, Ruth Vose, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Sarah Kingsley, Presendia Lathrop Huntington, Esther Dutcher, Zina Diantha Huntington, Patty Bartlett, Marinda Nancy Johnson, Elivira Annie Cowles, Elizabeth Davis, Lucinda Pendleton, and Mary Heron). Like many authors before him, Runnells implies sexual polyandry occurred; that is, that the wives were experiencing sexual relations with both their legal husbands and Joseph Smith. Yet, Runnells presents no credible documentation to support his interpretation, and he does not address evidences that contradict it. Joseph taught sexual polyandry was adultery and that a woman could never have two genuine husbands (D&C 22:1, 132:4).[32]

Again, Hales seems to have missed Jeremy’s use of the qualifier “at least”. And Jeremy would be more correct in doing so than Hales is giving an actual number. Hales includes in this list Mary Heron Snider of whom there is no evidence that she was ever a “wife” of Joseph Smith or even “sealed” to him.  There is evidence though, that Smith had sexual intercourse with her in her son-in-law’s house which Joseph E. Johnson (her son-in-law) likened to his own adultery which happened years later. Concerning Mary Heron Snider, Hales writes elsewhere:

Without any additional evidence, it is impossible to conclusively identify the nature of Joseph Smith’s relationship with Mary Heron, if any special relationship ever existed.[33]

But this does not stop Hales from including her in Smith’s list of wives with absolutely no evidence to score rhetorical points against Jeremy. This is another irrational conclusion by Hales, because he claims that she was “married” to Joseph Smith, but that it is “impossible” to identify the relationship she had with Smith. But because she had sex with Smith, she has to be one of his wives, using Hales’ logic.  Johnson likening Smith and Snider’s intercourse to his own adultery still doesn’t stop Hales from making these irrational pronouncements. Therefore including her in his list of wives “married” to Joseph Smith in response to Jeremy is baffling, as is his obvious bragging about numbers of wives he concludes Smith “married”.

There is very good evidence however, that Smith’s relationship with Mary Snider  was an adulterous affair just like the one with Fanny Alger. (See Note #33).

If this is what Hales means by “the latest research”, then his website should be visited with caution and his conclusions discarded for their flawed methodology and closed system of logic, (to use the words of D. Michael Quinn).

Hales also claims that Jeremy provides no credible documentation to support the practice of sexual polyandry by Joseph Smith.  This is astoundingly untrue. Jeremy provides this statement by Ann Eliza Webb, one of Brigham Young’s wives:

One woman [Zina Huntington] said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy: ‘The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.‘ Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph’s declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practiced; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church.[34]

Of course, this is not credible evidence to Brian Hales because as D. Michael Quinn observed, Hales “does not use equal standards for evidence”. According to Hales:

Ann Eliza does not specifically name which of Joseph’s wives she was allegedly quoting [about the polyandry]. However, her mother, Eliza Jane Churchill Webb, repeated the accusation in two private letters a year later specifying  Zina Huntington as the woman:

“There are women living in Utah now who were sealed to Joseph while living with their husbands, and they say it was the greatest trial of their lives to live with two men at the same time.”

Four months afterwards she also penned, “There is Zina,—whose maiden name was Huntington. She says the greatest trial of her life was, to live with her husband and Joseph too at the same time.”

Although it is commonly quoted by writers as primary evidence of sexual polyandry in Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, several problems emerge with Ann Eliza’s statement.

One is the issue of proximity. Ann Eliza did not live in the Lion House with Zina and Brigham Young’s other wives, but lived in her own house a few blocks away. She apostatized in 1872 and subsequently sued Brigham Young for alimony (and lost).

Yet, she claimed that sometime prior to her leaving the Church, Zina Huntington confided to her regarding her “greatest trial,” her frustrations with polyandrous sexuality between her, Joseph Smith, and Henry Jacobs decades before in Nauvoo.

In the nineteenth century, for a woman to mention her personal sexual involvement was rare. To admit to a polyandrous relationship would be rarer, but to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary. The listeners to such admissions would have had no context to evaluate the declarations except to consider the behaviors plainly immoral. Even in the secret teachings of plurality in Nauvoo, no doctrinal foundation for sexual polyandry was ever discussed. At any time during the restoration, such statements would be interpreted as admissions of unchaste behavior.

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young

Zina’s alleged openness concerning such a delicate topic also contrasts her 1898 interview statements. She then remarked that, “It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years.” She declared to the interviewer, “We hardly dared speak of it. The very walls had ears. We spoke of it only in whispers . . . you are speaking on the most sacred experiences of my life.”

In light of her declared reticence to talk about her marriage to Joseph Smith, it seems less likely that she would have suspended her discretion as reported by Ann Eliza.

Importantly, in an 1887 interview, Zina questioned Ann Eliza’s general truthfulness:

The trouble with Ann Eliza . . . was that she was not truthful. She was not grateful, and she was a very bad woman. She has convicted herself out of her own mouth. . . . She never lifted a her [sic] finger to do a bit of work that she didn’t want to do. She had servants and there was no necessity for her doing anything. She has asserted that President Young opened all his wives’ letters, and that they couldn’t visit anywhere or write to anybody, which is ridiculously untrue. President Young was occupied with too many important matters to give attention to such trivial things as his wives’ letters or his wives’ visits. We wrote to whom we pleased. . . . Ann Eliza knew she was misrepresenting the facts.

Zina did not directly dispute Ann Eliza’s claims regarding sexual polyandry probably because the original published statement did not identify her as the “one woman” and few individuals, including perhaps Zina herself, would have assumed her identity. Regardless, it appears Eliza’s assertion is best dismissed as anti-Mormon propaganda unless more credible supportive evidence for sexual polyandry is found.[35]

The first thing that we should mention here in critiquing Hales’ assessment of Ann Eliza is that Hales accuses her of spewing out “Anti-Mormon propaganda” and so she really can’t be trusted as a witness, because after Ann Eliza left the Church a believing Mormon (Zina Young) claimed she was not trustworthy.

To Hales, this is enough to give credence to Zina Young’s claims and cast doubt on Ann Eliza Webb. (Who is just another “Anti-Mormon) . Hales believes what Zina says about Ann Eliza (and polygamy), but not what Ann Eliza says about Zina because it does not fit his idealistic narrative.  (The believing Mormon who says what Hales wants to hear is to be believed, while the person labeled by Hales as an “Anti-Mormon” is not unless they agree with his own personal conclusions).  And there is Hales using that “anti” label again.

It also did not stop Hales from relying on Ann Eliza and her mother’s testimony to support his claims that Fanny Alger was “sealed” or “married” to Joseph Smith.  Also, he does not mention any of these problems (Zina’s claims that Ann Eliza is untrustworthy) in an article he wrote about Fanny Alger because he uses Webb to support  his position there.  This is a hypocritical double standard that Hales employs over and over again.[36]

Hales then tries to tell us that because Ann Eliza apostatized years after she came to know Zina Huntington Young, (Ann Eliza was also Brigham Young’s wife for almost five years) that it makes it less probable that Huntington would have confided in her.  According to Hales, since they only lived a few blocks away from each other, this makes it all the more unlikely! In fact, one of the points that Zina Young makes is that she wasn’t restricted by Young from making visits to whomever she wanted to. But as we shall see, she didn’t need to make any special visits to frequently see Zina.

Hales also claims that he knows it is rare for two women who were married to the same man and were sister wives, to speak to each other about personal matters involving sex. Hales tells us that, “To admit to a polyandrous relationship would be rarer, but to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary.” According to whom? What is Hales basing this speculation on? There is no way to know because it is not based on any evidence in existence outside of Brian Hales’ imagination.  There is evidence that Hales is aware that one of Smith’s “wives” had no qualms about explaining her polyandrous arrangement if she had the chance to do so in private:

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner

I hope you will not think me [Mary Lightner] intrusive, I am sure I do not wish to be- If I could have an oportunity of conversing with you, [John Henry Smith] and Brother Joseph [F. Smith] I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr L,[ightner] after becoming the Wife of another, which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious – and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury. I have done the best I could, and Joseph will sanction my action – I cannot explain things in this Letter – some day you will know all. That is, if I ever have an oportunity of conversing with either of you.[37]

What could Mary tell them that they already didn’t know about? Mary Lightner herself claimed that in February of 1842 “Brigham Young sealed us for time and all eternity.”[38]

What Mary wanted to speak to John Henry Smith and Joseph F. Smith about was something that people had commented on to her injury. This would not be having two husbands, for many of Smith’s wives were already married when they became his wife and they knew this. What would Joseph sanction? Staying with her husband? According to Mary Lightner this is exactly what Joseph told her to do, so this was no secret as she told Emmeline B. Wells years before this time:

“I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.”[39]

She had no problem writing this. But it would be very controversial if she wrote that Joseph told her to share herself with both of them. To say this was a “non-sexual, eternity only sealing,” ignores the evidence, but Hales doesn’t mind doing that because Mary Lightner was having sex with Adam Lightner during this period and gave birth to a son in 1842 and a daughter in 1843 while she was Joseph’s spiritual wife.[40]

What did Mary Lightner mean by “becoming the wife of another?” A simple “eternity only sealing” makes little sense here. People were sealed to one another frequently during this period of time. Men were sealed to men, and women to men, and children to their parents.  It is hard to believe that an “eternity only sealing” to Joseph would have been spoken of to her injury, especially when it was established doctrine and taught for many years that Gentile marriages were not considered authoritative.

Hales claims over and over again that polyandry was “a practice that would have been explosive from a morality perspective and otherwise unknown in their society.“[41] But then, so was polygamy, which the Nauvoo Relief Society denounced in 1842 as being “contrary to the old established morals & virtues & scriptural laws, regulating the habits, customs & conduct of society.”[42] Yet we have many women abandoning their 19th century morals to participate in polygamous marriages; and though some were reluctant to embrace the principle they all trusted that Joseph Smith was teaching them correct doctrine because they believed that he was their “lawgiver”.

So how would Hales know what women spoke of in confidence or in private or how rare that was? How is Zina Huntington “openly” referring to a polyandrous relationship when she is obviously confiding to a sister wife? Zina’s comments about Ann Eliza after she left Young must be taken with caution for obvious reasons. Where is Hales’ evidence that Zina Young considered Ann Eliza untrustworthy while they were both married to Young? That would help bolster his conjectures, but he doesn’t produce any.

This then, would have been a private admission.  Ann Eliza did not reveal the circumstances surrounding the admission by Zina Young to her, only that Young gave Ann Eliza “some of her experiences in polygamy” in which she recounted certain things to her. Describing this as an “open admission” is misleading  and a red herring.

These kinds of fallacious conclusions make up the bulk of Hales arguments in his articles and in his books as we have seen by the analysis of Hales’ work done by D. Michael Quinn.

It may be instructive to provide a little more of Ann Eliza’s comments about this matter from her book so one may understand their true context:

Joseph not only paid his addresses to the young and unmarried women, but he sought “spiritual alliance” with many married ladies who happened to strike his fancy. He taught them that all former marriages were null and void, and that they were at perfect liberty to make another choice of a husband. The marriage covenants were not binding, because they were ratified only by Gentile laws. These laws the Lord did not recognize; consequently all the women were free.

Again, he would appeal to their religious sentiments, and their strong desire to enter into the celestial kingdom. He used often to argue in this manner while endeavoring to convince some wavering or unwilling victim: “Now, my dear sister, it is true that your husband is a good man, a very good man, but you and he are by no means kindred spirits, and he will never be able to save you in the celestial kingdom ; it has been revealed by the Spirit that you ought to belong to me.”

This sophistry, strange as it may seem, had its weight, and scarcely ever failed of its desired results. Many a woman, with a kind, good husband, who loved her and trusted her, and a family of children, would suffer herself to be sealed to Joseph, at the same time living with the husband whom she was wronging so deeply, he believing fondly that her love was all his own.

One woman said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy : “The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.”

This woman, and others, whose experience has been very similar, are among the very best women in the church; they are as pure-minded and virtuous women as any in the world.  They were seduced under the guise of religion, and they submitted as to a cross laid upon them by the divine will. Believing implicitly in the Prophet, they never dreamed of questioning the truth of his revelations, and would have considered themselves on the verge of apostasy, which to a Mormon is a most dangerous and horrible state, from which there is no possible salvation, had they refused to submit to him and to receive his “divine” doctrines.

Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph’s declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practised; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church. Shocking as all this may appear, women that were sealed to Joseph at that time are more highly respected than any others. It is said, as the highest mead of praise which can be given, that they never repudiated any of the Prophet’s teachings, but submitted to all his requirements without a murmur, and eventually they will be exalted to a high position in the celestial kingdom.[43]

What Ann Eliza states here is true. Smith did not consider Gentile marriages (in private teachings) of any significance and certainly not binding upon any individuals at that time. (Before June, 1842).[44]

Smith also taught that in the pre-existence there were some promised to others, “kindred spirits” if you will, to make it more convincing to the woman that they were “meant” to be together.[45]

Hales claims time after time that all of this must have been innocent because the husband in many cases approved of the arrangement. Hales writes:

To answer the question why, [Smith married other men’s wives] is simply that the fourteen women, [Hales’ magic number] when they learned about eternal marriage, they chose Joseph Smith to be their eternal husband. It’s that simple. They chose him over the men that they were married to. Four of the women couldn’t be sealed to their legal husbands because those husbands were not active Latter-day Saints. But the remaining ten, whose husbands were active LDS, chose Joseph. So some observations. It’s kind of weird that a woman would be married to an active LDS but be sealed to Joseph Smith for an eternal marriage. And Joseph could be criticized that he was insensitive to those ten husbands, but none of them ever complained. We have no complaints from any of them. And there could be suspicions that Joseph coerced the women, but these are not supported by any kind of documentation. None of the women complained and we have good documentation that Joseph taught that the woman’s desires should be respected in every case. And there are at least five cases where women turned him down, and the only reason we know about it is that those women later talked about it. Joseph didn’t talk about it. He didn’t try to destroy their reputation. He didn’t castigate them. He just let it go, because that was their choice.[46]

If this is a correct principle, as Hales asserts, then how would this kind of behavior be treated in the Church today? Women could just “choose” another husband and start living with him? Why would this not be a precedent today among monogamous relationships? What the woman wants is what she gets, right? How many Bishops would counsel a woman who was dissatisfied with her “Gentile” marriage and wanted another (married) man that was Mormon, to simply pursue him and try to break up his marriage so that they could be together (because she claimed they were promised to each other in the pre-existence) and not worry about a divorce since the marriage was not really legal or binding? This is simply ludicrous and doesn’t make sense even for Joseph’s time, which is why those like William Law opposed Joseph when they learned of his shenanigans.

This also applies to Smith’s behavior. It is obvious that Smith chose these women and then convinced them to “marry” him, claiming he could “save” them and their families; that they were created for him by God, or whatever other explanation he could think of that would convince them. (Like angels with swords). He had neither the right, nor the authority to do so under the very rules he claimed God gave to him for the Church to abide by, but since he was designated as the “lawgiver” and “prophet” of the Church, everything he said (no matter how contradictory) was to be obeyed by these women and their husbands.

As Smith’s teaching spread that only Mormon men could “save” women in the afterlife, some women were obviously persuaded to go after Mormon men, especially those in high ranking positions who they felt had the most prestige and a better chance of “saving” them. This was also the case with men and the law of adoption, which we will discuss below.

Others like Catherine Lewis, Nancy Rigdon, Martha Brotherton, Sarah Pratt, and Jane Law were repulsed by the doctrine and rejected it. There was a good reason why Smith tried to marry women who were related to each other or were the sisters of wives of his close friends. He could persuade their relatives and friends (who in most cases were members) that helping him (Smith) was helping the family in the next life. They (the members being approached about polygamy) also for the most part had a “testimony” of Smith’s prophetic calling, and would put aside their initial doubts and fears after Smith assured them that they were pursing the right course.

Hales acts like this is something unique, that if no one complained, nothing “wrong” was done. Once again, we have all of history to show us that this is simply not the case; that many are and were fooled by men they put their complete trust in, especially in religious matters.

Zina Young

Hales then tries to muddy the waters by claiming,

Zina’s alleged openness concerning such a delicate topic also contrasts her 1898 interview statements. She then remarked that, “It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years.” She declared to the interviewer, “We hardly dared speak of it. The very walls had ears. We spoke of it only in whispers . . . you are speaking on the most sacred experiences of my life.”[47]

Again there was no alleged “openness” by Zina Young. These were comments made to Ann Eliza Webb that were private since she didn’t claim that the conversation was made in a public setting. We also have Zina herself admitting that she did talk about it. She says, “I never breathed it for years”. This is something that a person would only say after they had “breathed it”. If one does something and does not speak of it, they say “I never spoke of it”. If one did speak of it, eventually, one says, I did not speak of it … for years. If Zina Huntington never spoke of such things, then why did she say, “We spoke of it only in whispers”? This implies that yes, Zina did speak of such matters, but only “in whispers”, (in Nauvoo) and then again years later, perhaps to someone like one of her sister wives (In private, not openly).  Zina’s remarks here are contradictory and Hales’ interpretation of them is contrived to support an argument based on his own red herring.

Also, on his website Hales claims that:

“In light of the contradictory evidence and the inability of historians to examine the described document, the credibility of this story is not established and should be quoted with caution.”[48]

Isn’t it kind of hypocritical of Hales to quote this interview with Zina, when he claims that the RLDS Church (who published the interview) doctored the Temple Lot Case testimony and that they can’t be trusted; and goes after Jeremy for doing so? But without it, Hales’ claims about Zina Huntington fall apart as do his criticisms of Jeremy Runnells.

Concerning Zina Huntington Young, there is no reason to give credence to her “declared reticence” to keep totally silent about her marriage to Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo years because there is a declaration that she spoke of it “only in whispers” because “the walls had ears”. It cannot be both.

It was obviously to protect herself and Smith that she “spoke of it only in whispers” in Nauvoo.  And this could also have been Zina’s own paranoia. For example, this makes far more sense if Zina was approached by Smith early (like in 1840 or 1841), a scenario that Hales rejects, even though Zina’s own descendants affirm this.[49] Later, when Smith was marrying more women, he was more open about it as the testimony of Melissa Lott Willes affirms.[50]  Smith also had many more wives, who obviously helped Smith recruit new ones and supported each other. Helen Mar Kimball claimed later that she was close to Sarah Ann Whitney (another of Smith’s spiritual wives) during the Nauvoo period.[51]

To illustrate this, in all her Temple Lot Testimony, Melissa Lott never once mentions that it was “taboo” to talk about her “marriage” to Joseph which took place on September 20, 1843, and she admitted having sex with Joseph Smith! She also claims that some of her family attended her “wedding” ceremony. This is hardly someone who was worried that “the walls had ears”. For example, here is her testimony about her being “married” to Smith:

Malissa Lott Smith Bernhisel Willes

79 Q:–Now was this marriage public or private? A:–There was quite a number present.

81 Q:–Answer the question,–was it public of [sic] private? A:–It was not very private.
82 Q:–Who was present? A:–I can’t remember all who were there.
83 Q:–Well give us the names of the parties who were present as well as you can remember them? A:–My father and mother were there and several others and they are all in their graves today but myself.
84 Q:–Well who else was present besides yourself, your father and your mother? A:–Joseph Smith was there.
85:–Q:–Well I know that, but who else was there? A:–Well some of my brothers, — one of my brothers, and the witnesses that were necessary.[52]

Though Melissa Lott testified that Emma was notified, she was not present and so that was simply hearsay from Joseph Smith who we know did not inform Emma of any of his “marriages” until he was caught and had to; so there is no reason to believe that Smith informed Emma about this one either.[53]

This of course is long after Smith approached Zina Huntington.  Hales’ assertion that Huntington’s relationship to Smith was non-sexual is troubling when considering what Zina herself wrote later,

When I heard that God had revealed the law of celestial marriag that we would have the privilige of associating in family relationship in \the/ worlds to come I searched the scripture & buy humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for himself that God had required that order to be established in his church. I mad[e] a greater sacrifise than to give my life for I never anticipated again to be look uppon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved could I compremise conscience lay aside the sure testimony of the spirit of God for the Glory of this world. [54]

If these “marriages” were simply a ceremony for the next world, Huntington surely would not have felt that her honor was compromised, since the marriage would not be for “time”, but for the afterlife. Hyrum Smith would later openly preach about being “sealed” to his first (dead) wife while being married to another in April, 1844. Why would it be a greater sacrifice than her life to only be “sealed” to Smith in a marriage that would not affect her at all until the afterlife? Hales’ scenario makes no sense. Yet, according to Hales,

… Zina was undoubtedly aware that the RLDS interviewer was trying to establish that Joseph Smith did not experience conjugal relations with anyone but Emma, his legal wife. An admission by Zina that her marriage was for “eternity only” and without sexual relations played right into Wight’s hands by providing him with the exact evidence he was seeking.

Nonetheless, Zina knew that some of Joseph’s plural marriages were for “time and eternity” and included connubial relations. As a consequence, she may have been reticent to comply with Wight’s designs by providing evidence that might have used to perpetuate a deception.[55]

If she was so savvy about what was going on why does Zina demand to know of John W. Wight near the end of the interview, “what is your object in quizzing me like this?” Zina Young also seemed to not be able to make up her mind if she was married for “time” or “time and eternity”, which casts doubt on Hales’ assertion that some of the “marriages” were eternity only non-sexual sealings.

When Wight asks her at the end of the interview, “Mrs. Young, you have stated that you were married to Joseph Smith for time and eternity. Now, how could you marry Joseph Smith for time when at the same time you were married to Mr. Jacobs?” Zina does not correct Wight, instead she says “I do not wish to reply. I only know that this is the work of God upon the earth…”[56]

This makes little sense since it was known by many for years that Zina had been one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Wight even gives her the perfect opportunity to do so, but she declines! Why would she have so much trouble speaking about what was only (according to Hales) an eternity only non-sexual sealing that took place decades earlier and was well known by the public?  After all, she had been a polygamous wife to Brigham Young for decades. Common sense tells us that this was about more than just a “non-sexual sealing.” Another thing to think about is that Zina did not want to give Wight exactly what he wanted because it would have been a lie.

Instead, we see that Zina’s attitude towards anyone asking her questions about her polygamous “marriage” to Smith was hostile.  She herself claimed that “I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved…” It is obvious that Huntington just doesn’t care about Wight, or his case. In many cases, these women only thought they would have to answer that they were Joseph’s wives, which they were happy to do. They did not anticipate having to be cross examined and resented it. Zina didn’t really want to answer those kinds of questions and dodged most of them.  Hales’ speculations here are absurd.

It would have been much easier for Zina to talk with Ann Eliza Young about such matters, for she was also a spiritual wife.  Wight (an outsider) was asking her the very questions that she had claimed were such a trouble to her conscience. Again, if this was not about sex, why was Zina so troubled by her marriage to Joseph? If it was secret and only for “eternity” and non-sexual then how would her status as an honorable woman come into play, especially so many years after the fact? She had been a polygamous wife to Brigham Young for years as we have mentioned above. Why was the period she spent with Joseph Smith so hard for her to explain? The answer is because it was for time and eternity and involved sexual relations with two men simultaneously just as Ann Eliza was told by Zina herself.

Hales claims that there are problems with Zina’s own family reminiscences because they do not fit the narrative he is promoting, but these family recollections agree with what Ann Eliza Young claimed that Zina Huntington told her.[57]

Hales would rather rely on the evidence from the 1898 interview, given under hostile circumstances which clearly shows Zina Young unwilling to answer even the most innocuous of questions without interjecting “that is none of your concern,” or “that is no matter”.  Hales will even quote this to rebut Jeremy’s claims about Zina Huntington even though he warns on his website that it is a “suspect” interview. Contrast that with Melissa Lott Willes’ testimony during the Temple Lot Case,

227 Q:–Did you ever room with Joseph Smith as his wife? A. Yes sir.

228 Q:– At what place? A:– At Nauvoo
229 Q:– What place in Nauvoo? A:– The Nauvoo Mansion.
230 Q. At what place in the Mansion? A. Do you want to know the number of the room, or what?
231 Q. Well just what part of the house the room was in if you can give it? A. Well I can give it and the number of the room too. It was room number one.
232 [sic] Q. Room number one? A. Yes sir.
233 Q:–Who else roomed there? A:–I don’t know of any one.
234 Q:–Where was Emma Smith at that time? A:–I don’t know I didn’t ask where she was.
235 Q:–Did you know where she was at that time? A:–No sir I didn’t.
236 Q:–Did she know where you were at that time? A:–I did not ask her whether she did or not.
237 Q:–So you roomed with him in the Nauvoo Mansion in room number one? A:–Yes sir.
238 Q:–That was the house that Joseph Smith lived in was it not? A:–Yes sir.
239 Q:–And you don’t know whether Emma Smith was in the house or not? A:–No sir.
240 Q:– And you can’t say whether she knew where you were? A:–No sir. I couldn’t say where she was, and I don’t know that she knew about me, for I did not speak to her.
241 Q:–Well she was at home? A: Yes sir.
242 Q:–How do you know? A:–She was there when I see her last.
243 Q:–What time was that? A:–That I saw her?
244 Q:–Yes madam? A:–I can’t tell you the time, If I had thought I was to be asked all these questions I might have kept a note of all these things, but as I didn’t know anything about this examination I didn’t.
245 Q:–How often did you room there with Joseph Smith? A. Well that is something I can’t tell you.
246 Q:–Well was it more than once? A:–Yes sir, and more than twice.
247 Q:–Well that is something I would like to know? A:–Well there is something I would like to know. If I am to be asked these questions I would like to know if I am to answer them. I have told you all about this thing that I know, and I can’t see any reason in your worrying me with these questions, and I would like to know if I have to answer them?
248 Q:–Well if you decline to answer them say so, and that will do? A:–I don’t decline to answer any question that I know anything about.
249 Q:–Well answer that question then? A:–What is the question?
250 Q:–I asked how many times you had roomed there in the house with Joseph Smith? I do not expect you to answer positively the exact number of times, but I would like to have you tell us the number of times as nearly as you can remember it? A:–Well I can’t tell you. I think I have acted the part of a lady in answering your questions as well as I have, and I don’t think you are acting the part of a gentleman in asking me these questions.
251 Q:–Well I will ask you the question over again in this form, –was it more than twice? A:–Yes sir.
252 Q:–Well How many times? A:–I could not say.
253 Q:–Did you ever at any other place room with him? A:–In what way.
254 Q:– Of course I mean as his wife? A:–Yes sir.
255 Q:– At what places? A:–In my father’s house.[58]

Of course, Willes here is concerned with answering “like a lady”, but her testimony is not near as hostile as Zina Young’s was. Hales has the evidence, but won’t see anything but what he wants to see in it. A good example of this is with the testimony above. If one goes to Hales’ website and reads it, Hales does not list the question numbers (so you have no idea there is a break except for some small ellipsis) and so he leaves out much pertinent information about Emma Smith being in the Mansion and Melissa Lott never seeing her or interacting with her; and that she was frustrated in having to reveal intimate details about her relations with Smith, even though she knew ahead of time that this was why she was called.  She was much better about this though, than Zina Huntington ever was, who was extremely hostile about it and refused to answer any questions with any real clarity except to defend Joseph Smith as a “prophet”. Zina was married to two men, while Malissa Lott was only married to one. Zina’s final “I only know that this is the work of God upon the earth…” is really the only point she wanted to make.

From Wille’s testimony it can be deduced that Emma Smith didn’t know the full purpose of why she was there at the Mansion House, since (according to Willes) the two women never spoke or met there. She saw Emma when she left the Mansion House, but doesn’t remember when that was and after Joseph’s death she even stayed with Emma for awhile. This would not have been all right with Emma if she had known that Malissa had been secretly married to her husband.

This is hardly an open “marriage” that Emma knew all about.  What is interesting is that on another part of his website Hales does provide some of the missing testimony of Melissa Lott, but does not include the testimony about Emma Smith.

The testimony in bold above, is all the testimony that Hales leaves out (on his page about Melissa Lott Willes), which is very relevant in getting a complete picture of her testimony.  Hales claims to have “the latest research” but tries to manipulate that research to his own irrational ends. Also, this “latest research” is scattered over his entire website, with plenty of Hales’ conjectures sandwiched between it. It is not a collection of evidence by topic that one can easily find and read (like the one here at without having to wade through Hales obvious apologetic speculations.[59]

Hales is hardly the person to be judging the correctness of Jeremy Runnell’s conclusions, how he arrived at them, or declaring deception by him because as we can see, more than one historian has arrived at the same conclusions as Jeremy, something Hales does not address or acknowledge in his hit piece on Jeremy. In fact, Jeremy provides ample documentation to show that Hales’ conclusions differ from almost every historian that has published major works on polygamy. Here is one example by Jeremy of a graphic which was included in a presentation by Brian Hales at a FAIRMORMON Conference.[60]

Hales then tries to bring out his same tired argument that D&C 132 isn’t really about polygamy and that sexuality is not needed.  He then claims that “it appears that Runnells is unaware of Joseph Smith’s teachings dealing with plural marriage.” Well, we know that Helen Mar Kimball was “aware” and she completely disagrees with Hales’ forced presentist interpretation of Section 132.[61]

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was pressured into “marrying” Joseph Smith when she was only 14 years old explains on page 7 of a pamphlet she published in 1884 titled Why we practice Plural Marriage, that Smith established polygamy and “all who entered into it in righteousness (including herself) have done so for the purpose of “raising up righteous seed”.[62]

Whitney here admits that polygamy is about the mandate to “raise up righteous seed’.  In fact, the entire pamphlet is all about this, because Joseph Smith taught that there are many choice spirits waiting to take mortal bodies and this is how the bodies are provided for them. (By sex and plural marriage).

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney

Even in Smith’s Book of Mormon it claims that if polygamy is commanded by God it would be done for the purpose of raising up seed.[63]  You can’t raise up righteous seed by not having sex with the women who you marry for that purpose now, can you? Only in Brian Hales’ world is this logical or rational.

Even though Whitney claims that the only reason for polygamy is to raise up righteous seed and that all who “righteously” enter into it do so for that purpose, the conflict in her “marriage” to Joseph Smith was that initially she was lied to about this.[64]

It seems that it is Brian Hales (who references this pamphlet in his writings) who is unaware of Smith’s Nauvoo teachings dealing with polygamy even though he has the evidence right in front of him.

Michael Quinn has spent years in the Church Archives gathering and analyzing original documents that have to do with Joseph Smith’s polygamy and his conclusions are far different than those of Brian Hales. For example, Hales writes at Rational Faiths,

The second woman, Helen Mar Kimball, was offered to Joseph as a plural wife by her father Heber C. Kimball. I agree this seems strange and possibly unfair to Helen. Regardless, there is no evidence the Prophet initiated the process and Helen remained a strong believer in Joseph Smith throughout her life. Importantly, there is strong evidence the sealing was never consummated and no supportive evidence that it was. Joseph was also sealed to a 16 year old (Flora Ann Woodworth) in a plural marriage that probably was not consummated. The pattern in Utah was to allow sealings to younger women, but not to live with the woman until she was 18. I believe this policy began with the Prophet, but there is no way to prove it.[65]

Hales’ “strong evidence” is simply a series of conjectures that he postulates and has no way of knowing could be true.  There is though, “strong evidence” that Helen Mar Kimball had sex with Joseph Smith. Catherine Lewis, who was courted by Heber C. Kimball to become one of his polygamous wives and lived with the Kimballs in Nauvoo, wrote in 1848:

The Twelve took Joseph’s wives after his death. Kimball and Young took most of them; the daughter of Kimball was one of Joseph’s wives. I heard her say to her mother, “I will never be sealed to my Father, (meaning as a wife) as I would never have been sealed (married) to Joseph, had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it. I say again, I will never be sealed to my Father; no, I will sooner be damned and go to hell, if I must. Neither will I be sealed to Brigham Young.” The Apostles said they only took Joseph’s wives to raise up children, carry them through to the next world, there deliver them up to him, by so doing they should gain his approbation, &c.[66]

This is a remarkable statement that has been discounted by those like Brian Hales and Todd Compton as having problems because it was overheard and related by what Hales deems an “anti-Mormon source”, and that there was no doctrine in place about daughters being sealed to their fathers. Some have also claimed that this is hearsay, but actually it is not, since Catherine Lewis actually heard the conversation herself. Catherine Lewis did have direct knowledge that Helen Kimball told this to her mother because she was there and heard it. (See Note #77.)

Then there is the case of Flora Ann Woodworth. Hales writes that her marriage to Joseph Smith was “probably” not consummated. But that is simply wishful thinking and that is the best he can do. So how can Hales condemn Jeremy for his own conclusions, and call them “lyings” from Satan? As Jeremy writes,

Imagine you spent 50 years living with your devoted spouse, fully intending to be married together in heaven for all eternity, just like you have enjoyed on earth for the last 50 years and then the prophet says he wants your wife to be his 33rd wife. So, in the next life you don’t get your devoted wife of 50 years; instead you have to find another. Are we to believe that God actually commanded the prophet to do this? This is even crueler than having someone else have sex with your wife.

What moral justification can possibly be made for marrying other living men’s legally and lawfully married wives? Most of them were good LDS men. Orson Hyde was an Apostle on the Lord’s errand in Palestine to dedicate the land for the gospel when Joseph married his wife Marinda Hyde behind his back. Henry B. Jacobs was a faithful Latter-day Saint who served missions at great hardship. Other men were likewise on missions for the Church giving their time in service to the Church as faithful Latter-day Saints. What a wonderful reward for their service, loyalty, and dedication to the gospel.

How would a married, faithful, LDS man (even if he wasn’t sealed to his wife) feel today if he were to accept a mission call, only to return to find that Thomas S. Monson had secretly married and was sealed to his wife?[67]

Jeremy is right to declare that FAIRMORMON is completely wrong in declaring that polyandrous marriages had “little effect upon the lives of the women involved”. Sixteen year old Flora Woodworth was not happy having to “marry” Joseph Smith, especially when she had to deal with Emma’s unpredictable fury.  It seems that Joseph Smith had given Flora a watch and that Emma saw her with it. Emma then confronted Woodworth and angrily demanded it back. The very next day after this encounter, Woodworth up and married a non member of the Church, Carlos Gove. D. Michael Quinn picks up the story from there:

Hales also acknowledged that (during the week after her legal marriage to non-Mormon Carlos Gove in August 1843 at the nearby town of Warsaw), Joseph Smith’s previously married wife Flora Ann Woodworth met with the Prophet alone at William Clayton’s house in Nauvoo, while Clayton was intentionally absent. Hales argues in today’s presentation that Joseph Smith’s private secretary was too discreet to record these encounters if they were for sexual intercourse.

He also sees significance in the fact that Clayton’s journal did not refer to “bed” or “bedroom” for these solitary appointments of the two at Clayton’s house. However, Clayton’s journal referred to performing a polygamous marriage for the Prophet, referred to Emma Smith’s jealousy about Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives Eliza R.Snow, Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, and Flora Woodworth, referred to the Prophet’s suspicions about “familiarity” between his legal wife Emma and Clayton, referred to the polygamous marriages of Joseph B. Noble, Vinson Knight, Parley P. Pratt, and Brigham Young, referred to the Prophet’s performing Clayton’s own polygamous marriage, referred to Clayton sexually consummating it three days afterward (with no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”),referred to his own cohabitation-visits with this plural wife (with no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”), admitted that “I had slept with her” (no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”), referred to her pregnancy, referred to what Joseph said would be the meaningless punishment if they were exposed to public condemnation, and Clayton’s journal referred to the birth of his polygamous wife’s child, as well as to its death.

There is no basis whatever to claim that an alleged “discretion” on Clayton’s part prevented him from also referring obliquely to Joseph Smith’s sexual trysts that were scheduled for Clayton’s house. Flora later said that she “felt condemned for” her “rash” decision “in a reckless moment “to marry this young non-Mormon, a remorse the 16-year-old girl probably experienced the morning after. Two subsequent trysts with the 37-year-old Prophet in Clayton’s house on consecutive days showed how much she regretted marrying a younger man earlier in the week.

William Clayton, Nauvoo

It strains credulity for Hales to claim in today’s presentation that it required those visits–beginning two days after Joseph Smith had already met with her and her mother–for him to inform Flora repeatedly that he was ending their own relationship. By contrast with what Hales asserts about her alleged “DIVORCE,” Joseph actually ended his polygamous marriages with two sisters during the same year by abruptly informing them of the fact.

Although he had previously “roomed” with Emily and Eliza Partridge individually, with whom he had “carnal intercourse,” Joseph Smith didn’t take two consecutive days in Clayton’s otherwise empty house to tell a wife that their polygamous relationship was finished–especially, if he had already announced that fact to Flora and her mother. Emily’s candor (which was “forced out of her under adversarial questioning,” while she was under oath) was as far as middle-class women of Victorian America could go in referring to sexual intercourse.

More typical was the published statement of the Prophet’s polygamous wife Lucy Walker, who married Apostle Heber C. Kimball after she became a widow. I am also able to testify that Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, gave her consent to the marriage of at least four other girls to her husband, and that she was well aware that he associated with them as wives within the meaning of all that word implies.

Her opaque phrase referred to Emily D. Partridge, Eliza M. Partridge, Maria Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence. Like Lucy Walker, who stated that her own marriage to Joseph involved sex, those four had married him during the spring of 1843. Marrying him in September of that year, Malissa Lott said: “The Prophet … explained it to her, that it was not for voluptuous love”—yet when asked decades later if she had been his wife “in very deed,” Malissa affirmed that she was. Furthermore, even Hales admits: “It seems probable that emotional and physical attraction played a part in some of Joseph’s plural relationships.”[68]

Of course, Hales is the one who knows exactly which relationships were physical and which weren’t. For Hales, everything he contests must be totally spelled out or he simply will not believe it.  He writes,

In the aftermath of her daughter’s marriage to Carlos Gove, Flora’s mother once again entered the picture attempting to assist her strong-willed daughter. On August 26 Clayton wrote: “Joseph met Mrs. W[oo]d[wor]th and F[lora] and conversed some time.” Clayton’s journal also reports two additional visits between Joseph and Flora at Clayton’s home, occurring August 28 and 29.  These meetings were undoubtedly to deal with the future of Flora’s sealing to the Prophet, as well as to consider the theological consequences of her rash decision to marry Gove. Joseph was positioned to judge (D&C 132: 46) and apply needed disciplinary measures, a process that might have included additional meetings beyond August 29 that Clayton did not record.[69]

So Joseph Smith met with Flora Woodworth and her mother on August 26 and “conversed some time”, and then had to meet with her on two more consecutive days to iron out disciplinary details? First, this was one of Smith’s “wives”. She was a sixteen year old girl that Smith decided to “marry” and add to his already large collection of “wives”, who Helen Mar Kimball Whitney said agreed to “raise up righteous seed” when they were married to the “prophet”. This means that every marriage was expected to involve sex, (both in this world or the world to come) period. There are simply no exceptions to this rule. D&C 132 does not allow any exceptions:

…for they [spiritual wives] are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.[70]

Why would this be any different for Joseph’s spiritual wives? Hales has no reasonable answer to this, and no evidence that it would be different for any of his spiritual wives. Hales objects to Quinn’s interpretation that Flora had sex with the “prophet” in those two days because,

“it ignores the moral, emotional, theological, and traditional values that were embraced by most Nauvooans (and probably Flora Ann as well). Those values would have universally labeled such activities as promiscuous. That she would have repeatedly engaged in such low behavior seems less likely.”[71]

Yet, Flora had no problems secretly and illegally “marrying” a man much older than herself and doing so behind the back of his legal wife! This was absolutely considered by society as “low behavior”. So she was already engaging in it! She had no objections to meeting with the prophet alone.  She also had no problem leading on young Orange Wight, who she didn’t tell about her “marriage” to Smith, and who had to find out from Flora’s mother that she was “married” to Smith after getting caught together by the “prophet” who appears to have been stalking her. Smith supposedly spies Wight and Woodworth walking along the street “near his house” and picks them up in his carriage. He drives them all over town and this conveniently allows Smith to question Wight. Wight also says that he had to give Flora “a mild lecture” for leading him on like she did.[72]

This is the person that Hales states had such impeccable 19th Century morals? Self proclaimed “prophets” throughout history have proved that they can easily compromise the morals of almost anyone.[73]  As Dan Vogel writes,

There’s more to historiography than simply collecting document[s]. You should know the difference between a strong and weak argument and what is more or less likely. What does it mean “in accordance with his teachings” when JS frequently changed his teachings? It’s like saying the BOM doesn’t teach a modalistic concept of the Godhead, or the Lectures on Faith don’t teach a binitarian view because that would contradict what he clearly taught in Nauvoo. Or, the BOM can’t be anti-Masonic because he became a Mason in Nauvoo. These are all examples of the Idealist Fallacy, because humans do contradict themselves and violate their own teachings. However, JS may have had a way of rationalizing his polyandrous marriages. He did say that whatever God commands is right no matter what it is—even if it seems abominable to us.

Next, your expectation that some of the dozen women would have complained about JS’s proposals is an attempt at an argument from silence. I say attempt because some women did complain. I can think of two: Sarah Pratt and Jane Law.

You might issue your challenge to prove JS had sex with his polyandrous wives, but do you conclude JS only had sex with his polygamous wives for whom there is evidence? No. Why? Because you assume marriage includes sexual access. You only engage in this sort of special pleading with polyandrous wives because you personally find the notion abhorrent. Nonetheless, you didn’t respond to my counter challenge to produce evidence that JS treated his polyandrous wives different than the other polygamous wives. You are the one with a theory that needs evidence. You are attempting to take advantage of a silence in the historical record where one is expected. Here is a test of your theory: Look at the historical record of other early 19th century childless marriages and see how often you can demonstrate they had sex.[74]

Hales also writes that “The pattern in Utah was to allow sealings to younger women, but not to live with the woman until she was 18. I believe this policy began with the Prophet, but there is no way to prove it.”[75]

Actually that was not any kind of “pattern” but rather, as Todd Compton writes, “there are cases of Mormons in Utah marrying young girls and refraining from sexuality until they were older.”[76]

And how many would that be? Where is the documentation by Hales to prove this was a common practice? Nowhere to be found. This is hardly a “policy” and to even suggest that this “began with the prophet” Joseph Smith has no evidentiary basis, rather, the evidence shows that Smith did indeed have sex with his young wives.[77]

Though Compton says that the evidence for Helen Mar Kimball Whitney is “ambiguous”, we still have the statement by Whitney herself that the only reason women practiced polygamy was to raise up righteous seed.  We also have Catherine Lewis’ recollection made just a few years after Helen claimed that she was “deceived” about polygamy being only a “ceremony”, and that they deceived her (her Father and Joseph Smith).

If Helen Kimball was to be some kind of token wife until she was 18, what was the great “trial” she spoke of? Not going to a few dances? Really? Why did she tell her mother then,  that if she had known it would be more than ceremony she would have backed out? It was obvious that she was not attracted to older men. After Smith died she married a man much closer to her age, rejecting the offer of Smith’s Apostles to be one of their wives.

There is also the letter from her father who stated that he and her mother “seek your welfare for time as well as eternity.” Heber Kimball also states in that letter:

You have done that which will be for your everlasting good for this world and that which is to come.”[78]

Certainly Joseph had lots of other “wives” that he would have needed to spend time with.  Since men and women could be sealed at any time in the Church, what was the hurry for Smith to have these women sealed to him, unless it was to consummate a “marriage” to “raise up seed”? If the “marriages” did not have to involve sex, then why would an angel appear to him with a drawn sword (as he claimed)? To prod him into non-sexual “sealings”? Only in Hales’ irrational world.

Why would Smith have a problem with this idea? Why choose married women when there were lots of single women to choose from? Why arrange “front” husbands, if it were all just for the next life? If God is just, as Smith claimed, then they would have been his in eternity anyway.  This was about convenience for Smith and who could keep secrets, or he simply would have married anyone.

There would certainly be ways of judiciously explaining such a doctrine as Hyrum Smith did in 1844. If, as Brian Hales asserts, polygamy is only some sort of appendage to monogamous “sealing”, and “non-sexual eternity only sealings fulfill the primary purpose”, then why would Smith ever have to consummate any of the spiritual marriages? To fulfill the letter of the law? Since when does God accept only token compliance? This is simply an apologist excuse, and makes little sense, especially when Smith claimed that God promised to give him whatever he asked for.[79]

In fact, what happened to Heber C. Kimball himself casts doubt on the concept of non-sexual sealings, as his first choice to marry after being commanded by Smith was to choose older women that would not involve sexuality. As Helen Mar Kimball later wrote,

“When first hearing the principle taught, believing that he would be called upon to enter into it, he had thought of two elderly ladies named Pitkin, great friends of my mother’s who, he believed, would cause her little, if any, unhappiness. But the woman he was commanded to take was an English lady named Sarah Noon, nearer my mother’s age, who came over with the company of Saints in the same ship in which father and Brother Brigham returned from Europe. She had been married and was the mother of two little girls, but left her husband on account of his drunken and dissolute habits. Father was told to take her as his wife and provide for her and her children, and he did so. [80]

Smith rejected Kimball’s initial choice and told him to take a younger wife he could have sex with, claiming that such an arrangement was “of the devil”. We know this because Kimball had children with her, and Lorenzo Snow affirmed it. (See Note above). Heber C. Kimball’s marriage to Sarah Noon was not a “non-sexual sealing”. Why then, would Smith not be satisfied with Heber C. Kimball’s first choice if this was all about eternity? As for the concept of non-sexual sealings, there is strong evidence that they were very rare and only performed well after Smith’s death.  This, of course is disputed by Mormon apologists, like those of SHIELDS who write in a review of Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness”:

In discussing polyandry, LDS leaders have claimed that Joseph Smith was sealed to other men’s wives for eternity, rather than for time and eternity.  Compton disallows this as implausible, noting “there are no known instances of marriages for ‘eternity only’ in the 19th century.”  While specific instances may not be available, Joseph F. Smith, in his testimony before the senatorial committee investigating Reed Smoot, said that he was personally aware of such marriages occurring until about 20 years previous:

Mr. TAYLER. Living persons have been united for eternity, have they not?

Mr. SMITH. I think there have been some few cases of that kind.

Mr. VANCOTT. To what time, Mr. Tayler, do you limit your question?

Mr. TAYLER. I was going to ask him. How recently have you known that kind of a marriage?

Mr. SMITH. Not very recently.

Mr. TAYLER. Do you mean five years or twenty-five years?

Mr. SMITH. Oh, twenty years or more.

Joseph F. Smith’s testimony in this regard is important in another aspect, for he stated unequivocally, that sealings for eternity did not allow for earthly cohabitation.  After Smith saying that it was possible to be sealed for time, time and eternity, or only for eternity, the committee chairman asked about the possible rights of cohabitation between those sealed only for eternity:

The CHAIRMAN. According to the doctrines of your church, did that carry with it the right of earthly cohabitation?

Mr. SMITH. It was not so understood.

The CHAIRMAN. Then, what is your—

Mr. SMITH. It does not carry that right.

Since such a marriage did not carry rights of cohabitation in 1904, it is plausible that Joseph F. Smith was simply describing a policy that had been in place since the days of Nauvoo.  Evidence that this was also the policy in Nauvoo is found in the one historical document, largely ignored by Compton, specifying the parameters of plural marriage: the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  This document came as the revelation explaining and approving plural marriage, in an effort to justify Joseph Smith’s actions and convince doubters.  If his actions included polyandry, it seems very strange that the revelation does not address that concept.[81]

There are some real problems with this argument, one of which is that Allred does not quote enough of Joseph F. Smith’s testimony to give an accurate picture of what he really said. Here is the testimony of Smith that relates to “sealings” given at the Smoot Hearings,

Mr. TAYLER. And do you have as many different kinds of marriage now as formerly ?

Mr. SMITH. We have as many different kinds of marriage now as formerly.
Mr. TAYLER. Let me call your attention to what I mean, because it will save time: Sealing for time only, sealing for time and eternity, and sealing for eternity only.
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. Do you have those ?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. All three of them ?
Mr. SMITH. All three of them. …[82]
Mr. TAYLER. Do you perform celestial marriage ceremonies now?
Mr. SMITH. That is simply a marriage for time and eternity.
Mr. TAYLER. Time and eternity ?
Mr. SMITH. That is what it means, nothing more and nothing less.
Mr. TAYLER. That, according to the civil or municipal law, is an ordinary marriage, is it not?
Mr. SMITH. Those that are married in that way outside of the temples, it is simply a civil contract for time, but where they have obtained these licenses and go to the temples to be married they are sealed for time and eternity.
Mr. TAYLER. Are there sealings still going on for eternity alone, not for time?
Mr. SMITH. Not that I know of, unless the parties are dead.
Senator FORAKER. Do you marry people for eternity and not for time?
Mr. SMITH. When they are dead; yes, sir.
Senator FORAKER. You marry them after they are dead?
Mr. SMITH. After they are dead; and, Mr. Senator, we do not have to have a license from the court to do that.
Senator FORAKER. That is simply a church marriage?
Mr. SMITH. That is just simply a principle that we believe in, that men and women are immortal beings.
Senator FORAKER. Are both the parties to that marriage dead at the time it is solemnized?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir; they are often dead, and they are represented by their heirs, either their sons or daughters, or some of their kinsmen.
Mr. TAYLER. Living persons have been united for eternity, have they not?
Mr. SMITH. I think there have been some few cases of that kind.
Mr. VAN COTT. To what time, Mr. Tayler, do you limit your question?
Mr. TAYLER. I was going to ask him. How recently have you known that kind of a marriage?
Mr. SMITH. Not very recently.
Mr. TAYLER. Do you mean five years or twenty -five years?
Mr. SMITH. Oh, twenty years or more.
Mr. TAYLER. Is there any rule of the church prohibiting that kind of marriage?
Mr. SMITH. Not that I know of.
Mr. TAYLER. It has merely fallen into disuse; is that all?
Mr. SMITH. It has merely fallen into disuse; that is all. I do not know that it could be said to have fallen absolutely into disuse.
Mr. TAYLER. Or rather, that the principle which still adheres has not been invoked or exercised so often?
Mr. SMITH. No, sir; it has not been invoked.[83]

With further questioning we learn,

Mr. WORTHINGTON. You said you remembered two instances where persons had been sealed by the church for eternity; you said one or two instances?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir; one or two instances.
Mr. WORTHINGTON. How long ago were those?
Mr. SMITH. Twenty-five to thirty years ago.
Taylor then wants everyone to totally understand what Smith is saying and further questions him:
Mr. TAYLER. Just one question. I want to be sure that I understand you correctly. You say that Apostle Teasdale told you that to this wife, from whom he had to obtain a divorce, he had been sealed for eternity only?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. That he had not been married either for time or for time and eternity, but only for that third form eternity only?
Mr. SMITH. Well, now, Mr. Tayler, I could not tell you as to the form of the ceremony.
Mr. TAYLER. I understand that. I am not speaking about that. But it was merely for eternity ?
Mr. SMITH. That is the understanding they had. It was for eternity, and not for time.
Mr. TAYLER. Exactly; and therefore the relations between them as contemplated at the time of the ceremony were that they should never cohabit?
Mr. SMITH. Never cohabit.
Mr. WORTHINGTON. Therefore his relations with her were as chaste as if she were his sister or a stranger to him ?
Mr. SMITH. Perfectly so.[84]

With Smith’s full testimony before us, a completely different picture emerges about these “eternity only sealings.”

First, they were performed almost exclusively for the dead, meaning that a living person was sealed to a dead one, or a dead person to a dead person, since there would be no need to seal them for “time”.

Second, in all his time in the Church Joseph F. Smith had only heard about “one or two” eternity only sealings between two living people.

Third, it is those “one or two instances” that Smith was dating, giving one example of George Teasdale and one of his wives that had occurred a few decades before. They were sealed, but later divorced. According to Smith’s testimony, these kinds of sealings  were very rare, since he had only heard of “one or two” in his entire lifetime. (Remember, Smith had collected as many affidavits from Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives that he could in 1869, so he was familiar with those “marriages” and still claims to only know about only one or two eternity only sealings between living persons).  In fact they were so rare that Angus Cannon who also testified, had never performed or seen one.

Angus M. Cannon (who was the nephew of John Taylor) immigrated to Nauvoo in 1842 with his family and went west with the Church. His older brother was George Q. Cannon. He also served in the mission field with John Taylor and was the President of the Salt Lake City Stake and it was said of him that he “was without equal in the field of Church law.”[85]

At the Reed Smoot hearings Cannon testified about sealings:

Senator OVERMAN. What do you mean by a sealing-for-eternity ceremony?

Mr. CANNON. A marriage for eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. As different from a marriage upon this earth ?

Mr. CANNON. Sir?

Senator OVERMAN. Different from the ordinary marriage?

Mr. CANNON. Oh; there is a ceremony for marriage for time and also for eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. Are your wives sealed to you for time or for eternity?

Mr. CANNON. Time and eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. Time and eternity both all six of them?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir.

Senator OVERMAN. Are there such marriages as sealing for time and sealing for eternity, and some for time’ and some for eternity?

Mr. CANNON. I have witnessed many marriages for time. I never witnessed any for eternity and not for time.

Angus M. Cannon

Senator OVERMAN. Are there such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. I can not say whether there are or not. Of course there are marriages performed between living people and dead people, by having persons act vicariously for the dead.

Senator OVERMAN. There are such marriages, then, with dead people?

Mr. CANNON. That is necessarily for eternity. It cannot be for time.

Senator OVERMAN. I say, you do have such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir.

Senator OVERMAN. A living person marrying a dead person?

Mr. CANNON. By the dead person being represented by a living person.

Senator OVERMAN. By having a representative here on earth he marries a living person here ?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir; vicariously, the same as Paul spoke of baptism for the dead.

Senator OVERMAN. Have you seen such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir; acting for the dead.

Mr. TAYLER. That does not result in the marriage for time between the proxy and the person who is married to the other for eternity only, does it?

Mr. CANNON. No; it only relates to the dead.

Mr. TAYLER. Do you recall any instances in the history of the church where the proxy vicariously representing the dead person has insisted that for time the woman was his?

Mr. CANNON. No; I never heard of such a thing. We would cut them off the church if they did.

Mr. TAYLER. I would think so. That is all.[86]

Both of these men testified that they knew of sealings for eternity but they had to do with the dead. Cannon testifies that he never witnessed a marriage for eternity between two living persons and “could not say” if there were marriages only for “eternity” for two living people.

Joseph F. Smith, who only mentions knowing about “one or two” that occurred about twenty to thirty years before, which would be in the 1870-80’s. This testimony shows that “eternity-only” sealings were very rare between two living parties, and not the norm. They were so rare in fact that an expert on Church Law had never heard of one. To claim that Joseph Smith participated in over a dozen of these without any evidence is wishful thinking, given the testimony above.

SHIELDS though, has no qualms about taking this testimony from Joseph F. Smith and selectively quoting it to make it appear that these kinds of sealings were normal until about twenty years before the time when Joseph F. Smith testified.

As for Section 132, as Dan Vogel explains in response to Brian Hales about the similar apologetic interpretation of D&C 132 that Allred makes:

Brian: Your reading of D&C 22[:1] is anachronistic. You are attempting to apply an 1840s definition to an 1830 term. At the time it was given, only the Catholics considered marriage a religious ceremony. Protestants rejected marriage as a sacrament of the church. Mormons were no different. While they insisted that converts be rebaptized, they didn’t require them to be remarried.

“In Joseph Smith’s theology, a woman could never have two husbands.”

You are presumably basing this on the July 1843 revelation (D&C 132:61-62). Yet, you have admitted that JS married at least three women who had living husbands. So, to save your thesis, you propose the following ad hoc hypothesis: “A marriage sealing in the new and everlasting covenant would cause the civil marriage to be done away from a Church standpoint.” However, this interpretation is aided by your anachronistic borrowing from D&C 22, which you haven’t shown that JS applied to marriage in the 1840s. Yours is a private interpretation of scripture since the Church’s position has been that non-Mormon marriage, or Mormon marriage out side the temple for that matter, is valid and binding for this life only but is dissolved at death. This is apparently the view expressed in D&C 132:41-44, which mentions that it is considered adultery if either the husband or wife breaks the marriage “vow” even if their marriage was “not in the new and everlasting covenant”. Indeed, the Church has always treated non-temple marriage as legitimate.

Nevertheless, you have only shown that under a certain semantic construction JS didn’t commit adultery; there still remains the issue of sexual polyandry. In other words, you seem to be arguing two things simultaneously: JS didn’t have sex with married women, but if he did he didn’t consider it adultery. And you say I’m subtle. Polyandry is polyandry. The revelation’s use of the term “virgins” (132: 61-62) would tend to exclude your specialized definition, which would require you to go deeper into semantics and equivocation. I[t] turns out that when you say everyone but you has ignored JS’s theology, you mean they don’t understand it in the unique (and unlikely) way that you do.

Given JS previous marriages to married women, D&C 132 is apparently JS’s repentance from polyandry. Under the definition in verses 61-62, JS had committed adultery, but his salvation was assured as long as he didn’t commit murder or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (D&C 132:19, 26-27). “I seal upon you your exaltation” (v. 49). The revelation warns not to judge JS, “for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions” (v. 60). Makes you wonder what this revelation is really about, doesn’t it? Universal salvation was also part of JS’s secret theology (D&C 19).

[You say], “there is no credible historical evidence for the teaching and practice of sexual polyandry in Nauvoo or afterwards.”

I say, there is. What you mean to say is: there are no explicit teachings or discussions of polyandry. This should not be surprising, especially given the nature of our questions. We therefore must build circumstantial cases and decide which is the most reasonable, which deserves the most respect. Historians do that all the time. Even in the most perfectly documented world, an imaginative apologist can always find a way to escape evidence. Rarely is there a decisive piece of evidence that ends debate. The most that can be hoped for is that an interpretation becomes increasingly ad hoc as it tries to accommodate adverse evidence and eventually falls out of favor. I have a feeling that in responding to Quinn’s evidence, the ad hoc nature of your position will become more apparent.

[You say,]“Quinn has amassed a remarkable volume of alleged evidences, but none of them constitute a clear documentation of the behavior. Not even once.”

Quinn is doing what a historian does.

[You say,]“And, like you, he completely ignores the theology and the reactions of the alleged participants.”

What theology? The theology that shows JS contradicted his own teachings or the one that shows that he couldn’t contradict them? You want Quinn to commit the Idealist Fallacy? We have discussed this. You don’t know how the participants reacted.

[You say,]“What we can document is that there is an important difference theologically: sexual polygamy was acceptable and sexual polyandry was adultery.”

Not according to your definition discussed above. Again, you don’t know that BY and John Taylor knew about polyandry, if they saw it as hypocritical, or how they would have reacted. At what point do you start to question someone you believe is a prophet speaking for God and telling you to reject the norms of society? Being under the influence of a charismatic leader of a religious cult who is sexually abusing some of his followers is probably the clearest example of why the Idealist Fallacy exists. Humans aren’t always rational and do not always behave in predictable ways. None of these follows possessed the qualities of Emma, who was alone in standing up to JS. I hope you see that you are on very shaky ground when you rely on this kind of argument from silence.

I understand that Orson Pratt struggled with the conflicting stories of JS and his wife, nearly lost his mind, but finally decided in JS favor. That was a mistake. JS’s denials about Jane Law and Sarah Pratt are not credible. We know that he was willing to lie to cover up polygamy. On 26 May 1844, JS said: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one” (DHC 6:411). Given the fact that Orson was so distraught over the incident with his wife, it is really no surprise that he would ultimately side with JS. Regardless, OP’s opinion says nothing about the veracity of Sarah’s claim. Neither does the attempt of JS and some of his followers to malign Sarah in 1842 by claiming she had an illicit sexual affair with John C. Bennett. Not only should those statements be read with skepticism, but they are irrelevant. What possible motivation could Sarah have for falsely accusing JS and drawing certain persecution on herself? Where did she get the idea in 1842 that JS was entering polyandrous marriages?

Given the context, Jane Law is more believable than JS. In fact, JS’s version doesn’t make sense. JS has a reputation for proposing marriage to multiple women, including married women. What in Jane Law’s history tells you she would propose to JS? Where did she get such an idea? JS was denying polygamy in public and trying to keep the church from disintegrating, so why is it so incredible that he would lie about Jane and her husband? It’s a complicated story, but still a clear example of JS’s unsuccessfully trying to enter a sexual polyandrous marriage.[87]

This exchange between Hales and Vogel is very informative, because Hales continues to harp about what he claims is a major problem with Joseph Smith’s critics, that they don’t understand nor address his theology.  For example in a Blog Article about the new Essays (that Hales possibly contributed to) on November 9, 2014, he writes:

In lauding the Church’s effort to explain this difficult topic, some may assume that in defending the essay we are in fact defending polygamy. We are not. On earth, polygamy expands a man’s sexual and emotional opportunities as a husband as it simultaneously fragments a woman’s sexual and emotional opportunities as a wife. The practice is difficult to defend as anything but unfair and at times emotionally cruel.

However, within the context of Joseph Smith’s teachings, a few eternal polygamists are needed. This reality is routinely ignored by almost all critics who often declare or imply that libido drove the process. That is, they allege the implementation of plural marriage occurred because Joseph wanted to expand his sexual opportunities. Those authors seem confident that any of the Prophet’s associated teachings were simply a cover up, so there was no need to take them seriously and it seems none of the critics of the essay do either.

Yet, this may be the greatest weakness of most of the critics’ arguments—they are simply incomplete. Joseph Smith taught that couples who are sealed in eternal marriage, not plural marriage, “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths … and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:19–20). A plurality of wives allows all worthy women to be sealed to a husband on earth and become eligible for these blessings in heaven. Any woman who is not sealed will: “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (v. 17).

It is easy to denounce polygamy on earth, but for believers, the discussions should also include the importance of plurality in eternity. As described in section 132, it allows all of God’s children to receive His promised blessings by making eternal marriage available to everyone who seeks it. As the essay explains: “Joseph Smith’s revelation on marriage declared the “continuation of the seeds forever and ever” helped to fulfill God’s purposes for His children. This promise was given to all couples who were married by priesthood authority and were faithful to their covenants” (paragraph 12).

It appears that readers of the essay may only be able to appreciate its value if they are able to appreciate Joseph Smith’s teachings about eternal marriage. Without that understanding, they will see only an unjust earthly practice that is easily condemned. The fact that the eternal contributions of plurality have not been addressed by virtually any critic suggests that additional study on the topic might result in different critiques of this watershed essay.[88]

Hales is absolutely defending polygamy no matter how hard he tries to deny this—that is painfully obvious. Hales has deftly tried to refocus what Section 132 is really all about, which we discuss below (See also, Note #61).

And “only a few” eternal polygamists are needed? Where does he get this from? Nowhere does the polygamy revelation stipulate this. This is simply an invention of the Hales.

He also tries to claim (again and again it seems) that “Joseph Smith’s theological teachings regarding plural marriage are universally ignored.” Actually, they are not. Let’s put this to the test with a good example here. Hales claims above that “The practice [of polygamy] is difficult to defend as anything but unfair and at times emotionally cruel.”

If Hales (as he claims) understands Joseph’s theology, then how can he make such a statement and reconcile it with Mormon theology? Especially in the light of this letter by Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon:

Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.”

“God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” at another time He said “Thou shalt utterly destroy.” This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.”

“A parent may whip a child, and justly, too, because he stole an apple; whereas if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite; there would have been no stripes; all the pleasure of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost.”

“This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with His children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant; the proffered good returns to the giver; the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy; for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.”

Be wise today; ’tis madness to defer:

Next day the fatal precedent may plead.

Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time

Into eternity.

“Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. He will be inquired of by His children. He says: “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find;” but, if you will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds; but no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things—who will listen to my voice and to the voice of my servant whom I have sent; for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the law of my kingdom; for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy.”[89]

Claiming that polygamy is “unfair and emotionally cruel” by its very nature (which we all know it is) directly contradicts what Joseph Smith claimed:  that God would never institute a commandment or ordinance that by its nature is unjust (Hales word) or designed to promote unhappiness or unfairness.

At they write,

God is just, true, and righteous in all things (see Revelation 15:3; Psalm 89:14; Ether 3:12).

The problem with the Hales is that they are not Mormon Authorities. They are simply apologists who promote irrational arguments to defend Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.  What they claim directly contradicts what Joseph Smith taught:  that “happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it…” A foundational Mormon theological concept is that men and women are born on earth that they might experience joy. The Book of Mormon declares:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)

How can one pursue the path to happiness when forced to live a principle that according to Brian Hales is by design “unfair and emotionally cruel”? This makes little sense theologically or otherwise.  As Milton R. Hunter taught to a General Conference audience in 1954:

I believe with all my heart that God the eternal Father wants his children on this earth to have joy, an abundance of joy. I believe, also, that he expects members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, to live an abundant, joyful, happy life. Our lives should be lived in such a way as to bring to us a fulness of joy today, tomorrow, next week, ten years from now, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, and even, throughout the eternities. I want to remind each of us that God has placed within the reach of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ the possibilities of that joy, that perpetual and eternal joy, if we will just obey the laws that bring that joy into our lives.[90]

This is Mormon Doctrine, not the invented doctrine of Brian Hales. How does a practice that is emotionally cruel and unfair at its core bring joy into the lives of those that are commanded to practice it? In the end, was polygamy “joy”? Not for the vast majority of the women involved in it along with many of the men. It may have been joyful to those men who could discard their women at will, like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, (as he did with the Partridge sisters and others) but not for everyone else that was forced to live the principle or pay a hefty $10 divorce fee that Brigham Young charged. Most of them looked at it as an unpleasant duty to their religion.  There were many cases (for example) of men who married more than one woman and then refused to live with any but one (their favorite) and they were condemned for it.

Even marriage according to the Apostle Paul, should never get in the way of the gospel and so he admonished those who were single to stay so, even as he was, but that if you felt the need to be married, do so.[91] Even Paul claimed that,  “…those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”[92]

Yet Joseph gave polygamy as a commandment, not an option as Paul does with marriage.

Hales theological argument about polygamy makes little sense if one looks back historically at the practice.  What does the importance of polygamy in eternity have to do with why Joseph Smith and other church leaders would inflict so much emotional damage on those they commanded to practice it on earth?

What sense does it make for God to command it on earth, if according to Hales, the focus of it is for eternity? (Or only monogamous eternal sealings?) We know why, as both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught, it was to raise up righteous seed.

Hales quotes Brigham Young in an effort to show that polygamy was instituted as some kind of “trial”:

I foresaw, when Joseph first made known this doctrine, that it would be a trial, and a source of great care and anxiety to the brethren, and what of that? We are to gird up our loins and fulfill this, just as we would any other duty.[93]

Yet Young also said in the same speech:

This revelation, which God gave to Joseph, was for the express purpose of providing a channel for the organization of tabernacles, for those spirits to occupy who have been reserved to come forth in the kingdom of God…[94]

But for Brigham Young the answer to those who might be discontented was simple:

Sisters, do you wish to make yourselves happy? Then what is your duty? It is for you to bear children,…are you tormenting yourselves by thinking that your husbands do not love you? I would not care whether they loved a particle or not; but I would cry out, like one of old, in the joy of my heart, ‘I have got a man from the Lord!” ‘Hallelujah! I am a mother–…’[95]

For many women, this was not happiness, although some looked back on their hard lives living with polygamy and were thankful for their children, who ultimately did bring many some measure of joy. This takes the focus off of eternity where Hales wants to exclusively put it, and back on earth where it belongs. That is the true context of Section 132, time and eternity, and this applies to Patriarchal Marriage as well as monogamous ones.

Hales claims that the critics ignore his claim that “within the context of Joseph Smith’s teachings, a few eternal polygamists are needed.“

What, exactly is “a few”? Hales doesn’t explain. That the sealing power was all about what was bound on earth would be bound in heaven is self evident.  That this also applies to marriage was the “revelation” of Joseph Smith to the Mormons in Nauvoo. Hales claims that polygamy is also part of the “restoration of all things”, but then cannot adequately explain why it was discontinued as a practice, given all the statements by Joseph’s disciples who carried on with it after the Nauvoo period.

Hales writes:

Polygamy isn’t fair on earth. But according to Joseph Smith’s theology, every man and every woman must have a spouse in order to be exalted. The promise is that they “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths. . . and a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” (D&C 132:19-20.)

If we can believe this promise, then the need for eternal plural sealings becomes more easy to embrace.

My experience is that instead people just roll their eyes and rant about earthly polygamy. But in doing so, I think they may denigrate the polygamous women of the nineteenth century who practiced it for that reason, because it was commanded.

God commanded it according to the early prophets. Can we call it “damnable”? I guess it is a faith thing.[96]

Easy for whom to embrace? Those who for whatever reason are compelled to defend polygamy, for sure. Yet, the argument isn’t about polygamy in heaven, but on earth and why it was necessary and commanded to be practiced on earth. Hales offers no rational answers here; only that it is a “faith thing”.  One can say that everything is a trial for some. But the object and design of the plan of salvation according to Mormon theology is that we are here to experience joy. Why then, would polygamy really be necessary on earth if God can assign righteous women to men in the afterlife?

And both Jeremy and I are not denigrating the polygamous wives, we are criticizing the practice and those who instigated it: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. And there is no passage in the Bible where God commands polygamy, but he does command any future king of Israel not to practice it:

I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. (Deuteronomy 17:14-17)

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (I Kings 11:4 )

The promise of the celestial kingdom is for all who live righteously, even children who never get married. So what makes polygamy necessary on earth except for raising up “righteous seed”? This is never adequately answered by Hales, given the above. He also writes:

Perhaps another point is that those close to Joseph were just as skeptical as you and me. I’ve often said Fawn Brodie did a hatchet job on Joseph Smith. But she did a bigger hatchet job on those around Joseph because she portrayed them as being too dumb or gullible to figure out the alleged immoralities that Brodie depicted in her book a hundred years later. Brodie wasn’t that smart and Brigham, Eliza, Zina and John (Taylor) were not that gullible.

Recently Alex Beam said Joseph’s hypocrisy was “breathtaking.” How ridiculous. Beam can detect breathtaking hypocrisy 170 years later that none of the Nauvoo polygamists apparently detected because if they had seen ANY hypocrisy, they would have left Joseph.[97]

The only hatchet job being done here is by Hales against the critics of polygamy and Joseph Smith. Then he claims in a subsequent comment:

There is no doubt that plural marriage was taught as necessary for exaltation between 1840s and 1890. And it was required for exaltation for those Latter-day Saints during that span.

However, I have not found any statement that unequivocally declares that all men in the upper degree of the CK are polygamists, irrespective of the time and place they lived.

God issues specialized commandments. Abraham had to live the law of circumcision, the Children of Israel lived the law of Moses, LDS between 1840s and 1890, polygamy. God knows why but He never told us why.

Joseph F. Smith explained it the best: “However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle.”

JFS outlines that it can be commanded or not commanded. It is not a law because it didn’t exist in the Book of Mormon–this is certain based upon the text.

Fundamentalists like to quote a few excerpts and then believe their sealings are valid, but God saw this day (see D&C 132:18) and authority is paramount.[98]

In yet another comment Hales claims:

Polygamy is not always commanded and it hasn’t been according to the Bible and Book of Mormon. I think that conclusion is historical. But neither do I find a quote saying every man in the Celestial Kingdom will be a polygamist. Do you have one?[99]

Brigham Young

Actually, we do have one. Brigham Young said:p

It is not polygamy that men fight against when they persecute this people; but, still, if we continue to be faithful to our God, he will defend us in doing what is right. If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church. I did not ask Him for the revelation upon this subject. When that revelation was first read to me by Joseph Smith, I plainly saw the great trials and the abuse of it that would be made by many of the Elders, and the trouble and the persecution that it would bring upon this whole people. But the Lord revealed it, and it was my business to accept it.

Now, we as Christians desire to be saved in the kingdom of God. We desire to attain to the possession of all the blessings there are for the most faithful man or people that ever lived upon the face of the earth, even him who is said to be the father of the faithful, Abraham of old. We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us. It may be hard for many, and especially for the ladies, yet it is no harder for them than it is for the gentlemen. It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: “We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character, and office, etc.” The man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.

The Lord gave a revelation through Joseph Smith, His servant; and we have believed and practiced it. Now, then, it is said that this must be done away before we are permitted to receive our place as a State in the Union. It may be, or it may not be. One of the twin relics—slavery—they say, is abolished. I do not, however, wish to speak about this; but if slavery and oppression and ironhanded cruelty are not more felt by the blacks today than before, I am glad of it. My heart is pained for that unfortunate race of men. One twin relic having been strangled, the other, they say, must next be destroyed. It is they and God for it, and you will all find that out. It is not Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Daniel H. Wells and the Elders of Israel they are fighting against; but it is the Lord Almighty. What is the Lord going to do? He is going to do just as he pleases, and the world cannot help themselves.

I heard the revelation on polygamy, and I believed it with all my heart, and I know it is from God—I know that he revealed it from heaven; I know that it is true, and understand the bearings of it and why it is. “Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?” If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted. These things will be just as the Lord will. Let us live to take just what he sends to us, and when our enemies rise up against us, we will meet them as we can, and exercise faith and pray for wisdom and power more than they have, and contend continually for the right. Go along, my children, saith the Lord, do all you can, and remember that your blessings come through your faith. Be faithful and cut the corners of your enemies where you can—get the advantage of them by faith and good works, take care of yourselves, and they will destroy themselves. Be what you should be, live as you should, and all will be well.[100]

Mormon apologists claim that this quote is always taken out of context. Well here is the whole quote in context. Young claims that if polygamy is wrong, the Lord would reveal it and it would be put away and not be known in the Church. Well, did this happen? No. Has the principle of polygamy ever been considered or taught as “wrong”? No. Do men still have more than one wife at the same time in the church? Yes, if their wife dies and they marry again for eternity.  So it has not really been “put away”, has it?

Is this practice still known in the Church? Yes it is. Young never believed that polygamy would be revoked. What he predicted about Statehood came to pass and in Young’s prophetic mind, this condemned the Church. His prophetic warning that only those that practice polygamy become gods was ignored over keeping earthly possessions. What Smith died for, what Young left the United States for, and what John Taylor went into hiding for was thrown aside so that the Church could integrate with the Nation and disregard the doctrine of the gathering, something anathema to all of those former “prophets”.  It was the failure of those prophecies by Smith, Young and Taylor that led to Woodruff’s compromise. Their “enemies” did not “destroy themselves.”

We have the statement by Joseph F. Smith (given when there was no First Presidency, therefore authoritative as coming from the ruling body of the church) who claimed that none would be exalted to thrones without practicing polygamy, because those who did deserve it more:

If, then, this principle was of such great importance that the Prophet himself was threatened with destruction, and the best men in the Church with being excluded from the favor of the Almighty, if they did not enter into and establish the practice of it upon the earth, it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law, or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great a reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful.

Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations which do not exist in monogamy, and there are blessings attached to the faithful observance of that law, if viewed only upon natural principles, which must so far exceed those of monogamy as the conditions responsibilities and power of increase are greater. This is my view and testimony in relation to this matter. I believe it is a doctrine that should be taught and understood.[101]

Has the Lord ever revealed that it was wrong for a man to have more wife than one at the same time since the days of Joseph Smith? No. That is not what Wilford Woodruff did. He stopped the practice of having two living wives at the same time. He did not declare the principle wrong. He was afraid they would take away the property of the Church and that the leaders would go to jail.  In a speech he gave in 1891 he explained:

The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice), or after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?[102]

Woodruff chose the United States over God. Just a year earlier Woodruff already had a “revelation” concerning the course to take with polygamy. According to Abraham H. Cannon:

Thursday, Dec. 19th: . . .During our meeting a revelation was read which Pres. Woodruff received Sunday evening, Nov. 24th. Propositions had been made for the Church to make some concessions to the Courts in regard to its principles. Both of Pres. Woodruff’s counselors refused to advise him as to the course he should pursue, and he therefore laid the matter before the Lord. The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. He had done and would continue to care for His work and those of the Saints who were faithful, and we need have no fear of our enemies when we were in the line of our duty. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. We were admonished to read and study the Word of God, and to pray often. The whole revelation was filled with words of the greatest encouragement and comfort, and my heart was filled with joy and peace during the entire reading. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue.[103]

Woodruff had done the opposite, he had trusted “in the arm of flesh” and ignored the previous revelation he claimed to have received from God. Woodruff’s previous “revelation” reads:

Revelation given to Wilford Woodruff, Sunday Nov 24, 1889. Thus Saith the Lord, to my Servant Wilford, I the Lord have heard thy prayers and thy request, and will answer thee by the voice of my spirit. Thus Saith the Lord, unto my Servants the Presidency of my church, who hold the Keys of the Kingdom of God on this earth. I the Lord hold the destiny of the courts in your midst, and the destiny of this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands, and all that I have [p.68] revealed, and promised and decreed concerning the generation in which you live, shall come to pass, and no power shall stay my hand.

Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my church, deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men. Let them pray for the Holy Spirit, which shall be given them to guide them in their acts. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise. Your enemies seek your distruction and the distruction of my people. If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my Servants, the wicked shall not prevail.

Let my servants, who officiate as your counselors before the courts, make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy spirit, without any further pledges from the Priesthood. I the Lord will hold the courts, with the officers of government, and the nation responsible for their acts towards the inhabitants of Zion.

I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father. Fear not little flock, it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Fear not the wicked and ungodly. Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me, also those revelations which I have given to my servant Joseph, and to all my servants since the world began, which are recorded in the records of divine truths. Those revelations contain the judgments of God which are to be poured out upon all nations under the heavens which include great Babylon.

These judgments are at the door. They will be fulfilled as God lives. Leave judgment with me, it is mine saith the Lord. Watch the signs of the times, and they will show the fulfillment of the words of the Lord.

Let my servants call upon the Lord in mighty prayer, retain the Holy Ghost as your constant companion, and act as you are moved upon by that spirit, and all will be well with you. The wicked are fast ripening in iniquity, and they will be cut off by the judgments of God. Great events await you and this generation, and are nigh at your doors. Awake, O, Israel, and have faith in God, and His promises, and he will not forsake you. I the Lord will deliver my Saints from the dominion of the wicked, in mine own due time and way. I cannot deny my word, neither in blessing nor judgments. Therefore let mine Anointed gird up their loins, watch and be sober, and keep my commandments. Pray always and faint not, exercise faith in the Lord and in the promises of God; be valient in the testimony of Jesus Christ. The eyes of the Lord and the Heavenly Hosts are watching over you and your acts. Therefore be faithful until I come. I come quickly to reward every man according to the deeds done in the body. Even so, amen.[104]

Nauvoo House c. 1875

A year later when Woodruff realized that trusting in God to fix their problems with polygamy would not work, he wrote up the Manifesto.  Brigham Young gave a prophetic statement which included a scenario he believed would never happen, and it didn’t; but what did happen was that Wilford Woodruff submitted to the U. S. Government and disobeyed a previous “revelation” from God to do so, and did just what Brigham Young prophetically counseled not to do.

There are many statements by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young about the parable of the Talents applied to polygamy, that those who only have one Talent will have that taken away and given to someone that has more. Hales simply ignores this strong evidence.

In fact, according to the statement by Brigham Young (quoted above), Wilford Woodruff abolished the practice of polygamy on earth for just the reasons he counseled against: pressure from the U. S. Government. Young declared that the breaking up of the community was an invalid reason for not practicing polygamy, the very reason that Woodruff gave for forbidding the practice of it.

Brigham Young stated that if the Lord would stop polygamy, he would declare it wrong, or an “abomination” as in the Book of Mormon. There has been no “revelation” at all that polygamy is “wrong”. In fact, Mormons still practice polygamy when they marry someone for eternity after their first wife dies. Is that considered wrong? They say no. They still have two wives at the same time, do they not? Death does not break the marriage covenant in Mormonism.  If you are a polygamist in your faith, then you would practice it. This is what Young meant by that comment. It is the same as baptism. If you only believe in baptism and don’t submit to it and practice it, it does you no good.

Does it make sense to say that if you desire with all your hearts to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God, (the blessing associated with baptism) you will be baptized at least in your faith, and have this mean that baptism is somehow not essential? Young expressly states,

You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: “We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,”—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.

Young is explicitly stating that one cannot avoid entering into polygamy, because there was no good reason to do so. Notice how Young couples the concepts together: “without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order.’

How can one submit and obey [practice] if they do not believe it? Refusing to obey and submit to it and therefore practice it, is the same as disbelieving in it. Young never taught that it was all right to not obey and submit to commandments. If one did, (fail to enter into the practice) it was for “obtaining some earthly honor, character and office.” What sense to say all this if one could simply say, ‘I believe in the principle in my faith, so I don’t have to practice it’ and ‘I’ll get the same blessing that those who do obey and enter get’. Again, it would be like Young claiming that one could obtain the blessings of baptism by only believing in it.  Like baptism, Patriarchal Marriage was called The New and Everlasting Covenant:

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; [baptism] and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. (D&C 22:1)

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; [Celestial Marriage including Plurality of Wives] and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D&C 132: 4)

In 1868 Young stated that:

You take a woman in this Church who does not believe in the doctrine of celestial marriage or plurality of wives, and she does not believe anything at all about the Gospel, and she will soon manifest this by her unwise course, and by and by she drops off and away she goes. But our sisters believe and know that this doctrine is true, and consequently they feel bound to abide it.[105]

They believe it in their hearts, so they feel bound to abide by, or comply with it. (Practice it).

This is the stated purpose of the new and everlasting covenant (to obtain every blessing that God offers) and why Smith claimed there was to be a “restoration of all things” that would continue until the coming of Christ. Young then claims that,

The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.

By following Woodruff’s Manifesto, Mormons rejected the “blessings” of polygamy, yet, God still “offers” the blessing of polygamy in Section 132. Has he said he does not? This part of the quote makes no sense at all if Brigham Young was claiming that polygamy could be tossed aside because the United States Government said so. This is the very problem that Fundamentalist Mormons have with the Manifesto.  That is why Young taught:

How many of the Children of this people are Entitled to the Holy Priesthood & the Blessings of Abraham? All who are born after their parents have received their Endowments & are sealed & all others will have to be adopted to their parents. All who want the Blessings of Abram Isaac & Jacob go & get your Endowments before you get married. Then all your Children will be heirs to the priesthood. There is no Son has a right to the Priesthood & heirship unless their parents had their Endowments before they were born. Such must be adopted to their Parents or they have no right to heirship. Let no youth get married until they get their Endowments & get sealed at the Altar. If young men knew what was for their good they would go hundreds of miles to get married right before they would do as many have. Our boys who are guided by a right hand will be mighty men /of God/ in the Earth. The Lord instituted Polygamy to raise up a royal Priesthood a kingdom of Priest. It is an institution of heaven. All the blessings that are sealed upon us will do us no good unless we live for them.[106]

“Why do we believe in and practise polygamy?” asked Brigham Young,

…because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. And is that religion popular in heaven? It is the only popular religion there, for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.[107]

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith by Maudsley – restored by grindael

Hales claiming that the “critics” don’t understand or address Joseph’s “theology” is simply another red herring.


[25] “Evidence for the Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”, D. Michael Quinn, (expanded-finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013), pages cited in text. (Hereafter cited as Quinn, “Sexual Side”).  Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn by stating:

I appreciate the references to Mike Quinn’s work. Most historians at some time have benefited from his research and footnotes. However, I would feel much better about your criticism if you instead were not quoting Quinn, but quoting some Nauvoo polygamist or other historical figure who was there. Quoting secondary sources may create the illusion that some scholarly opinion is documented history. (This applies to me as well as Mike.) (Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited, Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others disagreed with Hales’ conclusions. He did not “quote” anyone. Quinn’s (and Richard Bushman’s) conclusions are based on the evidence that they quote in their various books and articles. This seems lost on Hales who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a quotation and a general statement. Hales also does not keep his own advice about “secondary sources” as we shall see.

[26] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.

[27] ibid.

[28] For example, George D. Smith in Nauvoo Polygamy claimed that Smith had 38 wives and did not consider Fanny Alger one of them, but that Joseph Smith committed adultery with her.

George D. Smith presents some very good arguments to document how Joseph Smith’s polygamy evolved from his troubled youth.  To show how Brian Hales manipulates evidence to support his private narrative, we reproduce a portion of his review of George D. Smith’s book (Nauvoo Polygamy):

George D. Smith comments several times that Joseph Smith had polygamy on his mind in the 1820’s, even as a teenager (xiv, 12, 21, 29) but supporting documentation is equivocal. He also provides some psychoanalysis based on limited clinical data, stating that Joseph eventually came “to effectively de-emphasize the feelings of sin and guilt he had once experienced” (21). George D. Smith lays out the following hypothetical reconstruction:

Did young Joseph experience the usual challenges and questions accompanying adolescence? Is there anything to suggest a coming-of-age struggle? A few passages from his autobiography indicate that two years after the family moved to New York State, he confronted some uncertain feelings he later termed “sinful.” At a time when boys begin to experience puberty, “from the age of 12 years to 15,” or 1817-21, he “became convicted [convinced] of my sins.” Seeing his awakened emotions as “sinful” seems to have reflected parental admonitions prior to the age of fifteen or sixteen (1820-22), when he also sought divine assistance for his worries. “I cried unto the Lord for mercy . . . in the 16th year of my age,” he wrote. In response to his prayer, a personage he would later identify as Jesus confronted him and said: “Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.”

Even so, he reported that he again “fell into transgression and sinned in many things . . . there were many things that transpired that cannot be written.” These cryptic words echo in his subsequent statements to friend and counselor Oliver Cowdery, leaving us to suspect that he was referring to the curious thoughts of an intense teenager. . . .

Two years after his initial autobiographical sketch, Smith addressed similar vaguely defined infractions of youth, including “vices and follies,” he wrote. The contemporary definition of “vice” was “every act of intemperance, all falsehood, duplicity, deception, lewdness and the like,” as well as “the excessive indulgence of passions and appetites which in themselves are innocent,” according to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary. “Folly” was defined as “an absurd act which is highly sinful; and conduct contrary to the laws of God or man; sin; scandalous crimes; that which violates moral precepts and dishonors the offender.” In other words, “vices and follies” implied sins great and small, which conceivably involved sex but were not limited to it. (17-18; brackets George Smith’s)

George Smith reasons that Joseph Smith confessed to “sins great and small, which conceivably involved sex but were not limited to it.”However, the entire quotation, published in December 1834 in the Messenger and Advocate is susceptible of a different reading:

During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark, that, though, as I have said above, “as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies,” I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any manor society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.

The full quotation therefore lends itself to a self-accusation of silliness and light-mindedness, not sexual sin. (Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 42:4, 220-221, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

Unfortunately neither George D. Smith nor Hales employs all of the quotation from the Messenger and Advocate (though Hales erroneously claims that he does). George D. Smith really didn’t need to, but it devastates Hales’ argument that Smith’s self accusation was only about “silliness and light-mindedness”. Here is the rest of the Joseph Smith confession from the 1834 Messenger and Advocate that Hales didn’t quote:

This being all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral  character, I wish to add, that it is not with out a deep feeling of regret that I am thus  called upon in answer to my own conscience,  to fulfill a duty I owe to myself, as well as  to the cause of truth, in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk,  and unchaste conversation: and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those  holy precepts which I knew came from God.  But as the “Articles and Covenants” of this church are plain upon this particular point,  I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that I do not, nor never  have, pretended to be any other than a man  “subject to passion,” and liable, without the  assisting grace of the Savior, to deviate from  that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk! (Joseph Smith, Letter, Kirtland, Ohio, to Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, Ohio, December, 1834; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 40.  Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014, added emphasis).

Not only does Joseph Smith tell of vices and follies, but he claims that he was guilty of “unchaste conversation” and that he “often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God.” He then claims that he is a man who is “subject to passion” and liable to deviate from “holy precepts” he knew came from God.  This is more than the “curious thoughts of an intense teenager”. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “unchaste” as:  a. Not chaste; not continent; not pure; libidinous; lewd

So Smith here admits to lewd conversation, and that is defined by Webster’s 1828 dictionary as:

LEWD, a. [Heb.]

1.Given to the unlawful indulgence of lust; addicted to fornication or

adultery; dissolute; lustful; libidinous. Ezek 23.

2. Proceeding from unlawful lust; as lewd actions.

3.Wicked; vile; profligate; licentious. Acts 27.

Libidinous isn’t much better,

LIBID’INOUS, a. [L. libidinosus, from libido, lubido, lust, from libeo, libet, lubet, to please, it pleaseth; Eng. love, which see. The root is lib or lub.] Lustful; lewd; having an eager appetite for venereal pleasure.

One must also take into account that the word “conversation” had a different meaning in Smith’s day. In Joseph Smith’s day it meant “course of manners”, or “behavior”, and it was used especially in relation to morals:

CONVERSATION, n. [Webster’s 1828]

1.General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals.

Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel. Phil 1. Be ye holy in all manner of conversation. 1 Pet 1

2.A keeping company; familiar intercourse; intimate fellowship or association; commerce in social life. Knowledge of men and manners is best acquired by conversation with the best company.

3.Intimate and familiar acquaintance; as a conversation with books, or other object.

4.Familiar discourse; general intercourse of sentiments; chat; unrestrained talk; opposed to a formal conference. What I mentioned in conversation was not a new thought. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, added emphasis).

Today we use the word conversation almost solely when we mean “familiar discourse”. In Smith’s day, this was not the case. When Smith says “unchaste conversation”, he really means lewd behavior. Even though Joseph Smith tries to extricate himself from the charges that were being bandied about throughout his career as both a moneydigger and a self proclaimed “prophet”, he still inadvertently shows us his real character by his choice of words to describe himself in this revealing confession from 1834.

This indeed helps us to understand why Joseph Smith would claim that “adultery was no crime”, and that the charge conveyed by Levi Lewis that he tried to seduce Eliza Winters is credible. In 1835 Smith was also accused of promulgating whoredom:

[At] Rufus Harwood’s near Angelica. Conversed with Anderson a Methodist Priest. He lied and scandalized Brother Joseph the Prophet and said he sanctioned and upheld whoredom and he bore testimony against him. (John Murdock Journal, May 1835, 2:66, Ms 1194, LDS Church History Library, added emphasis).

Whoredom in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary is defined as,

  1. Lewdness; fornication; practice of unlawful commerce with the other sex. It is applied to either sex, and to any kind of illicit commerce.

Smith himself claimed that “I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, 403, 405, 410-11).

Polygamy would not have been reported in a favorable light at any time in Joseph’s career. It would have been associated with “whoredom”, just as it was in 1840’s Nauvoo. So would saying “adultery was no crime”.

There is a definite pattern here with Smith, he violates “holy precepts”, then repents. This was repeated in 1843 with the polygamy “revelation” (Section 132) where he also claimed to have been forgiven for any adulteries he might have committed.  (Hat tip to Dan Vogel).

Michael Quinn speaks about, “what was known at the time as the “Holy Order of the Holy Priesthood” or the “Quorum of the Anointed” from 1843 to 1844.”(Joseph Smith’s III’s 1844 Blessing and the Mormons of Utah, Dialogue, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 1982, 74, Online here, Accessed January 16, 2016). Quinn adds that,

Joseph had introduced a series of rites and instructions known as the “endowment” in May 1842 to a group of trusted men of the church, and in September 1843 he began admitting women to the anointing and endowment ceremonies which he taught were revealed from God. As a part of these ceremonies, Emma Smith was sealed for time and eternity to Joseph Smith and was anointed to him on 28 September 1843 as an eternal wife, queen, and priestess. (ibid.).

It was before this (in July 1843) that Joseph produced his “revelation” on polygamy and proclaimed in that “revelation”:

And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery. And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery. And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:41-44, added emphasis)

Joseph is claiming here that when a man is married to a wife in the “new and everlasting covenant” and if she has sexual relations with another man and God has not “appointed her by the Holy Anointing”, she has committed adultery. That is an interesting clause in verse 41—which states that if she is “appointed by the Holy Anointing” she would not be committing adultery.

It also states that if the woman is not in the new and everlasting covenant, she is committing adultery.  This also gives Joseph the power to give women whose husbands have committed adultery to other men who were “faithful”.  This was illustrated by Joseph with his parable of the talent. Smith’s “revelation” then states that,

Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac. Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God. (ibid, vs. 50-52, added emphasis).

Joseph receives a “revelation” about himself that vindicates him. What was Smith escaping from? Why would he need to escape from anything? It appears from the above that Smith was “forgiven” of any sins concerning adultery that he had previously committed.

Still, Joseph was committing adultery by his own First Presidency Address that he made in 1842 with Hyrum Smith, which declared that anyone who married a woman who had a husband and they were not legally divorced, was committing adultery. Joseph did this many times with married women who had not had legal divorces from their husbands. In fact, Joseph sometimes set up his wives with “Front Husbands”, so he facilitated the adultery.

Also, it states that Emma Smith was to “partake not” of something which God had previously commanded Joseph to “offer” Emma, but now this “revelation” states that it was only to “prove you all,” and that he “might require an offering” from Emma “by covenant and sacrifice.” This we believe is the arrangement that was made (as Joseph’s suggestion) for Emma to “offer” him the Partridge sisters, which according to Joseph he never went through with, though Emily Partridge claimed in an 1869 affidavit that they did. (See Note #56)

This is clearly a retraction of Joseph’s previous commandment from God to Emma that she could “indulge herself” with another man (as Joseph was doing with other women) which William Clayton wrote of on July 23, 1843 (See Note #46). Joseph then writes in this “revelation” that,

…I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not my law. (ibid., v. 54, added emphasis).

Clearly Joseph is commanding Emma that she is not to “indulge herself” with anyone but Joseph. Then Joseph tells her that God has further commanded that,

…mine handmaid [Emma] forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice. …Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him. Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:56-60, added emphasis).

Who gave the Saints “my law and my word”? Joseph Smith. What transgressions did Joseph commit that have to do with “this law”? We believe it was his so called polyandrous relationships, as spoken of in verses 41-44 above.

Joseph who was “with another woman, and he was under a vow, [to Emma] he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.” But Joseph wrote into the “revelation” a loophole for his polyandry, which is the clause of those “marriages” being “appointed by the holy anointing”. Joseph also has God promising him that if he does anything in the name of God, he cannot sin, for God will justify him. This “revelation” says what it says. Hales can claim all the day long that Joseph could not commit adultery because there were revelations forbidding it, but here it states that Joseph could do anything and not sin.

Even though Joseph wrote this “revelation” for Emma and it appears to be about Joseph’s repentance for his polyandry, Joseph told William Clayton in August of 1843 that, “he should not relinquish” any of his wives, even though he promised Emma that “he would relinquish all for her sake.” Would that include the wives who still had legal husbands? Apparently so.

It is no wonder that Emma, (when she read it) told Joseph that she did not believe a word of it and sent his brother Hyrum packing when he tried to convince her it was from God.

[29] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.  Even the new Essay at (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”) claims that “The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown…” (op. cited, above, added emphasis). So what does this say about Hales’ evaluation of the evidence that he can state unequivocally to Jeremy Runnells that Joseph had a specific number of wives? What is ironic is that the footnote to this (in the Essay) reads:

Careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40. See Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2:272–73.”

So Hales contradicts Hales. We are not at all surprised at this. So how is Hales justified in claiming 35 wives to Jeremy Runnells? We can only tell you that such is the irrational world of Brian Hales. Hales also stating that none of the women complained is simply ignoring the evidence at hand. Helen Mar Kimball did complain. Afterwards she accepted polygamy and changed her views about it. This is a favorite mantra of Hales. No one complained, therefore Smith did nothing wrong. (See Note #30 below).  Some of the husbands also complained. D. Michael Quinn writes that Brian Hales (who he claims is an “honest” historian):

…has somewhat reluctantly discovered that another already-married woman (Esther Dutcher Smith) bore a son she named “Joseph” on 21 September 1844, sometime after she was “sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo,” before he died. This pre-death relationship was affirmed in a letter by Daniel H. Wells, an ever-faithful counselor to his successor, Brigham Young. Joseph’s martyrdom on 27 June 1844 occurred when she was six-months pregnant.

In a previous publication, Hales quoted this remarkable letter as saying that Esther” nearly broke his heart by telling him [her legal husband] of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship” with Joseph Smith.

First, this showed that she was sealed at Nauvoo without the knowledge of her legal husband, a faithful Mormon there.

Second, even though Esther’s husband eventually “got to feeling better over it”–seven years after Joseph’s death–and “had her sealed to him, and to himself for time,” this evidence (which Hales quoted) contradicts his claim that there were “No Complaints from Legal Husbands” (his emphasis) of the Prophet’s already-married wives.

Third, even though Hales quoted this source in a published essay that attempted to exonerate the Prophet of “sexual polyandry,” Esther’s” intention of adhering to that relationship” sounds like a reference to a sexual relationship that” nearly broke” her legal husband’s heart, not “adhering” to a “sealing for eternity,” which the letter itself did not allege. At the least, that is one way to interpret the document’s phrase, a possibility for “sexual polyandry” that Hales doesn’t admit.

Agnes Coolbrith Smith

Likewise, concerning John Hyde’s anti-Mormon 1857 book that “paired Joseph Smith with Hannah Ann Dubois Smith Dibble in a story based upon hearsay evidence,” Hales wrote in the same 2010 publication: “I have found no evidence to corroborate Hyde’s assertion” this wife of Philo Dibble. Nonetheless, during the Church trial of Benjamin Winchester in May 1843, a typescript of which was provided to Hales years ago by his research-assistant, Joseph Smith said that Winchester had “told one of the most damnable lies about me. [that I] visited Sister Smith–Sister Dibble … that I was guilty of improper conduct.” To protect himself and the Church, the Prophet dismissed the “lies” about him and his widowed sister-in-law Agnes Coolbrith Smith, yet Hales acknowledged that she was one of Joseph’s polygamous wives. If that 1843 document doesn’t persuade Hales as “evidence” about Hannah Dibble, in 1947 the LDS Church’s Midwest publishing company printed Benjamin F. Johnson’s autobiography, which stated: “At this time [May 1843,] I knew that the Prophet had as his wives… Sisters Lyon and Dibble,” among others he identified. Hales cited that source in this year’s article about “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy.”(Quinn, Sexual Side, op. cited, 3-4).

This constant irrational application of sources is typical of Brian Hales. We do not agree that this is an “honest” approach to the evidence. Here is what Hales writes about the Wells letter at his website:

However, since the single reference [The Wells letter] is from a reliable source, albeit late, she is included here. [As one of his spiritual wives].

Just why Wells is “reliable”, Hales does not explain. The relevant portion of the Daniel H. Wells letter reads,

He [Albert Smith was] also much afflicted with the loss of his first wife. It seems that she was sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo, [for time and eternity] though she still remained his wife, and afterwards nearly broke his heart by telling him of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship. He however got to feeling better over it, and acting for Joseph, had her sealed to him, and to himself for time. (Daniel H. Wells, Letter to Joseph F. Smith, June 25, 1888, added emphasis, brackets ours).

Below this is a section that has been blacked out by the Church, but that H. Michael Marquardt transcribed:

Daniel H. Wells

Now comes the saddest part of the story. It transpired that not long before her death, she committed adultery, the old gentleman [Albert Smith] is sadly grieved over this, and desires to know what can be done for her, he considers that she has paid in the flesh for her crime and hopes that his and her daughter, may be permitted to be baptized for her, and have her former Charges considered as finished as she was an er[r]ing though not a bad woman and still be saved with Joseph as Joseph’s wife, all of which is herewith submitted, and hope that you will send me your conclusion after consulting with Bro. Woodruff, in which case it will not be necessary for me to write to him in relation to this case. (ibid.).

It seems that Hannah was not above committing adultery with Joseph Smith and again at a later date. It is clear from this letter that Albert Smith did complain about his wife’s “marriage” to Joseph Smith, but only later “felt better about it”.  If this were an “eternity only sealing” as Hales claims, then why was Albert Smith so upset? Why did it make him much afflicted and heartbroken? Because his wife told him that she wanted to adhere to her relationship with Joseph Smith. It seems also that Albert Smith may not have felt better about it until after Joseph’s death since he was sealed to her as a proxy for Joseph Smith after Joseph Smith was dead.

And if she was already sealed to Joseph in Nauvoo for time and eternity, (the only kind of sealings we have evidence for) why perform another proxy sealing for eternity? This had to be for Albert’s benefit and was totally superfluous, though there is one reason why they might have. Joseph taught that for something to be “binding in heaven”, one must perform the ceremony with a witness and record it. Since many of those polyandrous marriages were done in secret and no records were kept, they may have felt they were invalid and had to be redone.

What is interesting is that Albert Smith was called on a mission from September 12, 1842 to August 22, 1843. This was during the period of time that Joseph was “marrying” other men’s wives.  On January 9, 1845 Albert Smith wrote in his journal,

January 9, [1845]: My wife [Esther Dutcher Smith] and myself went to Father John Smith in the evening on a visit. Whilst we was there he blessed Joseph, our young son, who was born September 21, the [year] 1844. The following contains the substance:

Joseph Albert, I lay my hands upon thy head by the request of thy parents to bless thee, and I ask my Heavenly Father to bless thee and let a double portion of the spirit of Joseph of old rest on thee that thou mayest live and become a mighty man on the earth. Angels shall have charge of thee from this very hour and thou shall behold them and converse with them and thou shall enjoy the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, and the discerning of spirits and the [page 19] spirit of revelation. Yea, thou shalt become a prophet, seer, and revelator. Thy name shall be had in honorable remembrance, for thou shall do a great work on the earth. Thou shall wield the sword in defense of the innocent blood which has been shed by wicked hands. Thou shall live till thou become old and see the end of wickedness of this generation and behold the coming of the Son of man. (Diary of Albert Smith, Online here, accessed November 5, 2014, added emphasis).

Young Joseph Albert Smith would have been conceived in December of 1843, therefore making it a possibility that he may have been the son of Joseph Smith. It is certainly interesting that John Smith would bless the boy and claim in that blessing that he would become a “prophet, seer and revelator”; that he would “wield the sword in defense of the innocent blood which has been shed,” (Joseph & Hyrum Smith), and live to “behold the coming of the Son of Man” (the Second Coming) which Joseph Smith predicted would happen in his generation.

[30] See Jeremy Runnells, Debunking FAIR, “Joseph Smith Was Married To At Least 34 Women” Section, online here, accessed October 30, 2014.

For example, Todd Compton advocates that the sealing between Helen Mar Kimball and Joseph Smith was a “dynastic” sealing, but that still did not preclude having sexual relations. Although many are persuaded by the “dynastic sealings” theory, we have some doubts. (Even so, we heartily recommend Todd’s book).

Did Joseph choose his spiritual wives specifically to set up dynasties, or was this already a part of the Mormon culture by then? D. Michael Quinn writes:

As Mormonism changed from an individualistic movement to an increasingly organized church, the Mormon Church manifested in the composition of its General Authorities features of dynasticism and corporation. In the sense of dynasticism, family interrelationships became a social subsystem of the Mormon hierarchy by the mid-1830s. In the corporate sense, men were advanced as LDS General Authorities in conscious representation of significant ethnic populations within Church membership.

At the most obvious, the importance of family interrelationships can be seen in the fact that 23.6 percent of the men appointed to the Mormon hierarchy between 1832 and 1932 were sons of other General Authorities. Revelations dictated by Joseph Smith and subsequent pronouncements by his successors in office have indicated that men have the right (or at least the predisposition) to preside in the LDS Church by virtue of their familial lineage. Although only the office of Presiding Patriarch was restricted to patrilineal succession, all other echelons of the Mormon hierarchy demonstrated intricate family interrelationships. … In the Mormon hierarchy, relationships as distant as fifth and sixth cousin were recognized and honored, and the men often referred to one another as “kinsmen” or “cousins.”

Moreover, General Authorities used marriage to bring into the hierarchical family men who were unrelated by kinship, as well as to reinforce distant cousin relationships. For example, Joseph Smith married in polygamy the sister of his fourth cousin, Apostle Willard Richards, and contracted a similar marriage with the sister of Brigham Young ( who was Joseph Smith’s acknowledged sixth cousin). The marriage of children also aligned General Authorities to one another. For example, recent LDS President David O. McKay entered the hierarchy as an apostle in 1906 without being related by kinship or marriage to any other General Authority, yet in 1928 his son married the niece of Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, who was President McKay’s successor in the presidency.

… Although the degree of kinship penetration was extensive for the entire hierarchy, it is also evident that familial relationships were most extensive within the most powerful echelons: the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This study has not probed as extensively the familial relationships of the General Authorities since 1932, but it is my hypothesis that the degree of family interrelationships has remained high in the upper two quorums and has diminished greatly in the First Quorum of Seventy for reasons to be discussed later. (D. Michael Quinn, “From Sacred Grove to Sacral Power Structure,” Dialogue, Vol.17, No.2, p.20-21, Online here, (PDF) accessed July 20, 2017).

Joseph naturally went to the people that were close to him to get his spiritual wives. This kind of intermarrying was not new, it had been going on since the beginning of the restoration.

Joseph used the persuasion of saving the entire family by demanding that the daughter “marry” him. Joseph taught about the sealing power in this way:

Again the doctrin or sealing power of Elijah is as follows: If you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be crafty. The first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory & go ahead and not go back but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven. I will walk through the gate of heaven and Claim what I seal & those that follow me & my Council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.365, March 10, 1844, added emphasis. This quote was changed when it was put into the History of the Church (without ellipsis or any notification) and is still used today in its edited form).

Notice that Joseph claims that you should “use a little craftiness and seal all you can.”

The 1828 definition of “crafty”,

1. Cunning; artful; skillful in devising and pursuing a scheme, by deceiving others, or by taking advantage of their ignorance; wily; sly; fraudulent.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty. Job 5.
2. Artful; cunning; in a good sense, or in a laudable pursuit.
Being crafty, I caught you with guile. 2 Cor 12.

He was indiscriminate about who those should be. Some were relatives or the offspring of his close associates, some were young women that were working in his home.

Those with the most sealed to them (who would be below them) were raised higher in the Celestial order of the gods than the ones they would “seal” to themselves.  Joseph could “save” the entire family, because he could “claim what I seal” in the afterlife. Joseph could approach the father of a young girl, and tell her parents that if they agreed to a marriage, he would then seal or adopt them, and therefore he could “claim” and save them in the afterlife.

Those who had the most sealed to them would naturally rule over their own dynasties in heaven. But this was only a cog in the great “chain” of sealings that Joseph and Brigham Young envisioned. Wilford Woodruff recorded in 1847 that:

While treating upon the principle of adoption he [Brigham Young] said some men were afraid they would loose some glory if they were sealed to one of the Twelve And did not stand alone And have others sealed to them. President Young said there kingdom consisted of their own posterity And it did not diminish that at all by being sealed to one of the Twelve but only bound them by that perfect chain according to the law of God and order of Heaven that will bind the righteous from Adam to the last saint and Adam will claim us all as members of his kingdom we being his children. (Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 172, cf. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, 117, January 16, 1847, For more on the law of adoption and sealing of families, see Notes, #189 & #191).

According to Young, Adam seems to take precedence over Jesus Christ since Adam would claim all as members of his kingdom.  We believe that this is the earliest reference by Young to what was later called the Adam God Doctrine.

Joseph went to his close associates to get their daughters, or “married” young girls living in his own home. How does one really separate close friends and Church Hierarchy into dynasties when all are sealed together in a “perfect chain”? For example, Helen Kimball later said that all who entered into polygamy did so to bear children and that was the purpose of it.

Catherine Lewis (who Heber C. Kimball asked to be one of his spiritual wives) wrote in 1848:

The Twelve took Joseph’s wives after his death. Kimball and Young took most of them; the daughter of Kimball was one of Joseph’s wives. I heard her say to her mother, “I will never be sealed to my Father, (meaning as a wife) as I would never have been sealed (married) to Joseph, had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it. I say again, I will never be sealed to my Father; no, I will sooner be damned and go to hell, if I must. Neither will I be sealed to Brigham Young.” The Apostles said they only took Joseph’s wives to raise up children, carry them through to the next world, there deliver them up to him, by so doing they should gain his approbation, &c. (Lewis, Narrative, 1848, op. cited)

What Helen said to her mother here, (in 1848) was that Joseph and her father had told her that “the salvation of our whole family depended on it,” her being married to Smith. Helen wrote two reminiscences, a year apart, later in her life. One to her son, and another for the Women’s Exponent. For the Exponent she wrote:

I remember how I felt, but which would be a difficult matter to describe—the various thoughts, fears and temptations that flashed through my mind when the principle was first introduced to me by my father [Heber C. Kimball], who one morning in the summer of 1843, without any preliminaries, asked me if I would believe him if he told me that it was right for married men to take other wives, can be better imagined than told. But suffice it to say the first impulse was anger, for I thought he had only said it to test my virtue as I had heard that tales of this kind had been published by such characters as the Higbees, Foster and Bennett, but which I supposed were without any foundation. My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure for to mention such a thing to me I thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him, short and emphatically, “No, I wouldn’t!” I had always been taught to believe it a heinous crime, improper and unnatural, and I indignantly resented it.

This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him, but I was somewhat surprised at his countenance, as he seemed rather pleased than otherwise. Then he commenced talking seriously, and reasoned and explained the principle, and why it was again to be established upon the earth, etc., but did not tell me then that anyone had yet practiced it, but left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours, during which time I was filled with various and conflicting ideas. I was skeptical—one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions. This was just previous to his starting upon his last mission but one to the eastern states. Fearing that I might hear it from a wrong source, knowing, as he did, that there were those who would run before they were sent, and some would not hesitate to deceive and betray him and the brethren, he thought it best that I should hear it from his own lips.

The next day the Prophet called at our house, and I sat with my father and mother and heard him teach the principle and explain it more fully, and I believed it, but I had no proofs, only his and my father’s testimony. I thought that sufficient, and did not deem it necessary to seek for any further. (“Scenes in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent 11, no. 5, August 1, 1882, 39.)

In this account Kimball claims that her father left out of his explanation that it was being practiced already. Then the next day, Joseph Smith came by the house and he then explained it to her. In an account written to her son a year earlier she writes something totally different:

Just previous to my father’s starting upon his last mission but one, to the Eastern States he taught me the principle of Celestial Marriage, & having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seemed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrafise, but the Lord required more. I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty-four hours after my father introduced to me this principle & asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph who came next morning & with my parents I heard him teach & explain the principle of Celestial marriage – after which he said to me “If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred. This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart – when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied “If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say.” She had witnessed the sufferings of others who were older & who better understood the step they were taking, to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Autobiography, 30 March, 1881, Ms 744 fd. 2, 1-2, CHL).

Helen writes in one account that she was taught the principle the night before and that was when her father asked her to be one of Smith’s spiritual wives, but in a second account, he omits telling her it was already being practiced. Much has been said about Heber Kimball offering his daughter to Joseph, but where did Helen learn about this? She claims that it was Joseph who told her, not her father.

Did Heber and Vilate on the spur of the moment have a discussion about their daughter, with Heber deciding that he wanted her to marry Joseph at age 14? Even though his wife was clearly reluctant?

We rather believe that it was Joseph who instigated this marriage, since it was his M.O. And using the line “out of the prophet’s own mouth,” was used by two other spiritual wives of Joseph in relation to Emma Smith’s “giving” Joseph four of his spiritual wives. Evidence shows that this also, is questionable.

And which account by Helen are we to believe? Why would Helen feel the need to relate different accounts? She was well known in Utah as being one of Smith’s spiritual wives.

In Helen’s second account we see exactly how it totally this distressed her mother. Would a non-sexual, eternity only sealing have evinced the same reaction? Helen may have initially misunderstood sexually in the marriage, but not Heber and Vilate Kimball. They knew what spiritual marriage entailed. In fact, Helen mentions Sarah Noon, and how that was a great trial for her mother, because Joseph would not allow Heber to marry two older spinsters and made him marry a much younger women and have sex with her. Helen likens her mother’s reaction to that, to her own situation.

The Catherine Lewis account also states that Helen claimed in 1848 that Joseph told them the marriage would save their entire family. Thirty years later, Helen affirms that he indeed told this to her and her parents. Every aspect of what Catherine Lewis wrote above has been verified as accurate. (See Note #66)

Todd Compton also writes that the Smith/Whitney union was a dynastic marriage:

The chief motivation for this [Joseph Smith & Sarah Ann Whitney) marriage was clearly dynastic. Joseph and Newel had a close friendship, and the sealing would link the families of Newel and Elizabeth Whitney and Joseph Smith in this life and in the next. (Compton, Todd M.. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 8127-8129). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Yet, all families would be linked together in the afterlife in a “great chain” or “welding link” by the sealing power through baptism for the dead and other ordinances, so what need was there for so called special “dynastic sealings”?

Only later, were these unions thought of as being specifically motivated by a desire for an afterlife dynasty. In reality, all that Joseph sealed to him, would become part of his extended family.  One marriage did not take precedent over another. They were all to be dynastic.

A month after Young gave the comments above he taught:

Those that are adopted into my family and take me for their counselor—If I continue faithful I will preside over them throughout all eternityI will stand at their head, and Joseph will stand at the head of this church and will be their presidentprophet and God to the people in this dispensation—When we locate I will settle my family down in the order and teach them their duty. They will then have to provide temporal blessings for me instead of my boarding from 40 to 50 persons as I now do. I will administer in spiritual blessings to them. I expect to live in the House of the Lord and receive and administer ordinances to my brethren and for the dead all the year round. (ibid., 127-133, 16 February, 1847).

Young taught that Adam would be at the head of the Church (Kingdom of God) a month earlier. Then he teaches that Joseph would be at the head, and that he would be a God to them in the eternities. This begs the question, how does Adam and Christ fit into this hierarchy of the gods?

Todd Compton wrote:

It is significant that the Alger parents felt it a spiritual honor to have their daughter [Fanny] married to Smith, just as the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball did. Fanny Alger’s marriage created a dynastic link not only between Smith and Hancock but between Smith and Fanny’s parents. Smith may also have felt that a woman would probably have been less likely to refuse a polygamous proposal if it came through a close relative rather than from the polygamous suitor himself. (Compton, op. cited)

But really, Fanny was a housemaid that Joseph had an affair with. It is only much later, that this was looked on as some kind of “dynastic” marriage. How else would her parents view the affair years later when it was being claimed as some kind of a marriage by those defending Joseph? Joseph was all about linking large numbers of people. This was done through marriage and adoption and baptism for the dead by the sealing power. It was all the same, as described above by Brigham Young. One reason adoption was discarded by the church was that there would already be a “welding link”  between families through baptism for the dead.

Joseph told Clayton that “you have a right to get all you can.” This about personal aggrandizement in the world to come. That is why you “craftily” seal “all you can,” and then claim what you seal, whether they be wives or not, and you tell “your father” what you have done and that he has no right to deny you.

Joseph first taught about the sealing power in relation to baptism for the dead. He claimed that there must be a “link” from Adam down to the last of his posterity of the earth would be “utterly wasted”. As with marriage, Joseph taught the Saints to baptize by proxy all the friends and family they could, to form this “link” and in doing so they would become “saviors on Mount Zion”.

Smith taught,

For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect. … the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. (See D&C 128)

In January of 1844 Smith gave another speech on Elijah in front of the Temple:

The Bible says “I will send you Elijah before the great & dredful day of the Lord Come that he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the Children…” Now the word turn here should be translated (bind or seal).

Smith further explains that, “The keys are to be delivered and the spirit of Elijah is to come, The gospel to be esstablished … & the Saints to come up as Saviors on mount Zion.” How are they to be “Saviors”? According to Smith it was “By building their temples erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, confirmations, washings anointings ordinations, & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection & be exhalted to thrones of glory with us, & herein is the Chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the Children & the Children to the Fathers which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”

“[T]he Saints,” declared Smith, “have none to[o] much time to save & redeem their dead, & gather together their living relatives that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten & the consumption decreed falls upon the world.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.341-42, January 21, 1844).

Marriage was simply another ordinance which sealed individuals together for eternity. There was already a “welding link” in place that sealed together families and dispensations. That was done through baptism for the dead and other ordinances. According to what Joseph already taught, he could “claim what I seal” in relation to baptism for the dead or adoption, etc., since those were transactions that were recorded on earth and therefore in heaven.

The problem with many of these “marriages” is that we simply do not have enough information to make such blanket assumptions as Hales does, especially that they were to be “non-sexual”. He doesn’t have any evidence to support this, though he says that he does. In his rebuttal to D. Michael Quinn, Hales writes:

Discerning between the “eternity only” and “time and eternity” sealings might be easier if the language used to seal the plural marriages was known. However, only one document has been found that records the wording used by an officiator to seal Joseph Smith to a plural wife, in that case, non-polyandrously.

Also, later recollections may not be helpful. When asked in 1892 if she could remember the words used to seal her to Joseph Smith, Malissa Lott replied: “I don’t know that I can go and tell it right over as it was… I don’t remember the words that were used.”

Similarly, Emily Partridge testified: “I can’t remember the exact words, that he said.”

Another indicator of the type of sealing a woman might have experienced is to discern the presence of sexual relations in the union, which would be consistent with a “time and eternity” sealing. Historical evidence demonstrates the presence of conjugality in twelve of Joseph Smith’s thirty-five sealings with ambiguous documents available regarding three more unions. For all remaining marriages there is no way to know for sure. Proponents of sexual polyandry might affirm that since sexuality was present in some, it is safe to assume it was present in most or all of the remaining plural marriages. However, acknowledging that nonsexual “eternity only” sealings could be performed provides another possible explanation. Accordingly, the reason sexuality is not documented in over half of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages could be because the historical record is incomplete or because they were “eternity only” sealings. In either case, speculation is required to fill in the missing pieces and neither view is based upon reliable documentation. (Hales, op. cited)

Why should anyone acknowledge something that there is absolutely no evidence of ever having existed except as an ad hoc apologist invention? Where is the evidence for Hales’ speculations? There just isn’t any.  On the other hand, there is ample evidence for sexuality in Joseph’s “marriages”.

Hales himself stated in a conversation with Dan Vogel, that, “While I have compiled evidence of sexual relations in twelve of his thirty-five sealings, for all remaining there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.”

The only revelation we have that Joseph gave about the ceremony to be used in relation to polygamous marriages (which Hales mentions above) says:

These are the words which you shall pronounce upon my servant Joseph and your daughter S. A. Whitney. They shall take each other by the hand and you shall say, You both mutually agree, calling them by name, to be each other’s companion so long as you both shall live, preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout eternity, reserving only those rights which have been given to my servant Joseph by revelation and commandment and by legal authority in times passed. If you both agree to covenant and do this, I then give you, S. A. Whitney, my daughter, to Joseph Smith, to be his wife, to observe all the rights between you both that belong to that condition. I do it in my own name and in the name of my wife, your mother, and in the name of my holy progenitors, by the right of birth which is of priesthood, vested in me by revelation and commandment and promise of the living God, obtained by the Holy Melchisedeck Gethrow [Jethro?] and others of the Holy Fathers, commanding in the name of the Lord all those powers to concentrate in you and through you to your posterity forever. All these things I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that through this order he may be glorified and that through the power of anointing David may reign King over Israel, which shall hereafter be revealed. Let immortality and eternal life hereafter be sealed upon your heads forever and ever.

(Joseph Smith, “revelation”, July 27, 1842. The complete document with footnotes can be found in H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 315-16.

The ceremony that was in the D&C at the time says,

“You both mutually agree to be each other’s companions, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”

Another marriage ceremony dictated by Joseph Smith in 1835:

You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect to which they assented, I then pronounced them husband & Wife in the name of God and also pronounced the blessings that the Lord confeed upon adam & Eve in the garden of Eden; that is to multiply and replenish the earth, with the addition of long life and prosperity; dismissed them and returned home.

What is the preponderance of the evidence here? As Dan Vogel argued to Hales:

Normally one doesn’t have to discuss what happens in a marriage. It is the default position in this discussion. You are the one asserting a non-normal position, and therefore it is you who needs evidence.

All three of these ceremonies are the default position of what constitutes a marriage. All the “legal rights”, “the duties of husband and wife in every respect”, and “all the rights” that “belong to that condition”. To argue something else, one needs to produce credible evidence that there was some kind of ceremony that specifically includes a non-sex clause. There is none. Not even in the later affidavits from 1869 and beyond which we will discuss below.

So for Hales to claim anywhere (as he continues to do over and over again) that there were “non-sexual eternity only sealings”, is extremely disingenuous, is it not? Hales vacillates back and forth with this, depending on who he is talking to.

In many conversations where we have seen Hales claim this, he states it as if it were a fact, (as he does here in his hit piece on Jeremy,) he doesn’t preface it with any kind of qualifier like “there may have been eternity only sealings between Joseph and many of his wives.”  For example he does so here:

Manuscript documentation supports plural sealings to perhaps thirty-four women, with many of those being for “eternity” only—that is, for the next life.

But Hales claimed to Dan Vogel that “there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.” And here:

it is important to note that at least 13, and possibly as many as 20, were non-sexual “eternity only” sealings.

But Hales claimed to Dan Vogel that “there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.” And yet he still makes the same contradictory claim to Dan Vogel himself here:


Joseph was sealed to 14 women with legal husbands. Studying polyandry is complicated because the 14 sealings were not of the same type or duration. Contrary to the assertions of several authors, “eternity only” sealings were performed in Nauvoo. That is, a woman like Ruth Vose Sayers, whose husband was a non-member, was allowed to be sealed to another man for eternity only, with no marriage on earth. Sayers was sealed to Joseph Smith for “eternity only” as documented in Andrew Jenson’s handwriting in his notes found in the Church History Library. (“Hales-Vogel”, op. cited, added emphasis).

Notice the Header of Brian Hales (all in caps). No Brian, “non-sexual, eternity only” sealings did not occur and there is no way that you can legitimately claim this because you yourself have said there is there is “no way to know for sure”.  To continue to say so without any evidence at all is simply irrational.

But Hales still presents this as fact based on one unidentified decades later statement compiled by Andrew Jenson; and another hearsay statement from D. Michael Quinn’s research.

This is the best “evidence” he has, (error filled recollections and unidentified hearsay) which he then inexplicitly applies to over a dozen other “marriages”! This is why we claim that Hales is totally irrational when it comes to Smith’s polygamy.

There is also no evidence to support that Ruth Sayers was sealed to Joseph Smith in the presence of his wife Emma. (We consider this highly unlikely for many reasons found in Note #78). Hales thinks it is a fact based on this note written by Andrew Jensen,

\Sister Ruth/ Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr. Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticulturist and florist, and though he was not a member of the Church, yet he willingly joined his fortune with her and they reached Nauvoo together some time in the year 1841;

While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to \the/ theory of a future life insisted that his wife \Ruth/ should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim [page2—the first 3 lines of which are written over illegible erasures] her in this life. She \was/ accordingly the sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus were became numbered among the Prophets plural wives. She however \though she/ \continued to live with Mr. Sayers / remained with her husband \until his death (Hales, “Ruth Vose”, online here, Accessed October 25, 2014, quoting Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives).

Hales has no idea where these notes came from and neither does anyone else. He simply writes in a footnote, at his website:

Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives. It appears that the documents in these folders were used to compile Jenson’s 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage.

He has no idea if this is hearsay, speculation or someone’s decades later recollection. Yet he will base his entire polygamy narrative on this kind of evidence. That this statement includes her being sealed in the presence of Emma is so unlikely that anyone using this reference must do so with extreme caution. Hales then uses this as a precedent for all of his “non-sexual eternity only sealings”. We find this incredibly disingenuous. This is incredibly bad evidence to base anything on.  The entire document reads,

[Page 1:]

Sayers, (Ruth Daggett Vose,) daughter
of Mark and Sally Vose, was born
in Watertown, Middlesex Co., Mass.,


Feb. 26, 1808, ^ baptized at Boston,
Mo in May, 1832.  Du[r]-
[here the printed text is pasted in, changes in bold]
ing the building of the Kirtland Temple her
aunt Polly Vose and herself were engaged in up-
holstering in Boston, they both felt it was right
and necessary to give liberally towards the erec-
tion of that edifice, and did so to the full ex-
tent of their means, continuing their donations
until the Prophet Joseph sent word to them, “It
is enough.-” The Elders of the Church in trav-
eling in the Eastern States were the recipients
of their unbounded liberality.  Sister Ruth
Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr.
Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticul-
turist and florist, and though he was not a mem-
ber of the Church, yet he willingly joined his
fortune with hers and they reached Nauvoo to-
gether some time in the year 1841; [handwriting resumes:]
While there
the strongest affection sprang
up between the Prophet Joseph
and Mr. Sayers.  The latter not
attaching much importance to ^  theory of
a future life insisted that
his wife ^ should be sealed
to the Prophet for eternity, as
he himself should only claim

[Page 2:]

[The first 3 lines written over]



her in this life.  She accordingly

sealed to the Prophet in Emma


Smith’s presence and thus were

numbered among the Prophets

though she

plural wives.  She however

continued to live with Mr. Sayers

remained with her husband

until his death.

After the Prophet’s death

marty martyrdom of Joseph

and Hyrum Smith Mr. Sayers

and his wife returned to Boston

and remained in that city until

1849, when they came to G.S.L City

locating first on the corner

known as the American Hotel

Corner; the following year they

removed to the Twelfth Ward,

where they both reside3d during

the remainder of their lives.

Mr. Sayers died July 17, 1861,

[Page 3:]


in his sixtieth year. Sister Sayers [Printed text pasted over handwriting crossed out, changes in bold:]

Sister Sayers has remained a widow since the

everafter death of her husband in 1861, and has lived a

very quiet and retired life, yet known to many

as a women worthy to be classed among the no-

^the       ble daughters of earth, simple in her tastes and

habits, honest, liberal, kind and just, faithful

and true, she passed calmly to her rest on the

morning of th [illegible type] August ^ 1884, in the    ^ 18

[Handwriting resumes:]

She was well known among

the early settlers of G. S. L. City [Pasted text continues, handwriting in bold:]

Sister Sayers was well known among the early

setters in this city.  Tall and erect in figure, a

countenance always beaming with human kind-

ness, charitable to the poor and ever ready to

comfort the disconsolate, she endeared herself

to her associates.  She was a woman of brilliant

conversational powers and possessed a ready

fund of valuable information, especially upon

topics of interest to the Saints.  She was never

tired of relating incidents of her Boston life nor

of dwelling upon Gospel themes and the days of    the Prophet

Joseph and Hyrum

his brother Hyrum.  She it

was that (Andrew Jenson Collection, 1850-1941, MS 17956, Box 49, Folder 16, Document 5, CHL).

Hales then tries to corroborate these notes by Jenson with another document that he claims he can’t verify at all. Such is the irrational thinking of Brian Hales. This other document, writes Hales at his website:

…confirms that concerning Joseph’s plural sealing to Ruth Sayers:  “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.

Notice the language. This document doesn’t “confirm” anything. Here is the footnote to that document, (per Hales):

Recorded by D. Michael Quinn Papers, Yale University, Addition—Uncat WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) bx 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation.

In his book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Volume 1b, he discusses Ruth Vose Sayers and uses the same quote:

Another somewhat garbled document apparently dating to 1843 appears to be in the hand of excommunicated Mormon Oliver Olney, whose wife, Phebe Wheeler, worked as a domestic in Hyrum Smith’s home: “What motive has [S]ayers in it—it is the desire of his heart. . . . Joseph did not pick that woman [Ruth Vose Sayers]. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.”43 Evidently, Olney was gathering information through his wife and learned of the episode involving the Sayers and Joseph Smith. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 3560-3564).

Hales used even less of this quote in his FAIRMORMON Presentation. His footnote from his book (43),  reads:

  1. [Oliver Olney], typescript excerpt in Quinn Papers, WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) Box 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation. (ibid., Kindle Locations 4122-4124).

But the full quote adds something that Mike Quinn thought important enough to (initially) assign this quote to someone else, Lucinda Sagers, not Ruth Sayers. The full quote that Don Bradley (who did the research for Hales) gave to Hales reads:

Oct-Nov 1843 document (Yale University) says: “Mrs. Sagers if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives… Joseph did not pick that woman she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”—the document also lists the following plural wives of JS: Louisa Beman, Agnes Smith, Elisa R Snow, Emily Partridge, Elisa Partridge, Mrs Sylvia Lyons, Mrs D. Sessions, Mrs Granger.” (Hales, Document JS0596, 28,, emphasis ours).

Notice all the ellipses! This is extremely important when analyzing this document.

But first, are there any reported children by Ruth and Edward Sayers in 1843? Not that we are aware of. There aren’t any children by her listed that we can find. Is this why Hales doesn’t quote that part of the document?

Concerning the Sagers, in the High Council Minutes from November 25, 1843 we read:

Joseph Smith [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] Nauvoo City[,] November 21st 1843. Brother Marks[.] Dear Sir, I hereby prefer the following charges against Elder Harrison Sagars, namely: 1st. For trying to seduce a young girl, living at his house[,] by the name of Phebe Madison. 2nd. For using my name in a blasphemous manner, by saying that I tolerated such things in which thing he is guilty of lying &c &c. Joseph Smith. The defendant plead not guilty. One [high councilman each] were appointed to speak on [either] side, viz. (7) [Thomas] Grover and (8) [Aaron] Johnson[.] The charge was not sustained, but it appeared that he had taught false doctrine which was corrected by President Joseph Smith, and the defendant was continued in the church. [The] Council adj[ourne]d [un]till Saturday the 9th day of Dec[ember] next at 2 o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 12620-12629). Signature Books, Kindle Edition).

John Dinger explains:

Phoebe Madison was Sagers’s sister-in-law, who lived with Sagers and his wife, Lucinda. Rumors circulated that Joseph Smith sanctioned a sexual relationship between Sagers and his wife’s sister, and in fact, Sagers would be allowed to marry the sister in a polygamous ceremony a month later. He would also take another three wives in Nauvoo and five more in Utah (George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… But We Called It Celestial Marriage [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008], 346-47, 617-18). (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13033-13037).

It is very easy to see Olney’s account being about the Sagers, and the woman that Joseph didn’t pick being Lucinda Sagers or her sister Phoebe Madison. The trial was public and there is an account given of it in the Warsaw Signal:

Mr. Editor—

In all probability, you have heard of the existence of a body in Nauvoo City, called the “High Council” whose business it is; to investigate all the affairs that concern the church, to try all offenders against the laws of said church, and punish accordingly…. I had often heard of this court, and my curiosity was aroused to see it, and I had the fortune to have it perfectly satisfied in the following manner. Being in that city [Nauvoo], last December, I heard considerable talk of the doctrine of Spiritual Wives, which doctrine, I find has been, and is now being taught to a great extent in that place, the proofs of which are daily, presenting themselves, but in what shape, I shall leave you to determine.

Being compelled to remain in that city on account of the closing of the river, I was happy to learn that there was to be a trial of one of their Priests [Harrison Sagers], not for teaching said doctrine, but for teaching it too publicly. Accordingly on the day of the trial, I repaired to the council chamber, and by good luck, obtained a seat, the room being crowded to excess. It was with much difficulty that I could learn the names of all concerned, but shall endeavor to give them as correct as possible: but previous to my going farther, I will say, that before this occurrence transpired, I cared little or nothing about their creed, consequently was not carried away, as others are against them on account of their faith; and therefore I watched their proceedings strictly, but without prejudice. But it was impossible to be there long, without seeing that it was fixed and settled between Smith and the accused, (the trial merely being got up for effect,) that it should all be blown over. The parties concerned, as near as I could find out, were, Joseph Smith, complainant, Harrison Sagers, defendant, and the two principal witnesses were, Lucy Sagers, wife of the said Sagers, and her sister, Miss Mason, to whom he had been teaching this doctrine for the last two years; which fact was clearly proven, and would have been satisfactory to any court but such an accursed Inquisition as this. The evidence here produced, is of too black and despicable a nature to be described; and had the accused have been dealt with according to his crime, he would have been divested of his office, as priest, and cut off from the church. As is common, however, in all cases of importance, that come before this tribunal, instead of meeting his just deserts, after a short address from the Prophet, which was more to screen himself and brother, than to chastise, the said Sagers was discharged by the Prophet, notwithstanding the suit was brought before the said High Council; and that body did not act officially on that subject, no vote being taken. I must say that a more ungallant speech than that of the Prophet, was never spoken in the presence of females—in fact, so lewd and lascivious, that it was with difficulty that I could sit still and hear it…. A TRAVELER. (Warsaw Signal, March 20, 1844, 2, emphasis ours)

Lucinda obviously did not approve of her husband’s spiritual wife, so she brought the matter before the High Council again on March 30, 1844:

Lucinda Sagars [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] To the Presidency and the Twelve. Inasmuch as you have declared officially that you will deal with all persons who teach or have taught the abominable doctrine of Spiritual wive[s], this is to notify you that Harrison Sagars is guilty of that said sin, which thing can be proven by credible witnesses, and if he is not chastized for it by the church the laws of the land will be enforced against him. H[arrison] Sagars left his family in December last[,] since which time he has not provided for them in any way whatever. The cause of the innocent demand action immediately and you are the ones to take the matter in hand. Lucinda Sagars. Brother Harrison Sagars, Dear sir[:] As this complaint has been handed over to the High Council by the First Presidency to act upon, you are requested to appear before [the] Council on Saturday the 13th inst[ant] at my house at 2 o’clock P.M. to answer the within ^above^ charges.

Nauvoo City[,] April 10th 1844. William Marks President of said Council. [The] Defendant plead not guilty. Two were appointed to speak on [each] side to wit[:] (5) D[avid] Fulmer & (7) J[ames] G. Divine on the part of the plaintiff and (6) G[eorge] W. Harris and (8) A[aron] Johnson on the part of the defendant. [It was] decided that ^as^ the first part of the charge had been brought before the Council before (on the 25th of Nov[ember] 1843) and he [being] tried on it; that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item. And that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church. Adjourned till the 27th inst[ant] at one o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S.,The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13157-13174, emphasis ours).

Notice that Lucinda mentions “his family”, so they had children. John Dinger writes,

Notice that the action against Sagers is driven by his wife, while the high council remains surprisingly lackadaisical in its response to alleged adultery. It appears that they knew Sagers had been given permission to take his sister-in-law as a second wife. If so, considering that the revelation required a man receive his first wife’s permission, the high council was complicit in the transgression (D&C 132:61; but cf. vv. 64-65).

A document in the LDS Church History Library and Archives titled “Trial of Harrison Sagar[s] defendant and his wife Lucinda Sagars” states that Ja[me]s Hadlock — says that he heard the defendant teach the doctrine of spiritual wives, and that he said he believed it to be the order of God[.] It was before he had his trial before this council, that [the] def[endan]t said his whole salvation wd? rested on having 2 certain Girls to wit[,] [seventeen-year-old] Amanda Higbee and [twenty-five-year-old] Phebe Madison[,] and that was the way [he and his first wife] came to part[.] … They seperated last fall … P. Wells testifies [he heard James] Hadlock [speak about the] … spiritual wife doctrine … last fall [but] … thought it was all a joke. Mrs Hadlock says def[endan]t taught[the] spiritual wife doctrine … He frequently comes to see his child [and says] … that he must get an old woman to get young women for him … [The] def[endan]t and wife parted by agreement on the 8th of Dec[ember] … His wife said [the] def[endan]t and his mother all was whores … [It was] decided that as the first part of the charge had been brought up before the Council before (on the 25 Nov[ember] 1843) and he [was] tried on it[,] that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item, and that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church (Nauvoo Stake High Council Court Papers, Selected Collections, 1:19). (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13912-13929, emphasis ours).

Notice that Sager’s wife calls them whores, (accusing them of committing whoredom), of which Joseph Smith was also accused in Kirtland.

Again, notice that “He [Sagers] frequently comes to see his child”. In the light of this, the quote makes more sense:

Mrs. [Sagers] if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives…  Joseph did not pick that woman she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”

It is obvious that Lucinda would be “put aside” if she did not “look out”. She had a child, (Ruth Vose Sayers did not) and Lucinda got to keep her child since Harrison Sagers was visiting it after they separated. How could this apply to Ruth Vose? Hales is claiming that Ruth went to Joseph because her husband told her since he didn’t care about a “future life” that he insisted she should be sealed to Joseph. So then why does the transcription say that “she went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity?” Shouldn’t this say she went to see whether she could marry Joseph for eternity? And the Jenson note says that it was Mr. Sayers that went to Joseph, not his wife. And what did Ruth Vose do that she had to “look out and keep still” or she would “be put aside”? This just doesn’t fit the story that Jenson was given. (For more on the Sagers, see Note #212).

Could it be that Lucinda went to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to Harrison Sagers, and he said no because she would not accept the second wife? We agree with Mike Quinn’s initial conclusion that this best fits Lucinda Sagers, not Ruth Vose Sayers. But where is Hales disclosure of these problems? Nowhere to be found on his website or in his books. And why didn’t he reveal the entire quote? Because it raises too many questions? Hales has even convinced Mike Quinn that this is about Ruth Vose Sayers.

Mike Quinn wrote in 2012:

Despite my decades-long expectation for those specific words to be in the written records of sealing, Brian Hales has recently persuaded me that Joseph Smith was sealed during his lifetime to one already-married woman in a ceremony that she, her non-Mormon husband, and the Prophet all regarded as applying only to the eternities after mortal life. This was Ruth Vose Sayers, for whom there was no contemporary record of the ceremony’s wording. However, as Hales affirmed today and in his previous articles, in addition to a recently discovered narrative about this matter by Andrew Jenson, a document written by one of Joseph’s house-girls in late 1843 or early 1844 stated: “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.” …

Regrettably, in his publications about this matter, Hales has misrepresented the fact that my transcription gave the woman’s name as “Sagers” (with a “g,” NOT Sayers). In his 2012 publication, he even pretended that my typescript spelled the surname as “Sayers” (with a “y”). Acknowledging (with brackets) that he made only one change to my transcript, Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220, stated: “Another document apparently dating to 1843 … [stated:] `What motive has [S]ayers in it–it is the desire of his heart,” and Hales claimed on the same page that this 1843 document “names Sayers explicitly.” Also see my Note 4 (last para.)

To the contrary, the surname that Hales allegedly quoted and allegedly paraphrased in 2012 was NOT Sayers (with a “y”) in my transcript, as explained midway into my citation to this document in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1994), 348n39, as follows:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society, 21 [July] 1843, uncataloged manuscripts, Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Nauvoo’s 1842 census showed `Phoebe’ Wheeler as the first of the six girls residing as house servants with the Joseph Smith family.

Despite her marriage to Oliver Olney on 19 October 1843, performed by Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Phebe apparently continued as a servant in the Smith home until 1844. Its unrelated [i.e., unrelated to Origins of Power’s emphasis on the document’s mentioning Robert D. Foster] reference to `Mrs Sagers’ indicates that this entry dates from November 1843 to April 1844, when the marital complaints of Mrs. [William Henry] Harrison Sagers involved the high council. The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison. …” Likewise, Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 (Fall 2005): 3n4 (“Sagers was linked sexually to his sister-in-law, Phebe Madison, in late 1843, but she married civilly shortly before he was tried for adultery and forgiven”). Therefore, since discovering the Olney document in the early 1970s, I regarded the “eternity” reference in the original manuscript as a restatement of William Henry Harrison Sager’s excuse for adultery, and I didn’t realize it applied to a different already-married woman seeking to be sealed to Joseph Smith.

The index of Origins of Power (page 675) also had this entry: “Olney, Phebe Wheeler, 113, 348n39.” Hales cited this book in his 2010 “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,’” 114n39. She had Culbertson’s application in her possession because (from 1842 to 1844) Phebe Wheeler was the assistant secretary of Nauvoo’s Relief Society. See Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 433. However, historians have disagreed about this assistant secretary’s middle initial and marital status: “Miss Phebe M. Wheeler” in Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing, 1941), 696, contrasted with “Phebe J. Wheeler, a widow” in Derr, Cannon, and Beecher, Women of Covenant, 30. If the latter is accurate, then Phebe Wheeler Olney was probably a daughter of the Relief Society’s assistant secretary. However, the LDS Family History Library’s electronic website of has no entries in its Ancestral File or Records Search for “Phebe J. Wheeler” at Nauvoo, while it shows that “Phebe M. Wheeler” married Oliver Olney there in October 1843. With the exception of some minor differences in phrasing (plus giving the document’s recently assigned Yale catalog number as MSS S-1644/F349), this same description appeared in the citation to the Olney manuscript in D. Michael Quinn, “National Culture, Personality, and Theocracy in the Early Mormon Culture of Violence,” John Whitmer Historical Association 2002 Nauvoo Conference Special Edition ([Independence, MO]: John Whitmer Historical Association, 2002), 183n131.

Due to the citations by Hales from Andrew Jenson’s research-notes that Ruth Vose Sayers requested to be sealed “for eternity” to Joseph Smith and that her husband Edward Sayers agreed, I now realize that my original transcription of the surname was probably in error. The 1843-44 manuscript’s handwriting could as easily be read “Sayers” (with a “y”), instead of being read as “Sagers” (with a “g”–the way I transcribed it the 1970s).

However, neither Hales nor his research-assistant Don Bradley (see my Note 44, 2nd para.) consulted the original manuscript at the Beinecke Library. Hales indicated this in his “Puzzlement,” 129n93 (“I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation”), with identical statement in Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220n195.

Therefore, Brian Hales had an academic obligation to tell his readers in 2010 and 2012 that my typescript of the surname did NOT match the way he was allegedly quoting my typescript, but Hales did not make such an admission. Even though Hales should have consulted the original manuscript in the Beinecke Library, his analysis that the document refers to Ruth Vose Sayers (which I now accept) also provides more precise dating for its entries about the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith and of his brother Hyrum. By my analysis (see the narrative for my Note 274 and within that note itself), those entries were written no earlier than February 1844. That was when Hyrum Smith performed the sealing ceremony for Ruth and his brother Joseph), but also written before the martyrdom of the two brothers on 27 June 1844 (because the document’s entries about polygamy referred to them in the present tense–i.e., while the Smith brothers were still living). (D. Michael Quinn, Evidence For The Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Expanded-Finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013,  5, 64-66).

We are not sure why Mike Quinn was persuaded by Hales’ argument. Also, Don Bradley has informed us that he indeed did consult Quinn’s document at the Beinecke Library. The document cited:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society”

Is much more likely to be about Lucinda Sagers. We did consult the original document, and our handwriting analysis below shows it was indeed the name Sagers, not Sayers. Hales just made the change to support his own speculations, not because he studied the original document!

The first trial of Harrison Sagers took place on November 25, 1843, and the second on March 30, 1844 and April 10th. This fits the timeframe perfectly. Yet Quinn’s argument to overturn the evidence that this was indeed about Lucinda Sagers is that “The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison.” Yet “The Traveler’s” letter was published in the Warsaw Signal on March 20, 1844! Was this enough to cause discussion in the Smith household?

Quinn’s other objection was that Gary Bergera claims that Phoebe Madison had been married in 1843 before the first Sagers trial and so he could not have married her. Yet, Brian Hales affirms George D. Smith (cited above) and states in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy:

Sagers later was sealed to Phoebe Madison with Joseph Smith’s sanction, but the date of this sealing is not documented but was undoubtedly late 1843 or early 1844. George D. Smith affirmed that, on this occasion, the Nauvoo High Council (and by extension, Joseph Smith) showed “indifference toward [Phoebe Madison’s] moral welfare” and apparently Harrison Sagers’s as well. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 2a: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition,  Locations 5731-5734).

Hales continues to claim that he cannot locate the original document, (As of November, 2016) but we have easily done so, through our friend Joe Geisner. The text in question reads (thanks to Joe Geisner for help with this):

Wait till next week and thou shalt hav an oppo

rtunity – thou shalt go with true[?] persons –

there Stay 3 weeks Olive[r][?] will[?] come in 4 weeks

When he cometh he <if he> goeth to the place he will bring the plates

When he cometh again he will have the plates if he goeth

to the place..; Mrs sagers if she dont look out for and keep still

she will be put aside – __ do not like it but it

is the desire[?] of their hearts & they will do it saith the Lord

what motive has sagers in it – it is the desire? of his heart

he has shed the blood of many man he thinketh it is no

harm  – she shall keep the child as long as it lives

– how long shall the child live – I will tell the[e] in 3 days

Miss V? thou shalt write half a sheet <to>day

that I will tell thee I[n] 3 weeks Mo[??]  shalt have the gift

of tongues – ;; It is to be kept private

There has been man murdered lately by the name of [Monshing?]

by Dr Foster with a Sword on the prair[i]e 6 miles & buried

him in a ditch the cup is double filld with iniquity:–

Joseph did not pick? that woman she went to see Whether she

Should marry her husband for Eternity  The tribe Asthemma?

is comming on the earth – 10000 years ago;  six particular

hyms thou shall sing to day Why Lord – thou shalt fast

to d<a>y and sing–; because thou didst not fast but one day


[sideways:] The heroes shall gather in here—


Still, what about the mention of a child? We don’t see either of them addressing that elephant in the room. It is almost like that part of the quote just doesn’t exist for them. And what about the other part of the quote, ““What motive has [S]agers in it—it is the desire of his heart…?” Where does this come from? Is it a part of the original quote that someone didn’t transcribe? If so, why not? Why are quotes like this so full of ellipsis? Why, if Hales has these original documents, does he not quote them fully, (what Mike Quinn transcribed) in context so the readers can judge for themselves what is relevant?

Susan Cuthbertson Relief Society Document

So what does Hales have here? Andrew Jenson’s decades later notes that we have no provenance for; a “garbled” account of various happenings in Nauvoo that could span months; and an affidavit from 1869 with serious problems that doesn’t mention Emma and has Hyrum Smith marrying Ruth Vose before he accepts polygamy. This is Hales evidence of a non sexual eternity only sealing? This is evidence that there were 13 more such sealings?

In Sayers’ affidavit from 1869 (highly suspect affidavits in many ways) she gets the date wrong, claiming that it was Hyrum Smith who performed the sealing in February of 1843, but Hyrum Smith did not accept Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine until May of that year so it could not have been Hyrum Smith at that time.

We believe that the best date for Sayers becoming one of Smith’s spiritual wives is in 1842 when he was in hiding and often stayed at her house.  Of course, during this time Emma would not have sanctioned such a “wedding” and it certainly would not have been performed by Hyrum Smith.

There is testimony however, by Joseph F. Smith and Angus M. Cannon that “eternity only sealings” between two living individuals were extremely rare and so did not occur in Joseph’s lifetime. We discuss this later in the Essay. As Dan Vogel explains in the same Facebook exchange with Brian Hales that took place in the fall of 2013:

There’s more to historiography than simply collecting documents. You should know the difference between a strong and weak argument and what is more or less likely. What does it mean “in accordance with his teachings” when JS frequently changed his teachings? It’s like saying the BOM doesn’t teach a modalistic concept of the Godhead, or the Lectures on Faith don’t teach a binitarian view because that would contradict what he clearly taught in Nauvoo. Or, the BOM can’t be anti-Masonic because he became a Mason in Nauvoo. These are all examples of the Idealist Fallacy, because humans do contradict themselves and violate their own teachings. However, JS may have had a way of rationalizing his polyandrous marriages. He did say that whatever God commands is right no matter what it is—even if it seems abominable to us.

Next, your expectation that some of the dozen women would have complained about JS’s proposals is an attempt at an argument from silence. I say attempt because some women did complain. I can think of two: Sarah Pratt and Jane Law.

You might issue your challenge to prove JS had sex with his polyandrous wives, but do you conclude JS only had sex with his polygamous wives for whom there is evidence? No. Why? Because you assume marriage includes sexual access. You only engage in this sort of special pleading with polyandrous wives because you personally find the notion abhorrent.

Nonetheless, you didn’t respond to my counter challenge to produce evidence that JS treated his polyandrous wives different than the other polygamous wives. You are the one with a theory that needs evidence. You are attempting to take advantage of a silence in the historical record where one is expected. Here is a test of your theory: Look at the historical record of other early 19th century childless marriages and see how often you can demonstrate they had sex. (Hales-Vogel, op. cited).

In his last response to Dan Vogel, Brian Hales writes,

I probably only have one more comment, unless you wish to revisit something.

You wrote:  “I will read your chapters on Jane and Sarah, but you gave it a shot here and it wasn’t very impressive. Keep in mind, I referred to them as examples of women who rejected JS’s polyandrous marriage proposals, which you claimed didn’t exist. This was in response to your weak argument from silence, which you haven’t overcome.”

At the risk of an “ad hominem”, I mention accounts from several other witnesses that describe a sexual relationship between Sarah Pratt and John C. Bennett in 1840 and early 1841.

Nauvoans Stephen and Zeruiah Goddard signed the affidavit quoted above stating that on October 6, 1840:  “from the first night, until the last, with the exception of one night it being nearly a month, the Dr. was there as sure as the night came, and generally two or three times a day–for the first two or three nights he left about 9 o’clock–after that he remained later, sometimes till after midnight.”    They also claimed that she later moved into a separate house and they were seen there “together, as it were, man and wife.”   Zeruiah Goddard also swore out her own affidavit:  “On one occasion I came suddenly into the room where Mrs. Pratt and the Dr. were; she was lying on the bed and the Dr. was taking his hands out of her bosom; he was in the habit of sitting on the bed where Mrs. Pratt was lying, and lying down over her.”

In August of 1842, Hancock County Sherriff J. B. Backenstos, signed the following affidavit: “some time during last winter, he accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife.”

Ebenezer Robinson reported in 1890:  “In the spring of 1841 Dr. Bennett had a small neat house built for Elder Orson Pratt’s family [Sarah and one male child] and commenced boarding with them.  Elder Pratt was absent on a mission to England.”

John D. Lee recalled:  “He [John C. Bennett] became intimate with Orson Pratt’s wife, while Pratt was on a mission.  That he built her a fine frame house, and lodged with her, and used her as his wife….”

Mary Ettie V. Coray Smith, a sometimes confused informant, related:  “Orson Pratt, then, as now [1858], one of the “Twelve,’ was sent by Joseph Smith on a mission to England.  During his absence, his first (i.e. his lawful) wife, Sarah, occupied a house owned by John C. Bennett, a man of some note, and at that time, quartermaster-general of the Nauvoo Legion.  Sarah was an educated woman, of fine accomplishments, and attracted the attention of the Prophet Joseph, who called upon her one day, and alleged he found John C. Bennett in bed with her.  As we lived but across the street from her house we heard the whole uproar.  After reviewing available evidence, historian D. Michael Quinn concluded it to be a sexual union by referring to her as “Sarah M. Bates (Pratt, Bennett, Pratt).”

Richard Van Wagoner discounts some of this testimony, but his efforts fail to address even half of the testimonies and are problematic from a scholarly perspective.

Is this important?  Perhaps not, but Sarah and Bennett had their own agenda.  The curious thing is to read the different references to a conversation(s) between Joseph and Sarah.  In a meeting of the Twelve Apostles dated January 20, 1843, Joseph Smith told Orson that Sarah “lied about me.” The Prophet continued: “I never made the offer which she said I did.”  According to this statement, Joseph admitted making “an offer.”  What was it?  We don’t know.  Was it sexual tryst? sexual polyandry?  an “eternity only” sealing?  The various accounts from Sarah and her anti-Mormon scribes describe it as a “proposal” and a “dastardly attempt on her virtue.”   Joseph said Sarah “lied.”  The “Workings on Mormonism” that you quoted from earlier contain an interesting citation allegedly from Joseph:  “there was no sin in it as long as she kept it to herself.”  Joseph never said this, but it was John C. Bennett’s bread-and-butter seductive line.

I’ve never been impressed by accusations based upon pure assumption.  If Joseph were as immoral as you depict, it seems you might have more credible witnesses providing less ambiguous allegations.

This has been an excellent exchange.  I hope you don’t mind me sharing it.  You comments have been hard-hitting and probably about as effective as any could be.  Of course I’m nonplussed and your [sic] haven’t been converted yet . (ibid.).

First, We find it odd that Hales claims in the exchange more than once with Dan Vogel that he is “nonplussed”. It means: “to render utterly perplexed; puzzle completely, a state of utter perplexity.” In other words, speechless.  Here is how the  Oxford Dictionary defines it:

In standard use, nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’: the hostility of the new neighbor’s refusal left Mrs. Walker nonplussed.

But there is another definition that is not considered part of Standard English that Hales must think is the actual definition. In the “usage” section below they add:

In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning ‘unperturbed’—more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed. This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. It is not considered part of standard English.

We agree that Hales must have been utterly perplexed at Dan Vogel’s observations about Joseph Smith’s polygamy. He responded to very little of Dan’s conclusions about Smith’s logic in practicing polyandry but instead threw out ad hominems and argumentum ad ignorantiam. Why would anyone care if what Vogel wrote “perturbed” Hales or not? What does Hales’ reaction to Vogel’s comments have to do with Joseph Smith’s logic in practicing what is called polyandry?

Hales continues his idealist fallacy by defending Smith’s adultery and lying (according to church law and the laws of the land he did) and we are to believe Smith over Sarah Pratt, who Hales claims did the same thing (lie and commit adultery). Since Dan did not bother to respond to Hales last comment, we would like to offer a response here.

Hales quotes Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, to support the allegations against Sarah Pratt, but what is very interesting is that Hales edits the quote.  After Mary Smith claims that “we saw and hear the whole uproar,” she adds, “Sarah ordered the Prophet out of the house, and the Prophet used obscene language to her.” (Mary Ettie V. Smith, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, by Nelson Winch Green, New York, H. Dayton, 1859, 31, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2014).

She also claimed that, “He [Orson Pratt] and his wife, were re-baptized for the remission of their mutual sin, and the Prophet was appeased.”(ibid., 32).

It appears that Mary Smith was simply repeating rumors she had heard in Nauvoo along with some observations that she could see from her house across the street. At best, she heard a fracas from the house across the street and heard Smith and Pratt arguing and then heard Smith use obscene language towards Sarah Pratt.

She says that “Sarah ordered Smith out of the house.” How did “they” even know that Bennett was in the house? She doesn’t say. One has to give credence to the John C. Bennett version of this story if that is the case, for he claimed to be a witness to it. As Van Wagoner writes,

Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph confided to his friend that he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for “one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness” (emphasis in original).

Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett’s sewing to Sarah’s house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.” “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter,” Sarah replied. “Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will.” She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.” But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, “Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it.” “Sister Pratt,” the Prophet responded, “I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?” “If you will never insult me again,” Sarah replied, “I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it.” “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that” (Bennett 1842a, 228-31; emphasis in original) .

According to Bennett, Sarah kept her promise. Even Orson did not know of the incident. Later Sarah recalled that “shortly after Joseph made his propositions to me . . . they enraged me so that I refused to accept any help from the tithing house or the bishop.” She also added that “Bennett, who was of a sarcastic turn of mind, used to come and tell me about Joseph to tease and irritate me” (Wyl 1886, 61) .

Nearly a year after Orson’s return to Nauvoo, in mid-July 1841, another incident, according to Bennett, forced Sarah to tell Orson of the Prophet’s behavior. If one believes Bennett’s account, Joseph kissed Sarah in his counselor’s presence. Sarah caused a commotion that apparently roused at least one neighbor, Mary Ettie V. Smith, who lived across the street from the Pratts. She recalled eighteen years later that during the fracas “Sarah ordered the Prophet out of the house, and the Prophet used obscene language to her” declaring that he had found John C. Bennett “in bed with her” (Green 1859, 31).

Bennett recounts (1842a, 231) that when Sarah told her husband of the Prophet’s behavior, Orson approached Joseph and told him “never to offer an insult of the like again.” Though full details of the confrontation between the two men have not been uncovered, it seems certain from subsequent events that Joseph not only denied Sarah’s allegations, but accused her of being Bennett’s paramour. Orson believed Sarah, however, a position that caused serious difficulties between him and Joseph Smith. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 72-73, Summer 1986).

Why does Mary Smith also use the word “alleged” when Smith supposedly saw Bennett in bed with her? Because she only heard Joseph Smith “use obscene language to her,” which was Joseph claiming that Sarah Pratt had been “in bed” with Bennett. All Mary Smith saw was some kind of an “uproar”.  Yet Hales will latch on to this and use it as evidence, even though he says she was sometimes “confused”. How does he know she was not confused here? The problem is that Mary Smith doesn’t paint a pretty picture of polygamy in Nauvoo nor of Joseph Smith. Hales knows this but wants to have it both ways. Notice again, that Hales (who claims that he doesn’t like to use labels) claims that any accounts that support Sarah Pratt’s version of events are written by “anti-Mormon scribes”.

If Pratt were really the liar with the “agenda” that Hales makes her out to be, then why did Brigham Young allow Orson and Sarah to receive the “fullness of the Priesthood” after she supposedly committed adultery with Bennett? As Richard Van Wagoner writes:

Orson and Sarah were endowed in the Nauvoo temple on 12 December 1845 (the day after Orson’s return) and were again sealed on 8 January 1846–a customary step for sealings that had earlier been performed outside the temple. But on 11 January, during an unusual event in the temple, both Orson and Sarah were evicted by vote because of a conflict with Parley P. Pratt. Parley had been secretly sealed to Belinda Marden by Brigham Young on 20 November 1844, and, on 1 January 1846, she gave birth to a son, Nephi. Though Belinda was living in the Pratt home, Parley’s legal wife Mary Ann did not know of the sealing. Evidently Sarah Pratt told Mary Ann that the baby’s father was Parley, because during the 11 January temple session Parley confronted Sarah, accusing her of “influencing his wife against him, and of ruining and breaking up his family,” as well as “being an apostate, and of speaking against the heads of the Church and against him” (Watson 1975, 495). Orson strongly defended his wife as he had done in 1842, and they were both expelled from the temple.

The next day Orson felt conciliatory though justified in his actions. Apparently unaware of his brother’s sealing to Belinda Marden, Orson criticized Parley when he wrote Brigham Young on 12 January 1846:

Orson & Sarah Pratt, with children

With all the light and knowledge that he has received concerning the law of the priesthood and with all the counsels that he had received from our quorum, if he feels at liberty to go into the city of New York or elsewhere and seduce girls or females and sleep and have connexion with them contrary to the law of God, and the sacred counsels of his brethren, it is something that does not concern me as an individual. And if my quorum and the church can fellowship him, I shall find no fault with him, but leave it between him, the church, and God.

Orson continued by defending Sarah:

When it comes to that, that my wife cannot come into this holy & consecrated temple to enjoy the meetings and society of the saints, without being attacked by [Parley’s] false accusations and hellish lies, and then too in the presence of a large assembly, I feel as though it was too much to be borne. Where is there a person, that was present last evening, that heard my wife say the least thing against him or his family…. And yet she was accused by him, before that respectable company, in the most impudent and mailcious [sic] manner of whispering against him all over the temple. Under these circumstances, brethren, I verily supposed that I had a perfect right to say a few words in defense of my much injured family. I therefore accused him of false accusations and lying. It was my belief at that time, that there was no place nor circumstances, in heaven, on earth, or in hell, too sacred to defend the cause of my innocent family when they were publicly attacked in so unjust and insulting manner.

His letter provides insight into how Church leaders expected him to respond in such situations:

After I learned that it was my duty to stand and hear my family abused in the highest degree without the least provocation, and yet not open my mouth in her defense, I immediately confessed my fault to the counsel, but my confession was rejected. Now brethren, I stand ready and willing to make any further confessions to the counsel, necessary to my restoration from banishment to the enjoyment of your meetings, which you in your wisdom may dictate. And as I frankly & freely confessed the thing pointed out by Prest. as being wrong, namely “The opening of my mouth” (Brigham Young Collection; emphasis in original).

The letter was apparently considered sufficient evidence of remorse, and later that afternoon Orson and Sarah were initiated into the “Fulness of the Priesthood,” a sealing ordinance received through the second anointing and also referred to as “calling and election made sure,” “second endowment,” and “higher blessings” (Buerger 1983) . (Richard S. VanWagoner, Sarah M. Pratt, The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 85-86, PDF Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

It is rather hard to believe that if Sarah Pratt had been having an adulterous affair with John C. Bennett for years, as claimed by the Goddards and others, that Brigham Young would have allowed her to participate in the Second Anointing ritual. They obviously didn’t believe that she was an “apostate” either—as his brother Parley tried to paint her—because Orson and Sarah received their “second endowment” the very next day after Parley did so. What is much more likely is that they believed that Sarah had repented of her accusations against Joseph, and they accepted it.

John C. Bennett

As Van Wagoner mentions in his article, if Pratt and Bennett were having an affair since October of 1840, then,

What about the January 1841 revelation that declared of John C. Bennett, “I have seen the work he hath done, which I accept if he continue and will crown him with blessings and great glory” (D&C 124: 17).

So God accepted John C. Bennett’s adulterous shenanigans up to that time? Not according to what Brian Hales has written. And God wanted him to continue committing adultery so he could crown him with blessings and great glory? This is how FAIRMORMON tries to spin this “revelation”:

Was Bennett, then, ever sincere? An assessment of his lifelong behavior and character would probably lead most to reject this possibility—but, LDS authors have often entertained it because of a revelation addressed to Bennett. Bennett and others have read this as an endorsement of his behavior to that point, and critics have seen it as evidence that Joseph was both uninspired and unaware of Bennett’s nature and actions. B.H. Roberts believed that “his intentions in life at that time were honorable,” and argued that “the Lord” shared this view in D&C 124.

A close reading of both the text and the historical circumstances calls this assumption into question:

Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.

“And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord. I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory. (D&C 124:16–17)

The praise for Bennett is, in fact, rather mild. In the same section, the Lord is “well pleased,” (v. 1, 12) with others, who are described as “blessed” (v. 15), “holy” (v. 19), “without guile” (v. 20), and praised for “integrity of…heart.” No such language is applied to Bennett.

Bennett is instructed to support Joseph in difficulty and receive counsel (rather than give it, as is his wont) if he wishes a reward. Bennett is told he “will be” the Lord’s because of his love if he obeys—he is offered a transformation of his nature, if he will accept it. The Lord promised to accept his work “if he continue” (v. 20, emphasis added). (Polygamy book/John C. Bennett/Rise and Fall of Bennett, FAIRMORMON ANSWERS, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

Actually the “revelation” does not say that the Lord promised to accept his work “if he continue”.  It states that “I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue…”

The “revelation” states that God has seen the work which Bennett has done. That would mean (since this is God we are talking about), all the things Bennett has done up to that time. The “revelation” does not condemn Bennett for the bad things he was supposedly doing at this time, his adulteries, etc. It doesn’t condemn him for anything. It states that God has seen his work and if he continues doing the work he is doing (up to that time and continue doing it) that he will be accepted. God does not tell Bennett that he will accept his good works, but that he has seen his work… which means all Bennett had been doing up to that time. What was Bennett doing? Committing adultery with Sarah Pratt (among other things) according to Joseph’s chosen witnesses, the most damning of which (Stephen Goddard) was a Danite. (See Note #212)

Bennett was then (four months after this “revelation”) ordained Assistant President of the Church. Was he “accepted” by God then? If not then, when?

For faithful Brian Hales, this may be a problem. Did John C. Bennett fool God? Why then would God allow Joseph Smith to ordain John C. Bennett to the First Presidency? Hales waves off Van Wagoner by claiming “his efforts fail to address even half of the testimonies and are problematic from a scholarly perspective.”  As Van Wagoner writes, he pretty much did fool Joseph Smith:

Bennett, a Campbellite minister, self-trained lawyer, doctor, thirty-third-degree Mason, brigadier general in the Illinois Invincible Light Dragoons, and Quartermaster General of Illinois, seemed to be a real catch for Mormonism. With the missionary-apostles in Europe and counselor Sidney Rigdon chronically ill, the Church was experiencing a power vacuum. The glib, bombastic, and seemingly aristocratic John C. Bennett ingratiated himself into the inner circles of the Church; he was appointed “Assistant President” of the Church on 8 April 1841. Joseph Smith was so impressed by his new convert that he adopted many of the doctor’s personal mannerisms, including his oratorical style, his military dress and bearing, and his habit of using foreign phrases in written communications. Bennett boarded in the Prophet’s home, and the two were near-constant companions. William Law, a member of the First Presidency (1841-44) recalled in an 1871 letter that Bennett was “more in the secret confidence of Joseph than perhaps any other man in the city” (Stenhouse 1873, 198). (Van Wagoner, “Sarah Pratt,” Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 71).

There is only one problem with Van Wagoner’s claim that Bennett and Pratt had an affair, and that is Van Wagoner’s assertion that he might have been out of Nauvoo during the month of October, 1840 when the Goddards claim that they were keeping house together. This point is really minor.

Neither Hales nor FAIRMORMON really address the problem of the “revelation” that Smith supposedly received from God praising Bennett in 1841, or why Smith made him Assistant President of the Church, since Bennett’s reputation was built on a house of cards . The best they can do is claim that Bennett wasn’t given any “keys” with his ordination and that Bennett might have been “sincere” for a time. Where was Smith’s much lauded “spirit of discernment”? Brian Hales claims that,

Joseph Smith’s inability to correctly judge character was acknowledged in an earlier revelation, “you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous” (D&C 10:37, quoted by Brian C. Hales, “1842: The Second Year of Nauvoo Polygamy”, Online here, Accessed December 15, 2014)).

Yet this “revelation” was given in April of 1829 right at the beginning of Joseph’s career! Joseph did not progress? Did not receive “keys”?  This was before the “School of the Prophets” and before Smith was given the Priesthood and the “keys” of discernment. On March 8, 1831 Smith claimed in a “revelation” that,

And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God. (D&C 46:27, added emphasis)

It specifically mentions in this “revelation” that one of these gifts is “the discerning of spirits”. (verse 23) Here we see that Hales is being completely disingenuous to cite a “revelation” that was given in 1829 before Smith was given these “gifts”, which allowed him to know if there were “any among you professing and yet be not of God.” If this didn’t apply to Bennett, who then? Hales also claims that,

Even though leaders were aware of Bennett’s licentious history, his public stature expanded and on April 8, 1841, he was presented as an “assistant president, until Pres’t. Rigdon’s health should be restored,” which occurred two months later. It appears that this surprising advancement was the result of Bennett’s immoral antics being privately discovered and then after promising to reform and receiving another chance to regain Joseph’s trust. (Hales, op. cited).

So the “promise” of reformation gets one advanced to the First Presidency of the Mormon Church? Who does Hales think he is kidding here? Then in May, 1842 Joseph does the exact same thing? It seems that the commission of adultery by one of the Church leaders simply did not carry as much weight as Hales claims that it did. What is obvious is that Joseph forgave and rewarded Bennett but only as long as he remained silent about Joseph’s own activities. But Bennett did not, so Joseph finally exposed him.

If Bennett was having an ongoing affair with Pratt, then once again, did he fool God? FAIRMORMON claims,

These two errors [Only one actually: That Bennett was not in Nauvoo because he was completing the Nauvoo Charter in Springfield] weaken Van Wagoner’s analysis irreparably, and raise the plausibility of the Goddards’ accounts, since their timeframe of “about a month” fits neatly between Bennett’s arrival in Nauvoo and his departure to lobby for the charter’s passage. It also matches a later claim made by Joseph in passing which dated Bennett’s first immoralities to October 1840. (FAIRMORMON, Online here, accessed November 1, 2014).

Even if this is true, it does not “weaken Van Wagoner’s analysis irreparably” because Gregory L. Smith does not address the rest of Van Wagoner’s analysis. And what did Smith say to Governor Carlin in 1842? He wrote:

The impression made upon the minds of the public by this event, [Bennett’s suicide attempt] was that he was so ashamed of his base conduct, that he took this course to escape the censure of a justly indignant community. It might have been supposed that after this he would have broken off his adulterous proceedings; but to the contrary, the public consternation had scarcely ceased, before he was again deeply involved in the same wicked proceedings and continued until a knowledge of the fact reached my ears. I immediately charged him with the whole circumstance, and he candidly acknowledged the truth of the whole. (Joseph Smith to Thomas Carlin, Nauvoo, June 24, 1842, History of the Church, Vol. V, 42, added emphasis).

There is no evidence that Bennett attempted suicide in 1841, except what was written later in 1842. Still, if Smith knew about Bennett’s adulteries and forgave him, why elevate him to the First Presidency only on the promise to reform? This makes little sense. The evidence shows that Smith honored and believed in John C. Bennett until he started practicing his version of spiritual wifeism that he learned from Smith in 1842. He was even forgiven as late as May 26, 1842 by Joseph on the condition that he would cease his activities and keep quiet. As Jerald and Sandra Tanner write:

John C. Bennett was elected Mayor of the city of Nauvoo, and was even made an assistant President of the Mormon Church. The following appeared in the minutes of the General Conference held in April of 1841: “John C. Bennett was presented, with the First Presidency, as assistant president until President Rigdon’s health should be restored.” (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 4, page 431)

The Mormon publication Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, p. 432 [June 1841], vigorously defended Bennett: “But General Bennett’s character as a gentleman, an officer, a scholar, and physician stands too high to need defending by us,… He has, likewise, been favorably known for upwards of eight years by some of the authorities of the Church,… But being a Mormon, his virtues are construed into defects,…”

On June 23, 1842, after John C. Bennett had left the Church, Joseph Smith admitted that a letter had been received from a “respectable” person warning that Bennett had left a wife and two or three children and that he was a very mean man: “…Dr. John C. Bennett…located himself in the city of Nauvoo, about the month of August, 1840, and soon after joined the Church. Soon after it was known that he had become a member of said Church, a communication was received at Nauvoo from a person of respectable character and residing in the vicinity where Bennett had lived. This letter cautioned us against him, setting forth that he was a very mean man, and had a wife and two or three children…but knowing that it is no uncommon thing for good men to be evil spoken against, the above letter was kept quiet, but held in reserve.” (History of the Church, Vol. 5, pp. 35-36, Mormonism—Shadow or Reality, 217-219).

Joseph Smith seems to have forgotten the facts in his letter to Governor Carlin. Bennett was applauded by the Mormons in the Times and Seasons in June 1841 after the Warsaw Signal wrote that “He came here followed by evil report-he joins a sect and advocates a creed in which no one believes he has any faith-his true character is not known to our citizens, nor have they any confidence in him.” (Warsaw Signal, May 19, 1841)

It was not until 1842 in The Wasp that George Miller claimed that he received a letter about Bennett having a wife and children in April of 1841. That is the same month that Bennet was raised to Assistant President of the Church.

So what Joseph wrote to Carlin is completely false.

Again, if there was such a letter, and Smith knew about Bennett’s adultery, why did they so vigorously defend him and why did Smith claim to have a “revelation” from God who said he saw the works of Bennett and would “accept them if he continued those works? Did this include Bennett’s adultery? Why did Joseph plead for and forgive Bennett on May 26, 1842? The entry reads,

Dr John C. Bennet[t] confessed the  charges preferred again[s]t him concerning. females in Nauvoo. & was  forgiven Joseph plead in his behalf.—

Joseph Smith Journal, May 26, 1842

The only mention of this entry by Hales is that, “The notice dated John C. Bennett’s excommunication as May 11, but Joseph Smith’s diary dates it as May 26, 1842.” (Hales, op. cited)

Actually, Bennett was not excommunicated here, but forgiven, with Joseph pleading in his behalf! Why doesn’t Hales quote this document in full? Because it destroys his narrative. Imagine if Bennett had kept his mouth shut like Joseph’s brother William Smith. He would probably have been completely restored to his former positions in the Church as were so many others. In fact, almost everyone except Higbee and Bennett were restored who were accused in 1842.

In 2015 Hales published an article about John C. Bennett in the Journal of Mormon History. He writes,

On May 8, 1844, Frances Higbee sued Joseph Smith in “plea of cause” claiming five thousand dollars damage. Joseph was taken into custody and told the court: “I want to testify to this court of what occurred a long time before John C. Bennet left his city.”46 The Prophet then described how Higbee had seduced a woman prior to the summer of 1842 when Bennett fled Nauvoo. Next, Joseph lamented, “The only sin I ever committed was in exercising sympathy and covering up their [the Higbees’, Fosters’, Laws’ and Bennett’s] iniquities, on their solemn promise to reform, and of this I am ashamed, and will never do so again.”47 (Manuscript History, Vol. F-1, pg. 15, May 8th 1844, compiled in the 1850’s.)

Hales footnote on his source for this:

47 Manuscript History of the Church, May 8, 1844, in Richard E. Turley Jr., ed., Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, [December] 2002), Vol. 1, DVD #1 (hereafter cited as Selected Collections); see also History of the Church, 6:360. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 144 note 5, summarize: “Bennett’s immoralities had come to the attention of the Prophet [by early 1841], but the latter, acting on a bleak hope of possible reformation of Bennett, deferred publicly exposing his counselor in the First Presidency.”

Thing is, Smith only covered up what Bennett did because he was guilty of the same thing. There is an original source that they used when they compiled the Manuscript History of the Church, the actual minutes from the trial of Joseph Smith on May 8th, 1844 which are found in the Church History Library. Those actual minutes read quite differently from what was supposedly copied into the Manuscript History. What Joseph actually said was,

“I never said any thing about Law, etc. etc. but what was strictly true. I have been placed in — the only sin I ever committed was in covering up their iniquities, etc. that I am ashamed of & will never do it again—“

Nauvoo Municipal Court Document, May 8th 1844

Notice what they had to add to the testimony:

Joseph exercising sympathy

Joseph getting a solemn promise from them to reform

Manuscript History Version

We see that Joseph never testified that he had sympathy for anyone, and that he never tried to get a promise from them to reform.

Joseph only admits that he covered up their “iniquities” and that now (since he was caught) felt bad and wouldn’t do it again.

The reason that we checked this, is that we know that George A. Smith (Church Historian from 1854-1871) was very dishonest when he compiled Joseph Smith’s history. He would doctor diary entries, delete things he didn’t like and add all kinds of bogus statements like with this one above.

Hales complains over and over again that no one but him really understands Joseph Smith’s polygamy because he is the only one that has personally drawn on every known document related to it. Seriously, he actually makes this claim. From the Jacket Cover of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1:

Drawing on every known historical account, whether by supporters or opponents, Volumes 1 and 2 take a fresh look at the chronology and development of Mormon polygamy…

From the Introduction:

At one point it became apparent that, if we continued searching, it might be possible to acquire copies or transcripts of essentially all of the known documents dealing with Joseph Smith’s polygamy…

But the problem is, can anyone take Hales seriously as a researcher when he makes gaffes like the one we detailed above? His article on John C. Bennett was published last year (2016). It’s not like it wasn’t easy to check on. But what is the significance of that statement by Smith above? (The doctored one). Hales makes that clear in his Bennett Essay:

Bennett’s biographer asks: “One wonders why Smith acted against Bennett in mid-June and not earlier. Perhaps Smith expected or at least hoped that Bennett would leave Nauvoo quietly.”82 Another possibility mentioned above is that Joseph was too sympathetic. That is, he still held out hope that Bennett would repent and become obedient. Admittedly, this view is based on accounts that are almost exclusively from Joseph Smith and his supporters, whose biases are clearly shown. However, these and other sources could support a repeating dynamic of Bennett’s transgressions, pleas for forgiveness, and the extension of mercy with the Prophet offering Bennett yet another chance to comply. This pattern would be consistent with Joseph’s 1844 regrets about “exercising sympathy and covering up their [the Higbees’, Fosters’, Laws’, and Bennett’s] iniquities, on their solemn promise to reform.”83

82 Andrew Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel, 91.

83 Manuscript History of the Church, May 8, 1844, in Selected Collections, Vol. 1, DVD #1 [2002]; see also History of the Church, 6:360 [Notice that Hales uses an outdated source here, when the original is at the CHL and open to the public]

There was no condition given by Joseph Smith in the original document. The only regrets that Joseph had in 1844 was that he got caught covering up what Bennett and others did, because they got their ideas from Smith.

As for the rest of the affidavits (Online here) against Sarah Pratt, let’s take a look. Here is the letter to Orson Pratt from Stephen Goddard and the affidavit of his wife Sarah,


ORSON PRATT, Sir: — Considering a duty upon me I now communicate unto you some things relative to Dr. Bennett and your wife, that came under the observation of myself and wife, which I think would be satisfactory to the mind of a man could he but realize the conduct of those two individuals while under my notice. I would have been glad to have kept forever in silence if it could have been so and been just. I took your wife into my house because she was destitute of a house, Oct. 6, 1840, and from the first night, until the last, with the exception of one night it being nearly a month, the Dr. was there as sure as the night came, and generally two or three times a day — for the first three nights he left about 9 o’clock — after that he remained later, sometimes till after midnight; what their conversation was I could not tell, as they sat close together, he leaning on her lap, whispering continually or talking very low — we generally went to bed and had one or two naps before he left. After being at my house nearly a month she was furnished with a house by Dr. Foster, which she lived in until sometime about the first of June, when she was turned out of the house and came to my house again, and the Dr. came as before. One night they took their chairs out of doors and remained there as we supposed until 12 o’clock or after; at another time they went over to the house where you now live and come back after dark, or about that time. We went over several times late in the evening while she lived in the house of Dr. Foster, and were most sure to find Dr. Bennett and your wife together, as it were, man and wife. Two or three times we found little Orson lying on the floor and the bed apparently reserved for the Dr. and herself — she observing that since a certain time he had rather sleep on the floor than with her.

I am surprised to hear of her crying because Bro. Joseph attempted to kiss her as she stated, even if he did do it; for she would let a certain man smack upon her mouth and face half a dozen times or more in my house without making up the first wry face. I will not mention his name at present.

There are many more things which she has stated herself to my wife, which could go to show more strongly the feelings, connexion, and the conduct of the two individuals. I shall not testify of these things at present for certain reasons, but can let you know them if you feel disposed to hear them.

As to the lamb which Dr. Bennett speaks of, I killed it, and kept a hind quarter of it for my own use, and saw the Dr. and Mrs. Pratt eat of the balance; The Dr. told me he would like to have me save enough blood to make a French pudding, which I believe Mrs. Pratt spoke of afterwards and said it looked so that she could not eat it.

I had not instructions to save the entrails, and the Dr. was not present to save them himself, consequently his statement that he burned them on twelve stones is a falsehood, for the hogs eat them.

Your friend,


I certify that the above statement of my husband is true according to the best of my knowledge.


Sworn to before me July 23d 1842.


Alderman of the City of Nauvoo.


Dr. Bennett came to my house one night about 12 o’clock, and sat on or beside the bed where Mrs. Pratt was and cursed and swore very profanely at her; she told me the next day that the Dr. was quick tempered and was mad at her, but gave no other reason. I concluded from circumstances that she had promised to meet him somewhere and had disappointed him; on another night I remonstrated with the Dr. and asked him what Orson Pratt would think, if he could know that you were so fond of his wife, and holding her hand so much; the Dr. replied that he could pull the wool over Orson’s eyes.

Mrs. Pratt stated to me that Dr. Bennett told her, that he could cause abortion with perfect safety to the mother, at any stage of pregnancy, and that he had frequently destroyed and removed infants before their time to prevent exposure of the parties, and that he had instruments for that purpose &c.

My husband and I were frequently at Mrs. Pratt’s and stayed till after 10 o’clock in the night, and Dr. Bennett still remained there with her and her little child alone at that late hour.

On one occasion I came suddenly into the room where Mrs. Pratt and the Dr. were; she was lying on the bed and the Dr. was taking his hands out of her bosom; he was in the habit of sitting on the bed where Mrs. Pratt was lying, and lying down over her.

I would further state that from my own observation, I am satisfied that their conduct was anything but virtuous, and I know Mrs. Pratt is not a woman of truth, and I believe the statements which Dr. Bennett made concerning Joseph Smith are false, and fabricated for the purpose of covering his own iniquities, and enabling him to practice his base designs on the innocent.


Subscribed before me one of the alderman of the City of Nauvoo, and sworn to this 28th day of August 1842.


Alderman of the City of Nauvoo. (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

These affidavits of the Goddards are pretty ridiculous. Sarah Pratt left her baby on the floor? The Goddards happened to catch them at seemingly all hours of the day and night? Didn’t the Goddards have anything else to do but watch that house? Sarah Pratt was “in the habit” of letting Bennett lie on top of her when there was someone else in the house? They mention a nameless man that she allowed to kiss her in their house often? These things defy common sense.  Here is the affidavit of J B. Backenstos,

Affidavit of J. B. Backenstos.

State of Illinois,   ss.

Hancock County.

Personally appeared before me Ebenezer Robinson acting Justice of the Peace, in and for said county, J. B. Backenstos, who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that some time during last winter, he accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife, had I not known to the contrary, and further this deponent saith not.

B. Backenstos

Sworn to, and subscribed, before me the 28th day of July, 1842.

Robinson, J. P. (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

Here is the affidavit of Stephen Markham,

Personally came before me, Ebenezer Robinson, a Justice of the Peace in and for said county, Stephen Markham, who being duly sworn according to law deposeth and saith, that on the __ day of __ A. D. 1842, he was at the house of Sidney Rigdon in the city of Nauvoo, where he saw Miss Nancy Rigdon laying on a bed, and John C. Bennett was sitting by the side of the bed, near the foot, in close conversation with her: deponant also saw many vulgar, unbecoming and indecent sayings and motions pass between them, which satisfied deponant that they were guilty of unlawful and illicit intercourse, with each other.  Stephen Markham.  (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

And the statement of Ebeneezer Robinson from “The Return”, in 1890:

In the spring of 1841 Dr. Bennett had a small neat house built for Orson Pratt’s family, and commenced boarding with them. Elder Pratt was absent on a mission to England.  (Ebeneezer Robinson, The Return, Vol. 2, No. 11, November, 1890, page 362).

There are some problems with Backenstos affidavit from 1842. Why would Bennett confide this to a close friend of Joseph Smith’s, knowing that it could hurt himself? This makes little sense.  Backenstos had loaned Joseph a large sum of money. You could not get a more biased person to write up an affidavit. Backenstos had also been accused of lying and shady deals.

According to Greg Whitman and James Varner, Backenstos was personal friends with Joseph Smith and in the spring of 1842 loaned Smith $1000. (Orner W. Whitman and James L. Varner, Sheriff Jacob. B. Backenstos: Defender of the Saints, Journal of Mormon History, Volume 29, Issue 1, (Spring, 2003) 153, Online here, Accessed December 20, 2014).

He had political aspirations and he could benefit in them by being friendly with the Mormons. His brother was married to Smith’s niece.  Writing in 1847, Governor Ford characterized the sheriff as a “smart-looking shrewd, cunning, plausible man of such easy manners that he was likely to have great influence.” He also described him as a deadbeat who ran out on his debts in Sangamon County and used accounting tricks to transfer his goods to his brother William. (ibid., 156)

On October 15, 1845 Heber C. Kimball recorded that Backenstos told him “he firmly and positively believed [Mormonism] to be the truth, and he intended to embrace it … and he would go with us the whole extent to the expense of his life and all he possessed.” (ibid., 164)

He was suspended from his army post in 1849 (page 170), and in 1851 was forced out and resigned his commission. (page 172) He petitioned some influential men for political appointments in Oregon, but found no support, (page 172) not even for his reinstatement in the Army (ibid., 173).

He engaged in land speculation and his reputation was viewed as being “exceeding odious”. (ibid., 175) In 1857 he was involved in an altercation over a land deal and attempted to murder an “unarmed neighbor” and when his pistol misfired multiple times the neighbor came after him with an axe. (ibid.) In September of 1857 he was indicted by a grand jury for “assault with attempt to kill.” (ibid.) Before his case could come to trial Backenstos committed suicide by throwing himself in the Willamette River near its powerful waterfalls, something he had mentioned to his wife as a possibility to escape a prison sentence. (ibid., 176)

Also, Backenstos was involved with some of the very women that testified against Bennett in May of 1842. Catherine Fuller testified that,

B. Backenstos has also been at my house – was introduced by Chancy Higby – made request similar as above – gave me two dollars – He accomplished his designs only once – has been there two or three times since.  This happened in the fore part of this winter– (Testimony of Catherine Fuller ^Warren^ before the High Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the City of Nauvoo May 25th 1842).

Catherine Fuller Warren’s testimony was published in the Church owned Nauvoo Neighbor on May 29, 1844, but only this excerpt:

Extract from the testimony of Catharine [Fuller] Warren, vs. Chauncey L. Higbee, before the High Council of the Church, &c.

I have had unlawful connexion with Chauncey L. Higbee. Chauncey Higbee, taught the same doctrine as was taught by J. C. Bennet, and that Joseph Smith, taught and practiced those things, but he [Chauncey] stated that he did not have it from Joseph, but he had his information from Dr. John C. Bennet. He, Chauncey L. Higbee, has gained his object about five or six times, Chauncey L. Higbee, also made propositions to keep me with food if I would submit to his desires.” (Nauvoo Neighbor, May 29, 1844; See also, Millennial Star 23:657­658).

There is no mention of William Smith or J.B. Backenstos. Why? Because he was friends with Joseph Smith. Of course he would have “informed” on Bennett, and it was in his interest to help Joseph.

Stephen Markham’s affidavit is obviously slander.  Carlos Gove, an Aide de Camp (Colonel) in the Nauvoo Legion, who also eloped with one of Joseph’s spiritual wives Flora Woodworth had an affidavit printed up which was printed in the Sangamo Journal which read:

Certificate of Colonel Carlos Gove.

“Nauvoo, September 3, 1842.

“Having been personally acquainted with Miss Nancy Rigdon, for some time, I take pleasure in saying to the public, that I verily believe Miss Rigdon a lady who sustains a virtuous, chaste, moral, and upright character, and that she has never given reason for any one whereon to rest a suspicion to the contrary, –and that the affidavit of Stephen Markham was procured for purposes well known to the public, –and I also believe said Markham to be a liar, disturber of the peace, and what may justly be termed a loafer.

“Carlos Gove.”

Sidney Rigdon produced this affidavit:

“Certificate of Sidney Rigdon, Esq.

“NAUVOO, September 3, 1842.
“‘Personally appeared before me, E. Robinson, a Justice of the Peace, within and for the county of Hancock, and State of Illinois, Sidney Rigdon, who, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith, that he is personally acquainted with Stephen Markham, of this city, and that said Markham is not to be believed; that his word for truth and veracity is not good; that he could not believe said Markham under oath, and that he did on a certain occasion testify under oath to that which deponent knows to be false, and he verily believes said Markham knew the same to be false while testifying; and further this deponent saith not.

George W. Robinson:

Certificate of General George W. Robinson

Nauvoo, September 3, 1842.
Having been acquainted with Stephen Markham, of the city of Nauvoo, for many years, I can safely say that his character for truth and veracity is not good, and that I could not believe him under oath; and that I am personally knowing of his lying, and that his character in general is that of a loafer, disturber of the peace, liar, &c; and that he did come into the house of Sidney Rigdon, as stated in his affidavit, and that Dr. Bennett and Miss Rigdon were present, as well as myself, and that Miss Rigdon was then sick, and Dr. John C. Bennett was the attending physician; and I do further state that no such conversation or gestures as said Markham states, took place or came under my observation; and I do further believe that said Markham did invent, concoct, and put in circulation, said stories with a malicious design and intent to injure the character of Miss Rigdon, and more particularly for the use of the Elders, who are going out preaching to rebut Dr. Bennett’s statements; and further this deponent saith not.
Geo. W. Robinson.
Sworn to before me, L. R, Chaffin, a Justice of the Peace, within and for the county of Hancock, and state of Illinois, this ninth day of September, 1842,
Lewis R. Chaffin, J. P.

Henry Marks:

Certificate of Colonel Henry Marks

Having been acquainted with Miss Nancy Rigdon for nearly six years, I can say that she is a lady of a virtuous, chaste, and upright moral character, and I do not believe she ever gave any occasion for the least suspicion to the contrary; and I do further believe the certificate of Stephen Markham to be false, and given with a malicious design and intent to injure the character of Miss Rigdon unjustly.

Henry Marks.

LaHarpe, Illis., Sept. 10, 1842.

On the same day that these were written, The Wasp (edited by William Smith) printed a notice which read,

We are authorized to say, by Gen. Joseph Smith, that the affidavit of Stephen Markham, relative to Miss Nancy Rigdon, as published in the handbill of affidavits, was unauthorized by him; the certificate of Elder Rigdon relative to the letter, being satisfactory. (The Wasp, September 3, 1842.)

Reading the above, it begs the question of why those affidavits needed to be “authorized” by Smith. We know that Joseph Smith proposed to Nancy Rigdon in 1842 when he wrote her this letter:

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it, and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, thou shalt not kill, — at another time he said, thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted — by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon — first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality, were right, because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation. A parent may whip a child, and justly too, because he stole an apple, whereas if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite, there would have been no stripes — all the pleasure of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost. This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with his children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right, and ’tis proper that we should enjoy his gifts and blessings whenever and wherever he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed, and as God has designed our happiness, and the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant — the proffered good returns to the giver, the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy, for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.

“Be wise to-day, ’tis Madness to defer,

“Next day the fatal precedent may plead;

Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time.

Into eternity.”

Our heavenly father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive, and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of his punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose him to be. He will [be] enquired of by his children — he says, ask, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, but if you will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds, but no good thing will I withold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things, who will listen to my voice, and to the voice of my servant whom I have sent, for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the law of my kingdom, for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy.” (Sangamo Journal, August 19, 1842, Online here, Accessed October 31, 2014).

Why would Smith write such a glowing “marriage for eternity” essay in 1842, if he was so reluctant to promulgate polygamy — so reluctant that according to many later reminiscences like this one from Wilford Woodruff:

“An Angel of God Stood by him with a drawn Sword and told him he should be slain & Cut off from the Earth and the kingdom of God if he did not obey that Law.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p. 235)

This doesn’t sound like the “reluctant prophet” that Brian Hales describes in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. According to Sidney Rigdon, it was Joseph Smith who was the liar, for as Sidney Rigdon swore in 1842:

I would further state that Mr. Smith denied to me the authorship of that letter.  (Sidney Rigdon affidavit, Nauvoo, Aug. 27th, 1842)


Van Wagoner makes a stronger point when he argues that, it seems likely that had Bennett and Sarah been involved in a sexual liaison as public as the Goddard story implies, objections would have been raised when Smith called him to be “assistant president” six months later. Furthermore, despite the numerous cases of church action against sexual sins brought before the Nauvoo High Council, Sarah Pratt’s name is never mentioned.

One should not over-read the public nature of the reported behavior. The Goddards were purportedly aware because Sarah was boarding with them—this does not necessarily mean that Bennett was making a public spectacle of his affair. Van Wagoner’s analysis presumes that any affair between Sarah and Bennett was handled by the high council. We have already seen evidence that Joseph dealt with the initial reports of Bennett’s infidelities privately, without high council involvement.

In a more speculative vein, if this was true of the case involving Sarah’s adultery, he may well have regarded the issue as closed—one wonders what role the Goddards may have played in first alerting Joseph to Bennett’s true nature. (In this case, perhaps Sarah’s role was kept quiet because she promised to reform, and because Joseph wished to spare Orson Pratt pain and embarrassment. When Bennett began accusing Joseph, however, the Goddards may have been given leave to reveal what they knew.)

Goddard was one of Smith’s Danites. Van Wagoner makes many strong points. The only weak one is the one they try and exploit about Bennett possibly being in Springfield in October, 1842. The Goddards claimed that the house was built by Robert Foster, while Mary Smith claimed that the house belonged to John C. Bennett.  Ebeneezer Robinson, who took the Backenstos affidavit, claimed that it was also Bennett’s house as did John D. Lee. So which was it? Someone was mistaken, most likely the Goddards.

And it is simply ludicrous that Bennett could set up Sarah Pratt with a house, carry on an affair with her in it with her for many months and that no other neighbors besides the Goddards would notice. Especially with the way that the Goddards claimed that they flaunted it. Why would they keep it a secret from their friend Orson Pratt and not report it to the church? Van Wagoner’s claims make much more sense than those of FAIRMORMON or Brian Hales.

Brian Hales claims that Sarah Pratt “had an agenda”. What agenda would that be? He doesn’t say. What Hales is doing is presenting Sarah Pratt as an “apostate” in 1842 when she was nothing of the kind. Her later actions prove that this is so. She agreed to rebaptism. She stayed with her husband. She was admitted to the Temple and received the Endowment and the Second Anointing.  She accepted polygamy and went west with the Church. It was not until years later that Sarah Pratt became disillusioned with the Church and polygamy.

To say that in 1842 Sarah Pratt had an agenda is ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. The accusations against her were obviously contrived by Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Hales quotes Smith’s January 20 comments about Sarah Pratt to Orson Pratt and it might be instructive here to give them in their full context,

Nauvoo January 20th 1843

The Quorum of the Twelve assembled at the / home of Elder Brigham Young- present viz, B. Young / H. C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, W. Woodruff, John Taylor/ Geo. A. Smith, & W. Richards. also. President / Joseph Smith. & Hyrum Smith of the first presidency / also Orson Pratt

–the meeting having been / called to investigate his case:–

President Joseph Smith remarked that as there / was not a quorum when Orson Pratt’s case came / up before that he was still a member–he had not/ legally been cut off–/

Pratt remarked that he had rather die / than go to preach in any other standing than I had / before.

Joseph-Let him have the same calling that Paul / had. let him have the keys to the Jews. first unto / the Gentiles then unto the Jews–/Paul held the keys of transfer–that is when / the Gentiles have heard all they will–it shall be / given to the Jews.–/

Jos.–Orson by transgression laid himself liable to have / another ordained in his stead.–and brought Jacob and Esau / were brought for example– (p. 2)

[Brigham] Young. said there was but 3 prsnt. when Amasa / was ordained–/Joseph said that was legal when no / more could be had. Young said all he had against Orson was when he / came home he loved his wife better than David./ [Joseph Smith]

Joseph–She lied about me–I never made the offer / which she said I did.–I will not advise you to break up your / family–unless it were asked of me. then I would / concil you to get a bill from your wife / & marry a virtuous woman–& raise a new family / but if you do not do it shell never throw it in / your teeth.

Joseph Orson I prophesy in the name of the Lord / Jesus Christ that it will not be 6 months before / you learn things which will make you glad you / have not left us.–/

Prest. Joseph said to Orson Hyde–I can make / a swap with Amasa Lyman.–& let him have / the office we were going to give you.–Orson, the latter part of your life shall be more / joyful than the former

— 3 o.clock adjourned to President Josephs. /

4 o.clock Orson Pratt, Sarah Marinda Pratt (p. 3) & Lydia Granger were baptized in the River /

Per Prst–Joseph Smith–& confirmed in the / Court Room–Orson received the Priesthood & / the same power and authority as in former days. (W. Richards [Willard Richards’ hand] B. Young [Willard Richards. hand] (BYU Collection, Ms/f/219/Reel 79; CHO, Ms/d/1234/Bx 47/fd 2; January 20, 1843. These minutes were formerly in a box entitled “High Council Meetings etc, Conference and Public Meetings”, in a folder marked “Minutes of the Council of Twelve,” in the Church Historian’s Office. They were recataloged and placed in the Brigham Young Collection. “/” in this typescript means end of a line in the original minutes. (Typed as in the original. See, History of the Church, V, 253-6; Millennial Star, XX, 27 (Saturday 3 July 1858), 422-3; and Manuscript History of the Church, under date given).

These are very interesting minutes, for they do indicate that Smith made some kind of “offer” to Sarah Pratt and it is the word of Smith (a known liar) over Sarah Pratt who had no reason to lie.  He also accuses Sarah Pratt of being unvirtuous. Sarah Pratt is faulted for having anything to do with Bennett even though Bennett was publicly defended by the Church as an upright and honest man until the summer of 1842. This is simply guilt by association after the fact.

That the affidavits concerning Bennett and Sarah Pratt are contrived is obvious. Still, if those defending Smith want to put forth the notion that the leaders of the Church were so devious that they covered up Bennett’s past simply to use him for his political influence, that is their prerogative. Either way it is a lose-lose situation for the apologists.

We also find it interesting that Brigham Young here refers to Joseph Smith as “David”. It reminds us of something that Ezra Booth once wrote,

Now, permit me to inquire; have you not frequently observed in Joseph, a want of that sobriety, prudence, and stability, which are some of the most prominent traits in the christian character? Have you not often discovered in him, a spirit of lightness and levity, a temper of mind easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking? Have you not repeatedly proved to your own satisfaction, that he says he knows things to be so by the spirit, when they are not so? You most certainly have. Have you not reason then to believe, or at least to suspect, that the revelations which come from him, are something short of infallible, and instead of being the production of divine wisdom, emanate from his own weak mind? Some suppose his weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and “were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.” So Sidney asserted, and many others concur with him in sentiment. (Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831, The Ohio Star, November 24, 1831).


There are also some other things, the meaning of which, you will not be likely to apprehend, without some explanation. In this, as well as several of the commandments, it is clearly and explicitly stated, that the right of delivering written commandments, and revelations, belong exclusively to Smith, and no other person can interfere, without being guilty of sacrilege. In this office he is to stand, until another is appointed in his place, and no other person can be appointed in his stead, unless he falls through transgression; and in such a case, he himself is authorized to appoint his successor. But how is he to be detected, should he become guilty of transgression. The commandment makes provision for this. His guilt will become manifest by his inability to utter any more revelations, and should he presume “to get another man’s wife,” and commit adultery; and “by the shedding of blood, seek to kill her husband,” if he retains the use of his tongue, so as to be able to utter his jargon, he can continue as long as he pleases in the bed of adultery, and wrap himself with garments stained with blood, shed by his own hands, and still retain the spotless innocence of the holiest among mortals; and must be continued in the office of revelator, and head of the Church. Some others, and especially Cowdery, have earnestly desired to relieve Smith of some part of his burden.  (Ezra Booth to Ira Eddy, November, 29, 1831. The Ohio Star, December 8, 1831).

In 1842 Joseph wrote a short letter to William Clayton which reads,

Oct— 7th 1842 in Solitude for love of Truth
Brother William Clayton Dear Sir I received your short note I reply in short be shure you are right and then go ahead David Crocket like and now Johnathan what shall I write more only that I am well and am your best Friend Joseph Smith
or David
or his mark

Joseph Smith to Wm. Clayton, Oct. 7, 1842

From Wiki,

David (Hebrew: דָּוִד‎; Dāwīḏ or David) and Jonathan (Hebrew: יְהוֹנָתָן‎; Yəhōnāṯān or Yehonatan) were heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, who formed a covenant of friendship recorded in the books of Samuel.

(Thanks to H. Michael Marquardt for bringing this to our attention, Image courtesy of the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers). Here we see Joseph calling himself David and Clayton Jonathan, who had formed a covenant of friendship. This was four months after Smith had “married” Sarah Ann Whitney (July, 1842) and mentioned David and that what it meant would be revealed hereafter.

Yet, Hales writes,

The curious thing is to read the different references to a conversation(s) between Joseph and Sarah.  In a meeting of the Twelve Apostles dated January 20, 1843, Joseph Smith told Orson that Sarah “lied about me.” The Prophet continued: “I never made the offer which she said I did.”  According to this statement, Joseph admitted making “an offer.”  What was it?  We don’t know.  Was it sexual tryst? sexual polyandry?  an “eternity only” sealing?  The various accounts from Sarah and her anti-Mormon scribes describe it as a “proposal” and a “dastardly attempt on her virtue.”   Joseph said Sarah “lied.”  The “Workings on Mormonism” that you quoted from earlier contain an interesting citation allegedly from Joseph:  “there was no sin in it as long as she kept it to herself.”  Joseph never said this, but it was John C. Bennett’s bread-and-butter seductive line. I’ve never been impressed by accusations based upon pure assumption.  If Joseph were as immoral as you depict, it seems you might have more credible witnesses providing less ambiguous.

Bennett’s signature line? This statement by Joseph Smith as recorded by Wilford Woodruff may help clarify why some were convinced that Joseph could not sin when it came to his relations with women:

“…if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He [Joseph] would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him [Joseph] he would not accuse us & if we would throw a cloak of charity over his sins he would over ours. For charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin & he did many things to break down superstition & he would break it down. He spoke of the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah while in his wine but doing no harm.” (Source: Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, November 7, 1841, emphasis mine.)

We have evidence though, that Joseph Smith lied constantly about polygamy and making offers of “marriage” to women in Nauvoo, and had others lie for him. As D. Michael Quinn notes:

Within a year after Joseph Smith began marrying plural wives himself and performing such ceremonies for others at Nauvoo, Illinois, these practices first were counterfeited and then publicly exposed by one of his counselors, John C. Bennett. On 1 August 1842, Apostle Parley P. Pratt published a rebuttal as an editorial: “But for the information of those who may be assailed by those foolish tales about the two wives [p. 73, “that God had given a revelation that men might have two wives”], we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter-day Saints, and never will,” yet Pratt’s autobiography later stated that Joseph Smith disclosed to him the revelation on celestial marriage in January 1840. Two months later twelve men and nineteen women signed affidavits that stated in part, “we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” The signers included Apostle John Taylor and Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who had already been taught the doctrine of polygamy by Joseph Smith), Bishop Newel K. Whitney (who had performed a plural marriage ceremony the previous July for his own daughter and Joseph Smith in accordance with a revelation dictated by the Prophet on the occasion), Elizabeth Ann Whitney (who witnessed the plural ceremony), Sarah M. Cleveland (who had become Joseph Smith’s plural wife early in 1842), and Eliza R. Snow (who also married him on 29 June 1842). (D. Michael Quinn, LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1804, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, 21).

If Smith lied (and encouraged others to lie) about practicing polygamy and making marriage proposals to certain women, why not about Sarah Pratt? Hales will use the Goddard’s testimony against Pratt, but even Stephen Goddard states, “I am surprised to hear of her crying because Bro. Joseph attempted to kiss her as she stated, even if he did do it…” This is hardly a ringing endorsement of Smith’s behavior according to the very witnesses called against Pratt.

And it being “no sin as long as she kept it to herself”? We have Orson Pratt  affirming this practice just a few years later that, “…I frankly & freely confessed the thing pointed out by Prest. as being wrong, namely “The opening of my mouth”.

Even Brigham Young claimed that he had no problem with Pratt except for that he chose his wife instead of Smith (David). So what was Pratt’s “transgression”? He didn’t keep the matter to himself but publicly defended his wife against Joseph Smith.

So, as Vogel claims, what did Sarah Pratt have to gain by making herself a target by accusing Joseph Smith of making a polygamous proposal to her if it wasn’t true? Hales has yet to really answer this question, and we don’t think he can.

[31] Quinn, Sexual Side, op. cited, 118.

[32]  Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. Both of Hales references here do not claim what he says they do. D&C 22:1 and D&C 132:4 have nothing to do with adultery or polyandry.

The claim of Smith’s that sexual polyandry was adultery (D&C 132:41) was written in July of 1843, after Smith had taken his last polyandrous “wife”, a year before the “revelation” was produced. (Our timeline for Smith’s Marriages). Dan Vogel in a discussion with Hales about this assertion wrote:

BRIAN HALES Also, Joseph Smith taught that sex out of legal marriage was adultery. Do you believe he taught that a woman having sexual relations with two men was adultery or permitted (even if one is a legal husband and the other is a sealed husband)? It is an important point because to posit that the men and women around Joseph would have tolerated blatant hypocrisy creates some plausibility issues that you and other proponents consistently ignore. The only way to show Joseph Smith didn’t practice sexual polyandry is to demonstrate that is plausibility is extremely low. You portray him as a deceiver that you could detect, but that Brigham Young, John Taylor, ELiza R. Snow, and Zina Huntington could not detect. Or do you suggest they were co-conspirators?

BRIAN HALES I appreciate your respect for the “Idealist Fallacy,” but it doesn’t quite help my focus on evidence as we try to reconstruct the world of Nauvoo polygamy.

DAN VOGEL Brian: I didn’t ask you to prove JS didn’t have sex with his polyandrous wives; I asked you to prove his pre-July 1843 teachings distinguished them from other polygamous wives. That is your thesis, isn’t it? Because your argument is one from silence, it is not my burden to prove that JS treated them differently. That’s your thesis to defend. In my view, you have created an artificial category that I don’t accept. So it is not my burden to prove anything. You only make appeals to sealing only marriages. This is not only an ad hoc escape from an undesirable situation, but it is another fallacy historians call the possible proof or disproof.

DAN VOGEL Brian: If JS taught that sex outside of legal marriage was adultery, then he committed adultery with all his plural wives because they were all illegal. Of course, you mean marriage under God’s law. So if JS was married to his polyandrous wives under God’s law, he didn’t commit adultery under that definition. However, everything wasn’t as compartmentalized in Nauvoo as it was in Utah, and who knew what it all meant and how it was to be conducted in the first years of its practice? Who could tell JS he was wrong or being a hypocrite? The people you name were already doing things they had a hard time accepting but went along with it anyway. Who could confidently say in such a situation that JS had crossed the line? God’s ways were not Brian Hales’ ways.

BRIAN HALES Okay, so you either don’t have any solid evidence of sexual polyandry or you have it but don’t feel compelled to share it. Wouldn’t this be easier if we were simply discussing documentation? I have kinda looked to you and [sic] the King of documentation for the circa 1830 span (think EMD). As you know, there are no “pre-July 1843 teachings” regarding plural marriage, unless we consult Clayton’s journal or use later recollections. Since it is a vacuum, you can fill it any way you want. Segregating the polyandrous wives from the non-polyandrous wives is easy so long as you treat the participants like comic book characters and ignore Joseph Smith’s theology. Section 132: 41-42, 61-63 describe three polyandrous situations labeling them all “adultery.” While you may be willing to believe that Joseph could have been such a hypocrite and no one said anything about it, I don’t think Brigham, John, Zina, Eliza etc. would have tolerated it. By ignoring the theology and the people, we create an unreal world – historical fiction.

I appreciate your not taking a straw man argument. I disagree that Joseph Smith could have been either a stark hypocrite or just wishy-washy on this topic. Sexual polyandry would have been explosive. It is strange even today. No anti-Mormons complained until 1850 (unless you have some other evidence). To believe it might have occurred without someone complaining or more likely defending it, is too implausible for me, but apparently not for you. I can live with that. But I’d still like to talk evidence. I’m even now going through Mike Quinn’s latest response. He’s an remarkable scholar and to have him focus here is great, but I still argue that the evidence is lacking and I will show that in my response (whenever I get it done – I’m getting remarried this week – monogamy .

DAN VOGEL Brian: You can’t shift the burden of proving your thesis to me. Your theory has to be established on its own merits and not rely on the inability of the opposition to disprove it—that would be an Argumentum ad Ignorantiam. The reason I ask for pre-July 1843 teachings is because as you know I see D&C 132 as JS’s possible repentance from his polyandrous marriages under pressure from Emma who was evidently threatening to practice polyandry herself. The revelation was dictated for her benefit and commands her “to cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed” (132:54). Quinn knows the documents better than I do, but I’m only focusing on the logic and arguments of your case and since you admit the documentation is scarce for either side, it becomes imperative to get the thinking right. Historians often argue from the known to the undocumented and build probabilistic cases, and I find your position not only improbable but a reflection of your own preference for how a prophet is supposed to behave. (Hales-Vogel, op. cited)

We will explore Dan’s highly insightful comment that D&C 132 should be viewed as Joseph Smith’s possible repentance from his polyandrous marriages under pressure from Emma. We find that this best fits the evidence that we have, though we believe that Joseph Smith never intended to relinquish any of those women but was forced to (with a handshake and a goodbye) when Emma found out about some of them.

[33] Hales, online here, accessed, November 10, 2014. The way that Hales handles the Joseph E. Johnson account about Mary Heron and Joseph Smith shows a lot about his lack of being able to present the evidence in any kind of rational way. For example if one goes to the link above, and you wish to read the minutes of the Joseph E. Johnson account, you are first presented with another link that provides a “concise summary”.  Here is Hales’ summary:

Joseph Ellis Johnson

Joseph E. Johnson reported that he knew that “the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.” Johnson’s statement represents the only evidence I have been able to identify regarding a polyandrous plural relationship between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron Snider. However, Johnson seems credible so I have included Mary here as a possible conjugal wife. The fact that Mary Heron was not sealed to her legal husband, John Snider during their lifetimes, even though the opportunity was repeatedly available (including by proxy between her 1852 death and John Snider’s 1875 passing), is consistent with a sealing between her and the Prophet. John Snider remained an active Latter-day Saint, suggesting either that he was entirely unaware of the relationship (which is unlikely if his son-in-law, Joseph E. Johnson, knew about it) or that he knew about it and supported it.

Does it even occur to Hales that because the “prophet” had committed adultery with Snider’s wife and she agreed to it that it was his decision not to be sealed to her for that reason? Of course, this throws a wrench into Hales’ assumptions here. Snider was married to another women and was sealed to her in 1855. As Hales notes,

Two weeks later, [After Snider died] Apostle John Taylor, who had joined the Church in Toronto, Canada, in 1836 with John, penned a second obituary that was also published, which stated: “He [John Snider] gathered to Utah in 1851, where he has since continued a steadfast, faithful and honorable member in the Church. … Having been well acquainted with him for upwards of forty years, I thought it proper to give the above short statement.” There is no mention of his marriage to Mary Heron in either obituary notice.

Snider was never sealed to Mary Heron but he was sealed to his second wife.

When you are done reading the summary, by all means read the Mary Heron page and then come back and read the minutes here in their uninterrupted entirety, or read them first, curious reader. Here are the minutes we have been able to find as recorded by D. Michael Quinn:

1850 Sept. 2, 2 P. M

A Council met in WR’s East Room Present—B[righam] Y[oung] – H[eber] C K[imball] – W[illard] R[ichards] – O[rson] H[yde] P[arley] P P[ratt] E[zra] T[aft] B[enson], G[eorge] A. S[mith], O[rson] Spencer, T. B – D[aniel] Carn – A[lexander] Neibaur – J[oel]H. Johnson, B[enjamin] F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly [clerk] –


  1. Hyde [:] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.“

Joseph E. Johnson  [:]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.


“Ansr.  I av not ad connection with Devol’s daur – as God is my judge this is true.  I never herad [heard] any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out – I was aware the thing was wrong.  – had been with – he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging – that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph. “O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrongI never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions.


“J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.”  (Source: Misc Minutes, Brigham Young Collection, d 1234, CHL, Sept. 2, 1850, restricted; excerpts transcribed by D. Michael Quinn, bx 3 fd 2, Quinn Collection, Yale Library.)

[Quinn note:]

Brigham Young reproves him and has him rebaptized.

Now, here is the account from Hales’ Vol. 1 of “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy” which he calls “an isolated source” (it is actually not “isolated”, but restricted by the Mormon Church):

Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Statement

Returning now to their original transgression in April 1849, even at that time with polygamy secretly gaining momentum among Church members, LDS leaders were intolerant of adultery regardless of the setting. Hence, upon learning of Hannah Maria’s pregnancy and the circumstances, Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Church membership was in jeopardy. He attended a council of priesthood leaders in the Salt Lake Valley on September 2, 1850, that discussed the case.70 Brigham Young presided at the meeting, which was also attended by Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Ezra Taft Benson, George A. Smith, Orson Spencer, Daniel Carn, Alexander Neibaur, Joel H. Johnson, Benjamin F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly (secretary).71 Notes from that council explain:

Hyde [speaking] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.

“Joseph E. Johnson [speaking]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.72

During the proceedings, secretary Kelly recorded Joseph Ellis Johnson’s explanatory comments that make it clear he was not attempting to justify his conduct:

I never heard any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out—I was aware the thing was wrong.—had been with—he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.73

The “mother in law” was Mary Heron Snider

Hales shows his obvious bias by claiming that the source must be considered because it was made by a devout Mormon, so here we have evidence that Hales considers a source by a Mormon who is “devout” to be of greater weight.

Hales also does this in the case of Esther Dutcher, who was said to be sealed to Joseph Smith by her husband Albert Smith per Daniel H. Wells who wrote about it in a letter to Wilford Woodruff in 1888. (He calls Daniel H. Wells “a reliable source”).

Hales also claims that one must provide “context” for the account above. How so? It really speaks for itself.

Notice also, the footnotes. It is not until after Hales presents all of his own conjectures as to what this account means (without just providing the whole account) that he then presents the rest of the account in a footnote (#111) which includes crucial details:

Other pertinent comments in the council meeting, as transcribed by Michael Quinn, are difficult to understand, although it does appear that the secretary, “J. Kelly,” was surprised. Quinn’s transcription reads: “O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrong—I never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions. . . . J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.” Miscellaneous Minutes, September 2, 1850.

These minutes are “difficult to understand”, only if you are trying to justify or explain away Smith’s clear adultery here, as some kind of marriage or present them intermixed with your own commentary.

The facts of this case are:

  1. Joseph E. Johnson was accused of committing adultery and was “on trial” for it, and had been required to “lay down his priesthood” until the trial.
  2. Joseph E. Johnson admitted he committed adultery.
  3. Joseph E. Johnson admitted that what he did “was wrong”.
  4. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it is wrong for anyone to “go to bed with a woman if not found out”, and therefore that it was wrong, even if it was kept hidden.
  5. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it “had been with” and then recalls what Joseph Smith did—that he was familiar with the “first frigging” (or sexual intercourse) between Smith and Johnson’s mother-in-law, Mary Heron that took place in his house by bro. Joseph. It is obvious that he is saying that it was wrong when Joseph did it too.
  6. Joseph E. Johnson claims again that he knew at the time he was doing wrong and that he had never taken anyone else as an “excuse” to do wrong and that he “never plighted my faith on Joseph [Smith’s] transactions” (his sexual escapades). Again, clear evidence that Johnson considered what Smith did as wrong, or adultery. Why would Johnson even have to claim that he didn’t base his faith on Joseph’s “transactions” if they were righteous actions? If Joseph was in a legitimate plural marriage with Mary Heron, why would Johnson use this as an example of what was wrong?
  7. The only person who seems the least bit surprised by this is the clerk Joseph Kelly. What Hales does not tell you except in a footnote is that

Brigham Young reproved Joseph E. Johnson for his adultery and breaking his temple covenants and had him rebaptized. There are no objections or accusations directed at Johnson for lying, or giving false information, (or that Johnson’s comment that what Joseph Smith did with his mother in law was NOT something that he would “plight his faith on”) was anything  most of those in attendance were surprised or offended at.

This proves that those men were not perturbed in the least by Smith’s sexual polyandry or adultery as Brian Hales claims they would be over and over again. The page about Mary Heron Snider at Hales’ website is basically the same as in his book. In attempting to try and mitigate the damage that this account does to Smith’s reputation and credibility Hales writes at his website:

… the faith of Joseph E. Johnson does not seem to have been negatively affected by what he learned about the Prophet and his mother-in-law in 1843. It is probable that, if he viewed the relationship as immoral, his testimony may have been compromised. Similarly, when he discussed his case with the council in 1850, the minutes do not record any reaction from the leaders to his comment about Joseph and his mother-in-law.

That they convened in part to consider Joseph E. Johnson’s membership status due to his adultery (he was disfellowshipped), demonstrates a lack of tolerance of sexual transgressions. That they would have disciplined Johnson but dismissed similar conduct by Joseph Smith without comment seems less likely. If the Prophet was guilty of adultery, Johnson could have claimed hypocrisy, which he was careful to not do.

So Hales can read Johnson’s mind and know what Johnson would have done? Is Hales reading the same document that we are? We have to ask because his comments are baffling. Johnson’s “faith” was not negatively affected even though he knew that Smith committed adultery. Why else would he state that he did not plight his faith on Joseph’s transactions? What transaction? The “frigging” of his mother-in-law by Joseph Smith that was obviously an adulterous affair, just like Joseph E. Johnson’s adultery was (which he freely admitted).

He said he was aware that it was wrong as it had been with… who? He then mentions Joseph Smith and his “frigging” of Mary Heron Snider. He obviously did view this as immoral, but it didn’t matter to him. (Again, “I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions).  If this were some kind of marriage, would Johnson be speaking in this manner? A “frigging and transaction”? There is really no sensible reason for Johnson to bring this up in relation to his own adultery, unless he was comparing what he did to what Joseph did.

Of course Johnson didn’t claim hypocrisy because he knew how those men (and he himself) felt about Joseph Smith. (Whatever he did was right, no matter what it was). But really, why bring it up if he was not subtly trying to make the point that well, Joseph did it too?

This same tired old argument by Hales (that everyone would have been offended at what Joseph did if it was immoral) gets very old after awhile. Even in his response to Mike Quinn on his website, Hales claims that if you only pay attention to those around Smith, you will see that their lack of negative reaction is proof that Smith could never have been practicing sexual polyandry.

Really? Then how could a man like David Whitmer reject Smith and still believe in the Book of Mormon? There are many other examples like this.

But what about those who still believed in Smith? Marvin Hill wrote in 1989:

Joseph told a city council in Nauvoo in 1844 that “the people’s voice should be heard, when their voice was just,” but that when it was not “it was no longer democratic.” He said that “if the minoritys views are more just then Aristocracy should be the governing principle.” For the most part, this meant that Joseph himself would decide what was just.  He told the Saints in Kirtland that “he was authorized by God Almighty to establish his Kingdom–that he was God’s prophet . . . and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had no right to call into question anything he did . . . he was responsible to God Almighty alone.” (Marvin S. Hill, Counter-revolution: The Mormon Reaction To The Coming Of American Democracy, Sunstone 13:3/31 (Jun 89).

This was affirmed by Henry Jacobs — the living husband of Zina Huntington while Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were married to her – for he believed that:

whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man; for God has called and empowered him, and no man has a right to judge their works. (Oa Jacobs Cannon, “History of Henry Bailey Jacobs,” MS 6891 1, Church History Library).

Think about that statement for a moment. This is how many men that have led religious movements could do whatever they pleased and still be justified in doing so by their followers. It is Hales that must show evidence that Brigham Young or others in the Hierarchy would have condemned Smith for any immoral acts. But Young actually did the opposite. He said:

Many may say, “br. Brigham, perhaps you are mistaken; you are liable to err, and if the mob should not come, after all, and we should burn up our houses and learn that the Government had actually countermanded their orders and that no armies are coming to Utah, it would be a needless destruction. We have all the time felt that there was no need of leaving our houses. How easy it is for men to be mistaken, and we think a Prophet may be mistaken once in a while.” I am just as willing as the Lord, if he is disposed to make me make mistakes, and it is none of the business of any other person. If a people do the best they know, they have the power to ask and receive, and no power can prevent it.

And if the Lord wants me to make a mistake, I would as soon be mistaken as anything else, if that will save the lives of the people and give us the victory. If you get such feelings in your hearts, think of what my conclusion on the subject is, and do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.

Do I want to save you? Ask that question. But John, what are you doing? Are you not an Elder in Israel? “Yes, I am a High Priest.” What is the office of an High Priest? John replies, “I do not know, without it is to whip my wife, knock down my children and make everybody obey me; and I believe a High Priest presides over an Elder.” You will find some Elders just about that ignorant. Let me tell you what the office of a High Priest and an Elder is. It holds the keys of the revelation of Jesus Christ; it unlocks the gates of heaven. It opens the broad windows of revelation from eternity. John, what are you about, imagining that I may be mistaken? or that br. Heber may be mistaken? Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, “do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?” Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry. (Brigham Young, sermon given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Van Wagoner, Vol. 3, pp. 1417-1418).

Then in the Afternoon Sermon given on the same day,

I have told you what causes apostacy. It arises from neglect of prayers and duties, and the Spirit of the Lord leaves those who are thus negligent and they begin to think that the authorities of the church are wrong. In the days of Joseph the first thing manifested in the case of apostacy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken, and when a man admits that in his feelings and sets it down as a fact, it is a step towards apostacy, and he only needs to make one step more and he is cut off from the church. That is the case in any man. When several of the Twelve were cut off, the first step was that Joseph was a prophet, but he had fallen from his office and the Lord would suffer him to lead the people wrong. When persons get that idea in their minds, they are taking the first step to apostacy. If the Lord has designed that I should lead you wrong, then let us all go to hell together and, as Joseph used to say, we will take hell by force, turn the devils out and make a heaven of it. (ibid. pg. 1420)

Young and other’s point of view about Joseph was that he would never lead them astray, and that if he made mistakes well, so what? Joseph Smith himself said,

When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there are no errors in the revelations which I have taught.” [addressing his doctrinal infallibility]. Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught? I enjoin for your consideration—add to your faith virtue, love, &c. I say, in the name of the Lord, if these things are in you, you shall be [p.367] fruitful. I testify that no man has power to reveal it but myself—things in heaven, in earth and hell; and all shut your mouths for the future. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.367).

Hales’ naïve conjecture that because Joseph Smith committed immoral acts his followers would have left him is not borne out in many historical accounts before and after the time of Smith. We have mentioned Warren Jeffs and David Koresh as two modern examples, but there are many more. Concerning Joseph Smith, Richard S. Van Wagoner wrote,

“Gentile Law,” with its civil marriage, was publicly denounced as early as 1847 by Orson Pratt in a sermon recorded by Wilford Woodruff:

As all the ordinances of the gospel Administered by the world since the Aposticy of the Church was illegal, in like manner was the marriage Cerimony illegal and all the world who had been begotten through the illegal marriage were bastards not Sons & hence they had to enter into the law of adoption & be adopted into the Priesthood in order to become sons & legal heirs to salvation.

Pratt further explained in his 1852 Church-sponsored periodical, The Seer:

Marriages, then among all nations, though legal according to the laws of men, have been illegal according to the laws, authority, and institutions of Heaven.  All the children born during that long period, though legitimate according to the custom.; and laws of nations, are illegitimate according to the order and authority of Heaven.

Even Mormon marriages prior to the fall of 1835, when priest-hood authority began to be evoked in marriage ceremonies, were pronounced invalid.  John D. Lee, member of the secret Council of Fifty and an adopted son of Brigham Young, remembered:

About the same time the doctrine of “sealing” was introduced…. the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid.  That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so.  That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God.  That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessing and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married.

Married women such as Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Marinda Hyde, Sylvia Sessions, Prescendia Buell, Zina D. H. Jacobs, and others were likely persuaded by Joseph Smith himself that even though their marriages may have been “productive of blessing and peace,” he, a prophet of God, could take them to the highest degree of the coveted celestial kingdom whereas their legal husband might not. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, “Joseph and Marriage”, Sunstone 10:9/33 (Jan 86)

Jedidiah Grant would later claim that not everyone did agree that Joseph could do whatever he wanted to and be justified:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven-the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel.  Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?, “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this church.  Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed.  The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 13-14, Online here, Accessed October 31, 2014).

Unlike what Hales states, there were some that objected to Smith’s behavior and some who did not, but embraced it in all its ugliness (See Note #66 about Catherine Lewis and Augusta Cobb).  Van Wagoner, again:

In some instances, however, the Prophet’s intent went beyond “trying the people,” for he apparently did want the wives of some men.  Despite a canonized statement in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants which recognized that “all legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled,” the Prophet in the 1840s viewed as invalid those marriages not sealed by his blessing.  As God’s earthly agent, he believed he had been given powers that transcended civil law.  Claiming sole responsibility for binding and unbinding marriages on earth and in heaven, he did not view it necessary to obtain civil marriage licenses or divorce decrees.  Whenever he deemed it appropriate he could release a woman from her earthly marriage and seal her to himself or another, thus eliminating in his mind any stigma of adultery.  In an unusual polyandrous twist to such relationships, the Prophet advised each of these married women to continue living with her husband. (Van Wagoner, op. cited)

Yet, others who did what Joseph did, were committing adultery according to Joseph’s own 1842 address (discussed below). This concept of doctrinal and personal infallibility as to sin was explained by Abraham H. Cannon,

The angels who appeared in the Kirtland Temple delivered the keys of power to the Prophet Joseph and they were now with the Priesthood. There is not a man who has the Holy Ghost that the adversary can make him do anything wrong.  (Abraham H. Cannon, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 3, 284).

Therefore, whatever the leadership did was right, and certainly not sin. It didn’t matter if it was in the “scriptures”, the “living oracles” always trumped the scriptures and anyone who would call these men to account were told that they themselves were without the “Holy Ghost”. George Q. Cannon made this perfectly clear in an 1896 Conference Address:

There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning, and that is, not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness. The Prophet Joseph said time and again that it was one of the first and strongest symptoms of apostasy. Have we not proved this? Have not his words upon this subject been fulfilled to the very letter? No man can do this without incurring the displeasure of the Lord. It may seem strange, in this age of irreverence and iconoclasm, to talk in this way. Nevertheless, this is the truth. God has chosen His servants. He claims it as His prerogative to condemn them, if they need condemnation. He has not given it to us individually to censure and condenm them. [p.223] No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure. The Holy Spirit will withdraw itself from such a man, and he will go into darkness. This being the case, do you not see how important it is that we should be careful? However difficult it may be for us to understand the reasons for any action of the authorities of the Church, we should not too hastily call their acts in question and pronounce them wrong.  (George Q. Cannon, October 6, 1896, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 5, 223)

Again and again they take this concept back to Joseph Smith. In 1900, Joseph F. Smith claimed:

The question in my mind is this: Who is to judge who are the good men and the wise men? If you leave me to judge, I say one man; if you leave Brother Brigham to judge, he may say another man; or, if we leave it to the people to judge, one says this is the wise man, and another says that is the wise man. The question with me is: Am I in a frame of mind, that when I get the word of the Lord as to who is the right man, will I obey it, no matter if it does come contrary to my convictions or predilections? If I feel that I can obey the word of God on this matter, then I am in harmony with the spirit of the work of God. If I cannot do it, I am not in harmony with that spirit. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October, 1900, 48, Online here, ( Accessed October 31, 2014).

Like with Hales and polygamy being “difficult to understand”, so too Cannon uses this same line of reasoning to justify leaders not being held accountable for their actions. You cannot find fault with “God’s leaders” without incurring his displeasure. So Joseph Smith and Brigham Young could take other men’s wives away from them, commit adultery and break any law because “it is not given to us individually to censure and condemn them.” This was drilled into the heads of the “saints” during the Nauvoo years, and unfortunately many fell victim to this perversion of scripture and by their silence enabled these men to act with impunity in any way they so desired.

Joseph’s mantra, that some sin is really not sin, (See Note #71) was taken up by many and believed when it came to marriage, the law and adultery.  Brian Hales today is a prime example of someone who believes in this way and will go to any length and postulate any silly or illogical excuse to exonerate Smith from his John C. Bennett type spiritual wifery. (polyandry)  As John D. Lee wrote in his memoirs:

During the winter [of 1842], Joseph, the Prophet, set a man by the name of Sidney Hay Jacobs, to select from the Old Bible such scriptures as pertained to polygamy, or celestial marriage, and to write it in pamphlet form, and to advocate that doctrine. This he did as a feeler among the people, to pave the way for, celestial marriage. This, like all other notions, met with opposition, while a few favored it. The excitement among the people became so great that the subject was laid before the Prophet. No one was more opposed to it than his brother Hyrum, who denounced it as from beneath. Joseph saw that it would break up the Church, should he sanction it. So he denounced the pamphlet through the Wasp, a newspaper published at Nauvoo, by E[beneezer] Robinson, as a bundle of nonsense and trash. He said that if he had known its contents he would never have permitted it to be published, while at the same time other confidential men were advocating it on their own responsibility.  Joseph himself said on the stand that should he reveal the will of God concerning them, they—pointing to President W[illiam] Marks, P[arley] P. Pratt and others—would shed his blood. He urged them to surrender themselves to God instead of rebelling against the stepping stone of their exaltation. In this way he worked upon the feelings and minds of the people, until they feared that the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them, and they insisted upon knowing the will of Heaven concerning them. But he dared not proclaim it publicly, so it was taught confidentially to such as were strong enough in the faith to take another step. About the same time, the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God. That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children, in alienation from each other. There should exist an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.

… After the death of Joseph, Brigham Young told me that Joseph’s time on earth was short, and that the Lord allowed him privileges that we could not have.  (John Doyle Lee, The Writings of John D. Lee, Ed. by Samuel Nyal Henrie, 2001, 2002, 133-34, added emphasis, Online here, (Google Books) Accessed November 5, 2014. Lee probably meant Orson Hyde, who had problems accepting Joseph’s Spiritual Wife Doctrine in Nauvoo).

Notice how Joseph threatens those who were reluctant to embrace his radical teachings. It is no wonder that many did not object to them.  In 1856 Brigham Young made this amazing declaration:

There are many of the men and women now before me who have looked for a pure people, and have supposed that that was a proof of the truth of our doctrines, but they will never find such a people until Satan is bound, and Jesus comes to reign with his Saints. The doctrine we preach is the doctrine of salvation, and it is that which the Elders of this Church take to the world, and not the people of Utah.

Some of the Elders seem to be tripped up in a moment, if the wicked can find any fault with the members of this Church; but bless your souls, I would not yet have this people faultless, for the day of separation has not yet arrived. I have many a time, in this stand, dared the world to produce as mean devils as we can; we can beat them at anything. We have the greatest and smoothest liars in the world, the cunningest and most adroit thieves, and any other shade of character that you can mention.

We can pick out Elders in Israel right here who can beat the world at gambling, who can handle the cards, cut and shuffle them with the smartest rogue on the face of God’s foot-stool. I can produce Elders here who can shave their smartest shavers, and take their money from them. We can beat the world at any game.

We can beat them, because we have men here that live in the light of the Lord, that have the Holy Priesthood, and hold the keys of the kingdom of God. But you may go through all the sectarian world, and you cannot find a man capable of opening the door of the kingdom of God to admit others in. We can do that. We can pray the best, preach the best, and sing the best. We are the best looking and finest set of people on the face of the earth, and they may begin any game they please, and we are on hand, and can beat them at anything they have a mind to begin. They may make sharp their two-edged swords, and I will turn out the Elders of Israel with greased feathers, and whip them to death. We are not to be beat. We expect to be a stumbling block to the whole world, and a rock of offence to them.

I never preached to the world but what the cry was, “That damned old Joe Smith has done thus and so.” I would tell the people that they did not know him, and I did, and that I knew him to be a good man; and that when they spoke against him, they spoke against as good a man as ever lived.

I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against “Joe Smith,” saying, “that he was a mean man, a liar, money-digger, gambler, and a whore-master;” and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor’s wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it. He said, “I have done.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p.77, online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

The fact that Young was still retelling this story some 25 years later shows that he still felt the same way. Joseph could sleep with his neighbor’s wife every night and  Brigham would not care.  He knew that this was a part of Joseph’s behavior because he warned one of his wives (Augusta Adams Cobb) not to be alone with Joseph lest she be “overcome” by him.

John Snider

It seems that Joseph Smith was also able to deny people the right of their free agency to refuse to go on a mission without being penalized by him acting in his Church leadership role. In 1842 this is what Smith instructed the Twelve to do in relation to John Snider (whose wife Joseph was having sex with):

<1842.> January 28 Joseph decided that Elder John Snider should go out on a mission, and if necessary some one go with him. and raise up a Church. and get means to go to England. & carry the Epistles required in the Revelation109 page 36.— and instructed the Twelve, B[righam] Young H[eber] C. Kimball. W[ilford] Woodruff. &— W[illard] Richards— being present. to call Elder Snider into their council & instruct him in these things, & if he will not do these things he shall be cut off from the Church. & be damned.— (Online here, (Joseph Smith Papers) Accessed November 5, 2014, added emphasis).

Is using threats against someone’s eternal salvation because someone is reluctant to go on a mission the righteous exercise of priesthood authority over them?  Joseph Smith himself wrote that God told him that:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 121:34-39, added emphasis).

Every Mormon knows that it is a fundamental doctrine of the Church that one cannot be “forced” to serve a mission as Joseph Smith tried to do with John Snider. For example, at, “Nick” wrote,

“Required” is an interesting word when it comes to faith and religion. In the Mormon Church no one is “required” to serve a mission. Church membership is not revoked for not serving a mission.

It seems that church membership can be revoked, if the “prophet” wants your wife. As James E. Talmage taught,

It is no more a part of God’s plan to compel men to work righteousness than it is his purpose to permit evil powers to force his children into sin.” (James Talmage, The Great Apostasy, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909, 35, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

David O. McKay also taught this same principle,

Freedom of the will and the responsibility associated with it are fundamental aspects of Jesus’ teachings. Throughout his ministry he emphasized the worth of the individual, and exemplified what is now expressed in modern revelation as the work and glory of God–“To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Only through the divine gift of soul freedom is such progress possible.

Force, on the other hand, emanates from Lucifer himself. Even in man’s preexistent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of mans coming to earth would have been frustrated. Satan’s proposed system of government, therefore, was rejected, and the principle of free agency establish in its place. (Conference Report, April 1950, 34 -35, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

David O. Mckay

So, according to David O. McKay, where did Joseph Smith’s threat to cut off John Snider from the Church if he did not accept a mission come from? Lucifer himself. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Snider “frigging” is how Hales continues to portray it, even though he claims there is no evidence any special relationship existed:

My research supports that Joseph Smith and all of his plural wives obeyed the theology undergirding the practice of polygamy. That is, a wedding ceremony creating a valid priesthood marriage always occurred, they did not engage in sexual polyandry, and adultery was always condemned.

Looking specifically at Joseph Smith’s marriages to women with legal husbands, I conclude that three were for “time and eternity” (Sylvia Sessions, Mary Heron, and Sarah Ann Whitney) and included sexual relations with Joseph Smith (or may have included it). Importantly, documentation of sexual relations with the legal husband during the same period is absent because two of the women were already physically separated from their civil spouses (Windsor Lyon and Joseph Kingsbury) and the third case (of Mary Heron) is too poorly documented. (“Hales-Quinn”, online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

How then, can Hales claim that it is probable that Smith was married to Mary Heron Snider for “time and eternity”? Fact is, he can’t. We do have evidence enough to conclude that it was adultery, but a marriage? That is simply wishful thinking on the part of Hales. But it still did not stop him from correcting Jeremy Runnells and including her as one of Smith’s wives. It is obvious that it is Hales who has problems with the evidence, not Jeremy Runnells.

As for this speculation by Hales concerning John Snider,

A fourth interpretation [of Smith and Mary Heron’s relationship] also acknowledges conjugality between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron and assumes that a plural sealing in the new and everlasting covenant occurred that would have caused the legal marriage to be “done away” (D&C 22:1) with John continuing as a “front husband” to shield Joseph Smith from suspicion.  This explanation absolves Joseph of charges of both adultery and hypocrisy but raises plausibility issues about John Snider’s willingness to give up his wife and to thereafter serve as a “front husband.” In support of this possibility are the observations that John Snider and Mary Heron seem to have endured significant periods of estrangement after 1833, with no pregnancies after Mary turned twenty-nine. Also, the couple’s marriage was apparently never sealed, although the option was available. (Hales, “Mary Heron”, op. cited above).

Hales use of D&C 22 in relation to the polygamy “revelation” is anachronistic. (We discuss this in various places in this Essay) And unfortunately for Hales, it directly contradicts an Address from the First Presidency (in other words a binding “revelation” to the Church) made in November, 1842:



To our well beloved brother, Parley P. Pratt, and to the elders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and scattered abroad throughout all Europe, and to the Saints,Greeting:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands and children behind; and such as women leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceeding we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever, nor any woman to leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church, or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in haste nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes.

Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world. And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceives him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever: and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. , and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,& in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are oblige us to cut them off from the church. I presume  There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. We are knowing to their having taken wives here and are credibly informed that they have wives in England.  [red text underlining in original, red text removed when published in the Millennial Star]

 The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.  [Not in original]

There is another evil which exists. There are poor men who come here and leave their families behind in a destitute situation, and beg for assistance to send back after their families. Every man should tarry with his family until providence provides for the whole, for there is no means here to be obtained to send back. Money is scarce and hard to be obtained. The people that gather to this place are generally poor, the gathering being attended with a great sacrifice; and money cannot be obtained by labour, but all kinds of produce is plentiful and can be obtained by labour; therefore the poor man that leaves his family in England, cannot get means, which must be silver and gold, to send for his family; but must remain under the painful sensation, that his family must be cast upon the mercy of the people, and separated and put into the poorhouse.

Therefore, to remedy the evil, we forbid a man to leave his family behind because he has no means to bring them. If the church is not able to bring them, and the parish will not send them, let the man tarry with his family—live with them—and die with them, and not leave them until providence shall open a way for them to come all together. And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness, and we desire that they should be publicly known, and request this to be published in the [Millennial] STAR.

May the Lord bestow his blessing upon all the Saints richly, and hasten the gathering, and bring about the fulness of the everlasting covenant are the prayers of your brethren.

Written by Hyrum Smith, patriarch, by the order of Joseph Smith, president over the whole church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. HYRUM SMITH. (“Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star 3 [November 1842]: 115; emphasis added, Online here, Accessed October 30, 2014, original letter online here, accessed July 13, 2015. Thanks to Brent Metcalfe for the link and H. Michael Marquardt for bringing the original letter to our attention).

As you can see, the original letter has more material than what was printed in the Millennial Star. (In red).

We also found it interesting that the First Presidency here should use the word crafty in relation to these things. Joseph Smith himself did so in relation to “sealing” in 1844:

Again the doctrin or sealing power of Elijah is as follows: If you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be crafty. The first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory & go ahead and not go back but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven. I will walk through the gate of heaven and Claim what I seal & those that follow me & my Council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.365, March 10, 1844, added emphasis. This quote was drastically changed when it was put into the History of the Church (without ellipsis or any notification)  and is still used today in its edited form. See quote at Note 8 here at, Accessed November 5, 2014).

Here is how they altered the quote in their Manual, Teachings of Joseph Smith,

Again: The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory. (Teachings: Joseph Smith, Chapter 26: Elijah and the Restoration of the Sealing Keys, Online here, Accessed, October 26, 2016, Quote at Note #8).

And their source note reads:

History of the Church, 6:251–53; spelling modernized; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Mar. 10, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff.

Neither the History of the Church nor this modern Manual mentions that the quote was drastically altered by them. And “crafty” does not mean “wise”. What it means is being “clever at achieving one’s aims by indirect or deceitful methods.” It also means “artful” or “cunning” according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary. It reminds us of this Book of Mormon verse from 2 Nephi, Chapter 9:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

What are we to make of Joseph Smith deceitfully using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Why did he ignore his own commandment not to break up marriages and families? Did he misuse this power? From what we see above, yes, it appears that he did and then when his first wife Emma totally rebelled against him wrote the apology “revelation”, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132.

[34] Ann Eliza Webb, Wife No. 19, Or the story of a life in bondage. Being a complete exposé of Mormonism, and revealing the sorrows, sacrifices and sufferings of women in Polygamy, 1876, pages 70-71. Notice that this is not a “secondary source”. The original may be read here, at Accessed, October 30, 2014.

[35] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. Hales uses selective editing when quoting the interview with Zina D. H. Young in 1887, to remove her obvious bias against Ann Eliza Webb. The actual quote reads (from Hales’ website mormonpolygamydocuments):

“The trouble with Ann Eliza,” Aunt Zina answered, “was that she was not truthful. She was not grateful, and she was a very bad woman.  She has convicted herself out of her own mouth. She said she lived in a hovel. The cottage she occupied is still standing on the corner beyond, and it is among the best and prettiest in this part of the city. The fact is it is far too good for her. “Yes,” said Mrs. Wells, “I knew Ann Eliza at school, and she was never fit to be the wife of President Young.”

“She says she was starved,” Aunt Zinah continued; “when the fact is she got more than any of us. Mr. Parks, now with the Z. C. M. I. was President Young’s steward, and he gave each family its monthly allowance of sugar, soap, coffee, etc., and Ann Eliza got more than all the others, because she made Mr. Parks give it to her. She says she made butter for the other wives when she was on President Young’s farm. She never did any such thing. She had her horses and carriages, with which she rode to and from the farm, and it may have been that occasionally some butter was put in her carriage, which she left at the Lion House or Bee Hive, but that was all. She never lifted her finger to do a bit of work that she didn’t want to do. She had servants and there was no necessity for her doing anything. She has asserted that President Young opened all his wives’ letters, and that they couldn’t visit anywhere or write to anybody, which is ridiculously untrue. President Young was occupied with too many important matters to give attention to such trivial things as his wives’ letters or his wives’ visits. We wrote to whom we pleased and went where we wanted to go.” … (“Two Prophets’ Widows, St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 18, 1887, 6, JSP_Book_15, PDF, Online here, Accessed October 14, 2014).

We don’t know why Hales employed those ellipses, but from what we see here, both Zina Young and Emmeline Wells didn’t think that Ann Eliza was fit to be Young’s wife in the first place. This sounds more like petty jealousy.

These wives also state that Ann Eliza made trips to the Lion and Beehive houses, which would have given her ample opportunity to interact with Zina and Young’s other wives. For Hales to claim “proximity” here, is disingenuous. The quote isn’t that long, so why didn’t Hales transcribe it all? Because it doesn’t support his narrative. Many readers will simply not take the trouble to look up the original sources. Hales could also provide links to the pages with the actual sources if he chose to do so, but so far he has not. I am hopeful that he will, since he has gone to the trouble of producing and making public his research.

As for Ann Eliza, she did not say that she lived in a hovel. She wrote,

Such a home it was! A little house, the rent of which would have been extremely moderate had it been a hired house, furnished plainly, even meanly, when the position of the man whose wife was to occupy it was considered. It was the very cheapest pine furniture which could be bought in the city, and the crockery was dishes that Brigham had left when he sold the Globe bakery. There were very few of these, and they were in various stages of dilapidation. My carpet was an old one, taken from the Lion House parlor, all worn out in the centre, and, it being a large room, I took out the edges and pieced out enough to cover two rooms, and the other floors were bare. I had no window curtains of any sort, and there being no blinds to the house, I had to hang up sheets to keep people from looking in.

I told him several times that I was insufficiently supplied; but for a long time he made some excuse or other for not giving me more. At last he sent me a very few additional ones; so that, although there was still a lack of what I actually needed, I managed to get along by a great deal of contriving. (Ann Eliza Young, op. cited, 458).

This is hardly claiming she lived in a “hovel”.  Ann Eliza calls it a “little house”; which is what Zina called it: a “cottage”.  Ann Eliza complained about the sparse furnishings, of which Zina makes no mention. And even this, says Zina, “is far too good for her.” In fact Ann Eliza states on page 533 of her book that “Outwardly, my new home had a lovely appearance.” She adds, “And, indeed, with its somewhat irregular architecture, its wide verandas, vine-draped and shaded, its broad, low windows, and beautiful surroundings, it is one of the pleasantest looking places that one would care to see.” (ibid., 533)

This of course is exactly what Zina Young states. It is obvious that Zina is out to vilify Ann Eliza by putting a derogatory spin on the things that she reported in her book. The author of the article describes it as a “charming little house”, while Ann Eliza called it a lovely … little house. 

For example, Ann Eliza doesn’t claim that she ever made butter. She writes,

My mother made the butter and cheese [at the Farm], and took charge of the cooking. I assisted her with the latter, [cooking] took care of the house, did the washing and ironing, and was allowed the extreme pleasure of carrying the farm supplies to the other wives every week. (ibid., 534, added emphasis).

Again, we see that Zina is mistaken, and only has part of it right. Ann Eliza did claim that she carried supplies (like butter) to the other wives, not that she made the butter herself. It seems that it is Hales who is not really familiar with the research, if he will use such biased witnesses without disclosing them as such. Still, we are troubled by the ellipses he employs that drastically alter the tone of Zina Young’s statements about Ann Eliza. This also destroys Hales “proximity” argument.

Notice also, that Zina claims that she was “sealed” to Joseph for time and eternity, and claims that it was a “marriage”.

[36] Brian Hales, Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 141, 149, 153-54, 156-57, 159-60, online here, accessed October 20, 2014.  If one reads through the references on Ann Eliza Webb Young given by Brian Hales in this article, one curious thing becomes obvious. He never reveals the credibility problems he seems to have with her as he does when Ann Eliza’s reminiscences are used by others who have come to different conclusions than Brian Hales does.

We also see that Hales on the one hand tries to provide evidence for a “sealing”, but then denies that there could be one.  Hales and Gregory L. Smith write in their Interpreter Article,

We do not claim the Fanny Alger plural marriage was a sealing. Joseph possessed priesthood authority that could solemnize marriages. The first such recorded marriage occurred 24 November 1835, when the Prophet performed the monogamous wedding ceremony of Lydia Goldthwaite Bailey and Newell Knight. It is common nowadays to think of plural marriage as always tied to the doctrines of sealing and eternal marriage, but the two concepts are separate. The historical evidence has Joseph discussing plural marriage years prior to expressing ideas about eternal sealings. (Hales-Smith, op. cited)

There is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that Smith possessed a priesthood authority that could solemnize polygamous marriages in 1835. Hales provides no credible evidence that the concepts are “separate”. In his article for the Journal of Mormon History Hales writes,

“An analysis of the various narratives shows that none is contemporary with 1835; thirteen were written at least thirty-seven years after the events occurred; ten of the accounts are second-hand. Seven considered the relationship a plural marriage or sealing …” (Hales, op. cited, 142-3, note 20).

If only “Priesthood Authority” (not having the sealing “keys”) could solemnize celestial/plural marriages, then why does every single “prophet” of the Mormon Church claim that it takes those “keys” to do so, and that anyone who did not have those “keys” could not perform them without express permission? It has always been taught that no one could perform a plural marriage without direct permission of the President of the Church. This is because he is the one that held the “keys” to do so, keys that were not given to the Church (as they claim) until 1836. This is a dilemma for those that wish to turn the Alger affair into a polygamous marriage. That plural marriages were linked with the sealing “keys” and that these were not really valid until performed in a Temple is affirmed by Hales himself:

The belief developed in Nauvoo that all eternal sealing ceremonies performed outside of a temple, whether monogamous or polygamous, would need to be repeated within temple walls (with the same individuals or by proxy) at some point. By this logic, the Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger plural marriage needed to be repeated in a temple to become an eternal marriage. (Hales, ibid., 158)

But why would Joseph marry Fanny Alger only for time, when Hales claims that the polygamy “revelation” is all about the next life and eternal “marriages”? Is he making an exception with this “marriage”? If so, why? Hales advocates time and again that everything to do with Smith is done in a proper order as revealed by God. Hales claims that,

A second applicable theological principle apparently overlooked by proponents including Quinn is found an 1830 revelation, now D&C 22:1, which states: “Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” This revelation was given shortly after the Church was organized in response to a specific question about baptism, which is a new and everlasting covenant between a person and God. The revelation states generally that the new and everlasting covenant causes all old covenants to be done away.

Thirteen years later Joseph recorded another revelation dealing with his question about Old Testament patriarchs who practices a “plurality of wives” (D&C 132:1). As part of the revelatory reply, the Lord proclaimed: “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant…” The revelation continues declaring that this new and everlasting covenant allows the marriage of a man and a woman to be “valid…[and] of force when they are out of the world” (v. 18; see also 19-20). The question is whether the earlier statement that “all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant” (D&C 22:1) applies to all “new and everlasting covenants” mentioned in D&C 132:4.

Isaiah provided a possible hint regarding the teaching methods of the God of the Bible: “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (Isaiah 28:13; see also 2 Nephi 28:30). This instruction was repeated to Joseph Smith in one of his revelations (D&C 98:12, see also 128:21). The 1830 revelation states “all old covenants” are “done away” by “a new and everlasting covenant.” If “all” means “all,” then new and everlasting covenants revealed later in a “line upon line” fashion would be subject to the same constraints as those revealed early. Then sealings in the new and everlasting would cause old legal marriage covenants to be “done away.” In 1854, Jedediah M. Grant recalled that when eternal marriage was revealed in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith taught that “all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants.”

These verses have important ramifications for the practice of sexual polyandry. They support that from a religious standpoint, a woman previously legally married and subsequently sealed would not have two husbands with whom she could experience sexual relations after the sealing ceremony. The new and everlasting covenant of marriage would supersede the legal covenant of marriage causing it to be “done away.” Thereafter, going back to her legal husband would be adultery because in the eyes of the Church, that marriage ended with the sealing. (Hales, op. cited).

There is no evidence at all that a “Celestial Marriage” would void an already existing secular marriage in the Kirtland or Nauvoo Era. According to Hales, Joseph was then guilty of breaking up marriages, which Smith condemned in 1842 in a First Presidency Address. He declared that no one had the right to break up any marriage for any reason. If the wife left the husband she must get a legal divorce and then she could marry again. If she did not, she and any man she took up with were committing adultery. This means that Joseph Smith committed adultery with every one of his polyandrous wives.

And far be it for us to “overlook” any of Hales illogical assertions or private interpretations of Smith’s doctrine. (We are sure that there are many we will not get to even in an Essay of this length). Hales claims that in an 1830 “revelation” Smith claimed,

“Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing;”

What is “this thing”? Hales claims the “revelation” is about baptism, which it is; but he then goes on to say that it is “generally” about all things in the Church. Here is what it actually says,

1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.

3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.

4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen. (added emphasis)

“This thing”, is Baptism, not Marriage. As Dan Vogel explained to Hales,

Your reading of D&C 22 is anachronistic. You are attempting to apply an 1840s definition to an 1830 term. At the time it was given, only the Catholics considered marriage a religious ceremony. Protestants rejected marriage as a sacrament of the church. Mormons were no different. While they insisted that converts be rebaptized, they didn’t require them to be remarried.

“In Joseph Smith’s theology, a woman could never have two husbands.” You are presumably basing this on the July 1843 revelation (D&C 132:61-62). Yet, you have admitted that JS married at least three women who had living husbands. So, to save your thesis, you propose the following ad hoc hypothesis: “A marriage sealing in the new and everlasting covenant would cause the civil marriage to be done away from a Church standpoint.” However, this interpretation is aided by your anachronistic borrowing from D&C 22, which you haven’t shown that JS applied to marriage in the 1840s. Yours is a private interpretation of scripture since the Church’s position has been that non-Mormon marriage, or Mormon marriage out side the temple for that matter, is valid and binding for this life only but is dissolved at death. This is apparently the view expressed in D&C 132:41-44, which mentions that it is considered adultery if either the husband or wife breaks the marriage “vow” even if their marriage was “not in the new and everlasting covenant”. Indeed, the Church has always treated non-temple marriage as legitimate.

Nevertheless, you have only shown that under a certain semantic construction JS didn’t commit adultery; there still remains the issue of sexual polyandry. In other words, you seem to be arguing two things simultaneously: JS didn’t have sex with married women, but if he did he didn’t consider it adultery. And you say I’m subtle. Polyandry is polyandry. The revelation’s use of the term “virgins” (132: 61-62) would tend to exclude your specialized definition, which would require you to go deeper into semantics and equivocation. I turns out that when you say everyone but you has ignored JS’s theology, you mean they don’t understand it in the unique (and unlikely) way that you do. (“Hales-Vogel”, op. cited).

“Hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers…”

Another error that Hales makes is applying the quote from Isaiah that he mentions:

9 “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? 10 For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; here a little here, a little there.” 11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, 12 to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen. 13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured. Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 28:9-14 NIV, added emphasis).

It is obvious that Isaiah was being extremely sarcastic here, and that teaching “line upon line” was not the Lord’s way, it was a curse that would cause the ruling scoffers “to fall backward” and become “injured” and “snared and captured.” In verse 19 Isaiah claims, “The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror.” His message was being delivered to “scoffers” who had “made a lie” of their refuge. This is not about some approved method of teaching doctrine; it is about what happens when wicked men rule and abuse their positions of power.

The 1830 “revelation” absolutely does not apply to the one given in 1843. The binding scripture of the Church in 1835 declared, “All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled.” (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section CI:4, added emphasis; Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: FULFILL’ED:  Accomplished; performed; completed; executed).

Yes, Smith did teach in Nauvoo that all Gentile marriages were not binding upon those individuals “in and after the resurrection from the dead”, but that was a doctrinal change without support from earlier scripture, used by Smith to justify his polyandry. Indeed, Smith himself claimed in his 1843 “revelation”,

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7, added emphasis).

The problem with Hales’ logic here, is that the husbands of the women that Smith “married” were not dead when he did so, so their marriage “contracts” were still valid, and as we mentioned above it was a law to the Church:

And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation. (1842 Address, op.cited above).

Eliza R. Snow wrote a list of Smith’s wives with Andrew Jenson and he penned this about Fanny Alger:

“One of the first wives Joseph married, Emma made such a fuss about –  Sister ER Snow was well acquainted with her and lived with the prophet at the time She afterwards married in Indiana where she became the mother of a large family”(Hales, op. cited)

Hales states that “Eliza’s proximity to the events is important because it provides a chronological marker because she went to live with the Smith family in the “spring of 1836,” so Hales concludes that the “marriage” took place during this period of time. He also makes the conclusion that Eliza was then an “eyewitness to the fuss”, with Emma.

Snow moved to Kirtland in December of 1835. She writes in her “Sketch” in 1885, “In the Spring of 1836, I taught a select school for the young ladies, and boarded with the Prophet’s family: at the close of the term I returned to my parental home…”

This does not say that she moved to Kirtland in “the Spring of 1836”. But I did find this notice in the February Edition of the Messenger and Advocate for 1835:

Notice. — The spring term of the “Kirtland School” will commence on the 20th of April next. Young gentlemen and ladies from a distance can obtain board, in respectable families for $1.00 to $1.25 per week. (Messenger & Advocate, Vol. I. No. 5, February, 1835, 80, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

This would seem to indicate that the Spring Term started in mid April, and this is probably the case for the next year (1836). We learn from Eliza Snow’s journal that her terms lasted for three months so Eliza would have been at the Smith home until mid-July.  Joseph Smith left for Salem, Massachusetts on July 25, 1836.

There are problems with Snow’s account. First, it is too vague. What did she mean by “married”? Did she ever claim to witness a ceremony? Did Alger ever describe herself as Smith’s “wife”? All we have is that Snow was “well acquainted” with Alger, who left Kirtland in the Winter of 1836. What this brief sentence does not say is that Snow and Alger lived with the Smith’s at the same time. “At the time” could just mean the year 1836 when Smith was committing adultery with Alger. Snow doesn’t have to be an “eyewitness” to have known that Emma put up a “fuss”.

Since Snow was in Kirtland since December of 1835 she could have easily learned about the scrape and the “fuss” that Emma put up about it. Snow describing it as a “marriage” later, means nothing because she was an ardent defender of Smith and that is how she viewed it. If Snow really knew all that about Alger, why are there so little details? She doesn’t provide a timeframe for the supposed “marriage”, who performed it,  or who was there, all crucial details that someone who was well acquainted with Fanny Alger would supposedly know.

Hales also can’t answer the problem of a “sealing”. He only uses Smith’s “priesthood authority” to perform marriages and quotes Newell Knight from 1846 to substantiate this claim. Hales admits that “sealing” in Ohio seems to have been used only in “sealing up to everlasting life.”

So Smith had no authority to perform plural marriages or sealings at that time. This is an important point that can’t be stressed enough. Smith’s “priesthood authority” simply did not extend to plural marriages because he did not have the “keys” to perform them, including those for “time”. If he could perform them, then why have Elijah come and why do all subsequent Mormon “authorities” claim that they are needed to do so? Why then, did John C. Bennett not have the authority to perform plural marriages for time only? If Joseph could break the rule, why couldn’t Bennett also?  Remember, Bennett was operating before the “revelation” on polygamy was written that designated that only one man could authorize those “marriages”.

This whole scenario makes little sense except as an apologetic ploy. Therefore, Hales needs to throw out any reference to Smith and Alger being “sealed”, or that Joseph could have performed a plural “marriage” at that time by “priesthood authority”. This cuts way down on his evidence of a marriage, which doesn’t do him any good anyway, because they are all late accounts decades after the event. Even Eliza J. Webb (Ann Eliza Young’s mother) couldn’t say for sure what went on in Kirtland as she wrote on May 4, 1876:

But I am surprised that Emma will testify that Polygamy was not practiced in Joseph’s day. Aunt Fanny Murray [Brigham Young’s sister] was sealed to Joseph. She told me so herself. Mother Granger who your mother will remember, told me she herself was sealed to Hyrum Smith…Helen Kimball and Sarah Ann Whitney were among the ‘victims’ Helen was only fourteen years old when she was given to the “prophet.” Poor girl, and poor Mother, we may also say, for sister Vilate was both shocked and grieved almost beyond measure. Emma Smith knows all this, but I do not wish to quarrel with her about it, for she has no doubt, had trouble enough. I think I could enumerate towards a hundred women who were sealed to Joseph; many of them already having husbands at the time, who the “prophet” said were not competent to save and exalt their wives…I do not know that the “sealing” commenced in Kirtland but I am perfectly satisfied that something similar commenced, and my judgement is principally formed from what Fanny Alger told me herself concerning her reasons for leaving “Sister Emma”. (Eliza J. Webb letter of 4 May 1876, in Myron H. Bond Papers, RLDS Archives, added emphasis).

What would be “similar” to sealing? There is simply no answer to this question, therefore Eliza Webb is simply mistaken and conflating later events with what Alger told her fifty years earlier. Joseph Smith could have told Fanny Alger anything which she may have repeated to Eliza Webb, (about it being some kind of “marriage”) but that doesn’t change the fact that Joseph did not have the authority to perform a plural marriage in 1835. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states,

The Book of Mormon makes clear that, though the Lord will command men through his prophets to live the law of plural marriage at special times for his purposes, monogamy is the general standard (Jacob 2:28-30); unauthorized polygamy was and is viewed as adultery. Another safeguard was that authorized plural marriages could be performed only through the sealing power controlled by the presiding authority of the Church (D&C 132:19). (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Plural Marriage”, 1992, p. 1094).

Joseph did not have the “sealing power” which is supposedly a “safeguard” against what Hales claims he did, and therefore he could not perform any plural marriage at that time. Therefore, what Hales is advocating here, is his own fantasy.

In Smith’s diary from 1835 we have the actual marriage ceremony he used for the Newell Knight marriage:

24 November 1835 • Tuesday

Tuesday 24th at home, spent the fore noon, instructing those that called to inquire concerning the things of God, in the last days: in the after-noon, we translated some of the Egyptian, records; I had an invitation, to attend a wedding at Br. Hiram [Hyrum] Smith’s in the evening also to solemnize the matrimonial ceremony, <between Newell Knights [Newel Knight] & Lydia Goldthwaite [Bailey]> I and my wife, went, when we arrived a conciderable company, had collected, the bridegroom & bride came in, and took their seats, which gave me to understand that they were ready, I requesteded them to arise and join hands, I then remarked that marriage was an institution of h[e]aven institude [instituted] in the garden of Eden, that it was necessary that it should be Solemnized by the authority of the everlasting priesthood, before joining hands however, we attended prayers. I then made the remarks above stated; The ceremony was original <with me> it was in substance as follows, You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect to which they assented, I then pronounced them husband & Wife in the name of God and also pronounced the blessings that the Lord confeed upon adam & Eve in the garden of Eden; that is to multiply and replenish the earth, with the addition of long life and prosperity; dismissed them and returned home.— The weather is freezing cold, some snow on the ground…(Joseph Smith Diary, 1835-1836, 49, Online here, Accessed November 16, 2014).

Notice that even with a monogamous marriage, Smith blesses them to “multiply and replenish the earth”.  It is also important to note that a few months earlier, this was printed in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants which soon after became binding on the entire church (including Joseph Smith):

Section CI.


1. According to the customs of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be there determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2. Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companions, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”
3. The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.
4. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that all persons who exercise control over their fellow beings, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. (Added emphasis)

First, all marriages should be “solemnized” in a public meeting. Second, they should be performed by the presiding officer of the Ward, and they should not be prohibited from being married by “other authority”. Also, this proclamation (which became binding scripture on the church) states that these marriages were to be performed “by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him, whether by Mormon “priesthood” or by “other authority”.

Finally, we have a warning against polygamy, and that the declared belief of the church is “that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband,” and that it is not lawful for any man to influence a woman to leave her husband.

What does it say about a self proclaimed prophet who does not follow the binding scripture of his own church? No wonder Smith did what he did in secret.

This article on marriage says nothing about gentile marriages not being valid or that a woman can just leave her duly married husband because some priesthood holder desired her or she desired him.  As D. Michael Quinn writes,

In October of 1842, twelve men and nineteen women signed affidavits that stated in part, “we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” The signers included Apostle John Taylor and Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who had already been taught the doctrine of polygamy by Joseph Smith), Bishop Newel K. Whitney (who had performed a plural marriage ceremony the previous July for his own daughter and Joseph Smith in accordance with a revelation dictated by the Prophet on the occasion), Elizabeth Ann Whitney (who witnessed the plural ceremony), Sarah M. Cleveland (who had become Joseph Smith’s plural wife early in 1842), and Eliza R. Snow (who also married him on 29 June 1842). (Quinn, LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, 21. See, Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, 939-40, 1 Oct. 1842, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

In 1842 the Relief Society reiterated the Church’s Marriage Law in an effort to denounce John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wifeism”, (what Joseph called his own system) in this affidavit published in the Times and Seasons:

We have given the above rule of marriage [Section CI] as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-
We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.
N. K. Whitney, (Married daughter Sarah Ann to Joseph Smith)
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon,
John Taylor, (knew of Plural Marriage)
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
Wilford Woodruff, (knew of plural marriage)
Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.
Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor, (Witness to Marriage of Smith to daughter Sarah Ann)
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor, (Plural Wife)
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary, (Plural Wife)
Mary C. Miller,
Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler,
Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon,
Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter,
Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law,
Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks,
Rosannah Marks,
Polly Z. Johnson,
Angeline Robinson,
Abigail Works. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 23, 939, October 1, 1842, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

There are further questions that need to  be answered here pertaining to Fanny Alger. If an angel appeared to Joseph Smith in 1834 (as Hales asserts according to very late accounts) why would he command Smith to practice polygamy without the sealing power which was essential to such marriages? Mormon apologists don’t address such questions let alone adequately explain them.

Ann Eliza Webb account:

Mrs. [Emma] Smith had an adopted daughter, a very pretty, pleasing young girl, about seventeen years old. She was extremely fond of her; no own mother could be more devoted, and their affection for each other was a constant object of remark, so absorbing and genuine did it seem. Consequently it was with a shocked surprise that the people heard that sister Emma had turned Fanny out of the house in the night. . . . By degrees it became whispered about that Joseph’s love for his adopted daughter was by no means a paternal affection, and his wife discovering the fact, at once took measures to place the girl beyond his reach. . . . [T]he storm became so furious, that Joseph was obliged to send, at midnight, for Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, to come and endeavor to settle matters between them…The scribe was a worthy servant of his master. He was at the time residing with a certain young woman, and at the same time he had a wife living. . . . The worthy couple—the Prophet and his scribe—were sorely perplexed what to do with the girl, since Emma refused decidedly to allow her to remain in her house; but after some consultation, my mother offered to take her until she could be sent to her relatives. Although her parents were living, they considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the Prophet’s family, and her mother [Clarissa Hancock Alger] has always claimed that she was sealed to Joseph at that time. (Ann Eliza Webb Young, op. cited, 66-67).

It was Fanny Alger’s mother who later claimed that it was a sealing, but as we see above, there were no “sealings” being performed by Joseph then, and we have the text of the first marriage that Joseph performed.

Hales quotes Benjamin F. Johnson in an effort to prove a sealing or marriage:

And now as to your question, “How early did the Prophet Joseph practice polygamy?”. . . In 1835, at Kirtland, I learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, “that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.” This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her. (Hales, op. cited above, added emphasis. Hales is citing Benjamin F. Johnson’s letter to George F. Gibbs, written in 1902 or 1903, added emphasis).

Yet in his autobiography penned years before the Gibbs letter, Johnson writes that in 1843,

…we sat down upon a log he began to tell me that the Lord had revealed to him that plural or patriarchal marriage was according to His law; and that the Lord had not only revealed it to him but had commanded him to obey it; that he was required to take other wives; and that he wanted my Sister Almira for one of them, and wished me to see and talk to her upon the subject. If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been more shocked or amazed. He saw the struggle in my mind and went on to explain. But the shock was too great for me to comprehend anything, and in almost an agony of feeling I looked him squarely in the eye, and said, while my heart gushed up before him, “Brother Joseph, this is all new to me; it may all be true—you know, but I do not. To my education it is all wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, with this promise to you—that if ever I know you do this to degrade my sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, Independence, Mo., Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, 94-95, added emphasis).

Notice that Johnson states in his “Review” that in 1843 that “this [polygamy] is all new to me”, but then years later he “remembers” that he was told about plural marriage in 1835.

Oliver Cowdery, by grindael

The evidence closest to the event is of course the letter by Cowdery who wrote that,

I never confessed intimated \or admitted/ that I ever willfully lied about him [Joseph Smith]. When he was here we had some conversation in which in every instance, I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Algers was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself. (Oliver Cowdery, Letter to Warren Cowdery, 1838)

Hales tries to make much about the fact that the word “affair” was written over the word “scrape” above, but if we go to the minutes of the High Council Minutes for April 12, 1838, we read:

The High Council and Bishoprick of Zion met according to appointment in Far-West April  12th 1838 Edward Partridge Presiding…

George W. Harris testifies that one evening last fall O. Cowdery was at his house together with Joseph Smith jr, and Thomas B. Marsh, when a conversation took place between Joseph Smith jr & O. Cowdery, when he seemed to insinuate that Joseph Smith jr was guilty of adultery, but when the question was put, if he (Joseph) had ever acknowledged to him that he was guilty of such a thing; when he [Oliver] answered No…

David W. Patten testifies, that he went to Oliver Cowdery to enquire of him if a certain story was true respecting J. Smith’s committing adultery with a certain girl , when he turned on his heel and insinuated as [p. 123] though he [Joseph] was guilty; he then went on and gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. Also said that Joseph told him, he had confessed to Emma, …

Thomas B. Marsh testifies that while in Kirtland last summer, David W. Patten asked Oliver Cowdery if he Joseph Smith jr had confessed to his wife that he was guilty of adultery with a certain girl, when Oliver Cowdery cocked up his eye very knowingly and hesitated to answer the question, saying he did not know as he was bound to answer the question yet conveyed the idea that it was true. Last fall after Oliver came to this place he heard a conversation take place between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when J. Smith asked him if he [Joseph] had ever confessed to him that he was guilty of adultery, when after a considerable winking &c. he said no. Joseph then asked him if he ever told him that he confessed to any body, when he answered no.

Joseph Smith jr testifies that Oliver Cowdery had been his bosom friend, therefore he intrusted him with many things.

He then gave a history respecting the girl business. (“The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints,” Minute Book 2, (Also known as the “Far West Record”,  118, 123-124, added emphasis, underlines in original. Online here, Accessed November 1, 2014)

Here we see that it is called an “adultery scrape”, and that would be an “affair”.  Thomas B. Marsh relates that when David Patten asked Cowdery if Smith had confessed to his wife that he was guilty of adultery,  Cowdery did not answer but conveyed the idea that it was true. Then in a conversation Marsh overheard between the two in the fall of 1837, Joseph carefully asked Cowdery if he had ever confessed to him that he was guilty of adultery, but that Cowdery with a wink said no, conveying the idea that this was a lie. David Patton claimed that Cowdery insinuated to him that Smith had committed adultery (which he calls a “scrape”) and that “no doubt it was true” and had “confessed to Emma.”

All of the early documents show that this was not a marriage; it was only looked upon as such in later reminiscences. Why, if Joseph gave “a history respecting the girl business”, is there no one that recalls him claiming to be married to the “girl”? Why was Benjamin Johnson so shocked at Smith’s proposing polygamy in 1843 when he supposedly knew that Joseph was going to restore it in 1835?

We support the interpretation of the evidence by George D. Smith who wrote:

Joseph met the daughter of a carpenter, Samuel Alger, who had converted to Mormonism in October 1830 in Mayfield, about fifteen miles east of Cleveland and ten miles southwest of Kirtland. The fourteen-year-old Fanny Alger was the fourth of eleven children. As might be expected from a teenager from such a large family, she was looking for work, and Emma obliged by hiring her to help around the house. This made Fanny the first of many young women who would come to live with the Smiths as domestic workers. Before long, talk about Joseph echoed Fanny’s name, maybe as early as 1832 but certainly from 1833 to 1835. The ensuing scandal contributed to the dissent and excommunication that swept the church in 1837-38, even after Fanny had left town and married someone else. Joseph wrote in his journal on December 4, 1832: “Oh, Lord, deliver thy servant out of temtations and fill his heart with wisdom and understanding.” If this was not in reference to Fanny Alger, it coincided with the report of two of Joseph’s scribes, Warren Parrish and Oliver Cowdery, that Joseph had been “found” in the hay with his housekeeper. Parrish said Joseph and Fanny were discovered together “as wife,” while Cowdery called it a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair.” As a result of having publicly discussed the incident, and for “seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jr by falsly insinuating that he was guilty of adultry &c.,” Cowdery was expelled from the church. …Smith’s relationship with Alger was also mentioned by Benjamin F. Johnson, Smith’s brother-in-law through Smith’s marriage to two of his sisters. In 1835, Alger was living with Delcena Sherman, Benjamin’s married sister, when it was whispered that Alger enjoyed the attention of the prophet: “And I was afterw[a]rds told by Warren Parish That He himself & Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fanny Alger as wife for They were Spied upon & found togather.” It might be important to mention that the testimony here and elsewhere regarding “[ having] Fanny Alger as wife” employs a Victorian euphemism that should not be construed to imply that Fanny was actually married to Joseph. This delicate wording may have later contributed to some of the misunderstanding about their marital status. If she had been sealed to him at the time, it was not mentioned and there is no record of it. Johnson knew that Jared Carter and others criticized the “doings of the Prophet” on the assumption that it was an affair, not a plural marriage. (Smith, George D. (2013-11-24). Nauvoo Polygamy “… But We Called It Celestial Marriage”, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Kindle Locations 860-872, 903-910).

As will be shown below, there is no real credible evidence to overturn Smith’s narrative above. As Gary Bergera (Signature Books) writes:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison, which seems clearly to be Oliver Cowdery’s interpretation of the relationship. In addition, Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40.(Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 38, No. 3, Fall 2005, 30n75).

The biggest problem that Mormon Apologists have is trying to retrofit Joseph’s spiritual wifeism to the Kirtland Era. To try and persuade his readers that this was some kind of polygamous “marriage”, Brian Hales quotes Mosiah Hancock, who was a baby when these events played out. So Hales is basing his narrative on a second hand source who wrote about these events in 1896, more than 60 years later! Hancock’s information about Fanny Alger is found in the autobiography of his father, Levi Ward Hancock, but it is not based on anything written by Levi, it was all added to his autobiography by his son Mosiah in 1896 and is therefore suspect. Mosiah Hancock was only a year old in 1835.

Hales also claims that he has “important new evidence” that “supports that Fanny was a plural wife of Joseph Smith.” This evidence is Andrew Jenson’s research notes about Joseph’s spiritual wives compiled in the 1880’s. First, we don’t really know where Jenson got the information he used in compiling some of those notes about Fanny Alger. Hales claims that Jenson spoke to “several Nauvoo polygamists”, and he names Malissa Lott and Eliza R. Snow. Though Jenson did speak with many polygamists, there is simply no way to link exactly who he got his information from.

Hales also writes,

Eliza’s knowledge of the incident is important because Don Bradley was able to determine that she personally wrote Fanny’s name on a list he was making of Joseph Smith’s wives in 1886. It appears Jenson interviewed Malissa Lott, obtaining information on thirteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, writing their names on a document now called “document 1.”

Sometime thereafter, Jenson met with Eliza R. Snow who apparently took the paper into her own hands and penned thirteen additional names. (ibid)

Since the handwriting on this paper is actually Snow’s, this is an accurate description of the evidence. (That Snow wrote down some women’s names on it). I’m not sure what the importance of this “Document 1” really is. Eliza wrote down the names of some of Joseph Smith’s wives on a piece of paper, names that many were already familiar with. All we can say is, So what?

Though Jenson did interview Malissa Lott, there is no evidence that she was personally familiar with the circumstances of Joseph’s relationship to Fanny, (she was ten years old in 1834) although there is evidence that Eliza Snow knew some things.

This then, is simply a list of Joseph’s spiritual wives compiled by Eliza Snow and Andrew Jenson. Since this information was uncovered by Don Bradley and he has written about it, it would be best to quote Bradley directly:

… Jenson was the first to publish Fanny Alger’s name as that of one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, and others have followed in his footsteps.  What has not been known is why Jenson included her on his list—on what authority he made the identification.  This source was Eliza R. Snow, president of the LDS Relief Society and herself one of the prophet’s plural widows.  At Jenson’s request, Snow recorded for him a handwritten list of her “sister wives,” including Fanny Alger.  When Jenson subsequently interview[ed] Eliza Snow about Fanny’s life and relationship with Joseph Smith, she told him, per his interview notes, that Fanny Alger was “one of the first wives Joseph married,” one whom “Emma made such a fuss about.”  Most significantly, Eliza R. Snow explained how she knew about Fanny Alger and the relationship: Eliza “was well acquainted with her as she lived with the Prophet at the time,” of Emma’s “fuss” on discovering the pair together.

Snow’s presence in the house at the discovery establishes the range for when it could have occurred.  According to her autobiography, Eliza Snow lived in the Smith’s Kirtland home twice, once in mid-1836 while teaching a school term that began in the spring and again at the first of 1837. By 1837 Fanny Alger was living in Indiana and married to Solomon Custer; so it was during the first of these two stays, in mid-1836, that Snow and Alger shared the house and the great “fuss” occurred.

The testimony of a contemporary member of the household that the relationship was discovered during her 1836 residence both confirms that a relationship occurred and effectively nails down the time of its discovery and consequent termination.

This timing for the discovery has important implications for the subject to be addressed next—the nature of Smith and Alger’s relationship. (Don Bradley, Mormon Polygamy Before Nauvoo? The Relationship of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger, pg. 11-12, Online here, accessed October 30, 2016.)

Actually it was not Jenson that first published that Fanny Alger was one of Joseph’s wives, (or sealed to him) it was Ann Eliza Young, who did so ten years earlier in 1876 when she published her expose Wife No. 19. This is mentioned by Bradley in a footnote.

As has been written elsewhere the list and notes by Andrew Jenson and Eliza Snow aren’t really that important since there was already a list of wives collected by Joseph F. Smith in 1869, and the “interview” of Snow by Jenson contains little useful information. The information Jenson collected about Sylvia Lyons for example, is scant, misleading, and omits crucial details about her marriage to Smith. As for Fanny Alger, Bradley claims that these notes were written by Jenson and the information was provided by Eliza R. Snow:

Alger, Fanny
Joseph Smiths wife
one of the first wives Joseph
married, Emma made such a
fuss about~
Sister \E R./ Snow was well acquainted
with her \as she/ and lived with the
Prophet at the time
She afterwards married in
Indiana where she became the
Mother of a large family
A brother Alger lives in
St. George
Write to Pres. McAllister

Here is how Hales interprets this:

Eliza’s proximity to the events is important because it provides a chronological marker because she went to live with the Smith family in the “spring of 1836,” and she “was well acquainted with her [Fanny Alger] as she [Eliza] lived with the Prophet at the time” that “Emma made such a fuss about” her. Thus, it appears Eliza was an eye witness to the “fuss” associated with the discovery of the relationship. (Hales, op. cited above).

We interpret this evidence quite differently. It states:

  1. Fanny Alger was one of the first wives Joseph married who Emma made such a fuss about. (Notice the hyphen (~) after the word “about”. I don’t see this as the word “in” as it has been transcribed by Hales. This indicates a break here. (Notice also that this sentence is crossed out. Why? Did Eliza Snow not have any details about this and so they decided not to mention it?)
  2. Eliza R. Snow was well acquainted with her (Fanny) since she lived with the Prophet during that period of time. (This is quite ambiguous. Eliza lived with the prophet “at the time”. At what time, exactly? All we know is that it was during the Spring of 1836 and then again in the Spring of 1837. And if you want to connect Eliza’s being there at the exact time of the “fuss”, why is that crossed out and more importantly, why are there no details about the “fuss”?)
  3. Fanny Alger afterwards married in Indiana and raised a large family.
  4. Fanny Alger has a brother who lives in St. George, Utah.

These are all separate bare bones summaries, not a narrative or recollection. Where is there any evidence that Eliza R. Snow lived in the Smith home at the same time that Emma discovered Joseph and Fanny together in the barn? Both Hales and Bradley offer only these vague notes by Andrew Jenson. In our search through all of the evidence, we can’t find any that verifies that she did. Is it possible? We suppose so, but it is just as possible that she wasn’t there during the snafu with Emma. And that seems more likely, because of the scantiness of those notes. What unique information does Eliza offer to Jenson here? Nothing, really, that hadn’t already been given by Ann Eliza Young. (The “fuss” with Emma).

As Don Bradley wrote, Eliza Snow boarded at the Smith home twice. The first time in the Spring of 1836 and again in January of 1837. It is entirely possible that Eliza Snow knew nothing about the Fanny Alger/Joseph Smith liason until the second time she boarded with the Smiths. She could actually have known her well, but not know any details about the affair. (Her lack of any details in Jenson’s notes attests to this).  We only know that Eliza boarded at the Smith home “in the Spring” of 1836. When she boarded there the first time, she taught a girl’s school. Since Hales and Bradley date the “fuss” in mid-1836, it is entirely possible that Eliza had already left for home by that time, since her school terms (based on her later terms in Nauvoo, See Beecher 402-403,) were only for three months. That would have her leaving the Smith home in late June, (if she started teaching in late March). And we actually have a window that extends all the way to July 25, 1836, when Joseph left for a trip to Salem, Massachusetts to search for hidden treasure. That means that the “fuss” with Emma could certainly have occurred after Eliza left the Smith residence, and that she learned about it when she next boarded with the Smiths, either from them, someone else, or from rumors. Since Eliza Snow gives absolutely no details about the “fuss”, it leaves room for doubt that she was present when it happened.

While in Salem, Joseph Smith wrote to Emma:

Salem, Mass., August 19th, 1836.

My beloved Wife:—Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we could wish to have it. I thought a line from me by him would be acceptable to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind. With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it; if not now within the course of a few months. We think we shall be at home about the middle of September. I can think of many things concerning our business, but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that involve on you, and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband. In haste. Yours &c., Joseph Smith, Jr (Joseph Smith, Letter to Emma Smith, 19 August, 1836, Online here, accessed October 30, 2016).

The last line of this communication to Emma seems very odd, but not if they had had some kind of blowup before he left Kirtland. (We also found the timing of this trip interesting). Joseph wants Emma to believe him that he is her “sincere friend and husband.” This was quite different from the way he closed a letter to Emma in 1832 which ended, “I Subscribe myself your Husband.” Or one in 1834 which closed with, “O may the blessings of God rest upon you is the prayre of your Husband until death.”

In 1838 while a prisoner of the Missourians, he closed a letter to Emma with, “I am your husband and am in bonds and tribulation &c.” And in a letter to Emma from Liberty Jail in 1839 he closed it with the simple, “Yours forever”. Emma, though, seems to have been concerned about her husband long after the Fanny Alger incident. On the 25 April, 1837 Emma wrote to Joseph that, “I pray that God will keep you in purity and safety  till we all meet again.” On May 3,1837 she wrote,

I shall do the best I can in all things, and I hope that we shall be so humble and  pure before God that he will set us at liberty to be our own masters in a few things at least, Yours for ever.

Would Fanny have confided her secret trysts with Joseph to Eliza Snow? Eliza was new to Mormonism, she did not join the Church until the fall of 1835, and so she would have been a stranger to Alger when she moved into the Smith residence, and Joseph’s M.O. was to have his wives tell no one about his liaisons. In the case of Eliza and Emily Partridge, they were unaware (for a time) that each had become one of Joseph’s spiritual wives.

The biggest problem that we see is that if Eliza knew Fanny Alger so well, why are these notes so scanty? There is virtually nothing here that can’t be gleaned from rumors (that were prevalent in early 1837 when Eliza returned to Kirtland) or what Ann Eliza later wrote in Wife No. 19, ten years before these notes were compiled. Fanny Alger was Smith’s “plural wife”, Emma made a fuss and Eliza was “well acquainted with her”, and she moved to Indiana. That’s it.

Why did Jenson not provide any historical details about Fanny Alger in The Historical Record? There is absolutely nothing there except for him affirming that she was one of Smith’s spiritual wives. He had the “well acquainted” Eliza Snow to get information from, right? If she spoke with Joseph about it, or Emma or even Fanny, where are any reminiscences? If it was a marriage, who performed it? Surely she would have remembered the circumstances of when Fanny (or others) first told her that Joseph had married her. Surely she would have related to Jensen the Levi Hancock story, which is promoted by both Hales and the Church.

Again, Eliza Snow offers us almost nothing here, except for claiming Fanny was a plural wife of Joseph Smith, which is all that Jenson felt comfortable including in the Historical Record. Why? We find it interesting that the actual well acquainted Eliza Jane Churchill had far more information (that she passed on to her daughter) about Fanny Alger than Jenson provides through Eliza Snow, even if she did believe it was some kind of marriage.

What information did Eliza Snow provide that wasn’t already known in relation to Smith’s other “wives”? Here is Snow’s 1886 part of the list from the Jenson document. Notice that except for one or two instances, most of this information was already well known by 1886:

Desdemonda Fullmer (6-17-1869)  Jos. F. Smith Affidavit Book 1&4
Malissa Lott  (5-20-1869)  Affidavit Book 1&4
Ruth Vose (5-1-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Sarah Ann Whitney (6-19-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Mary Lightner (Affidavit, March 23, 1877)
Eliz Durfee  (Not in Affidavit Books)
Sarah Cleveland (Not in Affidavit Books)
Louisa Beaman (Joseph B. Noble, 6-26-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Patty Sessions (Not in Affidavit Books, but signed affidavit 6-1-1867)
Sylvia Sessions (Undated/Unsigned Affidavit, Affidavit Book 1 & 4)
Maria Winchester (family tradition, Helen Kimball, Orson F. Whitney)
Helen M Kimball (Clayton Statement, February 16, 1874, Catherine Lewis, Narrative, 1848)
Alvira Cowles (8-28-1869 Affidavit Book  1&4)
Elmira Johnson (Benjamin F. Johnson Affidavit, Book 2, 3-4-1870)
Fanny Alger (Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, 1876)
Olive Frost (Died in 1845, sister Mary Ann Pratt gave statement to Jenson, James Whitehead to Jos. Smith III, on April 20, 1885)
Rhoda Richards (5-1-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Fanny Young (Died in 1859, See Harriet Cook Affidavit, 3-4-1870. Affidavit Book 2&3)
and others

Jenson also includes many of the published 1869 affidavits in the Historical Record. What is interesting is that Eliza Snow provides the name of Maria Winchester, but that was from a second hand source, Orson F. Whitney (the son of Helen Mar Kimball) who published the Life of Heber C. Kimball in 1888 and claimed that Nancy Maria [Winchester] Smith was a widow of Joseph Smith and subsequently married Heber C. Kimball.

Hales writes,

Historians Scott Faulring and Richard L. Anderson argue that the “cumulative evidence argument for such marginal references [supporting Winchester as one of Joseph’s plural wives] does not meet historical guidelines,” and Winchester should not be included. However, they were undoubtedly unaware of the opinion of Eliza R. Snow.

And as we have shown above, why should that matter? So Eliza Snow knew about what Helen Kimball related to her son. These “sister wives” spoke often to each other. It is not a stretch to believe they exchanged information and speculations.

All of the rest of these women had either given affidavits years earlier proclaiming that they were “married” to Smith, or others had already made that assertion. What is interesting are the crossed out names. None of those appear in Joseph F. Smith’s affidavit Books.

We can see only one other person (Olive Frost) whose possible “marriage” to Smith was new information at that time, given to Jenson by Mary Ann Pratt. But even that wasn’t really new since James Whitehead had written to Joseph Smith III a year earlier and mentioned her as one of Smith’s spiritual wives. Still, there is no evidence that Eliza Snow was the one who originally gave all this information to Jenson as firsthand knowledge. So what, exactly did Eliza Snow contribute that wasn’t gotten secondhand, and why would her information about Fanny Alger “help to break the scholarly deadlock about whether Joseph and Fanny were actually married as opposed to having an affair.”?

We really can’t find any, and don’t see how this breaks any scholarly deadlock. Conversely, the evidence that this was an adulterous affair is far stronger. (See the Cowdery Letter and High Council Minutes cited above).

Those are interesting minutes. They tell us a lot, and those that want to claim that Joseph and Fanny were married in some kind of way seldom analyze them in depth. Don Bradley does though, and he writes:

The evidence for an extramarital affair between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger is of varying quality.  While the evidence of contemporaneous behavior provides some direction, the direct testimony, despite surface appearances, is largely ambiguous, failing to distinguish between an extramarital affair and a secret polygamous marriage.

Even the vehement oral accusations and letter by Cowdery, for instance, fall short of stating that Smith’s behavior constituted adultery.  In his trial Cowdery was charged with “insinuating” that Smith’s relationship with Alger was adulterous, accused of this in the testimony, and convicted of making insinuations rather than assertions that Smith had committed adultery.  Though said to have given his verbal answer with incongruous body language, he stated “no” when asked pointblank if Smith’s confessions to him amounted to an admission of adultery.  There is nothing to indicate that “adultery” was his term.  This reluctance to use the term “adultery” seems out of line with his emphatic condemnation of Smith’s “dirty, nasty, filthy” behavior and his insistence that his reports had been “strictly true” and “never deserted from the truth of the matter.”

Because Cowdery was alienated from Joseph Smith at the time of his trial and was being expelled from the church, it is not likely that the best construction was being placed on his words and actions.  And Cowdery was not in attendance at his trial, rendering him unable to defend himself from exagerration and misunderstanding.  The wrong he saw in Smith might thus have not been adultery, but polygamy. (Bradley, op. cited above, 18-19)

We don’t agree with parts of Don’s assessment and here is why we don’t. He first claims that “the direct testimony… is largely ambiguous, failing to distinguish between an extramarital affair and a secret polygamous marriage.”

Actually, the testimony is quite clear that Cowdery had affirmed rumors that Smith had had an adulterous affair.  David W. Patten, who had heard these rumors that were said to be confirmed by Cowdery, confronted him about them. He testified that:

…he went to Oliver Cowdery to enquire of him if a certain story was true respecting J. Smith’s committing adultery with a certain girl , when he turned on his heel and insinuated as though he [Joseph] was guilty; he then went on and gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. Also said that Joseph told him, he had confessed to Emma. (1838 Minutes, op. cited above, added emphasis)

Patton is testifying that Cowdery called it an adultery scrape. What is interesting is that when Oliver wrote to his brother Warren about it on January 21, 1838, he stated:

When he was here we had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matters, and as I supposed was admitted by himself. (Cowdery to Cowdery, op. cited above, added emphasis).

If one observes the word “affair” in the letter above, one can see that the word “scrape” has been written over (as Don Bradley astutely observed). Here we see Cowdery calling it a “dirty, nasty filthy scrape affair.” And what did David W. Patten testify to? That Oliver gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. How Bradley can come to the conclusion that adultery was not Cowdery’s term is baffling to us. Patten also testified that Cowdery told him that Joseph told him he had confessed the adultery scrape to Emma. We could not find this testimony from Patten in his article.

Patten was so upset by what Cowdery told him that he confronted Joseph about it, who slapped him in anger. This was the Second Elder of the Church accusing/insinuating the First Elder of the church of committing adultery.  As for Cowdery insinuating that Smith committed adultery, it might be instructive to produce the 1828 definition of the word,

INSIN’UATE, verb transitive [Latin insinuo; in and sinus, the bosom, a bay, inlet or recess.]

1. To introduce gently, or into a narrow passage; to wind in. Water insinuates itself into the crevices of rocks.
2. To push or work one’s self into favor; to introduce by slow, gentle or artful means He insinuated himself into the very good grace of the duke of Buckingham.
3. To hint; to suggest by remote allusion.<
And all the fictions bards pursue, Do but insinuate what’s true.
4. To instill; to infuse gently; to introduce artfully.

These men understood that Cowdery was in fact accusing Smith of adultery, he was just introducing the story “gently” or “artfully”. From the testimony above, it is obvious that Cowdery was not just hinting at Smith’s committing adultery. He wasn’t suggesting by remote allusion, (affair, adultery scrape) he was relating the story in an artful way. Notice in the testimony that they claim that Cowdery, “gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true.” This was apparently enough to cause David Patten to confront Joseph about it and elicit a violent response.

Years later, Wilford Woodruff recorded a conversation that took place in Brigham Young’s office on June 25,1857 concerning an altercation between David W. Patten and Joseph Smith:

1837 C. Rich came into the office at 2 oclok & set & conversed upon various things. He said that David Patten & T. B. Marsh Came to kirtland in the fall of 1837. He said as soon as they came I got Marsh to go to Joseph, But Patten would go to W Parrish. He got his mind prejudiced & when He went to see Joseph David insulted Joseph & Joseph slaped him in the face & kicked him out of the yard. This done David good.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 63).

What could Smith have told them at that High Council trial?  It only states that Smith testified that Cowdery “had been his bosom friend, therefore he intrusted him with many things. He then gave a history respecting the girl business.” The girl business?

Smith obviously did not tell the High Council that Fanny Alger was a spiritual wife. Too many present on that occasion would later be shocked when Smith revealed the principle a few years later in Nauvoo. For example, Thomas Grover, a member of the High Council would later write to Brigham Young about his experience with polygamy:

“Prest. Brigham Young, Dear Brother: There was something took place when I was commanded by Bro. Joseph to take more wives which I thought it was wisdom to communicate to you. At the time I was in the deepest trouble that I had ever been in in my life. I went before the Lord in prayer and prayed that I might die as I did not wish to disobey his order to me. On a sudden there stood before me my oldest wife that I have now and the voice of the Lord said that ‘This is your companion for time and all Eternity.’ At this time I never had seen her and did not know that there was such a person on this Earth. Days & weeks passed away & I had not seen her. About the time that you came from your mission to the East, she came to my house for an item of counsel, the first time that I ever saw her with my natural eyes. . . .Yours Respectfully in the Gospel, Thomas Grover.”

Bradley writes,

[I]n her autobiography [Eliza R. Snow] expresses the shock and dismay she experienced on learning, in Nauvoo, that polygamy “was to be introduced into the church” and reveals that she first thought this restoration was far off, probably even beyond the term of her natural life. Whatever experience Eliza may have had of polygamy in Kirtland, she did not understand from it that polygamy was to become a church practice, and may not have even recognized it as polygamy at the time (if indeed it was there).

Yet such expressions of shock are a stock theme in the autobiographies of Nauvoo Saints, even when those Saints had prior inklings of polygamy. Benjamin F. Johnson and Brigham Young, who both report prior understanding that polygamy would be practiced, felt thunderstruck when they confronted it up close. The point of such narratives, which undoubtedly express genuine turmoil from the time, is that polygamy was not sought after or chosen, but dropped on the unwilling narrator, who accepts it only because God requires it.

Given this function of the stock “polygamy shock” motif, Snow’s autobiographical use of it tells little about previous encounters she may have had with polygamy, including whether she knew or heard in 1836 that Fanny Alger had been Joseph Smith’s plural wife. — (Bradley, 45–46; emphasis in original).

Yet Johnson wrote in 1885 that when he first learned about polygamy, he told Joseph that “this is all new to me; it may all be true–you know, but I do not. To my education it is all wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, with this promise to you–that if ever I know you do this to degrade my sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, Independence, Mo., Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, 94-95, added emphasis).

In his long 1870 affidavit about polygamy, Johnson never mentions that polygamy was first revealed in Kirtland, as he did in his 1903 letter. As for Brigham Young, he claimed that,

I knew of the doctrine of polygamy by revelation to myself while I was in England before it was revealed to me by Joseph.[148](Brigham Young, October 8, 1866, SLC Bowery Conference. LJA 12-56-4,2; BYC; BYA 5:52-55, CDBY, 2383, October 8, 1866).

Young doesn’t ever claim to have learned about polygamy in Kirtland, or, for that matter from Joseph Smith until later in Nauvoo. Young didn’t make the voyage to England until 1840. He claims that he had his own revelation about it before Joseph revealed it to him. This means that Brigham did not learn about polygamy from Joseph until after his return from England in the fall of 1841. Since Brigham Young was also at the Trial of Oliver Cowdery, we can therefore be assured that Joseph never told the High Council that Fanny Alger was a spiritual wife or that he was practicing polygamy. What Joseph did was offer them an explanation for the “girl business”. What that was, remains a mystery. But it is evident that it was not that he was practicing any kind of polygamy.

Bradley writes:

Had she [Eliza Snow] felt uncertain or troubled over Fanny’s status as a wife, or feared that including her as a wife might prove embarrassing, she had the option of omitting or removing her name as well.  But she did not. (Bradley, 36).

Eliza might also have included Fanny on the list to counter the stories being circulated that this was an adulterous affair. Ann Eliza’s expose had brought this affair out into the light, and gave it more credence than just unfounded rumors from family traditions. One cannot discount Eliza Snow’s obvious bias for this to be some kind of marriage.

Bradley also notes:

Eliza R. Snow’s confidence that Smith was not an adulterer who had used girls living in his home is also indicated by another, more momentous action she undertook.  Six years after the Alger incident, while again living in the Smith home, she married Joseph Smith.  She then, following a course eerily like Fanny’s, reportedly found herself pregnant with his child and expelled from the home by Emma.  Though there is no doubt that Eliza Snow was taken with Joseph Smith’s charisma and awed by his prophetic mantle, her action bespeaks a degree of trust in both Smith’s revelations and his intentions that reasonably might, and ought, to have been lacking had she observed evidence that he seduced his former boarder Fanny Alger. (ibid).

But not if Eliza didn’t know the details of what went on between Joseph and Fanny. Was Fanny Alger really pregnant? Would Emma Smith have confided details about the affair to Eliza? Would Joseph have? There is no evidence that either did so. It is far easier to discount unfounded rumors, as this was portrayed to be by Joseph, as he himself denied that anyone was practicing polygamy in 1838.

With no other details forthcoming from Eliza Snow about the relationship, it is hard to accept that she was knowledgeable about any claimed Smith/Alger marriage. And another piece of evidence troubles us. Since Andrew Jenson consulted Eliza Snow, and she was so very familiar with Fanny Alger, how does one explain what Jenson wrote in the Historical Record in the Index under Alger, Fanny:

Fanny, a wife of Joseph the Prophet, who since his death married again in Indiana, and became the mother of a large family, 233. (The Historical Record, 1887, Vols. 5-9, pg. 942).

This is an obvious fabrication. She married Solomon Custer almost immediately after leaving Kirtland. If this is not a fabrication, then neither Jenson nor Snow really knew much about Fanny Alger. All they had to do was ask Fanny’s brother, who lived in St. George. If they did know and purposefully mislead with this, then what else might they mislead us about? If they would endeavor to protect Joseph by deliberately misconstruing the facts about when Fanny remarried, how can we trust that they would not do so when claiming it was a marriage?

The evidence that this was a “sealing” or marriage is not credible; while the evidence of an affair is plentiful, with direct contemporary statements from Oliver Cowdery that it was an adulterous affair.

[37] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to John Henry Smith, January 25, 1892, in George A. Smith Family Papers, MS 36, Box 7, Folder 12, emphasis in the original.

[38] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Affidavit, March 23, 1877, in Scott G. Kenney Collection, MS 587, Box 11, Folder 14; Marriott Library. The Affadavit reads:

Minersvile Beaver County, Utah

March 23rd 1877

I Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner do testify that in the year 1842 in the month of February the Prophet Joseph Smith came to me and said he had received a direct command from God to take me for a wife for time and all eternity; After receiving what I felt to be a witness of the truth of the said statement made to me by the said Joseph Smith the Prophet, I was sealed to the said Joseph Smith by Pres Brigham Young in Nauvoo, Hancock Illinois.  And I have lived and am at this date in full fellowship as a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The said ceremony was solemnly performed in the month of February A.D. 1842 as first above written. [signed:]  Mary E R Lightner

In this early statement by Lightner, (as compared with others) she claims that Joseph Smith first approached her about becoming his spiritual wife in February, 1842. (It was also to be a marriage for time and eternity). There is no mention an angel with a sword, or that she spent weeks and months debating the request. In 1884 Lightner made another statement which may shed light on earlier events from Kirtland that were later interpreted through a polygamous lens:

At a meeting in the first part of the Winter at Kirtland Ohio, at which Father Smith’s family and a few others were present […]

He [the Savior] has given me a commandment to give unto you, to seal you up unto everlasting life.  he has given you to me to be with me in His Kingdom even as He is in the Father’s Kingdom. […]

Sister Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, wife of Adam Lightner, was present at this meeting and she made this statement concerning it to Presidents John Taylor and Geo. Q. Cannon at her house in Minersvile, Beaver Co., Utah, on Friday, April 18th, 1884. (Rollins Lightner, Mary Elizabeth, “Statement,” 1884 Apr 18, LDS Church Archives, MS 4638).

[39] Excerpts from a letter from Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner dated November 21, either 1870 or 1880, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner Collection; MS 752, Folder 4; LDS CHL.

[40] Todd Compton writes,

Mary was twenty-three years old and pregnant with her third child by Adam Lightner during the ceremony [with Joseph Smith].  He was out of town, “far away” at the time, so probably did not know about it.

Mary later commented on the polyandrous aspect of her marriage: “I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.” So Smith instructed her to stay with her husband. One obvious advantage to such a modus operandi was that it would preserve the secrecy of their polyandrous union.

About a month after the marriage, on March 22, George Algernon was born to Mary in Nauvoo. Miles Henry was now six, Caroline one and a half. On April 14 Mary was accepted into the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, and on June 9 she contributed $ 1.00 to it. Adam Lightner was back in Nauvoo by July 1, when he bought a hat at the Joseph Smith store. … on May 3, 1843, Mary’s and Adam’s fourth child, Florentine Mathias, was born… (In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Signature Books, 1998, 212, added emphasis).

Lightner herself swore that she was sealed to Joseph Smith “for time and all eternity”. (Mary Rollins Lightner affidavit, March 23rd 1877).  In a letter to Emeline Wells in 1906, Joseph F. Smith wrote concerning Lightner,

“I have no doubt she could tell me many things I have never known. There are many people who could do likewise. But we ourselves know of some things which would be hard for even Aunt Mary to explain. And those things, altho in themselves right and proper under the circumstances and conditions existing, would hardly be proper to expound to the world. (Joseph F. Smith to Emeline B. Wells, January 20, 1906).

One wonders what could be so “hard for even Aunt Mary to explain”? If the “marriage” between Joseph Smith and Mary Lightner were just a sealing for eternity, why would that be hard to explain or improper to expound to the world?

[41] “Hales-Quinn”, 31. The strawman that Hales invents here to try and deal with Smith’s obvious sexual polyandry is staggering. He writes,

It appears that proponents of sexual polyandry, like Quinn, fail to account for the inevitable doctrinal consequences of their declarations. For example, if both a plurality of wives and a plurality of husbands were permitted in Joseph Smith’s theology, then two husbands could share the same two wives and those two women could share the same two husbands between them as each man practiced polygyny and each woman practiced polyandry. Extending the dynamic would allow three men two marry the same three wives. Expanding it further would permit a dozen men to marry the same dozen women and on and on. The ramifications resulting from both authorized polyandry and polygyny are network marriages or omnigamy (all men are married to all women). Within the network, each husband could cohabit with each wife s and each woman could cohabit with each husband under the guise of polygamy.

Practically speaking, Quinn affirms sexual polyandry between Joseph Smith and Sylvia Sessions and her legal husband Windsor Lyon (see below). So if polyandry was acceptable, then Lyon could have been sealed to another of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, say Lucy Walker, and the two men would be married to both Lucy and Sylvia and Lucy and Sylvia would be married to Joseph and Windsor and each could experience conjugality with either husband or wife.

No polyandry supporter has addressed this obvious weakness of their theory. The clearest defense would be so say that Joseph Smith was the only person who practiced sexual polyandry in Nauvoo (with or without theological justification). However, no polyandry advocate as yet made the claim or defended it. The Prophet’s early revelations designated him as the only person “appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church” (D&C 28:2) and as holding the “keys of the mysteries” (D&C 28:7, 64:5). However, no revelation granted him exclusive marital and sexual access to any woman including those already married and cohabiting with their husbands. Probability questions emerge regarding how readily Church members would have accepted such a matrimonial monopoly without someone mentioning it. Proponents of sexual polyandry would probably be wise to address this glaring problem with their theories or limit their allegations to the notion that Joseph Smith personally engaged in both polygyny and polyandry, but did not allow others to do so and that sexual polygyny was the only privilege allowed Church membership generally. However, that interpretation generates its own set of historical challenges. Regardless, to allege that Joseph secretly taught polyandry as a companion principle to polygyny is fraught with a remarkable number of implausibilities. (Hales-Quinn, 31-32, added emphasis)

First, to even suggest women having multiple husbands is disingenuous of Hales. It is irrelevant to the discussion. Polygamy in Mormonism was based on a Patriarchal system (Smith’s polyandry was an aberration, which he himself condemned in D&C 132). This strawman is so disingenuous, that it is hard to believe he could write it.

Hales does not address (even in his response to Vogel) Dan’s excellent observation that Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 was written by Joseph Smith as an act of repentance for his own polyandry. Dan writes,

Jonathan & Elvira Holmes, circa 1870

You can’t shift the burden of proving your thesis to me. Your theory has to be established on its own merits and not rely on the inability of the opposition to disprove it—that would be an Argumentum ad Ignorantiam. The reason I ask for pre-July 1843 teachings is because as you know I see D&C 132 as JS’s possible repentance from his polyandrous marriages under pressure from Emma who was evidently threatening to practice polyandry herself. The revelation was dictated for her benefit and commands her “to cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed” (132:54). Quinn knows the documents better than I do, but I’m only focusing on the logic and arguments of your case and since you admit the documentation is scarce for either side, it becomes imperative to get the thinking right. Historians often argue from the known to the undocumented and build probabilistic cases, and I find your position not only improbable but a reflection of your own preference for how a prophet is supposed to behave. (Hales-Vogel, op. cited, added emphasis).

This is exactly what Hales tries to do, time after time: shift the burden of evidence to anyone else but himself. Hales response is simply a denial that it could be such:

It is impossible to detect whether Joseph Smith’s teachings evolved from 1841 to 1843. But if they did, do we not think someone would have said something? He taught the apostles in 1841 and they stayed or apostatized without mentioning plural marriage. The only way for me to show that sexual polyandry did not occur is to pile up the improbabilities… and while you can’t see it, they are piling up. Ironically, one single corroborative evidence of this alleged explosive practice could be all that is needed to document it. The very absence of such is another improbability (if it actually happened). (Hales, ibid).

To claim that it is impossible to detect whether Smith’s teachings evolved from 1841 to 1843 is simply Hales not wanting to confront the evidence. After 1842 there are no instances of Smith “marrying” a woman who had a living husband. (Those that would place such marriages after this do so with the flimsiest of evidence). His last instance of doing so was (Holmes) on June 1, 1843, little more than a month before the July “revelation”, and we have a problem with that dating.  Hales would place the marriage in 1843, yet her daughter wrote,

Farmington June 30th /,87

Mr Andrew Jenson

Dear Sir

I have just recieved your card have been away from home or would have answered before.  My mother was born in Unadilla, Otsego Co, New York on the 23d of November 1813.  She was  married to my father the 1st day of Dec 1842. We do not know wheather she was sealed to the Prophet before or after that. I think in the statement I sent you it says she became a member of the family of the Prophet in the spring of 1840. but we do not know wheather she was sealed to him then or not, will write to our sister and ascertain from her if she knows.


Marietta Welling

This would not be a case of polyandry, but of Joseph marrying a single woman and setting up a “front husband”, (beforehand) perhaps one of the first. He may even have had an affair with her in the Spring of 1840 when she lived with him as he did with Mary Heron Snider.

After this, available evidence shows that Smith only “married” seven more women, all of which were single. And what happened leading up to the July “revelation”?  On May 29, 1843 Joseph asked William Clayton, “if I [Clayton] had used any familiarity with E[mma].” (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 107).

Why would Smith accuse Clayton of such a thing? Clayton writes less than a month later,

June 23, 1843. Friday.] This A.M. President Joseph took me and conversed considerable concerning some delicate matters. Said [Emma] wanted to lay a snare for me. He told me last night of this and said he had felt troubled. He said [Emma] had treated him coldly and badly since I came…and he knew she was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. She thought that if he would indulge himself she would too. He cautioned me very kindly for which I felt thankful. He said [Robert] Thompson professed great friendship for him but he gave away to temptation and he had to die. Also Brother [Vinson] Knight he gave him one but he went to loose conduct and he could not save him. Also Brigham Young had transgressed his covenant and he pled with the lord to spare him this end and he did so, otherwise he would have died. Brigham denied having transgressed. He said if I would do right by him and abide his council he would save my life while he lived. I feel desirous to do right and would rather die than loose my interest in the celestial Kingdom.

Hales admits that,

On February 9, 1938, just months before her death at eighty-eight years of age, Phebe Louisa Holmes, daughter of Elvira Ann Cowles Holmes, recalled, “I heard my mother testify that she was indeed the Prophet’s (Joseph Smith) plural wife in life and lived with him as such during his lifetime.” (Hales, op. cited)

Hales only answer for this is to refer to Section 132 where Smith taught that having sex with other men’s wives was adultery.  But this “revelation” was written after Smith supposedly married Holmes, and claimed to receive forgiveness for all his “transgressions”.  And Elvira Cowles lived with Smith from 1840-1842. If this is true, they were living as husband and wife well before their marriage ceremony in June, 1843.  According to Smith’s own June, 1842 Address, this would be considered adultery.

As for the June 23 entry by Clayton, we find it altogether strange. As D. Michael Quinn writes that Joseph Smith,

…once referred figuratively to himself as married to a male friend. Beginning in 1840, twenty-nine-year-old Robert B. Thompson became the prophet’s scribe and personal secretary. Their relationship was so close that Smith told his friend’s wife: ‘Sister Thompson, you must not feel bad towards me for keeping your husband away from you so much, for I am married to him.’ She added that ‘they truly love each other with fervent brotherly affection.’

Concerning Thompson’s death in 1841 Smith made this unusual explanation to his next secretary during a discussion of ‘loose conduct’ and sexual transgressions: ‘He said [Robert B.] Thompson professed great friendship for him but he gave away to temptation and he had to die. (Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996, 136).

What are we to make of this? We can only share what we know and let the readers decide.  There is no mention in any record of Robert B. Thompson committing any transgression. He was praised by everyone before and after he died. On January 19, 1841 Smith penned a “revelation” which mentioned Thompson:

And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Robert B. Thompson, help you write this proclamation, for I am well pleased with him, and that he should be with you; let him, therefore, hearken to your council, and I will bless him with a multiplicity of blessings; let him be faithful and true in all things from henceforth, and he shall be great in mine eyes; but let him remember that his stewardship will I require at his hands. (Times and Seasons, Vol.2, No.15, 425, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

On August 30, 1841 Joseph and Hyrum Smith wrote to Oliver Granger concerning Thompson and his brother Don Carlos Smith,

…all things Prosper in this Place Except the Loss we have sustaind in the death of two of our most valuable men Brother D C Smith & Robert B Thompson Both have recently Died of what I call a qick Consumption theyr  Desease was upon theyr Lungs they wasted a way in one week & Spit up theyr  verry vitals—they are gone. theyr Loss is Irreparable but we must be submissive to the will of god & try to Stand in our Lot both now & at this End … I Saw Sister Agnes Carloss widow this morning She wished me to say to you She hoped you would remember the widow & fatherless & be shure to deed the House & Lot in Kirtland to her for it is all She has… (Hyrum Smith and JS, Letter, Nauvoo, IL, to Oliver Granger, Kirtland Township, OH, 30 Aug. 1841; handwriting of Hyrum Smith; two pages; Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

On July 31, 1842 it was recorded in Joseph Smith’s diary concerning Vinson Knight,

In council with Bishops Miller & Whitney, B Young, Jno Taylor &c concerning Bishop Knights sickness. Bro Knights has been sick about a week and this morning he began to sink very fast untill 12 o clock when death put a period to his sufferings. (Joseph Smith Journal, July 31, 1842, 128, Online here, Accessed December 20, 2014).

Remember, Smith was speaking of these men’s deaths (both died within a week of getting ill) within the context of having given way to “loose conduct” and “temptation”, after Joseph complained about Emma wanting to “indulge” herself.  Less than a month earlier Joseph had asked Clayton if he “had used any familiarity with E[mma].” (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 107).

Both Thompson and Knight were among the very first that Smith revealed his spiritual wife doctrine to, as was Brigham Young. As for what Brigham Young’s transgression might have been, we think it may have something to do with Augusta Adams Cobb. (See Note #66)

As for Vinson Knight, we found this account concerning his acceptance of Smith’s teachings on polygamy:

Martha [McBride Knight] was equally involved in the key events of Nauvoo.  She was a founding member of the LDS Relief Society, being present at the organization meeting on 17 March 1842 in Nauvoo, which also happened to be her 37th birthday.  Martha was told by Joseph Smith that she was the first woman to give her consent for her husband to enter into plural marriage.  The story is told that Martha knew something was worrying her husband and he couldn’t seem to tell her about it.  One evening as Martha was sitting in the grape arbor behind the house, Vinson returned home carrying a basket.  He explained to Martha that he had taken some fruit and vegetables to the widow of Levi N. Merrick, whose husband had been killed at Haun’s Mill.  Vinson explained to Martha that he had been told to enter plural marriage and that, if he had to, this Sister Merrick would be the one he could help best.  Martha’s reply is said to have been, “Is that all.”  Perhaps she had confidence in her husband’s choice, since Philindia Clark Eldredge Merrick (Myrick) was also a founding member of the Relief Society.

At a time when Martha and her husband were becoming even more greatly involved in the affairs of Nauvoo, her husband of 16 years suddenly took ill and died on 31 July 1842 in Nauvoo at the relatively young age of 38.  Joseph Smith preached at the funeral, stating that Vinson was the best friend he ever had on earth.  One month later Martha lost her youngest child less than one year old, Rodolphus Elderkin Knight, who died on 3 September 1842.

At the time of Vinson’s death, their house was not quite finished.  In order to make ends meet, Martha moved to the second floor and rented out the downstairs floor to the George Grant family.

Sometime during the summer of 1842 (one source states this was before the death of Vinson Knight), Martha McBride Knight was married polygamously to Joseph Smith, Jr. by Heber C. Kimball.  (“Life Story of Martha McBride Knight Smith Kimball”, written by Brent J. Belnap, Online here, Accessed December 31, 2014).

The wife of Robert B. Thompson (Mercy Fielding) was given to Hyrum Smith by his brother Joseph.  Mercy later wrote about this to Joseph Smith III, as found in Gary Bergera “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists”:

Mercy Rachel Fielding Thompson

My beloved husband R[obert]. B. Thompson, your father’s private secretary to the end of his mortal life, died August 27th 1841, (I presume you will remember him.) Nearly two years after his death your father told me that my husband had appeared to him several times, telling him that he did not wish me to live such a lonely life, and wished him to request your uncle Hyrum to have me sealed to him for time. Hyrum communicated this to his wife (my sister) who, by request, opened the subject to me, when everything within me rose in opposition to such a step, but when your father called and explained the subject to me, I dared not refuse to obey the counsel, lest peradventure I should be found fighting against God; and especially when he told me the last time he came with such power that it made him tremble. He then enquired of the Lord what he should do; the answer was, “Go and do as thy servant hath required. He then took an opportunity of communicating this to your uncle Hyrum who told me that the Holy Spirit rested upon him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. The time was appointed, with the consent of all parties, and your father sealed me to your uncle Hyrum for time, in my sister’s room, with a covenant to deliver me up in the morning of the first resurrection to Robert Blas(h)el Thompson, with whatever offspring should be the result of that union, at the same time counseling your uncle to build a room for me and move me over as soon as convenient, which he did, and I remained there as a wife the same as my sister to the day of his death. All this I am ready to testify to the presence of God, angels and men. (Mercy Fielding Thompson, letter to Joseph Smith III, September 5, 1883, reproduced in the Deseret Evening News, February 6, 1886, Gary Bergera, The Earliest Mormon Polygamists, Dialogue, Vol. 38, No. 3, 26, Online here, Accessed December 31, 2014).

Mercy writes that nearly two years after her husband’s death (late Spring, 1843), Robert B. Thompson, (who was dead) appeared to Joseph several times. Smith himself taught:

The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony… The Hebrew Church “came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant.” What did they learn by coming of the spirits of just men made perfect? Is it written? No. What they learned has not been and could not have been written. What object was gained by this communication with the spirits of the just? It was the established order of the kingdom of God: the keys of power and knowledge were with them to communicate to the Saints. Hence the importance of understanding the distinction between the spirits of the just and angels.

Spirits can only be revealed in flaming fire or glory. Angels have advanced further, their light and glory being tabernacled; and hence they appear in bodily shape. The spirits of just men are made ministering servants to those who are sealed unto life eternal, and it is through them that the sealing power comes down.

[Recently deceased] Patriarch Adams is now one of the spirits of the just men made perfect; and, if revealed now, must be revealed in fire; and the glory could not be endured. Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, and they thought it was His spirit, and they were afraid to approach His spirit. Angels have advanced higher in knowledge and power than spirits.

Concerning Brother James Adams… Brother Adams has gone to open up a more effectual door for the dead. The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith. (History of the Church, 6: 51 – 52)

Mercy Thompson relates that Robert appeared to Joseph numerous times with the request that he “seal” Mercy to his brother Hyrum. She refused Joseph’s request more than once for she states that “when he told me the last time he came with such power that it made him tremble”.

It seems that it was Joseph who threatened Mercy Thompson numerous times, and claimed that her dead husband (a spirit or angel) had appeared to him. Bergera also quotes Mercy Thompson’s Temple Lot testimony where she states that,

If there was communication between the eternal world and this I should never have been sealed to any body—if I had not obeyed the command of the Lord, when the Lord sent it through an angel to his prophet Joseph Smith—and sent my own husband or a message from him in the eternal world to me through the prophet, and to his brother Hyrum that he should take me, and my little child—that is the that my dead husband sent from the eternal world to brother Hyrum that he should take charge of me and my little child and keep us in this world, and on the day of resurrection to deliver us up safely to my husband. Now that was the message from my husband to the prophet, or to brother Hyrum through the prophet, commanding Hyrum to take me to live with my sister with my little child, and he did not act on it quick enough, and so he came the second time—or he went and enquired of the Lord—and the Lord spoke to him through the angel, and when he inquired of the Lord the voice told him to go and do as his servant required him to do and that was the time that he went to Hyrum and told him what he had been ordered to do, and he then sent my sister over to me to break the word to me. (ibid, page 27, Mercy Thompson Temple Lot Testimony, page 263, Q. 512)

Notice here, that ten years later, Mary adds that an angel appeared to Smith first, then her husband, and when they didn’t act quickly enough, appeared again. This is amazingly like the story that was told by some of Joseph’s spiritual wives in relation to the practice of polygamy. Could this story have morphed into the angel with the sword? We think it is a good possibility.

With further questioning, Mercy Thompson clarified her testimony about her husband supposedly appearing to Joseph Smith and when it supposedly happened:

520 Q. Did the prophet say that he got it [the message to “marry” Hyrum Smith] from your husband that was dead? A. No sir.
521 Q. He did not tell you that? A. No sir.
522 Q. How did he state to you he got it? A. The Lord with the message from my husband in the eternal world making this request. Now I hope you understand me.
523 Q. Well I think I do. Now that was when? A. When did I get that message?
524 Q. Yes. A. That was in April.
525 Q. How long was that before you was married to Hyrum Smith? A. Well it was very soon afterwards that we were married, for I found out that as the Lord and my husband both required it of me, -required it of us, we did not dare refuse. (ibid, p. 264)

Notice that when questioned under oath, it is not her dead husband that appears to Smith, but an angel with a message from her dead husband.  In her Temple Lot testimony, Mercy Thompson also affirmed that she obeyed Joseph Smith simply because he was the prophet and the lawgiver to the church. She testified that, “Joseph Smith was.  He was the lawgiver, and whatever he said was a law unto us.” (Q. 190) She goes on to say “Whatever he told us came from the Lord we accepted, and when he said that the word of the Lord was thus and so we knew it was so and believed it, without witnessing it ourselves, for we knew that he would not tell us that anything came from the Lord that did not come from the Lord.” (Q. 192)

These accounts are troubling when taken with what Joseph Smith related to William Clayton on June 23, 1843 where, “He said [Robert] Thompson professed great friendship for him but he gave away to temptation and he had to die.” Temptation though, appears to be something that Thompson would not give way to.

According to Oliver B. Huntington, a few weeks before Thompson’s death, Joseph Smith took him aside and said “Robert, I want you to go and get on a bust, to and get drunk and have a good spree. If you don’t you will die.”  Huntington also writes in his journal that “Robert Thompson did not do it,” and that “He was a very pious and exemplary man and never guilty of such an impropriety as he thought that to be. In less than two weeks he was dead and buried.” (Quoted in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows my History: The Life of Joseph Smith, (Second edition; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 289).

Since Hyrum Smith did not accept his brother’s spiritual wife doctrine until May of 1843, and he didn’t marry Mercy Fielding Thompson until August 11, 1843 that would mean that according to Mercy Thompson her dead husband who had “gave way to temptation” and “had to die” according to Joseph Smith on June 23, appeared to Smith (or an angel did depending on the account) in April and told him that he wanted his wife to be sealed to Hyrum for “time”.

Mercy claims that as soon as Joseph heard from the angel he sent Mary Fielding Smith over to Mercy to inform her and that she did not dare refuse the request.  In her letter to Joseph Smith III, it was her husband Robert who appeared to Joseph Smith Jr. many times and that Hyrum told his wife Mary who in turn told Mercy, who had some problems and so Joseph Smith came to visit her to persuade her with much trembling. Mercy then claims she dared not refuse the prophet, because he was the law.  No angel is mentioned in the 1886 account but appears in an account just a few years later in 1892.

After Hyrum Smith died Mercy Thompson then “married” John Taylor who she divorced in 1847, and then in the same year married another man named James Lawson.  Mercy Thompson went through three marriages in four years.  She also lived as Hyrum’s wife for almost a year but bore him no children.

What is interesting is that on May 14, Hyrum spoke about polygamy at the Temple:

Attended meeting at the Temple A.M. Hyrum Smith addressed the people – subjects from the Book of Mormon 2 Chap. Jacob – remarked that – the Book Mormon was a mirror, a key, to the Bible – spoke of persecution as being one of the wars of salvation – when persecution ceased, apt to forget the first commandment – said there were many that had a great deal to say about the ancient order of things as Solomon & David having many wives & concubine – but its an abomination in the sight of God – If an angel from heaven should come & preach such doctrine would be sure to see his cloven foot & cloud of blackness over his head, – though his garments might shine as white as snow – A man might have one wife, – concubines he should have none – observed that the idea was that this was given to Jacob for a perpetual principle – Said, “I would say that in consequence of the prosperity of some they look down with contempt on their neighbors – partiality to some class making their dregs to correspond &, ought to be looked upon indignantly by all the noble minded in the Church of God— (Levi Richards Diary, May 14,1843, Volume 18, MS 1284, Box 1, Folder 18, CHL).

Joseph & Hyrum Smith

William Clayton wrote in his diary on May 26, 1843 that, “Hyrum received the doctrine of priesthood.” (An Intimate Chronicle) Three days earlier he wrote that “a plot that is being laid to entrap the brethren of the secret priesthood by Brother H[yrum]and others. (ibid). Did Joseph tell Mercy Thompson the story of the angel so that Hyrum would be more sympathetic about the spiritual wife doctrine? Perhaps Hyrum had problems believing the story and so preached about it a few weeks later.

Willard Richards wrote in Joseph Smith’s Diary,

Monday, May 29th 1843 9 A.M. Met pursuant to adjournment. Hyrum, Brigham, Willard, and Sis[ter] Thompson (were married) and Heber and Newel K. [Whitney] [were] present. Also Joseph and James Adams. Singing and prayer by Elder Brigham Young. Conversation and instruction &c. teaching concerning the things of God. Had a pleasant interview.

So two years after Robert B. Thompson died, Joseph sealed him to his wife Mercy. Then a month later claimed that he “had to die”.  Joseph Smith made an interesting comment to the Nauvoo City Council on June 10, 1844:

What the opposition party [William Law and the Nauvoo “dissenters”] wanted was to raise a mob on us and take the spoil of us as they did in Missouri. Said that he had as much as he could do to keep his clerk [Robert B.] Thompson from publishing the proceedings of the Laws and causing the people to [amass against them] — said he would rather die tomorrow and have the thing smashed, than live and have it grow. (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 7220-7222, added emphasis).

So Joseph would rather have died than see what “live and grow”? Have what “smashed?”  The Expositor? Did Smith think that his death would stop the Laws? It apparently did. It is hard to know what Joseph meant, because he told many falsehoods at this time about various people. (See Note #212)

For example, it was not the Laws that Thompson & Don Carlos Smith were publishing against, it was John C. Bennett and unknowingly, Joseph Smith:

“Both Don Carlos and Thompson had heard the rumors about polygamy going on within the leadership. They died in August of 1841, so this was early on and 3 years before things really became exposed to the point that Joseph and Hyrum were killed. So Joseph was really still doing everything in almost complete secrecy and pretty much getting away with it at this point. And, he was just beginning to let a few others in. Hyrum didn’t even know about what was really going on and neither did Emma for sure yet (she obviously knew that he’d cheated on her…but she didn’t know about the lengths Joseph would go to with the spiritual wifery, etc.).

Don Carlos was adamantly opposed to polygamy. He is quoted as saying

“Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery, will go to hell, I don’t care if it is my brother, Joseph.” [See Ebenezer Robinson, “The Return” 1890] So he obviously had heard something. There is evidence that Don Carlos and Thompson were going to publish some things (and did) in their newspaper and Joseph (and Bennett) got wind of this.

It has been stated that Don Carlos was very charismatic and good looking. He would have been a formidable opponent if he had lived (but Joseph may have thought he could convert him to the principle just like he eventually did with Hyrum). Don Carlos was the editor for the “Times and Seasons” along with a partner, Robert Thompson.

The first information I read stated that Don Carlos had died suddenly from catching a cold because of the poor conditions of the room he worked in. But, then I found in a couple of different places where John C. Bennett had told others that he had poisoned Don Carlos (because he was angry with him and also to get even with Joseph). Bennett had lived with Joseph Smith from September, 1840 (when he arrived in Nauvoo) until July, 1841 when he moved out. Bennett’s first disciplinary court was also held in July of 1841. Bennett had befriended Don Carlos and had asked him, as a personal favor, not to print anything negative about him in the “Times and Seasons”. Bennett also asked Don Carlos’s partner and other editor, Robert Thompson, to refrain from reporting what was going on between him and the church and Joseph. They went ahead and printed the events. Don Carlos died suddenly on August 7, 1841 and then Robert Thompson died suddenly at the end of August, 1841, just a few weeks later. Don Carlos was only 25 years old and Robert Thompson was only 29 years old.” (Thanks to Madison)

Brigham Young taught in 1852:

The Elders should take Heed & not break the commandments of God. If they were to commit Adultery After Receiving their Endowments they cannot be forgiven but must be destroyed in the flesh & his spirit given to the Buffiting of Satan untill the first Resurrection. How long it will be from the morning till evening I am not able to say but after the day of redemption He will come forth and inherit all the Blessings that were sealed upon his head. No power can take them from him If he has been sealed to any woman thrones powers Dominions or Kingdoms or any other Blessing. He will inherit them to all Eternity if they do not shed innocent Blood. (Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, 146-147, September 12, 1852).

David John Buerger writes,

Doctrine and Covenants 132: 26-27 implies that such persons would be deprived of godhood only if they committed the unpardonable sin: i.e., “. . . murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death.” This would seem to give license to commit a wide variety of sins including adultery, rape, incest, theft, extortion, etc., and still be guaranteed godhood after “they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption.”

Themes of the unconditional nature of the second anointing occasionally appeared in public sermons of Church I he in Utah. On 7 April 1855, Orson Pratt stated,

But we have no promise, unless we endure in faith unto the end…. In speaking of this, I will qualify my language by saying, that the Saint who has been sealed unto eternal life and falls in transgression and does not repent, but dies in his sin, will be afflicted and tormented after he leaves this vale of tears until the day of redemption; but having been sealed with the spirit of promise through the ordinances of the house of God, those things which have been sealed upon his head will be realized by him in the morning of the resurrection.

Pratt’s September 1860 comments on this subject were given in the same vein: “This would seem to be as near an unconditional promise as can well be made to mortals. But this is not altogether unconditional, for there are some exceptions; but it would come as near as anything we have ever read of.” And in November 1867, Brigham Young affirmed, “When men and women have travelled to a certain point in their labors in this life, God sets a seal upon them that they never can forsake their God or His kingdom; for, rather than they should do this, He will at once take them to Himself.” (David John Buerger, “The Fullness of the Priesthood”: Second Anointing in Latter-Day Saint Theology and Practice, Dialogue, Vol.16, No.1, 37-38).

In 1883 President John Taylor reconvened the “School of the Prophets” in Salt Lake City, which was originally begun under the leadership of Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio nearly fifty years before.  During a meeting held on September 27, the discussion turned to adultery and polygamy and the penalties for breaking the covenants made in the Endowment.  According to the minutes, those present included:

The First Presidency and Apostles met at the Office of President John Taylor at 3 o’clock P.M. Present: Presidents John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, Apostles W. Woodruff, L. Snow, E. Snow, F.D. Richards, A. Carrington, B. Young, M. Thatcher, and H. J. Grant. Secretaries L. John Nuttall and George Reynolds.

President John Taylor stated the object of the meeting to be, to give further consideration of the organization of the School of the Prophets.

The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday August 2nd 1883, also on Saturday September 22nd 1883, were read by Secretary Nuttall. During the reading of the minutes, President Joseph F. Smith and Councillor Daniel H. Wells came in. (Salt Lake City School of the Prophets Minute Book, 33, CHL).

During the meeting some remarks made by Joseph Smith as published in The Millennial Star, (Vol. 15, 423) were read. Smith claimed that they should not “watch for iniquity in each other, if you do you will not get an endowment, for God will not bestow it on such.” (ibid., 42) Why would Joseph say this? In the Doctrine and Covenants it states that:

The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;  And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; (D&C 20:53-54)

How is one to do this if they do not “watch for iniquity”? I guess this means that one should not watch the leaders for “iniquity”. Smith also taught that,

You need an endowment, brethren, in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things; and those that reject your testimony will be damned. The sick will be healed, the lame made to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see, through your instrumentality. But let me tell you, that you will not have power, after the endowment to heal those that have not faith, nor to benefit them, for you might as well expect to benefit a devil in hell as such as are possessed of his spirit, and are willing to keep it: for they are habitations for devils, and only fit for his society. But when you are endowed and prepared to preach the Gospel to all nations, kindreds, and tongues, in their own languages, you must faithfully warn all, and bind up the testimony, and seal up the law, and the destroying angel will follow close at your heels, and exercise his tremendous mission upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the Saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes.” (ibid., 42-43)

Interestingly they (in 1883) record that,

Apostles F.D. Richards was quite prepared to vote but would humbly ask that, before the question was put another word might be inserted in his remarks for the word “Polygamy.” That was a Gentile word, and he would rather, have another word inserted–say Patriarchal or Celestial marriage. (ibid., 44)

The discussion then turned on who should receive the Endowment and if it should be broken up into two parts: the “Aaronic Priesthood” portion of the Endowment and the “Melchizedek Priesthood” portion.  Daniel H. Wells then asked:

There is this difficulty which presents itself to my mind. Persons do not get sealed until they are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. But persons getting the lesser priesthood might want to take a wife. Now, in this case, would they be entitled to the same sealing ordinances?

President Taylor: They would not have the priviledge at first. (ibid., 45)

Coun. Wells: Bro. Cannon has stated in his remarks that he was first married for time. But there is this objection arises in my mind. A person who is not sealed according to the order of the Holy Priesthood, his children are not legal heirs to the Priesthood. Hence, where people are married for time, I do not understand their children would be legal heirs to the Priesthood, and consequently would have to be adopted.

President Taylor: That is correct. We understand these things.

Coun. Wells: Pres. Young thought probably the time would come when the First Endowment could be given to the lesser Priesthood in a garden where there would be trees, and then let those receiving this first Endowment go on and prove themselves for a while; but this question of marriage and sealing for time and eternity, and the heirship of children always came in as an objection to separating the Endowments. (ibid., 44-45, added emphasis).

This is an interesting comment by Wells. Why then, would Joseph marry Fanny Alger for time to have children not born as legal heirs to the Priesthood? John Taylor then explained:

One of our brethren–a very good man, (I won’t mention his name)–wanted to know if his son.–a very good boy could have his endowments. I replied that under the circumstances I would not want my children to have their endowments. Why not? Because they would have to take upon themselves obligations and responsibilities which they might not be prepared to fill. Why not? I will show you one reason. Our youth are all the time subject to temptation and are liable to be led astray. If they should commit adultery or fornication as it may be called, what would be the result? The result would be that they would have to make acknowledgement before the Church and ask the forgiveness of the Church, and if they were forgiven after making their confession, they would pass, say for the first time; but for the second offense they must be cast out. That is the way I look upon people who have not entered into this covenant. When they have entered into the marriage covenant and commit adultery it is said they shall be destroyed. Now, I would not like to place my children in the position, under these circumstances. I would much rather they had a chance under the first arrangement of overcoming their weakness, and have a standing in the Church. I now speak of the laws of God being carried out and we are supposed to carry them out. I cannot feel in the least to have people who commit adultery continued members of this Church- -that is people who have entered into sacred covenants if there is anyway for their redemption it is not made manifest to me. Furthermore, the law says they shall be destroyed. I would not want to place responsibilities upon people until their minds and character were mature to enable them to act wisely, prudently, and intelligent, and to magnify their calling. What is meant then– I am among men who understand these matters–by the passage in the revelation where it says that “they that are sealed (p. 47) by the Holy Spirit of Promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder, wherein they shed innocent blood– yet shall they come forth in the first resurrection and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption”? Well, it is just on the same principle [illegible]er spoke of, to people of his day. He said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: Now what would be the law of God if carried out?–What is it to be destroyed in the flesh? What does that mean? [Sign of the Priesthood – cutting throat] You all know. What does that mean [Another sign of the Priesthood] You all know. Now if that was carried out [.]

Coun. Wells: Is that what is meant by being destroyed in the flesh?

President Taylor: I think it would be pretty near.
After citing another example of adultery Taylor then added,

It is a thing we should be very careful about. But I did not make that revelation. I cannot change it. I am not authorized to change it. The law says they shall be destroyed; I cannot say they shall not. Unless the Lord manifests something to me about things of that sort, I do not feel authorized to go contrary to the word of God on these subjects. They are very important. As it is said, in times of men’s ignorance God winked at it. Now, he calls upon all people everywhere to repent. I look upon it that we are called upon to carry out the law and will and word of God, and we have no right to change either. Formerly we are told there were placed in the Church (p. 49) Apostles, Prophets, etc. for the perfecting of the Saints and the edifying of the body of Christ. But if these laws are not put into execution how is the Church to be perfected. If drunkards, sabbath-breakers, whoremongers, are allowed to carry on their wickedness, how is the Church to be purified? And who will be responsible for these things? Those who will permit them. The Church ought to be purified; we ought to be stepping forward in purity; and seeking to do the will of God on earth as it is done in Heaven.

Joseph once said that in attending to the ordinances, as we have today, that if we violate our covenants we shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption. Prest. Taylor then spoke of the signs [penalties] in the Endowments and asked what they meant,--have thought that the ancient Japanese understood something in regard to these matters in the Hari Kari–we do not interfere with the lives of men, those who violate their covenants, we leave them in the hands of God, and in many instances that you know he has visited signal judgments upon transgressors. In the cases of Whoredom, harlots engage in those matters do not live to exceed five years, so the statistics say. Whoremongers and adulterers purge. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,–it requires the greatest care to properly control ourselves and those associated with us. (ibid., 90-91)

Yet, the Church removed the penalties from the Endowment in the 1990’s. Why was Jospeh E. Johnson (see above) not “cut off” and turned over to Satan for his adultery? He was endowed at the time he committed it his adultery. Why were so many given a “pass” like William Smith, George Adams, and even John C. Bennett for a time? It appears that unlike Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, John Taylor was reluctant to administer Blood Atonement himself. He would rather the transgressor perform some kind of “Hari Kari” on themselves.

Still, the entry by Clayton is troubling for there were many rumors of men being poisoned in Nauvoo. Joseph Smith once thought he had been poisoned by his wife Emma. William Smith once accused Brigham Young of having poisoned his brother Samuel H. Smith. D. Michael Quinn writes,

“Then Samuel Smith suddenly became violently ill and died on 30 July 1844. This added suspicion of murder to the escalating drama. Council of Fifty member and physician John M. Bernhisel told William Smith that anti-Mormons had somehow poisoned his brother. William learned from Samuel’s widow that Hosea Stout, a Missouri Danite and senior officer of Nauvoo’s police, had acted as his brother’s nurse. Stout had given him “white powder” medicine daily until his death. Samuel became ill within days of the discussion of his succession right, and by 24 July was “very sick.” There had been enough talk about Samuel’s succession claims that the newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, reported: “A son of Joe Smith [Sr.] it is said, had received the revelation that he was to be the successor of the prophet.”

“William Smith eventually concluded that Apostle Willard Richards asked Stout to murder (his brother) Samuel H. Smith. The motive was to prevent Samuel from becoming church president before Brigham Young and the full Quorum of Twelve arrived (in Navuoo). William’s suspicions about Stout are believable since Brigham Young allowed William Clayton to go with the pioneer company to Utah three years later only because Stout threatened to murder Clayton as soon as the apostles left. Clayton regarded Hosea Stout as capable of homicide and recorded no attempt by Young to dispute that assessment concerning the former Danite.”

“One could dismiss William Smith’s charge as a self-serving argument for his own succession claim, yet Samuel’s daughter also believed her father was murdered. “My father was undoubtedly poisoned,” she wrote. “Uncle Arthur Millikin was poisoned at the same time-the same doctors were treating my father and Uncle Arthur at the same time. Uncle Arthur discontinued the medicine-without letting them know that he was doing so. (Aunt Lucy [Smith Millikin] threw it in the fire). Father continued taking it until the last dose-he spit out and said he was poisoned. But it was too late-he died.” Nauvoo’s sexton recorded that Samuel Smith died of “bilious fever,” the cause of death listed for two children but no other adults that summer.”

“This troubling allegation should not be ignored but cannot be verified. Nevertheless Clayton’s diary confirms the efforts of Richards to avoid the appointment of a successor before his first cousin Brigham Young arrived. Stout’s diary also describes several occasions when Brigham Young and the apostles seriously discussed having Hosea “rid ourselves” of various church members considered dangerous to the church and the apostles. Stout referred to this as “cut him off-behind the ears-according to the law of God in such cases.” Stout’s daily diary also makes no reference whatever to his threat to murder Clayton in 1847. When the Salt Lake “municipal high council” tried Hosea Stout for attempted murder, he protested that “it has been my duty to hunt out the rotten spots in the Kingdom.” He added that he had “tried not to handle a man’s case until it was right.” Evidence does not exist to prove if the prophet’s brother was such a “case” Stout handled.” (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy : Origins of Power, 152-153, added emphasis).

[42] “A Book of Records, Containing the proceedings of The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,” Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 17 Mar. 1842–16 Mar. 1844, 87, Church History Library, Online here, Accessed October 30, 2014.

[43] Ann Eliza Young, Wife #19, 70-71, Online here, Accessed October 30, 2014.

[44] See Note #33 where we discuss the 1842 First Presidency Address. Todd Compton wrote,

Whatever the uncertainties in documentation for this polyandrous aspect of Latter-day Saint practice, there is a clearly discernible outline of ideology in the Mormon historical record that explains the development and rationale for the practice of Mormon polyandry. “Gentile” marriages were “illegal,” of no eternal value or earthly validity; marriages authorized by Mormon priesthood and prophets took precedence. Sometimes these sacred marriages were thought to re-enact pre-mortal marriages or to fulfill pre-mortal linkings and so justified a sacred marriage superimposed over a secular one. Mormonism’s intensely hierarchical nature allowed a man with the highest earthly authority—a Joseph Smith or a Brigham Young—to ask for the wives of men holding lesser priesthood authority. The authority of the prophet would allow him to promise higher exaltation to those involved in the triangle, both the wife and her first husband. (A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith’s Thirty Three Plural Wives, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, Summer, 1996, 32).

[45] See Todd Compton, “Truth, Honesty and Moderation in Mormon History: A Response to Anderson, Faulring and Bachman’s Reviews of In Sacred Loneliness, by Todd M. Compton, first published in pamphlet form and on the internet, July 2001”, where he writes,

…a concept that I discovered in the Mary Elizabeth Lightner autobiographies was very useful to me when I was trying to understand the superimposition of higher upon a lower marriage. Mary wrote that Joseph Smith, when proposing to her while she was married to another man, said, “Joseph Said I was his, before I came here.” Elsewhere she wrote that Smith told her that, “I [Mary] was created for him before the foundation of the Earth was laid.” Certainly, if we accept Mary as a credible witness, Joseph was referring to a connection, a linking he had with Mary in the pre-existence as authorizing or requiring the polyandrous marriage. …

William Hall wrote that Smith taught that “all real marriages were made in heaven before the birth of the parties.” He connected this with the phrase “kindred spirits.” If Hall were not so closely paralleled by Lightner here, I would not cite him. But as corroborative evidence dovetailing with Lightner he is valuable. Then I show that the phrase “kindred spirits” is attested in “conservative” Mormon literature — first by William Smith in 1845, when he was Presiding Patriarch, then by Helen Mar Whitney in 1886. See In Sacred Loneliness, p. 640. (“Pre-existence and polyandry, online here, accessed October 20, 2014.)

[46] Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find? FAIRMORMON Conference, 2012, Online here. Accessed, October 30, 2014.

The problems with Hales’ logic are insurmountable for him, but he goes ahead anyway. For example, he tries to claim that Sylvia Sessions Lyon was not having sex with Joseph Smith and her husband Windsor Lyon at the same time, even though she conceived a daughter by Joseph Smith and later two children by Windsor Lyon all the while never separating from Lyon.  Hales writes,

The women who were sealed just for the next life, like Ruth Vose Sayers, are on Joseph’s list of wives, but technically they don’t belong there until we get into the next realm. But we have to deal with it today. So, were all fourteen of these women sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity only? No. It’s not that easy At least three of the sealings were for time and eternity and in a covenant that superseded the legal covenant. In other words, after the sealing to Joseph, the legal husband was not going to be able to experience conjugality with her. They are special cases and there are not a lot of parallels between the three. We’re going to talk about all three of them.

The first one is Sylvia Sessions Lyon. If you’ve read Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness” you know that he elaborately unfolds a plausible case. But new evidence suggests that he is in error. I talked to him, I emailed him this past week about it and he still defended it at Sunstone when we presented this just a week ago. He was the respondent. But you just can’t do it and you will see why here in a minute. Sylvia married Windsor Lyon on April 21, 1838 in a legal ceremony performed by Joseph Smith. “In Sacred Loneliness uses the date February 8, 1842 as their [Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions] sealing date. That’s the first problem. The daughter was conceived over a year later, on May 18 1843. And this daughter I believe is Joseph Smith’s actual daughter. The assumption is that Sylvia experienced sexual relations with both Windsor and Joseph Smith during this period. Now, there’s no evidence for that, for either one of them during the period up until Josephine was conceived, but the willingness of people to assume these things is very high, as we’ll talk about in a minute.

But the problem is that Todd uses this date here, of 1842, but in the same set of documents, and Todd didn’t know this when he wrote his book because he didn’t have time to get to this, but there is an 1843 date. They’re equally valid or invalid. They are not signed. They talk about this marriage, but we don’t know how close Sylvia Sessions Lyon was to the creation of these documents, and they just cancel each other out. The whole timeline presented by Todd, I would argue, is not reliable.

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

But there is one other evidence that Todd will cite, to say that Sylvia Sessions was sealed to Joseph early, and that is that she witnessed the sealing of her mother in March of 1942. [sic] Now that clearly indicates that Sylvia was a polygamy insider. But the problem is that I’ve identified seventeen other men and women who are not polygamous who did witness these marriages. (They are: Fanny Huntington, Cornelius Lott, Permelia Lott, Joseph Lott, Amanda Lott, Benjamin F. Johnson, Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Godshall Phillips, Julia Stone, Hettie Stone, Mary Ellen Harris Able, James Adams, Joseph B. Noble, Dimick B. Huntington, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Newel K. Whitney.) It’s just not strong evidence. So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart.

Windsor was excommunicated in November of 1842. We have three evidences that the sealing occurred after this, and that the excommunication of Windsor cause him and Sylvia to part. They were already separated. So they are legally married but they separate. And then Joseph is sealed to Sylvia after the excommunication. In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 historical record article on plural marriage, Andrew Judson wrote “Sylvia Sessions was married to Mr. Lyon. When he left the church she was sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.” Elsewhere he refers to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyon.”

In 1915, Josephine, the child, related that back in 1882, just months before her mother died, she told Josephine in a very dramatic fashion, that she had “been sealed to the prophet at the time that her husband, Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church”, and that Josephine was actually Joseph Smith’s daughter. Josephine married a guy named Fisher and there’s a whole Fisher family in Bountiful that descend from this. And I have been in contact with some of the descendants, and they are starting to say maybe we need to make a claim that we’re actually coming from Joseph and not from Windsor Lyon. From my research there are only 2 children from the plural wives. This is one. The other is Olive Frost’s daughter, or son, we don’t even know the gender, as both Olive Frost and the child died before they left Nauvoo. And that’s all. There are references to a third, but we don’t know. Maybe some new evidence will come up and we will find out.

Looking at the timeline, we find that Windsor and Sylvia married in 1838. She conceives three children, then he’s excommunicated and that’s when they separate. It’s not a legal divorce, but she is then sealed to Joseph in a marriage that I argue would have superseded the legal marriage anyway, which would curtail any conjugality between Sylvia and Windsor. Josephine is conceived. Joseph Smith is killed. Windsor is rebaptized and then they come back together and the legal marriage is still intact.

Now, is this weird? Yeah, this is weird. Is it sexual polyandry? Is it immoral? Is it breaking the law of chastity that Joseph taught? No it isn’t. (Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” op. cited)

Hales, in an effort to try and muddy the waters and support his later 1843 date for the “marriage” of Lyon to Smith writes,

The 1842 date for Sylvia Sessions sealing comes from [Affidavit] Book 1 and the 1843 date from Book 4. Book 4 is also unique because it contains two additional unfinished affidavits, one for Vienna Jacques, and a second started on Jun 26, 1869, but never completed. Book 1 does not contain those who aborted affidavit attempts.

Accordingly, it appears that since Book 4 contains more documents than Book 1, it was in fact the primary of the two and was the first to receive entries, at least in those two instances. This observation suggests that the 1843 date could well be the more accurate, or at least the first recorded, even though it is found in a book currently referred to a [sic] Book 4. Either way, it is a date with at least as much validity as the date (1842) written in Book 1 and should not be dismissed on the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a coypist error that occurred as the contents of Book 1 were being duplicated in Book 4.

We agree that the affidavit Books don’t prove much. They are very late recollections and are being used in many cases as a basis for actual dates and events with little or no other evidence. But we do have problems with Hales interpretation of the evidence, even this evidence.  If Hales had just taken a good look at both affidavits he would have seen something that indicates that the affidavit in Book 4 was probably written after the affidavit in Book 1.

If you study the two affidavits of Sylvia Sessions, you will notice that the affidavit with the 1843 date was rewritten without leaving the last sentence in the middle of the page. This indicates that the 1842 document may have been written first, since it is much sloppier.

We know that some of these affidavits were previously prepared because there are templates in some of the books with blank spaces for names and dates. (See the Mary Ann Young illustration). The Sessions Affidavits are also unsigned so we don’t know where the dates came from. This folks, is not good evidence for anything.

Hales tries to infer that because some of those who participated in plural marriages were not polygamists, that this somehow makes a bit of difference concerning Sylvia Sessions. But there were obviously some who helped Joseph to “marry” women that he wanted for spiritual wives.

Cornelius Lott was the father of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)
Permilia Darrow Lott was the mother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)
Joseph Darrow Lott was the brother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)
Harriet Amanda Lott was the sister of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives.  (Polygamy insider)
Joseph Bates Nobel was married to Mary Beaman, a sister of Louisa Beaman, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)
Sarah Godshall Phillips was the mother of Catherine Phillips Smith who was one of Hyrum Smith’s plural wives. (Polygamy insider)
Julia Stone was the wife of Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council which had the polygamy “revelation” presented to them in May of 1843. She was a member of the Relief Society.  (Polygamy insider)
Hettie Stone was the daughter of Julia and Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council. (Polygamy insider)
Mary Ellen Harris Abel was the spiritual wife of Heber C. Kimball who he married in 1843. (Polygamy insider)
Dimick B. Huntington was the brother of Zina D. Huntington, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives and helped Smith win her over to Smith. (Polygamy insider)
Brigham Young (Really?)
Willard Richards (Really?)
James Adams was another polygamy insider who supposedly “married” Smith to some of his spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider).

All of these people were polygamy insiders. What point Hales is trying to make here is unclear. Compton’s point was that Sylvia Sessions was a polygamy insider, having witnessed her mother’s “marriage” to Joseph, therefore she knew about the spiritual wife doctrine before 1843 and so could easily have been “married” to Joseph in 1842.

If you can truly understand what happened between Joseph Smith and the Lyon (and make a competent analysis from Hales’ disjointed and scattered composition above), you did better than we could.  So to make this very clear and easy to comprehend, let’s look at a timeline of events here,

April 21, 1838— Joseph Smith marries 19 year old Sylvia Sessions to Windsor P. Lyon.

c. 1840-1841—Windsor P. Lyon built a drug and variety store on Hotchkiss Street between Main and Hyde streets. …Within in a year of his arrival in Nauvoo, Lyon had opened his store, which sold “Dry Goods, Groceries, Crockery, Glass, and Hardwares. Books and Stationery [sic]. Drugs and Medicines, Paints and Dye stuffs, Boots, Shoes, Military Goods; and a thousand other articles too numerous to mention”

February 8, 1842—Smith and Sylvia are “married”, but Sylvia and Lyon continue to live together as man and wife.

March 9, 1842—Patty Bartlett Sessions writes in her journal, “I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9 1842 in Newel K Whitney’s chamber Nauvoo, for time and all eternity…Sylvia my daughter was presant when I was sealed”

March 20, 1842—Joseph Smith preaches to a large assembly in the grove, the body of a deceased child of Windsor P. Lyon being before the assembly causes him to change his remarks. (History of the Church remarks. Vol. 4, p.553)

1842-1844—Joseph Smith III writes in 1894: “There was a scandal about Mrs. Lyons, while yet in Nauvoo, but on inquiry was either fruitless of results; it was hushed up, whitewashed. But she was then a married woman, her husband a storekeeper, his store known as the “Lion Store” because of a painted lion used as a sign.”

June 1842—Windsor Lyon appointed aide-de-camp to major general in Nauvoo Legion, June 1842

August 12, 1842—Sylvia records in her diary that she was making shirts for Joseph Smith.

October 9 1842—Emmeline Wells writes, “”Windsor Lyon, her [Patty Sessions] daughter’s husband, went to St. Louis to purchase goods.”

November 7, 1842—Windsor Lyon is disfellowshipped by William Marks, President of the Nauvoo Stake, for trying to collect a debt from Marks , but does not move out of his house and continues to live in Nauvoo with Sylvia as husband and wife.

William Marks against Windsor P. Lyon.

“To the High Council of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I prefer a charge against Windsor P. Lyon for instituting a suit at law against me on the 4th of November, and for other acts derogatory to the character of a christian

Nauvoo Nov. 7th 1842.

William Marks, complainant”

Defendant said that the suit was instituted by him, in another man’s name, therefore, did not think he was in fault &c. Two were appointed to speak on the case, viz; (9) [Newel] Knight and (10) [William] Huntington [Sr.].

The charge was fully sustained. The president then decided that, unless he humble himself and repent, the hand of fellowship be with drawn from him, which decision was unanimously sanctioned by the Councillors (Minutes of the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Nauvoo Illinois)

November 8, 1842—Tuesday, 8.—This afternoon called upon Windsor P. Lyon and others to make affidavits concerning the frauds and irregularities practiced in the post office in Nauvoo. A petition was drawn and signed by many, and sent by Squire Warren to Judge Young, [U.S. senator from Illinois] with a request that the latter should present the same to the postmaster general, and use his influence to have the present postmaster removed, and a new one appointed. I was recommended for the appointment. In the afternoon officiated in court as mayor at my house. (History of the Church, Vol. 5, 184)

December 24, 1842—24[th] P.M. Read and revised history. [Joseph] Walked with Sec[retary Richards] to see Sister [Sylvia] Lyon who was sick. Her babe died 30 minutes before he arrived. Thence to Bro[ther] Sabin[‘s] to get some money for expences to [go to] Springfield, having just borrowed $100 of Nehemiah Hatch. (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 257)

Asa W. Lyon, son of Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, was twelve hours old when he died. His gravestone gives 25 December 1842 as the date of his death. (Cook, Nauvoo Deaths and Marriages, 49.)

February 8, 1843—An alternate date for the Sylvia Lyon “marriage” to Smith.

February 12, 1843—Lyon loans Joseph Smith $500, even though he is disfellowshipped.

September 18, 1843. Monday.—A.M. at President Joseph’s …Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyon. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyon and paid it to D. D. Yearsley. (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 120)

January 11, 1844—Windsor P. Lyon—still disfellowshipped, and Sylvia, living as man and wife, host in their home, the marriage of William H. Kimball, son of Heber C. Kimball, to Mary Davenport. Helen Mar Kimball wrote,

On the 11th of May [1844] following, my brother William H. and Mary Davenport were joined in wedlock by father at the house of Winsor P. Lyon, and on the 13th he brought her home to live with us. (Other sources have the date as Jan. 11, 1844, Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo, 90)

February 8, 1844—Josephine Rosetta Lyon, Joseph Smith’s daughter is born. Josephine would have been conceived in April or May of 1843.

September 10 Tuesday—I was sick. Went to B. Young. He and my self went to the foot of Main St. The Ospra[y] Landed thare. Elder Hide left fore Ohio, Elder Ri[g]don left. We held a council at B. Young. Judg Demming met with us. Went Br. Lyons. Elder Limon sick. From thence went to Br. Geens, then to Br. Cheaces [Ezra Chase?]. They ware sealled. All wright. Held a council at B. Youngs concerning Legion & Arsnal.

September 21 Saturday—Went to Br. Haltons and Sealled Him to his dead wife, and gave the family council. From thence went to Winser Lyons [Windsor P. Lyons], found B. Young, A. Limon, had a smart chat.

September 24, 1844—Tuesday—I attended council at Winsor P. Lyon. Six of the brethren of the Twelve were present, and Elder Joseph Young [senior President of the Seventy].  We selected seventy [p.xxix] presidents to preside over the seventies—over the ten quorums of the seventies then in contemplation, and fifty high priests to preside over different sections of the country. (Brigham Young, History of the Church, Vol. 7, xxix)

December 20, 1844—Willard Richards writes in his journal, “I went out with her [his wife Jennetta] as far as Mr. Lyons where we called and drank a glass of wine were very kindly entertained by Mrs. Lyon.”

3 February 1845—I would remark that on the eighteenth of January that my brother in law Winsor P. Lyon and my cosen Enock B. Tripp were baptized under the hand of brother Heber C. Kimball one of the Twelve this give the connection a time of rejoicing to see them Obey the truth on the twentieth after receiving my indewments in the house of the Lord with Lucina my wife.”

Friday, Aug. 5, 1845—About 6 p.m. Dr. [Franklin Richards] returned and at sundown drove me [Thomas Bullock] to [Windsor] Lyons to get 12 grains of quinine…” [60 grains is about a teaspoon full]

Saturday, Oct. 25, 1845—Copying Baptisms for the dead nearly all day. Doing errands the remainder. That mean little fellow, [Windsor] Lyons, refused to trust Dr. Willard Richards five cents on my [Thomas Bullock] buying some quinine saying “I will not trust Dr. Willard Richards or any one else &c.” when the poor simpelton will have to sacrifice his all at the Drs. feet in a few months. Such is the effect of a grasping avaricious disposition, which proves “it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven”.

This may be a reason that Windsor did not travel west with the “Saints”, but rather chose to settle in Iowa City. From the account above, he would have had to “sacrifice his all” to the Twelve if he chose to move west with the “Saints”. Also, Windsor had been burned twice loaning money to Mormon “Authorities” and he was probably not keen on giving out any more credit to others.

1 February, 1846—On Sunday morning, February 1, 1846, Heber C. Kimball came to the house of Mr. Windsor P. Lyon in order to rebaptize him into the church and they sent up to the temple and got a large bath tub. The mob violence was so strong, Heber C. Kimball did not dare to do it in public.”

January 26, 1846, Windsor Lyon, now restored to High Priest, accompanied Sylvia to the Nauvoo Temple where she was sealed to the now deceased Joseph Smith for eternity and also sealed to Heber Kimball for time. Sylvia, now married to Smith for eternity, and Kimball and Lyon for time, continued to live with Lyon as man and wife.

January or February 1846, Windsor, living with Sylvia, is sealed to Susanne Eliza Gee for eternity.  By February, Sylvia is simultaneously married for time to Kimball and Lyon and Lyon is married to Gee for eternity.  But the evidence is that even with this complex polyandrous arrangement, Sylvia and Lyon lived together as man and wife as shown by the fact that Windsor and Sylvia (also still married for time to Kimball) had two more children.

If this behavior is acceptable then, why was it not during Joseph Smith’s lifetime? Why would Sylvia even be married to Kimball for “time” and why would Sylvia agree to it when she was married to Windsor and moved with him to Iowa City a few months later?

April 19, 1846—Patty Sessions receives a letter from “Windsor and Sylvia” from Nauvoo.

June 23, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from “Sylvia Dated June 3d said she was going to Iowa in a week.”

The above entries could be taken to mean that they went separately, but we know they did not.

Sunday [February] 14 [1847] Went to meeting then in the evening collected Zina ^Jacobs^ Eliza Snow sister Marcum [Markham] ^at^ sister Buels to pray for Sylvia and child that they might be delivered from bondage and Windsor and David come here with them we prayed sung in toungues spoke in toungues and had a good time then went ^to^ put sister Oakley to bed. (Patty Sessions Diary)

April 21, 1847—Sylvia and Josephine visit Patty Sessions at Winter Quarters.

May 1, 1847—Patty Sessions writes, Sylvia and I went to a meeting to Sister Leonards none but females there we had a good metting I presided it was got up by E R Snow they spoke in toungues I interpreted some prophesied it was a feast.”

May 5, 1847, Sylvia gets ready to leave Winter Quarters to return to Iowa City, and Eliza Snow writes her a poem which Patty records in her diary[90]  Snow writes of Sylvia’s husband Windsor and Josephine,

But thy husband will caress the[e],
And thy sweet angelic child,
With her growng charms will bless thee
Thus the hours will be beguiled, [..]

May 9, 1847—Sylvia leaves Winter Quarters.

September 4, 1847, Byron Windsor Lyon was born to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.

August 8, 1848, David Carlos Lyon was born in Iowa City to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.

January, 1849—Windsor Lyon dies in Iowa City, Slyvia remarries Gentile, Ezekiel Clark on January 1, 1850. In July 1849, Heber received a letter from Sylvia requesting her family to come and get her. In October her older brother Perrigrine came to get her. His trip from the west (600 miles through snow) was very difficult and he arrived to find Sylvia getting married to a well to do Gentile: Ezekiel Clark. Perrigrine was upset and returned to Utah with David Jr. In Sacred Loneliness, pg 193) She had three children by Ezekiel before deciding to leave him. She “realized that he was very intolerant of her religion and resentful of the fact that she was sealed to the Prophet.” Perregrine came east once again to take her to Utah. Clark cooperated with her wishes to rejoin her family in Utah. Later Clark traveled to Utah to try and convince her to return with him to Iowa with the children, but she refused. In Utah, Sylvia would go to visit her other husband Heber C. Kimball.

What we found interesting is that in her book “Mormon Midwife” Donna Toland Smart writes that,

“Family tradition also records that during the administration of Wilford Woodruff, Sylvia had the sealing to Joseph Smith canceled and was sealed to Windsor P. Lyon.

This is not a complete list. For example, Emily Partridge claimed that after she left the Smith Mansion House in the fall of 1843, she went to live with Sylvia and Windsor and took care of their newborn infant and slept in the same room with the three of them. For further information about Sylvia & Windsor Lyon, see “Brian Hales Polygamy: Sylvia Lyon & The 1869 Utah Affidavits,” by Johnny Stephenson at Mormonite Musings, online here.

As D. Michael Quinn plainly explains concerning Hales and his closed system of logic,

By contrast, nothing–not co-residence of legally married couples, not saying “I was the wife of another man for time while I continued to live with my legal husband,” not childbirth that the wife attributed to her “other” husband, NOTHING–can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time. For example, Hales, “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,'”  (“Researchers who accept Josephine’s 1915 statement as evidence that she was Joseph’s offspring cannot easily reject … the implication that [her publicly assumed father] Windsor’s church estrangement was interpreted by Josephine as an official separation or divorce … Neither is there any indication that Josephine thought her mother was simultaneously married to two men polyandrously or that Sylvia [her mother] continued to cohabit with Windsor …”),  (“It is true that some later reminiscences [by already-married women] state that their sealings [to Joseph Smith] in Nauvoo were for `time and eternity. ‘However, to assume that the women were remembering the exact language may not be warranted… to presuppose that sexual relations were present based solely on a late memoir that declared a Nauvoo marriage (`polyandrous’ or not) was for `time and eternity’ would be unjustified by the documents alone”),  (“observing that a woman lived under the same roof with a man does not verify a sexual connection between her and her legal husband”).In fact, Hales has acknowledged (105-06) that he makes an evidentiary requirement that is unachievable: “… to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary. … Hence, the women would be essentially declaring themselves to be unchaste. Zina, Lucinda, and Presendia all partook of the conservative Victorian standards of the time and were devout Latter-day Saints. It seems highly unlikely that these women would make such comments.” (“Quinn, Sexual Side”, 66, note 183).

Even Todd Compton rejects Hales ridiculous assertions,

Finally, one wonders why these “first husbands” apparently acquiesced to their wives’ marriages to Joseph. One possibility is that they were promised spiritual rewards in return. Such was the case with the fathers of three “single” plural wives. When Fanny Alger was married to Joseph, her family looked upon the sealing as an honor to them, according to Ann Eliza Webb. In the same way, when Sarah Whitney was sealed to Joseph, he rebaptized her parents and gave special blessings to her father, Newel Whitney. Heber C. Kimball wanted his daughter Helen to marry Joseph so that there would be an eternal connection between the two families, and Joseph himself told her that the marriage to him would ensure her family’s salvation.

If we can apply these phenomena to the polyandrous families, including the husbands, it would explain some of the dynamics of polyandrous marriages: the husbands may have been promised that Joseph’s marriage to their wives would contribute to their own exaltation after this life. “Buckeye’s Lament,” a piece of anti-Joseph doggerel published shortly before his death, supports this interpretation. “But if you yield willingly,/ Your daughters and your wives,/ In spiritual marriage to our POPE,/ He’ll bless you all your lives;/ He’ll seal you up, be damned you can’t, No matter what you do—If that you only stick to him,/ He swears HE’LL take you through.” The phrase “your daughters and your wives” clearly suggests that Joseph offered salvation to “first husbands,” as well as to the fathers of his brides.

It should also be borne in mind that the men and women involved in Nauvoo polygamy and polyandry did not understand it thoroughly; it was new doctrine; it was not preached openly; and though Joseph taught polygamy to his inner circle, practical experience often differed from didactic religious doctrine. So a husband giving his wife to Joseph may not have understood fully what the marriage meant. Helen Mar Kimball, a non-polyandrous wife, found her marriage to Joseph to mean more on an earthly plane than she had expected. Possibly the husbands and wives in polyandrous triangles had the same experience. In Nauvoo-period theological terminology, there was some ambiguity in the terms “sealing” and “marriage,” and it is possible that some men and women did not understand that “sealing” also meant “marriage” and included sexual relations. It is unfortunate that we do not have a full, frank memoir from even one of the polyandrous “first husbands”; we only have two autobiographies from two polyandrous wives, Mary Elizabeth Rollins and Zina Huntington. (Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 30-31)

A further problem with the Rollins and Huntington autobiographies is that they are very late, and they are extremely apologetic to Joseph Smith. Compton further explains,

About the same time the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles . . . They were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children in alienation from each other. There should be an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.

This is a radical, almost utopian rejection of civil, secular, sectarian, non-Mormon marriage. Such “lower” marriage was even a “sin” unless a higher “affinity” cemented the partners together.

Another relevant doctrinal statement comes from an 1861 speech by Brigham Young, which is preserved in two versions:

Also there was another way—in which a woman could leave [a] man—if the woman Preferred—another man higher in authority & he is willing to take her. & her husband gives her up—there is no Bill of divorce required in the case it is right in the sight of God.

The Second Way in which a wife can be seperated from her husband, while he continues to be faithful to his God and his preisthood, I have not revealed, except to a few persons in this Church; and a few have received it from Joseph the prophet as well as myself. If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the preisthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is . . . there is no need for a bill of divorcement . . . To recapitulate. First if a man forfiets his covenants with a wife, or wives, becoming unfaithful to his God, and his preisthood, that wife or wives are free from him without a bill of divorcement. Second. If a woman claimes protection at the hands of a man, possessing more power in the preisthood and higher keys, if he is disposed to rescue her and has obtained the consent of her husband to make her his wife he can do so without a bill of divorcement.

This statement gives two options: (1) if a man apostatizes from the church, his wife can leave him without a formal divorce; (2) if a woman desires to be married to a man with greater priesthood authority than her current husband has, and if both men agree, she may be sealed to the second man without formal divorce. Brigham reports that he learned this from Joseph Smith. In some ways, this principle applies to Joseph’s polyandrous marriages. He clearly was regarded as having more priesthood authority than any other living man, so he would be the most authoritative, spiritually desirable, second husband available.

The emphasis on the woman’s desire is notable. In nineteenth-century Utah there are well-documented cases in which women asked to be married to a general authority. In Nauvoo, however, such cases would not be frequent, as polygamy was still secret. Also interesting is the emphasis on the volition of the first husband. This would be consistent with the suggestion made above, that the first husbands in Joseph’s polyandrous marriages often knew about the marriages and permitted them.

The statement by Jedediah Grant referred to above will now be quoted more fully. My explanations are in brackets:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants [previous marriages] are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants [marriage by priesthood sealing power]; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?” “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church [i.e., unwilling to consecrate everything to Joseph as mouthpiece of God] . . . What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? [he would give it all willingly] Or if he came and said, “I want your wife?” “O yes,” he would say, “here she is, there are plenty more” . . . Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not . . . the grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, “I want your gold and silver, or your wives,” I should say, “Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.” A man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters. (Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 24-25).

Joseph Smith certainly did try to destroy women’s reputations. We have the cases of Sarah Pratt, Martha Brotherton, and Nancy Rigdon to name a few.

“In his endeavors to ruin my [Sarah’s] character Joseph went so far as to publish an extra-sheet containing affidavits against my reputation. When this sheet was brought to me I discovered to my astonishment the names of two people on it, man and wife, with whom I had boarded for a certain time…. I went to their house; the man left the house hurriedly when he saw me coming. I found the wife and said to her rather excitedly: ‘What does it all mean?’ She began to sob. ‘It is not my fault’ said she. ‘Hyrum Smith came to our house, with the affidavits all written out, and forced us to sign them. ‘Joseph and the Church must be saved,’ said he. We saw that resistance was useless, they would have ruined us; so we signed the papers.” (Sarah Pratt, in Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 1886,  62-63).

William Law claimed that,

“My wife would not speak evil of … anyone … without cause. Joseph is a liar and not she. That Smith admired and lusted after many men’s wives and daughters, is a fact, but they could not help that. They or most of them considered his admiration an insult, and treated him with scorn. In return for this scorn, he generally managed to blacken their reputations – see the case of… Mrs. Pratt, a good, virtuous woman.” (William Law, Salt Lake Tribune, January 20, 1887).

George D. Smith writes that,

Nancy Tracy recalled that Smith taught the “Celestial Order of Marriage” only to “a few that could bear it.” Evidently one such person was Ebenezer Robinson, who recalled that the “doctrine of spiritual wives” was “talked privately in the church in Nauvoo, in 1841” but that he was invited to participate in 1843. Hyrum Smith “instructed me in Nov or Dec 1843 to make a selection of some young woman and he would seal her to me, and I should take her home,” he recalled, “and if she should have an offspring give out word that she had a husband, an Elder, who had gone on a foreign mission.” Possibly referring to a secluded birthplace, or conceivably to abortion, Robinson spoke of “a place appointed in Iowa, 12 or 18 miles from Nauvoo to send female vic[t]ims to his polygamous births.” (George D. Smith, Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841-46: A Preliminary Demographic Report, Dialogue, Vol.27, No.1, 27).

According to D. Michael Quinn,

One response of the Mormon hierarchy toward an unwelcome messenger has been character assassination founded on a common assumption about the general public: “If you discredit the messenger, you discredit the message.” The logic is flawed but often effective.  Linked to character assassination has been the use of excommunication and the designation of “apostate,” particularly in response to partisan accounts of Church history.

Character assassination was common in Nauvoo Mormonism.  In 1842, Nancy Rigdon rejected Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  She told her family, and her brother went public.  As a result, Joseph Smith published affidavits that she had been sexually impure.  In another example, Martha Brotherton published an affidavit about her rejection of Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  As a result, he had her sister Elizabeth publish the answer that her sister was a whore and a liar.  Elizabeth Brotherton later became a plural wife of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. (D. Michael Quinn, 150 Years of Truth and Consequences About Mormon History, Sunstone 16:1/13 (Feb 92).

Orson Hyde used the baseless rumors about Nancy Rigdon in an effort to combat the claims made by Sidney Rigdon in a speech before the High Priests Quorum of Nauvoo in April, 1845:

During my absence to Palestine, the conduct of his [Sidney Rigdon’s] daughter, Nancy, became so notorious in this city, according to common rumor, she was regarded generally, little if any better than a public prostitute. Joseph Smith knowing the conduct she was guilty of, felt anxious to reprove and reclaim her if possible. He, accordingly, requested my wife to invite her down to her house. He wished to speak with her and show her the impropriety of being gallanted about by so many different men, many of whom were comparatively strangers to her. Her own parents could look upon it, and think that all was right; being blind to the faults of their daughter.—There being so many of this kind visiting Mr. Rigdon’s house at the steamboat landing, (for he kept some sort of a tavern or boarding house,) that Mr. Smith did not care to go there to see her. Miss Nancy, I presume, considered her dignity highly insulted at the plain and sharp reproofs she received from this servant of God. She ran home and told her father that Mr. Smith wanted her for a spiritual wife, and that he employed my wife to assist him in obtaining her. This was a good time for Miss Nancy and John C. Bennett to wreak vengeance on the victim of their hatred for his severe admonitions. Mr. Bennett I think, was a boarder at Mr. Rigdon’s at that time, and I am told was all hosey with the whole family. No one like Dr. John C. Bennett. (Speech of Elder Orson Hyde, Delivered Before the High Priest’s Quorum in Nauvoo, April 27th, 1845, upon the course and conduct of Mr. Sidney Rigdon, and upon the Merits of his claims to the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Nauvoo, Illinois, Printed by John Taylor, 1845, 26-27, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014.)

The claims made here by Orson Hyde against Nancy Rigdon are demonstrably false. We know that Joseph Smith did make a proposal to Nancy Rigdon to become one of his spiritual wives, because we have a letter from Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon written on the 11th of April, 1842, where he tries to justify what many might consider “abominable” behavior [his spiritual wife doctrine] to her.

And why would many women still choose Joseph? It is not hard to understand why when Joseph Smith told them that their salvation and the salvation of their families depended on accepting his propositions.  According to Sarah Kimball,

“Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle.” (“LDS Biographical Encyclopedia” By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887).

Joseph Kingsbury wrote that he served as a surrogate husband for Joseph Smith and that embraced this deception to protect him:

“I according to Pres. Joseph Smith & council & others, I agreed to stand by Sarah Ann Whitney [sealed to Smith 27 July 1843] as though I was supposed to be her husband and a pretended marriage for the purpose of shielding them from the enemy and for the purpose of bringing out the purposes of God.” (Elder Joseph Kingsbury, “History of Joseph Kingsbury Written by His Own Hand,” page 5, Utah State Historical Society).

Why would they question their “prophet” if they are told, as Kingsbury was that it was to bring out the purposes of God? Some never did, they just obeyed Smith. (See Mary Thompson’s testimony above). That none of the women complained is a weak argument by Hales that he uses over and over again. Of course Joseph didn’t talk about the women who turned him down (how many of them there were we may never know); he was lying in public that he even practiced polygamy. He certainly did not just “let it go” in the case of Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt and Martha Brotherton, because they told other people who made it public, and others that Joseph Smith had influenced continued to do so after his death.

[47] Hales, “New Expert,” op. cited. For the original source and interview, see The Saints Herald, Vol. 52, No. 2, January 11, 1905, pp. 29-30, Online here, accessed October 21, 2014.

Zina’s interview with Wight is astounding for her hostility to the man. She absolutely will not reveal that date of her marriage to Joseph Smith. Here is a sample of the interview,

“I believe you claim your brother officiated at the marriage?”

“He did at the first. When Brigham Young returned from England, he repeated the ceremony for time and eternity.

Can you give us the date of that marriage with Joseph Smith?”

“No, sir, I could not.”

“Not even the year?”

“No I do not remember. It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years. I will tell you the facts. I had dreams—I am no dreamer but I had dreams that I could not account for. I know this is the work of the Lord; it was revealed to me, even when young. Things were presented to my mind that I could not account for. When Joseph Smith revealed this order I knew what it meant; the Lord was preparing my mind to receive it.”

“You say that Brigham Young repeated the ceremony after his return from England?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who first approached you with regard to the subject of plural marriage.”

“I was about to say, that is none of your business.”

Huntington claims that she had “dreams” that prepared her for polygamy and that it was “revealed” to her when she was young. She then claims that when Smith revealed “this order” she knew what it was all about because “the Lord was preparing my mind to receive it”.

Yet, later in the interview Huntington claims that she never heard the question of plural marriage discussed either privately or publicly prior to her having been sealed to Smith.  Then she reverses herself and says that “We hardly dared speak of it, the very walls had ears, we spoke of it only in whispers.”

She then claims that her brother told her about polygamy at the behest of Joseph Smith. So Huntington’s testimony here is forced, contradictory, hostile and ultimately untrustworthy. Still, Hales will use it to bolster his own forced claims and irrational assumptions.

[48] Hales, online here, accessed October 21, 2014.

[49] Hales discounts their assertions in part because a certain document was apparently lost by Zina’s family, and that there is only a transcription of it. We have no problem voicing doubt in such a case. Many of the dates for the Smith “marriages” in Nauvoo are questionable, especially the early ones because many were only recalled years later, many in 1869. Some ‘wives” had documentation to back up the dates but many did not because of the need to keep them a secret and Joseph’s penchant for asking people to burn documents.

[50] In addition to Melissa Lott Willes’ family, Smith involved the Whitney family when he demanded Sarah Ann; and the Kimball family when he demanded Helen Mar as a wife, claiming that he could save the entire family if they gave their daughters to him as spiritual wives. See Todd Compton’s “Trajectory”, op. cited above.

[51] Helen Mar Kimball wrote that,

My acquaintance with Sarah Ann Whitney, eldest daughter of Bishop N. K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, whose name is mentioned in one of my father’s letters, I began to make in the spring of 1842. Though our parents had long been associated, and we had known each other since the schooldays of Kirtland, but as she was some four years older than myself, who had entered my teens but a few months previous, I had never thought of becoming a companion to her.

I had grown up very fast and my father often took me out with him and for this reason was taken to be older than I was. I really thought it curious that Sarah Ann should take such a fancy to me. My first introduction into her circle was at a party given in honor of her seventeenth birthday, in March, 1842, in the Masonic room above Joseph Smith’s store. The latter her father had charge of, and his family occupied a small house adjoining it. This was quite a select party. Among them were the daughters of Elder Rigdon, Bishop Higbee’s sons, the Miss Pierces, (Margaret Pierce Young being one of them) and Rachel, Mary and Mary Ann Ivins, the former, now Rachel Grant, were cousins, with some of their brothers and many others too numerous to mention, were among the guests. The Prophet spent a little time with them, but took no part. I believe that I was the youngest and I know that I was the most bashful, so much so that I declined nearly every invitation to take part in their various games. If there had been dancing I might have passed through with a better grace, but dancing was not so much approved at that time, at least was not so commonly practiced among the Saints. Sarah Ann’s brother Horace, who was twenty months her senior, made one of the party but had never dreamed of such a thing as matrimony with me, whom he only remembered in the earliest school days in Kirtland as occupying one of the lowest seats. He becoming enough advanced, soon left the one taught in the red schoolhouse on the flat and attended a higher one on the hill, and through our moving to Missouri and Illinois we lost sight of each other. After the party was over I stopped the rest of the night with Sarah, and as her room and his were adjoining, being only separated by a partition, our talk seemed to disturb him, and he was impolite enough to tell us of it, and request us to stop and let him go to sleep, which was proof enough that he had never thought of me only as the green school girl that I was, or he would certainly have submitted gracefully (as lovers always should) to be made a martyr of. No brother and sister could be more affectionately devoted to each other than were Horace and Sarah Ann. He had always been to her like a guardian. This I heard from her mother previous to our intimacy, and it made an impression upon my mind as being admirable and praiseworthy in an elder brother. Soon after this event he was engaged to accompany Amasa Lyman and others, as clerk, to the southern states, where they went to preach and transact some business for Joseph, and after a short absence they returned. He was a printer by trade, and was employed by Don Carlos Smith until the death of the latter, whom he loved as dearly as an own brother. The next autumn after his return from the South the bishop moved his family into a house on Parley Street, nearer to us. About a year after her birthday party she invited my brother and I to attend another small party which, to me, was very pleasant and far more enjoyable than the other, there being present only a few select friends. The Prophet was there during the early part of the evening, and some peculiar remarks which he made, I remember, gave food for talk and no little amount of wit which passed from one to the other after he had left; and William and I talked it over after we returned home, of the enjoyable time and the peculiarities of Joseph. (Helen Mar Kimball,  quoted in A Woman’s View, by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel & Jeni Broberg Holzapfel, Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997, 251-252).


It was not till the summer after he had gone east that I learned of the existence of the plural order of marriage, and that the spring of 1842 had seen his sister Sarah Ann the wife of Joseph Smith. My father was the first to introduce it to me; which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake.

When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann to me as Joseph’s wife. This astonished me Beyond measure; but I could then understand a few things which had previously been to me a puzzle, and among the rest, the meaning of his words at her party. I saw, or could imagine, in some degree, the great trial that she must have passed through, and that it had required a mighty struggle to take a step of that kind, and had called for a sacrifice, such as few can realize but those who first rendered obedience to this law. It was a strange doctrine, and very dangerous too, to be introduced at such a time, when in the midst of the greatest trouble Joseph had ever encountered. … No earthly inducement could be held forth to the women who entered this order. It was to be a life-sacrifice for the sake of an everlasting glory and exaltation. Sarah Ann took this step of her own free will, but had to do it unbeknown to her brother, which grieved her most, and also her mother, that they could not open their hearts to him. But Joseph feared to disclose it, believing that the Higbee boys would embitter Horace against him, as they had already caused serious trouble, and for this reason he favored his going east, which Horace was not slow to accept. … Sarah felt when she took this step that it would be the means of severing her from the happy circle in which she had moved as one of their guiding stars. She was called proud and somewhat eccentric; but the influence that she seemed to hold over one was almost magnetic. I found her incapable of professing anything which she did not feel, and that she was a most pure-minded, conscientious and God-fearing girl. Our friendship dated from that period, and we became, as much as is possible, like “the two halves of one soul.” (ibid., 252-253).

It is obvious from the above, that Helen had a crush on Horace Whitney and that Joseph forcing her to become one of his Spiritual Wives was a great source of pain for her. She also claimed it was to be a “life sacrifice”. If it were only that she could not associate with friends, how does one explain Flora Woodworth, who was riding around with Orange Wight?

[52] Melissa Lott Wiles, Temple Lot Transcript, Ms d 1160, Box 1 fd 11, Church History Library, 96.

[53] Though it is claimed that Emma gave Joseph four of his wives, we have serious questions about that evidence because all of the accounts begin in the late 1860’s when Joseph F. Smith began compiling affidavits to rebut the claims of his cousins from the Reorganized Church that polygamy was not taught or practiced by their father Joseph Smith.

Concerning Emma Smith, she was opposed to the doctrine from the start, and even though she loved her husband, still rejected it as the evidence shows.

William Clayton wrote on July 12, 1843:

This A.M. I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives and concubines &c.42 After it was wrote Presidents Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E[mma] who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious. Joseph told me to Deed all the unincumbered lots to E[mma] and the children. He appears much troubled about E[mma]. (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 110, Wednesday, July 12, 1843, emphasis ours.)

This is more than likely the first time that Smith admitted to Emma that he was indeed practicing a version of spiritual wifeism that included sexual relations with his “wives”. There is little doubt that Emma suspected him of something before this time, but highly doubtful that Emma participated in or sanctioned any specific “marriages” before this date due to her reaction that she did not believe the “revelation”.  William Clayton wrote on June 23, 1843, a few weeks before Joseph wrote the “revelation”:

[June 23, 1843. Friday.] This A.M. President Joseph took me and conversed considerable concerning some delicate matters. Said [Emma] wanted to lay a snare for me. He told me last night of this and said he had felt troubled. He said [Emma] had treated him coldly and badly since I came…and he knew she was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. She thought that if he would indulge himself she would too. (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, p.108, added emphasis).

This indicates that Emma knew that Joseph was indulging himself, and so (according to Smith) to get revenge, she told him she would indulge herself too. A few weeks later, Smith penned the “revelation” on polygamy, but Emma did not believe it and ultimately burned a copy of it. Then the next day Clayton writes that,

[July 13, 1843. Thursday.] This A.M. Joseph sent for me and when I arrived he called me up into his private room with E[mma] and there stated an agreement they had mutually entered into. (ibid., 110)

This agreement was probably that Joseph would deed the unencumbered lots to her, for two days later Clayton writes that he deeded Emma over 60 city lots. (ibid.) This probably reassured Emma for a time, but didn’t stop her from opposing polygamy.

It was probably Emma that made the suggestion that Joseph deed the “unincumbered lots” to her and the children because she was worried that the additional wives might make some kind of claim on Joseph’s assets.

As to Emma ever actually giving Joseph any of his wives, we are not persuaded by the evidence, which really only amounts to late accounts which were all given after Emily Partridge produced an affidavit in 1869 that Emma was present at a second mock “marriage” ceremony that included both of the Partridge sisters and possibly the Lawrence sisters. Years after Emily Partridge gave her 1869 affidavit she wrote:

The first intimation I had from Brother Joseph that there was a pure and holy order of plural marriage, was in the spring of 1842, but I was not married until 1843. I was married to him on the 11th of May, 1843, by Elder James Adams. Emma was present. She gave her free and full consent. She had always up to this time, been very kind to me and my sister Eliza, who was also married to the Prophet Joseph Smith with Emma’s consent; but ever after she was our enemy. She used every means in her power to injure us in the eyes of her husband, and before strangers, and in consequence of her abuse we were obliged to leave the city to gratify her, but things were overruled otherwise, and we remained in Nauvoo. My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyon. She was a good woman, and one of the lord’s chosen few. Emma, about this time, gave her husband two other wives—Maria and Sarah Lawrence.  (“Autobiography of Emily D. P. Young,” Woman’s Exponent 13 (1884).

Even though Emily mentions the Lawrence sisters in this account, she did not do so in the 1869 affidavit which reads,

Be it remembered that on this First day of May A.D. 1869, personally Appeared before me, Elias Smith, Probate Judge for Said County, Emily Dow Partridge Young, who was by me Sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath saith that on the eleventh day of May A.D. 1843 at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by James Adams, a High-Priest in Said Church; according to the laws of the Same regulating Marriage, in presence of Emma (Hale) Smith, and Eliza Maria Partridge (Lyman). (Emily D. P. Young, affidavit, May 1, 1869 Joseph Smith affidavit books, CHL).

Emily’s sister Eliza also gave an account of their “marriages” to Smith in her autobiography, but she doesn’t mention that there was a second marriage, or that Emma Smith was involved in any way:

After a time, my sister Emily and myself went to live in the family of the Prophet Joseph Smith. We lived there about three years. While there, he taught to us the plan of celestial marriage and asked us to enter into that order with him. This was truly a great trial for me but I had the most implicit confidence in him as a Prophet of the Lord and not but believe his words and as a matter of course accept of the privilege of being sealed to him as a wife for time and all eternity. We were sealed in 1843, by H. C. K [Heber C. Kimball] in the presence of witnesses. I continued to live in his family for a length of time after this but did not reside there when he was martyred which was the 27th of June, 1844. (Lyman, Eliza Marie Partridge Smith, Autobiography (1820-1885)

Eliza Partridge with children

Eliza later burned her journal because she claimed it was “too full”. (Mormon Enigma, 139) In another account, Emily Partridge wrote about her and her sister’s “marriages” to Smith:

It was about this time [February 1843] that the principles of Celestial marriage were being taught to a few. I and my sister Eliza received it and were married to br. Joseph about the same time, but neither of us knew about the other at the time, everything was so secret. This was March of 1843. Joseph had tried to make these things known to me, several months before—I think, in the spring or summer of 1842, but I had shut him up so quick that he said no more to me until the 28th of Feb. 1843, (my nineteenth birthday) and I was married the 4th of March following. (Emily D. P. Young “Incidents of the life of a Mormon Girl,” n.d. MS d 5220 fd 2, CHL)

Eliza Partridge Lyman also gave an affidavit on July 1, 1869 that was almost word for word what her sister had signed on May 1, 1869:

Be it remembered that on this first day of July A. D. 1869 personally appeared before me Edward Partridge, Probate Judge in and for said County, Eliza Maria (P) Lyman who was by me sworn in due form of law and upon her oath saith, that on the eleventh day of May A. D. 1843, at the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by James Adams a high-Priest in said church, according to the laws of the same regulating marriage; in the presence of Emma (Hale) Smith and Emily Dow Partridge (Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 2:30, 3:30; 2:32, 3:32; 2:33, 3:33; 2:34, 3:34).

There are multiple copies of this affidavit in the Joseph F. Smith Affidavit books, and none of them are signed by Eliza Partridge, while her sister Emily did sign hers along with the Probate Judge, Elias Smith.  The date of Eliza’s affidavit is two months later, July 1, 1869, and is also witnessed by her brother Edward Partridge (Jr.), in Fillmore, Utah.

The problem that we see with these affidavits by Eliza is that they also give the same problematic date of May 11, 1843 for the second sham “marriage” that was supposedly attended by Emma Smith.   H. Michael Marquardt wrote an Essay titled “Emily Dow Partridge Smith Young on the Witness Stand: Recollections of a Plural Wife”, and spoke of this sham “marriage”. He begins by quoting Emily Partridge’s Temple Lot Testimony:

Q:- Did he [Joseph Smith] offer to take your [Emily Partridge Young] hand then? [in February 1843] A;- No sir.
Q:- Or put his hand around you? A;- No sir.
Q:- He never did any such a thing as that? A;- No sir.
Q:- At any time or place? A;- No sir, – not before we were married.
Q:- Now did he tell you there about the principle of sealing? A;- Yes sir.
Q:- He did? A;- Yes sir.
Q:- He told you all about the doctrine or principle of sealing? A;- Yes sir.
Q:- Was it sealing for eternity? A;- Yes sir, – time and eternity.

Under questioning, Emily confirmed, though somewhat confusedly, that she had already heard rumors of polygamy: There were “reports around that made me think, – that gave me an idea of what it was he wanted to say to me but I did not know what it was about, or had no idea what it was that he wanted to speak to me about any more than that I had heard, which gave me a suspicion of what it was. . . . [T]here was so many reports flying around there in Nauvoo, that I did not pay much attention to it until he spoke to me about it, and then I found out that the reports I had heard were connected with what he had to tell me. I did not think so much about it until he told me himself.”When asked if she had seen the revelation, Emily responded, “No sir.” Then she was questioned:

Q:- How did you come to marry him without seeing it? A;- Well he told me it was all right and I just took his word for it.
Q:- Well did you go and get married without ever knowing it was the law of the church? A;- I got married on his own teachings, – he was the prophet of the church and he told me it was all right and I took his word for it.
Q:- You took his word for it and got married to him in that way on his own teachings? A;- Yes sir, and on my own convictions, for I believed it was all right or he would not have taught me and told me what he did.
Q:- Now did he teach you that a man could have more women then one? A;- Yes sir.
Q:- As wives? A;- Yes sir.
When E. L. Kelley asked about the second ceremony in May 1843, Emily could not remember whether it occurred in the morning or afternoon, but stated positively that it was May 11. The attorney continued:
Q:- Who roomed with Joseph Smith that night, – the night of that day the 11th of May 1843 when you say you and your sister were married to Joseph Smith? A;-Well I don’t want to answer that question.
[By Mr. Hall, -] Q:- Well answer it if you can, if you know? A;- Well it was myself.
Q:- Now you have answered it, and that will do?
[By Mr. Kelley, -] Q:- You roomed with Joseph Smith that night? A;- Yes sir.

Edmund L. Kelley read into the record the record an 1874 affidavit by William Clayton reporting Hyrum Smith’s description of Emma after he read the revelation to her as “very bitter and full of disap[p]ointment and anger.” Emily was asked if Emma turned bitter from the minute she was married. Re-questioned on that point, Emily replied, “Well I might have said that, but I meant from a short time after we were married, – It might have been from the hour we were married. I know she was bitter soon after that, but I can’t say how long it was afterwards that she got that way, but I know it was very soon after that. . . . Well after the next day you might say that she was bitter.” Kelley was obviously trying to ascertain the degree of Emma’s bitterness and asked Emily if the sisters left the Smith home immediately afterward. Emily responded, “We did not leave the house for several months after that. This testimony overlapped her 1887 autobiographical sketch, in which she had written: “From that very hour, however, Emma was our bitter enemy”; still they “remained in the family several months after this.” It is difficult to determine which version most accurately represents 1843 events.

Edmund Levi Kelley

Kelley then read the “History of Joseph Smith” for May 11 as it had been published in the Millennial Star. The day had begun at 6:00 A.M. with baptisms. Emma had gone to Quincy in a new carriage, and Joseph had ridden out on the prairie outside Nauvoo. Obviously there seemed little time for the sealing ceremony involving both Joseph and Emma that Emily had described. Pressed on the point, she responded, “Well it is possible that I have made a mistake in the dates, but I haven’t made any mistake in the facts” and admitted that “it must have been before that.”

Neither sister was keeping a diary at the time; but a more likely reconstruction is that the date of May 11 stuck in Emily’s mind because she was actually among those rebaptized that morning. Joseph had announced the possibility of rebaptism for sins at the April 1841 conference; and both he and Sidney Rigdon were rebaptized on April 11. Wilford Woodruff,who had joined the Church in 1833, and John Taylor were, with many others, “Baptized for the remission of my sins” on March 27, 1842. Willard Richards made the following entry in Smith’s journal on May 11, 1843: “Thursday, May 11th 6 A.M. baptized [blank space] Snow, Louisa Beman, Sarah Alley, &c.” Louisa Beman was Joseph’s first plural wife in Nauvoo, and Sarah Alley was Joseph B. Noble’s plural wife. Thus, although Emily and Eliza Partridge’s names were not recorded, they may have also received the same ordinance, giving the date significance that Emily later attached to the second sealing to Joseph.

Confirming the fact that May 11 is erroneous is the fact that Emily recalled James Adams as the officiator. He arrived in Nauvoo from Springfield on May 21. May 23 is the more likely date when Adams sealed the Partridge sisters to the Prophet Joseph with Emma participation. Willard Richards, who was then keeping Joseph’s diary, recorded that the Prophet was “at home in conversation with Judge Adams and others.”

Kelley then asked Emily:

Q:- Have you got a marriage certificate? A;- No sir.
Q:- Did you ever have one? A;- No sir.
Q:- Why did you not get one? A;- Well it was not thought necessary in those days.

Emily was obviously groping for an answer; this one, though unconvincing, sidesteps the obvious fact that plural marriages were illegal. By this point in Utah, an important part of a plural sealing was obtaining the first (legal) wife’s consent, symbolized by her placing the new wife’s hand in the right hand of her husband. In 1853, the year after the public announcement of plural marriage, Orson Pratt had published part of a plural marriage sealing ceremony. The officiator asks the first wife: “Are you willing to give this woman to your husband to be his lawful and wedded wife for time and for all eternity? If you are, you will manifest it by placing her right hand within the right hand of your husband.” This portion of the ritual had apparently been established in Nauvoo. James Whitehead, a clerk who worked in Joseph Smith’s store and as William Clayton’s assistant, was interviewed by William W. Blair, a counselor in the RLDS First Presidency in 1874. Blair recorded the conversation, with many abbreviations, in his diary:

“[Whitehead] Says J[oseph] did te[ach]- p[olygamy]- and pr[actice]- too. That E[mma]- knows it too that She put h[a]nd of Wives in Jos[eph] ha[n]d W[hitehead]. Says Alex H Smith asked him when sleeping with him at his house in Alton [Illinois on May 14, 1864], if J[oseph] – did p[ractice] & tea[ch]. p[olygamy], and he, W[hitehead]. told him he did.

However, when Kelley asked Emily, “Did Emma take your hand and place it in Joseph Smith’s hand?” Emily responded evasively, “I think she did” but then backtracked even further: “I could not swear to it at all.”( H. Michael Marquardt, Emily Dow Partridge Smith Young on the Witness Stand: Recollections of a Plural Wife, Journal of Mormon History 34 (Summer 2008):196-198, PDF, Online here, Accessed December 4, 2014).

Yet, Brian Hales claims that,

Emily Partridge testified that Emma took her hand and placed it in Joseph’s Smith’s hand. (Hales, josephsmiths, “Emma’s Response?”, Online here, Accessed November 1, 2014.

Actually, the testimony reads,

488 Q. Did Emma take your hand and place it in Joseph Smith’s hand. A. I think she did.
489 Q. Well are you willing to swear on your oath that she did? A. Well no, It seems to me that way, but then I think she did, but I could not swear to it at all.
490 Q. You cannot swear that she did? A. No sir.
500 Q. Have you seen that done since that time? A. Well I don’t remember whether I did or not.
501 Q. Did not Brigham Young’s wife do that with you when you married Brigham Young? A. No sir.
502 Q. Why did she not do it? A. She was not present.
503 Q. Well did she give consent to your marrying Brigham Young? A. No sir, not to my knowledge, for she was not there.

She actually could not remember or swear to it. “I think she did”, is hardly a testimony that she did so, but this is how Brian Hales misconstrues the evidence to favor his own narrative.

Michael Marquardt shows that the May 11 date for the second “marriage” is highly unlikely and so proposes another, May 23. But this date also has problems. William Clayton recorded in his Diary,

Conversed with H[eber] C. K[imball] concerning a plot that is being laid to entrap the brethren of the secret priesthood by Brother H[?] and others. Attended to much tax business with sundry brethren…President Joseph and lady rode to his farm. Evening President gave up lot 4 B 148 which he agreed to purchase of Asa Smith some time ago in consequence of Asas wanting to drag all money out of President and paying it for land else to here. President said such covetous minded men would be damned. President stated to me that he had had a little trouble with Sister E[mma]. He was asking E[liza] Partridge concerning [Joseph] Jackson[‘s] conduct during Presidents absence and E[mma] came upstairs. He shut to the door not knowing who it was and held it. She came to the door and called Eliza 4 times and tried to force open the door. President opened it and told her [p.106] the cause &c. She seemed much irritated. He says Jackson is rotten hearted.

May the Lord preserve me from committing a fault to cause me to lose the confidence of my friends for I desire to do right thou Lord knowest. (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 105-106).

Clayton records that Emma and Joseph rode to his farm during the day, while Eliza and Emily were at the Smith House, and that upon their return and in the evening was with Clayton and told Clayton that he “had a little trouble with Sister Emma”. While they were gone it seems the Partridge sisters had spoken to Joseph Jackson and Smith was worried about his conduct during his absence. He was quizzing Eliza about this when Emma came upstairs and tried to get into the room, but Joseph held the door shut on her, which “much irritated” Emma. It doesn’t seem likely that there was any kind of “marriage” on this day.  Since Smith confided in his private secretary who recorded many of Joseph’s “marriages”, it is odd that he would not mention anything in his journal if one took place on that day.

Judge Adams was present on May 28, 1843, when Willard Richards records that, “Joseph and J.[ames] Adams <were married> [were sealed for eternity to their wives.]” (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 381). This would be Joseph’s sealing to his wife Emma. It is unlikely at this time that Emma accepted all the ramifications of her husband’s spiritual wifeism, because just six weeks later she did not believe the “revelation” Joseph claimed to have had about it.

Emily Partridge Affidavits – signed but not notarized

But what about those 1869 affidavits that were gotten up by Joseph F. Smith?  In the summer of 1869 two of Joseph Smith’s sons, David and Alexander took a trip to Utah. They preached against polygamy. It is obvious that the affidavits collected by Joseph F. Smith at this time were to counter the claims of the RLDS Missionaries being sent to Utah. One such affidavit was supplied by Lovina Smith Walker, sister of Joseph F. Smith:

I, Lovina Walker hereby certify, that while I was living with Aunt Emma Smith, in Fulton City Fulton Co. Illinois, in the year 1846, that she told me, that She, Emma Smith was present and witnessed the marrying or Sealing of Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, Mariah Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence to her husband, Joseph Smith, and that She gave her concent there to.

Lovina Walker

We hereby witness that Lovina Walker made and Signed the above Statement, on this sixteenth day of June A.D. 1869 at Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Co. Utah Territory of her own freewill and accord.

Hyrum S. Walker

Sarah E. Smith

Joseph F. Smith (1869 Affidavit Book 1, 30)

Walker claims that Emma told her in 1846 that she was present and gave her consent to the “marriage” of Joseph Smith to the Partridge and Lawrence Sisters. Considering Emma Smith’s hostility to polygamy and that she denied to her sons that their father ever practiced it, this admission seems (as they say) too good to be true and should be considered in the context of which it was produced (to counter the claims made by Emma and her sons).

Eliza Partridge Affidavits – neither signed by her or notarized, affidavit which describes witnessing Emily’s marriage on May 11th, was changed from original, (Emma Smith’s name was added by Joseph Fielding Smith).

Aside from the dates mentioned above, there are further problems with the claims made by Emily Partridge and Lovina Smith. What is interesting is that this affidavit was included in the same affidavit books, which is was copied from William Clayton’s journal:

Territory of Utah SS. County of Salt Lake
“Wednesday Aug. 16th. 1843. This a.m. Joseph told me that since Emma came back from St. Louis, she had resisted the principle [of plural marriage] in toto, and he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake. She said she would give him Eliza and Emily Partridge, but he knew if he took them she should pitch on him, and obtain a divorce and leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish anything. O! God deliver thy Servant from (this) iniquitous Bondage.”
The foregoing is a true and correct copy of entry in William Clayton’s Journal, kept at the time as pr. date, as witnesseth our hands.
Salt Lake City
Joseph F. Smith
Aug. 17- 1869-
John Henry Smith
Robt. L. Campell (p. 68)

First, Judge Adams (who Emily claimed performed the ceremony) died on August 11, 1843, five days before Smith told William Clayton that Emma supposedly told him that she would “give” Joseph the Partridge sisters. (Notice that there is no mention made of the Lawrence girls). So how could they have been given to Joseph by Emma in May, June, July or even August in a second mock ceremony to Joseph by James Adams?

On the 16th of August Emma also rejects polygamy “in toto”, and Smith had to lie to her that he would “relinquish all for her sake”. Also, why would Emma give Joseph any of them when she had rejected polygamy “in toto”?

Joseph after this mentions the Partridge sisters, but the context appears to be future tense (Emma claimed she would give them to Joseph, who said “if he took them…”).  Why would Joseph tell this to Clayton in August, if he had already taken them in May with Emma present?

So how and when could Emma have given Joseph the Partridge Sisters and the Lawrence girls? The contemporary evidence does not support the timeline that Emily Partridge suggests, (given the August entry of William Clayton). The only real evidence we have are three affidavits made in 1869, which have erroneous dates that do not match the contemporary evidence.

More than likely at some point Joseph got Emma to speculate on who she perhaps might choose if Joseph would give up the rest, but that seems to be as far as it went.  The diary entry does not suggest whose idea this was initially. There is no contemporary evidence at all that Emma even knew about the Lawrence sisters at this time. Years later William Law would recall,

Emma complained about Joseph’s living with the L[awrence] girls, but not very violently. It is my conviction that she was his full accomplice, that she was not a bit better than he.

Yet we know from the contemporary evidence that this is not true, she did complain strenuously and rejected polygamy “in toto” by the summer of 1843. Since Emma did not divorce Joseph over polygamy, it would be easy for William Law to believe that she was a willing partner. Especially when he claims,

“Well, I told you that she used to complain to me about Joseph’s escapades whenever she met me on the street. She spoke repeatedly about that pretended revelation. She said once: “The revelation says I must submit or be destroyed. Well, I guess I have to submit.” On another day she said: “Joe and I have settled our troubles on the basis of equal rights.”

This is so vague that it is hard to know exactly what Emma meant or what timeframe we can apply these comments to except that they were after July 1843.  But Emma did propose to indulge herself as Joseph was, and perhaps this was what she was alluding to. In an earlier recollection that Law gave to William Wyl in a letter dated January 1, 1887, Law spoke about Wyl’s book and mentions the claims of supposed “wife swapping”. Law claims that this was never suggested by Smith but that,

The story may have grown out of the fact that Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in her house and to be well treated, etc.

William Clayton may help us to put this into a timeframe. He wrote on June 23, 1843 that Joseph told him that Emma,

…knew she was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. She thought that if he would indulge himself she would too.

And yet, Joseph writes a revelation just a few weeks later which claims that if Emma were to “indulge herself” with other men, she would be “destroyed”.

A month after this “revelation”, Joseph himself claims that he told Emma that he would “relinquish all” for her sake but this doesn’t support what Joseph himself said. If Emma was going to give him two (or four) wives, why did she want him to “relinquish all”?

This is addressed by Emily who claims that as soon as the “ceremony” was over, Emma reversed herself about the “marriages”. But then if this is so, why would she then submit to this again with the Lawrence girls as Emily states? This makes little sense. Also, Emily Partridge’s story seemed to change on the stand as she was questioned. First she was angry the next day, then a few hours later. She had written just a few years earlier in an autobiography that Emma was angry and bitter from the moment they were “married”.

Affidavits of Eliza Partridge. These are the originals, signed and notarized but do not mention Emma Smith presence at the marriage.

Affidavits of Eliza Partridge which claim that Emma Smith witnessed the “marriage” on May 11, 1843.

It sounds more like Joseph was asking Emma about the Partridge girls and that Emma wasn’t really serious about giving them to him, because Joseph himself stated that if he were to go through with it Emma would leave him and divorce him. The irony is, Joseph had already “married” them.

Perhaps these affidavits were gotten up by Joseph F. Smith to make it appear that Emma had “given” Joseph at least a few of his wives to answer the claims being made by Joseph’s sons and Emma herself, who is also not a very credible witness since she also lied about her knowledge of Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine. In fact, Emily Partridge’s Temple Lot testimony seems to reflect this,

I think it was in May, Emma had consented that he should have more wives than one, and she had consented to this, we were married again I think it was in May, for she had given her consent that we should be married, that she had chosen myself and my sister, and we were married in her presence again because we thought proper to say nothing about the former marriage, and it was done over again on the 11th of May 1843 in her presence, and she gave her consent fully and freely and voluntarily… (Emily Partridge, Temple Lot Transcript, op. cited, 351, Q. 25)

It would have been very easy for Emily to have read the diary entry by William Clayton in the affidavit book and then craft a story that seemed to fit what Clayton had written.  The problem was making the dates fit, which she had difficulty doing. H. Michael Marquardt writes,

This conversation, [on August 16, 1843] confusingly, sounds as if Joseph had not yet married the two sisters once (let alone twice) and, furthermore, that the incident had not occurred in which, at Emma’s insistence, Joseph shook hands with the girls, thereby dissolving his sealings to them—an action that Emily, at least, took seriously. (Marquardt, op. cited, 188-89).

Lovina Walker’s statement also has problems. Emma was in full denial then, even to her sons. Her son David was shocked when he learned of Emma’s knowledge of her husband’s polygamy, which he did not learn until after these affidavits came forth.

If Emma had been admitting to having taken part in polygamous marriage ceremonies in 1846, it seems that at least her older son would have known about it and communicated this to his brothers. Lovina was also Joseph F. Smith’s sister, and her bias towards the Utah Church can’t be ignored here.

A few days later on August 21, Clayton reports that Emma is still “vexed and angry” over finding some letters from Eliza Snow in Joseph’s pocket. (Smith, Clayton’s Diaries, 118) From there, it didn’t get any better. She had rejected polygamy “in toto” a week before, and there is no evidence that she changed her mind about it, but that she became more turned against it, later siding with William Marks who had also rejected the teaching.  Clayton wrote on August 23:

…President Joseph told me that he had difficulty with E[mma] yesterday. She rode up to Woodworths with him and called while he came to the Temple. When he returned she was demanding the gold watch of F[lora]. He reproved her for her evil treatment. On their return home she abused him much and also when he got home. He had to use harsh measures to put a stop to her abuse but finally succeeded… (Smith, Clayton’s Diaries, 118)

Then, in September Willard Richards wrote that Joseph:

Walked up and down St[reet] with Scribe and gave instructions to try those who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives on this Law. Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.  (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 417).

Could this have been part of a proposed bargain between Emma and Joseph, allowing him to keep the Partridge sisters if he “relinquished all”? If it was, Joseph did not sound very convinced that she would go through with it, but it appears that Joseph at least made an effort to publicly state that there would be no polygamy in the church, which may have appeased Emma for a time.

Joseph would not give up his wives and so why then would Emma fulfill her part of the bargain to “give” him the Partridge sisters? Remember, Joseph here is telling Clayton that Emma wanted him to “relinquish all” for her sake, so she had to know about some of his previous marriages. It may well be that Emma didn’t know that all the “marriages” were for time, and when she found out, was “vexed and angry.”

In trying to prove that Joseph Smith taught and practiced polygamy, Joseph F. Smith may have gone too far as this supposed eye witness affidavit shows:

Territory of Utah SS.County of Salt Lake
Be it remembered that on this twenty-eighth day of August A.D. 1869 personally appeared before me, James Jack, a Notary Public in and for Said county, Nathan Tanner who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon his oath Saith, that, in the Spring of 1844 at Montroes, Lee County, Iowa, he heard President Joseph Smith, while in conversation with himself, Harrison Sagers, [blank] Daniels and others, teach the doctrine of Celestial Marriage or plurality of wives, and subsequently he heard the Prophet teach the doctrine publicly from the Stand in Nauvoo, in a manner that he perfectly understood, not only that the Prophet believed it, but that it was in force at that time.
Subscribed and sworn to
by the Said Nathan Tanner
the day & year first written
James Jack
Notary Public [seal] (Affidavit Book 1, 76).

Joseph never preached polygamy publicly from the Stand in Nauvoo. The historical record is replete with his denials that polygamy was taught or practiced in the church.  While many of the other 1869 affidavits concerning Joseph’s marriages may be verified by the historical facts (like Diary entries, church records, etc) they should be taken with caution.

In the case of Emily Partridge, a little suggesting by Joseph F. Smith (citing Clayton’s Journal) may have convinced her that Emma would have given her and her sister to Joseph, and so it was all right to claim that she did so. Certainly there are serious problems with Emily Partridge’s account about the supposed second mock ceremony.  There are also other problems with her Temple Lot testimony. First, she can’t remember the time of day, though she claims to remember the date, where it was and that Emma was there distinctly:

Q. And the second time [you were married] what time was it? A. It was in the afternoon I think.
Q. Whose house the last time? A. Joseph Smith’s own house.
Q. You were married the first time to him at Heber C. Kimball’s house in the evening after supper, and the next time you were married to him at this own house in the afternoon? A. Yes sir. (Partridge, op. cited, 361)

She remembers confidently the details of her first “marriage” to Smith but not the alleged second mock marriage. She can remember the exact date of her alleged second “marriage” to Smith, but can’t remember the month or day she “married” Brigham Young (It was in September of 1844),

Q. Then you were married to Brigham Young in the fall of the same year that Joseph Smith died? A. Yes sir.
Q. Can you give the date of that marriage? A. No sir, I cannot.
Q. Can you give the month in which you were married to Brigham Young? A. No sir, I cannot even give you the month.
Q. Can you come within two months of the time that you were married to Brigham Young? A. I can’t say. I think it was in November, but I would not be positive of that.
Q. You say you think it was in November? A. Yes sir.
Q. That you were married to Brigham Young? A. Yes sir, but I could not be positive, that is merely a guess so to speak. (ibid., 362)

She is forced to guess with her marriage to Young, but distinctly remembers the month and day of her second “marriage” to Smith? (One that is apparently wrong).  She also claims that she spent the night with Smith after this second “marriage” while Emma was in the house,

Q. Who roomed with Joseph Smith that night, the night of that day the 11th of May 1843 when you say you and your sister were married to Joseph Smith? A. Well I don’t want to answer that question.
Q. Well answer it if you can, if you know? A. Well it was myself.
Q. You roomed with Joseph Smith that night? A. Yes sir.
Q. Where was Emma? A. She was in her room I suppose. I don’t know where she was but that was where I supposed she was.
Q. Was she there? A. I supposed she was there in her room.
Q. Was she there at the house? A. Yes sir. (ibid., 364)

Kelly then proceeds to debunk the May 11, 1843 date for the second “marriage”, and Emily’s backpedaling begins. Emily claims that Emma turned “bitter” almost right after the ceremony and so this makes it very unlikely that Emma would have allowed Joseph to sleep in Emily’s room that very night. Kelly then asks,

Q. Well is that the truth? [That Emma turned bitter]. A. Well I say I think she did turn against us. I did not make any affidavit that it was true though.
Q. You did not make any affidavit that Emma was there at all? A. No sir.
Q. Well would you make an affidavit that she was there at all? A. Yes sir.

Kelly then asks,

Q. You have not made a mistake in the facts. A. No sir.
Q. But you have made a mistake in the date? A. Yes sir, but I have made none in the fact that we were married.
Q. Well now was it before or after this date then? A. That we were married to Joseph Smith?
Q. Yes ma’am. A. Well it must have been before that. [May 11, 1843]
Q. It must have been before that? A. Yes sir, if I have made a mistake in the dates it must have been before that.
Q. But you have been claiming ever since 1843 that it was the 11th day of May that you were married to him the last time? A. It has been in my mind ever since that that was the date. (ibid., 366)

Here Emily denies that she ever made any affidavit that Emma was present and consented to a “marriage” to Joseph Smith though we know she made one in 1869. This is hard to fathom when Emily had written an article for the Woman’s Exponent just eight years earlier and affirmed that she and her sister had done so.

In the same article written by Emily Partridge which mentions an affidavit produced by E. C. Brand and that he claimed that,

“J. Adams denied performing the ceremony, in 1873, while in London, and in the presence of Emma Smith, who also denies any knowledge of such a marriage, on her death bed.”

In rebuttal, Emily Partridge claimed,

Emma was a witness to Joseph taking plural wives, on one occasion at least, and if she had denied it on her death bed (which is very hard to believe) even forty times over, it does not destroy the facts; and as to J[ames]. Adams denying that he performed the marriage ceremony, I think it is a mistake. It might have been George J. Adams that denied it, but the one I mentioned in my affidavit was James Adams, generally known as Judge Adams, of Springfield, Ill. He did not reside in Nauvoo, but was there on a visit. I do not think he would deny it, unless he had apostatized, and I know an apostate will say and do almost anything to injure the truth. But if he and Emma, and every other witness should deny it, the fact still remains. Emma seemed to feel well until the ceremony was over, when, almost before she could draw a second breath, she turned, and was more bitter in her feelings than ever before, if possible. She had, as it were, bound us to the ship and carried us to mid ocean, then threw us over board to sink or swim, as the case might be.

She often made things very unpleasant, but I have nothing in my heart towards her but pity. I know it was hard for Emma, and any woman to enter plural marriage in those days, and I do know know as anybody would have done any better than Emma under the circumstances.  I think Emma always regretted having any hand in getting us into such trying circumstances. But she need not have blamed herself for that, in the least, for it would have been the same with or without her consent, and I have never repented the act that made me a plural wife. (“Testimony that Cannot be Refuted”, Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 12, No. 21, 165, April 1, 1884, Online here, Accessed December 11, 2014).

And there is the gist of it and Emily’s justification: “it would have been the same with or without her consent,” So why not pretend that Emma was really there if it would help the church? In her Temple Lot testimony Emily put it this way when she was confronted about the bogus date of the claimed second mock marriage, that there was no mistake that she and Joseph were “married”. Yes, but not with Emma present.

It should be noted that in the Exponent article Emily also mentions and quotes from the affidavit of her sister Eliza. There are problems though, with these affidavits. Why would Eliza sign two affidavits that are exactly identical except one does mention Emma Hale Smith being a witness and one does not? Why would Joseph F. Smith then copy the affidavit that does not mention Emma into Affidavit Book 2 and insert Emma’s name?

It is hard to believe that Emily Partridge did not know or could not remember that James Adams (the man who “married” her and her sister) had died in Nauvoo on August 11, 1843. William Clayton mentions on August 16 in his diary that “We returned and met President Joseph and some of the family going to the funeral of Judge Adams.” Since the Partridge sisters supposedly lived in the Homestead at the time, it is hard to believe that Emily would not have known about Adam’s funeral or that Joseph attended it.

Though it cannot be completely ruled out that Emma did participate in four of Joseph Smith’s marriages, the evidence that says that she did is all based on late recollections which begin in 1869.  We believe that the historical record should reflect the problems with this claim, and that the Mormon Church today needs to reflect this in their publications, which for the most part accept this as fact.  For example, the new Essay published by the Church on Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo reads,

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well. (Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, op. cited above).

This is footnoted with testimony by Emily Partridge and the Joseph F. Smith affidavits which Andrew Jenson based some of his evidence upon in the Historical Record. They also mention an account by Orson Pratt in the Journal of Discourses which was made in 1869, also after the affidavits had been produced. Aside from these late accounts, there is no evidence that Emma ever did “lead forth ladies and place their hands in the hands of Joseph,” as Orson Pratt claims.

Emily Partridge’s recollections are full of errors. All that can be said is that she claimed that Emma approved of and gave her consent to her and Eliza’s mock “marriage” to Joseph.  Her firm date of May 11, 1843 has been overturned by the historical facts. Additionally, her sister Eliza also supposedly remembered the exact same erroneous date for the second “marriage” two months after Emily made her affidavit.  This raises questions about all of the affidavits made in 1869 that have to do with Emma Smith consenting to and giving Joseph additional “wives”.

Hales also uses testimony from Benjamin F. Johnson from 1904 to try and support the notion that Emma approved and consented to some of Joseph’s polygamous marriages. But in an 1870 affidavit by Johnson printed in the Historical Record, he does not mention this. In William Clayton’s 1874 affidavit he does concede that Emma was “cognizant” of Joseph’s “marriages” to other women, but he does not mention Emma agreeing or consenting to them. He does mention that she generally treated these women “very kindly”, but we don’t know the timeframe for this.  We do know that Emma did not treat Eliza Snow very kindly, nor Emily and Eliza Partridge by her own words after Joseph admitted to having them for wives.

Lucy Walker Smith Kimball

Lucy Walker also testified that Emma approved of and consented to Joseph’s polygamous “marriages” claiming that,

Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, gave her consent to the marriage of at least four other girls to her husband, and that she was well aware that he associated with them as wives within the meaning of all that word implies. This is proven by the fact that she herself, on several occasions, kept guard at the door to prevent disinterested persons from intruding, when these ladies were in the house. (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record, Vol. 6, 230, Online here, Accessed December 11, 2014).

This testimony has serious problems. Emily Partridge herself recanted her initial testimony that she spent the night with Smith after her alleged May 1843 “marriage” to Joseph.  It is hard to believe that Emma would have been guarding the door while Joseph was having sex with his polygamous wives.  Also, four of the “wives” supposedly lived in the house for an extended period of time. Was Emma Smith guarding the door constantly while they were in the house? This seems unlikely. Lucy also claims that she moved in with her brother in August of 1843 so she would not have been in the Mansion House for very long. (p. 458) Walker claims that she was living in the house with the Smith Family and the Partridge and Lawrence sisters, but then claims that the Lawrence sisters “were not there prior to the time of moving into the Mansion House” which was in November of 1843.

We believe that these recollections should be taken with extreme caution until further evidence comes forth to verify that Emma did indeed consent to four of Joseph’s polygamous marriages. Johnny Stephenson will soon be publishing an article on Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits which will go into this in much more detail and will have new additional evidence which supports the above contentions.

[54] Zina D. H. Young—Undated Biographical Sketch, in Zina Card Brown Collection,  CHL, MS 4780, Box 2, Fd. 17, Reel 2.

[55] Brian Hales, op. cited, Zina Diantha Huntington “Overview”, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

[56] John Wight, “Evidence from Zina D. Huntington Young,” Interview with Zina, October 1, 1898, Saints Herald, Vol. 52, 29, (January 11, 1905), Online here, Accessed December 11, 2014).

[57] The undated sketch attributed to Zina Young reads,

[page 1]

Sept 29th 1840 my Father married Lydia Partridge the widow of Bishop Edward Partridge

I attended school the winter after Father’s marriage.
When I heard that God had revealed the law of celestial marriag that we would have the privilige of associating in family relationship in the worlds to come I searched the scriptures & by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for himself that god had required that order to be established in his church. I mad a greater sacrifise than to give my life for I never anticipated again to be look uppon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved coud I compremise concience lay aside the sure testimony of the spirit of God for the glory of this world

I head the words of the Prophet of God saying (at King Folletts funeral) all you that will not oppose the doctrin that God reveals through me I will see you enter celestial glory his teachings were in evry respect to benefit the human family


[page 2]

a perfect cure for infidelity, for we love our Father & mother in heaven for we had an existence prior to our coming here in that relationship that \is most/ endeare in our Father’s family in this second estate we get our material body […] (Zina D. H. Young—Undated Biographical Sketch, in Zina Card Brown Collection, MS 4780, Box 2, Fd. 17, original spelling retained)

Zina reveals some of Joseph’s arguments for polygamy, which include a “perfect cure for infidelity”, that he could see them “enter a celestial glory” and preexistence. What better argument to make to those who were taught that this was adultery than this was actually a cure for it? As Ann Eliza Young wrote,

Again, he would appeal to their religious sentiments, and their strong desire to enter into the celestial kingdom. He used often to argue in this manner while endeavoring to convince some wavering or unwilling victim: “Now my dear sister, it is true that your husband is a good man, a very good man, but you and he are by no means kindred spirits, and he will never be able to save you in the celestial kingdom; it has been revealed by the Spirit that you ought to belong to me.”

This sophistry, strange as it may seem, had its weight, and scarcely ever failed of its desired results. Many a woman, with a kind, good husband, who loved her and trusted her, and a family of children, would suffer herself to be sealed to Joseph, at the same time living with the husband whom she was wronging so deeply, he believing fondly that her love was all his own.

One woman [Zina Huntington] said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy: “The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.”

This woman, and others, whose experience has been very similar, are among the very best women in the church; they are as pure-minded and virtuous women as any in the world. They were seduced under the guise of religion, taught that the Lord commanded it, and they submitted as to a cross laid upon them by divine will. Believing implicitly in the Prophet, they never dreamed of questioning the truth of his revelations, and would have considered themselves on the verge of apostasy, which to a Mormon is a most dangerous and horrible state, from which there is no possible salvation, had they refused to submit to him and to receive his “divine” doctrines. (Ann Eliza Young, op. cited,  70-71, added emphasis).

This shows that Ann Eliza Webb was certainly familiar with Smith’s arguments in relation to polygamy, the same ones he made to Zina Huntington it seems.

[58] Melissa Lott Willes, Temple Lot Transcript, op. cited, 105-106.

[59] Hales has finally posted all of his polygamy research online here, Accessed December 1, 2014, and though it is searchable, it is still rather jumbled up, and in many cases there are only excerpts of documents. Still, it is a valuable resource and contains many documents that are not available anywhere else online. We would recommend going here to research Joseph Smith’s polygamy and to evaluate the evidence that Hales provides.  There are essential documents though, that are not located here, for example, the Temple Lot Transcripts which can be accessed at the Church History Library.

[60] This graphic can be found within this essay given by Brian Hales at the 2012 FAIRMORMON Conference, titled “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?”

[61] The presentism that Hales employs is to interpret Section 132 as simply a revelation on eternal marriage with polygamy as a side issue is nothing new. This was a necessity in the aftermath of the Manifesto. Still, one must totally misread the entire “revelation” to do so. It is so disingenuous that no one takes the view that Hales does except Mormon apologists (and selected “authorities” after the Manifesto) whose only concern is changing how polygamy is defined (by them) in the pre-Manifesto period to defend its discontinuance as a necessary ordinance.

There are many examples of what Mormons of that Era taught about the polygamy “revelation”. Erastus Snow claimed that,

When the Lord determined to bless and multiply Abraham and His seed, He commanded that they should take of time daughters of Eve for wives and multiply and increase in the land. I do not say that plural marriage was not practiced prior to this time, but I say from and after Abraham it was enjoined upon Israel, the seed of Abraham, for a wise and glorious purpose in Him, namely, that of increasing them and giving them the ascendency among the nations of the earth, as I once heard the Prophet Joseph remark. In speaking of these things, and inquiring wherefore God had enjoined plural marriage upon Abraham and his seed, his answer was, because He had purposed to multiply and increase them in the land and make of them a great people and give them the ascendency over other peoples of the earth, and that because, as he said of Abraham, He knew that He would serve Him and command his seed after Him. (Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses Vol. 26, 217-218, May 31, 1885. added emphasis, Online here, Accessed December 14, 2014).

Still, Hales claims,

Joseph Smith asked God about polygamy (D&C 132:1). In response, the revelation speaks of eternal marriage, which is Joseph’s zenith doctrine. Plural marriage is [sic] small but necessary component. Non-sexual “eternity only” sealings fulfill the primary purpose of plural marriage in Joseph’s cosmology.

These are “meaty” teachings easily misunderstood (see D&C 19:22). I wish they were easier to grasp, but those who embrace them and live worthily are promised an eternal reward (D&C 132:19-20). (Hales, “Rational Faiths”, Comment made on July 15, 2014, added emphasis.)

Where does Hales get the idea that polygamy is a small component of this revelation? This is only his opinion and is disputed by every single “authority” from pre-Manifesto times; and by Joseph Smith himself in his polygamy “revelation”. There is no evidence at all that there were “non sexual eternity only sealings” in Joseph Smith’s time, or that polygamy was only a “small” component of the “revelation”.

We have the testimony of many of Smith’s wives, like Helen Mar Kimball, who claimed that the only reason to practice polygamy was to raise up “righteous seed”.  And once again we see Hales making the claim that this is a “meaty” teaching that is easily misunderstood.  Not really. Smith himself said,

God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them… (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 150-151).

Samuel O. Bennion taught that the teachings of Joseph Smith are easy to understand,

It is the duty and labor of Latter-day Saints to deliver unto the children of men the message which the Lord has revealed in these the last days. He spoke unto Joseph Smith. He said the things Joseph Smith declared he said. He delivered unto him the gospel, and the Prophet wrote and preached it. There isn’t any doubt about it. I know as I stand here, and I say it to all the world: If there is an honest man, a man or a woman with a heart that desires to know the truth, that knowledge can come unto them. It is easy to receive, easy to understand. The gospel is not full of mysticisms or of things that cannot be understood, but it is a plain and simple plan which the children of men may follow and thereby go back into the presence of our Father in heaven. And unless they do this they cannot return where he is, worlds without end; so says the scripture given by the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Samuel O. Bennion, Conference Report, October 1921, 56, added emphasis).

Why would Joseph’s  “Zenith Doctrine”, be hard to understand? It is only so to those who are trying to explain it in a way that it was never meant to be explained. The polygamy “revelation” is just that, a “revelation” justifying the practice of polygamy. Though “sealing” for time and eternity is integral to the practice, the thrust of Section 132 is procreation on earth and in heaven, and the “continuation of the seeds”, which is essential to godhood. To do this, a man needs many partners here and in the afterlife. The “righteous seed” born “under the covenant” here, raise those who become kings and priests and gods in the next life to even higher glory. This aspect of polygamy seems lost on Brian Hales, or downplayed to utter unimportance.

At the very beginning of the “revelation” it is explained why it was given, because Joseph “inquired” about the Patriarchs being justified in taking many wives. They could do this, explains the “revelation” because what they bound on earth was binding in heaven and therefore Joseph was justified to practice polygamy on earth to raise up righteous seed.

In 1842 Smith gave a “revelation” on baptism for the dead and taught that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. (See D&C 128:8-9, and this article from Teachings: Joseph Smith, “Chapter 26: Elijah and the Restoration of the Sealing Keys”, online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

Celestial Marriage”, or the true order of Marriage as it was known (polygamy), was simply another ordinance and if done through the “sealing power” was bound on earth (for time) and in heaven (for eternity). This is why it was called “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage”, (not baptism). As Wilford Woodruff taught in 1867,

Then, again, the blessing that God has revealed to us in the patriarchial order of marriage—being sealed for time and eternity—is not prized by us as it should be. When that principle was revealed, the prophet told the brethren that this kingdom could not advance any farther without it; “and,” said he, “if you do not receive it you will be damned saith the Lord.” You may may think this very strange, but the Lord never reveals anything that He does not require to be honored. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, 14, May 19, 1867, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

Two years later Woodruff clarified what he meant by Patriarchal Marriage,

Herein is why these principles are a part of our religion, and by them husbands and wives, parents and children will be re-united until the links in the chain are re-united back to Father Adam. We could not obtain a fullness of celestial glory without this sealing ordinance or the institution called the patriarchal order of marriage, which is one of the most glorious principles of our religion. I would just as lief the United States Government would pass a law against my being baptized for the remission of my sins, or against my receiving the Holy Ghost, as against my practicing the patriarchal order of marriage. I would just as lief they would take away any other principle of the Gospel as this. The opinion of men generally, in relation to this subject, is that the Latter-day Saints practise it for the gratification of their carnal desires; but such ideas are wholly untrue. The world seek after this; but the Saints of God practise this principle that they may partake of eternal lives, that they may have wives and posterity in the world to come and throughout the endless ages of eternity. (Journal of Discourses Vol. 13, 167, December 12, 1869, emphasis added, Online here, Accessed December 10, 2014.)

They were not worried about the Government taking away marriage “for time and all eternity”, but the Patriarchal Order of Marriage, which was polygamy. It is clear from Woodruff’s quotes above that “being sealed for time and eternity” was a blessing of the patriarchal order of marriage, (not the other way around) which was polygamy.

Patriarchal Marriage was so important in the eternal scheme of things that Joseph F. Smith taught that,

If, then, this principle was of such great importance that the Prophet himself was threatened with destruction, and the best men in the Church with being excluded from the favor of the Almighty, if they did not enter into and establish the practice of it upon the earth, it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law, or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great a reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than [p.30] one, being equally faithful.

Patriachal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations which do not exist in monogamy, and there are blessings attached to the faithful observance of that law, if viewed only upon natural principles, which must so far exceed those of monogamy as the conditions responsibilities and power of increase are greater. This is my view and testimony in relation to this matter. I believe it is a doctrine that should be taught and understood.

The benefits derived from the righteous observance of this order of marriage do not accrue solely to the husband, but are shared equally by the wives; not only is this true upon the grounds of obedience to a divine law, but upon physiological and scientific principles. In the latter view, the wives are even more benefitted, if possible, than the husband physically. But, indeed, the benefits naturally accruing to both sexes, and particularly to their offspring, in time, say nothing of eternity, are immensely greater in the righteous practice of patriarchal marriage than in monogamy, even admitting the eternity of the monogamic marriage covenant. (Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, 30, July 7, 1878, Online here, Accessed December 10, 2014).

You cannot quibble in the face of this evidence. Hales is interpreting Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 through a modern presentist lens, and has it exactly backwards. On August 26, 1883, Heber J. Grant would write in his diary:

This morning I copied a letter of Prest Taylor’s written about the plurality of wives. He was very plain in giving the Sister to whom the letter was written to understand that simply being sealed did not fulfill the law. [The Diaries of Heber J. Grant, 1880-1945, Abridged, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010, 9, Courtesy of H. Michael Marquardt, added emphasis].

Here we have a Mormon prophet claiming that simply being sealed, does not fulfill the law. For an interesting look at where the presentist argument that Hales employs for D&C 132 began, See, “Changed Faces: the Official LDS Position On Polygamy, 1890-1990”, by Martha S. Bradley, Sunstone 14:1/26 (Feb 90), Online here, accessed December 10, 2014) where she discusses the dismantling of the original interpretation of D&C 132 and the modern definition of “Celestial Marriage”.

[62] See Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “