Dustin Phelps & The House of Lies He Built For Jeremy Runnells

ANTI-MORMONISM (ad nauseam)

This article was written before Dustin Phelps changed his title and edited out some material. The original article may be found here.

There is an old adage that I’m sure all of you have heard at one time or another that goes, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. “ No one wants to be fooled but really, it happens all the time especially when it comes to religious matters.  The historical record is replete with false prophets and teachers who have duped people into believing their claims of a special connection to God, who then gives them special “authority” that puts them in positions of power over others.  When men make religious claims though, they should have evidence to back up those claims. Let’s not fool ourselves that it isn’t all about the evidence. It is.

When it comes to Joseph Smith and his creation of Mormonism, there is an abundance of evidence that one can actually analyze to see if the claims that Joseph Smith made bear up under close examination. As Fawn Brodie astutely observed over 70 years ago,

In official Mormon biographies he [Joseph Smith] has been made a prophet of greater stature than Moses. Nineteenth-century preachers made him a lecherous rogue; and twentieth-century chroniclers have been bemused with what they diagnosed as paranoiac delusions. The reason for these disparate opinions is by no means lack of biographical data, for Joseph Smith dared to found a new religion in the age of printing. When he said “Thus saith the Lord!” the words were copied down by secretaries and congealed forever into print. (Brodie, Fawn M.. No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith , )

The continuing scrutiny of the Mormon “prophet” and his Latter-day Kingdom of God is nothing new. It has been going on for almost two hundred years now.  The word “anti-Mormon” is nothing new either; it has been wielded like a cudgel against anyone critical of Joseph Smith from the time that Eber D. Howe published Mormonism Unvailed in 1834 to the present. Even Joseph Smith made the term his own.  For example, he used it when speaking of his plans for Texas if he were to win the 1844 Presidential nomination. His diary entry for March 7th reads:

On the annexation of Texas, some object. The anti-Mormons are good fellows. I say it in anticipation they will repent. Object to Texas [being admitted into the Union] on account of slavery. [Texas was pro slavery] Tis the very reason why she should be received.

“[Sam] Houston says, ‘Gentleman, if you refuse to receive us we must go to the British’ [who objected to slavery] and the first thing they will do will be to set the negroes and indians [against us] and they will use us up. British officers running all over Texas to pick a quarrel with us[. It would be] more honorable for us [as a nation] to receive them and set the negroes free and use the negro and indians against our foes.

“Don’t let Texas go lest our Mother and the daughters of the land will laugh us in the teeth. If these things are not so God never spoke by any prophet since the world began. I have been [two blank lines] south hold the balance of power &c. by annexing Texas –  I can do away [with] this evil [and] liberate 2 or 3 states and if that was not sufficient, call in Canida – –

Send the negroes to Texas from Texas to Mexico where all colors are alike. Notice was given for the Relief Society to meet Saturday 2 P.M. to adopt “the voice of Innocence from Nauvoo” (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.456-7).

Even then, if others (even politically) didn’t agree with Joseph’s views, they were “anti-Mormons”.  Smith thought that Houston would run to the British and that they would create problems for the United States (as he did in his Civil War “prophecy”), but it was the Mexicans who went to war with the U. S. over the annexation of Texas. Joseph simply wanted to free the slaves to use as cannon fodder for the U.S. in his imagined war with the British, and then instead of accepting them as citizens, send them to Mexico where he claimed “all colors are alike”.  At least Joseph could joke about anti-Mormons being “good fellows” and call them that in the hope that they would repent; but he also said that about his enemies— that he was reluctant to ask God to kill them (because God told him he could have anything he asked for) perchance they did repent.

A month after calling his perceived political enemies anti-Mormons; William Law and other church members were unlawfully excommunicated for objecting to Joseph’s practice of polygamy and other doctrines that they would later publish in the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph spoke about their activities and his scribe Willard Richards recorded that,

There was a meeting at Gen[eral] W[illia]m and Wilson Law’s near the saw mill of those who had been cut off from the Church and their dupes. Several affidavits were taken and read against Joseph and others. W[illia]m Law, Wilson Law, Austin D. Cowles, John Scott Sen[ior]., Francis M. Higbee, R[obert] D. Foster, and Robert Pierce were appointed a committee to visit the different families of the city and see who would join the new Church (IE) it was decided that Joseph was [a] fallen prophet &c. and W[illia]m Law was appointed in his place. Austin Cowles and Wilson Law Councillors. R[obert] D. Foster and F[rancis] M. Higbee to the 12 Apostles &c. as report says. El[der] James Blakely preached up Joseph in the A.M. and [in the] P.M. joined the anties . (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.475, April 28, 1844).

Of course believing Smith to be a “fallen prophet” is being “anti-Mormon” according to Smith, even though they were endeavoring to start a church based on Joseph’s early teachings.

And of course, my good friend Jeremy Runnells is characterized the same way in a huge banner by the fledgling Mormon Apologist Dustin Phelps who appears to be terrified of using Jeremy’s name:


Dustin and his sidekick Brittney claim they are only helping people by making such provocative claims. In their “About” section found on their website, (inexplicably called “Happiness Seekers”???) they claim they are providing “resources” to help Mormons “navigate the unique challenges of our times.” They then claim that, “Those challenges include: anxiety and depression, defining equality, pornography, same-sex attraction, faith and doubt, and religious liberty.”

This begs the question: In the long run, is being such meretricious apologists really helping anyone but themselves? Apparently they think so, and take their cue from the FAIRMORMON playbook (something Jeremy calls FAIRMORMON Repackaged, as they blatantly mischaracterize and lie about Jeremy.

George Bush doing his own “Repackaging”…

I really have to hand it to them. They certainly have a flair for the dramatic. Oh my God, Jeremy Runnells the “influential anti-Mormon” has been “caught” spreading lies about the Mormon Church! Stop the presses! Don’t they know (since they regurgitate their material constantly) that FAIRMORMON has been screaming this for years? In their blog article attacking Jeremy, the word “anti-Mormon” appears 19 times, and the word is prominently displayed in the Banner. They definitely get the knee-jerk award for predictability.

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism they explain anti-Mormonism as,

 …any hostile or polemic opposition to Mormonism or to the Latter-day Saints, such as maligning the founding prophet, his successors, or the doctrines or practices of the Church. Though sometimes well intended, anti-Mormon publications have often taken the form of invective, falsehood, demeaning caricature, prejudice, and legal harassment, leading to both verbal and physical assault. From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have been targets of anti-Mormon publications. Apart from collecting them for historical purposes and in response to divine direction, the Church has largely ignored these materials, for they strike most members as irresponsible misrepresentations.

Few other religious groups in the United States have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility. From the organization of the Church in 1830 to 1989, at least 1,931 anti-Mormon books, novels, pamphlets, tracts, and flyers have been published in English. Numerous other newsletters, articles, and letters have been circulated. Since 1960 these publications have increased dramatically.

Wow. Few other religious groups in the U.S. have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility? How about the Catholics, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism? And let’s not forget Scientology.  All religions get attacked and criticized.  There have been so many anti-Catholic books written that they are virtually uncountable. Recently, the anti-Catholic book (as many Catholics claim) “The Da Vinci Code” and its two sequels, “Angels and Demons” and “Inferno”, were made into  blockbuster movies.  And two elections cycles back, there was a Mormon candidate for President, and his faith wasn’t really a major issue in his campaign. Would that be the case if there was a Muslim candidate for President? With the advent of the internet, all kinds of media have “increased dramatically”.

But even books with legitimate criticisms have been labeled as anti-Mormon.  This characterization of making anti-Mormons out of anyone who asks any questions or disbelieves claims made by Joseph Smith and others is best showcased by Jeff Lindsay and his “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”.  Among them are,

What other church better follows the Biblical model of emphasizing the bilateral covenant nature of the Gospel?

If there was no apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ, then what happened to prophets?

What other Church better follows the Biblical organization given for the Church?

If Joseph Smith just made up the idea of vicarious baptism for the dead, why do numerous ancient documents validate the LDS claim that this was an authentic early Christian practice?

At a time when all Christian churches taught that temples were no longer needed, how did Joseph so effectively restore the ancient temple concept on his own?

What other church better corresponds with early Christianity in terms of teaching the true relationship between faith, grace, and works?

Why do the earliest Christian writings sound much closer to LDS theology than they to modern “mainstream” Christianity?

If the modern concept of the Trinity is true, then why does the different LDS view on the oneness of God find such strong support in the writings of the earliest Christians?

If it’s unchristian, unbiblical, and evil to believe that humans have divine potential, why do many Biblical and early Christian sources speak of the humans becoming “gods”?

If the Bible is infallible, by whose authority were the various books of the Bible selected in an infallible manner? By whose authority were the infallible translations made and approved?

Who authorized the changes in the ritual of baptism that occurred since the New Testament Church? And who in your church has true authority from God to perform baptisms?

If the Book of Abraham is a fraud, then how do you account for the details in the text that would later be given extensive support by numerous ancient documents that were not available to Joseph Smith?

These are all claims that Mormon apologists have been griping about for the last two centuries, because when critics bring them up, they are waved off as having been addressed already. But here is Lindsay taking his turn. Yawn. But what is Lindsay’s underlying purpose here? Lindsay writes under the title of “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”:

In my suite of “Frequently Asked Questions about Latter-day Saint Beliefs,” I’ve attempted to answer some of the endless questions that our critics throw out. Now it’s my turn to ask a few. I do this not to argue with them, but to point out to others that we don’t need to be on the defensive all the time. There are some meaningful issues that need to be considered beyond just the attacks of critics.

Again,  these are all questions that critics themselves have brought up. See how he adroitly connects the word “critics” with “anti-Mormons? And yet Lindsay attacks the belief in the Trinity, when he and other apologists claim they never attack other’s beliefs. He characterizes the Catholic Priesthood as “a committee of philosophers” and “contentious committees steeped in Hellenistic thought”.  This is how he describes the Bishops of the Catholic Church that met in Nicaea in that first ecumenical council that drafted the Nicene Creed.  At least that is what I think he is doing, because he quotes the Athanasian Creed, and there was no “heated debate” over its use that I am aware of.  The Catholics themselves admit that they are unsure of the origin of the creed, but that is of “secondary consideration” because it has been “approved by the Church as expressing its mind on the fundamental truths with which it deals.” There is nothing wrong with being a critic of any religion. Being a critic of anything is baked into our American culture. But there is definitely something wrong with villainizing critics when you are doing the same thing.

What I find interesting about Lindsay’s gaffe with the Athanasian Creed is that the Catholics claim that they don’t really know it’s origin yet it was approved and used by the Church as one of their creeds. Reminds me of the Mormon racist Priesthood Ban, which they claim they don’t know where it really came from, but it was Church doctrine for over a hundred years. They didn’t have any kind of “committee” debating the Priesthood Ban before they implemented it and they sure won’t acknowledge today that it came from God as Brigham Young did.

What is even more baffling is that because there are objections to the use of the term anti-Mormon as an epithet, FAIRMORMON claims that it is all the critics fault because some in the 19th century called themselves anti-Mormons!

They also claim that because the Tanners use the term in “The Changing World of Mormonism”, that makes it ok to call anyone who criticizes the church an anti-Mormon and characterized their arguments as attacks on the faith.  You might hear a black person use the N-word, but go ahead and justify using it yourself on that basis and see where it gets you. This is not about using the word, but the repeated vitriolic use of the word by Mormon apologists, and Dustin and Brittney are prime examples. FAIRMORMON makes this claim:

FairMormon does not believe or argue that everyone who disagrees with the LDS Church is “anti-Mormon.” As one prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism put it:

The hallmark of anti-Mormonism is an agenda, whether covert or openly expressed, of combating the faith of the Latter-day Saints and opposing their church.

Yet that is what is being done. Here is Daniel C. Peterson (a FAIRMORMON Board Member and the “prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism” they quote above) speaking of George D. Smith, Dan Vogel and Signature books,

We have seen that George D. Smith and Signature Books reject the title ‘anti-Mormons’ … Are ‘anti-Mormons’ mere mythical beasts, the stuff of persecution-fixated Latter-day Saint imaginations? If not, how would we recognize an ‘anti-Mormon’ if we saw one?

Nobody would suggest for a moment that George D. Smith and Dan Vogel fit the traditional ‘anti-Mormon’ mold in all respects. There are a number of differences between them and the late ‘Dr.’ Walter Martin, and between them and the Tanners.

In the past, anti-Mormon attacks almost invariably came from outside the Church; for the most part, they still do. For the first time since the Godbeite movement, however, we may today be dealing with a more-or-less organized ‘anti-Mormon’ movement within the Church. With ‘anti-Mormon Mormons,’ as Robert McKay puts it.

Should we be concerned about the possibility of unwholesome opinions, even enemies, within the Church? Jesus certainly seemed to think that internal enemies were a possibility. ‘Beware of false prophets,’ he said, ‘which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7:15)…. So the possibility of enemies among the membership of the Church seems established. (FARMS, Review of Books, vol. 4, pp. liv-lv, see Veneer Magazine’s article “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” found here).

Peterson is calling members who have different views anti-Mormons and “enemies”! And since when are historians “false prophets”? This is simply silly bullshit. No one can be a legitimate critic to these bigots. Louis Midgley called Brent Metcalfe and the authors contributing to “New Approaches to the Book of Mormon”, anti-Mormons:

The most imposing attack on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon has been assembled by Brent Lee Metcalfe… the publication of New Approaches is an important event. It marks the most sophisticated attack on the truth of the Book of Mormon currently available either from standard sectarian or more secularized anti-Mormon sources, or from the fringes of Mormon culture and intellectual life. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1994, pages 211- 214).

Stephen E. Robinson, chairman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU was livid over Dan Vogel’s “Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture” and called him “Korihor”, a villain from the Book of Mormon:

Korihor’s back, and this time he’s got a printing press. Korihor, the infamous “alternate voice” in the Book of Mormon, insisted that “no man can know of anything which is to come”…In its continuing assault upon traditional Mormonism, Signature Books promotes with its recent and dubiously titled work The Word of God precisely these same naturalistic assumptions of the Korihor agenda in dealing with current Latter-day Saint beliefs….this is a propaganda piece.

For years anti-Mormons have hammered the Church from the outside, insisting that Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints’ scriptures he produced were not what they claimed to be. Whether Signature Books and its authors will convince the Saints of the same hostile propositions by attacking from the inside remains to be seen….What the anti-Mormons couldn’t do with a frontal assault of contradiction, Signature and Vogel would now accomplish with a flanking maneuver of redefinition.

I suppose by now it is clear that I did not like this book….Give me a Walter Martin anytime, a good stout wolf with his own fur on, instead of those more timid or sly parading around in their ridiculous fleeces with their teeth and tails hanging out. Give me ‘Ex-Mormons for Jesus’ or the Moody Bible Tract Society, who are at least honest about their anti-Mormon agenda, instead of Signature Books camouflaged as a ‘Latter-day Saint’ press. I prefer my anti-Mormons straight up. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, pp. 312).

Brian Hales, another FAIRMORMON contributor, called John Dehlin an anti-Mormon and a “wolf” for allowing a historian to express his views on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and not rebutting him with material that Hales had provided to him. He’s been at the forefront of the attacks on Jeremy Runnells and works hand in hand with FAIRMORMON.  Dustin and Brittney’s go to destination for propaganda to rebut critics is FAIRMORMON.

What Dustin and Brittney have concocted is nothing new. There is a long history of Mormon apologists vilifying any critic (even members of the church) as anti-Mormons. This is the fruit of FAIRMORMON. A whole new generation of bigots.  If one goes to Happiness Seekers, they have (as of this writing) seventeen articles posted and three of them have the word “anti-Mormon” in the title.

The message here is clear, any critic of the church is an anti-Mormon and a villain, complete with an “agenda” to rip people from their faith, and their publications should be avoided at all costs. Jeremy himself has likened it to being identified as Voldemort, (the villain whose name was not to be mentioned in the Harry Potter novels) because Dustin never uses Jeremy’s name, but makes it obvious who he is talking about.

At least Jeremy is in good company considering that Signature Books and all of its authors (whether members of the church or not) are considered by members and contributors to FAIRMORMON as being anti-Mormon “false prophets”.  Will they now raise Jeremy’s status to a false prophet? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

One observation about making it your mission to flush out and “expose” those horrible Anti-Mormons. Ever hear of S.P.A.M.? The Society for the Prevention of Anti Mormonism? Probably not. But they were a thing about ten years ago. Here is what the founder said when he closed shop:

This is the end of the line. I have decided to shut down the FRAM Report. I’ve been running it since 2009 with a few breaks in between. Two or three times, I’ve set it aside and moved on to other things, only to have some new development pull me back in. Thus, I’ve learned never to say never, but it’s time to give it a rest.

We started out just tracking numbers of anti-Mormon posts and we embarrassed Jim Robinson. We watched as he banned the Mormon Caucus and purged Mormons from the site. We identified the haters and published their pseudonyms. We made our point numerically: Free Republic was being used as a platform by anti-Mormons to bash the Church and its members with the support of its owner, Jim Robinson. The last few months have seen our posts degenerate into a tit-for-tat response to the seemingly endless attacks of their one primary, one-topic poster: Colofornian. We have demonstrated how obsessive, hateful, dishonest, and uninformed she actually is. There is no more doubt and there is nothing more to say on the matter.

The number one attribute of anti-Mormons is obsessiveness. They can’t not be anti=Mormon. They’re so full of hate that they can’t let it go. That’s not the case here. As my Internet pal Timothy Berman used the phrase in a different context recently, it’s time to stop “feeding the weeds.” Life is full of too many wonderful blessings to continually focus on anti-Mormonism.

Wow, what a list of accomplishments. This is what obsessing about “Anti-Mormons” under every rock and hiding behind every bush gets you. Nowhere.


I would like to start with their conclusion, where the word anti-Mormon appears three times in four paragraphs,

The critics ask why we call it “anti-Mormon information”. They say it’s just the plain facts. They argue that Latter-day Saints are afraid of the truth and that we are just brainwashed.

Who is “they”? Not Jeremy Runnells. But by all means carry on:

We call it anti-Mormon information because it consists of twisting “the facts”, fabricating “the facts”, and decontextualizing “the facts”.

We’re not afraid of the truth, but we are cautious about the way that anti-Mormons have shamelessly misrepresented the truth since day 1 of the Restoration.

What we know is that “…calumny may defame, mobs may assemble, and persecutions may rage. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Where has Jeremy ever claimed that Mormons are “brainwashed”? You will search in vain for any such statement. Though some critics might make that claim, he’s not one of them and really, this is just the transparent tactic of broad brushing anything they don’t like into one convenient phrase, “Anti-Mormon information” that the mysterious “they” are in charge of distributing to the world.

And of course we have these typical derogatory words used to describe the “information”, like “twisting”, “fabricating” and “decontextualizing”, or taking “the facts” (what’s with the quotes anyway) out of context.  And speaking of brainwashing, one of the techniques used is repeating things over and over again. Perhaps if they don’t want people to think they have been subjected to such a technique, they should tone down the misguided and vitriolic rhetoric.

And if we are talking FACTS or ACCURACY here, the quote that Dustin uses isn’t what Joseph Smith actually wrote. The quote by Joseph Smith to John Wentworth reads,

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I’m not sure where Dustin Phelps got his garbled quote from, but it isn’t from any original source. If you are going to put something in quotes, perhaps you should make sure that what you are quoting is accurate. Do you really have confidence that these fledgling apologists are qualified to judge what is accurate, or twisted, fabricated or decontextualized if they can’t even quote Joseph Smith correctly or blindly repeat and repackage everything they read from FAIRMORMON?

And though Joseph took credit for writing this letter to John Wentworth (also known as “Church History”), he actually plagiarized material from Orson Pratt and others. (At least that is what the Joseph Smith Papers indicates though they characterize it as a group effort that Joseph simply took credit for).  But using someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is still plagiarism. For example, here are the two accounts of Joseph’s claimed “first vision”, one by Orson Pratt in 1840 and the one that Smith claimed to write in 1842 in the Wentworth letter:

Pratt (Remarkable Visions 1840)

When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence

Wentworth Letter  (Joseph Smith? 1842)

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state


If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying—“This is the way, walk ye in it;”  while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another.

Wentworth Letter

if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.


he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness.


I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness


He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom


They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom.


And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine—the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him


And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,”  at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.

Joseph writes a letter about his own claimed “vision” and has to plagiarize material from someone else to describe it? But perhaps I’m only taking things out of context?  Joseph also plagiarizes material for his claimed 1823 visit of the angel “Moroni” from Pratt’s published work:


And it pleased God, on the evening of the 21st of September, a.d. 1823, to again hear his prayers. For he had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out, in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire, “to commune with some kind messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God,” and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good; endeavouring to exercise faith in his precious promises


On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture


“on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body.  It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.” Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, “yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst


in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded


This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God,  sent forth, by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also, to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their [p. 6] posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.

He was informed, that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation.


This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.

I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation.

And at the end of the Wentworth letter appears what were later called “The Articles of Faith” which were later canonized by the Church and Joseph plagiarized much of those too, from Orson Pratt and others.

So why mention all this about the Wentworth letter? Well, I was curious about it after I saw that Dustin Phelps had garbled up what Joseph wrote. And being curious, I took a little time to research it. Of course, this is known to many historians, and they have their point of view about it. At the Joseph Smith papers, they write,

No manuscript copy [of the Wentworth letter] has been located, and it is not known how much of the history was originally written or dictated by JS. “Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt’s summary of church beliefs, upon which JS drew for the list of thirteen church beliefs in “Church History,” was in turn based on a theological summary written by Parley P. Pratt. Other individuals may have been involved in compiling the essay, including Willard Richards, who wrote extensively as JS’s scribe during this period. Because William W. Phelps revised and expanded the text of “Church History” a year later in answer to a request from editor Israel Daniel Rupp, it is possible that Phelps helped compose the original essay. However, Phelps’s active role as scribe and composer for JS apparently did not commence until late 1842.

And so the reader will have to make up their own mind. Was this plagiarism? Joseph Smith took a published work, copied from it, and published it under his own name without giving any credit to the original author. The “Articles of Faith”, from the Wentworth letter have been canonized, Joseph Smith’s name at the end of them as sole author, and that is how they appear today in Mormon scripture. This “Church History” that Smith claimed to write, doesn’t just “echo” some wording from Orson Pratt’s published work, it lifts whole passages from it. What that is, is plagiarism.

What are the ethical ramifications of this? Again, you readers must decide for yourself.


And what brought all this on concerning Jeremy? It took four years to finally catch Jeremy Runnells “lying” about the Mormon Church? They claim their involvement was spurred on from “a heart-felt letter from a mother”.  They write,

She [the anonymous mother] helped me realize that by taking the most popular piece of anti-Mormon literature (which summarizes just about all the claims against the Church) and exposing several blatant lies, I could prove an important point:

“If there’s far more to the story in regards to these major claims, how do you know that the same isn’t true of other criticisms made against the Church?”

What “major” claims is Phelps speaking of here? He gives five examples, 1) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.” 2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.” 3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory” 4) Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision 5) There are striking parallels between the Book of Mormon and several other books

I have to ask… why is his “point” (If there’s far more to the story…) in quotes? Is he quoting himself? And he is going to PROVE this point by using five examples? Tell us the “far more to the story” in a short blog article? Well, I can’t wait.  But before I get into that, let’s go over the introduction. They claim,

For many generations, Latter-day Saints have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading. This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you know someone who has struggled with doubt, chances are that they happened upon this man’s work. His infamous 80-page document has been downloaded nearly 1 million times—primarily, it would appear, by Latter-day Saints and former members.

Many ex-Mormons use this document, as a “missionary tool” in the hopes that it will lead their friends and family members away from the LDS Church.

The author’s success has a lot to do with the way he constructed the document.

He frames himself as a well-intentioned Latter-day Saint who merely has a few innocent questions about the Church—questions that he genuinely wants answers to. He puts LDS readers at ease by beginning with a quote from President J. Reuben Clark who said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

By using this seemingly innocent narrative the author has successfully persuaded countless members to trust the information he provides. As a result, many unsuspecting Latter-day Saints have found his claims to be so damaging that they either find themselves stuck in a crisis of faith or they abandon their faith altogether.

But it’s time for this house of cards to come tumbling down.

There’s a lot to unpack here.  First they claim that Mormons “for generations” have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading.  True, some have. But other Mormons have told us things like this,

“The truth will cut its own way.” (Joseph Smith Jr.)

“To Latter-day Saints there can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures, ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study – a search for truth.” (John A. Widtsoe)

“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does [“The Book of Mormon”] merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith)

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position…” – James E. Talmage

“If we have the truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (J. Reuben Clark, counselor in the First Presidency)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216, thanks to MormonThink for these quotes)

But of course, any critic is labeled an “anti-Mormon” and their honesty is then questioned. See the circle jerk they perform here? Instead of just presenting Jeremy’s claims, they go to lengths to defame him and call him a liar before they present any of their so called evidence.  This is a dishonest tactic and a favorite of Mormon Apologists. The CES letter is “infamous”.  Dustin then gives us this confusing mess:

This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The attitude (of ignoring what they deem as “anti-Mormon literature’) appears to be validated by not ignoring what “the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years” wrote? How do you validate not reading something by reading it? So I guess those that ignore it actually aren’t ignoring it? Dustin claims,

I normally don’t bother responding to individual claims by anti-Mormons—because for every claim you debunk, another will be invented or repackaged.

Of course he doesn’t, because if what he wrote about Jeremy Runnells is any indication, he is too ignorant to make a coherent response. He would rather point the finger at those dreadful “anti-Mormons” and make false claims, and provide links to FAIRMORMON. And of course since this is all (as Dustin puts it) just “invented” or “repackaged” claims, why bother? And then there’s the irony of Dustin’s own repackaging of FAIRMORMON’s apologetic bullshit.

Dustin also gripes about how many times the CES Letter has been downloaded and that it is some kind of “tool” of ex-Mormons, and claim that its success is simply how the letter is constructed. Gee, If only everyone could construct a letter like that. We’d all get millions of views! Perhaps Jeremy should be out giving lectures on how to construct letters since this one has been so successful. Of course it has nothing to do with the content. It was just ingeniously constructed.

And Jeremy just appears to be trustworthy.  So of course Dustin has to attack Jeremy’s honesty, and his real story, that he had a legitimate crisis about his faith (being a returned missionary, etc), and make it into a plot by Jeremy to dupe unsuspecting Mormons.

Dustin also totally mischaracterized what Jeremy claimed about the CES Letter. Jeremy never said they were “a few innocent questions” about the Church. Jeremy was totally upfront in the CES Letter and said he already had a crisis of faith BEFORE he wrote it. So all of this by Dustin is a blatant falsehood. Jeremy never duped anyone.  In his INTRODUCTION, Jeremy wrote,

I’m just going to be straightforward and blunt in sharing my concerns. Obviously I’m a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment. All this information is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history. With this said, I’d be pretty arrogant and ignorant to say that I have all the information and that you don’t have answers. Like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time and I see through a glass darkly. You may have new information and/or a new perspective that I may not have heard or considered before. This is why I’m genuinely interested in what your answers and thoughts are to these troubling problems.

So who is being dishonest here? Dustin Phelps. He just can’t seem to admit to himself that people are reading the letter knowing that Jeremy wrote it when he was already disaffected and was honest and upfront about it. I mean, it must be troubling to Dustin’s apologetic mind that people are still reading the actual evidence for its own sake and not because of Jeremy Runnell’s ingeniously constructed letter.  I doubt Dustin ever even read the CES letter. What he appears to have done is regurgitated material from FAIRMORMON. Took a few claims and made up his whopper about Jeremy being dishonest and a liar.


I’ve been friends with Jeremy for about five years now, and I can tell you he’s a passionate guy. That much is obvious if one reads his rebuttal to Dustin Phelps. I really can’t blame him for being pissed off. He’s been attacked by Mormon Apologists over and over again and it must get rather old after a while. I just turned sixty, and I was a lot like Jeremy when I was younger and if you follow this blog, you know that I can be sarcastic and sharp in my responses to Mormon Apologists. So bear in mind all that Jeremy has been through as you read his response to Phelps.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s explore Dustin’s claims about what Jeremy wrote in the CES Letter and see if it is all “lies about the church”.  And remember, Dustin claims that these are “major claims” against the church. Now, I am not going to do any kind of in-depth rebuttal here, Jeremy has done a great job with his response. I just want to make a few observations and analyze some of Dustin Phelps’ claims against Jeremy. And if these are not in order… you guessed it, Phelps changed the order when he repackaged his own blog entry.

Dustin Phelps original text (18 July 2017):

False Claim #3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Let’s cut right to the chase on this one. Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone. What bothers people is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. They worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing explicitly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

Dustin Phelps changed text:

False Claim #1) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

But what makes it difficult to move forward with faith is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. Some people worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing openly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

But what did Jeremy actually write? On page 31 of the CES Letter, we find,

One of the things that really disturbed me in my research was discovering the real origins of polygamy and how Joseph Smith really practiced it.

 Joseph Smith was married to at least 34 women.

 Polyandry: Of those 34 women, 11 of them were married women of other living men. Among them being Apostle Orson Hyde who was sent on his mission to dedicate Israel when Joseph secretly married his wife, Marinda Hyde. Church historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen and unofficial apologists like FairMormon do not dispute the polyandry. The Church now admits the polyandry in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Out of the 34 women, 7 of them were teenage girls as young as 14-years-old. Joseph was 37-years-old when he married 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, twenty-three years his junior. Even by 19th century standards, this was shocking. The Church now admits that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball “several months before her 15th birthday” in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Among the women was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets. Several of these women included Joseph’s own foster daughters. Some of the marriages to these women included promises by Joseph of eternal life to the girls and their families, threats of loss of salvation, and threats that he (Joseph) was going to be slain by an angel with a drawn sword if the girls didn’t marry him.

Every bit of this is true. So really, what Dustin Phelps has a problem with is Jeremy characterizing what Joseph Smith did as “Warren Jeffs territory”.  This is something the individual must decide. But is this a false claim? No. It’s an opinion.  The Rolling Stone wrote this about Jeffs:

The ambitious, twisted son of the previous FLDS prophet, Jeffs took control and became obsessed with the idea of “perfect obedience.” He started kicking people out of Short Creek that he deemed sinners: young men who came to be known as Lost Boys, teenage girls he considered too rebellious and men no longer “worthy of priesthood,” reassigning their wives and children to loyalists he felt he could trust.

Beginning in 2002, he came under investigation for child rape in Utah. He then began evading authorities while marrying off teenage girls to the sect’s leadership. He also ordered the construction of a new FLDS compound, the Yearning for Zion ranch, in the West Texas desert. In May 2006, he landed on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list for multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors, and went on the run with his favorite wife, Naomi (code name: 91). With the help of Jessop, who ran the church’s security force – called the God Squad by detractors – Jeffs communicated through coded letters and burner phones and shuttled between the church’s “houses of hiding” scattered throughout the West (in particular, he often visited his favored brides at the compound in Texas). In August 2006, he was arrested during a routine traffic stop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, carrying 16 cellphones, three wigs and $56,000 in cash in the lining of a suitcase.

Joseph Smith declared and had himself ordained a king in Nauvoo. He “married” multiple teenaged girls, some as young as fourteen. He discarded women when being “married” to them was no longer in his best interest after having sex with them. As for “perfect obedience”, this is what Joseph Smith was reported to have said in Kirtland in 1836, that,

After that dedication [of the Kirtland Temple] the Mormons organized what they termed “the school of prophets.” A revelation prior to that time had given Oliver Cowdery the privilege of nominating the twelve apostles of the Church. About the time of this organization there was a good deal of scandal prevalent among a number of the Saints concerning Joseph’s licentious conduct, this more especially among the women. Joseph’s name was then connected with scandalous relations with two or three families.  Apparently to counteract this he came out and made a statement in the Temple, before a general congregation that he was authorized by God Almighty to establish His Kingdom — that he was God’s prophet and God’s agent, and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had NO  RIGHT  TO  CALL  INTO  QUESTION Anything he did, or to censure him, for the reason that he was responsible to God Almighty only. This promulgation created a great sensation — a schism occurred and a large portion of the first membership, including the best talent of the Church, at once withdrew from it. This was during the summer of 1836. (Benjamin Winchester, Primitive Mormonism, The Salt Lake City Daily Tribune, September 22, 1889).

What Phelps does here can be characterized as the classic “bait and switch”.  He claims that this is all about Joseph having “unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite”. Yet, this is not what Jeremy claims at all. The fact is, we do not know how often Joseph had sex with his plural wives. If the testimony of Emily Partridge and Malissa Lott count for anything to Phelps, they claimed that they had sex with Smith on multiple occasions. Malissa Lott testified,

Q. I asked you how many times you had roomed there in that 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.

Q. Well I will ask you the questions over again in this form,—was it more than twice?

A. Yes sir.

R. C. Evans, who was in the Presidency of the Reorganized Church interviewed the brother of Joseph F. Smith, (Patriarch John Smith) a nephew of Joseph Smith and while there his wife Helen told him that “Malissa Lott … said Joseph … desired her to have a child by him.”

Lott herself, when questioned about her lack of a pregnancy by Joseph answered it was,

Through no fault of either of us, lack of proper conditions on my part probably, or it might be in the wisdom of the Almighty that we should have none. The Prophet was martyred nine months after our marriage.

Emily Partridge testified,

Q. Did you ever have carnal intercourse with Joseph Smith? A. Yes sir.

Q. How many nights? A. I could not tell you.

Q. Do you make the declaration that you ever slept with him but one night? A. Yes sir.

Q.  And that was the only time and place that you ever were in bed with him? A. No sir.

This is only two of Joseph Smith’s wives.  Even they were baffled as to why they never got pregnant. To claim that Joseph just never had sex with his wives, or that he chose to “limit such relations” is ridiculous and ignores the actual evidence.  According to Emily Partridge, she did not know why she got pregnant by Brigham Young and not by Joseph Smith: 

Q. You were married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy?     A. Yes sir.

Q.  And while married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy you had children?  A.  Yes sir.

Q. You had children by Brigham Young?  A. Yes sir.

Q. Then the law of proxy, -marriage by the law of proxy will raise children, while marriage by the law of the church will not?  Is that it?  A.  I don’t understand your question?

Q.  My question is this, -that when you were married by the law of proxy you had children?  A. Yes sir.

Q. And when married under the law of the church you did not raise children?  A. I did not have any, but I don’t know that that had any thing to do with it, for I might have had children married that way as well as under any other marriage relation.

Q. But you did not have any when you were married to Joseph Smith A. No sir.

Q. You did by Brigham Young though when you were married to him by proxy?  A. Yes sir, but that did not have any thing to do with it. (395-402)’

Phelps makes the claim that “whatever intimate relations may have occurred—they were pretty close to non-existent,” but has absolutely no evidence to back up that assertion.  He links to an article by Brian Hales that is full of his own speculations and apologetic mumbo jumbo.  But one thing that is certain and Brian Hales admits this himself in the very article that Phelps links to:

It is impossible to accurately determine how often Joseph Smith spent time with his plural wives, either in conjugal visits or otherwise.

I can go one step further and with absolute confidence say that it is impossible to determine AT ALL, how often Smith spent time with his spiritual wives or had sex with them.  Speculating about it is simply ridiculous, but this is what Hales, FAIRMORMON and Dustin Phelps do, because they will not admit that there was no teaching or evidence that anyone who was in a polygamous relationship could not have sex with the woman he was married to. So calling them “non-sexual eternity only sealings” is simply Brian Hales wishful thinking, extremely irresponsible and has no evidentary basis at all, except from late anonymous recollections and notes by Andrew Jenson who lied in his publication The Historical Record when it suited him.

What really surprised me though, was Phelps original statement:

Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone.

Huh? Polygamy doesn’t bother anyone? I beg to differ and most likely, Phelps got some blowback on this because he then changed his blog entry to read:

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

So which is it? It doesn’t bother anyone including Dustin Phelps? Or it is a difficult subject for many of us (including Phelps). Do you get the feeling that Phelps will just say anything to defend the church? Why then would he flip flop on this? Or is he mentally challenged and can’t make up his mind what he believes? Is this anyone you want helping you in times of crisis? Does he really have any answers and is he qualified to give you the historical truth? He doesn’t seem to know what it is. Do we really need more FAIRMORMON Repackaged? If you are having a crisis of faith, do you really need FAIRMORMON Repackaged? Wouldn’t you rather speak to qualified historians, or your Bishop, or research things for yourself and then make up your mind what to do? This was in fact what Jeremy Runnells was originally trying to do.

Another example that Phelps gives of Jeremy’s “lying” is the following:

3) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.”

Jeremy actually wrote,

The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead. Joseph Smith’s early theology also held this view. As part of the over 100,000 changes to the Book of Mormon, there were major changes made to reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.  (CES, 17)

Talk about context. He doesn’t once cite where he is getting his quotes from in the CES Letter.  I find that odd.  So how is Jeremy Runnells lying here? This is Dustin Phelps tortured logic:

As part of these changes, Joseph prepared an 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon that fixed some typos and included a few clarifications.

Ok, but they are still CHANGES. So all his blathering about punctuation is just a red herring. But here is what he says about what Jeremy calls “major changes”:

One of those minor adjustments has really excited anti-Mormons over the years. Why? Because if you remove the relevant context and place it in just the right light, it appears much more controversial than it really is.

So, here’s the change: There are four places where Joseph Smith added “Son of” to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. These are places where Jesus Christ was initially referred to as “God” or “the Eternal Father” but were adjusted to read “Son of God” and “Son of the Eternal Father.”

Dustin blathers on about verses that do nothing to prove his point and this has been addressed in Jeremy Runnells response to Dustin, found here.

As far as the Trinity in Mormonism, there is some simple evidence to prove that this was taught in the early church.  In the same year that Joseph penned his first account of his claimed First Vision (1832), we find this amazing commentary written in the Evening And Morning Star, under the title of ‘The Excellence of Scripture’:

“Through Christ we understand the terms on which God will show favour and grace to the world, and by him we have ground of a PARRESIA access with freedom and boldness unto God. On his account we may hope not only for grace to subdue our sins, resist temptations, conquer the devil and the world; but having ’fought this good fight, and finished our course by patient continuance in well doing, we may justly look for glory, honor, and immortality,’ and that ‘crown of righteousness which is laid up for those who wait in faith,’ holiness, and humility, for the appearance of Christ from heaven. Now what things can there be of greater moment and importance for men to know, or God to reveal, than the nature of God and ourselves the state and condition of our souls, the only way to avoid eternal misery and enjoy everlasting bliss!

“The Scriptures discover not only matters of importance, but of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. There are many wonderful things in the law of God, things we may admire, but are never able to comprehend. Such are the eternal purposes and decrees of God, THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the manner of the operation of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men, which are all things of great weight and moment for us to understand and believe that they are, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, as to the particular manner of them.” (The Evening And Morning Star, Vol. I, INDEPENDENCE, MO. JULY, 1832. No. 2. page 12, emphasis mine)

When one considers the Book of Mormon teaching, and looks at the Lectures on Faith, which were published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and voted on as binding doctrine by the Church, one can see the striking similarities and his change from Monotheism to Modalism. Take this verse from 1st Nephi:

“And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Now compare this to Lecture Fifth, from the Lectures on Faith:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power overall things…They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;–he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh.” (Lectures on Faith, 5:2, emphasis mine)

In the questions and answers, at the end of each lecture, we find clarification:

What is the Father?
He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.)
What is the Son?
First, he is a personage of tabernacle. (5:2.)…
Why was he called the Son?
Because of the flesh.
Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?
They do.
What is this mind?
The Holy Spirit.

Thomas G. Alexander, writing for Sunstone in July of 1980 explained that,

“The Lectures on Faith differentiated between the Father and Son somewhat more explicitly, but even they did not define a materialistic, tritheistic Godhead.  In announcing the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants which included the Lectures on Faith, the Messenger and Advocate commented editorially that it trusted the volume would give ‘the churches abroad…a perfect understanding of the doctrine believed by this society.’ The Lectures declared that ‘there are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing and supreme power over all things–by whom all things were created and made.’ They are ‘the Father being a personage of spirit,’ and ‘the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image.’ The ‘Articles and Covenants’ called the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ‘one God’ rather than the Godhead, a term which Mormons generally use today to separate themselves from trinitarians.” (Sunstone 5:4/26 (Jul 80), emphasis mine)

In his “translation” of the Bible, sometimes called The Inspired Version (completed in 1833), Joseph Smith changed some verses in the New Testament to reflect his early Monotheistic teachings:

KJV: All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.(Luke 10:22)

JST: All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.(Luke 10:22

For a time, it seems, Joseph Smith was a Monotheist, and Mormons agreed with the Christian Trinity doctrine.  Monotheism, (identified as the doctrine of the Trinity in light of New Testament revelation) is what is taught in the Bible, the most clearly in Isaiah 44:6-8:

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

For more on Smith’s early teachings on the Godhead, See Ronald V. Huggins article, Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?

Dustin Phelps also claims that Jeremy is “lying” about this:

2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.”

Dustin claims:

The author of this infamous anti-Mormon document provides a map of the cities and towns where Joseph grew up and then compares them to a proposed map of Book of Mormon geography.

He also compares these place names in a table.

He argues that the similarities are too powerful to ascribe to mere coincidence. And it’s not just that he’s telling people to think that. The way he constructs the comparisons makes it seem as though that is the natural conclusion.

But here’s what countless misled readers do not know:

Several of the towns on this author’s list were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon. Other locations were remote villages hundreds of miles away in places like Canada—hardly the land of Joseph’s youth.[9]

Plus, almost half of the names or locations are also found in the Bible—including Biblical names that few are aware of such as Lehi, Boaz, Ramah, and Sidon.

But you know what? As ridiculous as this claim may seem, it is also one of the most emotionally impactful parts of the whole document. Why? Because it starts to paint a picture in your mind of how Joseph Smith might have invented the Book of Mormon.

The author is trying to achieve the impossible: make a Book of Mormon fraud seem believable.

All of Dustin’s links go to FAIRMORMON. This section is no different. He offers the link as proof for his statement that “several of the towns … were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon.

At FAIRMORMON, they quibble about where these locations are in the Book of Mormon. Was one north of the other or south of the other, etc. This is irrelevant. What about the names? Let’s take just one example. They write,

Holley points out that the present day city of Angola, New York is a possible match for a Book of Mormon location. He notes the location of the city on “modern maps”. Holley states,

The present day city of Angola, New York, is located west of the Genesee (Sidon?) River and south [“in the borders”] of the proposed land of Zarahemla. This is another example of the many actual locations in the Great Lakes area that can be located on modern maps by following geographical information in the Book of Mormon. [4]

However, when one looks up the Wikipedia entry for Angola, New York, it becomes evident that the name “Angola” was not established until approximately 1854, twenty-four years after the Book of Mormon was published. Wikipedia notes,

The community was previously called “Evans Station.” In 1854 or 1855, a post office was established there, bearing the name Angola. [5]

Actually, FAIRMORMON is wrong. I happen to live in Upstate New York, and I know a little bit more about the history of this area. The Post Office in Angola was there before 1830:

The first town meeting for the town of Collins was held on June 9, 1821, a few weeks after the formation of the county. There was then no post-office in the town, but in 1822 one was established at Taylor’s Hollow, and a mail route opened through Eden to that point. THE OFFICE WAS NAMED ANGOLA and Jacob Taylor was appointed postmaster, a position which he held as late as 1840. This office was subsequently abandoned and the name given to one in the town of Evans.  (Our County and It’s People: A Descriptive Wo.rk on Erie County, New York, Volume 1, 348, emphasis mine).

I’ve been to Taylor’s Hollow and Eden many times. Unless one knows the local history, they would not be aware that the Angola Post Office was there in 1822.

What is the Etymology for the word “Angola”?

The name Angola comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola (Kingdom of Angola), appearing as early as Dias de Novais’s 1571 charter. The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of Ndongo.

How in the world did this word get on to the gold plates in 400 A.D.? It didn’t. It was a Post Office a hundred miles from Smith’s house. And according to the 1826 examination minutes, Joseph Smith claimed to have gone to that area of New York:

Mr. [Joseph] Smith [Jr.] was fully examined by the Court. It elicited little but a history of his life from early boyhood, but this is so unique in character, and so much of a key-note to his subsequent career in the world, I am tempted to give it somewhat in extenso. He said when he was a lad, he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others; that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass; that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the Now York and Pennsylvania line. He often had an opportunity to look in the glass, and with the same result. The luminous stone alone attracted his attention. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, when he left his father’s house, and with his youthful zeal traveled west in search of this luminous stone.

He took a few shillings in money and some provisions with him. He stopped on the road with a farmer, and worked three days, and replenished his means of support. After traveling some one hundred and fifty miles he found himself at the mouth of the creek. He did not have the glass with him, but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and a hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing-Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.

On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen’s egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket.” http://richkelsey.org/1826_trial_testimonies.htm

So, what are we to make of this? Did Vernal Holley have a point to make about the Book of Mormon names? Absolutely. But since he is dead, we cannot know where he got his research from, so it is up to others to dig into this and find out, as I did with Angola. Knowing this, is it really so impossible that the Book of Mormon is a fraud? I’ll let you decide, readers.

Dustin then tries to tackle the claimed “First Vision” problems and writes,

False Claim #4: Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision

This claim is very misleading.

Here are the facts:

First, as we would expect, Joseph told the story of the 1st vision on multiple occasions. Second, because each account is conveyed to a different audience and for a different purpose, Joseph focuses on different details of the experience in each account.

What would really be weird is if he robotically gave the exact same, seemingly rehearsed account, every time he was asked. Instead, every time he tells of the First Vision experience, it is from a new angle, revealing an experience that is panoramic and authentic.

Contrary to the author’s assertion, the accounts do not contradict each other—they enrich one another. And they are on display in the Church’s history museum and were published by the Church over 50 years ago (shortly after the History Department discovered them). Click here to study each account for yourself on the Church’s website.

And consider the following:

Paul and Alma the Younger also retell their transformative spiritual experiences on multiple occasions—to different audiences and with different purposes. Each of their accounts differ on what they emphasize and include new details, but ultimately they in no way contradict each other. Just like with Joseph’s First Vision accounts, each perspective adds rich depth and power to their experiences.

And let’s not forget that overtime we all tend to reinterpret and recontextualize our past experiences which may lead us to focus on different themes of the same experience at different times.

This is simply apologetic mumbo-jumbo and does not address the real problems that Jeremy brings up in the CES Letter. I have addressed many of these myself here, in answer to Kevin Christensen’s (another FAIRMORMON apologist) rants against Jeremy.

The other claims that I haven’t addressed here Jeremy has answered well, and I doubt there will be any kind of reasoned, logical response from “Happiness Seekers”.


I’ll simply quote what Jeremy wrote to Dustin which seems an apt conclusion to his bizarre rant against “he who must not be named”:

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Dustin skips a lot of things. Dustin ignores a lot of details. Dustin ignores a lot of contradictions.

Dustin wants you to look at this tree over there while keeping your eyes and attention away from the forest of problems. Mormon apologists do not want you to see the forest. This is why they hate the CES Letter and me so much. This is why I am now the Mormon “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” with a “You-Know-What-Letter”. I show you the entire forest with just 2-hours of reading (what used to take people in the past, weeks and months to accomplish the same thing on their own). Instead of 1-5 problems that they can contain for a member awakening to the LDS Church’s truth crisis, they have to address 80-pages worth of problems they wish you didn’t know about. They want you to stay lost in the trees focusing on one tree at a time within the unreliable and unsupportable lens of “faith.”

Phoney Maroney & FairMormon’s New Scapegoat

Stephen Smoot 2

Phoney maroney,
Pony before the cart. …

Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move. Square off. To
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb. ~R.E.M.

This guy:

Stephen O. Smoot is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. He is a writer for the Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper, a volunteer with FairMormon, and an Editorial Consultant for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. He blogs at the FairMormon Blog and Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.

Is one of many from FAIRMORMON’s ranks who are obsessed with attacking and scapegoating Jeremy Runnells. They have even devoted a whole website to doing so. (Yes Mormons, that is what your donations to FAIRMORMON are being used for). Even Daniel C. Peterson and Michael Ash have jumped on this bandwagon. This has troubled other Mormons, like David Bokovoy who wrote:

But what about attacking people directly like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin? Does this strengthen faith? It may, but I’m not convinced. I don’t like it, and it feels wrong to me. More importantly, that type of apologetic seems inappropriate from my perspective for a serious academic venue, especially one sponsored by the LDS Church.

I’m not going to cite the emails because they’re personal exchanges, and to do so would be highly inappropriate. But I will give a personal example. In the not-too-distant past, my name was attached to an apologetic email list that was discussing how the group should respond to an article that appeared in the news. Several of the emails discussed openly the type of “digging” that could be done into this person’s past in an effort to provide an effective apologetic response. It made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

I responded, asking the group to please reconsider their approach, stating, “placing the blame on [name omitted] for his struggles is not an effective apologetic and I personally don’t think it will help [your] cause.”

And this is what this entire unfortunate public confrontation comes down to: What is the most effective type of apologetics, and what style of academics should an LDS sponsored institution engage in? I don’t believe in aggressive attack style apologetics. Some people do. I believe in critical thinking, listening to alternative views, and open friendly exchanges.

Smoot has had Jeremy in his sights ever since the wildly popular CES Letter was made public by Jeremy in 2013. In one of his blog articles written in June of this year, Smoot advised his fellow Mormons about the dangers of the Internet:

…Church leaders … have urged the importance of using the Internet to both stem the tide of misinformation and deception about the Church found online as well as preach the gospel. But they are not alone. Elder Quinten L. Cook lamented in the October 2012 General Conference, “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf likewise reminded us of the following in 2013:

For those who already embrace the truth, [Satan’s] primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.

If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.

You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind, just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.

Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder, gave this counsel in the June 2013 issue of the New Era (which was subsequently reposted on the Church’s website for youth).

Certainly, the world has changed in the last generation or two. The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.

Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.

Instead of leaving it at that, Smoot adds:

The tantrums of Jeremy Runnells notwithstanding, what these brethren have taught is absolutely true. It’s college-level critical thinking 101. Don’t default to Wikipedia or reddit for your information. Don’t default to meme-think. Don’t default to snarky YouTube videos. Steven C. Harper said it best, “Googling is not a synonym for seeking.” Take the time and make the honest effort to acquaint yourself with “the best books” (D&C 88:118) you can find on Mormon history, scripture, and doctrine. (For our purposes here, “the best books” include academic journal articles, academic and popular press publications, Internet websites, multimedia, etc.) It will ultimately be much better for you intellectually and spiritually.

The only one that seems to be throwing tantrums is Stephen Smoot. In this piece Smoot sets up a strawman by turning Jeremy’s comment about Hales being an amateur Historian into his claiming that he triumphantly announced “that one cannot possibly maintain faith in Joseph Smith after learning the “real” history of plural marriage.”

Of course Jeremy said no such thing and you can search in vain for that quote.  Smoot goes on and on about Hales how is not an amateur historian, but Hales himself claimed that he was:

“Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian…” (Brian Hales,  Facebook, Mormon Historians, July 17, 2014, 3:38pm).

I actually took part in that conversation, and can verify that it is an accurate quote and that Brian was not being sarcastic. So if Hales is calling himself an amateur; then why is Stephen Smoot even bringing this up? To scapegoat Jeremy Runnells, of course.

So what is wrong with Wikipedia or reddit? Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia using wiki software. The entries are compiled by anonymous editors who have to footnote their entries.  Anyone can edit entries and it is basically self policed.  One Mormon apologist, Roger Nicholson lamented about Wikipedia in The Mormon Interpreter:

According to Wikipedia,

The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.

In general, this philosophy tends to be effective as regards many Wikipedia articles. Errors that bring an article out of balance tend to be corrected given sufficient time, and the article progresses toward a stable and “neutral” state. However, articles dealing with highly controversial subjects, such as Joseph Smith’s first vision or polygamy, do not tend to stabilize themselves over time. These types of articles become magnets for editors who have an agenda to push. Wikipedia becomes an attractive way for such editors to “publish” their opinions with immediate worldwide visibility and considerable credibility.

He then writes,

Wikipedia articles are required to rely “mainly on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary source material by Wikipedia editors.”  Wikipedia is intended to summarize the work of others rather than act as a forum for creating original work. In the case of contentious articles such as “First Vision” or “Golden Plates,” it is extremely tempting to take advantage of the “immediate publication” of material in order to create new interpretive material. The “no original research” rule is often ignored. This can lead to situations in which the wiki editor’s own thinking is reflected in the article. Consider this example, which appears in the wiki article “First Vision” as of 18 October 2011: “However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a ‘Christian experience.’ ”

There are several issues with the above statement. It does correctly represent the source, which was an interview between Peter Bauder and Joseph Smith. Bauder was attempting to expose false religions, and he notes that “among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.”  The wiki editor introduces the quotation with the word however, thus implying that this statement is a possible disqualifier for the validity of the first vision. Nowhere in the wiki article is it noted that Bauder was a strong critic of Joseph Smith and that Joseph may not have desired to share the experience of his vision with such an interviewer. The earliest known extant attempt by Joseph to put the vision in writing occurred two years later. In 2009, however, the LDS wiki editor added his own interpretation of this interview by drawing the conclusion that “either Smith did not view this early remission of sins or vision as a ‘Christian experience,’ he forgot about the experience when asked by Bauder, or Smith and Bauder somehow miscommunicated.”?

Not only did this blatantly violate Wikipedia’s “no original research” rule, it was also an absurd interpretation. How would Joseph not view a remission of his sins as a “Christian experience”? Would he truly have “forgotten” about his theophany? The simplest and most obvious explanation was completely ignored: Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church. The wiki editor eventually recognized that the original research could not remain and removed the paragraph. The unqualified statement about Joseph not recounting a “Christian experience,” however, remains in the wiki article as of September 2011.

There are several things wrong with this analysis. First, the Peter Bauder interview with Joseph Smith was published in 1834, not 1830, so we do not know the exact circumstances that led Bauder to Joseph Smith, other than what Bauder wrote later. Bauder wrote,

However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.

Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society; they call themselves the true followers of Christ. I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834, 36-37.

I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence 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. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. I will now give the public my fears on this subject, (unless God prevents) when he gets his work ready for the press. He will pretend that the angel has brought the plate, and his new Bible will be a translation of the remaining plate, which were not put into the Book of Mormon, and the public will have this diabolical invention imposed on them. (See also, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18).

It is obvious that this is written from an 1834 perspective. We do not know how Bauder felt in 1830 when he visited Smith. He may not have been antagonistic at all. Nicholson assumes this of Bauder, and then concludes that “Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church.” Yet, Joseph shared his claimed 1820 vision with Robert Matthews in 1835, who Smith speculated was a murderer and claimed his “God was the devil”.  In the light of Smith sharing his supposed vision with one such as Matthews, Nicolson’s argument doesn’t make much sense.

What is interesting is that Bauder got all of the details right about Smith’s claimed visit with Moroni. He also got the details right about Smith’s “translation” of the Bible, although his later speculation that Smith might claim it came from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon never came to pass. If Bauder was simply making it up about Smith’s lack of Christian experience in 1830, why did he correctly claim that Smith told him he was later translating the Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This is not about Joseph joining any church; Bauder describes what “Christian experience” is, in an earlier paragraph:

“…a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory…because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them…”

That is not about joining a church. The fact that Bauder claims that Joseph did not speak of any Christian experience before his supposed encounter with the angel Moroni in 1830, is borne out by what Mormon Missionaries were teaching in 1832; and what Smith and Cowdery wrote themselves in 1834. Smith made an attempt to rewrite his history in 1832, but left it unfinished and abandoned it in the back of a letterbook and did not include his supposed vision of Christ in the 1834 history. In that version of his history they claim that Joseph prayed in 1823 to see “if a Supreme Being did exist” and was answered by an angel who told him about some gold plates.

The wiki article today (2015) reads:

In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.[73] At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Smith recounted his early history, noting

“For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel … and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book.”[74]

No further explanation of this “manifestation” is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,[75] its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.[76] On the other hand, when in October 1830, non-Mormon critic and author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a book, Bauder was writing about false religions, Smith apparently declined to share his experience. Bauder thus stated that Smith was unable to recount a “Christian experience.”[77]

So it appears that Nicholson’s objections of a few years ago are groundless, since Bauder is described as a “non-Mormon Critic” in the current wiki article.  Now, these changes may have come about with the persistence of Mormon editors, but that is the way it is supposed to work, right?. It appears that this wiki article has “stabilized itself over time,” at least in this instance.

So why the current objections to wiki? Because FAIRMORMON can’t totally control the flow of information there as they can at their own site. But what is almost comical is that FAIRMORMON has its own version of wiki. And what do they have on their own wiki page? This:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Notice there is little difference from the current “First Vision” Wikipedia page. FAIRMORMON uses this quote to try and prove that Joseph Smith didn’t join any Churches. On another page, they write the same thing:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Bauder absolutely did not mean that, as he himself explains above. The Wikipedia article is still wrong though, because Bauder did not say that Smith declined to share his experience, Smith could not give him one, as defined by Bauder. And Bauder did not just spend an hour or two with Smith, he claimed that he spent “near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers,” and spoke to Smith alone for “several hours”, so neither Smith nor any who followed him could give Bauder a “Christian experience” for Joseph Smith in his youth.


Reddit is simply a discussion forum. So why doesn’t Smoot want Mormons to visit these places on the internet? Does Smoot think Mormons will go to reddit specifically to find out about Mormon History? I’ll leave that up to you, readers, to figure out.

Smoot also talks about memes. Yet, FAIRMORMON takes the memes from Jeremy’s CES Letter and employs them to foist their own agenda on the public! Here is a screenshot of one of the pages on their new website devoted to demonizing Jeremy and his work:

Hales CES 36

Notice their own “selected details” and the claim that Hales makes about Ruth Vose Sayers which I’ve shown to be riddled with problems here. Jeremy is simply boiled down to a thrower of tantrums by Smoot.  And of course, “Satan” is behind it all! Now here we are four months later and Smoot is at it again here.

So why is Smoot bringing this up again and again ad nauseum? It seems that Brian Hales has a few pages of contribution included in a new book published by the John Whitmer Historical Association in addition to his other many books and articles on the subject. Well, we all know that Hales has published a lot on polygamy. We know that he considers himself an amateur historian. So what is Smoot’s point here? Simply to use any excuse to scapegoat Jeremy:

Readers of my blog will recall that some time ago Jeremy Runnells amusingly accused Brian C. Hales (undoubtedly one of the finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage) of being a “Mormon amateur apologist.” At the time I responded by mentioning the number of respected academic peer reviewed venues Brian’s work had appeared in… I’m sure that if Jeremy ever decides to take a sabbatical from teaching at the prestigious University of Reddit (I hear UoR is almost as high as the University of Phoenix in Princeton’s ranking) and venture forth into academia he can be invited by Brian to present his work at next year’s JWHA conference. ~Stephen Smoot

Again, all of the publications listed by Smoot don’t change that fact that Brian Hales himself admitted to being an amateur historian.  What is interesting is Smoot’s defense of Hales in the comments to this article:

Finally, is Brian an apologist as well? Sure he is, in that he is defending a specific interpretation of the historical data. Scholars do this all the time, and the rhetorical tricks of Runnells and his followers notwithstanding, there’s nothing inherently shameful in being an “apologist” for a position or idea if you’re being such in good faith.

Now we are getting to it.  I think Jeremy could have chosen his words more wisely in giving Hales amateur status, (even though Hales calls himself one) but Jeremy has a point about Hales being an “expert”, because some of the claims that Hales does make are amateurish. He jumps to conclusions, makes outlandish assumptions, and presents the evidence in a one sided way. This is not good apologia, nor good scholarship.  Here are some of the many problems that Mike Quinn detailed about Hales’ methods:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing an easily refutable claim” (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), 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). (“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).

Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn in the comments of his hit piece on Jeremy 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.) (Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others (like Mike Quinn and Richard Bushman) 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 Mike Quinn documents above.

I would say that I’m pretty much as familiar with all of the documents that Hales is, and I’m an amateur historian at this point, because I’m still learning the trade of being a historian even though I’ve been at it non stop for about 8 years and have been on research trips with Historians like Mike Marquardt.

One Mormon  (an Oxford grad) called me a “Hobbyist” historian in an effort to denigrate me, and I don’t take exception to him doing so. You have to learn, don’t you? Why be embarrassed about that? I’m not and neither is Jeremy Runnells. A better question might be why do those who call others these names do so, and can they back up their claims with evidence? Is this just a diversion from the real issues? Why are all the “experts” and “scholars” at FAIRMORMON so concerned about the hobbyist Jeremy Runnells? Why would Brian Hales claim that Jeremy indicated in some way that he was an “expert” on Mormon Polyamy, when he knew that Jeremy made no such claim?

We all learn and make mistakes. I know, Jeremy and I spent a year together on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and traded literally thousands of emails discussing it and we have an Essay finished about it. In Jeremy’s case his claim was in response to Hales’ false assertion that Jeremy claimed he was an expert. Funny thing is, it was Hales that started all this, not Jeremy. How would you react to being called a sock puppet of Satan and a liar who claims expertise when you absolutely didn’t do so? Jeremy is none of these things and didn’t claim to be an expert, but Stephen Smoot doesn’t address those issues, only Jeremy’s angry retort at Hales which was factually correct. Even Hales admitted it was and that:

I am an apologist at heart, but had hoped to be more of an “objective researcher” in my writings. While I’m not big on labels, “believer” could be applied so perhaps “apologist” is unavoidable.

As we have seen from Mike Quinn’s critique of Hales work above, he has failed miserably at being an “objective researcher”.

I don’t mind being called a “Hobbyist”, but you had better be prepared to back up your assertions (if you think that it matters) with evidence when it comes to the topics at hand or you could look pretty stupid being debunked by those you are calling amateurs or hobbyists. Jeremy presented evidence, good evidence that he can now back up with Hales’ own research, as can I.  Notice that Stephen Smoot doesn’t address any of that, he simply plays his one string banjo over and over again. Banjo_Cartoon

Does it take a degree to make one a professional Historian? Perhaps, (to be factually correct) but there are those like Mike Marquardt and Dan Vogel who I would call professionals who don’t have degrees in Historical studies. Mike and Dan (same as Hales) have been writing books about Mormon History for decades. But that is about all they do. Brian doesn’t do this full time, he is a dentist. Therefore, the moniker hobbyist could apply to him as well. In the case of Dan and Mike, would the validation of a degree make a bit of difference? No. They are masters at their trade here. A piece of paper isn’t going to add much to that. They have done the research, put in the time, and have a body of work to rival any thesis that would give them a doctorate. So why all the fuss and bother about Hales? Because Mormon apologists don’t like the fact that Jeremy deigned to criticize Hales with his own words. Get over it.

The difference between Mike M., Dan Vogel and Hales though, is that Mike and Dan don’t have an agenda either way concerning Joseph Smith while Hales does, and Hales lets that agenda dictate his conclusions. Their conclusions challenge the “faithful Mormon” historical narrative that Hales embraces and often invents. Mike M. is on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History where Hales has published and even helped Hales with his Fanny Alger article. Even Mike Quinn said that Hales used questionable methods though he strangely called Hales an “honest” historian. I can show that he is not when it comes to the way he uses polygamy sources.

What really matters, is what you produce and can it stand up to scrutiny. I recently wrote an article on Sylvia Lyon and the 1869 Utah Affidavits where I go through many of Hales’ foundational claims in relation to sexual polyandry and some of his methods in arriving at the conclusions he does.

See for example the problem that Hales had with the evidence that Hales claims is about Ruth Vose Sayers that Don Bradley gave him, that Hales never presented to the public in his books, his articles, or on his website (He only presented small out of context snippets from the document, never displayed the document, and never fully explained it even when Don (he told me so) gave him a copy of the document and Mike Quinn (in 2012) gave him the info about it): (Note 14)

I even do a handwriting analysis that shows that Mike’s initial conclusion that it is not “sayers” but “sagers” was correct. Hales also manipulates evidence in the case of Eliza Snow and her letter to Daniel Munns which I discuss here.

Hales manipulation of the evidence here is astounding. He also looks quite foolish when he questions Alex Beam’s use of a “cast of characters” in the beginning of his book. Hales claimed that ,

The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.

Yet I show that one of the most famous historical non fiction books of all time, “All The President’s Men” used the same literary device at the beginning of that book and Woodward and Bernstein were lauded for doing so. Did it call any of the nonfiction element of their book into question? I think history has answered that. Is that an amateurish claim? Would a professional make that claim? And why could a mere “hobbyist” quickly find a case where other authors did so successfully and Hales could not? So what the hell is an “expert”? This is a silly argument started by Hales himself when he sarcastically called Jeremy the “new expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”.

Remember too, that Stephen Smoot is a FAIRMORMON employee/volunteer? and they have a vested interest in propping up Hales and his point of view. The recent website they created to attack Jeremy and try to rebut the CES Letter is just another example of the shoddy scholarship they employ. See my thread here for examples.

Addendum: Smoot explains his modus operandi:

Stephen Smoot Comments Oct. 2015

Show each other respect and courtesy? Who attacked who first, Jeremy or Smoot? Did Jeremy ever attack Smoot, or simply defend himself against FAIRMORMON attacks?

He shows us his true colors with this line,

“It’s a troll or be trolled world out there…”

Very Christlike, indeed. Justification of his trolling people. Nice. And for all his disparagement of Reddit, seems like Smoot can’t get enough of it. This stuff is just hilarious. If he wasn’t so vindictive, I might just feel sorry for him.

Does being called an “expert” or having familiarity with documents or published material about polygamy make one a good historian or one of the “finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage” when presenting on the subject? Time will tell in relation to Brian Hales, and the clock is ticking.

Brian Hales’ Polygamy: Sylvia Lyon & The 1869 Utah Affidavits

Affidavit Book Banner Cinema

Introduction: Verifying The Historical Narrative
I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”
II. The Affidavit Books Speculation
III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation
V. Still More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
VI. Conclusion: “A Panorama Of Disagreeable Pictures”

Introduction: Verifying the Historical Narrative

I have been pretty much exclusively researching the Mormon Spiritual Wife[1] System of Joseph Smith (polygamy) for the last two years now, except when I’ve taken short breaks now and then to work on other areas of Mormon History that interest me. I’ve read over two dozen books and many more articles written by various authors, perused affidavits, diaries, family histories, church records, minutes, letters and anything else that I could get my hands on to try and understand the practice that was called in the 19th century one of the “twin relics of barbarism”, or a “pure and holy principle”, depending on who you might ask. Just recently I was highly pleased to find a letter written by Eliza Partridge from 1881, just so I could see what her handwriting and signature looked like so I could compare it with her affidavits from 1869.

Joseph Smith with Nauvoo Women_1843With all of that research behind me now, the conclusion in front of me is that Mormon polygamy was just a complete and utter mess. It was nurtured in secrecy and kept alive with lies. It was a direct cause of the death of the two most powerful men in the Mormon Hierarchy in Nauvoo in the 1840’s, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It destroyed lives; it shattered the faith of many; and turned many honest and upright people into liars and fanatics that clung to the belief that someday this principle would be adopted by the citizens of the United States even as they defiantly watched their own prophets abandon it and command them to follow suit.[2]

I have also found that many of the authors of works dealing with the subject of polygamy have crafted a narrative about certain events that is taken for granted as fact, when the evidence to support those narratives is at best weak, sometimes apologetic, and often contradictory.

I’m referring here to a series of statements, certificates and affidavits that were collected from various men and women living in Utah who were involved in or knowledgeable about the practice in the Nauvoo era of the Church.  The collection of these affidavits began in the Spring of 1869 and continued until shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.

Now, the collection of these affidavits in and of itself is not a bad thing, and the information they contain can be a valuable resource in reconstructing the events that took place in Nauvoo during the life of Joseph Smith–if they have credible corroboration. But what I have found is that many modern historians have been using these affidavits almost exclusively to craft parts of the historical narrative, and as they portray those events, they do so without any caveat to the public reading them.

For example, in 2014 the Mormon Church published an Essay called “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, we read:

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.[3]

This claim is based on an affidavit made by Emily Partridge in May of 1869, another identical affidavit by her sister in July of that year, (with the same bogus date that Emily gives for the supposed second “mock” marriage) and a third “certificate” made in June by Lovina Smith Walker, the daughter of Hyrum Smith and sister of Joseph Fielding Smith; who instigated the collection of these affidavits to combat the claims of his cousin Joseph Smith III.

There is no contemporary evidence to corroborate this claim about Emma, (and only  a few others later repeating it) but there is contemporary evidence that seriously challenges it. What is ironic is that the evidence that challenges this claim can be found in William Clayton’s Journal from 1843, an entry that was also made into an affidavit by Joseph F. Smith and therefore could have easily been used as a basis for those claims. I will not go into details here at this time; I have another forthcoming article that will deal with this matter in depth.

What is important is that the existing narrative is not set in stone and should be presented with far more caution and questions. We need more researchers to study the original documents and we need them to be presented in their entirety whenever possible, even if it takes large appendixes with full pictures to show context. The availability of many of those documents to the public at large will make this possible and help to dispel the speculation and assumptions that are prevalent in that narrative and taken virtually as fact today.

I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”

What I wish to focus on at this time, is a few claims made by Brian Hales, who is considered by many to be an expert on Mormon polygamy. He has written numerous books and has a massive website about this practice during the Nauvoo era.

Hales interpretation of the evidence leads him to claim that Sylvia Sessions Lyon did not have sex (really could not have had it because of supposed theological teachings) with Joseph Smith and her husband Windsor Lyon while “married” to them both, even though she admitted to conceiving a daughter by Joseph Smith and later two children by Windsor Lyon–all the while never separating from Lyon while being simultaneously “married” to Joseph Smith. Here is Brian Hales speaking on this, taken from a FAIRMORMON Presentation from 2012, (bracketed comments by me):

Historical evidence shows that legally married women could be sealed for “eternity only” to someone other than their civil husband. [Hales “evidence” is all his own conjectures, based on faulty readings of late statements, some of which are inaccurate] The sealed marriage covenant would not apply until the next life. If you’ve read Compton, if you’ve read Quinn, they both say “no, these never happened, there’s none recorded in the nineteenth century.” [Actually, in Nauvoo, I’m aware of only one that took place in the 1880’s or so, and it was a rare occurrence according to Joseph F. Smith and Angus Cannon] …

The women [Chosen by Hales if there was a possible sexual polyandry conflict] who were sealed just for the next life, [What Hales calls non sexual eternity only sealings] 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. [Because Hales believes that the ceremonies for these women did not cover “time” on earth]. 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[.] [There is no credible evidence that any of them were] 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. [According to Hales alone] 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.

Hales Polyandry Graphic

Hales Polyandry Graphic

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 [Notes by Andrew Jenson from an unknown source that give selective and misleading details about Sylvia and Windsor Lyon] 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. [I don’t blame him] He was the respondent. But you just can’t do it [Of course one can, he did do it] and you will see why here in a minute. Sylvia married Windsor Lyon on April 21, 1838 in a legal [“Priesthood”] ceremony performed by Joseph Smith. [Remember this, it is important] “In Sacred Loneliness uses the date February 8, 1842 as their [Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions] sealing date. That’s the first problem. [Only for Hales] The daughter was conceived over a year later, on May 18 1843. [How does Hales get an exact date for conception when this can vary up to 5 weeks?] And this daughter I believe is Joseph Smith’s actual daughter. [So this was a “marriage” for “time” and “eternity”] The assumption is that Sylvia experienced sexual relations with both Windsor and Joseph Smith during this period.[It’s a valid assumption to make] Now, there’s no evidence for that, [There is no evidence that she didn’t have sex with them both during this period] 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, [Because the evidence (Both still married to her at the same time and no legal divorce of Windsor] supports that assumption] 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. [Perhaps] The whole timeline presented by Todd, I would argue, is not reliable.[It is if the 1842 date is correct and it is a strong possibility based on other evidence that Hales won’t give credence to]

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. [In his opinion because he doesn’t believe there was sexual polyandry] So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart. [It doesn’t, for reasons I’ll share below]

Windsor was excommunicated in November of 1842. We have three evidences [if you want to call them that] that the sealing occurred after this, and that the excommunication of Windsor cause [sic] him and Sylvia to part. [Based on what? There is no statement that his excommunication caused marital problems and the one statement that Hales uses to prove this is an error filled recollection from over a hundred years later] They were already separated. [Hales’ opinion based on faulty interpretation of evidence]  So they are legally married but they separate. [No, legally married but him disfellowshipped] And then Joseph is sealed to Sylvia after the excommunication. [Which doesn’t make a bit of difference for the first and only legal marriage was still valid as it was and so Joseph and Sylvia committed adultery] In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 historical record article on plural marriage, Andrew Judson [sic] wrote “Sylvia Sessions was married to Mr. Lyon. When he left the church she was sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.” [This does not say they separated] Elsewhere he refers to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyon.” [Untrue, she never legally divorced him and had two children by him after Joseph died so she was never the “former” Mrs. Lyon – she was even called “Mrs. Lyon” by Willard Richards in 1844 when he visited them both at their house]

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. [Again, how does that change anything? That could simply have been a time period marker and she also claimed that she was married at the time of Zina Huntington and Eliza Snow which was between 1841 and 1842] 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. [Irrelevant] 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. [It’s enough] There are references to a third, but we don’t know. Maybe some new evidence will come up and we will find out. [This is actually evidence that Joseph did have sex with his already married plural wives – so what Hales’ point is here is unclear unless he is trying to claim that everyone conceives after every sexual encounter which would be a groundbreaking new discovery]

Looking at the timeline, we find that Windsor and Sylvia married in 1838. She conceives three children, then he’s excommunicated [disfellowshipped] and that’s when they separate. [Sylvia never claims that they separate and there is no convincing evidence that they did] It’s not a legal divorce, but she is then sealed to Joseph in a marriage that I argue [Based on speculation] would have superseded the legal marriage anyway, which would curtail any conjugality between Sylvia and Windsor. [It would not according to an 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church] Josephine is conceived. Joseph Smith is killed. Windsor is rebaptized and then they come back together and the legal marriage is still intact. [Speculation by Hales–and it was always intact since there is no credible evidence at all they ever divorced or separated. And how did the marriage “stay intact” when Hales tries to claim Joseph dissolved it with a wave of his Priesthood or Mayoral powers? Where and when was the remarriage ceremony?]

Now, is this weird? Yeah, this is weird. Is it sexual polyandry? [Perhaps] Is it immoral? [Yes, according to Joseph Smith himself] Is it breaking the law of chastity that Joseph taught? No it isn’t. [Yes it is. According to Joseph himself it was adultery as we shall see][4]

Is it immoral to try and get between a husband and his wife by convincing the wife that it is God’s wish for you to “marry” her, and then have sex with her; especially when you yourself forbid women to separate from their husbands for any reason, particularly if the husband was a non believer (or I assume out of the church) and if they are not legally divorced–if they “marry” or are with another man–it is adultery? Some might think this is immoral.

But according to Hales because Windsor and Sylvia had some marital difficulties (if they truly did which the evidence doesn’t bear out) it is just fine for Smith to move right in on the mans’ wife. Or because the man was disfellowshipped it also gave Joseph that right, even when Joseph himself forbid anyone in the Church from doing this. Windsor committed no “evil” towards Sylvia. Hales himself admits this. So how could Joseph simply wave away their marriage? He could not do so and have sex with her without committing adultery.

Joseph Smith is then justified in “marrying” her because after all, their marriage (performed by Joseph Smith himself by his priesthood power) was now somehow illegal and Smith was able to “void” it with a wave of his Mayoral or Priesthood powers. This is a scenario that Hales takes pages to develop but simply makes up out of whole cloth.[5] Again, where is the evidence this took place and where is the evidence of a remarriage ceremony of the Lyons? There isn’t any. And why doesn’t Hales feel the same way about the supposed Fanny Alger “marriage”? He writes,

It is clear that Joseph Smith believed that the priesthood authority he possessed in 1835 could solemnize a marriage that would stand for the duration of mortal life, so long as that union was approved of God. That priesthood authority could be bestowed upon others who would be similarly empowered to perform a matrimonial ceremony that would be valid according to God’s laws even if “gentile law” would not allow it.[6]

Joseph himself never added the caveat that the marriage had to be “approved by God” to stay valid. To prove this, on June 12, 1842 Joseph Smith dictated to Hyrum Smith a binding Address from the First Presidency which contained specific commands to the Church concerning marriage:


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 obliged 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. [Words in caps underlined in original]

 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]Address Millennial Star 1842 Husbands Wives

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 will divorce them, then they are at liberty; [p. 3] 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.[7]

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842.

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842. (Click to enlarge)

The above states that Joseph Smith himself came “under condemnation” for the “evil” of “marrying” a woman that had a legal husband. Did Sylvia go before the High Council in Nauvoo and ask for a divorce? Where is the evidence for this? Where was Joseph’s authority to disobey this Address? Why write it and make it binding on the “Saints”, if he himself could disobey it at will?

Hales claims that it was all right for Smith to annul the Lyon marriage because he was disfellowshipped, but this Message from the First Presidency says that he could not, and that if he “married” her, or slept with her it was adultery. Smith specifically states that they could not usurp legal marriages, and that if they did, they would fall under condemnation. This cannot be superseded by polygamy, it was written right at the time Smith was practicing it, and I believe that after this Address was published Joseph started “marrying” only single women.

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Joseph Smith himself married Windsor and Sylvia Lyon by the “Priesthood” in 1838, yet in contradiction to his own First Presidency Address four years later, he “married” Sylvia for time and all eternity in February, 1843? (This date according to Hales, I believe it was most likely a year earlier, but still wouldn’t matter since what Smith did prior to this Address was still adultery). He would have also continued to contradict his own First Presidency Address in marrying Ruth Vose Sayers during the same month.[8] 

I searched through all of Hales’ three Books on polygamy but could find no reference at all to this letter. A search of his website also didn’t turn anything up. I could have missed it on his website, (I really don’t think so) but this is a crucial First Presidency Address that should be included in any serious study on polygamy. Yet Hales claims that,

Hence, three documents support a physical separation or effectual divorce between Windsor and Sylvia, with two of them placing it after his excommunication.[9]

No, they don’t. And what right did Sylvia have to “effectually” divorce Windsor when Joseph’s First Presidency Message specifically states that she was absolutely forbidden to do so? By what right then, did Joseph have to “marry” her? The First Presidency Message expressly states,

…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 obliged to cut them off from the church.[10]

So by Joseph’s own First Presidency Message, he was living in adultery with any woman that he “married”, because he didn’t have the authority to break up their marriage or their family when they weren’t legally divorced. There are no legal divorces in either of these cases, only Hales’ speculations. On his website, Hales writes,

Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: “Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.” Todd Compton agreed, “Joseph regarded marriages performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid, just as he regarded baptisms performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid.”[11]

Joseph Smith’s Address to the Church specifically forbids religious law to trump legal proceedings. And the Lyon marriage was performed with priesthood authority. They were married by Joseph Smith himself! The quotes Hales employs are about marriages performed by non-Mormons, so why they are being applied here is baffling. Regardless, this is all Hales’ speculation, since he cannot point to any policy in Nauvoo where it was stated that such marriages were considered invalid.  Everything official says the opposite. (See also 1835 Doctrine and Covenants) Smith wrote in the above First Presidency Proclamation in 1842 which nullifies this whole argument by Hales:

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 … [12]

This slams the door on Hales’ speculations.[13] Joseph meant secular law. Hales’ argument that speaks of “effectual” divorces has no merit here. Joseph was living in adultery by his own words. Smith claims above that it wasn’t his right to go beyond the law. This is why it is so important for Hales to promote his invented “non sexual eternity only sealings”, but he cannot in the case of Sylvia Lyon because she admitted to having sex with Smith. Joseph here, is flat out caught in an adulterous relationship by his own words. There is no other interpretation of this. There is no loophole. It is what it is and all the apologetics in the world cannot change it.

Sylvia Sessions Bio informationHales claims that there is evidence that there were non sexual, eternity only “sealings” because of some notes written by Andrew Jenson in the 1880’s:

He’s interviewing one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. We don’t know which one, and this is occurring in early 1887. He is interviewing this wife and it’s probably Eliza Snow, but we don’t know. “While the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers,” Mr. Sayers is the legal husband of Ruth Vose Sayers, one of Joseph’s plural wives, “the latter [Mr. Sayers], not attaching much importance to the theory of a future life, insisted that his wife, Ruth, should be sealed to the prophet for eternity, that he himself should only claim her in this life. She was accordingly sealed to the prophet in Emma Smith’s presence, and thus became numbered among the Prophets plural wives.”[14]

First, Hales doesn’t know where this information came from. It could be hearsay. It could be made up for all we know. But there is something that throws doubt on this account. This statement claims that Emma Smith was present at the sealing of Ruth Vose Sayers in February, 1843. This is even more confusing when one reads the affidavit that Ruth Vose signed in 1869:

Be it remembered that on this first day of May, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me, Elias Smith, Probate Judge for Said County, Ruth Vose Sayers who was by me Sworn in due form of law and upon her oath Saith that on [blank] day of February 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 Hyrum Smith, Presiding Patriarch of Said Church, according to the laws of the Same, regulating Marriage; in the presence of.[15]

Ruth Vose Sayers Affidavit

Why is there no mention of Emma Smith? Because there is good evidence that Emma Smith never participated in any of her husband’s “marriages”. So the evidence for a “non sexual eternity only sealing” that Hales touts here, is more than likely a mistaken remembrance or garbled hearsay. Hyrum Smith and Emma Smith both participating in a plural marriage together? Where do we find any contemporary evidence for that in February, 1843. Hyrum tried to convince Emma of the validity of the polygamy “revelation” in July, 1843 and admitted defeat to his brother. If she had already participated in a “marriage” with Hyrum in February, why would he be so concerned with convincing her in July?

Sayers claims she was sealed by Hyrum Smith, but he didn’t accept polygamy until months later. So how can we trust Hales interpretation of the evidence as credible? Even though Eliza R. Snow knew many of those women very well and more than likely traded information with them about their marriages; even Hales cannot claim that Jenson got the information from her. Also, Hales will use this information from an anonymous source, but then will claim that Sylvia Sessions daughter Josephine (whose mother Sylvia was friends with Eliza Snow) couldn’t have known the time frame of Eliza’s own marriage before it was published in the 1880’s.[16]  There are other problems with Jenson’s notes that I will address later in this Article.

And notice the language of the affidavit. It says, “She was married or sealed to Joseph Smith…” And what did that entail? Lorenzo Snow answered that in his Temple Lot testimony:

229. Q. Now you have stated that Joseph Smith took your sister for a wife when he had a wife already?
A. Yes sir.
230. Q. Prior to the giving of this revelation?
A. Yes sir.
231. Q. Well what kind of a position did it put your sister and Joseph Smith in?
A. It put them in a first rate, splendid position for time and eternity.
232. Q. Was not that act simply sealing instead of marriage?
233. Q. Sealing for eternity, and marriage, are they all one and the same thing?
A. Well it is getting the female with the male the same as it is in the marriage ceremony.[17]

That is why these affidavits say “married or sealed”. It was the same thing. A marriage for time and eternity. Malissa Lott Willes also testified that “marriage” and “sealing” were the same, meaning “for time and all eternity,” and she did not know of any of those “marriages” that were different.

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, "Marriage and Sealing" the same

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, “Marriage and Sealing” the same

Hales, in an effort to give credence for 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 [two] 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. In light of these observations, the best conclusion seems to be that the year of the sealing is entirely unsubstantiated in these documents.[18]

II. The Affidavit Books Speculation

There is more ground to cover here readers, which I will get to in due time. But first I would like to address Hales’ claims about the Affidavit Books. I won’t go into a history of the Affidavit Books, that will be in a forthcoming article that I’ll publish at a later time.[19]

When I first heard of these Affidavit Books, my first thought was where can I see them? Fortunately, someone put them all on archive.org, so they are easy now to access and study and this is crucial to understanding and (in this case), addressing Hales’ claim here.

One thing that immediately becomes evident when one reads what Hales wrote is his forceful language. He writes,

  • It was in fact the primary of the two
  • It is a date with at least as much validity as the date…in book 1
  • the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a copyist error

There is good evidence to challenge all of Hales’ assumptions here. And that is where having copies of the Affidavit Books comes in handy. I feel that Mr. Hales has made some critical mistakes from not studying the Affidavit Books more closely. His conclusions therefore, are made from a faulty analysis of the evidence, which I present below.

First, let’s take a look at the covers of all the Affidavit Books. These are in order of their current designation (1-4) from left to right:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers

To get an idea of what is in these Affidavit Books, I present the following graphic from the folks at Mormon Bookshelf:

Affidavits on Celestial Marriage List

Mormon Bookshelf Graphic, which may be found here.

The information in Affidavit Books 1 & 4 is virtually identical, as are Affidavit Books 2 & 3. Hales is almost correct that there are two additional unfinished affidavits in Book 4. There is actually only one; the other was started and crossed out because of a copy error. In looking at these books, it is obvious that they are out of order. Books 3 and 4 should be reversed:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers (Proper Order)

The reason why is that Books 1 & 2 are the originals (one set), and Books 3 & 4 are the copies (another set). You have Book 1 with the label and Book 2 without one. This was how they made the copies, The first copy (Book 4, actually 3) with a label, and the second (Book 3, actually 4) without one. They even use the same types of books for  the first and second copies.

Now, how do we know which are the copies? There is evidence in the Books! First, notice what the folks at Mormon Bookshelf say in a comment about the Bathsheba Smith Affidavit. They tell us:

Book 4 was located in the Church Historian’s Office along with book 3, whereas Joseph F. Smith kept Books 1 and 2 in his personal possession.[20]

Why would he do that? Because they were the original copies, and were made first:

Affidavit Books 1-4 First Page

Joseph F. Smith’s name is embossed in Books 1 & 2 along with the identifiers, “Du Book No. 1” and “Du Book No. 2”. Smith’s name is also embossed on the last page of Books 1 & 2. Books 3 & 4 (the copies) do not have this. The label on the front of each of the first books (Books 1 & 4) identifies them as the First Affidavit Books of each set. That is why Books 3 & 4 should be reversed. The chronological order of the affidavits also bears this out.

Hales writes,

At some point since 1869, an unidentified person penciled in identifying marks in two of the books, namely Book 1 and Book 2. It is unclear why those numbers were assigned specifically to those two books.[21]

Actually, it is very clear why those numbers were assigned to those Books, because they were designated this way when they were donated to the Church Historians Office. Why would this be “unclear”? The originals though, were initially kept by Smith, and there is other evidence that determines that this is what happened. (See Note 21 for more on this, and of course below for the additional evidence).

Now that we have the order correct, and which books are probably the originals and the copies, is there further evidence to support that Books 3 & 4 were copies of Books 1 & 2? Yes.

First there are the Joseph Noble affidavits that are the first to appear in Books 1 & 4 (actually 3). First, it is important to note that all of these Books have the first affidavit appearing on page 3 except for Book 4 (actually 3). Why? Because of a copy error. This is one of the affidavits that Hales mentions as “unfinished”, but it really isn’t. Here is what they look like:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 1& 4, pg. 3

You will notice that the copy on the right was scrapped because whoever (I believe this was Robert L. Campbell) was copying the affidavit from Book 1 wrote the wrong name in the affidavit. It should have been James Jack, but he wrote “Elias Smith, Probate Judge”. James Jack was a Notary Public, not a Probate Judge. So what did Joseph Fielding Smith do? He copied the Noble affidavit in Book 4 (actually 3) on to page 1:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 4, pg. 1

This is the only Book where an affidavit appears on page 1. In all the other Books, the affidavits start on page 3. If this were the first book, then all of the others should follow the same pattern and start on page 1. But they don’t. All the rest start on page 3.

It is unclear why Smith wanted to leave the first two pages blank, perhaps he was going to put the contents there, but opted for the back of the Books because there were so many affidavits they would not have had enough room to list the contents on just two pages.

This explains the first of Hales’ affidavits. Hales misses this obvious mistake and claims:

The affidavit reads: “Be it remembered that on this twenty-sixth day of June, A. D. 1869, personally appeared before me Elias Smith, Probate Judge for said county,” and has one big “X” crossed through the entirety. Smith, Affidavit Books, 4:3. There is no hint regarding for whom the document was to be written or the information it was going to contain.[22]

I disagree. It is obvious what happened if one simply looks at the entry. It was written on page 3 (same as the Noble affidavit from Book 1), it has the same date as the Noble affidavit, (June 26, 1869), and the reason it was crossed out: the wrong name.Robert L. Campbell, Handwriting Comparison

Joseph F. Smith apparently briefly made use of Robert L. Campbell (a well known scribe that worked on the Manuscript History of the Church) as a copyist. Two affidavits at the end of Book 1 are in his handwriting. He was obviously tasked to make a copy of Book 1, and he began it on page 3 (following the pattern in Book 1) but then made the mistake which forced him to abandon copying that affidavit. He then continued on with his copying until page 21 (completing ten more affidavits) before he stopped. At that point Joseph F. Smith resumed the copying, and placed the Noble affidavit on page 1, and then resumed copying the rest of the affidavits where Campbell left off.Joseph F. Smith Handwriting Comparison Affidavit Book Titles

Smith then later made the Titles for Books 1 & 4, as they are also in his handwriting. (I will have more on this in a future article).

Mormon Bookshelf has also noted that the unfinished affidavit is “Dated June 6th, 1869”, but this is an error, it is dated the 26 of June, the same as the Noble affidavit.

But what about the second, the Vienna Jaques affidavit? I believe it was originally in Affidavit Book 1, but was torn out. Here is the page between the Affidavits of Charles C. Rich (Apostle) and John Pack where the incomplete Jaques affidavit appears in Book 4 (actually Book 3), taken from from Book 1:

Vienna Jaques, Book 1, Torn PageNotice that there is a page torn out of the Book. This likely accounts for why there is no unfinished Vienna Jaques Affidavit in Book 1. What is curious is that the page numbers don’t reflect that this was done after the next affidavit was written into the book. It (the page tearing) was probably done before. Smith copied the unfinished Jaques affidavit at the same time into Book 4 (actually 3) that was written in Book 1, and then before he took the next affidavit (John Pack) someone (probably Smith) ripped out the Jaques affidavit in Book 1, and then it was only crossed it out in Book 4 (actually 3).

The cross out is in different ink, so this supports that it was probably done at a later time. The Rich affidavit was taken on the 12th of July, the Jaques affidavit has a date of the 20th of July, and the Pack affidavit the 22nd of July. So both affidavits were likely written in the two Books on the 20th of July, and then on the 22nd when Smith was numbering the pages for the next affidavit (John Pack) he ripped it (Jaques Affidavit) out of Book 1, but it was only crossed out of Book 4 (actually 3)–if they were taken chronologically at this time–which is strengthened by the progressive dates.

Right after these affidavits appears the Sylvia Sessions affidavit which is also not dated, unsigned and left as it is. So why rip out and cross out the Jaques affidavit and not the Sessions affidavit? Could Smith have been more confident in the 1842 marriage date? Perhaps.

So Hales’ conjecture that there are two extra affidavits in Book 4 (actually 3) is mistaken. There is though, an extra affidavit in Book 2 that is not found in Book 3 (actually 4), the affidavit of Bathsheba W. Smith.  So, to use Hales argument, this helps to strengthen the case that Books 1 & 2 are the originals, right?

Is there other evidence? Yes, I believe so, and it is in the affidavit of Malissa Willes. Notice the year of her marriage in both affidavits (Book 1 on the left and Book 4 (actually 3) on the right:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 & 4In Book 1 it is obvious that it was first written “1842” but corrected to read “1843”:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 Year 1843

But in Book 4 (actually 3) we find an 1842 with a question mark!

Malissa Willes, Book 4 Year 1842

It seems then, that when Smith wrote the affidavit he didn’t know what the date was, because it could have been either one. But how could this happen if Malissa signed them both? I had to think about that. Then I remembered the Vienna Jaques affidavit. Notice that it has the name and no dates:

Vienna Jaques, Book 4, pg. 56, Unfinished

Here is the signed affidavit of Mary Kimball with incomplete dates:

Mary Ellen Kimball

It could easily be that Malissa signed the copies before the dates were put in. She obviously was not present when Smith put the date in for the copy, or she would have corrected the dates as was done with the first affidavit in Book 1.

I think I can confidently state that Book 1 and 2 are the “primary” Volumes, and that it is far more likely (considering the mistake made with the Malissa Lott affidavit) that in the case of Sylvia Lyons the first date “1842” was the original year put on the affidavit and that the “1843” is most likely a copyist error.

III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation

Most of the Affidavits found in these Books 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 I do have problems with Hales interpretation of the evidence, even this evidence.  If Hales had just taken a closer look at both of the Sylvia Lyon affidavits I believe he would have seen a few things which indicate that the affidavit in Book 4 was probably written after the affidavit in Book 1.

sylvia lyon, comparison

If you study the two affidavits of Sylvia Sessions, you will notice that the affidavit with the 1843 date was rewritten without the last sentence in the middle of the page. And not only that, but that they rearranged the wording in the affidavit that appears in Book 4 (Actually 3).

Book 1:

on the eighth day of February, A.D. 1842, in the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock State of Illinois she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith by [   ] in the presence of (Date, Place, Person)

Book 4 (actually 3):

on the eighth day of February A. D. 1843 she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith, in the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, by (Date, Person, Place) in the presence of

These affidavits of others who were “sealed or married” to Joseph Smith all have the same order that appears in Book 1: Date, Place, Person:

Zina Huntington Young, Presenda Huntington Kimball, Ruth Vose Sayers, Emily Partridge Young, Marinda Nancy Hyde, Rhoda Richards, Malissa Lott Willes, Eliza R. Snow, Desdemona Fullmer, Sarah Ann Kimball, Lucy Walker, Elvira A. C. Holmes, (also has “at Heber C. Kimball’s house), Eliza Partridge, Martha McBride.

All of these affidavits have the same format as the first (1842) affidavit of Sylvia Sessions, except for the one with the 1843 date. For some reason, they changed that order and the date of the second affidavit. How could this be the original, when it doesn’t follow the format of every other affidavit cited above (all the other affidavits of Joseph’s “marriages”)? This indicates to me that the copy with the 1843 date is an anomaly, and therefore most likely a copy.  Even Eliza Partridge’s loose Affidavits have the same format as the rest.

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 like this affidavit of Mary Ann Young:MS 3423_5_1_29s Mary Ann Young p. 46

Notice date, place, person format. As Hales notes, the Sessions Affidavits are also unsigned so we don’t know where the dates came from. All anyone can do is speculate about this. My argument here, is that there is evidence for the the 1842 date being written first, that is all. Yet, for some, Brian Hales’ unfounded speculations are enough to doubt the evidence that supports the 1842 date, as in the case of Gregory L. Smith:

I initially believed that sexual polyandry best explained the historical data. The “poster child” for this perspective was Sylvia Sessions Lyon, whose sealing to Joseph in 1842 seemed to clearly precede her separation from her civil husband. Since Sylvia’s daughter is the best candidate for a child conceived by Joseph in plurality, this marriage has consequently been treated as the paradigmatic case for polyandry. If one such marriage included marital intimacy, ran the argument, it was reasonable to presume that the others either did or could have.

This reasoning struck me as sound, and for several years I accepted a model of full sexual polyandry. Over time, however, as I puzzled over the other data, I began (with, I confess, some reluctance) to wonder if non-conjugal relationships weren’t a much better explanation for the other spotty data. I hesitated to draw that conclusion, however, because of the Sylvia Lyon case. Its cogency seemed sufficient to outweigh my other niggling suspicions.

Hales’ and Don Bradley’s discovery of a second affidavit for Sylvia altered the calculus considerably. Neither affidavit was signed, but crucially the newly discovered document dates their marriage to 1843 — one year later. Significantly, nothing about the documents allows us to privilege one affidavit over the other, and so the later date must be regarded as at least as plausible as the earlier one (TaBU, 71–73).

This might seem a small difference of interest only to pedants, but in context it can be revolutionary. Suddenly, Sylvia’s marriage could no longer be regarded as paradigmatic, since it is entirely possible that her sexual relationship with Joseph followed her separation/divorce from her husband. Thus, Hales and Bradley succeeded in pushing me (with some foot dragging) to favor a non-sexual polyandrous model, which seemed to explain other data points more parsimoniously. Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction [23]

Yet there is evidence that one was probably written before the other. I have shared that above. Remember, the Malissa Lott affidavit had the date corrected in the first affidavit book, but it was not corrected in the second. It only had a question mark. Also, someone, (possibly Joseph F. Smith) thought the affidavit for Vienna Jaques was so irrelevant that it was torn out of the book. The same was not done with the Sylvia Sessions affidavits. This may indicate that Joseph F. Smith had confidence in the date given in the first affidavit, which was 1842.

It is also curious to me that Gregory Smith would be so easily swayed by Hales’ speculations (despite his claim of “foot dragging’). Smith still had sex with Sylvia Sessions while she was legally married to Windsor according to Hales (based on Josephine’s affidavit). It seems as if Gregory Smith is accepting Hales’ argument that they were separated, (an argument mostly based on his being disfellowshipped and one anonymous statement that claims that he was no longer her husband); but that wouldn’t matter according to an 1842 Address by Joseph Smith himself. He could only “marry” Sylvia if she obtained a legal divorce from Windsor (for committing evil in the marriage), something there is absolutely no evidence there was or that she ever did. This means that Joseph Smith and Sylvia were committing adultery.

But Hales isn’t finished with his speculations. He writes,

A second observation also seems to undermine the day and month listed in the affidavits. Both documents list February 8 (either 1842 or 1843), which is also the birth date of Josephine Lyon (1844) and Windsor Lyon (1809). It is possible that Joseph and Sylvia were sealed on Windsor’ birthday, exactly one or two years prior to Josephine’s birth, but the likelihood is small. Accordingly, a rigid insistence on a February 8 sealing date of either year seems unjustified.[24]

How does this “undermine” anything? It is simply Hales’ speculation. He has no idea of the amount of likelihood that Sylvia and Smith would be or not be sealed on Windsor Lyon’s birthday. What are the odds of Josephine having the same birth date as Windsor? Coincidence is coincidence. This doesn’t undermine anything. And it makes perfect sense that Sylvia would have been “married” to Joseph Smith just prior to her mother, since this was a pattern that Joseph Smith followed with women who were closely related, like sisters. Also, what if Windsor was a willing participant in the polyandry? And just who is making a “rigid insistence” on the February 8th date? Certainly I’m not doing so, but I’m not ruling it out based on Hales’ speculations, either.

Hales then writes,

A third observation is that an unsigned affidavit is only slightly better than no affidavit at all. It may or may not reflect genuine beliefs of the scribe, and since it is unsigned, its relationship to the beliefs of the intended signatory are entirely unknown. Taken together, it appears that the affidavits provide little or no reliable information regarding the day or year of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session’s sealing ceremony.[25]

As I have noted above, if this affidavit was of so little use, why then did Joseph F. Smith not tear it out of the book as he did the Jaques affidavit? I do agree though, that we don’t know the relationship of this affidavit with Sylvia Sessions. This is a valid observation by Hales. But we can use it in connection with other evidence, something that Hales doesn’t want us to do, because he wants the 1843 affidavit to be the correct one.

What we do have is an unsigned affidavit that provides us with an 1842 date; and a second that has a different date that very likely is a copy error. This is not an “inaccurate assumption”, but a valid one based on the evidence I’ve presented here.

All of the other objections that Hales makes are based on faulty observations and speculations based on those faulty observations. Hales motive here is obvious. If he can create doubt about the 1842 date, then he can try and mitigate the other evidence that points towards an 1842 marriage, for he writes,

Without the assistance of the affidavit books, other sources must be consulted to discover the sealing date of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session.[26]

This should be a rule that is followed with all the affidavits. All of them should be questioned if they do not have credible corroboration. Hales then presents what he feels is his “trump card”, the notes of Andrew Jenson that were rediscovered by Don Bradley:

In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage, Andrew Jenson penned: “Sylvia Sessions . . . became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons. When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”[27]

Hales writes in his footnote,

Biographical information on Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, undated sheet in Andrew Jenson Collection, Church History Library.[28]

Historian Andrew Jenson

Historian Andrew Jenson

Hales doesn’t bother to explain this document at all here. Elsewhere, he writes,

In 1886 and 1887, Andrew Jenson interviewed several of Joseph Smith plural wives and other Nauvoo polygamists. His handwritten notes refer to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” He also penned:

Sessions, Sylvia Porter, wife of Winsor [sic] Palmer Lyon, was bon July 31, 1818, in Bethel, Oxford Co, Maine, the daughter of [blank] Sessions. sister of Perrigrine Sessions Became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.[29]

First, there is no indication that Jenson had an “interview” with Sylvia Sessions or anyone that knew much about Sylvia Lyon. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. So how is it more credible than any other anonymous late recollection? It doesn’t even have the name of Sylvia’s mother, which Sylvia would have known, and whom Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Sarah Whitney, Zina Huntington, and most others (of his wives) assuredly knew. Patty Sessions was well known by almost all of Smith’s wives. Many of them knew Sylvia well, and were very close to her mother as indicated by her diary. These notes by Jenson are all but useless as corroborating evidence of anything, let alone being a primary document that gives us accurate information. Of course they would later assume that Sylvia was “married” to Joseph when he was “out of the church”. This makes it easier for them to accept the marriage as something other than polyandry.

Hales then writes,

A second corroboration is found in a 1915 statement from Josephine. She remembered her mother also “told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” Accordingly, these two documents place the sealing after Windsor’s excommunication.[30]

Hales doesn’t quote the relevant portion of the letter in full here. It reads,

She [Sylvia Sessions] then told me [Josephine Fisher] that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of  fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.[31]

Instead of putting the quotes together as they were written, Hales separates them and writes later in the article,

Sylvia also reportedly stated “that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.” Zina was sealed to Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841, and Eliza on June 29, 1842, thus supporting an 1842 date. However, it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina because she knew Josephine would be familiar with those two women, rather than to specifically define the month of her sealing.[32]

Hales then goes into super speculation mode by claiming that “it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina”. Likely? How so? Where does he get this from? There is no comparison being done here. Sylvia is stating to Josephine that ‘I (Sylvia) was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina and Eliza were.’ Where is the supposed comparison? She isn’t comparing anything. Josephine isn’t commenting or comparing what she herself knew, she is only reporting what she remembered her mother telling her at that time.

This conversation had taken place almost 23 years earlier. Of course she is not expected to get the exact language correct. For all we know, Sylvia could have told Josephine the date in addition to the other information but she didn’t remember it. If Josephine had read the biographies in Jenson’s histories, wouldn’t she remember the dates of their “marriages”? (See, I can speculate too).

But she doesn’t go beyond “about the same time that Zina…and Eliza…were…sealed.” This has the ring of an authentic recollection, not embellished with things she might have read somewhere. To say that Sylvia simply used names that she thought might be “familiar” to Josephine is ridiculous, because Joseph only practiced polygamy for a few years in Nauvoo and there were lots of other well known wives of Joseph, like Helen Mar Kimball, Emily Partridge, etc. who actually were “married” to Joseph in 1843.

In fact, Sylvia and Eliza were friends and Eliza even wrote poetry for Sylvia. Patty Sessions wrote in 1847 (at which time Sylvia was visiting her mother):

“E. R Snow has composed some poetry for Sylvia I will write it here in my book…”[33]

This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

Regardless, speculation is not needed because we have what she said, that it was during the time of her husband’s disfellowshipment and the marriages of those two women which would make it in 1842. If Sylvia did not remember the exact year at that time, it is far more likely that she narrowed it down to events that she did remember, when (as she told her daughter) her husband was out of the church (took place in 1842) and when Zina and Eliza were married (late 1841, 1842). Both of these statements must be taken together, that is the context of them. Breaking them up serves no purpose except to further Hales own speculations.

Hales’ claim that Josephine didn’t know when Eliza was married until she later read it has no basis at all in fact. It is simply more speculation on Hales part. Hales also doesn’t consider that Patty Sessions knew Eliza and Zina very well, and that Sylvia could easily have learned of when they were married from her mother (if she didn’t learn it from them herself) who mentions visiting with both women in her diary numerous times and writing frequent letters to her daughter. For example, in 1847 Sylvia’s mother wrote,

“I had a new years party with Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs &c were here enjoyed myself well…”[34]

Hales would have us think that this mother and daughter never spoke to each other about polygamy and Josephine would have to learn about the marriages from reading them in publications decades later. But this is the only way that he can make his speculations fit his narrative. How is it that Hales’ speculations are the “likely” ones, time after time? Is it really more likely that Josephine learned about those “marriages” from reading them in the Historical Journal, or learning them from Sylvia and her mother’s friends directly? Is this the only time that Sylvia and Josephine spoke about polygamy? About when she was “married” to Joseph Smith? About when her friends were “married” to Joseph Smith? Hales claims that,

Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later.[35]

This is absolutely false. For example, in 1879 the Deseret Evening News published many of the Affidavits that Joseph F. Smith had collected about a decade before. This was a big story back then, for it coincided with the death of Emma Smith. To claim that “99 percent of all Church members in 1882” were “unaware of the chronology” of those “marriages” as well as Jenson being the first to publish about the dates is extremely disingenuous of Hales. The sons of Joseph Smith visited Utah during the 1860’s and because of their preaching almost 3000 converts were made by them. Polygamy was a subject they spoke about often, and the dated affidavits had been around for a decade by then.

Unfortunately for Hales, Sylvia Sessions was not part of those that were “unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo”. The Woman’s Exponent also published many articles on Joseph’s wives long before Andrew Jenson did. Hales speculations here seem almost desperate.

Deseret Evening News, October 22, 1879 giving chronology of many of Smith's "marriages".

Deseret News, October 22, 1879, p. 12, giving chronology of many of Smith’s “marriages”.

Joseph the Seer's Plural Marriages, DEN, 13

Deseret News, Oct. 22, 1879, pg. 13

Hales then presents a very late recollection and when I read this I was really shocked that he would use this to try and bolster his argument. To try and prove that there was a separation, he quotes from a letter written in 1945 by one of Josephine’s sons, Irvin F. Fisher. Hales writes,

Windsor had a falling out with Nauvoo Stake President William Marks over a financial negotiation in the fall of 1842. In the end, Windsor sued Marks in the civil courts, and Marks in response brought Windsor up for a Church court. On November 19, 1842, Windsor was cut off. He subsequently “left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo, who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.”[36]

If one reads the entire letter written by Irvin F. Fisher, one understands how misleading that Hales is being in this instance. Fisher writes,

Dear Brother [Anson] Bowen [Call]:

Concerning the questions you ask concerning my mother and grandmother, I must admit that I don’t know as much as I should really like to know. But the following are the facts as known to me:

My mother’s mother was Sylvia Porter Sessions – younger sister of Perrigrin Sessions and the wife of Winsor Palmer Lyon, who died in Iowa City in 1849, where he had been residing for the past 5 or 6 or 7 years before his death. He and his wife were living in Nauvoo during the early years of that city. Their first 4 children were born there – I think. The first three died there – young. The eldest – Myriano – [Marian S.] died there and her funeral is mentioned in Vol. 4 of the Church history by B. H. Roberts (about page 454 I think.) It says there that the service was held across the road from the temple (then building) in a bowery, on Sunday March 20, 1842; and that the Prophet Joseph was the speaker. My mother – Josephine – their fourth child was born in Nauvoo Feb. 8, 1844, and the Prophet was martyred in June of that year, as you know. However, sometime previous to my mother’s birth, Bro. Winsor P. Lyon (along with many others) became out of harmony with the Prophet and Church leaders, and he left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo (who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.[)] Now, it must have been at this time that she was sealed to the Prophet (thinking, no doubt, that her husband had apostatised [sic] from the church for good.)

For at least two good reasons, I feel sure she was sealed to the Prophet sometime during this period (from 42 to 44).[37]

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

First, there is no evidence that Windsor Lyon ever left Nauvoo before the general exodus in 1846-7, but there is plenty of evidence that he did not. He did not apostatize; he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing Marks over a debt in a secular court. He was not “out of harmony” with the Prophet, he stayed Joseph’s friend and loaned him money and supported him in other endeavors. He was visited by Willard Richards in his home with Sylvia in 1844. This is obviously a garbled account about Windsor Lyon, made without first hand knowledge of any specific facts of what really happened between Windsor and Sylvia, which was more than likely gleaned from reading inaccurate accounts like those found in the Historical Record. (Fisher even spells the name of the Lyon’s daughter Marian wrong). The Lyons moved to Iowa together, in the summer of 1846, (therefore only living there for three years) and she gave birth to two of his children before Windsor died in 1849. Sylvia went with him voluntarily, and Windsor was a member of the Church when they moved there. Fisher is simply wrong about many crucial events in their lives. For Hales to use this as evidence that they separated in 1842 (implying that he apostatized and went to Iowa City that year) is extremely disingenuous.

IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation

Gregory L. Smith made this comment (above) which I think is worth addressing here:

Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction.

Hales argument from his FAIRMORMON presentation is this:

…in 1892, the RLDS Church claimed to be the successor to Joseph Smith’s true church and sued the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) to gain possession of the Independence, Missouri temple site. This is the stone church of the RLDS church and the temple lot. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

When you go through, there were nine of Joseph Smith’s plural wives still alive in 1892. Three had been polyandrous wives. The first wife that they called was not a polyandrous wife. It was Melissa Lott who lived 30 miles south in Lehi. She testified of carnal intercourse with Joseph. The second plural wife called was Emily Partridge who lived in Salt Lake City. She was not a polyandrous wife, and she too testified of having sexual relations with Joseph. The RLDS attorneys were very direct. If you read it, it’s remarkable testimony.

What’s interesting is that after this, they skipped all three of the polyandrous wives. Yet they were very available. Zina Huntington was the church’s general Relief Society president. She lived blocks away from where the depositions were being taken in Salt Lake. They also skipped Patty Bartlett, but she was 97. They also skipped Mary Elizabeth Rollins, who lived 38 miles north in Ogden. She was well-known to the brethren. These women were available, if they had wanted to call them.

Instead, they called Lucy Walker who lived 82 miles north in Logan. She also testified of sexual relations with Joseph. Just as a sidebar, Helen Mar Kimball was not called even though she lived in Salt Lake City, had written two books defending plural marriage, and would have been an excellent witness. If you read her diary, which was transcribed by Todd Compton, she knew that these people were in town. Her daughter went to hear them speak the Sunday night before the depositions were taken. She was totally available. They didn’t call Helen Mar Kimball to testify of her sexual relations as a plural wife of Joseph Smith. She was only 14 when she was sealed to Joseph and it’s still debated whether there was conjugality in that union. This is strong evidence that it was not.[38]

Hales also argues (as quoted above):

The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

Where is he getting this from? First of all, what the Church of Christ wanted to prove was that the Hedrickites and the Utah Church (“the power behind the throne” as the judge called them), had a legitimate claim to the property because they were doctrinally the same church. Hales wants us to believe that the testimony of a few of Smith’s wives about their having sex with Smith would sway the case or was of paramount importance. If one only reads the judge’s ruling in the case, one can see that it made not a bit of difference. It in fact worked against them. Judge Phillips in his ruling stated:

It is charged by the Respondents, as an echo of the Utah Church, that Joseph Smith, “the Martyr,” secretly taught and practiced polygamy; and the Utah contingent furnishes the evidence, and two of the women, to prove this fact. It perhaps would be uncharitable to say of these women that they have borne false testimony as to their connection with Joseph Smith; but, in view of all the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged intercourse, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that at most they were but sports in “nest hiding.” In view of the contention of the Salt Lake party, that polygamy obtained at Nauvoo as early as 1841, it must be a little embarrassing to President Woodruff of that organization when he is confronted, as he was in the evidence in this case, with a published card in the church organ at Nauvoo in October, 1843, certifying that he knew of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that the “secret wife system,” charged against the church, was a creature of invention by one Doctor Bennett, and that they knew of no such society. That certificate was signed by the leading members of the church, including John Taylor the former President of the Utah Church. And a similar certificate was published by the Ladies’ Relief Society of the same place, signed by Emma Smith, the wife of Jospeh Smith, and Phoebe Woodruff, wife of the present President Woodruff. No such marriage ever occurred under the rules of the church, and no offspring came from the imputed illicit intercourse, although Joseph Smith was in the full vigor of young manhood, and his wife Emma, was giving birth to healthy children in regular order, and was enciente at the time of Joseph’s death.Judge Phillips Temple Lot Decision p. 42-43.

But if it were conceded that Joseph Smith, and Hyrum, his brother, did secretly practice concubinage, is the church to be charged with those liaisons, and the doctrine of polygamy to be predicated thereon of the church? If so, I suspect the doctrine of polygamy might be imputed to many of the Gentile churches. Certainly it was never promulgated, taught, nor recognized, as a doctrine of the church prior to the assumption of Brigham Young.[39]

Joseph Smith obfuscated his participation in polygamy all too well. He had covered his tracks and no amount of women admitting to sexual intercourse with him was enough to sway the judge in this case. The way to prove that they were the rightful successors was doctrinally. In other words proving that polygamy was a valid doctrine, taught and practiced by Joseph Smith and the Church. But the secrecy with which Smith engaged in it, worked against him. The judge actually thought that what Smith and  the others did was “nest hiding”, or illicit intercourse. (Henry Ward Beecher) Secrecy and sex doesn’t prove a marriage or a doctrine. Legality and openness does, either secular or religious; and everything Joseph said in public worked against that as did the Article on Marriage, statements in the Times and Seasons, and the Book of Mormon verses that call polygamy an abomination.

Why were his “wives” who testified insulted and shocked at the line of questioning? They thought they would only have to testify that they were Joseph’s wives. They were unprepared for what they had to go through. To say that the Church wanted to prove sexuality in the marriages but not tell the women what the focus of their testimony was to be (sex in the marriages), shows that this was not the focus of their being called. Emily Partridge, after her testimony wrote,

23rd [March, 1892] – I have not hardly got over the ————— I underwent on the witness stand. It has been on me night and day ever since. I can now think of a great many things that seemingly might have been better answers. And I have been asked, why did you not say things and why didn’t you say that. Well, I said there is no use asking these questions now. If I could have thought of them I might have answered them, but as I did not I had to say what came into my mind. I asked God to assist me and if I did not do as well as I might, I did as well as I could.[40]

She answered many questions with details about her sexual unions with Joseph Smith. Why then, would she be bothered about her testimony if that was all she was there for?

As for the living polyandrous wives testifying, there is only speculation about why they did not. Why didn’t Helen Kimball make an affidavit in 1869? Almost everyone else did, but she didn’t. Was that also because she supposedly didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? Why would that matter in 1869 when they could have easily explained in the affidavit that it was only a “marriage” for eternity and not for time? Notice that not one of those affidavits specifically states any of the “marriages” were eternity only sealings. Why?

Then we have the question of why Helen didn’t testify at the Temple Lot Trial. She was a staunch advocate of polygamy (as Hales notes). Hales would have us believe it was because she didn’t have sex with Smith, so it wasn’t worth her time to do so or would “play right into the ReOrganization’s hands” if it came out that she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith. But if one reads Helen’s diary it is pretty obvious why she didn’t testify:

Mon. 7th. [March, 1892] Another lovely day—thought I’d go out, but Dr Russel called & gave me a shake with his little battery, & a powder—Antikamnia (opposed to pain). He is much improved in health Gen received a letter from Ed, & a check for $45.00—Phebe Kimball & Mary Whitney called— they had been to Rachel Simmons. Gen gone to town—A man called to see if I wanted my wood cut up—I let him work this afternoon, charges 20 cts an hour—I wrote a letter to Lucy W. Kimball.[41]

Helen Mar Kimball

Helen Mar Kimball

Tues. 8th. Lovely day—Man is sawing wood. I had a touch of deathly spells this forenoon—Gen went downtown afternoon to do some trading—[42]

Wed. 9th…I’d been afflicted all night & the forenoon with deathly spells & felt sick & sad.—had a few after noon— laid down at Lol’s—Hent & baby came up while I was gone & Mame Williams came to see Gen.[43]

Sun. 13th. Breakfast disagreed with me—sick headache all day, & a light chill afternoon—Hent, Lill and children came early & spent the day. This is Gen’s 32nd birthday & she’s feeling real poorly—but we were glad the girls came. George called to see them ^& children^ home. Orson called this morn, to tell me of two brethren who’d come from Jackson County Missouri ^& were to be at the evening meeting^ they had come here to find out whether or no the testimony of Jossephites was true—they being  engaged in the lawsuit with the Smiths, over the land where the Temple is to be built, & believing this to be the true church—had prayed to be led by the spirit to know which was right. Gen went to the meeting—It rained so I could—not if I’d been able. She enjoyed the remarks of Brother Hall who spoke to them after being introduced by Orson—with Bro Hedric the son of the one who organised that little community called “Hedricites”[44]

Mon. 14th. …Gen and I still poorly, but I felt better near night—both of us had sick headache—hers was the worst so she vomited this morning.[45]

Wed. 16th. Had a sick day—lungs painful from coughing, & my head & body also—tried to work & partly made a nightgound for baby—Gen washed & then went to drug store to get me medicine. Was so sick had to go to bed after getting baby to sleep.[46]

Thur. 17th. Slept good & didnt cough all night, but feel the effects of my coldIt’s a great disapointment not to be able to go to the Jubilee at Tabernacle in honor of the organization of the Relief Society, by Joseph Smith, 50 years ago[47]

Helen Kimball was sick for most of the month of March. Hales claimed to have read the diary, why did he miss this obvious reason for her not testifying? Emily Partridge testified on the 14th of March, and then writes that she went to the Jubilee on the 17th after her testimony. If Helen was too sick to go to the Relief Society Jubilee, she was probably too sick to testify in court. Her sickness and “deathly spells” go right through to the end of the month of March. I find it interesting that she wrote to Lucy Walker Kimball on March 7, a week or so before she was to testify in the Temple Lot Suit.

Lucy Walker Kimball

Lucy Walker Kimball

Yet, Lucy Walker refused to answer any specific questions about her sexual activities with Joseph; so it is unlikely that this was the only reason these women were chosen. To go speculating as to why some wives didn’t testify, or make affidavits, etc., is simply a tactic to strengthen a case that it already weak. For all we know, some of these women may have been asked to testify, but refused.

This is all only Hales speculation. Especially the idea that Mormon Authorities wanted women to specifically testify to having sex with Smith in the Temple Lot Trial. If that was so very important, then why have any men testify at all? None of them had sex with Smith, yet they could testify that they saw or participated in the marriages. Hales claims that Lucy Walker testified to having sex with Joseph Smith, but she absolutely did not. She refused to answer any questions about it. She gave one ambiguous answer that Hales accepts as evidence, even though when there is ambiguity in statements having to do with sexual polyandry he does not accept them.  Here is a sample of Lucy Walker’s testimony:

30. Q. Did you live with Joseph Smith as his wife?
A. He was my husband sir.[48] …

328. Q. Was Emma present? [at the “marriage”]
A. She was not.
329 Q. She had consented to the marriage, of course?
A. She did not consent to my marriage.
330. Q. Did she oppose it?
A. She did not know anything about it at all.
331. Q. Then she did not know anything about your marriage to her husband?
A. No sir.
332. Q. What room did you occupy  the night after your marriage, that is, the night of the first day of May, 1843?
A. What room did I occupy?
333. Q. Yes, you and the prophet?
A. Well, that is a matter I shall not answer.
334. Q. You decline to answer it.
A. I do.
335. Q. Did you occupy the same room with Joseph Smith on the night of the first day of May 1843?
A. I decline to answer that question.
336. Q. Did you ever occupy the same room and the same bed with Joseph Smith at any time, particularly on the night of May the first 1843?
A. I decline to answer the question, and there is no law that will permit you to do so, or uphold you in intruding into my private affairs.
337. Q. Do you decline to answer the question I ask you on the ground[s] that your answers might tend to [in]criminate you?
A. No sir.
338. Q. Then why do you decline to answer them?
A. Because I consider them insulting, sir.
339. Q. You do?
A. Yes sir.
340. Q. Your feelings have grown more delicate now then they were forty eight or nine years ago, they grow more mellow and refined with age?
A. I don’t know about that.
341. Q. Your feelings were not so tender when in 1843 you married a man who at that time to your knowledge had four or five other women living with him as wives, according to your statement, and imposed yourself upon his innocent wife, and deceived her, by joining in that kind of an alliance with her husband, that was not insulting, but now when I ask you a question that I have a perfect right under the law to ask you say it is insulting?
A. No sir, not in the light that we accepted it.
342. Q. And it is not insulting at this late date after the man whom you have maligned is dead and cannot be to deny or refute your story for you to come up and tell this tale, which if true would forever dishonor his memory, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in that, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in your attempting to palm yourself off as the wife of a man who is dead, and never for a moment in his life did anything to countenance your pretentions [sic]?
A. Yes sir, he would speak if he was here, he would speak in tones of thunder.
343. Q. Well I would like to hear him speak it, for he was careful never to do so in this life, he was careful never to acknowledge you as his wife either in tones of thunder of any other kind of tones.
A. Well he would, he taught that principle, and while you may scoff at us we yet believe the principle, and it is sacred with us.[49] 

463 Q. How many children did you have by virtue of your marriage with Joseph Smith?
A. I decline to answer that question sir.
464 Q. Did you have any?
A. I decline to answer the question.
465 Q. Have you any children by Joseph Smith? Do you decline to answer that question too?
A. I decline to answer the question
466 Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well I think that is my business and none of yours. The principle by which we were married is an eternal principle, and will endure forever. . . .
471 Q. Well did you raise a child by him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
472. Q. Did you ever occupy the same bed with him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
473. Q. You say you will not answer any of these questions.
A. I do, not on that subject.
474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew wass Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. [50] …

525. Q. It did  not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …

531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. …
546. Q. You had children by Kimball?
A. Yes sir.[51]

Lucy Walker’s fanaticism towards this principle is self evident here. Yet that wasn’t enough to get her to testify about having sexual relations with Joseph Smith. Asked if she ever occupied the same bed with Smith, she refused to answer. Her ambiguous answer (Hales words) that “he was my husband” doesn’t answer the question about whether she had sexual relations with Smith. If she was chosen to testify specifically to answer if she had sex with Smith, (as Hales claims) she did a poor job of fulfilling the wishes of those that supposedly chose her for that reason.  If this was so very important, then why not have the women include having sex with Joseph Smith in the affidavits they produced on polygamy? This line of reasoning by Hales is bizarre and speculative. In fact, this question (about what was more important) was addressed in her testimony:

584 Q. Who called you here?
A. President Woodruff told me that I was wanted here, and when I came here I supposed all you wanted to know was that Joseph Smith had more wives than one.
585. Q. Well that is not what we are specifically interested in, what he taught you is what we want to know.
A. Well, what he taught me is what I will not tell you. I testified that I was his wife, and that is the truth, and I know that I am to be eternally his wife.
586. Q. And you know you did not have any children by him?
A. Well now that is something that that I did not tell you anything about at all. It is none of your business if we had twenty sons or children, and it is none of your business if we did not have any.
587. Q. What did you consider Joseph Smith to be?
A. I considered him to be a man of God sir, a great, good and holy man of God.
588. And you consider the present Joseph Smith to be your son, by virtue of the fact that you married his father, don’t you.
A. I do not.
589. But you married his father?
A. Yes sir.
590. Q. Then why do you not consider him to be your son?
A. If he will acknowledge me as his mother, and acknowledge his error and believe as I do, I shall be very happy to consider him as my son.[52] 

Obviously, the sex was not as important as having these women admit they were his wives, something that all of the women that testified thought they were there for. Even though some of them answered questions about conjugal relations frankly, they were all indignant and argumentative about answering such personal questions; (even Malissa Willes got frustrated after a time) and we see that Lucy Walker Kimball refused to do so. What is ironic is that Hales will accept the ambiguous “he was my husband” as evidence of sexuality in this “marriage”, yet he will not accept any such evidence when it challenges his assumptions about Smith’s polyandrous “marriages”.

This speculation by Hales and Gregory L. Smith is a red herring. To not take into account that the Mormon Hierarchy did not want the polyandrous wives to testify because of what that would imply (women being “married” to two husbands at the same time) to the world is disingenuous. (If they even knew which wives actually had sex with Smith). Two men “married” to the same woman and both possibly having sexual relations with her? Would they want to reveal or promote this? To be embarrassed by what this might imply? These women were also asked if their “marriages” to Smith were for time and eternity. They may not have wanted the polyandrous wives to answer this question.

With embarrassing or conflicting doctrines, the hierarchy was apt to lie or obfuscate them. Lorenzo Snow perjured himself when he was asked if he knew about the Law of Adoption.[53] Joseph F. Smith also perjured himself on multiple occasions during the Reed Smoot Hearings.[54]

V. Still More Sylvia Lyon Speculation

Hales writes (quoted above):

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.

Hales tries to infer that because some of those who participated in plural marriages were not polygamists, but only “insiders”, that this somehow nullifies Compton’s timeline for the “marriage”. There were obviously some who helped Joseph to “marry” women that he wanted for spiritual wives who were not polygamous, but were still “insiders”. For example:

Fanny Huntington was the wife of Dimick B. Huntington, sister in law to Zina and Prescinda and was a witness to Zina’s “marriage” to Joseph Smith. (Polygamy insider).

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)

Benjamin F. Johnson was the brother of Almera and Delcena Johnson, both of whom “married” Joseph Smith. (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 : As soon as he got back from England he was informed about polygamy. He also claimed later that he got a testimony about it while in England. (Polygamy insider).

Willard Richards: He was living with Marinda Hyde in the Times and Seasons building while Orson Hyde was on his mission. (Polygamy insider).

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” and some became polygamists during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. 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 and so could easily have been “married” to Joseph a month before her mother was. Is it the only evidence that supports this date? No, but Hales acts like it is, after trying to disqualify the 1842 date in Affidavit Book 1.


Patty Bartlett Sessions

Sylvia was present at her mother’s marriage in 1842, and gave the time of her “marriage” as during the same period that Zina Young and Eliza Snow were “married” to Smith (1841-2), and her husband’s disfellowshipment from the Church, (1842). Smith therefore would have “married” Sylvia and Patty within a short time of each other (February/March 1842) and there is evidence that he did so with the Partridge Sisters, (Both in March, 1843) and the Lawrence Sisters (Both in May, 1843). He also “married” Zina and Prescinda Huntington within a month of each other (October/December 1841). So when it came to related pairs of women, Joseph had a penchant for “marrying” them very close together. If this did  not happen with Sylvia and Patty, it would be the only exception.[55] I exclude the two Johnson sisters Delcena and Almera who were supposedly “married” a year apart, because the date of Delcena’s “marriage” to Smith is not known and only a year (sometime in 1842) was given by her brother Benjamin with no other details, who gives conflicting accounts about polygamy in his various statements. So an 1842 “marriage” date for Delcena is very questionable.[56]

If you can truly understand what happened between Joseph Smith and the Lyons and make a competent analysis from Hales’ disjointed and scattered FAIRMORMON Presentation above, you did better than I could.  So to make this very clear and easy to comprehend, let’s look at a timeline of events:

April 21, 1838— Joseph Smith marries 19 year old Sylvia Sessions to Windsor P. Lyon.[57]

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”[58]

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

February 8, 1842—Smith and Sylvia are “married”, but Sylvia and Windsor continue to live together as man and wife.[59]

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”[60]

March 20, 1842—Joseph Smith preaches to a large assembly in the grove, but seeing the dead child of Windsor P. Lyon causes him to change his remarks.[61]

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.”[62]

June 1842—Windsor Lyon appointed aide-de-camp to major general in Nauvoo Legion, June 1842.[63]

August 12, 1842—Patty Sessions records in her diary that she was making shirts for Joseph Smith.[64]

October 9 1842—Emmeline Wells writes, “”Windsor Lyon, her [Patty Sessions] daughter’s husband, went to St. Louis to purchase goods.” [65]

November 7, 1842—Windsor Lyon is disfellowshipped by William Marks, President of the Nauvoo Stake, for trying to collect a debt from Marks , but there is no evidence that he moved out of his house, or that his wife did either.

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;  [Newel] Knight and [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[66] 

November 8, 1842—Tuesday, 8.—This afternoon [Joseph Smith] 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.[67]

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.[68]

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.[69]

February 8, 1843—An alternate date (most likely a copy error) for the Sylvia Lyon “marriage” to Smith.[70]

February 12, 1843—Lyon loans Joseph Smith $500, even though he is disfellowshipped.[71] Emmeline B Wells wrote for the Woman’s Exponent in 1884:

On the 12th of February she [Patty Sessions] says Bro. Joseph was at her house, and Mr. Lyons, Sylvia’s husband, lent him five hundred dollars.[72]  Why would Joseph not meet Windsor at his own house if they were separated?

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.[73]

January 11, 1844—Windsor P. Lyon—still disfellowshipped, and Sylvia, living as man and wife, host 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…[74]

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.[75]

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.[76]

Tuesday, September 24.—I attended council at Winsor P. Lyons. 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.[77]

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

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.”[78]

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.”[79]

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][80]

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”.[81]

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.

Thomas Bullock

Thomas Bullock

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.”[82]

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.[83]

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 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.[84]

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[85]

June 1, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from Windsor “Lyon stating he was not coming but going to Iowa city.”[86]

June 23, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from “Sylvia Dated June 3d said she was going to Iowa in a week.”[87]

The above entries could be taken to mean that they went separately, but we know they did not.

April 21, 1847—Sylvia and Josephine visit Patty Sessions at Winter Quarters[88]

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.”[89]

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.[91]

September 4, 1847—Byron Windsor Lyon was born to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[92]

August 8, 1848—David Carlos Lyon was born in Iowa City to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[93]

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.[94] 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[95]  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.[96]

What I 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.[97]

In his Book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Hales again uses a source for separation that doesn’t mention it. He writes,

Available documents show that Sylvia rejoined Windsor shortly after his rebaptism on February 1, 1846. The date is recorded by Enoch Tripp, a relative of Patty Sessions, who wrote: “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.” Questions concerning the paternity of three-year-old Josephine might have quickly faded after the couple reunited.[98]

This document only mentions that Windsor Lyon was rebaptized on that date. How Hales can claim that this has anything to do with some kind of reunion, or that she “joined him shortly after his baptism,” is baffling.  We find that there is not one credible source that Hales can cite that clearly shows Sylvia and Windsor were ever separated or divorced.

Hales tries to make something out of the fact that when Sylvia or Windsor are mentioned in Journal entries, they are mentioned alone. This is not unusual and isn’t credible evidence to prove a separation. Hales writes,

A couple of accounts refer to the residence of “Sister Lyons,” without including any mention of Windsor. On September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D. D. Yearsley.” Another example is found when the Partridge sisters, Emily and Eliza, needed new lodgings in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” The differentiation between “the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge” and “Sister Sylvia Lyons” suggests again that the Windsor was not sharing the residence of his wife at that time.[99]

Hales cites Andrew Jenson’s Notes (from an anonymous source) which claim that Windsor Lyon “left the church” so that is why Sylvia Sessions “married” Joseph, or that is why it was all right for him to do so. (He seems to be making both of these claims).

But why do Jenson’s Notes fail to mention that Sylvia Sessions moved with Lyon to Iowa in 1846 and had two children with him there? Why the omission? Eliza Snow visited with Sylvia in 1846 at Winter Quarters. She obviously would have known they moved to Iowa together as a married couple. So who did Jenson get his information from? Patty Sessions wrote in her diary in 1847:

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[100]

But as we see from the timeline, there is nothing to support that Sylvia “married” Joseph because Windsor left the Church. And he didn’t leave the Church, he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing him. He was still friends with and loaned money to and supported Joseph in his endeavors. According to Brian Hales though:

The question exists whether Windsor, after his excommunication, moved back in with Sylvia and continued conjugal relations with her. Windsor must have returned to Nauvoo within weeks. However, a review of available historical documents from 1842–1844 provides a few references to Sylvia or Windsor in Nauvoo, but they do not describe them as being together. For example, on September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D.D. Yearsley.” Another example is found with the Partridge daughters, Emily and Eliza, who needed new lodging in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” Land records for Nauvoo show that Windsor owned a store with attached living quarters, as well as a house located less than a block away that was later converted to a store. It is possible that the couple was separated but lived close to each other so Windsor could participate in parental responsibilities for their daughter Philofreen (b. June 1841).Without addressing the numerous theological problems associated with theories that Joseph Smith practiced sexual polyandry at any time (see “POLYANDRY” webpage on this website), the available evidence does not support that Windsor Lyon was cohabiting with Sylvia after his excommunication.[101]

Hales claims that Windsor left Nauvoo and went… where? He left his business and his wife simply because he got disfellowshipped? And then he mysteriously “returned within weeks.” From where? And why would he leave? All of his property was in Nauvoo. There is no record that he sold anything. Hales also claims that because Sylvia bought a lot from Joseph for $500, that this is proof of her separation from Windsor. But where did she get the money from? Can Hales prove that they had separate finances at this time? That Windsor did not provide the funds for her? Sylvia was only 24 years old in 1842. Where are the divorce documents that split their property, houses, money, resources? None of this is provided by Hales.Evidence of Religious Divorce Sylvia & Windsor Lyon

So, where is there any credible evidence that Windsor moved out of Nauvoo in 1842? There isn’t any. Windsor had a drug store at this time and it had living quarters in the back of the store where either of them could have lived. Donna Toland Smart writes that Enoch Bartlett Tripp when he arrived in Nauvoo “visited his cousin Sylvia at Lyons Drug Store–a part of which served as her [Sylvia Sessions] home.  She sent for her mother Patty, who was happy to greet her nephew.”[102]

The problem that I see with this is that Hales must think that Windsor had to be living constantly in the same house at all times to be enjoying conjugal relations. Was Joseph Smith living with Sylvia Lyon? Yet Hales allows him to visit her and have conjugal relations; but this is impossible for Windsor?

For all we know Windsor agreed to the relationship and facilitated it by staying at his house and allowing Sylvia to stay at the store. After all, he did believe in Joseph Smith and supported him in his prophetic role. Obviously it didn’t bother Windsor too much that Joseph Smith had a child with his legally married wife (as it did Sylvia’s second husband Elijah) because they stayed together until his death and he fathered two more children with Sylvia. And because Josephine is the only child produced between 1843 and 1847 they did not have sex? What about miscarriages? Does Hales know positively that Sylvia never had one? What is interesting is that they have not proved conclusively that Josephine is even Joseph’s daughter. If this turns out to be true, then Sylvia’s admission still stands and we have her and Joseph committing adultery.

As for Joseph not mentioning Sylvia and Windsor together in Journal entries, that isn’t evidence for anything. He may have drank wine with Sylvia when Windsor wasn’t home, or Windsor may have been staying at another location so Joseph could have private time with Sylvia also. Willard Richards recorded that he and his wife drank wine with both of them in 1844 and he identified her as “his wife”. He was, after all, married to her. This indicates there was no divorce or separation. Hales quotes Emily Partridge, but Emily also wrote when she went to live in Joseph Smith’s home:

While things, with us, were in this condition, Sister Emma (Smith) sent for me to come and live with her and nurse her baby.[103]

Do we assume here, that Emma was living alone without Joseph because she worded the entry this way? We know that wasn’t true because in another version of her history, Emily wrote,

I got a place (or Joseph did for me) with a respectable family.  The lady was very kind to me in some things, and I suppose she meant to be in everything, and I felt very thankful to her, but the work was rather hard.  I had to sleep in the same room with her and her husband in order to be where I could get up nights and tend her baby when it was worrisome.  Some nights I would get up several times and have sat before the fire nodding for hours trying to get the baby to sleep. I made no complaints, but left when I thought I could stand it no longer. (“What I remember,” compiled by Emily Dow Partridge, April 7, 1884, CHL, Ms d 2845 fd 1, approximately 125 page typescript).

Here, Emily explains that Joseph found her a place to live, and that she had to take care of the baby and sleep in the same room with “her and her husband”. This would be Sylvia and Windsor Lyon. Hales is familiar with this evidence, he quotes from it. Why would he leave this out and quote another, more ambiguous statement?

Everything to Hales must be black or white. Windsor couldn’t have shared his wife with Smith, he couldn’t have moved out to accommodate the prophet (if he did), and he couldn’t have been visiting his wife to have sexual relations during the period that Joseph Smith was doing so because? It would be adultery? Well according to Smith’s 1842 Address that is what it was. We already know that according to Joseph E. Johnson, Joseph had committed adultery with his Mother-in-law, Mary Heron Snider.[104] Remember, Joseph Smith taught in 1841 that “some sin is not sin”.[105]

If Smith was willing to break his own First Presidency Address and “marry” and have sex with a woman who had not obtained a legal divorce, why would he worry about committing adultery? After all, the Lord assured Joseph that he never did commit adultery in his July, 1843 “revelation”. But what was Joseph’s definition of adultery? I guess it depends on who you asked. Amanda Cobb (one of Brigham Young’s “wives”, claimed that Joseph could impregnate her and it would all be fine because he could then later “seal” them.[106]

But all this is not credible evidence to Brian Hales. 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.”[107].

Yet, they all entered into polygamy which was just as repulsive to their Victorian standards What would be the difference between sexual polyandry and polygamy? It was all abominable to them, yet Joseph taught that even something that appears abominable, might not be. And they believed him. For Hales, the line gets drawn at polyandry. Can he explain why Joseph stopped “marrying” women that were already married after he dictated the July “revelation”? Dan Vogel, in an exchange with Hales, wrote,

Since he [Joseph Smith] engaged in polyandry before his teachings were given in D&C 132:61, that could be read as repentance. It happens that the verse right before the anti-polyandry passage warns Emma and other followers not to judge JS: “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, [His polyandrous “marriages”] saith the Lord your God” (v. 60). This just might be the reason no one “set on” JS as you insist should have happened.[108]

This is an astute observation by Dan that Hales rejects. Hales would believe the carefully crafted polygamy narrative that Joseph started practicing polygamy in 1835 after being prodded by an angel, failed with Fanny Alger and then had to be prodded two more times in Nauvoo. He had actually received a “revelation” in 1831, but the Church “wasn’t ready” for it, so Joseph waited and then dictated it again in 1843. This allows for no repentance or adultery from Joseph and therefore he simply didn’t commit any so one must change the nature of the “marriages” that Smith participated in before 1843.

Brian Hales instead presents this timeline of events:

-JS learns of PM in early 1830s

-Angel comes in 1834 directing him to PM

-Alger marriage occurs in 1835 (not 1833) – disastrous for JS and Emma and Alger

-Keys of sealing received in 1836 (section 110)

-Due to bad experience with Alger, JS hesitates to use the keys for five years

-between 1836-1841 the angel comes again with drawn sword requiring not only PM but eternal sealings

-Joseph fulfills the angel’s directive in 1841 with the first sealing to Louisa Beaman

-non-sexual pseudo-polyandry ensue allowing JS to fulfill the letter of the law (the law as the angel demanded) for 8/9 of JS’s next polygamous marriages that occur during the next 15 months

-1842 the angel comes a third time telling JS to practice polygyny rather than pseudo-polyandry[109]

The more balanced Todd Compton writes:

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.[110]

As Dan Vogel tried to patiently explain to Brian Hales:

Yes, you have criticize my use of a late source from the daughter of a woman near South Bainbridge who said JS tried to get her to be one of his spiritual wives; yet you use Jenson’s unattributed late note about Ruth Vose Sayers because it serves your purpose.

I’ve told you why the subsequent statements of BY, HCK, and OP on polyandry are not relevant, and it’s not because I don’t like what they say. It was a point of logic.

When I say you (as well as BY, HCK, and OP) have equivocal definitions of polyandry, I mean you use one that is not standard. The idea that one can change partners without a bill of divorcement and not be polyandry is arbitrary. You said JS probably had sex with three women who were legally married to other men—that’s polyandry. It doesn’t matter that the husbands were not present. Remember I said Bennett got in trouble for this very thing?

You say that I “want to tie polygamy to sex” as if that is strange. What is strange is that you want to separate sex from polygamy. You are putting undo emphasis on one aspect and not to the context. There is nothing in D&C 132 that talks about “eternity only” marriage, or even implies it. The revelation doesn’t contemplate such situations. Indeed, as you have discussed, it is anti-polyandry and makes no distinction between sexual and non-sexual situations. You are trying to make it say something that it’s not designed to do. Exaltation and sex are nearly synonyms. The whole point of verses 16-17 is that without exaltation one remains single and unable to “be enlarged”. It’s not just marriage; it’s a “continuation of the seeds” (verse 19). Damnation is the inability to procreate.

Ruth Vose Sayers doesn’t prove your interpretation of D&C 132 right. In fact, it doesn’t prove anything about the general practice of polygamy or JS’s views.

Your analogy doesn’t work, because there is not an assumption that Rigdon would perform human sacrifice. Whereas there is an assumption that marriage includes sex. Rigdon’s performance of human sacrifice would be an extraordinary claim that would naturally arouse skepticism and therefore the burden would be on the one asserting the affirmative. Your assertion for non-sexual polyandry is the one that naturally arouses skepticism because it isn’t what is expected from marriage. Sex in marriages is a warranted assumption. So the burden is on you. You can’t shift that burden and then claim that the proof of your theory is the inability of your opponent to disprove it. That’s argumentum ad ignorantiam, which “consists in arguing that a claim is true (or false) because there is no evidence or proof to the contrary.”[111]

A further problem with the Elizabeth Rollins and Zina 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.[112]

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.”[113]

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.”[114]

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.”[115]

Robinson ultimately rejected polygamy, but stayed with the Church during Smith’s lifetime. Michael Quinn writes,

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.[116]

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.[117]

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 proposition.  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.”[118]

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.”[119]

Why would they question their “prophet” if they are told, as Joseph Kingsbury was that it was to bring out the purposes of God? Some never did, they just obeyed Smith. 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 Joseph in turn attacked their characters in an effort to keep his secrets.

Joseph had an ingenuous way to keep the complaints to a minimum. He employed older women to approach the women he wanted to marry and ease them into the idea. He then would work on brothers, fathers and mothers, convincing them that what he did as a “prophet” was right, and that their eternal salvation depended on them helping him to accomplish his goal of multiplying spiritual wives to himself.

Conclusion: “A Panorama of Disagreeable Pictures”

Brian Hales seems to be fixated on inventing scenarios in an effort to try and mitigate the damage the historical sources do to Joseph Smith’s reputation. (Something Joseph warned would happen if anyone did the things that it turned out he was actually doing) To me, it’s all just plain shenanigans. Even if Joseph did not have sex with many of his wives, he still did irreparable damage to many of the women he cajoled into “the principle”. The only saving grace for some of the women was the fact that Smith died and it freed them from him. But others with their blind faith in Joseph and for the principle married other Mormon leaders and lived their lives resigned to the burdens of polygamy while defending it at all costs–because if they did not, what would their sacrifice mean then?

Hales claims that those who are critical of Joseph and his polygamous practices look at these women as mindless automatons. This is simply a shallow accusation that carries no weight. Some of the women who participated in polygamy were highly intelligent, caring individuals. Even though they were asked to do something that went against every tradition they had previously embraced, they stepped up and made “the sacrifice” because of faith and belief in their “prophet”, Joseph Smith.

The results in almost every case were tragic, and they eventually resigned themselves to loveless lives of loneliness and sorrow. Many vacillated between deep resentment and a futuristic hope that their “sacrifice” would see them living in joy in the eternal world to come. Many took solace in their children which seemed to mitigate the regret they felt later in life. Anyone who takes the time to read the histories, diaries and accounts of these women can’t help but be moved by their plight. But there are also those who took up the torch of plural marriage and fanatically defended it with their last breath, even after living through all the hardships that it wrought in their lives. This was their faith, their struggle, and they would not have it be in vain.

Emily Partridge Young with children

Emily Partridge Young with children

In reading the diary of Emily Young I came across these passages that seem to put it all in perspective:

Today I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. My mind goes back to days gone by. And what do I find, can I find anything so pleasant that I could wish to live it over again or even to dwell upon it in thought, with any degree of satisfaction. No I cannot. My life has been like a panorama of disagreeable pictures. As I scan them over one by one, they bring no joy, and I invariably wind up with tears. I have been heart hungry all my life, always hoping against hope, until the years are nearly spent, and hope is dead for this life but bright for the next. And then I ask myself what great or good thing have I done that I should hope for better things in the next world, or what great trial or exploit can I recount like many others perhaps, that will bring honor and greatness. I can only sum it up in one words, that is I am a ‘woman’ or if that is not enough I am a ‘mother’ and still more I am, as the world calls it, ‘spiritual wife’ of early days, when public opinion was like an avalanche burying all such beneath its oppressive weight. Some will understand what it is to be a woman, mother, or an unloved ‘spiritual wife.[120]

Yet, conversely she wrote two days later,

Yesterday I was in a dark mood. Today I am looking for the bright spots. Although they may be few and far between they should not be over-looked and among my greatest blessings I class the fates that I am a mother, and was a spiritual wife.[121]

Such was the conundrum of polygamy.


[1] I began seriously researching Joseph Smith’s polygamy at the request of my friend Jeremy Runnells, who had been attacked by Brian Hales.

As for the term “spiritual wife”, those who were familiar with Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine used this term. The best explanation that I have run across as to why, was given by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was “married” to Joseph Smith. She wrote,

… if “Joseph Smith the younger [Joseph Smith III] was not so young, nor so small, nor so foolish,” etc., as he states, he must have some remembrance of the reports that were afloat not only in the city of the Saints but throughout the country. At that time spiritual wife was the title by which every woman who entered into this order was called, for it was taught and practiced as a spiritual order and not a temporal one, though it was always spoken of sneeringly by those who did not believe in it; but the day will surely come when those who have mocked ad derided this principle and the servants and handmaidens of God who were brave enough to take upon them the cross and bear the stigmas which have been heaped upon them without measure will be among those whom the Savior meant when saying, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Plural Marriage as taught by the Prophet Jospeh Smith, 1882, 15).

Emily Partridge wrote,

Mrs. Durfee invited my sister Eliza and I to her house, to spend the afternoon. She introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in those days.  She wondered if there was any truth in the report we heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to, so I kept my own council and said nothing, but going home I felt impressed to tell Eliza. I knew she would not betray me. She felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed to her soon after….. I learned afterward that Mrs. D. was a friend to plurality and knew all about it…“ (Emily Partridge, Undated Statement, Ms d 2845 fd 1, CHL, added emphasis).

At the Nauvoo City Council in 1844 Joseph Smith himself called it that:

[Eli] Norton said Bro[ther] Law knew about the Spiritual wife system. I never intimated that Bro[ther] Law[’s] life was in danger. I intimated that Bro[ther] Law might be the doe head, previously Bro[ther] Law and me had [a] conversation about stories afloat on spiritual wifes. He thought it was from the devil — and we must put it down[,] that he knew such a thing was in existence & [was] breaking up of families &c.

By Law[:] Did I said not say we have a good foundation [for believing so] because Joseph blowed it all up before the [Nauvoo Stake] High Council & Hyrum before the Elders Quorum? Yes said Cairns, [confirming that] Law did not[,] [in their conversation][,] speak disrespectfully of Joseph or of the Church. [Cairns said he] had no secret conversation with [the] Mayor. Nor [had he received a] charge except before the council [and people had] never heard any thing from me to endanger the life of any man.

[The] Mayor spoke on [the] Spiritual wife system and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it he is a liar and not to be trusted. (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 6312-6347).

In 1845 Brigham Young addressed the “Saints” on Joseph’s “spiritual wife system” as he called it:

I would now call your attention to some of the saying[s] of the apostle Paul. I hope you will not stumble at them. Paul says, “nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman. neither the woman without the man, in the Lord, for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the women, but all things of God.” The same Apostle also says, “The woman is the glory of the man.” Now brethren, these are Paul’s sayings, not Joseph Smith’s spiritual wife system sayings. And I would say, as no man can be perfect without the woman, so no woman can be perfect without a man to lead her, I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity; and I say so to every man upon the face of the earth; if he wishes to be saved he cannot be saved without a woman by his side. This is spiritual wifeism, that is, the doctrine of spiritual wives. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 78, April 6, 1845, added emphasis)

In 1847 Young was still referring to plurality of wives as the spiritual wife doctrine”:

There is a general feeling in this church with regard to the doctrine called spiritual wife doctrine. The Lord is [-] in the last struggle between [-]. God the Father will put forth his hand and conquer a [-] of [-] a godly people. The wicked and rebellious will be swallowed by the earth and the substance will be given to the [-] the [-] of staying at home will carry thousands to the devil. I’ve done as I was told, there is not a man have twenty to twenty-five but I can get five wives to his one, who gave me that power, I got it by being faithful, there is not a girl[,] etc[.] [T]ake all you can get and see what you can do go a preach[ing]? that I may gather thousands they want to give? that [-] of [-] they must take what’s behind because they have gone? [-] have brought? it in when my train and his train filled the temple, they want to drive and command and tell me its the duty to be sealed to me and then they can come trailing behind you, its your works will follow you to glory or misery – let the word come now, I never was more willing to go than tonight. I’m going right into the world and deal unrightly. I cant do this because I have a wife the Lord will raise up a hold seed. is it right? wait, that’s enough for me when a man has proved himself.  (ibid., 230 18 June, 1847, Greasewood Creek, Wyoming).

In 1849 Young reminisced about when he first learned of the spiritual wife doctrine, as it was then called:

The spiritual wife doctrine came upon me while abroad, in such a manner that I never forget. Particular things belong to one blood, but, after all, we are of one blood and one flesh, all the nations of the earth. Joseph said to me—“I command you to go and get another wife.” I felt as if the grave was better for me than anything, but I was filled with the Holy Ghost, so that my wife and BrotherKimball’s wife would upbraid me for lightness in those days. I could jump up and hollow. [holler] My blood was as clear as West India rum, and my flesh was clear. I said to Joseph, “Suppose I should apostatize, after taking another wife, would not my family be worse off?” Joseph answered—“There are certain bounds set to men, and if a man is faithful and pure to these bounds, God will take him out of the world; if he sees him falter, he will take him to himself. You are past these bounds, Brigham, and you have this consolation.” But I never had any fears of not being saved. Then I said to Joseph, I was ready to go ahead. He passed certain bounds before certain revelations were given. (Richard S. VanWagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 321, February 16, 1849).

Still, Brian Hales claims,

Contradictory evidence exists concerning Don Carlos’ feelings toward plural marriage. An 1892 account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Agnes in Nauvoo after Don Carlos’ death, states: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband, Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].”  However, in 1890, Ebenezer Robinson quoted him 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.” Robinson added: “He was a bitter opposer of the ‘spiritual wife’ doctrine.” The recollection is problematic because there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery” in 1841.

Hales repeats these lines when he lambastes Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”:

Beam quotes Don Carlos Smith 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” (89). The quote is from a 1890 recollection from apostate Ebenezer Robinson and contradicts an account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Don Carlos’ wife Agnes after his August 7, 1841, death in Nauvoo. West recalled in 1892: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].” Either Beam’s research was inadequate to uncover this additional credible and pertinent evidence, or he knew of it and his biases prompted him to not include it. Regardless, “spiritual wifery” was not a term Joseph used to refer to plural marriage. http://mormonhistoryguy.com/2014/06/17/guest-post-review-alex-beams-treatment-polygamy-brian-hales/

Notice how Ebenezer Robinson turns into “apostate” Robinson. (That’s code for Mormons to not trust the source). Hales then amends his first statement, where he claimed that there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery”, to “spiritual wifery was not a term that Joseph used to refer to plural marriage.”

Of course, Hales gives more credence to a second hand faithful Mormon’s quote then Ebenezer Robinson’s recollection.  As Richard Van Wagoner wrote,

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”. 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) . (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 72-73, Summer 1986).

We know from all of the quotes above, that Bennett here was right. It was called Spiritual Wifery or Wifeism, because the women were referred to as spiritual wives,  and the term came from Joseph Smith in 1840 or 1841. Joseph even mockingly used the term in 1844 in an effort to pin it on others, like Bennett or William Law when he knew very well that the term came from him, just as he had coined the name Danites. (This he admitted in an 1844 City Council meeting).

To claim that Don Carlos could not have used the term is disingenuous, given the evidence.

[2] An example of this fanaticism is the testimony of Lucy Walker Kimball given at the Temple Lot Trial in 1892:

474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew was Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. …
525. Q. It did not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …
531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. … (Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, Questions, 474-477, 525-542).

[3] Anonymous, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. An example of accepting the narrative with little questioning of Emily Partridge’s statements is from the new book by Merina Smith, who writes in her Chapter “Emma Smith Capitulates”:

Todd Compton states that Emma chose the young women who lived in her household, the Partridge sisters, and another set of sisters who were actually the wards of the Smith, Sarah and Maria Lawrence. Joseph convinced the Partridge sisters to submit to another secret ceremony, since he did not want to roil the waters by admitting he had married them already. The remarriage took place on May 23, 1843, with Emma as a witness. The Lawrence sisters also married Joseph that month. Five days after the remarriage to the Partridge sisters, Emma was sealed to Joseph for eternity. (Merina Smith, Revelation, Resistance & Mormon Polygamy, The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830-1853, Merina Smith, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2013, Kindle Edition,  3955-3960).

The only reference that Merina Smith uses here, is from Todd Compton, who gets the May 23, date from Richard Van Wagoner. This date was based on Emily’s recollections, which began with the 1869 Affidavits. Van Wagoner debunks the original date given in the 1869 affidavits by both women (May 11) and suggests May 23, when James Adams was in Nauvoo. But that date also has problems.

Van Wagoner quotes the August 16, 1843 Journal entry of William Clayton, but still gives credence to Emily’s later recollections. Compton compounds this with his rewrite of the entry,

“Emma apparently told Joseph that she would allow him to keep “E and E P” (Emily and Eliza Partridge), but Joseph felt if he even kept these two, Emma would use it as an excuse to divorce him. Though he told Emma that he would relinquish his wives, he told Clayton that “he should not relinquish anything.” (Compton, In sacred Loneliness, 732).

The entry actually reads,

“…since E[mma] came back from St. Louis she had resisted the P[riesthood] in toto & he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake. She said she would [have] given him E[mily] and E[liza] P[artridge] but he knew if he took them she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce & leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish any thing.”

If Emma had already given Joseph the Partridge sisters in May, why is Joseph claiming on August 16 that Emma told him  that “she would have given him” the sisters, and then Joseph telling Clayton that “if he took them…she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce and leave him.”?

By this time Judge Adams was dead. So how could there have been a second mock marriage in May of 1843 or after this date? (I will have more on this in my forthcoming Essay, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”).

For a prime example of the misuse of sources, see my Article: A Few thoughts on Brian Hales’ Review of Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”.

[4] Brian Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes“)

[5] See, Brian C. Hales, The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny? Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008), PDF, 47-51, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“). Hales writes,

Currently no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found.

This is the actual truth of the matter, but it doesn’t stop Hales from inventing four pages of scenarios that he feels are “likely” to have happened to overturn the truth. He first claims that Smith “possibly” had “defacto authority to annul that same relationship” (the marriage of Sylvia and Windsor. (pp. 47-48). As we see though, from the 1842 Proclamation, he did not. Hales then tries a different tack. He writes,

More likely, however, Joseph may have seen himself as capable of single-handedly granting a divorce based on his position as mayor of Nauvoo. (p. 48)

Again, he did not according to Smith’s own First Presidency Proclamation. There would have had to be legal proceedings, and it could not have been simply because Windsor was an “unbeliever”. (Which would be difficult to class him as, since he was disfellowshipped not for apostasy, but for “UnChristianlike conduct”. No one would ever claim that Windsor was an “evil” man. The only thing that Windsor ever did wrong was try to recoup money loaned to William Marks and lost his fellowship over it.

Hales then wastes the reader’s time by listing a host of reasons that Smith could have granted a divorce for, but then claims that “Obviously, Sylvia’s case did not justify a divorce from Windsor based on those criteria.” (p. 48)

In another wasted effort Hales then claims that “the Illinois Supreme Court would grant circuit courts the right to act as courts of chancery.” He then admits though, that “The Nauvoo Municipal Court was never so designated.” (ibid.)

Then Hales starts listing possibilities, like Joseph could have “assumed authority as chief justice of the Nauvoo Municipal Court to deal with a divorce proceeding within the boundaries of the city” and therefore “might have proceeded in granting a quasi-legal divorce to Sylvia.” He then concludes that “Most likely, given their religious beliefs, neither of them worried about the associated legalities.” (pp. 48-49)

Considering Joseph’s 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church, maybe they should have, because what they did was adultery according to this address. Hales then wastes more pages in trying to explain his reasons why “Sylvia considered herself divorced from Windsor after his excommunication.” (Rather disfellowshipment, which was close to the same thing in the 1840’s; but Hales uses the harsher term for obvious reasons). But Hales himself writes,

[The view that]…accepting Mormonism made a person “suddenly unmarried” represents an extreme interpretation of Joseph Smith’s teachings on civil marriage, not otherwise substantiated. (pg. 50)

The 1842 Address affirms this, so why Hales brings this up is baffling. He then writes,

Joseph and Sylvia may have viewed the sealing authority so superior as to trump any marriage ceremony sanctioned only by civil powers, thus negating the need for a legal divorce. (ibid.)

But Sylvia and Windsor were married by Joseph Smith in a priesthood ceremony not by any civil power. And again there is that 1842 Address which completely destroys this argument because Smith himself claimed (after taking spiritual wives with the “sealing authority”) that he could not “go beyond” and break up civil marriages for any reason. If the participants agreed to have a legal divorce, it must be for grounds of evil, (like physical violence, etc.) and there is absolutely no evidence that this took place in the Lyon marriage. Hales even affirms this himself. But Hales plugs on and writes,

Under Church law, a religious divorce may have been included or implied with excommunication.(ibid.)

Again, not in Nauvoo. Hales has to cite examples from after the “Saints” had accepted polygamy and Young’s theocratic rule in Utah Territory. If you are to cite such examples, they must be consistent with events from earlier years. In this case, they are not because the Spiritual Wife System was secret, was not church law, and therefore could not supersede the First Presidency Address from 1842 or the binding Article on Marriage from the Doctrine and Covenants until it was voted upon by the entire Church. Presenting a “revelation” to a divided High Council (which still kept it quasi secret) does not qualify. This is one reason why the Judge in the Temple Lot Case ruled against the Hedrikites. Hales then quotes Kathryn Danes, who writes,

If Sessions knew that Fisher was Joseph Smith’s biological child . . . she could have been having sexual relations only with Smith, not with Windsor Lyon. That is, her marriages were polyandrous in name only because she could be certain of her child’s paternity only if she restricted her sexual relationship to one husband at a time. (ibid., 51)

At last, a good point. How could Sylvia know that Josephine was Joseph’s daughter if she was having sex with two men at the same time? Well, I don’t know about others, but I’m not claiming that she had them both over on the same nights or even during the same week, or that the sex with the two men was frequent. We just have no way of knowing. Joseph had other wives to which he apparently devoted some of his time. And this is an observation made (obviously) without including the criteria that Windsor may have been facilitating the relationship between his wife and Joseph. (This is affirmed by Windsor’s later willing participation in the sealing of Sylvia to Joseph (again) and Heber C. Kimball for “time” in 1846). They may have agreed that Windsor take a break for awhile because Smith wanted her for his “wife” for a time. After all, what was Joseph’s motivation for “marrying” and having sex with another man’s legal wife when he had so many single women to choose from? But what difference does this really make? It was still adultery because Windsor and Sylvia were still legally married.

What would any faithful person do when their prophet asks him to give up his wife for eternity to him, and then claim that this includes having sexual relations with her for “time” also? It was easier for Joseph (so he thought) for these women to have husbands already so that his activities stayed secret. (We know this because he had men become “front husbands” later when he wanted to keep the secrecy scenario going with single women).

In all of Hales posturing on polygamy, he gives us no real good reason for polyandry, whether it included multiple partner sex or not (which he denies even the possibility of happening). The fact is though, that Windsor never divorced his wife, continued to live and work in Nauvoo, and stayed with her before and after Joseph died. (I noticed that Hales doesn’t mention the 1844 Journal entry of Willard Richards in this article where he wrote that he and his wife Jenetta were over at Windsor’s house and “Mrs. Lyons” was also there).

Also, Sylvia and Windsor didn’t have much luck with their children. Having a child that was fathered by Smith may have been welcomed by her and since this was the only child that survived out of both of those relationships she may have later concluded that it was Smith’s child. The fact is, we don’t know why she thought Josephine was Smith’s child. We can speculate, but that is all we can do at present. The DNA isn’t even conclusive.

This whole situation is strange and bizarre, and to speculate as one can only do, doesn’t prove much. The fact is all Hales can do is claim that “this is really weird”, and a “hard commandment” and that it was all the women’s fault, because they “chose” Joseph Smith over their husbands. So they all came to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to him? What a ridiculous assertion, and one that we know is not true. Sarah Pratt did not choose Smith, nor many others.

To rule out coercion by Smith is an idealistic fallacy. And to claim that none of them complained is factually incorrect and does not take into account the concerns of these people for their spiritual welfare which depended on Smith’s prophetic claims. We have modern day examples in David Koresh, Warren Jeffs and others. Brigham Young would later claim that when he heard about polygamy he “desired the grave”, but then also attested that he had earlier (in England) gotten his own testimony about it and was therefore fine with it. So which was true? Lorenzo Snow later claimed that he threw a “cloak of charity” over Smith when he did “improper” things.

And of course these women did not think that any of this was adultery, because they thought it spiritual, hence the “spiritual wife system” that they could admit to being involved in and still be “pure”. See my article on Eliza Snow and why she thought so, here. The only difference between Joseph’s “marriage” ceremony and what John C. Bennett, William Smith, Lyman Littlefield and others did was Joseph’s claim that only he had the authority to authorize and delegate, so what he did was valid and what they did was not.

Evidence of this is that Emily Partridge later claimed that Joseph was willing to end their “marriage” (both her’s and Eliza’s) with a “handshake” because it was causing him too much difficulty. Was that really a valid marriage or something that could easily be discarded when the going got tough, or when it was found out? So what then, was the difference between what Joseph did, and what John C. Bennett and William Smith did in 1842 Nauvoo? Joseph claimed a higher authority, that is all. This is especially troubling when one factors in the account by William Marks that Joseph was considering abandoning polygamy in 1844.

For an excellent treatment on William Marks last days in Nauvoo, see John S. Dinger’s, “A Mean Conspirator” or “The Noblest of Men”: William Marks’s Expulsion from Nauvoo, in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Fall/Winter 2014, Vol. 34, No. 2, 12-38. Dinger’s work here, is (as with all of his writing) exemplary.

What one finds in reading about Marks and those who were truly repulsed by polygamy was the tenaciousness those who practiced it employed in protecting the practice among themselves while continuing to deny that had anything to do with it. For all their supposed recalcitrance to the idea of polygamy, they embraced it enthusiastically and fanatically held on to it as long as they could; that is, until the Government of the United States finally outlawed the practice in the 1880’s and they were forced to choose between polygamy and Statehood/Worldly possessions.

What is ironic is that Brigham Young himself prophesied that if that happened, (Choosing Statehood & their possessions over polygamy) then the Church had lost its way.

[6] Brian Hales, “Fanny Alger?” Online here, accessed September 15, 2015.

[7]  “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, emphasis mine. Thanks to Brent Metcalfe for the link and H. Michael Marquardt for bringing the original letter to my attention.

Even today, this would be classed as official doctrine of the Church:

With divine inspiration, the First Presidency(the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. (LDS Newsroom, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” 4 May, 2007, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015).

Joseph Smith spoke of “Craftiness” in his 1842 Address. I always wondered about that when I read this quote by him:

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 , Accessed September 15, 2015).

What are we to make of Joseph Smith craftily using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Did he misuse this power? The timing of this “Address” is interesting, because it is a breaking point for Joseph “marrying” women that already had living husbands. There are two “marriages” that take place after this Address where Joseph “marries” women that are already married, Ruth Vose and Elvira Cowles. Both of these “marriages” to Joseph have dating problems and I believe they were both “married” to Joseph before 1843.

I believe that Joseph “repented” of his polyandrous “marriages” in the fall of 1842 and then started “marrying” only single women. His repentance is documented in the July, 1843 “revelation”. This is only my personal belief based on study of the “marriages”. I would like to thank Dan Vogel for his insights into D&C 132:60-63 that lead to my belief here. The verses read (emphasis mine),

60 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.

 61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

 62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

 63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they 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.

These verses echo the language of the 1842 Address:

…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 obliged to cut them off from the church.There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. …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.

[8] Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith, Affidavit Books, 1:9; see also 4:9. See also, “Ruth Vose”, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. Hales claims that this was an “eternity only sealing” but he bases this on an anonymous quote in Andrew Jenson’s notes. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. Was it first hand knowledge? Second hand? Contemporary? Late recollection? We just don’t know. All of Hales “evidence” of “Eternity only, non-sexual sealings” is based on this kind of unverifiable, questionable evidence. To make my point one simply has to look at the back up evidence that Hales presents here:

Another document corroborated 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.”

Hales writes in his footnotes,

“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. (Note 8)

An anonymous recollection and an unverifiable quote. This is Hales evidence? See Note #14.

[9] Hales, “Polyandry?“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. See Note #5.

[10] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, added emphasisop. cited above.

[11] Brian Hales, “Sylvia Sessions“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015, added emphasis.

[12] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, op. cited above.

[13] See Note 5. There is absolutely no legal or religious argument that can be made to overturn Joseph’s First Presidency Address of 1842. Smith himself successfully defeats such arguments in that Address. The only way that Smith could have “married” Sylvia Sessions was if she was legally divorced from Windsor Lyon for reasons of unlawfulness. She would have had to go to the law, and then legally divorce him. Where is Hales evidence (besides his speculations) that this ever happened? There isn’t any.  His being disfellowshipped was not a sufficient reason for them to divorce. Joseph expressly affirms this in his Address. Hales’ four page speculation can be read using the link above, pages 47-51.

What is interesting is that in 1844 when the Mormon Hierarchy was in denial mode about polygamy they published this in the Times and Seasons:

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney [Rigdon] and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the “dreadful splendor” of “spiritual wifery,” which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney’s  revelation, just because he wanted “to go to Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] and live.” Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully [willfully] lie to injure an innocent people! The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man’s wife die, he has a right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead! there is no law of God or man against it! This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was tolerated in the church, and they know it. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, Nov. 15, 1844, 715, emphasis mine, Online here, Accessed November 14, 2014).

Once again, we see the term spiritual wive system, and that “the law of the land and the rules of the church” do not allow one man to have “more than one wife alive at once”. This also claims that the law of the land does not allow “a plurality of wives”, that it was “fiendish” to claim so and that the only spiritual wife system (plurality of wives) tolerated in the Church was if a man’s wife died and he married another.

Joseph Smith violated his 1842 Proclamation, and so did every other polygamist who “married” the wife of another in the Church until it was supplanted in 1852. By this statement in the Times and Seasons, they also violated the laws of the land and the rules of the Church by taking any plural wife until the Polygamy “revelation” was accepted by the Church in 1852. This applies to Joseph Smith as well.

[14] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, added emphasis, op. cited. It is fascinating to go through Brian Hales document dump at his mormonpolygamydocuments.org site because one can check the very sources that Hales claims he is being so open and fair with in his books and on his website. I have found in many cases that he is neither. For example there is the quote that he uses in this instance. 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).

He used even less of this quote in his FAIRMORMON Presentation. In his footnote (43) he writes,

43. [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 assign this quote to someone else, Lucinda Sagers, not Sayers. The full quote that Don Bradley gave to Hales reads:

ca. 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, mormonpolygamydocuments.org, emphasis mine).

Is there any reported children by Ruth and Edward Sayers in 1843? Not that I am aware of. There aren’t any children by her listed that I can find. 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 writes,

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)

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).

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)

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 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?

The document also mentions “Mrs Granger” as a wife of Joseph Smith, but Sarah Granger never married him. So how do we know that the information about Mrs. Sagers is accurate?

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? I 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 familysearch.org 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).

I’m not sure why Mike Quinn was persuaded by Hales’ argument. 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”

Could easily be about Lucinda Sagers. 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 published this after Quinn’s paper came out since he quotes from it in his Trilogy of books. What is Quinn basing his reassessment on? Andrew Jenson’s notes that have no source? And  how can we be sure that the original document was a “y” and not a “g” when they are notes that Quinn made years earlier? He is recalling somehow that it might easily have been a “y”, but what is he basing this on? His memory of something he transcribed in the 1970’s? It would take the original document to be sure, and even Hales claims he cannot locate it, though Quinn describes it to him.

ADDENDUM (October 1, 2015). My friend Joe Geisner located the original document for me, so here it is:


WA MSS S-1644 Susan Cuthbertson Nauvoo Relief Society Application

The text in questions 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 [Monshinly?]
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 kick? 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—

Here is my analysis of the word in question, which I have determined is “sagers”:

Susan Cuthbertson Sagers Handwriting Analysis


Still, what about the mention of a child? I 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 Don Bradley 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?

Notes that we have no idea where the information came from; a “garbled” account of various happenings in Nauvoo that could span months; and an affidavit 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?

[15] Ruth Vose Sayers, Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Book 1:9, Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[16] Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition,  Locations 1726-1731. Hales writes,

However, it is unlikely that Sylvia chose to compare her plural marriage to those of Eliza and Zina simply because their sealing dates were close to hers. It could be argued that, if Sylvia was sealed to Joseph Smith soon after Windsor Lyon’s excommunication on November 19, 1842, they may have been married less than five months after Eliza’s plural sealing date. Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later. Nor would she have recognized any dating discrepancy in her mother’s story.

This claim by Hales is pure speculation. As I have documented above, Sylvia and her mother Patty Sessions knew these two woman intimately, so there is every reason to have confidence that she knew the dates of their marriages. Hales would have to present evidence that these woman would never have discussed their marriages; and so trying to claim that Sylvia would not have known when they were “married” to Smith is simply Hales’ speculating in an effort to try and discount an 1842 “marriage” date. Hales here, also changes the parameters of the quote, making it a “comparison” of marriages. This is not what the quote says. It reads,

“She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.”

Josephine Fisher Affidavit 1915Where is the comparison here? Did Sylvia state that her marriage was like or unlike theirs? No. So, how is this comparing her “marriage” to those other marriages? She only states that her marriage took place “about the same time” that those other “marriages” took place. She was giving a time-frame for her “marriage”, nothing more. But Hales doesn’t have a valid rebuttal for this, so he claims that quote is something it is not, a “comparison”.

How Hales comes up with these arguments mystifies me. It’s like he’s reading some other different document than the one he is quoting. Hales employs this tactic time and time again, which in and of itself is baffling, because all one has to do is just read the original documents. When was Windsor excommunicated? 1842. When was Eliza Snow “married” to Joseph? 1842. When was Zina Huntington “married” to Joseph Smith? Late 1841. And remember, Hales also wants to question the day of the marriage. If so, then how can he be sure the month is February? It could be March, April, May, etc. getting further and further away from those other marriages. This is what speculation does. Hales constantly wants to take what is said plainly and try and twist it into meaning something than what it actually says. This is the nature of his apologetic approach. He is trying to sell the public something the evidence doesn’t support. If he can contort the evidence into some “likely” scenario that he simply invents, he can then claim that the evidence he cited supports his “likely” scenario.

[17] Lorenzo Snow testimony, “Temple Lot Suit,” United States testimony 1892, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, folder Ms-d 1160, Box 1, fd11, 123, online here, accessed November 5, 2014.

[18] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, op. cited above. See also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1664-1675.

[19] The article will be titled, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”.

[20] Mormon Bookshelf, “Bathseba Smith”, Notes, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015.

[21] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” op. cited. Also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1631-1633. Hales also writes,

My comparison of the handwriting leads me to conclude that the words “Book 1” and “Book 2” were written by someone other than the books’ compiler, Apostle Joseph F. Smith.

My own handwriting analysis shows that Hales is mistaken. Smith did write the Titles. This is really irrelevant when one takes into account the totality of the evidence which shows that Books 1 & 2 were the originals. The fact that Joseph F. Smith had his name embossed on the first and last pages of these two books shows that they were his copies. Smith didn’t write all of the affidavits in the books himself either, but it is likely (from my comparison of Smith’s handwriting), that he did pen most of them and the Indexes found in Books 1 & 4.

As for the superscript “Du” found on the Title label of Book 1, and inside of Books 1 & 2, I believe this stands for “Duplicate”, and was probably written later when they were acquired by the Church History Library. This is only my speculation, but it fits the historical narrative.

[22] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions” op. cited, 54-55, n. 20

[23] Gregory L. Smith, “A Welcome Introduction,” Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[24] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, 45-46.

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid., 46.

[27] ibid.

[28] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, footnote 21, p. 55.

[29] Brian Hales, “Polyandry?” Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[30] Sessions, Patty Bartlett, 1795-1892, Mormon Midwife : the 1846-1888 diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions, Edited by Donna T. Smart, Utah State University Press, 1997, 80. (Hereafter, Smart, Mormon Midwife). This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

[31] ibid., 69.

[32] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[33] Mormon Midwife, 80.

[34] ibid., 69.

[35] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[36] Irvin F. Fisher to A. B. Call, April 9, 1945. pg. 1.

[37] Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition, Locations 1949-1950.

[38] Hales, “Emperors New Clothes“, op. cited.

[39] Decision of Judge Philips in Temple Lot Case, 42-44, Online here, Accessed September 18, 2015.

[40] Emily Partridge Diary, 1880-1893, CHL. She also wrote,

March 19th – Mr. Hall came down with a buggy for me to go up to an office in the Templeton to take the witness stand. I was there several hours and underwent a rigid examination. I felt sometimes as though the top of my head might move off. I was very weary and sometimes quite indignant, but had to pocket my pride and indignation and answer all the important questions the lawyers chose to ask. Truly we are turning backward, and a very strange thing it is, when after all these many years, Joseph the Prophet is being tried in court for teaching and practicing plural marriage. And some of his wives are brought forward to testify either for or against him. (Emily Partridge Diary, March 19, 1892).

[41]  Whitney, H. M., Hatch, C. M., & Compton, T. (2003). A Widow’s Tale: The 1884-1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 494.

[42] ibid.

[43] ibid.

[44] ibid., 494-495.

[45] ibid., 495.

[46] ibid.

[47] ibid.

[48] Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, 451.

[49] ibid., 463.

[50] ibid., 468

[51] ibid., 470-71.

[52] ibid., 478.

[53] Snow’s testimony from the Temple Lot Case:

92 Q. Did he [Joseph Smith] tell you whether or not a man could be sealed to another man, and a man’s family? A. No sir, he said nothing about that.

93 Q. Do you know whether or not that was the case from you knowledge? A. This is the first time I ever heard of it.

94 Q. Heard of what? A. Of one man being sealed to another.

95 Q. You never heard of a family being sealed to another family? A. Yes sir, I have heard of it in this way—I have heard of children being sealed to adults.

96 Q. Did you ever hear of a man’s wife being sealed to him? A. Yes sir.

97 Q. You have heard of that? A. Certainly I have hear of women being sealed to men, but of men being sealed to one another, I never heard of that until now.

98 Q. Was it not common to seal a man’s wife to him—that is was not the principle common after Joseph death and was it not practiced in the church at that time? A. Certainly. Now do I understand you t o ask me the question about a man being sealed to a man?

99 Q. Yes sir. A. In what way?

100. Q. Sealed to one higher in authority, so the whole family would be his in eternity? A. You ask me if I now know or ever did know anything about a man being sealed to a man, and I say no, I never knew or heard of such a thing as that. (Lorenzo Snow, Temple Lot Case Transcript, 139-40.)

Lorenzo Snow absolutely perjured himself here. Of course Snow knew all about the law of adoption (being President of the Salt Lake Temple at the time of his testimony) and the sealing of men to men, which was practiced in the church until discontinued by Wilford Woodruff in 1894. Here is Brigham Young commenting on the sealing of men to men, from Wilford Woodruff’s journal in 1847:

While treating upon the principle of Adoption He 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 ownly [p.118] 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 deing his Children. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, 117-118, Jan. 16, 1847.)

Brigham Young, also discussed the Law of Adoption and the sealing of men to men in front of the Church and in private. (See Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, 187, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015. After 1893: Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 67; George Q. Cannon, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 76. )

As Todd Compton explained,

The importance of the size of one’s eternal family, and the necessity of building it up on this earth, is shown by the custom of adoption practiced in the late Nauvoo period by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, who would have grown men, with their families, sealed to them as “sons”; these sons would even sign their name with their “father’s” last name. In the late Nauvoo period, among the elite Mormon leadership, there reportedly was competition to add new members, “sons,” to their adoptive families. Young had a number of “children” in his adoptive family; one of his adoptive sons, John D. Lee, in turn, had his own sizeable adoptive family. This is explainable in light of the principle of degree of one’s salvation according to the size of one’s earthly “kingdom.” Marrying plural wives was a comparable method of extending one’s family in this life so as to increase one’s power, dominion, exaltation in the next. Marriage, sealing, and adoption, in fact, were nearly interchangeable concepts. When John D. Lee married two women in 1845, he wrote in his diary, “About this time my family began to increase by the Law of Adoption. Feb 5, 1844 [1845] Nancy Bean was adopted into my family April 19, 1845 Louisa Free was also admitted—taking upon her my name.”

In Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph Smith, Joseph and Heber C. Kimball, Helen’s father, desired the marriage so that Heber’s family would be linked eternally to Joseph, thus assuring their salvation.37 Michael Quinn, with his interest in prosopography, emphasizes the fact that Joseph’s plural marriages linked him with important men in the church.38 This would have given the two connected parties both earthly and eschatological advantages.

When Jedediah Grant preached on the subject of Joseph’s plural marriages, he referred to them in terms of Joseph “adding to his family”: “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.” (Todd Compton, “A Trajectory of Plurality”, op. cited above, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 14, Online here,  (PDF) Accessed September 25, 2015).

Notice that Grant affirms that the “family organization” is the “Patriarchal Order of God”, or polygamy.  Claiming that marriage for time and all eternity is the main focus of D&C 132 is a modern interpretation of that “revelation”, because the sealing power was already in place and the concepts spoken of in Section 132 had already been revealed in public by Joseph in relation to Baptism for the Dead. In its totality, Joseph’s evolved theology from the Nauvoo period centered on the enlargement of family, with those sealing to themselves the largest number having the greatest “kingdom”.  This was the Patriarchal Order Marriage that was practiced in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom by all the gods.  In 1884 Abraham H. Cannon wrote these two entries in his diary,

Sunday, April 6th, 1884–Last day of Gen. Conf. “At a Priesthood meeting held in the evening (after the Hall was cleared of all those who were not worthy of being present by arranging the brethren according to wards and stakes) the strongest language in regard to Plural Marriage was used that I ever heard, and among other things it was stated that all men in positions who would not observe and fulfill that law should be removed from their places. The Spirit of the Lord rested powerfully upon the First Presidency each of whom addressed the meeting. All present felt the force of the remarks made.”

Mon. April 7th, 1884–At Social Hall, a mtg. of all Stake Presidents. “The revelation on Celestial Marriage was read and explained by Pres. Taylor in a clear and forcible manner, so that none could mistake its meaning. All were enjoined to observe this law.” (Abraham H. Cannon Diary, under dates listed, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

The Law of Adoption was also discussed in a meeting that Lorenzo Snow attended in 1884 (almost ten years before the Temple Lot Suit) with President John Taylor,

Thursday May 22, 1884. Prest Taylor Cannon & Smith & the brethren of the Apostles & others met at the Temple at 9.30 am  There were present in the Recorders Room as follows – Prest John Taylor, George Q Cannon – Joseph F. Smith, Apostles W. Woodruff, L.[orenzo] Snow, E. Snow, F. D. Richards – M Thatcher – G Teasdale, Coun D H Wells  Prests. J. D T McAllister, L. John Nuttall – A. M Cannon, W B Preston  C O. Card  M. W Merrill – Elders – D H Cannon  Samuel Roskelly, T. Morrell & Geo W Thatcher – President John Taylor directed the Temple Recorder to place on the records of the Temple as follows “That the Lord is well pleased and has accepted this House, and our labors in its Dedication, also the labors of the people in its building and beautifying – and whatever (p. 50) the Saints may feel to place into it, to ornament and embellish it, will also be acceptable. I state this as the Word of the Lord. And the Lord will continue to reveal unto us every principle that shall be necessary for our guidance in the future in all matters pertaining to our labors both spiritually and temporaly. Several of the brethren briefly expressed their satisfaction, in conversation, of all that had transpired in the building and in the past days services –

When President Taylor afterwards made pertinent remarks on the subject of adoption. said he had been considering this subject and had the matter and the Keys thereof before him, and in a short time he would make it plain to all, [not in attendance] in that there need could (sic) (p. 51) be no misunderstanding. he also referred to Abraham & others – after which He arose to his feet and said “God accepts us and our labors and if we will do His will and Keep His commandments, He will stand by and sustain us, and no power on the earth or in hell shall have power to do us any harm or to injure us in any manner – I feel to bless you my brethren here present in the name of Isreals God. and you and your families shall be blessed, and God will raise you up and lift you on high. I feel like shouting Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Glory to God. For His Kingdom and people shall triumph I say it in the name of the Israels God. Amen – All present responded Amen – Prest. Taylor & Cannon & Elder (p. 52) Nuttall then proceeded up to the sealing room when Prest Taylor explained further in regard to the ordinance of Adoption and concluded to postpone any action on that ordinance for the present and until he shall he shall give further instructions pertaining thereto. Everything now being in working order at the Temple the President & brethren left & prepared for starting to Salt Lake this afternoon – At 130 started by Utah & Northern train for Ogden in a special car provided by Supt Doddridge when on arrival at Ogden changed cars to the Utah Central and arrived at Salt Lake at 730 P M  all well and found families all well (p. 53) While on the train a dispatch was received from Elder Geo Reynolds setting forth that it was rumored that Prest Jos F Smith & Coun D H Wells were wanted by the Grand Jury as witnesses in some Polygamy cases before them. Bro Wells stopped at Brigham & Bro Smith at Willard & came down to the City afterwards.

He gave some interesting teaching concerning the rights of men & the dealings of men with there wives and children, the raising of posterity, purity, Holiness &c. That if A wise and proper course was taken in the begeting and raising of children that they would soon become pure & Holy And be administered to by Angels &c. And many other things did the Apostle teach. (Diary of L. John Nuttall, May 22, 1884)

In 1894 Wilford Woodruff claimed that the law of adoption (including the sealing of men to men) had been being performed incorrectly, and addressed the Church about it,

I want to lay before you what there is for us to do at this present time; and in doing this I desire particularly the attention of President Lorenzo Snow, of the Salt Lake Temple; President M. W. Merrill, of the Logan Temple; President J. D. T. McAllister, of the Manti Temple; and President D. H. Cannon, of the St. George Temple, and those associated with them. You have acted up to all the light and knowledge that you have had; but you have now something more to do than what you have done. We have not fully carried out those principles in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not felt satisfied, neither did President Taylor, neither has any man since the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon this subject than we had received. Revelations were given to us in the St. George Temple, which President Young presented to the Church of God. Changes were made there, and we still have more changes to make, in order to satisfy our Heavenly Father, satisfy our dead and ourselves. I will tell you what some of them are. I have prayed over this matter, and my brethren have. We have felt, as President Taylor said, that we have got to have more revelation concerning sealing under the law of adoption. Well, what are these changes? One of them is the principle of adoption. In the commencement of adopting men and women in the Temple at Nauvoo, a great many persons were adopted to different men who were not of the lineage of their fathers, and there was a spirit manifested by some in that work that was not of God. Men would go out and electioneer and labor with all their power to get men adopted to them. One instance I will name here: A man went around Nauvoo asking every man he could, saying, “You come and be adopted to me, and I shall stand at the head of the kingdom, and you will be there with me.” Now, what is the truth about this? Those who were adopted to that man, if they go with him, will have to go where he is. He was a participator in that horrible scene—the Mountain Meadow massacre. Men have tried to lay that to President Young. I was with President Young when the massacre was first reported to him. President Young was perfectly horrified at the recital of it, and wept over it. He asked: “Was there any white man had anything to do with that?.” The reply was No; and by the representations then made to him he was misinformed concerning the whole transaction. I will say here, and call  heaven and earth to witness, that President Young, during his whole life, never was the author of the shedding [p.73] of the blood of any of the human family; and when the books are opened in the day of judgment these things will be proven to heaven and earth. Perhaps I had not ought to enter into these things, but it came to me. Men are in danger sometimes in being adopted to others, until they know who they are and what they will be. Now, what are the feelings of Israel? They have felt that they wanted to be, adopted to somebody. President Young was not satisfied in his mind with regard to the extent of this matter; President Taylor was not. When I went before the Lord to know who I should be adopted to (we were then being adopted to prophets and apostles), the Spirit of God said to me, “Have you not a father, who begot you?” “Yes, I have.” “Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him? …. Yes,”says I, “that is right.” I was adopted to my father, and should have had my  father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every man who presides over a temple to see performed from this day henceforth  and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father. When a man receives the endowments, adopt him to his father; not to Wilford Woodruff, nor to any other man outside the lineage of his fathers. That is the will of God to this people. I want all men who preside over these temples in these mountains of Israel to bear this in mind. What business have I to take away the rights of the lineage of any man? What right has any man to do this? No; I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days. Elijah the prophet appeared unto Joseph Smith and told him that the day had come when this principle must be carried out. Joseph Smith did not live long enough to enter any further upon these things. His soul was wound up with this work before he was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ. He told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him. In my prayers the Lord revealed to me, that it was my duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment of that revelation I lay it before this people. I say to all men who are laboring in these temples, carry out this principle, and then we will make one step in advance of what we have had before. Myself and counselors conversed upon this and were agreed upon it, and afterwards we laid it before all the Apostles who were here (two were absent—Brothers Thatcher and Lund, the latter being in England), and the Lord revealed to every one of these men—and they would bear testimony to it if they were to speak—that that was the word of the Lord to them. I never met with anything in my life in this Church that there was more unity upon than there was upon that principle. They all feel right about it, and that it is our duty. That is one principle that should be carried out from this time henceforth. “But,” says one, “suppose we come along to a man who perhaps is a murderer.” Well, if he is a murderer, drop him out and connect with the next man beyond him. But the Spirit of God will be with us in this matter. We want the Latter-say Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the bead of the dispensation. This is the will of the Lord to this people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be [p.74] true. (Wilford Woodruff, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, p.74. April 8, 1894).

Sealing men to men was a natural progression of the Patriarchal Order of God. Though Woodruff claimed that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor “were not satisfied” with what had been revealed about the “Law of Adoption”, Taylor specifically said in 1874 that he “had the matter and the Keys thereof before him” and that he would “make it plain to all” so there could be no misunderstanding. Taylor did not say that there were any problems or that he “was not satisfied” with the doctrine itself.  What is very interesting is that Woodruff decided to discontinue the sealing of men to men who were not directly related after the Temple Lot Suit and the questions it obviously raised. This was also done in relation to Re-baptism and later; Polygamy and the Adam-God Doctrine; all points of doctrine that those from the ReOrganized Church used in their attacks on the validity of the Utah Branch of the Mormon Church and which cased a Judge to rule against them.

A month before Woodruff had the Law of Adoption discontinued in the Church he told a group of men in the temple,

Wed., March 28, 1894. … I (Wilford Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will[ing] to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it… (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Wed., March 28, 1894).

Woodruff proclaimed to the “saints” in 1894:

When you get to the last man in the lineage, as I said before, we will adopt: that man to the Prophet Joseph, and then the Prophet Joseph will take care of himself with regard to where he goes. A man may say, “I am an Apostle, or I am a High Priest, or I am an Elder in Israel, and if I am adopted to my father, will it take any honor from me?” I would say not. If Joseph Smith was sealed to his father, with whom many of you were acquainted, what effect will that have upon his exaltation and glory? None at all. Joseph Smith will hold the keys of this dispensation to the endless ages of eternity. It is the greatest dispensation God ever gave to man, and he was ordained before the world was to stand in the flesh and organize this work. He was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus, and when he comes in the clouds of heaven he will wear a martyr’s crown. Those of you who stand here—I do not care whether you are Apostles or what you are—by honoring your fathers you will not take any honor from your heads; you will hold the keys of the salvation of your father’s house, as Joseph Smith does. You will lose nothing by honoring your fathers and redeeming your dead. It is a glorious work. When I returned from England in 1841 and heard Joseph Smith give this revelation, that we had power to redeem our dead, one of the first things I thought was, “I have a mother in the spirit world.” My father was in the flesh. I baptized and ordained him and brought him up to Zion where he is buried. But I never saw my mother to know her. She died when I was an infant. I had power to seal my mother to my father. Was not that a satisfaction? It was to me. I have gone to work with the assistance of my friends and redeemed my father’s and my mother’s house. When I inquired of  the Lord how I could redeem my dead, while I was in St. George, not having any of my family there, the Lord told me to call upon the Saints in St. George and let them officiate for me in that temple, and it should be acceptable unto Him. Brother McAllister and the brethren and sisters there have assisted me in this work, and I felt to bless them with every feeling of my heart. This is a revelation to us. We can help one another in these matters, if we have not relatives sufficient to carry this on, and it will be acceptable unto the Lord. (Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 75, April 8, 1894)

And yet a month before this Abraham H. Cannon writes that,

I (Pres. Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was, however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it. In searching out my genealogy I found about four hundred of my female kindred who were never married. I asked Pres. Young what I should do with them. He said for me to have them sealed to me unless there were more than 999 of them. The doctrine startled me, but I had it done. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, March 28, 1894).

Why didn’t Woodruff try to “get to the last man in his own lineage”? He surely knew his own genealogy. Woodruff wrote in July, 1838:

My father Aphek Woodruff, the Son of Eldad Woodruff, which was the Son of Josiah Woodruff, is a man that hath been seeking religion & the favor of God & light & truth for many years at times, & for more than 20 years have a numerous Circle of friends made his Case a subject of Prayer & pied with God in his behalf. But as oft as my father hath strugled for a victory over sin & its influence heretofore Satan hath tempted him & hindered him from gaining the victory. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, 264).

John Taylor, it seems did not view things the same way that Woodruff did. As Abraham Cannon also wrote,

Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890: . . .Father [George Q. Cannon] holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest; but this is rather a questionable proceeding. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, December 18, 1890).

Yet, Taylor “had the keys” and said that he understood the law of adoption.  John Taylor also received a “revelation” in 1886 that God would never revoke polygamy:

John Taylor, 26-27 September 1886

“My Son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people; thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant; for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.

Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not.

And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham?

I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so  Amen.” (Unpublished Revelations, 1:88.  Musser, Four Hidden Revelations, 15, online here, PDF, Accessed December 2, 2014; For more background and the connection to Lorin Wolly, see also Fred W. Collier, Doctrine of the Priesthood, Vol. 13, No. 1, 16ff, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

As Abraham H. Cannon wrote on March 29, 1892:

We continued our meeting. Pres. Snow said he felt that when any question came up among us on which the majority were clear, should there be one who did not see as the others, that one should be willing to yield his views to those of the majority, and leave the responsibility of the course pursued with them. –John W. Taylor spoke in relation to the Manifesto: “I do not know that that thing was right, though I voted to sustain it, and will assist to maintain it; but among my father’s papers I found a revelation given him of the Lord, and which is now in my possession, in which the Lord told him that the principle of plural marriage would never be overcome. Pres. Taylor desired to have it suspended, but the Lord would not permit it to be done. At the close of John W.’s remarks our meeting adjourned till tomorrow at 10 o’clock. I closed with prayer. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, March 29, 1892).

Yet, Brigham Young taught,

…I will answer a question that has been repeatedly asked me…should I have a father dead that has never heard this gospel, would it be required of me to redeem him and then have him adopted into some man’s family and I be adopted to my father? (I ans. no.) … were we to wait to redeem our dead relatives before we could link the chains of the P. H. [priesthood] we would never accomplish it. (Diaries of John D. Lee, 89, as quoted in Gerald & Sandra Tanner, “Sealing of Men to Men: and Early Mormon Doctrine,” SLC Messenger, Issue No. 92, April, 1997, online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

There is no way that Lorenzo Snow could not have known about the sealing of men to men. Woodruff includes Snow in a list of men that preformed these sealings with “all the light and knowledge” they had. Why Snow chose to lie about this doesn’t really matter, but it does go to his credibility as a witness and shows that he would lie rather than reveal some things he might have viewed as sacred or controversial.

[54] See, “Mormon Secrets & Perjuring Prophets,” Online here, Accessed September 18, 2015.

[55] Delcena Johnson was a widow, so could be classified as “single”. I also feel that the date of her “marriage” to Smith is unreliable. See Note 56.

[56] About Delcena Johnson, Hales writes,

Delcena was born November 19, 1806, in Westfield, Vermont, to Ezekiel Johnson and Julia Hills. She married Lyman Royal Sherman on January 16, 1829. She and her husband, as others of her family, were converted to the Church in January 1832. The Shermans moved to Kirtland, Ohio, probably in June 1833 with Mrs. Julia Johnson and family where they resided until 1838. Lyman Sherman died in early 1839 and was a close friend of the Prophet.

Delcena left no record of her relationship with the [sic] Joseph. Benjamin F. Johnson, her brother, provided the sole evidence corroborating her sealing, dating it to “The marriage of my eldest sister to the Prophet was before my return to Nauvoo [on July 1, 1842], and it being tacitly admitted, I asked no questions.”  Delcena was married to Joseph Smith for “time” and was later sealed for eternity to Lyman Sherman by proxy in the Nauvoo temple. Joseph’s plural widows were given a choice to whom they would be sealed in the Nauvoo temple. Delcena’s choice of Lyman Sherman supports that sealings to high Church leaders was not then viewed as being superior to sealings to other worthy Latter-day Saints. (Brian Hales, “Delcena Didamia Johnson”, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

There is no record of a proxy sealing for Delcena during Joseph’s lifetime (according to Hales). Benjamin’s dating for the “marriage” was made in 1905, more than 60 years later. An example of Johnson’s penchant for exaggerating or telling conflicting stories:

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. (Benjamin F. Johnson, 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 [Joseph Smith & Benjamin Johnson] 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).

If Johnson already knew about Delcena in 1842, then the above conversation doesn’t make much sense though he might have learned about it later. But then why mention his “return to Nauvoo [on July 1, 1842]”? It appears that later in life Johnson wanted to portray that he was knowledgeable about polygamy at a much earlier date.  In Mormon Enigma, they write:

By 1902 or 1903, when the letter [to George F. Gibbs] is believed to have been written, Johnson was an old man and although his story [about Almira] is supported by other documents such as Joseph’s diary and Emily Partridge’s testimony in the Temple Lot Suit, his memory of dates is not so clear. He said it was only a month after Joseph visited with the Partridge woman that Joseph shared the same bedroom with Almira. It was more likely closer to three months later, for Almira’s marriage did not take place until August 1. (p. 334)

Given the above evidence, the date for Delcena’s “marriage” to Smith should be taken with extreme caution. It is more in line with Smith’s modus operandi to have “married” both of these women within a short time-frame of each other.

[57] Clark, Sylvia Porter Sessions, “Biography”, (josephsmithpapers.org), Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[58] Richard N. Holzapfel and T. Jeffery Cottle, Old Mormon Nauvoo, 1839-1846: Historic Photographs and Guide [Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1990], 111-12.

[59] Joseph Smith Affidavit Books, 1:60.

[60] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 276.

Patty Bartlett Sessions Parry, Diary Entry, June 16, 1860.

Patty Bartlett Sessions Parry, Diary Entry, June 16, 1860.

[61] History of the Church, “Remarks”, Vol. 4, 553.

[62] Joseph Smith III to E.C. Brand, January 6, 1894.

[63] Lyon, Windsor Palmer, “Biography”, Joseph Smith Papers, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[64] “Patty Sessions,” Woman’s Exponent 13, 02-01-1885, 135.

[65] “Patty Sessions,” Woman’s Exponent 13, 11-15-1884, 95.

[66] Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 11546-11553.

[67] History of the Church, Vol. 5, 184.

[68] Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 257.

[69]  Lyndon Cook, Nauvoo Deaths and Marriages, 49.

[70] Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 4:62.

[71] Woman’s Exponent 13, 11-15-1884, 95.

[72] ibid.

[73] George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 120.

[74] Helen Mar Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent 11, 11-15-1882, 90.

[75] Stanley, B. Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel, Diary 3 of Heber C. Kimball, p.86.

[76] ibid., 87.

[77] History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.xxix.

[78] Willard Richards Journal, CHL.

[79] Perrigrine Sessions Diary, CHL.

[80] Journal of Thomas Bullock (1816-1885), Gregory R. Knight, B.Y.U. Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1, (1991), 18.

[81] ibid., 28.

[82] Enoch Tripp Journal, quoted by Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 185-86.

[83] Lyon, Windsor Palmer, “Biography,” (josephsmithpapers.org), Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.  See also, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, Stanley B. Kimball, University of Illinois Press, (1986), 313. Kimball writes,

Sylvia Porter Sessions (Lyon), born July 31, 1818, Newry, Oxford County, Maine, daughter of David and Patty Bartlett Sessions, died Apr. 13, 1882, Bountiful, Utah. Married for time to HCK Jan. 26. 1846. No children by HCK. She married her first husband, Dr. Winsor [sic] Palmer Lyon, in 1838 and bore him six children, most of whom died in infancy. While her first husband was living and with his permission she married Joseph Smith for eternity Jan. 26, 1846, and married HCK for time. She separated from HCK in 1847 and married Ezekiel Clark Jan. 1, 1850. She bore him one child in Iowa City, Iowa. She apparently returned to Kimball in 1854.

Kimball gets many details wrong in this bio of Sylvia Lyons. From this it appears that she “married” Smith and Kimball in 1846 and then never had any more interaction with Windsor Lyon after this. He also doesn’t mention the 1842 marriage in Nauvoo to Joseph. It is obvious that Stanley Kimball for some reason did not reference or wasn’t aware of the Utah Affidavits.

[84] Todd Compton writes,

Lyon, Windsor, husband of Sylvia Sessions Lyon Smith Kimball Clark, was born 8 February 1809, in Orwell, Addison County, Vermont, the son of Aaron Lyon and Roxana Palmer Lyon. He was baptized in 1832, married Sylvia 21 April 1838 in Missouri, moved to Nauvoo in 1839, and became a prominent shopkeeper and druggist. Of their six children, only Josephine lived past childhood. Windsor was disfellowshipped in November 1842 and rebaptized by Heber Kimball in January or February 1846. According to family tradition, he married a plural wife, Susan Gee. He, Sylvia, and possibly Susan stayed in Iowa where he died of “consumption” in January 1849. Nauvoo High Council, Minutes, LDS Church Archives and Marquardt Collection, Marriott Library; Perrigrine Sessions, Journal, 18 January 1846, LDS Church Archives; Enoch Tripp, Journal, 1 February 1846, LDS Church Archives; Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 177-93 (Todd Compton,  “Remember Me In My Affliction”: Louisa Beaman and Eliza R. Snow Letters, 1849, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 25, No. 2, (1999), 62-63).

[85] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 46.

[86] ibid., 52-53.

[87] ibid., 56.

[88] ibid., 78.

[89] ibidl, 79.

[90] ibid., 79-80.

[91] ibid.

[92] ibid., 53.

[93] ibid.

[94] Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Signature Books, 1997, 193.

[95] ibid., 197. Here is a statement written by Ezekiel Clark in 1898:

Ezekiel Clark a Senator, prominent banker, founder and president of many great industries of the state of Iowa. That’s what they say of me. How did I make that kind of a name for myself? I didn’t aspire to it all, through my young years. No, I was happy growing up on my father, Icabod’s large farm, in Richland, Ohio. My mother, Isabel, whose father’s name was McQuade and mothers name was Kilgore, was as Irish as a shamrock. So, perhaps I just had the luck of the Irish with me, all through my life! Well, no, not all through my life, for there were several great sadnesses that I had to endure, but I got through them and life went on.

First, I shall say, I was born on 17 January 1817, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, where my father had made a home for a wife and family, upon his return from the War of 1812. It was soon after my birth that father Went to Richland, Ohio, and settled upon a farm of 320 acres. Or I should say, it became a farm, of that many acres after long hard hours, days, months and years of work. I, and my older sister, my younger brother, and seven younger sisters, all did our share of work. We had good times, but living so near the sometimes hostile Indians, there were times we had scares too.

Our parents saw to it that I received a good education and then encouraged me to strike out on my own, when I was 21. 1 purchased a farm of my own and then courted Susan Urania Dyer, who had come from Franklin, Vermont. We were married 29 March 1839. We resided there until the spring of 1849, when I traveled to Iowa City and bought a farm and timber land of 1200 acres. I then went into partnership with a Dr. Lake, in purchasing the Coralville grist and flour mills. I built a home in Iowa City, to which I brought my wife and two sons, John Henry and Samuel Kirkwood, named after my sister Jane’s husband. A daughter, Phila Isabel, was born to us the next year.

I prospered in my business ventures, and became the President of the Iowa City Bank, the first such business in the young city. Then Susan became very ill and died on 25 August 1849. It was hard trying to carry on my businesses and care for three small children too. So, when I met a beautiful, tiny, genteel widow lady, (she had lost her husband, Dr. Winsor P. Lyon, in January of the same year) she became the object of my affection. I was determined to have her as my wife, and she was just as determined to join the rest of her family in the Utah Territory. She was a “Mormon” and wanted to be with the rest of the “Mormons” at their headquarters in Salt Lake City. But with love, I persued and persuaded her to change her mind and marry me on the lst. of January 1850. Her brother Perrigrine Sessions, had come from Utah to fetch her and her children. He arrived just the day before, and she almost changed her mind, but finally she told him to return to Utah without her, and so we were married. We were happy, I thought, through those few years. However, two of her three small children sickened and died. David Carlos 21 April 1850 and Bryran Winsor, 13 December 1851, just before our first child was born, Perry Ezekiel, 4 February 1851. We had two other children, Phebe Jane, born 1 September 1852 and our last, Martha Sylvia, 20 January 1854. There were many times that Sylvia mentioned her peculiar religion, but each time I turned a deaf ear. I wish I had listened more carefully. I was satisfied with the religion of my parents and so did not want to hear of another. I did notice that Sylvia wrote many letters to her mother, Patty, in Salt Lake, and that she received many in return. Each of those letters brought her tears and ended in an angry response from me. I could not understand why she felt it her duty to go to that place, just to be with the other Mormons. When I’d ask her “why?”, she’d try to tell me about a “restored gospel of Jesus Christ”. She would only make me angry, and I’d counter with “but aren’t all these churches around here churches of Christ. Why would He have to have just one?” It was such a controversial church! I had read some of the articles about it through the years, but none of them impressed me as being entirely true. Then after their expulsion from Nauvoo, I had met some of those who came to Iowa City, to outfit themselves for the westward trek. They seemed like sensible, intelligent people. Perhaps too zealous, but since their money and business brought prosperity to my mills at Coralville, stocking up on supplies for a three month journey, I was glad to help them out. But why would she want to leave the beautiful home I had built for her in Iowa City, with all it’s luxuries? Very few of our acquaintances lived as well, and she had a prominent role to fill in society, as the wife of a banker.

One of the “Brethren”, as she called her old friend from Salt Lake, visited us on his way to an Eastern Mission. Afterward I found her in tears and demanded to know why she always seemed so unhappy after seeing or receiving letters from her “Mormon” friends. It was then that I received some astonishing news. She told me that she was a “sealed wife” of Joseph Smith, her Prophet. I had heard rumors of polygamy being practiced in Illinois, but didn’t know what it meant. She explained it to me. Joseph, the Prophet, had been given the commandment to take other wives in a “Celestial marriage” ceremony, that sealed them for time and eternity. In 1842, he told Sylvia’s mother and father that he had been given Pattys name, as one of those he was to be sealed to for eternity. Since she was already married, the ceremony would not constitute a marriage for time, as the others were to be, but only for Eternity. David had given his permission and the sealing was made, with Sylvia as a witness. Since the main reason for this restored ordinance was for posterity for the Prophet Joseph, and he was killed just two years later, without additional increase from these women, those same women were then married to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and others of the presiding Elders. The children born from these unions would, in reality, be the posterity of Joseph Smith, having been born “under the covenant of that Celestial marriage.” I was more astonished as she continued.. Since Patty was beyond the child bearing years when the “sealing” was performed, there was only one way Joseph would have a posterity from her lineage. It would be necessary for Sylvia to be sealed to Joseph, in the Nauvoo Temple, with Heber C. Kimball being proxy. She and her husband, Winsor Lyon, were asked to pray for affirmation of this commandment of the Lord. Winsor, through some disagreement with the leaders, had been cut off from the membership, a short while before. But after their fervent prayers had been answered, he asked for re baptism and gave his consent for the proxy ceremony and for the children born to them, to be indeed, posterity for Joseph. The last two children born to them, who died after our marriage, had been born under that covenant. But then so were my three children! Even though I wasn’t a knowing or willing partner in this, my children were born to Sylvia, who was still under this covenant. I refused to believe this! As long as I didn’t believe it, then it just did not matter and we would not talk about it anymore. I really hoped she would forget it all.

Then her brother, Perrigrine, came to visit us, on his way to Salt Lake from a mission to England. She cared for him through a serious illness after his arrival. Upon his recovery, I complied with their suggestion that she go with him to Utah. I believed that a visit with her mother and brothers and their families would be the answer to our problem. I felt sure that when she saw how primitively they lived out there, that our home and life in a refined society, would make up her mind forever to forget all that religious nonsense. I fitted them out with two spring wagons, much more comfortable than the prairie schooner type wagons the pioneer companies were made up of. And I secured two good cows to go along, for fresh milk for the children. Our baby, Martha Sylvia, was only three months old and the other two, less than three years of age. The morning of their departure I was apprehensive. Would she forget all that foolishness and return to me? But of course! I would await their return! But they didn’t return! I wrote letter after letter to her, pleading for her to return to me and to our home. But she apparently had made up her mind to remain there, where the rest of her Mormon family and friends were. Iowa City had become an important gathering point for westward saints. They purchased teams and wagons and oxen and supplies for the journey. Heber C. Kimball and Jedidiah Grant, came to see me in 1856 and they talked to me about our situation and informed me that she had been advised to remain there, where her children could receive the religious instruction they needed, to take their rightful place in the Celestial Kingdom. Then they asked my help in outfitting handcart companies that would be going to Salt Lake each Spring. They asked if these companies could assemble at my mills at Coralville. I entered into an agreement with them, and they said they’d be glad to take anything out to my wife and children that I wanted to send. I did send, many things from time to time, to aid in my wife’s and children’s comfort.

The first handcart company, led by Edmund Ellsworth, with 266 souls left on 9 June 1856. Altogether, I was instrumental in helping 2,077 people, in 7 companies, to travel to Utah. The main Coralville street was named for them “Mormon Trek Boulevard”. I even made a trip out to Salt Lake, taking my two sons, John Henry and Samuel Kirkwood to visit their brother and sisters. Once again I implored my dear Sylvia to return with me. I loved her very much and I also loved my children and wanted them with me. But, she again refused, however, I did extract a promise from her, that she would let our son, Perry, come to Iowa, where I could be assured that he would receive the education befitting my son, a Clark. I returned to my home and because of the times, became quite involved in State politics. My sister, Jane and husband, Samuel Kirkwood, had come to Coralville to assist me in my farming and milling, in 1855.

The following year, due to my persuasion and campaigning for my brother in-law, he was elected State Representative for 4 years. On the 15th. of Sept. 1859, Sylvia sent our son, Perry, back to me for his education. I gave him the best schooling possible in our state, and then sent him to Europe to receive a higher and more valued education. In 1861 I was married to Mary Dewey, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. We had six children born to us, four sons and two daughters. Samuel Kirkwood was elected Governor of our State and the Civil War was declared. My two oldest sons were determined to join the army. They enlisted twice before they were of age and I purchased them out again. Samuel Kirkwood Clark, the youngest, perservered and went to war. It was at Arkansas Post, that he had both legs shot off, resulting in his death, 20 February, 1863.

During that war, between the North and South, I gave my all to serve the people effectively, serving in the House of Representatives from 1863 to 67. I was pulled more and more into politics and in 1876 to 1878, I was Iowa’s State Senator. I did not seek reelection, as my businesses needed my attention. Once again, I made a trip to Utah. I received word, that Sylvia had passed away on 12 April 1882. 1 took the rail cars to Salt Lake to see my daughters, who were both married and had children. I wanted to see them. I had always loved their mother, Sylvia, and had even made a proposition to her, that if she would return to Iowa City for a year, I would go back to Utah with her. But, I guess she knew me better than I even knew myself, for she knew that I would never be converted to her religion. I had met many fine Mormons and had admired their integrity and zeal in their religion but my beliefs could never be the same as hers. We parted friends and I sold off her farm and timber lands that her husband, Winsor Lyon, had purchased before his death, in 1863. I also sent her $1500.00 by a Mr. Lemmon, to purchase, from him, land in Bountiful, where she was able to build a nice brick home. The farm she owned was run by Mr. Williams, a fine reliable neighbor. I had promised that she would never want for anything, that I could give her. I have a clear conscience, that I had kept that promise. Phebe Jane and Martha had married on 30 January 1870 to John Henry Ellis and Adelbert Burnham. Each had several children that greeted me as “Grandpa Clark’. I had given them each a thousand dollars, to build homes on the plots of land their grandmother, Patty, had given them as a wedding gift. But now John Henry and Phebe needed more room for their family. Since he was a fine carpenter, I gave them enough to build on to their small house, which gave them more room and comforts for their family. It hurts me to think of how much more I could have done for my daughters, had they only stayed in Iowa. However, they seemed happy enough and my grand children were fine sturdy ones. Phebe’s youngest girl, at that time, had been named Sylvia and she was going to be just as beautiful as her grandmother had always been. However, I felt real concern over Phebe Jane. She had a serious heart condition and seemed in such poor health. She writes quite often, but doesn’t complain, so I don’t really know how she is getting along. My son, Perry, still lived in the States. He had returned from Europe and first worked at my bank in Iowa City and then in 1885, worked as a bookkeeper and clerk in my bank at Kansas City, Missouri. I had purchased a large farm there and stocked it with thoroughbred cattle, that I took a great deal of pride in.

With all the occupations I have engaged in, farming, milling, banking, politics, I still feel the need to get back to the soil. I enjoy watching crops grow and animals feeding and growing from it. I have had a good life, even with the sorrows, which must come into everyones life. I have always contributed to needs of my fellowmen, especially the destitute. May God grant that I may ever have it in my power to help, in some degree, relieve the suffering sons and daughter of Adam. That is all I ask in my old age. There is one thing, however, that has always puzzled me. I have never been able to experience the same warm feeling in my heart, when many have addressed me as “the honorable Mr. Clark”, as I did, for those brief moments when neighbors of my daughters in Utah, mistakenly addressed me, as “Brother Clark”.

OBITUARY OF EZEKEIL CLARK A HISTORY MAKER AND NAPLOEON OF FINANCE June 26, 1898 The death of the Honorable Ezekiel Clark occurred at his home on North Clinton Street at 9:30 o=clock on Sunday last. For several years the gentleman had been failing, and for months he had been confined to his home where the flame of life had been fluttering, only awaiting for the day to come when the Angel of Death should pluck from the heart of Iowa one of her greatest sons. Thus ended the life of a man who was one of the best known and highly respected financiers of the great. Hawkeye State. From the time when Mr. Clark removed from Ohio to this State in 1848, until very recently, his was an active life. In 1849 he and Dr. Lake purchased the Coralville mills, and for many years Clark operated those mills successfully and built, up a large business. In every enterprise requiring capital and brains, he was the man sough after, and he was the man who built up many of the great industries. It was his brain that built up the enormous business of the Coral mills, his was the capital that started the Glass Works, the Packing House, the Gas and Electric Light Works, that built the Opera House, and many other enterprises. The story of Johnson County tells of the successful operation of all these various industries, while Mr. Clark’s counsel prevailed in regard to the business and of the plants. As a banker he was best known, however, and his bank is one of the oldest landmarks in the City. Until the late years when extreme age prohibited Mr. Clark from taking an active part in business. His was the best known Iowa name in commercial circles and during his long career he shaped the policy of many a great undertaking. His name will ever be associated with that of Iowa’s old war governor, and it was largely due to Clark’s efforts that Kirkwood played the important part in Iowa’s history. At the time when politics were new in Iowa and when the sterling qualities of man counted far more than did his Political pull, Mr. Clark induced his brother in law, Kirkwood, who at that time was working in the Coral Mills, to attend the convention held at Iowa City, in 1856 at which meeting the Republican Party of Iowa was born. The record from that time, on of Kirkwood and Clark, are matters of history, and all Iowa points with pride to the events which so rapidly followed. At this convention began Kirkwood’s career, and through it all the Prince of Iowa’s politicians ever had a true friend and wise counselor, in the person of Ezekiel Clark. When the war broke out Mr. Clark was at the head of a branch of the State Bank in Iowa City. The extricating of Iowa State funds in Lieu of wildcat banks and the establishment of the State Bank and branches on a solid basis, was largely Mr. Clark’s work. The new Governor Kirkwood was confronted with no money to arm, equipt and feed the Iowa troops, then answering the Presidents call. From Mr. Clark’s bank the Governor borrowed all the money the institution could spare, did the same from Hyram Price’s bank at Davenport, and to secure each bank, governor Kirkwood’s and Ezekiel Clark’s names went on the notes. Finally the legislature repaid the banks. Mr. Clark was sent to the front as a Paymaster and was a helpful assistant to the Governor all through the War. In 1864 Clark was elected to the Iowa Senate, and was returned again in 1876. Several times he was nominated for Congress and for Governor, but his business interest weaned him away from office holding. Mr. Clark’s also accredited with another great financial feat. It is stated that he is, in reality, the Father of the”Greenback” One night, long ago he awakened at his hotel in New York City, springing up, paced the floor until dawn, his mind filled with a great idea. Then after a consultation with his associate on the trip, the representative of the Governor of Indiana, as Mr. Clark was Governor Kirkwood’s representative, he went to Secretary Salmon P. Chase, before whom he laid his plan. ‘The cabinet offices adopted the great idea, carried it into execution and the greenback was born. Mr. Clark was 81 years old in January. He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 17 Jan. 1817. His parents had returned to that state from Richland County, Ohio, driven back by the incursions of the then ravaging Red Man. Later on the Clarks again went to Richland County, and there the subject of this sketch spent his babyhood and youth. There too he was married, when 22 years of age, to Miss Susan Urania Dyer. To them was born three children, Mrs. John N. Coldren, John H. Clark, and Samuel Kirkwood Clark, to whom came fatal injuries at Arkansas Post during the Civil War. In 1850 Mr. Clark was again married, his wife being a widow, Mrs Sylvia Lyon, of Iowa City. Their children were Perry E. Clark, Phebe Jane Clark and Martha Sylvia Clark. In 1861 Mr. Clark was united in marriage to Miss Mary Dewey, of Mt. Pleasant, who survives him. The fruits of this union were Mrs. Eurk Carson, of Davenport; Loren D. Clark of Trenton, Missouri; Horace G, Clark of Grinnel; Adeleaide, Earl, and Sidney of Iowa City. At three o’clock Tuesday afternoon the funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Dr. Barrett at the family residence at the corner of Clinton and Davenport Streets: and this Wednesday morning the remains were taken to Davenport, where in accordance with Mr. Clark’s wishes, cremation will reduce to ashes all that is mortal of this once great and prominent man. 26 June 1898 (Online here, Accessed June 1, 2016)

[96] ibid., 198.

[97] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 21.

[98] Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1923-1929.

[99] ibid., Locations, 1923-1929.

[100] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 72.

[101] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[102] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 195.

[103] Emily Partridge, “What I remember” April 7, 1884.

[104] I’m baffled by Hales’ presentation in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” concerning Mary Heron Snider. He writes,

“My research supports that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives had legal husbands.”

He includes Mary Heron Snider in this list of “wives”. But Hales himself has written,

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. (Hales, “Mary Heron”, online here. Accessed,September 25, 2015).

He even includes her in this graphic at the FAIRMORMON Conference:

Hales Polyandrous Wives Graphic

Hales provides us with a lot of speculations about what happened between Mary Heron and Joseph Smith, but he himself won’t commit to any of them, yet continues to claim that she was Smith’s plural wife!

The way that Hales handles the Joseph E. Johnson account about Mary Heron and Joseph Smith tells a lot about his lack of being able to present the evidence in any kind of balanced 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 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.

Here she is a “possible” conjugal wife! How does he get to the wife part of this? He wants to believe that she was one. That is all. 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 her decision not to be sealed to Snider? Remember as early as 1831 Smith was claiming that adultery was no crime and that he, like David could commit any sin and not lose his prophetic mantle. (See Ezra Booth’s letter to Edward Partridge,  September 20, 1831, & Ezra Booth to Ira Eddy, November, 29, 1831. See Note #105). Of course, this throws a wrench into Hales’ assumptions here.

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 I’ve 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 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.”  (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:

1.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 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.

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 Hales 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 was disfellowshipped 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 brings up Joseph Smith and that he was familiar with the “first frigging” (or sexual intercourse) between Smith and Johnson’s mother-in-law, Mary Heron. 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”. Again, clear evidence that Johnson considered what Smith did as wrong, or adultery.
  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 had him rebaptized. There are no objections or accusations directed at Johnson for lying, or giving false information, or that Johnson’s observations 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. There is a lot of apologetic explaining that takes place before one gets to read the evidence. 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). I guess Hales thinks that Joseph E. Johnson would never consider that Smith made a mistake and “repented” of it, just as he did. This is only one of many reasons that I could list for why Johnson’s testimony was not “compromised”.  Notice also, that for Johnson it is a disfellowshipment, but when Hales mentions Windsor Lyon, it is an “excommunication.”

Johnson 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).  Of course Johnson didn’t claim hypocrisy because he knew how those men (and he himself) felt about Joseph Smith.

This same tired old argument by Hales 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. 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).

This Joseph would have to do in direct violation of Church Law affirmed in his 1842 First Presidency Message. Jedidiah Grant would later affirm 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 September 26, 2015).

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 #106 about 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)

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,

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)

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 September 26, 2015).

Brigham Young taught,

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. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Speech given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Vol. 3, 1420).

Like with Hales and polygamy being “difficult to understand”, so too Cannon uses this same line of reasoning to justify leaders 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 #105) 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.  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, wo 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 eath 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, Accessed September 26, 2015).

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 told John Snider:

<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, Accessed September 26, 2015, 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 mormon.org, “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 September 26, 2015).

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 man s 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 September 26, 2015).

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.  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 September 26, 2015).

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.

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. And unfortunately for Hales, it directly contradicts the Message from the First Presidency (in other words a binding “revelation” to the Church) made in November, 1842.

What are we to make of Joseph Smith craftily 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.

[105] 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.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, November 7, 1841, emphasis mine.)

The idea of being able to justify sin was nothing new to Joseph Smith, as we see from the November 1841 quote recorded by Wilford Woodruff above.  In this case it would be justifying the sin of adultery. Lorenzo Snow once claimed that,

“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).

Of interest here is the testimony of Sarah Miller and others about what took place between her and Chauncey Higbee, William Smith and others in May of 1842:

[p. 1:]Testimony of Sarah Miller before the High Council  of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the  City of Nauvoo May 24th 1842.–– Agnst Chauncy Higby.

Some two or three weeks since, in consequence of  Bro Joseph Smiths teachings to the singers, I began to be alarmed  concerning myself, & certain teachings which I had recevd  from Chauncy L. Higby, & questioned him about his teaching, for  I was pretty well persuaded from Joseph[’s] public teachings that  Chaney had been telling falsehood.– but Chauncy said that  that Joseph Now taught as he did th[r]ough necessity, on acount of the prejudices of the people, & his own family particlarly as they had not become full believers in the doctrine.– I then became satisfied that all of chaunceys teaching had been false [erased word], & that he had never been authorized by any one in authority to make any such communication to me. Chancy L. Higbys teaching & conduct were as follows. When he first came to my house ^soon^ after the spical conferene this spring, darwin chase was withhim ^Chancy^ he comnced joking me about my getting married & & [sic] wanted to know how long it had been for since my husband died – and he soon removed his seat near me & began his seducing insinations by saying it was no harm to have sexual intercourse with women if they would keep it to themselves. & continued to urge me to yield to his desires, & urged me vehemently. & said he & Joseph were Good friends & he teaches me this doctrine. & allows me such privilgs & there is no harm in it & Joseph Smith says so.– I told him I did not believe it, & had heard no such teching frm Joseph. Nor frm the stand but that it was wicked to commit adultry, &c. Chauncy said that did not mean Single women, but Married women: & continued to press his instructions & arguments until after dark, & until I was inclined to believe, for he called God to witness of the truth, & was so solemn and confident, I yielded to his temptations, having received the stronget assure from him that Joseph app[r]ovd it & would uphold me in it. [p. 2:]

He also told me that many others were following the same coure of conduct As I still had some doubts near the close of our interview I <agn> suggested my fear that I had done wrong & should loose the confidence of the brthrn when he assurd me that it was right & he would bringa witness a witness to confirm what he had taught. When he came again William Smith came with him & told me that the doctrine which Chancy Higby had taught me was true. & that Joseph believd the doctrine. I still had doubts & replied that I had understood that Higby had had [sic] recently been baptized & that Joseph when he confirmd him told him to quit all his iniquitous practices. Chauncy Said it was not for such things things that he was baptized for <chauncy exited from the room> & William Smith said that he would take all the sin to himself. – for there was no sin in it. before Chauny left the house he said do you think I would be baptized for such a thing & then go into it so soon again. Chauncy Higby said that it would never be known. I told him that it might be told in bringing forth [pregnancy]. Chauny said there was no Danger <& that> Dr Bennt understood it & would come & take it away if there was any thing.

Sarah Miller

Hancock Co } To wit – Then appeard Sarah Miller to State of Illinois} sign of the above instrument : & made City of Nauvoo} oath that the above declaration, is true before me. Geo W Harris Ald Nauvoo May 24, 1842 Alderman of Nauvoo City

[Sideways] Sarah Miller Chauncy Higby

Here is the testimony of Catherine Fuller,

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. Against John C. Bennett & others

Nearly a year ago I became acquainted with John C. Bennett, after visiting twice and on the third time he proposed unlawful intercourse,being about one week after first acquaintance. He said he wished his desires granted I told him it was contrary to my feelings he answered there was others in higher standing than I was who would conduct in that way, and there was not harm in it. He said there should be no sin upon me if there was any sin it should come upon himself. I told him I was not guilty of such conduct and thought it would bring a disgrace[?] on the church If I should become pregnant he said he would attend to that. I understood that he would give medicine to prevent it. Sometime last winter ^I became alarmed at my conduct and told him I did not wish his company any longer^ he told me that the heads of the church were conducting in that manner ^and referenced[?] Joseph’s name^  and he thought as he had no good wife[?] as they had, I think this happened last October, He said that Joseph taught and conducted in the above manner, He also was with Mrs Shindle now living beyond Ramus. and also with the two Miss Nymans Hxxx. I do not know that he kept[?] company with any others neither did I hear him say he had.

I have also had unlawful connexion with Chauney Higbee and George W. [or M.?] Thatcher. C. Higbee taught this same doctrine as was taught by ^J C^ Bennett and that Joseph Smith taught and practised those things, but he stated that he did not have it from Joseph but he had this information from Dr. John C. Bennett. He Chancey L. Higbee has gained his object about 5 or 6 times.

XXXXXXXXXX [William Smith] has also been to my house on the 27th of last month being the day I was married and proposed unlawful connexion but I refused and told him that it was contrary to the teaching of Joseph on the stand. He answered that Joseph was obliged to teach to the contrary on the stand to keep down prejudice and keep peace at home First W. Smith insisted very much that I should not marry and proposed to supply me with food &c if I should remain unmarried and grant his requests Chaney Higbee also made propositions to keep me with food if I would submit to his designs[p. 8:]

Darwin Chase has alson been at my house – sometime last winter as made propositions for unlawful connexion he did not urge much – I did not yeild to him. Liman O. Littlefield has also been at my house – and made similar propositions and taught the same doctrines as those already referred to – He did not gain his designs – because I saw I was ruining myself and bringing disgrace upon the church This took place about the last of January or first of February. He came several times in the space of a few weeks

Joel S. Miles has also been at my house and made propositions for unlawful intercourse and taught similar doctrine to that taught by Bennett. He accomplished his designs twice. He came several times but has not been lately. The above transactions ^This^ took place sometimes in January.

George W. Thatcher has been at my house twice, sometime in the middle of February but not since that time – he had ^unlawful^ intercourse with me twice he said the heads of the church wear teaching and practising such Black things, and he had as good rights as they had. Sometime about a year ago last ^summer^ as I have been informed ^Mrs Bosworth^ went to the house of Mrs ^Alfred^ Brown but the door was fast – I thought they were not at home but happening to look over the door where a clapboard was off, I saw Dr. J. C. Bennett and Mrs Brown sitting very close together John C. Bennett was the first man that seduced me – no man ever made the attempt before him J. 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–[p. 9:]

These minutes give an amazing picture of what was going on behind the scenes in Nauvoo. Here we see that William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith was a partner with John C. Bennett and Chauncey Higbee (and others) in teaching women that having sexual intercourse was no sin, because if they had no accuser, there was no sin. These are the very words of Joseph Smith just months earlier:

7th Sunday I first called upon Br Joseph with some of the Twelve. From thence to B. Young. From thence to the meeting ground near the Temple whare I found many hundreds of Saints. Elder Wm. Clark preached about 2 hours when Br Joseph arose & reproved him as pharisaical & hypocritical & not edifying the people.

Br Joseph then deliverd unto us an edifying address showing us what temperance faith, virtue, charity & truth was. He also said if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him 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.

After this meeting closed I met with the Twelve & High Priest quorum: the word of wisdom was brought up. B Young says shall I Break the word of wisdom if I go home & drink a cup of tea? No wisdom is justified of her Children. The subject was discused in an interesting manner. All concluded that it was wisdom to deal with all such matters according to the wisdom which God gave. That a forced abstai-nance was not making us free but we should be under bondage with a yoak upon our necks. I walked out & spent the night at Br Allexanders. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, October 7, 1841).

Matilda Nyman testified:

Testimony of Matilda Nyman before the High council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in the city of Nauvoo, May the 21. 1842 Against Chancy Higby

During this Spring Chancy L Higby kept company with me from time to time, and as I have since learned Wickedly, deceitfully and with lies in his mouth, urged me vehemently to yeald to [his]  desires, that there could be no wrong in having sexual intercourse with any female that would keep the same to herself, Most villianously and lieingly Stating that he had been so instructed by Joseph Smith and that there was [no] sin where there was no accuser -, also vowing he would  Marry me. Not succeeding, he on one occasion, brought one in Authority in the Church, [William Smith] who affirmed that such intercourse  was tolerated by the heads of the Church, I have since  found him also to be a lieing conspirator against female  virtue & chastity, having never received such teachings from the  heads of the church ; but I was at the time partially influenced  to believe in consequence of the source from whom I received  it, I yealded and became subject to the will of my seducers[sic] Chancey L. Higby–– And having since found out  to my satisfaction that a number of wicked men have conspired to use the Name of Joseph Smith, or the heads of the  Church, falsely & wickedly, to enable them to gratify their  lusts, thereby destroying female innocence & virtue I repent before god & my brethren and ask forgiveness.

I further testify that I never had any personal acquaintance with Joseph Smith, & never heard him teach such doctrines as Higby, sta  either directly or indirectly ––Matilda J. Nyman

Hancock Co} To wit: Nauvoo city, May 24, 1842. Then personaly appeard State Illinois} Before me, Geo. W. Harris, alderman of said city, Matilda J. Nyman the signer of this instrument & testified under oath that the above decaration[sic] was true.              Geo W Harris Ald[p. 14:]

These documents also accuse William Smith of being involved with the women who testified about Chauncey Higbee and John C. Bennett.  It brings to mind what Lorenzo Snow once said and Abraham H. Cannon recorded in 1890:

Wednesday, April 9, 1890: Very nice day. From 7 a.m. till 10 o’clock I was busy at the office looking over the mail and attending to other matters of business. At the latter time I went to the Historian’s office where all the brethren met who were present last evening. After the singing of two hymns and prayer Pres. Snow arose and expressed his pleasure at our fasting (which we all did this morning) and our meeting. He said: Everyone of us who has not already had the experience must yet meet it of being tested in every place where we are weak, and even our lives must be laid on the altar. Brigham Young was once tried to the very utmost by the Prophet, and for a moment his standing in the Church seemed to tremble in the balance. Wm. Smith, one of the first quorum of apostles in this age had been guilty of adultery and many other sins. The Prophet Joseph instructed Brigham (then the Pres. of the Twelve) to prefer a charge against the sinner, which was done. Before the time set for the trial, however, Emma Smith talked to Joseph and said the charge preferred against William was with a view to injuring the Smith family. After the trial had begun, Joseph entered the room and was given a seat. The testimony of witnesses concerning the culprit’s sins was then continued. After a short time Joseph arose filled with wrath and said, “Bro. Brigham, I will not listen to this abuse of my family a minute longer. I will wade in blood up to my knees before I will do it.” This was a supreme moment. A rupture between the two greatest men on earth seemed imminent. But Brigham Young was equal to the danger, and he instantly said, “Bro. Joseph, I withdraw the charge.” Thus the angry passions were instantly stilled. (Abraham H. Cannon Diary, April 9, 1890).

So Joseph not charging William is blamed on Emma Smith? In these documents William’s name is scratched out in places; [by order of Emma Smith?] and he was never charged for any crimes as both Higbee and Bennett were. William also claimed that he was teaching Joseph’s doctrine.  He also claimed that Joseph was obliged to teach “on the stand” things that “were the opposite” of what he was teaching in private, the very things that William Smith was teaching.  The only difference in what they were teaching was that in Joseph’s case, he had performed a “marriage” (or sealing) ceremony, while Bennett and William Smith apparently did not. But in some cases that involved Joseph Smith, we know of no marriage/sealing ceremony, such as with the Mary Heron Snider and Fanny Alger. Joseph may have evolved his doctrine, while Bennett and William Smith did not follow that evolution. As John Dinger writes,

Beginning in 1842, Joseph Smith experienced a painful falling out with his former confidant, John C. Bennett. On May 17, Bennett resigned as mayor (replaced by Smith), and on May 19 his resignation was accepted by the city council, which resolved to: “tender a Vote of Thanks to Gen[era]l John C. Bennett, for his great Zeal in having good & wholesome Laws adopted for the Government of this City, & for the faithful discharge of his Duty while Mayor of the same.” Apparently, Bennett had secretly taught that worthy couples, married or not, could engage in sexual relations on the condition that they keep their behavior a secret. Rumors circulated that his doctrine had been authorized by Joseph Smith. In fact, Smith by this time had contracted several polygamous marriages and proposed to, and was rejected by, a handful of women. Though some of the gossip regarding Smith was true, Bennett’s teachings had not been sanctioned by Smith, and at his resignation as mayor Bennett signed an affidavit clearing Smith of moral impropriety. Though Bennett said he wanted to regain his Church membership, the situation turned ugly over the next several months. In mid-June 1842, Smith went public with his criticism, and Bennett left Nauvoo a few days later. On June 27, the nearby Sangamo Journal published a Bennett letter vowing to retaliate by exposing every secret he knew about Nauvoo. In fact, in successive letters, he explained what he knew of Smith’s and other leaders’ involvement in polygamy. Smith’s first documented plural marriage occurred in Nauvoo in April 1841. Two years later, on July 12, 1843, Smith recorded a revelation regarding polygamy (D&C 132) and the next month saw his brother Hyrum broaching the topic with the high council. At that meeting, Councilman Dunbar Wilson “made inquiry in relation to the subject of a plurality of wives, as there were rumors about[,] respecting it, and he was satisfied there was something in those remarks, and he wanted to know what it was.” Joseph was home ill, so Hyrum read the July 12 revelation to the group and stated, “Now, you that believe this revelation and go forth and obey the same shall be saved, and you that reject it shall be damned.” Several high councilmen subsequently rejected the revelation, including William Law, William Marks, Leonard Soby, and Austin A. Cowles. Prior to being officially taught the doctrine of plural marriage, the high council had investigated rumors of various Church members accused of entering into multiple marriages. Beginning on May 21, 1842, the high council handled the first of twenty-three cases which arose, in large measure, from the nascent doctrine of plural marriage. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 520-544). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

On January 3, 1844 these High Council Minutes record what Joseph Smith related about those who didn’t keep his “spiritual wife system” secret:

[The] Mayor spoke on [the] Spiritual wife system and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it he is a liar and not to be trusted. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 6346-6347). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Wilford Woodruff recorded these words of Joseph Smith on December 18, 1841:

The reason we do not have the Secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them. We do not keep our own secrets but reveal our difficulties to the world even to our enemies. Then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? Joseph Says I can keep a secret till dooms day.  (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.143, my emphasis).

This is what Brigham Young once said about Oliver Cowdery in relation to Fanny Alger,

Presidet Young staid 3+ hours in Compiling his History. He remarked that the revelation upon a plurality of wives was given to Joseph Smith. He revealed it to Oliver Cowdery alone upon the solem pledge that He would not reveal it or act upon it it but He did act upon it in a secret manner & that was the cause of his overthrow. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 84, August 26, 1857).

Of course, all Cowdery did was claim that Smith had committed adultery.  That was the secret that Joseph told Cowdery, not a “revelation” on polygamy. Along with John C. Bennett and Chauncy Higbee, there were others who were involved with making proposals to women. They were John Darwin Chase, Joel S. Miles, Lyman O. Littlefield, Justus Morse, J. D. Backenstos and William Smith.  Both Chase and Miles were Danites and were among the company of men that Joseph Smith chose to accompany him to Monmouth after he was arrested on charges from Missouri in 1841:

 Monday, 7.—I started very early for Monmouth, seventy-five miles distant (taking Mr. [Sheriff Thomas] King along with me and attending him during his sickness), accompanied by Charles C. Rich, Amasa Lyman, Shadrack Roundy, Reynolds Cahoon, Charles Hopkins, Alfred  Randall, Elias [p.366] Higbee, Morris Phelps, John P. Greene, Henry G. Sherwood, Joseph Younger, Darwin Chase, Ira Miles, Joel S. Miles, Lucien Woodworth, Vinson Knight, Robert B. Thompson, George Miller and others. We traveled very late, camping about midnight in the road. (History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.366, June 7, 1841)

Joel S. Miles was also a County Constable, and in one family history John Darwin Chase was said to be a Bishop in Nauvoo. Lyman O. Littlefield was a typesetter for the Church affiliated Nauvoo Neighbor, and also worked at the Times and Seasons.  Darwin Chase also spent time with Joseph Smith in jail in Missouri. Brian Hales writes,

Lyman O. Littlefield, who knew the Prophet in Nauvoo, recalled in 1883: “I have the best reasons for believing it [celestial and plural marriage] was understood and believed by him (Joseph Smith, the Prophet) away back in the days when he lived in Kirtland . . . he was instructed of the Lord respecting the sacred ordinance of plural marriage; but he was not required to reveal it to the Church until sometime during the residence of the Saints in Nauvoo.” (Hales, op. cited, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

Littlefield’s 1883 “Open letter” to Joseph Smith the III, published in The Millennial Star (which Hales quotes above) is interesting. He writes:

The doctrine of celestial marriage, I have the best reasons for believing , was understood and believed by him away back in the days when he lived in Kirtland, when he and the Saints, in their poverty were toiling to erect that sacred edifice wherein you now falsify him, seeking, by your unsupported declarations, to nullify his most sacred doctrines. Even there, as I believe, he was instructed of the Lord respecting the sacred ordinance of plural marriage; but he was not required to reveal it to the Church until some time during the residence of the Saints at Nauvoo, where he received a revelation from the Lord setting forth in detail the results to be obtained by keeping inviolate all the laws connected with this sacred condition of things. And in consequence of the prejudices of the Saints and the tide of persecution which he well knew he would have to encounter from the outside world, wherein his life would be endangered, he delayed, as long as possible, to make this principle known, except to a few of the most faithful and humble of the Saints. The boy Joseph [III], while playing in the streets and vacant lots of Nauvoo, very likely did not know of these things, nevertheless the writer knew that the elder Joseph then practiced and taught [though not publicly] this doctrine. And further, he then knew some of the women to be his wives who subsequently, in Utah, reported themselves to his sons, Joseph and David, while here, as such wives. (Lyman O. Littlefield, “An Open Letter Addressed to President Joseph Smith, jun., of the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Millennial Star 25 (June 18, 1883): 387).

Yet the testimony of some of the women that claimed they were taught by John C. Bennett, William Smith, and Chauncy Higbee about Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine also claimed that Littlefield was among those doing so and proposing to have sexual intercourse with them:

Testimony of Catherine Fuller –

1. O. Littlefield had been at my house, and made propositions to have unlawful intercourse – he urged hard_ this was about the last of January or first of February – had been 3 or 4 times in course of 2 or 3 weeks_  he urged doctrine such as the following – namely – that there was no harm in having unlawful intercourse – that others conducted in the same way – there there [sic] should be no sin come upon her – if there was any it should come upon himself; that the heads of the church were practising the same things – named Joseph Smith – he urged this doctrine – was there about the first of February about 8 in the evening (Testimony of Catherine Fuller before the High Council  of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the City of Nauvoo May 25th 1842)

Caroline Butler testified,

I have frequently seen Darwin Chase & Chancy Higby go to Widow Fullers frequently – have seen Joel S. Miles go there – have seen L.[yman] C. [sic- O] Littlefield go in there (ibid., pg.

Catherine Fuller also testified that,

Darwin Chase has also been at my house – sometime last winter has made propositions for unlawful connexion he did not urge much – I did not yeild to him.

Liman O. Littlefield has also been at my house – and made similar propositions and taught the same doctrines as those already referred to – He did not gain his designs – because I saw I was ruining myself and bringing disgrace upon the church This took place about the last of January or first of February.  He came several times in the space of a few weeks

Joel S. Miles has also been at my house and made propositions for unlawful intercourse and taught similar doctrine to that taught by Bennett.  He accomplished his designs twice.  He came several times but has not been lately.  The above transactions ^This^ took place sometimes in January.

Why did Joseph’s bodyguards teach and propogate such things? Wilford Woodruff wrote about the proceedings:

The first Presidency The Twelve & High Council & virtuous part of the Church are making an exhertion abo[u]t these days to clense the Church from Adulterors fornicators & evil persons for their are such persons crept into our midst. The high council have held a number of meeting[s] of late & their researches have disclosed much iniquity & a number [have] been Cut off from the church. I met with the High Council to day on the trial of L[yman] O. Littlefield[,] Joel S Miles & Darwin Chase. The two former were cut of[f] for Adultery & the case of D[arwin] Chase was put of[f] till tomorrow” (Scott G. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, 9 vols. [Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983-85], 2:177).

The next day Woodruff wrote,

 28th The case of D. Chase was tryed & he restored to fellowship by the majority of own[ly?] 1 vote.

The High Council Minutes for May 24-28, read:

May 24, 1842; Tuesday. The High Council met according to appointment at the Lodge Room. 1st. The testimony of Mrs Sarah Miller and Miss Margaret [Nyman] and Matilda Neyman were taken relative to the charges of ^against^ Chancy Higbee and others showing the manner of iniquity practised by them upon female virtue & the un-hallowed means by which they accomplished their desires. Adjourned till tomorrow at 12 o’clock. H[osea] Stout.

May 25, 1842; Wednesday. The [High] Council met according to adjournment[.] 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against John Haddon by H[enry] G. Sherwood for unlawfully detaining from Harriet Parker, her house and premises. Done in her behalf[,] the defendant did not appear. The charge was fully sustained. On motion [it was] resolved that he be disfellowshipped until he make satisfaction to H[enry] G. Sherwood and restore the house to Harriet Parker. 2. [A] Charge [was preferred] against Mrs. Catherine Warren by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others. The defendant confessed to the charge and g[a]ve the names of several other [men] who had been guilty of having unlawful intercourse with her[,] stating that they taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practised it[,] which things caused her to be led away thinking it to be right but becoming convinced that it was not right[,] and learning that the heads of the church did not believe of [the] practice [of] such things[,] she was willing to confess her sins and did repent before God for what she had done and desired earnestly that the Council would forgive her and covenanted that she would hence forth do so no more. After which she was restored to fellowship by the unanimous vote of the Council. 3. On motion [the] Council ^adjourned^ till tomorrow Friday the 27th ins[tant] at 12 o’clock at this place. Hosea Stout Clerk.

May 27, 1842; Friday. [The High] Council met according to adjournment. 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against Lyman O Littlefield by Geo[rge] Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. [He] plead not Guilty[.] Two were appointed to speak on each side[,] viz. (1) Sam[ue]l Bent[,] (2) James Allred[,] (3) Lewis D. Wilson[,] and (4) Wilford Woodruff[.] The charge was sustained. On motion [it was] Resolved — That he be disfellowshipped untill he make satisfaction to this Council. 2. [A] charge [was preferred] against Darwin Chace by Geo[rge] Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. Plead not guilty[.] Two were appointed to speak on the case[:] Viz. (5) David Fulmer and George W. Harris. The defendant plead for an adjournment for the want of evidence[.] On motion [it was] resolved — That this case be adjourned till tomorrow at 1 o’clock at this place. 3rd. [A] charge [was preferred] against Joel S. Miles by George Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. [He] plead not guilty. Two were apointed to speak on the case — Viz. (7) Tho[ma]s Grover and (8) Aaron Johnson. The charge was fully sustained[.] On motion [it was] resolved that he be disfellowshiped[.] until Adjourned till tomorrow at 1 o’clock at this place. Hosea Stout Clerk.

May 28, 1842; Saturday. [The High] Council met according to adjournment. 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against Justis Morse by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with the daughter of the Widow Neyman &c &c Charge was sustained The defendant did not apear before the Council but upon being cited to apear before the Council he ordered his name to be struck off of the Church Book as he did not wish to stand a trial Two were appointed to speak on the case[,] viz — (9) Newel Knight and (10) William Huntington. [The] charge was sustained On Motion of President Austin Cowles — Resolved — That he (the defendant) be disfellowshiped. 2nd. The Charge against Darwin Chace (of the 27th inst[ant]) was taken up according to adjournment. [The] charge [was] not sustained[.] The President decided that he should be restored to full fellowship which was carried by a majority of 8 to 4. After which the case spoken on by different ones of the Council to show further light on the subject and showing reasons why they did not secede to the Presidents decisions. The President again called on the council to sanction his decision which was done unanimously ^which was carried unanimously^. On motion adjourned till Saturday the 4th of June at [blank] o’clock at Hiram Smith’s office. Hosea Stout Clerk. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 11332-11377). Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

Lyman O. Littlefield would later write,

During the period of which I am now writing (1843-4) a subtle and malicious undercurrent was silently and stealthily running and spreading through the circles that composed the society of Nauvoo. As well as the glorious doctrines of baptism for the dead, there were many other truths of vital moment which were revealed to the members of the Church through the agency of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Some of the doctrines were construed by evil disposed persons in a way to place them in a false light before the people by placing upon them interpretations different from what their real import would justify. There were those ready and willing to embrace the opportunity of fabricating false deductions for the purpose of counteracting or lessening the great influence which Joseph wielded against all who practiced any species of evil in society. Among these were disaffected persons, some of whom possessed ability, cunning and a degree of influence. Some of them were persons who were ambitious for promotion and advancement into public favor, a portion seeking social, political or religious advancement, according to their taste. But Joseph was the man who stood boldly in the Thermopylae to defend the innocent and unsuspecting and direct their minds in the true channel that pointed the way to eternal blessings. (Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints, p.156 – p.157).

What is ironic is that Lyman Littlefield was involved in the very activities that he is decrying years later! The Temple Lot testimony of Littlefield sheds more light on what he actually did know about polygamy:

  1. Q—State to the reporter Mr. Littlefield, what you know in regard to the doctrine of plurality of wives, or as it is commonly called, polygamy, being taught in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo bdore the death of Joseph Smith? A—Well I can tell what I know about it, what I know about that doctrine being taught. Do you want to know?
  2. Q—Just answer the question? A—Well I was cognizant of the fact that that doctine was taught there, and it was understood by a great many people that it was taught, and not only taught but practiced. I knew it was known by a great many people I understood that matter perfectly but it was not taught to the whole church generally, but it was taught privately so that a great many people understood it and knew it was practiced, too up to that date.
  3. Q—Mr Hall, Up to that date? A—Up to that time previous to the death of Joseph Smith, senior, Now what I mean by that is that it was not taught publicly from the stand, but it was so taught that the people, or a great many of them understood that doctrine, and some of them practiced it, at least if it was taught from the stand I didn’t know it, for I never heard it taught from the stand but I know it was taught and practived secretly, and was not given to the whole church as a principle according to the best of my knowledge in the days of Joseph.
  4. Q—I would like to ask you Mr Littlefield if you were taught that principle? A—Yes sir, I was taught that doctrine or principle, and conversed upon it with different parties but I never was taught that doctrine from Joseph Smith himself, personally, but the doctrine was talked of between myself, and a great many other parties, and always with the understanding that it had its origin, with Joseph Smith the prophet, himself. (Lyman O. Littlefield, Temple Lot Testimony, Msd 1160, Box 1, fd 12, CHL, p. 148-149)

Why then, was Littlefield teaching the same doctrines as John C. Bennett and William Simth? Gary James Bergera writes that:

John C. Bennett, the prophet’s talented, egotistical ally, had lodged with the Smiths from September 1840 to July 1841. [This is when the Goddards claimed that he was having an affair with Sarah Pratt and was with her for nearly the whole month of October, 1840] In fact, the thirty-seven-year-old Bennett had been privy to Smith’s April 1841 plural marriage and was conversant with his controversial teachings. Consequently, he believed he too was authorized, whether or not Smith conveyed such an impression, to initiate himself and others into the prophet’s new order. Smith worried that the enthusiasm with which Bennett embraced the celestial doctrine, and especially his introduction of it to others without Smith’s permission, failed to emphasize sufficiently the religious aspects of his revelation and thus exposed the church to the condenmation of nonbelievers. (Smith required a marriage/sealing ceremony be performed with his permission by an authorized priesthood holder prior to sexual contact; Bennett believed that worthy couples, married or not, could engage freely in sexual activity provided they keep their conduct a secret.) By the spring of 1842, Bennett’s sexual escapades had made him a liability, especially when rumor connected his and the prophet’s names. “We have been informed,” Smith and other ranking church leaders (including some already officially introduced to the prophet’s teachings) wrote to the Relief Society in late March, that some unprincipled men, whose names we will not mention at present, have been guilty of such crimes [i.e., debauching the innocent]–We do not mention their names, not knowing but what there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skill’d in Masonry as to keep a secret, therefore, suffice it to say, there are those, and we therefore warn you, & forewarn you, in the name of the Lord, to check & destroy any faith that any innocent person may have in any such character, for we do not want any one to believe any thing as coming from us contrary to the old established morals & virtues & scriptural laws, regulating the habits, customs & conduct of society; and all persons pretending to be authorized by us or having any pennit, or sanction from us, are & will be liars & base impostors, & you are authoriz’d on the very first intimation of the kind, to denounce them as such, & shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are prophets, Seers, or revelators: Patriarchs, twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Mayors, Generals, City Councillors, Aldermen, Marshalls, Police, Lord Mayors or the Devil, are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices; and if you yourselves adhere to anything of the kind, you also shall be damned.

Less than two weeks later, Smith angrily “pronounced a curse upon all adulterers, and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons, and those who have made use of my name to carry on their iniquitous designs,”  By the end of the month, as word broke of his attempted liaison-which he denied-with his counselor’s daughter, Smith complained of a “conspiracy against the peace of my household was made manifest and it gave me some trouble to counteract the design of certain base individuals, and restore peace. The Lord makes manifest to me many things, which it is not wisdom for me to make public, until others can witness the proof of them.” When Smith shortly afterward threatened to publicize Bennett’s libertinism, Bennett first signed into law (at Smith’s request and with the city council’s approval) a law banning brothels and “adultery, or fomication,” then resigned as mayor, withdrew (or was expelled, accounts vary) from the church, and left town by the end of June. Shortly afterward, he began publicly exposing Smith’s own secrets, including his letter to his counselor’s daughter. It was against this backdrop of clandestine plural marriages that the Nauvoo High Council convened in mid-May 1842. (Bergera, “Illicit Intercourse,” op. cited, pages 65-67).

During these High Council proceedings Joseph Smith instigated a lawsuit on May 24, against Chauncey Higbee for slander and defamation:

State of Illinois

County of Hancock, ss

Before me, Ebenezer Robinson, one of the Justices of the Peace for said county personally came Joseph Smith, who, being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that at sundry times, in the City of Nauvoo, county aforesaid, one Chancy L. Higbee has slandered and defamed the character of the said Joseph Smith, and also the character of Emma Smith, his wife, in using their names, the more readily to accomplish his purpose in seducing certain females, and further this deponont saith not.

Sworn to, and subscribed before me, in the county aforesaid, this 24th day of May A.D. 1842. E. Robinson J. P.

[Signed] Joseph Smith

On another sheet inside the jacket which contained the case was written:

Smith’s Affidavit Filed September 14th, 1842…. Davis Clerke



THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS To Margaret J. Nyman, Matilda Nyman, Sarah Miller,

You are hereby commanded to appear before me at my office in Nauvoo, forthwith then and there to testify the truth, in a matter in suit, wherein The State of Illinois is plaintiff and Chancy L. Higbee defendant and this you are not to omit under the penalty of the law. Given under my hand and seal, this 24th day of May, 1842.

1. Robinson J. P. [Seal]

The following is written in longhand on this page:

Names of Witnesses in case of State of Illinois vs. Chancy L. Higbee

Margaret J. Nyman
Matilda Nyman
Sarah Miller &
Alexander McRae


The following information is written on the back of the subpoena:


State of Illinois
Chancy L. Higbee

costs .25 [cents]

Served on the witnesses named May 24th 1842 Fees 50 [cents]

Lewis Robison Constable (Joseph Fought Polygamy, Chapter 13, Online here, Accessed March 20, 2015).

Notice that Smith’s subpoenaed witnesses include three of the women who testified against Higbee and also list as a witness one Alexander McRae. In 1839 Reed Peck wrote about the Danites, and mentions Alexander McRae, who was a member of that band:

I was appointed Adjutant of the [Danite] band in consequence I suppose of my holding that office in the 59th Reg Missouri Militia I did not think it policy to regect the appointment though I declared to my society friends that I would never act in [p. 42] the office — All the principles of the Society tended to give the presidency unlimited power over the property, persons and I might say with propriety lives of the memebrs of the church as physical force was to be resorted to if necessary to accomplish their designs The blood of my best best friend must flow by my own hands if I would be a faithful Danite should the prophet command it Said A[lexander] McRae in my hearing “If Joseph should tell me to kill Vanburen in his presidential chain I would im [p. 43] mediately start and do my best to assassinate him let the consequences be as they would–Having been taught to believe themselves invincible in the defence of their cause though the combined power of the world were in array against them, and the purposes of God were to be accomplished through their instrumentality, the wicked destroyed, by force of arms the “nations subdued,” and the Kingdom of Christ established on the Earth, they consider themselves accountable only at the bar of God for their conduct, and consequently [p. 44] acknowlegded no law superior to the “word of the Lord through the prophet” Do you suppose said a Zealous Danite at a time when the Sheriff of Daviess county held a State’s warrant against Joseph Smith that the prophet will condescend to be tried before a judge? I answered that Smith would in all probability submit Knowing that in case resistence was made the officers would call in the strength of other counties to enforce the law “What, said he, do we care for other counties or for the state or whole United States.” [p. 45] The independence of the church was to be supported it laws and the behests of the presidency enforced by means of this layal band of Danites, under command of Jared Carter, the terrible brother of Gideon became the additional title of “Captain Genl of the Lords hosts” His subalterns were Maj Genl Sampson Avard Brigd Genl C. P. [-] Coln Geo W. Robinson also a Lieut Coln Maj. Secretary of War an Adjutant, Captains of fifties & captains of tens and all these officers with the privates were to be under the administration of [p. 46] the presidency of the church and wholly subject to their control At a meeting for the organisation of the Danites Sampson Avard presented the society to the presidency who blessed them and accepted their Services as though they were soon to be enployed in executing some great design They also made speeches to the Society in which great military glory and conquest were represented as awaiting them, victories in which one should chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight, were portrayed in the most lively manner, the assistance of [p. 47] Angels promised and in fine every thing was said to inspire them with Zeal and courage and to make them believe that God was soon to “bring to pass his act, his strange act” or by them as instruments to perform a marvelous work on the Earth In the fore part of July the “brother of Gideon” or Jared Carter Capt Genl of the Danites having complained to Joseph Smith of some observations made by Sidney Rigdon in a Sermon, was tried for finding fault with one of the presidency and deprived of his station and Elias Higbee was appointed in his stead (Reed Peck Manuscript, 41-47)

Alexander McRae was not at the High Council Trial in May and it is unclear why Joseph would call him as a witness in the slander suit against Higbee.  But as is evident from this letter, these men were willing to do anything to support Joseph Smith:

Dear Brethren I am at your service and I wait your Council at Quincy and shall be happy to grant you the desires of your hearts; I am ready to act. Please to give me all the intelli gence that is in your power. If you take a change of venue please to let me know what county you will come to and when as near as possible and what road you will come, for I shall be an Adder in the path. Yes My Dear Brethren God Almighty will deliver you, fear not, for your redemption draweth near, the day of your deliverance is at hand. Dear Brethren I have it in my heart to lay my body in the sand or deliver you from your bonds, and my mind is intensely fixed on the latter. Dear Brethren, you will be able to judge of the Spirit that actuates  my breast, for when I realise your sufferings my heart is like wax before the fire, but  when I reflect upon the cause of your afflictions it is like fire in my bones, and burns  against your enemies to the bare hilt, and I never can be satisfied while there is one of them to piss against a wall, or draw a sword or spring a trigger, for my  sword never has been sheathed in peace; for the blood of D[avid] W. Patten and those who  were butchered at Hawn’s Mill crieth for vengeance from the ground therefore hear  it, Oh ye Heavens, and record it, Oh! ye recording angels, bear the tidings ye flaming  seraphs, that I from this day declare myself the avenger of the blood of those innocent  men, and of the innocent cause of Zion and of her prisoners, and I will not rest untill  they are as free who are in prison as I am.

Your families are all well and in good spirits. May the Lord bless you all, Amen. Brs A Lyman & W Barlow join in saying our hearts are as thy heart. Br Joseph if my Spirit is wrong, for God’s Sake Correct it.

Brethren be of good cheer, for we are determined as God liveth to rescue you from that hellish crowd or die in the attempt furrow. We shall come face foremost.

1.B. A Ripley
(I have been once driven but not whipped) Br B[righam] Young sends his best compliments respects to you all. A.R.

J— S— Jr [Joseph Smith, Jr.]
H— S— [Hyrum Smith]
C— B [Caleb Baldwin]
A— McR [Alexander McRae]
L— W. [Lyman Wight]

What these men (many of which had close ties to Joseph Smith) were teaching was perhaps based upon doctrines that Smith incorporated into his teachings from others:

In the early 1830s, another group of “saints” also emerged from the New York social chaos. Disciples of revivalist preachers Erasmus Stone, Hiram Sheldon, and Jarvis Rider claimed they were perfect and could no longer sin. They became known as “Perfectionists.”  As part of their doctrine, they advocated “spiritual wifery,” a concept nearly identical to Mormon eternal marriage. John B. Ellis’s 1870 description of perfectionist theology assured that “all arrangements for a life in heaven may be made on earth; that spiritual friendships may be formed, and spiritual bonds contracted, valid for eternity.” Mormon missionary Orson Hyde, a former member of Rigdon’s “family,” visited a similar group he referred to as “Cochranites” in 1832 and worried about their “wonderful lustful spirit, because they believe in a ‘plurality of wives’ which they call spiritual wives, knowing them not after the flesh but after the spirit, but by the appearance they know one another after the flesh” (Hyde, 11 Oct. 1832; emphasis in original).

The frontier teemed with other practitioners of that “wonderful lustful spirit,” such as the notorious Robert Matthews, alias “Matthias the Prophet.” This self-styled “Prophet of the God of the Jews” announced that “all marriages not made by himself, and according to his doctrine, were of the devil, and that he had come to establish a community of property, and of wives” (“Memoirs” in Ivins 7: 15). Matthews practiced what he preached, contracting an unusual marriage with the wife of one of his followers in 1833. Convincing the couple that, as sinners, they were not properly united in wedlock, he claimed power to dissolve the marriage and prophesied that the woman was to “become the mother of a spiritual generation” while he Matthews, would father her first spiritual child. Charges of swindling and murder were brought against him in 1835 by a group of his followers. Though legally acquitted of murder, he served a brief sentence on a minor charge. Three months after his release from prison, he turned up on Joseph Smith’s doorstep in Kirtland using the alias “Joshua the Jewish Minister.” After two days of mutually discussing their religious beliefs, they disagreed on the “transmigration of souls,” and Joseph told him his “doctrine was of the Devil . . . and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart” (Jessee 1984, 74-79).

Linked as the Prophet was with such contemporary religionists as Matthias, Shaking Quakers, Harmonists, Perfectionists, Rapphites, and Cochranites, it is little wonder that many outsiders viewed him with a jaded perspective. Ironically, however, the real problems for Smith in Kirtland were caused by insiders. He had given a revelation 9 February 1831 which reaffirmed New Testament monogamy. “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else,” he said (D&C 42:22). In March 1831 he added, “It is lawful that [a man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh” (D&C 49: 16). Within the Prophet’s own congregation, rumors floated that he was violating these directives.

Benjamin Winchester, once a close friend of Smith’s and leader of Philadelphia Mormons in the early 1840s, recalled in 1889 the situation in Kirtland during the mid-1830s: “There was a good deal of scandal prevalent among a number of the Saints concerning Joseph’s licentious conduct, this more especially among the women. Joseph’s name was connected with scandalous relations with two or three families” (Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Sept. 1889). Benjamin F. Johnson, another of Smith’s confidants, added late in life that this was “one of the Causes of Apostacy & disruption at Kirtland altho at the time there was little Said publickly upon the subject” (Zimmerman 1976, 39). (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.3, p.70).

Like Darwin Chase, Alexander McRae was also arrested with Joseph in Missouri and spent time with him in jail. Justus Morse was also a Danite and would later be called to serve a mission to help with Smith’s Presidential Campaign.

Joseph would ultimately drop his suit against Chauncey Higbee that he filed on May 24, 1842, afraid perhaps of what the blowback would be since there were many who were close to him (including his brother William) involved in these incidents.  Another reason that Joseph may have dropped his suit is that one of his witnesses, Sarah Miller later married a man (John Thorpe) who was already legally married. They were both excommunicated on January 1, 1843. (Bergera, op. cited, 79-80). As Bergera concludes in his “Illicit Intercourse” Essay:

Not all cases brought before the Nauvoo Stake high council during the years 1840 to Joseph and Hyrum Smiths’ deaths on 27 June 1844 involved accusations of sexual misconduct. In fact, during the peak year of the council’s tribunals, 1843, only slightly more than a third of all cases centered on such behavior. What is instructive is not the number of men and women called to account for their illicit actions, but the range of prolubited behaviors and the responses to them of the church’s leaders. For even at the fringe of American religious (and in some ways sexual) expression, Mormons confronted deviance in an assortment of manifestations and guises, some more easily .addressed than others. As a divinely sanctioned component of the church’s erotic economy, plural marriage not only impacted many Saints’ moral identities, but challenged their own leaders’ ability to superintend the sexual lives of a growing congregation. That some men and women followed unholy paths speaks not so much to their gullibility, rebellion, or lust, or even to others’ self-serving presumption to speak in the prophet’s behalf, as it does to Joseph Smith’s calculated decision to adopt a variety of sometimes questionable measures in promulgating and practicing his celestial doctrine of”priesthood privileges.” (ibid., 90).

Speaking of “priesthood privileges”, this seems to be the case for William Smith and why he was not brought to trial by Joseph Smith. According to these minutes recorded in 1845 of a trial attended by many including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and George Adams, who was ordained a “special apostle” by Joseph Smith, was a member of the City Council, and was one of the original members of the Council of Fifty:

Present, Samuel Bent, Charles C. Rich, Albert P. Rockwood, David Fulmer, Thomas Grover, Newel Knight, Phineas Richards, W[illia]m Huntington, Aaron Johnson, George W. Harris, Alpheus Cutler, James Allred and W[illia]m Snow. Also President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, George A. Smith & John E. Page of the Quorum of the Twelve. N[ewel] K. Whitney and George Miller Presiding Bishops, and W[illia]m Clayton and Daniel Carn. Pres[iden]t Bent called upon W[illia]m Clayton to act as clerk pro tem, inasmuch as the regular clerk was sick. Council opened by prayer from Elder O[rson] Pratt.

Pres[iden]t B[righam] Young then said we want to take into consideration the case of Brother George J. Adams who is now present. I have objections to brother Adams’ conduct, and to the course he has taken and shall tell them here. First when brother Adams came home last last fall, I asked him if he had any money for the Temple; he said no, he handed every thing to W[illia]m Smith. Since then W[illia]m Smith has wrote and said he sent some money and some cloth by brother Adams for the Temple; we have not got it. I have also been told that brother Adams has frequently read some kind of a note before the people, which represents him as having some great authority over everybody else, and also that he was appointed Joseph [Smith]’s Spokesman.

I have been told that brother Adams says the Church owes him something from six hundred to one thousand dollars in money. Now I want to know if brother Adams can explain these things, and whether he is satisfied to have the matter investigated before this council. Brother Adams then went on to explain to the Council, relative to the above charges. He denied having said that he was /appointed/ Joseph’s spokesman. He explained about the Temple money, and said he was willing to meet any committee. this council might appoint, and settle the [50] whole account with them. He also explained how the church owed him money.

Pres[iden]t Young then prefered some other charges relative to his conduct in the East, to which, after many remarks on both sides, Adams plead guilty and begged for mercy.

Many remarks were then made by sundry individuals, substantiating the charges, prefered by Pres[iden]t Young, each one expressing a strong desire for brother Adams’ salvation. After spending much time in investigation, the Pres[iden]t S[amuel] Bent, arose to give his mind on the case, but a motion being made that Pres[iden]t Young give the decision, Pres[iden]t Bent gave way.

Pres[iden]t Young then arose and said he wanted Brother Adams to sit down and write that he had done wrong, that he asks forgiveness, and is willing henceforth to listen to council, and do right without incriminating any one else; also that the proper authorities of this Church are here, and that he is with the Twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom. I want brother Adams to write this freely and confess his iniquities; a mans confession will never do him hurt unless he turns round and does wrong again.

Meeting adjourned, to meet in the Seventie’s Hall on Saturday next at one o’clock P.M.

… H[eber] C. K[imball] Said pertaining to many things mentioned he is knowing to himself. He was present when br[other] [Brigham] Young gave him [i.e., George J. Adams] council in Boston. His advice was that he should leave Boston, and he promised he would. But they held conferences then & there was a [illegible] differently–& there would have been no d[ifficulty] if he had come home. A[dams] says he has always been subject to council but if he had listened to c[ouncil] at that time it would have saved him a great deal of trouble & us & the church. Lowel [Massachusetts] and a great many other places are lower than they ever were–He has [been] acquainted from br[other] A[dam’s] course with others. He says he has always sustained the twelve. I don’t know but he has, but has the course they have taken sustain[ed] us. no. there is no safety for the twelve only in Nauvoo because of the course they have taken. If they would not destroy the works of any other men but their own I would not care.

B[righam] Young said to bro[ther] A[dams] he wanted to save him. I asked when you came home if there had been any women sealed to W[illiam] S[mith]. you denied it. And I can prove that that there has scores been sealed to both you & him or you have gone to bed with them–I know you have done it by revelation. You have lied to us to day and I will not bear it. and I want you to confess it today or if you dont we will have to prove it before the world and cut you off. I am all the time receiving letters from the East giving account of your prostituting young women and ruining the churches. A[dams].

In regard to women–himself & W[illia]m [Smith]–what W[illiam] had done he made him promise not to tell. He is glad to have them talk all thats in them for he wants to be saved. He wants you to be as merciful as you can. In regard to what bro[ther] [Heber C.] K[imball] [said] I staid behind because W[illia]m said so. He said he would make it all right, and I know I have done wrong. I have not got nite bed to women. In regard to the financial concerns he is willing to turn over every thing he has got on the earth till they are satisfied. He knows he has done wrong. but he dont want to be guilty of betraying any one but he wants them to look at his situation & the council he had. [51]

B[righam] Young said who wants to follow W[illia]m Smith. There is but one principle that can save William. He has a brother who is a prophet in the church. W[illia]m has not power to down the Twelve. There was something between you and W[illia]m made him want us to ordain you. he wanted to make a tool [fool?] of you. You have been gathering money for him and you ought to have known better. Has he got the Keys of this Kingdom–no nor is he the Pres[ident] of this Kingdom. if he was, farewel to our salvation. There is no man knows Joseph Smith better than I do. I have sacrificied every thing for the knowledge of God. Now be with us and operate with us and you will be saved & if you dont you will go down to hell.

A[dams] says whatever he has done wrong he is willing to do right. He did know much about W[illia]m S[mith’s] past conduct. He could tell a good many things about W[illia]m which have revol[t]ed his feelings. Since what you said to me I have never written a word to W[illia]m S[mith] nor never intend to. He wants to be saved by those who have the power & authority to do it. I would have been there when I was told to but he told me in the name of the Lord to stay. Had many contentions about being any right to do such things.

B[righam] Y[oung] we dont want you to say a word against W[illia]m because is bound to be saved. Joseph [Smith] got a promise of it.

G[eorge] W. Harris has some feelings for br[other] A[dams] and hopes it will never be dissolved. He believes & can satisfy this council about his course in the East by his making a full statement of all to this c[ouncil]–Let every thing come out here and you will be saved.

A[dams] asked for council–If he has been taken by one of the twelve and told not to say any thing–shall he do it–B[righam] Young said he did not want him to say any thing about W[illia]m. I dont want W[illia]m exposed but you ought to have come here and denied it to me. I want you should from this time take our council and be still. He then went on to relate about a delaying when he was sent by the church after the twelve preaching on the way.

P[hineas] Richards thought bro[ther] A[dams] could say whether he was guilty of what brother Young has said without criminating W[illia]m. He dont seem willing to come to the point but plays words.

T[homas] Grover saw a letter from Boston a while ago giving a relation of the way brother [Wilford] Woodruff had to raise means to go across the water. This letter stated that there had been so much money collected and the churches be[e]n so teazed that had not bro[ther] [Jedediah M.] Grant borrowed $50 it would [have] been hardly possible for W[illiam] to go away. There is a pamphlet in this place of a trial in Boston, br[other] A[dam’]s name is frequently called there & I would rather meet all Rigdonism than that pamphlet. Father Nickerson is in Boston & I believe will tell the truth. He never has said a word to any one about what was said in letters from Boston.

J[ohn] Taylor–said he had seen letters from individuals which could be depended on and he believes E[lde]r Youngs statements are correct. His heart has been grieved. Young women ruined & families broken up. It is no excuse for a man to say any one told him. We know what is right or we are not fit to go from home without a guardian. and for this church to be ruined by two or three individuals it is to[o] bad. If any others, the twelve go abroad, we dont have any trouble of them. This impression has been for a long while back that he has done more injury to this church than ten men could do good. He wants E[lde]r Adams to get up and confess his sins like a man. He has said he was willing this council should do with him as seemeth them good but he seems to want to keep behind the screen. [52]

A[dams] said he did not deny what he was accused with. he knows he has done wrong. He dont deny what pres[ident] Young has said. He is willing to go home for years & [illegible] at his business, but he wants to be saved.

G[eorge] W. Harris said the council cant judge the case unless he will tell the whole circumstances. He would advise him to state all that transpired from the time he started on his mission pertaining to himself.

A[lpheus] Cutler has had great feelings for bro[ther] A[dams] and has now. He thinks A[dams] is not aware of the number of charges which can be substantiated against him. I want he should be saved and let him come right out & tell the whole story.

W[illard] Richards bore testimony that what pres[ident] Young has said in relation to brother A[dams] or Josephs feelings is true. The brethren dont want to hear any thing about W[illia]m Smith but they want you to tell what you have done yourself.

S[amuel] Bent said that was his feelings.

A[dams] said he cant relate the things which took place without relating the whole circumstances. If he is to unfold any thing he wants to unfole the whole. In St Louis–Cincinatti he walked as pure as an Angel. never said a word to a woman. Pittsburgh–Philladelphia & New York same. but in Lowel it was not so. He has done wrong and is willing to be scourged

P[hineas] Richards made some remarks about A[dam]’s preaching, discussions, pamphlets &c but he has said an empty vessel sounds the loudest. He seems to be opposed to coming to the point we wish him. The spirit testifies to me that all is not right.

C[harles] C. Rich said there seems to [be] something in the dark with him. He desires to save br[other] A[dams] & would do all he could to [illegible]. If he has been correctly informed A[dams] has taken liberties with females for which he had been cut off from the Church. Pres[ident] Y[oung] has receivd information that he has done the same again. He has not told how it has been done and this is something he wants him to come at. If A[dams] has done it a second time he is not so easily excused as if he had only done it once. If a man has transcended his bounds once and been forgiven and then does it again where will it end.

A[lpheus] Cutler explained further as to what he said previously. He can prove that A[dam]’s conduct has been such as to through [throw] the blaime on the twelve and carry the idea that they supported him it it & he wants the twelve cleared.

A[dams] said he was willing to write as strong a document as they can wish. He has in three instances been sealed by an apostle to females & cohabited with two of them but this is all. B[righam] Y[oung] wants bro[ther] A[dams] to explain how the church owes him $600. He has acknowledged that he told bro[ther] Heber [C. Kimball] & I a falshood. He will say what he pleases about W[illia]m but he dont want any one else to say anything against him. There is no trouble to sustain the twelve, a feather will to it, because he never did any thing wrong. He will defy this church to find a case that there is not a law to save a man except the sin against the H[oly] G[host]. He wants A[dams] to bring the names of those who donated money & the money. and if I has had $600 of him I want him to have his right. He want on to show how some had gone before and after them getting money by hundreds of dollars when he could not get money to bear their expenses. A[dams] has stated that he lost $200 coming but he dont belive it. He told us in the fall it was $150 now it is $200. He then went on to explain some things about what is called the Spiritual wife doctrine. [53]

H[eber] C. K[imball] went to show that E[lde]r Adams had done more hurt than good, more hurt than the Twelve can do good in one year. The characters of the Twelve will sustain them. He dont want any writing from G[eorge]. A[dams]. to sustain them. When A[dams] has had council it has not had depth enough in him. We are willing to cover all things up if he will go and do right and stop his boasting. He gave some very good advice to brother A[dams].

O[rson] Pratt said some things in confirmation of the charges preferred by Br[other] Young. Adams said in regard to what he had said against one of the Twelve he takes it all back. He spoke inadvisedly.

W[illard] Richards called a question in regard to the documents from J[oseph] Smith. He replied he had six or seven documents from under J[oseph]’s hands pertaining to the

Russia Mission. Some remarks were here made concerning being Josephs spokesman.

N[ewel] K. Whitney related the circumstances of an interview with A[dams] a few days ago– He said to me that he possessed powers & authority which no other man had & which had never come to light. & he wants A[dams] to explain what those authorities are.

A[dams] explained.

B[righam] Young explained some things concerning what bro[ther] Parley did in the East a year ago last spring.

S[amuel] Bent said if bro[ther] A[dams] offer his confession & expression was willing to continue the hand of fellowship.

H[eber] C. K[imball] moved that it be left to Pres[ident] Y[oung] to give the decision

B[righam] Y[oung]. wanted bro[ther] A[dams]. to sit down and write. I am here. I have done wrong. I ask forgiveness and am willing to do right without criminating any one else and that the proper authority is here. and that he is with the twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom A mans confession never will do him hurt unless he afterwards turns around and does wrong again.

The question was put & carried.

B[righam] Y[oung] then asked if all were willing to keep all that has been said here to themselves–their wives not excepted–unanimous.

J[ohn] E Page explained the reason why he was not here in season. and said he wanted to be present in all councils but he had not been notified.

B[righam] Y[oung] explained. He then stated that they had had a council today concerning turning the labors on the dam to the Temple and Nauvoo House. The damn will bring difficulty. Will it not be better to drop it & put all forces on the gardens and the Temple &c.

G[eorge] A. Smith moved that the council recommend this course.

J[ohn] Taylor said he had heard that some had fears the people would be dissatisifed but he did not think they would.

B[righam] Young proposed that they call the men together and let what they had done remain & lay it over till we can get a charter from the U[nited]. S[tates].

The vote was put & passed.

B[righam] Young recommended J[ohn] Taylor & J[ohn] E. Page to call a meeting of the stockholders and lay the thing before them & take an expression from them. [54]

Adjourned till next Saturday at 1.

[Source: Minutes, as quoted in Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010]

John S. Dinger writes about the above minutes:

Nearly everyone spoke: all seven apostles in attendance, six high councilmen, and one of the presiding bishopric. Brigham Young said he knew through personal revelation that Adams and William Smith had both married “scores” of women back east, adding that he was also “all the time receiving letters from the East giving account of your prostituting young women and ruining the churches.” Adams said he had “promise[d] not to tell” about their misadventures, to which Young said he was “willing to cover all things up if [William] will go and do right and stop his boasting.” Young “asked if all [in attendance] were willing to keep all that has been said here to themselves — their wives not excepted — unanimous.” (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 14806-14816). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Dinger also writes that:

Pres[iden]t Young then arose and said he wanted Brother Adams to sit down and write that he had done wrong, that he asks forgiveness, and is willing henceforth to listen to council, and do right without incriminating any one else; also that the proper authorities of this Church are here, and that he is with the Twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom. I want brother Adams to write this freely and confess his iniquities; a mans confession will never do him hurt unless he turns round and does wrong again. Meeting adjourned, to meet in the Seventie’s Hall on Saturday next at one o’clock P.M. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 14569-14574). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

 William Clayton wrote this summary of the trial in his diary:

Saturday 15th [April, 1845]. … P.M. at the High Council taking minutes. G. J. Adams had his trial. Presidents Young and H.C. Kimball were witnesses against him. Many hard things were proven against him which he confessed and begged for mercy It was decided that he write a confession of his wickedness, and agree to be one with the Twelve and do right here after, which he agreed to. The property in his hands belonging to the Temple he promised to bring and have a settlement. It was a good and interesting season and will do Adams much good. good” (George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991], 160).

In summary, the testimony of the women before the High Council in May of 1842 reveals that in addition to John C. Bennett and Chauncey Higbee, there were others involved with asking these women for sexual favors.

  • One of those involved was the brother of the “prophet” (William Smith), who Brigham Young later claimed was “bound to be saved” because he was the brother of Joseph and therefore free from recrimination by the “authorities” of the Church.
  • If Joseph did not specifically sanction William’s actions, he still allowed them, (along with George Adams who he made a “special Apostle”) and these two men operated (by “revelation” according to Brigham Young) without fear of being disciplined during the life of Joseph Smith.
  • Among those who were involved with these women, some were Joseph’s bodyguards, spent time with him in jail, and were members of the Danite order and could easily have been familiar with the teachings and actions of Joseph Smith.
  • Joseph Smith seemed more concerned with keeping his teachings secret than publicly exposing some of these men, at least for two years.
  • Smith initially defended and forgave John C. Bennett until he was again betrayed by Bennett.
  • There is evidence that Joseph did not always perform a “marriage ceremony” with some of the women he was involved with sexually and this might have been known to some who emulated that behavior.
  • Joseph Smith initially filed a slander suit against Chauncey Higbee but did not pursue it.
  • Brigham Young was willing to cover up William Smith’s behavior because of promises Joseph Smith made about him. They also gave George Adams a free pass on his transgressions.

In these minutes from a few months later, they discuss William Smith and Samuel Brannan:

[p. 1:] Nauvoo May 24 1845 at 6 oclock A.M. The Twelve, in presence of a great multitude. laid the southeast corner capstone of the Temple.

At 10- Bro[ther] Wm Smith buri[e]d his wife. [Caroline Amanda Grant] preaching at the stand by Elder Orson Pratt.

3. P.M. The Twelve. to wit Brigham Young Orson Hyde. Orson Pratt. Wm Smith, Amasa Lyman. John Taylor John E. page. Geo A. Smith & Willard Richards. assembl[e]d at John Taylor[‘]s. in co[mpany] with Samuel S. Brannon. & [blank space] assembled in council [added between the lines:] Prest Young Said Philo Dibble wanted 4 oxen from the old font to exhibit with his paintings. W. Richards moved that the oxen be left to the disposal of the present [president]. – 2 by 2 or three. [end of two line addition]

Bro. Wallace.[:] said. his sister came to his house in New Bedford, told him Bro Brannan had waited on her some. one Sunday she staid at home. Bro Brannan staid at home. on the edge of the. Brannan accomplished his desire, & went into the kitchen. Messeur came in & after reported. she was dis[s]atisfied.

Wm Smith sealed them up. it worried her to think she must be Brannans, Bro [Parley P.] Pratt told her the sealing was not according to the Law of God. went into consumption & died.- Wallace wrote Br Pratt, about Brannan.- that unless he repented he could not be crowned in the celestial kingdom. She said her sickness was occasioned by what had passed.=

Wm Smith,[:] acquainted with Sis Wallace at Lowel[l], of poor health, Brannan asked Smith if he had any objection to mar[r]y them.- She manifested strong attachment for Brannan. I married. them did not consider he had was under any obligation to any one else. Married them by all the authority he possess[e]d for time & Eternity, and had a right &c to do as an apostle of J christ. 

Father Nickerson preached that if any one should get hold of his skirts or any else, on the spiritual wife system. they would go to hell. & she believed it.- Sis Wallace wrote Brannan upbraiding him with the humbug & charging me with assisting Brannan.

Prest Young.[:] said since Sis Wallace had gone home. we could throw the mantle over the whole. & shut[t]er the subject.

[p. 2:] Wm. Smith said[:] he felt interested[?] in the Subject & wished the council if they chose to say whether he had a right so to do.- whether he a right to mar[r]y Brannan. & do what he had done. or whether was to be rode on a rail, & put down, or not. – – – – – – – quite a time for him.

Prest Young.- [:] said he was satisfied with what Wm Smith did in the case of Brannan in mar[r]ying him to Sis Wallace. did not couple any other of Wms acts,- in this decision.- Wm Supposed that P. P. Pratt supposed that Brannan was married to two, at once.

Brannan,[:] walked with Sis Wallace in public &c she had discovered that the time would come when men would have more wives than one.= made arrangements to take her to N. York in the spring.- told her I should be master.- would correspond with her. but did not write for fear some one would get the Letter. Father Nickerson went to Lowell, & disaffected the minds of the sisters.

Wallace[:] was in N. York when Brannan received his sister[‘]s letter. but did not talk with him about it as freely as with other women.

many spoke-

Elder Hyde proposed exchange of farms= Clerk Read Letters from Robert H. Morris of N. York & Van Ness to Gov. Ford. for S. Brannan,

[p. 3:]Nauvoo May 24 1845

To whom it may concern,

In a Council of the Twelve this day assembled in this city, Elder Samuel Brannan of New York being present, his case receiv[e]d a re-hearing both from written & oral testimony and upon a full investigation of the whole matter, the council restored elder Brannan to the fellowship of the church, in good standing, and call on the saints to sustain elder Brannan in his office. & his publishing depa[r]tment, & bless him with their faith & prayers

Brigham Young Prst

Willard Richards, clerk of the Quorum.

The President [illegible] Wm Smith [illegible] & told him what he wanted.

[bottom of page:] to which Wm [illegible].- as agreed [p. 4:]

Sister Young came in & brought a bottle of wine from Sister Clark The president gave a toast.- and all responded.-

Wm Smith asked the views of the council about his patriarchal office.- Prest Young said it was his right.-

Wm Smith received his patriarchal blessing by Prest Young.-

[sheet when turned sideways:]

Minutes of a Council of the Twelve. = May 24./45. on Samuel Brannan

[on bottom of sheet:]

Lewis Robbins as present in this council –

All concerning William Smith and George Adams was (for a time) ignored. William Smith was ordained the Patriarch to the Church. But this would not last, and both Smith and Adams would soon find themselves at odds with the Twelve once again, and both would ultimately sever their connections with them for good.

For more on this, see the excellent Essay by Gary James Bergera, “Buckeye’s Laments: Two Early Insider Exposes of Mormon Polygamy and their Authorship,” found in Dimensions of Faith, ed. by Gary James Bergera, Signature Books Library, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015.

This was though, a bone of contention with Ezra Booth, who wrote to Edward Partridge in 1831:

“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 easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking?

“Have you not often proven to your 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 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 concurred with him in sentiment.(Letter of Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831, emphasis mine.)

Booth also wrote:

“In this office [as prophet] 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.” (ibid, emphasis mine.)

Levi Lewis, a cousin of Emma Smith, related in 1834 that both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon claimed that “adultery was no crime” (Source: Affidavit of Levi Lewis, 20 March 1834, Susquehanna Register and Northern Pennsylvanian, 1 May 1834).

According to Joseph Smith, just like Noah got drunk and it “did no harm,” some committing adultery could be excused because “David did the same.”

Is this really “breaking down superstition” or is it simply an excuse to justify what is clearly sin, according to Joseph Smith’s own “revelations”? (See D&C 132:42) It is of interest to note that the word justify or justified occurs five times in this revelation.

With rumors swirling around him about “spiritual wives,” Joseph Smith told the Relief Society in April of 1842:

“The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God.” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith and annotated by Richard C. Galbraith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, p. 256)

Was it really the devil, or just Joseph Smith trying to justify sinful behavior? Why then, if it was not sin, did Joseph practice what he called “plural marriage” in secret, and not go through the proper channels supposedly set up by God for the Church:

“For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.” (D&C 26:2, emphasis mine)

Why then, did Joseph Smith feel the need to lie about practicing polygamy when asked directly about it? Why did he not reveal this doctrine to the church before he began to practice it in secret? And why, before it was revealed by the Church that they did indeed practice polygamy, did they issue this denial in theMillennial Star, and use the binding scripture of the Doctrine and Covenants to back up the denial:

“12th Lie—Joseph Smith taught a system of polygamy.
“12th Refutation.—The Revelations given through Joseph Smith, state the following:— ‘If any commit adultery, they shall be dealt with according to the law of God.’ [Doctrine & Covenants] Page 127.— ‘He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her; or, if any commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit.’ Page 150.— ‘Thou shalt love thy wife, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.’ Page 124.— ‘We believe that one man should have one wife.’ page 331.” (“Who is the Liar?”, The Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star, Vol. 12, No. 2, January 15, 1850, pp. 29-30.)

Notice that polygamy here, is associated with adultery.

[106] Augusta Adams Cobb became the 2nd polygamous wife of Brigham Young. In 1862 Augusta Cobb wrote to Brigham Young claiming that he had warned her away from being alone with Joseph Smith, because she would have been sexually “overcome” by him:

If you had allowed me to have gone up to Nauvoo free and untrameled In my Spiret I should have seen Br Joseph the first thing. But instead of that you exacted a promise of me that I would not see him alone Saying he would certainly over come me I replied if he did he would be the first man. You then Said I had never had to deal with a Prophet of the Lord[.] Now suppose he had over come me And I should by that means have raised up a Son or a King if you please[?] Who would have been the wiser?––––– Not Mrs [Catherine] Lewes Most certainly [who testified about Cobb & Young’s adultery] And I should have been Sealed to him And all would have been right.” (Augusta Adams Cobb to Brigham Young, February 4, 1862, Courtesy of Connell O’Donovan, emphasis mine).

Here Cobb states that being “overcome” by Smith would have produced a child that she claims may have been “a Son or a King”, then she would have been sealed to him and it would have “been right”. She then remonstrates about Catherine Lewis, and then reminds Young that,

…who was it that <came> to Lynn [Massachusetts] and stoped at Mrs Lewes’s and sent for me what transpired after I arived there? You very well know, Altho you may have forgotten, but I have not God for bid that I ever should, After Mrs Lewis Apostatized she went before the Court and gave Oath to all she knew Mr C[obb] got a bill of divorce for adultry by that news, and my name now stands recorded in Boston Court state House as an Adultress (ibid, This part of the letter is Online here,  Accessed September 25, 2015).

Cobb was dissatisfied with Young, and here claims that she committed adultery with Young while he was in Lynn. According to Young’s diary he was there in August and September of 1843 and took Cobb back with him to Nauvoo along with Sister Sarah Alley, who became the spiritual wife of Joseph B. Nobel.

the next day had a pleasant visit held our conference in New York tund [sic] some [same?] day came to Boston had a good visit at Lima [Lynn] hed our conference according to apointment [September 9] staid till September 29 (Brigham Young Diary, August 31, 1843)

staid [in Boston] till September 29 then started home with sister Alley & Cobb came to New York staid one day came to Pheledelpha (Brigham Young Diary, September 29, 1843)

I posted what Amanda Cobb wrote to Brigham Young on Mormon Discussions in January of this year. Brian Hales made only one comment on the thread and he said,

Now regarding her February 4, 1862 letter to Brigham Young. She expresses disappointment that she couldn’t have been one of Joseph’s wives. While we don’t know exactly what Brigham told her, it seems likely that he was afraid she might choose the Prophet over him and requested that she not be alone or, according to Augusta, he would “certainly over come me” and that by being so “over come,” she might “have raised up a Son or a King.” That is, in this context being overcome would result in pregnancy. Critics sometimes affirm that being “overcome” is adultery and so this reference is promoted as evidence Joseph Smith was an adulterer. Frankly, I’m grateful to “grindael” for not omitting the last sentence, which sometimes is done. It declares plainly that Augusta would have married Joseph Smith: “I should have been Sealed to him and all would have been right.” She wishes in 1848 she would have been Joseph Smith’s plural wife, rather than Brigham’s. An alternate interpretation that Augusta longed for an adulterous relationship with the Prophet, but based upon her piety, this seems less plausible.

But what about Brigham’s reported warning that she might be “over come” by a “prophet of God”? Well we know of other women who rejected Joseph Smith’s personal proposals. Unsurprisingly, the women were not “over come” by him or his offer.

Hales had a penchant for misinterpreting what he reads. The evidence really speaks for itself. Cobb claims that Brigham Young made her promise that she would not see Smith alone. Why? Because Young claims she would be “overcome” by him. Cobb claims that if he did, he would be “the first man” to do so. So what does that mean? We all know. In her early letters she is quite infatuated with Brigham Young. What happened between the two of them? Young then told her she never had to deal with a prophet of the Lord.

Cobb gives the impression that Young was speaking from experience, that this kind of behavior was not surprising from Joseph Smith. If Young were not worried about Amanda being “overcome”, then why warn her not to be alone with Smith? It is these very words that are striking about this incident, not Hales conjecture that others weren’t “overcome” so why would Amanda Cobb? The fact is, the behavior of Joseph Smith around women caused Brigham Young to be concerned enough to warn Amanda Cobb. The fact that Young then claims that “she never had to deal with a prophet of the Lord” tells us that Young wasn’t concerned with this being immoral on the part of Joseph Smith.

So what is meant here? Cobb answers, by saying – suppose he “overcame me” and I should BY THAT MEANS have raised up a Son or King…. Who would have been the wiser? The wiser about what? Being sealed? That is not what she meant. She then mentions Catherine Lewis who testified about her adulterous relationship with Brigham Young. So this is clearly Cobb claiming that no one would have “been the wiser” if she did the same with Joseph Smith. She then claims: “And I should have been sealed to him and all would have been right.” Clearly indicating that the sealing would ratify the behavior.

Hales also speaks of Cobb’s “piety”. What “piety” is he talking about? Her adulterous relationship with Brigham Young? George J. Adams testified at her trial:

“In the fall of 1844 after her return from Nauvoo to Boston, Mrs. Cobb said she loved Brigham Young better than she did Mr. Cobb, and, live or die, she was going to live with him at all hazards. This was in the course of a conversation in which she used extravagant language in favor of Mr. Young and against Mr. Cobb. Mrs. Cobb went out again to Nauvoo, the second time, and lived with Mr. Young, and their living together and their conduct, was the subject of conversation in the society and out of the society. The subject of conversation, to which I have alluded, was that persons had a right to live together in unlawful intercourse, and Mrs. Cobb avowed her belief in this doctrine, and said it was right.

She also said (he claimed), “I never will forsake brother Young, come life or come death. She said that the doctrine taught by Brigham Young was a glorious doctrine; for if she did not love her husband, it gave her a man she did love” . Catherine Lewis also testified that these things were true. Smith’s 1842 Address clearly shows that Brigham Young violated the direct commandment of the First Presidency of the Church and that Joseph Smith was complicit in it, since he “married” them. Cobb was not a wicked man, far from it, and even if he was, the First Presidency Message clearly states to leave it in the hands of the law. Brigham Young and Augusta Cobb did not do so. Young broke up that marriage and family, and committed adultery with Amanda Cobb. Hales also writes,

Unsurprisingly, the women were not “over come” by him  [Joseph Smith] or his offer. For example, Sarah Granger Kimball recalled:


Early in 1842, 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. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly and said, “Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.” He said, “I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer, you will not be led into temptation.”

Yes and Hiram Kimball her husband didn’t like it much. Smith wrote this “revelation” to him,

19 May 1842

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, by the voice of my Spirit, Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and forming evil opinions against you, with others; and if he continue in them, he and they shall be accursed, for I am the Lord thy God, and will stand by thee and bless thee. Amen. (History of the Church 5:12).

Brian Hales then writes,

After this described snub, Sarah Kimball sent Joseph Smith on his way. His response was to encourage her and to pray for her.

So? Did she come out publicly against Smith? No. She kept his secret so he had no reason to retaliate against her as he did with others. Of course, Hiram Kimball later joined the Church, but he still didn’t like what Joseph proposed to his wife at the time. By June of 1842 he was appointed assistant adjutant general in the Nauvoo Legion and became a City Alderman.

There is nothing remarkable about this. How would it be to be reproved by the most powerful man in Nauvoo when your wife was a firm believer in that man? Joseph talked many into believing in him and his doctrines. All of this still does not change that fact that Brigham Young was so concerned about one of his “wives” being alone with Joseph Smith that he counseled her not to be alone with him. Amanda affirms that she could have borne a child by Smith and that later he could have “sealed” them, and all would have been right.

Why wasn’t Mary Heron sealed to Joseph Smith? Perhaps because they had no children from the encounter?

[107] Quinn, “Sexual Side”, 66, note 183.

[108] Vogel/Hales #1 FaceBook Exchanges, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015

[109] Brian Hales, “Mormon Polygamy Documents, A Research Database,” Document js0326, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015. 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. (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 336-337, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015. Whitney writes in a footnote that Smith told Heber C. Kimball that if he did not do as he was told by Joseph he would “lose his Apostleship and be damned”.)

Smith rejected this idea (of non-sexual eternity only sealings) and told Heber C. Kimball to take a younger wife he could have sex with. Heber C. Kimball’s marriage to Sarah Peake Noon was not a “non-sexual sealing”, he had three children with her. Why then, would Smith not be satisfied with Heber C. Kimball’s first two choices, if non sexual, eternity only sealings were just as important (if not more so according to Hales) as time and eternity sealings?

[110] Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 30-31

[111] Vogel/Hales #1 FaceBook Exchanges, op. cited above. Hales imaginary scenario:

IMAGINE an allegation that Sidney Rigdon performed human sacrifices on the Nauvoo Temple site at midnight during every full moon in 1843.  (This is pure fiction.)  Also suppose that someone emerges to defend this pretended report by observing that Rigdon lived in Nauvoo in 1843 when the moon was full at midnight.  In support, he might also observe that Joseph Smith taught of the eventual restoration of the law of sacrifice (D&C 13:1, 84:31, 128:24).  In addition, the proponent could recruit tales from John C. Bennett about burnt offering in Nauvoo. He might also repeat folklore regarding humans being sacrifice in Illinois, without clearly noting in their narrative that their ideas are not documentable.  Several scriptures might be referenced to support the need for such sacrifices (Jeremiah 19:5, Abraham 1:7-11, 15, Mormon 4:14, Moroni 9:10).  Whether convincing or not or even if the supportive evidence is weak or nonexistent, it still remains impossible to prove that human sacrifices did not happen in Nauvoo in 1843. (Caps in original)

[112] Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 24-25

[113] Sarah Pratt, in Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 1886,  62-63

[114] William Law, Salt Lake Tribune, January 20, 1887

[115] George D. Smith, Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841-46: A Preliminary Demographic Report, Dialogue, Vol.27, No.1, 27

[116] D. Michael Quinn, 150 Years of Truth and Consequences About Mormon History, Sunstone16:1/13 (Feb 92).

[117] 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.

[118] “LDS Biographical Encyclopedia” By Elder Andrew Jenson, 6:232, 1887

[119] Elder Joseph Kingsbury, “History of Joseph Kingsbury Written by His Own Hand,” page 5, Utah State Historical Society

[120] Diary of Emily Dow Partridge Young,  June 29th, 1881, Church History Library, Md d 2845, 63

[121] ibid, August 1, 1881, emphasis in original

A Few thoughts on Brian Hales’ Review of Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”

AC 4Introduction

It is 1974 and Richard Nixon is embedded in the White House and fighting to keep the Office of the President of the United States—but losing badly. The reason why? Two investigative journalists named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and a confidential informant named “Deep Throat”.

These two reporters (with “Deep Throat’s” help) blew the lid off of Nixon’s Presidency with a series of articles about his involvement in bungled burglaries, abuse of power and a massive cover-up which forced our Commander-in-Chief to declare “I am not a crook” and become the first man to resign the Presidency of the United States. Woodward and Bernstein’s contributions to the paper ultimately helped the Washington Post win the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973.

Not satisfied to rest on their laurels, they again teamed up to write a non-fiction book about their investigation which they cleverly titled “All the President’s Men”, which became a best seller and has been lauded as “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.”

In their prestigious best seller (which also became a blockbuster movie), the first thing one sees upon opening it up is a “Cast of Characters”, which conveniently allows the reader to keep track of everyone in the book. One reviewer put it this way,

Fortunately, the authors included a “Cast of Characters” section in the beginning of the book and an “Index” at the end, both of which prove helpful and provide one with references. 

All the President's Men Cast of Characters 1The reason that I mention this is because noted author Alex Beam uses the same technique for his recent work of popular non-fiction, American Crucifixion, and Brian Hales (who seems to have become the Mormon apologist “go to guy” for all things related to Joseph Smith’s polygamy) has claimed in a review of Beam’s book that,

The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.

I think Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein would beg to differ; along with many literary critics including Time Magazine, which hailed All the President’s Men as “perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history.”

It’s ok that Brian Hales doesn’t like Alex Beam’s use of a “Cast of Characters” in the beginning of his book, or that he thinks it is best used by playwrights. But to insinuate that this might “intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question” is hogwash.

And his ad hominem at the end where he insinuates that because Alex Beam used this literary tool to help the reader, he wasn’t aware that they were “real people” who experienced “real events” is rather amusing.

But Hales doesn’t stop there when it comes to trying to smear Alex Beam because he doesn’t like Beam’s portrayal of Joseph Smith’s polygamy in American Crucifixion. He gets even more silly.

Let me give you an example or two.

I. Who’s Defaming Who?

The accusation of defamation seems to be a current trend with Mormon apologists. For example, see the recent “Big Trouble in River City: American Crucifixion and the Defaming of Joseph Smith”, by Craig L. Foster and Brian Hales. To defame someone is to use falsehood to try and damage their reputation. This is done purposefully and with malice and is also kind of hard to prove when it comes to writing about characters that are dead and lived almost 200 years ago.

Yet, apologists like Brian Hales will claim that Alex Beam does so, even though lots of other authors agree with his conclusions. To Hales, they are but “a few biased authors.” Interesting that those “biased” authors that Beam quotes from (provided by Hales) include Richard Bushman (Mormon), Todd Compton (Mormon), Andrew Ehat (Mormon) and Linda King Newell and Valeen Avery, (both Mormon). The rest are all Ex-Mormons with a wealth of knowledge about Joseph Smith and Mormonism, but in Hales world they are disqualified because they are not “faithful”. See the comments from this Essay by Cheryl Bruno who Hales tries to claim isn’t a spiritual enough Mormon to teach about it. Hales wrote, among other things,

Perhaps I should apologize, but when a person like Cheryl or me places themselves in front of others as teachers of Joseph Smith’s life and doctrines, our personal beliefs become an issue. Why? Because he taught, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).

Hales and Foster employ the tactic of first trying to create in the reader’s mind that Alex Beam is biased, therefore his conclusions are flawed. They seem curiously obsessed with the fact that Alex Beam was critical of Mitt Romney in some of his news columns. So was over half the country, so much so that Mitt didn’t win the 2012 election. Hales even has problems with Beam’s obvious disdain for Bain Capital, which has plenty of problems that Hales (ever so transparent) doesn’t bother to mention.

They then focus the rest of the introduction to the article on how much they feel Beam hates Mormonism. It is laughable stuff because lots of people don’t like the people they write about.

For example, if I were going to write an historical piece on Adolf Hitler, would I be disqualified because I don’t like the fact that he mass murdered millions of Jews? Should I then present all the crazy theories that there was no holocaust?

I really don’t care if an author is biased or not. What difference does it make? It will simply show up in their work, which can be checked.

Critics of others work should focus on that and leave the ad hominem out of it. But to obsess over it, as Hales and Foster do only makes them look petty. To quote one of those claimed “biased” authors Todd Compton,

(1) No piece of evidence is perfect. As I wrote in In Sacred Loneliness (p. 29), contemporary evidence is very desirable, but is not perfect. Even if someone writes something in a diary (contemporary evidence), it is still biased and limited to his or her viewpoint. That person’s enemy, or even a friend, may write on the same day about the same events and look at them very differently.

Therefore, since no piece of evidence is perfect, if you do not like any piece of evidence, you can always object in some way and throw it out. As a result, it is important that one does not hold a double standard for crucial evidence, that one is consistent. For instance, if one rejects a piece of evidence whose content one does not like on the argument that it is second-hand, one should not accept another piece of evidence (whose content one likes) that is equally second- hand.

Evidence can be used, and should be used, even if it is not perfect. (Otherwise, no evidence could be used at all.) One can use evidence skillfully, but still allow for its limitations. For instance, if one has two pieces of evidence, one can balance them against each other. One limited truism of historical research is that late evidence is inferior to contemporary evidence. In many respects this is true, but not necessarily. I cited Eliza R. Snow’s contemporary diary entry for the day she married Joseph Smith, In Sacred Loneliness, 313. Nowhere is there explicit mention of the marriage in that entry. A researcher with that diary alone would never affirm or try to prove that Eliza married Joseph on that day, or at all. However, in a late piece of evidence, her autobiography, she explicitly affirms the marriage to Joseph (cited at In Sacred Loneliness, 312), and in other late evidence she gave the date. No one piece of evidence was perfect, but all were valuable. Combined, they presented a reliable, full view of the event.

Yet we find Hales accepting all kinds of second hand evidence/sources to support his narrative of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. What Hales does though is even worse, he uses primary sources, but he manipulates them to support his own views. I will show a classic example of this below.

There is nothing wrong with using and quoting secondary sources. Sometimes they are written better, have better observations, but as one uses them it is best to compare their analyses with the original documents if you can get them. Many times secondary sources quote primary documents, something that Hales doesn’t mention much. It is pretty easy these days to go and check and see if they are quoted accurately.

Hales and Foster write,

What if the secondary sources are overly biased for or against Joseph Smith, or what if they misrepresent the reliability of some statement or conclusion? The secondary sources he quotes reflect just these sorts of weaknesses, which are only compounded when further filtered through Beam’s storytelling. He becomes at best a tertiary source, which can tell us no more than the secondary sources upon which he uncritically and reflexively relies. One worries that he is simply finding in them what he already expects to find. Having located it, he looks and questions no further.

They act like no one but them has ever thought of this before! Why are they so worried (their word) about this? And how does Hales know that Alex Beam did not read original sources? He doesn’t. He just didn’t interpret them the same way that Hales does, which Hales just can’t seem to understand. Hales is actually the oddball among Joseph Smith’s polygamy historians with his claim that Joseph Smith almost never had sex with anyone but Emma Smith, didn’t practice polyandry and that he didn’t really lie about any of it. It is a ridiculous assertion that no one but Mormon apologists or “faithful” Mormons buy into. Joseph Smith himself claimed that “I do not want you to think I am very righteous, for I am not.”

As for Foster & Hales’ claim that Alex Beam defamed Joseph Smith, one example may suffice. Foster and Hales write,

Beam writes that Eliza admitted she had been “the Prophet’s wife and lover” (89). He provides no documentation and obviously missed Eliza’s 1877 letter to RLDS missionary Daniel Munns where she flatly denied having ever been Joseph Smith’s “carnal” wife but freely acknowledged that there were “several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.” During a June 9 interview with MormonStories podcaster John Dehlin, Laura Hales, wife of Brian Hales, addressed this lack of evidence for this statement during the question and answer period. Beam appeared nonplussed by the fuss regarding his use of the term “lover,” which he admitted was an ill-chosen word to describe Eliza’s relationship with Joseph. This speaks of his willingness to infuse dramatic prose into his text without regard to documentary evidence.

Eliza Roxey SnowIn another article on the same subject (criticizing Alex Beam about calling Eliza Snow Joseph’s raven haired lover), Hales writes,

During the June 9 podcast interview, my wife Laura addressed this lack of evidence, which apparently was an unacceptable question because both Dehlin and Beam felt it was confrontational, but I wondered about their willingness to provide documentary transparency. 

Now I’m all for documentary transparency, so let’s see if Hales is as transparent about this incident as he claims. But before I get into that, here are the comments and the question that Laura Hales put to Alex Beam from the June 9, 2014 podcast,

Alex thank you as a fellow writer I appreciate you explaining the audience for this book. You said it was a book written for writers and as a writer I appreciated this book

when I read a book I look at it from a structural level um you’ve um said it was a work of popular non-fiction which is a genre I am not totally familiar with as a separate genre as I read the book I saw several genres represented

You start your book out with a cast of characters which I find very engaging which would be um more indicative of a play

um you talk about the raven haired poetess when referring to Eliza Snow which conjures up the cover of a Harlequin RomanceEliza-Harlequin-Romance

Those who know Eliza Snow perhaps would not use those words to describe her She had um at age 38 when she married Joseph Smith published a few poems but she was um a old maid who worked as a governess at the time

um but that page were you described Eliza Snow as the raven haired poetess was particularly interesting to me um I gotta pull it up at the bottom of the page [89] you a mention a familiar story about Eliza getting upset I mean Emma getting upset with Eliza but at the end of the paragraph you said uh “Snow never spoke of the stairway incident, confirming only that she had been the Prophet’s wife and lover.”

Now I’m also a professional copy editor mostly of historical non-fiction and so I look at footnotes especially those um in quotation marks and I happened to look up your footnotes for this which referenced two books that you regard highly one was Fawn Brodie and the other was Mormon Enigma I went to the pages you referenced and neither of those referenced um a statement by Eliza that she had been the prophet’s lover

in fact you went much further than Fawn Brodie who intimated that maybe the marriage was consummated um being a little familiar with the relationship between Eliza and Joseph as far as primary documents um she only made a couple statements that were very nebulous very difficult to determine whether she consummated her relationship at all um let alone was his lover

so when I’m reading works of non-fiction and I check out footnotes and I go there and find out the information that is supposed to be there it tends to discredit the author in my mind and while non-fiction doesn’t have to be true um if it is about fact and people who are true and the author’s obligated to write what he believes to be true

so I’m … my question is to you obviously this information did not come from the source cited, where did you get that information?

I’ll let the reader hear Alex Beam’s reply to Laura Hales which can be found at about the 2 hour 1 minute mark. But to add a bit to that, first, Joseph Smith himself called Eliza Snow “Zion’s Poetess.” She was hardly an “old maid” at age 38. This is simply wishful thinking.

As for being Joseph’s lover, this is hardly a stretch. Fawn Brodie speaks of the “persistent tradition” that Eliza Snow conceived a child by Joseph Smith (which resulted in a miscarriage) which Brodie claimed was told to her “as a fact” by Eliza’s nephew, Leroi C. Snow. You can’t have a child without consummating the marriage. (Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pg. 470) More importantly, Eliza R. Snow and Joseph Smith got “married” long before Joseph had any kind of written “revelation” to do so. Eliza R. Snow’s own brother testified at the Temple Lot Suit that this would indeed be adultery, as did Orson Pratt (at a General Conference) and others. (I will have more on this in another Essay).

It may be lost on the Hales, but Eliza Snow was the same age as Emma Smith, who gave birth to David Hyrum Smith two years after Snow became his Spiritual Wife. Are we to assume that Emma was some kind of “old maid” that didn’t appeal to him anymore? The birth of David Hyrum kind of destroys that argument.

Another of the sources (Mormon Enigma) that Alex Beam cites claims,

This [a claimed miscarriage] does not mean that Eliza was not Joseph’s wife “in very deed,” however. …Eliza testified that other women also were “the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith,” implying that they were physically intimate with Joseph and enjoyed full conjugal rights.

This same letter (to Daniel Munns) is the “evidence” that Laura Hales mentions above that they claim make it difficult to determine if the marriage between Eliza and Joseph was consummated. Hales quotes this letter on his website, but only what I have attributed to him below. The material he leaves out makes the letter appear to say something totally different. Hales employs this tactic with numerous “primary” sources.

The letter in question reads (As per Hales),

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), “Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one” . . . . I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.” (Eliza R. Snow, Letter to Daniel Munns, May 30, 1877, Community of Christ Archives)

It is important to note Hales ellipses. What did Snow mean by “a carnal one”? That she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? This is what the Hales would have us believe but this contradicts another statement attributed to Eliza Snow that Hales tries to cast doubt on,

He [Joseph Smith III] said, “I am informed that Eliza Snow was a virgin at the time of her death.” I in turn said, “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked her the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’” (Angus Cannon, Statement, in 1905 interview with Joseph Smith III, LDS Church History Library.)

So what’s the deal here? Simply that Eliza R. Snow did not like the term “spiritual wifery”. Why? Because she thought it implied the system attributed to John C. Bennett that was unspiritual or carnal. If one simply reads the 1828 definition of the word carnal, this becomes clear:

1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure. (1828 Webster’s Dictionary)

Snow was not denying that she ever had sex with Smith or even being ambiguous, but that the relationship was carnal, or unspiritual. That is why she adds that she is “personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.” They were bona fide wives the same as Eliza herself was.

“Pure and Sacred” doctrine (or spiritual), verses “spiritual wifery” (carnal). Bona fide wives, not simply sex partners as in Bennett’s system.

These are the kinds of examples that the article by Foster and Hales are full of. It is easy to bandy about the term defamation, but a lot harder to prove it in relation to Joseph Smith’s polygamy.

Now, Brian Hales has access to the entire letter written to Daniel Munns, but he doesn’t quote the whole letter, or at least the portion between his ellipses. Brian Hales has posted much of his polygamy research online, and among those items is the complete letter from Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns. I post it here:Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 1

Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 2

The entire letter makes it perfectly clear what Eliza R. Snow was getting at when she was asked about being a “spiritual wife”. She writes,

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one.

Here is where Brian Hales employs the ellipses. Here is what he left out which totally explains Eliza R. Snow’s context:

It would be rather difficult to measure the amount of spirituality, I was in possession of, so as to make an estimate[.] I candidly confess “spiritual wifery” I know nothing of [–]only as the term was used as an epithet with which to stigmatize those of us who valiantly moved forward in obedience to the commands of God, in establishing the practice of plurality.

I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith — noble and intelligent woman, who live to honor him, and who revere his memory and anticipate holding the same endearing relationship with him in eternity — having been connected to him by the same power and authority which Christ conferred on the Apostle Peter, by which “whatsoever he bound on earth should be bound in heaven” &c.

What is also interesting here (and what you don’t see Hales quote) is that Eliza Snow expressly claims that she was,

…married to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, more than two years previous to his death — not by a hireling Priest with usurped authority, but by a man of God who has been legally authorized to preform the sacred ordinance of marriage, An ordinance which unites for time and for eternity.

Snow claims that she was married in an ordinance that unites for time and eternity. The letter above shows that Snow considered the term “spiritual wife” repulsive and that it was only used as an epithet to stigmatize (disgrace) those who moved forward in obedience in establishing the practice of plurality. But you would not know this from the selective way that Brian Hales quotes the letter. So much for transparency.

These are not the words of someone who was simply “sealed” to Joseph Smith. This strongly implies the marriage was for time and consummated. This is what the sources that Alex Beam cites convey.

Using this letter to try and claim that the evidence is conflicting about sexuality in the marriage is quite simply disingenuous of Brian and Laura Hales.

If we couple that letter with the comments made by Angus Cannon we get a clear picture of the relationship between Eliza Snow and Joseph Smith. She was his wife and lover. Technically this is correct, since there wasn’t a legal marriage between Joseph Smith and Eliza R. Snow and there could not have been, according to the Times and Seasons:

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the “dreadful splendor” of “spiritual wifery,” which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney’s revelation, just because he wanted “to go to Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] and live.” Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully [willfully] lie to injure an innocent people! The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man’s wife die, he has a right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead! there is no law of God or man against it! This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was tolerated in the church, and they know it. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, Nov. 15, 1844, p. 715, emphasis mine).


This is only one example of the many problems with the apologetic approach of those like Brian Hales. There are many, many more that I have documented and will be presenting in the near future with Jeremy Runnells. Though there are some problems with some of what Alex Beam presents in American Crucifixion, I think overall, he got it right.