The Early Histories of Joseph Smith, Pt II: “Work to the Money…”

“The Palmyra Peeker” by grindael

by Johnny Stephenson

Pt I (Ghosts & Angels) may be found here.

Part II: “Work to the Money…”

His story about the discovery of the plates sounded like the German legends of the demons of the Harz Mountains, … Brigham Young [said] the people knew there was treasure in the Hill Cumorah. It seems that the time was one of great mental disturbance in that region. There was much religious excitement; chiefly among the Methodists. People felt free to do very queer things in the new country…~Elizabeth Kane

Introduction

“A new portrait of Joseph and his work…”

This series of articles was conceived (at first) as simply a couple of parts about the early histories of Joseph Smith, sort of a before (the events as they transpired) and an after (how they were reported by Cowdery and Smith).

But as I started studying all of the material that has been written about the early history of Joseph Smith since the mid 1980’s, I soon realized that I was going to have to expand my original idea. The reason for all the material (mostly from Mormon apologists) was because of the Mark Hofmann forgeries. When the “Salamander Letter” and other documents appeared, the Mormon community was rocked to its core. They scrambled to try and explain what others knew about for a long time but which the apologists and the church had been obfuscating and denying for years: the occult practices and money-digging obsession of the Smith family in Palmyra and Manchester New York that was going on when the young Joseph Smith, Jr., was supposedly seeing visions of Jesus and heavenly angels and learning how to run “God’s Kingdom”. (See an official church version of his history here and see if anything has really changed, pg. 37ff)

Mark Hofmann with Mormon First Presidency

In the wake of the Hofmann forgeries a few stepped up to try and come to grips with the letters. No one knew if they were real, but many were fooled though some were not. Ronald Walker explains how he and the church dealt with them:

At 9:00 A.M. on 18 January 1984, I arrived at the home of Leonard Arrington, director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History and, more to the point, my supervisor. He had telephoned the day before and asked that I come by. As I entered his living room, Leonard showed me rather matter-of-factly a copy of a recently found document, which I found unsettling. “At face value,” I wrote that evening in my journal “it is explosive. It is a letter from Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps [written in] 1830 describing the early origins of the Church in spiritualistic or cabalistic terms. It confirms several other documents that have been recently found, indicating the ‘treasure-hunting’ activity of Joseph Smith prior to the organization of the Church. These finds I wrote will require a re-examination and rewriting of our origins.

As the Tanners were to explain, those who knew and understood the early history of the Smith’s would be suspicious of what Hofmann produced (as they were). Here is the text of The Salamander Letter [by Mark Hofmann]:

Your letter of yesterday is received & I hasten to answer as fully as I can–Joseph Smith Jr first come to my notice in the year 1824 in the summer of that year I contracted with his father to build a fence on my property in the corse of that work I aproach Joseph & ask how it is in a half day you put up what requires your father & 2 brothers a full day working together he says I have not been with out assistance but can not say more only you better find out the next day I take the older Smith by the arm & he says Joseph can see any thing he wishes by looking at a stone Joseph often sees Spirits here with great kettles of coin money it was Spirits who brought up rock because Joseph made no attempt on their money I latter dream I converse with spirits which let me count their money when I awake I have in my hand a dollar coin which I take for a sign Joseph describes what I seen in every particular says he the spirits are grieved so I through back the dollar in the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible I take Joseph aside & he says it is true I found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole & struck me 3 times & held the treasure & would not let me have it because I lay it down to cover over the hole when the spirit says do not lay it down Joseph says when can I have it the spirit says one year from to day if you obay me look to the stone after a few days he looks the spirit says bring your brother Alvin Joseph says he is dead shall I bring what remains but the spirit is gone Joseph goes to get the gold bible but the spirit says you did not bring your brother you can not have it look to the stone Joseph looks but can not see who to bring the spirit says I tricked you again look to the stone Joseph looks & sees his wife on the 22d day of Sept 1827 they get the gold bible–I give Joseph $50 to move him down to Pa Joseph says when you visit me I will give you a sign he gives me some hiroglyphics I take then to Utica Albany & New York in the last place Dr Mitchel gives me a introduction to Professor Anthon says he they are short hand Egyption the same what was used in ancent times bring me the old book & I will translate says I it is made of precious gold & is sealed from view says he I can not read a sealed book–Joseph found some giant silver specticles with the plates he puts them in a old hat & in the darkness reads the words & in this way it is all translated & written down–about the middle of June 1829 Joesph takes me together with Oliver Cowdery & David Whitmer to have a view of the plates our names are appended to the book of Mormon which I had printed with my own money–space and time both prevent me from writing more at presant if there is any thing further you wish to inquire I shall attend to it

Yours Respectfully
Martin Harris

The Tanners saw plagiarism in the letters. It’s not really hard to see if you know the material. For example, David Whitmer once claimed he got help plowing his fields from supernatural beings. Lucy Smith claimed that it was Whitmer given supernatural power to do so. Compare with Hofmann’s story above:

[David] …asked the Lord for a testimony of the fact if it was his will that he should go [help Joseph] he was told by the voice of the spirit to (sow) <(har) inn his wheat> his wheat and then go straightway to Penn In the morning he went to the field and found that he had 2 heavy days work before him He then asked the lord to enable him to do this work sooner than the same work had ever been done on the farm before and he would receive it as an evidence that it was the will of God for him to engage in forwarding the work which was begun by Joseph Smith. he then fastened his horses to the harrow and drove round the whole field he continued on till noon driving all the way round at every circuit but when it came to be time to eat dinner he discov ered to his surprize that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. after dinner he again went on as before and by evening he finnished the whole 2 days work (for both Whitmer and Lucy Smith’s accounts see here, note 284).

Also compare this account from Palmyra neighbor William Stafford in 1833:

I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained. I have heard them tell marvellous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging. They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man’s farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold — bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver — gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, — that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates — that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress. At certain times, these treasures could be obtained very easily; at others, the obtaining of them was difficult. The facility of approaching them, depended in a great measure on the state of the moon. New moon and good Friday, I believe, were regarded as the most favorable times for obtaining these treasures. (Mormonism Unvailed, 237-8)

Instead of an evil omen toad, (as reported by Willard Chase and another neighbor) Hofmann wrote that it was (according to Quinn) a more beneficial “white salamander”. Changing what Joseph saw in the stone box from a toad to a white salamander was an ingenious idea.

The point is, most of what Hofmann wrote in his forgeries was gleaned from already existing accounts, which Mormon apologists like Hugh Nibley and others refused to believe and claimed were simply made up by the Smith’s neighbors. The quandary faced by the apologists and their desperation to come up with some kind of explanation is what set this whole “folk magic was really lost Apostolic Christianity” farce in motion.

Ronald Walker continues:

During my interview [with Arrington], I learned that Steven F. Christensen, a Salt Lake City businessman, had quietly purchased the letter and was now asking for my help to prepare the document for publication. … I told him I would take part in the project. …Thus began my intellectual and spiritual journey with Joseph Smith, the Palmyra Seer. Of course, I had known him before. He had been woven in the warp and woof of my Cedar Rapids, Iowa, childhood, when Sunday School lessons and “testimonies” in our small branch declared his ministry. Later while serving a Southern States mission I had acquired my own fervor which my subsequent church service matured and increased. But never previously had I scrutinized the Prophet. I had never submitted him to that careful microscopic autopsy that historians must practice on their subjects.

Actually, it would only have taken picking up a few books, like Fawn Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, or Mormonism Unvailed, or something by Dale Morgan or Richard Van Wagoner, or Michael Marquardt or perhaps reading the original documents that were being churned out by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. It would also take an open mind and not giving undue credence to those like Hugh Nibley and others who were claiming that the money-digging accounts were all made up or coerced by Hurlbut and Howe. But the Church discouraged people from reading books like that (labeling them “anti-Mormon”, encouraging them to stay with those who wrote “faithful” histories. But I can’t fault Walker, when I was a member I stayed away from all those “evil anti-Mormons” too. It wasn’t anti-Mormons who opened my eyes to the real history of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, it was the Fundamental Mormons who lived in southern Utah. They gave me a list of material and I went right to B.Y.U and started looking things up. The way things were back then, you could “scrutinize’ the life of Joseph Smith and never know about the money-digging. Walker continues:

While first holding the Harris letter in my hands in Mr Christensen’s office I sensed such a detailed study would be required. If the letter were authentic I believed it would require all the old Joseph smith sources to be re-read. New sources I thought, should be searched for. Perhaps innovative methods of analysis would be required.

Except the apologists (and many other historians of Mormonism) believed at the time they were authentic letters and acted as if they were. What new sources could Walker be talking about? Simply reading the old ones, like the account of Joseph Knight, Sr., or Lucy Smith’s original manuscript (which he gets around to mentioning below) would certainly be in order. But here we have a key, that it would take “innovative methods of analysis” to try and explain what was there all along but only sensationalized by Hofmann’s putting the evidence in first person accounts. Walker then recalls the dilemma he found himself in:

My journey with Joseph has now taken two years. Perhaps it is time to pause and search for meanings and suggest possible new directions. Were my first excited feelings about historical revisionism justified? How do some of our recently found or refound sources fit into the larger body of evidence, and what are some of their implications? Needless to say answers to these ambitious questions will be partial and tentative and I offer nothing here but a private view. At the outset I admit our task has not been easy. At first there were angry and sometimes petulant letters and phone calls that severely reminded me of my human frailty. Well-meaning friends and relatives conveyed a similar message. …Through all this I confess to having deeply troubled feelings added to the tragic loss of a friend, there was the need to ask hard questions of my personal faith. The Martin Harris letter and its companion piece Joseph Smith’s 1825 letter to Josiah Stowell, speak of a strange world of guardian spirits, magical hazel rods, thrice occurring dreams, seer stones, and even a white salamander. This is not the stereotypical fare of an average Salt Lake City testimony meeting.

Thing is, it was by design that all the occult practices of the Smith family were not the “stereotypical fare” of the average Mormon meeting. The real story was seldom discussed, except perhaps by Quinn writing as Dr. Clandestine to attack the Tanners; or Nibley issuing reprints that scoffed at the 1833 affidavits in his arrogant and sarcastic manner; or an occasional mention in a church magazine. And after learning that Quinn authored the pamphlet about them, here is what the Tanners wrote:

Although Dr. Quinn has almost nothing good to say about us, we will not repay in kind. We feel that he is probably one of the best historians in the Mormon Church. His dissertation written for Yale University is a masterpiece. He has written excellent articles in BYU Studies, the Journal of Mormon History and the Utah Historical Quarterly. It is hard, however, to equate these works with the booklet Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Distorted View of Mormonism.

And Leonard Arrington in his diary was so sure they were going to go all “ad hominem” and attack them personally over it. And this world was strange to the apologists, but not to those who knew about the contemporary news reports and the other accounts the apologists were finally claiming to take seriously. For example, here is Dale Morgan from the 1940’s:

“I do not see things in black and white; rather, I am sensitive to the shades of gray. I am not one of those who think that Joseph Smith must be accounted either the blackest villain or the purest-hearted saint who ever lived, depending on whether Mormonism was or was not an ‘imposture.’ I don’t think he was either. I think he was a man subjected to a singular environmental pressure, and that his behavior must be interpreted as the effect of this pressure upon distinctive psycho-physiological components of his character. It seems to me a fundamental weakness of most Mormon thinking, in any broad sense, that it tends to exhibit this either-or attitude, which really reflects a viewpoint of theoretical ethics, not of personal and social psychology.” —26 April 1943

“Mormonism proceeded out of American life, from millennialism to the evangelical communisms, with religious, political, social, and economic ideas indiscriminately sucked into the vortex to be digested or spewed out, with the central energies and structure of the church always different because of what it experienced or took to itself. I don’t say that Mormonism was at best an aberration of the principal energies involved; I do say that it is an interesting vehicle for some of the social energies of its time, and that something can be learned about the nature of American society from a critical scrutiny of the Mormon phenomenon.—2 January 1946

In 1943 Morgan wrote this to Juanita Brooks:

Yesterday at the Library of Congress I had a look at a new book by Paul Bailey called Sam Brannan and California Mormons. It gave me a more discouraged feeling about Mormon scholarship than I’ve had for a long time. For hell’s sake, Juanita, what is the matter with these young Mormon scholars? Are they all imbeciles, or just what is wrong? I made only an incidental investigation into Brannan’s life for my own book, but even so I learned enough to know that Bailey bowdlerized some original sources, misquoted others, badly misinterpreted others, didn’t even trouble himself about others, and emerged with a pseudo-documented rehash that was a disgrace even to the pages of the Improvement Era, where the piece seems to have been originally serialized. Books like this are assuming a regular pattern; there are a quantity of them being turned out, also, in the U of Chicago’s Divinity School, as masters’ theses. They have the forewords by [LDS apostle John A.] Widtsoe, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about but unfortunately thinks he does; they have the professional form; they deal in more or less unused materials. But third-rate merchandise is what is being produced. It would be in the interests of the Mormon Church to train a consultant who would bring to bear upon such manuscripts the most rigorous critical standards. The literature that would result would be less extensive in dimensions, and less eulogistic in purpose, and the church would not always appear as a shimmeringly holy thing; but it would be literature having a chance of enduring, and it would establish a confidence in the integrity and honesty of the church such as will never result from a thousand tons of this Bailey bilge.

This was a full forty years before the Hofmann affair, and church’s scramble to try and come to grips with Smith’s early history. But again, Morgan had no such problems:

 Lucy said of him [Joseph Smith Sr.] that “he would not subscribe to any particular system of faith, but contended for the ancient order, as established by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and his Apostles.”Joseph’s daily life was more vividly colored, however, by that common heritage of his society, the [p.221] tenuous but ineluctable realities of magic, witchcraft, and demonology the Mayflower and the Arbella had disgorged so long ago into the gray mists of Massachusetts shore. Good fortune or bad, as Joseph well understood, was not an affair of Providence only; man had to contend with the dark world of the supernatural, penetrable or governable only by the most potent of ritual and incantation. … 

In taking up the quest for buried treasure, which was to give him a first gratifying and then perilous celebrity, and bring him out [p.229] finally upon a high plateau of eminence as prophet, seer, and revelator to a new religion, Joseph Smith displayed not originality so much as a striking ability to compel belief. Desultory digging had been carried on in western New York for a half-generation or more, and the urge to dig in the earth in search of treasure was of greater antiquity still, as old and as widespread as the human race. The feverish digging that distinguished the early twenties in and around Palmyra was, moreover, only a local form taken by a contagion that broke out epidemically across hundreds of miles of country, from the valley of the Connecticut to that of the Susquehanna.

Though the evidence is too slender to justify a firm conclusion, Vermont appears to have been the place of prime infection, the lore of the money-digger and the rural diviner carried from its rocky hills west and south wherever emigrating Vermonters settled-in the Susquehanna Valley, about the Finger Lakes, in the Genesee country, in the Western Reserve of Ohio. The infertile mountain farms held insufficient of wealth to recompense the grueling labor they never ceased to demand. Not honest effort but miracle was the best hope of the farmer; and it is the authentic tones of the Vermonter one hears when the elder Joseph Smith pointed out to one of his neighbors at Palmyra the large stones embedded in the ground of his farm-rocks in appearance, but only in appearance; in reality nothing less than chests of money raised to the surface of the earth by the heat of the sun.

It may be that the elder Joseph had done some treasure-hunting before leaving Vermont; as to this, a Palmyra editor in 1831 was unable to say, but did print it as “a well authenticated fact that soon after his arrival here, he evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasures, and that this section of the country abounded in them. He also revived, or in other words propagated the vulgar, yet popular belief that these treasures were held in charge by some evil spirit, which was supposed to be either the DEVIL himself, or some one of his most trusty favorites.” That the senior Joseph did much to launch his son upon his troubled career as a diviner and peepstone seer, that his unbounded extravagance of statement as to the wonders his son could see contributed largely to his celebrity, is clear from all accounts; the more fantastic stories of Joseph’s early powers and the marvels he discerned are to be traced back to the wagging tongue of his father.

All the influences that worked upon Joseph Smith to make him what he became are difficult now to separate out of the matrix of his history. The social environment was favorable, the whole climate of opinion and belief in which so much more was possible of growth than in another time and place. There was some compulsion working upon him from within the family, the rich lore they had carried with them out of Vermont, and the pressure of their continuing poverty, the more irksome because of their conviction that their rightful state in life was above the common level. Lacking in education and opportunity, which might have afforded him some conventional [p.230] outlet for the energies that drove him, Joseph was all the more reclined to reach out for the rewards that the career of the diviner promised him. (Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism)

You would think, from reading those like Walker, and Ashurst-McGee and Morris that there never was anyone like Dale Morgan or the Tanners or Brodie or the many others who had been writing about the early history of the Smith family for years and understood very well the occult context. The apologists will mention the famous Fawn Brodie, but wave her off as only a hack who caricatures Smith in the worst way. They are all mistaken. But vilifying Brodie and the Tanners has always been the goal of the Mormon apologist. Nibley’s “No Ma’am That’s Not History” is simply his own wishful thinking. I’ll defend Brodie in any debate with anyone, anywhere, and they can try and defend Nibley’s claim that the 1833 affidavits were all coerced. It’s obvious who has withstood the test of time and it is not Hugh Nibley. Here is more of what Walker wrote in 1986:

The letters [forgeries] have stirred excited comment. Some have asked if we have at last the key for understanding Joseph Smith. Will Christian magic and the occult unravel the man who has been described as an “enigma wrapped within an enigma” and who claimed shortly before his death that “no man knows my history”? Some privately have gone further they speak of the old intellectual moorings of Mormonism being adrift. Are not the new findings they ask, the opposite of our old way of understanding Mormon things?

See how it is “Christian magic”? As if there really is such a thing! People believe in Santa Claus and Leprechauns, Bigfoot, the abominable Yeti and in Alien abductions too. (More on that below) There is nothing Christian about money-digging, except some of the diggers who happened to be Christians. What happened to “money is the root of all evil”? Or how hard it is for the rich to get into heaven? It is simply ridiculous to make the claim for “holy treasure hunting”. About as ridiculous as the tales about the “Holy Grail”.

No one knows what every person who dug for treasure believed, if they were active Christians, lapsed Christians, or former Christians. Joseph Smith was not an “enigma”, though how he came up with the Book of Mormon is shrouded somewhat in mystery. But that was by design. We have the testimony of friend and foe, of believers and apostates; neighbors and journalists; speeches and diaries and court records. There is a very extensive record of the life of Joseph Smith. That is why those like the Tanner’s warned about Hofmann and that he might be perpetuating a hoax on everyone.

Here is the Stowell Letter [by Mark Hofmann]

Canandagua June 18th 1825

Dear Sir

My father has shown me your letter informing him and me of your Success in locating the mine as you Suppose but we are of the oppinion that since you cannot asertain any particulars you Should not dig more untill you first discover if any valluables remain you know the treasure must be guarded by some clever spirit and if such is discovered so also is the treasure so do this take a hasel stick one yard long being new Cut and cleave it Just in the middle and lay it asunder on the mine so that both inner parts of the stick may look one right against the other one inch distant and if there is treasure after a while you shall see them draw and Join together again of themselves let me know how it is Since you were here I have almost decided to accept your offer and if you can make it convenient to come this way I shall be ready to accompany you if nothing happens more than I know of I am very respectfully

Joseph Smith Jr

Again, it wasn’t a surprise that Joseph Smith was using dowsing rods to those like Dale Morgan and Fawn Brodie. Now read Walker’s rationalizations as he tries to find a way to save his version of Joseph:

While pursuing my study I have often reminded myself that religious truths do not change. Our interpretation of them may change or our understanding of how they have been wrought in [463] time and space may change. But truth is constant, and my faith is that Mormonism is its repository. However my caution regarding the documents springs from something more than personal belief in matters like this, there is always a second step. As quieter perspectives inevitably settle in the breathless antithesis gives way to a more sedate synthesis during this second phase what once seemed so revolutionary is reconciled and merged with the still valid legacies of the past. To illustrate our understanding of Joseph Smith’s encounters with Moroni will not be insightful if we focus narrowly on Martin Harris’s trickster spirit and forget the several contemporaneous statements including Harris’s own that speak of Cumorah’s angel. These apparent conflicts must be weighed, somehow harmonized and molded into a new, more complex understanding.

Except religious truths in Mormonism have changed constantly. Do I really need to go into that here? Mormonism went from monotheism to polytheism in a decade. There is no denying this. Concerning the Book of Mormon Greg Prince characterizes it this way:

I don’t see it [The Book of Mormon] as an ancient history. I just don’t see that it has a leg to stand on as being history.  I’ve heard of hybrid explanations. None of them carry any water with me.  I’m content to go with what Denise Hopkins the Professor of Hebrew Bible told me. It’s a book length midrash on the Bible.  And I’m fine with that.

It certainly would solve a lot of problems if all Mormons accepted the Book of Mormon for what it is, a midrash or pseudepigrapha. Prince accepts what it is and still has kept his faith in the church, and everyone should be able to make such an informed choice. It is important to realize that the so called servants of God that comprise the leadership of the church (past and present) lied on a regular basis about its history.

Prince is also truthful about the Mormon Priesthood and the development of its theology. He wrote a simply stellar article in 2015 published in the Journal of Mormon History on the First Vision, and chronicles the changes to Smith’s theology:

Smith’s earliest understanding of Deity is contained in the Book of Mormon. If one reads the 1830 edition of the book, instead of the current edition, several verses stand out as differing from current LDS orthodoxy:

    • “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh” (p. 25, line 3). Th e 1830 edition was not divided into verses at all, nor do the chapter divisions correspond completely to the current (2013) edition.
    • “And the Angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God yea, even the Eternal Father!” (p. 25, line 10).
    • “Yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world” (p. 26, line 9).
    • “The Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world” (p. 32, line 9).

Such a view of Deity is termed modalism, or the belief that there is “one God, in one part or person at a time, performing various offices, but not simultaneously.” It is consistent with 1832, wherein only one personage was described. It is also consistent with a verse in the “Articles and Covenants” (the source of 1831): “ . . . which Father & Son & Holy Ghost is one God.” This wording was preserved in the first published version of the revelation in 1832 and in the 1833 Book of Commandments 24:18.

In 1835, however, a shift in theology occurred, moving the Church to binitarianism, which took the position of “one God only (the Father), with a god-like, literal Son created in premortal existence, and fully divine through that inheritance. Only the Son (as Jesus) had a physical body. The Holy Spirit was an influence rather than a being, operating from the Father through the Son.” That same year, the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, was published, superseding the Book of Commandments. The Preface, signed by Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, was dated February 17, 1835. Its first part, “Theology,” consisted of what became known as the “Lectures on Faith,” and the second, titled “Covenants and Commandments,” consisted of a collection of revelations to Joseph Smith. The fifth lecture reflected the shift:

We shall, in this lecture speak of the Godhead: we mean the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. . . . They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness [sic]: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man . . . possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit . . . How many personages are there in the Godhead? Two: the Father and the Son. (1835 D&C pp. 52–53, 55).

Several weeks after the publication of Doctrine and Covenants, Smith met with Robert Matthews and related the account of the First Vision contained in 1835a, an account that described the appearance of one personage, who did not speak, followed by the appearance of a second personage, who said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee”—in contrast to 1832, which described only one personage. The sequential, rather than simultaneous appearance of the two personages is consistent with their different natures—the Father being a personage of spirit, and the Son being a personage of tabernacle (flesh)—albeit not proof.

The shift to binitarian theology was further signaled when the second edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1837. The four previously cited verses from the book of 1 Nephi, which had reflected a modalistic theology, were changed to reflect a binitarian understanding (changes in italics):

    • “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (p. 27).
    • “And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (p. 27).
    • “Yea, the Son of the Everlasting God was judged of the world” (p. 29).
    • “Th e Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world” (p. 35).

Other verses in the 1837 Book of Mormon were not similarly revised, leaving the careful reader of the current edition with a confusing, patchwork theology of Deity that incorporates both modalism and binitarianism.

The final step in Smith’s evolving doctrine of Deity was tritheism, a belief in three separate personages comprising the Godhead. 1839 [History] describes two personages who appear simultaneously, both of whom speak to Smith. Since 1839 was not published for years thereafter and since there is no record that Smith spoke of it publicly, word of a shifting theology was slow to spread. In the first issue of the Gospel Reflector, the LDS newspaper published in Philadelphia beginning in 1841, Benjamin Winchester, “Presiding Elder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Philadelphia,” restated the binitarian doctrine from the “Lectures on Faith”:

As this is the first number of the Gospel Reflector, it will not be amiss to give a few outlines of some of the leading principles of our faith, which will all be treated upon in their proper time, and scripture and reason be adduced to authenticate them.

First, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, believe that the scriptures contain the words of God, and that they are true and faithful.

Second, the Godhead, i.e., The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power; possessing all perfection and fullness; The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or, rather, man was framed after his likeness, and in his image;—he also possesses all the fullness with the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the godhead.

The following year, perhaps in response to diverse teachings on the subject, the Church newspaper in Nauvoo clarified that the Father and the Son are separate persons and also that both have physical bodies. This statement contradicts the 1835 “Lectures on Faith” that described the Father as having a spiritual, but not a physical, body. Although the author of this article is not identified, the fact that Smith is listed in the quoted issue of the newspaper as editor, printer, and publisher makes it likely that he wrote it. This theological statement declares defensively: “The idea that Joseph Smith adapts his conversation to the company, is an error. Joseph Smith opposes vice and error, and supports his positions from revelation: no odds whether there be two, three, or ‘Gods many.’ The Father, and the Son are persons of Tabernacle; and the Holy Ghost a spirit.”

A similar statement the following year (1843) became part of the Doctrine and Covenants, thus canonizing the LDS doctrine of Deity: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man[’]s. The Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart. He may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It may descend upon him but not to tarry with him.”

***References (all links current to the articles Gregory Prince references ~grindael) that are helpful in understanding the complex development of the contemporary LDS doctrine of Deity include Dan Vogel, “The Earliest Mormon Concept of God,” in Gary James Bergera, ed., Line upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1989), 17–34; Melodie Moench Charles, “Book of Mormon Christology,” in Brent Lee Metcalf, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1993), 81–114; and Rick Grunder, “Statement on Deity,” in Grunder, Mormon Parallels, 1929–62.(Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2015, 89-91, See also, What Happened to the Trinity in Mormonism, by grindael)

We see that Smith’s theology contradicts itself many times over. Prince characterizes this as “line upon line” learning and teaching, but that doesn’t make much sense at all given that Smith claimed to have seen the Father and the Son in physical bodies long before he ever taught the concept of them having such bodies. I will address this in Part V.

Joseph was then lying in his 1839 History, because he never saw what he claimed to in 1820, and made this false statement in 1844:

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” (Joseph Smith, June 16, 1844)

This is a knowing lie as Joseph prior to the late 1830’s simply had not conceived of God that way. This same concept (changing teachings about their nature) is true about angels, as I will explore below.

And remember, those who did take the obsession with money-digging and their practice of magic seriously, (like Brodie and Morgan), were rejected by the Church and derided for what they wrote because it seriously challenges the motives of Joseph Smith and his credibility. But the cat was now out of the bag, and the church was inviting the scrutiny it had feared for so long. Somehow, it all must be “harmonized and molded into a new, more complex understanding.” An “understanding” to reconcile the occult with Christianity or the invention of a new fairy tale. As Walker explains:

Because of new documents and similarly minded sources which our traditional histories have ignored we shall eventually draw a new portrait of Joseph and his work. Such a view will doubtless preserve the integrity of Mormonism. It will draw insights from both untraditional and traditional sources. And the result will be fresh.

But why would we need a “new portrait” of Smith, when he was (according to himself and others) a true blue prophet of God who gave us his history; which was canonized by those who claimed to have the Holy Spirit of God, making Smith’s 1839 History the actual Word of God! And yet, as we have seen it is full of falsehoods. Did God sanction these falsehoods as scripture? It appears in Mormonism that he did. It begs the question, What kind of integrity is that?

The approach of Dale Morgan was “fresh” when he started writing his history in the 1930’s. It was when Brodie published No Man Knows My History in 1945. Brodie’s history is not a caricature, it is an insightful and dynamic  magnum opus that has withstood the test of time, and would have been greater than it is, if the church had not rejected and closed its archives to her. And Walker wants to chide everyone it seems as he tries to come up with a suitable fairy tale:

Those who assert that we do not need to rethink some elements of our past are wrong. Equally true, those who claim that the new documents bring intellectual chaos and require radical changes are also certainly mistaken. We need to pursue the commonsense middle ground. While it is too early to suggest precisely what the new Joseph Smith synthesis will be, there are four dimensions or insights that now seem compelling. First Mormon scholarship will come to terms with the folk culture of the time. The question before scholars is no longer if Joseph and his family participated in the cunning arts but the degree and meaning of their activity.

Making a whole “new portrait” of Smith is not radical? And the “new documents” did bring “intellectual chaos and requir[ed] radical changes”, and it still took until 2013 to get anything close to an “official” acknowledgement about the extent  of Smith’s practice of  magic in Palmyra and Manchester.

And then it was the fairy tales thought up in the 1980’s that they put forth (anonymously) not the fresh work of Dale Morgan, H. Michael Marquardt, Dan Vogel, Richard Van Wagoner, Fawn Brodie and others far more credible (as I will show in this series). I’ll have more on the fairy tale that apologists (with the help of some really great non-Mormon historians) concocted in Pt. III.

Bushman to the Rescue?

Walker continues:

Richard Bushman’s fine new survey of the period Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism has already tacitly made this point but if the new documents prove to be authentic they will probably take us further than even Bushman’s study suggests. The Joseph Smith letter to Josiah Stowell places the Smith family in the money digging business and this in the words and handwriting of Joseph Smith himself. The Martin Harris letter in turn is as suggestive Harris places the founding events of Mormonism in a folk religious context and claims Joseph Smith as his source.

Did Bushman “come to grips” with the “folk culture” of the time in a reasonable and adequate way? That’s debatable. The 1825 money-digging agreement with Josiah Stowell placed the Smith’s firmly in that business, and it was signed by both father and son, who went on that wild goose-chase as their farm was foreclosed on. And looking back at what Bushman wrote in 1984 is as confused as he claimed Smith was:

[W]hen [Joseph] told his family and friends about Moroni and the gold plates [,] [t]he reaction was quite confused. The price Christianity had paid for assimilating the Enlightenment was to forgo belief in all supernatural happenings except the well-attested events of the Bible. Witchcraft, dreams, revelations, even healings were thrown indiscriminately on the scrapheap of superstition. While in 1692 Cotton Mather, the leading intellectual of his day, could discourse learnedly on the manifestation of witchcraft, no leading divine fifty years later would countenance such talk. The Enlightenment drained Christianity of its belief in the miraculous, except for Bible miracles. Everything else was attributed to ignorant credulity. Joseph Smith’s story when it became known was immediately identified as one more example.

A movement among the intellectual elite, of course, could not entirely suppress popular belief in divine and satanic forces affecting everyday life. Common people, surreptitiously to some extent, still entertained traditional beliefs in water-witching and in spells to locate hidden treasure. Many more yearned for a return of the miraculous powers of the original Christian church. A group of practitioners of traditional magic in Palmyra thus reacted quite differently from the newspaper editors to Joseph’s story of the golden plates and a protecting angel. They saw Joseph Smith as one of them, tried to absorb him into their company, and grew angry when he drew back.

Joseph was assaulted from two sides in the struggle between modern rationalism and traditional supernaturalism. He had to answer to demands for proof from the newspaper editors and ministers, on the one hand, and extricate himself from the schemes of the Palmyra magicians and money diggers, on the other. At times his closest followers and his own family were confused. One of Joseph Smith’s tasks in the years before 1830 was to define his calling and mission so as not to be misunderstood, and to set his own course, apart from rationalism or superstition.

The perspective of this work is that Joseph Smith is best understood as a person who outgrew his culture… (Joseph Smith and The Beginnings of Mormonism, 6-7)

He outgrew his culture? The phony one that Bushman makes up? Because Bushman is wrong that all sects completely discarded belief in all supernatural happenings. He tries to paint an either/or picture here, which was not the case. Jane Shaw has written a fascinating book called “Miracles in Enlightenment England”, and shows how ordinary Christians looked to the miraculous in their lives and attributed such miracles to God, not ghosts and goblins and treasure guardian spirits that take rods and stones to commune with. She writes:

First, it was a commonplace notion that miracles had ceased with biblical times. This was an idea inherited from sixteenth – and early seventeenth-century Protestants who, when confronted by Roman Catholic claims that their ongoing miracles were signs that they were still the true church, turned their back on miracles and came to regard scripture as the only trustworthy foundation for faith, all that was needed for belief in Jesus Christ. Those Protestant thinkers argued that God no longer needed to work miracles to convince people of the truth of the gospel. They did not question that God might be able to work miracles if he wished; nor did they question the validity of the biblical miracles as revelations that supported Christian doctrines, especially the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ. In that sense, they were not questioning the role of God as miracle-worker, as a God who could intervene – and had intervened – in human affairs, whether in the universe or the human body, to demonstrate his nature, power and existence. They simply suggested that there had been a limited age of miracles. However, they opened the way for more radical thinkers in the Enlightenment, most notably the deists, to ask questions about the very nature of God and whether God had indeed ever been a miracle-worker. (pg. 2)

These were the true elites, but they were not persuasive to most Christians. Shaw quotes John Wesley (fifty years after Cotton Mather):

And I acknowledge that I have seen with my eyes and hear with my ears several things, to the best of my judgment, cannot be accounted for by the ordinary sense of natural causes, and which I therefore believe ought to be ascribed to the extraordinary interposition of God. If any man choose to study these miracles, I reclaim not. I could not without doing violence to my own reason. Not to go far back, I am clearly persuaded, that the sudden deliverance of John Haydon was one instance of this kind; and my own recovery, on May 10th, another. I cannot account for either of these in a natural way. Therefore I believe they were both supernatural.  I must observe that the truth of these facts is supposed by the same kind of proof as that of all other facts is wont to be – namely, the testimony of competent witnesses; and that testimony here is n as high a degree as any reasonable man can desire. Those witnesses were many in number: they could not be deceived themselves; for the facts in question they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, nor is it credible that so man of them would combine together with a view of deceiving others. (John Wesley, Letter to Thomas Church, 1746).

Jane adds:

Perhaps the main conclusion to be drawn from all this is not so much that there was a distinct elite–popular split, but rather that a range of views on and attitudes towards the miraculous – and all the related questions that had been thrown up by the debates about miracles — co-existed by the middle of the eighteenth century. Susan Juster in her work on prophets in the late eighteenth century has argued that the Age of Reason was oxymoronic; it was a time when prophets tried to make sense of religious beliefs and experiences in the light of rational philosophy. The same might well be said of miracles and those who tried to make sense of them. Through a wide range of religious practices and experiences, the responses to them, and the writings of philosophers and theologians, the Enlightenment opened up a series of questions about experience, reason, the miraculous and the nature of God, which were not resolved in the eighteenth century. Both intellectual debate and lived religion led to a questioning of the category of experience, for example – the French Prophets through their activities, the deists and Hume in their argument that experience and testimony were unreliable. Hume himself, by the very nature of his skeptical argument, suggested that these matters might not be resolved.

The Enlightenment can, then, be described as a watershed with regard to these questions. But the Enlightenment did not provide closure; it did not solve the problem of how the relationship between reason and revelation might be negotiated. It did, however, set the terms for how people thought about that problem in the future. This book has explored three steams of thought and practice within Protestantism, with regard to miracles, first, the doctrine of the cessation of miracles; secondly, the miracle claims that occurred within various Protestant groups and churches, and the responses to them; and thirdly, the attempt to negotiate a middle way between an excessive rationalism or a too-ready “enthusiasm’, by using the experimental method to investigate the evidence for contemporary miracle claims, and appealing to probability rather than certainty. While all three of these “streams” were attacked and challenged by the deists and sceptics in the philosophical debate of the first half of the eighteenth century, all three remained key ingredients in the lively debates about miracles which ensued in the nineteenth century, as theologians and philosophers returned to those seventeenth- and eighteenth-century themes and arguments and reworked them, and new generations of Christians claimed that they too had experienced miracles.(179-80)

It was not this false dilemma fallacy as Bushman and other apologists try to make it out to be; Protestant Christians still believed in miracles (as they called them – not magic) as coming from God, though there were many that did participate in many occult practices which were also attributed to God by many who identified as Christians. But as we see, Christians did not simply turn to the occult/magic because they could not get the satisfaction of the supernatural from their religious experience, or that it was the only option left for them. That is a gross oversimplification of the argument and disingenuous.

This was a complex time in America, and creating a false alternative as these apologists have done, does nothing but create a fairy-tale used for the purpose of trying to Christianize a practice that very few looked upon as legitimate or religious. (Money-digging, scrying with peepstones, juggling). Some even believed that they could use what they thought were God given powers for sinful purposes such as searching for (as Smith put it) “filthy lucre”. There is absolutely no evidence that money-diggers were some kind of lost souls searching for Christian fulfillment with shovel and peep-stone. I have heard some really wacky things from Mormon apologists but this one is right up there at the top. And some very good Mormon historians have fed into this fairy-tale.

Walker continues to elaborate about the Smith’s magical money-digging:

However the question of whether the Smith family participated in money digging and magic does not rely on the recently found letters. The weight of evidence with or without them falls on the affirmative side of the question. For instance we have the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits which since 1834 have asserted that the Smiths were involved with money digging. The same story also emerges from other eyewitnesses including the less negatively biased interviews gathered by RLDS churchman William H. Kelley. Nor are these collections our only affidavits. The anti-Mormon and non-Mormon witnesses represent too many viewpoints and their accounts were given in too many circumstances to be dismissed merely as trumped up misrepresentations designed to discredit Joseph Smith and Mormonism.

This was the big goodbye to Hugh Nibley and his “they made it all up”, shtick. (Good riddance, too). I do have to say, that I’m reminded of part of a speech I once read by Bushman about Nibley, given at the Maxwell Institute in 2010:

Nibley portrays Joseph as the simple innocent, assaulted by scornful, arrogant, and ultimately unknowing critics. Joseph Smith did not lay claim to high intellect or worldly might, Nibley reminds us. He simply reported what had happened to him. “He spoke only of what he had seen with his eyes, heard with his ears, and felt with his hands.” Nibley loved for the simple and plain to outfox the clever and wise. He spent his life showing how the ploughboy surpassed them all. He loved it too that the simple prophet was neither pompous or self-aggrandizing about his powers. As he said, “this is a man who was not going to get a big head.” The epitome of humility and plain living himself, Nibley celebrated Joseph’s openhandedness in granting his followers powers like his own. “The Prophet’s advantage over the world lay of course in revelation,” Nibley noted, “but in the Church, every follower has an equal right to revelation.” “Search the scriptures,” he quotes Joseph as saying, “and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you; . . . you will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.” (Richard Bushman, “Hugh Nibley and Joseph Smith,”)

They could throw him and his “mythmakes” BS under the bus, but just couldn’t really let him go, even though his work on the Book of Mormon and Abraham are just as dismal. As the work of Dan Vogel, Mike Marquardt, Quinn and others have shown, Nibley was wrong about everything. Everyone had an equal right to revelation as long as you kept your own to yourself. We see what happened to Hiram Page and the Brewsters.

And what Bushman and Nibley are/were trying to sell (about the character of Smith), is simply another fantasy. This caused me to think about how I could convey what a fantasy it is with an example from Joseph Smith’s life. And I think I can. Bushman should be familiar with what I’m going to relate here, as it appears in the 1842 Journal of Joseph Smith called “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” since Bushman was co-general editor for the Joseph Smith Papers. Here is the entry from Thursday, May 19, 1842:

Thursday 19 [May, 1842] Rain. At home during A.M. 1 oclock P.M. City Council. The Mayor John C. Bennett having resigned his office. Joseph was Elected Mayor & Hyrum Smith Vice Mayor of Nauvoo. While the election was going forward in the council Joseph received and wrote the following Rev—& threw it across the room to Hiram Kimball one of the councillors.

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph by the voice of my Spirit, Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil & forming evil opinions against you with others & if he continue in them he & they shall be accursed for I am the Lord thy God & will stand by thee & bless thee, Amen.”

After the election Joseph spoke at some length concerning the evil reports which were abroad in the city concerning himself—& the necessity of counteracting the designs of our enemies establishing a night watch, &c. whereupon the Mayor was authorized to establish a night watch by city ordinance,

Dr. John C. Bennet, ExMayor was then called upon by the Mayor [Joseph Smith] to state if he knew ought against him.—When Dr. Bennet replied “I know what I am about & the heads of the church know what they are about, I expect. I have no difficulty with the heads of the church. I publicly avow that anyone who has said that I have stated that General Joseph Smith has given me authority to hold illicit intercourse with women is a liar in the face of God. Those who have said it are damned liars: they are infernal liars. He neither in public or private gave me any such authority or license, & any person who states it is a scoundrel & a liar. I have heard it said that I should become a second [Sampson] Avard by withdrawing from the church & that I was at variance with the heads & should act an influence against them because I resigned the office of Mayor. (The Book of the Law of the Lord, pgs. 122-123)

And what happened to provoke this? Hiram Kimball was a non-Mormon from Illinois and was a very rich merchant. He had married a Mormon girl, Sarah Granger, in 1840. Granger loved the Church, and her husband, and was influential in converting him about a year after this incident. Here is Granger in 1883:

Early in the year 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 it 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. (Sarah Kimball, “Auto-Biography,” Woman’s Exponent 12, no. 7 (September 1, 1883): 51.

Joseph Smith wanted Sarah to become one of his Spiritual Wives. Of course, when Hiram Kimball found out, he was upset and began making inquiries that led to some hard truths about what Joseph was doing. Those were the “evil reports” going around about Smith, his Spiritual Wifeism and his affairs with other men’s wives.

Smith pens the threatening “revelation” in front of Kimball and throws it at him. I don’t find that a humble act at all. Yet, Joseph is, according to Nibley the “simple innocent, assaulted by scornful, arrogant, and ultimately unknowing critics.” This is Nibley’s “humble servant of God?” Humility wasn’t Smith’s strong suit.

Walker in 1986 is going on like this was some kind of new idea that had to be addressed, this money-digging obsession of the Smith family. Joseph Smith could have done so a hundred and fifty years earlier, but he didn’t.

Walker then brings up some of the evidence that others knew all about:

Certain pieces of evidence are especially telling there is for example “Uncle” Jesse Smith’s acrid-spirited 1829 letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter suggests that Joseph Sr., possessed a magical rod left the land of Vermont to pursue golden gods and most significantly practiced “necromancy.” Chapter VII of the book of commandments in turn promises Oliver Cowdery a revelatory rod of nature perhaps similar to the Vermont divining rods that once may have attracted his father William. Joseph Knight one of the Church’s first converts told a stylized story of Mormon origins similar in spirit and often similar in detail to Martin Harris’s [Salamander] letter. Finally there are the statements of the Smiths themselves. Lucy Mack Smith’s honest narrative insists that the family never halted their grinding labor simply to “win the faculty of Abrac,” draw “magic circles [or] pursue sooth saying.” Lucy claimed the Smiths “never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation.” The father did more than hint about the family’s interest in the magical arts at young Joseph’s 1826 money-digging trial. Joseph Sr., insisted that both he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given [Joseph Jr.] should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.

Except the two Joseph’s did allow the pursuit of buried treasure get in the way of honest work that could have paid off their mortgage. Instead, they lost their house in the fall of 1826. Compare what Walker writes with Morris who wrote that Jesse’s objections had nothing to do with treasure seeking, he was angry because their claims were all religious! And there is no mention of any visit of an angel, or of God to the peep stone prophet in 1826. It’s like those things never happened, because God had yet to “illumine” the heart of the boy. And then, of course there is the usual dismissal of Brodie:

Of course, we will not learn too much about Joseph by merely documenting his money digging or by treating it as an epithet. That was the mistake of several post-World War II scholars. Fawn M. Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, for instance, produced a portrait of many hues, but her “Joseph Smith” was ultimately a caricature. One of Brodie’s troubles was that she did not try to understand the culture from which Joseph and the early Mormon converts came a failing, unhappily, that several of her Mormon detractors shared. As a result she saw the Smiths as a neighborhood peculiarity and transformed their religious fervor and folk customs into chicanery Joseph smith the Palmyra seer 465 and fraud in her interpretation Joseph became a skilled confidence man who stumbled onto religion.

Brodie absolutely understood the culture that Smith was raised in. The apologists just don’t like where that evidence leads, somewhere Brodie wasn’t afraid to go. In review after review it is claimed that Brodie’s work is shortsighted because she believed Smith was a fraud. This, to me, is the great strength of her work. The critics of her work are frustrated because No Man Knows My History is vouchsafed by its skilled and accurate use of primary sources and her stellar prose, not to mention her psycho-analysis of Smith. What Prince calls learning line upon line, Brodie calls invention. Smith fails as a prophet because he wasn’t a prophet, or a linguist/translator of ancient languages, his primary claim to fame. He was a fraud in every instance. And even when he does accomplish something marvelous, like writing the Book of Mormon (no matter what you think of the religious material in it) he mars it with his silly magic tricks and constant lies. What Brodie wrote about Joseph and his practice of Spiritual Wifeism wasn’t even close to how bad it actually was.

We live in the age of Donald Trump and seeing how his followers stick to him like glue  no matter what he does (committing adultery, paying off women, along with his racism and xenophobia, to name a few) should give us a clue about how Smith’s relationship to his “saints” worked in the same kind of way. Like Trump, Smith filled a perceived void in people’s lives and came along at just the right time to make the most of it. This is, after all, America.

And while the Mormon apologists were struggling to rewrite Mormon history, the Tanners, who actually knew it, were warning people about Mark Hofmann. Here is the late Jerald Tanner:

Our organization, Utah Lighthouse Ministry (ULM) has printed a great deal of material questioning both Hofmann’s documents and his honesty. Beginning as early as 1984, we suggested that the Salamander Letter might be “a forgery” and noted that if this were the case, “it needs to be exposed.” By August 1984, we had printed the first part of the booklet, The Money-Digging Letters, in which Hofmann’s major discoveries were questioned and his document dealings condemned. One of the editors of this paper, Sandra Tanner, distributed copies of this material at the Sunstone Theological Symposium. Hofmann attended this symposium and appeared upset to learn that his integrity was being questioned. The day following the publication of this material (August 23, 1984) Mark Hofmann came to our home and had a long talk with Sandra. He seemed very distressed and hurt that we, of all people, would question his discoveries. He had expected that opposition might come from those in the Mormon Church, but he was amazed that ULM had taken a position critical of him. Hofmann seemed to be almost at the point of tears as he pled his case as to why we should trust him.

We, of course, knew that it was risky business to publicly question any forger, but we had no idea he was capable of murder. In retrospect, we were very fortunate that Hofmann arrived at our house armed only with arguments as to why we should trust his documents rather than a pipe bomb surrounded with nails.

Both the Los Angeles Times and the Deseret News printed that we were questioning the Salamander Letter. Hofmann grew concerned about our investigation and told an associate he was planning another visit to our house to try to make us believe him. We wonder now if we would have been so bold as to call for the public to send any information to us that they had concerning Hofmann’s activities if we had known that he was willing to murder to protect his document-forging operation. When we located him at the August 1985 Sunstone Symposium and began to ask probing questions about the Salamander Letter, he wore a sad and fearful expression — as if he were trying to say, “Please believe what I am telling you.”

At first, the Mormon bishop Steven Christensen trusted Mark Hofmann, and he bought the Salamander Letter. When we published excerpts in the March 1984 issue of the Messenger and indicated the possibility of plagiarism, citing Mormonism Unveiled and Joseph Knight’s account of the discovery of the Book of Mormon plates, Hofmann rejected our suggestion. He even tried to testify in federal court that we had violated his manuscript rights by printing excerpts from the Letter. Although we were all in the courtroom waiting for Christensen to step to the witness stand, the judge made it clear that such testimony was irrelevant to the case at hand and Christensen was not allowed the opportunity of testifying against us.

Christensen continued to believe Mark Hofmann and his stories concerning the discovery of important Mormon documents for more than a year. Although he eventually came to the conclusion that Hofmann was a “crook,” it was too late. When Christensen threatened to expose him, Hofmann retaliated by killing him. It’s a strange twist of fate that the man who tried to defend the Salamander Letter and testify against us in court was the one who later tried to blow the whistle on Hofmann and ended up losing his life. It may very well be that the thing that saved our lives was simply that few people believed what we were publishing.

The folklore fairy tale would not be complete without the help of a non-Mormon folklorist, and the apologists had someone in mind, which I’ll discuss in Pt. III’s Introduction. For now, let’s get back to the Manchester ghosts and how the Smith’s would work to the money…

The Last Shall be First…

And why would the angel stories come first in 1828-9, and the stories about the ghost and Captain Kidd come later? This is simple, folks. Very simple. Because when Joseph began searching for a printer for his religious manuscript in 1829, people began asking him, and Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and others close to Joseph questions about it, and they began telling the story that supported the “religious” Golden Bible, the post 1827 story that Joseph had been developing for years.

As this story got out, others who remembered the events from 1823 and earlier began to speak out about them. And of course Martin Harris and Smith Sr. and Lucy Smith had trouble weeding out the original magical elements of the story that they knew. And Joseph, like his father would get intoxicated and so these earlier magical elements would creep into the narrative, even after the story’s focus became strictly religious.

Who was going to report to the papers the backyard digging escapades of the local money-diggers in Palmyra, New York, and who would publish such yarns? The only mention of such things was if something sensational happened like the murder of Oliver Harper. (See the Josiah Stowell “Agreement” in Pt. I, for more info see Walters & Marquardt here).

Asa Wild claimed in 1823 that he had a religious vision (much like Smith’s later claims) and he had it published in the Wayne Sentinel, and even though E. Grandin was skeptical about it, there is no evidence that the local clergy took notice and went out of their way to persecute him for it as they supposedly did with Smith. So why would Smith have been criticized in 1824? Perhaps for claiming that the ghostly ancestor of one of the native tribes had revealed to him the location of a great treasure which would reveal what happened to the “Lost Ten Tribes”?

Part Time Peeker?

And if Joseph was actually a real “seer” as he claimed to be, why, he would have been finding things for people all the time! A Peeker who actually can find lost items every time? That would have generated some interest in the press I’m sure. But like all the rest, Joseph complained about “slippery treasures” and circumstances that stopped him from being able to perform the tasks he was hired to do, like interrupting his spells with an untimely spoken word. Looking in his stone and then weeping in frustration because “the enchantment was too strong” for him to find what he was paid to find. In relation to money-digging Joseph was nothing special, he was a flamboyant con artist who was bilking people of their money just like one of his former compatriots, Luman Walters.

Josiah Stowell was simply another willing victim of a juggler. Because Stowell wanted Smith to look in his stone for treasures was not an excuse for Smith to break the law and do so. Stowell’s son Simpson lived near the Smith’s in Manchester, and I’m sure Joseph and his father arranged to speak with Simpson after hearing about the silver mine. Dan Vogel breaks it down:

That Smith was summoned by the Stowells to Simpson’s house or appeared there by prearrangement implies that his meeting was not entirely cold and that he had a prior acquaintance with Simpson. The younger Stowell may have, at some point, described his family’s comfortable home, barn, and other buildings to someone in Palmyra or Manchester. Maybe a friend accompanied him on a visit to South Bainbridge and then unwittingly passed on information to Smith. A conversation may have been overheard. One could position oneself outside a window and hear Josiah telling his son about various changes made to the farm. If Smith used a form of “hot reading” with Stowell, he would not be the first, nor would he be the last, psychic to do so. This technique was used by spirit mediums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and continues to be employed today. Regardless of the mechanism, it impressed Stowell and he hired Joseph on the spot. (Joseph Smith: Making of a Prophet, 70)

In fact, Smith Sr. seemed to be an expert in the art of eavesdropping, as Lucy Smith recorded in her history:

Mr Smith went over a hill that <lay> east of <us> to see what he could discover among the neighbors there there at the first house he came to he found the conjuror [Luman Walters, and] Willard chase and the company all together this was the house of one Mr Laurence he made an errand and went in and sat down near the door leaving the door ajar for the men were so near that he could hear their conversation… (Lucy’s Book, 381)

(And it is worth noting that Joseph found nothing in Harmony, as usual). I mean, wouldn’t an honest religious Joseph, (since he had such a great ability to see hidden things), simply have told Stowell that there was no silver anywhere in the area? His peep-stone was an all seeing eye, was it not? So why did Smith continue with the obvious charade? To bilk Stowell out of his money? Was he even making any money if he wasn’t digging? Was that an honest use of the God given talent that young Joseph was supposedly given? Joseph not only searched for “filthy lucre”, he also never found any! If Joseph was some kind of prophet-in-training, then why was it so easy for the “spirits” to defeat his “all-seeing-eye” with their “enchantments”? If the Joseph’s were going out every day for Stowell, that would mean they (since Smith Sr. was an expert with the rod) tried over thirty times to find the lost silver mine and could not. Joseph Knight later wrote that,

joseph then went to mr stowels whare he had lived sometime before but mr stowel could not pay him money for his work very well and he came to me perhaps in November and worked for me until about the time that he was married which I think was in February and I paid him the money and I furnished him with a horse and cutter to go and see his girl down to mr hails and soon after this he was married and mr stowel moved him and his wife to his fathers in Palmyra Ontario County

It seems that Stowell wasn’t made of money, so it probably wasn’t Joseph who persuaded Stowell to quit looking for the mine, Joseph just couldn’t find it and he couldn’t pay them anymore so he went to work for Knight. And there is no indication that the Smith’s returned to Palmyra with any amount of money at all. After all, they could not pay off their mortgage and had to indenture Harrison to Lemuel Durfee as a condition to continue to live in the Manchester house. (More on this below)

I was amazed by this FAIRMORMON presentation from 2002 about Smith’s money-digging. Here is the apologist Russell Anderson with what he claims is evidence of how successful young Jo was at peeking:

But what if you weren’t pretending to discover lost goods. What if you actually had a gift where you “could discern things invisible to the natural eye” Could you then be judged guilty of this statute? …Martin Harris tells us, “I…was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw… We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him–I said, ‘Take your stone.’ … He took it and placed it in his hat–the old white hat–and place his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look to one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.

Martin Harris also tells us that Joseph used the seer stone to find the gold plates. “In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.”

Henry Harris says, “He [Joseph Smith] said he had a revelation from God that told him they [the Book of Mormon plates] were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit.”

A Mr. Wanderhoof reports that Joseph used his seer stone to find a stolen mare for his grandfather.

The “trial” also provides evidences of Joseph’s abilities. Purple tells us that, “Josiah Stowell provides several examples and has absolute faith in his ability.” Now Purple didn’t give us those examples, but he records that Josiah Stowell provided them. (Russell Anderson)

A “Mr. Wanderhoof”? Really? Is he kidding? Well, Perhaps not, he seems to have gotten that name from a paper by Ronald Walker found here, which has as a reference, E. W. Wanderhoof, Historical Sketches of Western New York, (Buffalo N.Y.: Matthews-Northrup Works 1907), 138-39. (The name should be “E. W. Vanderhoof”, so one wonders if Anderson ever saw the original source, but finding a stolen horse for a “Mr. WANDERhoof” – hilarious!). I would have proof read this account, (by his grandson) it is filled with many inaccuracies and obvious embellishments. And yeah, I have to go with Vanderhoof who said that Smith claimed it would be in this vague area to the north and of course it was found by Lake Erie, a natural barrier for all animals that would wander from home.

And as a bookend to this, here is what Mormon apologist Brant Gardner wants us to believe about those who claim to have these kinds of supernatural powers:

… it isn’t the effectiveness that is important—it is the nature of the consultation.

Really? The only accounts in which Smith appears to be accurate are those in which it is an obvious parlor trick, or from vague accounts handed down well after the fact. There is not one credible account of Smith ever finding anything like a silver mine, chest of money or coins, or anything of that nature. And the story of the gold plates is so fraught with contradiction that it is useless as evidence of anything, except that Smith had quite an imagination.

Like the dowsers that came before and after him, Smith’s successes fall into the law of averages, and a broken clock is right twice a day. It was worth it to them to often be wrong because if they could be right even once, it would bolster their reputation with the superstitious, and they would get them to come back for more. Even those that doubted Smith were sometimes desperate enough to consult him again.

Still, the apologists try and try to transform Joseph from a lawless juggler to a “village seer” or “cunning man” or some other obscure title that has nothing to do with what Smith was actually doing, first, being manipulated by his father to scry for imaginary treasure and then conning people of his own volition. Luman Walters was a true “village seer” in the sense that he lived in the same place for a long time and practiced a form of medicine and had clients and would consult or “divine” for them. (More on this in Pt. III)

So why would Joseph change his story that he found the plates using the peep-stone to being shown their location by the angel? These are all parlour tricks not worth bragging about. Smith knew this and knew what the eventual impact of such a story would be.

And at the 1826 Examination, Stowell did provide an example of finding a feather that was supposed to be buried with some lost money that Joseph scryed the location of, but he only found the feather, not the money. (Imagine that! I can picture the young Peeker with his mark, “You almost got the money Josiah! Next time you will, I’m sure of it!”)

And the Stowell boys who were not as credulous as their father, tested Joseph by asking him to find a lost bag of grain, and when Joseph could not find it (as usual) he tried to pay off one of the brothers (not knowing they were working together) to tell him where it was hidden so he could tell the other he found it with his peep-stone. (More on this later)

The Willard Chase peep-stone

This is all that FAIRMORMON can come up with and it’s pretty pathetic. Martin Harris also told a story that he replaced Smith’s stone with a fake and that he was so clever that Smith didn’t know the difference and even tried to “translate” with it. Joseph’s unique stone (with those exact markings and length and width and shape), was replaced by Harris with one he found by a lake? Like the Chase stone was that common? And Joseph would never know? Joseph surely turned that to his advantage when he supposedly tried to “translate” with the bogus stone and cried out “Martin, that did you do? All is dark as Egypt”. Oh that’s right, Smith the “prophet” knew it was Martin that did something, but didn’t know he had switched out the peep-stone. Magic! (Deseret News, 30 November 1881).

The Last Shall be First (Continued)

As Joseph’s neighbors learned that the Smith’s were now claiming that an angel appeared to young Joseph and that he was “translating” gold plates, they naturally inquired of the family what was going on. All they knew about was Joseph and his father’s treasure digging; and that some of the family were Presbyterians. Lucy Smith writes that in 1824 after Joseph prayed to know which church was right and told the story about the “treasure” in the hill, he cautioned them not to speak of it:

…by sunset [we] were ready to be seated and give our att undivided attention to Josephs recitals and this pre before he began to explain to us the instructions which he had received he told charged us to not to mention what he told us out of the family as the world was so wicked that if they when they did come to a knoweledge of these things they would try to take our lives and we must be careful not to proclaim these things… that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold…(pg. 343)

By 1829 the public were getting the mixed responses of Smith Sr. and others, who were incorporating the new religious narrative into the earlier treasure digging stories. Neighbor Lorenzo Saunders answered some questions about the Smiths, and his recollection mixes the two narratives:

I saw them dig in a [Miner’s] hill, said to be for that purpose; that young Joe could look in his peep stone and see a man sitting in a gold chair. Old Joe said he was king i.e. the man in the chair; a king of one of the tribes who was shut in there in the time of one of their big battles. This digging was a mile from Smiths. Don’t know as there was ever anything in the cave. The cave was on our place. This was in 1826. The cave had a door to it. We tore it off and sunk it in a pit of water where they got dirt to cover a cole pit. …[Joseph Smith, Jr.,] made the statement and gave the account in my father’s house. He said he was in the woods at prayer and the angel touched him on the shoulders and he arose, and the angel told him where the plates were and he could take his oldest Brother with him in a year from that time and go and get them. But his oldest Brother died before the year was out. At the end of the time he went to the place to get the plates the angel asked where his Brother was. I told him he was dead. The angel told him there would be an other appointed. Joseph chose Samuel Lawrence. But he did not go. (William H. Kelley Interview, 17 September 1884)

At the time of them digging the cave on Miner’s hill they had procured the services of Luman Walters. And where did they get the idea that there was a king of one of the tribes buried under a hill by their home? From their son, of course. (Joseph would later tell the story of another king like person “Onandagus”, when he spoke of Zelph, years later)

Joseph didn’t give out the location of the buried plates, and he and his son were both engaged in trying to find any treasure that might have been buried with them. Smith even writes in his history that he was tempted to find more when he supposedly dug up the stone box.

Joseph Sr. must have been ecstatic that God had finally illumined the heart of his son Joseph Jr., and that he had actually found a golden treasure (as Smith Jr. claimed). The Sr. Smith was vindicated, there actually was treasure to be found in the place where they lived! He just had to write to his brother Jesse and tell him about how rich he was going to be!

And why would Joseph tell his family not to mention that there were gold plates buried under the Manchester Hill, and then afterwards tell a group of money-diggers all about it? And go out searching for treasure with his father over and over again? Joseph was, after all a part of their “company”.

It is likely that those like Joseph Knight, Sr. and others got information from both Joseph Jr. & Sr., as those stories incorporate elements of both. Both of the Joseph’s would drink… and talk about religion and how the hills surrounding Palmyra were filled with treasure. Oliver Cowdery, who spent many years as Joseph’s bosom companion, told others about a cavern under the hill in Manchester that opened up and was filled with treasure. In 1877, Edward Stevenson wrote:

It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen his room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there. (Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon)

The Guardian of the Treasure Cave (1829)

This is simply an elaboration of the Miner’s Hill story told by Smith, Sr. Brigham Young related a variation of this same story, here. This brings to mind what Abigail Harris was told by Lucy Smith and other accounts (about many treasures under the Manchester hill) which will be explored below. Long after the younger Joseph changed the story, the older Joseph would still speak about digging for treasure and his exploits in the Manchester hills. This went on almost to the end of his life; as we have seen above he would later tell some of the “Saints” in Kirtland that he had been digging for over thirty years, and knew what he was doing. Perhaps he thought with the help of some temple consecrated items, he would do better than any Rochester adventurer, and could unearth what so many others had failed to. And we know how that turned out, don’t we?

It is also important to note that what Brewster wrote was never responded to by Joseph Smith or anyone else (that his father was involved in money-digging in Kirtland). Not one peep.

Post Master Rumors?

In March 1831, David Staats Burnet the editor of the Evangelical Enquirer of Dayton, Ohio (and Baptist Pastor) wrote an article on the new Mormonite Sect which had recently made its appearance in his state. Having learned that the founder of the new sect was from Palmyra, Burnet wrote to the “intelligent Post Master at Palmyra,” and received a letter from him.

According to Richard Troll, Samuel T. Lawrence was an “agent” who collected fees on subscriptions, and these agents were mostly postmasters. Troll writes, “Post master “M.[artin] W. Wilcox” [August 1829 – April 1839] was one agent for Palmyra, the other was “S. T. Lawrence.” It is therefore likely that Burnet received his information about the Smith’s in 1831 from Wilcox or Lawrence or both. Burnet initially hears a religious tale, but upon inquiry learns further details from the Palmyra Post Master:

For a long time in the vicinity of Palmyra, there has existed an impression, especially among certain loose classes of society, that treasures of great amount were concealed near the surface of the earth, probably by the Indians, whom they were taught to consider the descendants of the ten lost Israelitish tribes, by the celebrated Jew who a few years since promised to gather Abraham’s sons on Grand Island, thus to be made a Paradise. The ignorance and superstition of these fanatics soon conjured up a ghost, who they said was often seen and to whom was committed the care of the precious deposit. This tradition made money diggers of many who had neither intelligence nor industry sufficient to obtain a more reputable livelihood. But they did not succeed and as the money was not dug up, something must be dug up to make money. The plan was laid, doubtless, by some person behind the curtain, who selected suitable tools. One Joseph Smith, a perfect ignoramus, is to be a great prophet of the Lord, the fabled ghost the angel of his presence, a few of the accomplices the apostles or witnesses of the imposition, and, to fill up the measure of their wickedness and the absurdity of their proceedings, the hidden golden treasure, is to be a gold bible and a new revelation. This golden bible consisted of metallic plates six or seven inches square, of the thickness of tin and resembling gold, the surface of which was covered with hieroglyphic characters, unintelligible to Smith, the finder, who could not read English. However, the angel (ghost!) that discovered the plates to him, likewise informed him that he would be inspired to translate the inscriptions without looking at the plates, while an amanuensis would record his infallible reading; all which was accordingly done. But now the book must be published, the translation of the inscriptions which Smith was authorized to show to no man save a few accomplices, who subscribe a certificate of these pretended facts at the end of the volume. Truly a wise arrangement! Among the gang none had real estate save one, who mortgaged his property to secure the printer and binder in Palmyra, but who was so unfortunate as not to be able to convert his wife to the new faith, though he flogged her roundly for that purpose several times. The book, an octavo of from 500 to 1000 pages (for when I saw it I did not notice the number) did not meet ready sale and consequently about 500 copies were sent to the eastern part of this state, which was considered a better market. Though at home it had little success, the subjoined pieces will show that in the Western Reserve it found better. 

The Palmyra Reflector

The Post Master who wrote to Burnet was well aware that it was a treasure digging ghost who was later transformed into an angel. The pushback by the Mormon apologists is almost comical. For example, Mark Ashurst-McGee makes much ado about how Palmyra resident Abner Cole was only printing vague rumors in his paper (The Reflector) about the Smiths:

Did Joseph Smith’s successive narratives eventually transform a treasure guardian into an angel, or did his antagonists’ successive narratives eventually transform an angel into a treasure guardian? …According to the 1834–35 history, which Oliver Cowdery composed with Joseph Smith’s assistance, Moroni had given Joseph a warning: “When it is known that the Lord has shown you these things…they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation.” … Some of these tales found their way to Abner Cole, the editor of the local tabloid. Cole explained his historical methodology on more than one occasion. Cole concluded the article with the offer, “Postmasters and others, who can furnish us with interesting notices on any of the above subjects, shall receive a copy of our paper gratis.” Later, Cole specified the origins of his description of Moroni as a treasure guardian: “This tale in substance, was told at the time the event was said to have happened by both father and son, and is well recollected by many of our citizens.” Tales told by local residents amount to no more than neighborhood gossip. … Philastus Hurlbut collected Willard Chase’s description of Moroni as a treasure guardian in 1833. However, at the same time, Hurlbut collected Abigail Harris’s statement describing Moroni as “the spirit of one of the Saints that was upon this continent” as well as Henry Harris’s statement identifying Moroni as an “angel.” Although the Chase account predates the official history of the Church, it does not predate Joseph Smith’s 1832 history, which describes Moroni as “an angel of the Lord.”  (pg. 51)

Cole’s newspaper was more than a tabloid, but his cryptic admission here about postmasters is most enlightening, if one knows that his brother-in-law Samuel T. Lawrence was an agent for the post office and was involved in going house to house to collect fees. This is the same Lawrence who was so intimate with Joseph Smith (who Smith chose to properly introduce him to Emma) and knew the real story about the “record” (having been considered to accompany Smith to retrieve it from the hill). Lawrence would have known who was involved in the Smith family treasure hunts, and would then relate the stories to Cole, who published them. I’ll have more on Abner Cole and Samuel T. Lawrence below but first, let’s talk about angels, spirits and ghosts.

Angels and Spirits of the Dead

Did Joseph Smith and others from his family consider dead people (ghosts or spirits) as angels in 1823? Unlikely for many reasons.

In 1823 Joseph was partial to the Methodist faith, and was a part time Exhorter. What did the Methodist’s (and the other churches of the day) teach about angels? Angels were considered to be God’s special messengers, winged creatures created by God, and though they were spiritual beings, they were not considered to be deceased, resurrected or “preexistant” humans.

In the Book of Mormon angels are mentioned 145 times, but not one of them is given a name and none of them are identified as dead or resurrected humans. In the Bible this too is the case for most of the appearances of angels, with only a few very important angels being named.

Angels were looked upon as a creation of God different from human beings:

“The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith.  The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition” (#328).  Given that we do believe in angels, we define them as pure spirits and personal beings with intelligence and free will.  They are immortal beings.  As the Bible attests, they appear to humans as apparitions with a human form.

Angels then, would never identify themselves as a former inhabitant of this earth, even though they would appear in human form. In Psalms we read:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalms 8:3-5)

This was quoted again in the Book of Hebrews. After quoting the Psalms the author then writes,

…we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2)

There were all kinds of angels in the Bible, angels with wings, angels that looked like men, destroying angels, flying angels, messenger angels, helpful angels, they were everywhere. But there is nothing which claimed that angels were men. John even mistook an angel for God:

 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9)

When Joseph Smith initially went through the New Testament and changed many verses, he passed by this one and left it as it reads in the King James Version. The Manuscript (New Testament Revision 2) has no change for this verse in the Book of Revelation. But he did change it (probably by 1835 or later) to read,

And I, John, saw these things and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See that thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book. Worship God.

The angel does not claim that he is one of the former prophets of the Bible, as some have attested. The angel claimed that he was a “fellow servant” of God, along with those “brethren the prophets”. Other translations besides the KJV make this clear:

But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” (NIV)

Matthew Gill writes that the angels were only brethren in a spiritual sense:

“…if this was one of the ministering spirits, he was a servant of the same Lord as John; and if he was a minister of the Gospel, he was still more literally a fellow servant of his, and of the apostles, and preachers of the Gospel; which is meant by the testimony of Jesus, that bearing testimony to the person, office, grace, obedience, sufferings, and death of Christ, and the glory following; and therefore being but a servant, and a servant in common with John and his brethren, was by no means to be worshipped; not the servant, but master; not the creature, but the Creator” (Commentary on Revelation 19:10)

Translated Men

It might be a good time to speak about Translated Men and how they fit into the early theology of Mormonism.

In the Book of Mormon there were three Nephites who were “translated”, as John the Disciple of Jesus would be. In the account given in 3rd Nephi it reads,

And behold, they were encircled about as if it were fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and do bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven, and did minister unto them. And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and ministered unto them. (pg. 493)

What is meant by “ministering”? In what way were they attended to? Were they all dancing in the fire? Why wasn’t the “multitude” encircled too? Anyway, three of these “disciples” choose to stay on earth. Jesus tells them:

...ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, which was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me; therefore more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death, but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father, unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled, according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory, with the power of heaven; and ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory, ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, from mortality to immortality… (1830 Book of Mormon, p. 509)

There was also another character from the Book of Mormon (Ether) who may have been “translated”,

Now the last words which are written by Ether, are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh: It mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen (p. 573).

These “translated beings” are not angels, but they are like angels, because, according to the Book of Mormon:

And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter…and whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell: for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh, into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God. But it came to pass that they did again minister upon the face of the earth… And now whether they were mortal or immortal, from the day of their transfiguration, I know not; but… they did go forth upon the face of the land, and did minister unto all the people, uniting as many to the church as would believe in their preaching; baptizing them… and they were cast into prison… And the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain, and they were cast down into the earth. But they did smite the earth with the word of God, insomuch that by his power they were delivered out of the depths of the earth; and therefore they could not dig pits sufficiently to hold them. And thrice they were cast into a furnace, and received no harm. And twice were they cast into a den of wild beasts; and behold they did play with the beasts, as a child with a suckling lamb, and received no harm. And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land… And now I, Mormon, make an end of speaking concerning these things, for a time. …But behold I have seen them, and they have ministered unto me; and behold they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles knoweth them not. They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not… they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindred, tongues and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled, and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them; and they are as the angels of God and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can shew themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good; therefore great and marvellous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day… (p. 509-511)

Here we see that translated beings (in 1829) were not angels, but like them, in that they could do things angels could do. There is no evidence that Moroni or Nephi were translated beings, but later (1835) Smith declared “Moroni” to be a resurrected man.

It appears that due to all these “translated” men, Oliver Cowdery had some question about John from the Bible, and Joseph settled it by looking in his seeing-stone. (He was “translated” and still alive like the “three Nephites”).

“The Spirit of the Lord & Satan”

In the Book of Mormon Smith also had many angels that he mentioned (none with names), and what he called “the Spirit of the Lord’ which could sometimes appear as a man. In the Book of Nephi it is written that:

I [Nephi] was caught away in the spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceeding high mountain … I said unto the spirit, I behold thou hast shewn unto me the tree which is precious above all. And he saith unto me, What desirest thou? And I said unto him, to know the interpretation thereof; for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet, nevertheless, I knew that it was the spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another. (p. 23)

This “spirit of the Lord” was not an angel or a man, it was described as “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, (p. 165) or “the spirit of the Lord, which is in me” (p. 151) “in our fathers”, (p. 35) and “the spirit of the Lord which was in him” (p. 65)

There is also “the spirit of the devil” which has “power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (p. 64), makes people angry (p. 121), and it can “enter into them, and take possession of their house” (p. 333).

The “Devil and his angels” are evil spirits that shall “go away into everlasting fire”. (p. 79) They are never described as men or the spirit children of God.

“The Order”

When Smith was “translating” (a different kind) the Bible, he claims that Adam

“…heard a voice out of heaven, saying, thou art baptized with fire & with the Holy Ghost; this is the Record of the Father & the Son, from hence forth & forever; & thou art after the order of him who was without begining of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. Behold, thou art one in me, a Son of God; & thus may <​all​> become my Sons: Amen.” (Genesis 6)

This “order” Smith associates with Enoch and Melchizedek in his “translation” of Genesis 14:

Now Melchizedeck was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; & when a child he feared God, And stop[p]ed the Mouths of lyons, & quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained a high Priest, after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch; it being after the order of the son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man, Neither by Father nor mother; Neither by begining of days, or <​nor​> end of years; but of <​God.> And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will; unto as many as believed on his name; for God having sworn unto Enoch, And unto his seed, with an oath, by himself; that every one being ordained after <​this​> order & calling, should have power, by faith, to break Mountains, to divide the Seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course, to put at defiance the armies of Nations, to divide the Earth, to break evry band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command; subdue principalities & powers, & this by the will of the Son of God, which <​was from before the foundation of the world.> And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated; And taken up into Heaven.

After this, we then we run into the account in Genesis about Lot and his family. In the Bible it is two angels who appear to Lot, and they act and talk like men. So Smith changes the account to read:

And the Angels, which were holy men, & were sent forth after the order of God, turned their faces from thence & went toward Sodom. (Old Testament Revision 2, pg. 45)

Smith makes the angels into “holy men” (since they were seen as men in the KJV account), but according to Smith they were actually not angels, but translated “holy men” of the “order or God”. It would be anachronistic to claim that angels are “holy men” and use this as evidence, as they do at lds.org.

“Awman’s Anglo-men”

Another document which lends credence that angels were not men in early Mormonism was the “Pure Language Revelation” from March, 1832, which Orson Pratt copied and later spoke about:

Orson Pratt, notebook (circa 1834–36), penultimate leaf (verso), circa 1832–34, MS 4812, Church History Library. (I’m grateful to Brent Metcalfe for help with this, even though he feels this evidence is ambiguous)

The relevant passages read:

What are the Angels called?
Ans. Awman’s Anglo-men.
What are the meaning of these words?
Ans. Awman’s ministering servants sanctified who are sent from heaven to minister for or to Sons-Awmen the greatest parts of Awman save Sons-Awman, Son-Awman, Awman.

In 1855 Pratt explained the above “revelation”:

There is one revelation that this people are not generally acquainted with. I think it has never been published, but probably it will be in the Church History. It is given in questions and answers. The first question is, “What is the name of God in the pure language?” The answer says, “Ahman.” “What is the name of the Son of God?” Answer, “Son Ahman—the greatest of the parts of God excepting Ahman.” “What is the name of men?” “Sons Ahman,” is the answer. What is the name of angels in the pure language?” “Anglo-man.”

This revelation goes on to say that Sons Ahman are the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Son Ahman and Ahman, and that Anglo-man are the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Sons Ahman, Son Ahman, and Ahman, showing that the angels are a little lower than man. What is the conclusion to be drawn from this? It is, that these intelligent beings are all parts of God, and that those who have the most of the parts of God are the greatest, or next to God, and those who have the next greatest portions of the parts of God, are the next greatest, or nearest to the fulness of God; and so we might go on to trace the scale of intelligences from the highest to the lowest, tracing the parts and portions of God so far as we are made acquainted with them. Hence we see that wherever a great amount of this in(telligent Spirit exists, there is a great amount or proportion of God, which may grow and increase until there is a fulness of the Spirit, and then there is a fulness of God. Orson Pratt, who was there and made his own copy of the “revelation”. (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 2:342-3).

We see that Pratt claims (per the “revelation”) that the angels are a little lower than man. Brent Metcalfe, who directed me to this version of the “revelation”, found it ambiguous evidence, but I think that taking it with the rest of what I present here, shows that at that time they were not conceived of angels as being men. Pratt mentions “intelligences” but those teachings came later and would not apply to an 1832 theological setting.

One has to wonder why Smith would not just have had one of the three Nephites deliver the plates, since those kind of “holy men” performed such tasks as they did with Lot’s family in Sodom. Perhaps because they were invented during the actual “translation”?

Thus when the Book of Mormon was first introduced to the public, it was a generic angel who appeared to Smith, “the spirit of the almighty”. Even in his 1832 History, Smith does not name the angel:

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

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

and he [the angel] called me by name

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

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

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

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

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

Smith speaks of “Maroni”, but only as one of many engravers of the plates. The angel is not identified as none of the angels in the Book of Mormon were. There is no teaching from Smith or anyone else at this time that angels were resurrected humans or pre-mortal spirit children of God. Those teachings came later,  most likely borrowed from those of Emanuel Swedenborg and others. (See, A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell, and of the Wonderful Things Therein, as Heard and Seen by the Honourable and Learned Emanuel Swedenborg (Baltimore: Miltenberger, 1812, 87-90), also, Benjamin E. Park, “A Uniformity So Complete”: Early Mormon Angelology, (Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2010, 1-37).

So when those like Abigail Harris speak about “the spirit of one of the Saints that was upon this continent”, she was describing a ghost, not an angel. Ashurst-McGee claims that she is describing an angel, but Harris goes on to describe the clothes the ghost was wearing: “Old Mrs. Smith observed that she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was dressed very plain.” They were describing what they thought was the ghost of a Quaker, not “the spirit of the Almighty” or an angel. Harris then reveals that Lucy told her that,

In the early part of the winter in 1828, I made a visit to Martin Harris and was joined in company by Jos. Smith, sen. and his wife. The Gold Bible business, so called, was the topic of conversation, to which I paid particular attention that I might learn the truth of the whole matter.–They told me that the report that Joseph, jun. had found golden plates, was true, and that he was in Harmony, Pa. translating them–that such plates were in existence, and that Joseph, jun. was to obtain them, was revealed to him by the spirit of one or the Saints that was on this continent, previous to its being discovered by Columbus. Old Mrs. Smith observed that she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was dressed very plain. They said that the plates he then had in possession were but an introduction to the Gold Bible–that all of them upon which the bible was written, were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart–that Joseph had also discovered by looking through his stone, the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled; he also discovered in the bottom of the vessel three balls of gold, each as large as his fist. The old lady said also, that after the book was translated, the plates were to be publicly exhibited–admittance 0-5 cents. She calculated it would bring in annually an enormous sum of money–that money would then be very plenty, and the book would also sell for a great price, as it was something entirely new–that they had been commanded to obtain all the money they could borrow for present necessity, and to repay with gold. The remainder was to be kept in store for the benefit of their family and children. This and the like conversation detained me until about 11 o’clock. Early the next morning, the mystery of the Spirit being like myself (one of the order called Friends) was revealed by the following circumstance: The old lady took me into another room, and after closing the door, she said, “have you four or five dollars in money that you can lend until our business is brought to a close? the spirit has said you shall receive four fold.” I told her that when I gave, I did it not expecting to receive again–as for money I had none to lend. I then asked her what her particular want of money was; to which she replied “Joseph wants to take the stage and come home from Pennsylvania to see what we are all about.” To which I replied, he might look in his stone and save his time and money. The old lady seemed confused, and left the room, and thus ended the visit. (November 28, 1833, Mormonism Unvailed, 253)

Yet Ashurst-McGee claims that Abigail Harris is calling this an angel!  Lucy Smith would ultimately carry out her money making plans by exhibiting not the “gold plates” but the “curiosities”, the mummies and papyri purchased in Kirtland a few years later…

And of course, the Book of Mormon tells us that some claimed that “… the Devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel.” (p. 308)

“NONE doeth good…”

All this apologist blather about folk magic and how it was tied to Christianity is just a smoke screen. Why?

Because of what Joseph himself claimed when he wrote up his histories. In the first claimed vision, (written up in 1838) he stated that God told him that all the churches were wrong, all religion was wrong, and that he was not to “go after” any of it. Smith wrote in 1832:

…<​behold​> the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not <​my​> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <​hath​> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is?] written of me in the cloud <​clothed​> in the glory of my Father (History, 1832)

There were none that did good. That includes the “folk” or “cunning men” or “cunning women”, or “village seers” that the Mormon Apologists are fixated on. In 1842 Joseph added this:

[God] 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 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. (Wentworth Letter)

So if we embrace the apologist argument about folk magic, (a Christian subgroup) whether it was the Methodists or Methodist “folk”, the Presbyterians or Presbyterian “folk”, the Universalists or Universalist “folk”, (those who may have believed in magic folklore, peepstones, necromancy or diving rods) – any and all of them were wrong and Joseph was commanded to go not after them. (Ya can’t have it both ways apologists even though you desperately want to!)

This was in 1820; then Joseph claims he strayed and repents and is put back on track by an angel in 1823. In 1845 Apostle John Taylor wrote this interesting bit for the Times and Seasons,

For once let us say, that Cain, who went to Nod and taught the doctrine of a “plurality of wives” and the giants who practiced the same iniquity; and Nimrod, who practiced the common stock system, and the Jews, who commenced crossing sea and land to make proselytes without revelation; and the christian sects, who have went all lengths in building up churches and multiplying systems without authority from God,-are all co-workers on the same plan:-when the reward for every man’s work is given-this will be the everlasting answer to all sects, sorts, and conditions, from Cain down to Christian Israelites, I NEVER KNEW YOU! (Times & Seasons, “Who are the Christian Israelites?,” May 1, 1845, 888).

The above could just as well be titled, “Who are the Cunning Men”? Or “Who are the Village Seers”? Or “Who are the Practitioners of Folk Magic”?

“What Manner His Kingdom was to be Conducted”

Yet, that’s not what happened. Joseph did “go after them”. In a big way. This is why the apologists are so flustered. Joseph borrows a peep-stone from Willard Chase in 1822 and returns it, (after previously going on a hunt for his own white stone) but goes back to the money-digging in 1825 for Josiah Stowell and others, using the “borrowed” (stolen now) peep stone to search for buried treasure and “lost items”, after he was told twice to stop: once by God himself and once by an angel. And then he refuses to return the stone. So he “translates” the entire Book of Mormon with a stolen peep-stone! (Chase had asked him to return it but he refused). What kind of prophet-in-training does that? How does that work, exactly? Why don’t we have any explanations about this from the apologists?

And what about his report to the angel in 1824, 25 & 26, since Joseph claimed that he met with the angel three more times on each successive September 22nd? What did he tell the angel? Joseph writes about those four years after the 1823 visit:

I found the same messenger there and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. . . . (Joseph Smith, History-1)

Joseph is meeting with the angel and talking about “what manner his kingdom was to be conducted” while at the same time dabbling with a peep stone to search for lost objects and find buried treasure and scry ghosts/treasure guardians? Why is there no mention by Joseph of his return to treasure hunting and his arrest for glass-looking!

Moses vs. Joseph?

In the Bible (since the apologists love to make Old Testament comparisons) there is the account of Moses being raised by Egyptians and being called the Pharaoh’s son. This is not hidden or downplayed. It even has an account of Moses murdering an Egyptian! Moses then contrasts his use of “magic” with that of the Pharaoh’s wizards by having his brother Aaron’s staff gobble up theirs. Moses also had the power to make his hand leprous, and call down all kinds of plagues on Egypt. All this is written in the Bible.

Yet, where is any of Joseph’s “restored” power that seriously compares to Moses? Before or after he started up his church. When Joseph had his chance during “Zion’s Camp”, he failed miserably. How would Joshua have fared with the Missourians? (Just sayin’)

And instead of being able to heal the cholera that was running rampant through the camp, Joseph himself contracted it! Joseph only has a couple of little peep-stones? He saw God and an angel and wasn’t given all the awesome tools that Moses got? Why not? He was doing the things that Moses did, right? Or are they only cherry picking the rod of Aaron? (Where is Cowdery’s budding rod of Aaron?)

Think of it, if someone tried to take away the plates from Joseph, he could just strike them down with leprosy! (That would teach them!) And Moses had thousands of grumbling Israelites, and he still parted the Red Sea, and fed them all with manna. Did their unbelief affect what Moses could do?Joseph had a few hundred Mormons who grumbled and he blamed his failure on them. It was their unbelief that ruined the “redemption of Zion”! Why didn’t God “restore” the power of Moses to Joseph? As Ashurst-McGee wrote,

Unlike Alexander Campbell and the other restorationists of his day, Joseph moved beyond the reestablishment of New Testament Christianity to “the restoration of all things”-including Old Testament elements of patriarchy, polygyny, the declaration of Israelite lineage, a divinely sanctioned kingdom, a temple with ancient ritual, and a prophet. (p. 340)

A prophet with no teeth, it seems. A big talking prophet to be sure, who Wilford Woodruff found practicing with a gun when he first met him and quipped that he wanted to be sure he could hit something when he went to Missouri. But that too, never happened. Why would a prophet would should be able to call down lightening from heaven like Elijah, even need a gun? It seemed to be all just “run away, run away!” with Smith.Again, where was that prophetic power of Enoch, Elijah, or Moses or even Nephi & Lehi for that matter? In for a penny, in for a pound? Not in this case. So why would Joseph then, feel the need to hide his own dabbling in the occult? He should have been bragging about it! Apologists are not shy about citing these fantastical Biblical stories about the use of  “occult” objects or idols (and how they were “restored”), but the Church either denies them, considers them archaic curiosities (like seeing stones), or is silent about them except as “Bible stories” from the distant past. (But they will brag about the second hand stories of Joseph’s day of healing in Commerce, or his being able to understand the Lamanite/Indians when a real translator was supposedly messing with him, or his 1842 prophecy of the Rocky Mountains that was cobbled together after his death.

What is the purpose of restoring something, if it is almost immediately cast aside? Just to claim that hey, I restored that? It is beyond silly. It seems that all of the things mentioned by Ashurst-McGee have pretty much gone by the wayside… polygamy, Israelite lineage (the lost ten tribes are meaningless now), a divinely sanctioned kingdom where the faithful would “gather”, temple rituals gutted and changed, and yes a token prophet who doesn’t prophesy or have any real power except that he’s rich and can buy a lot of stuff.

Larry Morris also brings up these Biblical stories and then tries to persuade us that because Joseph claimed to have gotten the plates on September 22, 1827 and that was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Shahanah, that this has some kind of significance. He writes,

Joseph obtained the plates on Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year (which had begun at sundown on 21 September 1827). At Rosh ha-Shanah the faithful were commanded to set a day aside as “a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:24).

One would be hard pressed to not find some kind of holiday or celebration on any of the Equinox days. And if it was so important for the angel to appear on the Jewish New Year, why did he not do so for the first appearance, and every year — because he did not appear on the Jewish New Year in 1823 (September 6), 1824 (September 23), 1825 (September 13) or 1826 (October 2nd). September 22 is a lot closer to the fall equinox than the other dates are to the Jewish New Year. Still Morris claims,

“…the details of the plates’ disappearance and the shock, which Joseph acknowledges by describing three unsuccessful attempts to get the plates and the intense fright that followed, appear to have been part of a money-digging tale…”

Of course they were and Morris and Ashurst McGee can’t explain them. And,

As for “treasure-seeking” details, Joseph has surely de-emphasized these…

Of course he did. As he did the original treasure guardian who was a ghost, not an angel. And,

In producing the history of the church, Joseph was addressing a generation (and future generations) not well equipped to understand what a divining rod or a seer stone meant to people like the Smiths.

This is simply ad hoc presentism. How would they know this unless there were already problems mixing magic and religion? And aren’t they the ones claiming that religion and magic were so intertwined? If so, why would Smith have any difficulty explaining it? He could simply have used Moses as an example as Morris does! But Smith didn’t even try, not once, he simply denied it all and gave the story that he was a paid laborer. Morris and others try to tell us that we can understand it all, if we have all of this information about “religious treasure digging”. Then why was it so hard for the church to explain it for so many years? And when they try, they come up with this:

Some people have balked at this claim of physical instruments used in the divine translation process, but such aids to facilitate the communication of God’s power and inspiration are consistent with accounts in scripture. In addition to the Urim and Thummim, the Bible mentions other physical instruments used to access God’s power: the rod of Aaron, a brass serpent, holy anointing oils, the Ark of the Covenant, and even dirt from the ground mixed with saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man.

I’ve discussed most of the Old Testament examples, but what about the one from the New Testament, the spit and dirt that Jesus made and used when he healed a blind man. Actually the New Testament gives us the answer:

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.  Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath. (John 9:13-16)

It was against the Law of Moses to make “clay” on the Sabbath and that is what the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing, breaking the Sabbath by mixing the spit with dirt to make “clay”. Jesus didn’t need to use spit and dirt, he did so to make a point to the Pharisees about what should be considered work. Let’s throw this apologist example in the trash bin with the others, where it belongs.

There is only a decade between when Joseph first started telling the story of the angel to the press, and his writing the history he published a few years later. Morris and the other apologists want to claim that this is so simple once we are educated about folk magic, but that it was so hard for Smith and those who were in his own generation to understand and explain it. It is obvious that those like Brigham Young, Artemisia Beaman and Porter Rockwell had no such problems, they knew all about Captain Kidd and Luman Walters and Samuel Lawrence and the Smith’s money-digging past. But they too, were reluctant to elaborate on such matters in publications although every now and then we find something in the discourses of Young. Which brings us back to Jesse Smith and why the Smith’s had such problems.

The Necromancy of Infidelity

Everything I’ve discussed so far begs the question, Why should we trust any of Smith’s accounts about what happened in relation to the gold plates? And how are we to believe Morris when he claims that

Almost two years after Jesse Smith wrote [his] letter, individuals such as David Burnett and James Gordon Bennett began to associate the plates with treasure seeking, a ghost, and a vanishing chest.

Morris claims that Jesse Smith was not associating the plates with treasure seeking, yet, this is what Jesse Smith wrote in 1829 (which Morris doesn’t mention but places in an appendix):

…if it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity, & dug from the mines of atheism, … and then has the audacity to say they are; and the angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. …he says your father has a wand or rod like Jannes & Jambres who withstood Moses in Egypt— that he can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia or another fool story, many other things alike ridiculous.

Walker, as we have seen, does mention this. Morris claims that, “Joseph Smith’s uncle Jesse Smith vehemently objected to Joseph’s claims, protesting precisely because they were so thoroughly religious,” but Jesse didn’t think their claims were religious at all! Think about this for a moment. He claims they were “dug from the mines of atheism” and uses the word “necromancy”, which is associated with money-digging and evil spirits. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines necromancy thusly:

NECROMANCY, noun [Gr. Dead, and divination.]

1. The art of revealing future events by means of a pretended communication with the dead. This imposture is prohibited. Deuteronomy 18:1.

2. Enchantment; conjuration

Pretended communication. Pretended. With the dead. Bloody Ghosts. Jesse scoffs at the religiosity that he knows his brother and nephews are trying to cloak their necromancy and treasure digging yarn in. He could not be more clear here that he thinks they are lying, and trying to turn a money-digging yarn into a religious tale and that (to Jesse) would all have come from the Devil. Only an apologist would try to argue that when someone uses the word necromancy and atheism (in the same sentence!) they are describing something religious. It wasn’t religious to claim to get rich from money digging and divining rods. Not according to Jesse Smith and the majority of Americans from that period. It was simply wishful thinking.

Dan Vogel, in his landmark biography of Joseph Smith wrote that,

The earliest Smith family treasure quests probably occurred on their newly acquired Manchester land. In 1822 Joseph Sr. told Peter Ingersoll that he saw treasures in a hill behind his house. However, digging did not occur until Joseph Jr. could divine the locations. Despite Joseph Sr.’s invitation to join his money-digging company, Ingersoll resisted until Joseph Jr. became its leading seer. Ingersoll was only too happy to describe in detail his amusement and “disgust” when Joseph Sr. and Alvin demonstrated their scrying technique, but he was completely silent about Joseph Jr. This silence may be due to his belief in the scryer’s gift. According to Pomeroy Tucker, Ingersoll “had believingly taken part in Smith’s money-digging operations, and was at first inclined to put faith in his ‘Golden Bible’ pretension.” (pg. 39-40)

Dan then describes the Smith’s necromantic techniques when they persuaded William Stafford to join them in a midnight dig,

One night William Stafford, who lived about a mile south of the Smiths on Stafford Road, [and who rented part of their land to Porter Rockwell’s family] was visited by Joseph Sr., who invited him to participate in a treasure dig. He informed Stafford that Joseph Jr. had seen in his stone “two or three kegs of gold and silver” located “not many rods from [the Smiths’] house” and that he and Stafford were the only two men who could get the treasure. Making their way through the dark, they arrived at the place of deposit which, from the context of Stafford’s statement, was the same hill previously referred to by Ingersoll. Stafford probably held the lantern as Joseph Sr. drew a circle in the dirt “twelve or fourteen feet in diameter” and then explained that the treasure was located in the center. Joseph Sr. took some witch hazel stakes and drove them into the ground at regular intervals around the circle for “keeping off the evil spirits.” Within this barrier, he drew another inner circle “about eight or ten feet in diameter,” then “walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand,” Stafford recalled. Next, Joseph Sr. drove a steel rod into the center of the circles in order to prevent the treasure from moving. (On such occasions, if the rod hit something, usually a large stone, the seekers generally interpreted this to be the lid of a treasure chest or some other valuable object.) Smith ordered silence “lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures” and then the two men began digging. They continued until they “dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod.” Believing they had isolated the treasure in a cone of earth, they tore into the mound hoping to be faster than the treasure guardian. But the treasure was gone. Puzzled, Joseph Sr. went to the house to ask young Joseph why they had failed. He soon returned, explaining that “Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit—that he saw the spirit come up to the ring and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink.” When the two men returned to the house together, father Smith observed that “we had made a mistake in the commencement of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.” (pg. 40)

Joseph Smith Sr. claimed to be an expert at dowsing for treasure and claimed in the mid 1830’s that he had been so for thirty years. His brother Jesse was probably well aware of what Joseph Sr. was up to, and so scoffed at the religiosity their money digging yarn was cloaked in. Only four years earlier Smith Sr. was lamenting the fact that his son Joseph was using his “God given” gift of peeping only to search for “filthy lucre” but as we have seen, those brief regrets didn’t change much with the Smith family and their obsession with buried treasure.

“It was treasure…”

And how does Morris and the other apologists account for the same stories of treasure guardians and Captain Kidd being told by Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell and others? I can’t find anything about this from Morris or others, though Ashurst-Mcgee mentions the Harz Mountains, but only as a historical reference and Brigham Young’s account not at all. Elizabeth Kane, the wife of Thomas Kane visited Utah Territory in the 1870’s and had many conversations with Brigham Young and others which she recorded in her diary. One night, they were speaking of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and this is what she recorded:

Mrs. Artemisia [Beaman] Snow and I [Elizabeth Kane] were accompanied to the parlour by the gentlemen. The lamp on the mantlepiece shed but a faint light compared to the vivid changeful glow of the blazing pine logs on the hearth, and some allusion to the solidity with which the fireplace was built, led to the remark that it was under the hearth at the Beaman [Smith] farm [in New York State] that the [Golden] “Plates” of the Book of Mormon were hidden.

Mrs. Snow was a daughter of Mr. [Alva] Beaman, a wealthy farmer of Livingston Livonia County, New York. She was only a girl when the plates were brought there, but remembered perfectly the anxiety they all felt after the plates were buried, and a fire kindled on the hearth above them, round which the family sat as usual. I asked “Who were searching for the plates?”

She answered “The people of the neighborhood. They did not know what Joseph Smith had found, but that it was treasure, and they wanted to get it away. This was long before there was any dream of religious persecution.”

Mrs. Snow sat knitting a stocking as she talked, like any other homely elderly woman. She certainly seemed to think she had actually gone through the scene she narrated. I know so little of the history of the Mormons that the stories that now followed by the flickering firelight were full of interest to me. I shall write down as much as I can remember, though there must be gaps where allusions were made to things I had never heard of and did not understand enough to remember accurately. The most curious thing was the air of perfect sincerity of all the speakers. I cannot feel doubtful that they believed what they said. …

I forget what came next, but after Mrs. Snow had been mentioned as being Beaman’s daughter, I asked some question respecting the original discovery of the plates which was answered as nearly as I can remember.

A man named [Luman] Walters son of a rich man living on the Hudson South of Albany, received a scientific education, was even sent to Paris. After he came home he lived like a misanthrope, he had come back an infidel, believing neither in man nor God. He used to dress in a fine broadcloth overcoat, but no other coat nor vest, his trousers all slitted up and patched, and sunburnt boots–filthy! He was a sort of fortune teller, though he never stirred off the old place.

For instance, a man I knew rode up, and before he spoke, the fortune teller said, “You needn’t get off your horse, I know what you want. Your mare ain’t stolen.” Says the man “How do you know what I want? Says he, “I’ll give you a sign. You’ve got a respectable wife, and so many children. At this minute your wife has just drawn a bucket of water at the well to wash her dishes. Look at your watch and find out if it ain’t so when you get home. As to your mare, she’s not a dozen miles from home. She strayed into such neighborhood, and as they didn’t know whose she was they put her up till she should be claimed. My fee’s a dollar. Be off!”

This man was sent for three times to go to the hill Cumorah to dig for treasure. People knew there was treasure there. Beman was one of those who sent for him. He came. Each time he said there was treasure there, but that he couldn’t get it; though there was one that could. The last time he came he pointed out Joseph Smith, who was sitting quietly among a group of men in the tavern, and said There was the young man that could find it, and cursed and swore about him in a scientific manner: awful!

I asked where Cumorah was. “In Manchester Township Ontario County New York.” I think this is near Rochester.

I have heard Porter Rockwell, a bronzed seafaring looking man, with long hair tucked behind his ears, in which he wears little gold rings, tell of Joseph Smith’s failures and final success in finding the plates. Rockwell was a schoolmate and friend of Smith’s, and in spite of his intimate knowledge of the humble Yankee settler’s life, the log-house, lit up at night by pine chips because they were too poor to burn candles, the daily trudge to the rude schoolhouse and the association with him when they were “hired men” together, evidently believes in his Prophet and hero, falsifying the proverb about “No man being a hero to his valet de chambre.” His story about the discovery of the plates sounded like the German legends of the demons of the Harz Mountains, but his description of the life of his neighborhood made me understand what Brigham Young meant by saying the people knew there was treasure in the Hill Cumorah. It seems that the time was one of great mental disturbance in that region. There was much religious excitement; chiefly among the Methodists. People felt free to do very queer things in the new country, which the lapse of a single generation has made us consider Old New England…

Not only was there religious excitement, but the phantom treasures of Captain Kidd were sought for far and near, and even in places like Cumorah where the primeval forest still grew undisturbed the gold finders sought for treasure without any traditionary rumor even to guide them. Rockwell said his mother and Mrs. [Lucy] Smith used to spend their Saturday evenings together telling their dreams, and that he was always glad to spend his afternoon holiday gathering pine knots for the evening blaze on the chance that his mother would forget to send him to bed, and that he might listen unnoticed to their talk. The most sober settlers of the district he said were “gropers” though they were ashamed to own it; and stole out to dig of moonlight nights carefully effacing the traces of their ineffectual work before creeping home to bed. He often heard his mother and Mrs. Smith comparing notes, and telling how Such an one’s dream, and Such another’s pointed to the same lucky spot; how the spades often struck the iron sides of the treasure chest, and how it was charmed away, now six inches this side, now four feet deeper, and again completely out of reach. Joseph Smith was no gold seeker by trade; he only did openly what all were doing privately; but he was considered to be “lucky”. (A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie, 1872–73: Elizabeth Kane’s St. George Journal, 69-74, For more on the Harz Mountains, go here).

Notice how many times the word “treasure” is linked to the word “Cumorah” above. Interesting that Kane likens the stories about Cumorah to the legends of the Harz Mountains in Germany which abound with tales of magic, demons, treasure, guardian spirits and other creatures. Porter Rockwell still remembers how the phantom treasures of Kidd were being sought for far and near in the area of Cumorah. No “traditionary rumors” to guide them, he claims, the Smith’s didn’t need them. And it wasn’t only Joseph Sr., but from Lucy also. Ashurst-McGee mentions Porter Rockwell and Lucy Smith a couple of times in relation to Catherine Kane, but doesn’t quote her much, only a few excerpts.

Larry Morris claimed in his article critical of Ron Huggins that he was neither a thorough or systematic investigator, but I can’t find this important account in Morris’ article or new book. He arbitrarily cuts off any accounts after 1850 for some unknown reason even though they are credible and relevant. What disturbs me is that Morris doesn’t seem to understand that Huggins focuses on Captain Kidd because of accounts which claim that Joseph did. And so he makes this bizarre statement in his FARMS review:

Focusing on Captain Kidd allows Huggins to ignore the larger context of American treasure seeking and to skew the entire debate. He does this by casting American folk beliefs in a negative light and then linking Joseph Smith to those beliefs. We see this when we contrast Walker’s approach with Huggins’s. For example, Walker points out that “the cutting ritual [of divining rods] was filled with religious imagery” and that a person as prominent as future Massachusetts chief justice Peter Oliver claimed the rod “‘exceeded what I had heard’” and could “locate a single Dollar under ground, at 60 or 70 feet Distance.” Huggins, on the other hand, characterizes the folk culture of the period by telling us of a spirit nicknamed “Mr. Splitfoot” that “began rapping out answers to questions on the farm of John and Margaret Fox in the little village of Hydesville, New York.” As it turned out, two of the Fox daughters admitted forty years later that “they had made the rappings themselves by cracking their toes” (p. 31). This story, of course, has nothing to do with Joseph Smith, but Huggins implies guilt by association by mentioning Joseph Smith in the same paragraph as the Fox daughters. (pg. 15-16)

I wonder about the comprehension skills of Morris, since what he claims, that Ron mentions Joseph Smith and the Fox daughters in the same paragraph is totally false. Fox appears four times in Huggins’ article, in this paragraph:

The conventional wisdom on ghosts is and has for a long time been that they became what they are by coming to a bad end, by being murdered, or by suffering some other sudden traumatic death. This very kind of story played into the founding of Spiritualism, a movement which, like Mormonism, came to birth in the “burned-over district” of western New York during the first half of the nineteenth century. On the evening of March 31, 1848, a spirit nicknamed “Mr. Splitfoot” began rapping out answers to questions on the farm of John and Margaret Fox in the little village of Hydesville, New York. Mr. Splitfoot revealed that he was the spirit of a man who had been murdered and buried in the Fox’s cellar before they had moved in. Mr. Splitfoot and other spirits like him would only rap, however, when two of the Fox’s daughters, Katie and Margaretta, were present. In 1888 the sisters admitted they had made the rappings themselves by cracking their toes. Nevertheless, the story of Mr. Splitfoot’s untimely end, born in Mrs. Fox’s imagination and confirmed by her children’s cracking toe joints, reflected perfectly conventional ideas about the origin of ghosts. We are all too familiar with this explanation of ghosthood even today.

Joseph Smith’s name is no where to be found. Did he mean Mormonism and the Fox sisters in the same paragraph? And why would Morris be perturbed by that association, if Ron Huggins had made it? It was all about restoring apostolic Christianity, wasn’t it? I’m sure if he tried real hard he could figure out a way that Mr. Splitfoot was some lost Apostle of Christianity. And here is Ronald Walker doing the same thing that Huggins did:

A fourth dimension of our study involves the historical setting of early Mormonism. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, upstate New York was to borrow Carl Carmer’s phrase, “a broad psychic highway, a thoroughfare of the occult.” Rachel Baker amazed neighbors by preaching in her sleep. Jemima Wilkinson announced herself as the reincarnated “Publick Universal Friend.” The rappings of the Fox sisters whose home was less than thirty miles from Palmyra provided the impetus for American spiritualism. The area was known for its “isms.” (pg. 469)

This is exactly the point that Ron Huggins was making! Where is Morris’ ire about that? Mormonism and the Fox sisters in the same paragraph, oh my! Even Porter Rockwell knew that they didn’t need that larger context; if folk magic wasn’t looked upon in a negative light why did Rockwell claim that Smith’s neighbors were trying to hide the fact that they too, had their nocturnal excursions but wouldn’t admit it? They were deflecting their own involvement from the minute they started reporting about the Smith family. It wasn’t religious, it was superstitious.

These superstitious “gropers” as Rockwell calls them, (focused on Captain Kidd!) were ashamed to own up to what they were doing, and yet, Morris and others would have us believe that all of this was looked at in a positive light by everyone. It’s simply more of Quinn’s revisionist history that ignores the evidence while cherry picking various authors to make it seem as if they know what they are talking about.

The Oliver Twist

Since Morris is asking what has one thing to do with the other, we can ask just what has Peter Oliver to do with Joseph Smith? Let’s investigate that because it may shed some light on how this is all just an apologist diversion and another claim of falsely trying to tie Christianity to the magic folklore culture in some kind of substantial way. The story of Peter Oliver comes to us by way of Benjamin Franklin, who wrote under the pen name “The Busy-body“. Franklin gets a letter from one “Titan Pleiades”, who writes about divining rods:

I have read over Scot, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa, above three hundred times; and was in hopes, by my knowledge and industry, to gain enough to have recompensed me for my money expended and time lost in the pursuit of this learning. …there are large sums of money hidden underground in divers places about this town, and in many parts of the country… I have used all the means laid down in the immortal authors before mentioned, and when they failed, the ingenious Mr. P-d-l, with his mercurial wand and magnet, I have still failed in my purpose. (The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume, II, pg. 40-41)

He then proposes an alliance with Franklin to find this treasure. In answering this letter, Franklin makes the observation that Pleiades wasn’t “the only man in the colonies who had faith in the virtues of the Divining Rod,” and gives us this letter from his friend Peter Oliver, for many years the Chief Justice of Massachusetts:

For the present I desist from experiments in natural philosophy and perhaps shall not displease you by relating an experiment in what I call Preternatural Philosophy. It is by what is called the Virgula Divinatoria, long since exploded. Two or three persons have lately been found in Middleborough, and, I suppose, may be found elsewhere, who, by holding a twig of a tree (with some prepared matters in it) in their hands, can find copper, silver, or gold, either in the mine or in substance. When I first heard the fact I disbelieved it … but at last I was induced to make the experiment critically, which exceeded what I had heard. The person holds the twig by its two branches in both hands, and grasps them close, with the upper part erect. If any metal or mine is nigh, its fibres, though never so fast held in the hand, will twist till it points to the object … I have seen it point to a single dollar under ground, at sixty or seventy feet distance; and to a quantity of silver at a mile distance; and, what is more remarkable, when it is in motion to its object, upon the person’s closing his eyes, it will make a full stop, but, if the eyes are turned from the twig and open, it will continue its motion. It is owning to what I call the idiosyncrasy of the person’s body, who holds the twig, for I believe there is not one in five hundred in whose hands it will move. I am apt to think it will occasion as much speculation as electricity, and I believe will tend to public benefit. ~Middleborough, March 31st, 1756. (pg 41-42).

Of course Oliver doesn’t ascribe anything here to God, but to the individual’s idiosyncratic movements of the body, and that not everyone could make it work. What this has to do with Joseph Smith or religion is baffling. Of course Oliver was duped, but then so is everyone who believes in such nonsense (as Franklin points out in his sarcastic reply as the Busy-body).

Ronald Walker makes the observation (pg. 443) that for all of Franklin’s poo-pooing of money-digging he still published a popular almanac for years (Poor Richards). But as Franklin explained in the first issue, it was all to make money, and he constantly poked fun at people, joked about things and once even predicted a man’s death to the day and hour, (in mockery of Astrologists), and when the man lived, refused to acknowledge he was still alive! Walker’s comment is strange, because Franklin took none of it seriously. And it made him a lot of money. He knew it was all a humbug but knew how to cash in on it.

A Common Spiritual Gift?

There have been a plethora of Mormon authors who, in the last decade or so have been publishing on “folk magic”, in an effort to reconcile the Smith family’s practice of “the Black Art” with more legitimate religious practices. Over and over I read their admonitions about how us moderns just don’t comprehend what it was like in nineteenth century America and how hard it is to understand the “folk” and their magical ways. In a desperate attempt to try and legitimize dowsing, Eric A Eliason writes:

The presumption that the difference between magic and proper belief is something intrinsic rather than relational to the definer is still very much alive. But on close analysis, complex definitions distinguishing “magical” from “modern” thinking rarely amount to more than “What you do is superstition, while what I do is science or true religion.” One of the biggest surprises rural students have in American university folklore courses, including at B.Y.U., is discovering their suburban peers need to be taught what divining rods are and how to use them. Today, regardless of class, race, education, wealth, region, or religion, rural students tend to know of holding a forked stick gently in one’s hand to feel for the downward tug that points to underground water and a good spot for a well. Dowsing seems not only understandable, but essential, in rural areas where families are on their own to secure water, and where hired well drillers make no guarantees and charge by the foot. City kids are shocked that their country classmates could be such shameless occult dabblers in a modern age where you don’t have to think about where water comes from. You just turn on the tap and out it comes–like magic. My rural LDS students don’t understand why their suburban counterparts have so little respect for or belief in a common spiritual gift often displayed by their educated and reasonable Bishops and Stake Presidents. It is simply wrong to assume that divining practices are some long-abandoned exotic aspect of America’s frontier past rather than a continuing worldwide phenomenon, used not only by rural Americans, but by soldiers in Vietnam to find enemy tunnels, by oil and precious metal prospecting companies, and even by contemporary salvage professionals to recover, yes, lost treasure. But none of this means that there are not bogus scams, such as the well-developed industry of luring American investors to fund “sure fire” efforts to recover caches of loot hidden by Japanese soldiers retreating from the Philippines at the end of World War II. These always seem to need a little more financing and never seem to produce for investors. (Seer Stones, Salamanders and Early Mormon “Folk Magic”. (BYU Studies Quarterly, 4-5-2016, pg. 82)

Everyone defends their own beliefs. Tell us something we don’t know. But dowsing a common spiritual gift? As proven by scientific experiments it is all bogus and subjective!  It is like believing in the power of prayer and trying to claim that it will work for everyone in the same way every time, because the dowsers claim if there is water they will find it and God promised that if you ask he will answer. But no matter what the promise is, subjective spiritual claims never live up to the hype. Would there be any difference in praying to Jesus or to Beelzebub? Only in the mind of the individual. Another person would never know to who or what anyone prays to if they didn’t tell them or pray out loud. I was truly amused by this effort from Ashurst-McGee to redefine terms in his Pathway to Prophethood thesis:

By the end of his life, Emanuel Swedenborg developed the ability to voluntarily enter and exit an ecstatic divinatory state whenever he wished to.  His visions stand as an example of divination initiated by the diviner, which I term “ascensional divination.” In contrast, while on the road to Damascus the Pharisee Saul was confronted by the risen Christ, commanded to cease his persecutions against the Christians, given an apostolic commission, and renamed Paul. This is an example of divination initiated by God, which I call “descensional divination” or “revelation.”

In other words he calls Swedenborg’s trances “ascensional divination” and when God appears to someone “descensional divination”. These are just gobbledygook words made up by Ashurst-McGee so he can repeat the word “divination” over and over again in some kind of way to try and associate it with Christianity.

First of all, he has no idea what was going on with Swedenborg, or Edgar Cayce (the “sleeping prophet”) or anyone else who went into trances to commune with superior beings or the supernatural. No one does. Brigham Young once taught (As did Swedenborg) that the “Spirit World” is right here with us so claiming that revelation comes from up or down is pretty much in the eye of the beholder and rather silly. And what is “divination”? What did it mean those who lived in the time of Joseph Smith? That’s the key here. The entry in the 1828 Webster’s gives us the meaning:

DIVINATIONnoun [Latin , to foretell. See Divine.]

1. The act of divining; a foretelling future events, or discovering things secret or obscure, by the aid of superior beings, or by other than human means. The ancient heathen philosophers divided divination into two kinds, natural and artificial. Natural divination was supposed to be effected by a kind of inspiration or divine afflatus; artificial divination was effected by certain rites, experiments or observations, as by sacrifices, cakes, flour, wine, observation of entrails, flight of birds, lots, verses, omens, position of the stars, etc.

This word was then associated with the occult and heathens, not the Christian God. If one then looks up “divine” in the 1828 Websters, we see these entries which correspond to the entry above:

DIVINE, verb transitive [Latin]
1. To foreknow; to foretell; to presage.
Darst thou divine his downfall?
2. To deify. [Not in use.]
DIVINE, verb intransitive
1. To use or practice divination.
2. To utter presages or prognostications.
The prophets thereof divine for money. Micah 3:6.
3. To have presages or forebodings.
Suggest but truth to my divining thoughts–
4. To guess or conjecture.

DIVINER, noun
1. One who professes divination; one who pretends to predict events, or to reveal occult things, by the aid of superior beings, or of supernatural means.
These nations hearkened to diviners. Deuteronomy 18:14.
2. One who guesses; a conjecturer.

The Micah 3 cross is very interesting. It is a rebuking of Israel’s prophets and leaders for divining for money:

And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? Who hate the good, and love the evil… Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Prophets divining for money? Oh my! And Deuteronomy 18:14:

For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Joseph was condemning the clergy of his day of being corrupt, but his practice of divining for money was also corrupt and condemned by God according to the Old Testament that Mormon apologists love to quote. That is why this occult “prophet-in-training” shtick doesn’t make much sense.

And in analyzing the vision of Paul, it really wasn’t Paul trying to divine anything (let alone Jesus) as much as it was Jesus appearing to Paul and complaining because he (and his people) were being persecuted by the obsessive Pharisee. I suggest that a more correct term would be an “arbitrarial non-divination appearance” or better yet an “angry god manifestation”.

And Swedenborg? He didn’t begin with trances, he was sitting in a tavern in 1745 and he saw a personage sitting in the corner of the room who told him not to eat too much. Alarmed, he went home and the same personage again appeared to him and told him he was going to expound on the meaning of the Bible and other things. Swedenborg claimed that this was “the Lord”.

Since “the Lord” supposedly appeared to Swedenborg first, (in a tavern no less) was this an ascentional or a descentional? I’ll let the Mormon apologists sort that out. I’m going for arbitrarial non-divination appearance.

And of course there are those many Bible Dictionaries like this one from Charles Buck published in 1826 that give us a good idea of what people thought about divining and other magical practices at that time:

Is a conjecture or surmise formed concerning some future event from something which is supposed to be a presage of it; but between which there is no real connection, only what the imagination of the diviner is pleased to assign in order to deceive. Divination of all kinds being the offspring of credulity, nursed by imposture, and strengthened by superstition, was necessarily an occult science, retained in the hands of the priests and priestesses, the magi, the soothsayers, the augurs, the visionaries, the priests of the oracles, the false prophets, and other like professors, till the coming of Jesus Christ, when the light of the Gospel dissipated much of this darkness. The vogue for these pretended sciences and arts is nearly past, at least in the enlightened parts of the world. There are nine different kinds of divination mentioned in Scripture. These are,

1. Those whom Moses calls Meonen of Anan, a cloud, Deuteronomy 18:10 .
2. Those whom the prophet calls, in the same place, Menachesch, which the Vulgate and generality of interpreters render Augur.
3. Those who in the same place are called Mecasheph, which the Septuagint and Vulgate translate “a man given to ill practices.”
4. Those whom in the same chapter, ver.11. he calls Hhober.
5. Those who consult the spirits, called Python.
6. Witches, or magicians, called Judeoni.
7. Necromancers, who consult the dead.
8. Such as consult staves, Hosea 4:12 . called by some Rhabdomancy.
9. Hepatoscopy, or the consideration of the liver.

Different kinds of divination which have passed for sciences, we have had:

1. Aeromancy, divining by the air.
2. Astrology, by the heavens.
3. Augury, by the flight and singing of birds, &c.
4. Chiromancy by inspecting the hand.
5. Geomancy, by observing of cracks or clefts in the earth.
6. Haruspicy, by inspecting the bowels of animals.
7. Horoscopy, a branch of astrology, marking the position of the heavens when a man is born.
8. Hydromancy, by water.
9. Physiognomy, by the countenance. (This, however, is considered by some as of a different nature, and worthy of being rescued from the rubbish of superstition, and placed among the useful sciences. Lavater has written a celebrated treatise on it.).
10. Pyromancy, a divination made by fire. Thus we see what arts have been practised to deceive, and how designing men have made use of all the four elements to impose upon weak minds. (Charles Buck’s theological Dictionary (1826), Thanks to Ron Huggins for the reference).

I could not find any Mormon apologists who have cited this entry or any like it. Interesting that Physiognomy and Phrenology was all the rage with Smith and others in Nauvoo.

“A decisive failure”

Did dowsing work every time? We know it does not. No more than randomly pointing at the ground and saying “there be water here”. Again, a broken clock is right twice a day. And one other observation, why would dowsing work with a tree branch for some and metal rods for others? Why wouldn’t the metal rods be pulled down as the branch is? Why do they cross each other instead? Dowsers can’t tell you, or if they do, each one has his own explanation. Oliver had it right long ago that it is due to idiosyncratic movements of the body and nothing more. (Watch some youtube videos and you will see what I mean, especially James Randi’s).

And one more thing before moving on from modern dowsing. This quote (or words like it) is basically all over the internet, and of course it is used to sell Almanacs:

…one study, conducted by the German government in the 1990s, that perplexed the scientific community. During this study’s 10-year research period, researchers paired up experienced geologists and dowsers, sending them to dry regions like Sri Lanka, Kenya and Yemen. Scientists were surprised to find that many of the dowsers were spot-on. In Sri Lanka alone, drill teams drilled 691 wells under the supervision of dowsers and found water 96% of the time. (Farmers Almanac)

Basically, the scientist (Betz) who conducted the experiment referred to above, manipulated the data to favor dowsing as this analysis of the data proves. And his (Enright’s) conclusion?

The Munich dowsing experiments represent the most extensive test ever conducted of the hypothesis that a genuine mysterious ability permits dowsers to detect hidden water sources. The research was conducted in a sympathetic atmosphere, on a highly selected group of candidates, with careful control of many relevant variables. The researchers themselves concluded that the outcome unquestionably demonstrated successful dowsing abilities, but a thoughtful re-examination of the data indicates that such an interpretation can only be regarded as the result of wishful thinking. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a set of experimental results that would represent a more persuasive disproof of the ability of dowsers to do what they claim. The experiments thus can and should be considered a decisive failure by the dowsers.

Are today’s dowsers any different than the Peekers of the 19th century? I would argue they are not and that any religiosity associated with it differs with each person and is based on each person’s personal religious beliefs. But there were clergy who taught the tenets of their respective faiths, and Joseph Smith and his father rejected them all for a mixture of occult and unorthodox Christian beliefs.

In other words, God (or “revelation”) doesn’t make dowsing work any more than magnetic fields does or psychic ability does or the plethora of reasons given by those who advocate it — but if people want to pray to God and then claim that he had something to do with it and … if by the law of averages they find water, they have the law of averages to thank for their success. And just for fun google “Is water everywhere underground?” and you will get this answer:

In fact, there is a hundred times more water in the ground than is in all the world’s rivers and lakes. Some water underlies the Earth’s surface almost everywhere, beneath hills, mountains, plains, and deserts. … Groundwater is a part of the water cycle. 

This clock might be right more than two times a day! Because under the Earth’s surface it’s pretty much always water time. It’s really not too hard to stumble on to something that is pretty much literally everywhere, is it?

“Work to the Money”

And yet, here is how one of Smith’s neighbors (Peter Ingersol) described Joseph Sr.’s use of a divining rod:

The general employment of the family, was digging for money. I had frequent invitations to join the company, but always declined being one of their number. They used various arguments to induce me to accept of their invitations. I was once ploughing near the house of Joseph Smith, Sen. about noon, he requested me to walk with him a short distance from his house, for the purpose of seeing whether a mineral rod would work in my hand, saying at the same time he was confident it would. As my oxen were eating, and being myself at leisure, I accepted the invitation. — When we arrived near the place at which he thought there was money, he cut a small witch hazle bush and gave me direction how to hold it. He then went off some rods, and told me to say to the rod, “work to the money,” which I did, in an audible voice. He rebuked me severely for speaking it loud, and said it must be spoken in a whisper. This was rare sport for me. While the old man was standing off some rods, throwing himself into various shapes, I told him the rod did not work. He seemed much surprised at this, and said he thought he saw it move in my hand. It was now time for me to return to my labor. On my return, I picked up a small stone and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. Said he, (looking very earnestly) what are you going to do with that stone? Throw it at the birds, I replied. No, said the old man, it is of great worth; and upon this I gave it to him. Now, says he, if you only knew the value there is back of my house (and pointing to a place near) — there, exclaimed he, is one chest of gold and another of silver. He then put the stone which I had given him, into his hat, and stooping forward, he bowed and made sundry maneuvers, quite similar to those of a stool pigeon. At length he took down his hat, and being very much exhausted, said, in a faint voice, “if you knew what I had seen, you would believe.” To see the old man thus try to impose upon me, I confess, rather had a tendency to excite contempt than pity. Yet I thought it best to conceal my feelings, preferring to appear the dupe of my credulity, than to expose myself to his resentment. His son Alvin then went through with the same performance, which was equally disgusting. Another time, the said Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground — we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun. (Mormonism Unvailed, 236).

I grew up in Oregon, and was around farmers all the time; I worked on farms in the summers, drove tractors and combines with my friends every summer, and never heard of one farmer who used divining rods for anything, though I’m sure there must have been some as it is still a part of our culture. This was in the 1970’s. Perhaps in rural Utah it is more prevalent.

It has to be remembered that the apologists are claiming that all these neighbors of the Smith’s are making things up. Ingersol’s account doesn’t sound like neighborhood gossip. And if Ingersol is lying, why would he? The Smith’s were long gone by 1833 and there wasn’t any point to lying or making things up about them. And what about the faithful Mormons that tell similar accounts? This is why many have changed their tune by changing the station from the Hugh Nibley channel.

This video is instructive, as Richard Dawkins invites some Dowsers to prove their ability, and it is amazing what he uncovers. Not that it doesn’t work, we all know it doesn’t, but that those who failed cannot believe it. One man even said that God (who he claims to get the power from) was pulling a joke on him by not allowing him to find the water. This kind of thing was way more prevalent in Colonial America, because people are superstitious and always will be. To me, it really illustrates what Peter Ingersol must have seen in Joseph Smith, Sr.:

Work To The Money (Modern Style)

Is there a modern day equivalent to the treasure hunting that went on in the 18th & 19th centuries? I had to think about that and yes, I think there is one and its called The Lottery. It has all the get rich quick aspects of treasure digging, and people even pray to God to bless them to “win”. At this website, are some of the prayers that they use. As the article explains,

Then there’s this message board poster, who said there’s a “special prayer” that “always works,” and it not only won him $31 million, it won somebody in New Jersey $300 million. But, sorry, nope, can’t share it, “because then you all will be millionaires.” As if that’s a bad thing? He signs off with two tips: “You, have to make sacrifices to the Lord. You must have Faith and have it in your heart. God Bless.”

Kind of like seeing in a peep-stone? It always worked, didn’t it? They just couldn’t get the treasure cause it slipped away. And why share the “special prayer” since everyone would win? Joseph wasn’t teaching people to use peep-stones. Should we now believe that playing the Lottery is a part of lost Apostolic Christianity because so many Christians believe in it? The true way to pay tithing perhaps? Have things really changed that much?

“That money ….is here, now, every dollar of it.”

It was all treasure to the Smith’s, it was all a money making venture. Lucy Smith claimed that she was handed a “breastplate” which was wrapped in cloth, and she later described the experience:

It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal, and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty. It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards, as far as the centre of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers, (for I measured them,) and they had holes in the ends of them, to be convenient in fastening. The whole plate was worth at least five hundred dollars; after I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummim (p. 390)

It seems that Lucy was thinking in terms of monetary gain from the artifacts that her son claimed to have discovered. She was to claim also that the “spectacles” included two “diamonds” that were wrapped in silver wire:

[I] … took the article in my hands and upon after examining it <found> * [* with no covering but a silk handkerchief] that it consisted of 2 smott<ooth> 3 cornered diamonds set in glass and the glass was set in silver bows stones conected with each other in the same way that old fashioned spectacles are made He took them again and left me but did not tell me anything of the record (p. 379)

It begs the question of why these artifacts had to be wrapped up at all. Because it was “instant death” to look at them? Really? What if someone happened to get a glimpse of on of them as Josiah Stowell claimed he did? (More on that below)

And yet there was this breastplate and the “spectacles” were supposed to be attached to it which would enable someone to read the engravings on the plates and “translate” them. But how could they do so if they needed to put the spectacles in a hat? It all makes little sense. Even inthe lost Book of Lehi, a part of which was related to Fayette Lapham by Joseph Smith Sr., it claimed that one must use an animal skin to use the “interpreters”:

After sailing a long time, they [Lehi & Co.] came to land, went on shore, and thence they traveled through boundless forests, until, at length, they came to a country where there were a great many lakes; which country had once been settled by a very large race of men, who were very rich, having a great deal of money. From some unknown cause, this nation had become extinct; “but that money,” said Smith, “is here, now, every dollar of it.” When they, the Jews, first beheld this country, they sent out spies to see what manner of country it was, who reported that the country appeared to have been settled by a very large race of men, and had been, to all appearances, a very rich agricultural and manufacturing nation. They also found something of which they did not know the use, but when they went into the tabernacle, a voice said, “What have you got in your hand, there?” They replied that they did not know, but had come to inquire; when the voice said, “Put it on your face, and put your face in a skin, and you will see what it is.” They did so, and could see everything of the past, present, and future; and it was the same spectacles that Joseph found with the gold plates.

The money was still buried in the Manchester hills, Smith Sr. was sure of it and he was going to get it. The “spectacles” just so happened to have directions for use on the gold plates and it was exactly the same way that Joseph used his peep-stone? Except that was not put back into the Book of Mormon. The account from the Book of Lehi about being able to “see everything of the past, present, and future” is interesting. I had always wondered about why Joseph had dictated the “revelation” on John early in his career as a “seer”, and what better way to show off the power of his stone and to calm those who might have associated it with magic:

A Revelation given to Joseph and Oliver [Cowdery], in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.

Joseph could supposedly “see” into the past and view the parchment that John wrote on. What a neat trick. Notice that Joseph reveals nothing about when it was written or where John hid it.

“Smith’s 1838-39 manuscript history mentioned “two stones in silver bows and these put into a breast plate which constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim deposited with the plates … to prepare them for the purpose of translating the book.” (Marquardt, 2016)

We know that “the Urim and Thummim” is just something that was made up later to make Smith’s peep-stone sound more legitimate. The “ancients” never called such a thing a urim and thummim and the fact is that no one knows what the urim and thummim was. (More on his below) But this was really all about money…

“Addison Austin (1796-1872) testified that Joseph Smith told him he could not see with the stone. At a time when Josiah Stowell Sr. “was digging for money, he, Austin, was in company with said Smith alone, and asked him to tell him honestly whether he could see this money or not. Smith hesitated some time, but finally replied, ‘to be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way to get a living.'” (Marquardt, 2016)

Fayette Lapham would later recall:

This Joseph Smith, Senior, we soon learned, from his own lips, was a firm believer in witchcraft and other supernatural things; and had brought up his family in the same belief. He also believed that there was a vast amount of money buried somewhere in the country; that it would some day be found; that he himself had spent both time and money searching for it, with divining rods, but had not succeeded in finding any, though sure that he eventually would. (pg. 306)

Lucy Harris left an affidavit which explained how her husband Martin joined the Smith “Gold Bible Company” to make money:

Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge, for its effects upon Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me. His whole object was to make money by it. I will give one circumstance in proof of it. One day, while at Peter Harris’ house, I told him he had better leave the company of the Smiths, as their religion was false; to which he replied, if you would let me alone, I could make money by it… (Lucy Harris, 29 November, 1833)

And by 1829 Joseph was penning “revelations” to pressure others into giving their money for his new venture:

And again: I command you, that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God (“Revelation” to Martin Harris, 1829)

Martin Harris did just that, signed over his farm. But he would make no profit from book sales, as this agreement Joseph Smith signed in January, 1830 attests:

I hereby agree that Martin Harris shall have an equal privilege with me & my friends of selling the Book of Mormon of the Edition now printing by Egbert B Grandin until enough of them shall be sold to pay for the printing of the same or moruntil such times as the said Grandin shall be paid for the printing the aforesaid Books or copies ~Joseph Smith Jr., Witness: Oliver H.P. Cowdery

Dan Vogel:

If Harris had in fact held some kind of speculative expectation from the Book of Mormon, the 16 January agreement made it clear to him that he would not reap any profits from the sales; rather, he would only be repaid his $3,000. The profits would go to Joseph Sr. and “friends.” Moreover, the agreement outlined a method of payment requiring that the entire run of 5,000 copies would have to be sold before 25 February 1831 to prevent foreclosure on Harris’s farm.

There is no evidence that Harris ever recouped the money for the initial printing costs of the Book of Mormon.

“He will get the treasure”

Brigham Young would claim that the “treasure” located in the Hill Cumorah, was visible to Luman Walters, but he could not get it, only Joseph Smith could:

I well knew a man who, to get the plates, rode over sixty miles [it was 16 miles] three times the same season they were obtained by Joseph Smith. About the time of their being delivered to Joseph by the angel, the friends of this man sent for him, and informed him that they were going to lose that treasure, though they did not know what it was. The man I refer to was a fortune-teller, necromancer, an astrologer, a soothsayer and possessed as much talent as any man that walked on the American soil, and was one of the wickedest men I ever saw. The last time he went to obtain the treasure he knew sure where it was, but did not know its value. Allow me to tell you that a Baptist deacon and others of Joseph’s neighbors were the very men who sent for this necromancer the last time he went for the treasure. I never heard a man who could swear like that astrologer; he swore scientifically, by rule, by note. To those who love swearing, it was musical to hear him, but not so for me, for I would leave his presence. He would call Joseph everything that was bad and say “I believe he will get the treasure after all”. He did get it and the war commenced directly. When Joseph obtained the treasure, the priests the deacons and religionists of every grade, went hand in hand with the fortune-teller, and with every wicked person, to get it out of his hand, and to accomplish this, a part of them came out and persecuted him. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 180-1, 18 February, 1855).

How is it that Brigham Young recounts so vividly these stories about Luman Walters? Perhaps because of his close association with the Beamans and what they told him about those times? Young does not appear to doubt the stories about treasure digging at all.I also can’t find this account in either of Morris’ publications or in Ashurst-McGee’s thesis, he only mentions Walters a few times and dismisses his connection to the Smith’s as an invention of Abner Cole. I will have more on Luman Walters and Saumel T. Lawrence in the next installment.

“trying to win he faculty of Abrac … to the neglect of all other business”

Before I finish Part II, I would like to address the account of Lucy Smith taken from her Biographical Sketches manuscript. Here is what she wrote about the events leading up to Joseph claiming to see an angel in 1823/24:

We still continued felling timber and clearing land and about this time we began to make preparations for building a house—

In the spring after we moved onto the farm we commenced making Mapel sugar of which we averaged each season 1000 lbs per year

we then began to make preparations for building a house as the Land Agent of whom we [p.323] purchased our farm was dead and we could not make the last payment

we also planted a large orchard and made every possible preparation for ease as when advanced age should deprive us of the ability to make those physical exertions which we were then capable of

Now I shall change my theme for the present but let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor [to build the house] and went <at> trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying ==>> to the neglect of all kinds of buisness <== we never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation but whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remmember the service of & the welfare of our souls.

[Which would have been by trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circled and sooth saying, as they were not Presbyterians yet, and Joseph had had no visions of God or angels]

About this The 3 harvest time had now arrived [circa 1823] since we opened our new farm and all the our sons were actively employed in assisting their Father to cut down the grain and storing it away in order, for winter 

One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truths contained in scripture.

Joseph who never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature.

This After we ceased conversation he went to bed <and was pondering in his mind which of the churches were the true one> an but he had not laid there long till <he saw> a bright <light> entered the room where he lay he looked up and saw an angel of the Lord stood <standing> by him 

The angel spoke I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church there is not a true church on Earth 

[anachronistic] No not one Nor <and> has not been since Peter took the Keys <of the Melchesidec priesthood after the order of God> into the Kingdom of Heaven The churches that are now upon the Earth are all man made churches

[There was no talk of “Melchizedek Priesthood” until the early 1830’s ]

Joseph there is a record for you and you must get it one day get it 

[anachroistic] There is a record for you and Joseph when you have learned to keep the commandments of God but you cannot get it untill you learn to keep the commandments of God <For it is not to get gain>

[If Joseph wasn’t keeping the commandments why did the angel tell him to go and get the record?]

But it is [p.336] to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth

[anachronistic] Now Joseph <or> beware <or> when you go to get the plates your mind will be filld with darkness and all maner of evil will rush into your mind To keep <prevent> you from keeping the commandments of God <that you may not succed in doing his work>

and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars—<of cement> then the angel left him

This is not the story Joseph originally told about finding the treasure hill, he claimed to find the hill with the Chase peep-stone]

The argument, originally made by William Hamblin goes like this (FAIRMORMON)

Critics generally neglect to provide the entire quote from Lucy. Dr. William J. Hamblin notes that there is “an ambiguously phrased statement of Lucy Mack Smith in which she denied that her family was involved in drawing “Magic circles.”

They then quote Hamblin:

Although the phrasing is a bit ambiguous, the matter can easily be resolved by reference to the rest of Lucy’s narrative. Contra Quinn, Lucy Smith’s text provides no other mention of the supposedly “important interest” of magical activities but does deal prominently with their religious and business concerns. If magic activities were such an important part of Joseph Smith’s life and Lucy was speaking of them in a positive sense as “important interests,” why did she not talk about them further in any unambiguous passage?

But she does! FAIRMORMON claims that,

Joseph’s mother also indicated that Joseph was sought out by some, including Josiah Stoal, to use the stone to find hidden valuables. He

came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye

This is obviously important magic activity that Joseph was involved with, (scrying) and she speaks of it in a positive sense. Joseph had not gotten the “spectacles” yet. The “key” would be his peep stone operated by the use of magic.

Joseph & Lucy Mack Smith (circa 1825)

Lucy is relating that the family was clearing timber and planting orchards, and beginning to make preparations to build a house. Then she claims that she was going to change the subject and speak about matters other than manual labor. She begins by asking the “reader” that because she is going to talk about “another topic for a season” that they stopped  with the manual labor and started doing other non manual/business things like “trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles or soothsaying” and therefore neglecting business. She assures her “reader” that the family never let one important interest (Abrac, magic circles, soothsaying) “swallow up every other obligation” but while they were performing the manual labors the family “endeavored to remember the service of and welfare of our souls.”

It appears that Lucy was setting the stage for what happened in 1826 with Josiah Stoal and the two Joseph’s, but obviously Lucy did not want to put that incident in her history, the Stoal insert that FAIRMORMON writes about above was a later emendation to the original manuscript. Why would Lucy want to claim that soothsaying and pursuing other occult activities did not stop them from taking care of business? Perhaps because that is what happened when the two Joseph’s went to Pennsylvania and did not return with the money to pay the mortgage and their land was taken from them. This was obviously a painful incident to Lucy, so she simply skipped over it. Why?

Leading up to this part of her history, Lucy tells a story about going to have tea with some neighbors who mentioned to her that she should have a nice house to live in. Lucy replied,

“I have never prayed for riches <​of this world​> as perhaps you have but I have always desired that God would enable me to use enough wisdom and forbearance in my family to set good precepts [p. [8], bk. 3] & examples before my children …”

She then adds,

“there is none present who have this kind of wea[l]th that have not lately met with a loss of chidren or othe[r] friends (which really was the case) and now as for Mr Mrs. the minister’s lady I ask you how many nights of the week you are kept awake with anxiety about your Sons who are in habitual attendance on the Grog Shop & gambling house— they all said with a melancholly look that showed conviction Mrs. S. you have established the fact <​>reader​> I merely relate this that you may draw a moral therefrom that may be useful to you…”

In leading up to the soothsaying comments, Lucy claims that she never wanted the “riches of this world”. But her husband did, and encouraged their fourth child to follow in his footsteps. Then she makes the comment that the family never let their occult practices get in the way of doing business. It wasn’t a denial, it was trying to downplay its importance in their lives, exactly as it is written by Lucy. She then leaves out the arrest of her son on charges of glass looking. Lucy had gone on and on about how her children were so righteous, so how would it look to be recounting that Joseph had gotten arrested for juggling? This was an aside by Lucy, to claim that the entire family wasn’t doing what the two Joseph’s were doing – not taking care of business. Lucy, who knew that Smith Sr., had accompanied his son to Pennsylvania to dig for treasure, wrote,

Having just made the acquaintance of a couple of gentlemen from Pensylvania who were desirous of purchasing a quantity of wheat which we had Sown on the place this We agreed with them that if they would furnish us with the sum of money requisite for the liquidation of this debt that the wheat should be carried to them the ensueing season in flour Mr <Smith> having made this arrangement sent Hyrum to the new Agent at Canandaguia to inform him that the money should be forthcoming as soon as the 25th of Septem Decber which the Agent said would answer every purpose and agreed to wi retain the land untill that time thus assured that all was safe we gave ourselves no <further> uneasiness about the matter

There was no Alvin to bail out his father with the mortgage as he had been. Smith Sr., had over a year to get up the required funds, yet failed to do so, instead going off on a lark and taking young Jo with him to go money-digging. There was no wheat deal. Lucy then writes,

When the time <had nearly> come that rendered it necessary for my Husband to set out for Pensylvania to get the money Joseph one day called Mr Smith and myself aside and told us that he had felt so lonely ever since Alvin’s death that he had come to the conclusion of getting married…

Except that Smith Sr., was already in Pennsylvania with young Jo! And while they were gone the house was sold to someone that wanted to evict the family out into the cold. (It was winter). If not for their kind Quaker neighbors and most likely the local Presbyterian church they would have had to go back to the small log cabin.

So what do we have here? Lucy having tea with the neighbor ladies and claiming that her children are better than theirs. And what happens? Alvin dies, and her husband continues to obsess over buried treasure and drags his son into it with him. Smith Sr., doesn’t come back with any money, as when Lemuel Durfee bought the farm and let the Smith’s stay they had nothing to pay him with and had to indenture their son Harrison for six months to the new landlord. Lucy chooses to exclude her husband from all his money-digging fanaticism, and downplay their involvement with the occult, claiming that it never got in the way of business when obviously it did.

This idea that Lucy is not saying what she is in reality saying has been making inroads in the Mormon apologist community. Apologist Samuel M. Brown writes,

Lucy sparred with the family’s critics in her brief aside about three “magical” practices. Though she was attempting to deny her family’s involvement in such activities, Lucy’s list of three sample practices provides useful insights into the nature of folk esotericism and its intersections with established religion. That hers was an attempted denial is clear from both close attention to the text and to the third of the practices she listed. The third activity to which Lucy alludes makes quite clear that she was disclaiming involvement in folk rites. “Soothsaying,” a pejorative term for predicting the future or certain forms of supernatural sight, is not a word that a Protestant (or sectarian ex-Protestant) would use to describe her own or her family’s activities. (Samuel M. Brown, Reconsidering Lucy Mack Smith’s Folk Magic Confession)

This is simply wishful thinking. It is easy to understand Lucy’s text and there are other reasons why she would have mentioned their involvement in the occult only briefly and in the way that she did, as I documented above. And the word “soothsayer” is pretty much synonymous with “astrologer”. In their book Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore, by Jane Garry and Hasan El-Shamy they write:

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, soothsayers like astrologers and alchemists were considered scientists, relying on visions and movements of the stars to make their predictions. Paracelsus and his teacher Tritemius were examples of this type of soothsayer (D1712.01, “Astrologer-Magician”). Also at this time, chapbooks and almanacs provided popular prophecies and astrological readings. For example, the prophecies of Nostradamus remain widely known even today. … The so called Warlock of the Glen, for example, divined by peering through a hole in a round white stone (Motif D1712.1, “Soothsayer at work by various means of divination”). 

In 1840 Charles Pickering wrote that “It appears further, that the profession of “astrology and soothsaying” had likewise reached the Hawaiian Islands.” (United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, Volume 9, 93)

Brown’s argument is ludicrous. He writes,

In a Bible-drenched culture like that of early America, soothsaying recalled capital crimes within the Hebrew Bible. Soothsayers included the much-maligned Balaam (Josh. 13:22), so obtuse that he was outclassed (and reprimanded) by his famously garrulous ass; the Philistines (Isa. 2:6), whose mighty giant the mythically powerful first king of united Israel slew with a sling; the courtiers of the Babylonian king whom Daniel put to shame (Dan. 2:27; 4:7; 5:7; 11); or the corrupted state of Israel whom Micah (Micah 5:12) denounced. In the sole explicit New Testament reference, soothsaying was a lucrative sequela of demonic possession (Acts 16:16). Joseph Jr.’s scripture employed biblical citations to confirm the rejection of soothsaying (2 Ne. 12:6 and 3 Ne. 21:16). Simply put, soothsaying is not a category that exists other than as a denunciatory epithet. Even people who might accept “magic” as a self-reference would not accept “soothsaying.” (Brown, op. cited, )

Except, as I mentioned above, astrology and soothsaying went hand in hand and people had no problems buying almanacs and believing in astrological prognostications. And yet, the Book of Daniel condemns the Astrologers along with the Soothsayers as do other prophets in the Bible:

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latterdays. (Daniel 2:27-28)

Brown’s presentism here, (along with his anachronistic insertions) doesn’t serve him or his argument well. (The Book of Mormon didn’t come along until almost seven years after the period Lucy describes, and astrology is condemned far more often than the word “soothsayer” in the Bible. Keith A. Cerniglia documents that:

Ames’ almanac series, firmly rooted in judicial astrology, sold between 50,000 and 60,000 copies annually. A careful review of the sources indicates the scholars have been too hasty to write an obituary for the application of astrology, irrespective of its natural or judicial disposition. Late in the eighteenth century — during which the researchers have sounded the death knell for astrology — women, blacks and foreign-born printers had already made their incursions into the world of almanacs and astrology. This appears to reflect even further diversity in, at the very least, basic exposure of astrology. To use another example, Stephen Row Bradley’s Astronomical Diary of 1775 almost outsold (2,000 copies) the second-largest circulating colonial newspaper of 1770, William Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle (which had 2,500 subscribers).(The American Almanac and the Astrology Factor)

Yes, the Christian churches were denouncing Astrology and Soothsaying, but that did not have as much of an impact as Brown would lead one to believe. The lower classes and superstitious and many of the upper echelon were interested in astrology and those who claimed to be able to foretell the future.

Like with many other things those who were practicing and believed in such things often denounced others who did. As we have learned so far, the folk magic culture was pervasive in 18th and 19th century America and wasn’t part of Christianity though there were many Christians who practiced some kind of folk magic.

End of Pt. 2

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


By Johnny Stephenson & Jeremy Runnells

Introduction

It appears that plural marriage is gospel meat that can only be understood by those who have sufficiently prepared themselves in faith and knowledge. ~Brian Hales

Ok. There you have it. If you don’t have sufficient “faith and knowledge” it appears that you are doomed to misunderstand everything about Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy according to Brian Hales. So for all of you that are not members of the Mormon Church—it appears that you’re just out of luck. No matter what you read or no matter what your comprehension skills; it won’t do you any good because this is “gospel meat” and not meant to be understood by the unworthy. You know, the whole ”pearls before swine” thing.

The desperation of such an argument speaks for itself. So, is there some kind of faith and knowledge meter that can tell a person if they have finally arrived at a place where they can understand Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy—because according to many faithful Mormons, they don’t understand it either.  (Even those who have been in the Church for many, many years). Perhaps they might, if the faithful could only look at the evidence without all the apologetic interpretation of those like Brian Hales, who seem to be the only ones proclaiming that this is hard to understand without some kind of special spiritual “preparation”.

In our estimation anyone who claims that a person cannot understand something without some kind of “preparation” and special “knowledge” has already shown that their conclusions cannot be reached by any reasonable method used by the public at large (like simply reading and evaluating the evidence with common sense).  We understand that there is a difference between faith and understanding, and that one does not necessarily hinge on the other. When it comes to the supernatural, of course some people believe in those things, but that doesn’t preclude anyone from understanding the claims made by those who do. At least we think so and are pretty sure we can show you why.

For example, must a psychiartrist experience schitzophrenia to understand what it is and treat it? Criminal profilers are often very accurate in their assessment and character of who committed crimes, but do they have to be criminals themselves to understand them and give an accurate profile?

What this really means (in our humble estimation) is that apologists like Brian Hales are trying to control the narrative.  (Which it appears he certainly has tried very hard to do, even going so far as to question the friendship of those that do not use the research he pushes on them). But what price must one pay to do so? Embrace hypocrisy and folk tales, folk tales that aren’t even contemporary with the period of time they were supposed to originate in?

For example, we think that one can easily understand (without any special preparation and knowledge) why stories began circulating a decade after Joseph Smith died that he was so repulsed by polygamy and only began to practice it because he was threatened by an angel with a sword who commanded him to do so or die—and this in direct contradiction of all that Smith ever taught about free agency.  We think people get that. It makes Smith look more reluctant to embrace his spiritual wifeism (the correct term used by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and others for what later became plural or celestial marriage) and therefore appear more “prophet-like” in the eyes of his apologists and ardent followers who are understandably uncomfortable with the thought of a Warren Jeffs-like “prophet” as the founder of their religion.

Unfortunately, for those who put their faith in such folktales, there is no evidence that this story was ever related by anyone in the lifetime of Joseph Smith; there are only some late accounts that begin about a decade after he died. This folktale also turns the Mormon God into the Mormon Satan—who wanted to force everyone to do what they were told so they could become “gods”.  This may “prepare” the Mormon base of believers to accept Smith’s teachings and actions about his spiritul wifeism; but it doesn’t do much (in our estimation) for the credibility of those propagating such folk tales.

It doesn’t take special “preparation and knowledge” to understand when there isn’t any evidence and that something is in all likelihood a folk tale. Yet that doesn’t stop some from repeating folklore as if it were reality and denigrating those that don’t agree with the apologetic conclusions they come up with because they think this will take some of the heat off of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

It sure didn’t stop the Church from including this particular folk tale (the angel of death) in one of their Essays recently added to the Gospel Topics page at lds.org.  Of course, the story of the angel and the sword that appears in the new Essay titled “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” was mysteriously transformed into an angel of “encouragement”, and the Essay doesn’t give the reader any references or sources as to why they transform the angel, except a hyperlink to an article by Brian Hales—who is referenced half a dozen times in the Essay and who we suspect wrote or contributed to it.

In the above mentioned Essay it states that this tale is what Joseph Smith “told” some “associates”. It also states that “fragmentary evidence” declares that Smith was first commanded by God to practice polygamy with Fanny Alger, but this would be before Smith (according to his own teachings) had authority to do so.

Welcome folks, to the irrational world of Brian Hales’ polygamy.

This Essay was begun in the summer of 2014 and completed by the Spring of 2015, with further editing and additions made from April, 2015 to January, 2018. Jeremy made a promise to give a response to Brian Hales’ many accusations against him about the information in the CES Letter and elsewhere, and enlisted the aid of Johnny Stephenson in crafting a reply. This reply is filled with media and notes, some of them individual essays in and of themselves and so it took us many years to finish. Here is Part I, and subsequent parts (II-IV) will be published in two week intervals. ~Jeremy Runnells & Johnny Stephenson, August, 2018.

Nauvoo, by David Hyrum Smith

Part I: Sticks and Stones

Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’.  True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions. ~The Christian Recorder, March 1862.

In the ongoing debate over how Joseph Smith’s polygamy is being interpreted by Mormon apologists, historians and critics, we have Brian Hales (josephsmithspolygamy.org) contributing an article on July 15, 2014 sarcastically titled,  “Jeremy Runnells—the New Expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy?”[1]

CLICK to go to CES LETTER

Jeremy Runnells is the author of the CES LETTER, which was published on the internet in April, 2013 after he wrote the original.[2] It included many of his concerns about the Mormon Church, and subsequently went “viral” on the internet.  The letter by Runnells has many Mormon apologists very concerned about its contents and soon after Jeremy published it FAIRMORMON (an organized group of Mormon apologists) wrote a response to Runnells’ concerns in the letter,[3] to which Runnells’ has responded.[4]

It is a section on Polygamy in Jeremy’s response titled Debunking FAIR’s Debunking that Brian Hales addresses in the above mentioned article posted on the Rational Faith’s Blog.[5] Unfortunately, Hales sarcastic attempt to cast doubt on Jeremy’s effort does not really address many of his concerns about Joseph Smith’s polygamy; instead Hales uses this article to attack and try to defame Jeremy Runnells—and promote his website.

Among other things, what is really troubling to us is this reply by Brian Hales in response to a comment about the article he posted at Rational Faiths on July 17, 2014:

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of labels like “apologist” and “anti-Mormon.” I think people resort to labels when they run out of evidence to support their positions. I have invited Jeremy to defend his interpretation of Joseph Smith’s involvement with plural marriage. I don’t expect to change his current convictions (but I wish he would for his sake). I do believe that he and many other writers have used assumptions, misrepresentations, and half-truths to support their claims. The way for everyone to win (even though we will undoubtedly not agree) is for Jeremy and me to use documentation and less rhetoric in explaining and defending out interpretations. That is the challenge.[6]

After publishing the sarcastic response to Runnells on July 15, 2014; and some other comments on July 17, where he states that the way to “win” is to use more documentation and less rhetoric; Mr. Hales took it one step further and published an interesting bit of fiction on his website Blog  (which is sandwiched among all of the apologetics that attempt to defend and prop up the practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith) on July 30, 2014, which is titled:

“’There Began to be Lyings Sent Forth among the People’: The Message of Jeremy Runnells”[7]

Hales also made sure to publish it again (himself) on FAIRMORMON’s Blog,[8] and this he did on August 4, 2014.

So much for more documentation and less rhetoric.  Hales also said he was waiting for a response from Jeremy, but I guess he couldn’t really resist slinging more rhetoric while he waited.

Right off the bat, Hales pumps up the derogatory rhetoric by calling Jeremy names and claiming that his “message” is simply “lyings” send forth from Satan; who Brian Hales seems to think is the puppet master of almost every critic of the Mormon Church. This coming from someone who claims to be a defender of Joseph Smith and is critical of any who conclude the same thing about the Mormon “prophet” (that he is a liar or con-man—though not necessarily a tool of Satan).[9]  All we could think of when we read this was “Did he really just say that?” But Hales did, and he appears to be serious. Hales begins by quoting the Book of Mormon:

And it came to pass that from this time forth [when the star appeared at the birth of Christ] there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen… [10]

Automatically, we have Jeremy’s intent: “to harden hearts” so that “they might not believe.”  But Jeremy was initially asking for answers. It seems that in Hales’ irrational world that this is an agenda inspired by Satan to turn people away from Mormonism.  Hales adds, “The sending forth of “lyings” is not a new phenomenon.” Hales then goes back to Genesis—to Satan and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—as if this is somehow relevant to Jeremy Runnells’ concerns about Smith’s polygamy and other issues.

Of course Hales believes that anyone who is not a good Mormon like he obviously must be, (since he is “qualified” to teach about Joseph Smith by having the Priesthood and a “testimony” of Smith) disqualifies them from writing about Mormonism.[11]  So Hales basic problem with Runnells seems to be that he tells lies from Satan and he isn’t “authorized” to teach.  Hales’ focus here isn’t on the evidence, but seems to be trying to make it appear that Jeremy is some kind of sock puppet of Satan.

Right away, Hales tries to poison the well for any Mormon that might want to read what Runnells is so concerned about by claiming that Jeremy is a liar.

This is the same tactic that Hales and Gregory L. Smith used at the Mormon Interpreter on Grant Palmer, which is documented in Note #1 below, although with a little more subtlety.

Setting down the groundwork for the attack to come, Hales then states:

Recently Jeremy Runnells wrote two articles, “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony” and “Debunking FAIR’s Debunking,” where he outlines his reasons for his current disbelief. I analyzed his statements regarding plural marriage in a short essay entitled “Jeremy Runnells—the New Expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy?” There I examine his primary claims and methodology, of which I am quite critical.[12]

Quite critical? Hales went much farther than being “quite critical”. First, the Letter to a CES Director was not originally an article, though it was eventually expanded and updated from the original.  (Because it was a list of concerns about material Jeremy had gleaned from many different sources). What Hales claims here though, (that he has examined Runnells’ primary claims in “Debunking FAIR”) is not true. Hales simply takes a couple of cheap shots at Runnells by using an example or two from Jeremy’s lengthy treatment of Smith’s polygamy, which he (Hales) then completely bungles with his “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes”.[13]

We will address those treatments by Hales below.  In the comments attached to that Blog Article at Rational Faiths, Hales writes,

In 3 Nephi 1:22 we read: “And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people” and so it seems to be today. That is how I would classify Runnells treatment of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. How can we identify a lie? Perhaps reading the original documents would help.[14]

It was this comment that Hales subsequently turned into a primarily ad hominem attack on his website.

For someone who has claimed to have read “the latest research”, I (Johnny) can say with assurance that in his case, it doesn’t help Hales at all. Why? Because I and others who have also thoroughly studied Smith’s practice of polygamy (like Jeremy Runnells) can show that Hales analysis of the documents is flawed by his determination to misconstrue that evidence in an effort to protect Hales idealistic representation of Joseph Smith.  D. Michael Quinn called what Hales does a “closed system of logic”.[15]

But before I get into that, let’s get back to the lying thing.  How does Hales show/prove that Jeremy is a liar? (Which would be the point, wouldn’t it?) Hales states on his website:

Jeremy Runnells reflects confidence in his interpretations and satisfaction in his aggressive antagonism of the Church and its teachings. He is obviously entitled to his own opinions and to believe whatever voices he chooses to believe. However, it may be possible to see in him and in his actions, a process as old as Adam and as predictable as the sunset turning into the blackness of night.[16]

As we see above, Hales doesn’t show Jeremy to be a liar—he does something worse, he slanders his name with no proof at all. He then likens Jeremy and his concerns about Mormonism “to a process as old as Adam” which he describes with cheap dime store novel rhetoric.  Hales then quotes a Mormon “Authority” to try and give his pulp fiction weight (at least in his mind):

Apostle Neal Maxwell

Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, [sic] except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone. Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, “Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley?” Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.”[17]

It’s all so simple to Hales via Maxwell isn’t it? If you ask for questions and seek answers but do not get them and you are not satisfied and make this known, you are a “tare” who by even questioning the leadership of the Church are now “pointing the finger of scorn”?

Here we have Hales (through Neal Maxwell) claiming that Jeremy Runnells is masquerading as something he is not. First, what is Maxwell getting at here? His whole speech was about what he calls “the harvest from permissiveness”.  About “living ethically without God” and replacing a “just and moral order” with “disorder and confusion”.

Maxwell acts like the Mormon people are the only ones who have ever had the finger of scorn pointed at them.[18] Maxwell’s solution is for members to shut up and play follow the leader (become “like a child”) because no matter what, the “brethren” are right and you are wrong because you dared to ask questions or question their teachings. You are all children and we (the “Lord’s Anointed”) are the adults.[19]

Did Jeremy Runnells proclaim such things? Not at all. What Jeremy did was to write down all of the concerns that he had about the Church from a variety of sources, and then ask for help from a church “authority” to answer them.  What help did Jeremy get from the church? He got none at all, even though he was promised answers.

Maxwell talks about those who criticize the church who no longer believe in it, but if you criticize the history or doctrine of the Church as a believer, you can be disciplined or excommunicated for doing so; something that Jeremy also had questions about in his Letter, but which the Mormon Hierarchy didn’t bother to answer.  Maxwell also says that such people are,

Confrontive, [sic] except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone.[20]

This is one of the most hackneyed apologist lines ever invented and that never seems to get old with them.  And now that Mormon “authorities” have picked it up and are spewing it out to the public in General Conferences, it is one we may never hear the end of. Who can’t leave who alone? When Jeremy’s letter (to his great surprise) went viral, who was it that came after him? FAIRMORMON, and apologists like Daniel C. Peterson and Brian Hales. Hales even says in his ad hominem on Jeremy:

“When lyings gain traction in the media, sometimes due to the efforts of individuals like Jeremy…”[21]

So is this what Brian Hales is concerned about: “Traction in the media”? It seems like it is, because this is the focus of his article. Didn’t Hales say that this was all about the evidence? Instead, he mockingly claims that Jeremy has propped himself up as the new “expert” on polygamy—when Jeremy did nothing of the kind .

Could Brian Hales simply be jealous? He certainly attacks a lot of people that never mention him at all, but do write or speak about polygamy. Does Hales think that he is the expert on polygamy because he printed up some documents that he had a research assistant gather together—to which he added some inane apologetic commentary? Or perhaps Brian and Laura Hales consider themselves the Internet Police when it comes to Joseph Smith’s polygamy?[22]

We don’t make this claim (that their commentary is inanely apologetic) lightly. Many of Hales’ arguments are illogical and incomprehensible, as will be shown below. One of the more ridiculous arguments is self evident in its ridiculousness: that Jeremy Runnells is some kind of Sock Puppet of Satan, and that in response (apparently), God is using Brian C. Hales to expose him to the world.

It seems that Hales only wants to denigrate Jeremy, because all he does is make a few baseless and trivial objections to what Jeremy has written about polygamy in his rebuttal to FAIRMORMON—who he then calls a liar. Hales then leaves it at that, with no credible evidence at all to back up his cowardly attack.  He then directs his audience to go to his website, which promotes his books.

The Hales pattern of behavior is self evident: 1) Set themselves up as the Internet Police regarding Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2) Insert themselves into Polygamy discussions or respond to Blogs and Articles, 3) Shamelessly promote their website and books.

As for those who leave the church but can’t leave it alone, this comment was brought to our attention recently:

“You can leave the church, but you can’t leave it alone.”

What about a kidnapping survivor that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a former gang member that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a mentally and physically abused wife that wants to devote her time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a rape victim that wants to devote her time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a recovering drug addict that wants to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?

What about a cancer survivor or family of someone that has lost their life to cancer and they want to devote their time and efforts to educate and bring awareness to others?[23]

It is obvious that this is exactly what the Mormon Hierarchy and their apologists want: for their critics to simply leave them alone so they can be in control of as much information about the Church as possible. If not, then why would Hales include that quote by Maxwell in a follow up hit piece on Jeremy when it doesn’t apply to his situation at all?

And since many of the critics of Mormonism are Ex-Mormons (including the authors of this article) who understand the Church very well; of course Mormon apologists have to twist their (the Ex-Mormons) experience into something it is not and never was as they accuse them of being obsessed with the Church after they leave it. There is no love here for the “lost sheep” in our opinion; neither is there any real concern over the pain that it must cause to those who do leave the church. All that is swept aside as they are transformed into lying “Anti-Mormon” Agents of Satan. Hales sporadic platitudes of sympathy mean little in the light of these kinds of attacks.

What Maxwell does not do, what these men (Mormon General Authorities) never seem to do, is give a real sympathetic ear to those who continue to have (after getting unsatisfactory or no answers from Mormon leaders at the Ward and Stake level) legitimate problems with the Church’s History and Doctrine. They don’t seem to understand the concept of the “lost sheep”. Instead they produce anonymous Essays (in an effort to do damage control) and spout platitudes like “your questions will all be answered in the next life,” which is really no answer at all.

Jeremy Runnells

This is what happened to Jeremy Runnells, a faithful member of the Church who originally wrote up a 60 page document about all of the doctrinal and historical concerns he had, which he then sent off to an “authority” to answer, pleading for help. Yet, his concerns were ignored.

If after this you leave the Church and talk about your experience, and it becomes viral you may finally get a response, but not from any “authorities”—who seemingly couldn’t care less about you until they have their lackeys drag you into a church court for “apostasy”.

But because the Church dropped the ball and you made it public, you are condemned by the Church’s apologists (because no one in authority will address your concerns) as an “apostate” who can’t leave the Church alone because you felt that you must defend yourself from their attacks! You are then labeled as a liar, because you dared to try and rebut all of the accusations against you and your concerns about the Church by those same pontificating Mormon apologists, chief among them Brian Hales, Kevin Christensen, Stephen O. Smoot and Daniel C. Peterson. They have even devoted a website to attack Jeremy, and are now producing YouTube Videos.

All the while the Church itself washes its hands of the whole affair but then begins posting anonymous essays on their official website dealing with some of the very issues that went viral because of your letter—that they still won’t “officially” answer themselves.

Jeremy Runnells did get a response, but not one made in love and understanding. It was an ugly response that makes one question the very ethics of the Hierarchy of the Mormon Church and those who claim to defend it. At Rational Faiths faithful Brian Hales writes:

Of course Runnells is entitled to his own views, but when individuals attempt to expound and defend a specific historical interpretation before the public, it seems it would be wise to familiarize themselves with the latest research on the topic. Otherwise, they may perpetuate incomplete or deceptive arguments. Such persons should probably expect that their historical reconstruction will be critiqued by scholars who have also studied the same subject. It appears that Runnells’ accounts and criticisms of Joseph Smith’s polygamy reflect important weaknesses. But even more unfortunate is the apparent fact that Runnells is himself unaware of those weaknesses.[24]

Hales makes sure to get this in before he ever starts critiquing any of Runnells’ section on polygamy in their FAIRMORMON rebuttal.  An honest person writing about another person’s work would perhaps have said something like, “Otherwise they may perpetuate incomplete or incorrect arguments.”

Only someone with an agenda to slander someone else would have used the word deceptive, which implies dishonesty.  This would be acceptable if it was true, but we can show that it is not, therefore it is simply slander.

Disbelieving the claims of Joseph Smith (in part because the Church has no answers to very troubling questions) and disapproval of the practice of polygamy (among other things) in Brian Hales irrational world makes one a Sockpuppet of Satan.  But almost everyone has questions and seeks answers. If Brian Hales is so concerned about Jeremy (as he claims), then why go to these lengths to vilify him before he even gets Runnells’ response to his accusations?

Hales is also trying to claim that Jeremy Runnells isn’t using the “correct” method to obtain his answers.  Let’s go back to that quote by Hales again:

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of labels like “apologist” and “anti-Mormon.” I think people resort to labels when they run out of evidence to support their positions. I have invited Jeremy to defend his interpretation of Joseph Smith’s involvement with plural marriage. I don’t expect to change his current convictions (but I wish he would for his sake). I do believe that he and many other writers have used assumptions, misrepresentations, and half-truths to support their claims. The way for everyone to win (even though we will undoubtedly not agree) is for Jeremy and me to use documentation and less rhetoric in explaining and defending out interpretations. That is the challenge.

Is this what Hales did with Jeremy (use documentation to rebut his concerns)? Not really. He personally attacked him and called him a liar and an Agent of Satan.  (And he did so AFTER he made the comment above). So is Brian Hales sincere in his effort to explain and defend his position? We must say given the evidence above he is not, but has already made up his mind about Jeremy and has closed his mind to anything but his own invented narrative.  Notice also the words that Hales uses to describe the “many other writers” that don’t agree with Hales conclusions. They “misrepresent”, which is “the action or offense of giving a false or misleading account of the nature of something.” It’s all about malice with Hales because they don’t agree with him.

That still leaves us with those token rebuttals of Hales, to which we can add information from his website and other published works.  That is where I (Johnny) came in. Not having had much interaction with Jeremy before this, I was troubled when I first heard about and read Hales initial attack on Jeremy and offered my help in crafting a response. It has taken years of intensive research by the both of us to do so.

Hales loves to claim (about others) that they come to their conclusions based on assumptions, misrepresentations and half-truths.  That is quite a claim to try and support—let’s see if he can make that stick to Jeremy and if the evidence supports Hales’ own irrational conclusions.  We’ll let you—the interested readers—decide if Hales has been successful in making his case.

Notes to Part I: Sticks and Stones

[1] Hales’ article may be found here online, accessed October 10, 2014, hereafter cited as Hales, Rational Faiths.

During the first part of October, 2014, Brian Hales along with Gregory L. Smith (another Mormon Apologist) recently co-authored another hit piece—on Grant Palmer, in which they use the same deplorable tactics there as Brian Hales does with Jeremy Runnells.

Hales & Smith claim in this new character assassination article that Palmer has “represented the historical data” both “poorly” and that by advancing factual inaccuracies, quoting sources without establishing their credibility, and that by ignoring contradictory evidences he has manifested superficial research techniques that fail to account for the “latest scholarship” [which would be Hales own of course]. This will sound very familiar after reading what Hales wrote about Jeremy Runnells, Alex Beam and John Dehlin.

To show the ridiculousness of Hales and Smith’s assertions against Palmer, one need only read this quotation below where they describe what they deem a very “problematic issue”:

  1. Factual inaccuracies. For example, on page 8 he speaks of a man, “Benjamin F. Winchester,” but there is no such person. Church history participants included “Benjamin F. Johnson” and “Benjamin Winchester” but no “Benjamin F. Winchester.” This might seem a nitpicky criticism, but it is an example of how poorly Palmer’s essay has been constructed and edited. It also suggests a reliance on secondary sources rather than a consultation of the original documents.

However, at FAIRMORMON Gregory L. Smith makes the same mistake, (online here, but changed by Smith after he was called on it – see my screenshot) and so because of what Brian Hales nitpicks, should we assume that they too have all of the same problems that Hales attributes to Grant Palmer? Hales wants his audience to believe that because Palmer included the middle initial that Van Wagoner used in Mormon Polygamy, he also is simply not reading the primary sources.  I guess Hales isn’t either.

This is simply another one of Hales’ (and Smith’s) many silly strawman arguments which all of his articles and essays are full of. This of course does not negate Winchester’s contributions to Mormon History; but is simply a ploy of Hales and Smith to discredit Palmer before they even assess his article.

We will find Hales using this same tactic with Jeremy Runnells. What is even more ironic, Gregory L. Smith identifies Winchester with the middle initial “F” in a big bold header in this FAIRMORMON Article (not a citation) he posted on their wiki page.  He also uses Benjamin F. Winchester in a footnote that was lifted from Van Wagoner’s work, and since the original source does not have the middle initial, how could Van Wagoner “cite” a person that (according to Hales and Smith) doesn’t exist? (This has since been corrected by Smith).

Hales and Smith also actually tried to accuse Richard Van Wagoner of plagiarism, but when I brought these mistakes up (which they must consider as plagiarism also, right?) in my comments at the Mormon Interpreter, they deleted my comments.  Smith also used the middle initial “F” for Benjamin Winchester on the “Other Accounts” section of “Mormonism and Temples”, (see screenshot above) which has also since been changed.

In fact, Hales himself also uses the middle initial “F” in one of his polygamy articles for The Journal of Mormon History, (Fall 2009) issue. On page 167 he uses the same citation that Grant Palmer does in his article, “Benjamin F. Winchester, “Primitive Mormonism—Personal Narrative of It,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 1889, 2.” 

Hales doesn’t mention any discrepancies there at all, and uses this as a legitimate source quotation. He doesn’t cite Van Wagoner at all, which is where he must have gotten it from, since the original source does not have the middle initial. Must we therefore conclude that Hales also produces poorly constructed essays and relies on secondary sources for his information? Did he then plagiarize this from Van Wagoner? This is silly stuff folks, but part of their irrational world.

For more information see the Discussion, “Grant Palmer is Attacked by Brian Hales and Gregory L. Smith”, at Mormon Discussions,  posted on October 13, 2014, Online here, by grindael/Johnny Stephenson, accessed October 17, 2014.

At the Mormon Interpreter, only one comment by me was approved, but then the response by Gregory L. Smith and my comment were mysteriously deleted the next day. They did not bother to respond to any of my subsequent comments. This is their modus operandi, to smear those who don’t agree with them, and never let their fan base or “believing” audience see them get embarrassed by the evidence that knowledgeable Historians can and do present. My comments and reply by Smith are included in the Mormon Discussions Post from October 13, 2014 mentioned above.

Addendum: Hales also had a Facebook Conversation with Dan Vogel that rose (slightly) above these tactics which to his credit he posted on his website, but Hales still employs ad homenim towards Dan, and continues to use hypocritical tactics with the evidence. We have included and addressed some of these comments in this Essay, and have answered Hales’ last comment to Dan Vogel in Note #30.

[2]  Jeremy Runnells, “CES Letter,” PDF, online here, accessed September 1, 2014, hereafter “Runnells, CES”.

[3] FAIRMORMON, “Criticism of Mormonism,” online  here, accessed September 1, 2014.

[4] Jeremy Runnells, Debunking FAIRMORMON, PDF online here, accessed October 20, 2014, hereafter “Runnells, Deunking.”

[5] Runnells, Debunking, “Polygamy-Polyandry”, online here, accessed October 20, 2014.

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

[7]  Brian Hales, “There Began to be Lyings Sent Forth Among the People—The Message of Jeremy Runnells”, online here, August 14, 2014, hereafter cited as “Hales, Lyings”.

[8] Hales, Lyings, online here, accessed August 14, 2014.

[9] The difference here is that while Hales doesn’t show in any way that Jeremy is a liar; there is definite proof that Joseph Smith was. Also, see Episodes 402-404 at Mormon Stories Podcast, “Brian Hales”, Pt. 1 found here, accessed, October 20, 2014.

[10] 3 Nephi 1:22.

[11]  On July 4, 2014 Cheryl L. Bruno published a response to a letter that Hales wrote to the Editor of the John Whitmer Historical Association on the Worlds Without End Blog. Hales immediately began attacking Cheryl Bruno (another believing Mormon who disagreed with him). One of his comments about her was,

Are we to classify Cheryl Bruno as another webmaster who teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of such voices on the Internet these days. (Cheryl Bruno, “Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor, Worlds Without End, Online here, Accessed, October 20, 2014).

Instead of sticking to the historical issues, which Hales called “pseudo-evidence”, he continued his personal attack on Cheryl Bruno:

Cheryl chastises me saying: “For shame, Brian.” 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). I think many in our audiences would like to know what spirit we seek as we teach. It seems to me that when you label Joseph Smith’s plural marriages as “indiscretions,” you portray him as a false prophet because he plainly disagreed with your assessment (see D&C 132:19-20). You affirm your belief in him but I seem to detect an inconsistency – (ibid., added emphpasis).

This is simply a ploy by Hales to try and jade the audience against those who disagree with him or his views about Joseph Smith. No one was asking this (by the way) if you read the comments. If you don’t uphold Smith and declare him totally innocent in everything he did, then you are a liar and Agent of Satan as Hales claims that Jeremy Runnells is; or that you have no right to teach anything about Smith as Hales directed at Cheryl Bruno.

With all of the erroneous conclusions that Brian Hales makes concerning polygamy, maybe he should evaluate himself as a teacher, but of course that will never happen, he will just produce more and more hit pieces on those who do not agree with him to promote his books and website. I advise Hales to carefully reread Doctrine and Covenants Section 107 and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. But if he is taking his cue from the Mormon Hierarchy in Salt Lake City, it will make little difference.

[12] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. There is a difference between being “quite critical” and blatant ad hominem which seems lost on those like Brian Hales.

[13] In the comments to this article Hales writes,

You are right that in this response I’ve not be able to really talk evidence. That is why I refer people to JosephSmithsPolygamy.ORG. There I have not avoided any topic. They are all there. Maybe give it a look?

It seems that everything that Hales produces is simply a promotion for his books or website. In his response to me about the attacks on Grant Palmer even Gregory L. Smith made a book pitch for Hales:

This is one reason that I recommend Brian’s 3 volumes so highly (and he didn’t pay me to say this!) He presents all the data available, or strives to. He explains how and why he reads it as he does, but even if you completely disagree, you can see how he got there. (Gregory L. Smith, response to grindael, October 14, 2014, since deleted by The Mormon Interpreter, but may be read here, Accessed, October 20, 2014).

Actually, you really can’t see how Hales gets to his conclusions because his speculations are, “ridiculous assertions”, (“The Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polyandry,” 2012, 101) in which one finds “absurdity” (87) and many “fallacies of irrelevant proof”,  among other things, (80, 102, 104) according to Historian D. Michael Quinn.

Michael Quinn produced a massive analysis of Brian Hales’ questionable methodology in 2012 with his rebuttal to Hales’ flawed system of logic and perplexing gaffes in his use of the evidence in his presentations and written work dealing with Smith’s polyandry. He even went so far as to say that Hales consistently used a “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities,” which for Hales, Smith’s life is full of.

The fact that Hales admits that his article targeting Jeremy Runnells really wasn’t about the evidence tells us that he was either too lazy to even try, or that it was so important to smear Jeremy Runnells that he just didn’t care about presenting any evidence to go along with his false accusations—or that he just didn’t have any.  We will let the readers decide.

What is interesting is that in a (now deleted) comment at the Mormon Interpreter, Gregory L. Smith derided me for saying that Grant Palmer was not obligated to include every apologist speculation that disagreed with his conclusions. He claimed that Palmer was then obligated to write a longer article.  He wrote,

If, however, Palmer is going to cite evidence regarding specific episodes that suggest Joseph had sexual dalliances outside of marriage relationships, then he must mention all the evidence which bears on those episodes. If this requires a larger article, so be it–he must either expand the article, or narrow his focus so that he can treat the evidence fairly in the allotted space. The same applies to you. One can’t simply allude to evidence that exists “out there” and consider the job done. I am a bit surprised that this is a point that must be explained. (Gregory L. Smith, comment to grindael, op. cited above in Note #1, added emphasis).

Does Hales do this with Jeremy Runnells? No. Even in his comments he admits that he doesn’t address the evidence but refers them to what is “out there” on his website.  We find this blatant hypocrisy troubling.

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

[15] Using closed systems of logic is one of the tactics of cultists. See for example, Captive Hearts Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships,  Alameda, CA: Hunter House, Inc, Madeleine Landau Tobias, & Janja Lalich, (1994).

[16] Hales, Blog, op. cited.

[17] Neal A. Maxwell, “Becometh As a Child,” Conference Address, April 1996. Online here, accessed October 20, 2014.

[18] This kind of approach reminds us of something that Brigham Young once said, in regard to Mormon persecution,

The accusation brought against the Latter-day Saints was that they tampered with the slaves in Missouri, with the design of setting them free, and because of this the people were driven, and the Lord suffered it. But I ask did the Latter-day Saints ever suffer in Missouri as the Missourians did in the late struggle? No, not a drop in a bucket compared with it. The Missourians have been driven from their houses and hung up, their property confiscated, their women and children murdered, and every conceivable evil has been heaped upon them. Did we ever suffer like that? In very few instances; and it is a shame for the Latter-day Saints ever to talk about suffering. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, 148, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

In other words according to Brigham Young Mormons have never really suffered compared to others and have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. That has not changed.

[19]  In this speech Maxwell cleverly interweaves the stories of Children’s faith in God and then likens that to the membership placing the same faith and trust in Mormon leaders.  He claims that “Because they trusted God as to what was really going on, like Job, they did not charge God foolishly”, and then states that members (like the people in the Book of Mormon) should be “willing to submit to what had been inflicted upon them.” He concludes that “Such submissive stillness is necessary, because the process of consecration is not one of explanation.” (added emphasis)

The concept of the lay membership being no more than “children” that need to be submissive and obey their leaders is nothing new in Mormonism.  In speaking of the Endowment, Catherine Lewis wrote in 1848:

This is called “the Sealing;” the Order of the Celestial Kingdom. In this part, the Twelve are commanded to take a plurality of wives; but lay members are only allowed to take to themselves wives with the consent of the Twelve. Here they seal up men, women and children to eternal life, as they term it. Men with their wives and families are sealed up to the Twelve as children, and are bound by solemn Oaths to obey their Parents (the Twelve) in all things, forever. They never become of age, but are subject to the Apostles, as Christ is to the Father.  At Nauvoo, I repeatedly heard it said, “When we arrive in the wilderness, where the law of the Lord can be executed, then the children who will not obey their parents, will be taken out of the Camp, and stoned to death. Did the people know under what bonds and penalties they brought themselves, by this sealing, very few, if any, but the most vicious and depraved, would consent to be sealed.  But it is wrapt so much in mystery, that many submit to its obligations from motives of curiosity, who afterward view them with abhorrence. I saw the sealing ceremony performed on Kimball’s lawful family, but should not be allowed to see the sealing of his adopted wives or children. (Catherine Lewis, Narrative, pg. 19, added emphasis).

Catherine Lewis is describing the Law of Adoption, which was practiced in the Church from the time of Joseph Smith until Wilford Woodruff discontinued the practice in 1894. A few years earlier in his Temple Lot Testimony, Lorenzo Snow lied that it was ever practiced in the Church. (See Note #176 & #177).

There is also plenty of evidence for the practice of Blood Atonement that was instigated by Young “in the wilderness” which we will discuss later in this Note.

For Hales to use this speech by Maxwell in relation to Jeremy Runnells is puzzling. Maxwell opens his speech with what he terms are the dangers of “Secularism” in America, and that “permissiveness” is opening the door to “awful consequences.” This is a debate that has been going on in America for many decades.  Maxwell quotes a line from one of journalist Peter Marin’s articles which speaks of “Secularism’s Blind Faith.”  But Maxwell completely misses Marin’s conclusion:

“We know now, or ought to know, that men are as ready to kill in God’s absence as they are in his name: that reason, like faith, can lead to murder, that the fanaticism long associated with religion was not born there, but has its roots deeper down in human nature.” (ibid, added emphasis)

One only has to look at the tyrannical reign of Brigham Young in Utah to see the flip side of Secularism’s problems in our day.  What is ironic is that Maxwell quotes Brigham Young in an effort to denounce what Young deemed “popularism” after he (Maxwell) denounces those who he claims “cannot leave the church alone”:

Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley? Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 434). (Maxwell, op. cited).

But if one reads the quote by Young in context it becomes clear what he is really speaking of:

I look at this, and I am satisfied that it will not do for the Lord to make this people popular. Why? Because all hell would want to be in the church. The people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.

Although it is admitted that we are honest, industrious, truthful, virtuous, self-denying, and, as a community, possess every moral excellence, yet we must be looked upon as ignorant and unworthy, and as the offscouring of society, and be hated by the world. What is the reason of this? Christ and Baal can not become friends. When I see this people grow and spread and prosper, I feel that there is more danger than when they are in poverty. Being driven from city to city or into the mountains is nothing compared to the danger of our becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first-class community. I am afraid of only one thing. What is that? That we will not live our religion, and that we will partially slide a little from the path of rectitude, and go part of the way to meet our friends. They say now that if we will only give up the doctrine of plurality of wives, they will admit us as a state, and hail us as “a pet state,” give us the preference to all the states, for our industry and prudence. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, pg. 272, August 16, 1868, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

Yet Brigham Young was one of the richest men in Utah Territory, and collected a $10,000 a year salary from the Church for 30 years. (See, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, 409, April 10, 1878, online here, at the CHL). The Church did renounce polygamy for statehood.

Jeremy Runnells is asking questions about Mormonism, not advocating permissiveness in society. But of course it has always been a penchant for Mormon “authorities” to accuse those who question their leaders as having some kind of spiritual problem.  For example, Marion G. Romney taught that,

“What we get out of general conference is a build-up of our spirits as we listen to those particular principles and practices of the gospel which the Lord inspires the present leadership of the Church to bring to our attention at the time. He knows why he inspired Brother Joseph F. Merrill to give the talk he just gave. He knows why he inspired the other brethren who have talked in this conference to say what they have said. It is our high privilege to hear, through these men, what the Lord would say if he were here. If we do not agree with what they say, it is because we are out of harmony with the Spirit of the Lord.” (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1950, 126-127, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

This is the Mormon doctrine of infallibility in a nutshell. Though there are many citations by apologists that Mormon “prophets” always encourage members to think for themselves, yet, if they do not agree with their “file leaders”, they are the ones with the problem, not the leaders.  Of course there is more leeway with the lower Priesthood leadership, but there is none with the upper hierarchy and thus they are infallible when it comes to doctrine as Joseph Smith claimed when he said “I never told you I was perfect but there is no error in the revelations I have taught,” regardless if he was “righteous” or not, which he claimed he was not.

Although this Ward Teacher’s Message from 1945 was later criticized because of its extreme phrasing, it stands as a testament to the same sentiment echoed above by Marion G. Romney in General Conference:

Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators’ of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostacy. One cannot speak evil of the lord’s annointed… and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and to do their own thinking.”

Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the “prophets, seers, and revelators” of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and retain the Holy Spirit in his heart.

It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it on believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to “do their own thinking.” He specializes in suggesting that our leaders are in error while he plays the blinding rays of apostasy in the eyes of those whom he thus beguiles. What cunning! And to think that some of our members are deceived by this trickery.

The following words of the Prophet Joseph Smith should be memorized by every Latter-day Saint and repeated often enough to insure their never being forgotten:

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 156-157.)

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God. (Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section, 5, May 26, 1945. See also, Improvement Era, June 1945, 345).

This “Message” encapsulates what was proclaimed by every Mormon “authority” up to that time. Yet, what Joseph Smith claimed above, is exactly what he did himself (condemn others and claim that he was a prophet). Do all those that criticize Mormon leaders claim to be “righteous”? Not even Smith claimed that, he said that he was “not very righteous.” But he did claim there were no errors in his “revelations”. When the Ward Teachers Message from 1945 began to be circulated, it embarrassed the leadership of the church and George Albert Smith tried to retract it six months later:

The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

George Albert Smith

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow. (Letter from President George Albert Smith to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945).

If this was not the “true position” of the Church, then why did Marion G. Romney proclaim in General Conference five years later the very same thing? If you do not agree with what they (the leadership) say, it is you who are “out of harmony”.  Notice that Smith only focused on members not doing their own thinking, not that the leaders are infallible. He never rebuts that part of the message.

Actually, Joseph Smith supposedly claimed, and it is included in the new Essays on polygamy published by the church, that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith himself and threatened him with death (this is coercion is it not?) unless Smith began practicing polygamy.  This is hardly the ideal that George Albert Smith speaks of.

How is this allowing someone to be “free to choose or reject that teaching?” Smith also called John Snider on a mission and told him that if he did not go, he would be cut off from the church and damned. (See Note #33) This is definitely coercion, which Joseph also used on many of the women he tried to gain as spiritual “wives” by claiming that he could save them if they “married” him and if they did not they would be damned with their families. (See Note #73 & #44) If they chose to marry someone else and not Smith, they would be “damned”? How is this not coercion?

The bottom line here is that Church “authorities” are always right and if the members do not do what they say, they are wrong.  Though they supposedly teach people to think for themselves, in practice this is not the case, for if you do not agree with the church hierarchy it is because you (not them) are “out of harmony with the Spirit of the Lord” and an “apostate” who will be excommunicated as Rock Waterman and John Dehlin recently were.

You can think for yourself, as long as you agree. If you do not, and voice your disagreement, that is “speaking evil of the Lord’s Anointed,” and you are “out of harmony” once again. What is interesting is that when Spencer Kimball overturned the racist Priesthood Ban on blacks, Bruce R. McConkie wrote,

There are individuals who are out of harmony on this and on plural marriage and on other doctrines, but for all general purposes there has been universal acceptance; and everyone who has been in tune with the Spirit has known that the Lord spoke, and that his mind and his purposes are being manifest to the course the Church is pursuing. (Bruce R. McConkie, Speech delivered to CES Religious Educators Symposium, 18 August 1978, added emphasis).

“Out of harmony with the Spirit” simply means not agreeing with church “authorities” who Marion G. Romney claims all speak by its power and say “what the Lord would say if he were here.” Though cached in stronger language (the thinking has been done) the Ward Teachers Message from 1945 was exactly what Marion G. Romney was teaching five years later in 1950.

All of the people that were “in harmony” with Brigham Young who claimed that the blacks would never be able to be ordained to the Priesthood until all the sons of Abel were ordained were now “out of harmony” (in 1978) if they continued to believe that Young spoke by the “Holy Ghost” and was a bona fide prophet.

This makes no logical sense of course, unless one goes on an apologetic tangent and redefines what constitutes a prophet (in contradiction of what they themselves teach) or make the claim that they are only men and get “revelations” wrong sometimes. (They taught folklore that we don’t know the origin of, is a typical response). Of course, you won’t find the “authorities” admitting to any of this, it is all done anonymously and put up on their website with disclaimers that it is not “official”.

Notice that everyone who agreed with the leadership had “the Spirit”, while those who did not were “out of harmony”. McConkie was still using the same playbook that they used for the Ward Teacher’s Message from 1945 and that Marion Romney used five years later.  Brigham Young summed it up when he claimed:

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

Young claims that as “prophets” they are never wrong. And if the Lord designs Young to lead them astray, well, just follow him to hell! Notice that he claims that it is “the Lord” that would direct Young to lead them astray. The Lord would direct Young to lead them astray from the Lord? This is senseless, but Young simply could not admit that he could ever lead anyone astray.

As for those who would not obey their covenants, there are many statements made by Brigham Young and other “authorities” in his day about the consequences and the blood atonement necessary as payment for doing so.  Here is one example:

 I could refer you to plenty of instances where men, have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil, until our elder brother Jesus Christ raises them up—conquers death, hell, and the grave. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them. The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle’s being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.

This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. Vol. 4, 215-221, February 8, 1857, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

This was also called by Young “cleansing the platter”, and part of this was the making of some men into eunuchs.  This punishment (carried out on Mormon Thomas Lewis) was performed by a Mormon Bishop (Warren Snow) in the same year as the speech above by Brigham Young which culminated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre (1857).

FAIRMORMON of course, instead of using the original source material (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal and the Diary of Samuel Pitchforth ) in the case of Bishop Warren Snow castrating Thomas Lewis, uses an apologetic synopsis  taken from the Master’s Thesis of John A. Peterson.  They don’t even quote the original sources found in Peterson’s thesis. With all the talk about using “original sources”, we think that Brian Hales and Gregory L. Smith would better serve the Mormon community by cleaning up the FAIRMORMON websites before criticizing others about using “secondary sources”.

The actual account of the matter recorded by Wilford Woodruff reads,

2d I spent the day in the office. President Young Called in in the afternoon also George A. Smith. We Conversed upon various subjects. Herd one of G. A. Smith Sermons read. We Conversed upon the subject of the present excitement in the states Concerning mormonism. We then went into the Temple Block to see the form of the first w[ater?] table made of white sandstone.

I then went into the president office & spent the evening. Bishop Blackburn was present. The subject Came up of some persons leaving Provo who had Apostitized. Some thought that Bishop Blackburn & [p.55] President Snow was to blame. Brother Joseph Young presented the thing to presidet Young. But When the Circumstances were told Presidet Brigham Young sustained the Brethren who presided at Provo. He said they had done [      ].

The subjects of Eunuchs came up & Joseph said that He would rather die than to be made a Eunuch. Brigham Said the day would Come when thousands would be made Eunochs in order for them to be saved in the kingdom of God.

The subject of women & Adulterry Came up. Joseph Asked if a woman & man who were married Could Commit Adultery. Brigham said that Joseph said they Could not yet He was satisfied they Could do wrong.

President Young said we Cannot Clens the Platter because the people will not bear it. Joseph. I am willing to have the people Clens the platter if they Can do it in righteousness & Judge righteous Judgment. Brigham. This people never was half as well prepared to execute righteousness as Now.

.I wish there was some people on Earth who Could tell us Just how much Sin we must sustain before we Can chastize the people & correct their errors. The wicked may go to the states & call for troops. I dont think the people will get rich. To come after us they have got a long road to travel. We have either got to Join hands with sin & sinners or we have got to fight them.

The subject of Adultery again Came up. Joseph said a man Cannot Commit Adultery with his wife. So says the revelation on the Patriar[chal?] Marriage. Yet a man Can do rong in having Connexion with his wife at times. Joseph Young said the Ancient Apostle said this. A man should not put away his wife save for the Cause of fornication. If He did they would both Commit Adultery.

L to R: Lorenzo Dow Young, Brigham, Phineas H., Joseph & John Young [13 Sept. 1866]

Brigham Young Said Joseph taught that when a womans affections was entirly weaned from her husband that was Adultery in spirit. Her Affections were [p.56] Adulterated from his. He also said that there was No law in Heaven or on Earth that would Compel a woman to stay with a man either in time or Eternity. This I think is true (but I do not know) that if a man that is a High priest takes a woman & she leaves him & goes to one of a lesser office say the Lesser priesthood or member I think in the resurrection that that High Priest Can Claim her. “Joseph. What if she should not want to go with him? I should not want a woman under those Circumstances.

Brigham. I will tell you what you will find. That all those evil traditions & affections or passions that Haunt the mind in this life will all be done away in the resurrection. You will find then that any man who gets a glory & exaltation will be so beautiful that any woman will be willing to have him if it was right & wharever it is right for the woman to go there she will be willing to go for all those evils will vanish to which we are subject in this life.

I have told the people the truth Just as it is but others will at times get up & tell the people that they will get no heaven ownly what they make in this life and that it will be in the next world as it is in this. Now they do not mean what they say. They do not explain themselves. Hence the people will not understand what is said to them.

Joseph said I wish I knew what my limits were Brigham Your limits are endless & you have not got half way to the [end?] of it yet. Now when I was an Elder I was as willing to Correct an Error in the Brethren as I am now. But the people do not see it so. Now if you should be with the 12 or any body you would have a right to correct an Error as well as with a member but you could not Correct them by cutting them off from the Church because they are over you in the priesthood. Many other remarks were made at the time. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, 54-56, June 1, 1857. The Woodruff Journals are now online here, at the CHL).

Michael Quinn (citing Peterson) writes (The Mormon Hierarchy, Extensions of Power, 251) that in the account above, Joseph Young “disapproved” of castration, yet, Joseph Young only states that “He would rather die than to be made a Eunuch.” This is not approval or disapproval of doing so to others, it is simply a statement that he himself would not like to be made into one.

If one reads the actual quote from the Samuel Pitchforth diary one comes away with an entirely different view of what Joseph Young was talking about as John A. Peterson writes in his Master’s Thesis,

Late in the spring, Joseph Young (Brigham’s brother,) and a few other members of the Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, learned of the incident while visiting the central Utah area. Joseph was incensed and “entirely disaproved” of the action. He mentioned it in Nephi as he returned to Salt Lake City. He furiously declared that he “did not want” that man as a leader that “would shed blood before he was duly commanded.” “Oh how careful men ought to be- in not steping to[o] far” he cautioned the Nephi leadership, “for they might do something that would give them sorrow forever.”  (John A. Peterson, “Warren Stone Snow, A Man In Between : The Biography of a Mormon Defender,” Master’s Thesis, BYU (1985) 114, citing The Diary of Samuel Pitchforth, May 31, 1857).

Peterson then claims that when Joseph Young was in Salt Lake and at the meeting described by Woodruff above, that he was “In a near rage” when he claimed that he would rather die than be made a Eunuch. (ibid.).

First, there is nothing to convey that Joseph Young was in a “near rage” at all at either meeting. And most importantly, Young isn’t saying that he disapproved of the castration, (though he didn’t want to be castrated himself –who would?) he “entirely disapproved” of any man that “would shed blood before he was duly commanded.” To show that this was the thrust of what Joseph Young meant, one simply has to read the minutes recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s Journal.

Peterson very selectively quotes from the Woodruff Journal as he does with the Pitchforth Diary, (which has restricted access at the CHL) so I am relying on his edited transcription.

It is from Pitchforth that we are told that Thomas Lewis was “under arrest and on the way to the City (Salt Lake) to be taken to the penitentiary”. (ibid., 203-204) This still does not stop FAIRMORMON from claiming that “Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary for a sexual crime. He was not attacked simply for desiring a marriage.”  They also make a lot of other points based on Peterson’s apologetic work.

Quinn (per Peterson) writes that Lewis’ transport to the penitentiary was for an “undisclosed sex crime”. (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power, Signature Books, 251). This is also used by FAIRMORMON and others to try and shift the blame for the attack—not on Warren Snow’s jealously of Lewis, but on some “sex crime” committed by Lewis even though Peterson states that there are no records of any kind of crime being committed by Lewis at Nephi, or of any excommunication for such.  (See Peterson, pp. 203-204 where he states that “No minutes of any civil or church trial for Thomas Lewis’ crime have been found.”)

Now, there may have been no records found in Nephi, but there are records of a Church trial in Manti— but not for a sex crime. As John Turner writes:

“Even if Young primarily considered the doctrine [of blood atonement] a prod to repentance, several brutal acts of violence indicated the dangerous nature of his rhetoric. On October 29, 1856, at the height of the reformation in Manti, Thomas Lewis was castrated. Lewis was a Welsh immigrant in his early twenties; a few weeks earlier, he had been excommunicated from the church because he had nearly killed Manti resident John Price with a [p. 259] shovel. More recently, he had threatened to kill his brother-in-law Isaac Vorhees and had been sentenced to five years in prison. While being transported to the penitentiary, according to his mother, Elizabeth Jones, Lewis ‘was taken out of the wagon and a blanket put round his head & . . . like a pig by taking his Testicles clean out & he laid at this place in a dangerous state he was out two nights & part of two days before he was found.’ Manti bishop Warren Snow had ordered her son’s castration. Two later anti-Mormon exposes alleged that Lewis had courted a woman also desired by Bishop Snow, but the incident may also have simply stemmed from Lewis’s violent behavior.[n76]

Elizabeth Jones wrote to Young for an explanation. Young was aware of Lewis’s crimes and punishments, for local leaders had discussed the Price incident with him. According to Jones, Young had authorized her son’s transportation in handcuffs to the Salt Lake penitentiary. Now she asked the church president if her son’s punishment was ‘right and righteous.’ Young responded with a letter that, while expressing sympathy, offered theological justification for the castration by alluding to the concept of blood atonement. ‘I would prefer that any child of mine should lose his life in atonement for his sins than lose eternal salvation,’ he counseled. The following spring, when other church leaders questioned Snow’s judgment, Young defended the bishop. ‘I will tell you,’ Young insisted, ‘that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him.’ Snow kept his bishopric.

Though he condoned it afterward, it is uncertain whether Young had authorized Thomas Lewis’s castration in advance.[n77]” (John Turner, Brigham Young, 258–259).

Notes 76 and 77 on page 463 read as follows:

  1. Excommunication in Manti Ward Record, 5 Oct. 1856, LR 5253 11, CHL; Minutes of Sanpete County Court, 20 Oct. 1856, microfilm at HBLL Family History Library; Jones to BY, 8 Nov. 1856, Box 69, Folder 7, BYP; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage (Hartford, CT: Dustin, Gilman, 1875), 280; MU, 285–286.
  2. BY to Elizabeth Jones, 15 Nov. 1856, Letterpress Copybook 3, page 186a, BYP; WWJ, 2 June 1857, 5:54–55.

It becomes clear why Peterson states that there were no records to be found for any sex crime committed by Lewis, because he was excommunicated for almost killing a man and threatening to kill another.  Lewis’ mother, Elizabeth Jones wrote two letters to Brigham Young in early November about her son’s castration, which are at the Church History Library but are currently restricted.

Young’s response to Elizabeth Jones is troubling because it is about “losing your life in atonement” for sin, which sentence was usually carried out on murderers and those who broke their temple covenants. Castration does not seem to fit this crime. (The one Lewis was actually excommunicated for).

The fact that Lewis did not actually murder anyone may be why Joseph Young told those at Nephi that not waiting to be duly commanded to carry out punishments of this nature might “give them sorrow forever”. Still, Joseph Young was speaking many months after the incident took place, and it is not certain that he knew Brigham Young was already aware of the incident from the letters of Elizabeth Jones. During the meeting held in June, they mention two persons that had left Provo who had “apostatized”, and then Bishop Snow.  This is important because it corroborates an 1859 account by a U. S. soldier. (mentioned below)

Ann Eliza Young wrote about Lewis in her book, Wife No. 19 and claimed that,

Contrary to his [Thomas Lewis] usual habit, he attended a dancing-party one evening at the urgent and repeated entreaties of his friends, and during the evening he was quite attentive to a young lady-friend or his who was present, and with whom he was on terms of greater intimacy than with any other in the company. …It happened that Snow, the Bishop of the ward in which the Lewis family lived, had cast his patriarchal eye on this young girl, and designed her for himself; and he did not relish the idea of seeing another person pay any attention to his future wife. He had a large family already, but he wished to add to it, and he did not choose to be interfered with.

Lewis’s doom was sealed at once; the bewitched Bishop was mad with jealous rage, and he had only to give a hint of his feelings to some of his chosen followers, who were always about, and the sequel was sure. He denounced Lewis in the most emphatic manner, and really succeeded in arousing quite a strong feeling of indignation against him for his presumption in daring to pay even the slightest attention to a lady who was destined to grace a Bishop’s harem.

The closest espinoage was kept upon him by the Bishop’s band of ruffians, and one evening a favorable opportunity presented itself; he was waylaid, and the Bishop’s sentence was carried out, which was to inflict on the boy an injury so brutal and barbarous that no woman’s pen may write the words that describe it.

He lay concealed spot for twenty-four hours, weak and ill, and unable to move. Here his brother found him in an apparently dying state, and took him home to his poor, distracted mother, who nursed him with a breaking heart, until after a long time, when he partially recovered. (Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, 280-81, Online here, accessed November 1, 2014).

Ann Eliza Young does try to paint Lewis as a “quiet, inoffensive fellow”, which he obviously was not, but she gets some other details correct in her account. (See below)

There is other corroborating evidence for this being a case of a Bishop getting revenge.  There is an 1859 diary entry by John Wolcott Phelps, a U. S. Calvary Soldier who later became a Brigadier General, but who was a First Lieutenant during the Mormon War. According to D. Michael Quinn, Phelps wrote that,

…“two youths” fled to the U.S. army camp after being “castrated by Mormons.” One “handsome young Dane” had been courting a girl whom an LDS bishop wanted. To dispose of his rival, the bishop claimed the young man “had committed bestiality and had him castrated.” (John W. Phelps diary, March 28, 1859, cited by Quinn, Extensions of Power, 1997, 255 & 538 n. 195).

Quinn believes that this is a later incident, but in Peterson’s thesis he claims that in the spring of 1859, District Judge John Cradlebaugh began a crusade against any Mormons accused of various crimes and “sought any information that would incriminate any Mormon leader in any way and the Lewis affair… put Warren near the top of the judge’s wanted list.” (ibid., 116).

At the end of March we have John Phelps writing about a Mormon Bishop who had orchestrated the castration of a young man who they claimed had committed bestiality. This same young man had been courting a girl that the Bishop wanted for himself.  It was only a few weeks after this that men showed up at Warren Snow’s door to arrest him and he fled.

It is entirely plausible that First Lieutenant John Phelps was told the story about the Bishop and the castration (since he was near the top of their wanted list at that time) before the men were dispatched to arrest Snow. Also, the meeting recorded by Woodruff in June of 1857 speaks of two persons who had apostatized and left Provo and mentions them in connection with Bishop Snow.

Even FAIRMORMON claims that,

One other event from journals in 1859 reports an unnamed bishop supposedly castrating someone because they wanted to marry their girlfriend. Snow is named by one source in the 1859 account; given Brigham’s reaction to the first event, it seems unlikely that Snow would do the same thing again. His inclusion in an account of the second event may well be due to conflation, which may demonstrate how unusual such events were. It may be that rumor and frontier “urban legend” confused the Snow story with the passage of time.

Judge John Cradlebaugh

This is unlikely because at that time (1859)  Judge John Cradlebaugh was investigating Snow for castrating John Lewis and these appear to be the details of that investigation which were written about at that time.

Again, what sense does it make that Snow would want to castrate Lewis for bestiality or some other crime, when he was already going to the penitentiary for attempted murder?  It makes much more sense that Snow would do so out of revenge to perhaps teach him a lesson or carry out his idea of Mormon justice.

Peterson claims that Warren Snow “railed” that “There is some of our sisters … that will ask those cussed Gentiles to go home & sleep with them.” (Peterson, op. cited, 111). But Lewis was not a “Gentile”, he was a member of the church.  Snow also claimed “that a dagger should be put through both of their hearts,” not that the man should be castrated. (ibid.).

Peterson blames this on violent rhetoric by Mormon “authorities”, and that may be so in this case because Joseph Young claimed that they carried out this punishment without being duly commanded.

Peterson also claims that, “To Warren, who trusted his leaders implicitly, such preaching was more than simple hyperbole”. He also claims that Brigham “tempored” [sic] his teaching” by claiming that such things were for a time “not yet here”. (ibid., 112-113)

When discussing the meeting recorded by Woodruff, Peterson writes:

“Obviously referring to Lewis’ crime, they then discussed sexual sin. Brigham again emphasized his feeling that the time for such severe punishment was still in the future by saying that church leaders could not “Clens the Platter because the people will not bear it.” He expressed his fear that if such penalties were carried out, “the wicked [would]go to the states & call for troops.” But then, making obvious reference to Warren, he said, “I will tell you that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] something that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him.” and perhaps looking at Joseph [Young], he authoritatively added “& we all should.” (ibid.).

Actually, they were not referring to any crime committed by Lewis, they spoke of two people leaving Provo who had “apostatized.” They then discussed the castration (Joseph Young presenting it to Brigham Young) and Young sustained Bishop Snow in his action. They then spoke about Eunuchs. It was only after this that the “subject of adultery came up.”

Peterson then relates that later, Brigham Young wrote a letter to Warren Snow and “affirmed his friendship” and in answer to a letter from Snow to Young about complaints from Ward members stated that Young’s writing an Epistle to the Ward members affirming Snow’s action “would be like pouring water on “a hot Iron,” making only “the more smoke.” “Just let the matter drop,” he told Warren, “and say no more about it, and it will soon die away amongst the people.” (ibid., 114-115) It obviously did not die down, for Joseph Young was told about it, mentioned it in Nephi and then reported the incident to his brother. This was eight months later.

This obvious whitewash of the whole affair by Brigham Young is astounding if (as Young claimed) this was all something that was not any kind of policy in the Church, but was for a future time. And Peterson’s edited version of the minutes of the meeting recorded by Woodruff on June 2, 1857, do not do it justice. Joseph Young also claimed that,

 I am willing to have the people Clens the platter if they Can do it in righteousness & Judge righteous Judgment.  (Woodruff, op. cited)

This is hardly disapproval of castrating people or killing them if they “sin”.

Brigham Young replied,

This people never was half as well prepared to execute righteousness as Now. I will tell you that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him & we all should. I wish there was some people on Earth who Could tell us Just how much Sin we must sustain before we Can chastize the people & correct their errors. (ibid., added emphasis).

Peterson claims that they were speaking of Lewis’ “crime” when they spoke of cleansing the platter, but this was prefaced by a question about adultery between those already married by Joseph Young. To therefore ascribe the remarks to some nameless sex crime committed by Lewis is going beyond the evidence.

Why also, (if this were only hyperbole on Brigham Young’s part) does he ask how much sin they have to sustain before they could chastize the people and correct their errors? Wasn’t this what was being done with the so called hyperbole as Peterson claims? What then does he mean here by chastize?

One also wonders why Brigham Young would only be concerned about someone doing “something  that is not exactly in order” and that attempted murder and castration is “trying to do something right” if blood atonement was not a practice in the church.

What Woodruff’s Minutes convey is that Young felt that the practice was not ready to go to the Church as a whole. It does not mean that it was not being carried out in private and sanctioned by the “authorities”, as polygamy was before it was given to the church. It also makes sense out of Joseph Young’s initial concern that Snow carried out the order without being duly commanded.

It is also interesting that less than a year after the Lewis castration; Hosea Stout recorded another incident that took place,

“Saturday 27 Feb 1858. This evening several persons disguised as Indians entered Henry Jones’ house and dragged him out of bed with a whore and castrated him by a square & close amputation.” (On the Mormon Frontier; The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2, 653).

This was the same M.O. that was used during the Mountain Meadows Massacre. A year later Henry Jones and his mother were murdered.  (Vally Tan, April 19, 1859).

Still, Blood Atonement has been denied as a doctrine of the Church and in the 1990’s the Temple Endowment was changed and the blood Oaths which filled Catherine Lewis with so much loathing and fear (which obviously led her to feel some paranoia) were removed from the ceremony.

In a strange turn of events we find that the mother of Thomas Lewis eventually became one of Brigham Young’s wives:

“For two decades, Elizabeth Jones had endured a tumultuous family life. A woman of some means, she left Wales as the wife of David Thomas Lewis, married Captain Dan Jones shortly after her arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, and then divorced Jones in October 1856. One day after her divorce, her son Thomas Lewis was castrated by an extralegal posse, and Young conveyed to her his approval of the punishment. Elizabeth then married a third husband, whom she also divorced. In the late 1850s, she asked Young to marry her. ‘I belong to you,’ she wrote the church president, adding that he had previously caused her to marry against her wishes. ‘Had you Have acted the right part toward me I should [p. 376] have Been another woman,’ she stated. Young admired the woman many Mormons called the ‘Welsh Queen’; he publicly praised her generosity toward poor emigrants from Wales. He was unwilling to marry her, however, and she eventually returned to Captain Jones. Seven years after Dan Jones’s 1862 death, Young and Elizabeth finally kneeled  together at the Endowment House altar. . .” (Turner, op. cited, 375–376).

Ann Eliza Young in her expose writes that,

But a still greater marvel is, that the mother of Biship Snow’s poor victim still retains her faith in Mormonism, and since the cruel and disgraceful tragedy which deprived her of her son, has been sealed to Brigham Young as one of his wives. It was not pity that moved him to marry her, nor a desire to comfort her and lighten her burdens; but it was because he saw by so doing he could advance his own interests. Mrs. Lewis is never mentioned among his wives, yet he was sealed to her about two years after his marriage to me. Brigham’s matrimonial experiences hardly find a place here, but as Mrs. Lewis’s alliance with the Prophet came about in a way through this tragedy, it may not be out of place even in this chapter on “Blood-Atonement.” (Ann Eliza Young, op. cited, 281-282).

[20] Maxwell, op. cited.

[21] Maxwell, op. cited.

[22] Hales, “Lyings”, op. cited

[23] Attributed to Ryan Robinson.

[24] Hales, “Rational Faiths”, op. cited.

 

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”
Notes

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:

Nauvoo.

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?
A. Well, IT WAS ALL THE SAME.
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

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.

NOTES

[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:

https://mormonitemusings.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/wa-mss-s-1644-susan-cuthbertson-nauvoo-relief-society-application.jpg

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

[End of ADDENDUM]

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

STATE OF ILLINOIS,

HANCOCK COUNTY, Sct.

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

Issued

The following information is written on the back of the subpoena:

>Subpoena

State of Illinois
vs
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
1.B.
(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:

Quote:

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

Joseph Smith & Plural Wife by grindæl

Joseph Smith & Plural Wife