No examination of Mormonism would be complete without a thorough understanding of the controversial and secretive practice of polygamy – it is the Rosetta Stone of Mormonism. For an uninterrupted period of approximately 70 years, polygamy remained an extraordinary and eternal benefit available primarily to elite male leaders. While most Mormons today believe that the New and Everlasting Covenant pertains to eternal marriage and the sealing of families, it relates most directly to polygamy.
Polygamy’s true history remains shrouded in secrecy and a morass of lies, deceit and altered scripture, arguably not the Lord’s work. Polygamy is still actively practiced in LDS temples today; it remains a member in good standing, allowing a man to be eternally sealed to multiple wives, while a woman may have only one man. Even in the recently released LDS Gospel Topics Essay on polygamy, the Church carefully chooses its words when suggesting “…the marriage of one man and one woman is the Lord’s standing law of marriage.” Pay special attention to “standing,” as the Church has never disavowed polygamy as doctrine, only reluctantly prohibiting its practice in stages under increasing threat of property confiscation and destruction under Federal law.
LDS revelation originally located in D&C 101:4 defined marriage very clearly as between one man and one woman. It directly conflicted with D&C 132, which outlines polygamy, so it was quietly removed from scripture years later. This key fact remains largely unknown within the Church and remains unaddressed in Church instruction. Measured against the Church’s own standards and canonized doctrine, Joseph clearly violated numerous conditions presented in D&C 132.
Smith groomed and engaged in sexual relations with various teenage girls, even those under his direct employ and living under his roof. He solicited the wives and daughters of numerous senior leaders and Apostles, and married women already married to other men (polyandry) without their knowledge. Smith’s lies and obfuscations to his wife Emma and the Church are a matter of public record. Despite Joseph’s claim to revelation under threat from an angel with a drawn sword, the practice was inexplicably never openly communicated to the Church or presented for sustaining vote during his lifetime. The practice delivered much suffering and ultimately contributed to Smith’s death.
POLYGAMY IS DOCTRINE
Revelations about polygamy remain in LDS scriptures. The Church today suggests that God commanded plural marriage, even under threat of destruction, while failing to provide further instruction regarding why, how or when to proceed. God apparently remains silent and will not answer any of the modern prophets’ questions regarding the topic.
Despite LDS teachings to the contrary, the Bible does not suggest that God commanded polygamy. The mere mention of a select few powerful men, who possibly never even existed in real life, practicing it in ancient times is not evidence of God commanding it. Perhaps like latter-day men, they just liked having sex with multiple younger women.
“I did hope there was more intelligence among the Latter-day Saints, and a greater understanding of principle than to suppose that any one can be a member of this Church in good standing, and yet reject polygamy. The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord; those to whom I reveal this law and they do not receive it, shall be damned. Now here comes in our consciences. We have either to renounce Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, Book of Covenants, and the whole system of things as taught by the Latter-day Saints, and say that God has not raised up a Church, has not raised up a prophet, has not begun to restore all things as he promised, we are obliged to do this, or else to say, with all our hearts, “Yes, we are polygamists, we believe in the principle, and we are willing to practice it, because God has spoken from the heavens.” (Apostle Orson Hyde, LDS General Conference, Oct 1854)
Learn more: LDS Gospel Topics Polygamy Essay
ORIGINAL LDS MARRIAGE DEFINITION
The Church’s original definition of marriage was canonized in Aug 1835, when W.W. Phelps introduced “Article on Marriage” at General Conference. It clearly identifies marriage as between one man and one woman: “Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” It was verse 4 of section 101 in the 1835 D&C version, becoming section 109 in 1844. Joseph was out of town during the conference, yet he personally worked on the 1844 edition and remained fully aware of the language.
Few members are aware of D&C 101:4 because the Church quietly removed the scripture in 1876, as it directly contradicted Section 132. This episode remains one of the biggies when you hear complaints about altered scripture and documentation…along with the first vision and priesthood restoration. D&C 101:4 was an outright lie from the start, as Smith and other senior Church leaders were already secretly practicing polygamy at that time. The very creation and canonization of this scripture reflects the defensive and hypocritical nature of the leaders during this time. The term ‘Lying for the Lord’ stems from polygamy denials. (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 247)
Origin of D&C 132
D&C Section 132 was first written in 1843 in a form and purpose to be taken to Emma (Joseph’s first and only legal wife) by Hyrum Smith (Joseph’s brother) to convince her of polygamy. Joseph informed Hyrum that he didn’t think it would work, that he knew her better, but it was worth a shot. It did not work. On August 29, 1852, eight years after Joseph’s death and many years after polygamy started, members were belatedly asked to approve Section 132 via common consent to canonize it as scripture.
Section 132 states “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” Verses 15-17 clarify that Mormon marriages will pave the way for members to become gods, while single members will become their servants. The section provides 3 rules for polygamy:
1) additional wives after first are to be virgins
2) they are not to be vowed to other men
3) the polygamist husband is to ask his first wife for permission before adding additional wife.
Even if one successfully embraces the awkward notion of polygamy being ordained of God, one must further reconcile the fact that Joseph undisputedly violated all three of these clear rules. Many of Joseph’s plural wives were not virgins and were already civilly married to other men with whom they remained sexually active. Elaborate steps, even the dressing of one young lady as a man before slipping her quietly into the woods, were taken to ensure that Emma remained unaware of Joseph’s multiple wives. Not only did Joseph often lie, he asked various Church members to lie on polygamy’s behalf. Emma was the 26th wife sealed to Joseph, not even close to the first.
As the New and Everlasting Covenant was gradually morphed from polygamy into the concept of eternal families, so did the notion of sealing power. There is no canonized revelation that requires a temple sealing to be with your family into the eternities. The sealing doctrine was added years later to justify the temples, which originally focused on plural marriages. At the time, elite Church leaders were still using the temples to amass dynastic eternal fiefdoms, even inventing and misusing the “law of adoption” and numerous posthumous sealings.
It is interesting to recognize that Joseph Smith first sealed himself to teenage girls and other men’s wives before finally sealing himself to Emma as wife number 26 years later. Joseph never even bothered to seal his own children or parents during his lifetime. If anything, the concept of eternal sealing was often used as a threat to those who became disenchanted with Mormonism.
Another strange and important consideration is how the LDS Church interprets D&C 110 to mean that Elijah would return to restored the sealing power – only he did not. There is no reference to restoring the sealing power in the Elijah revelation itself; it merely states that Elijah would return “To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers…” This does not mean what the LDS Church now claims it to mean.
Canonized Wife Swapping
Crack open D&C to 132:51 and take a close look at what this most wondrous verse actually says: “I give a commandment unto Emma Smith that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it to prove you all…”
Note that “partake not of that which I commanded you (Joseph) to offer unto her (Emma)” speaks directly to Emma and the removal of a spouse swapping scheme with William (First Presidency counselor) and Jane Law. Given the extreme degree of his philandering, Joseph had offered Emma the ability to pick an additional husband to offset his numerous young wives; she chose William Law. Joseph also wanted Jane Law as his polyandrous wife and repeatedly attempted to seal the deal; but the Laws would not concede. Having failed, the spouse swapping offer was withdrawn from Emma under threat of destruction.
Apparently, God, through brother Joseph, was merely testing Emma’s virtue, “for I did it to prove you all.” Verse 52 reminds Emma to receive “all those that have been given unto Joseph,” while Verse 54 “commands Emma to cleave unto Joseph and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed.”
MormonThink: Joseph Smith Polygamy
EVIDENCE OF POLYGAMY
Such abundant literature exists on this topic that we only briefly touch upon it here, while encouraging the reader to explore further on their own. When Leonard Arrington, LDS Church Historian, was asked what was the most shocking thing he found in the archives, he replied “The most shocking thing I have found was when Joseph Smith propositioned the wives of his colleagues, including Apostles.” With so many gems to choose from, let’s explore just a few interesting episodes which shed light on the practice of polygamy.
Helen Mar Kimball
Helen Kimball is the youth referenced in the LDS Polygamy Essay; the one that Joseph took “several months before her 15th birthday” – because the Church simply cannot admit she was 14 years old. Joseph was 37.
Helen graciously provided a first-hand account of her experience with Joseph and polygamy. As was often the case with other young wives, she explicitly elaborated on the Prophet’s promised blessing of eternal salvation and her tortuous decision to sacrifice her body to “purchase so glorious a reward” for her family and kindred. The Kimball family went on to assume many leadership positions within the Church, with Spencer Kimball becoming a Prophet.
Referring to her father in her autobiographical journal, she recorded that ‘he taught me the principle of celestial marriage, and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seamed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched untill they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrafise, but the Lord required more. I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty four hours after my father introduced to me this principle & asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph, who came next morning & with my parents I heard him teach and explain the principle of Celestial marrage-after which he said to me, “If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation & that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.”‘
‘This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart—when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied “If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say.” She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me.”‘
Sarah Ann Whitney
On Aug 18, 1842, while in hiding to avoid a second arrest for the attempted assassination of Governor Boggs, Smith wrote Newel and Elizabeth Whitney, twice asking them to visit with their 17 year old daughter Sarah, whom he had married just three weeks prior without Emma’s knowledge. “If you three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those which whom I am alien, do love me, now is the time to afford me succor, in the days of exile.” Joseph instructed that “The only thing to be careful of…is to find out when Emma comes… (because) it cannot be safe.” He suggests that the reason for their visit would be to “git the fullness of my blessings sealed upon our heads,” despite the parents having already been sealed just days prior. Joseph further instructed them to “burn this letter as soon as you read it,” and later to keep the marriage secret from their son, whom he feared could cause “serious trouble.”
Three weeks after penning the love letter, Joseph exercised his authority as sole Trustee of Church assets to grant young Sarah a parcel of land for $1,000 ($31,000 in 2017 dollars), owned by the Church, just one block from his own home. It is not known if the land was actually paid for, as 17 year olds weren’t known to have such means. In March 1843, Smith took additional steps to solidify the secret arrangement, providing Sarah a handwritten blessing which assured the salvation of her extended family, provided that she she remain in the Everlasting Covenent – which was polygamy. The following month, as Sarah turned 18 and would be expected to pursue courtship and marriage, Smith arranged a sham wedding between Sarah and Joseph Kingsbury (her brother-in-law) to take her off the market, by promising Kingsbury eternal sealing to his recently deceased wife (Sarah’s sister).
The LDS Church retains in its archives the original letter Smith wrote to Nancy Rigdon, persuading her to marry him. The letter contains the infamous “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.” (Joseph Smith to Miss Nancy Rigdon, 11 April 1842, History of the Church, Vol. 5, pp.134-36)
“The prophet [Joseph Smith] was . . . at odds with his long-time friend and counselor Sidney Rigdon over a reputed polygamous proposal on 9 April, 1842 to Rigdon’s unmarried daughter Nancy. George W. Robinson, a prominent Nauvoo citizen married to another of Rigdon’s daughters, wrote to James A. Bennett, a New York friend to the church, on 22 July 1842, that ‘Smith sent for Miss Rigdon to come to the house of Mrs. [Orson] Hyde, who lived in the under-rooms of the printing- office. . . . According to Robinson, Nancy ‘inquired of the messenger . . . what was wanting, and the only reply was, that Smith wanted to see her.’
Robinson claimed that Smith took her into a room, ‘locked the door, and then stated to her that he had had an affection for her for several years, and wished that she should be his; that the Lord was well pleased with this matter, for he had got a revelation on the subject, and God had given him all the blessings of Jacob, etc., etc., and that there was no sin whatever.’ Robinson reported that Nancy ‘repulsed him and was about to raise the neighbors if he did not unlock the door and let her out’ . . . .
“Nancy’s brother, John, recounting the incident later, remembered that ‘Nancy refused him, saying if she ever got married she would marry a single man or none at all, and took her bonnet and went home, leaving Joseph . . . .’ Nancy withheld details of the situation from her family until a day or two later, when a letter from the prophet was delivered to her by Smith’s personal secretary, Willard Richards. ‘Happiness is the object and design of our existence,’ the letter began. ‘That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right uner another.’ The letter went ont to teach that ‘whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof til long after the events transpire. . . . Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.’
“Nancy showed the prophet’s letter to her father and told him of the incident at the Hyde residence. Rigdon demanded an audience with Smith. George W. Robinson reported that when Smith came to Rigdon’s home, the enraged father asked for an explanation. The prophet ‘attempted to deny it at first,’ Robinson said, ‘and face her down with the lie; but she told the facts with so much earnestness, and the fact of a letter being present, which he had caused to be written to her on the same subject, the day after the attempt made on her virtue,’ that ultimately ‘he could not withstand the testimony; he then and there acknowledged that every word of Miss Rigdon’s testimony was true’ . . . . Much later, John Rigdon elaborated that ‘Nancy was one of those excitable women and she went into the room and said, “Joseph Smith, you are telling that which is not true. You did make such a proposition to me and you know it [crossed out in the original]: ‘The woman who was there said to Nancy, “Are you not afraid to call the Lord’s anointed a cursed liar?” “No,” she replied, “I am not for he does lie and he knows it”]’ . . . .
“Robinson wrote that Smith, after acknowledging the incident, claimed he had propositioned Nancy because he ‘wished to ascertain whether she was virtuous or not, and took that course to learn the facts!’ . . . But the Rigdon family would not accept such an explanation. They were persuaded that the rumors about the prophet’s polygamy doctrine had been confirmed. The issue continued to be a serious source of contention between the two church leaders until Smith’s death in 1844. According to John Rigdon, Sidney told the family that Smith ‘could never be sealed to one of his daughters with his consent as he did not believe in the doctrine’ . . . . Rigdon preferred to keep his difficulties with the prophet private, but John C. Bennet’s detailed disclosures made this impossible. . . .”
(Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, pp. 30-31, 73)
The Walker family arrived in Nauvoo in 1841 with their 10 children. Mrs. Walker died in 1842, leaving the family in dire straights. That same year, despite the large family’s difficulties, Smith sent Mr. Walker on a mission to the Eastern States, while offering to house a number of the oldest children. He said, “My house shall be their house. I will adopt them as my own…place the little ones with some kind friends, and the four eldest shall come to my house and be received and treated as my own children.” Shortly after the father departed the scene, Joseph informed 16 year old Lucy that she was to become his next plural wife. Joseph married Lucy one day after her 17th birthday.
Joseph Smith Polygamy – Lucy Walker
I COULD LOVE THEM ALL
April 1841 – Orson Hyde sent on mission to Jerusalem.
17 January, 1842 – The Nauvoo Stake and Quorum of the Twelve, with Joseph in attendance, are determined not to let Ebenezer Robinson continue to publish books. Unhappy with the publications of the Times and Seasons, owned by Robinson, they had tried unsuccessfully to intimidate him into selling to them.
25 January, 1842 – Joseph delivers a revelation where God tells Ebenezer Robinson to take Marinda Hyde (aka Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde) into his home until her husband, Orson Hyde, returns from his mission. Robinson’s livelihood is derived from Times and Seasons, and his small living quarters is located within the structure. God, through Joseph, tells Marinda to listen to anything which Joseph may teach her.
28 January, 1842 – God reveals to Joseph that the Twelve should take over Times and Seasons while appointing Joseph as Editor.
4 February, 1842 – The following week, Ebenezer is allowed to name his price for the whole establishment, to which he affixes the hefty sum of $6,600. He notes in his ledger that a portion was credited to him for the building of the temple in the book of the law of the Lord and various other credits, so he doesn’t actually receive full payment. Unable to locate any place to move his family, his requests for a little time is rewarded with the threat that if he isn’t out that very night, he would be evicted into the dead of winter. A benefactor next door allows him to move in temporarily.
That night, Apostle Willard Richards moves into the living quarters with Marinda Hyde. Willard Richards is said to have boarded up the windows and stepped outside and shot off his revolvers after dark in some sort of celebration of his new circumstance. Richards’ wife and family were living in Massachusetts at the time.
April 1842 – Joseph polyandrously marries Marinda Nancy Hyde, while she is still living with Willard Richards. (Note: this is the very same Nancy Johnson whom Smith attempted to seduce in March 24, 1832, when she was 16 years old, resulting in his tar and feathering at the hands of the Johnson’s)
April 9, 1842 – During the funeral of Ephraim Marks, Marinda approaches teenage Nancy Rigdon, informing her that Joseph desires to talk with her in private. During the encounter, Smith propositiones Nancy to become his plural wife.
Sunstone – I Could Love Them All
SEXUAL RELATIONS CONFIRMED
The Church denies that Smith fathered any children with his multiple relations, yet sexual relations are documented by multiple sources. Fanny Alger, Joseph’s first affair, “was unable to conceal the consequences of her relation with the prophet,” prompting Emma to kick her out of the house. In total, 13 faithful Latter-Day Saint women who were married to Joseph Smith later swore court affidavits that they had sexual relations with him.
From a purely practical perspective, why would Joseph inflict so much harm upon so many, including his first and only legal wife Emma, by hiding and lying about polygamy if sex was not involved? Further, would God commanded him to steal all those women’s lives away, denying the youngest ones the natural path of courtship and true love, while so often destroying the relationships of those already married to other men?
- Faithful Mormon Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph’s wife “in very deed.” (Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156.)
- In a court affidavit, faithful Mormon Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. (Temple Lot Case, 427)
- Emily Partridge said she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him. (Temple Lot case 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15)
- Smith’s personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith’s first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home.
- William Clayton’s journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106)
- Smith’s secretary William Clayton also recorded a visit to young Almera Johnson on May 16, 1843: “Prest. Joseph and I went to Benjamin Johnsons to sleep.” Johnson himself later noted that on this visit Smith stayed with Almera “as man and wife” and “occupied the same room and bed with my sister, that the previous month he had occupied with the daughter of the late Bishop Partridge as his wife.” Almera Johnson also confirmed her secret marriage to Smith: “I lived with the prophet Joseph as his wife and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin” (Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. See also “The Origin of Plural Marriage, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Deseret News Press, page 70-71.)
- Faithful Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith’s son: “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, “I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.”” (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.)
“In conclusion, though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations.” (In Sacred Loneliness, Todd Compton, p. 15)
TOSSING THE PRESS
On Oct 1843, William Law, Smith’s counselor in First Presidency, failing to bring about a reformation of Church practices in private, confronted Joseph “with his arms around the neck of Smith, tears streaming, pleaded to withdraw practice.” Smith said could not, resulting in William’s resignation from the Presidency. On March 23, 1844, William filed a lawsuit, as polygamy remained illegal. In response, Smith delivered a boastful sermon the following Sunday, claiming that “God knows then that the charges against me are false…what a thing it is for a man to be accused of adultery, of having seven wives (he had 34 wives by then), when I can only find one.” (History of the Church, Vol 6:410-411)
Joseph, through his Church controlled Nauvoo Neighbor newspaper, printed a Voice of Innocence article, supported by Relief Society women, of which Emma was President, disavowing and denying the practice of polygamy. The article has since been proven to be a raft of lies, prompting William Law and others to purchase their own printing press in the Spring of 1844. The Nauvoo Expositor produced only a single issue on June 7, 1844, reaffirming the authors’ belief in the original Church and related scriptures. The article thrust Smith’s long rumored polygamy and surrounding controversies and land speculations into daylight, while proposing fourteen reforms.
Read the Nauvoo Expositor
Smith, as both Mayor of Nauvoo and leader of the militia, ordered the press destroyed as a “public nuisance” and made sure to bless the mob in name of the Lord. After burning the press, 100 men gathered at Smith’s home to hear a boisterous speech – “I would never submit to have another libelous publication…established in this city.”…”I cared not how many papers there were in the city if they would print the truth but would submit to not libel or slander.” The following day, a community gathering occurred at Carthage. Indignant over Mormon lies and ongoing abuses of power within the small community, the crowd resolved to exterminate Mormons. In typical fashion, the Church decried the accusations as vicious, anti-Mormon lies.
On June 12, Smith and 17 others were arrested, but a friendly, local judge acquitted all. Upon his release, Smith declared martial law and rallied the militia. In full dress uniform, Smith delivered another rousing speech before promptly fleeing town. The Federal Government declared that it would send troops, even destroy Nauvoo if needed, to locate Smith if he did not surrender. Smith informed his associates that he would go “as a lamb to the slaughter,” which became an oft repeated false narrative. Smith was killed by angry mob while incarcerated on June 27, 1844.
ONGOING SUPPORT FOR POLYGAMY
Prophets and Apostles for generations took many teenage wives. Brigham Young accumulated over 50 wives, while declaring that “The only men who become Gods, even sons of Gods, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.” (Journal of Discourses Vol 11, p. 269)
Lorenzo Snow took a total of 9 wives, 5 of whom were teenagers ranging in age from 15 – 18. He fathered 42 children, his final wife was 17 when he was 57.
Heber C. Kimball – “I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business… I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece.”(Deseret News, April 22, 1857)
Apostle George Q. Cannon – “It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome, with her arts, sciences and warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded. She was a mono-gamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.”(Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 202)
“Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as is has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake.” (Apostle Heber Kimball, 1st Counselor to Brigham Young)
“Obviously the holy practice of plural marriage will commence again after the second coming…and the ushering in of the millennium.” (Mormon Doctrine,Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, 1966)
It was not common practice for 37 year olds to marry 14 year olds, much less a 78 year old marrying a 16 year old, contrary to what some Mormon apologists attempt to portray.
THE POLYGAMY MANIFESTOS
In 1887, Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act to punish the Church itself, not just individual members. The Act dissolved the Corporation of The Church and directed that all Church property valued in excess of $50,000 be forfeited to the U.S. Government. On Oct 6, 1890, the first polygamy manifesto was accepted at LDS General Conference. Despite the manifesto, formally sanctioned polygamy continued within the Church, with 250 additional plural marriages being consummated, primarily among elite leadership circles.
Facing increased scrutiny on multiple fronts, a second manifesto was issued on April 6, 1904 clarifying an end of polygamy. Despite Wilfrord Woodruff’s receipt of revelation ceasing polygamy, he continued to marry additional plural wives after the second ban. The manifestos came not because of any perceived pain or injury from polygamy, but the desire for Utah statehood and the threat of confiscation of coveted assets, including the temples.
LYING FOR THE LORD
The all-time winning polygamy denial occurred on May 26, 1844, as Smith spoke from pulpit on Sunday, declaring, “Oh what a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” This occurred just prior to Joseph’s death as William Law and other prominent Mormon leaders were forcing polygamy into public light.
Apparently, ends justify means when it comes to lying about polygamy, as evidenced by Apostle John Taylor’s Three Nights public debate with a Protestant Minister C.W. Cleeve in 1850. He boldly and repeatedly denied polygamy, citing D&C 101:4, that very same verse which was later removed from scripture. Taylor was married to 12 women at the time of his lies.
Lest modern prophets be left out of the lying game, President Hinckley, during an interview with Larry King, disingenuously propagated the myth that polygamy was a western migration thing, in sharp contrast to LDS records and documented history. Larry King asked, “First tell me about the Church and polygamy. When it started, it allowed it?” Gordon B. Hinckley replied, “When our people came west they permitted it on a restricted scale.” He further stated that polygamy is not doctrine, which seems disingenuous at best, given that it’s only temporarily suspended while remaining canonized in D&C 132, awaiting faithful Mormons on the other side.
Mormon Bandwagon’s extensive list of Joseph Smith’s polygamy denials
Q: The LDS Gospel Topics Polygamy Essay carefully states how the current one man/one woman practice is the “standing” policy of the Church. Polygamy is irrefutably suspended doctrine, awaiting Mormons on other side. Do you sustain eternal polygamy?
Q: If Smith actually received revelation commanding polygamy, why not declare it to members at some point during his life? Did they not follow his every word; did he not run the entire Church, town and militia? Why not take the high ground instead of continued denials?
Q: The Church often suggests that polygamy was not about sex, but was about helping widows and offering exaltation through Joseph’s line – since no woman can enter the highest order of heaven on her own. If that were remotely the case, why keep it all secret from Emma and the Church, why all the lies and avoidance?
Q: Why were so many women sealed to Smith after his death? Are Mormon women property, conveying dynastic eternal power?
Q: The Church goes far out of its way to claim that no children resulted from Joe’s numerous wives. Is that not also a violation of polygamy’s stated purpose in Section 132?
Q: Do you believe God commanded the already married 37 year old to marry a 14 year old girl, under the pretense of eternal salvation for her family? Similarly, was it ok for Joseph to marry woman already married to another man?
Q: If we can reconcile the previous two questions, how can we justify Joseph doing so without the knowledge or consent of his first wife Emma?
Q: Why didn’t Joseph bother to seal his own family?
Q: How do you feel about how the Church handles difficult questions about its history and current doctrines?
Q: Do you find it oddly coincidental that the revelation to end polygamy came right when the Church was about to forfeit all of its assets to the U.S. government?
- Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman
- Mormon Enigma – Emma Hale Smith, Linda Newell
- LDS Gospel Topics Polygamy Essay
- Mormon Think: A Response to LDS.org Essay
- Introduction to Joseph Smith’s Polygamy
- In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton
- Exploring Mormonism: Polygamy Timeline
- Counterfeit Marriage
- False Witnesses and Lost Credibility
- Mormon Polygamy Documents: A Huge Index
- Joseph Smith’s letter to Whitneys
- Joseph Smith’s letter to Nancy Rigdon – that which is wrong…
- Supplement to Rigdon letter
- Sunstone: I Could Love Them All
- Feminist Mormon Housewives
- Wives of Joseph Smith – full listing with biographies, by a lifelong LDS member
- Mormon Polygamy Documents
- Mormons in Transition: Joseph Smith statement denying polygamy
- Kirk Van Allen, A Revelation of Man, Not God
- Nauvoo Expositor 1844
- List of Joseph Smith’s Wives
- Children of Joseph Smith
- Felons of Faith, BYU Religious Studies Center