the thinker

Polygamy

Polygamy as a doctrine was introduced into the LDS Church by Joseph Smith. The practice continued after Joseph’s death in 1844, and was publicly announced in 1852, five years after the Saints arrived in Utah. Brigham Young was the most visible practitioner having been sealed to 55 women. Sanction of the practice was supposed to officially end with the 1890 Manifesto from Church president Wilford Woodruff.

Overview of LDS position

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise.[1] [2](emphasis added) The Lord sometimes authorizes plural marriage to have more children ("raise up seed"), as He did with Abraham, Isaac, Moses, etc. For this reason, the Lord revealed polygamy to Joseph Smith. The Church currently disavows any practice of polygamy; however, the eternal doctrine of plural marriage is still in place.[3] A man may be sealed to multiple wives, allowing him to have what amounts to a polygamous family in the Celestial Kingdom.

Note: Beginning in 2013 the Church started releasing essays addressing seldom talked about issues in the church. Three of those essays concern polygamy:

MormonThink provides a link to each essay and a response to them.

Overview of Critics' position

Polygamous "marriages" were conducted in secret by Joseph Smith as early as 1833/35 (even though the sealing power wasn't restored until 1836 and D&C 132 outlining the rules of polygamy was not given until 1843) and by a few select members beginning in 1843. Throughout this time, the Church publicly lied that any devout leaders were involved in polygamy. Joseph eventually "married" at least 32 women in addition to Emma Smith, including 7 girls under the age of 18 (the youngest being 14) and at least 11 women who were simultaneously married to other men.[4] If plural marriage is necessary to have more children, then why did Joseph Smith take plural wives who already had husbands and why didn't his plural wives bear him children? If polygamy is still part of LDS doctrine, why does the Church insist that new converts in polygamous families (in countries where it is legal) split up their families before they can be baptized?[5] In direct opposition to Article of Faith 12, the Church broke the laws of the land by practicing polygamy.

For over 180 years the Church did not explicitly teach its members the full truth about many aspects of polygamy. In fact, it seems at times that they purposely obfuscated the truth. Here is an overview of the dearth of Church-produced literature about Joseph Smith and polygamy before the Church published their essays starting in 2013.

References

  1. 1890 Manifesto Introduction.
  2. Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual (2004, pp. 81-85).
  3. D&C 132.
  4. Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo from the Church's Gospel Topics section online. Footnote 24 says, "Careful estimates put the number [of Joseph's wives] between 30 and 40."
  5. "Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" from the Gospel Topics online.

From 2013-14, the LDS Church released three essays concerning polygamy

This page was originally written before the Church released its three essays concerning polygamy. Many of the topics on this page therefore are an attempt to point out information that was not available from Church-published information. (After the release of the essays, some people blamed the members themselves for not knowing more about Joseph Smith's polygamy. MormonThink provides a response to that accusation.) Because the Church now admits some of the things originally written on this page in their essays, some of the topics here are no longer as important as they were before, but we are keeping much of that information here anyhow. For the latest from the Church and MormonThink's responses, see:

Joseph and His Many Wives
Click on the image for the full version. Image provided by Mormon Infographics.

Contents for this page

Member beliefs

Polygamy was illegal

Contradicts 12th Article of Faith

More women than men?

LDS scriptures condemn polygamy

Started by Joseph not Brigham

Joseph married other men's wives

JS consummate his poly marriages?

Joseph married 14-year-old girls

Joseph lied about practicing polygamy

Church denied polygamy/JS practiced it

Church continued polygamy after 1890

The Reed Smoot hearings

Quotes from the prophets

Polygamy a doctrine of the Church?

Polygamy practiced in next life?

Is polygamy essential for salvation?

How many practiced polygamy?

Parley p. Pratt and polygamy

Were polygamous wives happy?

What about the children?

Circumstances of Joseph's death

Joseph said polygamy was a mistake?

Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists?

Heavenly Father practice polygamy?

Some LDS adopt other views

Why didn't angel visit Emma?

Mitt Romney and Polygamy

Polygamy stories

Interpreting polygamy - essay

Responses by the LDS church

Ending summary by critics

Editor Comments

Links

Member beliefs

The majority of Latter-day Saints know the LDS Church practiced polygamy in the 1800s. Although it's not mentioned in missionary discussions, most North American nonmembers are also aware of it since it's taught in American History classes throughout the USA.

The reasons most commonly given by members (even if not published in Church lesson manuals) to justify polygamy are:

  1. There were more women than men in the 1800s and polygamy provided a way for women, particularly widows, to have the benefits of a husband.
  2. Polygamy was not practiced until after the Saints started immigrating to Utah, and done so that women, whose husbands had died from the exertions of the trek, could be taken care of.
  3. Polygamy was not illegal in the 1800s and was not in violation of U.S. law or against the 12th article of faith, which supports obeying the laws of the land.
  4. Polygamy was an acceptable way to rapidly increase the Church membership.
  5. It was the restoration of a Biblical practice.
  6. Polygamy was commanded from God.

In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation that the leaders of the Church should cease teaching the practice of plural marriage so it would not be in violation of the laws of the land. It was ended then and not practiced since. Ending polygamy also helped Utah become a state.

Until recently, for some reason, perhaps half of the LDS membership believed that polygamy started with Brigham Young and not Joseph Smith. (From anecdotal information, there is still a large number of members believing this.)

Links recording official Church teachings concerning polygamy:

Editor's Response

Some apologists say that the above points are not officially taught in Church through lesson manuals. They blame the members for believing this. However, these things have been taught in Church, whether officially or not. The writers of this section heard all of the above in Gospel Doctrine and Sunday School classes since childhood. If you ask the average members, they may state many of the same things as what they believe, regardless of whether or not they are in current lesson manuals.

These beliefs are not just relegated to teachings of naive Sunday School teachers decades ago. In 2012, during the Romney campaign, my ward had a combined Priesthood/Relief Society session where stake leaders went over how the Church was perceived by the media and how we could combat the negative perceptions. A regional "media expert" handed out a pamphlet that described ways to address a handful of sensitive topics. It proposed that one reason for Polygamy was that the Church needed to increase it's membership rapidly as it's members were being persecuted. Clearly misinformation is still taught as truth and without clear, consistent correction from the highest leadership, members perpetuate it.

This is an understandable consequence given the Church's reluctance to discuss unflattering issues like polygamy and denying blacks the priesthood in any sort of detail in Church lessons. It is also disingenuous of apologists to act as if there's no reason for members to believe these things when they were clearly taught them in church. See MormonThink's response to those who believe it's the members' fault for not knowing more about Joseph Smith's polygamy.

Polygamy was illegal

Mormon Polygamysts
Click on image for full picture and more information.

Polygamists in striped prison uniforms, including George Q. Cannon (center with cane), William Gimbert Saunders (second from right), and William Morley Black (right of Cannon with white beard). These men were also known as "Prisoners of Conscience."

Why were these people, including First Presidency counselor George Q. Cannon in prison for practicing polygamy? Because polygamy was illegal.

Note: the photo is from an LDS supplementary lesson manual titled 'My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth: Readings In Church History', 1979. Pages 53-60 deal with polygamy.

Mormon Polygamy: Wanted Poster
Mormon Polygamy: Wanted Poster

Why were these wanted posters made for the LDS leaders of the Church? Because polygamy was illegal.

Polygamy was always illegal whenever and wherever the Mormons practiced it. It was even illegal in Canada and Mexico as they only recognize marriages that are legal in the person's home country. John Taylor, the third president of the church, claimed that he believed in keeping all the laws of the United States "except one"…the law in relation to polygamy." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 317)

Most of Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages occurred in Illinois in the early 1840s. The Illinois Anti-bigamy Law, enacted February 12th, 1833, clearly stated that polygamy was illegal. It reads:

Sec 121. Bigamy consists in the having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive. If any person or persons within this State, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, the person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the penitentiary, not exceeding two years. It shall not be necessary to prove either of the said marriages by the register or certificate thereof, or other record evidence; but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible to prove a marriage in other cases, and when such second marriage shall have taken place without this state, cohabitation in this state after such second marriage shall be deemed the commission of the crime of bigamy, and the trial in such case may take place in the county where such cohabitation shall have occurred.

Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, pp. 198-99

The Revised Laws of Illinois
click on image for full size

Mormon polygamy was never legal, at any time—not even in the Utah Territory from 1847 to 1890

The entire following section is from Rethinking Mormonism.

Marriage is a legal contract between one man and one woman. There has never been a law enacted to allow otherwise. All the married Mormons who immigrated to Utah in 1847 had been married under the civil laws of their respective states; each one of those states had laws against bigamy, thus making monogamy the "common law."

The very reason Brigham Young chose to move to Utah, rather than Oregon, California, or Texas, as others suggested, was because Utah was an uninhabited "no man's land". However, the area was legally Mexican territory and polygamy was illegal in Mexico.

In the United States, marriage is a legal contract regulated by the various states. When the Mormons went to Utah in 1847, all married Mormons at that time had been married under laws of the states they had come from. Utah became U.S. territory in 1848 after the Mexican War, and thus all citizens living therein became subject to the common laws of the nation, including marriage laws. (To use an analogy, you get your drivers' license from your state, but it is recognized as being legal in all the states. Marriage licenses are similar.)

Once in Utah, Young attempted to establish the "Territory of Deseret," and operate the area as a theocracy, under the "Law of the Lord," which included plural marriage and blood atonement. However, Congress rejected Young's attempt, and in 1850, the area was officially established as Utah Territory, with territorial overseers appointed from Washington D.C. President Millard Fillmore appointed Young as governor. Thus, polygamy became specifically illegal under U. S. common laws in 1850; but, since polygamy was also illegal under Mexican laws beforehand, there was never a time when polygamy was legal in Utah.

The 1862 federal Morrill Act was not the first law which made bigamy illegal; it was merely the first law which specifically reinforced existing state anti-bigamy laws. It was enacted specifically to close the "loophole" that the Mormons mistakenly believed they were operating under.

Even after the passage of the 1862 Morrill Act, the Mormon Church continued to practice polygamy in violation of the law for another half-century, and repeatedly challenged those laws. So anyone who argues that "The Mormons stopped practicing polygamy when it was made illegal" is either misinformed or misrepresenting the truth.

The final nail in the coffin which demonstrates polygamy's illegality was when Ann Eliza Webb filed for "divorce" from Brigham Young and sued him for alimony in 1877. Young successfully argued that their relationship was "an ecclesiastical affair, not a legal one," and the judge rightly ruled that since there was never any legal marriage, Webb could not file for divorce nor seek alimony.

Since Young himself admitted that his own "plural marriages" were not legal marriages, that means that no other Mormon "plural marriage" at any time was a legal marriage either. No legal marriage licenses were ever applied for nor granted, and every single child born of Mormon "plural marriages" was illegitimate - i.e. not born in a legal marriage.

All of the federal laws enacted against Mormon polygamy from 1862 to 1879 merely served to force the Mormons to comply with existing common laws. But the fact that those additional laws were enacted does not mean that Mormon polygamous marriages were ever legal in the first place.

In 1878, the United States Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Mormon under the federal statute prohibiting bigamy against a challenge that, among other things, the statute infringed on the first amendment right to freedom of religion.

In so doing, the Court noted that polygamy had "always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people."

The Church's efforts to deceive the U.S. government

The entire following section is from Salt Lake City Messenger #66 with minor edits.

The Mormons did everything they could to escape the federal deputies. Kimball Young gives this information:

In addition to false names, disguises, and ruses, a whole system of information gathering, signaling, and spotting informers was developed. For example, the church authorities would pass the word down to the smaller communities of movements of federal deputies out of Salt Lake City in the direction of any particular town.

Isn't One Wife Enough? by Kimball Young, p. 396.

Wilford Woodruff, who became the 4th president of the church, had an armed guard to protect him. In a letter written in 1887, Woodruff wrote:

I have a large stout man who goes with me every ____ [where?] night and day [he] carries 2 pistols & a double barrel shot gun and sayes he will shoot the marshals if they come to take me (Dont tell anybody this) so I am ____ well garded….

Letter from Wilford Woodruff to Miss Nellie Atkin, dated Sept. 3, 1887, microfilm copy of the original

By 1890 the church leaders were using bribery to prevent the government from arresting them. Under the dates of October 17 and 18, 1890, Apostle Abraham H. Cannon recorded the following in his journal:

Oct. 17, 1890: Uncle David [Cannon] came in about noon and told me that he had just had a conversation with Lindsey Sprague, a deputy marshal, who told him that there were papers out for my arrest, but it was not the intention to serve them until my family were located and where they could be captured. I got Chas. H. Wilcken to investigate the matter for me and he learned that it was indeed a fact that a warrant was issued and in Doyle's hands for my arrest. I therefore kept in my room all the afternoon.

Oct. 18, 1890: Is…pent some time at my room until Bro. Wilcken came and informed me that he had bought Doyle off and had got his promise that I should not be molested, nor should any other person without sufficient notice being given for them to escape, and to get witnesses out of the way. He gave Bro. Wilcken the names of some 51 persons whose arrest he intended to try and effect on a trip he and another deputy intend to undertake today, through Utah and Emery counties. A messenger was therefore despatched to give these people warning. Thus with a little money a channel of communication is kept open between the government offices and the suffering and persecuted Church members.

Candid Insights of a Mormon Apostle: The Diaries of Abraham H. Cannon, 1889-1895 (Signature Books).

Critic's point:Only people performing illegal acts need to go to such lengths to avoid the law.

The Church's 1835 Book of Commandments refers to polygamy as a crime

In the same year that Smith began his involvement with polygamy by "marrying" Fanny Alger, the Church published the Book of Commandments (the predecessor of the Doctrine & Covenants) which contained the following statement:

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

Statement on Marriage, 17 August 1835, Section CI, p. 251, Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers

This statement was affirmed as canonized doctrine in August 1835 in a vote by the Church's General Assembly. This statement continued to appear in subsequent publications of the Doctrine & Covenants until well after Smith's death in 1844.

Times and Seasons (LDS-owned newspaper):

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the "dreadful splendor" of "spiritual wifery," which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney's revelation, just because he wanted "to go to Pittsburg and live." Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully 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 was ever tolerated in the church, and they know it

Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 715, November 15, 1844.

2014 Church essay on polygamy acknowledges it was illegal

An essay on Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo was added on 22 October 2014 to the Topical Guide of the LDS website. The essay focuses on the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith. In the 3rd paragraph under "The Beginnings of Plural Marriage in the Church" excerpt:

In Joseph Smith's time, monogamy was the only legal form of marriage in the United States.

Note: The author of the LDS essay seeks to soften the tone by saying that monogamy was the only legal form of marriage instead of simply saying the more to-the-point "polygamy was illegal in the United States." Also, by specifically identifying the "United States," this gives the impression that polygamy was legal in other nearby countries like Mexico & Canada which is where a lot of early Saints fled to escape the laws of the U.S. However, polygamy was also illegal in Mexico & Canada.

References

Polygamy contradicts the 12th Article of Faith

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

The 12th Article of Faith, was written by the Prophet Joseph Smith in a letter sent to a Mr. Wentworth and published in the Times and Seasons in March 1842.

As was pointed out in the last section, polygamy was against the law of the land and the Church leaders of the time knew it. How is it that the Church can claim that one of their founding principles is to obey the laws of the land when they were systematically breaking the law?

Gordon B. Hinckley said, in regard to fundamentalist break-offs practicing polygamy today (emphasis added):

I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.

If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, 'We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law' [Articles of Faith 1:12]. One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.

"What Are People Asking about Us?" President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 1998 General Conference.

In an interview with Larry King, President Hinckley states that polygamy is in opposition to the Twelfth Article of Faith, and that it is not a doctrine of the LDS Church. (see below for the quote in context)

If President Hinckley can condemn people practicing polygamy today because it is against civil laws then how can they justify the early LDS leaders who practiced polygamy in the 1800s when it was also against civil law?

Were there more women than men?

One common justification that many Mormons have given for polygamy was that there were more women than men, and the women needed husbands in the harsh West to survive. This is simply not true. Population statistics for Utah from 1850 to 1950 show that there were always more men than women (Caucasian only):

Women to Men Ratios
Year Male Female
1850 6,020 5,310
1860 20,178 19,947
1870 43,451 42,503
1880 73,477 68,946
1890 108,943 96,982
1900 138,923 133,542
1910 192,118 174,465
1920 227,232 214,669
1930 255,284 244,683
1940 274,587 268,333
1950 341,007 335,902

"Table 5, Population of Utah by Race and Sex 1850 - 1970,"

Faithful Mormon apologist John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, debunked the more-women-than-men myth, but many members continue to use it.

Plural marriage has been a subject of wide and frequent comment. Members of the Church unfamiliar with its history, and many non-members, have set up fallacious reasons for the origin of this system of marriage among the Latter-day Saints.

The most common of these conjectures is that the Church, through plural marriage, sought to provide husbands for its large surplus of female members. The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seem always to have been more males than females in the Church. Families—father, mother, and children—have most commonly joined the Church. Of course, many single women have become converts, but also many single men.

The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey the usual population law—a slight excess of males. Orson Pratt, writing in 1853 from direct knowledge of Utah conditions, when the excess of females was supposedly the highest, declares against the opinion that females outnumbered the males in Utah. (The Seer, p. 110) The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence.

The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence…

Another conjecture is that the people were few in number and that the Church, desiring greater numbers, permitted the practice so that a phenomenal increase in population could be attained. This is not defensible, since there was no surplus of women…

Evidences and Reconciliations, John A. Widtsoe (Bookcraft, 1943) pp. 307-310.

An example from the U.S. Census records, which Elder Widtsoe referred to, indicates that in 1840 there were 5,169 males and 4,762 females in Hancock County, Illinois (Nauvoo being the primary population center). Counting just those persons between the ages of 15 and 40, there were 2,067 men and 1,828 women. 1850 Census information for Utah records 6,020 males and 5,310 females.

To Increase the membership of the Church rapidly?

A related justification for polygamy is that polygamy was an effective way to rapidly increase the membership of the Church. However, a group of women can have far more children if they each have their own husband instead of sharing one man. For example, Brigham Young reportedly had only 57 children by some 29 child-bearing wives (out of the 55 total women he married). If each of those women had their own husbands they may have had 100 or more children in total.

An essay on Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah was added on 17 December 2013 in the Topical Guide of the LDS website. The essay focuses on polygamy between 1847 and 1890 (after Joseph Smith). Footnote #6 in that essay states in part:

Studies have shown that monogamous women bore more children per wife than did polygamous wives except the first.

This admission is interesting as it seems to counter what the Church said in their other essay on :

Years later in Utah, participants in Nauvoo plural marriage discussed their motives for entering into the practice. God declared in the Book of Mormon that monogamy was the standard; at times, however, He commanded plural marriage so His people could "raise up seed unto [Him]." [Jacob 2:30] Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents.

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo" in the section titled, "Trial and Spiritual Witness." (emphasis added)

The problem with the above quote is that it has footnote 45 which says to see footnote 6 of the essay "Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah" which we have referenced above. So what is it: "Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents" or "Studies have shown that monogamous women bore more children per wife than did polygamous wives except the first."

References

LDS scriptures condemn polygamy…sort of

The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (called the Book of Commandments, 1835) included a section denying any practice of polygamy:

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

Statement on Marriage, 17 August 1835, Section CI, p. 251, Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers

The Doctrine and Covenants replaced the Book of Commandments in 1835, and this statement on polygamy was in every single edition until 1876, when the Doctrine and Covenants first included section 132 justifying plural marriage. It would have been contradictory to have one section condemning polygamy and another approving of it in the same book so the section condemning polygamy was removed from the Doctrine and Covenants.

The Book of Mormon also contains contradictory statements regarding polygamy:

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; for I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

Jacob 2:27-30 (emphasis added)

Polygamy was started by Joseph Smith not Brigham Young

That fact that Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy in the early days of the Church is well known. What a lot of people don't know, though, is that polygamy was first practiced by Joseph Smith and not Brigham Young. Joseph was secretive about his practice of polygamy, even lying about it. By the time the Saints went to Utah, the Church was more open about, with Brigham Young officially announcing it in 1852.

Church-published media almost never mention Joseph's polygamy. There are some references to the other prophet's plural marriages but not for Joseph. By rarely mentioning Joseph's polygamous marriages, many church members, especially converts, often don't realize how involved Joseph was. (See "MormonThink provides a response to those who say members should have known more about Joseph Smith's polygamy."

It seems that it would lend greater credibility to the practice of polygamy if it was plainly taught that Joseph introduced and practiced polygamy since Joseph is the most revered of the Latter-day prophets. but the Church doesn't seem to see it that way.

Additionally, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (RLDS) (now called Community of Christ) rejected polygamy and believed until recently that Joseph never practiced polygamy—they believed it started with Brigham Young as well. Eventually the RLDS church accepted the work of LDS and RLDS historians and acknowledged that Joseph had indeed practiced polygamy. Finding this out was the catalyst for the split in the RLDS church between those that held on to the original concept of a divinely established church and those that now believe that Joseph was merely inspired and that the Book of Mormon is not historical.

Denial of Joseph's involvement in polygamy was reinforced by Emma Smith (Joseph's first wife). Emma purposely lied to her children and told them that their father did not practice polygamy. She wanted to spare her children the pain of knowing the truth. She said:

No such thing as polygamy, or spiritual wifery, was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of…He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have.

History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, volume 3, pp. 355–56.

Joseph commanded to practice polygamy by an angel

The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.

Prophet Joseph Smith said this to Dennison Lott Harris (nephew of Martin Harris) who later told it to Horace Cummings who published it in "Conspiracy of Nauvoo," Contributor, Vol. V, No. 7 (April, 1884) p. 259.

Brian Hales compiled a list of accounts of polygamy being encouraged by an angel with a sword:

The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword
Account by (year) Quote Source
Joseph Lee Robinson (circa 1853) The Lord instead of releasing [Joseph Smith] from that burden, he sent an holy angel with a drawn sword unto him, saying unto him, Joseph, unless you go to and immediately teach that principle (namely polygamy or plural marriage) and put the same in practice, that he, Joseph, should be slain for thus saith the Lord, that the time has now come that I will raise up seed unto me as I spoke by my servant Jacob as is recorded in the Book of Mormon, therefore, I command my people. Dr. Oliver Preston Robinson. ed., The Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson, Mormon Pioneer , p. 44.
Lorenzo Snow (1869) He [Joseph Smith] said that the Lord had revealed [the doctrine of the plurality of wives] unto him and commanded him to have women sealed to him as wives, that he foresaw the trouble that would follow and sought to turn away from the commandment, that an angel from heaven appeared before him with a drawn sword, threatening him with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment. Affidavit of President Lorenzo Snow, 28 August 1869, found in Blood atonement and the origin of plural marriage : a discussion by Joseph Fielding Smith, The Deseret News Press: Salt Lake City, Utah, 1905), p. 67. [This may have been mis-identified as Joseph F. Smith's 18 August 1869 affidavit in Hale's Appendix.]
Lorenzo Snow (1892) [Joseph Smith] explained to me the principles of plural marriage distinctly and clearly, and told me that the Lord had revealed the principle and had commanded him to enter into that practice. And that he had received a revelation to that effect. He said that he had demurred to doing so as he foresaw the trouble that would ensue, but that an angel of the Lord had appeared before him with a drawn sword commanding him to do so and he could not go backward. Lorenzo Snow, Testimony, Temple Lot Case (part 3, question 258), p. 124.
Lorenzo Snow (1896) President Lorenzo Snow stated that he was in England with Brother [Parley P.]] Pratt when reports came from Nauvoo to the effect that the doctrine of plural marriage was bring taught. Upon his return to Nauvoo in the spring of 1843, he had a long talk with the Prophet Joseph Smith, who fully explained to him the doctrine of plural marriage and stated that an angel with a drawn sword had visited him and commanded him to go into this principle and President Smith told Brother Snow to enter into plural marriage. Heber J. Grant, Diary, 1 April 1896, (Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).
Benjamin F. Johnson (1896) [Joseph Smith declared] that an angel appeared unto him with a drawn sword, threatening to slay him if he did not proceed to fulfill the law that had been given to him. Benjamin F. Johnson, Affidavit, 1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, Vol. 2 p. 8, MS 3423 fd 5, (Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).
Benjamin F. Johnson (1896) Hyrum said to me, 'Now, Brother Benjamin, you know that Brother Joseph would not sanction this if it was not from the Lord. The Lord revealed this to Brother Joseph long ago, and he put it off until the Angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword and told him that he would be slain if he did not go forth and fulfill the law.' Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review (Mesa, Arizona: 21st Century Printing, 1992, reprint), pp. 95-96.
Benjamin F. Johnson (1903) Brother Hyrum [Smith] at once took me in hand, apparently in fear. I was not fully converted and this was the manner of his talk to me: 'Now, Benjamin, you must not be afraid of this new doctrine, for it is all right. You know Brother Hyrum do[esn't] get carried away by worldly things, and he fought this principle until the Lord showed him it was true. I know that Joseph was commanded to take more wives and he waited until an Angel with a drawn sword stood before him and declared that if he longer delayed fulfilling that command he would slay him.' Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), p. 43.
Eliza R. Snow (1880) She [Eliza R. Snow] spoke of plural marriage. Said it was a perfect law. Said she had her own prejuse [sic] about it. Said she did not know much about it when she was married to Joseph Smith. Said she did not know if ever she would be owned as a wife. Spoke of the Angel standing with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not comply with the requirement of heaven, that his priesthood should be taken from him. Glenwood Ward, Sevier Stake, Relief Society Minutes, 28 September 1880, p. 224, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Eliza R. Snow (1884) Joseph told [my brother] Lorenzo Snow that he had 'hesitated and deferred from time to time, until an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword and told him that, unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his Priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed!' Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Company, 1884), pp. 69-70.
Eliza R. Snow (1887) [Joseph Smith] received the revelation in 1837, but he was himself afraid to promulgate it until the angel came and stood beside him with flaming sword and bade him do the command of God. Not until then did Joseph enter into polygamy, or get any of his disciples to take plural wives. "Two Prophets' Widows: A Visit to the Relicts of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young," by "J. J. J.," in St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri), 18 August 1887, p. 6.
Orson Pratt (pre-1881) I had a pleasant conversation . . . of the trials of the Prophet Joseph in first introducing the doctrine of celestial marriage in Nauvoo and quoted the statement of the late apostle and Church historian . . . that the angel of the Lord appeared unto the Prophet Joseph with a drawn sword and declared that if he, Joseph, did not go to and teach and practice the holy commandment, he [the angel]would slay him. Karl Larson and Katherine Miles Larson, eds., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 2 vols. (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1980), Vol. 2, pp. 814-15, entry for 5 March, 1896.
Zina Huntington (1881) Zina D. Young told of Brother Joseph's remark in relation to the revelation on celestial marriage. How an angel came to hi with a drawn sword and said if he did not obey this law, he would lose his priesthood; and in the keeping of it he, Joseph, did not know but it would cost him his life. "The Prophet's Birthday," in Deseret News, 12 January 1881, p. 2.
Zina Huntington (1894) [Joseph] sent word to me by my brother, saying, 'Tell Zina I put it off and put it off til an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth, I would lose my position and my life.' "Joseph, the Prophet, His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances," in Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, 12 January 1895, p. 212.
Helen Mar Kimball (1882) This angel, he [Joseph Smith] states, stood over him with a drawn sword, prepared to inflict the penalty of death if he should be disobedient. Helen Mar Whitney, "Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith," by editor of Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah: "Juvenile Instructor" Office, 1882), p. 13.
Helen Mar Kimball (1884) This fact [plural marriage] the Lord revealed to His prophet, Joseph Smith, as early as the year 1831. And yet, had it not been for the fear of His displeasure, Joseph would have shrunk from the undertaking and would have continued silent, as he did for years, until an angel of the Lord threatened to slay him if he did not reveal and establish this celestial principle. Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, "Why We Practice Plural Marriage" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1885), p. 53.
Erastus Snow (1883) Spoke of the Angel of the Lord meeting Joseph with a drawn sword and of his going to slay him for his being neglectful in the discharges of his duties and of Joseph having to plead on his knees before the Angel for his life. Karl Larson and Katherine Miles Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 2 vols. (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1980), Vol. 2, p. 611, entry for 17 June 1883.
Erastus Snow (1883) The Prophet Joseph had said to him [Erastus Snow] also, "I have not been obedient enough to this holy law and the Lord was angry with me and an angel met me with a drawn sword but I pled with the Lord to forgive me and he did so and I made the sacrifice required of my hand and by the help of the Lord I will obey his Holy Law." Erastus Snow, St. George Utah Stake Conference, "General Minutes," 17 June 1883, LR 7836 11, reel 1, (Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (1902) In 1834 he [Joseph Smith] was commanded to take me for a wife. I was a thousand miles from him. He got afraid. The angel came to him three times, the last time with a drawn sword and threatened his life. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Statement, 8 February 1902, "Vesta Crawford Papers," MS 125, bx 1, fd 11, (Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah), original in the possession of Mrs. Nell Osborne, Salt Lake City, Utah; see also, "Juanita Brooks Papers," MSB103, bx 16, fd 13, (Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (1904) Joseph told me that he was afraid when the angel appeared to him and told him to take other wives. He hesitated, and the angel appeared to him the third time with a drawn sword in his hand and threatened his life if he did not fulfill the commandment. Mary E. Lightner to A. M. Chase, 20 April 1904, quoted in J. D. Stead, Doctrines and Dogmas of Brighamism Exposed (Lamoni, Iowa: RLDS Church, 1911), pp. 218-19.
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (1905) An angel came to [Joseph Smith] and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it and told him it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. He said in the Book of Mormon it was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and they were to adhere to these things except the Lord speak?. . . Said he . . . 'The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me.' Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Remarks, 14 April 1905, Brigham Young University, vault MSS 363, fd. 6, pp. 2-3, L. (Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah).
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (1905) God commanded him to take [me] as a plural wife [in 1834]. He was very much frightened about [it] until the Angel appeared to him three times. It was in the early part of February 1842. Before [that], he was compelled to reveal it to me personally, by the Angel threatening him. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, Summer 1905, MS 282, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; copy of holograph in "Linda King Newell Collection," MS 447, bx 9, fd 2, (Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah); also in "Juanita Brooks Papers," MSB 103, bx16, fd 13, (Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).
Benjamin G. Ferris (1867) He [Joseph Smith] told some of his most influential followers that if they knew what a hard and unpalatable revelation [regarding plural marriage] he had had, they would drive him from the city. The heavenly powers, however, were not to be trifled with and a day was appointed when the important mandate was to be submitted to convocation of the authorities of the Church. The time arrived; but Joseph, in virtuous desperation, concluded rather to flee the city than be the medium of communicating a matter so repugnant to his mind. He mounted his horse and galloped from the town, but was met by an angel with a drawn sword, and threatened with instant destruction unless he immediately returned and fulfilled his mission. He returned, accordingly, in submissive despair, and made the important communication to the assembled notables. Such is substantially the account of the matter given by simple-minded believers at Salt Lake Benjamin G. Ferris, Utah and the Mormons, The History, Government, Doctrines, Customs and Prospects of the Latter-day Saints (New York, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1854), p. 115; see also, Pomeroy Tucker, The Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, (New York, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1867), p. 184.
Melvin J. Ballard (1934) The statement . . . concerning the angel appearing with the drawn sword is not a matter that is in our own Church history. While it may be all true, the Church has not pronounced it authentic nor has it contradicted it. Mormon apostle Melvin J. Ballard to Eslie Jenson, 14 August 1934; quoted in Joseph W. Musser, "Marriage: Ballard/Jenson Correspondence" (n.p., 1935), p. 15.

"Appendix: The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword," Brian Hales, "Encouraging Joseph Smith to Practice Plural Marriage: The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword," Mormon Historical Studies Vol. 11 No. 2, (Fall 2010), pp. 65-71.

Fanny Alger

Fanny Alger was a teen-aged servant in the Smith's home. Joseph and Emma had "adopted" Fanny when she was about 16 years old (1833). She is believed to be either Joseph Smith's first polygamous "wife" or simply a sexual encounter. (The Church's essay, "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," says it was a marriage, whereas Lawrence Foster said, "…contemporary evidence strongly suggests that Smith sustained sexual relations with Fanny Alger, it does not indicate that this was viewed either by Smith himself or by his associates at the time as a 'marriage.'" Review of Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness Dialogue Vol. 33 No. 1 pp. 184-86.) Critics believe he had an affair with her, was found out, and then introduced the concept of plural marriage in order to justify and continue his affair with her and then other women.

Some historians record the date of the "marriage" as early as 1833, while others believe it was 1835, putting Fanny's age anywhere from 17-19. Fanny departed the Smith home sometime in 1836, the same year Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated for revealing Joseph Smith's "dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's."

Warren Parrish, the secretary of Joseph for a period of time, told Benjamin Johnson that he and Oliver Cowdery knew the report of an affair between Joseph and the girl to be true, for they "were spied upon and found together." (Letter from Benjamin Johnson to George Gibbs, 1903.)

Critic's Note: Regardless of whether Joseph Smith's relations with Fanny Alger was merely a sexual encounter or a "marriage," it was adulterous. However, Joseph could only be legally married to one person, and even if it is claimed that the "marriage" was a symbolic "celestial only" sealing, the sealing power was not restored until April 1836, after Joseph's "marriage" to Fanny.

Joseph's first polygamous marriage was before the sealing authority was given

Whether Joseph's "marriage" to Fanny Alger occurred in 1833 or 1835, it was illegal both under the laws of the land and under any theory of divine authority. Plural marriages are rooted in the notion of "sealing" for time and eternity. It is claimed that the "sealing power" was restored 3 April 1836 when Elijah appeared to Joseph and committed the sealing keys into his hands. (Journal, 1835–1836, ID #6663, The Joseph Smith Papers.) Until that time no one on earth had authority to "seal" Joseph and Fanny. As a result, his marriage to her was a nullity from the beginning both in time and eternity, and any sexual relationship he had with her was adulterous.

Joseph married other men's wives while they were still married to their husbands

As admitted in the LDS essay, "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo":

[C]areful estimates put the number [of Joseph Smith's wives] between 30 and 40.

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.

Estimates of the number of these sealings range from 12 to 14.

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," from the LDS website (also see footnote #24).

In other words, Joseph "married" or was "sealed" to 12-14 women who were already legally wedded to other men at the time. Following is a list of Joseph's wives that we know of (some researchers estimate that the number may have been higher). A name indicated with an * was a living husband of the woman to whom Joseph Smith was "married" (From the website, Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith.)

BIOGRAPHIES
Wife
"Marriage" Date
Age
Husband*
Emma Hale
Jan 1827
22
 
Fanny Alger
1833
16
 
Lucinda Morgan Harris
1838
37
George W. Harris
Louisa Beaman
Apr 1841
26
 
Zina Huntington Jacobs
Oct 1841
20
Henry Jacobs
Presendia Huntington Buell
Dec 1841
31
Norman Buell
Agnes Coolbrith
Jan 1842
33
 
Sylvia Sessions Lyon
Feb 1842
23
Windsor Lyon
Mary Rollins Lightner
Feb 1842
23
Adam Lightner
Patty Bartlett Sessions
Mar 1842
47
David Sessions
Marinda Johnson Hyde
Apr 1842
27
Orson Hyde
Elizabeth Davis Durfee
Jun 1842
50
Jabez Durfee
Sarah Kingsley Cleveland
Jun 1842
53
John Cleveland
Delcena Johnson
Jul 1842
37
 
Eliza R. Snow
Jun 1842
38
 
Sarah Ann Whitney
Jul 1842
17
 
Martha McBride Knight
Aug 1842
37
 
Ruth Vose Sayers
Feb 1843
33
Edward Sayers
Flora Ann Woodworth
Spring 1843
16
 
Emily Dow Partridge
Mar 1843
19
 
Eliza Maria Partridge
Mar 1843
22
 
Almera Johnson
Apr 1843
30
 
Lucy Walker
May 1843
17
 
Sarah Lawrence
May 1843
17
 
Maria Lawrence
May 1843
19
 
Helen Mar Kimball
May 1843
14
 
Hanna Ells
Mid 1843
29
 
Elvira Cowles Holmes
Jun 1843
29
Jonathan Holmes
Rhoda Richards
Jun 1843
58
 
Desdemona Fullmer
Jul 1843
32
 
Olive Frost
Mid 1843
27
 
Melissa Lott
Sep 1843
19
 
Nancy Winchester
1843
14
 
Fanny Young
Nov 1843
56
 
(The above table can be downloaded as a PDF file.)

Why it may have been that some men were willing to allow Joseph Smith to "marry" their wife is because they had the same attitude as Jedediah M. Grant, Second Counselor to Brigham Young. In this sermon, delivered 19 February 1854, Grant said (emphasis added):

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….

…[I]f the Lord Almighty has organized a government upon the earth, and has committed the keys and Priesthood of it to His Prophet, that Prophet holds jurisdiction over the earth, the same as Adam did in the beginning. And righteous men in every dispensation since the creation, if they had any keys, had the keys of the kingdom of God; and they extended over this wide world wherever God had a people and a government; and just as far as the Priesthood exercised its authority, just so far the rule of the Almighty reached.

If Joseph had a right to dictate me in relation to salvation, in relation to a hereafter, he had a right to dictate me in relation to all my earthly affairs, in relation to the treasures of the earth, and in relation to the earth itself. He had a right to dictate in relation to the cities of the earth, to the natives of the earth, and in relation to everything on land and on sea. That is what he had a right to do, if he had any right at all. If he did not have that right, he did not have the Priesthood of God, he did not have the endless Priesthood that emanates from an eternal being. A Priesthood that is clipped, and lacks length, is not the Priesthood of God; if it lacks depth, it is not the Priesthood of God; for the Priesthood in ancient times extended over the wide world, and coped with the universe, and had a right to govern and control the inhabitants thereof, to regulate them, give them laws, and execute those laws. That power looked like the Priesthood of God. This same Priesthood has been given to Joseph Smith, and has been handed down to his successors.

I do not care how many devils rap, it is no trouble to me. I say, rap away, and give as many revelations as you please, whether you are good spirits or bad ones, it does not trouble my cranium. Rap away, for I trust in the anchor of my soul that is sure and steadfast, in the Priesthood of God upon the earth.

What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, "Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build up the kingdom of God." 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, 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. 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.

"The Power of God and the Power of Satan," Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, pp. 13-14.

One such man who may have at one time thought like Grant was Henry Bailey Jacobs. He was a faithful member of the Mormon Church and active in Nauvoo society. On 7 March 1841 Henry married Zina Diantha Huntington. Later that year, 27 October 1841, while still married to Zina, Zina was sealed to Joseph Smith. From 1839-1845 Henry was constantly called on missions, serving eight of them during this period (4 Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier. Bradley, Martha Sonntag, and Mary Brown Firmag Woodward. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2000), p. 177.). In January of 1846, Henry and Zina received their endowments in the Nauvoo temple (The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845-1846, edited by Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2005), pp. 296-298). A month later Zina (there is no record that Henry was there) returned to the temple for her second anointing and, while still married to Henry, she was sealed to Brigham Young for not just eternity, but also for time. (Nauvoo Marriages Proxy Sealings 1843-1846 Lyndon W. Cook (Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Company, 2004), p. 178.) Although quite ill, in mid-1846 Henry accepted the prophet's (Brigham Young) call and went to England as a missionary, leaving his legally married wife, Zina, and newborn child behind. On Henry's way home from his mission, he received a letter from Zina saying she'd moved in with her husband Brigham. Later she bore a child with Brigham.

In an undated Valentine to Zina, Henry wrote,

Zina my mind never will change from Worlds without Ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own. I feel like a lamb without a mother, I do not blame any person or persons, no--May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all purtains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our god Joseph [Smith].

"Short Sketch of the Life of Henry B. Jacobs" By Ora J. Cannon

Such a story seems to disprove any claims that polyandrous marriages were simply an opportunity for salvation for women who needed it. From all accounts, Henry was a faithful Mormon, worthy of serving many missions. Why wasn't Zina sealed to him in 1846 instead of Brigham Young?

MT Editor's Comment:

Whether Henry Jacob "consented" to Zina's sealings to other men or not,from reading his journals, he obviously didn't like the idea. Nothing supports that Henry was offered an easy yes or no choice that he could turn down without consequences. Members then and now follow the leaders of the Church believing that those leaders speak for God. If Zina and Henry really believed Joseph and Brigham were prophets, they might follow whatever they were asked (remember all the good men, including bishops and stake presidents, who killed 150 men, women and children at the Mountains Meadow Massacre all because they thought this is what Brigham Young wanted?). At any rate, this is not something that any man should be asked to sacrifice.

Although Henry eventually remarried three times, after Brigham Young told him that his wife and children belonged to Brigham and not to Henry, he continued to yearn for Zina and their children. There doesn't seem to be any logical or religious reason why Joseph and then Brigham would take Henry Jacob's wife, Zina and their children, from him. Would a just God direct Joseph and Brigham to treat this faithful man in such a manner?

Not all people thought Joseph's supposed priesthood authority allowed him to behave the way he did. Ann Eliza Young, who had been married to Brigham Young, charged that Joseph Smith was guilty of adultery:

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

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

This woman, and others, whose experience has been very similar, are among the very best women in the church; they are as pure-minded and virtuous women as any in the world. They were seduced under the guise of religion,…

Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph's declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practiced; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church.

Wife No. 19, 1876, pages 70-71.

What about the children of polyandrous marriages?

Polyandry also runs counter to the entire notion of eternal families. As we understand it, children are sealed to their father and the wife is sealed to the father, and in that means the entire family is sealed together. If in these cases the women were sealed to Joseph, then who were the children sealed to? If they were sealed to the woman's first husband, then the woman would not be sealed to them. If they were sealed to Joseph, then the poor first husband would not only be deprived of his wife, but also of his children in the eternity. So much for the plan of happiness.

It appears that Joseph Smith literally stole other men's wives and their children, regardless of whether he had sex with them or not. What right did he have to do that? Was he simply taking advantage of his authority as prophet?

References

Joseph Testing men

Smith's Failed Proposals to Married Women

The following all comes from "Would you share your spouse with the Prophet?"

The following is taken from Would you share your spouse with the Prophet?

John Taylor's Wife, Leonora

"The Prophet went to the home of President Taylor, and said to him, 'Brother John, I WANT LEONORA.'" Taylor was stunned, but after walking the floor all night, the obedient elder said to Smith, "If GOD wants Leonora He can have her." Woodruff concluded: "That was all the prophet was after, to see where President Taylor stood in the matter, and said to him, Brother Taylor, I don't want your wife, I just wanted to know just where you stood." - Prophet Wilford Woodruff, John Mills Whitaker Journal, Nov. 1 1890; emphasis in original

Heber C. Kimball's Wife, Vilate

"During the summer of 1841, shortly after Heber's return from England, he was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage directly through a startling test-a sacrifice which shook his very being and challenged his faith to the ultimate. He had already sacrificed homes, possessions, friends, relatives, all worldly rewards, peace, and tranquility for the Restoration. Nothing was left to place on the altar save his life, his children, and his wife. Joseph demanded for himself what to Heber was the unthinkable, his Vilate. Totally crushed spiritually and emotionally, Heber touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights and continually sought confirmation and comfort from God." Finally, after "some kind of assurance," Heber took Vilate to the upper room of Joseph's store on Water Street. The Prophet wept at this act of faith, devotion, and obedience. Joseph had never intended to take Vilate. It was all a test." - Biography of Heber C. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball, Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer by Stanley B. Kimball, page 93.

Note: Joseph married Heber Kimball's 14 year-old daughter instead.

Orson Pratt's Wife, Sarah

"Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph Smith confided to his friend that he was smitten by the "amiable and accomplished" Sarah Pratt and wanted her for "one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness" (emphasis in original). Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett's sewing to Sarah's house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, "Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me." "And is that the great secret that I am not to utter," Sarah replied. "Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will." She added, "I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me." But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, "Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it." "Sister Pratt," the Prophet responded, "I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?" "If you will never insult me again," Sarah replied, "I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it." "If you should tell," the Prophet added, "I will ruin your reputation, remember that." (Article "Sarah M. Pratt" by Richard A. Van Wagoner, Dialogue, Vol. 19, No. 2, p.72.

William Law's Wife, Jane

"William Law, a former counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in his 13 May 1844 diary: "[Joseph] ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and ha[s] found her a virtuous woman" The Laws elaborated on this in a public meeting shortly thereafter. "The Prophet had made dishonorable proposals to [my] wife … under cover of his asserted 'Revelation,' " Law stated. He further explained that Joseph came to the Law home in the middle of the night when William was absent and told Jane that "the Lord had commanded that he should take spiritual wives, to add to his glory." Law then called on his wife to corroborate what he had said. She did so and further explained that Joseph had "asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband" Jane refused the Prophet, and according to William Law's 20 January 1887 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, Smith then considered the couple apostates. "Jane had been speaking evil of him for a long time … slandered him, and lied about him without cause," Law reported Smith as saying. "My wife would not speak evil of … anyone … without cause," Law asserted. "Joseph is the 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." (Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner, p. 44)

Hiram Kimball's wife, Sarah

Sarah M. Kimball, a prominent Nauvoo and Salt Lake City Relief Society leader was also approached by the Prophet in early 1842 despite her solid 1840 marriage to Hiram Kimball. Sarah later recalled that "Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle." (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia by Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887)

Sarah Kimball, like Sarah Pratt, was committed to her husband, and refused the Prophet's invitation, asking that he "teach it to someone else." Although she kept the matter quiet, her husband and Smith evidently had difficulties over Smith's proposal. On 19 May 1842, at a Nauvoo City Council meeting, Smith jotted down and then "threw across the room" a revelation to Kimball which declared that "Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and formulating evil opinions" against the Prophet, which if he does not desist from, he "shall be accursed." Sarah remained a lifetime member of the Church and a lifelong wife to Hiram Kimball.

- LDS Biographical Encyclopedia By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887, Official History of the Church 5: 12-13,

Did Brigham Young marry women that already had husbands also?

Brigham also married Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (Smith) who Joseph had first married polyandrously. She remained married to Adam Lightner throughout. She married Brigham on May 22 1846 when she was 26 years old. It was repeated in the Nauvoo Temple on Jan 17,1846, Brigham 44. Ref BOP #35. She also recorded it herself.

However Brigham asked Mary if she wanted to go West with his group and she said yes but he left her behind. She wrote: "I felt stunned, the thought came to me that Polygamy was of the Devil - and Brigham knew it, or he would have cut off his right hand before he would have left me… I wept myself sick, and felt to give up, and go among the Gentiles in fact I felt as though I was like one in any open Boat at Sea, without Compass or Rudder."

Two of Joseph's polyandrous wives went on to marry Heber C Kimball, Prescendia Lapthrop Huntington and Sylvia Porter Sessions, also continuing to live with their first husbands.

Brigham had a daughter (Zina Prescendia) by Zina and Heber had three children by Prescendia. (Prescendia Celestia, Joseph and Eliza).

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young

see above

Joseph's love letter.

The following is from a love letter Joseph Smith wrote when he wanted to arrange a liaison with Newel K. Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann, whom Smith had secretly married without Emma's knowledge three weeks prior to this time. (underlining added)

"Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

- Joseph Smith Handwritten Letter

Contradiction with the Doctrine and Covenants section 132

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 fulfill 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.

Very clearly the women involved must be virgins. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Parley Pratt were violating D&C 132, 61:63.

Did Joseph have sex with any of his polygamous wives?

Because the idea of the LDS Church's founding prophet, Joseph Smith, married other men's wives is hard enough for current members to imagine, having sexual relations with another man's wife is even more repugnant, often causing cognitive dissonance. To try and rationalize Joseph's behavior they invent a narrative in which Joseph's "marriages" were simply platonic "sealings" and he was not committing adultery.

However, it only has to be shown that Joseph had sexual relations with one person other than his one legally married wife, Emma, to show that he was an adulterer in the eyes of the law of the land (according to Joseph's own words in Article of Faith 12) and in the eyes of God (in the words recorded by Joseph in D&C 132).

For many years critics spent a lot of time and ink proving that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with other women besides Emma because the Church and its apologists either denied it or ignored it. It is no longer necessary to provide all of that proof since the Church and its most prominent polygamy defenders now acknowledge such sexual relations. In the Church's "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo" essay it says:

During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone. Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings.

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo" LDS website.

Editor's Note:

This quote is the closest the Church has come to saying that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with women other than Emma. It is couched in language in such a way that attempts to soften the blow by using the words "eternity only," and "possibility." Although attempts to make the case for "eternity only" sealings is ably made by Brian Hales (an amateur researcher into the polygamous relationships of Joseph Smith), there is no clear evidence that the early Saints themselves viewed the polygamous relationships that way. Regardless, it doesn't matter whether Joseph had one adulterous relationship or 33—adultery is adultery.

It appears that much of Hales' work was used in the creation of the Church's essay, "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo." On his website, Joseph Smith's Polygamy, he is more forthright in outwardly stating Joseph's sexual relations:

Overall, evidence indicates infrequent sexual relations in less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions, which is likely why only two children are known to have been born to Joseph’s plural wives, with only one living to adulthood, a daughter, Josephine Lyon Fisher.

"Did Plural Marriages Include Sexual Relations?" Joseph Smith's Polygamy. (This link has more concerning the sexual relations Joseph had and we encourage you to read it.)

These quotes are the acknowledgment that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with at least one woman other than his one legally wedded wife, Emma Hale Smith, and therefore Joseph was indeed an adulterer.

This opens a new can or worms in which the attempt by the apologists have switched from determining whether or not Joseph had sexual relations to defining what adultery is and defining what a legal marriage is. This becomes an exhausting exercise. The critic typically contends that a definition for adultery is pretty simple: a married person having sexual relations with someone other than their legally married spouse. It becomes convoluted because the apologist wants to reframe the debate by looking at a new interpretation for what constitutes adultery and how one interprets "marriage" and the marriage contract: the apologist contends that the "marriages"/"sealings" are based on God's new interpretation and that they supersede any civil definitions or laws; and the critic takes a simple stance that a legal marriage is one recognized by civil law. (This is an excellent topic to apply Occam's Razor to. To convince someone that there are nuanced and different definitions for marriage and adultery, a lot of effort must be spent in weaving that tapestry, including denying or creatively interpreting Joseph's own writings and denials.)

Doctrine and Covenants 132 gives certain rules pertaining to polygamous relations:

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.

This means that Joseph was involved in adulterous relationships because he was not legally married to any of the women, besides Emma, with whom he had sex.

Not only was Joseph guilty of adultery, but the women to whom he was "married" who were legally married to other men were also committing adultery:

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…

D&C 132:61-63.

To fulfill a commandment

According to Doctrine and Covenants 132, one of the purposes of polygamy was to produce children:

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 fulfill 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.

D&C 132:63 (emphasis added).

If Joseph wasn't attempting to live according to the criterion in D&C 132 and produce children, why was he in those relations?

See the section above about what the Church's 1835 Book of Commandments had to say about polygamy and fornication.

Joseph married girls as young as 14 years old

The LDS Church acknowledged in an essay written in 2014 that of Joseph's marriages,

The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph's close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," Gospel Topics, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS.org.

The essay tries to lessen the impact that Helen was so young by employing the interesting phrase, "several months before her 15th birthday." In other words, she was 14.

There is strong evidence that Joseph Smith "married" another 14-year-old, Nancy Maria Winchester. There is little documentary evidence of the "marriage," but it is supported by Eliza R. Snow and Orson F. Whitney (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney's son). As to her age, she was either 14 or 15. Brian Hales says:

While it is possible that Nancy Maria was sealed to the Prophet after August 10, 1843, thus making her fifteen not fourteen, such a sealing would have been contrary to Joseph’s apparent agreement with Emma on July 13 to stop marrying plural wives.

"Nancy Maria Winchester," Brian Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy.

Having one 14-year-old to reconcile is hard, having a second one would increase the pressure to justify Joseph's behavior. Hales continues with a tidbit that tries to lessen the impact:

If, as Utah evidence supports, conjugal relations were not included until plural wives were more mature, it is possible that the Prophet allowed the sealing, anticipating that when Nancy Maria was older, Emma would have become more accepting of full polygamy.

Was Nancy 14, or did Joseph lie to Emma and go behind her back?

Since there is no other evidence concerning Nancy's union, the rest of this section deals with Helen, who did leave plenty of evidence.

The "marriage" to Helen Kimball

There seems to be four main areas of controversy or dispute among critics and apologists when it comes to Helen's "marriage" to Joseph Smith:

  1. Was Helen too young?
  2. Did Joseph and Helen have sexual relations?
  3. How did Helen feel about the arrangement?
  4. Whose idea was it, Helen's father or Joseph Smith?
  5. Was this marriage a form of coercion/abuse of power?

Was Helen too young?

It is shocking to hear that Helen Mar Kimball was only 14 when Joseph "married" her because in our day we tend to think of it as too young. But was it "too young" in Helen's day?

"Marriageable age" is a term that is important, as this is the age at which people can legally marry. The state of Illinois statute concerning this age says:

All male persons over the age of 17 years, and females over the age of 14 years, may contract and be joined in marriage: Provided, in all cases where either party is a minor, the consent of parents or guardians be first had, as is hereinafter required.

Revised Statutes of 1845, sec. 1, page 353, reprinted in Eugene L. Gross, editor, The Statutes of Illinois: An Analytical Digest of all the General Laws of the State (1818-1869) (Springfield, Ill. : E.L. & W.L. Gross, 1872), p. 437.

Even though marriageable age with the consent of a parent was 14, such marriages were by no means common. In the 1830's the singulate mean age at marriage for females was 20.12 years old and in the 1840's it was 20.40 years old. ("Long Term Marriage Patterns in the United States from Colonial Times to the Present," Table 1 & Table 4.)

Two other tables that may be of interest: Table 1: "Nuptiality Measures for the White Population of the United States, 1850–1880," J South Hist. 2010 Feb; 76(1): 39–70; Table 2: "Nuptiality Measures for the Native-Born White Population by Birth Cohort and Section of Birth," J South Hist. 2010 Feb; 76(1): 39–70.

Editor's Comments:

Although we flinch today, according to the laws of the time, Helen, legally, was not "too young" and Joseph was within his legal rights to marry Helen with her parents' consent at that age. However, Joseph was not within his legal rights to marry anyone, no matter their age, because he was already legally married to Emma. This begs the question, Why marry Helen? There seems to be no logical reason for Joseph Smith to pursue relationships with any person besides his one legal wife, let alone girls as young as 14.

Just because something is legal, does it make it morally right?

Did Joseph have sex with 14-year-old Helen?

The "age of consent" means the age at which a person can legally consent to having sexual relations. Historically, that age was quite low in the United States, typically 10-12 years of age. In Illinois, even by 1880, the age of consent was only 10 years old. By the 1920's nearly all of the states had moved the age up, to where most of them stand today, in the 16-18-year-old range. (Table "Age Limit in Age of Consent Laws in Selected Countries," found on the Children & Youth in History website.)

The idea that Joseph Smith would have sex with a 14-year-old shocks the reader: images of Warren Jeffs' child brides come to mind. However, if Joseph Smith was legally married to Helen (he was not), then even though we may shudder to think about it, it would have been legal for them to have sexual relations. (Just because something is legal, does it make it morally right?)

But since Joseph was not legally married to Helen, and since he was already legally married to one woman, and since he was in sexual relations with other women, one must wonder about the motives of that man. Why marry someone so young? Why cheat her out of a normal youth and marriage?

That being said, there is no direct evidence implicating Joseph Smith in having sexual relations with Helen Kimball. There are only circumstantial hints that maybe it happened. Some of the more credible evidence include:

Editor's Comments:

How did Helen feel about the arrangement?

Helen wrote:

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

…I was skeptical—one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof That I had of its being right.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, "Scenes in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11, no. 5 (August 1, 1882)

This first interview had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) and I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann to me as Joseph's Wife. This astonished me beyond measure.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 1828-1896, Autobiography (c. 1839-1846), "Life Incidents," Woman's Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and "Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882-83)

My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for she had already taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more.

Typescript and copy of holograph reproduced in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History (1997), pp. 482-87.

Helen writes about her mother's reaction to all of this:

None but God and 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 yet seen her fifteenth summer, following 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 hidden from me.

In a letter, Helen wrote:

I felt quite sore over it, and thought it a very unkind act in father to allow William to go and enjoy the dance unrestrained with other of my companions, and fetter me down, for no girl danced better than I did, and I really felt it was too much to bear. It made the dull school more dull, and like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought to myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did not murmur.

Helen wrote in a poem:

…but pitying angels wept.
They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold.
And poisonous darts from sland'rous tongues were hurled,
Untutor'd heart in thy gen'rous sacrafise,
Thou dids't not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price;
Thy happy dreams all o'er thou'st doom'd also to be
Bar'd out from social scenes by this thy destiny,
And o'er thy sad'nd mem'ries of sweet departed joys
Thy sicken'd heart will brood and imagine future woes,
And like a fetter'd bird with wild and longing heart,
Thou'lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;

But could'st thou see the future & view that glorious crown,
Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn.
Pure and exalted was thy father's aim, he saw
A glory in obeying this high celestial law,
For to thousands who've died without the light
I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright.
I'd been taught to reveire the Prophet of God
And receive every word as the word of the Lord,
But had this not come through my dear father's mouth,
I should ne'r have received it as God's sacred truth.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, "Autobiography, 30 March, 1881," CHL.

I did not try to conceal the fact of its having been a trial, but confessed that it had been one of the severest of my life; but that it had also proven one of the greatest of blessings. I could truly say it had done the most towards making me a Saint and a free woman, in every sense of the word; and I knew many others who could say the same, and to whom it had proven one of the greatest boons—a "blessing in disguise."

Why We Practice Plural Marriage, Helen Mar Kimball, (1884) pp. 23-24.

Editor's Comments:

Living in a climate of polygamy, it's easy to see that over time Helen would come to champion the cause and put away any concerns she may have had when she was first "married" to Joseph Smith. No one but Helen herself can say for sure if at the time she enjoyed being a polygamous wife of Joseph.

Whose idea was it, Helen's father or Joseph Smith?

Whose idea it originally was for Joseph to marry Helen (Joseph Smith or Helen's father, Heber C. Kimball) is unclear. Following are some accounts surrounding the event.

Before Joseph and Heber discussed 14 year-old Helen as a potential bride, Joseph asked Heber to turn over his wife, Vilate, to be Joseph's wife.

During the summer of 1841, shortly after Heber's return from England, he was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage directly through a startling test-a sacrifice which shook his very being and challenged his faith to the ultimate. He had already sacrificed homes, possessions, friends, relatives, all worldly rewards, peace, and tranquility for the Restoration. Nothing was left to place on the altar save his life, his children, and his wife. Joseph demanded for himself what to Heber was the unthinkable, his Vilate. Totally crushed spiritually and emotionally, Heber touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights and continually sought confirmation and comfort from God." Finally, after "some kind of assurance," Heber took Vilate to the upper room of Joseph's store on Water Street. The Prophet wept at this act of faith, devotion, and obedience. Joseph had never intended to take Vilate. It was all a test.

Biography of Heber C. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball, Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer by Stanley B. Kimball, page 93.

It is theorized by some that Joseph's "test" requesting Vilate as a wife was to prepare Heber for Joseph's later asking for Helen.

Sometime after Joseph "tested" Heber, Heber talked to Helen about becoming Joseph's wife. The following is used to imply that Joseph marrying Helen was Heber's idea:

[My father] taught me the principle of Celestial marriage and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he (my father) offered me to him.

Typescript and copy of holograph reproduced in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History (1997), pp. 482-87.

Who, though, decided that being "connected with the Prophet, Joseph" was something desirable, Heber or Joseph himself? Even if Heber liked that idea and he's the one who asked Helen to marry Joseph, it does not mean that the genesis for the idea was Heber. Nor does the word "offered" mean that Heber came up with the original idea. Just as Abraham "offered" his son Isaac to God, it can simply mean that Joseph asked Heber to offer Helen, and so Heber did. Helen's later reminiscence that "My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar" may even hint at such a situation as Abraham's. She also said, "The Latter-day Saints would not enter into this holy order of matrimony unless they had received some stronger and more convincing proofs of its correctness than the testimony of a man, for in obeying this law it has cost them a sacrifice nearly equal to that of Abraham." (Plural Marriage, as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith, Editor of the Lamoni (Iowa) Herald by Helen Mar Whitney (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor, 1882).)

The fuller quote may shed a little more light on who may have initiated the proposal:

[My father] taught me the principle of Celestial marriage and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he (my father) offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet's own mouth.

Helen said that it was Joseph himself who claimed that Heber was the one who "offered" Helen to him. But why should we take Joseph's word for it? He is known to have lied to others, including his wife, Emma, about many aspects of polygamy (such as hiding the entire idea of polygamy from his wife, Emma, and the fact that he had already married other women without Emma knowing). Why not lie to another one of his wives if it served his purposes? (See our section below about Joseph lying about polygamy.)

Heber must have learned about polygamy from Joseph first before he taught the principle to Helen. As far as the time line goes, if Heber is the one who had the idea, within a 24 hour period he would have had teach Helen about it, show up unannounced and explain the proposition to Joseph, then have Joseph show up the following day at the Kimball's to convince Helen that if she followed this plan that her father concocted, her father's family would be blessed. Such a scenario on such short notice is unconvincing. Joseph taught Heber about polygamy at some point before Heber mentioned it to Helen. It could very well be that Joseph at that time mentioned his desire to have Helen as his wife. It stands to reason that as prophet, Joseph chose who he would enter into a polygamous relationship. There are no other examples of a person approaching the prophet and instigating a polygamous relationship.

Finally, it was not unheard of for Joseph to have someone else to ask for, or convince, his intended bride on his behalf, such as in the case of Zina Diantha Huntington (as revealed in an interview with her):

Q. How, then, could you have been sealed to Joseph Smith without first having heard the doctrine of plural marriage?

A. Joseph Smith sent my brother Dimick to explain it to me.

Q. It is a fact, then, that you were never taught it by Joseph Smith himself?

A. My brother Dimick told me what Joseph had told him. I knew it was from the Lord, and I received it. Joseph did not come until afterward.

Q. You mean by that, then, that after your brother Dimick had returned to Joseph and given him the information that you had accepted such teaching, that Joseph then came to you, prior to having been sealed, and taught you the doctrine of plural marriage?

A. I told you that the Lord had revealed to Joseph Smith that he was to marry me. I received it from Joseph through my brother Dimick.

John Wight, "Evidence from Zina D. Huntington Young," (Interview with Zina (very large PDF file), October 1, 1898, Saints Herald 52:29 (January 11, 1905).

And the case of Almera Woodward Johnson:

[As] for my younger sister [Almera] the Prophet made me the medium of his courtship; and I saw her married to him in the summer of 1843, and I further know that they roomed together as husband and wife at various times in my home at Macedonia, where he associated with other of his plural wives and various times as he had occasion.

Benjamin F. Johnson, Letter to Frank Feely, December 10, 1897, as quoted in "Almera Woodard Johnson-Evidence of Sexuality," Joseph Smith's Polygamy by Brian Hales.

There is no reason not to believe that it was Joseph's idea all along to marry Helen, yet there is no way of knowing for sure who is the instigator.

Editor's Comments:

Was this marriage a form of coercion/abuse of power?

The most important aspect from the discussion above concerning whose idea it was to marry off Helen pinpoints what we believe is the most problematic issue regarding Helen's "marriage" to Joseph: a person in authority (either her father or the prophet of the Church) coercing a 14-year-old girl to marry a man 23 years Helen's senior, who was already legally married to one woman and in sexual relationships with other men's wives, is immoral.

[Sorry for the dust, but this portion is currently being worked on.]

Joseph lied about practicing polygamy

1844 Sermon given by Joseph Smith

It is clear that on May 26, 1844 Joseph lied about practicing polygamy:

I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can. This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man does not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this…I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are—whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me…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.

"Address of the Prophet—His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo," Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 410-11.

1838 Interview with Joseph (at least 3-5 years after his first plural wife)

In the July 1838 edition of the Elder's Journal ("Edited by Joseph Smith") Joseph Smith answered some questions including the following:

Question 7th. Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one?

Answer. No, not at the same time. But they believe that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again. But we do disapprove of the custom which has gained in the world, and has been practiced among us, to our great mortification, of marrying in five or six weeks, or even in two or three months after the death of their companion.

We believe that due respect ought to be had, to the memory of the dead, and the feelings of both friends and children.

History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838], The Joseph Smith Papers. Also found in Elder's Journal, Vol 1, No. 3, p 43.

1838 Letter written by Joseph

On Dec 16, 1838 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the church from Liberty Jail which included the following:

Was it for committing adultery that we were assailed? We are aware that that false slander has gone abroad, for it has been reiterated in our ears. These are falsehoods also. Renegade “Mormon” dissenters are running through the world and spreading various foul and libelous reports against us…Such characters God hates; we cannot love them. The world hates them, and we sometimes think that the devil ought to be ashamed of them.

We have heard that it is reported by some, that some of us should have said, that we not only dedicated our property, but our families also to the Lord; and Satan, taking advantage of this, has perverted it into licentiousness, such as a community of wives, which is an abomination in the sight of God.

History of the Church Vol. 3, p. 230.

1844 Notice in Church-owned Newspaper

TIMES AND SEASONS.
CITY OF NAUVOO,
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1844.

NOTICE.

As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan.

This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.

JOSEPH SMITH,
HYRUM SMITH,
Presidents of said Church.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 423.

1843 Joseph's speech to the temple workers

By the time Smith had dismissed Bennett in the summer of 1842, Smith had taken the following "spiritual wives" for himself in Nauvoo:

Louisa Beaman, Zina Huntington Jacobs (current wife of Henry Jacobs), Presendia Huntington Buell (current wife of Norman Buell), Agnes Coolbrith, Sylvia Sessions Lyon (current wife of Windsor Lyon), Mary Rollins Lightner (current wife of Adam Lightner), Patty Bartlett Sessions (current wife of David Sessions), Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde (current wife of Orson Hyde), Elizabeth Davis Durfee (current wife of Jabez Durfee), Sarah Kingsley Cleveland (current wife of John Cleveland), Delcena Johnson Sherman, and Eliza R. Snow. (In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton, 1997, p. 4.)

That's twelve women documented as Joseph Smith's plural wives, during the period in which Smith placed responsibility for the entire polygamy practice on Bennett. In a speech at the temple, on February 21, 1843 (where many of his "plural wives" were in attendance), Smith had the audacity to state the following:

There is a great noise in the city…and many are saying there cannot be so much smoke without some fire. Well, be it so. If the stories about Joe Smith are true, then the stories of John C. Bennett are true about the ladies of Nauvoo; and he says that the Ladies' Relief Society are all organized of those who are to be the wives of Joseph Smith. Ladies, you know whether this is true or not.

History of the Church, Vol. 5 p. 286.

Because his "plural wives" in the audience had been sworn to secrecy, Smith felt confident enough to stand before them and lie unabashedly.

Joseph also did not always seek his first wife's permission

The revelation found in D&C 132 (verse 61) makes it clear that the first wife must "give her consent." Joseph Smith, however, did not follow the rules of his own revelation, for he took plural wives without seeking consent. Emily Dow Partridge, for instance, testified that she and her sister were married to Joseph without Emma's consent (emphasis added):

…the Prophet Joseph and his wife Emma offered us a home in their family, and they treated us with great kindness. We had been there about a year when the principle of plural marriage was made known to us, and I was married to Joseph Smith on the 4th of March 1843, Elder Heber C. Kimball performing the ceremony. My sister Eliza was also married to Joseph a few days later. This was done without the knowledge of Emma Smith. Two months afterward she consented to give her husband two wives, providing he would give her the privilege of choosing them. She accordingly chose my sister Eliza and myself, and to save family trouble Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed. Accordingly on the 11th of May, 1843, we were sealed to Joseph Smith a second time, in Emma's presence,… From that very hour, however, Emma was our bitter enemy. We remained in the family several months after this, but things went from bad to worse until we were obligated to leave the house and find another home.

Historical Record, Vol. 6, p. 240.

Notice how Joseph sought to cover up the fact that he was already married to Eliza and Emily Partridge. Joseph had a second marriage performed to them AFTER his first wife Emma agreed that he could marry two women if she got to pick them, and she happened to pick two women that were ALREADY married to Joseph.

As we have already indicated, Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson listed 27 women who were sealed to Joseph Smith. The Mormon author John J. Stewart, however, states that Smith "married many other women, perhaps three or four dozen or more…" (Brigham Young and His Wives, page 31) In No Man Knows My History, Fawn M. Brodie included a list of 48 women who may have been married to Joseph Smith. Stanley S. Ivins, who was considered to be "one of the great authorities on Mormon polygamy," said that the number of Joseph Smith's wives "can only be guessed at, but it might have gone as high as sixty or more." (Western Humanities Review, Vol. 10, pages 232-233)

In the Preface to the Second Edition of her book No Man Knows My History, Fawn Brodie revealed: "…over two hundred women, apparently at their own request, were sealed as wives to Joseph Smith after his death in special temple ceremonies. Moreover, a great many distinguished women in history, including several Catholic saints, were also sealed to Joseph Smith in Utah. I saw these astonishing lists in the Latter-day Saint Genealogical Archives in Salt Lake City in 1944." Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe admitted that "Women no longer living, whether in Joseph's day or later, have also been sealed to the Prophet for eternity." (Evidences and Reconciliations, Single Volume Edition, pages 342-343) If the Mormon doctrine concerning plural marriage were true, Joseph Smith would have hundreds of wives in the resurrection!

Joseph performed marriages to cover up his own polygamy

Joseph went to great lengths to conceal his practice of plural marriage. H. Michael Marquardt discovered that he even had a pretended marriage performed to cover up his own marriage to Sarah Ann Whitney. On July 27,1842, Joseph gave a revelation to Newel K. Whitney, that he was to seal his daughter, Sarah Ann, "to Joseph Smith, to be his wife." In his booklet, The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Joseph C. Kingsbury and Heber C. Kimball, Marquardt reveals how he uncovered the fact that Joseph Smith actually performed a "pretended" marriage ceremony between Sarah Ann Whitney and Joseph C. Kingsbury so that his own relationship with her would not be noticed. Marquardt cited the following from "The History of Joseph C. Kingsbury," a document that is now in the Western Americana section of the University of Utah Library:

…on 29th of April 1843 I according to President Joseph Smith Couscil & others agreed to Stand by Sarah Ann Whitny as supposed to be her husband & had a prete[n]ded marriage for the purpose of Bringing about the purposes of God…

According to the diary of Joseph's private secretary, William Clayton, Smith would even go so far as to initiate a fake excommunication from the Church to make it appear that he did not believe in polygamy:

Thursday 19…Prest. J…began to tell me that E. was turned quite friendly & kind…He said it was her advice that I should keep M [Clayton's plural wife Margaret] at home and it was also his council. Says he just keep her at home and brook it and if they raise trouble about it and bring you before me I will give you an awful scourging & probably cut you off from the church and then I will baptise you & set you ahead as good as ever.

William Clayton's Diary, Oct. 19, 1843, Andrew Ehat's typed extracts

Would God command Joseph to secretly take his wife's fellow presidency members in the Nauvoo Relief Society (as well as many others) as his own plural wives? Could it be proper or Godly for Joseph to publicly deny such behaviors and privately practice them? Would a true prophet ever secretly take other men's wives because of his position, stating that he was either testing the faith of their husbands, or offering these women a greater chance for exaltation in the eternities because of his position of authority? It is well documented that Joseph married several women before telling Emma. Would it be proper to keep such information from his own wife?

As expressed by Charles W. Penrose in a letter to John Taylor in 1887:

…the endless subterfuges and prevarications which our present condition imposes… threaten to make our rising generation a race of deceivers.

B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage, p. 368

Lying about polygamy by other church members

In addition to the public denials of polygamy by Joseph Smith himself, many public denials were done by his close associates. Denials often quoted from the Doctrine & Covenants which from 1835 until well after Joseph Smith's death contained the following:

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

Statement on Marriage, 17 August 1835, Section CI, p. 251, Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers

Note: This was changed some years later so the current edition of the D&C no longer contains this.

Joseph's Brother Hyrum had an article published in the Times and Seasons in March of 1844 (italics in original):

To the brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, living in China Creek, in Hancock County, Greeting:

—Whereas brother Richard Hewitt has called on me to-day, to know my views concerning some doctrines that are preached in your place, and states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrince[sic] is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practiced here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and membership also: therefore he had better beware what he is about.

Times and Seasons, March 15, 1844, Vol. 5, No. 6, p. 474

Remember that Hyrum (who had plural wives at the time of this article) was the one who took the copy of the polygamy revelation to Emma Smith to try to convince her to accept the idea of polygamy. The revelation—now D&C 132—was recorded July 12, 1843. The revelation itself instructs Emma to "receive all those who have been given unto my servant Joseph" (D&C 132:52). So the Church's own current scriptures say that Joseph Smith was practicing polygamy before July 12, 1843.

Note that even though Bennett had been out of the picture for more than a year, Smith was still publicly calling polygamy a "false and corrupt doctrine." This further puts the lie to the Mormon apologists' claim that there was an "approved" polygamy system, as opposed to an "unapproved" one of Bennett's invention. Smith still denied all of it.

Joseph successfully inculcated his brother Hyrum into the litany of lies. Note also the utter hypocrisy of Hyrum saying that men caught teaching polygamy were subject to lose their church membership. Obviously, seeing as how Hyrum and Joseph both were polygamists, his prevarication convicts both of them.

Sidney Rigdon in the 18 June 1845 'Messenger and Advocate' reported that Parley p. Pratt, in speaking of the means by which church leaders should sustain Smith, advised that "we must lie to protect brother Joseph, it is our duty to do so."

Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner, pp. 38-39.

Joseph & friends continually denied teaching or practicing polygamy, and repeatedly characterized it in their official publications as a "crime" and "fornication."

The leaders of the Church were openly denying the practice of plural marriage

Inasmuch as the public mind has been unjustly abused through the fallacy of Dr. Bennett's letters, we make an extract on the subject of marriage, showing the rule of the church on this important matter. The extract is from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and is the only rule allowed by the church.

"All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband."

"Notice", Times and Seasons, Thursday, Sept. 1, 1842, p. 909

And a month later:

From the Book of Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

ON MARRIAGE

According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority.—We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: "You both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives." And when they have answered "Yes," he shall pronounce them "husband and wife" in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: "may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen."

The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.

We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:—

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

- S. Bennett, N. K. Whitney, George Miller, Albert Pettey, Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee, Reynolds Cahoon, John Taylor, Wilson Law, E. Robinson, W. Woodruff, Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practiced in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a disclosure of his own make.

- Emma Smith, President; Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor; Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor,; Eliza R. Snow, Secretary; Mary C. Miller; Catharine Pettey; Lois Cutler; Sarah Higbee; Thirza Cahoon; Phebe Woodruff; Ann Hunter; Leonora Taylor; Jane Law; Sarah Hillman; Sophia R. Marks; Rosannah Marks; Polly Z. Johnson; Angeline Robinson; Abigail Works

Times And Seasons, Saturday, October 1, 1842, 939-40.

Newel K. Whitney & Elizabeth Ann Whitney signed the "certificates" even though their daughter Sarah Ann (17 years old) was married to Joseph Smith in July 1842. Newel even performed the ceremony. Eliza R. Snow signed the documents and she was married to Joseph Smith in June 1842.

Lies after Joseph's death

The next month, Joseph and Hyrum were murdered; but their deaths did not stop the lying about polygamy:

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the "dreadful splendor" of "spiritual wifery," which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney's revelation, just because he wanted "to go to Pittsburg and live." Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully 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 was ever tolerated in the church, and they know it

Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 715, November 15, 1844.

Note that at the time, several dozen Mormon men were active polygamists, and the "revelation on celestial marriage" had still not been voted on, or accepted as official practice----so Mormon leaders continued their public lies about secret polygamy.

In 1850, Mormon apostle John Taylor published a tract in England:

We are accused here of polygamy,… and actions the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief;… I shall content myself by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work published by us containing some of the articles of our Faith. 'Doctrine and Covenants,' page 330… Inasmuch as this Church of Jesus 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,…

A tract published by John Taylor in 1850, page 8; Orson Pratt's Works, 1851 edition.

By 1850, Mormon leaders were sharing their lies about polygamy to an international audience. At the time he published his tract, wherein he quoted verbatim from the "Article on Marriage," Taylor had seven wives. And, to repeat—the "Article on Marriage" was republished in the 1864 edition of the D&Ctwelve years after Brigham Young publicly announced plural marriage in Utah in 1852.

Mormons preached one policy from their scriptures, and an opposite policy from their pulpit.

A few years later, a Mormon publication admitted that Joseph Smith sinned by taking his plural wives before his 1843 "revelation": "The Latter-day Saints, from the rise of the Church in 1830, till the year 1843, had no authority to marry more than one wife each. To have done otherwise, would have been a great transgression." (Millennial Star, Vol. 19, p. 475, July 25, 1857.)

Of course, at that time, the documentation of the dates of Joseph's plural marriages was only known by a few top Mormons; it was not until LDS historian Andrew Jenson began delving into Church Archives in the 1880's that the names and dates began to be established. Few Mormons realized the scope of Smith's polygamy, or that he took plural wives many years before his alleged "revelation."

President Lorenzo Snow's testimony in the Temple Lot Case, pp. 320-322:

A man that violated this law in the Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, until the acceptance of that revelation by the church, violated the law of the church if he practiced plural marriage. Yes sir, he would have been cut off from the church, I think I should have been if I had. Before the giving of that revelation in 1843 if a man married more wives than one who were living at the same time, he would have been cut off from the church. It would have been adultery under the laws of the church and under the laws of the state, too.

The evidence is over-whelming that Joseph and other church leaders lied about practicing polygamy. In the one instance where Smith hinted publicly of an approval of polygamy, it caused such an uproar among church members that he quickly issued a clarification stating that his remarks had referred to "former times," meaning Old Testament events. Details:

For more details, see:

Lying for the Lord

MormonThink has a topic devoted to the LDS Church's historical lying, many of which concern polygamy: Lying for the Lord.

References

The Church condemned polygamy when Joseph practiced it

From the many statements above it's obvious that Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum and several other church leaders, that knew about polygamy, lied about it. Here are some additional related documentation that show that the LDS Church officially condemned the practice of polygamy during the very time Joseph practiced it.

Several quotes are very similar or identical because they were repeated in subsequent years and in various church publications. This is further evidence that the official condemnation of polygamy by the church wasn't just a rare 'error' but was in fact the official church policy at the time. Also note that many of the quotes are from the Times and Seasons which was a church-owned newspaper that Joseph Smith himself served as an editor.

History of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 247 (August 1835):

The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this Church should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

Messenger and Advocate (Aug 1835) pg. 163:

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife: one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

History of the Church, Vol. 5, pg. 30 (May 1836):

Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man, should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.

Messenger and Advocate (May 1837) Warren Cowdery editor, pg. 511:

1st. That we will have no fellowship whatever with any Elder belonging to the quorums of the Seventies who is guilty of polygamy or any offense of the kind, and who does not in all things conform to the laws of the church contained in the Bible and in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 127, December 16, 1838:

Was it for COMMITTING ADULTERY that we were assailed? We are aware that that FALSE SLANDER has gone abroad, for it has been reiterated in our ears. These are FALSEHOODS also. Renegade 'Mormon' dissenters are running through the world and spreading various FOUL AND LIBELOUS REPORTS against us…We have heard it reported by some, that……we not only dedicated our property, but our families to the Lord; and SATAN, taking advantage of this, has perverted it into licentiousness, such as COMMUNITY OF WIVES, which is an ABOMINATION in the sight of God…..when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children, he does not give them to his brother, or to his neighbor, FOR THERE IS NO SUCH LAW; for the law of God is, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart…..Now if any person has represented ANYTHING OTHERWISE THAN WHAT WE NOW WRITE, HE OR SHE IS A LIAR, and has represented us falsely.

History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 42:

Dear Sir:---It becomes my duty to lay before you some facts relative to the conduct of our major-general, John C. Bennett….It is evident that his character is that of an adulterer of the worst kind….Some time ago it having been reported to me that some of the most aggravated cases of adultery had been committed upon some previously respectable females in our city…..More than twenty months ago Bennett went to a lady in the city and began to teach her that promiscuous intercourse between the sexes was lawful and no harm in it, and requested the privilege of gratifying his passions…..Finding this argument ineffectual, he told her that men in higher standing in the church than himself not only sanctioned, but practiced the same deeds; and…said that I both taught and acted in the same manner, but [that I] publicly proclaimed against it in consequence of the prejudice of the people, and for fear of trouble in my own house. By this means he accomplished his designs.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, pg. 869 (August 1, 1842):

The church afterwards publicly withdrew their fellowship from him [John C. Bennett], and his character was published in the 17th number of this paper; since that time he [John C. Bennett] has published that the conduct of the Saints was bad that Joseph Smith and many others were adulterers, murderers, etc. -- that here was a secret band of men that would kill people, etc. called Danites --that he was in duress when he gave his affidavit, and testified that Joseph Smith was a virtuous man --that we believed and practiced polygamy -- that we believed in secret murders, and aimed to destroy the government etc.

Millennial Star, August 1, 1842:

Among the most conspicuous of these apostates, we would notice a young female who..conceived the plan of gaining friendship and extraordinary notoriety with the world…She accordingly selected president J. Smith and elder B. Young for her victims, and wrote to England that these men had been trying to seduce her, by making her believe that God had given a revelation that men might have two wives…But, for the information of those who might be assailed by those foolish tales about two wives, we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter-Day Saints, and ever will; this is well known to all who are acquainted with our books and actions.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, pg. 909 (September 1, 1842):

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, pg. 939 (October 1, 1842):

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband.

Times and Seasons, Vol. lll, (October 21, 1842):

We know of NO OTHER RULE OR SYSTEM OF MARRIAGE OTHER THAN THE ONE PUBLISHED FROM THE BOOK OF DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's secret wife system is a creature of his own make as we know of NO SUCH SOCIETY in this place nor never did.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, pg. 28 (December 1, 1842):

He [Joseph Smith] spoke of the various publications of Bennett and others, and of the prejudices which they had necessarily excited--that the Mormons were charged with sanctioning a community of wives and of goods, with polygamy, and various other enormities, not one word of which is true.

History of the Church, Vol. 6, pg. 405 (May 25, 1844):

Saturday, 25 -- At home, keeping out of the way of expected writs from Carthage. Towards evening, Edward Hunter and William Marks, of the grand jury returned from Carthage; also Marshal John p. Greene and Almon W. Babbitt, who informed me there were two indictments found against me, one chargine me false swearing on the testimony of Joseph H. Jackson and Robert D. Foster, and one charging me of polygamy, or something else, on the testimony of William Law, that I told him so! The particulars of which I shall learn hearafter. There was much false swearing before the grand jury.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 715, November 15, 1844.)

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.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 6, pg. 893-894 (May 1, 1845):

Dear Sir: To condemn unheard, any man or set of men or their principles, on the strength of popular rumor, or the testimony of enemies, would be gross injustice. An impartial investigation should always precede condemnation. The Latter-day Saints are charged by their enemies, with the blackest crimes. Treason, murder, theft, polygamy, and adultery, are among the many crimes laid to their charge. --The press reiterates and gives publicity to these charges. Under these circumstances, it is but right, that they should be heard in their defence. I shall, therefore, in this communication, briefly examine and refute a few of the charges, for it would need a legion of writers to answer (all) the lies told about us.

Times and Seasons, vol 6., pg. 894 (May 1, 1845):

Most of the stories against the Mormons have been propagated by apostates and traitors, (who have been generally cut off from the church for their crimes.) They publish their lies, and straightway they are believed, and hawked about as awful disclosures, and received by community with trembling and holy horror. Sidney Rigdon, I see by the papers, has made an exposition of Mormonism, charging Joseph Smith and the Mormons with polygamy, &c. It does not require a very sagacious mind to fathom Mr. Rigdon's motive for doing.

Times and Seasons, Vol. 6, pg. 894 (May 1, 1845)"

As to the charge of polygamy, I will quote from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which is the subscribed faith of the church and is strictly enforced. Article of Marriage, sec. 91, par. 4, says, "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 but one husband except in the case of death when either is at liberty to marry again." Sec. 12, par. 7. "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart and shall cleave unto her and NONE ELSE." In ancient till God cleanses the earth, and restores the government of his says, "know this that, in (the last days of perilous times shall come), for men shall be TRAITORS, FALSE ACCUSERS, INCONTINENT, fierce despiser of those that are good. No wonder then that apostates rage, or that the fulness of truth revealed again should bring a storm of persecution.

Critic's comment:There were no statements authorizing the practice of polygamy, plural marriage, or "celestial marriage" in the statements of Joseph Smith and or his disciples.

The Church continued to practice polygamy after 1890

Events prior to 1890

LDS Polygamy Facts Derived 100% from Church-Friendly Sources. The basic facts are as follows:

The LDS church practiced polygamy from 1843-1890. It only stopped because Prophet Wilford Woodruff had a revelation in which the divine practice of polygamy was not to be stopped, but to be put on hold. Critics say what a coincidence that Woodruff got a revelation to stop polygamy while the Government was pursuing polygamists. The Edmunds Act was passed in 1882. This enabled the Government to prosecute Mormons who participated in Polygamy and also for 'Unlawful Cohabitation'. The Mormons ignored this law, which was easy considering how isolated they were from everyone else. John Taylor, the third prophet went into hiding when there was a warrant out for his arrest in 1885. After a year of hiding, LDS President Taylor, showed the government his defiance of the law by marrying a 26-year-old while he was a whopping 78 years old! The Government was getting restless with the Saints rebellion by passing the Edmunds-Tucker Bill in 1887. This bill would intentionally bankrupt the church because of its polygamy practices. In 1890 the Government succeeded in seizing the church's holdings. At this point the fourth president, Woodruff, saw that the Kingdom of God had no choice but to surrender to Washington's demands.

The Manifesto

The manifesto known as Official Declaration 1 (links to the Church's website):

Official Declaration 1

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7–8 and Jacob 2:27, 30). Following a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s (see section 132). From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

To Whom It May Concern:

Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy—

I, therefore, as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.

One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.

Wilford Woodruff
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Lorenzo Snow offered the following:

I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.

Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 1890.

The manifesto wasn't completely written by Woodruff himself. Woodruff presented the document to his counselors, and George Q. Cannon edited it, making it about 150 words or so shorter.

Critics say that the manifesto was written "to beat the devil at his own game." The point was to mollify the U. S. Government that was coming down very hard on the Mormons over polygamy. Polygamy continued with a lot of secrecy even among the General Authorities in order to preserve plausible deniability. After 13 1/2 years, with the government still breathing down the Church's neck with the Smoot hearings in full swing, Joseph F. Smith issued the so-called "Second Manifesto" which supposedly did what the first one was supposed to do anyway.

Some researchers say that 1911 is the year that the Church finally became 100% committed to ending polygamy. Some critics go as far as to ask church members why they think that the top GAs aren't secretly practicing polygamy now? During Joseph's day, they did while denying it publicly, loudly and often. After the manifesto they did also, so what makes them so sure they aren't doing it now? What's different now that wasn't different when Joseph F. Smith authorized secret plural marriages AFTER the 1904 "Second Manifesto?"

Michael Quinn on polygamy

Michael Quinn is a respected LDS historian who wrote many articles for The Ensign and was a devout defender of the LDS faith. However Brother Quinn was allowed access to the church's private records which he used to accurately document the many post-manifesto polygamous marriages that occurred after 1890. As a result, the LDS church excommunicated Quinn in 1993. Quinn's essay on post-manifesto polygamy can be found at: Link is here.

According to Steve Benson (grandson of president Ezra Taft Benson):

Apostle Dallin Oaks acknowledged that he had read Quinn's article on post-Manifesto polygamy, covering the period from 1890 into the early 20th century.

Oaks also confessed that the Mormon Church had not, in fact, been honest about its practice of polygamy during that time. He admitted that the case, as laid out by Quinn, was, in fact, true. Oaks admitted that, in his opinion, lies had indeed been told by Mormon Church leaders about the continuing practice of polygamy after it supposedly was ended by the Manifesto of 1890.

An except from Quinn's essay:

In 1882, Congress passed the Edmunds Law which provided up to five years' imprisonment and a $500 fine for entering into polygamy, six months' imprisonment and $300 fine for the resulting unlawful cohabitation, and which disfranchised polygamists. President Taylor responded with a sermon in which he asked, "Are we going to suffer a surrender of this point?" and then he answered, "No, never! No, never!" He made his resistance to what was now the Constitutional law of the land more emphatic in October 1882 by announcing a revelation of God which stated: "You may appoint Seymour B. Young [a monogamist] to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law; for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my Priesthood." As federal pressure increased to arrest polygamists and otherwise suppress Mormon polygamy, John Taylor responded with greater defiance: at a special priesthood meeting at April conference of 1884 he asked for all monogamists serving in ward bishoprics or stake presidencies either to make preparations to marry a plural wife or to offer their resignations from Church office, and he even called out the names of monogamous stake presidents. In his last public discourse on 1 February 1885, John Taylor reminded his Salt Lake City audience of the federal efforts to suppress polygamy, and rhetorically asked if he should disobey God in order to support the government. His answer: "No, Never! No, NEVER! NO, NEVER!" President Taylor left the stand and went into permanent exile to avoid arrest by federal officers.

For the next two and a half years, John Taylor demonstrated continued resistance to compromise while he was "on the underground" in various hiding places in Utah. In July 1885, he suggested that due to the federal anti-polygamy raid, the American flags on all Church properties be lowered to half-mast for Independence Day, which outraged the non-Mormons of Salt Lake City and nearly caused a riot in the city. After eight months in hiding, John Taylor and his first counselor, George Q. Cannon, issued a First Presidency letter at October 1885 general conference: "Well-meaning friends of ours have said that our refusal to renounce the principle of celestial marriage invites destruction. They warn and implore us to yield." They reported their response: "We did not reveal celestial marriage. We cannot withdraw or renounce it." Four months later, Cannon was arrested by a U.S. marshal, remaining free prior to trial on a $45,000 bail bond, which President Taylor had Cannon forfeit so that he could return to hiding.

President Joseph F. Smith's testimony in the Reed Smoot hearings

The following quote is from the Church's official essay, "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," and President Joseph F. Smith's words during the Reed Smoot hearings (emphasis ours):

The Senate called on many witnesses to testify. Church President Joseph F. Smith took the stand in the Senate chamber in March 1904. When asked, he defended his family relationships, telling the committee that he had cohabited with his wives and fathered children with them since 1890. He said it would be dishonorable of him to break the sacred covenants he had made with his wives and with God. When questioned about new plural marriages performed since 1890, President Smith carefully distinguished between actions sanctioned by the Church and ratified in Church councils and conferences, and the actions undertaken by individual members of the Church. “There never has been a plural marriage by the consent or sanction or knowledge or approval of the church since the manifesto,” he testified.

In this legal setting, President Smith sought to protect the Church while stating the truth. His testimony conveyed a distinction Church leaders had long understood: the Manifesto removed the divine command for the Church collectively to sustain and defend plural marriage; it had not, up to this time, prohibited individuals from continuing to practice or perform plural marriage as a matter of religious conscience.

Elder Oaks on polygamous marriages after 1890

Some members of the Church continued to enter into plural marriages after the Manifesto was given in 1890. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“Polygamy did not end suddenly with the 1890 Manifesto. Polygamous relationships sealed before that revelation was announced continued for a generation. The performance of polygamous marriages also continued for a time outside the United States, where the application of the Manifesto was uncertain for a season. It appears that polygamous marriages also continued for about a decade in some other areas among leaders and members who took license from the ambiguities and pressures created by this high-level collision between resented laws and revered doctrines. (“Gospel Teachings about Lying,” Clark Memorandum [Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School periodical], Spring 1994, 16–17).

"Lesson 153: Official Declaration 1 and the Continued Development of Temple Work," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013

U.S. President Garfield's Presidency

From the historic archives regarding President of the United States - President Garfield:

The clumsy machinery of legislation kept bungling on, irresponsive to the principal needs and interests of the times. An ineffectual start was made on two subjects presenting simple issues on which there was an energetic pressure of popular sentiment-Chinese immigration and polygamy among the Mormons….. The Mormon question was dealt with by the Act of March 22, 1882, imposing penalties upon the practice of polygamy and placing the conduct of elections in the Territory of Utah under the supervision of a board of five persons appointed by the President. Though there were many prosecutions under this act, it proved so ineffectual in suppressing polygamy that it was eventually supplemented by giving the Government power to seize and administer the property of the Mormon Church. This action, resulting from the Act of March 3, 1887, created a momentous precedent. The escheated property was held by the Government until 1896 and meanwhile, the Mormon Church submitted to the law and made a formal declaration that it had abandoned polygamy.

The Cleveland Era, A Chronicle of the New Order in Politics

President Kimball's relatives

While the leaders were encouraged to qualify for their positions by living "the law," many of the most faithful and dedicated lay members of the Church also entered plural marriage of their own free will. They knew the true relationship between the manifesto and the higher law. One example of this was the father of Camilla Eyring Kimball, wife of Church President, Spencer W. Kimball.

On 3 November 1903 (over thirteen years after the manifesto was unanimously" accepted by the Church) her father, Edward Christian Eyring took his wife's younger sister, Emma Romney, as a plural wife. The marriage was performed at Colonia Juarez by the Stake President, Anthony W. Ivins who had been sent to Mexico by President Wilford Woodruff to continue performing plural marriages after the manifesto, even though they knew such marriages were illegal in Mexico. (see Heber Grant Ivins, Polygamy in Mexico, Op. Cit., p. 5)

In her biography, Sister Kimball said:

… Mother told me that Aunt Emma would be coming to live with us as Father's second wife, … she had given her consent, believing as Father did that the only way for them to attain the highest glory in the celestial kingdom was to live faithfully by The Principle. (Caroline Eyring Miner and Edward L. Kimball, Camilla, [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980], p. 13)

In spite of the manifesto, according to Sister Kimball, her parents understood that "it was still permissible, and were encouraged [by their leaders] in that understanding." (Ibid.) Not only was Edward Eyring not excommunicated for entering plural marriage after the manifesto, but the early 1950's found him and his plural wife faithfully doing temple work in the Mesa, Arizona temple (Ibid., p. 142). Hundreds of situations similar to these have existed throughout the Church."

"PLural Marriage: A Necessary Law" by Thomas A. Green and Knut J. Knuteson

Critics' Comment:

Today's church leaders assert that the mainstream Mormon church has nothing whatsoever to do with fundamentalist polygamists. Yet there is a contradiction in the fact that a sitting apostle in the 1950s had a polygamous Father-in-law living in full fellowship in the church and was a temple worker, more than half a century after church leaders claimed to have abandoned polygamy. ~Randy Jordan

LDS Polygamy Researcher Todd Compton

From a 2007 article:

Giving up polygamy was not easy for the Saints, and church leaders (including the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve) secretly authorized further plural marriages until the first decade of the twentieth century. Mitt Romney's ancestors were especially prominent in this "Post-Manifesto" era of Mormon polygamy, as many post-Manifesto plural marriages were solemnized in Mexico. Two common misconceptions about Mexican post-Manifesto polygamy are that polygamy was legal in Mexico, and that the Manifesto did not apply outside the United State. In actuality, polygamy was illegal in Mexico, and church leaders had agreed to discontinue polygamy throughout the world, not just in the United States. President Woodruff stated that the prohibition on plural marriages applied to Mormons "everywhere and in every nation and country."

News of post-Manifesto plural marriages inevitably leaked out, and when Reed Smoot was voted into the Senate in 1904, he was not allowed to sit without hearings examining the LDS church's commitment to stopping polygamy entirely. These hearings were a considerable embarrassment to church leaders. Under great pressure, Joseph F. Smith released what is known as the "Second Manifesto" in 1904.

Gradually, the LDS church became entirely monogamous, and today excommunicates known polygamists. Presently, a few groups which splintered off from the LDS church, called "Fundamentalists," practice polygamy in Utah and nearby states.

"Mitt Romney’s Polygamous Heritage," Todd M. Compton (archived copy).

The Edmunds-Tucker Act

Woodruff announced his Manifesto only four months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Edmunds-Tucker Act. That act would have disincorporated the church and seized all its assets worth more than $50,000 except for those which were not used exclusively for religious worship, if church leaders did not cease practicing polygamy. If that had happened, the church's burgeoning economic empire would have crumbled. Whether the leaders were to receive a revelation from God ending polygamy or not, the church had to cease the practice or it would have been effectively dissolved.

Second Manifesto

It was because of the embarrassing revelations of "new polygamy" in the Reed Smoot hearings (1904-06) that church leaders ceased authorizing new plural marriages. President Joseph F. Smith issued a "second manifesto" to let clandestine polygamist know that church leaders meant business this time (as opposed to Woodruff's 1890 manifesto, which critics say was merely a ruse to deceive the government.) After that prohibition against new plural sealings was issued, polygamy began to die off, except for among the fundamentalists who claim to have received secret authority from church leaders to continue it, which they still do to this day.

The fact is that church leaders worked long and hard to maintain the practice of polygamy right up until they were forced to "officially" end it with the 1890 Manifesto. Even after the 1879 Reynolds decision, wherein high-ranking Mormon George Reynolds was used as a "test case" (which the church lost and Reynolds was sent to prison), it took another eleven years for Woodruff to first "begin working to end polygamy" with his Manifesto.

The government increased the pressure against polygamy, but the Saints were determined to continue the practice. Shortly before the revelation known as the Manifesto (which declared an end to the practice of polygamy) was given, Lorenzo Snow, who later became president of the church, was claiming that no such revelation would ever come. When Snow was on trial for practicing polygamy, Mr. Bierbower, the prosecuting attorney, predicted that if he was convicted, "a new revelation would soon follow, changing the divine law of celestial marriage." To this Lorenzo Snow responded:

Whatever fame Mr. Bierbower may have secured as a lawyer, he certainly will fail as a prophet. The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom.

Though I go to prison, God will not change his law of celestial marriage. But the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown.

Historical Record, 1886, Vol. 5, page 144.

Although Lorenzo Snow said that the "severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a divine law," Wilford Woodruff, the 4th president of the church, issued the Manifesto in 1890. He claimed the Manifesto was given to stop the persecution the church would have to go through if the Mormons continued to practice polygamy. He stated:

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or for any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our prophets and apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed?…

I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. I laid it before my brethren—such strong men as Brother George Q. Cannon, Brother Joseph F. Smith, and the Twelve Apostles. I might as well undertake to turn an army with banners out of its course as to turn them out of a course that they considered to be right. These men agreed with me, and ten thousand Latter-day Saints also agreed with me.… Why? Because they were moved upon by the Spirit of God and by the revelations of Jesus Christ to do it.

Remarks Made by President Wilford Woodruff at Cache Stake Conference, held at Logan, Sunday Afternoon, November 1st, 1891. [Reported by Arthur Winter] Appeared in the Deseret Weekly, Vol. 43. pp. 659-60.

Before Wilford Woodruff became president of the Mormon Church, he maintained that the church could not give up polygamy (see Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 166). On January 26, 1880, Woodruff even claimed to have a revelation which threatened the United States with destruction if it continued to oppose the "Patriarchal Law"--i.e., plural marriage:

Undated entry following the summary of events for 1880: A revelation given to Wilford Woodruff in the wilderness of San Francisco Mountains in Arizona on the 26th day of Jan. 1880.

Thus saith the Lord unto my servant Wilford Woodruff. I have heard thy prayers and will answer thy petitions. I will make known unto thee my will concerning the nation who encumbers the land of promise and also concerning Zion and her inhabitants. I have already revealed my will concerning the nation through the mouth of my servant Joseph who sealed his testimony with his own blood, which testimony has been in force upon all the world from the hour of his death. What I the Lord have revealed in that testimony and decree upon this nation, and all the nations of the earth, shall be fulfilled, saith the Lord of hosts. I the Lord have spoken and will be obeyed. My purposes shall be fulfilled upon this nation and no power shall stay my hand. The hour is at the door when my wrath and indignation shall be poured out upon the wicked of this nation. Their murders, blasphemies, lyings, whoredoms and abominations have come up before my face and before the heavens and the wrath of mine indignation is full. I have decreed plagues to go forth and lay waste mine enemies and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage. The devil is ruling over his kingdom and my spirit has no place in the hearts of the rulers of this nation, and the devil stirs them up to defy my power, and to make war upon my Saints. Therefore, let mine Apostles and mine Elders who are faithful obey my commandments which are already written for your profit and guidance. Thus saith the Lord unto my servant John Taylor and my servant Wilford Woodruff and my servant Orson Pratt and to all the residue of mine Apostles. Have you not gone forth in my name without purse or scrip and declared the Gospel of life and salvation unto this nation and the nations of the earth and warned them of the judgments which are to come as you have been moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost and the inspiration of the Lord. You have done this year by year for a whole generation as man counts time. Therefore, your garments are clean of the blood of this generation and especially of this nation. Therefore, as I have said in a former commandment so I the Lord say again unto mine Apostles, go ye alone by [189] yourselves whether in heat or in cold and cleanse your feet with water, pure water; it matters not whether it be by the running streams or in your closet, but bear their testimonies before the Lord and the heavenly hosts; and when you have all done this, then gather yourselves together in your Holy Places and clothe yourselves in the robes of the Holy Priesthood and there offer up your prayers according to my Holy Law. Let him who presides be mouth and kneel upon the holy alter and there let mine Apostles bring all their testimonies before my face and before the heavenly hosts and before the justified spirits made perfect; and thus saith the Lord unto you, mine Apostles, when you bring these testimonies before one, let them be presented by name as far as the spirit shall present them unto you: The presidents of the United States, the Supreme Court, the cabinet, the Senate and House of Congress of the United States, the Governors of the States and Territories, the judges and officers sent unto you and all men and persons who have taken any part in persecuting you or bringing distress upon you or your lives or sought to hinder you from keeping my commandments or from enjoying the rights which the Constitution of Law of the Land guarantee unto you. And what I the Lord say unto you, mine Apostles, I say unto my servants the Seventies, the High Priests, the Elders, and the Priests and all my servants who are pure in heart and who have borne testimony unto this nation. Let them go forth and cleanse their feet in pure water and bear testimony of it unto your Father who is in heaven. And thus saith the Lord unto mine Apostles and mine Elders, when you do these things with purity of heart, I, the Lord, will hear your prayers and am bound by oath and covenant to defend you and fight your battles as I have said in a former commandment. It is not my will that mine Elders should fight the battle of Zion, for I will fight your battle. Nevertheless, let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake, for he that layeth down his life for my sake, shall find it again and have eternal life. The nation is ripened in iniquity and the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full and I will not stay my hand in judgment upon this nation or the nations of the earth. I have decreed wars and judgment upon the wicked and my wrath and indignation are about to be poured out upon them and the wicked and rebellious shall know that I am God. As I the Lord have spoken, so will I the Lord fulfill. I will spare none who remain in Babylon, but I will burn them up saith the Lord of Hosts. As I the Lord have suffered, so will I put all enemies under my feet, for I the Lord utter my word, and it shall be obeyed and the day of wrath and indignation shall come upon the wicked. And I say again wo unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal Law of Abraham which leadeth to a celestial glory which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth those things shall be damned saith the Lord of Hosts and shall be broken up and wasted away from under heaven by the judgments which I have sent forth and shall not return unto me void. And thus with the sword and by bloodshed and with famine and plagues and earthquakes and the thunders of heaven and the vivid lightnings shall this nation and the nations of the earth be made to feel the chastening hand of an Almighty God until they are broken up and destroyed, and wasted away from under heaven, and no power can stay my hand. Therefore, let the wicked tremble, let them that blaspheme my name hold their lips, for destruction will swiftly overtake them.

Wilford Woodruff's Journal, edited by Scott G Kenney, Vol. 7, pages 615-617

References

The Reed Smoot hearings

This entire section is taken from Wikipedia (on March 9, 2010):

Senator Reed Smoot, the center of the hearings

The Reed Smoot hearings (Smoot hearings or Smoot Case) were a series of Congressional hearings on whether the United States Senate should seat U.S. Senator Reed Smoot, who was elected by the Utah legislature in 1903. In addition to being a senator, Smoot was also an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, commonly known as Mormons), one of the highest positions in that church. The hearings began in 1904 and continued until 1907, when the Senate voted to exclude him. The vote fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to expel a member and he retained his seat.

The premise of the controversy surrounding Smoot's seating in the Senate was claimed to be about the church's practice of polygamy, which the church claimed to have officially abandoned in 1890; as the hearings revealed, however, the practice continued well into the 20th century. For example, the President and Prophet of the LDS church Joseph F. Smith cohabitated with his many wives and fathered eleven children after 1890. New plural marriages did end by 1909, but the practice continued until the polygamists died off.

The attorney who represented those protesting Smoot's admittance to the Senate, Robert W. Tayler, explained in his summation that polygamy was irrelevant and the real danger was Mormon belief in revelation. Although it has been claimed that polygamy was largely responsible for deep animosity between the LDS Church and the United States, in reality, it became a cause celebre to help unite Republicans against Democrats. Earlier, when it was well known that Brigham Young was a polygamist, the US President appointed him twice as territorial governor and the Senate ratified the appointment.[citation needed] Much of the American Protestant establishment viewed the LDS Church with distrust. The establishment was also skeptical of Utah politics, which before gaining statehood in 1896 had at times been a theocracy (theodemocracy) and in the early 20th century was still heavily dominated and influenced by the LDS Church.

Election

Prior to being called as an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smoot had run for a Senate position, but withdrew before the election. After becoming an apostle in 1900, he received the approval of church president Joseph F. Smith to run again in 1902 as a Republican. In January 1903, the Utah legislature chose him with 46 votes, compared to his Democratic competitor, who won 16.

Controversy

Within days of his election, controversy brewed as he was charged with being "one of a self-perpetuating body of fifteen men who, constituting the ruling authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or 'Mormon' Church, claim, and by their followers are accorded the right to claim, supreme authority, divinely sanctioned, to shape the belief and control the conduct of those under them in all matters whatsoever, civil and religious, temporal and spiritual."

When Senator Smoot arrived in Washington, D.C., in late February 1903, he was met with protests and charges that he was a polygamist, charges he could easily disprove. Unlike B. H. Roberts, who upon election to the House of Representatives was not allowed to sit while hearings took place, Smoot was allowed to be seated.

Among the public, old charges of Danites, the Mountain Meadows massacre, and Brigham Young's plural wives were discussed.

In January 1904, Senator Smoot prepared a rebuttal to these criticisms with the help of several non-Mormon lawyers. The actual hearings began in March. Mormon President Joseph F. Smith took the witness stand and was interrogated for three days. Apostles Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor did not show up after being subpoenaed. Apostle Marriner W. Merrill ignored one subpoena and died soon after being subpoenaed a second time. Taylor fled to Canada. Other witnesses included James E. Talmage; Francis M. Lyman, president of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time; Andrew Jensen, church historian; B. H. Roberts; and Moses Thatcher, who was dropped from the quorum in 1896.

According to historian Kathleen Flake:

The four-year Senate proceeding created a 3,500-page record of testimony by 100 witnesses on every peculiarity of Mormonism, especially its polygamous family structure, ritual worship practices, "secret oaths," open canon, economic communalism, and theocratic politics.[10] The public participated actively in the proceedings. In the Capitol, spectators lined the halls, waiting for limited seats in the committee room, and filled the galleries to hear floor debates. For those who could not see for themselves, journalists and cartoonists depicted each day's admission and outrage. At the height of the hearing, some senators were receiving a thousand letters a day from angry constituents. What remains of these public petitions fills 11 feet of shelf space, the largest such collection in the National Archives.

After years of hearings, the remaining charges of the opposition included:

The defense included:

Of note, Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho fought viciously against Smoot. His intensity caused some to believe that Smoot was as powerful as Dubois claimed. Dubois' ally, Senator Julius C. Burrows of Michigan, made the following statement, speaking of the history of Mormon polygamy:

In order to induce his followers more readily to accept this infamous doctrine, Brigham Young himself invoked the name of Joseph Smith, the Martyr, whom many sincerely believed to be a true prophet, and ascribed to him the reception of a revelation from the Almighty in 1843, commanding the Saints to take unto themselves a multiplicity of wives, limited in number only by the measures of their desires…Such the mythical story palmed off on a deluded people.

One supporter was Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania. Addressing the subject of polygamy, Penrose reportedly glared at one or more of his Senate colleagues who had a reputation for philandering and said, "As for me, I would rather have seated beside me in this chamber a polygamist who doesn't polyg than a monogamist who doesn't monag."

On February 20, 1907, the issue came to a conclusion as a vote was held in the senate. Smoot won, and he remained a senator for 26 more years.

After effects

President Joseph F. Smith on April 6, 1904, issued a "Second Manifesto," which reaffirmed the first regarding polygamy. He also declared any church officer who performed a plural marriage, as well as the offending couple, would be excommunicated. He clarified that the policy applied worldwide, not just in North America. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, resigned in October 1905 following the manifesto. This change to the Twelve was made public in April 1906, when George F. Richards, Orson F. Whitney, and David O. McKay were added to the quorum.

Quotes from the prophets

(emphasis added)

Apostle Heber C. Kimball (first counselor to Brigham Young)

I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow.

- Apostle Heber C. Kimball, The Twenty Seventh Wife, Irving Wallace, p. 101.

Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women 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 C. Kimball, The Lion of the Lord, New York, 1969, pp 129-130. Original source: The New York Times, April 17, 1860

I say to those who are elected to go on missions, remember they are not your sheep: they belong to Him that sends you. Then do not make a choice of any of those sheep; do not make selections before they are brought home and put into the fold. You under stand that. Amen

- Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p.256.

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 [of wives] 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), Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22

Some quietly listen to those who speak against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have half-a-dozen devils with them all the time. You might as well deny 'Mormonism,' and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose the doctrine, and the whole of them will be damned.

- Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p. 203

It would be as easy for the United States to build a tower to remove the sun, as to remove polygamy, or the Church and kingdom of God.

Millennial Star, Vol. 28, p.190

…principle of plurality of wives never will be done away,…

Deseret News, Nov. 7, 1855

Brigham Young

Brigham Young declares monogamy a system established by robbers

Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire….Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it. 'And is that religion popular in heaven?' it is the only popular religion there,…

- Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

Fate of women rejecting plural marriage

But if the woman is determined to not enter into plural marriage, that woman, when she comes forth, will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. Now sisters, do not say, `I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection.' You do not know what you will want. If, in the resurrection, you really want to be single and alone and live forever and ever and be made servants, while others receive the higher order of intelligence, and are bringing worlds into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants, and you can be servants to them.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, p.166

Brigham Young - Monogamy is the source of prostitution and whoredom

Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this MONOGAMIC SYSTEM which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of PROSTITUTION AND WHOREDOM throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128

Brigham Young - Adam was a polygamist

Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and Sinner! When OUR FATHER ADAM came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, ONE OF HIS WIVES WITH HIM.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, page 50

Brigham Young, implying Jesus was a polygamist

The Scripture says that He, the LORD, came walking in the Temple, with HIS TRAIN; I do not now who they were, unless HIS WIVES AND CHILDREN;…

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 309

Yes, one of the relics of Adam, of Enoch, of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Moses, David, Solomon, the Prophets, OF JESUS, AND HIS APOSTLES.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 328

Brigham Young miscellaneous polygamy quotes

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

Journal of Discourses, Vol 11, p. 269, August 19, 1866.

Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266.

Some of you may ask, 'Is there a single ordinance to be dispensed with? Is there one of the commandments that God has enjoined upon the people, that he will excuse them from obeying?' Not one, no matter how trifling or small in our own estimation. No matter if we esteem them non-essential, or least or last of all the commandments of the house of God, we are under obligation to observe them.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, p. 339

Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife.

Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262

"Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?" If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12 p. 269.

Apostle George A. Smith

George A. Smith - Monogamists should be ashamed

We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they (Non-Mormons) envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations.

Apostle George A Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291 (Deseret News, April 16, 1856)

Apostle Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt explains that the debauched state of Europe is due to monogamy

Some of the nations of Europe who believe in the one wife system have actually forbidden a plurality of wives by their laws; and the consequences are that the whole country among them is overrun with the most abomi[na]ble practices adulteries and unlawful connections prevail through all their villages, towns, cities, and country places to a most fearful extent.

The Seer, p. 12.

Orson Pratt , stating Jesus was a polygamist (emphasis added):

…it will be seen that the great messiah who was the founder of the Christian religion, was a polygamist, …the messiah choseby marrying many honorable wives himself, show to all future generations that He approbated the plurality of wives under the Christian dispensation, as well as under the dispensation in which His Polygamist ancestors lived. We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first Born, and another being upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as his only begotten in this world. We have also proved most clearly that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the great Bridegroom to whom kings' daughters and many honorable wives were to be married. We have also proved that both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity as well as in time;… And then it would be so shocking to the modesty of the very pious ladies of Christendom to see Abraham and his wives, Jacob and his wives, Jesus and his honorable wives, all eating occasionally at the same table, and visiting one another, and conversing about their numerous children and their kingdoms. Oh, ye delicate ladies of Christendom how can you endure such a scene as this?… If you do not want your morals corrupted, and your delicate ears shocked, and your pious modesty put to the blush by the society of polygamists and their wives, do not venture near the New Earth; for polygamists will be honored there, and will be among the chief rulers in that Kingdom.

The Seer, p. 172.

This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,…

Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 195.

Apostle Orson Pratt strongly affirmed that it was absolutely essential that polygamy not be given up by the church:

God has told us Latter-day Saints that we shall be condemned if we do not enter into that principle; and yet I have heard now and then… a brother or sister say, 'I am a Latter-day Saint, but I do not believe in polygamy.' Oh, what an absurd expression! What an absurd idea! A person might as well say, 'I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in him.' One is just as consistent as the other…. If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them, because it is utterly impossible,… to believe a part of them to be divine--from God--and a part of them to be from the devil;… The Lord has said that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord;…

Now I want to prophecy a little…. I want to prophecy that all men who oppose the revelation which God has given in relation to polygamy will find themselves in darkness; the Spirit of God will withdraw from them the very moment of their opposition to that principle, until they will finally go down to hell and be damned, if they do not repent…. if you do not become as dark as midnight there is no truth in Mormonism.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 17, pp. 224-225.

Apostle Orson Hyde

Jesus was a polygamist

"I discover that some of the Eastern papers represent me as a great blasphemer, because I said, in my lecture on Marriage, at our last Conference, that JESUS CHRIST WAS MARRIED at Cana of Galilee, THAT MARY, MARTHA, AND OTHERS WERE HIS WIVES, AND THAT HE BEGAT CHILDREN.
(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, page 210)

Apostle George Q. Cannon

Monogamy is responsible for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire

"It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome…was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her."
- Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202

President Wilford Woodruff

"If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does, then all would be right. We just can't do that, for God has commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey Him in days to come as we have in days past" (Journal of Discourses 13:165 - p.166).

President Woodruff made another interesting statement in 1888; at the dedication of the Manti Temple. He said:

"We will not end the practice of plural marriage until the coming of the Son of Man". (Journal of John Henry Smith, 21 May 1888, LDS Church Archives)

President John Taylor

"Where did this commandment come from in relation to polygamy? It also came from God…When this commandment was given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders of this Church that it was told them if they were not prepared to enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would come in consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be taken from them. When I see any of our people, men or women, opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down as on the high road to apostacy, and I do to-day; I consider them apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom" (Journal of Discourses 11:221).

"… the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people."
- Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

John Taylor, the third president of the church, claimed that he believed in keeping all the laws of the United States "except one"--i.e., "The law in relation to polygamy." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, page 317) Reference or here

Larger quote:

I was asked, "Do you believe in obeying the laws of the United States?" '"Yes I do, in all except one"—in fact I had not broken that. "What law is that?" "The law in relation to polygamy." "Well, why do you except that one?" "Because," I replied "it is at variance with the genius and spirit of our institution; because it is at variance with the Constitution of the United States; and because it is in violation of the law of God to me." The United States Supreme Court, however, since that time has made it a law of the land, that is, it has sanctioned it; it was not sanctioned at that time, that question was not then decided. We are here to-day, gathered together according to the word and law of God and the commandments of God to us.

President Joseph F. Smith

"Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or nonessential to the salvation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my protest against this idea, for I know it is false… Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. When that principle was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith,… he did not falter, although it was not until an angel of God, with a drawn sword, stood before him and commanded that he should enter into the practice of that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed, or rejected….

"If then, this principle was of such great importance that the Prophet himself was threatened with destruction,… it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law, or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great a reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one,…

"I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, pp. 28-31)

President Lorenzo Snow

"Though I go to prison, God will not change his law of celestial marriage. But the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown." (Historical Record, 1886, Vol. 5, page 144)

"In the Latter Day Saints Millennial Star the following was printed:

Shortly before the revelation known as the manifesto (which put a stop to the practice of polygamy) was given, Lorenzo Snow, who later became President of the Mormon Church, was declaring that no such revelation would ever come. When Lorenzo Snow was on trial for practicing polygamy, Mr. Bierbower (the prosecuting attorney) predicted that if he was convicted, 'a new revelation would soon follow, changing the divine law of celestial marriage.' To this Mr. Snow replied: "Whatever fame Mr. Bierbower may have secured as a lawyer, he certainly will fail as a prophet. The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom.

Though I go to prison, God will not change his law of celestial marriage. But the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown.
Historical Record, page 144"

References

Note: It's interesting to note that the church in the 1800s used many arguments against monogamous, heterosexual marriage in a manner similar to those used now against gay marriage.

Is polygamy a doctrine of the LDS Church?

The main reason polygamy was practiced by the early Saints is that it was commanded of by God. This doctrine was revealed to the Church through the prophet Joseph Smith. It has always been preached that polygamy is an eternal doctrine and will be in force in the next life, even if the Saints are not able to practice it currently in this life. The above statements are not disputed by active LDS. This makes Gordon B. Hinckley's comments confusing when he is asked about polygamy by Larry King on the Larry King Live show, aired September 8, 1998.

Note: The following is an excerpt from the interview where Larry King asks President Hinckley about the LDS fundamentalist churches currently practicing polygamy.

Larry King: You condemn it (polygamy)?

Gordon B. Hinckley: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.

Full transcript here: Link is here.

Video Clip: (note: clip contains some critical footage not from the interview): Link is here.

Critic's comments: Why did the prophet of the Church say that polygamy was not doctrinal? It is still in the Church's scriptural canon, D&C 132. Hinckley makes it sound as if it was either a mistake or practiced for reasons unrelated to religion. Surely he knows why it was practiced. Also, he makes an issue that polygamy is not legal today (as practiced by the fundamentalists). That's correct but it was not legal when the LDS practiced it in the 1800s either. He wants everyone to believe that polygamy was legal when the Latter-day Saints practiced it in the 1800s but that is illegal now as practiced by the fundamentalists. As shown above, this is untrue. It was always illegal—from Joseph's first plural wife in 1833 through the 2nd manifesto in 1904.

Will polygamy be practiced in the next life?

Polygamy is still taught in the temples. If a man is sealed to a woman and that woman dies and he remarries another woman and is sealed to her then he will have both of those wives in the next life. Several apostles have done this since 2000 including Elder Nelson. In a talk at BYU, Apostle Dallin H. Oaks said the following "When I was 66, my wife June died of cancer. Two years later--a year and a half ago--I married [in the LDS temple] Kristen McMain, the eternal companion who now stands at my side." (Dallin Oaks, "Timing," speech delivered at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 29 January 2002, Link is here.)

Notice how Oaks refers to his second wife as 'eternal companion' just like his first wife is his eternal companion. So obviously polygamy will be practiced in the next life for those people and the people that were involved in plural marriages in the 1800s, 1900s and even in Bible times. But what about us current members of the church that have only married, or intend to marry one spouse in this life?

Church doctrines and teachings have changed greatly over the years. As Mormon youth in Seminary and Sunday School, we were taught the 'eternal' doctrine of polygamy which remains a part of LDS theology, as per D&C 132. We were told that the Lord no longer required church members to practice polygamy because of the 'wickedness of men', but during the Millennium, 'the principle of plural wives' would be restored, even as God had 'restored' it through Joseph Smith. Members were also taught that 'worthy' priesthood holders would become Gods after death, with each resurrected man creating countless planets in his own universe. LDS women and teenage girls were taught that they would become the polygamous wives of a Mormon priesthood holder-God, and spend eternity bearing 'spirit children', who would incarnate on planets created by their omnipotent husband. It's our understanding that the LDS church no longer teaches this 'true' doctrine.

Also regarding marriage in general, most LDS don't seem to have a problem reconciling this verse from the Bible: Matthew 22:30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven."

In the book Mormon Doctrine (page 578 of the 1986 edition), apostle Bruce R. McConkie says: "Obviously the holy practice [of Plural Marriage] will commence again after the Second Coming of the son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium." Many LDS defenders of polygamy acknowledge that polygamy was merely suspended on earth because of the impracticality of practicing it currently on the earth. It will be practiced again, probably during the Millennium, and definitely in the next life. Of course to say otherwise would be admitting that the saints that practiced it in the 1800s did so in error.

Other recent statements from the prophets (per Richard Packham):

Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president of the church (1970-1972) married Louise E. Shurtleff in 1898. She died in 1908. In 1908 he married Ethel G. Reynolds, who died in 1937. In 1938 he married Jessie Evans, who died in 1971. He was sealed "for eternity" to each of those women. Now, paraphrasing what the Pharisees asked Jesus: Which woman will be Smith's wife in the celestial kingdom? According to Mormon doctrine, ALL THREE will be his wives. Smith confirmed "…my wives will be mine in eternity." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 2, pg 67.)

Harold B. Lee, the 11th president of the church, also remarried after his wife's death and anticipated his reunion with both women in poetry:

"My lovely Joan was sent to me:
So Joan joins Fern
That three might be, more fitted for eternity.
'O Heavenly Father, my thanks to thee' "
(Deseret News 1974 Church Almanac, page 17)

Additional examples include Howard W. Hunter, the 14th church president, who married Clara May Jeffs in 1931. She died in 1983. He then married Inis Bernice Egan in 1990. Both were sealed to him for time and eternity. Hunter died in 1995, having stated that he was looking forward to being reunited with his two wives in heaven.

As for polyandry, the question has come up in doing proxy sealings for the dead, where a woman was married more than once. Church policy is to seal the woman to both men, with the understanding that she will have to choose in the CK which sealing (only one) she accepts. So, no polyandry.

Essay - Mormon marriage: "Between a man and a woman" for the living — polygamy for the dead by Helen Radkey

This 2013 insightful essay discusses the hypocrisy of the teachings about polygamy along with the LDS Church's strong stance against same-sex marriage.

Essay Link: mormon-marriage-_between-a-man-and-a-woman_-for-the-living-polygamy-for-the-dead.pdf

Is polygamy essential for salvation?

Historical Teachings

In 1891 the First Presidency and Apostles of the Mormon Church made the following statement in a petition to the President of the United States: "We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man's highest exaltation in the life to come." (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, page 18)

"The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them."
- The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol 11, p. 269

-"Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266).

Speaking to the Saints from the pulpit, the Prophet taught

"Now, when a man in this Church says, `I don't want but one wife; I will live my religion with one,' he will perhaps be saved in the celestial kingdom, but when he gets there, he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all! He has had a talent that he has hid up. He will come forth and say, `Here is that which thou gavest me; I have not wasted it and here is the one talent,' and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken from him and given to those who have improved the talent they received, and he will find himself without ANY wife, and he will remain single forever and ever." Read D&C 132:53-55 (Original Version).

"But if the woman is determined to not enter into plural marriage, that woman, when she comes forth, will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. Now sisters, do not say, `I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection.' You do not know what you will want. If, in the resurrection, you really want to be single and alone and live forever and ever and be made servants, while others receive the higher order of intelligence, and are bringing worlds into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants, and you can be servants to them." (Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, p.166)

"Few, if any, of the temple marriages have been made binding upon the Lord by the participants fulfilling their vow and covenant, 'to fulfill all the laws, rites and ordinances pertaining to this holy matrimony in the new and everlasting covenant.' This means obeying the law of Abraham and Sarah as set forth in the Holy Scriptures (D&C Sections 131 and 132, especially verse 34). Without compliance to this law upon which eternal marriage is predicated, you will get about as far as anyone married outside the temple. The Lord says, "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." See D&C 82:10
- The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, p. 167

"The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction."
- Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259

"Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations which do not exist in monogamy, and there are blessings attached to the faithful observance of that law, if viewed only upon natural principles, which must so far exceed those of monogamy, as the conditions responsibilities and power of increase are greater. This is my view and testimony in relation to this matter. I believe it is a doctrine that should be taught and understood."
- The Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p.30

"The benefits derived from the righteous observance of this order of marriage do not accrue solely to the husband, but are shared equally by the wives; not only is this true upon the grounds of obedience to a divine law, but upon physiological and scientific principles. In the latter view, the wives are even more benefitted, if possible, than the husband physically. But, indeed, the benefits naturally accruing to both sexes, and particularly to their offspring, in time, say nothing of eternity, are immensely greater in the righteous practice of patriarchal marriage than in monogamy, even admitting the eternity of the monogamic marriage covenant."

"As before stated no man can obtain the benefits of one law by the observance of another, however faithful he may be in that which he does, nor can he secure to himself the fullness of any blessing without he fulfills the law upon which it is predicated, but he will receive the benefit of the law he obeys. … I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that."
- The Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p.31

President Joseph F. Smith

"Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I wish here, to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it to be false. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage IN PART --and is good so far as it goes--and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefore, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain a fulness of the blessings pertaining to the celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. He cannot receive the fulness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism, though he may repent in sackcloth and ashes."

"I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in the Church who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned. I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify, in the name of Jesus that it does mean that."
- The Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, pp. 28, 30, 31 (emphasis added)

Polygamy, an everlasting covenant?

D&C 132:4 says "For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant".

"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 I have borne with them these many years and this because of their weakness, because of perilous times, and furthermore, it is now pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these things. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change, 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 enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so, Amen."
The Prophet John Taylor, Revelation of Sept. 26 1886 (emphasis added)

From the journal of discourses

Link is here. (emphasis added)

'This doctrine of baptism for the dead is a great doctrine, one of the most glorious doctrines that was ever revealed to the human family; and there are light, power, glory, honor and immortality in it. After this doctrine was received, Joseph received a revelation on celestial marriage. You will recollect, brethren and sisters; that it was in July, 1843, that he received this revelation concerning celestial marriage. This doctrine was explained and many received it as far as they could understand it. Some apostatized on account of it; but others did not, and received it in their faith. This, also, is a great and noble doctrine. I have not time to give you many items upon the subject, but there are a few hints, that I can throw in here that perhaps may be interesting. As far as this pertains to our natural lives here, there are some who say it is very hard. They say, "This is rather a hard business; I don't like my husband to take a plurality of wives in the flesh." Just a few words upon this. We would believe this doctrine entirely different from what it is presented to us, if we could do so. If we could make every man upon the earth get him a wife, live righteously and serve God, we would not be under the necessity, perhaps, of taking more than one wife. But they will not do this; the people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives.

The women are entitled to salvation if they live according to the word that is given to them; and if their husbands are good men, and they are obedient to them, they are entitled to certain blessings, and they will have the privilege of receiving certain blessings that they cannot receive unless they are sealed to men who will be exalted. Now, where a man in this Church says, "I don't want but one wife, I will live my religion with one," he will perhaps be saved in the celestial kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has hid up. He will come forward and say, "Here is that which thou gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent," and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single for ever and ever. But if the woman is determined not to enter into a plural marriage, that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. Well, that is very good, a very nice place to be a minister to the wants of others. I recollect a sister conversing with Joseph Smith on this subject. She told him: "Now, don't talk to me; when I get into the celestial kingdom, if I ever do get there, I shall request the privilege of being a ministering angel; that is the labor that I wish to perform. I don't want any companion in that world; and if the Lord will make me a ministering angel, it is all I want." Joseph said, "Sister, you talk very foolishly, you do not know what you will want." He then said to me: "Here, brother Brigham, you seal this lady to me." I sealed her to him. This was my own sister according to the flesh. Now, sister, do not say, "I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection." You do not know what you will want. I tell this so that you can get the idea. If in the resurrection you really want to be single and alone, and live so for ever and ever, and be made servants, while others receive the highest order of intelligence and are bringing worlds into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants and you can be servants to them."

Long story short, a woman's choices are:

  1. Marriage to a polygamist future god.
  2. 'Living in single blessedness through all eternity', while acting as a servant to future god(s).

A Mormon Hymn of the era

Reference: 1856 Reformation Song. Used as a Hymn in an edition of Songs of Zion. Utah Historical Quarterly, 1928, p. 58.

Current Beliefs

The church no longer teaches that you must be a polygamist to enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Based on a 1933 First Presidency official statement issued to stem the tide of the Fundamentalists, is that the practice of polygamy is not required for exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. Notably absent, however, is any mention of whether those men who make the highest degree of the CK will then be required to have plural wives.

Many members still believe that we will be commanded to practice polygamy in the next life. Some members do not believe this. Most do not want to talk about it or even think about it.

The 1890 Manifesto may have rescinded the practice of polygamy, but the doctrine and guiding principles for exaltation remain the same as they did when the gospel was restored to Joseph Smith. The principles governing the eternal doctrine of Celestial Marriage have not changed. Merely changing the definition of 'Celestial Marriage' does not alter what was taught as an eternal principle.

LDS Apologist Response: You can read FAIR's response to this question.

Link is here.
Link is here.
Link is here.
Link is here.

How many people in the Church practiced polygamy?

Recent studies suggest that the number of Mormons living in polygamous families between 1850 and 1890, while varying from community to community and year to year, averaged between 20 and 30 percent. In some cases the proportion was higher. The practice was especially extensive with Mormon leaders, both locally and those presiding over the entire Church. These calculations would indicate that during the entire time polygamy was practiced the number of men, women, and children living in polygamous households amounted to tens of thousands. (Solemn Covenant, B. Carmon Hardy (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1992), p. 17.) The extent to which polygamy was practiced in Utah will probably never be known. Plural marriages were not publicly recorded, and there is little chance that any private records which might have been kept will ever be revealed. From information from available sources, it appears there may have been a time when 15-20 percent of the Mormon families of Utah were polygamous. ("Notes on Mormon Polygamy," Stanley S. Ivins, in D. Michael Quinn, ed., The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past, pp. 170-171.)

Ref: Mormonism 201: Chapter 16 - Polygamy (archived page).

The Mormons, PBS special

Plural marriage was not for everyone—in fact, at most 20 to 30 percent of Mormons would ever practice it, more among the church leadership than the regular members.

"The Mormons: Polygamy and the Church: A History," American Experience, PBS.

According to Gordon B. Hinckley, in a televised interview with Larry King, said polygamy

was on a restricted scale, between 2% and 5%"… a very limited practice among the early members.

YouTube clip of Larry King interview.

However, from the 2008 Joseph Smith lesson manual preface (emphasis ours):

The Prophet taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and a number of such marriages were performed during his lifetime. Over the next several decades, under the direction of the church presidents who succeeded Joseph Smith, a significant number of church members entered into plural marriages.

"Introduction," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011).

A significant number, as stated in the manual, is not 2%-5% as Hinckley stated. 15%-30% is probably more accurate. Statistically the numbers above are just the MEN. If you counted women that practiced polygamy the percentage of course would be much higher.

Number of polygamists jailed

The Church itself stated, in bemoaning the "persecution" that they were under, that over 1,300 of their men had been convicted on anti-polygamy charges. And this is only those who were caught and convicted. The 1,300 men means, if each was a polygamist, that there must have been AT LEAST 2,600 women (assuming only two wives for each husband) involved in polygamous marriages. That means AT LEAST 3,900 polygamists. Is 3,900 a "very limited practice"?

It probably would have been an even higher percentage if there were more women available. Wilford Woodruff stated in 1856 "All are trying to get wives, until there is hardly a girl fourteen years old in Utah, but what is married, or is just going to be."
Ref: Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven, p. 206, (2004, Anchor Books, New York).

The reason that most men, who didn't practice polygamy, didn't do it was because there weren't any women left - not out of any altruistic "morality" issues.

Parley p. Pratt and polygamy

Parley P Pratt.gif

The April 2007 Ensign had a lengthy article on the amazing life of Parley p. Pratt, one of the prominent apostles of the restoration. In the article they actually made a brief mention of a second wife. At they end of the article it says that Brother Pratt was murdered. That's all that was said. Other LDS books we've read merely say Parley was killed by a foe. What most LDS people don't know is why he was murdered. Parley had 12 polygamous wives. The last one was already married to another man, and he wasn't very happy that Parley added his wife and his children to his harem. A summary of the account is as follows:

Parley p. Pratt was sent to explore a southern route from Utah to California in 1849. He reached San Francisco from Los Angeles in the summer of 1851, remaining there until June, 1855. He was a fanatical defender of polygamy after its open proclamation, challenging debate on the subject in San Francisco, and issuing circulars calling on the people to repent as "the Kingdom of God has come nigh unto you."

While in San Francisco, Pratt induced the wife of Hector H. McLean, the former Elenor J. McComb, to accept the Mormon faith and to elope with him to Utah as his 12th wife. Elenor was the mother of three children, a girl and two boys. In the S. F. Bulletin of March 24, 1877, it is stated that the apostle made the acquaintance of Mrs. McLean while engaged in missionary work in San Francisco; that her husband, who was a custom-house official and a respectable citizen, ordered him to discontinue his visits, and kicked him out of the house for continuing them surreptitiously; and that the woman was so infatuated with the Mormon Elder that she devoutly washed his feet whenever he visited her.

It is reported that she was married to Apostle Pratt November 14, 1855, in Salt Lake City. Concerned that his (Hector's) wife [we have not found any record of divorce] would take his children and follow Pratt to Utah, McLean sent his children to his wife's parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hearing that her children were in her own father's home, she made plans to go to New Orleans and gain possession of them. After pretending that she had abandoned the Mormon belief, her parents allowed Elenor to take the children. When McLean learned of this he went to New Orleans, and traced his wife and Pratt to Houston, Texas, and thence to Fort Gibson, near Van Buren, Arkansas. On arriving at Fort Smith (near Van Buren), McLean found letters from Parley Pratt addressed to his wife, one of them signed 'Your own,--.

In May of 1857, Pratt was arrested near Van Buren, Arkansas by a Captain Little of the U.S. Cavalry on a warrant stemming from charges filed by Hector McLean. Pratt was transferred under guard to Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas, where the nearest federal court convened. Judge John B. Ogden, U.S. Commissioner, presided over the examining session on Tuesday, 12 May 1857. Evidence presented against Elder Pratt was considered insufficient to warrant holding him, and he was to be released. However, the judge purposely did not announce the decision to release Elder Pratt at that time, hoping to dissuade McLean from his avowed determination to kill him. Elder Pratt was kept at the jailhouse overnight in protective custody. Early the next morning Judge Ogden brought his horse to him at the jail, saw that he was discharged, and at the same time offered him a knife and a pistol as a means of self-defense. But Elder Pratt declined, saying, "Gentlemen, I do not rely on weapons of that kind, my trust is in my God. Goodbye, gentlemen."

As soon as Pratt was released, he left the place on horseback. McLean, who had found letters from Pratt to his wife at Fort Gibson which increased his feeling against the man, followed him on horseback. Although Pratt rode a circuitous route to escape his pursuers, a light rain allowed Hector McLean and two accomplices, James Cornell and Amasa Howell, to track him. They caught up with the fleeing man some twelve miles northeast of Van Buren (near Alma, Arkansas) in front of the Winn farm. McLean fired shots, but they failed to take effect. Riding up to Elder Pratt, McLean stabbed him in the left breast with his bowie knife. The wounded man fell from his horse. About ten minutes later McLean returned and, placing a gun next to Pratt's neck, deliberately fired into the prostrate figure.

Following the assassination of her 2nd husband, Parley Pratt, by her 1st husband, Hector McLean, Elenor returned quickly to Salt Lake City, where she relayed the details (as she knew them) of Pratt's death [some say reporting directly to Brigham Young]. Some say that it is was her report that set off the sequence of events that culminated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

For more about Eleanor's life after Parley's death: Link is here.

List of Pratt's wives [with his age and the bride's age annotated]

Wife #1: On the 9th of September, 1827, Parley p. Pratt [age 20] and Thankful Halsey [age 30] were solemnly united in the bonds of matrimony by Elder Palmer, minister of the Baptist Church, in Canaan, Columbia County, New York.

Wife #2: On May 9, 1837, Mary Ann Frost Stearns [age 28] married Parley p. Pratt [age 30].

Wife #3: In 1843, Elizabeth Brotherton [age 27] was married to Parley Pratt [age 36] in Nauvoo by Patriarch Hyrum Smith.

Wife #4: Mary Wood [age 26], daughter of Samuel and Margaret Orr Wood of Glasgow, Scotland, became a plural wife of Parley p. Pratt [age 37] on September 9, 1844.

Wife #5: Hannahette Snively [age 32}, daughter of Henry Snively and Mary Heavnor of Woodstock, Shenandoah County, Virginia, Hannahette married Parley p. Pratt [age 37] on November 2, 1844, in the Nauvoo Temple. They were married by Brigham Young.

Wife #6: Belinda Marden [age 24], the seventh daughter and the fourteenth child of John and Rachel Shaw Marden of Chichester, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, married Parley p. Pratt [age 37] on November 20. 1844 at the home of Erastus Snow.

Wife #7: Sarah Huston was born August 3, 1823. in Starke County, Ohio. She [age 22] married Parley p. Pratt [age 38] October 15, 1845 at Nauvoo.

Wife #8: Phoebe Soper moved to Nauvoo in February 1846. She [age 23] married Parley Parker Pratt [age 38] on February 8, 1846.

Wife #9: Martha Monk was born in Raynor, Chestershire, England, the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Monk. She [age 22] became the wife of Parley p. Pratt [age 40] in 1847.

Wife #10: Ann Agatha Walker was born at Leek, Staffordshire, England. Her parents were William Gibson Walker, a schoolteacher, and Mary Goodwin, the town milliner. Ann Agatha [age 18] married Parley p. Pratt [age 40] on April 28, 1847 at Winter Quarters.

Wife #11: Kezia Downs was born May 10,1812 at Raynor, Chestershire, England. She was baptized by Elder Parley p. Pratt and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1851. December 17, 1853, she [age 41] was married to Pratt [age 44].

Wife #12: Elenor J. McComb was born December 29. 1817 in Wheeling, West Virginia, the daughter of James McComb. Elenor married Hector McLean and they went to San Francisco, where she became acquainted with the Mormon elders and was later baptized. Elenor was the mother of three children, a girl and two boys. Elenor became acquainted with Parley p. Pratt while he was on a "mission" to San Francisco. She [age 38] was married to Pratt [age 48] November 14, 1855, in Salt Lake City.

From "Blood of the Prophets"

Without the benefit of divorce, Brigham Young sealed Eleanor McLean to Pratt for time and all eternity on November 14, 1855, in Salt Lake's Endowment House as the apostle's twelfth wife. (endnoted)

Priesthood Justification for it

Brigham Young stated that a woman who wanted to leave her legal husband to "plural marry" another man because the new guy was a higher-ranking priesthood holder, or because her legal husband had mistreated her, could do so "without a bill of divorcement," under the auspices of "priesthood authority."

Critic's note:The Church Almanac lists Parley P Pratt as assassinated while on a mission but he was really murdered by the irate existing husband of his latest fancy. Technically therefore, she was polyandrous also. Practically, she was adulterous and then when she married Parley, bigamous. She was never divorced from her first husband. She had just abducted one of her children. Her husband took the child back after a court hearing and then killed Parley. I don't think he was ever tried for the murder which was in Arkansas. The Mountain Meadows Massacre was one later result of the ensuing hatred by Brigham et al of people from that area. The brethren did not recognize any marriage they did not perform as being legal, so they took whom they pleased. Missions were often wife gathering expeditions. Moral of the story: Better be careful whose family you try to steal…you might just get yourself killed!

Were the polygamous wives happy?

Brigham Young gives Mormon women 2-week ultimatum to quit complaining about polygamy [emphasis added]:

"Now for my proposition; it is more particularly for my sisters, as it is frequently happening that women say they are UNHAPPY. Men will say, 'My wife, though a most excellent woman, has NOT SEEN A HAPPY DAY SINCE I TOOK MY SECOND WIFE,' 'No, NOT A HAPPY DAY FOR A YEAR,' says one; and another HAS NOT SEEN A HAPPY DAY FOR FIVE YEARS. It is said that women are tied down and abused: that they are misused and have not the liberty they ought to have; that many of them ARE WADING THROUGH A PERFECT FLOOD OF TEARS,…

"I wish my own women to understand that what I am going to say is for them as well as others, and I want those who are here to tell their sisters, yes, all the women of this community, and then write it back to the States, and do as you please with it. I am going to give you from this time to the 6th day of October next, for reflection, that you may determine whether you wish to stay with your husbands or not, and then I am going TO SET EVERY WOMAN AT LIBERTY and say to them, Now go your way, MY WOMEN WITH THE REST, go your way. AND MY WIVES have go to do one of two things; either round up their shoulders to endure the afflictions of this world, and live their religion, OR THEY MAY LEAVE, for I will not have them about me. I will go into heaven alone, rather than have SCRATCHING AND FIGHTING AROUND ME. I WILL SET ALL AT LIBERTY. 'WHAT, FIRST WIFE TOO?' YES, I WILL LIBERATE YOU ALL….

"I wish my women, and brother Kimball's and brother Grant's to leave, and every woman in this Territory, or else say in their hearts that they will embrace the Gospel -the whole of it….say to your wives, 'Take all that I have and be set at liberty; but if you stay with me you shall comply with the law of God, and that too WITHOUT ANY MURMURING AND WHINING. You must fulfil the law of God in every respect, and round up your shoulders to WALK UP TO THE MARK WITHOUT ANY GRUNTING.' "Now recollect that two weeks from to morrow I am going to set you at liberty. But the first wife will say, 'It is hard, for I have lived with my husband twenty years, or thirty, and have raised a family of children for him, and it is a great trial to me for him to have more women;' then I say IT IS TIME THAT YOU GAVE HIM UP TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WILL BEAR CHILDREN. If my wife had borne me all the children that she ever would bare, the celestial law would teach me TO TAKE YOUNG WOMEN that would have children….

"SISTERS, I AM NOT JOKING, I do not throw out my proposition to banter your feelings, to see whether you will leave your husbands, all or any of you. BUT I KNOW THAT THERE IS NO CESSATION TO THE EVERLASTING WHINING OF MANY OF THE WOMEN IN THIS TERRITORY; I am satisfied that this is the case. And if the women will turn from the commandments of God and continue to despise the order of heaven, I will pray that the curse of the Almighty may be close to their heals, and that it may be following them all the day long….

"Prepare yourselves for two weeks from to morrow; and I will tell you now, that if you will tarry with your husbands, after I HAVE SET YOU FREE, YOU MUST BOW DOWN TO IT, and SUBMIT yourselves to the CELESTIAL LAW. You may go where you please, after two weeks from to-morrow; but, remember, that I WILL NOT HEAR ANY MORE OF THIS WHINING."

(Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4., pp. 55-57; also printed in Deseret News, Vol. 6, pp. 235-236)

Critic's Comment: Obviously Brigham was motivated to give this speech because the women were not happy with polygamy. From searching records and reading various published stories from faithful polygamous wives, we have found many women that were very upset practicing LDS polygamy and not one account of a truly happily married polygamous woman from the 1800s but obviously there must be some. NOTE: If anyone finds any, please email the administrator of this site so we can include them. Here are just a few samples of some of the more famous polygamous wives:

U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's ancestor

Romney's great-grandmother, Hannah Hood Hill, was the daughter of polygamists. She wrote vividly in her autobiography about how she "used to walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow" over her own husband's multiple marriages.

Link is here. (archived copy)

Sarah Pratt

"Here was my husband," she said, "gray headed, taking to his bed young girls in mockery of marriage. Of course there could be no joy for him in such an intercourse except the indulgence of his fanaticism and of something else, perhaps, which I hesitate to mention."
-Sarah Pratt speaking of her husband, the apostle Orson Pratt who dated a 16-year-old girl (and then married her) when he was 57. (Van Wagoner 1986, pp. 92)

Link to Orson Pratt history

Mary Ann Angell

"God will be very cruel if he does not give us poor women adequate compensation for the trials we have endured in polygamy."
-Mary Ann Angell Young, Brigham Young's second wife Link is here.

Helen Kimball (14 year-old wife of Joseph)

"I had, in hours of temptation when seeing the trials of my mother, felt to rebel. I hated polygamy in my heart."

Link is here.

"I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."
-Helen Mar Kimball
Mormon Polygamy: A History, p. 53

See Helen's story.

Emma Smith (first wife of Joseph)

Emma was very much against polygamy. Her story is told in the pro-LDS book: Mormon Enigma. When asked where the doctrine of 'spiritual wifery' came from she responded 'straight from the devil'. After Joseph died, she remarried a non-Mormon and had nothing whatsoever to do with polygamy again. Mormon Enigma can be previewed on-line.

For anyone wishing to really know the pain of what these women endured, you need to read about their lives. A few good, well-researched books such as the following will likely convince anyone that those women suffered dearly for their devotion to their involvement in polygamy:

Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner. Even when material maintenance was adequate, emotional support was usually not. More experienced plural wives would counsel women new to the practice to expect little in the way of a loving relationship from their husbands, that they should give up any emotional attachment and when he came to her household to receive him as she would any other guest. (Van Wagoner, 153).

Tell it All (can be read online) by Fanny Stenhouse. She relates her own unhappy story and those of her friends. There is even some reason to believe that a daughter of Brigham Young committed suicide because she was so unhappy about her husband taking more wives. She also tells the story of Orson Pratt's cold heartedness toward his wife, Eliza, as she was dying.

In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton. Story of Joseph's wives.

What about the rally?

We haven't really been able to, as of yet, find much information on the rally reportedly attended by hundreds of polygamous wives in Salt Lake City in support of polygamy in the 1800s. As women had very little say (in and out of the church), it's quite possible that they were told to be there by their husbands. Brigham Young controlled the territory with an iron fist and if he wanted something, it happened.

NOTE: If anyone has any information on this rally, please email the administrator of this site.

Update: Here's the only information we have found regarding the rally of 1886:
"Mormon" Women's Protest, 1886 (archived copy)

Here's a snippet from the article:

"The public political action of Latter-day Saint women had its roots in the inception of their religious female association, the Relief Society, in 1842. Members delivered petitions to Illinois governor Thomas Carlin in defense of Joseph Smith and his illegal imprisonment. Thirty years later in Utah women reacted to antipolygamy legislation with similar activity. They wrote letters, sent memorials, and urged people to testify before Congress. To show their solidarity and commitment to their beliefs, three thousand women gathered at a "Great Indignation Meeting" in Salt Lake City in January 1870. Throughout the month, the structure of that meeting was repeated in over fifty Utah settlements in their various Relief Society organizations, where countless LDS women publicly defended their right to practice their religion. This public effort led to the pursuit of the vote for women, particularly in conjunction with a popular belief outside the territory that women would then vote to remove polygamy [4]. By February of 1870 acting territorial governor S.A. Mann granted Utah women suffrage, second only to Wyoming. This movement precipitated an 1871 visit of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Utah and created bridges with national women's organizations."

Parallels to Women in Islam

I spoke with a Muslim woman once, years ago via chat. She said that (paraphrasing) "women in Islam are treated so well, it is a misconception that we are treated unfairly" and then to the effect, "I couldn't imagine how tough it would be to live as women outside of this".

When I think about that, I just think that the Islamic women are being brainwashed into thinking it's okay to subject the women to restrictions such as always having to put a veil on in public in 100 degree weather, to be subservient to men and never have any real civil rights to speak of. Perhaps the Mormon women who accept polygamy believe that polygamy is okay for similar reasoning.

If the women hated polygamy so much, then why did they participate in it?

Many women practiced it because they believed the church was true and somehow this was commanded by God. Others likely had little choice if their husband said he had to do it and was going to practice this commandment with or without their support. The first wife was supposed to give her consent, but many, like Emma Smith, protested against it and their husbands did it anyway. Others, like Helen Kimball, were coerced by their parents into polygamous marriages - often to much older men. Some were promised great eternal blessings for them or their families.

Many women stayed in polygamous marriages for the same reason many battered women stay in bad marriages today - for the sake of their children and limited means to support themselves. This would be far worse for a woman in the 1800s to be on her own with children than it is today. In that society, they had no one to turn to for help out of a heartbreaking situation. They either lived with it or tried to survive in a man's world on their own.

The idea that most plural wives were happy with the arrangement is a myth. Official Mormon histories have romanticized plural marriages as being as normal and full of affection as monogamous marriages. Some may have been. However, Zina Diantha Huntington (polygamous wife to Joseph Smith and then later to Brigham Young), when interviewed by a journalist from the New York World, in 1869, drew a distinction between romantic love and plural marriage. Commenting on women who were unhappy in their polygamous marriages, she said they "expect too much attention from the husband and … become sullen and morose…" She insisted that the successful polygamous wife, "must regard her husband with indifference, and wits no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy." Lucy Walker, who had been sealed for time to Heber C. Kimball, after the death of Joseph Smith said, "There was not any love in the union between myself and Kimball, and it is my business entirely whether there was any courtship or not… It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to establish, a great and glorious true principle." (In Sacred Loneliness, 108, 466-467).

Additional Resource

The book The Women of Mormonism; Or, The Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves has many stories of heartbreak from women of the time.

A positive perspective from a fundamentalist Mormon

We listened to a podcast (also available as a video cast) from a modern woman that was LDS and later became a fundamentalist polygamist. Anne B. Wilde totally goes against the stereotype of polygamists as seen on talk shows. She is still very content with her polygamous lifestyle. Her story is at:
Link is here.

References

RealMormonHistory.com

What about the children?

There is much discussion about how the wives were affected by polygamy, but what about the children? How would polygamy effect them?

Brigham Young had some 55 wives and 57 children. How much time do you think father Brigham spent with each of his children? Would he even know all of their names? How many times do you think he helped them with their school work or played with each child? The children would virtually grow up without a father. As the church is so much about family, isn't polygamy one of the worst things you could do for a child?

There was a series of LDS Church commercials that was popular in the 1980s that had the children of a typical family constantly bugging their dad to play with them. He was always too busy though with work, etc. The boys would then trick their dad into going out to the camper and they would shut the door and the mom and boys would get in and force him to go camping with them. Then they would give a message like 'Families, isn't it about time?' or something like that to inspire fathers to spend quality time with their children.

Yet polygamy goes totally against this philosophy. With children in the larger polygamous families exceeding 50 children like Brigham Young had, it would be impossible for one man to spend anywhere close to the necessary quality time with each child that the church now endorses.

All other things being equal, the children of polygamous families would have a far worse childhood than the children of non polygamous families - just like children of divorced families suffer when the father (or mother) is absent from their lives on a daily basis.

Artemesia Snow (wife of Apostle Erastus Snow) concluded: "it is no way to bring up children" (Mormon Polygamy, 100).

It's one thing if consenting adults decide to enter into a polygamous relationship (although many times the first wife/wives were not even consulted as in many of Joseph Smith's marriages), but it's quite another to punish the children unnecessarily. I know my children would be at a severe disadvantage if I was only a part-time dad so I can only imagine what it would be like living with dozens of siblings and my dad perhaps visited my home only a few times per month. Again we have to ask, why would God command this?

Circumstances surrounding Joseph's death

Many LDS are under the impression that shortly before Joseph Smith was killed, he was put in jail unjustly by anti-Mormons using trumped-up charges. In reality, the circumstances surrounding Joseph's assassination was a result of the actions he took to prevent his being exposed as a polygamist.

From the neutral site wikipedia (accessed June 2008):
William Law was a member of the First Presidency under Joseph Smith and a close associate of Joseph. During the course of his association with Smith, Law came to believe that Smith had made several proposals to Law's wife Jane, under the premise that Jane Law would enter a polygamous marriage with Smith. Law claimed that when he confronted his wife, she told him that Smith had "asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband."

As a result of what William Law came to believe about Joseph Smith, Law became disaffected with Smith, and left the church. William Law and six associates published a newspaper called The Nauvoo Expositor which exposed Smith's polygamy. The criticism of Smith was focused on three main points: The opinion that Smith had once been a true prophet, but had become a fallen prophet in the last few years because of his introduction of plural marriage, exaltation and other controversial doctrines; the opinion that as church president and Nauvoo mayor, Smith held too much power; and the belief that Smith was corrupting young women by forcing, coercing or introducing them to the practice of plural marriage.

The Expositor only published one issue - on June 7, 1944. Joseph was very upset that this newspaper was published and exposed his practice of plural marriage which he did not want exposed to the world. Joseph was the mayor of Nauvoo and ordered the printing press destroyed as well as any copies of the newspaper that could be found. The Expositor press was destroyed that same day and the newspaper was immediately shut down. It never resumed publication.

William Law complained to the governor of Illinois about what the mayor (Smith) had done. The governor agreed that Smith exceeded his authority and violated the law in destroying the Expositor's printing press. Smith was justly put in jail for his ordering the destruction of the Expositor's printing press.

A mob later stormed the jail and killed Joseph and his brother Hyrum. Joseph fought back with a revolver that had been smuggled to him and reportedly discharged all six shots, hitting two men of which one of them reportedly died later. He and his brother were overwhelmed by the mob and were killed. Hyrum also had a smuggled pistol.

Both Apostle B.H. Roberts and Apostle Dallin Oaks (a lawyer) admitted that Joseph had illegally destroyed the printing press. Link is here.

References

Did Joseph say polygamy was a mistake?

There doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence that Joseph admitted that polygamy was a mistake, although there are reports that he did say something to that effect before he died. The following two quotes are of interest, however, it must be noted that both of these quotes are from men who were heavily involved in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which rejected polygamy. No firsthand sources corroborate these statements.

In conclusion of this matter, it should be noted that there seems to be evidence that even Joseph Smith himself renounced his personal involvement in polygamy, acknowledging that the 1843 revelation to institute it as official Church doctrine, originated with the Devil and not God. The following statement made by William Marks, who was Presiding Elder at Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844, may be quoted in this regard: "[Joseph] said it [plural marriage] eventually would prove the overthrow of the church, and we should soon be obliged to leave the United States unless it could be speedily put down. He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down.

William Marks, Saints' Herald, Volume I, Number 1, page 22.

The testimony of Isaac Sheen, who later became a leader in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS), matched that of Marks when he stated,

Joseph Smith repented of his connection with this doctrine, and said that it was of the devil. He caused the revelation on that subject to be burned, and when he voluntarily came to Nauvoo and resigned himself into the arms of his enemies, he said that he was going to Carthage to die. At that time he also said that, if it had not been for that accursed spiritual wife doctrine, he would not have come that.

Isaac Sheen, ibid., page 24.

These sources are quoted in David Whitmer's book, An address to all believers in Christ, pp. 39-40.

What about the Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamists?

There are perhaps 50,000 Fundamentalist Mormons practicing polygamy in the United States. The majority of those do it with the firm belief that they are practicing plural marriage to obey a commandment originated from God and revealed to Joseph Smith. They believe that they are the pure Latter-day Saints, while mainstream LDS church members are apostates. The LDS church says that they have nothing to do with the Fundamentalist LDS church. We agree that they have no direct control over them and have very limited influence.

We think we can all agree that polygamy practiced today by the fundamentalists is just plain wrong. Without going into a lot of detail, both LDS and non-LDS agree that the fundamentalists should not be practicing polygamy today. But why is it any different for polygamists today than it was in the 1800s? Both groups firmly believe they are doing it because they are commanded to from the Lord. Some faithful LDS say well it's illegal now. But as shown above it has always been illegal.

One problem, of course, stems from the fact that the LDS church has never renounced polygamy as an eternal doctrine or declared it not to be God's Will. Until this happens, the lines between the fundamental Mormonism and mainstream Mormonism will continue to be blurred.

By their fruits yea shall know them

One of Joseph Smith's fruits is the current practice of polygamy by some 50,000 Fundamentalist Mormons in North America. One thing is for sure - If it wasn't for Joseph Smith, there wouldn't be thousands of Fundamentalist Mormon families practicing polygamy today.

One of many articles out there that typify the fundamentalist polygamy:
LA Times Article

Does Heavenly Father practice polygamy also?

"When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world." Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 50).

"We have clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His first Born, and another being upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus (Mary - ed.), as his only begotten in the world. We have also probed most clearly that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the great Bridegroom to whom kings' daughters and many honorable wives were to be married. We have also proved that both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity as well as in time … If you do not want your morals corrupted, and your delicate ears shocked and your pious modesty put to the blush by the society of polygamists and their wives, do not venture near the New Earth; for polygamists will be honored there, and will be among the chief rulers in that Kingdom," LDS Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 172.

"If none but Gods will be permitted to multiply immortal children, it follows that each God must have one or more wives,"
LDS Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 158

Editor comment: The concept of a Heavenly Mother can be a bit strange for some people to accept but the idea of Heavenly Mothers (plural) is very unnerving. Logically, if God has multiple wives then although everyone has the same Father-in-Heaven, most people would have different 'Mothers-in-Heaven'. Perhaps that's one reason we're told not to pray to our Mother-in-Heaven as we wouldn't know which one.

References

Some Faithful LDS adopt a different view of polygamy

A common reason given for polygamy, among polygamists both historical and modern, from Joseph Smith to Warren Jeffs, is the idea that God commanded them to take additional wives. Joseph's Brother, Hyrum, and several of Joseph's wives said that Joseph told them God would send an angel with a sword to "slay" him if he did not marry additional wives.

Today, an increasing number of LDS church members are uncomfortable with the idea that God commanded polygamy, and are adopting a different view. To them, Joseph Smith's behavior seems inappropriate or manipulative - perhaps even abusive. The idea that Joseph pressured young teenagers into marriage, or that he married women who already had loving, honorable husbands, does not mesh with treasured principles such as agency when choosing a partner and fidelity to ones cherished spouse. All this seems foreign to the God they worship and the principles they honor and love.

These LDS church members take the view that, like David of the Old Testament, it's possible for accomplished and respected men to occasionally make a mistake. They hope for the day when the LDS church will no longer defend Joseph Smith's behavior in polygamy as appropriate. Although sometimes difficult, these members kindly and gently stand for their principles. One member tells how during a discussion of Joseph Smith's polygamy, she expressed her feelings by simply saying, "I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I just want you to know that I don't think this was appropriate, or of God".

Why didn't an angel come to Emma?

Joseph's first wife Emma gave the prophet considerable grief over the practice of plural marriage. That's understandable as she had no witness that it was really true and she often denied that her husband even practiced polygamy. She told her sons that their father never practiced polygamy, which is one of the main reasons the RLDS Church was even formed. We have to wonder why an angel didn't appear to Emma to convince her that polygamy was commanded by God.

The Bible talks of Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel. Mary's soon-to-be husband Joseph was going to put her away until he had a visit in a dream explaining the virgin birth. Wouldn't it make sense that Emma would have been given the same information from God as Joseph did about polygamy, so that Emma would have gone along and not fought Joseph as she did? This is another reason to think that perhaps polygamy may have originated with Joseph Smith rather than from God or an angel.

Mitt Romney and Polygamy

Interesting articles:

Link is here.

Link is here.

Polygamy stories

There are many stories of unhappy plural marriages. Here are a couple examples of excessive abuse by leaders in the church:

Bishop Snow and the castration of Thomas Lewis

In the early spring of 1857, Warren Snow was Bishop of the Church at Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. Bishop Snow was in his forties and already had several wives, but there was a fair young woman in the town that Snow also wanted for a wife. But the beautiful young girl told Snow that she was then engaged to a young man her same age, Thomas Lewis, a member of the Church. Consequently, she would not marry the old bishop.

Bishop Snow, in Joseph Smith fashion, insisted that it was the will of God that she should marry him instead of Lewis. But the girl continued obstinate. The ward "teachers" visited her and advised her to marry Bishop Snow. Then the ward authorities called on the young man and directed him to give up the young woman. This he steadfastly refused to do. Lewis was promised Church preferment, celestial rewards, and every other blessing they could think of to no purpose. He remained true to his fiancee, and said he would die before he would surrender his intended wife to the embraces of another.

Then the bishop called Lewis to go on a mission to some distant locality, so that he would have no trouble in effecting his purpose of forcing the girl to become another of his wives. But Lewis also refused to go on a mission.

The girl and her fiance both refused to give her up. Ordered to go on a mission, the man refused. Snow decided that he should be castrated, saying, "When that is done, he will not be liable to want the girl badly, and she will listen to reason when she knows that her lover is no longer a man."

Finding him equally obstinate, he was one evening summoned to attend a meeting where only trusted members were present. Suddenly the lights were put out, he was beaten and tied to a bench, and Bishop Snow himself castrated him with a bowie knife. In this condition, he was left to crawl to some haystacks, where he lay until discovered…[he] regained his health but has been an idiot or quiet lunatic ever since… And the Bishop married the girl. (Smith 293-207)

In May 1857 Bishop Warren S. Snow's counselor wrote that the twenty-four-year-old Lewis "has now gone crazy after being castrated by the Bishop" for an undisclosed sex crime.

A month later upon hearing the news of what Bishop Snow had done, Church leader Brigham Young said :"I feel to sustain him," even though Young's brother Joseph, a general authority, disapproved of the punishment. In July, Brigham Young wrote a reassuring letter to the bishop about this castration: "Just let the matter drop, and say no more about it," the LDS president advised, "and it will soon die away among the people."

There are several references to the Thomas Lewis castration:

Pages 250-251, The Mormon Hierarchy, Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn.

Pages 301-302, The Rocky Mountain Saints by T. B. Stenhouse, 1873.

Vol. 5, pages 54-55, Wilford Woodruff's Diary, June 2, 1857

Pages 284-286 of John D. Lee's Confession in Mormonism Unveiled, or The Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop John D. Lee contain a very good account of the crime.

References

LDS apologist rebuttal and critic commentary

LDS Apologists generally don't dispute this event's occurrence, or Brigham Young's approval of it, but try to claim the circumstances were different. Here is FAIR's explanation {as of 12/29/10} with commentary in red by critic 'martyrdumb' from the Postmormon.org discussion site:

Reference: Link is here.

Critics (often relying on D. Michael's Quinn's treatment) have over-simplified and sensationalized this event. Critics claim that Bishop Warren S. Snow forcibly castrated twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis, whose "crime" was wanting to marry a young woman that was desired by an older man as a plural wife. Critics also claim that Brigham Young wrote in a letter his approval after the fact in 1857.

The full story gives a somewhat different picture of these events. Warren Snow's biographer explains the matter thusly:

  1. These events occurred during the Mormon Reformation, when inflammatory rhetoric called for harsh punishment for sin and crime. For Brigham the time for the actual implementation of such punishment was not yet, and partly hyperbole designed to stir a sinful population to improvement. Some listeners like Snow got confused and took things literally. [so the problem was that a bishop actually took what Brigham said literally. Got it, shame on that bishop for not knowing that Brigham didn't "really" mean what he was saying.]
  2. The rumor that Lewis was being punished for competing against an older polygamist is likely false. Kathryn Daynes gives another example where Brigham Young advised a young woman to marry a single, young man against her parents wishes that she marry a older polygamist. [citation needed] [I find it funny that "citation needed" is at the end of this one. But even more hilarious is that they think scaring up ONE SINGLE example of Brigham advising a woman to marry one man over an older polygamist would somehow make the situation unlikely.]
  3. Even if there is an element of truth in point #2, Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary for a sexual crime. He was not an innocent who was attacked simply for desiring a marriage. [whew! Thank goodness for that. I guess he deserved it. However, they say this as though it's fact. The only source I could find for this was a journal entry from Wilford Woodruff where Brigham had received a letter saying the castration was for an undisclosed "sexual crime". That turned the thinking process completely off as they never bothered to question the validity of this. The account of why it actually happened came directly from John D. Lee and was backed up by other diary entries. The evidence in its entirety clearly point to the "undisclosed sexual crime" being a cover up the real reason. Is it a coincidence that Snow shortly thereafter married two teenage girls?]
  4. While being transported at night, Snow and his gang secretly intercepted Lewis and carried out the castration. [how this helps their case is unclear to me]
  5. Joseph Young (Brigham's brother) of the Presidents of the Seventy later learned about the incident and was incensed and "entirely disapproved" of it. [LOL! The old "his brother didn't approve so Brigham must not have approved" defense.]
  6. When Brigham Young heard about Lewis' sex crime and the punishment, he reiterated his stance that the time for such measures was still in the future, and not to be implemented in the here-and-now. [They have no reference for this and there's nothing to be found suggesting this to be the case.]
  7. Brigham did not think Warren Snow did what was right, but felt Warren was "trying to do right" and that he should be sustained in his calling as Bishop. [I don't even know how to respond to something so ridiculous. So he castrates a man, but his heart was in the right place?]
  8. Warren wanted Brigham to write a letter to members in Sanpete county to explain Warren's action. Brigham declined to do, indicating that that would make matters worse. "Just let the matter drop, and say no more about it and it will soon die away amongst the people," Brigham counseled. [Oh yes, this is clearly the response of someone who was incensed. After all, a man was only castrated. It's not like that's anything serious that they wouldn't want to happen again.]
  9. Snow's life and experience had given him a "violent and vengeful world view," which helps in understanding his decision to attack and maim Lewis. [But I guess it's OK to make this guy a bishop, then…. and to keep him in the position for a long time.]
  10. Federal marshals and judges were aware of the Lewis incident, and sought Snow's capture. However, they were eventually instructed by political leaders in Washington to let the matter drop. It was a Gentile political decision not to prosecute Snow for his actions. [again, I have no idea why this helps their case. So the federal authorities decided not to pursue it. That would only be relevant if they were denying it happened. They aren't. It happened. Am I supposed to feel like it was justified because he wasn't prosecuted? Gee, maybe that had a little to do with the difficulty they had of ever trying to prosecute a mormon in Utah territory.]

Joseph's marriage to Helen Kimball

To read the dramatic story of how Joseph came to marry the 14 year-old Helen Kimball, click here (from a previous section above).

 

Editor comment: We would like to think that these stories were isolated incidents. One thing that is certain is that there was some abuse of the intended holy practice of plural marriage.

Interpreting and Interrupting Polygamy - detailed essay

The essay linked below is a welcome addition to MormonThink's section on polygamy. It was written by two active, believing members of the LDS Church in hopes that this manuscript will help others, through sound and truthful understandings, escape the past LDS practice of polygamy. It is not "anti-Mormon", but rather it lays out the facts openly without bias. There are also many new, interesting things in the essay that we've never seen elsewhere. It is 130 pages.

Interpreting and Interrupting Polygamy:" A Way for Your Escape" carefully documents some twenty-four books, fifty articles, and other materials published since 1977 on LDS polygamy. Applicable scriptures, commentaries, and other older books and historical records (published before 1977) are also referenced and interwoven with these voluminous modern contributions (including the Internet) so that students of this subject can be well informed and up-to-date.

This work offers readers quick and easy access as a summary to over ten thousand pages of published and documented modern research by historians and scholars relative to this subject; and it does so with a unique focus on the origins of polygamy. This means that hundreds of thousands of tedious man-hours in historical and scholarly research can be accessed by individuals in this 130-page synopsis.

Curtis Henderson
Jade Henderson

Link to: Interpreting and Interrupting Polygamy

Responses to these issues by the LDS church

Up until the end of 2013, we could not find these issues discussed comprehensively in any church publication or web site (there were sporadic mentions here and there—for a response to the allegation that this information has never been hidden or has always been taught by the Church, see this essay). However, the Church started publishing some essays on the subject. They are not comprehensive but at least acknowledge some of the troubling issues that were rarely (if ever) taught or discussed in Church. Additionally, we found several responses from LDS apologists and LDS leaders which we cite below.

Update: On December 17, 2013 the Church released an essay on Polygamy is now in the topical guide of the LDS.org website. It is found here: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

MormonThink's response to the essay is can be found at: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah - Response to LDS.org

The article is fairly brief and focuses on polygamy between 1847 and 1890 (after Joseph Smith). The article states "Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God's purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century."

The article postulates that per the Book of Mormon, polygamy may have been instituted to increase the population. However, this makes little sense because a group of women can have far more children if they each have their own husband instead of sharing one man. For example Brigham Young reportedly had 57 children by some 29 child-bearing capable wives but had those women had their own husbands they may have had 150 or more children in total. This reasoning only makes sense if there was a shortage of men but census records show that there were always more men than women in Utah during that time period.

The article completely avoids the most troubling issue that knowledgeable LDS have on polygamy which is the way Joseph Smith practiced it. Joseph Smith practiced polyandry where he married other men's wives as well as polygamy. Joseph married 33 women of which 11 were married to other men. Although many LDS believe that Joseph did not have sexual relations with those women, many faithful historians acknowledge that there is evidence he did. It is said that Joseph sent men on missions overseas then married their wives. Also not mentioned is Joseph's marriages to young girls as young as 14 and to what lengths Joseph went to hide these marriages from his first, and only legal wife, Emma.

The article also makes it seem that all the LDS women were more than willing to practice the principle and to defend it. The stories of women like 14 year-old Helen Kimball (who was pressured to marry Joseph Smith and to keep it a secret as she was promised exaltation for her family) and faithful men like Henry Jacobs (who had his wife Zina taken from him and sealed to Joseph Smith and later to Brigham Young), seem to counter those faith-promoting views.

Update: On October 22, 2014 the Church released another essay on polygamy called "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," which focused on Joseph Smith's polygamy. Although the essay sugarcoated the practice and didn't really provide much into explaining why polygamy was started (other than God commanded it), the essay did acknowledge that Joseph married girls as young as 14; Joseph married women that already were married; and Joseph likely had sex with some of the women he married. The essay also opens the door to the possibility that Joseph had sex with some women who already were married to other living men. The essay can be read here: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

MormonThink's response to the essay here: Plural Marriage in Kirtland & Nauvoo - Response to LDS.org

 

Also added is the essay The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage. MormonThink will be responding to the essay here: The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage - Response to LDS.org

 

1) Polygamy was illegal

True believer's response

The members were obeying a "higher" law. God's law supersedes man's law.

Todd Compton said that Joseph obviously concluded, as did later Mormons, that the commandment of God took precedence over the laws of men.

Soon after the Reynolds decision, Wilford Woodruff addressed a congregation in the tabernacle. After reiterating that polygamy was necessary for salvation, he asked, "Now, which shall we obey, God or Congress?" The congregation answered, "We will obey God."

In 1880, John Taylor, while acting as president and prophet of the church, said, "Polygamy is a divine institution. It has been handed down direct from God. The United States cannot abolish it. No nation on earth can prevent it, nor all the nations of the earth combined. I defy the United States. I will obey God."

In his last public sermon, on 1 February 1885, John Taylor said, "I would like to obey and place myself in subjection to every law of man. What then? Am I to disobey the law of God? Has any man a right to control my conscience, or your conscience? … No man has a right to do it." Taylor thus was preaching that the law of God took precedence over the law of man, and his conscience directed him to obey the law of God. Mormons who were imprisoned for openly defying federal law and practicing polygamy in the 1880s were called "prisoners of conscience."

Rudger Clawson, the first Mormon polygamist to be tried under the Edmunds Act, when he was sentenced, said, "I very much regret that the laws of my country should come in conflict with the laws of God, but whenever they do I shall invariably choose the latter." He also stated that the Morrill Act of 1862 was unconstitutional. Rudger subsequently became a folk hero among the Mormons, and was called to be an apostle. Historians of post-Manifesto polygamy have concluded that he took a plural wife on 3 August 1904.

In other words, nineteenth-century Mormons believed that the federal government was profoundly wrong in its attempt to legislate against non-standard marriage practices, if the marriage practices were part of a religion. The church newspaper, the Deseret Evening News, even called the Edmunds-Tucker Act "the Infamy" or "the Edmunds-Tucker Subjugation Infamy" or the "Anti-Mormon Bill." There were none of Orrin Hatch's and Mitt Romney's arguments that the federal government was justified in legislating against polygamy-Mormons considered the federal government's laws as simple religious persecution.

Reference

Thomas G. Alexander, of Brigham Young University, admitted that "long after the 1879 Reynolds decision, Church members brought to bar for sentencing told federal judges that the law of God was higher than the law of the land and deserved prior obedience.

"The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction."

- Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259

Critic's response.

That's a convenient loophole. The Church has always said to obey the laws of the land unless the laws are unjust (see Article of Faith # 12). Were polygamy laws unjust then? Are they now? Also why do so many naive church members believe that the Church changed the practice of polygamy only when the United States made it illegal? As shown above it was always illegal. The defense of polygamy being a higher law is totally unsupportable.

It is not legal for an individual or group to continue to violate an enacted law just because they believe it is "unconstitutional." Your position is like saying it was legal for doctors to perform abortions before Roe v. Wade was decided. And, to repeat, the Mormons STILL defied the law for another eleven years after the 1879 Reynolds decision before issuing the Manifesto under duress; and even then, the Mormons still practiced polygamy illegally and in secret until about 1904, when Joseph F. Smith issued the "Second Manifesto."

Neither Joseph Smith or any other Nauvoo-period Mormons contested the Illinois law; to the contrary, Smith and other Mormons practiced illicit polygamy in secret, and steadfastly denied either teaching or practicing polygamy.

Smith and other Nauvoo polygamists also routinely slandered and assassinated the characters of people who tried to expose their polygamy practice. The very reason Smith denied "having seven wives" in his infamous May 25, 1844 address was because he had just been indicted on charges of adultery and bigamy. If Smith had believed the Illinois law was unconstitutional, he would have contested the law, rather than lying about his polygamy practice. Church leaders continued to deny that they practiced polygamy until 1852, five years after they settled in Utah.

Not only were church leaders willing to violate the law to promote polygamy, they did not hesitate to blacken the character of individuals who threatened to expose the secret practice of plural marriage. Sarah Pratt was not the only woman to suffer from this policy. The 27 August 1842 Wasp, for example, branded Martha H. Brotherton a 'mean harlot,' and Nancy Rigdon suffered the same treatment after she opposed Smith's polygamous proposals…..Jane Law, wife of Smith's counselor William Law, was also blacklisted for rejecting Smith's polyandrous proposal." (Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner, pp. 38-39.)

Reference

The pro-LDS apologetic group FAIR admits polygamy was illegal but argues it was a case of civil disobedience. You can read FAIR's essay on the subject.

 

2) Joseph marrying women that were already married

True believer's response

Joseph was sealed (not married) to several women who were already married. This practice is called theological polyandry - sealing for eternity without earthly cohabitation. Being sealed to a woman for the afterlife does not necessarily imply living together during mortality. There is no solid, reliable, unbiased evidence showing that those married women that Joseph Smith was sealed to ever lived with him or had any physical relations with him. These women remained with their own spouses to whom they were first married to. Church President Joseph F. Smith testified before a senatorial committee stating that sealings for eternity did not allow for earthly cohabitation. Therefore, this sealing practice did not mean that Joseph Smith was in any kind of earthly marital relationship with these women. In fact, not only was Joseph Smith sealed to other women, he was also sealed to men as well. Many early Mormons had living parents and spouses who weren't members of the church and consequently were not eligible for sealing blessings. The solution for this was for them (men or women) to be sealed to someone who would most likely gain exaltation, such as the prophet Joseph Smith.

"Celestial marriage transcends this world, it was, possible for a person to be married to one spouse for this world and sealed to a different spouse for eternity… Joseph's marriages to these women functioned on two co-existent marital spheres and may be incomprehensible to those without understanding of LDS belief in the nature of the eternal family unit."

Reference

Critic's response.

It's likely that Joseph did have sex with at least some of the women that already had legal husbands based on comments from some of the wives such as:

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,' p. 156.)

Helen Kimball thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was only dynastic. But to her surprise, it was more. Helen confided to a close friend in Nauvoo: "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it." (Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner, p. 53.)

Some LDS apologists like Richard Bushman believe that Joseph married those women because he valued these people as 'kin'. Some believe that these were "dynastic" marriages. In other words, Joseph was doing the women and their families a favor by letting them marry into his kingdom, so that they could enjoy his priesthood for all eternity. Then they claim that this eternal "dynastic" purpose was all there was to it and that there was no sex involved. Their proof for the latter proposition is the fact that we don't have any photos of Joseph with his pants down. Without those photos of Joseph being caught in the act, the apologists feel impressed that we can ignore tons of circumstantial evidence indicating that sex was very much involved.

Bushman does not speak to an important piece of evidence: Doctrine and Covenants 132. It clearly states that the purpose of polygamy is "to raise seed." It does not talk about dynasties or connecting all of human kind. At best, these aspects are implied. D&C is explicit, however, about the sexual nature of the new and everlasting covenant. Considering that marriage is about legitimizing sex, especially in nineteenth century America, claims of sexless marriages are outlandish. If there is no sex, then there would not be a need to get married. Adoptions would do.

Several of these women wrote that their marriages to Joseph were actually for "time as well as eternity", in which case it was not just a future "afterlife" marriage they were signing up for. Secondly, several of the women went on to second polyandrous marriages after Joseph Smith died, which is where his entire "Celestial Marriage" argument completely fails, as in those cases they were proxy marriages, recorded in the Temple, meaning they were for this life only, having then been "sealed" to Joseph Smith for eternity. These were second polyandrous marriages and also where sex was certainly a part of the equation; unless Katich yet has an explanation the world is unaware of, in terms of where the subsequent babies came from! (Two married Brigham & two married Heber, one child born to Brigham and three to Heber, the four wives continuing to be married to their first husbands). There is and there can be, no remotely acceptable doctrinal explanation for the second polyandrous marriages.

Why did Joseph have to seal the women as wives to himself? Surely Joseph would know how that looks. What ever happened to avoiding the appearance of evil? They actually used to seal men to men back then on some occasions. That would have eliminated the ulterior motive charges if he had the men sealed to himself. Or for that matter since Joseph was considered more of a patriarchal figure, why not seal everyone to him as children or just seal an intact family to himself?

Of course why bother with all this sealing to Joseph in the first place? Why not just seal the women to their husbands? The majority of those 11 women had husbands that were active, loyal members of the church. Isn't it a slap in the face to them to say 'well you might not get in to heaven so I better seal your wife to me instead - even if you are an apostle'.

If all the 11 women were married to nonmembers then perhaps a case could be made for sealings to someone else. But we teach that if a person is worthy to get into heaven but his/her spouse is not, that the worthy person will not be penalized and can have someone else so why bother being sealed to Joseph? Are we not each responsible for our own salvation?

Even Joseph could not doctrinally justify his polygamy, let alone polyandry; he just constantly lied about it for the rest of his life, to his wife Emma, to members outside the inner circle and in the Press as well as in scripture. On those fronts alone, one questions how a perfect God would ever come to choose such a man to be His prophet? Ask yourself, in all honesty, would any true God really command a man to do such things, keep them secret and then lie about them in scripture? If so, would you want to believe in or be associated with such deity? Unfortunately for the Church, the rest of the world fully understands what adultery means and that is exactly what was practiced. It all seemed to start when Joseph needed to explain why he was "caught in the act" in a barn with young Fanny Alger.

Joseph Smith behaved like any other charismatic religious leader. He had sex with his followers because he could. That's a common feature in charismatic movements. It shouldn't surprise us that Mormonism was no different.

Editor's comments on sealings:

To many of us it just seems a little bizarre that God requires all this paperwork. If you and your spouse live a good life, wouldn't you expect to be together with your spouse in the next life, regardless of whether your wife was sealed to some prophet or even to yourself for that matter?

LDS Apologists: Joseph may have had sex with his wives

Not all LDS apologists maintain that Joseph did not have sex with his polyandrous wives. From the FAIR apologist web site discussing Joseph's marriages to women already married to other living men: "This is not to argue, I hasten to add, that such marriages must not or could not involve sexuality. I believe they were legitimate marriages, and as such could easily accommodate righteous marital relations."

Link is here.

FARMS also admits Joseph likely had sex with his plural wives

FARMS reviewer Gregory L. Smith admits, 71 pages into his 86-page review of George D. Smith's new book, Nauvoo Polygamy: "…but we called it celestial marriage" ("George D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy," FARMS Review 20:2, 2008), that Joseph Smith had "conjugal relations" with at least eight women in addition to his first wife, Emma.

Even so, "there is good evidence of a conjugal relationship with Almira Johnson, Melissa Lott, Emily Partridge, and Eliza R. Snow," G. L. Smith enumerated, then added that "it is also reasonable," even "persuasive," "to include Eliza Partridge, Maria Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence." He concluded that there was "some evidence" for sex with "Fanny Alger and Sylvia Sessions Lyon," but begrudgingly pointed out that "this is only nine" of Joseph Smith's 33-38 known plural marriages.

Link is here.

If even the FARMS apologists and the FAIR apologists acknowledge that Joseph may have had sex with his polygamous wives (including the ones already married) then why should any LDS members dispute that Joseph likely did have sex with those wives?

Church essay on polygamy acknowledges sex was involved

Update: The debate is now over. An essay on Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo was added on 10/22/14 in the topical guide of the LDS.org website. The essay focuses on the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith. It is found here: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo'. Although the essay sugarcoated the practice and didn't really provide much into explaining why polygamy was started (other than God commanded it), the essay did acknowledge that Joseph married women that already were married and that Joseph likely had sex with many of the women he married. The essay also opens the door to the possibility that Joseph also had sex with some women that already were married to other living men. The essay can be read here: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo. 1st paragraph under 'Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage':

During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone.

This is the first official Church statement that indicates Joseph likely had sex with his many wives. The essay takes several paragraphs and lots of convoluted language to open the door to the possibility that Joseph had sex with many of his polygamous wives, including some of those that were married to other men.

This is significant in that many, many Church members have adamantly argued that Joseph absolutely did not have sex with his plural wives, especially the ones that were already married despite much evidence to the contrary. 4th paragraph under 'Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage' excerpt:

Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

So for the women that Joseph married for time and eternity, Joseph could have had sex with them according to the Church essay.

MormonThink's response to the essay here: Plural Marriage in Kirtland & Nauvoo - Response to LDS.org

If no sex was involved.

Let's assume for a minute that no sex was involved. What possible justification can there be for marrying other people's wives? Most of the men were even good LDS men, even apostles. Some of the men were on missions for the church at the time - giving their time in service to the church. What a way to get rewarded for their service.

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

What about the children of polyandrous marriages?

Polyandry also runs counter to the entire notion of eternal families. As we understand it, children are sealed to their father and the wife is sealed to the father, and in that means the entire family is sealed together. If in these cases the women were sealed to Joseph, then who were the children sealed to? If they were sealed to the woman's first husband, then the woman would not be sealed to them. If they were sealed to Joseph, then the poor first husband would not only be deprived of his wife, but also of his children in the eternity. So much for the plan of happiness.

If you believe the concept of eternal marriage, then Joseph Smith literally stole other men's wives and their children, regardless of whether he had sex with them or not. What right did he have to do that - because he was the prophet?

The families wanted to be sealed to Joseph?

I had numerous conversations with some LDS apologists that proclaimed that the families that already had a husband and wife wanted the wife to also be married to Joseph so that would somehow ensure that their entire family would be sealed together in the next life. These husbands and wives approached Joseph as their idea.

However, this assertion does not make much sense as many of the women said that Joseph came to them first with the idea. These include John Taylor's wife Lenora, Heber C. Kimball's wife Vilate, Orson Pratt's wife Sarah, William Law's wife Jane and Hiram Kimball's wife Sarah as detailed above. Also why would Brigham Young say "now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife…" if it wasn't Joseph approaching the women instead of the other way around?

 

3) Lying

True believer's response

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks explains the church's stance on "Lying for the Lord":

"As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of Lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy.

"It is clear from the record of history that Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine and practice of polygamy to a select few in the 1830s and 1840s, but it was not announced publicly by the church until the revelation was read aloud at a Church conference in Salt Lake City in 1852. It is also clear that during the federal prosecutions of the 1880s, numerous Church leaders and faithful members were pursued, arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for violations of various laws forbidding polygamy or cohabitation. Some wives were even sent to prison for refusing to testify against their husbands, my grandfather's oldest sister being one of them…

"I do not know what to think of all of this, except I am glad I was not faced with the pressures those good people faced. My heart goes out to them for their bravery and their sacrifices, of which I am a direct beneficiary. I will not judge them. That judgement belongs to the Lord, who knows all of the circumstances and the hearts of the actors, a level of comprehension and wisdom not approached by even the most knowledgeable historians.

"I ask myself, "If some of these Mormon leaders or members lied, therefore, what?" I reject a "therefore" which asserts or implies that this example shows that lying is morally permissible or that lying is a tradition or even a tolerated condition in the Mormon community or among the leaders of our church. That is not so.

"I suppose most mortals employ some exaggeration and a little of what someone called "innocent after-mindedness." But does this mean we condone deliberate and important misrepresentations of fact in a circumstance in which they are clearly intended to be believed and relied upon? Never! Lying is sinful, as it has always been, and there is no exempt category for so-called "Lying for the Lord." Lying is simply outside the range of permitted or condoned conduct by Latter-day Saints-members or leaders." (Dallin H. Oaks, Gospel Teachings About Lying, address to faculty, students, and alumni of BYU on September 12, 1993)

Reference

Is the Church justified in denying plural marriage while it is being practiced? Anderson & Faulring said, "The introduction of latter-day polygamy is obscured by the confidentiality first stressed by the Prophet in teaching polygamy to his most devoted followers. Defensive public statements, in which participants honestly denied that the church believed or practiced an immoral system of spiritual wifery, were made in a serious attempt to avert hostilities generated by misunderstandings fed by apostates and anti-Mormons."

Critic's response

Apostle Elder Oaks cannot give a good explanation or justification for the lies that were told by Joseph Smith and the other church leaders regarding their practice of polygamy. He admits 'I do not know what to think of all of this'. At least he acknowledges that the LDS leaders lied.

Many people admire the 'ideals' of the LDS Church. The articles of faith for example contain some worthy attributes such as Article of Faith # 13: We believe in being honest, true, etc. But how can anyone accept the lies told by the leaders of the church when it so blatantly contradicts the church's own article of faith about being honest and true, not to mention the 10 commandments?

If polygamy was indeed true and commanded of by God, then why be ashamed of it? Wouldn't it have been better to openly admit it, try to campaign against the laws you considered unjust and not have to hide anything? Instead the leaders simply denied it existed. It's one thing to believe and even practice a strange doctrine but quite another to repeatedly lie about even practicing it. You lose all credibility.

Some LDS apologists try to compare the lying about polygamy to the situation during WWII wherein European Jews would lie about their ancestry or hide other Jews to keep the Nazis from sending them to the concentration camps. Not only are such analogies ridiculous and shameful, they're not even applicable to the polygamy situation: Joseph Smith & Co. never publicly advocated polygamy, nor did they protest any laws against it or seek to change any laws via "civil disobedience."

As the saying goes, "A system gotten up in lies must be supported by lies." The only way that modern LDS apologists can even attempt to defend polygamy is to lie about the facts regarding it.

And the lies continue. Up until the essay in 2014, the church hid the fact that Smith had over 30 wives. Even now, few members have even read the essay that is buried deep in the Church's website. It's not listed on the new 'comprehensive' Joseph Smith web site. It's not plainly discussed by the church. Take a poll of your ward members. I bet you will find that most everyone knows about Brigham Young's wives but many of them will not know about Joseph's wives. And how about the new church manuals about Brigham Young? They changed all the references from 'wives' to 'wife' to make it sound as if these people only had one wife.

Would Jesus have lied if he was in a similar situation?

If Joseph and the other leaders lied about polygamy then why should we trust them about the First Vision, seeing an angel or the gold plates?

The Book of Mormon says what will happen to liars:
2 Nephi 9:34 - 'Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell'.

 

4) Joseph marrying young girls

True believer's response

The media asked Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, some questions about polygamy during Romney's campaign in 2007. The following excerpt is from the interview.

REUTERS: We have one last question and we raise this because it seems obvious that there is going to be a lot more scrutiny of the church. There is historical evidence that suggests Joseph Smith took a 14-year-old bride, Helen Mar Kimball, when he was 38 years old. In today's terms, that would make him a pedophile. Does this bother you or other LDS church members?

CHRISTOFFERSON: It would depend on what all the facts were and the context. In those days, of course, was that it was not so uncommon in the society of the time. Today that would be statutory rape. A different standard applies. What I look to, I'm telling you about my personal approach, is: what do I know through study and through prayer concerning Joseph Smith and at root my witness is that he was divinely called. That's the foundation. Now whatever questions might arise -- as to whether he erred or stumbled in a certain matter -- throughout his life he wasn't perfect. We don't claim perfection in the human being. I don't know what he was responsible to before -- God I don't know frankly. But as to his prophetic calling, his prophetic mission and what he achieved in that goal, I'm convinced of that. So the fruits of what he accomplished I think are evident.

Reference

Ending summary by critics

Randy Jordan

Despite GBH's efforts to make polygamy go away, it is impossible - despite the Church's efforts such as absolutely no mention of polygamy or plural marriage on the largest church-owned all-inclusive website about Joseph Smith www.josephsmith.net.

Polygamy never had any redeeming value and caused nothing but grief and heartache for the poor women who were forced into it. It is absolutely indefensible. It was self-serving for the men and demeaning to the women. This is why modern Church leaders are so embarrassed by it. They know they can't defend it. Early Church leaders, on the other hand, clearly taught that polygamous marriage was a prerequisite to entry into the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. Yet Hinckley insists that it's "not doctrinal." Which prophet is leading us astray? I realize the Church cannot formally renounce polygamy. To do so would cut at the very heart of Mormonism and thereby crumble the foundation upon which the entire house of cards is built…the character of Joseph Smith.

At the end of the day, polygamy was about the sexual gratification of a single man, Joseph Smith, Jr. Despite the prohibition against polygamy found in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith pursued it. His practice focused on impressionable young girls and involved acts that in some cases would have resulted in a prison term today. He wanted sex with more than one woman and had a convenient, self-serving revelation to justify it. We could almost forgive Joseph Smith of his sexual foibles if it weren't for the way the modern Church treats such indiscretions today. The Church is obsessed with "sexual purity" and routinely excommunicates people for weaknesses of the flesh.

In the face of the Joseph Smith model, the hypocrisy of this practice is utterly overwhelming. My personal experience sitting in Bishopric meetings and High Council meetings as a so-called "judge in Israel" where these uninspired and arbitrary punishments were meted out taught me very well what hideous farces they are. Instead of facing up to the falsity of polygamy, the Church prefers to continue lying about it. The most recent lie can be found in the 1999 Priesthood Lesson Manual where the Church is clearly trying to make people believe Brigham Young had only "two" wives and that he was not married to both of them at the same time. I suppose the fact this dishonest effort illegitimatizes the marriages of all those other wives of Brigham Young and bastardizes the children he had by them doesn't matter. Protect the image of the Church. That's the mantra of the day. If the truth must be sacrificed in the process, so be it.

Joseph F. Smith wrote that Joseph Coolidge (Joseph Smith's executor) told him that Emma once remarked to Coolidge that JS had "abandoned plurality of wives before his death", whereupon Coolidge told her she was wrong. She insisted she was right, but Coolidge responded that he "knew better". Coolidge reported that Emma then remarked, "(Then) he was worthy of the death he died!".

Why did God allow Joseph Smith to secretly practice polygamy from 1833 until officially announced in 1852? What type of God allows the Prophet Joseph Smith to publicly deny practicing polygamy when God wanted the practice restored for all to practice? Why didn't God warn the Prophet Joseph Smith that he would be killed by a mob if he ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in order to cover up and conceal his practice of polygamy? If an angel with a sword can appear to him to force him to practice polygamy, why couldn't the same angel warn Joseph that he shouldn't destroy the printing press because it would lead to his death?

Polygamy as defended by FAIR

Here's a critic's response to an article still on the LDS defense of the faith organization FAIR's website. It's a presentation by Kathryn Daynes which contends that polygamy was practiced by the saints for economic reasons:

Church leaders' published reasons for the practice of polygamy were not, as Kathryn Daynes deceitfully asserts, for economic reasons. Brigham Young summed it up best when he stated that the purpose of polygamy was to provide tabernacles for spirits i.e. have sex and produce children.

Also, the church didn't stop practicing polygamy because it was no longer an economic necessity, as Daynes falsely opines. Rather, church leaders were dragged kicking and screaming against their will by the federal government to end the practice. The government seized the church's assets and threatened to auction them off. That was why Woodruff issued his "manifesto."

And the manifesto itself was issued only as a ruse to fool the government into believing that church leaders honestly intended to end the practice. In actuality, polygamy was taken underground and practiced in secret for about another 15 years, until the embarrassing revelations of new plural marriages during the Reed Smoot hearings forced President Joseph F. Smith to issue a "second manifesto" in 1904.

It's ironic that Kathryn Daynes' presentation is archived on the FAIR website, because the extremely vocal apologist and major FAIR contributor Daniel C. Peterson has boldly asserted in past conversations that if any Mormons or Ex-Mormons are ignorant of the details of Mormon polygamy, it's their own fault---because, according to Peterson, the church doesn't hide that information.

But here we have an alleged BYU history professor, Kathryn Daynes, giving a presentation at a FAIR convention wherein she repeats the same discredited myths and justifications for polygamy that we were falsely taught while we were Mormons. And FAIR is responsible for perpetuating those lies by archiving Daynes' deceitful remarks on their official website. So we have the liar Daynes being supported by a pack of liars---the admins of FAIR."

Ex-Mormon LDS critic Randy Jordan Link is here.

As many critics see it, faithful LDS have two choices regarding polygamy:
1. they can either accept that it is integral and required for exaltation.
2. they are left with a lot of evidence that the prophets and apostles were as wrong as can be on this issue.

Bottom line is that many of those relationships were strictly adulterous affairs that were later labeled 'marriages' to somehow justify the behavior. The first supposed marriage was in Kirtland with Fannie Alger which caused a great scandal. This 'marriage' occurred 10 years before the 'revelation' and at the time Joseph had never preached polygamy to anyone. Years later Fannie, who married a non-Mormon in Iowa, vehemently denied ever marrying Smith. You be the judge if this was a 'marriage' or just a booty call.

Polygamy is just plain wrong. It always has been and it always will be WRONG. Look at Colorado City and see how those people live; it's disgusting. God says it's OK, then he says it's not OK, and then he will say it is OK again sometime in the future. What kind of answer is that; what kind of god is that? There is no way that any god thinks this is okay, for any reason. It's made up by men, just like the men of Islam who think they'll get 72 virgins. It's all a man's made-up religion. I would like to ask you, if God commanded you to have another wife say…next week, would you do it? How would your current wife feel about that?

Randy Jordan

Editor Comments

Both the critics and defenders of the faith have compelling points to make. The editors of this section give their own opinion:

Whether we like it or not, polygamy will always be connected to the LDS Church. It's the big elephant in the room and will likely always be brought up by outsiders when discussing the Church. Polygamy for most LDS falls into the box of "things that we will know about after we die", "God will explain all". Most LDS don't want to think about it and assume that it will be worked out in some way that we will be comfortable with.

While growing up, we were all somewhat embarrassed when someone first found out we were LDS and cracked the inevitable multiple wives jokes. We covered for it the best we could saying the things we were taught in church such as polygamy was practiced by the early saints to provide husbands for widows that had their husbands killed by anti-Mormon mobs, there were more women than men, it was an economic necessity, polygamy was not illegal in the 1800s, etc.

We have since learned that these defenses are simply not valid. With the statements that these justifications for polygamy are simply not true, by such LDS leaders as apostle John A. Widtsoe and FAIR Chairman John Lynch, we must turn to the only possible remaining answer - God commanded the early saints to take multiple wives for some reason.

But we can't think of any earthly reason for practicing polygamy. Why would God command this? Even if there were women that needed help, why would the men have to marry the women in order to help them. We certainly don't advocate marrying a homeless person to help them financially or otherwise. And why have polygamy at all since it could only be practiced by maybe 30% of its members?

Why so many women?

If our Heavenly Father commanded Joseph to practice polygamy and sent an angel with a sword to threaten him, as Joseph did not wish to practice polygamy, then why didn't Joseph just marry one or two additional women instead of the dozens he did end up marrying? It sounds more like Joseph liked the idea - perhaps too much.

Why don't the members know the real facts about polygamy?

On FAIR's review of MT's polygamy section, they continue to ask if it is the church's fault because the members believe erroneous things about how and what the saints believe about polygamy when they cite a few LDS sources that tell the truth about those misconceptions. Well yes, it is the church's fault because, although the apologists may read obscure, LDS scholarly articles, the average member does not read or even know about those kinds of things. Most members get their information from what they are taught, rightly or wrongly, in church and from reading The Ensign as well as conferences. If the church really wanted all of its members to know to stop believing the explanations that make polygamy acceptable like it wasn't illegal, they could solve this very easily by clearly teaching it in the manuals (not making members extrapolate the information) and by publishing clear articles covering these issues in The Ensign. FAIR may blame the members for being ignorant but MormonThink does not.

It was not until 2014 with the publishing of the polygamy essays on the LDS.org website, that there was anything credible that showed the Church acknowledging that Joseph married other men's wives and possibly had sex with them. Unfortunately, very few members are even aware of the essays as the Church has elected not to publish them in places they will actually be read like The Ensign or in Conference talks.

The 2014 essays have done little to extinguish the continual downplaying of polygamy and efforts to keep members and non-members from knowing the disturbing facts. Unfortunately, this post from Mormon Discussions is all too common:

I went to the Beehive House in Salt Lake City last month. What could and should have been an informative historical tour was turned into a sentimental, vapid, and dishonest PR tour. The sister missionaries intoned weepy rhetoric about families while desperately trying to hide the fact that Brigham Young was a polygamist. They constantly referred to his 'wife.' When one of the guests called them on their lie, they pulled out the old 'caring for widows and orphans' BS. It was deeply embarrassing and painful to watch. My dad, an inactive saint living in Utah, was mortified. This is how the Church is handling polygamy at the Beehive House and it's a shamelessly dishonest performance. poster Kishkumen on 8/24/15


Why should we be ashamed of polygamy?

When Gordon B. Hinckley is asked by the media about polygamy, he often doesn't give an answer other than saying 'it's all behind us now'. This sounds like he is implying that maybe it was a mistake but we don't do it anymore. He doesn't defend the practice or say that it wasn't wrong. He wants the LDS Church to appear mainstream instead of taking the opportunity to explain our unique and special beliefs. He downplays it saying it was practiced by only 2-5% of the population vs the 20-30% that LDS historians say practiced it. Why doesn't he say that it was God's will, it was suspended for a time as it was no longer practical to be practiced, but will be practiced again in the next life and during the millennium when Christ reigns on the earth?

Are we ashamed of doing what God commanded us to do? Instead we make up excuses for it like we are ashamed of it. If it was right and true then, why don't we be proud of the fact that our ancestors practiced something very difficult in the face of enormous opposition?

How should it have been done?

It's possible to come to terms with polygamy if it was done in an honorable way - never lied about, no secret marriages, not marrying other men's wives, etc. - and if there was a reason for it. Most of us can accept the Biblical account of God allowing Abraham to take a second wife as his wife was past the normal child-bearing years. Perhaps that was simply the only practical solution for Abraham. But that's a far cry from taking dozens of wives including 14 year-old girls, women already married and marrying some women behind your wife's back. Also Abraham lived almost 4,000 years before Joseph did - a completely different situation.

And although polygamy was practiced somewhat in Old Testament times, it was more of a social custom and not a religious commandment. And for those that say 'polygamy was in the Bible' as we've often heard as justification for the Saints practice of polygamy in the 1800s, well the Bible also has animal sacrifices, an eye for an eye system of justice, women weren't allowed to speak in church, etc. that we deem as totally unacceptable today. Also, the Old Testament did not allow a man to marry a woman whose husband was still living, as Joseph Smith did; nor did it allow a man to marry sisters, or a daughter and mother, as Joseph Smith did. This phrase is a crude attempt to make the practice sound justified by Old Testament standards. Yes, polygamy was practiced in the OT, but God never commanded it to be practiced. He appeared to have allowed it but never commanded it. God seems to have accepted their practicing it for cultural reasons. But it was NEVER required as part of making it to heaven with God, which LDS church presidents from J. Smith through W. Woodruff taught.

Let's assume that Joseph was indeed threatened by an angel with a sword to practice polygamy and he was merely obeying God's will. If Joseph then would have taken an old, unattractive widow as a 2nd wife in a public ceremony with Emma's permission and had he been totally open and honest about it, then that would be perhaps understandable, and maybe even admirable. That would have likely fulfilled the angel's requirements and not made Joseph look like such a scoundrel.

Instead Joseph did the following things which made him appear very unprophetlike:

  1. Married numerous women - at least 33 women, perhaps as many as 60.
  2. Married girls as young as 14 (two 14 year-old girls have been documented and acknowledged by the church).
  3. Married women that were already married to other men.
  4. Married his own foster children.
  5. Broke the law by practicing polygamy and encouraged others to do the same.
  6. Threatened young girls to marry him and promised exaltation to parents of young girls that gave their permission to Joseph to marry their daughters.
  7. Lied continually in public and to fellow church members about practicing polygamy.
  8. Had other church members lie about his polygamy.
  9. Married women without telling his wife Emma first and even having pretend second marriages later to cover for his deceptions.
  10. Destroyed a printing press that printed newspapers exposing his polygamy - ultimately landing Joseph in jail leading to his murder.

Breaking the law

Most LDS still contend that it wasn't illegal in the 1800s. LDS today condemn the fundamentalists for practicing polygamy because they say it isn't legal now. Even Gordon B. Hinckley said in an interview with Larry King:

Larry King: You condemn it (polygamy)?

Gordon B. Hinckley: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.

As shown above, it was very clearly illegal since the first polygamous marriage of Joseph Smith in 1833 up through the manifesto in 1890 and the 2nd manifesto in 1904. Knowledgeable LDS admit that it was illegal but say that the early saints were obeying a higher law and had to break the earthly laws to obey God's will regardless of the Church's articles of faith that promote obeying the laws of the land.

This can be very troubling. It begs to ask the question what if a prophet some time in the future asks us to break the law because he says God commanded him to instruct the saints to violate the laws of the land. Would we do as the prophet commanded just as the saints did in the 1800s and break the laws regardless of the consequences? With a force of some 15 million people and growing, that may be willing to disobey the laws of the land on the word of one man, this is something to think about. It seems unconscionable that people would actually blindly obey someone to that extreme - and yet thousands of people did it in the 1800s with no more assurance that it was God's will than a single man's word.

What about the Fundamentalists?

On the program 20/20, there was a show on modern-day fundamentalist polygamists. Many of the women said they were happy even though they never smiled. They said they were obeying God's will. They seemed to live harsh, unfulfilled, isolated lives, yet they defended the practice. It seemed that was all they knew. They were brought up thinking this was normal and that the rest of the world was not following God's laws.

Then they showed a woman that had lived the typical polygamous lifestyle for many years. She said she thought just as the other women did when she practiced the plural-wife system. She thought she was very content as a polygamous wife. However, she decided to leave the lifestyle, and now she says how brainwashed she was as a polygamous wife, and how truly happy she is now living a more conventional lifestyle.

When we watch something like that, we can't help but wonder if that's the way it would have been for the LDS saints practicing polygamy. Were the women really content, or is it the only life that many of the women ever knew? What has really changed from the mid 1800s till now? Some LDS like Gordon B. Hinckley said it's totally different because of the legality issue, but as has been clearly shown, it was illegal to practice polygamy in both the 1800s and currently. Both groups believed in their prophets and both groups believe they are obeying God's higher laws, yet we as LDS, condemn the polygamists that currently practice it as we say it is currently not approved of by God.

And what of the children? Certainly to grow up with a part-time father who has to be shared with several mothers and perhaps dozens of siblings cannot really be what God intended for his children, can it?

Joseph marrying other men's wives.

Whenever any of us have conversations with staunch defenders of the LDS practice of plural marriage, the conversation eventually comes to the most difficult practice to defend, and that is Joseph's marriages to 11 women already married to other men. Without fail, the true-believing members always quickly say 'Yes, that's true but he didn't have sex with them'. We started then asking the question 'Would it make a difference to you if Joseph did have sex with them?'

Perhaps the faithful want to say yes, and then just argue that we don't know if Joseph did or did not have sex with his polyandrous wives. However, they almost always pause for a minute and say 'No'. Perhaps they realize that Joseph probably did have sex with them. This is troubling for some of us to think that it wouldn't matter to members if the prophet of the restoration had sex with other men's wives. (Update: with the 2014 publishing of the essay on LDS.org Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, the Church has now publicly opened the door to the possibility that Joseph had sex with the wives he married including the women that already had husbands).

Although there is reason to believe that Joseph likely did have sex with these women, it is even more troubling to think that if you had spent your whole life on earth living with your devoted spouse, fully intending to be married together in heaven for all eternity, just like you have enjoyed on earth, then the prophet says he wants your wife to be one of his many wives, you have to give her up. The children are also separated from either the father or the mother. Are we to believe that God actually commanded the prophet to do this and cause the wife, the first husband and the children, a lot of unnecessary anguish just so the prophet can have another unneeded wife in the hereafter?

We don't know of any LDS that really believe in their heart of hearts that our Heavenly Father commanded Joseph to marry another man's wife - to steal away a beloved life-long spouse just to be another one of Joseph's many wives in the next life. And this was not done once, but was done at least 11 times. And if Joseph 'exceeded his authority' in marrying women already married, then he's an adulterer 11 times over and hardly the chosen prophet of the final dispensation.

An eternal principle

It's one thing to believe that polygamy was sanctioned for a brief period of time long ago, and quite another to believe that it is currently merely suspended and will be practiced again during the millennium and in the next life. This is fraught with problems. What if everyone joined the church and practiced polygamy? There simply wouldn't be enough women to even begin to make that feasible. People don't like to think about it, but how many women would really be comfortable sharing their husband with another women or perhaps dozens of women for all eternity?

Some people think heaven will be different. We question this as we've always been told that we'll have the same desires and personalities in the next life as here. If we are not comfortable sharing our spouses now, then why would we think we would totally change our way of thinking in the next life?

Another possibility

Joseph's plural marriages were not known until Joseph was caught with Fanny Alger. Oliver Cowdery referred to it as a 'dirty, nasty, filthy affair'. Now suppose for just a minute, that this really was an affair as reported by Brother Cowdery, an apostle and one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Why would Joseph make up the preposterous story that an angel with a sword commanded him to practice polygamy (before the sealing power was even restored no less)? Why, because he could. People believed him. They believed his earlier story about an angel, so why not another one? Perhaps the entire practice of polygamy by the saints was inspired by Joseph's efforts to cover up an affair? If he was truly in an affair, he would have a hard time justifying his adultery, and he may have lost many, many followers. But he came up with the only excuse that could be justified - God commanded him to. It was so successful that he continued to take more and more women as wives.

Accepting the word of one man.

Once again the Saints are asked to take the word of just one man. No other prophet really claimed that God visited them or sent angels to confirm the practice of plural marriage. If Joseph was mistaken, deluded, deceived by Satan in the form of an angel or lying to cover up his affair, then the entire practice of polygamy was a terrible, unnecessary hardship on untold thousands of people.

 

Why doesn't the spirit validate polygamy?

If polygamy was really sanctioned by our Heavenly Father and polygamy is an eternal principle expected to be practiced in the next life, then naturally the spirit should bear witness to this. So why doesn't the spirit make us all feel warm fuzzies inside when it comes to polygamy? We have rarely found members in the church, especially women, who readily accept this idea.

Doesn't it seem strange when the idea is brought up about polygamy that our stomachs turn? It just seems like a really strange concept to us. We as LDS base everything in our lives on feelings; yet when we feel opposed to something in the church, this emotional wrestling match starts inside us with the ultimate winner being "well, that's not for me to understand right now."

If there is anyone out there reading this that can honestly say that they get a good, warm, spiritual feeling that God commanded Joseph to marry other men's wives and 14 year-old girls and to lie about it all his life, please email us and we'll post your impressions here.

Conclusion

When we read such statements as these by the First Presidency of the Church, we have to wonder if polygamy, as practiced by the saints, came from God or from man:

"Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women 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 C. Kimball, First Counselor to Brigham Young, The Lion of the Lord, New York, 1969, pp 129-130.

Links

LDS essays on polygamy and MormonThink's responses:

Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah - Response to LDS.org

Plural Marriage in Kirtland & Nauvoo - Response to LDS.org

The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage - Response to LDS.org

 

 

PBS did a special called 'The Mormons'. It aired in two parts on April 30 and May 1, 2007. The first part has an excellent overview of polygamy. It is accurate and unbiased. It can be viewed online.

Link is here.

 

Supporting the critics:

The following two websites provide some of the most comprehensive documentation of common arguments by critics of LDS polygamy.

Additional Websites supporting the critics:

There's a MormonThink topic devoted to the LDS Church's historical lying. Many of the documented lies concern polygamy: Lying for the Lord

Also, the personal story by Brian Staley contains a large section detailing many problems with polygamy.

Youtube videos

The adventures of Joseph Smith - 6

Supporting the church:

Neutral:

Books:

Polygamy is probably best understood by reading books. You can really get a sense of what the people that practiced it went through. Some of the best books on polygamy have been written by faithful LDS authors and can be purchased at Deseret Books or at BYU.

Mormon Polygamy, A History by Van Wagoner (make sure to read the 2nd edition).

In Sacred Loneliness; The plural wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton. Link is here.

Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Linda King Newell,Valeen Tippetts Avery.
Recommended by the official church historian, Leonard Arrington. It's one of the books that was allowed to be read for class assignment at BYU. It's not dedicated to polygamy but deals with it quite a bit - mostly from Emma's perspective. Available at Deseret Books.

Link is here.

Wife No. 19 or the story of A Life in Bondage, Ann Eliza Young
Available online here: Link is here.

No Man Knows My history, Fawn Brodie.
Not a book dedicated to polygamy but deals with it quite a bit. Fawn Brodie was President David O'McKay's niece. It's available for free at most libraries.

Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, D. Michael Quinn.
Written while BYU History Professor had access to church archives. Covers Joseph Smith and beginnings of Mormonism.

Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn.
Covers Brigham Young and into Utah.

Podcasts:

Year of polygamy: 100 episodes from the wives of Joseph Smith to the contemporary strains of the practice today

Pro Polygamy:

Link is here.

African Polygamy:

New York Times Article