Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 24

Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 24: The Wives of the Prophet"



A FAIR Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch24.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 24: The Wives of the Prophet"


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Response to claim: 334 - The number of women sealed to Joseph Smith may have exceeded fifty

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The number of women sealed to Joseph Smith may have exceeded fifty.

Author's sources:
  1. William Hepworth Dixon: New America (1867), p. 225.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Brodie's evidentiary standards are far too low.


Response to claim: 336 - At least twelve of the women sealed to Joseph were already married with living husbands

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

At least twelve of the women sealed to Joseph were already married with living husbands.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The number was lower; Brodie's evidentiary standards are weak. She notes that the evidence for one of these women (Mrs. Levi Hancock) is "only word-of-mouth tradition in the Hancock family."


Question: Was Joseph Smith married or sealed to women who were already married to other living men?

Joseph Smith was sealed to 11 women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church

Among Joseph's plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these "polyandrous" marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.[1]

Of all the aspects of Joseph Smith's marital theology, this is the most difficult area to understand, because very little primary evidence exists. As one scholar noted:

Perhaps nothing is less understood than Joseph Smith's sealings to women already married, because the evidence supports conflicting interpretations.[2]

Criticisms related to Joseph Smith's "polyandrous" marriages

These "polyandrous" marriages have given rise to a number of criticisms:

  • Why would Joseph be sealed to other men's wives?
  • What was the nature of these marriages? Were they consummated?
  • Why did these 11 women continue to live with and have children with their husbands even after being sealed to Joseph Smith?
  • One critic of the church notes, "Joseph Smith would frequently approach other men’s wives about being his own plural wives..." [3]

At the time that celestial marriage was introduced, it was possible to be married for time to one person and sealed for eternity to another. These marriages appear to have been performed for the purpose of forming dynastic bonds in the afterlife, as there is no evidence that Joseph ever cohabited or had intimate relations with any of these women. No children from these marriages have ever been identified. These were sealings which would only affect Joseph's association with these women in the afterlife.


Question: What was the nature of Joseph Smith's "polyandrous" marriages?

Evidence indicates that Joseph was sealed for eternity to eight to eleven women who were married to other men

The fact that these women continue to live with their earthly husbands and even have children by them indicates that the sealings to Joseph Smith were not marriages in the normal sense.

Joseph's sealing to their wives doesn't appear to have changed anything in their daily lives or their relationship to their current husbands

The relationship between these women and their husbands appear to have not changed even after they were sealed to Joseph Smith. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands.


Question: Did Joseph Smith consummate any of these marriages with married women?

There is no evidence to indicate that Joseph consumated any polyandrous marriages, with one possible exception for a woman who considered herself divorced

The available evidence also does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with these married women. Fawn Brodie, who repeatedly stated her belief that Joseph had intimate relations with many of his plural wives, identified several individuals that she thought “might” be children of Joseph Smith, Jr. Yet, even Brodie noted that “it is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light.” Brodie postulated, in spite of a complete lack of evidence, that Joseph must have been able to successfully practice some sort of primitive birth control, or that abortions must have been routinely employed.To date, DNA analysis has ruled out Joseph Smith as the father of any of the children of the women to whom he was sealed who were married to other men.

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith"

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." It is not known whether Sylvia was referring to her daughter as being a literal descendant of Joseph Smith, or if she was referring to the fact that she had been sealed to the prophet. In any case, in 2016 the daughter was shown by DNA testing to be definitively not the biological daughter of Joseph Smith.[4]

In an article published in Mormon Historical Studies, Brian C. Hales demonstrates that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously. [5]


Question: Did Joseph Smith have any children through any of his polyandrous marriages?

DNA research has, so far, ruled out most who were suspected of being Joseph's children through polyandrous marriages

Mother Brodie’s claim [6] Modern evidence

Buell

Brodie claims that “the physiognomy revealed in a rare photograph of Oliver Buell seems to weight the balance overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph’s paternity.” Oliver Buell is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Presendia Huntington Buell’s son Oliver, born sometime in 1838-1839, was the son of Norman Buell.[7] "Only 9 of the 23 genetic markers match when comparing the inferred Oliver Buell haplotype to that of Joseph Smith. Such a low degree of correlation between the two haplotypes provides strong evidence that they belong to two unrelated paternal lineages, thus excluding with high likelihood Joseph Smith Jr. as the biological father of Oliver N. Buell. Further weight is given to this observation by the close match of the inferred haplotype of Owen F. Buell to the independent Buell record in the SMGF data base, which genetic relationship dates back prior to Joseph Smith's era. Additionally, the two genetic profiles were run through a haplogroup predictor algorithm that assigned the Smith haplotypes to a cluster known as R1b and the cluster for the Buell's haplotypes to I1b2a, two deeply divergent clades that separated anciently, thus providing further evidence that the Oliver Buell and Joseph Smith lineages are not closely related" [8]

Alger

Brodie states that “[t]here is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland.” DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.[9]

Hancock

”Legend among the descendants of Levi W. Hancock points to another son of the prophet. If the legend is true, the child was probably John Reed Hancock, born April 19, 1841.” Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock.

John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock.[10] "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III." [11]

Lightner

The son of Mary Rollins Lightner “may as easily have been the prophet’s son as that of Adam Lightner.” George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Hyde

Mrs. Orson Hyde’s sons Orson and Frank “could have been Joseph’s sons.” Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Pratt

Mrs. Parley P. Pratt’s son Moroni “might also be added to this list.” Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.[12]

Snow

”According to tradition,” Emma beat Eliza Snow and caused her to abort Joseph’s child. Both LDS and non-LDS reviewers have found several flaws in the story about Eliza.[13] Emma's biographers note that "Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would be unlikely had she suffered a miscarriage."[14]

Jacobs

Zina was “about seven months pregnant with Jacobs' child at the time of her marriage to the prophet.” [15] John D. Lee and William Hall stated that Zina had been “pregnant by Smith.” Zebulon Jacobs is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs's son Zebulon was the son of Henry Bailey Jacobs.[16]


Response to claim: 338 - "Most" of Joseph wives were married to him for "time and eternity"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"Most" of Joseph wives were married to him for "time [that is, life] and eternity."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is true.


Response to claim: 339 - Emma selected the Partridge sisters and the Lawrence sisters as plural wives for Joseph

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Emma selected the Partridge sisters and the Lawrence sisters as plural wives for Joseph.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is true.
  1. REDIRECTEmma Smith's reaction to Joseph Smith's plural marriages#How did Emma Hale Smith react to Joseph's practice of plural marriage?

Response to claim: 342 - Emma burned the revelation on plural marriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Emma burned the revelation on plural marriage.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is likely true.

Brigham Young said that Emma burned the revelation,

Said she—"Joseph, you promised me that revelation, and if you are a man of your word you will give it to me." Joseph took it from his pocket and said—"Take it." She went to the fire-place and put it in, and put the candle under it and burnt it, and she thought that was the end of it, and she will be damned as sure as she is a living woman. Joseph used to say that he would have her hereafter, if he had to go to hell for her, and he will have to go to hell for her as sure as he ever gets her.[17]


Response to claim: 343 - Joseph said that he would have Emma as his wife in the hereafter even if he had to "go to hell" for her

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph said that he would have Emma as his wife in the hereafter even if he had to "go to hell" for her.

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is likely true.

Brigham Young said,

Said she—"Joseph, you promised me that revelation, and if you are a man of your word you will give it to me." Joseph took it from his pocket and said—"Take it." She went to the fire-place and put it in, and put the candle under it and burnt it, and she thought that was the end of it, and she will be damned as sure as she is a living woman. Joseph used to say that he would have her hereafter, if he had to go to hell for her, and he will have to go to hell for her as sure as he ever gets her.[18]


Response to claim: 345 - There is "some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

There is "some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The evidence is not persuasive.


Articles about Plural marriage
Doctrinal foundation of plural marriage
Introduction of plural marriage
Plural marriage in Utah
End of plural marriage

What do we know about Joseph Smith's first plural wife Fanny Alger?

There are no first-hand accounts of the relationship between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger

One of the wives about whom we know relatively little is Fanny Alger, Joseph's first plural wife, whom he came to know in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant of sorts to Emma (such work was common for young women at the time). There are no first-hand accounts of their relationship (from Joseph or Fanny), nor are there second-hand accounts (from Emma or Fanny's family). All that we do have is third hand (and mostly hostile) accounts, most of them recorded many years after the events.

Unfortunately, this lack of reliable and extensive historical detail leaves much room for critics to claim that Joseph Smith had an affair with Fanny and then later invented plural marriage as way to justify his actions which, again, rests on dubious historical grounds. The problem is we don't know the details of the relationship or exactly of what it consisted, and so are left to assume that Joseph acted honorably (as believers) or dishonorably (as critics).

There is some historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored, so it is perfectly legitimate to argue that Joseph's relationship with Fanny Alger was such a case. Mosiah Hancock (a Mormon) reported a wedding ceremony; and apostate Mormons Ann Eliza Webb Young and her father Chauncery both referred to Fanny's relationship as a "sealing." Ann Eliza also reported that Fanny's family was very proud of Fanny's relationship with Joseph, which makes little sense if it was simply a tawdry affair. Those closest to them saw the marriage as exactly that—a marriage.

Did Joseph Smith marry Fanny Alger as his first plural wife in 1833?

Joseph Smith met Fanny Alger in 1833 when she was a house-assistant to Emma

Joseph Smith came to know Fanny Alger in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant to Emma. Neither Joseph nor Fanny ever left any first-hand accounts of their relationship. There are no second-hand accounts from Emma or Fanny's family. All that we do have is third hand accounts from people who did not directly observe the events associated with this first plural marriage, and most of them recorded many years after the events.

Joseph said that the "ancient order of plural marriage" was to again be practiced at the time that Fanny was living with his family

Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had "learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, 'that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.' This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her."[19]

Joseph asked the brother-in-law of Fanny's father to make the request of Fanny's father, after which a marriage ceremony was performed

Mosiah Hancock discusses the manner in which the proposal was extended to Fanny, and states that a marriage ceremony was performed. Joseph asked Levi Hancock, the brother-in-law of Samuel Alger, Fanny’s father, to request Fanny as his plural wife:

Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?" Uncle Sam says, "Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says." Father goes to his sister and said, "Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?" Said she, "Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me." Father goes to Fanny and said, "Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?" "I will Levi," said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, "Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission." Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.[20]

How could Joseph and Fanny have been married in 1831 if the sealing power had not yet been restored?

There is historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored

There is historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored. Mosiah Hancock (a Mormon) reported a wedding ceremony in Kirtland, Ohio in 1833.

Apostate Mormons Ann Eliza Webb Young and her father Chauncery both referred to Fanny's relationship as a "sealing." Ann Eliza also reported that Fanny's family was very proud of Fanny's relationship with Joseph, which makes little sense if it was simply a tawdry affair. Those closest to them saw the marriage as exactly that—a marriage.

Joseph and Fanny's marriage was a plural marriage, not an eternal marriage

Some have wondered how the first plural marriages (such as the Alger marriage) could have occurred before the 1836 restoration of the sealing keys in the Kirtland temple (see D&C 110:). This confusion occurs because we tend to conflate several ideas. They were not all initially wrapped together in one doctrine:

  1. plural marriage - the idea that one could be married (in mortality) to more than one woman: being taught by 1831.
  2. eternal marriage - the idea that a man and spouse could be sealed and remain together beyond the grave: being taught by 1835.
  3. "celestial" marriage - the combination of the above two ideas, in which all marriages—plural and monogamous—could last beyond the grave via the sealing powers: implemented by 1840-41.

Thus, the marriage to Fanny would have occurred under the understanding #1 above. The concept of sealing beyond the grave came later. Therefore, the marriage of Joseph and Fanny would have been a plural marriage, but it would not have been a marriage for eternity.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that priesthood power already gave the ability to ratify certain ordinances as binding on heaven and earth (D&C 1:8), that the sealing power was given mention in earlier revelations such as Helaman 10:7, and that the coming of Elijah and his turning of the hearts of children and fathers was prophesied in 3 Nephi 25:5-6. This supports the view that it is unlikely that Joseph was just making up the sealing power and priesthood power extemporaneously to justify getting married to Fanny and having sexual relations with her.

Did some of Joseph Smith's associates believe that he had an affair with Fanny Alger?

Oliver Cowdery perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair"

Some of Joseph's associates, most notably Oliver Cowdery, perceived Joseph's association with Fanny as an affair rather than a plural marriage. Oliver, in a letter to his brother Warren, asserted that "in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself."[21]

Gary J. Bergera, an advocate of the "affair" theory, wrote:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a "wife." Briefly, the sources for such a "marriage" are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison…Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40. [22]

There are several problems with this analysis. While it is true that sources on Fanny are all retrospective, the same is true of many early plural marriages. Fanny's marriage has more evidence than some. Bergera says that all the sources about Fanny's marriage come "from a point of view favoring plural marriage," but this claim is clearly false.

Even hostile accounts of the relationship between Joseph and Fanny report a marriage or sealing

For example, Fanny's marriage was mentioned by Ann Eliza Webb Young, a later wife of Brigham Young's who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures. Fanny stayed with Ann Eliza's family after leaving Joseph and Emma's house, and both Ann Eliza and her father Chauncey Webb [23] refer to Joseph's relationship to Fanny as a "sealing." [24] Eliza also noted that the Alger family "considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the prophet's family, and her mother has always claimed that she [Fanny] was sealed to Joseph at that time." [25] This would be a strange attitude to take if their relationship was a mere affair. And, the hostile Webbs had no reason to invent a "sealing" idea if they could have made Fanny into a mere case of adultery.

It seems clear, then, that Joseph, Fanny's family, Levi Hancock, and even hostile witnesses saw their relationship as a marriage, albeit an unorthodox one. The witness of Chauncey Webb and Ann Eliza Webb Young make it untenable to claim that only a later Mormon whitewash turned an affair into a marriage.

See also Brian Hales' discussion
It appears that shortly after the April 3 vision, Joseph Smith recorded a first-hand account of the vision in his own personal journal or notes. That original record has not been found and is probably lost. Nonetheless, these important visitations were documented in other contemporaneous records. Within a few days, the Prophet’s secretary Warren Cowdery transcribed Joseph’s first-hand account into a third-hand account to be used in the Church history then being composed.

Despite the importance of Elijah and the Kirtland Temple visitations, Joseph Smith did not publicly teach eternal marriage for perhaps six years after he received the authority to perform those ordinances.

Sometime in late 1835 or early 1836, in a priesthood ceremony performed by Levi Hancock, Joseph secretly married Fanny Alger, a domestic living in the Smith home. When Oliver Cowdery and Emma Smith learned of the relationship, they did not consider it a legitimate marriage. Joseph was unable to convince them the polygamous marriage was approved of God. Fanny left the area and married a non-member a few months later and never returned to the Church. Her family and other who were close to her remained true to Joseph Smith, following him to Nauvoo and later migrating with the Saints to Utah.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Did Emma Smith discover her husband Joseph with Fanny Alger in a barn?

William McLellin claimed to have heard a story that Fanny and Joseph were in the barn and Emma had observed them

In 1872, William McLellin (then an apostate excommunicated nearly 34 years prior) wrote a letter to Emma and Joseph's son, Joseph Smith III:

Now Joseph I will relate to you some history, and refer you to your own dear Mother for the truth. You will probably remember that I visited your Mother and family in 1847, and held a lengthy conversation with her, retired in the Mansion House in Nauvoo. I did not ask her to tell, but I told her some stories I had heard. And she told me whether I was properly informed. Dr. F. G. Williams practiced with me in Clay Co. Mo. during the latter part of 1838. And he told me that at your birth your father committed an act with a Miss Hill [sic]—a hired girl. Emma saw him, and spoke to him. He desisted, but Mrs. Smith refused to be satisfied. He called in Dr. Williams, O. Cowdery, and S. Rigdon to reconcile Emma. But she told them just as the circumstances took place. He found he was caught. He confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him. She told me this story was true!! Again I told her I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true. [26]

Some critics interpret "transaction" to mean intercourse in this case and that Emma caught Joseph in the very act. But McLellin reported on the event again three years afterwards in 1875 to J. H. Beadle and makes it clear that he is talking about the wedding or sealing ceremony:

He [McLellin] was in the vicinity during all the Mormon troubles in Northern Missouri, and grieved heavily over the suffering of his former brethren. He also informed me of the spot where the first well authenticated case of polygamy took place in which Joseph Smith was "sealed" to the hired girl. The "sealing" took place in a barn on the hay mow, and was witnessed by Mrs. Smith through a crack in the door! The Doctor was so distressed about this case, (it created some scandal at the time among the Saints,) that long afterwards when he visited Mrs. Emma Smith at Nauvoo, he charged her as she hoped for salvation to tell him the truth about it. And she then and there declared on her honor that it was a fact—"saw it with her own eyes." [27]

Ann Eliza Webb, who was born 11 years after Joseph's marriage to Fanny, claimed that Emma threw Fanny out of the house

Ann Eliza Webb, who was born in 1844, was not even alive at the time of these events, could only only comment based upon what her father told her about Joseph and Fanny. Ann apostatized from the Church and wrote an "expose" called Wife No. 19, or The story of a Life in Bondage. She described Fanny as follows:

Mrs. Smith had an adopted daughter, a very pretty, pleasing young girl, about seventeen years old. She was extremely fond of her; no mother could be more devoted, and their affection for each other was a constant object of remark, so absorbing and genuine did it seem. Consequently is was with a shocked surprise that people heard that sister Emma had turned Fanny out of the house in the night.[28]

Did Fanny Alger have a child by Joseph Smith?

A suggestion that Fanny was pregnant by Joseph surfaced in an 1886 anti-Mormon book with a claim that Emma "drove" Fanny out of the house

The first mention of a pregnancy for Fanny is in an 1886 anti-Mormon work, citing Chauncey Webb, with whom Fanny reportedly lived after leaving the Smith home.[29] Webb claimed that Emma "drove" Fanny from the house because she "was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet." If Fanny was pregnant, it is curious that no one else remarked upon it at the time, though it is possible that the close quarters of a nineteenth-century household provided Emma with clues. If Fanny was pregnant by Joseph, the child never went to term, died young, or was raised under a different name.

Fawn Brodie claimed that Fanny's son Orrison was the son of Joseph Smith, but this was disproven by DNA research

Fawn Brodie, in her critical work No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, claimed that "there is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland."[30] However, DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.[31]


Notes

  1. Samuel Katich, "A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith," Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.
  2. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 29. ISBN 0252026810.
  3. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014)
  4. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865656112/Joseph-Smith-apparently-was-not-Josephine-Lyons-father-Mormon-History-Association-speaker-says.html?pg=all "Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says,"] Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  5. See: Hales, Brian C. "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57.] DNA research is ongoing but it is rendered more difficult since the Y chromosome evidence of paternal lineage is not present in females.
  6. No Man Knows My History, p. 301, 345, 465.
  7. DNA Tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants, Deseret News Nov. 10, 2007.
  8. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 2008, Vol. 28, p. 133. off-site
  9. Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.
  10. Deseret News, 2007.
  11. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 2008, Vol. 28, p134-135. off-site
  12. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  13. This bit of folklore is explored in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), 86–96.. RLDS author Richard Price also argues that the physical layout of the Mansion House makes the story as reported by Charles C. Rich unlikely, see "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard Price. "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes." (n.p.: Price Publishing Company, 2001), chapter 9. Price's dogmatic insistence that Joseph never taught plural marriage, however, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
  14. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 136. See also discussion in Danel Bachman, "Plural Marriage Before the Death of Joseph Smith (Master's Thesis, Purdue University, 1975), 140n173.
  15. Brodie, p. 465.
  16. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  17. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.
  18. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.
  19. Dean Zimmerman, 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), 38; punctuation and spelling standardized. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  20. Levi Ward Hancock, "Autobiography with Additions in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock," 63, MS 570, Church History Library, punctuation and spelling standardized; cited portion written by Mosiah. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  21. Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 323–25, 347–49.
  22. Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 no. 3 (Fall 2005), 30n75.
  23. Wilhelm Wyl, [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City, Utah: Tribune Printing and Publishing Company, 1886), 57; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67; discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 140 and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  24. Ann Eliza would have observed none of the Fanny marriage at first hand, since she was not born until 1840. The Webbs’ accounts are perhaps best seen as two versions of the same perspective.
  25. Young, Wife No. 19, 66–67; discussed by Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 83n102; see also Ann Eliza Webb Young to Mary Bond, 24 April 1876 and 4 May 1876, Myron H. Bond collection, P21, f11, RLDS Archives cited by Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34 and commentary in Todd Compton, "A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-Three Plural Wives," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29/2 (Summer 1996): 30.
  26. William McLellin, Letter to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, Community of Christ Archives
  27. William McClellin, quoted in J. H. Beadle, "Jackson County," 4
  28. Ann Eliza Webb Young, Wife No. 19, or The story of a Life in Bondage, 66.
  29. Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 57. Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67. Discussed in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140. Also in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  30. Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History.
  31. Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, "Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.

Response to claim: 345 - The author claims that Prescindia Huntington Buell's son Oliver may have been Joseph's son

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Prescindia Huntington Buell's son Oliver may have been Joseph's son.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

DNA has definitively ruled this out.


Articles about Plural marriage
Doctrinal foundation of plural marriage
Introduction of plural marriage
Plural marriage in Utah
End of plural marriage

Can you summarize what we know about whether or not Joseph Smith fathered any children by his plural wives?

The record is frustratingly incomplete regarding the question of which marriages were consummated, it is likewise spotty with regards to whether Joseph fathered children by his plural wives

The record is frustratingly incomplete regarding the question of which marriages were consummated, it is likewise spotty with regards to whether Joseph fathered children by his plural wives. Fawn Brodie was the first to consider this question in any detail, though her standard of evidence was depressingly low. Subsequent authors have returned to the problem, though unanimity has been elusive (see Table 1). Ironically, Brodie did not even mention the case of Josephine Lyon, now considered the most likely potential child of Joseph.

Table 11‑1 Possible Children of Joseph Smith, Jr., by Plural Marriage

Key:
  • NM = Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 2nd edition (1971);
  • Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy" (1975);
  • VW=Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 2nd edition (1989);
  • Fo = Foster, Religion and Sexuality (1984);
  • Co = Compton, In Sacred Loneliness (1997);
  • Be = Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists," (2005);
  • Ha = Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (2013).

Notation:

  • Y – indicates the author considers the child a possible child of Joseph Smith, Jr.
  • N - indicates that author argues against this child being Joseph's child, or lists someone else as the father.
  • Ø - indicates that author does not mention the possibility (pro or con) of this being Joseph's child.

Table1-ChildrenOfPluralMarriage.PNG

Endnote links for above table

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36]

Did Joseph Smith father any children through polygamous marriages?

Science has eliminated most of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith. There are a couple for which DNA can tell us nothing either way and that rest on dubious historical reasoning. Thus critics cannot claim in honesty that Joseph had any children by his polygamous wives.

It is claimed that Joseph Smith fathered children with some of his plural wives, and that he covered up the evidence of pregnancies. It is also claimed that Joseph Smith had intimate relations with other men’s wives to whom he had been sealed, and that children resulted from these unions.

Critics of Joseph Smith have long had difficulty reconciling their concept of Joseph as a promiscuous womanizer with the fact that the only recorded children of the prophet are those that he had with Emma. Science is now shedding new light on this issue as DNA research has eliminated most of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith. In the case of at least two, however, DNA cannot tell us either way. The historical reasoning for justifying that Joseph had children by these wives is dubious.

Did Joseph Smith produce any children by his plural wives?: The case for children

Josephine Fisher (Josephine Lyon)

DNA analysis has determined that Josephine Fisher is not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr., [37] but for many years she appeared to be the strongest possibility. The resolution of this question was difficult to resolve until the appropriate DNA analysis techniques became available. These findings have been replicated in non-Latter-day Saint, peer-reviewed, reputable journals.[38]

The case of Josephine Fisher relied on a deathbed conversation:

Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret from me and from all others but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith….[39]

Perhaps significantly, Josephine's name shares a clear link with Joseph's. Whether this account proved that she was his biological daughter had long been debated:

Rex Cooper…has questioned the interpretation that Smith was Fisher's biological father. He posits that because Fisher's mother was sealed to Smith, Fisher was his daughter only in a spiritual sense…More problematic is whether there is a discrepancy between what Fisher understood and what her mother meant. That is, did Fisher interpret her mother's remarks to mean she was the biological daughter of Joseph Smith and thus state that with more certitude than was warranted, when in fact her mother meant only that in the hereafter Fisher would belong to Joseph Smith's family through Session's sealing to him? Because Sessions was on her deathbed, when one's thoughts naturally turn to the hereafter, the latter is a reasonable explanation.[40]

As Danel Bachman notes, however, there seems to be relatively little doubt that

[t]he desire for secrecy as well as the delicacy of the situation assure us that Mrs. Sessions was not merely explaining to her daughter that she was Smith's child by virtue of a temple sealing. The plain inference arising from Jenson's curiosity in the matter and Mrs. Fisher's remarks is that she was, in fact, the offspring of Joseph Smith.[41]

However, DNA evidence now disproves this theory. It is possible, then, that Fisher misunderstood her mother, but this seems unlikely. Any unreliability is more likely to arise because of a dying woman's confusion than from miscommunication. No evidence exists for such confusion, though we cannot rule it out.

Josephine's account is also noteworthy because her mother emphasizes that "…she [had] been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church."[42] This may explain her reasoning for being sealed to Joseph at all—her husband was out of fellowship. Todd Compton opines that "[i]t seems unlikely that Sylvia would deny [her husband] cohabitation rights after he was excommunicated," but this conclusion seems based on little but a gut reaction.[43] These women took their religion seriously; given Sylvia's deathbed remarks, this was a point she considered important enough to emphasize. She apparently believed it would provide an explanation for something that her daughter might have otherwise misunderstood.

There is also clear evidence that at least some early members of the Church would have taken a similar attitude toward sexual relations with an unbelieving spouse. My own third-great grandfather, Isaiah Moses Coombs, provides a striking illustration of this from the general membership of the Church.

Coombs had immigrated to Utah, but his non-member spouse refused to accompany him. Heartsick, he consulted Brigham Young for advice. Young "sat with one hand on my knee, looking at my face and listen[ing] attentively." Then, Young took the new arrival "by the hand in his fatherly way," and said "[Y]ou had better take a mission to the States…to preach the gospel and visit your wife…visit your wife as often as you please; preach the gospel to her, and if she is worth having she will come with you when you return to the valley. God bless and prosper you."[44]

Coombs did as instructed, but was not successful in persuading his wife. His description of his thoughts is intriguing, and worth quoting at length:

I may as well state here, however, that during all my stay in the States, [my wife and I] were nothing more to each other than friends. I never proposed or hinted for a closer intimacy only on condition of her baptism into the Church. I felt that I could not take her as a wife on any other terms and stand guiltless in the sight of God or my own conscience…I could not yield to her wishes and she would not bend to mine. And so I merely visited her as a friend. This was a source of wonder to our mutual acquaintances; and well it might be for had not my faith been founded on the eternal rock of Truth, I never could have stood such a test, I never could have withstood the temptations that assailed me, but I should have yielded and have abandoned myself to the life of carnal pleasure that awaited me in the arms of my beautiful and adored wife. She was now indeed beautiful. I had thought her lovely as a child—as a maiden she had seemed to me surpassing fair, but as a woman with a form well developed and all the charms of her persona matured, she far surpassed in womanly beauty anything I had ever dreamed of.[45]

Coombs' account is startlingly blunt and explicit for the age. Yet, if this young twenty-two-year-old male refused marital intimacy with his wife (whom he married knowing their religious differences), Compton's confidence that Sylvia Sessions would not deny marital relations to her excommunicated husband seems misplaced. Sessions may, like Coombs, have seen her faithfulness to the sealing ordinances sufficient to "eventually either in this life or that which is to come enable me to bind my [spouse] to me in bands that could not be broken." Like him, she may have believed that "[My spouse] was blind then but the day would come when [he] would see."[46]

More importantly, however, is Brian Hales’ more recent work, which demonstrates that Sylvia Sessions Lyon may well have not been married to her husband when sealed to Joseph Smith, contrary to Compton’s conclusion. Thus, rather than being a case of polyandry with sexual relations with two men (Joseph and her first husband) Lyons is instead a case of straight-forward plural marriage.[47] Given that Joseph has been ruled out as Josephine's father, it may be that Sylvia's emphasis to Josephine about being Joseph's "daughter" referred to a spiritual or sealing sense, and she wished to explain to her daughter why Josephine was, then, sealed to Joseph Smith rather than her biological father.

Other possible children

Olive Gray Frost is mentioned in two sources as having a child by Joseph. Both she and the child died in Nauvoo, so no genetic evidence will ever be forthcoming.[48]

Did Joseph Smith produce any children by his plural wives? The case against children

Angus M. Cannon seems to have been aware of Fisher's claim to be a child of Joseph Smith, though only second hand. He told a sceptical Joseph Smith III of

one case where it was said by the girl's grandmother that your father has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl's grandmother was Mother Sessions, who lived in Nauvoo and died here in the valley. Aunt Patty Sessions asserts that the girl was born within the time after your father was said to have taken the mother.[49]

Clearly, Cannon has no independent knowledge of the case, but reports a story similar to Josephine's affidavit. Cannon's statement is more important because it illustrates how the LDS Church's insistence that Joseph Smith had practiced plural marriage led some of the RLDS Church :to ask why no children by these wives existed. Lucy Walker reported [the RLDS] seem surprised that there was no issue from asserted plural marriages with their father. Could they but realize the hazardous life he lived, after that revelation was given, they would comprehend the reason. He was harassed and hounded and lived in constant fear of being betrayed by those who ought to have been true to him.[50] Thus the absence of children was something of an embarrassment to the Utah Church, which members felt a need to explain. It would have been greatly to their advantage to produce Joseph's offspring, but could not.[51]

Anxious to demonstrate that Joseph's plural marriages were marriages in the fullest sense, Lucy M. Walker (wife of Joseph's cousin, George A. Smith) reported seeing Joseph washing blood from his hands in Nauvoo. When asked about the blood, Joseph reportedly told her he had been helping Emma deliver one of his plural wives' children.[52] Yet, even this late account tells us little about the paternity of the children—Joseph was close to these women (and their husbands, in the case of polyandry), and given the Saints' belief in priesthood blessings, they may have well welcomed his involvement.

George Algernon Lightner and Florentine M. Lightner

Even by the turn of the century, the LDS Church had no solid evidence of children by Joseph. "I knew he had three children," said Mary Elizabeth Lightner, "They told me. I think two of them are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names."[53] Again, evidence for children is frustratingly vague—Lightner had only heard rumours, and could not provide any details. It would seem to me, however, that this remark of Lightner's rules out her children as possible offspring of Joseph. Her audience was clearly interested in Joseph having children, and she was happy to assert that such children existed. If her own children qualified, why did she not mention them?

Orson W. Hyde and Frank Henry Hyde

Two of Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde's children have been suggested as possible children. The first, Orson, died in infancy, making DNA testing impossible. Compton notes, however, that "Marinda had no children while Orson was on his mission to Jerusalem, then became pregnant soon after Orson returned home. (He arrived in Nauvoo on December 7, 1842, and Marinda bore Orson Washington Hyde on November 9, 1843),"[54] putting the conception date around 16 February 1843.

Frank Hyde's birth date is unclear; he was born on 23 January in either 1845 or 1846.[55] This would place his conception around 2 May, of either 1844 or 1845. In the former case, Frank was conceived less than two months prior to Joseph's martyrdom. Orson Hyde left for Washington, D.C., around 4 April 1844,[56] and did not return until 6 August 1844, making Joseph's paternity more likely than Orson's if the earlier birth date is correct.[57] The key source for this claim is Fawn Brodie, who includes no footnote or reference. Given Brodie's tendency to misread evidence on potential children, this claim should be approached with caution.

Frank's death certificate lists Orson Hyde as the father, however, and places his birth in 1846, which would require conception nearly a year after Joseph's death.[58] A child by Joseph would have brought prestige to the family and Church, and Orson and Nancy had divorced long before Frank Henry's death.[59] It seems unlikely, therefore, that Orson would be credited with paternity over Joseph if any doubt existed. Without further data, Brodie's dating should probably be regarded as an error, ruling out Joseph as a possible father.

Ruled out by DNA Evidence: Oliver Buell, Mosiah Hancock, John Reed Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, Moroni Llewllyn Pratt, and Orrison Smith

Scientific ingenuity has also been applied to the question of Joseph's paternity. Y-chromosome studies have conclusively eliminated Orrison Smith (son of Fanny Alger), Mosiah Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, John Reed Hancock, Moroni Llewellyn Pratt, and Oliver Buell as Joseph's offspring.[60]

Two additional children—George Algernon Lightner and Orson W. Hyde—died in infancy, leaving no descendants to test, though as noted above Lightner can probably be excluded on the basis of his mother's testimony.

The testing of female descendants' DNA is much move involved, but work continues and may provide the only definitive means of ruling in or out potential children.

The case of Oliver Buell is an interesting one, since Fawn Brodie was insistent that he was Joseph's son. She based part of this argument on a photograph of Buell, which revealed a face which she claimed was "overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph's paternity."[61] A conception on this date would make Oliver two to three weeks overdue at birth, which makes Brodie's theory less plausible.[62]

Furthermore, prior the DNA results, Bachman and Compton pointed out that Brodie's timeline poses serious problems for her theory—Oliver's conception would have had to occurred between 16 April 1839 (when Joseph was allowed to escape during a transfer from Liberty Jail)[63] and 18 April, when the Huntingtons left Far West.[64] Brodie would have Joseph travel west from his escape near Gallatin, Davies County, Missouri, to Far West in order to meet Lucinda, and then on to Illinois to the east. This route would require Joseph and his companions to backtrack, while fleeing from custody in the face of an active state extermination order in force.[65] Travel to Far West would also require them to travel near the virulently anti-Mormon area of Haun's Mill, along Shoal Creek.[66] Yet, by 22 April Joseph was in Illinois, having been slowed by travel "off from the main road as much as possible"[67] "both by night and by day."[68] This seems an implausible time for Joseph to be meeting a woman, much less conceiving a child. Furthermore, it is evident that Far West was evacuated by other Church leaders, "the committee on removal," and not under the prophet’s direction, who did not regain the Saints until reaching Quincy, Illinois.[69]

Brodie's inclusion of Oliver Buell is also inconsistent, since he was born prior to Joseph's sealing to Prescinda. By including Oliver as a child, Brodie wishes to paint Joseph as an indiscriminate womanizer. Yet, her theory of plural marriage argues that Joseph "had too much of the Puritan in him, and he could not rest until he had redefined the nature of sin and erected a stupendous theological edifice to support his new theories on marriage."[70] Thus, Brodie argues that Joseph created plural marriage to justify his immorality—yet, she then has him conceiving a child with Prescinda before being sealed to her. By her own argument, the paternity must therefore be seen as doubtful.[71]

Despite Brodie's enthusiasm, no other author has included Oliver on their list of possible children (see Table 1). And, DNA evidence has conclusively ruled him out. Oliver is an excellent example of Brodie's tendency to ignore and misread evidence which did not fit her preconceptions, and suggests that caution is warranted before one condemns Joseph for a pre-plural marriage "affair" or other improprieties. Since Brodie was not interested in giving Joseph the benefit of the doubt, or avoiding a rush to judgment, her decision is not surprising.

John Reed Hancock is another of Brodie's suggestions, though no other author has followed her. The evidence for Joseph having married Clarissa Reed Hancock is scant,[72] and as with Oliver Buell it is unlikely (even under Brodie's jaded theory of plural marriage as justification for adultery) that Joseph would have conceived a child with a woman to whom he was not polygamously married. DNA testing has since confirmed our justified scepticism of Brodie's claim.[73]

John Hyrum Buell, Son of Prescinda Huntington Buell

Bachman mentions a "seventh child" of Prescinda's, likely John Hyrum Buell, for whom the timeline would better accommodate conception by Joseph Smith. There is no other evidence for Joseph's paternity, however, save Ettie V. Smith's account in the anti-Mormon Fifteen Years Among the Mormons (1859), which claimed that Prescinda said she did not know whether Joseph or her first husband was John Hyrum's father.[74] As Compton notes, such an admission is implausible, given the mores of the time.[75]

Besides being implausible, Ettie gets virtually every other detail wrong—she insists that William Law, Robert Foster, and Henry Jacobs had all been sent on missions, only to return and find their wives being courted by Joseph. Ettie then has them establish the Expositor.[76] While Law and Foster were involved with the Expositor, they were not sent on missions, and their wives did not charge that Joseph had propositioned them. Jacobs had served missions, but was present during Joseph's sealing to his wife, and did not object (see Chapter 9). Jacobs was a faithful Saint unconnected to the Expositor.

Even the anti-Mormon Fanny Stenhouse considered Ettie Smith to be a writer who "so mixed up fiction with what was true, that it was difficult to determine where one ended and the other began,"[77] and a good example of how "the autobiographies of supposed Mormon women were [as] unreliable"[78] as other Gentile accounts, given her tendency to "mingl[e] facts and fiction" "in a startling and sensational manner."[79]

Brodie herself makes no mention of John Hyrum as a potential child (and carelessly misreads Ettie Smith's remarks as referring to Oliver, not John Hyrum). No other historian has even mentioned this child, much less argued that Buell was not the father (see Table 1).

Scant evidence: Sarah Elizabeth Holmes, Hannah Ann Dibble, Loren Walker Dibble, Joseph Albert Smith, and Carolyn Delight

A few other possibilities should be mentioned, though the evidence surrounding them is tenuous. Sarah Elizabeth Holmes was born to Marietta Carter, though "No evidence links her with Joseph Smith."[80] The Dibble children suffer from chronology problems, and a lack of good evidence that Joseph and their mother was associated. Loren Dibble was, however, claimed by some Mormons as a child of Joseph’s when confronted with Joseph Smith III’s skepticism.[81]

Joseph Albert Smith was born to Esther Dutcher, but the available evidence supports her polyandrous sealing to Joseph as for eternity only. Carolyn Delight has no evidence at all of a connection to Joseph—the only source is a claim to Ugo Perego, a modern DNA researcher.[82] No textual or documentary evidence is known for her at all.

Fanny Alger and Eliza R. Snow: Miscarriages?

We have elsewhere seen the tenuous basis for many conclusions about the Fanny Alger marriage (see here and here). The first mention of a pregnancy for Fanny is in an 1886 anti-Mormon work, citing Chauncey Webb, with whom Fanny reportedly lived after leaving the Smith home.[83] Webb claimed that Emma "drove" Fanny from the house because she "was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet." If Fanny was pregnant, it is curious that no one else remarked upon it at the time, though it is possible that the close quarters of a nineteenth-century household provided Emma with clues. If Fanny was pregnant by Joseph, the child never went to term, died young, or was raised under a different name.

A family tradition—repeated by anti-Mormon Wyl—holds that Eliza R. Snow was pregnant and shoved down the stairs by a jealous Emma before being required to leave the Smith home.[84] The tradition holds that Eliza, "heavy with child" subsequently miscarried. While Eliza was required to leave the home and Emma was likely upset with her, no contemporary evidence points to a pregnancy.[85] Eliza's diary says nothing about the loss of a child, which would be a strange omission given her love of children.[86] It seems unlikely that Eliza would have still been teaching school in an advanced state of pregnancy, especially given that her appearance as a pregnant "unwed mother" would have been scandalous in Nauvoo. Emma's biographers note that "Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would be unlikely had she suffered a miscarriage."[87] Given Emma's treatment of the Partridge sisters, who were also required to leave the Smith household, Emma certainly needed no pregnancy to raise her ire against Joseph's plural wives.

Eliza repeatedly testified to the physical nature of her relationship with Joseph Smith (see Chapter 9), and was not shy about criticizing Emma on the subject of plural marriage.[88] Yet, she never reported having been pregnant, or used her failed pregnancy as evidence for the reality of plural marriage.

In the absence of further information, both of these reported pregnancies must be regarded as extremely speculative.

What did the husband of Sylvia Sessions know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. She was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married. Brian Hales notes that , "This marriage triangle is unique among all of the Prophet’s plural marriages because there is strong evidence that Sylvia bore children to both men. She became pregnant by Windsor Lyon in October of 1838, September of 1840, and April of 1842. Then a year later became pregnant with a daughter (named Josephine—born February 8, 1844) that was purportedly fathered by the Prophet." Sylvia's daughter, who had the intriguing name "Josephine," made the following statement:

Just prior to my mothers [Sylvia Sessions Lyon] death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret fro me and from others until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church.

Daughter Josephine was proven not to be a daughter of Joseph Smith, Jr. through DNA analysis

For many years, Josephine appeared to be the only viable candidate as a child of Joseph Smiths "polyandrous" sealings. However, DNA analysis ultimately disproved the paternity claim: Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.[89]

Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church

It appears, however, that Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church and left Nauvoo. Hales points out that "Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: 'Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.'" [90] The sealing to Joseph occurred after Windor's excommunication. Andrew Jenson, in his historical record, referred to Sylvia as a "formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons." [91] There is no known evidence that Windsor lived with Sylvia after he returned to Nauvoo, but Sylvia did "rejoin" Windsor after he was rebaptised in 1846. Hales states, "No details are available to clarify what authority was used to reconfirm the marriage relationship between Sylvia and Windsor after their previous marital separation. Most likely the couple consulted with Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball, who authorized their rejoining. Whether a private religious marriage ceremony for time was performed or the couple resumed observing their legal marriage is unknown. Importantly, even with the renewed conjugality between Windsor and Sylvia after Joseph Smith’s death, no evidence has been found to support her involvement in sexual polyandry at any time." [92]

Did Prescindia Buell (or Sarah Pratt, or Mrs. Hyde) not know who was the father of her son?

The source for this claim is a notoriously unreliable anti-Mormon work. It makes several errors of fact in the very paragraph in which the claim is made

It is claimed that Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell admitted that she did not know who was the father of her child—Joseph Smith or her first husband. Sometimes Sarah Pratt (wife of apostle Orson Pratt) is mistakenly identified as the woman in this story. [93] Others sometimes mention Orson Hyde's wife as the source of this rumor. [94]

The source for this claim is a notoriously unreliable anti-Mormon work. It makes several errors of fact in the very paragraph in which the claim is made.

It is implausible that the supposed admission upon which the claim is based would be made. There are major historical problems of geography and timeline for Joseph to have even been a potential father of Buell's child.

The claim cannot be substantiated.

Is the source reliable?

This book was written by Nelson Winch Green, who reported what estranged member Marry Ettie V. Coray Smith reportedly told him.

Even other anti-Mormon authors who had lived in Utah regarded it as nearly worthless. Fanny Stenhouse wrote:

Much has already been written on this subject much that is in accordance with facts, and much that is exaggerated and false. Hitherto, with but one exception [Mrs. Ettie V. Smith is noted in the footnote as the work referred to] that of a lady who wrote very many years ago, and who in her writings, so mixed up fiction with what was true, that it was difficult to determine where the one ended and the other began no woman who really was a Mormon and lived in Polygamy ever wrote the history of her own personal experience. Books have been published, and narratives have appeared in the magazines and journals, purporting to be written by Mormon wives; it is, however, perhaps, unnecessary for me to state that, notwithstanding such narratives may be imposed upon the Gentile world as genuine, that they were written by persons outside the Mormon faith would in a moment be detected by any intelligent Saint who took the trouble to peruse them. [95]

So, we must remember that this work is not regarded as generally reliable today, and it was not regarded as reliable even by the Church's enemies in the 19th century.

The claim

The source for this claim is an anti-Mormon book. The relevant passage reads:

The Prophet had sent some time before this, three men, Law, Foster and Jacobs, on missions, and they had just returned, and found their wives blushing under the prospective honors of spiritual wifeism; and another woman, Mrs. Buel [sic], had left her husband, a Gentile, to grace the Prophet's retinue, on horseback, when he reviewed the Nauvoo Legion. I heard the latter woman say afterwards in Utah, that she did not know whether Mr. Buel [sic] or the Prophet was the father of her son. These men [Law, Foster and Jacobs] established a press in Nauvoo, to expose his alleged vicious teachings and practices, which a revelation from Joseph destroyed. [96]

Errors of fact

As might be expected, then, there are many claims in this passage that are in error. We know that the following are false:

  • Ettie Smith claims that William Law, Robert D. Foster, and Henry Jacobs were on missions and that Joseph had proposed plural marriage to them. Law and Foster, in fact, never served missions. Henry Jacobs did serve a mission, but he was not gone on a mission when Joseph discussed plural marriage.
  • Foster and Law did participate in publishing the Nauvoo Expositor, but Henry Jacobs did not. He was and remained a faithful member of the Church.
  • The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was undertaken by the Nauvoo city council. Some members of that council were not members of the Church--it seems implausible to think that they would bow to a "revelation" to Joseph requiring its destruction. The decision was made, instead, after 8 hours of discussion and after consulting legal references.

Thus, in the single paragraph we have several basic errors of fact. Why should we believe the gossip of what Mrs. Buell is claimed to have said?

Such an admission would be out of character for a believing Utah woman of the 19th century

Furthermore, such an admission would be out of character for a believing Utah woman of the 19th century. As Todd Compton notes:

Talk of sexuality was avoided by the Victorian, puritanical Mormons; in diaries, the word 'pregnant' or 'expecting' is never or rarely used. Women are merely 'sick' until they have a child. Polyandry was rarely discussed openly by Mormon women. [97]

It is difficult for Joseph to have even had contact with her at the proper time to conceive a child

Fawn Brodie painted a fanciful scenario in which Joseph would have been able to potentially father a Buell child. However, she misread the historical information, and it is difficult, as Todd Compton has demonstrated, for Joseph to have even had contact with her at the proper time to conceive a child. [98] This would suggest that there were no grounds for Mrs. Buell—or a modern reader—to conclude that Joseph might have been the father.

Did Joseph Smith father children by polyandrous plural wife Prescindia Buell?

All those who have been definitively DNA tested so far—Oliver Buell, Mosiah Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, Moroni Pratt, and Orrison Smith—have been excluded as children of Joseph Smith

Nauvoo Polygamy author George D. Smith tells his readers that "until decisive DNA testing of possible [Joseph] Smith descendants—daughters as well as sons—from plural wives can be accomplished, ascertaining whether Smith fathered children with any of his plural wives remains hypothetical" (pp. 228–29, cf. p. 473). This is true, but G. D. Smith fails to tell us that all those who have been definitively tested so far—Oliver Buell, Mosiah Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, Moroni Pratt, and Orrison Smith—have been excluded. Would he have neglected, I wonder, to mention a positive DNA test?

The consequences of George D. Smith's less-than-rigorous approach to sources becomes clear in the case of Oliver Buell, son of Presendia.[99] Huntington Buell, one of Joseph’s polyandrous plural wives. Fawn Brodie was the first to suggest that Oliver Buell was Joseph’s son, and she was so convinced (based on photographic evidence)[100]Fawn Brodie to Dale Morgan, Letter, 24 March 1945, Dale Morgan papers, Marriott Library, University of Utah; cited by Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," in Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 166.</ref> In a footnote, G. D. Smith notes that Todd Compton "considers it improbable that Joseph and Presendia would have found time together during the brief window of opportunity after his release from prison in Missouri" (p. 80 n. 63).[101]

The geography

This slight nod toward an opposite point of view is inadequate, however. G. D. Smith does not mention and hence does not confront the strongest evidence. Compton’s argument against Joseph’s paternity does not rest just on a "narrow window" of opportunity but on the fact that Brodie seriously misread the geography required by that window. It is not merely a question of dates. Brodie would have Joseph travel west from his escape near Gallatin, Davies County, Missouri, to Far West in order to meet Lucinda, and then on to Illinois toward the east. This route would require Joseph and his companions to backtrack while fleeing from custody in the face of an active state extermination order.[102] Travel to Far West would also require them to travel near the virulently anti-Mormon area of Haun’s Mill, along Shoal Creek.[103] Yet by April 22 Joseph was in Illinois, having been slowed by traveling "off from the main road as much as possible"[104]:320-321 "both by night and by day."[104]:327 This seems an implausible time for Joseph to be conceiving a child. Furthermore, it is evident that Far West was evacuated by other church leaders, "the committee on removal," and not under the Prophet’s direction. Joseph did not regain the Saints until reaching Quincy, Illinois, contrary to Brodie’s misreading.[104]:315, 319, 322-23, 327 Timing is the least of the problems with G. D. Smith’s theory.

Despite Brodie’s enthusiasm, few other authors have included Oliver on their list of possible children.[105] With so many authors ranged against him, G. D. Smith ought not to act as if Compton’s analysis is merely about dates.

The DNA

G. D. Smith also soft-pedals the most vital evidence—the DNA.[106] He makes no mention in the main text that Oliver’s paternity has been definitively ruled out by DNA testing. This admission is confined to a footnote, and its impact is minimized by its placement. After noting Compton’s disagreement with the main text’s suggestion that Oliver might be Joseph’s son, G. D. Smith writes, "There is no DNA connection," and cites a Deseret News article. He immediately follows this obtuse phrasing with a return to Compton, who finds it "‘unlikely, though not impossible, that Joseph Smith was the actual father of another Buell child,’ John Hiram, Presendia’s seventh child during her marriage to Buell and born in November 1843" (p. 80 n. 63). Thus the most salient fact—that Joseph is certainly not Oliver's father—is sandwiched between a vicarious discussion with Compton about whether Oliver or John could be Joseph’s sons. Since G. D. Smith knows there is definitive evidence against Joseph’s paternity in Oliver’s case, why mention the debate at all only to hide the answer in the midst of a long endnote? That Brodie is so resoundingly rebutted on textual, historical, and genetic grounds provides a cautionary lesson in presuming that her certainty counts for much.[107]

Maybe another Buell child?

Two pages later, G. D. Smith again tells us of a Buell child being sealed to a proxy for Joseph with "wording [that] hints that it might have been Smith’s child." "It is not clear," he tells us, "which of her children it might have been" (p. 82). In fact, what is clear is that he has not assimilated the implications of the DNA data. John Hiram, the seventh child about whom Compton is skeptical, is the only other option. Yet the only evidence for this child belonging to Joseph is Ettie V. Smith’s account in the anti-Mormon Fifteen Years among the Mormons (1859), which claimed that Presendia said she did not know whether Joseph or her first husband was John Hiram’s father.[108] As Compton notes, such an admission is implausible, given the mores of the time.[109]

Besides being implausible, Ettie’s account gets virtually every other detail wrong—insisting that William Law, Robert Foster, and Henry Jacobs had all been sent on missions only to return to find Joseph preaching plural marriage. Ettie then has them establish the Expositor.[110] While Law and Foster were involved with the Expositor, they were not sent on missions. Jacobs had served missions but was a faithful Saint unconnected to the Expositor. He was also, contrary to Ettie’s claims, present when Joseph was sealed polyandrously to his (Jacobs’s) wife.

Even the anti-Mormon Fanny Stenhouse considered Ettie Smith to be a writer who "so mixed up fiction with what was true, that it was difficult to determine where one ended and the other began,"[111]:618 and a good example of how "the autobiographies of supposed Mormon women were [as] unreliable"[111]:x as other Gentile accounts, given her tendency to "mingl[e] facts and fiction" "in a startling and sensational manner."[111]:xi-xii

Brodie herself makes no mention of John Hiram as a potential child, going so far as to carelessly misread Ettie Smith’s remarks as referring to Oliver, not John Hiram. No other historian has argued that Buell was not the father.[112] There is no good evidence whatever that any of Presendia’s children were Joseph’s. It is not clear why G. D. Smith clings to the idea.

What is the current state of the evidence for proving or disproving that Joseph Smith had children by his plural wives?

As always, we are left where we began—with more suspicions and possibilities than certitudes

Few authors agree on which children should even be considered as Joseph's potential children. Candidates which some find overwhelmingly likely are dismissed—or even left unmentioned—by others. Recent scholars have included between one to four potential children as options. Of these, Josephine Lyon was the most persuasive, until her relationship to Joseph Smith was ultimately disproven through DNA testing. Orson W. Hyde died in infancy, and so can never be definitively excluded as a possible child, though the dates of conception argue against Joseph's paternity. Olive Gray Frost is mentioned in two sources as having a child by Joseph. Both she and the child died in Nauvoo, so no genetic evidence will ever be forthcoming.[113]

Table 2

Table 11‑2 Possible Children of Joseph Smith, Jr., by Plural Marriage

This table is in the same order as Table 1.

Key:
  • NM = Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 2nd edition (1971);
  • Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy" (1975);
  • VW=Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 2nd edition (1989);
  • Fo = Foster, Religion and Sexuality (1984);
  • Co = Compton, In Sacred Loneliness (1997);
  • Be = Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists," (2005);
  • Ha = Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (2013).

Notation:

  • Y – indicates the author considers the child a possible child of Joseph Smith, Jr.
  • N - indicates that author argues against this child being Joseph's child, or lists someone else as the father.
  • Ø - indicates that author does not mention the possibility (pro or con) of this being Joseph's child.

Table2-ChildrenOfPluralMarriage.png

Endnote links for above table

Brodie;[114] Bachman;[115]; and Compton.[116]

Conclusions

As always, we are left where we began—with more suspicions and possibilities than certitudes. One's attitude toward Joseph and the Saints will influence, more than anything else, how these conflicting data are interpreted.

The uncertainty surrounding Joseph's offspring is even more astonishing when we appreciate how much such a child would have been valued. The Utah Church of the 19th century was anxious to prove that Joseph had practiced full plural marriage, and that their plural families merely continued what he started. Any child of Joseph's would have been treasured, and the family honoured. There was a firm expectation that even Joseph's sons by Emma would have an exalted place in the LDS hierarchy if they were to repent and return to the Church.[117] As Alma Allred noted, "Susa Young Gates indicated that [Brigham Young] wasn’t aware of such a child when she wrote that her father and the other apostles were especially grieved that Joseph did not have any issue in the Church."[118]

In 1884, George Q. Cannon bemoaned this lack of Joseph's posterity:

There may be faithful men who will have unfaithful sons, who may not be as faithful as they might be; but faithful posterity will come, just as I believe it will be the case with the Prophet Joseph's seed. To-day he has not a soul descended from him personally, in this Church. There is not a man bearing the Holy Priesthood, to stand before our God in the Church that Joseph was the means in the hands of God, of founding—not a man to-day of his own blood,—that is, by descent,—to stand before the Lord, and represent him among these Latter-day Saints.[119]

Brigham and Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, would have known of Joseph's offspring if any of the LDS leadership did. Yet, despite the religious and public relations value which such a child would have provided, they knew of none. It is possible that Joseph had children by his plural wives, but by no means certain. The data are surprisingly ephemeral.

Was the only purpose of polygamy to "multiply and replenish the earth" and "bear the souls of men"?

Doctrine and Covenants states that polygamy is for the purpose of multiplying and replenishing the earth

Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 states,

But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

The institution of the practice of polygamy was part of the "restoration of all things"

Polygamy was not permitted only for the purpose of procreation. Joseph established the practice of plural marriage as part of the "restoration of all things," (D&C 132: 40, 45) and introduced it to a number of others within the Church. This alone may have been the purpose of Joseph's initiation of the practice. The establishment of the practice ultimately did have the effect of "raising up seed"...just not through Joseph Smith.

As Brian Hales writes:

Joseph Smith dictated what is now Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provide several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.

The earliest justification mentioned by the Prophet was as a part of the "restitution of all things" prophesied in Acts 3:19–21. Old Testament prophets practiced polygamy, so it could be a part of the restoration of "all things" (see D&C 132:40, 45).

Several members who knew Joseph Smith left accounts of him referring to a connection between the two during the Kirtland period.

Benjamin F. Johnson recalled in 1903: "In 1835 at Kirtland I learned from my Sisters Husband, Lyman R. Shirman,[120] who was close to the Prophet, and Received it from him. That the ancient order of plural marriage was again to be practiced by the Church."[121]

A few years later in 1841, Joseph Smith attempted to broach the topic publicly. Helen Mar Kimball remembered: "He [Joseph] astonished his hearers by preaching on the restoration of all things, and said that as it was anciently with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so it would be again, etc."[122] Joseph Smith was a prophet-restorer, which helps to explain why the command to practice plural marriage has been labeled a "restoration," even though it is not a salvific ordinance.[123]

The institution of the practice of polygamy made available the blessings of eternal marriage to everyone

Brian Hales addresses one aspect of D&C 132 that may be overlooked in casual readings:

The fourth reason Joseph Smith gave for the practice of plural marriage dwarfs the other three explanations in significance because it deals with eternity. The message of D&C 132:16–17 states that men and women who are not sealed in eternal marriages during this life (or vicariously later) "remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity."

In other words, "exaltation," the highest salvation, requires eternal marriage. No unmarried person can be exalted according to Joseph Smith’s teachings. Doctrine and Covenants section 132 seems to anticipate more worthy women than men as it approves a plurality of wives[124] and disallows a plurality of husbands.[125] Verse 63 states that a plurality of wives is "for their [the wives] exaltation in the eternal worlds." Section 132 supports that eternity was the primary focus of the Joseph’s marriage theology rather than plurality or sexuality. Eternal, rather than plural, marriage was his zenith doctrine. It appears that the crucial objective of polygamy on earth was to allow all worthy women to be eternally sealed to a husband and thus obtain all the ordinances needed for exaltation. According to these teachings, a plurality of wives in some form may be practiced in eternity, but not by all worthy men and women. We know that polygamy on earth is unequal and difficult, but we know nothing about how eternal marriage or eternal plural marriage might feel in eternity. Brigham Young acknowledged that eternal marriage (not plural marriage) is "the thread which runs from the beginning to the end" in God’s plan for His children:

The whole subject of the marriage [not plural marriage] relation is not in my reach, nor in any other man’s reach on this earth. It is without beginning of days or end of years; it is a hard matter to reach. We can tell some things with regard to it; it lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. In fact, it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of salvation—of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity.[126][127]

Can this be included in the interpretation of D&C 132: 63?

Another author commenting on this verse made a compelling case for this theology being put into D&C 132: 63:

Here is the text in its entirety, from verse 62: "for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men." [Emphasis added.] You want to get legalistic? Let’s get legalistic. Just for fun, let’s parse the living snot out of this.This clause begins with multiplying and replenishing as a primary justification. Then we get the word "and" thrown in there. You’re reading this as if it says "they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, in order to fulfil the promise…" But that’s not what it says.

"And" suggests we’re about to get a second reason, not a clarification of the first. In fact, a tight, strict-constructionist reading of this verse reveals three different and distinct reasons for plural marriage, not "only" the replenishment of the earth, [. . .]So let’s review the three reasons:

1. Multiply and replenish the earth.
[. . .] D&C 132 is unequivocal on this point, just as it is unequivocal on the two points that follow.

2. Fulfil [sic] "the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world."

What promise? This seems to have reference to the "restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:21) Joseph cited the need to restore ancient practices to prepare for the Second Coming as a justification for polygamy, and this verse provides a credible scriptural context for him to do so. So just relying on this phrase – plural marriage is acceptable because it fulfills God’s promises – would be justification enough for the practice, at least according to D&C 132.
3. For "their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men."

Oh, this one’s my favorite. Notice the emphasis I added on the "that." The word appears there to create a conditional clause. You claim the bearing of souls is the same thing as multiplying and replenishing the earth, but the actual text insists that the bearing of the souls of men will only be made possible by "exaltation in the eternal worlds." This is a promise of eternal increase, of bearing souls after the earth is no longer around to be replenished. Big, big difference.

And right here, with Reason #3, we have a clear rationale and justification for Joseph being sealed to women with whom he made no attempts to multiply and replenish the earth – i.e. no sex.[128]
See also Brian Hales' discussion
Both modern and 19th century members of the Church have proposed a variety of explanations for the practice of plural marriage. Not all of these suggestions can be supported by the available data.

Joseph identified four reasons for the restoration of plural marriage.

Many are quick to declare that Joseph's polygamy sprang from religious extremism and/or sexual desire. This article explores the difficulties that Joseph had with plural marriage, and evidence for what truly motivated his acts.

Why did early members of the Church practice polygamy? Were they all dupes? Easily manipulated? Religious fanatics who believed Joseph could do no wrong? This article explores the initial reactions and eventual decisions made by the first generation of polygamists in Nauvoo.


Why would Joseph Smith be sealed to other men's wives?

Summary: Why would Joseph Smith be sealed to other men's wives? Some of these men were even active members of the Church. Were these marriages for time or only for eternity? Were these marriages consumated? Why did these women continue to live with the husbands after being sealed to Joseph Smith?

Question: Were there sexual relations in Joseph's marriages to women with living husbands?

Summary: There is no good evidence for sexual relations in polyandrous sealings.
See also Brian Hales' discussion
Some wonder if sexual relations were included in Joseph Smith’s plural marriages. The answer is yes or no, depending upon the type of plural marriage. Those marriages, often called “sealings,” were of two types. Some were for this life and the next (called “time-and-eternity”) and could include sexuality on earth. Others were limited to the next life (called “eternity-only”) and did not allow intimacy in mortality. Overall, evidence indicates that less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions were consummated and sexual relations in the others occurred infrequently.

It appears the Prophet experienced sexual relations with less than half of the women sealed to him. There is no credible evidence that Joseph had sex with three subgroups of his plural wives: (1) fourteen-year-old wives, (2) non-wives (or women to whom he was not married), and (3) legally married women who were experiencing conjugal relations with their civil husbands.

No children are known to have been born to Joseph and his plural wives.


Notes

  1. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 43–44, and 43n43.
  2. Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community, Illini Book Edition ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984 [1981]), 157–158.. Foster notes that "there are a number of family traditions in Utah of children by plural wives of Joseph Smith, I have not been able to investigate them closely enough to determine their possible validity" (311n116). Foster then cites Brodie for examples of such allegations. Foster's work cannot be considered an independent examination of the evidence for or against the paternity of specific individuals.
  3. Bergera writes that four "may or may not" have been fathered by Joseph, citing Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," in Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), xxx. as the authority. See Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38/ 3 (Fall 2005): 49–50n115. Interestingly, Compton's article lists only one of these four (Josephine Fisher) as a likely child of Joseph's—Bergera's reference does not support his claim.
  4. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 298–299.
  5. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 345. ( Index of claims )
  6. Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Purdue University), 140.
  7. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  8. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 301–302, 345–346, 470–471.
  9. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140.
  10. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  11. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 167–168. gives the following data which argue for the 1840 birthdate: Prescinda's genealogy records, Essom's Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, "A Venerable Woman," Women's Exponent, Prescinda's holographic autobiography. Only Augusta Joyce Crocheron, Representative Women of Deseret mentions the 1839 date, saying merely, "About this time' her son Oliver was born" (italics added). Clearly the 1840 date has much better attestation.
  12. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 301–302, 345, 460–462. Brodie was so convinced of Joseph's paternity, that she wrote "If Oliver Buell isn't a Smith them I'm no Brimhall [her mother's family]." - Fawn Brodie to Dale Morgan, Letter, 24 March 1945, Dale Morgan papers, Marriott Library, University of Utah; cited by Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166. Compton devastates Brodie's circumstantial case for Buell as a child of Joseph (166–173), and DNA has definitively vindicated his skepticism.
  13. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 137–138.
  14. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166–173.
  15. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139. suggests that this child is more likely than Oliver to be Joseph's, but he remains skeptical.
  16. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 167.
  17. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  18. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.
  19. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 164.
  20. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 465.
  21. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 164.
  22. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 467.
  23. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 140}}
  24. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  25. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  26. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  27. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.
  28. Compton points out that "It is striking that Marinda had no children while Orson was on his mission to Jerusalem [15 April 1840–7 December 1842], then became pregnant soon after Orson returned home. (He arrived in Nauvoo on December 7, 1842, and Marinda bore Orson Washington Hyde on November 9, 1843). – Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  29. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  30. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139–140.
  31. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  32. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140–141.
  33. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  34. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  35. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139–140.
  36. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  37. R. Scott Lloyd, "Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  38. See Ugo A. Perego, Martin Bodner, Alessandro Raveane, Scott R. Woodward, Francesco Montinaro, Walther Parson, and Alessandro Achilli, "Resolving a 150-year-old Paternity Case in Mormon History Using DTC Autosomal DNA Testing of Distant Relatives," Forensic Science International: Genetics, June 6, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2019.05.007.
  39. Josephine R Fisher, affidavit, 24 February 1915, LDS Archives.
  40. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 30. ISBN 0252026810.; citing Rex Eugene Cooper, Promises Made to the Fathers: Mormon Covenant Organization (Publications in Mormon Studies), (University of Utah Press, 1990), 143n1}}
  41. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 142.
  42. Josephine R Fisher, affidavit, 24 February 1915, LDS Archives.
  43. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 183. ( Index of claims )
  44. Kate B. Carter, ed., Isaiah M[oses] Coombs from His Diary and Journal (Salt Lake City, Utah: published by Daughters of Utah Pioneers through Utah Printing Company, n.d.), 345}}
  45. Carter, ed., Isaiah M[oses] Coombs from His Diary and Journal, 350–351.
  46. Carter, ed., Isaiah M[oses] Coombs from His Diary and Journal, 339.
  47. See Brian C. Hales, "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008), 41–57. [41–57] and Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 349–376.
  48. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 293, 297–298.
  49. Angus M. Cannon, Statement of an Interview with Joseph Smith, President of the ‘Reorganites,’ October 12, 1905," LDS Archives; cited by Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 44n43}}
  50. Lucy Walker Kimball, "Recollections," LDS Archives, 41; cited in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.n165}} from Rodney W. Walker and Noel W. Stevenson, Ancestry and Descendants of John Walker [1794–1869] of Vermont and Utah, Descendants of Robert Walker, and Emigrant of 1632 from England to Boston, Mass. (Kaysville, Utah: Inland Printing Co., 1953), 35. Portions also cited by Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 44n43
  51. This need remains to the present. Despite the fact that most RLDS historians have accepted that Joseph Smith did teach and practice plural marriage, some members remain unconvinced. Reorganization conservative and voice for many "fundamentalist" members of the Reorganization Richard Price continues to insist that "The truth [that Joseph did not teach plural marriage] is found in Joseph's denials, and the fact that he had no children by any woman but his wife Emma." – Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Vision Articles [from Vision Magazine, Vol. 32–46, 48–51, 53–56], vol. 2 (E-book: Price Publishing Company, n.d.)
  52. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140–141.; citing Lucy M. Smith, written statement (18 May 1892), in Papers of George A. Smith family, Special Collections, Marriot Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Bachman notes that a second, undated, signed statement exists which tells "essentially the same story" in the Wilford C. Wood Museum in Bountiful, Utah. (See Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140–141n175.)
  53. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, "Remarks," given at BYU 14 April 1905, typescript, BYU.
  54. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  55. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464. gives his birth as 1845, though there is no footnote indicating her source. Frank's death certificate lists his birth in 1846}} Compton follows the date of 1846, citing Howard H. Barron, Orson Hyde: Missionary-Apostle-Colonizer (Salt Lake City: Horizon, 1977), 134 and Ancestral File.
  56. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:286. Volume 6 link Times and Seasons 5 (15 September 1844): 651}}
  57. Andrew Jenson, LDS Church Chronology: 1805–1914 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1914), entry for 6 August 1844. GospeLink.
  58. Frank H. Hyde, State of Utah--Death Certificate, State Board of Health File No. 967300}} Online at <http://wiki.hanksplace.net/index.php/Image:FrankHHyde.jpg>
  59. Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 249.
  60. Ugo A. Perego and Scott R. Woodward, "Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith" (paper presented at the Mormon History Association Conference, 28 May 2005); see also Ugo A. Perego et al., "Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications," Journal of Mormon History 32/ 2 (Summer 2005); Carrie A. Moore, "DNA Tests Rule out 2 as Smith Descendants," Deseret Morning News 10 November 2007): Michael DeGroote, "DNA solves a Joseph Smith mystery," Deseret News (9 July 2011). Don Alonzo Smith was likewise ruled out; see letter from Perego to Hales on 6 December 2011 cited in Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 296, note i.
  61. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 301. Brodie includes the picture between 298–299}}
  62. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 138.
  63. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:320–321. Volume 3 link
  64. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 168–171.
  65. See Clark V. Johnson, "Northern Missouri," in S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, Richard H. Jackson (editors), Historical Atlas of Mormonism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 42}}
  66. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 170.
  67. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:320–321. Volume 3 link
  68. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:327. Volume 3 link
  69. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:315, 319, 322_323, 327. Volume 3 link
  70. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 297.
  71. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 138 makes similar points.
  72. See Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 164–165.
  73. Michael DeGroote, "DNA solves a Joseph Smith mystery," Deseret News (9 July 2011).
  74. Nelson Winch Green, Fifteen Years among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, Late of Great Salt Lake City; a Sister of One of the Mormon High Priests, She Having Been Personally Acquainted with Most of the Mormon Leaders, and Long in the Confidence of The "Prophet," Brigham Young (New York: H. Dayton, Publishers, 1860 [1858]), 34-35.
  75. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166.
  76. Green, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons, 34-35.
  77. Mrs. T.B.H. [Fanny] Stenhouse, "Tell It All": The Story of a Life's Experience in Mormonism (Hartford, Conn.: A.D. Worthington & Company, 1875 [1874]), 618, the footnote confirms the identity of the author as Ettie V. Smith..
  78. Stenhouse, "Tell It All", x.
  79. Stenhouse, "Tell It All", xi-xii.
  80. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 298.
  81. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 298. Hales cites Joseph Smith III to Bro. E.C. Brand, 26 January 1894, 65}}
  82. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 298.
  83. Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 57. Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67. Discussed in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140. Also in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  84. Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 314–315.
  85. This bit of folklore is explored in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," Brigham Young University Studies 22/ 1 (Fall 1982): 86–96}} RLDS author Richard Price also argues that the physical layout of the Mansion House makes the story as reported by Charles C. Rich unlikely, in "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard Price. "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes." (n.p.: Price Publishing Company, 2001), chapter 9 <http://restorationbookstore.org/jsfp-index.htm > Price's dogmatic insistence that Joseph never taught plural marriage, however, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
  86. See discussion in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140n73.
  87. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 136.
  88. See, for example, Eliza R. Snow, Woman's Exponent 8 (1 November 1879): 85: "So far as Sister Emma personally is concerned, I would gladly have been silent and let her memory rest in peace, had not her misguided son, through a sinister policy, branded her name with gross wickedness [by quoting her as denying plural marriage]."
  89. R. Scott Lloyd, ""Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  90. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  91. Andrew Jenson Papers, MS 17956, CHL, box 49, folder 16.
  92. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," Note 28 josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  93. This type of error is not new in later anti-Mormon documents. An 1884 document claiming to be by Sarah Pratt (who was by then antagonistic to the Church) describes her as the wife of "Orson Hyde," rather than "Orson Pratt." This error is corrected three times, but the error stands in three other cases. See discussion in Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 577. The document cited is [Anonymous], "Workings of Mormonism Related By Mrs. Orson Pratt," typescript of holograph, MS 4048, LDS Church History Library. Sarah Pratt's role, if any, in creating the document is not known. (See Hales, 2:462).
  94. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 298–299, 308, 345. ( Index of claims ); Nelson Winch Green, Fifteen Years among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, Late of Great Salt Lake City; a Sister of One of the Mormon High Priests, She Having Been Personally Acquainted with Most of the Mormon Leaders, and Long in the Confidence of The "Prophet," Brigham Young (New York: H. Dayton, Publishers, 1860 [1858]), 34–35.; George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 82. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  95. Stenhouse, "Tell It All", 618.
  96. Nelson Winch Green, Fifteen Years among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, Late of Great Salt Lake City; a Sister of One of the Mormon High Priests, She Having Been Personally Acquainted with Most of the Mormon Leaders, and Long in the Confidence of The "Prophet," Brigham Young (New York: H. Dayton, Publishers, 1860 [1858]), 34–35.
  97. Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," in Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 166.
  98. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 670–673. ( Index of claims ) Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166–170.
  99. Presendia’s name is also spelled Presenda or Prescindia in contemporary documents. We here use the spelling adopted by her autobiography, also followed by Compton and G. D. Smith.
  100. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 301. Brodie includes the picture between 298–99. ( Index of claims ) that she wrote, "If Oliver Buell isn’t a Smith then I’m no Brimhall," which was her mother’s name.
  101. Citing Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 670, 673. ( Index of claims )
  102. See Clark V. Johnson, "Northern Missouri," in Historical Atlas of Mormonism, ed. S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 42.
  103. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 170.
  104. 104.0 104.1 104.2 Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 3 link
  105. The following all fail to include Oliver Buell as a potential child of Joseph’s: Danel Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 137–38; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 43–44 and 43 n. 43; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 157–58; Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue 38/3 (Fall 2005): 49–50 n. 115.
  106. Carrie A. Moore, "DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants," Deseret Morning News, (10 November 2007), off-site (accessed 2 December 2008); Ugo A. Perego et al., "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 28 (2008): 128–36. For background information, see Ugo A. Perego and Scott R. Woodward, "Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith" (paper presented at the Mormon History Association Conference, 28 May 2005); Ugo A. Perego et al., "Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications," Journal of Mormon History 32/2 (Summer 2005): 70–88.
  107. Elsewhere G. D. Smith actually uses an appeal to the fact that Brodie was persuaded by a tale as evidence! (p. 131).
  108. Green, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons, 34-35.
  109. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives," 166.
  110. Green, Fifteen Years, 34–35.
  111. 111.0 111.1 111.2 Mrs. T.B.H. [Fanny] Stenhouse, "Tell It All": The Story of a Life's Experience in Mormonism (Hartford, Conn.: A.D. Worthington & Company, 1875 [1874]), The footnote confirms the identity of the author as Ettie V. Smith.
  112. See Bachman, "Plural marriage," 139; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 43–44 and 43 n. 43; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 157–58; Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives," 167; Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue 38/3 (Fall 2005): 49–50 n. 115.
  113. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 298.
  114. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  115. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.
  116. Compton points out that "It is striking that Marinda had no children while Orson was on his mission to Jerusalem [15 April 1840–7 December 1842], then became pregnant soon after Orson returned home. (He arrived in Nauvoo on December 7, 1842, and Marinda bore Orson Washington Hyde on November 9, 1843}}) – Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  117. See, for example, Brigham Young, "I have a Few Times in My Life Undertaken to Preach to a Traveling Congregation, but My Sermons have been Very Short, and Far Between," (7 October 1866) from Brigham Young Addresses, 1865–1869, A Chronological Compilation of Known Addresses of the Prophet Brigham Young, edited by Elden J. Watson (Salt Lake City), Vol. 5; cited in The Essential Brigham Young, 187–191; Brigham Young, "Increase of the Saints Since Joseph Smith's Death, &c.," (24 August 1872) reported by David W. Evans, Journal of Discourses Vol. 15 (London: Latter-day Saint's Book Depot, 1873), 136}}
  118. Alma Allred, "Review of Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness," (6 December 1999) (no pages).
  119. JD 25:369. (19 Oct 1884). wiki
  120. Sherman was a close friend and devout follower of Joseph Smith. He was called as an apostle but died before learning of the appointment. See Lyndon W. Cook, "Lyman Sherman—Man of God, Would-Be Apostle," 121–24.
  121. Dean R. Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 37–38.
  122. Helen Mar Whitney, Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith [III], Editor of the Lamoni Iowa "Herald," (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), 11; see also Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, Utah: Bookcraft, 1992), 142–43. See also Joseph A. Kelting, "Affidavit," March 1, 1894, images 11–16a; see also Kelting, "Statement," Juvenile Instructor 29 (May 1, 1894): 289–90.
  123. Brian Hales, "Plural Marriage Teachings" <http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/theology/joseph-smiths-teachings/#back_ajs-fn-id_4-56> (accessed 18 December 2018)
  124. See vv. 34, 37–39, 52, 55, 61–65.
  125. See vv. 41–42, 61–63.
  126. Brigham Young, October 6, 1854 Journal of Discourses, 2:90. Important in Brigham Young’s comments is his observation that the "marriage relation," referring to eternal marriage, not exclusively plural marriage, comprises the "foundation for worlds … and for Gods."
  127. Brian Hales, "Plural Marriage Teachings" <http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/theology/joseph-smiths-teachings/#link_ajs-fn-id_16-56> (accessed 17 December 2018)
  128. Jim Bennett "A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a former CES Employee" <https://canonizer.com/files/reply.pdf> (accessed 30 December 2018)

Response to claim: 345 - "Legend" says that John Reed Hancock may have been Joseph's son

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"Legend" says that John Reed Hancock may have been Joseph's son.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

-"Legend" is not a source. No other author has followed Brodie on this; there is very little evidence that this is true.

Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock. John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock.[1] "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III."[2]


Response to claim: 345 - The son of Mary Rollins Lightner "may as easily have been the prophet's son as that of Adam Lightner"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The son of Mary Rollins Lightner "may as easily have been the prophet's son as that of Adam Lightner."

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.


Response to claim: 345 - Mrs. Orson Hyde's sons Orson and Frank "could have been Joseph's sons"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Mrs. Orson Hyde's sons Orson and Frank "could have been Joseph's sons."

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Brodie mistakes the date on Frank's birth certificate—it is impossible for him to have been Joseph's son. Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity. The birth dates match times when Orson Sr. was available to sire him. Most historians have disagreed with Brodie here.


Response to claim: 345 - Mrs. Parley P. Pratt's son Moroni "might also be added to this list"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Mrs. Parley P. Pratt's son Moroni "might also be added to this list."

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr. DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.[3]


Response to claim: 345-346 - "According to tradition," Emma beat Eliza Snow with a broomstick and caused her to fall down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"According to tradition," Emma beat Eliza Snow with a broomstick and caused her to fall down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage.

Author's sources:
  1. None specified.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The stairs story has not stood up to investigation. See Emma, Eliza and the stairs


Articles about Plural marriage
Doctrinal foundation of plural marriage
Introduction of plural marriage
Plural marriage in Utah
End of plural marriage

How did Emma Hale Smith react to Joseph's practice of plural marriage?

Polygamy ensign august 1992.jpg

Emma was aware of Joseph's plural marriage and sometimes gave permission, but did much to try and thwart it

Emma was aware of plural marriage; it is not clear at exactly what point she was made aware, partly due to there being relatively few early sources on the matter. Emma was generally opposed to the practice of plural marriage, and did much to try and thwart it. There were times, however, when Emma gave permission for Joseph's plural marriages, though she soon changed her mind.[4] Emma was troubled by plural marriage, but her difficulties arose partly from her conviction that Joseph was a prophet:

Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.[5]

Emma did teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young

Emma never denied Joseph's prophetic calling; she did, however, teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young. Torn between two certitudes—her conviction of Joseph's prophetic calling, and her hatred of plural marriage—Emma had difficult choices to make for which we ought not to judge her.

But, the critics ought to let all of Emma speak for herself—she had a great trial, but also had great knowledge. That she continued to support Joseph's calling and remain with him, despite her feelings about plural marriage, speaks much of her convictions. As she told Parley P. Pratt years later:

I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.[6]

Allen J. Stout: "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness"

Allen J. Stout, who served as a bodyguard for Joseph, recounted a conversation he overheard in the Mansion House between Joseph and his tormented wife. A summary of his account states that "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness; that Satan was doing his utmost to destroy her, etc. And solemnly came the Prophet's inspired warning: 'Yes, and he will accomplish your overthrow, if you do not heed my counsel.'"[7]

Emma Smith: "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it"

Emma's inner conflict was also dramatized in another report:

Maria Jane Johnston, who lived with Emma as a servant girl, recalled the Prophet's wife looking very downcast one day and telling her that the principle of plural marriage was right and came from Heavenly Father. "What I said I have got [to] repent of," lamented Emma. "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it."[8]

Emma Smith: "I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting"

Emma asked Joseph for a blessing not long before he went to Carthage. Joseph told her to write the best blessing she could, and he would sign it upon his return. Wrote Emma:

I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side...I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.[9]


Was Emma Smith promised "annihilation" if she didn't accept plural marriage?

The revelation is not entirely clear on what this means

It is claimed that "In the revelation [D&C 132] Emma was promised annihilation if she failed to 'abide this commandment.'"[10]

Here are the verses of Doctrine and Covenants 132 in question:

54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.

One can see that the commandment given to Emma was to "to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else". This likely is a reference to adultery and/or being sealed to another man and not to accepting the plural marriage commandment. She is to remain faithful and supportive of her spouse. The punishment for committing adultery or being sealed to another man is that she will be "destroyed". The next verse is likely the one that refers to plural marriage though it's not entirely clear. It sets off a new clause with that "But". Plus, a different kind of consequence is promised for not accepting plural marriage. The consequence is that Joseph would "do all things for her; even as he hath said". A much more mild

Keep in mind that that same punishment is promised to both men and women that don't abide strictly by the new and everlasting covenant by either committing adultery or are sealed illegally. This from verse 26 of the revelation:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God (emphasis added).

This same promise is given in verses 41–42 and verse 63 of the revelation. But what exactly does it mean to "destroy in the flesh"?

Other uses of the word "destroy" in the revelation are used in relation to those that are not sealed by priesthood authority (Doctrine & Covenants 132:14), in relation to those that Emma elects for Joseph to be sealed to and who have pretended to moral purity yet weren't morally pure (Doctrine & Covenants 132:52), in relation to Joseph and what will happen to his property if he put it out of his hands (Doctrine and Covenants 132:57),[11] and in relation to those women that are taught the principle of plural marriage but will not, like Sarah did, elect new wives for their husbands to be sealed to and have children in the covenant with (Doctrine & Covenants 132:64).

In these instances, "destroy" seems to mean either "create extreme psychological torment for" or "not give exaltation to" a particular person. The author is not aware, of the many people that we know that have committed adultery, of anyone who has been killed by God or struck down by him via lightning after committing adultery and being sealed to their first wife. Perhaps that should inform our understanding of "destroy" in this revelation and make it not mean "strike down with fire and utterly annihilate".

The revelation doesn't really settle the question for us. Joseph was promised this at the end of the revelation:

66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.

So perhaps our Heavenly Father will reveal more about exactly what the revelation means at a future date. The textual clues that already exist as well as personal experience can certainly delimit the logical number of options for possible interpretation, but we would be wise to not shut out the possibility of further light and knowledge settling the question for us definitively. Since we don't know and likely can't know, it's not rational to fret anxiously over what this verse actually meant. What we can know is that following the commandment to practice plural marriage was a moral imperative for the Lord. The commandment to enter into eternal sealings as men and women is required for our becoming gods. Failure to follow the lord's "word which is his law" results in the consequence of either a deprivation of the fulness of mortal/earthly felicity possible and/or the deprivation of God's fulness and nature that he has promised to those that keep his commandments.

See also Brian Hales' discussion
Sometime in 1840 Joseph Smith first broached the topic of plural marriage privately to trusted friends. Most of the apostles were in England and thus were unavailable for an introduction to the practice.

Joseph's first foray into plural marriage was deeply painful for Emma, his first wife.

It is impossible to definitively determine when Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages. However, many historical clues help to create a possible timeline.

The earliest documentable date for Emma’s awareness of time-and-eternity plural marriage is May of 1843, when she participated in four of her husband’s polygamous sealings.

Emma’s resistance to plural marriage prompted Hyrum to encourage Joseph to dictate a written revelation on the subject.

Rather than generating Emma’s active support, the revelation [D&C 132] appears to have brought a smoldering crisis to flame. She and Joseph took serious counsel together with some sort of agreement being negotiated.


Was a pregnant Eliza R. Snow pushed down the stairs by a furious Emma, resulting in a miscarriage?

The historical and logistical problems with this story make it unlikely to be true

There is little evidence that the stairs incident happened as described.

Evidences that "Eliza had conceived Joseph’s child and miscarried," George D. Smith, the author of Nauvoo Polygamy "...but we called it celestial marriage" tells us, are "fragmented" and "questions cloud the story." Despite this, "the secondary sources are convincing in their own right" (p. 130). Here again, the author’s representation of the data and references to those who disagree leave much to be desired. He cites other authors while giving no indication that they disagree with his reading. For example, from an essay in BYU Studies he cites the Charles C. Rich version of a pregnant Eliza "heavy with child" being shoved down the stairs by a furious Emma. Nowhere does he tell the reader that these authors concluded that the story given the present evidence was untenable:

But where are we? Faced with a folk legend, with genuine documents that tell no tales, and dubious ones that contradict themselves and the contemporary accounts, perhaps it is best for us to respond as we must to many paradoxes of our history: consider thoughtfully and then place all the evidence carefully on the shelf, awaiting further documentation, or the Millennium, whichever should come first.[12]

The statement that Eliza carried Joseph’s unborn child and lost it due to an attack by Emma is brought into question by Eliza’s own journal

Newell and Avery’s biography of Emma places the story into doubt:

The statement that Eliza carried Joseph’s unborn child and lost it [due to an attack by Emma] is brought into question by Eliza’s own journal. While her Victorian reticence probably would have precluded mention of her own pregnancy, if she were indeed carrying Joseph’s child, other evidence in the journal indicates that she may not have been pregnant. Eliza’s brother Lorenzo indicated that by the time she married Joseph, she was "beyond the condition of raising a family." Also if she was "heavy with child" as the Rich account states, she would not have been teaching school, for even legally married women usually went into seclusion when their pregnancies became obvious. Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would not have been probable had she suffered a miscarriage.[13]

RLDS perspective

The award for most humorously ironic use of a source in this section goes to the author's citation of Richard Price. The author argues that "most convincing of all is to think that these stories were circulating widely and Eliza never considered to clarify or refute them." He attributes this insight to Price (p. 134 n. 207). He believes that the "most convincing" aspect of the story is that Eliza never rebutted it. Uncorrected rumor or gossip is more convincing than the absence of diary or behavioral evidence for a pregnancy as outlined by Newel and Avery? If I do not rebut an unfounded rumor, does this mean I give it my consent? This seems a strange standard. Joseph and the members of the church tried to rebut the rumors spread by the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits, yet the author treats them as valuable insights. The Saints, it seems, are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

The author’s citation of Price might lead the reader to believe that Price agrees with Smith’s reading—that Eliza Snow never rebutted the story because it was true. But Price claims exactly the opposite.[14]

In addition to the indignity of having his work cited for a view that is the reverse of his own, Price suffers further. An RLDS conservative, Price is committed to the stance that Joseph did not teach or practice plural marriage.[15] Far from endorsing Smith’s view of the stairs incident, Price is adamant that the story is false. Though the author spends a page explaining why Joseph and Emma may have moved to the Mansion House earlier than thought (as the stairs story requires), he ignores Price’s diagram and argument for the story’s impossibility based on the Mansion House’s layout.[16] The author can hardly have been unaware of it since the same Web page contains the argument to which he makes reference. FairMormon does not agree with Price on all points—his dogged insistence that Joseph did not practice plural marriage cannot be sustained by the evidence, which often leads him to make unwarranted leaps—but the author ought to at least engage Price’s critique and fairly represent his views.

If the story of Emma pushing Eliza Snow down the stairs is true, why did Eliza not make use of it?

Eliza went to considerable lengths to defend plural marriage and to insist that Joseph Smith had practiced it, so why did she never offer her pregnancy and miscarriage as evidence?

If the stairs story is true, why did Eliza not make use of it? The argument from silence cuts both ways: Eliza went to considerable lengths to defend plural marriage and to insist that Joseph Smith had practiced it. Why did she never offer her pregnancy and miscarriage as evidence? Eliza was not afraid to criticize Emma Smith for what she regarded as the latter’s dishonesty. Following Emma’s death and her sons’ publication of her last denial of plural marriage, Eliza wrote:

I once dearly loved ‘Sister Emma,’ and now, for me to believe that she, a once honoured woman, should have sunk so low, even in her own estimation, as to deny what she knew to be true, seems a palpable absurdity. If . . . [this] was really her testimony she died with a libel on her lips—a libel against her husband—against his wives—against the truth, and a libel against God; and in publishing that libel, her son has fastened a stigma on the character of his mother, that can never be erased. . . . So far as Sister Emma personally is concerned, I would gladly have been silent and let her memory rest in peace, had not her misguided son, through a sinister policy, branded her name with gross wickedness.[17]

Emma was safely dead; Eliza had no need to spare her feelings. Why not offer her alleged miscarriage or Emma’s angry assault as evidence if it were true? This scenario seems at least as plausible as the author’s weak claim that silence equals agreement. Yet more than a hundred pages later, the author asks us to "assume . . . that LeRoi Snow’s account was accurate" before asking leading rhetorical questions. Yet again, no links to the other side of the story are provided (p. 236).

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Under what circumstances was Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 committed to writing?

Hyrum Smith asked Joseph to commit the doctrine to writing, because he believed that he could thereby persuade Emma of its truth

Hyrum Smith asked Joseph to commit the doctrine to writing, because he believed that he could thereby persuade Emma of its truth. Joseph did as Hyrum asked, but warned his brother that even this would not help persuade his wife.

See also Brian Hales' discussion
D&C 132 was committed to paper because of Emma's resistance, and Hyrum's desire to persuade her. The revelation is now section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants. The original document penned by Clayton was destroyed either by Emma or by Joseph at Emma’s bidding.

Since first wives were generally to grant permission for sealings to subsequent wives, did Joseph's later sealing to Emma mean that Emma no longer held the role of "first wife"?

If the wife of the person who holds the keys to plural marriage rejects plural marriage, her husband is to follow the commands of God to him without her permission

Joseph's revelation in D&C 132 explicitly states that if the wife of the person who holds the keys to plural marriage rejects plural marriage, her husband is to follow the commands of God to him without her permission.

See also Brian Hales' discussion
Sometime in 1840 Joseph Smith first broached the topic of plural marriage privately to trusted friends. Most of the apostles were in England and thus were unavailable for an introduction to the practice.

Joseph's first foray into plural marriage was deeply painful for Emma, his first wife.

It is impossible to definitively determine when Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages. However, many historical clues help to create a possible timeline.

The earliest documentable date for Emma’s awareness of time-and-eternity plural marriage is May of 1843, when she participated in four of her husband’s polygamous sealings.

Emma’s resistance to plural marriage prompted Hyrum to encourage Joseph to dictate a written revelation on the subject.

Rather than generating Emma’s active support, the revelation [D&C 132] appears to have brought a smoldering crisis to flame. She and Joseph took serious counsel together with some sort of agreement being negotiated.


Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "Sacred Marriage or Secret Affair? Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormon Polygamy," Salt Lake City Messenger, No. 112, May 2009.

Did Joseph Smith offer to trade Jane Law for Emma Smith in a wife swap with William Law?

This claim rests on a single, unreliable hostile source. Other hostile sources (including William Law) deny the tale

This question arises because of a somewhat opaque verse in the Doctrine and Covenants section on plural marriage. (The revelation was written down at Hyrum Smith's request, who believed that he could persuade Emma Smith of the doctrine's provenance from God.) The verses in question read:

51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice....54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. (D&C 132:51,54.

No one is certain as to what this refers. William Clayton, Joseph's scribe and secretary, wrote in his contemporaneous journal:

This A.M. President Joseph took me and conversed considerable concerning some delicate matters. Said [Emma] wanted to lay a snare for me. He told me last night of this and said he had felt troubled. He said [Emma] had treated him coldly and badly since I came…and he knew she was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. She thought that if he would indulge himself she would too.[18]

Some have seen this as Emma claiming she would practice plural marriage (a strange idea, given how she felt about it), and these readers have then extended the reading to include a belief that she was threatening to marry William Law. Others have seen these verses (perhaps more plausibly) as Emma simply threatening divorce if Joseph didn't cease plural marriage. In this reading, Joseph would have agreed to a divorce--both were probably speaking somewhat in the heat of the moment—and the Lord in D&C 132 makes it clear that he does not endorse Joseph's offer of (or agreement to) a divorce.

The idea of Joseph offering William Law to Emma springs out of an anti-Mormon work. As D. Carmon Hardy noted:

Belief that the prophet contemplated a 'spiritual swap' of wives with William Law, based on Joseph Jackson's statement in his exaggerated Narrative, 20–21, should be viewed with caution. The best review of the matter remains Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 176–77.[19]

It becomes clear how shaky the evidence is when one drills down to the ultimate source of the idea. The source of this charge seems to be a book by Joseph H. Jackson. Jackson claimed to have insinuated himself into Joseph's counsels, and claimed Joseph had told him that he was going to attempt to "get Mrs. William Law for a spiritual wife…for the purpose of affecting his object [Joseph] got up a revelation that Law was to be sealed up to Emma, and that Law's wife was to be his; in other words there was to be a spiritual swop [sic]…[Joseph] had never before suffered his passion for any woman to carry him so far as to be willing to sacrifice Emma for its gratification."[20]

However, Jackson appears on no Church membership records, and Joseph's early opinion was that he was "rotten hearted." Note that D&C 132 was given almost a year prior to Jackson's claimed revelation.[21]

Testimony that contradicts the claim

William Law himself denied that Joseph ever attempted such a swap:

Joseph Smith never proposed anything of the kind to me or to my wife; both he and Emma knew our sentiments in relation to spiritual wives and polygamy; knew that we were immoveably opposed to polygamy in any and every form…[but Law did believe] that Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute, for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in the house.[21]:176

Law thus saw the verse as referring to divorce, not a swap.

It is also interesting that another anti-Mormon writer (and former wife of Brigham Young) Ann Eliza Webb Young wrote:

One particular passage [of D&C 132] is said to refer to a matrimonial scene in which a threat was held out that the life of the Elect Lady should be terminated [84] by poison. She is here commanded to "stay herself, and partake not" of that which Joseph had offered her. It is, however, only right to add that the Mormon exponents of the Revelation say that this passage refers to an offer which Joseph had made to sacrifice his own personal feelings, and to accede to a divorce between Emma and himself. In these few lines more is disclosed of the Prophet's domestic life and difficulties than he probably was aware of. I give these paragraphs in full, that the reader may judge for himself. [She then cites D&C 132:51–60][22]

Ann Eliza wasn't old enough to have direct personal knowledge about plural marriage in Nauvoo, but her parents (who also later apostatized) were there--so this may well reflect their insights. At the very least, she too would have had reason to condemn Joseph Smith if Joseph had offered a wife swap, but she didn't. In fact, she understood the mysterious verses quite differently.

Most historians have thus not given much weight to this idea. It is probably best seen as anti-Mormon folk history. It still crops up now and again among those who either don't know the data well, or who are working with a lascivious picture of Joseph and so this "fits" how they think he behaved.

William Law and complicating the picture

The story is complicated by the issue of William Law (who was a counselor to Joseph in the First Presidency before he apostatized and helped write the Nauvoo Expositor) and his wife, Jane. There are various versions of that story, and so they get tangled up in this issue.

It is not clear whether or not William and Jane were ever sealed. Alexander Neibaur, a close friend of the Prophet, said that "Mr Wm Law--wisht to be Married to his Wife for Eternity Mr [Joseph] Smith said would Inquire of the Lord, Answered no because Law was a Adultereous person. Mrs Law wandet to know why she could not be Married to Mr Law Mr S said would not wound her feeling by telling her, some days after Mr Smith going toward his Office Mrs Law stood in the door beckoned to him more the once did not Know wheter she bekoned to him went across to Inquire yes please to walk in no one but herself in the house. she drawing her Arms around him if you wont seal me to my husband Seal myself unto you. he Said stand away & pushing her Gently aside giving her a denial & going out. when Mr Law came home he Inquired who had been in his Absence. she said no one but Br Joseph, he then demanded what had[pass[ed] Mrs L then told Joseph wandet her to be Married to him." (Journal of Alexander Neibaur, 24 May 1844, Church Archives. See also Hyrum Smith's statement in Nauvoo Neighbor, Extra, 17 June 1844, regarding Law's adulterous conduct.) Yet at Law's trial of excommunication, Jack John Scott, a Canadian convert, testified that to ameliorate conditions between William and Joseph (possibly because of the accusations that the Prophet had made advances to Jane Law) Joseph Smith had sealed William Law and his wife (Minutes of meeting, 18 April 1844, Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives).[23]

This could be Joseph just spin-doctoring, but his account told to Neibaur was done privately, and wasn't used in public to discredit Law or his wife. This, to me, adds to its plausibility. It didn't really benefit Joseph if he were to lie in private to a very few about Law, while Law was making such public trouble for Joseph. Here's Hyrum Smith's evidence (and many regarded Hyrum as impeccably honest):

Councilor Hyrum Smith continued—Jackson told him he (Jackson) meant to have his daughter, and threatened him if he made any resistance. Jackson related to him a dream, that Joseph and Hyrum were opposed to him, but that he would execute his purposes; that Jackson had laid a plan with four or five persons to kidnap his daughter, and threatened to shoot any one that should come near after he had got her in the skiff; that Jackson was engaged in trying to make bogus, which was his principal business. Referred to the revelation read to the High Council of the Church, which has caused so much talk, about multiplicity of wives; that said revelation was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days. That when sick, William Law confessed to him that he had been guilty of adultery, and was not fit to live, and had sinned against his own soul, &c., and inquired who was Judge Emmons? When he came here he had scarce two shirts to his back; but he had been dandled by the authorities of the city, &c., and was now editor of the Nauvoo Expositor, and his right hand man, was Francis M. Higbee, who had confessed to him that he had had the——! [the blank at the end likely refers to a venereal disease contracted by Higbee from a prostitution ring run by John C. Bennett][24]

Law, in his turn, claimed "[Joseph][ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and[ha[s] found her a virtuous woman".[25]

The best reconstruction may be Cook's:

A possible explanation for this discrepancy is that Neibaur's account (cited above), though reasonably accurate, is simply incomplete. Obviously, Jane Law's frustration over not being permitted to be eternally sealed to her husband might have prompted her to request eternal marriage to the Mormon leader (say, in late 1843), and (as per Neibaur) she was rebuffed. Subsequently, possibly to gratify and assuage the Laws, Joseph might have finally agreed to seal the couple near Christmas 1843 (as per John Scott). Then later, just before or soon after the Laws' excommunication, Joseph Smith might have sought to have Jane Law sealed to him in an attempt to keep her from following her apostate husband (as per Law's diary and other published sources noted above). Bathsheba W. Smith, one of the anointed quorum who was conversant with all the ramifications of plural marriage in Nauvoo, believed that Jane Law may well have been sealed to the Prophet (Bathsheba W. Smith Deposition, Eighth Circuit Court, 1892 Temple Lot Case, carbon copy of original, Church Archives). However, if this were the case, it was short-lived because Jane, who was expecting her sixth child, did remain with her husband, William Law. In July 1867, John Hawley reported that Wilford Woodruff had said, "When Brigham Young got the records of the Church in his hands, after the death of Joseph Smith, he found by examination that . . . [William] Laws wife and [Francis] Higbys wife and[L[yman] Wights wife and [Robert D .] Fosters wife had all been Sealed to Joseph, as their Husbands could not Save them" (John Hawley, Autobiography, January 1885, p. 97, RLDS Library-Archives).[23]

See also Brian Hales' discussion
William Law was Joseph's counselor, but eventually broke with the Prophet and helped publish the Nauvoo Expositor.

Did rumors of polygamy contribute to Joseph's martyrdom?

William Marks related that Joseph’s conversation denouncing plural marriage occurred “three weeks before his death” or around June 6. Perhaps Joseph had such a change of heart during the first week of June, but this seems unlikely and other parts of Marks’ recollection are implausible.


See also Brian Hales' discussion
Sometime in 1840 Joseph Smith first broached the topic of plural marriage privately to trusted friends. Most of the apostles were in England and thus were unavailable for an introduction to the practice.

Joseph's first foray into plural marriage was deeply painful for Emma, his first wife.

It is impossible to definitively determine when Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages. However, many historical clues help to create a possible timeline.

The earliest documentable date for Emma’s awareness of time-and-eternity plural marriage is May of 1843, when she participated in four of her husband’s polygamous sealings.

Emma’s resistance to plural marriage prompted Hyrum to encourage Joseph to dictate a written revelation on the subject.

Rather than generating Emma’s active support, the revelation [D&C 132] appears to have brought a smoldering crisis to flame. She and Joseph took serious counsel together with some sort of agreement being negotiated.


Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Notes

  1. Deseret News, 2007.
  2. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 134-135.
  3. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  4. Emma gave permission for at least the marriages of Eliza and Emma Partridge, and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 409, 475. ( Index of claims )
  5. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 261. ( Index of claims )
  6. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (editor), "Memoirs of Joseph Smith III (1832–1914)," The Saints Herald (2 April 1935): 431–434.
  7. Allen J. Stout, "Allen J. Stout's Testimony," Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 230–31; cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.
  8. Emma Smith to Maria Jane Johnston, cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.; quoting Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 161.
  9. Emma Hale Smith, Blessing (1844), Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  10. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 29. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  11. The reference to "property" does appear to be an oblique reference to women. The language will appear stereotypically sexist to many viewers. So is Doctrine & Covenants 132 sexist? Men and women sealed together are promised to share the same amount of power once they are out of the world in the revelation. See verses 19–20. See also our page on this: Is polygamy sexist?. The language in verse 57 is certainly influenced by Joseph's legal milieu which followed a more patriarchal system of marriage that included laws for protecting a man's property including, as they were then legally considered, women. We need to remember that Heavenly Father speaks unto prophets "in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding" (Doctrine & Covenants 1:24). So the revelation follows Joseph's legal language and understanding. That does not, however, mean that that is how God valued women morally. Thus the revelation itself does not need to be seen as sexist. It doesn't intend to assign more moral value inherently to men over women. God values us all equally and it is made clear by the revelation that he intends to give us the same blessings once we become gods. The legal environment of that time is what is making its way into the revelation though. We should be very grateful for activists and legal scholars that have reshaped our understanding of marriage and the legal framework around it to not make women property.
  12. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," BYU Studies 22/1 (Fall 1982): 86–96. Compare Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 131 n. 195.
  13. Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 136. Compare Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 132 n. 201.
  14. Richard Price and Pamela Price, "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard Price, chap. 9 of "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes." (n.p.: Price Publishing Co., 2001), off-site (accessed 5 November 2008). FairMormon's consultants do not sustain Price's view, however, that Joseph Smith did not practice or teach plural marriage.
  15. On Price’s break from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) mainstream, see: William D. Russell, "Richard Price: Leading Publicist of the Reorganized Church’s Schismatics," in Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, ed. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 319–37.
  16. Compare Price and Price, "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed," with George D. Smith’s opinion in Nauvoo Polygamy, 133.
  17. Eliza R. Snow, Woman’s Exponent 8 (1 November 1879): 85; cited in Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 307–8.
  18. William Clayton and George D. Smith (editor), An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1995), 108 (entry dated 23 June 1843).
  19. B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham, 65, note 99.
  20. Joseph H. Jackson, The Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo: Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villany <sic> Practiced in Nauvoo (Printed for the Publisher: Warsaw, Illinois, 1846), 21-22.
  21. 21.0 21.1 See Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994).:176-177 The conclude that "Its meaning [the verse in D&C 132] remains a mystery.
  22. Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage...(Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 84.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Lyndon W. Cook, "William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), footnote 82.
  24. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:434-436 (10 June 1844). Volume 6 link
  25. Law Diary, 13 May 1844
  1. REDIRECTEmma Smith's reaction to Joseph Smith's plural marriages#Was a pregnant Eliza R. Snow pushed down the stairs by a furious Emma, resulting in a miscarriage?

Response to claim: 346 - "It is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"It is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

}}

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

It is astonishing that the author guessed wrong so often, and missed the one viable candidate: Josephine Fisher.


Response to claim: 346 - Jedediah Grant "excused" Joseph's marriages to married women by stating that it was a way to "try the people of God to see what was in them"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Jedediah Grant "excused" Joseph's marriages to married women by stating that it was a way to "try the people of God to see what was in them."

Author's sources:
  1. Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses 2:14.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Grant says nothing about Joseph's polyandrous marriages; he is speaking of cases (e.g., such as Heber and Vilate Kimball) in which Joseph proposed plural marriage but then relented.

See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 2:14 to see how this quote was mined.

Response to claim: 346 - Perhaps Joseph "learned some primitive method of birth control" or took advantage of items such as "Portuguese Female Pills" to produce miscarriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Perhaps Joseph "learned some primitive method of birth control" or took advantage of items such as "Portuguese Female Pills" to produce miscarriage.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Author's conjecture—Brodie can't adequately explain why a large number of children were not produced from Joseph's other "marriages."


Notes