In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we’re frequently taught to value honesty. Primary children sing “I Believe in Being Honest.” Our 13th Article of Faith declares openly that we believe in being honest. It’s actively encouraged by our Apostles. Our temple recommend question was recently updated from, “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow man?” to the even wider-reaching, “Do you strive to be honest in all that you do?” Our scriptures teach us to deal with men honestly and to be open and honest in our conversation and renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, because those with honest hearts are accepted by the Lord, while liars will be thrust down to Hell.
But, even with all of those admonitions, we understand that there are some situations where acting with complete honesty is not the morally justifiable thing to do. These situations can range from the benign (for example, your friend gets a bad haircut or outfit, and rather than hurt their feelings by telling them you think it’s ugly, you fib and say they look nice) to something much more precarious (such as someone living in Germany during World War II who hides a Jewish family and lies to the authorities about their whereabouts). This type of thing is even shown in our scriptures, where Abraham and Sarai used an ambiguous word to imply that Sarai was not his wife, and then allowed the Pharaoh to believe the false implication. We believe that they were correct to do that. The Book of Abraham even clarifies that God told Abraham to do it.
We see these same types of questions, when one direction from God conflicts with another one, at various times throughout the scriptures. One notable example is Adam and Eve choosing between the direction to avoid the fruit of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the direction to multiply and replenish the Earth. Another is Nephi slaying Laban at the Spirit’s direction despite knowing that murder was a violation of the commandments. Sometimes, our circumstances here on this fallen world, surrounded by other fallen, mortal human beings, means that the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves takes precedence over the commandment to be honest in all that we do. Most of us understand that sometimes, it’s impossible to follow both of those commandments at once. In those instances, we have to make the choice to follow which commandment we believe is most important in that moment.
That dilemma is at the heart of everything I’m going to talk about today. The focus for this portion of the Letter For My Wife is Joseph Smith’s public and private denials of the practice of polygamy. None of these situations are exactly as Thomas Faulk frames them to be. Because he tries to keep his tone neutral throughout most of this, it’s difficult to tell whether the framing was done on purpose to deceive the readers, or because he just didn’t understand the facts of the situation. I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately, it’s getting harder to do that every week.
- Secrets and Denial
Additional marriages were kept secret and when word began to spread Joseph turned to outright denial.
This is a prime example of that bad framing I was just talking about. Joseph was always extremely careful with his words when he discussed plural marriage. Those “outright denials” are not exactly what they appear to be at first glance, and they were made for very specific reasons. This is where critical thinking skills are going to come into play. We can accept the surface-level analysis that Faulk presents, or we can look a little deeper and realize that this situation was far more complicated and deadly than he would have us believe it was.
He then presents four examples of those “secrets and denials” that he was talking about.
- Emily and Eliza Partridge
Emily and Eliza were the daughters of the first bishop of the Church, Edward Partridge. When he passed away, his daughters Emily (16) and Eliza (20) sought work as maids to help support their family. Emily recalls:
“The first door that opened for us was to go to Smith’s, which we accepted.” “[I was] a nurse girl, for they had a young baby … Joseph and Emma were very kind to us; they were almost like a father and mother, and I loved Emma and the children.” “the Prophet Joseph and his wife Emma offered us a home in their family … We had been there about a year when the principle of plural marriage was made known to us, and I was married to Joseph Smith on the 4th of March 1843, Elder Heber C. Kimball performing the ceremony. My sister Eliza was also married to Joseph a few days later. This was done without the knowledge of Emma Smith. Two months afterward she consented to give her husband two wives, providing he would give her the privilege of choosing them. She accordingly chose my sister Eliza and myself, and to save family trouble Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed. Accordingly on the 11th of May, 1843, we were sealed to Joseph Smith a second time, in Emma’s presence … From that very hour, however, Emma was our bitter enemy. We remained in the family several months after this, but things went from bad to worse until we were obligated to leave the house and find another home.” (Emily Partridge’s journal)
It’s true that Joseph was sealed to both Emily and Eliza Partridge before Emma gave her permission for them to be sealed. It’s also true that they were sealed a second time in her presence without telling her about the first sealings in order to keep the peace. The rest of Emily’s story illustrates why such extreme measures were employed.
You see, Emma didn’t just freeze them out and make them so uncomfortable that they moved out. She tried to drive them entirely out of Nauvoo. Emily explained:
Emma was present [at the sealing of Emily and Eliza]. She gave her free and full consent. She had always up to this time, been very kind to me and my sister Eliza, who was also married to the Prophet Joseph Smith with Emma’s consent; but ever after she was our enemy. She used every means in her power to injure us in the eyes of her husband, and before strangers, and in consequence of her abuse we were obliged to leave the city to gratify her, but things were overruled otherwise, and we remained in Nauvoo. My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons. She was a good woman, and one of the Lord’s chosen few.
Emma’s hurt and anger over plural marriage are well known. There are multiple stories of her losing her temper and causing scenes and even physical harm to others. These stories led to a strong resentment against her from the Saints who crossed the plains to Utah, which unfortunately lasted for generations. I’ve noticed a shift in attitude toward her even in my lifetime, which means it hung on for 150 years.
I have a lot of respect and admiration for Emma Smith, and I don’t want to spread gossip or add any fuel to the fire against her. I think it’s perfectly understandable that she grappled with the principle of plural marriage. I can’t imagine being asked to live that law on top of everything else she’d gone through because of Joseph’s calling. It would probably be the most difficult thing any of us were ever asked to do. But I do need to discuss some of those stories because they provide important context for Joseph’s behavior in these instances I’m covering today.
It’s difficult to know for certain which of these stories are true and which are false. Some came many decades later, while others are contemporary. People who knew her personally believed and shared the stories as if they were fact. Several apparently came from Joseph himself.
There’s the account of Hyrum trying to give Emma the written revelation and her jumping down his throat over it. The revelation was subsequently burned, though sources vary on whether or not Emma burned it, Joseph burned it at her behest, or Joseph voluntarily burned it to try to smooth out hurt feelings.
There was a public argument between Emma and one of Joseph’s other wives, Flora Ann Woodworth, that was recorded by William Clayton, Joseph’s chief scribe and one of his closest friends during the last few years of his life. Clayton’s journal entry from August 23, 1843 reads:
23 August 1843, Wednesday Nauvoo 2
Wednesday 23rd. … Prest J. told me that he had difficulty with E. yesterday. She rode up to Woodworths with him & caled while he came to the Temple. When he returned she was demanding the gold watch of F. he reproved her for her evil treatment. On their return home she abused him much & also when he got home. he had to use harsh measures to put a stop to her abuse but finally succeeded.
Joseph had apparently given Flora a gold watch. He’d also given gold watches to Emma and to Eliza R. Snow, so it was something of a special token he gave out on occasion. When Emma went to visit the Woodworth family that day, she discovered Flora’s watch. It’s not clear how she discovered it or what Emma knew of the union before that point, but she became upset over the watch and demanded it back. Flora wouldn’t give it to her, and the argument was still on-going when Joseph arrived to pick her up. He told Emma to stop and they quickly left, though many decades later Seymour B. Young said that before they did so, Emma actually did crush the watch under the heel of her boot. We have no way of knowing whether his recollection is true or not.
Anyway, Emma apparently yelled at Joseph all the way home and even afterward, until he made her stop. I have no idea what Clayton meant by “harsh measures,” but I do know that there were no allegations or rumors of physical abuse in their marriage. Emma had threatened divorce that summer, so maybe he threatened it back, or reminded her of the seriousness of her covenants, or simply shouted back at her. We don’t know the details.
Flora was so upset by the altercation that she eloped to Carthage and married another man the very next day, and Joseph had to release her from her sealing for time. It was quite a scandal, and that’s just one example of a major fight between Emma, one of Joseph’s wives, and Joseph himself.
Another is the poisoning incident. One of Joseph’s other wives, Desdemona Fullmer, recounted a dream or vision she had one night where she claims she was warned to leave the Smith house because Emma would try to poison her if she stayed. When she told Joseph, he supposedly agreed that “she would if she could.” So, Joseph helped her moved into William Clayton’s home.
Shortly afterward, Joseph became violently ill. He was so sick that he was vomiting blood, and doing it so hard that he dislocated his jaw in the process. Joseph, Desdemona, and others apparently believed that Emma had poisoned him instead once Desdemona was out of the house. Joseph’s doctor agreed that he was poisoned. There was supposedly a private council meeting held where Joseph accused Emma of the poisoning attempt in front of the council. She began to cry rather than defend herself, which unfortunately led many to believe it was true. Brigham Young also later shared this story as being true.
However, as Richard Bushman noted in Rough Stone Rolling, Joseph dislocated his jaw from vomiting on at least one other occasion, maybe two, so it’s unlikely that she actually did try to poison him. Their marital strife must have been pretty bad at that time if he was willing to publicly accuse her of something like that, however. And with Desdemona’s account of a possible vision warning that Emma would do it to her, it does muddy the water a little. Desdemona may have been lying or exaggerating, but again, we just don’t know.
The most famous of these rumors is, of course, Emma pushing Eliza R. Snow down a flight of stairs and beating her with a broom handle. There is no contemporary evidence to back up any such altercation. All of those stories come from much, much later, and Eliza’s own journal seems to refute that allegation.
It’s been postulated that, rather than Eliza R. Snow, it was actually Eliza Partridge that this happened to, which would fit with Emily’s accounts of abuse from Emma. But Emily only ever described verbal abuse, not physical, and surely, she would have mentioned something as momentous as Emma dragging her sister by her hair and throwing her down a flight of stairs. Something that extreme would have left records: doctor’s visits, scandalized neighbors, letters, journal entries, etc. None of that exists here. There is no evidence this ever happened, and I personally don’t believe that it did.
So, why were the Saints in Deseret so quick to believe these stories about someone they’d once considered a close friend? Because of what happened in the aftermath of the martyrdom.
For one thing, while dividing up Joseph’s estate, it was very difficult to tell what belonged to him personally and what belonged to the Church. There was a legal fight between Emma and the Church, and Emma initially came out on top. She was granted ownership of a lot of land that the Church was hoping to sell in order to fund the trek West. However, in the years following the exodus from Nauvoo, Emma had that property taken from her by the government and she had to repurchase some of it with the little funds she was granted by his debt settlements. Even before that, nobody was buying the property at value, so she was land rich, but cash poor. However, the Saints didn’t know that, being so far away in Utah territory.
For another thing, Emma denied until her death that Joseph had ever participated in plural marriage. Because she had actually participated in some of his sealings to other women, this was a blatant falsehood, but it’s one she maintained for the rest of her life.
So, the Saints thought she had stayed behind and become wealthy while denying polygamy, while many of them lost everything they had, including family members, during the arduous journey to the Salt Lake Valley. Even once they arrived, they didn’t have peace. The US government sent the army out to eradicate them. They were mocked and insulted all over the world. They had their rights to due process and to have representation in government taken from them. The female right to vote was rescinded in their territory. The government seized their property and refused Latter-day Saint immigrants entry into the country. Apostles were murdered. Etc.
The Saints in Utah territory did not have an easy time for well over half a century, sacrificing all that they had to live the commandment of plural marriage. During that time, they believed that Emma was living a very easy life back in Nauvoo because she denied its existence and kept their property for herself. They resented her for that, and unfortunately, it came out in the form of malicious gossip.
They were wrong, just like she was wrong in thinking they had the bulk of Joseph’s property with them. But that means that it’s difficult today to tell which of the later accounts are true and which are false.
From these accounts, however, I think it’s clear why Joseph tried to hide some of his plural marriages from Emma. She was very hurt and upset by them, they caused a lot of strife and acrimony in their marriage, and she struggled to accept the doctrine. He didn’t want to cause her pain, and he didn’t want to start any more arguments when their marriage was already in a precarious position. But at the same time, he had to obey God. He had to be sealed to the women he was commanded to be sealed to. It maybe wasn’t the best decision he could have made, but I don’t blame him for making it. And I don’t blame her for feeling the way she did about it all.
- Letter from Joseph Smith to Sarah Ann Whitney:
“…my feelings are so strong for you since what has passed lately between us…it seems, as if I could not live long in this way; and if you three would come and see me…it would afford me great relief…I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me now in this time of affliction…the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety…burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts…You will pardon me for my earnestness on this subject when you consider how lonesome I must be…I think Emma wont come tonight if she don’t fail to come tonight…” (Joseph Smith, George Albert Smith Family Papers, Early Smith Documents, 1731-1849, Folder 18, in the Special Collections, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah)
This is disingenuous framing. This letter was not a love letter written to Sarah Ann Whitney. It was a letter written to her and her parents, asking them to come visit him while he was in hiding. I’ve cleaned up the spelling and grammar, though you can see the original at the cited link. It says:
Dear and Beloved Brother and Sister Whitney, and &c.—
I take this opportunity to communicate some of my feelings privately at this time, which I want you three eternally to keep in your own bosoms; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has passed lately between us, that the time of my absence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and if you three would come and see me in this, my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief of mind, if those with whom I am allied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succor, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Granger’s, just back of Brother Hyrum’s farm. It is only one mile from town. The nights are very pleasant indeed. All three of you come can come and see me in the fore part of the night. Let Brother Whitney come a little ahead, and knock at the southeast corner of the house at the window; it is next to the cornfield. I have a room entirely by myself. The whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safety. I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me now in this time of affliction, or not at all. Now is the time or never, but I have no need of saying any such thing to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord when it is made known to you. The only thing to be careful of is to find out when Emma comes. Then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety. Only, be careful to escape observation, as much as possible. I know it is a heroic undertaking; but so much the greater friendship, and the more joy. When I see you, I will tell you all my plans; I cannot write them on paper. Burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts. My life depends upon it. One thing I want to see you for is to get the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c., you will pardon me for my earnestness on this subject when you consider how lonesome I must be. Your good feelings know how to make every allowance for me. I close my letter. I think Emma won’t come tonight. If she doesn’t, don’t fail to come tonight. I subscribe myself your most obedient and affectionate companion, and friend.
So, just to explain what was happening, this was in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Lilburn W. Boggs, the governor of Missouri who issued the extermination order against the Saints. Joseph was being blamed in the press and local gossip for putting a hit out on him. A Missouri sheriff came to arrest him and take him back to Missouri. He fought the extradition and was released, so he went into hiding for a few weeks to prevent it happening again, or in case any of Boggs’s supporters wanted revenge. Posses were out searching for him in Illinois and Iowa territory, and he was afraid they would try to kill him rather than extradite him.
He invited Sarah Ann Whitney and her parents to come visit him, all in one room. This wasn’t a secret tryst he was arranging. This letter was sent three weeks after Joseph and Sarah Ann were sealed, and three days before her parents, Newell K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, were sealed. It seems pretty clear he was talking about potentially sealing her parents at the Granger home, and then being comforted by having close friends with him.
As for the stuff about Emma, that also has a very obvious explanation. This letter was sent on August 18, 1842. Sarah Ann’s parents were sealed on August 21. But on August 16, 1842, Emma wrote a letter to Joseph, saying:
I am ready to go with you if you are obliged to leave; and Hyrum says he will go with me. I shall make the best arrangements I can and be as well prepared as possible. But still I feel good confidence that you can be protected without leaving this country. There are more ways than one to take care of you, and I believe that you can still direct in your business concerns if we are all of us prudent in the matter. If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you.
On August 17, 1842, the next day, Joseph’s journal recorded that local rumors were saying his location had been discovered. Emma came to him and together, they decided he needed to move to Carlos Granger’s house. That information is found at the same link as her letter above.
So, Emma was worried that too many people knew Joseph’s location and that his life was in danger because of it. Then, there he was, inviting more people out to come visit him. That’s why he directed them to burn the letter, because it had his location on it. They were worried that Emma was being followed, and if she was there with a group of people, it would be obvious that Joseph was there, too. It’s also possible that he was trying not to scare her worse than she already was by letting her know that even more people knew where he was. Or maybe, he was trying to spare her because it involved the celestial marriage revelation, though I think Joseph’s safety is a far more likely reason in this case.
- 1835 Statement on Marriage
While still before the official revelation on plural marriage in 1843, an early edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (Sec 109:4) reprints a statement by Joseph addressing the public’s concern with his illegal practice of polygamy:
This one is also dishonestly presented. The 1835 Statement on Marriage was written alongside the 1835 Statement on Governments and Laws in General. These joint statements were written by Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith. And there were very specific reasons why they were written.
The Statement on Governments and Laws was written mostly to address slavery and the need to obey the law. By this point, multiple Saints had already moved to Missouri and been expelled from Jackson County. It was a tenuous situation, and they were trying to keep the peace there.
The Statement on Marriage, however, was directly in reference to things going on in Ohio at the time.
After the Law of Consecration was announced, giving the Saints all things in common, a lot of people in the Ohio area believed that also meant having communal wives. The Oneida Community is perhaps the most famous of these free-love Utopian communities, but it is not the only one. Many people had the impression that the close-knit Latter-day Saints were one of those communities. That is what the reference to polygamy was referring to, not Joseph Smith’s personal practice of it.
The main reason it was written, however, is because the Church needed to have a formal declaration of their views on marriage before they could perform marriages in the state of Ohio. Ohio law said that any ordained minister could obtain a license to perform marriages, but Sidney Rigdon was denied one by an anti-LDS judge. His was the only denial on record for any of the years surrounding 1835. But there was another law on the books, one stating that churches could perform marriages without licenses so long as the marriage was in agreement with their rules and regulations on marriage. So, the Church had to create a list of those rules and regulations in order to legally perform marriages.
“Statement on Marriage. August 17, 1835. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. (http://josephsmithpapers.org/paper Summary/doctrine-andcovenants-1844?p=441) This passage has since been removed from later editions of the D&C.
In 1835, the official doctrine of the Church was monogamy, not plural marriage. It was later removed because it was not a revelation, just a statement of doctrine in 1835. By 1841, the official revelation on marriage was beginning to be taught to many of Joseph’s inner circle. In 1852, it was announced publicly to the world. By 1876 when it was officially replaced, the 1835 Statement on Marriage had been outdated for decades. It was no longer official doctrine, and was replaced by something that was official doctrine.
Why would Joseph mention that the Church was accused of the crime of polygamy in 1835 when supposedly God didn’t reveal this practice until 1843?
And as stated, Oliver mentioned that the Church had been accused of polygamy in 1835 because many members of the public believed that the Church was a free-love Utopian community who had communal wives in addition to communal property. Oliver was clarifying that no, that was not the case.
Probably because by the time that Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants was written, Joseph had wed 29 women by his own desire.
Where is the evidence that it was by his own desire? All of the accounts from those actually involved say that Joseph was commanded to be sealed to specific women and reluctant to act on those commands.
- As late as 1844, Joseph continues to deny his involvement in polygamy, despite having well over 30 wives by this point.
Like the other examples given here, this one requires some backstory and explanation. Again, this is not framed accurately.
“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives…I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are – whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” (Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, History of the Church, May 26 1844, vol.6, pp.410-411)
So, again, this was a very specific statement made in response to specific allegations. Under Illinois law in the 1840s, if someone didn’t publicly announce adultery or polygamy, they weren’t guilty of engaging in it. If it was kept private, Joseph wasn’t breaking the law.
As noted above, this speech was given on May 26, 1844. On May 10, 1844, the Prospectus of the Nauvoo Expositor was published. The full edition would be published on June 7, 1844. Around this time, William and Wilson Law made public accusations that Joseph was committing adultery with Maria Lawrence. An indictment for those charges was handed down on May 24, 1844. The trial was set for that October, but obviously, Joseph was murdered at the end of June.
This speech of Joseph’s was given two days after that indictment came down, and was given in direct response to it. There was a two-day conference scheduled for the 26-27, and Joseph was scheduled to speak. Since this was fresh news and everyone would be worried about it, Joseph’s entire morning talk addressed the matter. In that speech, he stated:
For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me.
This is why he said he could prove them all perjurers, because he had scribes following him everywhere and recording everything he said and did. Remember, they alleged that Joseph admitted to having an adulterous affair with Maria Lawrence, one of his sealed wives. Joseph could prove that allegation false.
I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can.
This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man dares not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this. William Law testified before forty policemen, and the assembly room full of witnesses, that he testified under oath that he never had heard or seen or knew anything immoral or criminal against me. … I had not prophesied against William Law. He swore under oath that he was satisfied that he was ready to lay down his life for me, and he swears that I have committed adultery. I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are—whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me.
A man asked me whether the commandment was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet has charged me with adultery. … There is another Law, not the prophet, who was cashiered for dishonesty and robbing the government. Wilson Law also swears that I told him I was guilty of adultery. Brother Jonathan Dunham can swear to the contrary. I have been chained. I have rattled chains before in a dungeon for the truth’s sake. I am innocent of all these charges, and you can bear witness of my innocence, for you know me yourselves….
Be meek and lowly, upright and pure; render good for evil. If you bring on yourselves your own destruction, I will complain. It is not right for a man to bear down his neck to the oppressor always. Be humble and patient in all circumstances of life; we shall then triumph more gloriously. What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.
I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers. I labored with these apostates myself until I was out of all manner of patience; and then I sent my brother Hyrum, whom they virtually kicked out of doors. I then sent Mr. Backenstos, when they declared that they were my enemies. I told Mr. Backenstos that he might tell the Laws, if they had any cause against me I would go before the Church, and confess it to the world. He [William Law] was summoned time and again, but refused to come. Dr. Bernhisel and Elder Rigdon know that I speak the truth. I cite you to Captain Dunham, Esquires Johnson and Wells, Brother Hatfield and others, for the truth of what I have said. I have said this to let my friends know that I am right.
I quoted a large chunk of this because I think it’s important to know what he was actually saying. He was saying that he wasn’t an adulterer and that they were lying in their charges against him. Under the law, he wasn’t guilty of adultery or polygamy, because he wasn’t admitting it publicly. He did legally only have one wife, even if he was sealed for time for some and for eternity with others. He was being very, very careful with his words, but his comments were in response to the specific allegations made against him. It was not a blanket denial. It was a denial that he was flaunting his relationship with Maria Lawrence around town, and it was a denial that he’d admitted to William and Wilson Law that he was engaging in adultery with her.
The Nauvoo Expositor situation led directly to Joseph’s death. It led to the Saints being expelled from Nauvoo. It led to the mobs and armies trying to murder the Saints. Joseph was publicly denying the charges in the indictment, but he was also trying to keep his people safe from harm, and save his own life. And yes, sometimes we have to be a little dishonest in order to do a far greater good, like saving the lives of thousands of people who look to you for leadership.
So, these situations are not what Faulk presents them to be. This is why researching is so important. If you hear an allegation and you don’t know the facts around it, look them up. Because in my experience, the allegations are usually far from the actual truth. The full context changes these situations completely in several cases, and in others, sheds light on why Joseph did what he did. It’s so important that we don’t just take antagonists at their word. Oftentimes, they’re not being truthful—just like William and Wilson Law were not being truthful. We have to learn how to cut through the bias and find the truth. It’s not always easy, but we need to do it.
And while we do that, we need to lean on our Father in Heaven to point us in the right direction and give us understanding of the facts.
Sarah Allen is relatively new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. An avid reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her friends lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises. That’s when she began sharing what she’d learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.