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Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy
Vision Articles

How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name
in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes

By Richard and Pamela Price

"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives,
when I can only find one"
—Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411).

[ Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy Index ]

The LDS Church Charged Joseph with Marrying Other Men's Wives

Joseph and Emma Smith

Preceding chapters have given documentation of Joseph's amazing fight against the doctrine of plural marriage. The story of Seventy Richard Hewitt's visit to Nauvoo to interview Joseph on that subject, and Hyrum's forthright answers to Hewitt in the Times and Seasons, is only one of many statements made by Joseph and Hyrum.

In spite of their straightforward answers, the Prophet Joseph Smith was, and is still, being charged with many false crimes, one of the worst being that he asked for and married other men's wives. As mentioned in a prior chapter, in 1887 Assistant Historian Andrew Jenson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an editor of the Historical Record, published the names of twenty-seven women whom he declared had been Joseph's plural wives. Eight of the women named were married and were living with their legal husbands on the dates they supposedly had married Joseph. Historian Jenson's claims that Joseph married and cohabited with the wives of other men have never been rescinded. That is the present position of the LDS Church with headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Jenson's charge that Joseph had married other men's wives was not new, for Dr. John C. Bennett had published in 1842 that Joseph had wed women who were already married and were living with their husbands (see John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or, An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism [Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], 220–223, 256–257).

As described in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, volume 1, chapter 4, it was Brigham Young, and not Joseph, who at Nauvoo introduced the practice of marrying other men's wives. Brigham Young made polygamy an official doctrine in 1852.

For over one hundred years it has been suggested by different writers and individuals that Joseph Smith was the father of certain children bom to some of those married women. Those favoring polygamy have kept those falsehoods alive with speculation that first one and then another child bom to an alleged wife and her husband was actually Joseph's son or daughter. In the families of some of those women, stories that Joseph had fathered certain children have been told and retold for so many years that they have become widely believed.

It should be noted that when Historian Jenson published his list, he was expanding on what had been taught among the followers of Brigham Young for well over thirty years. Jedediah M. Grant, who served in the First Presidency under Brigham Young from 1854 to 1856, preached a sermon on February 19, 1854, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in which he asserted:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, "Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?" "I would tell him to go to hell." This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church....

Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not, but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed. (Journal of Discourses 2 [1855]: 13, 14)

This assertion by President Grant, that Joseph began to add to his family on the right and on the left, suggests an escalation in taking wives on the part of the Prophet. It is also evident that Grant is accusing Joseph the Prophet of asking other men for their wives. Grant's accusations are without foundation and were made eleven years after Joseph had been murdered. He could no longer defend himself against such libelous charges as he had done prior to his death, especially during the last four years of his life.

According to Bishop John D. Lee, who was Brigham Young's adopted son, Young spoke of Joseph seeking other men's wives. Lee asserted, "After the death of Joseph, Brigham Young told me that Joseph's time on earth was short, and that the Lord allowed him privileges that we could not have (John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled: or The Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee [St. Louis, 1877], 147).

There is no evidence of even one child having been bom of any alleged plural wife to substantiate Grant's claim that Joseph began to add to his family on the right and the left. As for Grant's statement that Joseph caused a quaking in Nauvoo as he added wives to his household, it is without substantiation. It was not Joseph, but Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, and Parley P. Pratt, along with Joseph Noble, William Clayton, and others who added plural wives. And, Joseph was the greatest threat to their expanding households because he never ceased to condemn the plural-marriage doctrine and those who were practicing it.

Joseph was frank and open, and in a public sermon expressed a "wish" that the grand jury would reveal the names of those women to whom it had been testified were his plural wives. He made that wish in May 1844, a few weeks before his death, when he preached a powerful sermon stating that he had only one wife. He also condemned his accusers who had testified before the grand jury that he had plural wives. The Prophet declared:

I wish the grand jury would tell me who they [the alleged plural wives] 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 [Joseph] to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. (LDS History of the Church 6:411)

If Joseph had been guilty of plural marriage, he would not have publicly wished that the members of the grand jury would reveal their names.

After the Prophet's death many writers and reporters looked to Young and his followers for documentation on how polygamy came into the Church. Church history and Joseph's personal history were rewritten, and falsehoods about Joseph and plural wives came to be viewed as facts by millions. As the years passed the truth became less and less known. Those untruths have been spread throughout the world, while the testimonies by Joseph, Emma, Hyrum, and many Saints who did not follow Young, have often been ignored.

Polygamists such as Presidents Young and Grant, by their false testimonies, were able to convince the masses that Joseph stooped so low as to test the apostles' loyalty to him by asking them to give him their legal wives—the wives of their youth, the mothers of their children.

The Eight Married Women Named by Jenson

Andrew Jenson's list of twenty-seven alleged wives of Joseph included the names of eight married women. Nineteen were unmarried women who bore no children at Nau-voo during Joseph's lifetime or in the nine months directly following his death. The married women were: (1) Lucinda Harris, (2) Zina D. Hunt-ington, (3) Prescindia L. Huntington, (4) Ruth D. Vose, (5) Mary Elizabeth Rollins, (6) Sylvia Sessions, (7) Elvira A. Cowles, and (8) Sarah M. Cleveland (see Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [May 1887]: 233–234). Here are some facts about the eight married women, and their husbands who were prominent, well-known men in the Nauvoo community.

Lucinda Harris

Lucinda was the wife of George W. Harris. They were a married couple at Far West, Missouri, and at Nauvoo, and were still married and living together at the time of Joseph's death.

Zina D. Huntington

Zina was known at Nauvoo as Mrs. Henry B. Jacobs. Her maiden name was Huntington. During the Nauvoo period, when it is said by Historian Jenson that Joseph married her, she and Henry were living together and she was bearing his children. They lived together as husband and wife until after Joseph's death. After the exodus from Nauvoo she left Henry Jacobs and became one of Brigham Young's plural wives. Rumors have persisted for over one hundred years among the Mormons that Joseph the Prophet was the father of one of Zina's sons. As stated in a former chapter, DNA tests have proven that Joseph was not the child's father, but that the father of the child was Zina's husband, Henry B. Jacobs.

Prescindia Huntington

Prescindia was the wife of Norman Buell, and they were husband and wife during the Church's sojourn at Far West, and during the Church's entire stay at Nauvoo. She and Norman Buell were still a married couple at the time of Joseph's death. She was a sister to Zina D. Huntington Jacobs. Prescindia later left Buell and became one of Apostle Heber C. KimbalPs plural wives. It has been widely proclaimed that Joseph fathered one of Prescindia's sons (see Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet [New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1963], 301–302, 307). DNA tests have determined that Joseph was not the father of the child, but that Prescindia's husband, Norman Buell, was the father.

Ruth Vose

Ruth was the wife of Edward Sayers. They were married before moving to Nauvoo, and they were living together as husband and wife at Nauvoo at the time of Joseph's assassination.

Mary Elizabeth Rollins

Mary was the wife of Adam Lightner, whom she married in 1835. She and Adam lived together as husband and wife for fifty years—until Adam died in 1885. They were the parents often children. Although she was living with her husband, Adam, Mary was sealed to Brigham Young for time on January 17,1846 (see John J. Stewart, Brigham Young and His Wives: And The True Story of Plural Marriage [Salt Lake City, Utah: Mercury Publishing Company, Inc., 1961], 89).

Sylvia Sessions

Sylvia was the wife of Windsor P. Lyon. They came to Nauvoo as husband and wife and were still married at the time of Joseph's death. She later became one of Apostle Heber C. Kimball's plural wives.

Elvira Cowles

Elvira was the wife of Jonathan Holmes. Joseph the Prophet performed their wedding ceremony December 1, 1842, at Nauvoo (see Lyndon W. Cook, Nauvoo Deaths and Marriages, 1839-1845 [Orem, UT, Grandin Book Company, 1994], 102). From their wedding day until Joseph's death they lived together as husband and wife.

Sarah M. Cleveland

Sarah was the wife of Judge John Cleveland of Quincy, Illinois, a nonmember. Judge Cleveland and his wife were noted for their charitable deeds. It was in their home that Emma Smith and her four children, and Mrs. Sidney Rigdon and her children found a sanctuary after fleeing from the state of Missouri. The Clevelands were still a respected married couple at the time of Joseph's death, and unlike the other women named above, Sarah, a member of the Church, did not go west but remained with her nonmember husband.

Throughout the years, from the publication of Bennett's book in 1842 until the present era, the names of many more women, both single and married, have been added to Jenson's list. The married ladies listed by Jenson are discussed in this chapter because it is with those women's children, and not children born of the alleged single wives, that DNA researchers have in recent years searched for Joseph's descendants. And why did the searchers not go to the nineteen single women whom Jenson named as having married Joseph? The answer is obvious. Those nineteen single women bore no children at Nauvoo during the years Andrew Jenson asserted they were Joseph's wives. Not only that, but to date DNA test results have not been able to prove Joseph as being the father of even one child of an alleged polygamous marriage between him and a married woman.

The Testimony of Joseph III

Joseph Smith III, eldest son of the Prophet, was acquainted with the women whom Historian Jenson alleged were his father's wives. Joseph III knew that none of the single women named had given birth to a child at Nauvoo during the Prophet's lifetime and until 1846.

Elder Charles Derry, an RLDS missionary, reported a conversation which he had with Joseph Smith III on the subject of the plural marriage charges against Joseph Ill's father. Elder Derry wrote:

Bro. Joseph [HI] is taking me out to Colchester [Illinois] in his wagon, the distance of thirty miles. We have some interesting conversation. He does not believe his father ever practiced polygamy, and he gives good reasons for it. He says there were several young women lived at his father's house, but they were destitute of homes. They were not his father's wives. If they had been it is probable some evidence [pregnancies] would have been visible, especially as we are told that polygamy was instituted to bring forth a holy seed, and surely no means [of birth control] would have been taken to have prevented this result. But he [Joseph III] knows that none of these females had children until 1846, which was nearly two years after Joseph's death. As for Eliza Snow, it is reported that she had a child by Joseph; but he [Joseph HI] knows that she never bore children while she was in Nauvoo, which also was about two years after Joseph's death. The Brighamites claim that Joseph has a son in Utah, but this is equally false. (Journal of History 2 [April 1909]: 168-169), Charles Derry, Autobiography of Elder Charles Derry, [Price Publishing Company, Independence, Mo., 1997], 91)

Historian Jenson not only published a list of Joseph's alleged wives, but he also published affidavits and statements signed by well-known polygamists who supported the position that Joseph was a polygamist. One such statement was by President Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum Smith, who tried to explain away Joseph and Hyrum's public statements in which they condemned polygamy. Joseph F. Smith wrote:

"Let all the Latter-day Saints know that Joseph Smith, the martyred Prophet, is responsible to God and the world for this doctrine, and let every soul know that he and his brother Hyrum did practice the doctrine in their lifetime, and until their death, notwithstanding their seeming denials as published in the Times and Seasons, and which are so fervently relied upon as evidence against the fact by a certain class of anti-polygamists. Those denials can be explained, and have been, and while they are true in the sense, and for the purpose for which they were designed, they are not denials of plural or celestial marriage as taught by Joseph and Hyrum Smith and practiced at the time by both of them, and many others in prominent standing in the Church. These seeming denials themselves are specific proofs of the existence of the true coin, the counterfeit of which they denounced. (Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6 [May 1887]: 219–220)

Historian Jenson added this statement:

We could produce hundreds of other testimonies of a similar nature to these given above, were it necessary, but what we have already given must be deemed fully sufficient to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Joseph Smith, the Prophet, did teach and practice the principle of plural marriage in his lifetime, (ibid., 233)

The "hundreds of other testimonies of a similar nature" which Jenson promised could be produced have since been produced and published. However, those testimonies are in contradiction to those by the Prophet. They cannot erase the mountain of testimonies left by him that assert he was a monogamist and an opponent of plural marriage.

Section 132 Contains False Prophecy Concerning Joseph's Children

The plural marriage document, known as Section 132 in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, contains a false prophecy. It is the promise that Joseph the Prophet will be the father of numerous children, "an hundred-fold." The words of that promise given to Joseph are:

I will bless him [Joseph] 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... (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 132:55; italics added).

The descendants of Joseph and Emma Hale Smith are said to now number over two thousand. Where are the "hundred-fold" children, the tens of thousands of offspring which were to have been born of the plural wives whom the LDS Church have listed as Joseph's wives? To date the LDS Church has not been able to officially name one child of a union between Joseph and an alleged plural wife.

Joseph the Martyr Brought Forth Scriptures that Forbid Coveting Other Men's Wives

The coveting of another man's wife, which precedes the marrying of another man's wife, is strictly forbidden in each of the Three Standard Books. Joseph Smith was instrumental in bringing forth those governing laws of the Church.

The Book of Mormon, which Joseph brought forth by the gift and power of God, states:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. (Mosiah7:124)

The Inspired Version of the Holy Scriptures, a corrected version of the King James Version made by Joseph (as well as the King James Version, which was used by the Church during Joseph's lifetime), contains these words:

Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house ... or any thing that is thy neighbor's. (Deuteronomy 5:21)

The Doctrine and Covenants, which was divinely given to Joseph to be a law unto the Church in these last days, has these two commandments:

And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; nor seek thy neighbor's life. (RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 18:3a; LDS Doctrine and Covenants 19:25)

It is very significant that in this revelation given through Joseph, the commandment that a man should not covet his neighbor's wife and the commandment to not seek to murder your neighbor is presented together!

Joseph republished this scripture less than two years before his death as he was in the process of writing and publishing serially his autobiography, titled "History of Joseph Smith," in the Church's paper. He published the revelation, with the heading, "A commandment of God and not of man ... by him who is eternal. " Included in the body of the revelation were these words:

And again: I command thee, that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. Nor seek thy neighbor's life. (Times and Seasons 3 [October 15, 1842]: 944)

Surely the Prophet was setting forth his own beliefs when he republished the commandments in 1842 that a man should not covet his neighbor's wife or seek his neighbor's life.

Emma Explained Joseph's Belief on Polygamy

According to Apostle Edmund C. Briggs of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph's widow, Emma Smith Bidamon, told him in 1856 that she had heard Joseph declare that polygamy and murder go together.

Elder Briggs was a primary witness, who was well acquainted with Emma. No other missionary or elder from the RLDS Church had the privilege he had. For almost a year Briggs boarded at the Mansion House, a hotel kept by Emma and her second husband, Lewis C. Bidamon. During those months Briggs had the opportunity to observe Emma and her sons, Joseph III, Alexander, Frederick, and David. At times Briggs had the privilege of having Emma share with him Joseph's thoughts and opinions on important events in the life of the Church just prior to his martyrdom. At the time Briggs boarded at the Mansion House he was an elder, and only twenty-one years of age. Another elder, twenty-five-year-old Samuel Gurley, had accompanied him to Nauvoo. The two men went to Nauvoo after they had been prophetically spoken to and told to go there and meet with Joseph Smith III, who was the eldest son of the Martyr. Briggs and Gurley were advised in the prophetic message to "Tell him what you know and most assuredly believe" concerning the Church (Edmund C. Briggs, Early History of the Reorganization, 68).

Briggs and Gurley arrived at Nauvoo Friday, December 5, 1856. A few days later Samuel Gurley returned to his home and family. Briggs boarded at the Mansion House from December 5, 1856, until the fall of 1857. He worked for Joseph III on the Smith farm east of Nauvoo, and had much opportunity to get to know Emma and converse with her about the Church. One evening Emma informed him that her deceased husband, Joseph, had declared that the crimes of polygamy and murder always go together.

I was very watchful all the time to gather any expression from Sister Emma, in which she reflected any feeling concerning the latter-day work. One evening, she said, "If anyone will follow the instructions as laid down in the Proverbs of Solomon and the Psalms of David, they will come out all right." But Joseph said, "David was not raised from the dead when the righteous came forth at the time of Christ's resurrection, because he put Uriah to death; and the crimes of polygamy and murder always go together." (ibid., 102)

Joseph's interpretation that King David was not among those Saints who arose following the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ agrees with the scripture. The Bible reveals concerning that resurrection:

And the graves were opened; and the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, who were many, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:56–57)

King David was evidently not among those resurrected Saints who came forth from their graves and went into Jerusalem, the holy city, and appeared to many. Apostle Peter stated on the day of Pentecost, which was after Christ's resurrection, that King David had not yet ascended into the heavens. Peter declared:

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. . . . For David is not ascended into the heavens. (Acts 2:29, 34)

Did not polygamy and murder go together in King David's day? And did not polygamy and murder, under the title of blood atonement, go together in Utah in the years immediately following the introduction of the plural-marriage document?

The First Child Born of a Polygamous Union in the Church

Historian Andrew Jenson published, along with the list of Joseph's alleged wives, a statement which gives the date of the birth of the first child bom of plural marriage in the Church. The father of the child was not Joseph Smith, but was Joseph Bates Noble, who figured prominently in placing the blame for plural marriage upon the dead Prophet. Andrew Jenson published:

Brother [Joseph] Noble also obeyed this higher law on April 5,1843, when Sarah B. Alley was sealed to him for time and all eternity.... The first issue [first child born) of this marriage was George Omner Noble (now an Elder in the Church), who was born in Nauvoo Feb. 2, 1844. He is supposed to have been the first polygamous child born in this dispensation. (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [May 1887]: 239)

Hazel Noble Boyack, one of Joseph Noble's granddaughters, wrote in 1962 of the birth of the first child "born of a polygamous union in the Church." She stated:

On April 5th, 1843, Elder Noble took as his first plural wife, Sarah B. Alley ... of Nauvoo. A year later this good woman bore to her husband a son, named George Omner. This little babe had the distinction of being the first child born of a polygamous union in the Church. (Hazel Noble Boyack, A Nobleman in Israel, A Biographical Sketch of Joseph Bates Noble, Pioneer To Utah In 1847 [Cheyenne, Wyoming: The Pioneer Printing Company, 1962], 31)

Note that the date of Noble's marriage to Sarah B. Alley was April 5, 1843. and that Sarah gave birth to George Omner Noble on February 2, 1844. not quite ten months later. Historian Jenson's frank statement that George Omner Noble was supposed to be the first child in the Church bom of a polygamous union, reveals that as of that date no child fathered by Joseph had been born of a plural-marriage union. It also sets a date and makes it necessary that any child born of a plural-marriage union between Joseph and any plural wife would have had to have been bom between February 2, 1844, and March 1845, which would have been nine months after the Prophet was slain.

Those who declare Joseph was a polygamist should begin to question the facts when it is seen that a child was born after less than ten months of marriage to Elder Noble and his first plural wife, and not one child was born to the Prophet and any plural-marriage wife. In contrast, Emma gave birth to three children at Nauvoo in a period of four and a half years—Don Carlos in 1840, a stillborn son in 1842, and David Hyrum in 1844 (see Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith By His Mother [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, Inc., 1996], 475,479, 486).

Summary

Joseph Smith was visited by a heavenly messenger on September 21, 1823. The Prophet recorded that the angel told him:

That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it [Joseph's name] should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. (Times and Seasons 3: 753; RLDS History of the Church 1:12-13; italics added)

When leading men and women in the LDS Church in Utah publicly proclaimed that Joseph had married plural wives, including other men's wives, they partially fulfilled the angelic prophecy which declared that Joseph's name would be known for evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.

For well over a century and a half, from Nauvoo days to the present, falsehoods have been repeated by those who have sought to make Joseph responsible for introducing polygamy into the Church. False claims that Joseph fathered this or that child by the wife of a certain apostle or elder were so readily accepted as truth by Young's followers that today those falsehoods are accepted as historical facts by millions. Meanwhile, Joseph's documented testimonies and the accounts of his heroic fight against polygamy have been largely ignored.

Edmund C. Briggs wrote that during the time he boarded at the Mansion House in 1856-57 he heard Emma repeat one statement several times. Briggs asserted:

Again, she [Emma] said several times in conversation with me that the Utah Mormons had by their acts, since the death of her husband, made true all the slanders and vile things charged against the Church. (Edmund Briggs, Early History of the Reorganization, 95)

Emma Smith understood that a conspiracy existed against Joseph during his lifetime and after his death because of his opposition to the doctrine of polygamy. Comparatively few individuals listened to what she and other Saints who did not go west had to say in defense of Joseph. The world wanted to believe that Joseph was an immoral man. The reporters and writers who sought information on Joseph's life found the accounts given by LDS Church leaders and their plural wives far more sensational and more easily believed than the assertions by Emma and others who declared that Joseph had only one wife.

One RLDS missionary to Utah, Apostle William H. Kelly, correctly stated in 1876:

Joseph's public record can not, in justice, be set aside in this investigation. His private life must be held to have been consistent with his public teachings, unless some substantial evidence can be produced to prove that his private life and teachings were the reverse of what he did in public.... Now which is the most sensible, to believe that Joseph was what he represented himself publicly, when there is no evidence to the contrary, save the echoes of the "may bes" and "perhaps" drawn from the bare statements of the "private few," (Brigham and Miss E. R. Snow constitute the principal part of "private few,") all of whom are polygamist advocates, and who acknowledge that they lied about it for a time.... I am firm in the belief, after hearing all that come in the way, that Joseph Smith the Seer had but one wife... (The Messenger Of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 2 [Salt Lake City, Utah, August 1876]: 39; italics added).

The heavenly messenger who visited Joseph in 1823 promised him that his name would be "had for good" also, so time will vindicate the truth-fullness of the Prophet.

 

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Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Volume I, by Richard and Pamela Price, can be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.  Articles on this subject continue to be published in Vision magazine, which also can be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore or online. It is planned that this additional material will be compiled into future volumes.

For a general understanding of both the origins of polygamy among the Latter Day Saints and the several conspiracies to falsely implicate Joseph in polygamy, read the article on our Web site, "Joseph Smith: Innocent of Polygamy," by Richard Price.

 

 

 
 

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