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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 ]

Joseph the Martyr's Testimony of Innocence Upheld by His Son, Joseph Smith III

Joseph and Emma Smith

The year 1843 came to a close at Nauvoo, and according to LDS sources Joseph the Prophet was the husband of many wives, and the father of children born of his plural marriage unions. This was the year, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, that Joseph had a plural marriage revelation committed to writing, which commands the practice of polygamy. This alleged document is Section 132 in their present Doctrine and Covenants. According to Joseph Smith's testimony, these are false claims, and are in direct opposition to the declarations which Joseph gave shortly before his death to set the record straight. His testimony was that he had only one wife, Emma. We uphold Joseph's testimony, and ask, "How can a people who claim to honor the name of Joseph the Prophet, spurn and ignore his testimonies on such an important doctrinal subject as plural marriage? Why are Joseph's testimonies disregarded, while those who give testimonies in opposition to his are accepted as truth?"

Which will you believe, Joseph's testimonies or those who have testified that he had plural wives? Joseph fearlessly assured the Saints on May 26, 1844, that he had only one wife. His former counselor, William Law, who had formed another church and had set himself at its head, went before a grand jury and testified that Joseph was a polygamist. To assure the Saints that Law's charges were false, Joseph preached to thousands of Saints, assuring them that he had only one wife. He declared:

I wish the grand jury would tell me who they [the plural wives] 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 [revelation] was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet [William Law, head of the newly organized Reformed Church of Jesus Christ] has charged me with adultery.... I am innocent of all these charges.... 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 can prove them all perjurers. (LDS History of the Church 6: 411)

Yes, Joseph wished that the grand jury would reveal to him the names of those alleged wives, so that he could prove his accusers to be perjurers. And he would have done that if he had lived, but a month later he was murdered without his right to answer the charges against him in the courts of the land.

Do you believe Joseph's testimonies that he had only one wife, or do you believe the testimonies of those who have declared that Joseph had plural wives? Both claims cannot be true. Either Joseph is telling the truth and those who testify he was a polygamist are untruthful, or they are telling the truth and Joseph was a coward and a liar. It is impossible for both Joseph and his accusers to be telling the truth. We declare that Joseph was telling the truth, and that much evidence supports his testimonies.

Joseph desired to learn the names of the alleged plural wives, but those names were not published until years after his death. In fact, they were not published until Joseph's three sons, Joseph III, Alexander, and David Hyrum went to Salt Lake City as missionaries for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and vehemently denounced polygamy. They also declared that their father had no wife but their mother, Emma. To counteract the testimonies of the dead Prophet's sons, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, acquired affidavits from alleged plural wives and others, in an effort to prove that Joseph had been a polygamist. Their list has grown steadily through the years, until a total of over fifty women have been listed as plural wives of the Prophet.

A List of the Names of Joseph's Alleged Plural Wives in 1843

Joseph's fight against polygamy, and his devotion to his one wife and their children during the year 1843, has been documented in previous chapters. That documentation and his written and spoken testimonies are directly opposite from the LDS claims that he had plural wives. Not until 1887 did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publish their first official list of the names of some of the women whom they claimed were Joseph's plural wives in 1843. They promised the names of additional wives of Joseph would be published later. Their list of 1843 plural wives included:

    1. Louisa Beman
    2. Fanny Alger
    3. Lucinda Harris
    4. Zina D. Huntington
    5. Presendia L. Huntington
    6. Eliza Roxcy Snow
    7. Sarah Ann Whitney
    8. Desdemona W. Fullmer
    9. Helen Mar Kimball
    10. Eliza M. Partridge
    11. Emily D. Partridge
    12. Lucy Walker
    13. Almera W. Johnson
    14. Melisa Lott
    15. Fanny Young
    16. Maria Lawrence
    17. Sarah Lawrence
    18. Hannah Ells
    19. Flora Ann Woodworth
    20. Ruth D. Vose Sayers
    21. Mary Elizabeth Rollins
    22. Olive Grey Frost
    23. Rhoda Richards
    24. Sylvia Sessions
    25. Maria Winchester
    26. Elvira A. Cowles
    27. Sarah M. Cleveland.

(See Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6 [May 1887]: 233–234.)

Compare the above list with Joseph's May 26, 1844, declaration in which he exclaimed, "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives when I can only find one." Do you believe Joseph, or those who published the above list over forty years after his death?

Dozens of names of other supposed plural wives have been added to the above list, until there are now over fifty plural wives whom Joseph supposedly married. One of the alleged purposes of plural marriage was to raise up righteous seed, to bring children into the world by way of plural marriage. If Historian Jenson and all other LDS writers who have claimed Joseph had many wives are correct, there should be many descendants of Joseph the Prophet within the membership of the LDS Church.

According to some reports, a search is now in operation to discover Joseph's descendants through DNA. To date, no announcement of a descendant of the Prophet through any plural wife has been found. The Prophet was truly maligned. His testimonies of his own innocence were winked at, and he was actually accused of misrepresentation to save the Saints and the Church from persecution, which was far from the truth. The truth was that some liked polygamy and were willing to let the deceased Prophet take the blame for the polygamy in the Church, when in reality, he hated that doctrine.

Joseph Smith Ill's Testimony Supports the Testimony of His Father

Joseph Smith III, the eldest son of Joseph the Martyr and Emma Hale Smith, was eleven and a half years old when his father was murdered. He testified that his father and mother lived together in peace and harmony. Young Joseph, as he was called by the Saints, was large for his age and a dutiful son, who was strongly attached to both his father and mother. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, has officially proclaimed over and over that Joseph the Martyr practiced polygamy. They have published the names of women, whom they alleged were Joseph's plural wives. They have also proclaimed that Emma vacillated greatly by giving Joseph plural wives, and then changed her mind and opposed him and the women. Their writers have also alleged that fierce arguments occurred between Joseph and Emma while they lived in the tiny Homestead, which was always filled with visitors and boarders, and at the Mansion House, which was a popular hotel filled with many guests.

If they had argued fiercely, not only would the guests have heard, but Joseph and Emma's three sons, who were very close to both parents, would have witnessed those alleged arguments. At the time of Joseph's death, Joseph III was eleven and a half, Frederick was eight, and Alexander was six years old. Church history verifies that Joseph the Prophet had a very close relationship with his children, especially his eldest son, Joseph III, whom he was preparing to succeed him as Prophet. Joseph blessed the lad to be his successor, and took him upon the Stand at Nauvoo during preaching services. Evidently those public appearances with his son, his heir by lineage, had a two-fold purpose—to prepare the boy for his role as Prophet-President, and to make the Saints aware of who Joseph's successor was to be. This shows a very close bond between the father and his son. The testimony of Joseph III as to the harmony which prevailed in the privacy of his parents' home is more valid than the testimonies of the polygamous persons who aligned themselves with Brigham Young. This created a tangled family web of polygamy, unequaled elsewhere in the history of America. Members of that gigantic intermarriage web supported one another in incriminating Joseph by saying he had many plural wives, by whom he fathered children. Their testimonies that the Martyr had many wives, and children born of them, make him a bearer of false witness, a liar, and a coward. Every statement and affidavit which the Mormons have given in order to prove that Joseph was a polygamist, was and is in direct opposition to the testimonies of Joseph, his wife, Emma, and their eldest son, Joseph Smith III.

Joseph Ill's Supportive Testimony

Joseph Smith III gave lengthy testimony under oath in the famous Temple Lot Case. His description of life at the Mansion House, prior to the death of his father, is a story of a closely knit family unit at prayer together morning and evening. He supports the testimonies of his parents that Joseph had no wife but Emma. Joseph III declared:

My father was killed June 27, 1844. I would have been twelve years old in the following November. I remember when he was killed. He lived at that time at Nauvoo. He had lived there several years before he died. He lived in Nauvoo, from the fall of 1839, until the day of his death.

That was his place of residence during all that time, but he was away occasionally on short visits.

I lived there with him; my home was there with my mother and father. I slept in the room adjoining the room where my parents were. My father slept when he was in Nauvoo, at his private house, known as the Nauvoo Mansion, or hotel. We lived a part of the time in the old house [the Homestead] which was built by Hugh White, and afterwards purchased by my father, and afterwards the mansion was built and he lived there, moved there, and lived there nearly two years before his death.

I remember of no one but my mother, my brothers, and myself who slept in the room with my father, and the room where the rest of the family slept, except, sometimes, an adopted sister [Julia], when the house would be crowded, and sometimes when we had the house full of visitors.

The family sleeping apartments were right together. The children slept in the room adjoining their mother and father's sleeping room. They were adjoining rooms with an open door between.

We always had family prayers evening and morning, and the whole family would be present at evening and morning prayers; yes, sir, always.

There were never any women, by any name, during the time my father lived in Nauvoo, or at any other time or place that claimed to be his wife, aside from my mother. Never to my knowledge, and I never heard of such a thing until some time after his death.

There was nobody that stayed there around the house that my father treated as his wife, except my mother. I never saw anything of that kind. There was no one, besides my mother, Emma, who attended the funeral [of Joseph the Prophet] as one of the mourners, as one of the family mourners, I mean of course any other woman, the rest of the members of the family attended.

After my father's death his body was laid out in the room, and people came to visit it, and they were all mourners, but my mother was the only woman there as a mourner in the capacity of a wife.

The people who came in there to view the body were simply members of the church, and the friends of the family. I knew Lucy Walker; she was afterwards Lucy Kimball [a plural wife of Apostle Heber C. Kimball]; she was at my father's house in Nauvoo, at one time. [She was] There as a hired girl, and going to school with the children, myself, my brother and adopted sister. My father's family of children such as they were; and it consisted of my adopted sister, my brother, and myself.

She had no other occupation there that I know of except occasionally to do a little sewing. She worked for her board and went to school. I went to school with her. She was some five and a half years older than I was; I think that was about it, and she kind of had charge of us children, for she was older than we were. She had charge of three of us; I was well acquainted with her.

My father never treated Lucy Walker as his wife to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge did he ever treat her that way. If he had ever done so, I would have known it, if it was anything like marked attention.

I had the opportunity of knowing, as much so, as a boy of that age could know, in a household as circumscribed as ours was.

By "circumscribed," I mean that the house was not overly large, and the members were known to every one in it, and their whereabouts, and I knew every one that was in it at all times, that is those who were in the house, excepting the strangers that might be in it for the time being, as we kept a hospitable house [a hotel].

There were six rooms [for the family] in the [Mansion] house where my father lived that he occupied just before his death; the others were rented. He had lived there nearly two years. That was the mansion house. Before he moved into the mansion house we lived in [the Homestead] a house that he bought from Hugh White.

The Mansion House had four rooms, two above and two below, and a stairway between them, and an addition of family rooms, containing four rooms, two below and two above, and afterwards there was an addition put on to it that had ten sleeping rooms, four double rooms and six single rooms, over a dining room, and kitchen, and cellarway, the outer one of these rooms was used as a kitchen; that would make seventeen or eighteen rooms counting the kitchen, in all. That was in what was known as the hotel or Mansion House. I cannot tell who occupied the ten sleeping rooms, for they were strangers principally. There might have been some portion of the family at some times occupying the sleeping rooms, but they were mainly occupied by transients or boarders, for they were not what we called the family rooms.

There were no rooms in that Mansion House, or hotel, that were set apart for washings or anointings, or for any secret purpose whatever. There was never any of them used for that purpose that I know anything about I was over the hotel and in all the rooms frequently, and if there had been any such rooms as these in the building I think I should have known it.... There were no such rooms in either house.... I would have known it if they had been.

Lucy Walker who was afterwards known as Lucy Kimball, was at my father's house going to school before we moved into the Mansion House or hotel. It was when we were in the old building [the Homestead], before we moved into the Mansion House. That would be two years, or nearly two years before my father's death, possibly over two years.

I think after we moved into the Mansion House she was employed for a short time as a dining room girl. I do not know how long it was, not for a great while.

The whole Walker family were employed around the place, in one way or the other. Their mother was dead at the time, and Lucy and her brothers, William and Loren, were there. Her brother Loren was employed for a number of years by my father. I knew the whole family from the old gentleman down to Henry.

Lucy Kimball or Lucy Walker was not living at my father's house at the time he was killed....

I met with these people [the alleged plural wives] after my father died. There never was any claim of any kind made, from the time my father died, up to 1846, by any of these women, Lucy Kimball, Lucy Walker, or by any other woman, except Emma Smith, that they were the wife of my father. There was no claim of that kind ever made to my knowledge. I do not believe there ever was any such a claim made. I never heard of any such a thing until after the year 1846. It might have been in the spring or summer of 1846 that I heard it first. (Complainant's Abstract of Pleading and Evidence, In the Circuit Court of the United States, Western District of Missouri, Western Division, at Kansas City: The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Complainant, vs. The Church of Christ at Independence, Missouri ... Respondents. Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing House and Bindery, 1893, pages 485–488)

Joseph III testified on other occasions of the peace and harmony between his mother and father. He wrote:

It has been reported by those who pretended to be friends of father, that mother was quarrelsome and was antagonistic to my father, and frequently made trouble for him. I have this to say now, that tracing my memory back through the period of time in which my father was permitted to stay with his family, that I never heard any quarreling or harsh language between them under any circumstances, and that even disagreements between them were not conducted in a noisy or angry manner, that mother's language was quiet and temperate, and so was father's. (Journal of History 3 [July 1910]: 337–338)

In his memoirs, Joseph III recorded about the relationship which existed between his mother and father:

It has been charged by certain ones advocating plural marriage that she was a thorn in his side, opposing his policies, and leading him an ill life. This is absolutely not true. I was old enough at the time to know what was going on around me, and was closely associated with both my parents. The sleeping room I shared with my brothers was never more than a door away from where Father and Mother slept. Because of the great love and concern Mother had for her children she never wanted us far from her, in order that she might be on hand to take care of us herself in case of necessity. So, I am sure that if there ever were angry words between my parents I should have known it, and I can truthfully state that nothing of the kind ever occurred. Father was a kindly man, and emphatically a home-loving one, whose wife and children were very dear to him and who was, in turn, loved and respected by them. (Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832–1914), 35)

Summary

The Prophet Joseph Smith did not introduce polygamy into the Church by taking plural wives during the Kirtland era and thereafter—in the 1830s and 1840s. Neither did Joseph dictate, and cause to be written, a revelation which commanded polygamy. Section 132 in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants claims to be a correct copy of that alleged revelation.

Polygamy entered the Church during the Kirtland period through the baptism of polygamous members of a sect known as Cochranites, who were led by a man named Jacob Cochran. Those first Cochranite converts were baptized into the Church by two young missionaries, Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith, a brother of Joseph the Prophet. The story of their proselyting among the polygamous Cochranites is recorded in the original Journal of Orson Hyde and the Missionary Journal of Samuel Harrison Smith—1832, which are in the archives of the LDS Church Historical Department in Salt Lake City, Utah (see Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy 1:1–29).

 

[ Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy Index ]

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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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