Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Plural Adultery in Kirtland and Nauvoo

The LDS Church has finally admitted that Joseph is an adulterer.  Their new essay, called Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, while not explicitly stating Smith committed adultery, does admit he practiced a form of plural marriage that by almost any standard, even including the explicit one given in its own scripture (D&C 132), Joseph broke the rules, and did so many times.  The church will not come out and call Joseph Smith an adulterer, but by the end of this blog, you will have to admit to wondering why not.

TL;DR summary:  The essay admits--

1) Joseph Smith married girls, one as young as 14-years-old.
2) Joseph married women who were already married to other living men (polyandry).
3) Joseph likely had sex with some (or many) of the women he married.
4) An angel with a drawn sword threatened Joseph into practicing polygamy.
5) Excuses Joseph by claiming that many (but not all) of the marriages were sexless (eternity-only).
6) Excuses Joseph by telling us not to use modern cultural standards to judge the appropriateness of his marriages.
7) Claims that much of polygamy isn't fully understood because of the secrecy behind it.

In reviewing the essay, I’ll follow an “admission”/”claim” and my response of “truth” afterward.

First of all, I want to give the LDS History Department kudos for this admission.

Admission:  "Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully."

I can't add a whole lot to this except, HAHAHAHAHA.  Silly Joseph.  "The Devil Angel made me do it!"

Essay Admission: “After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.”

Furthermore:  This is a very bold beginning for the LDS church essay.  Until this, the admission of Joseph's polygamy was met with denial.  Even some members are threatened with disciplinary action if they, once-upon-a-time preached the same doctrines exposed on the essay today.  The essay goes on to include statements that “Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential.”  One can wonder why it was a secret in prudish America (duh!).  

Because of rumors of Joseph Smith’s dalliances in the mid 1830s, the LDS church quickly adopted a “Chapter of Rules for Marriage among the Saints”, which declared, “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with...polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife...”  This “Article on Marriage” was canonized and published in the Doctrine & Covenants from 1835 for about 40 years. (See Joseph Smith Papers, D&C 1835 edition.)

Essay Claim: “Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment.”

Truth:  The commandment specifically states “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified … But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery” (D&C 132:61-63) 

Truth:  The commandment also states: “I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132: 4).  And that “if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. …And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.” (D&C 132: 41-43).  Further, that to a man, virgins in plural marriage “are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63)

What are the rules?  The exact instructions (quote above) in Section 132 are:
  • marry only virgins
  • the first wife (virgin) has to give consent
  • women are not to be with other men
  • multiple wives are given to a man to multiply and replenish the earth (by sex)

Admission: “The revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, but its early verses suggest that part of it emerged from Joseph Smith’s study of the Old Testament in 1831.”

Furthermore: The essay even admits to Fanny Alger (a surprise I didn’t expect). Quote: “Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s.”  (It was about in 1833 when 17 year old Fanny spent time with Emma and Joseph working in their home.)  The essay also claims, “nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger.”  However rumors abound about Emma’s hostility toward Fanny, and Cowdery’s statement on his “dirty, nasty, filthy affair”. 

Admission:  Marriage of Zina Huntington Jacobs to Joseph Smith. “The women who united with Joseph Smith in plural marriage risked reputation and self-respect in being associated with a principle so foreign to their culture and so easily misunderstood by others. “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” said Zina Huntington Jacobs, “for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.” ”

Essay also admits: “Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.”

Truth:  Zina Huntington Jacobs’ polygamous marriage to Joseph Smith was on October 27, 1841, when she was about 20 years old.  The essay omits directly that she had already married Henry B. Jacobs, almost six months before, on March 7, 1841.  Some reports say that Henry Jacobs knew of the plural marriage and believed that “whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man.”  Over the next few years, Henry was sent on several missions to Chicago, Western New York and Tennessee. 

Other than to say that Joseph was sealed to women already married, the essay does not name the other already-married, polyandrous wivesof Joseph Smith, which include (not exclusively) Presendia Huntington Buell, Sylvia Sessions Lyon, Mary Rollins Lightner, Patty Bartlett Sessions, Marinda Johnson Hyde and more. 

The essay tried to excuse the practice of polyandry—marriage to married women—by justifying that, “These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church.” And that “several women said they were [sealed] for eternity alone.”  But then why would Zina fear an eternal sealing which would not have put her sexual relationship in jeopardy, keeping her alliance with Joseph Smith secret and claiming “I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman”?  The essay’s explanation seems hollow.

Claim: “The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary.” While it never offers a number, the essay does admit to the following plural wives of Joseph: Fanny Alger, Zina Huntington Jacobs, Louisa Beaman,  Fanny Young, and Helen Mar Kimball. 

Truth:  Regarding Helen Mar Kimball, the essay does admit that “the youngest was Helen Mar Kimball…who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.”  But then it excuses it with this claim: “Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”

Truth:  If we are to judge Joseph Smith as having a lesser ("inappropriate") standard of moral character than we expect in "today's standards" then I hereby declare the LDS prophets, apostles and seventy members can no longer preach that people of modern times are a more wicked generation, running head-long into evil end-of-days destruction.

No, Mr. Monson and Mr. Oaks, you can't have a double standard.  Either Joseph gets a pass because today's standards know and view his inappropriateness and that means we are more righteous, or we're all evil and the Angel made us do it!

Truth:  Conservative estimates place the number of plural wives of Joseph Smith at around 25 and others go as high as 40.   Helen Mar Kimball was 14, and Joseph used coercive tactics to get her hand in marriage, saying to the teen girl, “it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.” Helen felt that “this promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing…”  After her marriage to Joseph, Helen, still a young teen, lamented that, “like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself  an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.” 

Even though the essay raises none of Helen’s sadness, like a good patriarchal organization, it does mention her father’s strong emotional response.  Her father, Heber C. Kimball, agreed. “I never felt more sorrowful,” the essay tells us.

Admission: “The practice spread slowly at first. By June 1844, when Joseph died, approximately 29 men and 50 women had entered into plural marriage, in addition to Joseph and his wives.”

Truth:  If Joseph Smith had over 20 wives of his own by 1844, and only 50 women and 29 men had entered it, the other men scarcely had a second wife.  (Joseph’s harem was almost as large as the rest combined).  I don't understand how 29 men can be in polygamous relationships with 50 women when the ratio is less than 2:1.  Perhaps they don't include the first wives.  How perfectly thoughtfully sexist of them.

The essay concludes with, “The challenge of introducing a principle as controversial as plural marriage is almost impossible to overstate. A spiritual witness of its truthfulness allowed Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints to accept this principle.” 

Truth:  That spiritual witness?  An angel with a flaming sword.  However, the principle taught in the D&C (132) and as practiced by Smith are not one and the same.  The D&C explicitly states that the women should be virgins, should not have other husbands/men/lovers and the purpose was to have offspring.  Did Joseph Smith fulfil on this?  The essay admits he married already-married women even while it attempts to justify Joseph on the grounds that the marriages were most often for “eternity only” and not for “time” (“eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone” and did not include sexual relations).

Joseph Smith seems to have utterly failed his own revelation on plural marriage, breaking every one of the requirements given in Section 132.  His real excuse seems to come down to:  "The angel made me do it!!"

Did Joseph's teen brides complain:  "Always a bride, never a maid!" ?


  1. That's rich penmanship: "several months before her 15th birthday." Let's see, so that would make her how old? Does phrasing it thus foster better understanding of the issue that, "Crikey, that's young!"

    The essay also stated:
    "The rumors prompted members and leaders to issue carefully worded denials ... The statements emphasized that the Church practiced no marital law other than monogamy while implicitly leaving open the possibility that individuals, under direction of God’s living prophet, might do so."
    We common folk call that lying.

  2. Great analysis! Thank you so much! I'm so sick of them lying and white washing everything!

  3. Pathetic justifications by a "church," once again, for indefensible false doctrines.

  4. Did you guys notice that the essay is based mainly on references from weirdo-scholar- wannabe Bryan C. Hales? I want to vomit!! This guy is NOT a scholar! He paid his assistant to do some research!! Compton would´ve been more reliable! That´s why we see only half-truths!!

  5. Bottom line....Does any of these accusations, alleged happenings, events effect our understanding of the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel Principles, the restoration, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the proper authority needed to return back to heaven? We must not forget that Satan is trying desperately to remove members of the church as we come closer to the second coming, shake their testimony so as to stop them from attending or bad mouth the church! Are we going to let events of the past, things we do not have CLEAR information, documentation and understanding rip us from the only church on the face of the earth to have the fullness of the gospel and the authority to administer Gods ordinances? Which of the 5 virgins with oil will we be? ....I feel the spirit of contention reading this article.
    I will leave God to judge Joseph Smith as He knows ALL the details. As for me. I will do my best to keep my feet firmly planted on the path to return to Heavenly Father not entertain questionable and contentious history.

    1. Boyd replies to mega anonymous

      Okay. I'm calling troll on this. This is MontyPython humour. No one, not even a hard core church paid on line propagandist could write this without seeing the irony.

      >>Does any of these accusations, alleged happenings, events effect our understanding of the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel Principles, the restoration, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the proper authority needed to return back to heaven?

  6. It is a great thing happening here, If this is the beginning of HIS Saving grace working in a manner to return our hearts to HIM by the renewal of our minds about what we were taught which are now seemed to be false, then dont stop here but look deep into the scripture that we were told to be the truth....god bless

  7. What was the purpose of this essay? Was it to make Mormons feel better about polygamy? How do you excuse adultery and polyandry, which is considered evil or against the law in most of the world, and has most always been so. Not to mention the New testament and the Book of Mormon condemnation of it. Did God change his mind about morality? I think they should have not issued this or the one on blacks and the priesthood. It only shows their ignorance on actual history within their own organization.

    Personally, If one cannot get by the Fanny Alger fiasco, why bother with all the rest of the mess.

    1. amen, you took all of those words right out of my mouth.

      "Personally, If one cannot get by the Fanny Alger fiasco, why bother with all the rest of the mess."