Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormon America: The Power and the Promise/Chapter 4

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 4: Polygamy Then and Now"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, a work by author: Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling

Response to claims made in Mormon America "Chapter 4: Polygamy Then and Now"

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Response to claim: 58 - Joseph Smith initiated polygamy in the Church and had a large number of wives

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith initiated polygamy in the Church and had a large number of wives.

Author's sources:
  1. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945). ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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


Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

Question: When and how did plural marriage begin in the Church?

Of the little we do know, much comes from later reminiscences

Of the little we do know, much comes from later reminiscences. Later memories are not useless, but memory can change, and can be influenced by what people later came to believe or desire. Such data must be used with caution.

There are enough scattered bits of evidence, however, that let us form some tentative conclusions.

The first specifically-LDS encounter with plural marriage was the 1829 Book of Mormon

The first specifically-LDS encounter with plural marriage was the 1829 Book of Mormon. The prophet Jacob rebuked the Nephites for their practice of having many wives and concubines. Jacob forbade this practice, and declared monogamy to be the norm unless "I will…raise up seed unto me…." [1]

It is not clear that the early Saints contemplated any exceptions to this command in their own case, until after Joseph had taught plural marriage. As late as May 1843, Hyrum Smith (not yet converted to Joseph's plural marriage doctrine) attempted to rebut rumors of plural marriage by citing the condemnation in Jacob 2. [2]

There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it

There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it. One account has Brigham Young placing the revelation to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1829 while translating the Book of Mormon. [3]

Most scholars have rejected this early date. Brigham was not even a member at this time, so he would have heard such a story second-hand at best, and may well have misunderstood the timing. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that portrays plural marriage positively, so there is little which would inspire Joseph and Oliver to ask questions about it, and such questioning seems to have been a prerequisite to Joseph and Oliver's early revelations on baptism, the priesthood, and other matters. The journal which records the 1829 date may be in error, since there is another, earlier record in which Brigham Young opines that Joseph had the plural marriage revelation "as early as in the year 1831." [4]

Evidence also points to an 1831 date for receipt of the revelation on plural marriage

Other evidence also points to an 1831 date. Joseph undertook his revision/translation of the Bible, and was working on Genesis in February–March 1831. [5] Hubert Howe Bancroft was the first to suggest this theory, [6] while Joseph Noble, [7] B.H. Roberts, [8] and Joseph F. Smith [9] have agreed. The obvious approval of the polygamous patriarchs in Genesis is a more likely stimulus for Joseph's questions to the Lord about plural marriage than the Book of Mormon's generally negative view.

Joseph's First Mention of the Doctrine in 1831

The date of 1831 is reinforced by a letter written years later by W.W. Phelps. Phelps reported that on 17 July 1831, the Lord told Joseph "It is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just." Phelps then said that he asked Joseph three years later how this commandment could be fulfilled. Joseph replied, "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpha, by revelation.” [10] Phelps' recollection is reinforced by Ezra Booth, an apostate Mormon. In November 1831, Booth wrote that Joseph had received a revelation commanding a "matrimonial alliance" with the natives, though he says nothing about plural marriage per se. [11]

Since Joseph's explanation to Phelps came three years later, this does not help us date the receipt of the revelation specifically. It may be that Joseph did not understand the import of the July 1831 revelation any more than Phelps did. On the other hand, Orson Pratt reported that Joseph told some early members in 1831 and 1832 that plural marriage was a true principle but that the time to practice it had not yet come. [12] Lyman Johnson also reportedly heard the doctrine from Joseph in 1831, [13] as did a plural wife who recalled late in life that in 1831 Joseph told her that he had been commanded to one day take her as a plural wife. [14] Mosiah Hancock reported that his father was taught about plural marriage in the spring of 1832. [15]

Some authors have suggested that Phelps' late recollection is inconsistent with other things that he wrote earlier. Richard Van Wagoner argues that:

…the Phelps letter has been widely touted as the earliest source documenting the advocacy of Mormon polygamy, [but] it is not without its problems. For example, Phelps himself, in a 16 September 1835 letter to his wife, Sally, demonstrated no knowledge of church-sanctioned polygamy: "I have no right to any other woman in this world nor in the world to come according to the law of the celestial kingdom.” [16]

It seems to me, though, that the problem is more in Van Wagoner's reading of the data. Phelps says nothing about "church-sanctioned polygamy," one way or the other. He merely tells his wife that he has no right to any other woman. This was certainly true, since Joseph Smith had introduced no other men to plural marriage by September 1835. In fact, Phelps' remark seems a strange comment to make unless he understood that there were circumstances in which one could have "right to" another woman. [17]

Joseph F. Smith gave an account which synthesizes most of the preceding data:

The great and glorious principle of plural marriage was first revealed to Joseph Smith in 1831, but being forbidden to make it public, or to teach it as a doctrine of the Gospel, at that time, he confided the facts to only a very few of his intimate associates. Among them were Oliver Cowdery and Lyman E. Johnson, the latter confiding the fact to his traveling companion, Elder Orson Pratt, in the year 1832. (See Orson Pratt's testimony.)" (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]: 219) [18]

The bulk of the evidence, therefore, suggests that plural marriage was known by Joseph by early 1831. The Prophet was probably teaching the idea to a limited circle by the end of that year.


Response to claim: 58 - The authors claim that Fawn Brodie’s research was largely substantiated by later scholarship

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Fawn Brodie’s research was largely substantiated by later scholarship.

FairMormon Response

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

No, it actually hasn't been substantiated. In reality, many of Brodie's claims have been losing ground in light of more recent scholarship. For example, see how Brodie's claims about Joseph Smith's alleged children through polygamous marriages have been refuted as the result of modern DNA research.

For a detailed response, see: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

Response to claim: 58 - There were at least five cases of women who rejected his polygamous proposals

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

There were at least five cases of women who rejected his polygamous proposals.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: Did any woman suffer consequences for turning down Joseph's proposal?

Two women afterward attacked Joseph's character and misrepresented his offer, to which Joseph responded. Those who did not were left strictly alone

There are numerous accounts of women to whom Joseph proposed plural marriage, who turned him down.

Two women afterward attacked Joseph's character and misrepresented his offer. He responded. Those who did not were left strictly alone. There were no consequences to these women. Sarah Kimball reported Joseph's mild reaction to the rejection:

Early in the year 1842, Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach it with commandment, as the Church could travel (progress) no further without the introduction of this principle. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly, and said, 'Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.‘ He said, 'I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer you will not be led into temptation.'[19]

(Sarah's husband was not a member of the Church until 1843. There was some tension between him and Joseph as a result of this episode, but he seems to have resolved any animosity he held for the prophet.[20] They were later to go Utah with the Saints, where Sarah assumed a prominent role in the Relief Society. Her husband died while en route to a mission in Hawaii.[21]

Other women loudly trumpeted the plural marriage doctrine in Nauvoo and the hostile press. These women's testimony and character were generally attacked to try to discredit them in an effort to preserve the secrecy which surrounded plural marriage. (This factor is complicated by the fact that at least some were guilty of inappropriate behavior (e.g., likely Sarah Pratt). Despite attacks on their character, some remained in Nauvoo and likewise suffered no physical harm (e.g., Nancy Rigdon).


Response to claim: 58 - At least 11 of Joseph's wives married to another man

The author(s) of Mormon America: The Power and the Promise make(s) the following claim:

At least 11 of Joseph's wives married to another man. Mormon apologists have attempted to justify polygamy in part because it sheltered single women beyond marriageable age, the facts show otherwise. The vast majority of plural wives were younger than the first wife, often nubile teenagers.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph was sealed to the wives of at least 11 married men for eternity. In each case, the wives continued to live with the current husband for time and never had a relationship with Joseph.


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

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

Among Joseph's plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these "polyandrous" marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.[22]

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

Perhaps nothing is less understood than Joseph Smith's sealings to women already married, because the evidence supports conflicting interpretations.[23]

Criticisms related to Joseph Smith's "polyandrous" marriages

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

  • Why would Joseph be sealed to other men's wives?
  • What was the nature of these marriages? Were they consummated?
  • Why did these 11 women continue to live with and have children with their husbands even after being sealed to Joseph Smith?
  • One critic of the church notes, "Joseph Smith would frequently approach other men’s wives about being his own plural wives..." [24]

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


The Joseph Smith Papers: "Several later documents suggest that several women who were already married to other men were, like Marinda Hyde, married or sealed to Joseph Smith"

"Nauvoo Journals, December 1841–April 1843," The Joseph Smith Papers:

Several later documents suggest that several women who were already married to other men were, like Marinda Hyde, married or sealed to Joseph Smith. Available evidence indicates that some of these apparent polygynous/polyandrous marriages took place during the years covered by this journal. At least three of the women reportedly involved in these marriages—Patty Bartlett Sessions, Ruth Vose Sayers, and Sylvia Porter Lyon—are mentioned in the journal, though in contexts very much removed from plural marriage. Even fewer sources are extant for these complex relationships than are available for Smith’s marriages to unmarried women, and Smith’s revelations are silent on them. Having surveyed the available sources, historian Richard L. Bushman concludes that these polyandrous marriages—and perhaps other plural marriages of Joseph Smith—were primarily a means of binding other families to his for the spiritual benefit and mutual salvation of all involved.[25]


Improvement Era (1946): "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?...It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth"

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946):

Several approaches to eternal marriage may be made: Two living persons may be sealed to each other for time and eternity. A living man may be sealed for eternity to a dead woman; or a living woman to a dead man. Two dead persons may be sealed to each other. It is also possible, though the Church does not now permit it, to seal two living people for eternity only, with no association on earth.

Further, under a divine command to the Prophet Joseph Smith, it was possible for one man to be sealed to more than one woman for time and eternity. Thus came plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints. By another divine command, to Wilford Woodruff, a successor to Joseph Smith, this order of marriage was withdrawn in 1890. Since that time the Church has not sanctioned plural marriages. Anyone who enters into them now is married unlawfully, and is excommunicated from the Church.[26]

"Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." It is not known whether Sylvia was referring to her daughter as being a literal descendant of Joseph Smith, or if she was referring to the fact that she had been sealed to the prophet. In an article published in Mormon Historical Studies, Brian C. Hales demonstrates that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously. [27]


Response to claim: 59 - It is claimed that Joseph Smith "often" asked close friends for their wives and daughters

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that Joseph Smith "often" asked close friends for their wives and daughters.

FairMormon Response

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

There is no evidence to support this claim.


Response to claim: 59 - Some of the marriages were the result of pressure or spiritual coercion from the prophet

The author(s) of Mormon America: The Power and the Promise make(s) the following claim:

Some of the marriages were the result of pressure or spiritual coercion from the prophet.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph did not force women to accept plural marriage. However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight.


Question: Were women put under "tremendous pressure" to accept a proposal of plural marriage?

Given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight

  • No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight.
  • Despite this, the reported initial reactions are all negative: these women were strong-minded, and did not simply obey because Joseph told them to.
  • Because of their distaste for the idea, many plural wives reported divine revelations that confirmed the truth of plural marriage. Joseph encouraged women to seek for such divine confirmation.


Question: Were plural wives forced into the marriage?

Plural wives were not forced into marriage

Brian Hales:

Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet's counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.[28]


Question: Did Joseph Smith give a woman only one day to decide about entering a plural marriage, and would refusal mean terrible consequences?

One woman was told that the opportunity for plural marriage would expire in twenty-four hours. She was not threatened with damnation or physical consequences

This claim distorts the account of Lucy Walker. Joseph offered to teach Lucy about plural marriage, but she angrily refused:

When the Prophet Joseph Smith first mentioned the principle of plural marriage to me I became very indignant and told him emphatically that I did not wish him to ever mention it to me again....and so expressed myself to him....He counseled me, however, to pray to the Lord for light and understanding in relation thereto, and promised me if I would do so sincerely, I should receive a testimony of the correctness of the principle. Before praying I felt gloomy and downcast; in fact, I was so entirely given up to despair that I felt tired of life...."

Joseph then said nothing more to her for at least four months (and possibly as long as sixteen). Lucy continues:

[I] was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not ask in faith for light. Gross darkness instead of light took possession of my mind. I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable....

The Prophet discerned my sorrow. He saw how unhappy I was, and sought an opportunity of again speaking to me on this subject....

[He said] "I have no flattering words to offer. It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you."

– Lucy Walker, italics added

Lucy was told that the opportunity for plural marriage would expire in twenty-four hours. She was not threatened with damnation or physical consequences. Yet, she did not meekly obey:

This aroused every drop of scotch in my veins...I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living Sacrafice, perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds, this was too much, the thought was unbearable.... I...at last found utterance and said, "Although you are a prophet of God you could not induce me to take a step of so great importance, unless I knew that God approved my course. I would rather die. I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light....The same God who has sent this message is the Being I have worshipped from my early childhood and He must manifest His will to me."

Joseph's response:

He walked across the room, returned, and stood before me. With the most beautiful expression of countenance, he said, "God almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew."

That night, Lucy reported:

It was near after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud. The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that "I never knew." Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage, which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the joy and gratitude that filled my soul. As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below, took me by the hand and said, "Thank God, you have the testimony. I too have prayed." He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire.
– Lucy Walker

Even with Lucy's revelation and consent, Joseph then sought the permission of her oldest male relative in Nauvoo, her brother William Holmes Walker. He said:

The Prophet invited me to hitch up my horse with one of his...and to ride with him....On this occasion the subject of celestial, or plural marriage, was introduced to me. As we returned home he remarked, 'If there was anything I did not understand to hold on a little, and I would understand it."....

In the spring of 1843, my father, being away on a mission, the Prophet asked my consent, for my sister Lucy in Marriage. I replied that if it was her free will and choice, I had no objection....

When father returned from his mission, the matter being fully explained in connection with the doctrine, received his endorsement and all parties concerned received his approbation.

— William Holmes Walker

This is the only case of any kind of deadline being given, and it only came because Joseph saw how unhappy Lucy was as she hesitated with a decision over a period of months.


Question: Did Joseph claim that an angel threatened him with a "drawn sword" or "flaming sword" if a woman refused to marry him?

The references to the "angel with a sword" refer to Joseph's postponement of the initiation of polygamy

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs said that Joseph mentioned an angel with a drawn sword.[29] The account of a "flaming" sword came from Eliza Snow and Orson F. Whitney.

The "angel with a sword" reference refers to Joseph's postponement of the practice of polygamy. Brian Hales notes that,

"Twenty-one accounts by nine polygamy insiders left recollections that the Prophet told of one specific reason: an angel with a sword who threatened him if he did not proceed. All nine witnesses could have heard the statement from the Prophet himself; however, the narratives themselves suggest that Benjamin F. Johnson and Eliza R. Snow may have been repeating information gathered from other people. Joseph Lee Robinson's narrative is difficult to date and his actual source is not clear. Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner quote the Prophet directly and Mary Elizabeth provides details not available elsewhere. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of the Robinson account, all of the reminiscences date to at least twenty to thirty years after the event." [30]

Here are the quotes attributed to Zina on the matter:

1881: Zina Huntington—Zina D. Young told of Bro. Joseph's remark in relation to the revelation on celestial marriage. How an angel came to him with a drawn sword, and said if he did not obey this law he would lost his priesthood; and in the keeping of it he, Joseph, did not know but it would cost him his life. [31]

1894: Zina Huntington—[Joseph] sent word to me by my brother, saying, 'Tell Zina I put it off and put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth, I would lost my position and my life.'" [32]


Response to claim: 60 - The “comely sixteen-year-old Fanny Alger” became Joseph's plural wife in 1833

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

The “comely sixteen-year-old Fanny Alger” became Joseph's plural wife in 1833.

FairMormon Response

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


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

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

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

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

Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had "learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, 'that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.' This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her."[33]

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

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

Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Uncle Sam says, “Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says.” Father goes to his sister and said, “Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Said she, “Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me.” Father goes to Fanny and said, “Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?” “I will Levi,” said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, “Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission.” Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.[34]


Response to claim: 60 - W.W. Phelps introduced an anti-polygamy resolution in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting while Joseph was away, which was adopted by the Church

The author(s) of Mormon America: The Power and the Promise make(s) the following claim:

W.W. Phelps introduced an anti-polygamy resolution in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting while Joseph was away, which was adopted by the Church.

Author's sources:
  1. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 185. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

This is correct.


Question: Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include a statement of marriage that denied the practice of polygamy at a time when some were actually practicing it?

Polygamy was not being taught to the general Church membership at that time

The Article on Marriage was printed in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109. The portion of the Article on Marriage relevant to polygamy states:

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. [35]

This was true—the Church membership generally was not being taught plural marriage, and were not living it at that time.

The statement itself was not changed between the 1835 and 1844 editions of the D&C

In fact, the statement remained in the D&C until the 1876 edition, even though plural marriage had been taught to specific individuals since at least 1831, practiced in secret since 1836, and practiced openly since 1852. The matter of not removing it in 1852 was simply due to the fact that a new edition of the D&C was not published until 1876.

The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication

While some have suggested that the article was published against Joseph's wishes or without his knowledge, the available evidence suggests that he supported its publication. It was likely included to counter the perception that the Mormon's practice of communal property (the "law of consecration") included a community of wives.

The statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith - it was written by Oliver Cowdery

This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) [36]

Some have suggested that the manner in which the conference was called suggests that Joseph was not the instigator of it, since it seems to have been done quite quickly, with relatively few high church leaders in attendance:

The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. [37]

However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." [38]


Question: Was Oliver Cowdery aware that some in the Church were practicing polygamy in 1835 at the time he authored the "Article on Marriage"?

Oliver Cowdery, the author of the 1835 "Article on Marriage," was aware that some in the Church were practicing polygamy at the time that the statement was published

On July 7, 1878, Joseph F. Smith discussed Oliver's awareness of polygamy at the time of this publication:

To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832. About this time, or subsequently, Joseph, the Prophet, intrusted this fact to Oliver Cowdery; he abused the confidence imposed in him, and brought reproach upon himself, and thereby upon the church by "running before he was sent," and "taking liberties without license," so to speak, hence the publication, by O. Cowdery, about this time, of an article on marriage, which was carefully worded, and afterwards found its way into the Doctrine and Covenants without authority. This article explains itself to those who understand the facts, and is an indisputable evidence of the early existence of the knowledge of the principle of patriarchal marriage by the Prophet Joseph, and also by Oliver Cowdery. [39]

However, there continues to be debate about whether Oliver Cowdery knew about--or prematurely practiced--plural marriage in the 1830s. [40] Oliver would learn about the Fanny Alger marriage, but his reaction at the time seems to have been wholly negative.

The original D&C 101 article outlined the general practice of performing a Latter-day Saint wedding, explained LDS beliefs about the marriage relationship, and denied that the Saints were practicing polygamy.


Question: Was the practice of polygamy general knowledge among Latter-day Saints in 1835 when the "Article on Marriage" was published?

Knowledge of the practice of polygamy among the Saints was limited prior to the 1840s

Some have argued that rumors of "polygamy" may already have been circulating as a result of the Prophet teaching the concept to some of his close associates. However, Brian Hales has argued that there are few if any extant attacks on Joseph or the Saints about polygamy prior to the 1840s:

...if the article was designed to neutralize reports about Joseph Smith and his alleged "crimes," polygamy would not have been included because that allegation was not made then nor at any other time during the Kirtland period according to any documentation currently available. In other words, assuming that the denial of polygamy in the "Marriage" article [of D&C 101] was specifically tied to rumors of Joseph Smith's behavior is problematic, unless other corroborating evidence can be located. [41]

Charges of polygamy or "free love" or having wives in common were often made against new or little-known religious or social groups

On the other hand, charges of polygamy or "free love" or having wives in common were often made against new or little-known religious or social groups. As Hales reports:

Some [nineteenth-century utopian societies] experimented with novel marital and sexual practices, which focused suspicion on all the groups....Accordingly, early Latter-day Saint efforts to live the law of consecration, even though it sustained traditional monogamy, were instantly misunderstood....

John L. Brooke...wrote: "Among the non-Mormons in Ohio there were suspicions that the community of property dictated in the 'Law of Consecration' included wives."...

It seems plausible, even likely, that beginning in 1831, some uninformed individuals assumed that the law of consecration included a community of wives as one of its tenets, even publishing such claims, although there is no indication that this is how the Mormons themselves interpreted the law of consecration. Understandably, Church leaders would actively seek to deny such untrue allegations in a document on marriage to be included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. [42]

Gilbert Scharffs notes:

The original Section 101 (never claimed as a revelation but approved as a statement of belief) did state that monogamy was the practice of the Church at that time. The section was not written by Joseph Smith and was voted upon by members in his absence. Perhaps the section was intended to prevent members from getting involved with plural marriage until such a time as the practice would be authorized by the Lord Church-wide. When that became the fact, the current Section 132 replaced the old Section 101. [43]


Response to claim: 61 - Smith conducted marriage for Newell Knight against law, since the woman was not yet divorced from her non-Mormon husband

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

Smith conducted marriage for Newell Knight against law, since the woman was not yet divorced from her non-Mormon husband. Smith said "Gentile law has no power to call me to account for it."

Author's sources:
  1. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 623.
  • Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 623.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

No law was broken, and marriage certificates were issued by the state of Ohio; no license was required. Any religious leader had a right to perform marriages in Ohio.

This claim is also made in One Nation Under Gods: p. 129, 529n14-15

Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

Question: Did Joseph Smith violate marriage laws in Ohio by performing marriages?

Joseph did not knowingly violate marriage laws in Ohio, and seems to have used his prophetic gifts to spare victims of the nineteenth-century's legal and bureaucratic immaturity unnecessary suffering

Joseph did not knowingly violate marriage laws in Ohio, and seems to have used his prophetic gifts to spare victims of the nineteenth-century's legal and bureaucratic immaturity unnecessary suffering. The secular powers honored Joseph's marriages, and provided documentation to ratify his acts. As happens so often, critics condemn Joseph Smith and the early Saints without providing the proper context for their legal choices or moral actions. As we consider the wider implementation of plural marriage in Nauvoo, such context will become increasingly important.

Plural marriage would eventually involve a complex collision of religious belief, secular law, and personal conscience. Many historians have presumed that Joseph Smith always had a cavalier attitude toward civil laws which conflicted with his marital concepts. Even before the broad implementation of plural marriage, critics point to marriages performed by Joseph in Ohio as evidence that he would readily violate secular laws.

As John Brooke put it:

Specifically prohibited from performing the marriage ceremony by the local county court, Smith brushed aside a state-licensed church elder to perform the rites of marriage between Newel [Knight] and Lydia [Bailey] himself. She was not divorced from her non-Mormon husband, so this technically bigamous marriage also challenged a broader moral code…Over the next two months Joseph Smith performed five more illegal marriages.[44]

Brooke claims Joseph was forbidden to perform marriages, that he performed a bigamous marriage, and that he repeatedly disobeyed state marriage laws.

Michael Quinn makes the same type of claim when he opines that

in November 1835 [Joseph] announced a doctrine I call “theocratic ethics.” He used this theology of justify his violation of Ohio’s marriage laws by performing a marriage for Newel Knight and the undivorced Lydia Goldthwaite without legal authority to do so…Theocratic ethics justified LDS leaders and (by extension) regular Mormons in actions which were contrary to conventional ethics and sometimes in violation of criminal laws.[45]

Quinn's introduction of the expression "theocratic ethics" is an excellent example of his regrettable tendency to coin an expression, and then proceed as if his act of definition proves that the phenomenon he has labeled actually exists.[46] In another context, one non-LDS reviewer of Quinn regretted this use of "rather artificial categories that acquire an aura of scholarly respectability through the magic of 'Quinnspeak.'"[47]

Quinn's vocabulary implies that Joseph was using a different sort of ethical standard as most people—and, the term "theocratic" is loaded, since it generally has negative associations. Quinn also makes the entirely unwarranted conclusion "by extension" that Joseph's supposed irregular actions meant that a "regular Mormon" would be likewise justified in following a novel ethical scheme.

Despite such confident claims, the historical record regarding Ohio marriages disagrees with this portrait in almost every particular.[48] Newel Knight, a young widower, wished to marry Lydia Bailey. Lydia was married to an abusive drunkard, who had abandoned her years before. Sidney Rigdon had been refused a license to marry as a Mormon minister, and so many concluded that Mormon elders would not receive state sanction to perform marriages.

Because Seymour Brunson had been a preacher prior to being a Mormon, he held a license to solemnize marriages. Brunson was thus about to perform the Knight-Bailey wedding. In what Van Wagoner calls "a bold display of civil disobedience,"[49] Joseph Smith stepped forward and announced that he would perform the marriage.

The Knight-Bailey wedding was not illegal, since Newel Knight obtained a marriage license from the secular authorities

On the surface, it appears that the critics are justified in arguing that Joseph had no right to perform marriages, and chose to do so anyway. Scott Bradshaw's research, however, found that refusing Rigdon permission to marry was "not justifiable from a legal point of view." Such a legal decision in Ohio "was rare in the 1830s, perhaps even unheard of."[50] The court's refusal to grant Rigdon a license to marry as a Mormon minister likely stemmed from religious prejudice.

The Knight-Bailey wedding was not illegal, since Newel Knight obtained a marriage license from the secular authorities. The state of Ohio did not contest Joseph's performance of the marriage, since it then issued a marriage certificate for the Knights' marriage. Joseph later performed other marriages in Ohio, and these couples likewise received marriage certificates after Joseph submitted the necessary paperwork.

A review of Ohio state law demonstrates that Joseph's decision to perform marriages was correct

A review of Ohio state law demonstrates that Joseph's decision to marry—and his prophesy that he had the right to marry, and that his enemies would never prosecute him for marrying—was correct. Ohio's 1824 marriage law stated that "a religious society…could perform marriages without a license so long as the ceremony was done ‘agreeable to the rules and regulations of their respective churches.’"[51]

The "rules and regulations" regarding marriage for the Church had been established since the publication of what was then D&C 101 in September 1835.[52] The Knight-Bailey wedding did not occur until 24 November 1835, and Joseph Smith surely had the authority to perform weddings in the Church if anyone did, especially since D&C 101 declared that marriage "should be performed by a presiding high priest, bishop, elder, or priest."[53]

When applying to the county clerk for marriage certificates of other marriages which he performed, Joseph specifically noted that they were solemnized "agreeably to the rules and regulations of the Church…on matrimony," a clear reference to the 1824 Ohio statute.


Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

Question: When Joseph Smith performed the marriage of Newel Knight and Lydia Bailey, were they guilty of bigamy since Lydia had not been formally divorced from her previous husband?

Lydia and Newel were aware of the prohibition on bigamy, and Lydia refused to marry Newel until they approached Joseph for his counsel

Joseph's decision to solemnize marriages was in accord with Ohio state law. Because Lydia Bailey was not divorced, however, the critics have also charged Joseph with permitting a bigamous marriage, and thus flaunting the law.

Lydia and Newel were aware of the prohibition on bigamy, and Lydia refused to marry Newel until they approached Joseph for his counsel:

Broth[er] Joseph after p[ray]or & reflecting a little or in other words enquiring [of the] Lord Said it is all right, She is his & the sooner they [are] married the better. Tell them no law shall hurt [them]. They need not fear either the law of God or man for [it] shall not touch them; & the Lord bless them. This [is the] will of the Lord concerning the matter.[54]

Ohio law had, until just prior to their wedding, allowed spouses to remarry without formal divorce if they had been abandoned for three years

Ohio law had, until just prior to their wedding, allowed spouses to remarry without formal divorce if they had been abandoned for three years. This described Lydia's case, and Newel tried to so persuade her before speaking with Joseph. Lydia's concern about remarriage seems to have been motivated mainly by spiritual worries that it was wrong in the sight of God to remarry, even if the law might allow it.[55]

It was doubtless because of abandonment that Newel obtained the marriage license.[56] He was likely unaware—as, perhaps, were those who granted the license—that the law had recently changed the abandonment period to five years, and so the marriage might have been illegal on those grounds.

The Knights' predicament highlights an aspect of early nineteenth-century marriage which modern readers often ignore

The Knights' predicament highlights an aspect of early nineteenth-century marriage which modern readers often ignore. Communication in this period was difficult, travel was slow, and record keeping requirements varied widely across the United States. As a result, technical "bigamy" was a common state of affairs for all social classes at this period in American history.[57] This made the prosecution of bigamy rare, and in cases of abandonment some spouses had to simply remarry since obtaining a formal divorce was difficult or impossible:

Since bigamy was only prosecuted on the complaint of a spouse (one whose honor had been offended or for whom the loss of support was irremediable) and when the offending spouse could be found by summons, most bigamists were probably never arrested...From the standpoint of the legal historian, it is perhaps surprising that anyone prosecuted bigamy at all. Given the confusion over conflicting state laws on marriage, there were many ways to escape notice, if not conviction.[58]

Ohio law also required that persons seeking a divorce apply to the state supreme court, and be state residents for two years—so, on these terms Lydia would have been in violation of the law. But, it is not clear that she, Newel, or those who granted the marriage license were aware of this technicality.

Despite potentially violating some legal niceties, however, Lydia almost certainly did not engage in bigamy since her previous husband had died

Despite potentially violating some legal niceties, however, Lydia almost certainly did not engage in bigamy. Shortly after the Knights' marriage, she learned that her wastrel husband had died. The Knights viewed this as vindication of Joseph's prophetic gifts, since he had promised them that there was no moral or legal impediment to their marriage—and, he was right.[59]


Response to claim: 61 - Joseph's youngest bride, in some ways typical, was fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's youngest bride, in some ways typical, was fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball.

Author's sources:
  1. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 486-534. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

Note the authors' pejorative opinion: "in some ways typical." The marriage to Helen, in fact, was not "typical."


Question: Why was Joseph Smith sealed to young women?

Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage

Some of Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages were to young women.

  • Were these marriages to young women evidence that he was immoral, or perhaps even a pedophile?
  • One critic of the church notes, "Joseph Smith married over 30 women, some as young as 14 years old..." [60]

Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage. The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.

The information we have on Joseph Smith's plural marriages is sketchy, simply because there were few official records kept at the time because of the fear of misunderstanding and persecution. What we do know is culled from journals and reminiscences of those who were involved.

The most conservative estimates indicate that Joseph entered into plural marriages with 29–33 women, 7 of whom were under the age of 18. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was 14. The rest were 16 (two) or 17 (three). One wife (Maria Winchester) about which virtually nothing is known, was either 14 or 15.

Helen Mar Kimball

Some people have concluded that Helen did have sexual relations with Joseph, which would have been proper considering that they were married with her consent and the consent of her parents. However, historian Todd Compton does not hold this view; he criticized the anti-Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner for using his book to argue for sexual relations, and wrote:

The Tanners made great mileage out of Joseph Smith's marriage to his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball. However, they failed to mention that I wrote that there is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage, and I suggest that, following later practice in Utah, there may have been no sexuality. (p. 638) All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage. [61]

In other words, polygamous marriages often had other purposes than procreation—one such purpose was likely to tie faithful families together, and this seems to have been a purpose of Joseph's marriage to the daughter of a faithful Apostle. (See: Law of Adoption.)

Critics who assume plural marriage "is all about sex" may be basing their opinion on their own cultural biases and assumptions, rather than upon the actual motives of Church members who participated in the practice.

Evidence from the "Temple Lot" case of non-consummation of Helen Mar Kimball marriage

Hales has identified a further line of evidence which suggests that Helen's marriage was not consummated. In 1892, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS, now Community of Christ) brought suit against the Hendrickite, or "Temple Lot" break-off group. They claimed that the Independence, Missouri temple site was rightfully RLDS property, since they were the direct heirs of Joseph Smith's original religious group.

Although not embracing plural marriage themselves, the Temple Lot group was anxious to demonstrate that Joseph Smith had taught plural marriage--for, if this was so, then the RLDS (who denied that Joseph had practiced it, and certainly did not embrace the doctrine) would have difficulty proving that they were the direct successors to the church founded by Joseph.

Hales reports:

Nine of Joseph Smith's plural wives were still living when depositions started at Salt Lake City on March 14, 1892. Three were polyandrous wives (Zina Huntington Jacobs Young, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, and Patty Bartlett Sessions) and six were nonpolyandrous (Helen Mar Kimball, Martha McBride, Almera Johnson, Emily Partridge, Malissa Lott, and Lucy Walker.) Factors evidently affecting the choice of witnesses involved the health and travel distances for the women, and importantly, whether their polygamous marriages to the Prophet included conjugality. Non-sexual sealings would have been treated as spiritual marriages of little importance and would have played right into the hands of RLDS attorneys....

Among nonpolyandrous wives who were not summoned was Martha McBride who lived in Hooper, Utah (thirty-seven miles to the north). McBride's relationship with Joseph Smith is poorly documented, with no evidence of sexual relations....Also passed by was Salt Lake resident Helen Mar Kimball who had written two books defending the practice of plural marriage. Her sealing to the Prophet ocurred when she was only fourteen and the presence or absence of sexual relations in her plural marriage is debated by historians.

Throughout the length question-and-answer sessions with Malissa Lott, Emily Partridge, and Lucy Walker, the details of their polygamous marriages with Joseph Smith were paramount; the physical aspect of sexuality was a core issue. If [Helen or others] could not testify to such relations, their testimonies as the Prophet's polygamous wives could hurt the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) cause. [62]

Helen's personal account

Helen "took pen and paper in hand before she died to describe vividly her ties as a member of the Latter-day Saint Church during its first two decades of existence in a series of articles published in the Woman's Exponent" in the 1880s. [63]:ix Some of her articles dealt with plural marriage: "Her personal remembrances of those days constitute an important source that, taken together with other first-hand accounts by participants, provides a more complete view of the introduction of one of the most distinctive features of nineteenth-century Mormonism." [63]:xvHelen Mar's writings, an important source of LDS history, were published by BYU's Religious Studies Center in 1997 in a book entitled A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History. The book also includes her 1881 autobiography to her children wherein, concerning her marriage to the Prophet Joseph Smith, she wrote:

I have long since learned to leave all with [God], who knoweth better than ourselves what will make us happy. I am thankful that He has brought me through the furnace of affliction & that He has condesended to show me that the promises made to me the morning that I was sealed to the Prophet of God will not fail & I would not have the chain broken for I have had a view of the principle of eternal salvation & the perfect union which this sealing power will bring to the human family & with the help of our Heavenly Father I am determined to so live that I can claim those promises.[63]:487

Fanny Alger

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

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

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

Historical and cultural perspective

Plural marriage was certainly not in keeping with the values of "mainstream America" in Joseph Smith's day. However, modern readers also judge the age of the marriage partners by modern standards, rather than the standards of the nineteenth century.

Within Todd Compton's book on Joseph Smith's marriages, he also mentions the following monogamous marriages:

Wife Wife's Age Husband Husband's Age Difference in age
Lucinda Pendleton 18 William Morgan 44 26
Marinda Johnson 19 Orson Hyde 29 10
Almira McBride 17 Sylvester Stoddard 40s >23
Fanny Young 44 Roswell Murray 62 18

And, a variety of Mormon and non-Mormon historical figures had similar wide differences in age:

Husband Husband's Age Wife Wife's Age Difference
Johann Sebastian Bach 36 Anna Magdalena Wilcke 19 17
Lord Baden-Powell (Founder of Scouting) 55 Olave Soames 23 32 [64]
William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) 37 Julia Hancock 16 21 [65]
Grover Cleveland (22nd, 24th US President) 49 Frances Cleveland 21 28
Thomas A. Edison 24 Mary Stillwell 16 8
Thomas A. Edison 39 Mina Miller 20 19
Martin Harris (1808) 24 Lucy Harris (1st cousin) 15 9 [66]
Levi Ward Hancock (7 April 1803) 30 Clarissa Reed 17 13 [67]
Andrew Mellon 45 Nora Mary McMullen 20 25
John Milton (Paradise Lost) 34 Mary Powell (1st wife) 17 17
John Milton 55 Elizabeth Minshull (3rd wife) 24 31
Edgar Allen Poe 26 Virginia Clemn (his cousin) 13 13
Alexander Smith 23 Elizabeth Kendall 16 7 [68]
David Hyrum Smith 26 Clara Hartshorn 18 8 [69]
Frederick Granger Williams Smith 21 Annie Maria Jones 16 5 [70]
Joseph Smith, III 66 Ada Rachel Clark 29 37 [71]
John Tyler (US President, 1844) 56 Julia Gardiner 24 32[72]
Almonzo Wilder 28 Laura Ingalls (Little House) 18 10

Statistical information for marital ages is available from the 1850 census. [73] Using a 1% random sample of individuals, 989 men and 962 women indicated they had been married within the last year. The plot below breaks these individuals down by census age.

1850census2.jpg

Of note is that 41.7% of women married as teenagers compared to only 4.1% of men. The mean age for men was more than five years older than that for women (27.6 vs. 22.5). For young women, marriage in the early to mid teens was rare, but not unheard of as both the anecdotal and statistical evidence above show. Teenage brides married a husband that averaged 6.6 +/- 4.7 (std) years older. To put that in perspective, 13% of the time the husband was over 10 years older than his teenage wife.

The 21st century reader is likely to see marriages of young women to much older men as inappropriate, though it is still not uncommon. In the U.S. today, in most states, the "age of consent" is set by statute to be 18. This is the age at which a person can consent to sexual activity or to marriage. However, even today, the "marriageable age," the minimum age at which a person may marry with parental permission or with a judge's permission, is 16 in most states. In California, there is no minimum marriageable age; a child of any age may marry with parental consent. [74] So Joseph Smith's marriage to Helen Mar Kimball, having been done with her parents' permission, would be legal in California even today, except for the polygamous aspect of it.

But the modern age limits in most states represent only the modern attitude. The age of consent under English common law was ten. United States law did not raise the age of consent until the late nineteenth century. In Joseph Smith's day, most states still had the declared age of consent to be ten. Some had raised it to twelve, and Delaware had lowered it to seven! [75]

It is significant that none of Joseph's contemporaries complained about the age differences between polygamous or monogamous marriage partners. This was simply part of their environment and culture; it is unfair to judge nineteenth century members by twenty-first century social standards. As one non-LDS scholar of teenage life in American history noted:

Until the twentieth century, adult expectations of young people were determined not by age but by size. If a fourteen-year-old looked big and strong enough to do a man's work on a farm or in a factory or mine, most people viewed him as a man. And if a sixteen-year-old was slower to develop and couldn't perform as a man, he wasn't one. For, young women, the issue was much the same. To be marriageable was the same as being ready for motherhood, which was determined by physical development, not age....

The important thing, though, was that the maturity of each young person was judged individually. [76]

In past centuries, women would often die in childbirth, and men often remarried younger women afterwards. Women often married older men, because these were more financially established and able to support them than men their own age.


Response to claim: 62 - Helen Mar Kimball had not grasped that marriage in time to Joseph would eventually have a sexual component

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

Helen Mar Kimball had not grasped that marriage in time to Joseph would eventually have a sexual component.

Author's sources:
  1. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 486-534. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The statement is not supported by the source. Compton never states anything about a "sexual component." There is not evidence, even from Helen's own writings, that there was ever a "sexual component" to the marriage.


Response to claim: 66 - The Book of Mormon was "conventionally monogamous"

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon was "conventionally monogamous:" "Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, Saith the Lord…Hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none" (Jacob 2:24, 27)

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

This is correct, although the author fails to note the conditions stated by the Book of Mormon for which polygamy was permitted.


Question: Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?

"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things"

Jacob 2:24-29 states:

24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

Those who cite this as a condemnation of plural marriage generally refrain from citing the very next verse:

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30).

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord may, under some circumstances, command the practice of plural marriage.


Response to claim: 67 - Swedenborg taught “spiritual wifery” in marriage for eternity. Swedenborg was discussed in Smith’s hometown newspaper

The author(s) of Mormon America make(s) the following claim:

Swedenborg taught “spiritual wifery” in marriage for eternity. Swedenborg was discussed in Smith’s hometown newspaper.

Author's sources:
  1. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 115, 153, 176, 217-219, 487n ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

This is simply an assumption on the part of the author's source (Quinn). There is no evidence that Joseph modeled his ideas about plural marriage from Swedenborg's work.


Question: Did Joseph Smith derive the idea of "three degrees of glory" from Emanuel Swedenborg's book, Heaven and its Wonders and Hell?

The charge that Swedenborg was Joseph's source is a late one, and was not even mentioned by those who disliked both Joseph and Swedenborg, and knew both works

It is claimed by critics of Mormonism that Joseph Smith derived the idea of "three degrees of glory" in the afterlife from Emanuel Swedenborg's book, Heaven and its Wonders and Hell From Things Heard and Seen (1758). [77] It is also claimed that Joseph Smith's practice of plural marriage was similar to Swedenborg's philosophy of "spiritual wifery."

Swedenborg said,

There are three heavens, entirely distinct from each other, an inmost or third, a middle or second, and an outmost or first. These have the same order and relation to each other as the highest part of man, or his head, the middle part, or body, and the lowest, or feet; or as the upper, the middle, and the lower stories of a house. In the same order is the Divine that goes forth and descends from the Lord; consequently heave, from the necessity of order, is threefold....The Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the third or inmost heaven is called celestial, and in consequence the angels there are called celestial angels; the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the second or middle heaven is called spiritual, and in consequence the angels there are called spiritual angels; while the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the outmost or first heaven is called natural; but as the natural of that heaven, unlike the natural of the world, has the spiritual and celestial within it, that heaven is called the spiritual- and the celestial-natural, and in consequence the angels there are called the spiritual-natural and celestial-natural. Those who receive influx from the middle or second heaven, which is the spiritual heaven, are called spiritual-natural; and those who receive influx from the third or inmost heaven, which is the celestial heaven, are called celestial-natural. The spiritual-natural angels and the celestial-natural angels are distinct from each other; nevertheless they constitute one heaven, because they are in the same degree.[78]

However, elements in Joseph's schema are present in the Bible, but not present in Swedenborg's model. The claim of "similarity" rests on a few superficial similarities between Joseph and Swedenborg and the Bible—and ignores the many marked differences between them.

Even if one is not inclined to grant Joseph Smith prophetic status, it seems far more plausible that his view of a three-tiered heaven derives from the New Testament, and not from Swedenborg.

Some believe that Joseph Smith borrowed the concept of three degrees of glory from Swedish philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). This portrait shows him at age 75. Original from en.wikipedia.org.

The concept of different degrees of heaven is not original to Swedenborg

1 Corinithians 15:41:

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

Swedenborg was hardly the first theologian or thinker to suggest that heavenly rewards were not all identical, but graduated into degrees of glory. The discussion and debate about the fate of the righteous in heaven goes back to the earliest Christian centuries. Non-LDS scholar Emma Disley indicates that the primary sources for the idea of different degrees of glory are Matthew 5:; John 14:2 ("in my Father's house are many mansions"); Matt 5; John 14.2 (‘many mansions’); 1 Corinithians 15:41 (stars differ in glory from one another); Matthew 20:1-4 (parable of the Vineyard).

Thus, the "raw material" for such ideas is Biblical, and noted long before Joseph or Swedenborg. Joseph received the vision of the three degrees of glory on 16 February 1832. Joseph had been involved in his translation/revision of the Bible, and indicates that this effort was what led to the reflections which preceded the vision. Joseph indicated that the vision came after reading John 5:29: "And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." [79]

Problems with the thesis that Joseph borrowed Swedenborg's ideas

The issues arguing against borrowing come in at least three different ways:

  1. a common source for both Swedenborg and Joseph
  2. no early charge that Joseph had borrowed from Swedenborg
  3. the "similarities" are superficial, while there are many deep differences.

Part of the basis for Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 is clearly rooted in the New Testament, and Swedenborg cannot be the source for the notion of three heavens because of this

First, as discussed above, there is the issue of other sources available to both Joseph and Swedenborg. 1 Corinthians 15: uses both the words celestial and terrestrial to name two of the three heavens. Joseph Smith in Section 76 uses both of these terms. Swedenborg only uses the word celestial. Whether or not Joseph borrowed from Swedenborg, part of the basis for Section 76 is clearly rooted in the New Testament. Swedenborg cannot be the source for the notion of three heavens because of this. At the most we could say that some of Swedenborg's expansions on the idea of heavenly glory have something in common with the revelations received by Joseph Smith.

The charge of Joseph "borrowing" idea from Swedenborg only occurs much later

Second, we don't really see any early charges that Joseph Smith borrowed from Swedenborg. That is, with the Book of Mormon, we have a nearly constant stream of claims that Joseph stole his ideas in the book from somewhere else—Spaulding's manuscript, Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, and so on. But, we don't see anyone claiming that Joseph borrowed from Swedenborg—until D. Michael Quinn makes the claim late in the twentieth century.

Joseph's early critics and readers were quite familiar with Swedenborg—one early critique of Joseph compared him to Swedenborg since both were regarded as false prophets, but said nothing about Swedenborg as a source for Joseph's ideas. [80] A second critique complained about the lack of symbolism in Joseph's ideas. While regarding Swedenborg as a fraud and false prophet, this critic notes that while Swedenborg "was vailed in figures, tropes, and parabols: It: is not so with Joseph Smith: He speaks plainly. He lies openly; and hopes to succeed by inspiring falsehood with the fearlessness of truth...." [81] Thus, neither critic saw the parallels which modern critics are so keen to insist were there.

The lack of an early attack on Joseph on these grounds is thus problematic for a couple of reasons. First, while we know that Joseph probably had some contact with Swedenborg's writings by 1839, the same kinds of arguments made for early access to Swedenborg can also be made for those around Joseph. Swedenborg's work was, after all, in the public library of Joseph's home town, and it was widely published. The same kinds of individuals who would have talked to Joseph certainly could have talked to those around him—and yet we don't get the claims of his being influenced. And this means that it is quite likely that this discussion is purely of more recent manufacture.

The claim ignores the many differences between Joseph's concepts and Swedenborg's

Third, it is easy to claim that there is borrowing when you get to summarize everything. It's a lot harder when you get to read the texts. Here, for example, is the first part of the bit about three heavens from Swedenborg:

There Are Three Heavens

29. There are three heavens, entirely distinct from each other, an inmost or third, a middle or second, and an outmost or first. These have the same order and relation to each other as the highest part of man, or his head, the middle part, or body, and the lowest, or feet; or as the upper, the middle, and the lower stories of a house. In the same order is the Divine that goes forth and descends from the Lord; consequently heave, from the necessity of order, is threefold.

30. The interiors of man, which belong to his mind and disposition, are also in like order. He has an inmost, a middle, and an outmost part; for when man was created all things of Divine order were brought together in him, so that he became Divine order and form, and consequently a heaven in miniature. For this reason man, as regards his interiors, has communication with the heavens and comes after death among the angels, either among those of the inmost, or of the middle, or of the outmost heaven, in accordance with his reception of Divine good and truth from the Lord during his life in the world.

31. The Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the third or inmost heaven is called celestial, and in consequence the angels there are called celestial angels; the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the second or middle heaven is called spiritual, and in consequence the angels there are called spiritual angels; while the Divine that flows in from the Lord and is received in the outmost or first heaven is called natural; but as the natural of that heaven, unlike the natural of the world, has the spiritual and celestial within it, that heaven is called the spiritual- and the celestial-natural, and in consequence the angels there are called the spiritual-natural and celestial-natural. Those who receive influx from the middle or second heaven, which is the spiritual heaven, are called spiritual-natural; and those who receive influx from the third or inmost heaven, which is the celestial heaven, are called celestial-natural. The spiritual-natural angels and the celestial-natural angels are distinct from each other; nevertheless they constitute one heaven, because they are in the same degree.

32. In each heaven there is an internal and an external; those in the internal are called internal angels, while those in the external are called external angels. The internal and the external in the heavens, or in each heaven, hold the same relation as the voluntary and intellectual in man - the internal corresponding to the voluntary, and the external to the intellectual. Every thing voluntary is intellectual; one cannot exist without the other. The voluntary may be compared to a flame and the intellectual to the light therefrom.

So, there are three heavens in Swedenborg. And there are three heavens in Joseph Smith, and there are three heavens in 1 Cor. 15. In the New Testament we have "bodies celestial" - from 1 Cor. 15:40

40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

And in Section 76 we have celestial bodies (verse 78)

78 Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.

And in Swedenborg, we get External, Spiritual-Natural Angels.

The New Testament and the D&C both use a tiered system based on the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars—but Swedenborg's system is repeated brought back to a comparison with the body. When Swedenborg suggests that "... for when man was created all things of Divine order were brought together in him, so that he became Divine order and form, and consequently a heaven in miniature" and for Joseph Smith, man is created in God's image.

It is therefore very easy to portray similarities—but here we can read Swedenborg, and it sounds very little like Joseph Smith. Sure, we can point to some shared words—words like "degree"—but these are not unique to Joseph Smith or to Swedenborg, and so they aren't that useful in demonstrating a connection. On the surface it sounds nice, but once you spend the time to read both texts, it becomes hard to imagine one as the source for the other.



Notes

  1. Jacob 2:27–30.
  2. Levi Richards Journal, 14 May 1843; cited by Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 54.; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 141, 332.
  3. Brigham Young, quoted in Charles L. Walker, "Diary," (Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, 1855–1902), 25–26.
  4. Journal History, 26 August 1857; cited by Hyrum Leslie Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom (Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Co., 1999), 489n436.
  5. Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 64–67. Also discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 67 and Danel W. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage," Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 24. This view is endorsed by Todd Compton, "Fanny Alger Smith Custer: Mormonism's First Plural Wife?," Journal of Mormon History 22/1 (Spring 1996): 178–181.
  6. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 22n11 notes that Roberts' History of the Church introduction (5:xxix) and Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft Co., 1889), 161 were the first to posit the role of Joseph's revision of the Bible in the plural marriage revelation.
  7. Joseph Noble, cited in Millennial Star 16:454.
  8. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, ed. Brigham H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980), 5:xxix.
  9. }Joseph F. Smith at funeral of Elizabeth Ann Whitney; cited in Deseret Evening News (18 February 1882).
  10. W.W. Phelps, Letter to Brigham Young, 1861, original in Church Archives, emphasis in original; cited by B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice, and Demise, Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark Co., 2007), 36–37
  11. Ezra Booth, Letter to the editor, Ohio Star (10 November 1831).
  12. Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans (7 October 1869), Vol. 13 (London: Latter-day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 192–193.
  13. Lyman Johnson as recounted by Orson Pratt, reported in “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40/50 (16 December 1878): 788; cited in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 56.
  14. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, Summer 1905, LDS Archives; cited by Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 65.
  15. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 644. ( Index of claims ); citing Mosiah Hancock Autobiography, 61–62.
  16. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 3n2.
  17. Phelps would publicly teach the idea of eternal marriage soon thereafter: "[W]e came into this world and have our agency, in order that we may prepare ourselves for a kingdom of glory; become archangels, even the sons of God where the man is neither without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord…" - WW Phelps to O[liver] Cowdery, "Dear Brother in the Lord," Latter-day Saint Messenger & Advocate 1/9 (June 1835): 130. See discussion of the Phelps material in Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 28–29
  18. Joseph F. Smith (comment made 4 March 1883) in "Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888," LDS Archives;Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Vision Articles [from Vision Magazine, Vol. 32–46, 48–51, 53–56], vol. 2 (E-book: Price Publishing Company, n.d.), "LDS Leaders Accused Oliver Cowdery of Polygamy".
  19. Augusta Joyce Crocheron (author and complier), Representative Women of Deseret, a book of biographical sketches to accompany the picture bearing the same title (Salt Lake City: J. C. Graham & Co., 1884).
  20. See Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:12–13. Volume 5 link; Richard S. Van Wagoner, "Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18/3 (Fall 1985): 77; Van Wagoner, "Joseph and Marriage," Sunstone 10/9 (January 1986): 32.
  21. Jill C. Mulvay, "The Liberal Shall be Blessed: Sarah M. Kimball," Utah Historical Quarterly 44/3 (Summer 1976): 209; citing (221n11) "Jenson dates Hiram's baptism July 20, 1843. Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1901-36), 2:372. At the end of 1844 Hiram received a patriarchal blessing, an ordinance usually reserved for church members. Patriarchal Blessings, vol. 9, December 25, 1844, manuscript, LDS Archives."
  22. Samuel Katich, "A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith," Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.
  23. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 29. ISBN 0252026810.
  24. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014)
  25. "Nauvoo Journals, December 1841–April 1843," The Joseph Smith Papers
  26. "Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?," Improvement Era (November 1946)
  27. See: Hales, Brian C. "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57.] DNA research is ongoing but it is rendered more difficult since the Y chromosome evidence of paternal lineage is not present in females.
  28. Brian Hales, "A Response to Concerns Regarding Joseph Smith and the Practice of Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," October 17, 2013.
  29. Brian C. Hales, "Encouraging Joseph Smith to Practice Plural Marriage – The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword," Mormon Historical Studies 11/2 (Fall 2010).
  30. Brian Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History, 2:187.
  31. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History 2:190. Originally quoted in "The Prophet's Birthday," Deseret News, January 12, 1881, 2.
  32. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History 2:190. Originally quoted in "Joseph, the Prophet, His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances," Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, January 12, 1895, 212.
  33. Dean Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 38; punctuation and spelling standardized. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  34. Levi Ward Hancock, “Autobiography with Additions in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock,” 63, MS 570, LDS Church History Library, punctuation and spelling standardized; cited portion written by Mosiah. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  35. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
  36. History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
  37. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
  38. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
  39. Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 20:29.
  40. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 156–158.
  41. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 161–162.
  42. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 166, 168.
  43. Gilbert Scharffs, "Marriage Is Ordained of God", The Truth About "The God Makers" off-site
  44. John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire : The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 212.
  45. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 88.
  46. For a critique of Quinn's concept of "theocratic ethics," see Dean C. Jessee, "Review of D. Michael Quinn's the Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," Journal of Mormon History 22/2 (Fall 1996): 163–165. Jessee also treats the matter of Joseph Smith performing marriages in Ohio on pp. 166–167.
  47. Klaus J. Hansen, "Quinnspeak (Review of Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 132–140. off-site
  48. Unless otherwise indicated, the facts in this chapter are drawn from M. Scott Bradshaw, "Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio," Brigham Young University Studies 39 no. 4 (2000), 7–22. See also William G. Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," Brigham Young University Studies 39 no. 4 (2000), 22–69.
  49. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 7.
  50. Bradshaw, "Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio," 43, 45.
  51. Ohio's "Act Regulating Marriages," (1824); cited in Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," 18.
  52. See Doctrine and Covenants (1835 edition), Section CI. . (In 1876, this section was eventually removed, and replaced with the plural marriage revelation as D&C 132.) We must remember that at this point in Church history, the concept of a "temple sealing" or "eternal" marriage was certainly not being taught, and may well not have even been known to Joseph Smith. All Church marriages at the time were what modern members would call "civil marriages," such as those performed by an LDS bishop today.
  53. Doctrine and Covenants (1835 edition), Section CI [DC 101:1].
  54. Newel Knight, Autobiography and Journal, LDS Church Archives, folder one, [45] in Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," 18.
  55. Lydia's history says that Newel "endeavour[ed] to show her that according to the law she was a free woman, having been deserted for three years with nothing provided for her support." – See Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," 15; citing Susa Young Gates [as "Homespun"], Lydia Knight's History: The First Book of the Noble Women's Lives Series (Salt Lake City, Utah: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883), 28.
  56. See Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," page [citation needed]
  57. See Hendrik Harlog, Man & Wife in America: A History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), 87; cited in Allen L. Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 2006 FAIR Conference).
  58. Beverly J. Schwartzberg, Grass Widows, Barbarians, and Bigamists: Fluid Marriage in Late Nineteenth-Century America (Santa Barbara, California: University of California at Santa Barbara Ph.D. dissertation, 2001), 51–52; cited in Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."
  59. Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," 18.
  60. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  61. Todd M. Compton, Response to Tanners, post to LDS Bookshelf mailing list, no date. It should be mentioned that many reviewers of Compton's work do not agree with all of his conclusions, even though he has collected much useful data; see the reviews of In Sacred Loneliness, linked under "Printed material," below.
  62. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 404–405.
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997).
  64. "...such an age difference was not uncommon at the time." Baden-Powell, en.wikipedia.org (accessed 21 January 2006) off-site
  65. "...Clark also met and married Julia Hancock, several years his junior, whom he met when she was 12 years old, and he decided he would marry her on her fifteenth birthday." Biography of William Clark, virginia.edu (accessed 31 May 2006) off-site
  66. Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, "For the Sum of Three Thousand Dollars," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 4–11. off-site wiki
  67. Susan Easton Black (editor), Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, 114; Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 32.
  68. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 360, footnote 27.
  69. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 287.
  70. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 274.
  71. Roger D. Launius, Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 333–335. ISBN 0252065158. ISBN 978-0252065156.
  72. "Julia Gardiner," Wikipedia (accessed 2 May 2015).
  73. Steven Ruggles, Matthew Sobek, Trent Alexander, Catherine A. Fitch, Ronald Goeken, Patricia Kelly Hall, Miriam King, and Chad Ronnander, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center [producer and distributor] (2004), accessed 14 July 2007. off-site
  74. "Marriage Laws of the Fifty States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico," a Cornell Law School web site. off-site
  75. See Melina McTigue, "Statutory Rape Law Reform in Nineteenth Century Maryland: An Analysis of Theory and Practical Change," (2002), accessed 5 Feb 2005. off-site
  76. Thomas Hine, The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager: A New History of the American Adolescent Experience (HarperCollins, 1999), 16.
  77. The Latin title of the original was De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et de inferno, ex Auditis et Visis. An on-line version is available as translated by J.C. Ager, off-site
  78. Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and its Wonders and Hell
  79. See DC 76:76; see also Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:245–252. Volume 1 link
  80. John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the way. No. VI,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (5 September 1840): 94. off-site
  81. Walter Scott, “Mormon Bible–No. III,” The Evangelist (Carthage, Ohio) 9, no. 3 (1 March 1841): 42–45. off-site