Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Index/Chapter 2a

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 2" (pp. 108-158)

A FairMormon Analysis of: Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage", a work by author: George D. Smith

108

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

It is claimed that "Sarah Pratt told…Wyl…'There was an old Woman called Durfee…to keep her quiet, he admitted her to the secret blessings of celestial bliss—she boasted here in Salt Lake of having been one of Joseph Smith's wives."

FairMormon Response

  • The author here follows Compton in misreading the Wyl data. Richard Anderson and Scott Faulring argue that
In Sacred Loneliness misleads the reader by claiming that “Sarah Pratt mentions that she heard a Mrs. Durfee in Salt Lake City profess to have been one of Smith’s wives.” But this changes the actual report of Sarah’s comments on Mrs. Durfee: “I don’t think she was ever sealed to him, though it may have been the case after Joseph’s death. . . . At all events, she boasted here in Salt Lake of having been one of Joseph’s wives.”[1]

|authorsources=

  • Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 54.

}}

110-111

Claim
 Author's quote: "When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 and exposed the world to then-indecipherable ancient writings, Europe and the United States became fascinated with Egyptian artifacts. Egyptian hieroglyphics, like the origin of Native American tribes, were mysteries of the times, sometimes regarded as clues to Indian Origins."
  •  Author's quote: "Joseph Smith had grown up…during the time when public interest in the enigmatic Egyptians was burgeoning. The Manchester, New York, rental library, within five miles of the Smith family farm, had acquired a volume on Napoleon."

Author's source(s)
Egyptian influence? (edit) Environmental explanations (edit) Response

111

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author then continues: "This is not to suggest that Smith necessarily visited the library…."

FairMormon Response

  • So why mention it if not to give that impression? If he did not, then it is irrelevant to Joseph Smith's thought or career.

|authorsources=

  • Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," BYU Studies 22 (Summer 1982): 333-56.

}}

111

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author then speculates: "…but from the age of ten…to about age twenty-two (December 1827) when he began dictating the Book of Mormon, published accounts of Napoleon and his foray into Egypt would have been available in books, periodicals, and possibly tracts."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

Fallacy of probability (edit)

  • See also ch. 2: 56
  • See also ch. 2a: 111

}}

110 – 111 n. 150

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Regarding the Chandler papyri, the author claims that Joseph "translated some of the hieroglyphics by means of his white seer stone to produce 'an alphabet…[and] grammar of the Egyptian language' through July 1835."

FairMormon Response

  • The author here acts as if a highly debated matter is settled. It is not at all clear that Joseph's seer stone was used "to produce" the alphabet and grammar. Rather, the alphabet and grammar may have been an attempt by some (possibly including Joseph) to 'reverse-engineer' a translation of Egyptian from the divine translation given of the Book of Abraham.
  • For a detailed response, see: Kirtland_Egyptian_Papers

|authorsources=

  • History of the Church 2:235-36, 238.

}}

112

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "a scholar" in 1823 "rightly concluded that these American [Indian] symbols 'appear to have had little or nothing in common with those of the Egyptians.'"

FairMormon Response

  • This is of no relevance to Joseph Smith unless we are to assume that Joseph taught that American writing could be used to illuminate ancient Egyptian. The Book of Mormon explicitly rejects any such idea, saying that "we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech…. none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof" (Mormon 9:31,34).
  • The author should also consider consulting scholarship more recent than 1823 if he wishes to know whether there are any links between Old World and New World languages.
  • For a detailed response, see: Book of Mormon/Anachronisms/Language/Hebrew and Native American languages

|authorsources=

  • Thomas Young, An Account of Some Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1823).

}}

112

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "As we consider Joseph Smith's new religious texts in early 1842, we should review what was known of the language of ancient Egyptian, not only in 1823 when Smith began to anticipate the Book of Mormon's 'reformed Egyptian records,' but later in the 1830s and 1840s when he prepared his second Egyptian scripture, the Book of Abraham."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

}}

112

Claim
The author assumes that Joseph Smith made an association of Native American pictographs with 'reformed Egyptian.'

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Response

  • What evidence is there of this?


112

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author speculates that "Smith's association of these unrelated cultures [Egypt and the New World] simply reflected the prevailing misperceptions of the pre- to mid-nineteenth century."

FairMormon Response

  • Joseph's scriptural texts associated only a small group from the Old World with the New. His 1842 scriptures had nothing at all to do with the New World.
  • That Joseph's own personal opinions may have reflected his time is irrelevant, unless we presume at the outset (as the author does) that the Book of Mormon was a fabrication by Joseph. If it was not, then his personal views are irrelevant.
  • Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Assumptions and presumptions

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

Environmental explanations (edit)

}}

113

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "The first ancient scripture Smith presented since the Book of Mormon was the Book of Abraham."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Joseph had also produced a Book of Moses and a Book of Enoch (begun June 1830) as part of his revision of the King James Bible. These materials, however, did not rely on a modification of any extant Bible text.



|authorsources=

  • No source provided.
  • Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

113 n. 157

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is claimed to have "altered over 3,400 verses but left the deities singular and in a Trinitarian format."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins, 620.

}}

114

Claim
The author presumes that Joseph "coalesced astronomy, biblical mystery, ancient Egyptian writing, and Masonic ritual into portentous ceremony for his followers."

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Temple (edit)

  • See also ch. 2: 75 and 85
  • See also ch. 2a: 114

Environmental explanations (edit)

Egyptian influence? (edit)

Response


114

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "[t]he spring of 1842 was also the time when John C. Bennett began to separate himself from Smith…."

FairMormon Response

  • Bennett did not separate himself, Joseph forced Bennett out because of his crimes.
  • John C. Bennett

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.
  • Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

    John C. Bennett (edit)
  • See also ch. 1: 5
  • See also ch. 2: 65, 69, 70, 71, 72, and 73
  • See also ch. 2a: 114, 119, 122, and 123-125
  • See also ch. 3: 230
  • See also ch. 4: 243, 274, and 309
  • See also ch. 7: 429

116

Claim
Marinda Johnson "met Joseph while he was retranslating the Bible with Sidney Rigdon in her parents' home in 1831."

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Womanizing & romance (edit)

Response

  • The author again does not tell us that Marinda testified against the version of Joseph's mobbing which he pushes on p. 44.
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)


117-118

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Orson Hyde "was reportedly 'furious'" with Joseph's plural marriage doctrine.

FairMormon Response

  • Cites Ann Eliza Young, but fails to tell the reader there are three other versions, each of which is different and hostile.
  • Ann Eliza’s report of anger is also suspect. Later in the same work cited by the author, she describes Hyde “in a furious passion” because “he thought it no harm for him to win the affection of another man’s wife, . . . but he did not propose having his rights interfered with even by the holy Prophet whose teachings he so implicitly followed." Yet Orson did not begin practicing plural marriage until after he knew of Marinda’s sealing to Joseph.
  • Despite the hostile reports of Orson Hyde’s anger, there are no contemporary accounts of problems between Orson and Joseph, who repeatedly dined with the Hydes following Orson’s return from Palestine.
  • While it is possible that his initial reaction was heated, this perspective derives entirely from authors writing scandalous exposés of the Mormons long after the fact.
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

|authorsources=

  • Ann Eliza Young, Wife Number Nineteen, 324–26.

}}

119

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author assumes censorship when he note that "after John C. Bennett's disagreement with Smith, the record of his celestial marriages was apparently expunged."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

John C. Bennett (edit)

Censorship of Church History (edit)

}}

119

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Smith told Bennett he could not withdraw from the church because he had been 'disfellowshipped' two weeks before on May 11. This apparent backdating was an attempt to discredit Bennett."

FairMormon Response

  • The author has mentioned this before. He has now adopted Bennett's version completely, with no hint that there is more to the story.
  • (Already addressed above, see pp. 65, 70, 72-73.)
  • For a detailed response, see: John C. Bennett

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.
  • Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

    John C. Bennett (edit)
  • See also ch. 1: 5
  • See also ch. 2: 65, 69, 70, 71, 72, and 73
  • See also ch. 2a: 114, 119, 122, and 123-125
  • See also ch. 3: 230
  • See also ch. 4: 243, 274, and 309
  • See also ch. 7: 429

122

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author reports that in John C. Bennett's first letter that "he reported that Smith 'attempted to seduce Miss Nany [check spelling] Rigdon,'…."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • Bennett to Sangamo Journal, June 27, 1842.

John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

123-125

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author recounts John C. Bennett's version of the Sarah Pratt episode.

FairMormon Response

|authorsources= John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

129-134

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The story of Emma Smith pushing Eliza Snow down the stairs is mentioned.

FairMormon Response

|authorsources= Emma, Eliza & stairs (edit)

}}

131-132

Claim
The author notes that "…historian Fawn M. Brodie thought the documentation was strong enough to include it in her biography of Smith."

Author's source(s)

Response

  • Fawn Brodie's evidentiary standard was often depressingly low. She was certain that Oliver Buell was Joseph's son (based on photographic evidence) but DNA evidence has resoundingly refuted her.
  • For a detailed response, see: Emma, Eliza, and the stairs
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)


131 n. 195

Claim
The author cites BYU Studies on Emma and Eliza, but does not disclose that those authors find that the story is not plausible.

Author's source(s)

  • Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., “Emma and Eliza and the Stairs,” BYU Studies 22/1 (Fall 1982): 86–96.

Emma, Eliza & stairs (edit)

Response


132

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author cites Newel and Avery, Mormon Enigma without acknowledging or engaging their arguments against the story of Emma and Eliza.

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 134.

Emma, Eliza & stairs (edit)

}}

133

Claim
The author assumes rumors are evidence: "Most convincing of all is to think that these stories [about Emma] were circulating widely and Eliza never bothered to clarify or refute them."

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Emma, Eliza & stairs (edit)

Response

  • Uncorrected rumor or gossip is more convincing than the absence of diary or behavioral evidence for a pregnancy as outlined by Newel and Avery (see previous)?
  • For a detailed response, see: Emma, Eliza, and the stairs
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)


137

Claim
Censorship is again implied, when the author notes that the History of the Church "reports the day's activities…without a hint of a wedding" to Sarah Ann Whitney.

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Censorship of Church History (edit)

Response


138 - The author talks about Joseph's letter to the Whitneys again: "Three weeks after the wedding, Joseph took steps to spend some time with his newest bride."

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author talks about Joseph's letter to the Whitneys again: "Three weeks after the wedding, Joseph took steps to spend some time with his newest bride."

Author's sources: No source provided.

Whitney "love letter" (edit)

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith write a "love letter" to his plural wife Sarah Ann Whitney to request a secret rendezvous?

On 18 August 1842, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney, who had become his plural wife three weeks earlier, asking them to visit him while he was in hiding.

Critics of the Church would have us believe that this is a private, secret "love letter" from Joseph to Sarah Ann, however, Joseph wrote this letter to the Whitney's, addressing it to Sarah's parents. The "matter" to which he refers is likely the administration of ordinances rather than the arrangement of some sort of private tryst with one of his plural wives. Why would one invite your bride's parents to such an encounter? Joseph doesn't want Emma gone because he wants to be alone with Sarah Ann—a feat that would be difficult to accomplish with her parents there—he wants Emma gone either because she is opposed to plural marriage (the contention that would result from an encounter between Emma and the Whitney's just a few weeks after Joseph's sealing to Sarah Ann would hardly be conducive to having the spirit present in order to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads"), or because she may have been followed or spied upon by Joseph's enemies, putting either Joseph or the Whitneys in danger.

The Prophet was in hiding as a result of the assassination attempt that had been made on Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs

On the 16th of August, 1842, while Joseph was in hiding at the Sayer's, Emma expressed concern for Joseph's safety. She sent a letter to Joseph in which she noted,

There are more ways than one to take care of you, and I believe that you can still direct in your business concerns if we are all of us prudent in the matter. If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

It is evident that there was concern on Emma's part that Joseph's hiding place would be discovered because of all the people visiting Joseph, particularly if they were in the company of Emma

Joseph wrote the next day in his journal,

Several rumors were afloat in the city, intimating that my retreat had been discovered, and that it was no longer safe for me to remain at Brother Sayers'; consequently Emma came to see me at night, and informed me of the report. It was considered wisdom that I should remove immediately, and accordingly I departed in company with Emma and Brother Derby, and went to Carlos Granger's, who lived in the north-east part of the city. Here we were kindly received and well treated." (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, pp. 117-118)

The next day, while in hiding at the Granger's, Joseph wrote a letter to three members of the Whitney family inviting them to come visit him

The letter is addressed to "Brother and Sister Whitney, and &c." Scholars agree that the third person referred to was the Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann, to whom Joseph had been sealed in a plural marriage, without Emma's knowledge, three weeks prior. The full letter, with photographs of the original document, was published by Michael Marquardt in 1973, [2] and again in 1984 by Dean C. Jessee in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. [3] The complete text of the letter reads as follows (original spelling has been retained):

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

Some critics point to this letter as evidence the Joseph wrote a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann, requesting that she visit him while he was in seclusion. Others believe that the letter was a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring their daughter to him so that he could obtain "comfort," with the implication that "comfort" involved intimate relations.


Question: How do critics of the Church portray Joseph Smith's letter to the Whitney family as a "love letter"?

Critical treatments of the letter: Was this a "love" letter to Sarah Ann?

Did Joseph Smith write a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney? Was this letter a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring her to Joseph? Was Joseph trying to keep Sarah Ann and Emma from encountering one another? Certain sentences extracted from the letter might lead one to believe one or all of these things. Critics use this to their advantage by extracting only the portions of the letter which support the conclusions above. We present here four examples of how the text of the letter has been employed by critics in order to support their position that Joseph was asking the Whitney's to bring Sarah Ann over for an intimate encounter. The text of the full letter is then examined again in light of these treatments.

Critical presentation #1

Consider the following excerpt from a website that is critical of the Church. Portions of the Whitney letter are extracted and presented in the following manner:

... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith.
—’’Rethinking Mormonism’’, “Did Joseph Smith have sex with his wives?” (Web page)

This certainly has all of the elements of a secret “love letter:” The statement that it would not be safe if Emma were there, the request to “burn this letter as soon as you read it,” and the stealthy instructions for approaching the house. The question is, who was this letter addressed to? The critics on their web site clearly want you to believe that this was a private letter to Sarah Ann.

Critical presentation #2

Here is the way that Van Wagoner presents selected excerpts of the same letter. In this case, at least, he acknowledges that the letter was addressed to “the Whitney’s,” rather than Sarah, but adds his own opinion that it “detailed [Joseph’s] problems in getting to see Sarah Ann without Emma's knowledge:”

My feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us ... if you three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me, now is the time to Afford me succor ... the only thing to be careful is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety.
—Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 48.

Critical presentation #3

This version, presented by George D. Smith, presents excerpts from the letter which makes it sound like Joseph was absolutely lusting for the company of Sarah Ann. Smith even makes Napoleon Bonaparte a Joseph Smith doppelgänger by quoting a letter from the future Emperor to Josephine of their first night together:

"I have awakened full of you. The memory of last night has given my senses no rest. . . . What an effect you have on my heart! I send you thousands of kisses—but don’t kiss me. Your kisses sear my blood” (p. xi). George Smith then claims that a “young man of ambition and vision penned his own letter of affection to a young woman. It was the summer of 1842 when thirty-six-year-old Joseph Smith, hiding from the law down by the Mississippi River in Illinois, confessed:"

Smith then compares the excerpts from Napoleon's letter above to portions of the Whitney letter:

My feelings are so strong for you . . . come and see me in this my lonely retreat . . . now is the time to afford me succour . . . I have a room intirely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect saf[e]ty, I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me.
—George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Polygamy: We Called It Celestial Marriage,” Free Inquiry [Council for Secular Humanism] 28/3 (April–May 2008): 44–46.

Critical presentation #4

Finally, we have a version which acknowledges the full contents of the letter...but only after presenting it in the manner described above numerous times. The author eventually provides the full text of this letter (150 pages after its comparison with Napoleon). Since there are no extant "love letters" from Joseph Smith to any of his plural wives, the mileage that the author of Nauvoo Polygamy..."but we called it celestial marriage" extracts from the single letter to the Whitney's is simply astounding:

  • "[i]t was eleven years after the Smiths roomed with the Whitneys that Joseph expressed a romantic interest in their daughter, as well." (p. 31)
  • "recommended his friend, whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married, should 'come a little a head, and nock…at the window.'" (p. 53)
  • "Emma Hale, Joseph's wife of fifteen years, had left his side just twenty-four hours earlier. Now Joseph declared that he was "lonesome," and he pleaded with Sarah Ann to visit him under cover of darkness. After all, they had been married just three weeks earlier. (p. 53)
  • "As will be seen, conjugal visits appear furtive and constantly shadowed by the threat of disclosure." (p. 63)
  • “when Joseph requested that Sarah Ann Whitney visit him and ‘nock at the window,’ he reassured his new young wife that Emma would not be there, telegraphing his fear of discovery if Emma happened upon his trysts.” (p. 65)
  • "Three weeks after the wedding, Joseph took steps to spend some time with his newest bride." (p. 138)
  • "It was the ninth night of Joseph's concealment, and Emma had visited him three times, written him several letters, and penned at least one letter on his behalf…For his part, Joseph's private note about his love for Emma was so endearing it found its way into the official church history. In it, he vowed to be hers 'forevermore.' Yet within this context of reassurance and intimacy, a few hours later the same day, even while Joseph was still in grave danger and when secrecy was of the utmost urgency, he made complicated arrangements for a visit from his fifteenth plural wife, Sarah Ann Whitney." (p. 142)
  • "Smith urged his seventeen-year-old bride to 'come to night' and 'comfort' him—but only if Emma had not returned….Joseph judiciously addressed the letter to 'Brother, and Sister, Whitney, and &c." (p. 142-143)
  • "Invites Whitneys to visit, Sarah Ann to 'comfort me' if Emma not there. Invitation accepted." (p.. 147)
  • "As if Sarah Ann Whitney's liaison were not enough…another marriage took place…." (p. 155)
  • "summer 1842 call for an intimate visit from Sarah Ann Whitney…substantiate[s] the intimate relationships he was involved in during those two years." (p. 185)
  • “his warning to Sarah Ann to proceed carefully in order to make sure Emma would not find them in their hiding place.” (p. 236)
  • "Just as Joseph sought comfort from Sarah Ann the day Emma departed from his hideout…." (p. 236)
  • "Elizabeth [Whitney] was arranging conjugal visits between her daughter, Sarah Ann, and [Joseph]…." (p. 366)

One must assume that this is the closest thing that the author could find to a love letter, because the "real" love letters from Joseph to his plural wives do not exist. The author had to make do with this one, despite the fact that it did not precisely fit the bill. With judicious pruning, however, it can be made to sound sufficiently salacious to suit the purpose at hand: to "prove" that Joseph lusted after women.

The full story

In contrast to the sources above, Compton actually provides the complete text of the letter up front, and concludes that "[t]he Mormon leader is putting the Whitney's in the difficult position of having to learn about Emma's movements, avoid her, then meet secretly with him" and that the "cloak-and-dagger atmosphere in this letter is typical of Nauvoo polygamy." [4]

What parts of the Whitney letter do the critics not mention?

As always, it is helpful to view the entire set of statements in content. Let's revisit the entire letter, this time with the selections extracted by the critics highlighted:

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

So, let’s take a look at the portions of the letter that are not highlighted.

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

The letter is addressed to “Brother and Sister Whitney.” Sarah Ann is not mentioned by name, but is included as “&c.,” which is the equivalent of saying “and so on,” or “etc.” This hardly implies that what follows is a private “love letter” to Sarah Ann herself.

Could this have been an appeal to Sarah's parents to bring her to Joseph? In Todd Compton's opinion, Joseph "cautiously avoids writing Sarah's name." [5] However, Joseph stated in the letter who he wanted to talk to:

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams;

Joseph wants to talk to “you three,” meaning Newel, Elizabeth and Sarah Ann.


Question: What was the real purpose of the letter written by Joseph Smith to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney?

The one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics

Interestingly enough, the one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics:

..one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me...

According to Richard L. Bushman, this may have been "a reference perhaps to the sealing of Newel and Elizabeth in eternal marriage three days later." [6] Compton adds, "This was not just a meeting of husband and plural wife, it was a meeting with Sarah's family, with a religious aspect. [7]

Joseph needed to have the company of friends who supported him

In addition to the stated purpose of the meeting, Joseph "may have been a lonely man who needed people around him every moment." [8] Consider this phrase (included in Van Wagoner's treatment, but excluded by the others):

...it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am al[l]ied, do love me, now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile. (emphasis added)

These are not the words of a man asking his secret lover to meet him for a private tryst—they are the words of a man who wants the company of friends.

"...when Emma comes then you cannot be safe"

So, what about Emma? The letter certainly contains dire warnings about having the Whitney's avoid an encounter with Emma. We examine several possible reasons for the warning about Emma. Keep in mind Emma's stated concern just two days prior,

If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

Joseph wished to discuss and/or perform a sealing ordinance that Emma had not yet received

Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks before without Emma's knowledge.[9] Joseph may have wished to offer a sealing blessing to Newel and Elizabeth Whitney at this time. Given Joseph's indication to the Whitneys that he wished to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads," and the fact that Emma herself was not sealed until she consented to the doctrine of plural marriage nine months later, Joseph may have felt that Emma’s presence would create an uncomfortable situation for all involved—particularly if she became aware of his sealing to Sarah Ann.

Joseph wished to avoid involving his friends in case he were found by those looking for him

If Joseph was in hiding, he had good reason to avoid being found (hence the request to burn the letter that disclosed his location). He would also not want his friends present in case he were to be found. Anyone that was searching for Joseph knew that Emma could lead them to him if they simply observed and followed her. If this were the case, the most dangerous time for the Whitney's to visit Joseph may have been when Emma was there—not necessarily because Emma would have been angered by finding Sarah Ann (after all, Emma did not know about the sealing, and she would have found all three Whitney's there—not just Sarah Ann), but because hostile men might have found the Whitney's with Joseph. Note that Joseph's letter states that "when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible." Joseph wanted the Whitneys to avoid observation by anyone, and not just by Emma.


139

Claim
The book claims that in an "extraordinary move, the Nauvoo City Council issued an ordinance limiting the power of state courts and claiming the right to review and dismiss future writs."

Author's source(s)

  • Roberts, Comprehensive History 2:468-69.

Nauvoo city charter (edit)

  • See also ch. 1: 2
  • See also ch. 2a: 139
  • See also ch. 3: 160, 161, and 163

Response


142

Claim
The author really wants readers to understand Joseph's letter to the Whitneys:

"It was the ninth night of Joseph's concealment, and Emma had visited him three times, written him several letters, and penned at least one letter on his behalf…For his part, Joseph's private note about his love for Emma was so endearing it found its way into the official church history. In it, he vowed to be hers 'forevermore.' Yet within this context of reassurance and intimacy, a few hours later the same day, even while Joseph was still in grave danger and when secrecy was of the utmost urgency, he made complicated arrangements for a visit from his fifteenth plural wife, Sarah Ann Whitney."

Author's source(s)
Whitney "love letter" (edit)

Response


142-143

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Referring to the Whitney letter, the author notes: "Smith urged his seventeen-year-old bride to 'come to night' and 'comfort' him—but only if Emma had not returned….Joseph judiciously addressed the letter to 'Brother, and Sister, Whitney, and &c."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources= Whitney "love letter" (edit)

Ages of wives (edit)

  • See also ch. Preface: ix
  • See also ch. 1: 1, 22, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 44
  • See also ch. 2: 53
  • See also ch. 2a: 142-143
  • See also ch. 3: 198
  • See also ch. 6: 408

}}

147

Claim
Referring yet again to the Whitney letter, the author notes: "Invites Whitneys to visit, Sarah Ann to 'comfort me' if Emma not there. Invitation accepted."

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Whitney "love letter" (edit)

Response


147–154

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The book recounts the Nancy Rigdon episode

FairMormon Response

|authorsources= John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

149

Claim
The author assumes that Sidney Rigdon "was in many ways a mentor to Joseph."

Author's source(s)

  • No source provided.

Response

  • What evidence is there of this? Joseph was always in charge and always the senior partner, though he was happy to make use of Rigdon's skills as an orator.
  • Joseph had published the Book of Mormon and had the Church well established before Rigdon appeared. He did not need Sidney to "mentor" him at all.


149

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author speculates that Sidney Rigdon "was not someone Joseph felt comfortable approaching to ask for his daughter's hand in polygamy. So Joseph appealed to the young woman directly."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

149

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "For some reason, Marinda [Johnson Hyde] stayed [in the same house as] Apostle Willard Richards, whose wife, Jennetta, was in Massachusetts….Although the two may have lived in separate parts of the building…their living arrangements seemed to be an open scandal."

FairMormon Response

  • This hardly has the appearance of an "open scandal." From History of the Church:

Thursday, 2.—I received the following revelation to Nancy Marinda Hyde— Revelation.
Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have called upon me to know my will concerning my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde—behold it is my will that she should have a better place prepared for her, than that in which she now lives, in order that her life may be spared unto her; therefore go and say unto my servant, Ebenezer Robinson, and to my handmaid his wife—Let them open their doors and take her and her children into their house and take care of them faithfully and kindly until my servant Orson Hyde returns from his mission, or until some other provision can be made for her welfare and safety. Let them do these things and spare not, and I the Lord will bless them and heal them if they do it not grudgingly, saith the Lord God; and she shall be a blessing unto them; and let my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her, and it shall be a blessing upon her and upon her children after her, unto her justification, saith the Lord.

|authorsources=

  • History of the Church 4:467
    •  Citation error Bennett, History of the Saints, 241; [Error! The correct page is 243 for the claim of scandal.]
  • Ebenezer Robinson, The Return (Oct 1890): 347 [Actually most is on p. 346].
  • (Did the author just copy these from Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, who uses the same page numbers, rather than check the originals?

}}

154

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that both Nancy Rigdon and Martha Brotherton were "isolated in a locked room during the persuasive effort."

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

}}

155

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author refers to Joseph's visit by the Whitneys as a "liaison" with Sarah Ann.

FairMormon Response

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

Whitney "love letter" (edit)

}}

Notes

  1. Richard Lloyd Anderson and Scott H. Faulring, "The Prophet Joseph Smith and His Plural Wives (Review of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith)," FARMS Review of Books 10/2 (1998): 67–104. off-site
  2. Michael Marquardt, 1973 pamphlet "The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Joseph C. Kingsbury, and Heber C. Kimball," George Albert Smith Family Papers, Manuscript 36, Box 1, Early Smith Documents, 1731-1849, Folder 18, in the Special Collections, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (source). The original is in the LDS Church Archives.
  3. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, [original edition] (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1984), 539–540. ISBN 0877479747. GL direct link
  4. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  5. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 349. ( Index of claims )
  6. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  7. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  8. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  9. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.

Further reading

A FAIR Analysis of Critical Works