Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Index/Chapter 4

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 4" (pp. 241-324)

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

241-248

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

William Clayton and plural marriage

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • See below

William Clayton (edit)

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243

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

The book speculates that John Bennett's marriage record "may have been deleted" after his disagreement with Joseph Smith.

FairMormon Response

  • No evidence that Bennett's relationships were ever sanctioned.
  • John C. Bennett

|response=

  • No source provided.

John C. Bennett (edit)

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244

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

The book speculates that Joseph and Clayton were "conspiring to alter" his wife's "marital status."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

William Clayton (edit)

}}

245

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

Joseph instructed Clayton to send for Sarah Crookes, a close female friend he had known in England, to which Clayton replied that “nothing further than an attachment such as a brother and sister in the Church might rightfully entertain for each other” occurred between them. “But in fact,” G. D. Smith editorializes darkly, “Clayton’s journal recorded the depth of emotional intimacy he had shared with her."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • Smith, Intimate Chronicle, 32, 41, 52, 29, 556.

William Clayton (edit)

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245

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

 Author's quote: "…instead of waiting for [Sarah’s] arrival, [Clayton] married his legal wife’s sister Margaret on April 27. This was before Sarah’s ship had even set sail from England."

FairMormon Response

  • The author strives to paint Clayton as unfaithful to both his first wife (having already had an inappropriate level of emotional intimacy with another woman and the woman against whom he "conspired" with Joseph.
  • 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)

|response=

  • Smith, Intimate Chronicle, 94, 99, 107, 556.

William Clayton (edit)

}}

247

Claim
  • The author states:

…Clayton wrote on October 19 about needing to protect "the truth" by telling untruths, in this case the strategic charade of publicly rebuking someone while privately embracing them. Clayton wrote about Smith's advice: "Says he[,] just keep her [Margaret, his plural wife] at home and brook it and if they raise trouble about it and bring you before me I will give you an awful scourging and probably cut you off from the church and then I will baptise you and set you ahead as good as ever." [Italics and quotation marks as in The author's original.]


Response

  •  Citation error
  • The author's source is given as "Smith, Intimate Chronicle, 122 (emphasis added)." No italics have been added by the author to any portion of Clayton's journal. All italicized material is G.D. Smith's words, not Clayton's.

William Clayton (edit)


247

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

The author states that William Clayton's journal " disclosed his own extracurricular romances."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

William Clayton (edit)

}}

247

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

The author then describes Clayton’s 1853 mission to England, during which, “instead of persuading the flock of the correctness of [polygamy], Clayton contributed to defections and was personally suspected of ‘having had unlawful intercourse with women.’”

FairMormon Response

  • Two hundred pages later, we learn that this suspicion was only because of his [Clayton’s] “discussion of plural marriage” (p. 445), and his [Smith’s] own introduction to Clayton’s journals tell us that the charge was actually raised by an “apostate Mormon,” whom Clayton claimed had maliciously distorted his words, leading to what he called his life’s most painful experience. [1]
  • Polygamy/William Clayton
  • 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)

|response=

  • Smith, Intimate Chronicle, xlviii-l.

William Clayton (edit)

}}

249

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

 Author's quote: "The prophet went on to ask Benjamin [F. Johnson] for his sister Almera [in plural marriage], provoking his protégé to comment that if Smith did anything to 'dishonor or debauch his sister, he would have Benjamin to contend with. As Smith casually deflected this threat, his 'eye did not move from mine,' Johnson reported."

FairMormon Response

  • The author downplays Benjamin's actual threat:
"Brother Joseph This is Something I did not Expect & I do not understand it—You know whether it is right. I do not. I want to do just as you tell me, and I will try. But if I [ever] should Know that you do this to Dishonor & debauch my Sister I will kill you as Shure as the Lord lives"
  • Joseph does not "casually deflect" as is claimed. He promises revelation:
"while his eye did not move from mine He Said with a Smile, in a soft tone ‘But Benjamin you will never know that. But you will know the principle is true and will greatly Rejoice in what it will bring to you…"

|response=

  • Johnson to Gibbs, Apr.-Oct. 1903, 28–29.

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250

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

Benjamin Johnson is said to have been "[i]mpressed by the prophet's inner calm but not fully convinced."

FairMormon Response

  • The author fails to tell us that Joseph promised Benjamin that he would know for himself. He is not impressed by Joseph's calm, but by Joseph's prophetic assurance of revelation directly to Benjamin:
"But.how I asked. Can I teach my Sister when I mYself do not understand…'But you will See & underStand it' he Said and when you open your mouth to talk to your Sister light will come to you & your mouth will be full. & your toung lose."

|response=

  • Johnson to Gibbs, Apr.-Oct. 1903, 28–29.

}}

252

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

The author claims that Joseph "was able to wrap himself in the authority of the Bible…."

FairMormon Response

  • Joseph appealed to Biblical models, but always insisted that his authority was his own, from God, not derived from a Bible reading.
  • Loaded and prejudicial language

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

252

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

The author speculates: "In a theological explication, perhaps partly inspired by convenience, Smith saw the church hierarchy as an extended family that would continue to live together in an afterlife community."

FairMormon Response

  • The author here suggests that Joseph's motivations were mercenary and pragmatic, rather than of sincere conviction. Smith ignores the literature on Joseph's deep-felt need and commitment to binding friendship in his personal life and theology. [2] Such a pervasive theme in his personal and scriptural writing argues against "convenience" as his motivation.
  • Loaded and prejudicial language

|response=

  • Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 212; Extensions of Power, 163–97; Herbert R. Larsen, "Familism in Mormon Social Structure," Ph.D. diss., U of Utah, 1954.

Joseph Smith: cynical motivations (edit)

  • See also ch. 4: 252

}}

253

Claim
  • Benjamin F. Johnson is claimed to be "representative of the mainstream in LDS practice" because he married seven wives…
  • The publisher's response to this original claim generated a new claim: That Joseph "justified taking a monagamist's wife and giving it to a man who already had ten."

Response
  • No source provided.
Statistical problems (edit)
  • See also ch. Preface: xv
  • See also ch. 4: 253 and 289
  • See also ch. 8: 535-536

259-260

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

 Author's quote: "We do not know how long Joseph Smith had been contemplating polygamy, but the earliest conversations in which he explicitly addressed the topic were in late 1840 and early 1841."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

263 n. 54

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

The author quotes Ann Eliza Young regarding events that happened in 1842: "She wrote that some of the events she related depended upon the 'experience of those so closely connected with me that they have fallen directly under my observation.'"

FairMormon Response

  • Ann Eliza Young was born in 1844 in Nauvoo. It is thus impossible for her to have been a witness of events in 1842.

|response=

  • Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

  • Wife No. 19, 74.

274

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

John C. Bennett is claimed to have "publicized Young's clumsy attempt to entice [Martha] Brotherton" into plural marriage.

FairMormon Response

  • The author again tacitly assumes that Bennett's account is reliable and truthful.
  • John C. Bennett

|response= John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

276

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

Brigham Young is claimed to have had an "overall materialistic theology."

FairMormon Response

  • Loaded and prejudicial language
  • Compare with a more informed treatment, which displays a proper grasp of the nuances in both Latter-day Saint and non–Latter-day Saint applications of the term, in Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 419–21.
  • 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)

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

277

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

Brigham Young is claimed to have ridiculed geologists who "tell us that this earth has been in existence for thousands and millions of years."

FairMormon Response

  • This is a major misreading of the text. It completely inverts Brigham's meaning. Brigham endorses the idea of an old earth, and criticizes Christian teachers who insist on a young earth.
  • Brigham Young/As Young Earth Creationist
  • 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)

|response=

  •  Citation error
  • Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

  • Journal of Discourses 12:271 [Smith provides the wrong citation: should be 14:115.]

281

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

 Author's quote: "In part, Smith's organizational labyrinth helped keep the church together…."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

281 and 281 n. 86

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

Brigham Young is claimed to have "worked out a scheme" in which church members were organized into companies of 'tens' and 'fifties'….[footnote] The author then notes that "[t]he first LDS divisions of this kind were in Missouri, where Samson Avard….told men it would soon be their privilege to "….take to yourselves spoils of the goods of the ungodly gentiles."

FairMormon Response

  • The author seems unwilling to let any anti-Mormon trope go unmentioned—we have to have the Danites!
  • Avard has nothing to do with plural marriage, but Smith seems unwilling to let an opportunity to make the Saints look bad pass by. The comment from Avard, without adequate context and an understanding that his teachings were criticized, is prejudicial and misleading.
  • Loaded and prejudicial language

|response=

  • Andrew Jenson, "Caldwell County, Missouri," Historical Record 8 [Jan 1889]: 701.

}}

282

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

 Author's quote: "a history of the Mormons in the West would be … a history of a mad prophet's visions turned by an American genius into the seed of life."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • Bernard DeVoto, The Year of Decision: 1846 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1942), 92-101, 469.

}}

285

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

 Author's quote: "When the opposition newspaper appeared and devoted space to polygamy, Smith and the ruling councils had it destroyed."

FairMormon Response

  • The author gives the false impression that this destruction was the act of the Church—it was not; it was done by the civil government, including non-Mormons. The "council" was the Nauvoo City council.
  • Smith also presumes that the concern was only about polygamy. He fails to inform the reader about concerns regarding its libelous nature and consequent risk of mob violence.
  • For example, Joseph was said to be a “blood thirsty and murderous…demon…in human shape” and “a syncophant [check spelling], whose attempt for power find no parallel in history… one of the blackest and basest scoundrels that has appeared upon the stage of human existence since the days of Nero, and Caligula.” He was also accused of causing the death of young women. The author acts instead as if the paper spoke only of polygamy.
  • Nauvoo Expositor

|response=

  • No source provided.

Nauvoo Expositor (edit)

  • See also ch. Preface: xii
  • See also ch. 4: 285
  • See also ch. 6: 408
  • See also ch. 7: 435

}}

289

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "…since institutional histories have minimized the incidence and profile of polygamy (see chapter 1), it is easy to imagine that most men who entered polygamy did so in a cursory way." "In reality, the typical Utah polygamist whose roots in the principle extended back to Nauvoo had between three and four wives, with a higher incidence of large families."

Response
  • No source provided.
Statistical problems (edit)
  • See also ch. Preface: xv
  • See also ch. 4: 253 and 289
  • See also ch. 8: 535-536

295

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

The author states that as Nauvoo was gradually depopulated, it became increasingly lawless.

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

297

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

It is noted that "Mormons brought about 100 black slaves with them to Deseret, representing two percent of the total population, from 1847 to 1850" and that "[s]lavery and polygamy formed a witch's brew that isolated Deseret from the rest of the U.S. through its territorial period to he 1890s."

FairMormon Response

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}


303

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

 Author's quote: "No doubt, [Heber C. Kimball's] hesitation [in further plural marriages] had been similar to Young's, due to the weight of responsibilities involved in running church operations and because of the adverse publicity from Bennett's disclosures."

FairMormon Response

  • When the relevant documents are examined, it becomes apparent that Kimball was reluctant to practice plural marriage partly because he knew this was difficult for his first wife, Vilate. [3]
  • (Smith mentions these documents subsequently on pp. 304-305, but prefaces them by telling the reader that Kimball's hesitation was all about pragmatic or public relations issues. Yet, the documents strongly suggest that personal and family issues occupied much of Heber's concern.)

|response=

  • No source provided.

}}

309

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

The author speculates that there would have been six plural husbands in Nauvoo by 1842 if John Bennett "had not been expelled…."

FairMormon Response

  • The author again presumes (with no evidence, and against a great deal of evidence) that Bennett's adulteries were ever sanctioned.
  • John C. Bennett

|authorsources=

  • No source provided.

John C. Bennett (edit)

}}

Notes


  1. Smith, Intimate Chronicle, xlix, 488–489, 490 n. 444.
  2. Steven Epperson, ""The Grand, Fundamental Principle": Joseph Smith and the Virtue of Friendship," Journal of Mormon History 23/2 (Fall 1997): 81-101. See also DC 84:63,77-78, DC 88:3-4,62,113,117, DC 93:51, DC 94:1, DC 97:1, DC 100:1, DC 103:1, DC 104:1, DC 105:26, DC 109:6, DC 121:9-10, DC 125:25, JS-H 1:28.
  3. See, for example, 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). See also Stanley B. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball and Family, the Nauvoo Years," Brigham Young University Studies 15/4 (Summer 1975): 466; citing Heber C. Kimball to Vilate Kimball, 12 February 1849. Original letter formerly in the possession of President Spencer W. Kimball, and now in the Church Historical Department; and Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, 16 October 1842 as quoted in Helen Mar Whitney, "Scenes and Incidents," 11 (1 June 1882):1-2.