Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Chapter 4

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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

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

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Response to claim: 243 - John Bennett's marriage record "may have been deleted" after his disagreement with Joseph Smith

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.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

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

There no evidence that Bennett's relationships were ever sanctioned, much less recorded.

John C. Bennett (edit)

Response to claim: 244 - Joseph Smith and William Clayton were "conspiring to alter" his wife's "marital status"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

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 speculation.

William Clayton (edit)


Response to claim: 245 - Instead of waiting for his wife Sarah's arrival, William Clayton married his legal wife’s sister Margaret on April 27

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."

Author's sources:
  1. Smith, Intimate Chronicle, 94, 99, 107, 556.

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

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)

William Clayton (edit)

Response to claim: 247 - William Clayton wrote on October 19 about needing to protect "the truth" by telling untruths

The author(s) make(s) the following 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.]

Author's sources:
  1.  Citation errorThe 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.

FairMormon Response

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

The full text from the primary source is the material from "Says he..." to "...good as ever." The emphasis in italics with quotation marks is all the author's—none of the material about protecting "the truth" by telling untruths derives from Clayton or Joseph Smith. Yet, the use of quotation marks and italics, which George D. Smith says have been added to the primary source, makes it appear as if these are Clayton's or Joseph's words, not the author's.

William Clayton (edit)


Response to claim: 247 - William Clayton was personally suspected of "having had unlawful intercourse with women"

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.’”

Author's sources:
  1. Smith, Intimate Chronicle, xlviii-l.

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

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]

William Clayton (edit)

Response to claim: 249 - Benjamin F. Johnson said that if Joseph Smith "did anything to 'dishonor or debauch his sister, he would have Benjamin to contend with"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. Johnson to Gibbs, Apr.-Oct. 1903, 28–29.

FairMormon Response

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

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 to claim: 250 - Benjamin Johnson is said to have been "Impressed by the prophet's inner calm but not fully convinced"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. Johnson to Gibbs, Apr.-Oct. 1903, 28–29.

FairMormon Response

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

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."

By not telling us this, The author hides the true reason for Johnson's decision to approach his sister, and the fact that his conversion (as recounted by the author) was a fulfillment of Joseph's prophetic promise.

Response to claim: 252 - Joseph "was able to wrap himself in the authority of the Bible"

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…."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

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

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

Response to claim: 252 - "partly inspired by convenience, Smith saw the church hierarchy as an extended family that would continue to live together in an afterlife community"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. 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.

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

The author here suggests that Joseph's motivations were mercenary and pragmatic, rather than of sincere conviction. The author 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.

Joseph Smith: cynical motivations (edit)

  • See also ch. 4: 252

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Response to claim: 253 - Benjamin F. Johnson is claimed to be "representative of the mainstream in LDS practice" because he married seven wives

The author(s) make(s) the following 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."

    Author's sources:

  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

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

In fact, Johnson had more wives than even the average Nauvoo-era polygamist, and these were a small, highly selected group compared to polygamists in Utah.
  • Polygamy/Prevalence of in Utah
  • 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)
  •  The author or publisher responds: The publisher indicates that the reviewer of Nauvoo Polygamy neglected to explain that this comment was intended to illustrate Joseph Smith's interpretation of the New Testament parable of the talents, and that this was used as justification for taking a monagamist's wife and "giving it to a man who already had ten." The publisher indicated that the author "did not mean to imply" that a man had to have ten wives in order to "qualify for such a program."

Statistical problems (edit)

  • See also ch. Preface: xv
  • See also ch. 4: 253 and 289
  • See also ch. 8: 535-536

}}

Response to claim: 259-260 - Joseph "explicitly addressed the topic" of polygmay in late 1840 and early 1841"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph reportedly specifically addressed the matter in the first half of the 1830s.

Response to claim: 263 n. 54 - Ann Eliza Young said that the events she described "have fallen directly under my observation"

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.'"

Author's sources:
  1. Wife No. 19, 74.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

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 to claim: 274 - John C. Bennett is claimed to have "publicized Young's clumsy attempt to entice" Martha Brotherton into plural marriage

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

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

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

John C. Bennett (edit)


Response to claim: 277 - Brigham Young is claimed to have ridiculed geologists who "tell us that this earth has been in existence for thousands and millions of years"

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."

Author's sources:
  1.  Citation error Journal of Discourses 12:271 [Smith provides the wrong citation: should be 14:115.]

FairMormon Response

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

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.


Response to claim: 281 and 281 n. 86 - Samson Avard….told men it would soon be their privilege to "….take to yourselves spoils of the goods of the ungodly gentiles"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. Andrew Jenson, "Caldwell County, Missouri," Historical Record 8 [Jan 1889]: 701.

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

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.

Response to claim: 282 - "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"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. Bernard DeVoto, The Year of Decision: 1846 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1942), 92-101, 469.

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

Response to claim: 285 - "When the opposition newspaper appeared and devoted space to polygamy, Smith and the ruling councils had it destroyed"

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."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

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

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 (edit)

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

Response to claim: 289 - "the typical Utah polygamist whose roots in the principle extended back to Nauvoo had between three and four wives"

The author(s) make(s) the following 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."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

  •  Internal contradiction: vi: "...these same polygamists continued marrying to the point that they had acquired an average of nearly six wives per family. This model became the blueprint for forty years of Utah polygamy."

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

The author also fails to note that polygamists "whose roots…[went] back to Nauvoo," were a tiny minority. Two thirds of polygamous men in Utah had only two wives, >80% had no more than three. Probably 15-20% practiced polygamy at all.

Statistical problems (edit)

  • See also ch. Preface: xv
  • See also ch. 4: 253 and 289
  • See also ch. 8: 535-536


Response to claim: 295 - The author states that as Nauvoo was gradually depopulated, it became increasingly lawless

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

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

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

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

The lawlessness of Nauvoo was in part due to the collapse of any police force when the Illinois legislature rescinded the Nauvoo charter.



Response to claim: 309 - The author speculates that there would have been six plural husbands in Nauvoo by 1842 if John Bennett "had not been expelled"

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…."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

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

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

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.