Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Chapter 7

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 7"

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 7"

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Response to claim: 416 - "the 1846 temple sealings, which re-comemorated previously conducted plural marriages, were carefully noted in Nauvoo temple records"

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

 Author's quote: "…the 1846 temple sealings, which re-comemorated previously conducted plural marriages, were carefully noted in Nauvoo temple records."

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 Church has allowed these records to be seen by researchers and even published by Signature Books. [1] This seems a strange course of action for an organization determined (as the author repeatedly insists) to "expurgating" the history of plural marriage.

Censorship of Church History (edit)

Response to claim: 423 - Joseph Smith is claimed to have "appropriated church members' charitable donations for real estate speculation, buying low and selling high to those immigrants who could afford to pay"

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

In Nauvoo, Joseph is claimed to have "appropriated church members' charitable donations for real estate speculation, buying low and selling high to those immigrants who could afford to pay."

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph had, in fact, signed a note for the land—thus going into debt himself. He sold land at variable prices, charging those who could afford more money so that he could give free or cheap land to the poor. This is not land speculation.


Question: Did Joseph Smith engage in "land speculation" in Nauvoo?

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

Those that made this accusation against Joseph Smith had their profits harmed by Joseph's policy of giving land to the poor

The Law's claimed that Joseph Smith used Church members' donations to engage in "land speculation" in Nauvoo. However, the Laws’ profits were harmed by Joseph’s policy of giving land to the poor, and the Laws also resented his ability to influence buyers. G. D. Smith’s account is a caricature of the facts. Few citations to the relevant literature are provided.

G. D. Smith claims that “the Law brothers came into a . . . dispute with [Joseph] over his conduct as trustee-in-trust for the church. In that capacity, [Joseph] had appropriated church members’ charitable donations for real estate speculation, buying low and reselling high to those immigrants who could afford to pay” (p. 423). In fact, Joseph had signed two promissory notes of $25,000 for Nauvoo, payable to Eastern land speculators.

Yet the dispossession suffered by the Saints in Missouri made repayment difficult since many could not afford to purchase land. [2] “Joseph wanted to help,” reports Richard Bushman, “but huge debts prevented him from simply giving away land. What could poor converts do?” Joseph’s preference was “to give land to the poor, especially to widows and orphans. To finance these free gifts, he wanted others to pay generously. The high council priced Nauvoo lots from $200 to $800, leaving room for negotiation. All these judgments required patience and wisdom and exposed Joseph to criticism for gouging and unfair treatment.” [3] In addition, “in June 1840, he asked the high council to appoint someone else to attend to ‘the temporalities of the Church.’ . . . [B]ut his appeal went unheeded, . . . leaving Joseph responsible for the debts and final disposition of land.” [4]

Thus the charge that Joseph was involved in “real estate speculation” is not true. G. D. Smith’s claim that Joseph was selling high “to those . . . who could afford to pay” is a bit of verbal legerdemain—it is true, while still managing to hide the fact that the Prophet was giving away land to those who could not pay. Joseph was already in debt for the land; land sold for higher prices did not benefit Joseph but did benefit those Saints too poor to afford land at all.

On what basis, then, were the Law brothers complaining? Their motives were not so pure as G. D. Smith suggests, just as Joseph’s actions were not so venal as G. D. Smith’s version implies. The Laws invested in lots in upper Nauvoo and on the outskirts while the church held title to the lower city. As Lyndon Cook has explained,

By 1843 the fundamental economic interests of the [Laws] and the Mormon leader were in definite conflict. Brisk competition caused the Prophet to insist that the Saints purchase building lots from only the Church. Although most recognized this as a sacrifice which would assist in liquidating Church debts, to William Law it sounded too much like totalitarianism. [5]

  • 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 to claim: 429 - A friend of Nancy Rigdon, Francis had become concerned in 1842 over Smith's advances toward her"

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

 Author's quote: "A friend of Nancy Rigdon, Francis had become concerned in 1842 over Smith's advances toward her."

FairMormon Response

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

The author fails to tell us that Francis was, in fact, Nancy's boyfriend and her suitor. He also neglects to mention that Francis had contracted a venereal disease from a prostitute, had been seducing women under John C. Bennett's tutelage, and may have engaged in a homosexual relationship with Bennett.

John C. Bennett (edit)

Response to claim: 435 - Dallin H. Oaks' assertation that the "abatement of newspapers publishing scandalous or provocative material" was not considered a violation of freedom of the press at the time"

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

The author claims that Dallin H. Oaks' assertation that the "abatement of newspapers publishing scandalous or provocative material" was not considered a violation of freedom of the press at the time draws "no distinction between the destruction of a newspaper without a trial and a libel charge being tried in the courts."

Author's sources:
  1. Edwin Brown Firmage and Richard Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts : a Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 112-13, 390n13 (Citing Oaks). ISBN 0252069803.

FairMormon Response

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

The author's "reply" to Dallin Oaks is a non sequitur. Oaks (and Firmage and Mangrum) demonstrate at length that both Illinois and U.S. law had ample precedent in case law and practice for the abatement of the Expositor. If the author wishes to dispute the legal scholarship marshaled by Oaks' 40 page review, it deserves more than a dismissive footnote, and he ought to interact with Oaks' article, not a brief summary in a secondary source. [6]

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: 438–439 - William Law's claims about Joseph mismanaging or defrauding the Lawrence estate

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

The author follows William Law's claims about Joseph mismanaging or defrauding the Lawrence estate.

Author's sources:
  1. Cook, William Law, 120.

FairMormon Response

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

The author completely ignores the primary documents on this issue, and relies only on Law's hostile, and demonstrably false, account.


Question: Did Joseph Smith mismanage the estate of two orphans, Maria and Sarah Lawrence by marrying these sisters polygamously in order to use the marriage to enrich himself?

The account presented is given by a bitter apostate: The courts found that Joseph's conduct had been appropriate

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

It is claimed that Joseph Smith mismanaged the estate of two orphans, Maria and Sarah Lawrence. Joseph also married these sisters polygamously, and it is suggested that he also used the marriage to enrich himself. [7]

The account presented is given by a bitter apostate—offered nearly forty-three years after the fact—exclusive precedence over contemporary court documents, which demonstrate that the courts found that Joseph's conduct had been appropriate.

G.D. Smith reports that William Law charged Joseph with

fiduciary neglect of his teenage responsibility, Maria Lawrence. Reviewing his own actions forty years later, Law concluded that Joseph was not the only one who had taken advantage of a defenseless girl. Emma, he believed, was equally complicit. . . . With Hyrum Smith’s death, William Law, the other bondsman for the Lawrences, felt acutely the responsibility he bore, ultimately reimbursing Joseph’s $3,000 worth of expenses charged to the estate—the amount Joseph had claimed as the value of room and board (pp. 438–39).

Repeating error

By accepting Law’s account, G. D. Smith commits many of the same errors present in Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness. However, even before the publication of Compton’s book, Gordon A. Madsen had presented data showing the falsity of Law’s charges. Compton has the excuse that Madsen’s material was unpublished when his book went to press and only available from a presentation made at the Mormon History Association in 1996. More than a decade later, G. D. Smith makes the same errors, though with no hint of the exculpatory evidence available from the primary documents. [8] He even cites Madsen’s materials but tells the reader nothing about their contents. [9]

Ignoring other sources since Compton

G. D. Smith has apparently not paid attention to what the FARMS Review reported on this topic either, since

most of what Law said about the estate itself was incorrect. . . . Madsen’s paper quoted the will, under which Maria and Sarah would share equal parts of the estate with several siblings, but the distribution was not due during the life of their widowed mother, who was entitled to her share of annual interest on the undivided assets. . . . Between 1841 and early 1844, Joseph Smith charged nothing for boarding Maria and Sarah, nor did he bill the estate for management fees. Furthermore, in mid-1843, the probate court approved his accounts, including annual interest payments to the widow, as required by the will. . . . Gordon Madsen’s overall point was that the Prophet met his legal responsibilities in being entrusted with the Lawrence assets. There is no hint of fraud. [10]

Following William Law regardless

But rather than respond to this material or describe Madsen’s conclusions, G. D. Smith merely follows the hostile William Law. Madsen further informed me that there was never any “cash” in the estate delivered to Joseph, and certainly not the “$8,000.00 in English gold” that Law would later claim. [11]

The bulk of the estate was in promissory notes owed by fellow Canadians to the Lawrences. Law was well aware of this since he and his brother Wilson were hired by Joseph to collect some of these debts. Joseph’s accounts provided the probate court list payment to “W. & W. Law” in such cases. At one point, Joseph “sent William Clayton to Wilson Law to find out why he refused paying his note, when he brought in some claims as a set-off which Clayton knew were paid, leaving me no remedy but the glorious uncertainty of the law.” [12] It is not clear whether this was Law’s own note or one owed to the Lawrences. Certainly the estate was never liquid, and it is likely that not all of the notes had been collected before Joseph’s death. [13]

To portray Joseph as “us[ing] celestial marriage as a means to access . . . [a] fortune” (p. 439) is to ignore virtually all the primary sources.


  • See also ch. 3: 196
  • 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 to claim: 445 - William Clayton's "discussion of plural marriage was at once turned into a charge of having had 'unlawful intercourse with women'"

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

William Clayton's "discussion of plural marriage was at once turned into a charge of having had 'unlawful intercourse with women.'"

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

William Clayton (edit)

FairMormon Response

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

The author told us earlier only that in England Clayton "was personally suspected of ‘having had unlawful intercourse with women.’” He said nothing about this being due only to Clayton's discussion of the matter. Even now, though, the author still does not tell us that the charge came from an “apostate Mormon,” whom Clayton claimed had maliciously distorted his words.

Response to claim: 446 - Andrew Jenson published about plural wives, only to have Wilford Woodruff complain about him having done so

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

The author mentions that Andrew Jenson published about plural wives, only to have Wilford Woodruff complain about him having done so. The author has continuously argued that the Church has striven to hide or suppress knowledge of polygamy.

Author's sources:
  1. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 135.

FairMormon Response

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

The author does not tell us that the reason Woodruff was worried was because at the time (1887) federal marshals were pursuing and jailing polygamists and their wives who refused to testify. Woodruff was trying to keep members out of jail, not trying to suppress polygamy.


Question: Did Wilford Woodruff criticize assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson's decision to publish the names of those who were married to Joseph Smith because he wanted to hide the fact that Joseph was married to other women?

Jenson’s material, coming when it did, could have put members in danger

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

Jenson’s material, coming when it did, could have put members in danger. But G.D. Smith makes it appear that Woodruff was trying to hide the practice of plural marriage in 1887. [14]

What is not explained or acknowledged is that Woodruff’s paramount concern was not to hide history or deny plural marriage

George D. Smith writes that Jenson's article “appeared on the down-side slope of the historical peak in polygamy . . . [and] Woodruff complained to Jenson.” G. D. Smith quotes Woodruff to the effect that “we do not think it a wise step to give these names to the world at the present time in the manner in which you have done. . . . Advantage may be taken of their publication and in some instances, to the injury, perhaps, of families or relatives of those whose names are mentioned” (p. 447).[15]

What is not explained or acknowledged is that Woodruff’s paramount concern was not to hide history or deny plural marriage (the Manifesto was three years in the future: polygamy was hardly a secret).

Woodruff likely feared the very real risk of spies and government agents using the information to prosecute members of the church

Rather, Woodruff likely feared the very real risk of spies and government agents using the information to prosecute members of the church. At this period, women were jailed for refusing to testify against husbands; hundreds of men were in hiding or in prison. “Words are inadequate to convey the feelings of those times—the hurts to individuals and families, to the church. . . . Families were torn apart, left to provide as best they could.”[16]

  • 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 to claim: 449 - Latter-day Saints "accepted as sufficient" that Joseph Smith's death was "due to an angry mob, without caring to know specifically what those Illinois neighbors had been angry about"

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

The author implies that Latter-day Saints "accepted as sufficient" that Joseph Smith's death was "due to an angry mob, without caring to know specifically what those Illinois neighbors had been angry about."

Author's sources:
  1. The author lists these works but does not give page numbers.
  2. Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 1965).
  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History: A History of the Church from the Birth of Joseph Smith to the Present Time (1922), with Introductory Chapters on the Antiquity of the Gospel and The “Falling Away” (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1922).
  4. William E. Berrett, The Restored Church: A Brief History of the Origin, Growth and Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City: Department of Education of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Deseret Book, 1958).
  5. Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, An Apostle; The Father and Founder of the British Mission (Salt Lake City: Kimball family, 1888).
  6. Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-Day Saints, 2nd ed. (New York: Knopf, 1992).

Censorship of Church History (edit)

FairMormon Response

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

 History unclear or in error The author cites five works for this claim. All five, contrary to his claim, discuss the role of plural marriage in Joseph Smith's martyrdom, as well as other facts.


Question: Do Mormon histories have a long history of omitting mention of plural marriage as a cause for the Saints' troubles in Illinois?

The claim that six Latter-day Saint histories omit plural marriage as a cause for difficulties in Nauvoo is clearly false

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

"Mormons accepted as sufficient the explanation that Joseph Smith’s death was due to an angry mob, without caring to know specifically what those Illinois neighbors had been angry about,” writes one critical author, citing five works from 1888 to 1979 (pp. 5, 449–50, n. 105). These references provide a textbook example of footnotes that do not support one’s claims. [17]

The author's claim that these six histories omit plural marriage as a cause for difficulties in Nauvoo is clearly false.[18]

Roberts: Contrary to the author's claim about Roberts’s Comprehensive History, Roberts described plural marriage

Contrary to G. D. Smith’s claim about Roberts’s Comprehensive History, Roberts described plural marriage, concluding, “Bearing this situation in mind, I am sure the reader will better appreciate the many complications which follow in this Nauvoo period of our history.”[19] Roberts’s discussion of the Expositor reminds the reader of “the introduction of the practice of the new marriage system of the church, permitting under special conditions a plurality of wives,” and notes that the dissident paper had “charged the Prophet with exercising illegal authority, both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs; with the introduction of the plural wife system, and other supposed doctrinal heresies; with gross immoralities; and malfeasance in the administration of the affairs of the church.”

Roberts did not deny that errors by the Saints played a role:

This bitterness had been created in the public mind in large part through the misrepresentations that had been made of the purposes and designs of the church leaders; in part by the unwisdom of church members, for whom no claim is made of impeccability, either in word or action; nor is absolute inerrancy in judgment and policy claimed for even the leaders of the church.[20]

Joseph Fielding Smith: Admits the introduction of plural marriage by Joseph Smith and writes that the Prophet was arrested on a charge of polygamy

For his claim that plural marriage was ignored as a cause of Joseph’s death, G. D. Smith also cites Joseph Fielding Smith’s Essentials of Church History. Yet Joseph Fielding Smith both admits the introduction of plural marriage by Joseph Smith and writes that the Prophet was arrested on a charge of polygamy.[21]

Berrett argues that one of the new doctrines that set the Saints apart was "the doctrine of plural marriage"

G. D. Smith’s appeal to William E. Berrett’s The Restored Church for the suppression thesis is likewise unpersuasive. In a section titled “Causes of the Conflict in Illinois,” Berrett argues that one of the new doctrines that set the Saints apart

was especially responsible for bringing persecution upon the Church. That was the doctrine of plural marriage by divine sanction. . . . In 1840, the doctrine was taught to a few leading brethren who, with the Prophet, secretly married additional wives in the following year. This secrecy could not be long kept, yet the doctrine was not openly discussed. This state of affairs gave rise to serious slander outside the Church. . . . He was convinced that the practice of the doctrine would bring bitter persecution upon the Church and eventually cause him to lose his life. . . . The Prophet was aware that the social order he contemplated would arouse bitter opposition in Illinois. . . . And this not because the Mormons were hard to get along with, or because non-Mormons were wicked, but because the teachings of the Church and the existing social orders were so directly in conflict. (italics in original)[22]

That Berrett’s work was originally published by the church’s Educational Department in 1937 (a fact not noted in G. D. Smith’s footnote) is significant.

Whitney tells the well-known story of Joseph requesting Vilate Kimball as his wife

G. D. Smith’s footnote also suggests that Orson F. Whitney’s biography of Heber C. Kimball supports his view. Whitney’s biography tells the well-known story of Joseph requesting Vilate Kimball as his wife and introduces the martyrdom by declaring that “without doubt, the revelation of the great principle of plural marriage was a prime cause of the troubles which now arose, culminating in the Prophet’s martyrdom and the exodus of the Church into the wilderness.”<ref<{{Book:Whitney:Life of Heber C. Kimball|pages=323–29, (emphasis added)</ref>

Arrington and Bitton: “An additional element [that] contributed to the Mormons’ problems in Illinois—as if more were required—were the rumors of plural marriage that began to circulate in Nauvoo"

Finally, Smith appeals to Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton’s The Mormon Experience. These authors again note the contribution of polygamy that G. D. Smith insists Mormon histories ignore. The following language contradicts his thesis: “An additional element [that] contributed to the Mormons’ problems in Illinois—as if more were required—were the rumors of plural marriage that began to circulate in Nauvoo,” and “paradoxically, continuing revelation . . . contributed to the divisions of Nauvoo because of the development during this period of certain unusual doctrines, . . . especially plural marriage.” “From the first, polygamy was an explosive issue,” according to Arrington and Bitton. “A scandal to non-Mormon neighbors, it also caused a number of defections within the Mormon camp even before the death of Joseph Smith. . . . By the fall of 1843 the subject of plurality was on every tongue in the city.” Arrington and Bitton also point out that the Expositor “contained inflammatory allegations about the sex lives of Mormon leaders and members.”[23]

Godfrey: “Saints were accused of believing in plural marriage...this doctrine and practice became a major source of non-Mormon resentment.”

G. D. Smith even goes so far as to claim that “one LDS Educator in 1967 wrote about the ‘causes’ of conflict in Nauvoo and mentioned Joseph’s death as a watershed moment . . . without mentioning plural marriage.” He cites the seventh chapter of Kenneth W. Godfrey’s 1967 PhD dissertation for this claim.[24] This chapter is actually entitled “Plural Marriage.” “As early as 1836,” wrote Godfrey, the “Saints were accused of believing in plural marriage. But it was not until the Nauvoo period . . . that this doctrine and practice became a major source of non-Mormon resentment.”[24]:91 Godfrey discusses the first hints of plural marriage in 1831, the Fanny Alger marriage, and Oliver Cowdery’s angry reaction.

When he treats the Nauvoo period, Godfrey notes that “by 1841 or 1842 plural marriage was secretly being practiced with increased frequency.” Godfrey even follows, without comment, Brodie’s exaggerated estimate of forty-nine wives for Joseph.[24]:95 He also details the secrecy surrounding plural marriage and the deception used to maintain it:

Possibly Joseph Smith, partly because of Gentile opposition, kept the doctrine as secret as possible. . . . It was kept so secret that many members of the Church denied that it was even taught. . . . Even though some members of the Church denied the existence of plural marriage, there are a number of documents to support the view that, among the faithful, many such marriages were being performed.[24]:97-98

Contrary to G. D. Smith’s claim that polygamy’s impact was ignored by Latter-day Saint historians, Godfrey wrote that “gradually rumors became more and more persistent regarding the Mormon matrimonial system,” adding that one author “argues that ‘spiritual wifery was one of the leading causes of the Mormon-Gentile trouble in Hancock County.’”[24]:99-100 John C. Bennett and Oliver Olney had published about polygamy, and Godfrey argues that “such extensive publicity appears to have aroused the public against Mormonism and its marriage system.”[24]:103 Bennett’s claims about a Cyprian order of women “available to any Mormon who desired her . . . was . . . not true but nevertheless it was somewhat effective in arousing the public mind against Mormonism.”[24]:108

Godfrey also quotes extensively from the 25 April 1844 edition of the Warsaw Signal to demonstrate the animus in which polygamy was held.[24]:92n930 As his narrative approaches Joseph’s death, Godfrey argues that “one of the reasons for the publication of the Nauvoo Expositor was to publicly proclaim opposition to the plurality of wives doctrine as taught by the Prophet.”[24]:106-107

The Warsaw Signal listed spiritual wifeism as one of the major reasons for its opposition to the Mormons, and many claimed that the Prophet . . . was a licentious seducer of young women. Such declarations played their role in arousing public indignation against the Mormons and their marriage system. If polygamy was not the main reason for the Mormon expulsion, at least it can safely be said that it aroused the moral indignation of many people.[24]:108-11

Contrary to what G. D. Smith asserts, Godfrey dealt with polygamy as a cause of the hostilities towards the Saints in Nauvoo. His abstract and conclusion summarize his views:

Peculiar religious beliefs held by Latter-day Saints caused some of the difficulties they experienced in Illinois. Such doctrines as plural marriage . . . led to further hostility. . . . Perhaps in retrospect both Mormons and non-Mormons were to blame for the disharmony. . . . The Mormons . . . engaged in a marriage system held by Gentiles to be adulterous. . . . Since polygamy was unannounced yet practiced, credance [sic] was given to the claims of former Mormons which cast even more doubt upon the Prophet’s character. It become [sic] almost impossible to overstress the role exscinded Mormons played in arousing people against leaders of the Church.[24]:2-3, 215

The claim that an “LDS educator” discussed the Illinois troubles “without even mentioning plural marriage” is false.


Response to claim: 450 - "One LDS educator in 1967 wrote about the 'causes' of conflict in Nauvoo…without mentioning plural marriage"

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

The author notes that "[o]ne LDS educator in 1967 wrote about the 'causes' of conflict in Nauvoo…without mentioning plural marriage."

Author's sources:
  1. Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of [Mormon sic] Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839–1846” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1967), chap 7.

Censorship of Church History (edit)

FairMormon Response

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

Contrary to the author's claim, Godfrey's cited chapter is entitled "plural marriage," and he discusses it at length there and in his abstract and conclusion.

Response to claim: 450 n. 106 - The author cites the paper as "Causes of Non-Mormon Conflict"

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

The author cites the paper as "Causes of Non-Mormon Conflict…."

Author's sources:
  1.  Citation error Correct title is: "Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict…" (emphasis added)

FairMormon Response

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


Notes

  1. Lisle G. Brown, Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings : A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances 1841-1846 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006).
  2. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 430.
  3. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 414, 417.
  4. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 417.
  5. Lyndon W. Cook, “William Law: Nauvoo Dissenter,” BYU Studies 22/1 (Fall 1982): 62.
  6. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor," Utah Law Review 9 (1965): 862–903.
  7. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 478-479. ( Index of claims ); William Law, cited in “Dr. Wyl and Dr. Wm. Law,” Daily Tribune (Salt Lake City), 13 July 1887, 6.
  8. Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 475, 742–43; this is discussed in Anderson and Faulring, “Joseph Smith and His Plural Wives,” 90. Compton replies in Compton, “Truth, Honesty and Moderation,” noting the difficulties that he had in accessing Madsen’s as-yet-unpublished findings. In preparation for this review, I spoke with Madsen, who told me that when approached by Compton, he felt his materials were not yet ready for distribution. Madsen believes a responder to his 1996 presentation at the Mormon History Association conference at Snowbird, Utah, placed some rough notes on the presentation in the library (Madsen to Gregory L. Smith, personal communication, 21 November 2008).
  9. G. D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 196 n. 137, cites “Gordon Madsen, ‘The Lawrence Estate Revisited: Joseph Smith and Illinois Law regarding Guardianships,’ Nauvoo Symposium, Sept. 21, 1989, Brigham Young University, copy in possession of Todd Compton; see Sacred Loneliness, 474–476.” Strangely, this paper was not cited by Compton, nor is Madsen’s work mentioned on the pages cited by Smith. Compton’s actual discussion of Madsen’s research is restricted to endnotes on pages 742–746: “Madsen, Gordon. ‘Joseph Smith as Guardian: The Lawrence Estate.’ Paper given at Mormon History Association, May 18, 1996. . . . I have followed Madsen as closely as possible from my notes, but do not have his written argument and citations.” The FARMS Review (cited in main text above) also provided some of Madsen’s data in a review of Compton’s work, which G. D. Smith likewise ignores. G. D. Smith’s reference to 1989 instead of 1996 may be related to an event reported in the Ensign: “William Law’s recollection of how Joseph Smith, as guardian of the Lawrence children, cheated them and him is full of errors, claimed Gordon A. Madsen. All the court records pertaining to the guardianship and Joseph Smith’s management of the Lawrence estate still exist. They show that virtually all of Law’s claims are mistaken.” (“Nauvoo Symposium Held at Brigham Young University,” Ensign, November 1989, 109–11). Madsen told me that he had never given an address about the Lawrence estate until his 1996 MHA presentation, while his 1989 talk focused on the Austin King hearing in Richmond, Missouri, not the Anderson estate. In any case, Madsen’s research nowhere corroborates G. D. Smith’s version (GL Smith, personal communication as above).
  10. Danel W. Bachman, "Prologue to the Study of Joseph Smith's Marital Theology (Review of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith)," FARMS Review of Books 10/2 (1998): 105–137. off-site
  11. “Dr. Wyl and Dr. Wm. Law,” Daily Tribune (Salt Lake City), 13 July 1887, 6; see also Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 742.
  12. 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), 6:350. Volume 6 link
  13. FairMormon thanks to Gordon A. Madsen, who was gracious enough to review GL Smith's draft of the Lawrence material. He also provided GL Smith with the information in this paragraph. Any mistakes or misapprehensions remain ours, and he is not responsible for these conclusions. Madsen’s manuscript on the Lawrence estate is currently (as of Dec 2008) in preparation for publication.
  14. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 446. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  15. G. D. Smith cites Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 135, which includes a letter from Wilford Woodruff to Andrew Jenson, 6 August 1887.
  16. S. George Ellsworth, “Utah’s Struggle For Statehood,” Utah Historical Quarterly 31/1 (Winter 1963): 66.
  17. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 449–450. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  18. Other histories that include mention of plural marriage as contributing to the problems in Nauvoo include Church History in the Fulness of Times, CES Manual for Religion 341–43, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2003), 256, 263, 268, 274; Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and BYU Press, 2002), chap. 13; and Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 529.
  19. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 2:93-110. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  20. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:221, 227–28.
  21. Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History: A History of the Church from the Birth of Joseph Smith to the Present Time (1922), with Introductory Chapters on the Antiquity of the Gospel and The “Falling Away” (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1922), 282, 300–301.
  22. William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 247–48, 251.
  23. Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-Day Saints, 2nd ed. (New York: Knopf : distributed by Random House/University of Illinois Press, [1979] 1992), 55, 69, 77–78. ISBN 0252062361. off-site
  24. 24.00 24.01 24.02 24.03 24.04 24.05 24.06 24.07 24.08 24.09 24.10 Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839–1846” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1967). G. D. Smith’s footnote (p. 450) mistakes the title, citing “Non-Mormon Conflict” instead of “Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict.”