Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/2

Table of Contents

Response to questions about polygamy and polyandry

1: BoM translation2: Polygamy and Polyandry3: Polygamy forced?4: Book of Abraham5: "Lying for Lord"6: Mark Hofmann7: Blood atonement8: First Vision9: Sanitized history10: "Not all truth is useful"11: Angelic affidavits12: Blacks and priesthood13: Temple concerns14: Evidence of Vikings15: Adam-God16: Kinderhook

The attendees of The "Swedish Rescue" fireside ask the following question:

I have a difficult question.
  • The time of Abraham, God reveals that.... it’s OK to have more than one wife....does the church believe that it was a teaching from God that he married women who had other men that were still alive, and even some apostles wives when they were away on missions?
  • One woman said the child that she bore she didn’t know if it was the child of Joseph or the child of, in this case, Orson Hyde....So that indicates that it was definitely not a spiritual marriage.

Question: Did Joseph marry women who were already married to others?

Answer: Yes

* There is no evidence these marriages were consummated. They were likely to bind families together to Joseph as a sealing ordinance.
  • Question: Does the church believe that polyandry was a teaching from God?
    Answer: Based upon what we know about the goodness and compassion of Joseph Smith's character, it might be wise to suspend judgment about what we don't know about the practice.

I don’t know. I can’t say that Joseph Smith did anything that was unholy. I can honestly say that everything I know about him and his goodness and his compassion helps me at least suspend my judgment about what I don’t know. And polyandry is one of those things. I personally couldn’t live polygamy. And it’s something my wife couldn’t live. I’m so grateful that we came in a time when that wasn’t a commandment of God for us.

—Elder Jensen's answer to this question at the Sweden fireside.
  • Question: Was Joseph sealed to apostles' wives?
    Answer: Yes, in one case.

*Joseph was sealed to Orson Hyde's wife, Nancy Marinda Johnson Hyde.

Question: Did Joseph marry the wives of men on missions?

Answer: Yes, in one case. No in all the others

  • Joseph was sealed to Orson Hyde's wife Nancy after Hyde had been gone for nearly two years. Upon his return, the sealing was repeated with Hyde's permission.
  • In all other sealings, the husband was not away on a mission.
  • There is one possible exception (George Harris' wife Lucinda), but it is not certain that Joseph was sealed to her at all. If he was, we do not know the date, so cannot say if Harris was on a mission at the time.
  • This charge comes from the notoriously unreliable John C. Bennett's anti-Mormon articles.

Question: Did Orson Hyde's wife say she did not know if Joseph or Orson was the father of her child?

Answer: No

  • Anti-Mormon sources often copy each other, and some have mis-attributed this story to Orson Hyde's wife. There is no evidence that Mrs. Hyde said this.

Question: Did any woman say she did not know if Joseph or Orson Hyde was the father of a child?

Answer: Very unlikely

  • The source that makes this claim contains many serious errors in the same paragraph in which the claim is made. The only evidence for this claim reads:

The Prophet had sent some time before this, three men, Law, Foster and Jacobs, on missions, and they had just returned, and found their wives blushing under the prospective honors of spiritual wifeism; and another woman, Mrs. Buel [sic], had left her husband, a Gentile, to grace the Prophet's retinue, on horseback, when he reviewed the Nauvoo Legion. I heard the latter woman say afterwards in Utah, that she did not know whether Mr. Buel [sic] or the Prophet was the father of her son. These men [Law, Foster and Jacobs] established a press in Nauvoo, to expose his alleged vicious teachings and practices, which a revelation from Joseph destroyed.

— Nelson Winch Green, Fifteen Years among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, Late of Great Salt Lake City; a Sister of One of the Mormon High Priests, She Having Been Personally Acquainted with Most of the Mormon Leaders, and Long in the Confidence of The "Prophet," Brigham Young (New York: H. Dayton, Publishers, 1860 [1858]), 34–35.
  • Claims that we know are false in this single paragraph:
    • Ettie Smith claims that William Law, Robert D. Foster, and Henry Jacobs were on missions and that Joseph had proposed plural marriage to their wives in their absence. Law and Foster, in fact, never served missions. Henry Jacobs did serve a mission, but he was not gone on a mission when Joseph taught plural marriage to his wife.
    • Foster and Law did participate in publishing the Nauvoo Expositor, but Henry Jacobs did not. He was and remained a faithful member of the Church.
    • The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was undertaken by the Nauvoo city council. Some members of that council were not members of the Church--it seems implausible to think that they would bow to a "revelation" to Joseph requiring its destruction. The decision was made, instead, after 8 hours of discussion and after consulting legal references.
  • The claim was from an anti-Mormon work notorious even among other 19th century anti-Mormon authors for being inaccurate:
Much has already been written on this subject much that is in accordance with facts, and much that is exaggerated and false. Hitherto, with but one exception [Mrs. Ettie V. Smith is noted in the footnote as the work referred to] that of a lady who wrote very many years ago, and who in her writings, so mixed up fiction with what was true, that it was difficult to determine where the one ended and the other began no woman who really was a Mormon and lived in Polygamy ever wrote the history of her own personal experience. Books have been published, and narratives have appeared in the magazines and journals, purporting to be written by Mormon wives; it is, however, perhaps, unnecessary for me to state that, notwithstanding such narratives may be imposed upon the Gentile world as genuine, that they were written by persons outside the Mormon faith would in a moment be detected by any intelligent Saint who took the trouble to peruse them.
—Fanny Stenhouse, Tell It All (1875), 618, on the work which made this claim.
  • Such an admission would be scandalous—it seems very unlikely:
Talk of sexuality was avoided by the Victorian, puritanical Mormons; in diaries, the word 'pregnant' or 'expecting' is never or rarely used. Women are merely 'sick' until they have a child. Polyandry was rarely discussed openly by Mormon women.
— Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," 166.
  • DNA evidence rules out one of two Buell children as a child of Joseph's.

For a detailed answer