Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/3

Table of Contents

Response to questions about whether polygamy was forced

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:

According to information I have read
  • The wives were forced into marriage.
  • They were put under tremendous pressure to accept the marriage.
  • You have only until, let’s say, tomorrow to decide and to marry me but it will have terrible consequences if you don’t accept the marriage.

Question: Were plural wives forced into the marriage?

Answer: It is not supported by the historical record

Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet's counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.

—Brian Hales, "A Response to Concerns Regarding Joseph Smith and the Practice of Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," October 17, 2013.

Question: Did any woman suffer consequences for turning down Joseph's proposal?

Answer: There are numerous accounts of women to whom Joseph proposed plural marriage, who turned him down

  • There are numerous accounts of women to whom Joseph proposed plural marriage, who turned him down. There were no consequences to these women. One reported Joseph's mild reaction to the rejection:

Early in the year 1842, Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach it with commandment, as the Church could travel (progress) no further without the introduction of this principle. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly, and said, 'Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.‘ He said, 'I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer you will not be led into temptation.'

— Sarah Kimball
  • Two women afterward attacked Joseph's character and misrepresented his offer. He responded. Those who did not were left strictly alone.

Question: Were women put under "tremendous pressure"?

Answer: No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight

  • No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight.
  • Despite this, the reported initial reactions are all negative: these women were strong-minded, and did not simply obey because Joseph told them to.
  • Because of their distaste for the idea, many plural wives reported divine revelations that confirmed the truth of plural marriage. Joseph encouraged women to seek for such divine confirmation.

Question: Was a woman given only one day to decide? Would refusal mean terrible consequences?

Answer: This claim distorts the account of Lucy Walker. Joseph offered to teach Lucy about plural marriage, but she angrily refused

  • This claim distorts the account of Lucy Walker. Joseph offered to teach Lucy about plural marriage, but she angrily refused:
When the Prophet Joseph Smith first mentioned the principle of plural marriage to me I became very indignant and told him emphatically that I did not wish him to ever mention it to me again....and so expressed myself to him....He counseled me, however, to pray to the Lord for light and understanding in relation thereto, and promised me if I would do so sincerely, I should receive a testimony of the correctness of the principle. Before praying I felt gloomy and downcast; in fact, I was so entirely given up to despair that I felt tired of life...."
  • Joseph then said nothing more to her for at least four months (and possibly as long as sixteen). Lucy continues:
[I] was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not ask in faith for light. Gross darkness instead of light took possession of my mind. I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable....

The Prophet discerned my sorrow. He saw how unhappy I was, and sought an opportunity of again speaking to me on this subject....

[He said] "I have no flattering words to offer. It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you."

– Lucy Walker, italics added
  • Lucy was told that the opportunity for plural marriage would expire in twenty-four hours. She was not threatened with damnation or physical consequences. Yet, she did not meekly obey:
This aroused every drop of scotch in my veins...I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living Sacrafice, perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds, this was too much, the thought was unbearable.... I...at last found utterance and said, "Although you are a prophet of God you could not induce me to take a step of so great importance, unless I knew that God approved my course. I would rather die. I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light....The same God who has sent this message is the Being I have worshipped from my early childhood and He must manifest His will to me."
  • Joseph's response:
He walked across the room, returned, and stood before me. With the most beautiful expression of countenance, he said, "God almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew."
  • That night, Lucy reported:
It was near after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud. The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that "I never knew." Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I recevied a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage, which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the joy and gratitude that filled my soul. As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below, took me by the hand and said, "Thank God, you have the testimony. I too have prayed." He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire.
– Lucy Walker
  • Even with Lucy's revelation and consent, Joseph then sought the permission of her oldest male relative in Nauvoo, her brother William Holmes Walker. He said:
The Prophet invited me to hitch up my horse with one of his...and to ride with him....On this occasion the subject of celestial, or plural marriage, was introduced to me. As we returned home he remarked, 'If there was anything I did not understand to hold on a little, and I would understand it."....

In the spring of 1843, my father, being away on a mission, the Prophet asked my consent, for my sister Lucy in Marriage. I replied that if it was her free will and choice, I had no objection....

When father returned from his mission, the matter being fully explained in connection with the doctrine, received his endorsement and all parties concerned received his approbation.

— William Holmes Walker
  • This is the only case of any kind of deadline being given, and it only came because Joseph saw how unhappy Lucy was as she hesitated with a decision over a period of months.

For a detailed answer