Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone"

Table of Contents

Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone"

"Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (October 2014):[1]

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.[2] Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.[3] Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church.[4] These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record.[5]

These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships.[6] This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice.34 After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.

Notes

  1. "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (October 2014).
  2. From "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo": Estimates of the number of these sealings range from 12 to 14. (See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997], 4, 6; Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:253–76, 303–48.) For an early summary of this practice, see John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations: Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?” Improvement Era 49, no. 11 (Nov. 1946): 766–67.
  3. Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:421–37. Polyandry, the marriage of one woman to more than one man, typically involves shared financial, residential, and sexual resources, and children are often raised communally. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith’s sealings functioned in this way, and much evidence works against that view.
  4. Rex Eugene Cooper, Promises Made to the Fathers: Mormon Covenant Organization (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990), 138–45; Jonathan A. Stapley, “Adoptive Sealing Ritual in Mormonism,” Journal of Mormon History 37, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 53–117.
  5. For a review of the evidence, see Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:390–96.
  6. Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 440.