Question: Was Emma was promised "annihilation" if she didn't accept plural marriage?

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Question: Was Emma Smith promised "annihilation" if she didn't accept plural marriage?

There is no "annihilation" in LDS doctrine: An earlier verse makes it clear that death will "destroy" all that is not sanctioned and endorsed by God

It is claimed that "In the revelation [D&C 132] Emma was promised annihilation if she failed to 'abide this commandment.'"[1]

There is no "annihilation" in Latter-day Saint doctrine. One definition of "destroy" in the 1828 Webster's Dictionary is "[t]o take away; to cause to cease; to put an end to; as, pain destroys happiness."[2] In 132:20 the Lord promises the exalted couple: “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue” (emphasis added). Rejecting God’s commandments makes people ineligible for exaltation and polygamy was commanded at that time (it isn’t today). Emma would be “destroyed” in the sense that she would not continue—or not be exalted. An earlier verse makes it clear that death will "destroy" all that is not sanctioned and endorsed by God, including marriage contracts (D&C 132:12-14). The section in a later verse then draws a distinction between being "destroyed" and "destroyed in the flesh." (DC 132:26)—thus some sinners may suffer physical "buffeting" by Satan while their marital relationship may remain sanctioned.

The scripture says,

And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law" (D&C 132:54.

The commandment given to Emma which she must "abide" is to "abide and cleave unto" Joseph. She is to remain faithful and supportive of her spouse. G.D. Smith's portrayal of this language applying to polygamy is false.

Other references to "destroyed"

Elsewhere, others said to be destroyed are those who have pretended to moral purity despite sexual sins (see DC 132:52,63).

A final verse says that "if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law." Note that God will destroy those who disobey—this is not a threat from Joseph about physical harm to Emma, and Emma certainly did not refrain from opposing plural marriage thereafter. She does not seem to have been frightened or intimidated.

This verse should be weighed with other revelation

There is no annihilation in Latter-day Saint doctrine. There is promises of a capping of our increase (which is to be damned) and there is punishment (but not eternal as we don't believe in a hell for those that tried to be righteous).

See also Brian Hales' discussion: Emma's path through plural marriage
Sometime in 1840 Joseph Smith first broached the topic of plural marriage privately to trusted friends. Most of the apostles were in England and thus were unavailable for an introduction to the practice. (Link)
Emma and Fanny Alger
Joseph's first foray into plural marriage was deeply painful for Emma, his first wife. (Link)
When did Emma learn?
It is impossible to definitively determine when Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages. However, many historical clues help to create a possible timeline. (Link)
Emma Accepts Plural Marriage and Participates in Four of Joseph’s Plural Sealings
The earliest documentable date for Emma’s awareness of time-and-eternity plural marriage is May of 1843, when she participated in four of her husband’s polygamous sealings. (Link)
Emma’s Resistance Prompts recording of D&C 132
Emma’s resistance to plural marriage prompted Hyrum to encourage Joseph to dictate a written revelation on the subject. (Link)
Joseph and Emma: Conflict and Agreement
Rather than generating Emma’s active support, the revelation [D&C 132] appears to have brought a smoldering crisis to flame. She and Joseph took serious counsel together with some sort of agreement being negotiated. (Link)


  1. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 29. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  2. Webster's Dictionary, "Destroy," Def. #6 <> (16 June 2020).