Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Plural wives

Table of Contents

Plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr.

Summary: This collection of articles lists a number of known plural wives, with responses to critical claims related to specific plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr.

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Fanny Alger

Summary: What do we know about Joseph Smith's first plural wife, Fanny Alger, whom he came to know in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant of sorts to Emma (such work was common for young women at the time). There are no first-hand accounts of their relationship (from Joseph or Fanny), nor are there second-hand accounts (from Emma or Fanny's family). All that we do have is third hand accounts, most of them recorded many years after the events.

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Fanny Alger was Joseph Smith's first plural wife

Summary: With a lone exception, there is no account after Joseph’s death of Emma admitting Joseph’s plural marriages in any source. The reported exception is recorded in a newspaper article and two letters written by excommunicated Latter-day Saint apostle William E. McLellin. The former apostle claimed to have visited Emma in 1847 and to have discussed Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger. McLellin also reported a tale he had heard about Joseph and Fanny Alger in which they were allegedly observed by Emma together in the barn.

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Claimed miscarriage of child by Joseph

Summary: Two women are claimed to have had miscarriages of a child by Joseph Smith. There are serious problems with accepting either account as probable.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Fanny Alger", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: The marriage of Joseph Smith to Fanny Alger, his first and only plural wife prior to the Saints settling in Nauvoo, has received much scrutiny.

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Louisa Beaman

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Louisa Beaman", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: Louisa Beaman was born February 7, 1815, to Alvah Beaman and Sarah Burtts in Livonia, New York, some twenty-five miles south of Palmyra.

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Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell

Summary: Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell and her husband Norman joined the Church in 1836. By 1839, Norman had left the Church, and Prescindia noted that "the Lord gave me strength to Stand alone & keep the faith amid heavy persecution.” “[I]n 1841 I entered into the New Everlasting Covenant," said Prescindia, "[I] was sealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer, and to the best of my ability I have honored plural marriage, never speaking one word against the principle… Never in my life, in this kingdom, which is 44 years, have I doubted the truth of this great work.”

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Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Summary: Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell and her husband Norman joined the Church in 1836. By 1839, Norman had left the Church, and Prescindia noted that "the Lord gave me strength to Stand alone & keep the faith amid heavy persecution.

Children claimed to have been fathered by Joseph are ruled out by DNA evidence

Summary: The case of Oliver Buell is an interesting one, since author Fawn Brodie was insistent that he was Joseph's son. She based part of this argument on a photograph of Buell, which revealed a face which she claimed was "overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph's paternity." Oliver's potential relationship to Joseph, however, has been ruled out by DNA evidence.


Questions regarding the paternity of suspected children of Joseph Smith

Summary: A notoriously inaccurate anti-Mormon work claimed that Buell confessed to not knowing her son's paternity. The account contains multiple of others, is implausible, requires proponents to overcome severe historical timeline and geographic problems, and has been refuted by DNA evidence. It is not convincing.

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation--Presendia Huntington Buell", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Were There Other Polygamous Marriages Prior to Nauvoo?—Presendia Huntington Buell", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Sarah Kingsley Howe Cleveland

Summary: There is considerable debate as to whether Sarah Kingsley was sealed to Joseph Smith. [19] Danel Bachman's pioneering study on plural marriage argued that there was "little supporting evidence for [her]…inclusion" on a list of Joseph's wives. [20] Todd Compton argues for Sarah's inclusion, since she is included on Andrew Jenson's list of plural wives, had a proxy marriage to Joseph Smith in the temple following the martyrdom, and because Eliza R. Snow is known to have been sealed to Joseph at Sarah's home. Compton holds—and I find his reasoning persuasive—that Joseph's decision to marry Eliza in front of Sarah makes little sense if Sarah had not already been introduced to plural marriage. (Though it must be admitted that Sarah could have been aware of plural marriage, but not practicing it.) Compton's argument is strengthened by the fact that Andrew Jenson also had access to Eliza R. Snow as a witness, so she could have confirmed Sarah's sealing.

Sarah Kingsley Howe Cleveland as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Sarah Kingsley", by Brian C. Hales


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Agnes Moulton Coolbrith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Agnes Moulton Coolbrith", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee

Summary: The inclusion of "Mrs. Durfee," as she was known, on the list of Joseph's wives is strongly contested among historians. Durfee is not found on Andrew Jenson's list of Joseph's plural wives. Todd Compton argues that Durfee's post-martyrdom proxy sealing to Joseph is evidence of a living marriage, as is the fact that she taught plural marriage to other prospective wives. Compton also holds that two hostile sources (John C. Bennett and Sarah Pratt) confirm Durfee as a plural wife.

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Question: What did the husband of Elizabeth Davis know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Elizabeth's husband Jabez Dufee was active in the Church, but Elizabeth chose to be sealed for eternity to Joseph Smith

Elizabeth's husband Jabez Dufee was active in the Church. Elizabeth chose to be sealed for eternity to Joseph Smith. Brian Hales notes that, "It appears that the couple experienced some marital turmoil before the sealing or perhaps as a consequence of it. Jabez was endowed on a different day than Elizabeth when the Nauvoo Temple opened in the winter of 1845 and Elizabeth was resealed by proxy to Joseph Smith on January 22, 1846, but Jabez did not participate either as a proxy husband or witness." [1]

A biography of Elizabeth Davis may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site

Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Emma Smith remark to Zina

Summary: Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Elizabeth Davis", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: Elizabeth Davis was born to Gilbert Davis and Abigail Reeves on March 11, 1791. She joined the Church on April 10, 1831. Two years later the twice widowed Elizabeth married Jabez Durfee on March 3, 1834. Casting their lot with the Saints, she and Jabez moved to Missouri and later Nauvoo.

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Esther Dutcher

Summary: Daniel H. Wells wrote to Joseph F. Smith of a sealing between Joseph and Esther Dutcher. Wells' source of information was Dutcher's husband, Albert Smith (no relation to Joseph): "It seems that she was sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo, though she still remained his wife, and afterwards nearly broke his heart by telling him of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship. He however got to feeling better over it, and acting for Joseph, had her sealed to him [in the temple--all of Joseph's marriages were understood to require resealing in the temple once it was completed], and to himself for time."

Esther Dutcher as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Esther Dutcher", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Esther Dutcher know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

It appears that Esther was sealed to Joseph for eternity before informing her husband of that fact

There is very little evidence of the sealing of Esther Dutcher to Joseph Smith. Ester was married to Albert Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith or George Albert Smith). The little evidence that exists indicates that she was sealed to Joseph for eternity only, and continued to live with her husband until she died. It also appears that she was sealed to Joseph for eternity before informing her husband of that fact. Thirty-two years after Esther's death, Apostle Daniel H. Wells wrote the following letter to Joseph F. Smith. Wells notes that after Esther's death that,

He [Albert Smith was] also much afflicted with the loss of his first wife. It seems that she was sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo, though she still remained his wife, and afterwards nearly broke his heart by telling him of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship. He however got to feeling better over it, and acting for Joseph, had her sealed to him, and to himself for time. [2]

A biography of Esther Dutcher may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Hannah Ells

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Hannah S. Ells", by Brian C. Hales


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Olive Grey Frost

Summary: Olive Frost was born on July 24, 1816 and sealed to Joseph Smith sometime during the summer of 1843, which would make her about 27 years old at the time. Very little is known about the marriage. What little is know is recorded in the journal of Joseph E. Robinson, which states that Olive had borne a child by Joseph Smith, but that both Olive and the child died.

Mother of a possible child by Joseph Smith, but very limited evidence.

Summary: Olive Gray Frost is mentioned in two sources as having a child by Joseph. Both she and the child died in Nauvoo, so no genetic evidence will ever be forthcoming.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Olive G. Frost", by Brian C. Hales


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Desdemona Catlin Wadsworth Fulmmer

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Desdemona Fullmer: (Sealed July 1843)", by Brian C. Hales


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Table of Contents

Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation—Lucinda Pendleton", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Were There Other Polygamous Marriages Prior to Nauvoo?--Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

There are no records in existence that indicate that she was sealed to Joseph during his lifetime, only after his death

Lucinda Pendleton was married to Latter-day Saint George W. Harris. There are no records in existence that indicate that she was sealed to Joseph during his lifetime. It is known that Lucinda’s proxy sealing to Joseph Smith was performed in the Nauvoo Temple on January 22, 1846, after Joseph's death. In addition, she was re-sealed to Joseph in the Salt Lake Temple in 1899. Brian Hales notes that, "current evidence indicates that several of the women who participated in proxy sealing to the Prophet in the Nauvoo Temple were not married to him while he was living." [3]

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Notes

  1. Brian and Laura Hales, "Elizabeth Davis," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  2. Daniel H. Wells, Letter to Joseph F. Smith, June 25, 1888. Brian Hales notes, "I am indebted to Joseph Johnstun and Michael Marquardt for bringing this source to my attention." off-site
  3. Brian and Laura Hales, "Lucinda Pendleton," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site



Clarissa Reed Hancock

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation--Clarissa Reed Hancock", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: It is very unlikely that Clarissa was a plural wife of Joseph. Todd Compton: “Brodie posits a union between Joseph and Clarissa; however, I am aware of no evidence for any such relationship.”[1]

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Were There Other Polygamous Marriages Prior to Nauvoo?—Clarissa Reed Hancock", by Brian C. Hales


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Elvira Annie Cowles Holmes

Summary: Elvira was married to Joseph at age twenty-nine. Her husband, Jonathan Holmes, was a pall-bearer at Joseph Smith's funeral. As Todd Compton remarks, "Though it is impossible to know for certain, the fact that Holmes was so close to Joseph Smith suggests that he knew of Smith’s marriage to his wife and permitted it…He later stood as proxy for Smith as Elvira married the prophet for eternity in the Nauvoo temple…This ‘first husband’ never wavered in his loyalty to the Mormon leader…."

Elvira Annie Cowles Holmes as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Elvira Annie Cowles", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Elvira Annie Cowles know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Joseph asked Jonathan Holmes to marry Elvira for time, and Joseph was later sealed to her for eternity

A letter by William Wright talks of Joseph asking Jonathan Holmes to marry Elvira. Joseph was later sealed to her for eternity.

I was well acquainted with two of Joseph’s wives, LaVina [Elvira] and Eliza [Snow or Partridge]. I came to Utah in ’69, and rented LaVina Holmes farm. Before Joseph was shot, he asked Jonathan Holmes if he would marry and take care of LaVina, but if LaVina wanted him to take care of her he would take her. He would fill that mission to please his Father in Heaven. [2]

Brian Hales notes that, "It seems to corroborate that Jonathan may have been given a “mission” to marry Elvira and “take care of her” in a legal pretend marriage. After the martyrdom, Jonathan would have been free to take Elivira as his own wife. She did not conceive her first child until seven months after Joseph’s death. The couple went on to have a total of five children together." [3]

A biography of Elvira Annie Cowles may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Sarah Maryetta Kingsley Howe

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Sarah Kingsley", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Sarah Kingsley know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Sarah was married to non-Mormon John Cleveland, but was sealed to Joseph Smith

Sarah was married to non-Mormon John Cleveland. John was not interested in joining the Church, but was friendly to the Saints.

In the days of Joseph. Mother [Sarah M. Kingsley (Howe)] Cleveland by advice, was sealed to the prophet in Nauvoo but lived with her [non-LDS] husband John Cleveland. [4]

Sarah wished to go west with the Saints, but Brigham Young advised her to remain with her husband

When the Saints moved west, Sarah wished to go with them, even to the point of leaving her non-LDS husband. Brigham Young advised her to remain with him:

Brigham Young and council...counseled her to stay with her husband as he was a good man, having shown himself kind ever helping those in need, although for some reason his mind was darkened as to the gospel. She obeyed council and stayed with her husband, and was faithful and true to her relation and died a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [5]

A biography of Sarah Kingsley may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde

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Did Joseph Smith send Apostle Orson Hyde on a mission so that he could secretly marry his wife Marinda while he was gone?

Summary: Nancy married future apostle Orson Hyde on 4 September 1834. He was involved briefly with apostasy at Far West in the fall of 1838, but had returned to the Church by March 1839 following a dramatic vision in which he saw the consequence of continued rebellion. Marinda was sealed to Joseph in April 1842, while Orson was on a mission. Only antagonistic accounts of this sealing exist. Of the four reports, two claim that Orson was aware of the sealing, and two claim that he was not.

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Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Very unlikely to have had child(ren) fathered by Joseph

Summary: One child's death certificate rules Joseph out as the father; the other has chronology problems which suggest that Joseph is not the father.

Did Mrs. Hyde not know whether Orson or Joseph fathered her child?

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation--Nancy Marinda Johnson", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Marinda Nancy Johnson", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Were There Other Polygamous Marriages Prior to Nauvoo?—Marinda Nancy Johnson", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Vienna Jacques

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation--Vienna Jacques", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: Not likely to have been a wife of Joseph.

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Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs

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Zina huntington jacobs 1.jpg Zina huntington jacobs 2.jpg

The circumstances of the plural marriage of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs to Joseph Smith, Jr.

Summary: Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs was sealed to Joseph Smith while she was already carrying the child of her husband Henry Jacobs at the time. Why would Joseph be sealed to the wife of someone who was not only married to someone else, but pregnant with her husband's child?

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  • Analysis of Zina and Henry JacobsZina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young by Allen Wyatt (Link)
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Zina and polyandry

Summary: In 1839, at age 18, Zina arrived with her parents in Nauvoo after being driven out of Missouri. Faithful LDS missionary Henry Jacobs courted her during 1840–41. At the same time, Joseph Smith had taught Zina the doctrine of plural marriage, and thrice asked her to marry him. She declined each time, and she and Henry were wed 7 March 1841.

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Child by Joseph ruled out by DNA testing

Summary: DNA research in 2005 confirmed Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs's son Zebulon was the son of Henry Bailey Jacobs.

Claimed child(ren) fathered by Joseph ruled out by DNA evidence

Divine manifestations to Zina Huntington

Summary: Did those who entered into plural marriage do so simply because Joseph Smith (or another Church leader) "told them to"? Is this an example of "blind obedience"? No, they bore witness that only powerful revelatory experiences convinced them that the command was from God.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Zina Huntington", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Almera Johnson

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Almera Woodard Johnson", by Brian C. Hales


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Helen Mar Kimball

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The circumstances of Helen Mar Kimball's marriage to Joseph Smith, Jr.

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Joseph Smith's marriages to young women

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See also Brian Hales' discussion: Joseph Smith’s Sealings to Young Wives: FAQ

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Helen Mar Kimball", by Brian C. Hales


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Maria Lawrence

Claimed mismanagement of the Lawrence estate

Summary: Joseph Smith was appointed the guardian of two daughters, Maria and Sarah Lawrence, and their inheritance. He later married them in plural marriage. The evidence shows that Joseph Smith faithfully discharged his legal duties, despite the claims made by some nineteeth-century and modern critics.

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Charge of adultery between Maria and Joseph Smith

Summary: Just prior to his death, a criminal complaints was brought against Joseph Smith, alleging adultery with Maria Lawrence. Legal analysis demonstrates that Joseph was innocent of this charge, and some authors have suggested that Joseph's legal strategy may imply that the sealing with Maria was never consummated.

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Maria Lawrence", by Brian C. Hales


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Sarah Lawrence

Claimed mismanagement of the Lawrence estate

Summary: Joseph Smith was appointed the guardian of two daughters, Maria and Sarah Lawrence, and their inheritance. He later married them in plural marriage. The evidence shows that Joseph Smith faithfully discharged his legal duties, despite the claims made by some nineteeth-century and modern critics.

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Sarah Lawrence", by Brian C. Hales


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Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner

Summary: Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner was among the earliest converts to the Church. She had married Adam Lightner on 11 August 1835.....Later in life, Mary reported that at age twelve, Joseph Smith "told me [in 1831] about his great vision concerning me. He said I was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife."....Mary described how "[t]he Prophet Joseph tried hard to get Mr. Lightner to go into the water, but he said he did not feel worthy, but would, some other time. Joseph said to me that he never would be baptized, unless it was a few moments before he died." Despite not being a member, Lightner was a loyal friend to the Saints and to Joseph, and died in Utah. Of her sealing to Joseph, Mary wrote: "I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.”

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner very unlikely to have had children fathered by Joseph

Summary: Even by the turn of the century, the LDS Church had no solid evidence of children by Joseph. "I knew he had three children," said Mary Elizabeth Lightner, "They told me. I think two of them are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names."[54] Again, evidence for children is frustratingly vague—Lightner had only heard rumours, and could not provide any details. It would seem to me, however, that this remark of Lightner's rules out her children as possible offspring of Joseph. Her audience was clearly interested in Joseph having children, and she was happy to assert that such children existed. If her own children qualified, why did she not mention them?

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Mary Elizabeth Rollins", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Mary Elizabeth Rollins know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Mary did not proceed with the sealing to Joseph until she had given up attempting to persuade her husband Adam to join the Church

Mary Elizabeth Rollins was married to a non-Mormon, Adam Lightner. Mary did not proceed with the sealing to Joseph until she had given up attempting to persuade her husband Adam to join:

My husband did not belong to the Church. I begged him and pled with him to join but he would not. He said he did not believe in it, though he thought a great deal of Joseph. He sacrificed his property rather than testify against Joseph, Hyrum and George A. Smith. After he said this, I went forward and was sealed to Joseph for eternity. [6]

After being sealed to Joseph, Mary continued to live with her husband Adam until his death in 1885

After being sealed to Joseph, Mary continued to live with her husband Adam until his death in 1885. Although this particular statement, and the evidence that she continued to live with her husband until his death, indicates a sealing for eternity only, on other occasions Mary actually referred to being sealed to Joseph for "time and eternity." Joseph also told her that she was to be sealed to him for eternity, and she initially resisted the idea until she received an angelic visitation and confirmation.

A biography of Mary Elizabeth Rollins may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Malissa Lott

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Malissa Lott", by Brian C. Hales


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Sylvia Sessions Lyon

Sylvia Sessions Lyon is likely pseudopolyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Summary: Sylvia Sessions married Windsor Lyon on 21 April 1838. Joseph Smith performed the ceremony. She was sealed to Joseph Smith on 8 February 1842. Her husband Windsor's reaction is not recorded, but he was a faithful, active member of the Church at the time. Windsor was excommunicated on 7 November 1842 because he sued stake president William Marks for repayment of a loan (Church members frowned on using secular courts to settle disputes between themselves). Despite his excommunication, Windsor remained on close terms with Joseph; tradition holds that he was "a true friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith." Sylvia gave birth to a daughter, Josephine, on 8 February 1844, and for many years there appeared to be evidence that Joseph was the father, however, DNA analysis ultimately disproved this: Josephine was not the daughter of Joseph Smith, Jr. Regardless, Windsor Lyon remained a close friend and ally of Joseph's—he was called as a witness at the trial of Joseph and Hyrum's assassins. Brian Hales has recently published work demonstrating that Todd Compton likely worked with incomplete data on Session's first marriage.

Mother of a suspected child by Joseph Smith which has been disproven by DNA

Summary: The case of Josephine Fisher relies on a deathbed conversation: "Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret from me and from all others but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith…." Perhaps significantly, Josephine's name shares a clear link with Joseph's. However, DNA evidence has proven that Josephine is not a biological descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Sylvia Sessions", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Sylvia Sessions know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. She was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married. Brian Hales notes that , "This marriage triangle is unique among all of the Prophet’s plural marriages because there is strong evidence that Sylvia bore children to both men. She became pregnant by Windsor Lyon in October of 1838, September of 1840, and April of 1842. Then a year later became pregnant with a daughter (named Josephine—born February 8, 1844) that was purportedly fathered by the Prophet." Sylvia's daughter, who had the intriguing name "Josephine," made the following statement:

Just prior to my mothers [Sylvia Sessions Lyon] death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret fro me and from others until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church.

Daughter Josephine was proven not to be a daughter of Joseph Smith, Jr. through DNA analysis

For many years, Josephine appeared to be the only viable candidate as a child of Joseph Smiths "polyandrous" sealings. However, DNA analysis ultimately disproved the paternity claim: Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.[7]

Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church

It appears, however, that Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church and left Nauvoo. Hales points out that "Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: 'Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.'" [8] The sealing to Joseph occurred after Windor's excommunication. Andrew Jenson, in his historical record, referred to Sylvia as a “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” [9] There is no known evidence that Windsor lived with Sylvia after he returned to Nauvoo, but Sylvia did "rejoin" Windsor after he was rebaptised in 1846. Hales states, "No details are available to clarify what authority was used to reconfirm the marriage relationship between Sylvia and Windsor after their previous marital separation. Most likely the couple consulted with Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball, who authorized their rejoining. Whether a private religious marriage ceremony for time was performed or the couple resumed observing their legal marriage is unknown. Importantly, even with the renewed conjugality between Windsor and Sylvia after Joseph Smith’s death, no evidence has been found to support her involvement in sexual polyandry at any time." [10]

A biography of Sylvia Sessions may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Martha McBride

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Martha McBride", by Brian C. Hales


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Eliza Partridge

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Eliza Partridge", by Brian C. Hales


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Emily Partridge

Summary: When Joseph Smith mentioned plural marriage to Emily Partridge, her response was immediate: "He asked me if I wished the matter ended. I said I did…[I] shut him up so quick that he did not bring up the subject again for months." Critics are fond of portraying Joseph Smith as being driven by sexual lusts. In this case, he simply left Emily alone for months. She received her own witness in the interim, without any influence or pressure from Joseph

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Divine manifestations to Emily Partridge

Summary: Did those who entered into plural marriage do so simply because Joseph Smith (or another Church leader) "told them to"? Is this an example of "blind obedience"? No, they bore witness that only powerful revelatory experiences convinced them that the command was from God.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Emily Dow Partridge", by Brian C. Hales


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Rhoda Richards

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Rhoda Richards", by Brian C. Hales


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Ruth Vose Sayers

Summary: Three of Joseph's plural marriages involved women who were married to non-member spouses. Of one, Ruth Vose Sayers, we know very little. She married Edward Sayers in 1841, and they had no children. Her husband remained friendly to Joseph Smith, as far as we know, to the end of Joseph's life. Brian Hales notes that Church Historian Andrew Jensen's documents "regarding Ruth Vose Sayers demonstrate that her marriage was for 'eternity only,' without conjugal relations on earth."

Ruth Vose Sayers as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Ruth Vose", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Ruth Vose Sayers know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Ruth was sealed to Joseph Smith only for eternity, and not for time, with both her husband’s consent and with Emma’s consent

Ruth was sealed to Joseph Smith only for eternity, and not for time, with both her husband’s consent and with Emma’s consent. She “continued to live with Mr. Sayers (remained with her husband) until his death. “[11] Ruth’s husband Edward was not a member of the Church, and was not interested in becoming one. Edward was, however, a good friend of Joseph Smith. Since Edward did not attach “much importance to the theory of a future life,” he “insisted that his wife Ruth should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim …her in this life. She was accordingly [then] sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence…” [11] Brian Hales notes that in 1869, Ruth signed an affidavit that reads:

Be it remembered that on this first day of May, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me, Elias Smith, Probate Judge for Said County, Ruth Vose Sayers who was by me Sworn in due form of law and upon her oath Saith that on [blank] day of February A.D. 1843 at the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by Hyrum Smith, Presiding Patriarch of Said Church, according to the laws of the Same, regulating Marriage; in the presence [blank] [12]

Ruth's husband Edward Sayers did not attach "much importance to the theory of a future life"

Hales also notes the following from the research papers of Andrew Jenson:

\Sister Ruth/ Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr. Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticulturist and florist, and though he was not a member of the Church, yet he willingly joined his fortune with her and they reached Nauvoo together some time in the year 1841; While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to \the/ theory of a future life insisted that his wife \Ruth/ should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim [page2—the first 3 lines of which are written over illegible erasures] her in this life. She \was/ accordingly the sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus were became numbered among the Prophets plural wives. She however \though she/ \continued to live with Mr. Sayers / remained with her husband \until his death. [13]

A biography of Ruth Vose may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Patty Bartlett Sessions

Summary: Sylvia Session's mother Patty joined the Church in 1833, and was sealed to Joseph Smith on 9 March 1842. The reaction of her husband David is unknown, but he remained a faithful member and diligent missionary. He later married a plural wife, which caused difficulties in their marriage.

Patty Bartlett Sessions as a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Patty Bartlett", by Brian C. Hales


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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "After Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith Seeks Almost Exclusively “Eternity Only” Sealings", by Brian C. Hales


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Question: What did the husband of Patty Bartlett know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Patty and her husband David Sessions received their endowment after she had been sealed to Joseph three years earlier

Patty and her husband David Sessions were active members of the Church. They received their endowment in Nauvoo in 1845. Patty had been sealed for eternity to Joseph Smith three years earlier in 1842. After her husband David's death, she was sealed "for time" (re-married to an earthly husband) to John Parry in 1852. Patty's diary states,

Patty Bartlett daughter of Enoch and Anne Bartlett was born February 4 1795 \Bethel Mane/ and was married to David Session June 28th 1812 who was the son of David and Rachel Sessions, he was born April the 4th 1790 Veshire Vermont I was Batpised into the church of Jesus Christ \of later day saints/ July 2 1834 Mr Sessions was Baptised Aug <st> 1735 we received our we received our endowment Dec 16 1845 in Nauvoo. . . .

I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9 1842 in Newel K Whitneys chamber Nauvoo for Eternity and I and if I do not live to attend to it myself when there is a place prepared I want some one to attend to it for me according to order Sylvia \my daughter/ was present when I was sealed to Joseph Smith.I was after Mr. Sessions death sealed to John Parry senior for time on the 27 of March 1852 G[reat] S[alt] L. City. [14]

Nothing is stated in Patty's diary regarding what her husband David thought of her sealing to Joseph

Nothing is stated regarding what her husband David thought of her sealing to Joseph, or whether or not he agreed to it. Brian Hales notes that, "David and Patty Sessions attended the Nauvoo Temple together, receiving their endowments on December 15, 1845, but they were not sealed in marriage." It would seem apparent that David was fully aware of her sealing to Joseph.

A biography of Patty Bartlett may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Delcena Diadamia Johnson Sherman

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Delcena Didamia Johnson", by Brian C. Hales


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"Miss Smith"

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation--"Miss Smith"", by Brian C. Hales

Summary: This late, unsupported claim is almost certainly not a wife.

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Mary Heron Snider

Summary: Mary Heron Snider's husband John died active and faithful in the Church. Further, he served a mission in England and was the first Mormon to preach there, served on the committee building the Nauvoo House, was appointed a "bodyguard" for Joseph's body following the martyrdom at Carthage. There is a one-sentence claim of sexual relations between her and Joseph by a son-in-law, Joseph E. Johnson. Mary and her husband "seem to have endured significant periods of estrangement after 1833, with no pregnancies after Mary turned twenty nine. Also, the couple's marriage was never sealed, though the option was available....without addition[al] documentation, reliable conclusions are unattainable." It may be that Snider's marriage to Joseph parallels the case of Sylvia Sessions Lyon, who was likely separated from her first husband prior to her plural marriage to Joseph.

Likely pseudopolyandrous wife

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Mary Heron Snider", by Brian C. Hales


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Eliza R. Snow

Emma pushing Eliza down the stairs

Summary: Some charge that Eliza R. Snow, one of Joseph's plural wives, was pregnant by Joseph. According to the claim, a furious Emma pushed Eliza down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage.

Claimed miscarriage of child by Joseph

Summary: Two women are claimed to have had miscarriages of a child by Joseph Smith. There are serious problems with accepting either account as probable.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Eliza R. Snow", by Brian C. Hales


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Lucy Walker

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages.

Divine manifestations to plural wives, their families, and other members

Summary: Did those who entered into plural marriage do so simply because Joseph Smith (or another Church leader) "told them to"? Is this an example of "blind obedience"? No, they bore witness that only powerful revelatory experiences convinced them that the command was from God.

Jump to Subtopic:

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Lucy Walker", by Brian C. Hales


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Sarah Ann Whitney

Joseph Smith's letter to the Whitney family

Summary: It is claimed that on 18 August 1842 Joseph Smith wrote a “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney requesting a secret rendezvous or "tryst." Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks prior to this time.

Divine manifestations to plural wives, their families, and other members

Summary: Did those who entered into plural marriage do so simply because Joseph Smith (or another Church leader) "told them to"? Is this an example of "blind obedience"? No, they bore witness that only powerful revelatory experiences convinced them that the command was from God.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Sarah Ann Whitney", by Brian C. Hales


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Nancy Maria Winchester

Why was Joseph sealed to young women?

Summary: Critics argue that Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women are evidence that he was immoral, perhaps even a pedophile.
See also Brian Hales' discussion: Joseph Smith’s Sealings to Young Wives: FAQ

Availability for testimony in 1892 Temple Lot case

Summary: Nine plural wives were living in 1892. Whether they were called as witnesses seems to have depended upon whether they could testify to conjugality in the plural marriages. Nancy was not called, and thus likely did not have a consummated relationship with the prophet.

Little known

Summary: We know little about this marriage, other than the fact that it occurred.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Nancy Maria Winchester", by Brian C. Hales


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Flora Ann Woodworth


Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Flora Ann Woodworth", by Brian C. Hales


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Fanny Young

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: "Fanny Young", by Brian C. Hales


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Notes

  1. Todd Compton, “Fanny Alger Smith Custer Mormonism’s First Plural Wife?,” Journal of Mormon History 22/1 (Spring 1996):189n50.
  2. Undated holograph letter of William Wright, stamped as received in the First Presidency Office on June 2, 1931, in Box 65, CR 1/44, Misc. Corresp. Of 1st Pres., at CHL; copy in D. Michael Quinn Papers, Yale University, Special Collections, Uncat WA MS Uncat. WA MS. 98, 881028, bx3, fd 2. off-site
  3. Brian and Laura Hales, "Elvira Annie Cowles," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  4. Holograph letter of John L. Smith attached to a letter of the First Presidency dated March 8, 1895, the letter of Smith being written on Feb 27, 1895, to David H. Cannon; copy in D. Michael Quinn Papers—Addition—Uncat WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c), Box 1—Card file—Topic: Polygamy, Joseph Smith’s. off-site
  5. Anon. Biography, CHL. Possibly by August Cleveland Smith quoted in Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 283. off-site
  6. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, “Remarks” at B.Y.U April 14, 1905, copy of original signed typescript, Vault Mss 363, fd 6, HBLL, BYU, 7.
  7. R. Scott Lloyd, ""Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  8. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  9. Andrew Jenson Papers, MS 17956, CHL, box 49, folder 16.
  10. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," Note 28 josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  11. 11.0 11.1 Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives.
  12. Ruth Vose, Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith, Affidavit Books, 1:9; see also 4:9.
  13. Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives. Brian Hales notes: “It appears that the documents in these folders were used to compile Jenson’s 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage. See Joseph F. Smith affidavit books, LDS Archives, 1:9 for date of this sealing “February A.D. 1843.”However the affidavit states that the sealing was performed by Hyrum Smith, which is unlikely because Hyrum did not accept plural marriage until May of that year.” off-site
  14. Donna Toland Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife: The 1846–1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions (Logan: Utah State University, 1997), 276–77. off-site