Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Plural wives/Elvira Annie Cowles Holmes

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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. [1]

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." [2]

A biography of Elvira Annie Cowles may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site
  1. 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
  2. Brian and Laura Hales, "Elvira Annie Cowles," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site