Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Plural wives/Sylvia Sessions Lyon

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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.[1]

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.'" [2] 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.” [3] 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." [4]

A biography of Sylvia Sessions may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site
  1. R. Scott Lloyd, ""Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  2. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  3. Andrew Jenson Papers, MS 17956, CHL, box 49, folder 16.
  4. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," Note 28 josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site