Question: Was Joseph trying to prey on a young twelve-year-old girl?

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Question: Was Joseph trying to prey on a young twelve-year-old girl?

Joseph told Mary when she was age 22, not 12, about a vision that he had of her becoming his plural wife

Some have tried to see Joseph as telling Mary in Kirtland at age 12 that she was to be his wife.[1] This does not, however, seem to match her account:

The words of the Prophet that had been revealed to him always have been with me from the beginning to the end of the gospel. Every principle that has been given in the Church by the prophet is true. I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it, and told him it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. He said in the Book of Mormon it was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and they were to adhere to these things except the Lord speak. I am the first being that the revelation [D&C 132] was given to him for and I was one thousand miles away in Missouri, for we went up to Jackson County in 1841 [should be 1831].[2]

As she says in the quote above, Joseph got the revelation regarding her, but by then she was a thousand miles away in Missouri. Her family had left Kirtland for Missouri in the fall of 1831; only after her departure did Joseph report the revelation.

Furthermore, in a private letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary said that she was not taught anything about plural marriage by Joseph until 1842:

As for Sister Whitney, Bishop Whitney's wife, I shall never forget her. It was at their house that the Prophet Joseph first told me about his great vision concerning me. He said I was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife. That was in 1831. He was very much frightened, the angel appeared to him three times. It was in the early part of Feb. 1842 that he was compelled to reveal it to me personally, by the Angel threatening him. I said I would not accept it until I had seen an immortal being myself. I could tell you about this, but cannot write any more in regard to this subject.[3]

Critics have attempted to portray Joseph as a lech or pedophile, preying on a young child. They claim that he is "grooming" her for later abuse. There are several problems with such a reconstruction. A key one is that, as we have seen, Joseph's revelation regarding her did not come until she was far away in Missouri. (Newel K. Whitney was also not called as a bishop until December 1831.[4])


  1. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1994), 89.
  2. Mary Elizabeth Lightner, "Testimony of Mary Elizabeth Lightner," address at Brigham Young University, (14 April 1905), typescript, BYU, 1, emphasis added off-site
  3. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Summer 1905, emphasis added.
  4. "Newel K. Whitney: A Man of Faith and Service," Church History Museum (25 March 2015). It is possible that Mary could be speaking of the Whitney's with the bishop's future title, even though he was not bishop while she was in Kirtland, but the other evidence makes this improbable.