Question: What do we know about whether or not Joseph Smith fathered any children by his plural wives?

Table of Contents

Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

Question: What do we know about whether or not Joseph Smith fathered any children by his plural wives?

While the record is frustratingly incomplete regarding sexuality, it does little but tease us when we consider whether Joseph fathered children by his plural wives

While the record is frustratingly incomplete regarding sexuality, it does little but tease us when we consider whether Joseph fathered children by his plural wives. Fawn Brodie was the first to consider this question in any detail, though her standard of evidence was depressingly low. Subsequent authors have returned to the problem, though unanimity has been elusive (see Table 1). Ironically, Brodie did not even mention the case of Josephine Lyon, now considered the most likely potential child of Joseph.

Table 1

Table 11‑1 Possible Children of Joseph Smith, Jr., by Plural Marriage[1]

Table1-ChildrenOfPluralMarriage.PNG

Endnote links for above table

[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]


Notes

  1. MN = Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 2nd edition (1971); Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy" (1975); VW=Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 2nd edition (1989); Fo = Foster, Religion and Sexuality (1984); Co = Compton, In Sacred Loneliness (1997); Be = Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists," (2005); Ha = Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (2013).Y – indicates the author considers the child a possible child of Joseph Smith, Jr. N - indicates that author argues against this child being Joseph's child, or lists someone else as the father. Ø - indicates that author does not mention the possibility (pro or con) of this being Joseph's child.
  2. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 43–44, and 43n43.
  3. Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community, Illini Book Edition ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984 [1981]), 157–158.. Foster notes that "there are a number of family traditions in Utah of children by plural wives of Joseph Smith, I have not been able to investigate them closely enough to determine their possible validity" (311n116). Foster then cites Brodie for examples of such allegations. Foster's work cannot be considered an independent examination of the evidence for or against the paternity of specific individuals.
  4. Bergera writes that four "may or may not" have been fathered by Joseph, citing Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," in Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), xxx. as the authority. See Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38/ 3 (Fall 2005): 49–50n115. Interestingly, Compton's article lists only one of these four (Josephine Fisher) as a likely child of Joseph's—Bergera's reference does not support his claim.
  5. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 298–299.
  6. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 345. ( Index of claims )
  7. Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Purdue University), 140.
  8. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  9. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 301–302, 345–346, 470–471.
  10. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140.
  11. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  12. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 167–168. gives the following data which argue for the 1840 birthdate: Prescinda's genealogy records, Essom's Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, "A Venerable Woman," Women's Exponent, Prescinda's holographic autobiography. Only Augusta Joyce Crocheron, Representative Women of Deseret mentions the 1839 date, saying merely, "About this time' her son Oliver was born" (italics added). Clearly the 1840 date has much better attestation.
  13. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 301–302, 345, 460–462. Brodie was so convinced of Joseph's paternity, that she wrote "If Oliver Buell isn't a Smith them I'm no Brimhall [her mother's family]." - Fawn Brodie to Dale Morgan, Letter, 24 March 1945, Dale Morgan papers, Marriott Library, University of Utah; cited by Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166. Compton devastates Brodie's circumstantial case for Buell as a child of Joseph (166–173), and DNA has definitively vindicated his skepticism.
  14. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 137–138.
  15. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 166–173.
  16. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139. suggests that this child is more likely than Oliver to be Joseph's, but he remains skeptical.
  17. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 167.
  18. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  19. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.
  20. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 164.
  21. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 465.
  22. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 164.
  23. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 467.
  24. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 140}}
  25. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  26. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  27. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  28. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139.
  29. Compton points out that "It is striking that Marinda had no children while Orson was on his mission to Jerusalem [15 April 1840–7 December 1842], then became pregnant soon after Orson returned home. (He arrived in Nauvoo on December 7, 1842, and Marinda bore Orson Washington Hyde on November 9, 1843). – Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  30. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  31. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139–140.
  32. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.
  33. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140–141.
  34. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 172.
  35. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 345, 464.
  36. Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 139–140.
  37. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 165.