Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy

Table of Contents

Response to Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage", a work by author: George D. Smith

Response to claims made in Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage" by George D. Smith

Index of claims

Summary: Responses to specific critical or unsupported claims made in Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage" indexed by page number.

Use of sources

Summary: An examination and response to how the author of Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage" interprets the sources used to support this work, indexed by page number.

Prejudicial language

Summary: An examination of how the author employs loaded and prejudicial language in this work in order to discredit Mormonism.


Summary: “Presentism” is an analytical fallacy in which past behavior is evaluated by modern standards or mores. We examine some of our favorite examples of this fallacy in Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage".

Mind reading

Summary: The author often attempts to interpret what Joseph was thinking as a way to lead the reader to a predetermined conclusion regarding Joseph Smith.


Summary: The author claims that the Church deliberately hid or obscured information. We examine those claims in this section.


Summary: We point out some instances in which the author pursues his quest to show that Joseph was "romantic" with his plural wives.


Summary: In many cases, Joseph is simply assumed to be guilty of any offense.


Summary: The author, following the lead of D. Michael Quinn, emphasizes "magick" in Joseph's early life.

About this work

In 1994, A letter to the Whitney's...

Three weeks later, while in hiding, Joseph Smith wrote a revealing letter which he addressed to her parents, Newel and Elizabeth Whitney, inviting them to bring their daughter to visit him "just back of Brother Hyrums farm." He advised Brother Whitney to "come a little a head and nock [sic] at the south East corner of the house at the window." He assured them, especially Sarah Ann, that "it is the will of God that you should comfort me now." He stressed the need for care "to find out when Emma comes," but "when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty [sic]." The prophet warned them to "burn this letter as soon as you read it" and "keep all locked up in your breasts." In closing he admonished, "I think Emma won't come to night if she dont[,] dont fail to come to night."
—George D. Smith, "Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841–46: A Preliminary Demographic Report." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27/1 (Spring 1994): 27. 2008 becomes a "love letter" to Sarah Ann.

A young man of ambition and vision penned his own letter of affection to a young woman. It was the summer of 1842 when thirty-six-year-old Joseph Smith, hiding from the law down by the Mississippi River in Illinois, confessed:
"My feelings are so strong for you . . . come and see me in this my lonely retreat . . . now is the time to afford me succour . . . I have a room intirely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect saf[e]ty, I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me."
—George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage", ix-x.

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[I]t is a lost opportunity to show that Joseph is a bit dimwitted in the seduction business, not having figured out that an invitation for Sarah to a steamy tryst should perhaps not include her parents.
—Gregory L. Smith, "George D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy," Review of George D. Smith. Nauvoo Polygamy: ". . . but we called it celestial marriage.", FARMS Review 20:2

You see, the entire letter is addressed not only to Sarah, but to Sarah's parents as well; and Joseph asks that Mom and Dad come along to the nocturnal tryst. Well, one can see right away that this would have reflected poorly on Joseph's sophistication because it would portray Joseph Smith as something of a klutz in the steamy midnight romancing field. One can imagine the enthusiasm with which those hostile to the Prophet would poke fun at yet another proof that Joseph was only a dumb yokel after all. Worse, because Joseph occupied only a single room, when all the sweating and moaning the book leads us to assume was to be going on, there wouldn't have been much room for Mom and Dad to stand around, let alone sit down to play a game of crib. The author thus conceals the revelation that Joseph was impractical and inconsiderate of older people.
—Robert B. White, "A Review of the Dust Jacket and the First Two Pages," Review of George D. Smith. Nauvoo Polygamy: ". . . but we called it celestial marriage.", FARMS Review 20:2

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[Polygamy] occurred within a "perfectionist" society in which selected men were offered the "privilege" of progressing from perfection to perfection until, in another world, they would learn how to govern their own planet and, with their plural wives, populate it with "endless" children.
—"Joseph Smith Had 'Conjugal Relations' with Eight Plural Wives, Says FARMS", Signature Books web site, March 25, 2009.

According to Mormon theology, husbands and wives who have successfully achieved godhood will be required to populate their own planet by procreating as many spirit children as possible.
The God Makers, an anti-Mormon film produced in 1982.

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Reviews of this Work

Gregory L. Smith, "George D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy"

Gregory L. Smith,  The FARMS Review, (2008)
One cannot, it is said, judge a book by its cover. After reading George D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy, however, I've found that one can sometimes judge a book by its first page. "Readers can judge for themselves," promises the book's dust jacket. Why it was felt necessary to state the obvious becomes clear upon reading the first page: this book needs judging, and as that hasn't been done by the author or the editor or the publisher, we, the poor readers (who must pay for the privilege) are obliged to do it ourselves. Fortunately, it isn't hard. Unfortunately, the author won't like it.

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