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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Censorship
Nauvoo Polygamy: Censorship
A FairMormon Analysis of: Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage", a work by author: George D. Smith
When lack of evidence constitutes evidence
The author has a recurring theme of emphasizing information suppression and censorship within Church records. It is assumed that evidence once existed in official histories, but that any "official accounts" of plural marriage have been "redacted." (p. 356)
The author is careful to note that none of Joseph's plural wives are mentioned in the official History of the Church. (p. xiii) Apparently not confident that we understand that point, the author emphasizes that History of the Church says nothing about Nauvoo on the day of Louisa Beaman's marriage to Joseph (p. 57), nor of the sealing to Agnes Smith (p. 88), nor any "hint of a wedding" to Sarah Ann Whitney, (p. 137) nor any "mention of the second Huntington nuptial…." (p. 82) Apparently still not certain that the point has been made, the author continues to wearily hammer it home, noting that "[a]s usual, the History of the Church made no mention of Sylvia [Sessions Lyon] on February 8, 1842…" (p. 99) and that it "predictably gives no notice" of various other weddings. (p. 185) Because there is a lack of such information, the author postulates that all mention of plural marriage has "been expurgated" from Church historical records. (p. xiii-xiv) Working from his own hypothesis, the author concludes that after John C. Bennett's falling out with Joseph Smith, "the record of his celestial marriages was apparently expunged." (p. 119) Yet, in contrast to this, the author notes that "…the 1846 temple sealings, which re-comemorated previously conducted plural marriages, were carefully noted in Nauvoo temple records." (p. 416) The Church has allowed these records to be seen by researchers and even published by Signature Books. This seems a strange course of action for an organization determined (as the author repeatedly insists) to "expurgating" the history of plural marriage.
It is noted that both Joseph Smith's diary and History of the Church do not "give any hint of conjugal contacts Smith might have had with this wife." (p. 75) and "[t]ypically, [Joseph] never mentioned his marriage to Patty [Sessions] on paper…." (p. 103) The author even notes the absence of information in Joseph's diary about his "courtships." (p. 452)
The History of the Church was largely based on Joseph's diaries. It is therefore not surprising that Joseph's polygamy is not treated in the History, when not detailed in the main primary source. Beyond this fact, however, one must wonder at the absurdity of assuming that Joseph or his later scribes would add intimate details of "conjugal contacts" with his wives to the History of the Church!
Suppression versus openness
Moreover, the author assumes that there were alternating cycles of suppression and openess. "The cyclical nature of this suppression of information, first in Illinois and later in Utah, left a brief window in Mormon history from which most of the documentation has been recovered." (p. xiv) He seems privy to the details of these cycles, noting that "[e]fforts to suppress the story of Nauvoo until the 1852 announcement [of polygamy in Utah] restricted the breadth and depth of the records that were kept. (p. 356)
It is assumed that "Mormons accepted as sufficient the explanation that Joseph Smith's death was due to an angry mob, without caring to know specifically what those Illinois neighbors had been angry about." (p. 449)
The author goes on to claim that a variety of LDS histories do not discuss plural marriage's role in Joseph and Hyrum's murders: "One LDS educator in 1967 wrote about the 'causes' of conflict in Nauvoo…without mentioning plural marriage." (p. 450) However, each of the examples cited does discuss plural marriage as a cause, often in considerable detail.
For a detailed response, see: LDS histories omit mention of plural marriage?
- Lisle G. Brown, Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings : A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances 1841-1846 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006).
- The work referred to, Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839–1846” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1967), dedicates an entire chapter to it, entitled "Plural marriage"!.