In my last blog post, I mentioned RLDS Conservatives Richard and Pamela Price, and their book Joseph Smith Fought Plural Marriage.
One interesting matter which they raise is their reported discovery of a court case brought by Chauncey Higbee against Joseph Smith (chapter 13 in their book). They reportedly found these in Nov 1962.
“In 1962 when we first examined the papers pertaining to this case, no copier was available in the circuit court office where the documents were deposited. We used slide film to photograph the documents, but when the film was processed, the text was not legible. We also made typed copies of the papers, including Joseph’s affidavit, which we proofread again and again to be sure we had copied it correctly…
“In 1968 we returned to the Carthage Courthouse to try to obtain photocopies of these official papers, since a copier was then available. We requested permission to examine this file again and it was brought to us, but Joseph Smith’s affidavit (Document Number 1 above) was missing!…
“In June 1998 we went once more to Carthage to search for Joseph’s affidavit, but it had not been returned. When Richard went to view the papers, on June 22, 1998, he found none of the documents of this case in File Box 18…
“The clerks did say that all of the Joseph Smith papers had been recently microfilmed, and that they may be available through the Mormon Church. The clerks did not disclose the name of the person or persons who took the documents to Utah for study…
“It is important to be aware that the Mormon Church did not address The People vs. Chauncey L. Higbee case in its official history. It mentioned Chauncey’s promiscuity, but refrained from giving details of the case…[because] the Saints would have [thereby] discerned that Joseph was not a polygamist—and that the entire polygamy doctrine and practice was a fraud.”
Thus, the Prices report finding these papers, including an affidavit of Joseph Smith’s. The court documents (again, reportedly) make it clear that Higbee intended to call Sarah Pratt, Nancy Rigdon, and other women from Nauvoo as witnesses–presumably to rebut Joseph’s claims about plural marriage being taught.
It’s unfortunate that the Prices didn’t do one of:
a) get legible photos of the documents;
b) get notorized copies of the documents they made in the 1960s;
c) publish their work at the time
But, it was a different time. If we grant that their story is true, I’m sure they’re kicking themselves too!
Being in the wilds of Canada, I don’t have easy access to the Church archives, so I’ve not yet checked to see if microfilm copies exist there. I’ve seen no reference to them anywhere else, however.
I don’t buy the idea that the LDS Church has “suppressed” this issue, simply because Joseph’s affidavit isn’t that surprising:
…one Chancy L. Higbee has slandered and defamed the character of the said Joseph Smith, and also the character of Emma Smith, his wife, in using their names, the more readily to accomplish his purpose in seducing certain females, and further this deponont saith not.
This is consistent with Joseph either not practicing polygamy, or insisting that the version given out by Higbee and John C. Bennett was false.
If the story is true, one wonders if they’ll show up in the Joseph Smith Papers project. So, does anyone know anything else about this court case? Anything else about these documents?
Important Note: I do not believe that anyone is currently authorized to practice plural marriage. Any comments arguing that plural marriage should be taught or practiced by the LDS Church (or anyone else) will be deleted without further warning. Get your own blog.