Recently I was asked to respond to a Saturday June 26, 2010 blog post the entitled:  “Why I’m Abandoning Polygamy” by Alan Rock Waterman.  Having been inundated with anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy, anti-Joseph Smith emails, messages, and blog posts since the publication of my 3 volume JOSEPH SMITH’S POLYGAMY: HISTORY AND THEOLOGY in February of this year (2013 – Greg Kofford Books), I figured it would be another “Joseph was a womanizer” report.

To my surprise I found that Mr. Waterman composed a witty and entertaining piece that was an enjoyable read.  Since it was written long before my books were published and since we both agree that Joseph Smith was not what antagonists like Fawn Brodies have portrayed him to be (libido driven libertine), I will simply offer some evidences that counter what our aged friends, Richard and Pamela Price, have been promoting for decades.  Hopefully, the scholar in Mr. Waterman will permit him to see that the RLDS Fundamentalist position is problematic and is contradicted by literally hundreds of manuscript evidences.

First, let me say that the Prices are very good investigators.  They have produced some of the best research available anywhere on a few polygamy-related topics.  The unfortunate problem is how they interpret the documents and how readily they dismiss and ignore other equally valid manuscripts that contradict their conclusions.  Mr. Waterman initially seems to have embraced their view.  My 3 volumes profess to contain “every known document dealing with Joseph Smith’s polygamy,” either transcribed or referenced.  Hence, the position of Richard and Pamela Price is countered by a plethora of documentation and it’s all there in my volumes.

Richard and Pamela Price believe that through the Cochranite connection, plural marriage entered the Church:

Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in southern Maine in 1832, only three years after Jacob Cochran moved form Maine to New York State.  The Church missionaries visited the Cochranite communities, stayed in their homes, taught them the gospel, baptized some, and urged them to gather to Zion.  As a result, many of his followers joined the Church and moved to Kirtland and Nauvoo.  Some took their polygamous beliefs with them…  “On August 21, 1835, nine of the Twelve [apostles] met in conference at Saco, Maine.”   With nine of the twelve apostles making their appearance in Saco, there is no doubt that each one of them became well acquainted with the doctrines of Cochranism, for at that time it was a popular secular and religious news topic.

 Orson Hyde encountered them on October 11, 1832:

“Went down to Gunkits about 3 miles and again preached to a congregation of Cochranites who gave liberty; told them again to repent and go up to Zion, and we lifted our cry in the Spirit, and I hope some of them will go; but they had a wonderful lustful spirit, because they believe in a “Plurality of wives” which they call spiritual wives, knowing them not after the flesh but after the spirit, but by the appearance they know one another after the flesh.”

Orson Hyde

Orson Hyde

 

 

Jacob Cochran, the group’s founder was prosecuted in 1819 for adultery.  The National Intelligencer reported on November 19th:  “Jacob Cochrane, the notorious preacher and leader of a new party of religious zealots in this country, has been sentenced by the Supreme Court now sitting at Alfred, to 13 day solitary imprisonment, and four years hard labor in the state’s prison, for the crime of adultery…  On the other three indictments, for lewdness, fornication, and adultery, he has not yet been tried.”

4.3 Conchran newspaper

The interpretation that polygamy entered the Church in the 1830s through a Cochran connection is problematic because there is no contemporary evidence or even late recollections to support it.  It appears that if polygamy was mentioned in Kirtland meetings, Church members undoubtedly would have condemned the practice and mentioned it in the journals and letters.  The local press would have had a heyday exploiting such a controversial practice.  Writers often point to the denials of polygamy from this period as evidence, but at that time, the Church was denying a lot of allegations.  Oliver Cowdery wrote in the Messenger and Advocate in 1836:  “It would be a Herculean task to point out the innumerable falsehoods and misrepresentations, sent out detrimental to this society.  The tales of those days in which Witches were burnt, and the ridiculous inconsistencies of those who directed the building of the funeral pyre, could be no more absurd than the every-day tales, relative to the conduct and professions of the ‘Mormons.’”  Proponents of Kirtland polygamy never quote the rumormongers because no such rumors have been found in private or published documents.  Only the denials which they have distilled from longer lists of things Church leaders then denied are mentioned.

It is true that Joseph Smith denied “polygamy” and also “spiritual wifery” in Nauvoo because these were very different from “celestial marriage” in Joseph Smith’s teachings.  It was a play on words –  verbal gymnastics –  and not very effective.  People today are quick to condemn Joseph for the denials and we can’t blame them, but if we put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes, it is easy to see how he chose words that weren’t blatant lying, but were still deceiving.

The idea that “They [the Cochranites] had simply been folded into Mormonish, selling their farms and shops and moving to Kirtland and eventually Nauvoo, bringing their polygamous families and teachings with them” is a great storyline without any supportive evidence, contemporaneous or late.   Researchers who embrace this view are encouraged to support it with historical documentation.

William_Clayton

William Clayton

The overall problem documenting Joseph Smith’s plural marriages stems from the fact that there are only two known contemporaneous documents dealing with the subject, the Revelation on Celestial and Plural Marriage (now LDS D&C 132) and a few entries in the journal of William Clayton. Joseph dictated two other documents in conjunction with the expansion of polygamy, but neither actually mentions plural marriage. The first is a letter from Joseph to Nancy Rigdon written in the spring of 1842 and first published by John C. Bennett on August 19, 1842, and the second is a letter Joseph Smith received on behalf of Newel K. Whitney on July 27, 1842, which contradicts Waterman’s statement that “no one had ever heard of it during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.” It is true that beyond these documents, no firsthand accounts from Joseph Smith are available.

The unfortunate reality is that every researcher must rely on late recollections if they seek to document the existence of Nauvoo polygamy.  Authors who declare such sources to be unreliable, can then spin their story any direction they want, because they are freed from the constraints of the historical evidences.  But their creations will be historical fiction.

When consulting the historical record, there are literally hundreds of late reminiscences recalling Joseph’s teachings and their own involvement. They tell a very similar story.   I have accumulated numerous evidences to corroborate each of his 35 plural wives.   (See http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/JSWives/JSWivesList02.html)

The payload of historical documentation is found in three collections.  First, dozens of testimonials were gathered into four notebooks by Apostle Joseph F. Smith in 1869-1870:

Name

Date

1869

Book

Notes

1

page

4

page

Joseph B. Noble

June 26

3

1

Performed sealing of Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman on April 5, 1841.
unfinished affidavit, no name

3

Unsigned, unfinished, crossed out. Dated June 6, 1869.
Zina D. Huntington Young

May 18

5

5

Sealed to Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841.
Presendia Huntington Buell Kimball

May 1

7

7

Sealed to Joseph Smith on December 11, 1841.
Ruth Vose Sayers

May 1

9

9

Sealed to Joseph Smith on February 1843.
Emily D. Partridge Young

May 1

11

11

Sealed to Joseph Smith on March 4, 1843, by Heber C. Kimball.
Emily D. Partridge Young

May 1

13

13

Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 11, 1843, by James Adams.
Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde

May 1

15

15

Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 1843.
Rhoda Richards

May 1

17

17

Sealed to Joseph Smith on June 12, 1843.
Dimick B. Huntington

May 1

19

19

Officiated at Zina’s and Presendia’s sealings.
Fanny M. Huntington

May 1

21

21

Witnessed Zina’s and Presendia’s sealings.
Malissa Lott Willes

May 20

23

23

Sealed to Joseph Smith on September 20, 1843.
Eliza R. Snow

June 7

25

25

Sealed to Joseph Smith on June 29, 1842.
David Fullmer

June 15

27-28

27-28

Celestial marriage revelation and Nauvoo High Council.
Lovinia Smith Walker

June 16

30

30

Certificate – Emma approved of plural marriage.
Desdemona Fullmer

June 17

32

32

Sealed to Joseph Smith in July, 1843.
Mercy R. Thompson

June 19

34

34

Sealed to Hyrum Smith.
Sarah Ann Whitney Kimball

June 19

36

36

Sealed to Joseph Smith on July 27, 1842.
Joseph B. Noble

June 26

38-39

38-39

Learned about plural marriage from Joseph Smith.
Thomas Grover

July 6

42

42

Discussion of the celestial marriage revelation and the Nauvoo High Council.
Thomas Grover

July 6

44

44

Sealed to two plural wives in August 1843 by Hyrum Smith.
Mary Ann Angell Young

July 10

46

46

Sealed to Brigham Young by Hyrum Smith [date blank].
Lucy Ann Decker Young

July 10

48

48

Sealed to Brigham Young by Joseph Smith on June 14, 1842.
Augusta Adams Young

July 12

50

50

Sealed to Brigham Young by Joseph Smith on November 2, 1843.
Augusta Adams Young

July 12

52

52

Witness to the sealing of Fanny Murray and Brigham Young.
Charles C. Rich

July 12

54

54

Learned plural marriage from Hyrum Smith in May 1844.
Vienna Jacques

56

Unfinished and unsigned.
John Pack

July 22

56-57

58-59

Learned plural marriage from Hyrum Smith.
Sylvia Sessions Lyon

[blank]

60

1842

62

1843

Unsigned–level of involvement of Sylvia Sessions is unknown. Sealing dates in two books show different years.
Elizabeth Brotherton Pratt

Aug. 2

62

64

Sealed to Parley P. Pratt by Hyrum Smith on July 24, 1843.
Mary Ellen Abel Kimball

Aug. 6

64

66

Witness to Catherine Clawson’s sealing to Howard Egan.
Lucy Walker Kimball

Aug. 9

66

68

Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 1, 1843, by William Clayton.
[William Clayton’s Journal]

Aug. 9

67

69

Extract for May 1, 1843–Joseph sealed to Lucy Walker

Aug. 17

68

70

Extract for August 16, 1843–Emma threatened divorce.
Amos Fielding

Aug. 24

70

72

Learned of plural marriage from Joseph Smith in December 1843.
Elizabeth Ann Whitney

Aug. 30

72

74

Witnessed daughter Sarah Ann’s time and eternity sealing to Joseph Smith on July 27, 1842.
John Benbow

Aug. 28

74

76

Learned of plural marriage from Joseph Smith in spring/summer of 1843–Hannah Ells was a plural wife of Joseph Smith who lived with him during that time.
Nathan Tanner

Aug. 28

76

78

Learned of plural marriage from Joseph Smith in the spring of 1844.
Elvira A. Cowles Holmes

Aug. 28

78

80

Sealed to Joseph Smith on June 1, 1843.
Sarah Perry Peak Kimball

Sept. 7

80

82

Learned of plural marriage from Joseph Smith in 1842.
James Allred

Oct. 2

82

84

Celestial marriage revelation was presented to the Nauvoo High Council on August 12, 1843.
Aaron Johnson

Oct. 2

84

86

Roxsena Rachel Adams

Oct. 13

86

88

Sealed to James Adams on July 11, 1843, by Joseph Smith.

Name

Date

Book

Notes

2

page

3

page

Benjamin F. Johnson

March 4

3-9

3-9

Testimony and historical items.
Harriet Cook Young

March 4

12

12

Sealed to Brigham Young on November 2, 1843, by Joseph Smith.

March 4

14

14

Witnessed Joseph Smith’s sealing to Fanny Murray Young on November 2, 1843.
Clara Decker Young

March 4

16

16

Sealed to Brigham Young on May 8, 1844, by Willard Richards.
Joseph C. Kingsbury

March 7

18

18

Wrote a copy of celestial marriage revelation on July 15, 1843.
Lorenzo Snow

Aug.28

19-20

19-21

COPY. Testimony and historical items.
Christopher Merkley

Aug.3

21-23

21-23

COPY. Statement and affidavit, regarding Zenos H. Gurley.
Joseph Smith to the Whitneys

Aug.13

25-28

25-28

COPY Letter of Joseph to “Brother and Sister Whitney &c” dated August 18, 1842; sworn by Elizabeth Ann Whitney.
Eliza Partridge Lyman

July 1

30

30

COPY. Witnessed Lucy Walker to Joseph Smith sometime in 1843 by William Clayton.

32

32

COPY. Sealed to Joseph Smith on March 8, 1843 by Heber C. Kimball.

33

33

COPY. Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 11, 1843, by James Adams.

34

34

COPY. Witnessed Emily Partridge’s sealing to Joseph Smith on May 11, 1843.
Martha McBride Kimball

July 8

36

36

COPY. Sealed to Joseph Smith in the summer 1842 by Heber C. Kimball.
Mary Ann Frost Pratt

Sept. 3

38

38

COPY. Sealed to Parley P. Pratt on July 24, 1843, by Hyrum Smith.

40

40

COPY. Witnessed Elizabeth Brotherton’s marriage to Parley P. Pratt on July 24, 1843, by Hyrum Smith.
Adeline Brooks Andrus Benson

Sept. 5

42

42

COPY. Sealed to Ezra T. Benson on April 27, 1844, by Hyrum Smith.
Pamelia Andrus Benson

Sept. 6

44

44

COPY. Sealed to Ezra T. Benson on November 19, 1843, by Hyrum Smith and witnessed Adeline Andrus’s sealing to Ezra T. Benson on April 27, 1844.
Orson Hyde

Sept. 15

45-46

45-46

COPY. Sealed to Martha R. Browitt in February or March of 1843 by Joseph Smith and sealed to Mary Ann Price in April of 1843 by Joseph Smith. Marinda Johnson Hyde, his legal wife, consented.
David Fullmer, Thomas Grover, Aaron Johnson, James Allred

Oct. 10

47-48

47-48

Celestial marriage revelation presented to the Nauvoo High Council on August 12, 1843.
Jacob Peart

April 23

50

50

Deceased wife was sealed to him in November 1843.
Bathsheba Smith

Nov. 19

51-54

History and recollections inscribed in this book (Book 2) on November 19, 1903. Joseph F. Smith witness. Not found in Book 4, probably because Book 4 was located in the Church Historian’s Office along with Book 3, whereas Joseph F. Smith kept Books 1 and 2 in his personal possession.

Other free affidavits have been accumulated:

Name

Date

Notes 
Patty Bartlett Sessions

June 1867

Sealed to Joseph Smith March 9, 1842, by Willard Richards
Adeline Brooks Andrus Benson

Sept. 5, 1869

Sealed to Ezra T. Benson on April 27, 1844, by Hyrum Smith.
Pamelia Andrus Benson

Sept. 6, 1869

Sealed to Ezra T. Benson on November 19, 1843, by Hyrum Smith and witnessed Adeline Andrus’s sealing to Ezra T. Benson on April 27, 1844.
Gideon Carter

1903

History of the planned move to the West.
William Clayton

Nov. 11, 1871

William wrote the revelation on celestial marriage July 12, 1843. Testimony.

Feb. 16, 1874

Extensive history with names of many plural wives. It has been published numerous times.
Howard Coray

June 12, 1882

Hyrum Smith taught him and his wife and sealed them in eternal monogamy on July 22, 1843.
Josephine Fisher

Feb. 24, 1915

1915 statement quoting her mother’s deathbed statement that Josephine was the daughter of Joseph Smith.
Mary Ann Frost Pratt

Sept. 3, 1869

Sealed to Parley P. Pratt on July 24, 1843, by Hyrum Smith.
Witnessed Elizabeth Brotherton’s marriage to Parley P. Pratt on July 24, 1843, by Hyrum Smith.
Zenos Gurley

April 15, 1886

Letter discusses the circumstances surrounding Gurley’s securing an affidavit from Leonard Soby to the effect that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy
Orson Hyde

Sept. 15, 1869

Sealed to Martha R. Browitt in February or March of 1843 by Joseph Smith and sealed to Mary Ann Price in April of 1843 by Joseph Smith. Marinda Johnson Hyde, his legal wife, consented.
Almera Johnson

Aug. 1, 1883

[written in 1883] Sealed to Joseph Smith spring of 1843
Joseph Kelting

March 1, 1894

Recollection of personal discussion with Joseph Smith regarding plural marriage.

1903

Provides verbatim quotes of discussion with Joseph Smith regarding plural marriage.
Joseph Kingsbury

May 22, 1886

Recopied July 12, 1843, revelation
Martha McBride Kimball

July 8, 1869

Sealed to Joseph Smith in the summer 1842 by Heber C. Kimball.
Christopher Merkley

Aug. 3, 1869

Statement and affidavit, regarding Zenos H. Gurley.
Eliza Partridge Lyman

July 1, 1869

Sealed to Joseph Smith on March 8, 1843, by Heber C. Kimball.
Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 11, 1843, by James Adams.
Witnessed Lucy Walker to Joseph Smith sometime in 1843 by William Clayton.
Witnessed Emily Partridge’s sealing to Joseph Smith on May 11, 1843.
Catherine Phillips

Jan. 28, 1903

Sealed to Hyrum Smith by Joseph Smith in August of 1843.
John W. Rigdon

July 29, 1905

Lengthy statement including a discussion of Joseph Smith and Nancy Rigdon
Bathsheba Smith

Nov. 19, 1903

Recollection that Emma Smith opposed plural marriage.
Joseph Smith III

Jan. 17, 1888

1888 statement denying that his father, the Prophet, practiced polygamy.
Erastus Snow

undated

Sealed to Artemesia Bergan by Hyrum Smith on February 15, 1844
Lorenzo Snow

Aug. 28, 1869

Recollection of learning of plural marriage in 1843 from Joseph Smith
Leonard Soby

Oct. 27, 1903

Affidavit affirming that D&C 132 is the same revelation he read on August 12, 1843, as a member of the Nauvoo Stake presidency
Lucy Walker

1902

Sealed to Joseph Smith on May 1, 1843, by William Clayton

Second, in 1887, independent historian Andrew Jenson accumulated additional testimonials that were published in his “Plural Marriage” article in the Historical Record.  

Source Date Description page
Joseph F. Smith May 20, 1886 Letter 219
Joseph F. Smith Oct. 17, 1879 Letter 220-24
Joseph B. Noble June 6, 1869 Testimony 221
Benjamin F. Johnson March 4, 1870 Testimony 221-22
Lorenzo Snow August 28, 1869 Testimony 222
John Benbow August 8, 1869 Affidavit 222-23
Eliza M. Partridge July 1, 1869 Affidavit 223
Emily Dow Partridge May 1, 1869 Testimony 223
Emily Dow Partridge August 1, 1885 Woman’s Exponent excerpt 223
Lovina Smith Walker June 16, 1869 Certificate 223-24
Eliza R. Snow October 22, 1879 Testimony 224
William Clayton February 16, 1874 Testimony 224-26
Joseph C. Kingsbury May 22, 1886 Testimony 226
Thomas Grover January 10, 1885 Testimony 226-27
David Fullmer June 15, 1869 Testimony 227
Leonard Soby January 1886 Testimony 227-28
James S. Brooks March 26, 1886 Letter 228
Leonard Soby February 26, 1886 Letter 228
Howard Coray June 12, 1882 Testimony 228-29
Mercy R. Thompson January 31, 1886 Testimony 229
Mercy R. Thompson September 5, 1883 Letter 229
Lucy Walker Kimball Undated Letter 230
Orson Pratt September 12, 1878 Testimony 230
Lyman O. Littlefield June 18, 1883 Millennial Star excerpt 230
Allen J. Stout January 20, 1885 Deseret Evening News excerpt 230-31
S. A. Woolley Undated Testimony 231-32
Erastus Snow Undated Testimony 232
Sarah M. Kimball Undated Testimony 232
Elder Thomas Grover June 11, 1883 Statement 232
Joseph B. Noble June 11, 1883 Statement 232-33
John Taylor June 11, 1883 Statement 233
George Q. Cannon June 11, 1883 Statement 233

List of Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives

233-34
Olive Grey Frost Biographical sketch 234-35
Desdemona Wadsworth Fullmer Biographical sketch 235-36
Lucy Walker Kimball Biographical sketch 236
Eliza M. Partridge Lyman Biographical sketch 236-37
Joseph Bates Noble Biographical sketch 237-40
Emily Dow Partridge Young Biographical sketch 240

Jenson’s private collection at the Church History Library also contains many important documents.

In 1892, the RLDS Church sued the Church of Christ Temple Lot (Hedrikites) and dozens of witnesses were called.

C 12 Photo History of the Temple Lot from Bill Curtis cropped

The RLDS Old Rock Church is on the left and the Church of Christ Temple Lot building (small white structure) on the right.

Many of the witnesses testified of Nauvoo polygamy including three of Joseph Smith’s own wives who acknowledged sexual relations with him as his plural wives.

Temple Lot Transcript Directory Parts 1 and 2

Pages Witness Identity Polygamy mentioned?
1-46  Introduction Yes
1-7 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop of RLDS Church
7-47 James Whitehead Joseph Smith’s secretary, later RLDS member Yes
48-165 Joseph Smith III President of the RLDS Church Yes
166-219 William B. Smith Joseph Smith’s brother Yes
219-21 J. W. Brackenbury Nauvoo resident, 1840-46
222-346 W. W. Blair Editor of the Saints’ Herald
347-59 Henry A. Stebbins RLDS Church Secretary and Recorder
359-62 Robert Weston Independence resident
362-63 Isaac N. Rogers Independence resident
363-66 William McCoy Independence resident
366-67 Thomas Halley Independence resident
367-69 Clarence St. Clair Independence resident
369-73 Emily D. P. Young Daughter of LDS Church bishop Edward Partridge and plural wife of Joseph Smith Yes
374-92 John H. Carter resident of Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo Yes
392-413 John Taylor Jackson County and Nauvoo resident Yes
413-22 Charles Johnson Ray County, Missouri, resident
422-502 E. C. Briggs 1842 convert; later affiliated with RLDS Church Yes
503-48 Hyrum Rathbun 1831 Missouri resident
549-51 John W. Brackenbury Jackson County resident
552-54 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop RLDS Church
555-56 W. R. Hall Independence deed recorder
556-63 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop, RLDS Church
563-67 W. R. Hall Independence deed recorder
567-72 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop, RLDS Church
572-73 W. R. Hall Independence deed recorder
573-77 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop, RLDS Church
577-93 Robert Weston Independence resident
593-616 John H. Thomas Independence resident Yes
617-29 Charles R. Ross Caldwell County resident
629-47 Mary Eaton Missouri and Nauvoo resident Yes
647-59 John T. Crisp Independence resident Yes
659-74 Martha A. Hall Independence resident
674-88 Jacob Greg Independence resident
688-96 William Stewart Independence resident

Temple Lot Transcript Directory Parts 3 and 4

Pages Witness Identity Polygamy mentioned?
1-92 Wilford Woodruff LDS Church President Yes
92-108 Malissa Lott Willes Plural wife of Joseph Smith Yes
108-47 Lorenzo Snow LDS Apostle Yes
147-77 Lyman O. Littlefield LDS Nauvoo resident Yes
177-236 Joseph C. Kingsbury Scribe of copy of revelation on celestial marriage Yes
237-90 Mercy Rachel Fielding Thompson Plural wife of Hyrum Smith Yes
291-348 Bathsheba W. Smith Wife of Apostle George A. Smith Yes
349-92 Emily D. P. Young Plural wife of Joseph Smith and daughter of Bishop Partridge Yes
392-448 Joseph B. Noble Performed first Nauvoo plural marriage ceremony Yes
448-95 Lucy Walker Kimball Plural wife of Joseph Smith Yes
495-527 Mary Ann Frost West Plural wife of William Smith Yes
527-30 Priscilla M. Staines Plural wife of William Smith Yes
530-63 Cyrus H. Wheelock Nauvoo resident Yes
564-77 Samuel W. Richards Nauvoo resident Yes
577-623 Jason W. Briggs 1842 LDS member joined RLDS Yes
623-85 L. D. Hickey James J. Strang follower Yes
685-95 Ember Mason Jackson County resident
695-99 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop of RLDS Church
699-707 A. H. G. Henley Jackson County Circuit Clerk
708-16 Thomas Maxwell Missouri resident
716-17 W. R. Hall Independence deed recorder
717-37 Alma Owen Hedrickite member
739-94 Richard Hill Independence resident
794-802 William B. Wilson Independence resident
802-07 John H. Taylor Independence resident
807-11 E. L. Kelley Presiding Bishop of RLDS Church
811-12 Josiah W. Swearingen Deputy Clerk County Court

Part 4

1-35 John Hawley Excommunicated LDS member Yes
35-92 Williard Griffith Nauvoo resident and RLDS member Yes
92-119 James Whitehead Secretary for Joseph Smith, RLDS member Yes
119-36 C. A. Reynolds Jackson County resident
136-79 Joseph Smith III RLDS President Yes
179-92 W. W. Blair Editor of the Saints’ Herald

(See also Joseph Smith’s Polygamy volume 2, appendix C [pp. 343-68].)

Other affidavits have been found.  William Clayton affirmed that he wrote the original revelation on Celestial and Plural Marriage on July 12, 1843.  Joseph C. Kingbury similarly attested to making a copy in the days shortly thereafter.  To dismiss these statements as cover up or babble is insufficient.  Also, the revelation was read to the Nauvoo High Council on August 12, 1843, according to six of the men who left their testimonials and who were present that day – James Allred, David Fullmer, Thomas Grover, Aaron Johnson , Leonard Soby, and Austin Cowles.  The last two apostatized over the issue but still left a record saying the revelation was read by Hyrum to them on that date.

Present

Left Record?

Married polygamously?

James Allred

yes

Dec. 26, 1844

Samuel Bent

Jan. 14, 1846

Alpheus Cutler

Jan. 14, 1846

David Fullmer

yes

Jan. 19, 1846

Thomas Grover

yes

Dec 17, 1844

George W. Harris
William Huntington

Feb. 5, 1843

Aaron Johnson

yes

Jan. 15, 1846

Newel Knight

[died Jan. 11, 1847]

Henry G. Sherwood

Jan. 21, 1846

Leonard Soby

yes

Apostatized

Lewis D. Wilson

Feb. 3, 1846

Charles C. Rich

Jan. 6, 1845

Austin Cowles

yes

Apostatized

William Marks

Apostatized

Hosea Stout

April 20, 1845

Hyrum Smith

August 11, 1843

Numerous other accounts from men and women who saw and read the revelation are available.  See volume 2 chapter 28.

I am happy to provide transcripts of any of these statements and affidavits to Mr. Waterson if he were interested in reviewing them.

Most authors who discuss Joseph Smith’s plural marriages ignore his teachings on the subject, suspecting that the real reason was LIBIDO so there is no reason to worry about his marriage theology.  The problem with that approach is that it treats the Nauvoo polygamists and other Church members as gullible dupes.  They weren’t.  They were just as skeptical as you and me and they entered plural marriages because they believed the Prophet’s teachings concerning it.

Joseph Smith gave three reasons for plural marriage.  The first was the need to restore Old Testament polygamy as a part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:21. The necessity to restore this ancient marital order was apparently the only justification given in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s, when Joseph married Fanny Alger. Benjamin F. Johnson recalled in 1903: “In 1835 at Kirtland I learned from my Sisters Husband, Lyman R. Shirman,  who was close to the Prophet, and Received it from him. That the ancient order of plural marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.”  A few years later in 1841, Joseph Smith even attempted to broach the topic publicly. Helen Mar Kimball remembered: “He [Joseph] astonished his hearers by preaching on the restoration of all things, and said that as it was anciently with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so it would be again, etc.”  This need for a restoration is mentioned in section 132: “I am the Lord thy God. . . . I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things” (v. 40; see also 45).

It might be argued that this was the only reason Joseph Smith ever needed to give. He simply had to say, “Old Testament patriarchs practiced polygamy and I’m restoring it.” There was no need for a complicated and detailed theology of celestial and eternal marriage. Authors like Fawn Brodie who affirm that such was needed to assuage Joseph’s conscience simply do not understand the evidences.

The second reason given by Joseph Smith was that through plural marriage additional devout families would be created to receive noble pre-mortal spirits who would be born into them. Nauvoo Latter-day Saint Charles Lambert quoted the Prophet discussing “thousands of spirits that have been waiting to come forth in this day and generation. Their proper channel is through the priesthood, a way has to be provided.”  Helen Mar Kimball agreed that Joseph taught of “thousands of spirits, yet unborn, who were anxiously waiting for the privilege of coming down to take tabernacles of flesh.”  These recollections from the 1880s could have been influenced by later teachings. However, this rationale is also explicated in the revelation on celestial marriage: “they [plural wives] are given unto him [their husband] to multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63).

Joseph Smith described the third reason in the July 12, 1843 revelation on eternal and plural marriage (now D&C 132):

Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.

Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. (D&C 132:15-17.)

Verses 61-63 also specify that a plurality of husbands is adultery and a plurality of wives is acceptable and occurs “for their [the plural wives] exaltation in the eternal worlds.” The Prophet also explained: “Those who keep no eternal Law in this life or make no eternal contract are single & alone in the eternal world”  (see also D&C 131:1-4).

While the first two reasons, the need for a “restitution of all things” and “to multiply and replenish the earth,” are significant, the third reason is vastly more important because it deals with eternity. As described, worthy women without a sealed husband would live “separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity” (D&C 132:16), which is damnation in the context of D&C 132 (see vv. 4 and 6). The eternal significance of the principle of a plurality of wives is that all worthy women are able to be sealed to an eternal husband prior to the final judgment.  Plural marriage allows eternal marriage for all worthy individuals and eternal marriage was Joseph Smith’s zenith doctrine.

Mr. Waterman may wish to excuse this mountain of evidence as cover up or something similar, but for most observers, it is too much and too consistent dismiss.  If he would like, I would give him a set of my volumes for him to peruse (free of charge) and perhaps we could afterwards discuss his thoughts or concerns.

I believe when all of the evidence on plural marriage is made available, Joseph does just fine.  The scary thing about Joseph Smith’s polygamy is not Joseph Smith, not his actions and teaching.  The scary thing about Joseph Smith’s polygamy is polygamy, because he lived it and established it among the Latter-day Saints.

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Brian C. Hales is a Utah-based anesthesiologist and author. Perhaps his most prominent work, thus far, is the three-volume series, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History and Theology, published by Kofford Books. He received his medical degree from the University of Utah and did his residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Hales served a mission for the church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir . His other books include: Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto, The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy: An LDS Perspective (with J. Max Anderson), The Doctrines of Mormon Fundamentalism (with J. Max Anderson), Is Fundamentalism Fundamental?, Light: The Physical and Spiritual Nature of Light, The Veil, and Trials: Understanding and Overcoming. He also operates a web site at mormonfundamentalism.com.

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