Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Joseph Smith's Monogamy

I highly recommend this paper on Joseph Smith and the likelihood that he never practiced polygamy. I am not the author, and do not know who the anonymous author is. But he or she has done a great service to the legacy of Joseph Smith.

Click to Download

Given the dubious historical evidence, it's unfortunate that the LDS Church chooses to portray Joseph Smith in such a negative light. But I suppose it's also understandable that the alternative of admitting 170+ years of gross error and historical dishonesty would be unthinkable.

On an unrelated note, for those who have asked, I'll be discussing the 4th blood moon soon.


  1. Thanks for sharing this document, Adrien. It's excellent and pulls together the ideas in a way that's easy to understand.

    I remember having an "aha" moment after reading through the excellent Defending Joseph blog's post on Helen Mar Kimbel (http://www.defendingjoseph.com/search?updated-max=2015-05-29T18:39:00-05:00&max-results=1) and then reading Denver Snuffer's lecture on the subject. The key for it all to come together is also addressed well in this document: the word "sealing" has been misappropriated to mean "marriage".

    1. Hi Ben,

      Where would I find a copy of Denver's lecture?


    2. Kyle, here is the PDF link: http://denversnuffer.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Plural-Marriage.pdf

    3. I recently found the Defending Joseph blog and love it! So ironic that to get the truth about Joseph one must look outside the accepted teachings of the LDS church.

  2. This is an important look at the persistent conundrum of Joseph Smith's alleged polygamy and implied insatiable sexual appetites. Instead of attempting to force the reader to agree with the conclusions and implications of the paper, the author explores the scant evidence in a methodical and non-dogmatic fashion while insisting that reliable witnesses are those who are truthful and consistent in their testimony. The author always invites the reader to draw his or her own conclusions from often obscure and conflicting evidence and is content in there being no easy answers from meager, conflicting evidence.

    The author is gentle even with Brian Hales, whose research on Joseph Smith and polygamy informs much of the LDS church essay on Joseph Smith and plural marriage. Testing Hales’ witnesses against Joseph Smith for reliability and consistency does the reader a favor without demanding we send angry emails to Brother Hales. That Hales’ work is central to the LDS church essay on Joseph Smith and plural marriage illustrates the weakness of LDS leaders deferring to trained scholars and tends to confirm the author’s conclusion that LDS leaders certainly can lead the flock astray.

    Finally, who doesn’t rejoice in the accounts of Joseph’s and Emma’s fidelity and tenderness for one another? It is curious that some of the meanest accusations against Joseph and his family come from the church that he was sent to restore.

    1. Hi Patty,

      In my book too, I was respectful to Brother and Sisters Hales. Their work really helped with my book. the Hallmark of a Statesman is to be respectful and civil in tone, while still disagreeing.

      There is no credible evidence that Brother Joseph was married to anyone other than Emma.

      Thanks for the Light you shine Patty.

      Nehemiah 4:14,

  3. Thank you for this! I wish I knew who the author is. Excellent work!

  4. Wow.. Terrific article. Whose the author? Nothing to be ashamed of here!

    1. Sorry, I don't know who the author is. I'm told the wish for privacy is in the interest of not drawing attention to family.

    2. There is a certain power in letting ideas stand on their own outside the context of their author. We are left to take them at face value instead of attempting to understand them through the lens of what we know or think we know about the author. This author is justifiably circumspect. With conclusions about the fallibility of LDS church leaders similar to Denver's, the author may want to avoid the unfriendly all-seeing eye of the Strengthening Church Members Committee!

  5. This is an excellent article and one that reflects the view I have held for a number of years. In fact, I thought I was the one who "discovered" the possibility of sealings morphing into retrospective marriages. Great minds think alike!
    It is the article I would have written if I was talented enough and in my view represents far more truth than error.
    There will come a day when the truth will be known. When that day arrives I am confident Joseph will be shown to be a truthful man.

  6. It's a strange day indeed--when so-called "apostates" have to defend the Prophet Joseph Smith against the attacks of the LDS Church. Let that sink in.

    In light of absolute proof that Joseph's own journals were "revised" after he died, so they would show the opposite meaning from what he taught, wrote, and published to the world, how can those who believe Joseph was a prophet still believe the lies being told about him by their own church?

    It breaks my heart. How could this be?

    1. Good point. The "apostates" are the only ones who seem to care about preserving a truthful history of its founder.

      I remember a few months ago arguing with raised voices with an active member about how I thought Joseph was not a polygamist and that the scant historical evidence could go either way, and he was upset at me and told me how he "knew" Joseph was not only a polygamist, but married 14 year old Helen Mar Kimball. What the...? The enemies of the church happen to be right that these are not good things to be accused of.

      How is it the LDS church chooses to believe Smith was a liar on the subject? I think it's because it's not Smith's church, it's Brigham's.

    2. Hi Ben,

      I have met many in the Church who feel Brother Joseph was only married to Emma. Many feel, as do I, that the LDS Historical Department gave incorrect weight to the wrong historical documents.

      I don't consider Brigham a "liar" but rather someone who was sincere in trying to do what was best for the LDS Church at the time. Sometimes, to protect ourselves, and families, and Church, and loved ones, we do things that are not what we want to do.

      Besides, I find when I look for the good in others, I feel the Spirit more.


  7. The prophecy from Moroni (JS-H 1:33) reiterated by the Lord while Joseph was in Liberty Jail (D&C 122:1-2) is always assumed to be addressing believers (Mormons) who would respect Joseph and non-believers (non-Mormons) who would condemn and reject him. As it has turned out, those who abuse his name and memory, who hold him in derision, and speak evil against him are now leading the institutions who claim him as their founder.

    The Lord promised, "the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand. And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors." (D&C 122:2-3.)

    It would be well for ALL who claim to respect Joseph to soberly consider those words spoken to him (and to us) by Christ.

    1. Good point. Perhaps we are witnessing a fulfillment of the prophecy in D&C 122:3 “And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.”

      This very discussion is about who will turn against Joseph by the testimony of traitors. Jesus refers to those who will not turn against him from these traitor’s words as his people.

      I think this is an important discussion to be had, but good Lord, it sure feels like nobody will listen to me or give anything I say even an honest listening to. Turns out neither did most of Joseph’s own friends and comrades.

      I am surrounded by people — both inside and outside the church — who will not consider a single idea if it doesn’t come from the men they have chosen to put their faith in.

    2. I came into the LDS Church in 1974 as a result of the answer to prayers concerning the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. It's a sad thing that my respect for that book and that man now puts me in league with so-called apostates. That's a pretty big change in 41 years.

  8. Heber C. Kimball once mentioned to Eliza R. Snow that he thought she was a virgin and Joseph's wife in name only. She responded "I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that."

    1. This is pretty common knowledge along with the 13 affidavits from Joseph's wives used in the Temple Lot case. Brian Hales quotes this and another quote from Eliza R Snow saying his wives weren't "spiritual wives" they were "bona fide wives". His quotations cite the original sources(LDS Archives & CoC Archives).


    2. Here we see exactly the sorts of problems rampant in the evidence that Joseph practiced polygamy. Let’s look at the two statements:

      The first is a statement made 61 years after Joseph Smith died, by Angus Cannon, quoting Heber C. Kimball, quoting Eliza Snow. When asked the yes/no question as to her virginity (which is a very unlikely and indelicate question to ask a woman in the 1800’s) we have the reported, cryptic response of “I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.”

      What exactly does that mean? Does it mean, “I thought you knew Joseph was driven by libido and of course we had sex.” or does it mean “I though you knew Joseph was a virtuous man who did not have sexual relations with anyone but Emma.” Either is plausible. The statement is so ambiguous as to be meaningless. She doesn't answer the question; she dodges it.

      So this first statement is third hand, non-contemporary, ambiguous, and agenda driven, having supposedly originated with someone highly invested in defending sexual polygamy.

      Not exactly a smoking gun.

      The second statement is from 33 years after the martyrdom, in a letter from Eliza Snow to Daniel Munns. In it, Eliza actually denies sexual relations with Joseph, but claims she is acquainted with “several ladies” who were “bona fide” wives of Joseph Smith. She does not specify who they were, how she knows they had sexual relations, or what she means by “bona fide” wives.

      So again, we have non-contemporary, non-specific implications that agree with the agenda of the speaker. As has been discussed in the paper, Eliza is problematic as a witness, even in these two statements that contradict one another regarding whether Joseph had sex with Elize.

      Furthermore, Eliza signed a statement denying polygamy well after allegedly marrying Joseph Smith. Therefore if you believe she was Joseph’s wife, you also necessarily believe she was a liar.

      None of this even comes close to meeting any standard of proof in any meaningful way. This would be laughed out of court. And yet, this is the sort of “proof” people often cite to accuse Joseph of being the worst sort of liar, hypocrite, lecher, and even pedophile.

      This is serious business. If the accusations are false, the accusers are guilty of a terrible offense to God and will be cursed (D&C 121:16).

  9. If Joseph Smith did not practice polygamy, then why does D&C Section 132 exist? Lots of versus about Emma needing to accept it or be destroyed.

    Also why did the LDS Church post an essay admitted Smith practiced polygamy on their website?


    Anyone who says Smith didn't practice it is in denial and is saying their religion is lying about it and has been since the days of Brigham Young. And if that is the case, then how can your religion be led by God if it's preaching false doctrine?

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      You clearly haven't read the paper. These questions are addressed there.

      Frankly, I'm sorry to expose your ignorance by posting your comment here, but I think it's illustrative of the sort of closed mindedness that allows the lies about Joseph Smith to flourish.

      If you care about truth, investigate it for yourself. If you don't care about truth, then go ahead and ironically accuse those who do care of being "in denial."

      Why does section 132 exist? That's an excellent question. You may not like the answer. But it's worth investigating if you care about truth. Given the Lord's statements about Joseph Smith, I would be very hesitant to accuse him of evil, based on ignorance.

    2. All critical questions, Anonymous, questions deserving of our thoughtful, prayerful study. If you're content with the official answers to these questions, let them go and find some other way of making the world a better place.

    3. Hi Anonymous,

      You ask many sincere people ask. For most of us LDS, we have been told things that happened over 150 years ago. Sometimes myths evolve into history, and it is only by prayerful and serious research can we come to the best case for historical truth.

      I used to work for the LDS Church; staff employees are very sincere and are some of the best people you will ever meet. As you are aware, back this past November, the LDS Historical Department issued an Edict claiming that Brother Joseph had 40 wives (or more). I respectfully disagree with them.

      My research shows Brother Joseph was only married to Emma. I believe, the well meaning and well intentioned LDS Historical Department used incorrect data sets.

      Regarding your comments on Section 132, after careful and meticulous research, it appears to me that Brother Joseph did not write all of Section 132. He may have written parts of it, but not the parts indicating having more than one wife. It appears to me that those comments were added after Brother Joseph had gone to The Spirit World. Section 132 did not come forward until 1852, well after Brother Joseph was gone.

      Section 132 was revised to protect those who had more than one wife. What was happening around that time was the Saints in Illinois, who did not follow Brother Brigham out west, were starting to say Brother Joseph did not have more than one wife. Section 132 was altered to protect "Team Brigham." Now, I have lived a colorful life, and my Life Experiences have taught me that good people will compromise when it comes to economic, political and social survival. "Team Brigham" did a bit there with that. They were in war; so to speak.

      I support Brother Brigham also as a Prophet, just as I do President Monson, yet I realize Brother Brigham and his team had to do some hard things to keep Zion afloat.

      Many people have left the LDS Church over the lies that Brother Joseph chased little girls and had between 40 to 80 different wives; these are myths put forward by people who were incorrect. It is correct to say that Brother Joseph was only married to Emma.

      You asked why the LDS Church would say something like Joseph had more than one wife. In some cases, that is all they have heard, in other cases, it is a desire to be popular. Following prophets or defending them is seldom popular. While the roar of the crowd is sincere in their opinion, there is not one single item of clear evidence that Brother Joseph had more than one wife.

      My wife site, js1w.info has some more information.

      We who feel that Brother Joseph was only married to Emma are not "denial" but rather we look at different data points that we believe carry more "weight" towards truth.

      Regarding "teaching false doctrine"; I don't think most LDS have seen the facts that I have. In time, either on this side of the Veil or the other side, the honor of p Brother Joseph will be clarified. No, he was not perfect; only Jesus was, but he was only married to Emma.

      I wish you well and respect your right to your opinion.


  10. Hi Ben,

    Thank you so much for the link/pdf.

    Nehemiah 4:14,

  11. Here is a great podcast that refutes many of the points that this essay draws as its counter arguments http://www.yearofpolygamy.com/year-of-polygamy/episode-94-polygamy-controversies-joseph-fought-polygamy/

    1. I listened to this podcast and disagree that it refutes many of the points in the essay. Here are the 12 main points that come from this podcast.

      1. Joseph said one thing in public, did something different in private.

      This is an accusation, not a proof of polygamy. As the essay points out, it is just as likely to believe that those who said this about Joseph were the ones who were lying.

      2. All of the different splinter groups and even the antis were saying the same thing about Joseph being a polygamist. Since they have different motives that shows that what they said is credible.

      As the essay points out, there were a lot of incentives given the different agendas of different groups to try and prove that Joseph taught and lived polygamy. Most of those served and protected the interests of the people making the claims against Joseph. Multiple sets of people relying on hearsay in order to promote an agenda is also not proof.

      3. Arguments that the wives in Utah would have perjured themselves due to pressure from husbands or being true to the church is sexist

      This is my mind is a silly argument to make to show that the women wouldn't lie. Why wouldn't anyone (gender aside) not feel pressure to testify things that would keep a husband out of jail, preserve your own family, and/or show you as being loyal to the faith? The essay also talks about men who had faced the same dilemma. Joseph Kingsbury, for example, refused to take an oath or swear to his statements, instead he chose to affirm to statements, because he feared being charged of perjury.

      4. Just because the Cochranites who practiced spiritual wifery were converts and many of the early leaders were involved with them doesn't prove that was the origin of polygamy in the church.

      While I agree that this doesn't constitute proof in terms of the origin of polygamy in the church, it does offer an explanation that to me is more plausible than Joseph was lying in all his efforts and secretly doing something else.

      5. Just because John C. Bennett was against the church, doesn't mean you can dismiss his arguments because they correlate with many other sources later in history.

      Many of those who said things against Joseph were using Bennett as their source. Bennett admitted to lying and his acts show him to have been unreliable. Saying that he is reliable because of others who said the same thing many years later seems a poor form of proof.

    2. continued...

      6. Historians can't just dismiss arguments because of a group or person may be amicable or may be unfriendly towards another group or based on the idea of Satan vs. God in terms of motives.

      Maybe historians are unable to do this, but someone searching for truth should take into account the consistency of the witness. If they said one thing at one point in time, and then changed their story later - this type of thing matters in terms of credibility. The essay does a great job showing how many of the witnesses stories changed.

      7. Contemporary journal entries of William Clayton shows that polygamy happened.

      The reliability of William Clayton journals and intermixing of affidavits into it from 30 years later is not addressed in the podcast.

      8. The Book of Mormon says God can raise seed to himself like in D&C 132

      As the essay points out, if the goal of Joseph living polygamy was to raise seed than why wouldn't there have been children from all of the supposed marriages that Joseph had during the seven+ years he is accused of participating in marriages. The issue of children not being born in the "polygamous marriages" during Joseph's life with the sudden uptick after Joseph died is not addressed in this podcast.

      9. Their were rumors about Joseph Smith being interested in women when he was younger.

      Rumors and accusations are not a form of proof.

      10. Joseph didn't record things in his private journals because he would have gotten in trouble and mobs would have come after him.

      Some of the arguments in this podcast are quite inane. Joseph already had mobs coming after him, people lying about him, and he was ultimately killed by those that were against him. To say he would have avoided writing the truth about polygamy in his personal journals as a way to avoid mobs just doesn't make sense.

      11. The RLDS / Church of Christ has come know it is true due to academic historians.

      The argument of "they believe it is true so it must be true" is not a valid argument for proving or showing something.

      12. LDS historians have also accepted the actual academic histories.

      Truth is not established via a popularity contest. Not all historians are in agreement on this either.

  12. Hello,

    These types of arguments have been circulating ever since Joseph Smith III organized the RLDS Church in 1860.

    If we have the truth, we need not be afraid of accurate history. Please consider this evidence:


    Take Care,

    Brian Hales

    1. I agree if we have the truth we need not be afraid of accurate history. I'd love to see the church fully open up their archives, especially release those William Clayton journals. Why are they so unwilling to release these if they believe they have the full truth?

      Finally, I have yet to see a useful LDS response to the damning evidence of Young and company's historical revisions. As you stated, if we have the truth, we need not be afraid of accurate history, no?

    2. Brian, interesting enough, your types of arguments have been circulating ever since John Bennet got caught using Joseph’s name to cheat.

      But really, bro. Hales which is it: is Brigham a liar or is Joseph? Their actions, their words, their teachings, their understanding of priesthood and leadership so drastically contradict each other as to make them incompatible to anyone who looks. Where in God’s name did Brigham get the authority to change the law, the teachings, even the history of a prophet ordained by the Son of Man Himself? The topic of polygamy alone makes one or the other to be one who loves a lie.

      It’s unfortunate, but your work regarding polygamy has promoted the idea that Joseph Smith Jr. is a liar and a cheater, a womanizer.

      For the love of God, what a wonder it is that the LDS church sees no problem with statements of its founder marring a 14-year-old girl, and yet the very idea that he was nothing more than what he and his family repeatedly claimed to be (a monogamist) is considered an apostate idea!

    3. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for chiming in.

      Given the obvious, clear, and undeniable tampering with Joseph Smith's journal, the dubious provenance of our current version of Section 132, and your own admitted lack of contemporary sources, might it be possible that the statements you quote from the late 1800s were perhaps colored by the need to defend the current practice of the insular, authoritarian Utah church? (Or alternatively, the need to condemn Joseph by those on the outside)?

      Just as Brigham Young's transfiguration into Joseph Smith’s likeness was attested to by many people well after the fact, but likely never happened, is it possible that whatever Joseph was teaching in Nauvoo had nothing to do with sex, but was later colored, embellished, and misrepresented by those who absolutely needed Joseph’s name to justify their sexual polygamy?

      As Snuffer pointed out in his Polygamy paper, it’s important for us to learn what Joseph Smith understood and taught. But we have a serious lack of any reliable sources to tell us that. Nearly everything is second hand and produced in the Utah era, much of it decades after the fact.

      Therefore, using what evidences we have, it’s quite difficult to unequivocally prove that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.

      I’d love it if you would address the issue with Joseph Smith’s journal, William Clayton’s journal, and the provenance of our current version of Section 132. These are the most important contemporary records, such as they are, and all have important problems.

  13. Brian Hales, may I ask what your thoughts are on the altered journal entry from 5 October 1843?

  14. And might I ask how can you believe an incredible story about gold plates, angels and seeing God, if Joseph was such a big fat liar?

    As for me, I believe Joseph was telling the truth and Brigham the liar. One thing for sure. one them was a big time liar.

  15. Why is it folks that don't believe the LDS church to be inspired, bitch the loudest when the church does something they think is uninspired?

    1. It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor. (D&C 88:81)

  16. All respect to Brian Hales and all the other scholarship, but that's not how we're supposed to test this stuff, is it? I read the essay and simply followed Moroni's invitation to ask if it isn't true. I don't know about y'all, but it checks this info checks out for me, burning bosom and all. Have to figure out what that means exactly, I guess. Weird journey to start from a stray Google search. Cheers.

  17. Any suggestion for papers or books to read on the law of Adoption?

    1. Fact is, there's really not much out there. It was never taught very extensively by Joseph, and his successors knew almost nothing about it. It is one of the items yet awaiting restoration.

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  19. Ive read the essay and all the comments.

    The author does a great job addressing some of the more commonly used accusations against Joseph.

    However, he fails to address one of the biggest of them all… Oliver Cowdery.

    Oliver was very intimate with Joseph’s dealings in Kirtland and shared a sacred experience with him behind the veil in of the Kirtland Temple in 1836.

    “At the trial, JS stated that as Cowdery “had been his bosom friend, therefore he intrusted him with many things”—apparently confirming the reality of a confidential relationship with Alger.”

    Oliver was subsequently excommunicated for not retracting his words that Joseph had been involved in a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s.”

    It’s documented here.


    It's hard to believe someone so entrusted with sacred experiences would stake it all on hearsay or rumors.

    I've read elsewhere that the only thing Joseph did deny was that it was adultery.

    I'm on he fence on this issue.

    I read a lot from One Who Is Watching and he contends that Joseph was a prophet, but chose to act out the sins of an apostate Israel with polygamy, similar to Moses' offering, to preserve them from the wrath of God.

    You can read more about Jospeh's Atonement here:


    His argument is a good one. However, if polygamy was never practiced by Jospeh it all falls apart or would hinge on another act contrary to God's will.

    1. Hi Ahuizotl,

      Thanks for commenting. Here are my thoughts:

      1. It's worth reading the circumstances around Oliver Cowdery's excommunication. He had actually already resigned from the church over economic matters when he was excommunicated, and was quite bitter toward Joseph. His accusations may not be completely true. The church court rejected them.

      2. Section 110, recounting the 1836 Kirkland Temple visit is very questionable.

      3. The statement that Joseph had entrusted Oliver with many things is vague. He doesn't specify what things.

      4. I've read Cory's arguments, and find them unconvincing. I believe Joseph lived and died faithful.

      5. Most importantly, if Joseph really was practicing sexual polygamy, he was the worst sort of liar, hypocrite, deceiver, and priestcrafter. I'm surprised that mainstream LDS people want to believe this, and that the LDS church teaches it. I don't believe Joseph was a liar.

      Just my thoughts. Perhaps the original author will choose to address these items.

  20. I wish the author had defined "polygamy." It seems indisputable that Joseph was practicing "polygamy" given all the information we have access to. Whether that means sealings alone, or spiritual bonds, or emotional or physical relationships is what we're left to argue about. I *want* to like this article. I found myself being relieved as I read it, even, thinking that there IS a chance that Joseph wasn't in sexual relationships with women other than Emma. But the truth remains that sexual relationships or no, Joseph was not honest with Emma. He lied to her, hid things from her, and held her resistance to polygamy (whatever form Joseph was attempting to practice) over her head, in order to gain her compliance. Emma was NOT the first woman Joseph was sealed to. Fanny Alger happened before the keys to the sealing power had been restored, possibly even known about to Joseph. I think we get so fixated on sexual purity in the Church, that when someone can come out with a thought-provoking article, like this one, we breathe a sigh of relief. But does the thought that Joseph may have been monogamous truly placate your moral compass about everything else that transpired? Was polyandry okay, simply because no one was having sex? Let me clarify: was it okay that Joseph married other men's wives behind the back of his wife and the other women's husbands, simply because those marriages were for eternity only? Considering Mormon theology that seems to be a bigger offense than a sexual indiscretion committed in a fit of passion (which apparently, the author is stating was likely not the case). No! I am not willing to turn off my moral compass any more to perform the mental gymnastics that are required to justify the garbage in Church history that we do not understand. As a few of the above commenters pointed out, either Joseph was wrong or Brigham Young was wrong. I want so badly to feel right about staying in the LDS Church. I'm truly trying. My current position is that I will draw closer to God by paying attention to my own conscience than I will by following the prophet.

    1. Hi Laurel and Doug,

      I appreciate the struggle you're experiencing and the sentiments you've expressed. I think it's clear the historical record is not nearly as reliable as we might hope and that those with a vested interest in legitimizing polygamy have largely controlled the narrative.

      My advice would be to hesitate before accusing Joseph of lying and deceiving Emma, lording it over her, or other sins associated with polygamy. If the record has indeed been compromised and cherry picked, all may not be as it seems. Since there's room for doubt, I'm willing to give Joseph the benefit of that doubt.

      In the end, I certainly find Joseph more trustworthy and prophetic than any of his successors.

      God bless you in your continued search!