In a conversation with Denver Snuffer, he claimed that if we threw out all evidence after Joseph Smith died, there is little evidence Joseph practiced polygamy. While I’m sure that’s an appealing tactic of a defense attorney, is that something a judge would allow? I’m excited to introduce Mark Tensmeyer, an attorney from Texas and we’ll talk about rules of evidence. What exactly is hearsay evidence? Mark will explain.
GT: One of the things that Denver said that I’d really like to question you on is Denver went to Michael Quinn, and said, “Well, if we cut out all the evidence after Joseph Smith died, June 27, 1844, then there’s not very much evidence that Joseph Smith was a polygamist.” Personally, I think, if I was a defense lawyer, that’s exactly what I would do. I try to throw out as much evidence, especially, of course, bad evidence that wasn’t helping me, as possible. So, I think it’s a great defense tactic. I don’t know that a judge would necessarily buy that. Can you tell us about that?
Mark: Yes, I can speak to that. First off, the legal rules of evidence ought to be seen in the context of the legal case. I mean, they don’t necessarily apply to weighing and balancing evidence, like in history or in any other situation in real life. We have laws that govern what kind of evidence can be considered, but the law doesn’t give us a lot of direction on how to weigh and balance evidence or what kind of weight to give evidence. So, Denver Snuffer, he said that we ought to just cut off all evidence after Joseph Smith died. I’ve watched that interview. He said [that] you need to cut that off because you can’t use evidence of what a dead man said after he’s dead. So, in the law, there’s the hearsay evidence about how anything that was said outside of a courtroom setting is hearsay. But that applies to all oral communications. So, since Joseph Smith is dead, everything he ever said, or did pretty much is based on hearsay. So, even Joseph Smith’s denials that he was a polygamist, is based on hearsay. I mean, it’s hearsay.
GT: Important point, there.
Mark: A lot of people, well, I mean, this is really the core argument, is they say, “Well, we need to have something that comes directly from Joseph. We need to have his thoughts on this, not what somebody else thought about him doing.” That’s one of the major points. But what does that even mean? I mean, he’s not here to tell us. So, everything he said, is hearsay. I mean, when you say, “Well, we have this from Joseph, these articles in the Times and Seasons…” So, we have newspaper articles that quote him, and I think we can be very confident that he actually said those things.
Mark: But, then there’s other things, too, we can look at to try to get at what he did. So, I watched that interview with Denver Snuffer, where he said, “You can’t get it from a dead man.” I think he might be talking about the dead man statute, which a few states have. In most cases it’s very, very restricted. So, here in Texas, where I’m licensed, it only applies in intestacy cases, where you’re talking about something that the decedent said to a beneficiary about a will or something like that, something of that nature. That’s really the only place where that applies in Texas. There are hearsay laws. But then there’s all kinds of exceptions to the hearsay laws. One of the exceptions to the hearsay laws is ancient documents law. So, any document is over 20 years old is admissible. So, that would qualify for most of any document we have, as long as it’s found in place where there’s a reasonable chain of custody there, to where it’s found, and whoever said it. A lot of states have that, the ancient documents rule. So, no, I don’t think even using legal things, you could really just cut off the rules at Joseph’s death. Even if you did, there’s still plenty there.
GT: I just want to point out that in any murder case, the evidence was collected after the crime happened. So, I think it’s kind of a crazy argument to say, “Well, he’s dead.”
Mark: In any intestacy case, in any inheritance case, in any probate case, where people are arguing who should be getting what, from this person who’s dead. All the evidence…
GT: All the evidence is collected after the death.
Mark: Yes, there’s always going to be a lot. This kind of goes to the idea, in these discussions, it’s very, very easy–I use the term polygamy skeptics, because it’s a neutral term. I don’t like to say polygamy denier, conspiracy theorists or that sort of thing, because I don’t like to be dismissive. Whereas I obviously disagree with these people about how reasonable this outcome is objectively, I do understand that there are some aspects of this, that your average person would find compelling. Your average person, if you went out there and showed them a lot of the arguments that Richard or Pamela Price or Denver Snuffer, or it’s in the Joseph Smith Nauvoo paper, that they would find compelling. I don’t blame people for thinking that Joseph Smith was a monogamist. That said, I don’t think that objectively it holds up.
The RLDS Church has historically claimed Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy. We’ll talk about Joseph Smith, III’s views on the topic, as well as modern-day beliefs.
Mark: So, the argument they have, there’s a book that was written in 1900 that’s the most comprehensive book on the RLDS part of a narrative. It’s written by a man by the name of Willard Smith, who’s not a relation to the Smith family. But it’s the most comprehensive thing that I think [is out there] and what he argues is, and I think this is reflective of the other things. He put it together, where a lot of those arguments are that Brigham Young starts polygamy. He and Heber C. Kimball and others marry these women at the Nauvoo Temple, and then they seal these women to Joseph for eternity, to themselves for time. Then, later, to legitimize polygamy, they influence these women, or maybe these women want to do it just because they want to support it anyway, to say that they were married to Joseph while he was alive. So that’s the argument they use. As time goes on, and more contemporary evidence comes to light. There are things like the Expositor. Joseph Smith, III hardly ever mentioned the Expositor, and I don’t think he really even knows the content of it.
GT: He was just a young boy then, right?
Mark: He was. In the Temple Lot case deposition, he was asked about the Expositor, and he remembered it being destroyed. He remembered hearing about it being destroyed. But he was asked, “Did you ever see it?”
He said, “Well, I saw a portion of it. I saw an excerpt a long time ago, but I hadn’t actually seen it again until now.”
I got a bunch of transcripts of his letters at Community of Christ Archives. He had heard about William Law’s statements to the Salt Lake Tribune that were done in the 1880s. He said he didn’t think that William Law really had known anything or had said anything before that. So, as time goes on, there’s the Apostle Paul Hansen from the RLDS Church in the 1920s who really looked out for a lot of documents. He found a bunch. He found a lot of really great stuff that didn’t come from Brighamites, about Joseph Smith and polygamy. A lot of it was contemporary. I love reading his letters. He said, “I’m not really I’m ready to say that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, but there’s a lot of evidence here that I really don’t know how to explain.”
GT: So he was the B.H. Roberts of the RLDS Church.
Mark: He was private about all of his stuff. We have it in here. He said, “We don’t need to go shout this from the rooftops,” is one of the things he said. “But if anybody asks us about it, we shouldn’t be afraid of our own minds. We shouldn’t be afraid to embrace the truth, if that’s what the truth is.” Joseph Smith, III’s son–and there’s Frederick M. Smith is the president of the RLDS church, then it is Israel A. Smith, who is president. I don’t know when the years are. He was president for part at least part of the 1950s. He really, really tries. He has a spiritual experience. He really drives home that Joseph Smith was not oblivious that his grandfather was not… But, he tries to adjust the narrative. He admits that there was a revelation on marriage that was probably about sealing.
Mark: He does, but he thinks that this was something that was altered…
GT: By Brigham.
Mark: By Brigham Young to be what we know as section 132. So, he says that, and then it’s in the 1980s, when this really comes to a head. Here’s the president of the [RLDS] Church at the time, Wallace B. Smith asked the official church historian, Richard Howard, to write a paper that really gets to the bottom of this. He does, and he does even a brilliant genius thing, where he writes a paper on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and he only uses publicly available sources like the Expositor, like the article in the Nauvoo Neighbor that details Joseph and Hyrum’s reactions to the Expositor. Then, he uses evidence that he collected from a lot of different places; evidence that came from people that were not Brighamites, so, people like Sidney Rigdon, people like William Marks. He makes the case from that, that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. He puts all these arguments in there and in the end of the paper, comes up with the conclusion that, “Well, we at least know Joseph did sealings for eternity. He may or may not have done polygamy, so, kind of reflecting the RLDS position.”
A lot of his contemporaries were like, “Well, the body of your paper was great. The conclusion just is off. A lot of people suspected that maybe that was like an editorial mandate, because this was originally supposed to be published more in the official channels in the RLDS Church, and finally, they said, “Well just publish it in the John Whitmer Journal.”
GT: Well, that’s interesting.
Mark: Yeah, and so a lot of people suspected it was an editorial mandate. Newell Bringhurst wrote an article about that, that was part of the Persistence of Polygamy series. He interviewed Richard Howard. Howard is still alive and still working.
GT: He’s still alive, I think.
Mark: Yes, he is. You ought to get him.
GT: I do need to get him on.
Mark: He confirmed that that was true, that he had some editorial oversight from committees. So, it was a compromise. He has since gone on record, on a lot of other things about Joseph Smith being a polygamist. That, really [solidified things.] When I read Paul Hansen’s letters, and I read that that says that it completely destroys the myth that polygamy wasn’t happening when Joseph Smith was alive. I mean, Joseph Smith, III asked his mother, in that last year, “Was there anything like polygamy revelation?”
She says, “No, I didn’t hear anything of that nature.”
Well, the Expositor explains the revelation pretty clearly.
Mark: Joseph and Hyrum, give a partial admission to it in the Nauvoo Neighbor, the article published there. So, she’s not forthcoming there about that.
 Part 1 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/33oWvd9. Part 2 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2Kb5qpp.
Polygamy skeptics claim that a religious group out of Maine introduced LDS apostles about spiritual wifery, and those apostles (not Joseph) introduced polygamy into the Church. Is there good evidence for this?
Mark: So, what they is that they come up with this new narrative that the Quorum of the Twelve were rogue, pretty much from the beginning. So, around here is where, as far as I’ve been able to tell, and I’d be interested in seeing documentation and maybe someone can show talking otherwise, this is when they say, “Well, the Quorum of the Twelve, they’ve encountered and they’re influenced by the doctrine of the Cochranites during their missionary travels in the early to mid-1830s, in May. [This is] another group of people that practices spiritual wifery.
GT: Yeah, the Cochranites, I’m glad we’re talking about that because that is a big issue.
Mark: He [Jacob Cochran] gets put on trial for lewdness in 1819, and Jacob Cochran goes to jail for four years. During that time, the movement kind of falls apart. A lot of these very charismatic movements, they fall apart when their leader is no longer available. Charismatic movements are started around one person. It happens a lot. People thought that was going to happen to Mormonism, and it didn’t.
Mark: But, for a lot of these, especially smaller groups, then that that’s what happened, and it did. So, what happened is, is that there’s a couple of groups that still have congregations up, through the 18–, I don’t know for the next few decades. Jacob Cochran gets out of prison, and he doesn’t really lead a church anymore, even the church that still kind of believes his doctrine. He has a group that he wants to go settle in New York, and they go. I haven’t really heard what really happened with that. So that’s pretty much it.
GT: The Cochranites only lasted for a decade? Is that what you’re saying?
Mark: Their heyday is only about three years long. And then they’re around…
GT: So, 1816 to 1819. So, this pre-dates the First Vision.
Mark: I think they are around. There are remnant groups that are around into the 1840s in the area, but nowhere near to the same size. It is interesting. One of the things that the two elders say a lot is that the area is just totally turned off to gifts of the Spirit type things or any of those things that Mormonism [supports], like revelation.
Mark: I mean, you can look at circumstantial evidence and connections in a lot of other places, too. Another one that Richard and Pamela Price may have said was that there’s Augusta Cobb, who’s Brigham Young’s second plural wife. She gets baptized by Samuel and Orson in that mission in Boston before they go to Saco. But it’s a day or two after that they baptize her that there’s that incident in Boston, where there was those Cochranite people expressing Cochranite doctrine in a meeting that they had. So, they say, “Well, that means that she was a person that was well acquainted with Cochranism.” I really don’t see that really being a connection. Again, Agnes Coolbrith is also in that same group that gets baptized. She’s actually from that area. She actually becomes a plural wife to Joseph Smith. So, if you’re going to argue circumstantial evidence and exposure leads to this and that, then I think that’s a much stronger connection than anything.
GT: To Joseph.
Mark: Yeah, to Joseph. So, when it comes to the Cochranites, that’s something I don’t particularly find compelling. There’s another thing they say is, “Well, the apostles did foot washing in England. You even have William Clayton, who has never been there so they must have picked up that and footwashing from the Cochranites, which they did. Foot washing is a very common Christian practice.
GT: Right. There’s a lot of people who do it.
Mark: It’s in the Bible. I mean, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t think that they really needed the Cochranites, that anybody really needed them to learn about polygamy or anything like that. I mean, it’s in the Bible.
Are you familiar with Cochranites? What are your experiences with polygamy skeptics? Were you aware the RLDS/Community of Christ changed their position on Joseph’s polygamy?
1. even if only 10% of the polygamy claims about JS are true, you still have 3-4 case.
2. We don’t have hidden camera video taped evidence. But we do have journals of some of the women involved. Were they lying in some kind of organized conspiracy just to damage his reputation?
3. If JS was effective at keeping polygamy a secret when he was alive, it stands to reason that some of that effectiveness wears off once he’s dead. So it sure is convenient for Denver Snuffer to discount post-death evidence.
4. Why would the COJCOLDS publish an essay that admits that JS practiced polygamy if they weren’t certain of that fact? They aren’t going to finally admit something they tried to hide from the general membership for 175 years unless they know.
5. Deep down inside, how many TBMs would allow their own teenage daughter to live and work in the Smith home if we had a Time Machine that allowed this choice?
I figured that at some point the Community of Christ/RLDS had come to accept as fact the most or all of the things we do regarding Joseph Smith’s polygamy.
But as a member of this church or, hypothetically, the Community of Christ, what I care about is what is taught *now* about polygamy. We teach that is a a righteous, God-commanded form of marriage that we don’t currently practice. They teach (according to Wikipedia they added this to their D&C in 2007) that:
“It is not pleasing to God when any passage of scripture is used to oppress races, genders, or classes of human beings….The church is called to confess and repent of such attitudes and practices.”
As far as I can tell, they’ve removed Section 132 from their D&C.
A small number of people will fight tooth and nail about what happened well over a hundred years ago, but it’s what’s taught today that matters to me. And any time the subject of polygamy pops up, I say it’s wrong. Good on them for getting rid of it entirely.
The Community of Christ never canonized D&C 132. That is the main difference between LDS & RLDS Churches, especially starting in 1860 when the RLDS Church was founded. The strange thing to me is that now the RLDS Church will allow polygamists in India or Africa to be baptized, so long as they promise not to take any more wives.
“Threw out all the evidence after Joseph Smith died” = refuse to believe women. Also, section 132?!? That is pretty definitive. Nope, hard pass on that strategy and it doesn’t reflect well on Snuffer.
Also, women’s first-hand accounts of polygamy aren’t hearsay.
Hearsay would be “so-and-so told me she was in a polygamous marriage with Joseph.”
A journal entry by a woman who was or is in a polygamous marriage is not hearsay. It’s a first-hand witness.
The RLDS Church has often been referred to as “Emma’s Church.” Emma Smith once said something to the effect that honorable men don’t practice polygamy; my husband was an honorable man; therefore, my husband did not prractice polygamy. Interesting logic, I suppose.
You have to keep in mind that the Reorganization’s prophet-president from 1860 to the late 1990s was led by JS’s son (Joseph Smith III, three grandsons beginning with Fred M. Smith in 1915, and a great-grandson. The family’s integrity played a huge part in the polygamy discussion. One of those grandsons, Israel A. Smith (president, 1947-1958) reportedly was very defensive of the family name and honor. His half brother, W. Wallace Smith (president, 1958-1978), was more open to scholarly inquiry by a new generation of historians (including Richard Howard and Paul Edwards, who by the way is also a great-grandson of Joseph Smith Jr.) who in turn were an important part of the New Mormon History movement, MHA, and JWHA.
The first non-Smith to serve as prophet-president was W. Grant McMurray, who not coincidentally began working for the church a couple decades before as Richard Howard’s assistant in the History Department and a serious historian/scholar in his own right.
Today the Community of Christ honors JS Jr. as founder of the church while also recognizing his rather substantial human flaws and failings.
When the RLDS Church began to extend its missionary efforts to areas of the world outside its predominately English-speaking base back in the 1960s it was confronted by new and at-times challenging cultural situations. Perhaps the most troublesom was in India where polygamy was practiced in some places. Traditionalists in the church back in North America demanded the church maintain its purity standards regarding this touchy subject. Polygamy was, of course, the most notable defining characteristic between the Utah LDS church and the Reorganization. Both sides presented good arguments. If the church forced people in polygamous marriages to abandon the practice, the women involved would be hurt the most. Because of their economic and caste-related situation, they would be faced with a life of abject poverty and social stigmatism for them and their children. Folks on the other side maintained that rules are rules and God’s eternal doctrines cannot be changed. In response President W. Wallace Smith presented a document to the April 1972 World Conference, which when approved became Section 150 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Paragraphs 10-12 stated:
“Monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built. Yet, as I hve said before, there are also those who are not of this fold to whom the saving grace of the gospel must go. When this is done the church must be willing to bear the burden of their sin, nurturing them in the faith, accepting that degree of repentance which it is possible for them to achieve, looking forward to the day when through patience and love they can be free as a people from the sins of the years of their ignorance.
“To this end and for this purpose, continue your ministry to those nations of people yet unaware of the joy freedom from sin can bring into their lives. In this way they will be brought to a knowledge of the techings of my gospel and be made ready and willing to help spread the message of reconciliation and restoration to other worthy souls. In this ministry and apostolic council, as the chief witnesses of the gospel, are directed to interpret and administer the docrtrines and ordinances of the gospel in a manner appropriate to the circumstances in which they find such persons.
“The spirit of unity must prevail if my church is to survive these perilous times and continue as a viable force in the world, fulfilling its destiny. You, my people, have been called apart to assist in this great work in these last days. Put aside petty differences and join together as never before that all may labor together accourding to the gifts with which I have endowed you, and my Spirit will be with you now and forever more.”
Eventually, the church would be faced with similar circumstances in parts of Africa. There, as in India, people already in a polygamous marrriage would be permitted to join the church. However, men would not be allowed to marry additional women. If they do they will be excommunicated.
Born in 1960. Four years of near perfect early morning seminary attendance, BYU stake missionary training (taught by non-other than Edward Kimball, son of then prophet SWK), BYU religion classes, decades of church lessons, and the official church visitor centers in Nauvoo: all said “Joseph Smith was not a polygamist – they were posthumous sealings and sealings under the principle of adoption”.
The Gospel Topics essay blew me away. My wife had had the same experience. A lot of people these days are saying how could you not know Joseph was a polygamist? To me – it’s because it was never taught front and center – certainly not as vocally as the voices saying he wasn’t. Not sure it is that much even now.
I was quite shaken – it feels like there had been a shell game going on. I was particularly bothered that I had taught my children an incorrect version of things. I mentioned this to a friend. Unknown to me, he was a Sufferite. He gave me an an unattributed 15-page, 8-point font document on why Joseph was *not* a polygamist and that the official church position – at least the 2015 position – was incorrect (I later learned Snuffer wrote it).
I didn’t find the Snuffer essay particularly compelling – for reasons noted above – but it did give me occasion to think about the entire topic from another angle. This was the start of my “trust crisis”.
Thank you for the correction. I should have stopped to think of that. I tend to be on a hair-trigger on this subject.
I’m a little surprised to hear the official church visitor centers in Nauvoo: all said “Joseph Smith was not a polygamist – they were posthumous sealings and sealings under the principle of adoption”. When did you visit? Just curious.
Honestly, growing up in the church, I never really thought much about Joseph and polygamy. As BeenThere noted, it wasn’t talked about at church, and still isn’t in detail other than Emma being Joseph’s wife. We do talk about D&C 132, and I did know there was polygamy, but prior to about 2006, I probably assumed Joseph practiced polygamy, but had no idea how many wives he had, and didn’t really pursue it at all. I do remember being cautioned about studying church history could lead to loss of testimony. So I always knew there were skeletons in the closet, but I knew nothing about these skeletons.
When I read Rough Stone Rolling, the talk of polyandry made me sick to my stomach. I don’t like polygamy at all. But it clearly happened.
When the Gospel Topics essay came out, it was nothing new to me. I definitely expanded my knowledge on my own between about 2002-2013. I understand some people are shell-shocked, but I don’t understand why some don’t seem to have heard, like I did, “beware of studying church history because one may lose testimony.” I thought that admonition was quite prevalent, but maybe not. So I guess when I learned about the skeletons, I took it more in stride than some, even though the information was quite new to me when I learned it between 2002-2013.
I understand the “trust crisis”, but I guess I have had my trust broken so many times, that it doesn’t surprise me when church leaders break trust. It seems like some have never had their trust broken and don’t know how to deal with it. Maybe I had a rougher life growing up than some, and because of that, I roll with it a little better. The different responses to learning new history is fascinating to me. I know many are not like me, but sometimes I wonder why? Maybe living with more adversity is a blessing. I don’t know. Just spitballing here.
-Two Nauvoo visits – late 90’s.
-I heard the church history caution many times – but it was couched in terms of “beware of the church history lies” rather than that learning the truth could affect my testimony. That would have probably gotten my curiosity up.
-As far a general adversity, many have remarked that we are the Poster Family, so we’re well practiced at rolling with it. But I will say that I felt that the church (very broad brush for the top leaders) was a safe haven in the trust department.
I recently attended a stake fireside put on by Bruce Hafen (emeritus GA 70) and his wife Marie on the theme “Faith is Not Blind”. On the topic of history, he blamed us for not knowing it, citing “The Encyclopedia of Mormonism” (“published in 1992 by Macmilllan Library, for heaven’s sake”,) as a source for much of the materials used to create the GT Essays. I had never heard of it. One can get a used copy of the 5-volume set for $350 on Amazon ($49 in paperback!). All the “shocking revelations” in the GT Essays, Bro. Hafen said, were right there, all along, in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
I ran a search on all church publications and found The Encyclopedia of Mormonism cited just 8 times: Twice in Saints vol.2, and 6 times in various of the online Gospel Topics articles (none in the GT Essays). In 1992, Bro. Hafen was a provost at BYU and may have had more direct information of its publication.
My point: there is a difference between “exists” and “accessible”.
BTW: The Hafens and their children have developed a website/blog/podcast. It’s kind of a Mormon Stories” for people that have doubts but ultimately decide to stay or return. There’s a book too. https://www.faithisnotblind.org/
Its hard to believe there are still many who doubt Joseph practiced polygamy. I was born in the early 50s, and heard stories about polygamy for as long as I can remember. The polygamists in my tree were all members of the first generation, but none from the 2nd generation practiced. And yet the stories still came down. One of those stories was about my great great grandfather Benjamin Franklin Johnson, whose sister Almera Johnson was wed and sealed to Joseph, and by BFJ’s account, “the Prophet again Came and at my house occupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister” (from his My Life’s Review). This would have been in 1843 I believe.
I descend from BFJ’s 6th wife. He was 40 years older than his 16 year old bride. He also married no 6’s sister –how about that for “sister wives”. BFJ faithfully obeyed the “principle”, but none of his wives were particularly happy with him.
I have very much mixed feelings about polygamy. I totally reject it of course, but I have to admire those who practiced it. It was indeed a sacrifice. There are plenty of “happy polygamy” stories that have come down to us, but I think BFJs experience might have been more typical.
I guess it is a skeleton folks would have liked to have kept hidden. There have been several sexual experiments by a number of religions. The Shakers, the Owenites and likely others. We can reject these as failed experiments, but no need to reject our forebears, I think.
@BeenThere, I heard the same fireside from the Hafens and had the same response – yeah, sure, it’s our fault for not learning about all that stuff. It’s certainly better than the Wilcox apologetics, but still basically not helpful whatsoever. Wilcox’s approach = you have a question? YOU ARE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION YOU IGNORAMUS. Hafen’s approach = you have a question? Oh we know all about that and it’s fine. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming …
@ Rich Brown
I always learn something when I read your comments. Thank you. Your brief overview outlining the history of how The Community of Christ grappled with aspects of our shared history is insightful. Looks like The CofC made some beneficial decisions at several key turning points. It’s a good model of how to move forward in a healthy way.
Also interesting that your church recognizes that women [and children] would be hurt by a blanket ban/prohibition on polygamy for these converts, along with accepting the role India’s caste system plays. I know I’m not articulating myself well, mostly because of my own limited knowledge, but I appreciate being able to understand it better.
If you believe that Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way Brigham did you must answer one question WHERE are the CHILDREN? If Joseph had 35 wives many of whom were teenagers and he was fertile (Emma was pregnant with her son David in June 1844) and the bulk of his wives bore children with other men after 1844 where are Joseph children with his numerous teenage (and very fertile) wives ? BY had 29 wives and 55 children John Taylor had multiple children with each of his wives so where are Joseph’s children with his plural wives . The answer is NO WHERE because he didn’t have any . Until you can explain this fact you can not claim Joseph was a polygamist
Polygamy was kept secret–even from some of the leaders of the church–for years. Late summer 1843, Hyrum Smith informed the Nauvoo High Council about it, shocking some of the leaders on that council. June 7, 1844 The Nauvoo Expositor made the scandalous claim about polygamy (including at least one statement from a former high council member), and 20 days later, Joseph Smith was dead.
Given that polygamy was a carefully-kept secret while Joseph Smith was alive, and given that pregnancies of unwed mothers would have aroused suspicion, it’s not such a big surprise that Joseph Smith did what he could to keep his polygamous wives from getting pregnant.
You don’t have to doubt your doubts, you can answer your own question. Try some Google searches using a few key words.
To get you started:
Condoms (skins, linen)
JS probably was not the only man trying to avoid pregnancy in the 1800s.
For me, polygamy/polyandry was a failed social experiment. It was not inspired by God. Reading the OT gave Joseph the idea. We need to get past polygamy. We need to stop throwing God under the bus. We need to exclude parts or all of 132 from the D&C. For that matter, the D&C needs a major edit. Leave in only those parts that are relevant today.
Elisa – I don’t want to be the guy in here who doesn’t believe women. Unfortunately, many women gave different accounts. Do I believe Emma or do I believe Eliza? Women had no power, but the ones who supported the current leadership had soft power. They were encouraged to support the brethren and I have a hard time knowing who to believe. There were probably some exaggerations and pressure for women to say certain things by the leaders in Utah. That said, there isn’t any doubt in my mind JS practiced polygamy. There is too much evidence. We have letters of him written to young ladies. We have the debacle of the RS in Nauvoo. We have Fanny Alger. We have the Nauvoo Expositor. We have John C. Bennett. We have Orson Pratt LEAVING THE CHURCH over his proposition to Sarah. This is another level of conspiracy theory to say that JS didn’t practice polygamy.
A simple understanding of the differences between JS and BY explain the lack of children. JS did not believe that God creates spirits through celestial sex and never used the argument that polygamy was to help us become Gods through procreation. JS never taught that sealings had anything to do with connecting the nuclear family. He believed that people had to be sealed to HIM to make to heaven, not sealed to their father and grandfather and so on. Lastly, he never lived with any of his polygamous wives and probably did not have sex with many of them. If they did have sex, it was not frequent and he was probably extra careful to not impregnate them beings as they were all sworn to secrecy and Emma would have probably slipped some poison in his coffee for real.
Benjamin Park’s book, “Kingdom of Nauvoo,” was a real eye-opener to me. I was intrigued by the way he tied together OT patriarchy, Masonry, role of the Relief Society, Council of 50, and the celestial order including its unique form of plural marriage. JS was quite the creative rule-breaker. Definitely not the way I learned church history as a good RLDS boy back in the day.
@Zach, I understand what you are saying. People who deny polygamy would say to exclude every single account from women who claimed to have been sealed to Joseph just because … umm, literally no reason except it doesn’t fit their narrative of Joseph Smith.
Emma’s claim that polygamy wasn’t practiced contradicts other historical information about Emma AND makes sense in light of her desire to protect Joseph’s reputation and her own distaste of the practice. So I think one can discount her statement that polygamy wasn’t practiced as (1) made in her own self-interest and (2) not persuasive in light of the other evidence. That’s different than “not believing women.”
Larry nice try but no banana.Ever heard of Occams Razor? The failure rate of modern condoms is 6% . The failure rate of the “ pull out method”rate is 15%. 35 wives over 10 years and no children or reported pregnancies. What are the odds. Maybe we should look at the affidavits of some of his wives. We have some from the temple lot case. In each case save one they refuse to say they had intercourse with Joseph. The one exception is Emily Partridge who was sealed to Joseph at 16. 40 years later when she was supported by BY and is part of the team supporting the proposition that Joseph practiced polygomy she is asked under oath if she had “carnal knowledge “ with Joseph. She said yes . Pretty damaging right. Then she is asked how many times . The answer is once! 16 year old girl 35 year old man living together for a year and under your theory having a sexual relationship but it happens only once. How likely is that ? There is no contemporaneous evidence of sexual involvement by Joseph . All the forensic evidence says no sexual element , all the testimony by plural wives except Emily is no sexual element . Yet most members of the church are willing to believe that he was a serial bigamist, guilty of perjury, and a child molester. I see no competent evidence to support such tall tales.