I think most people agree that polygamy was practiced secretly in Nauvoo.  Polygamy skeptics like to blame it on Brigham Young, but even if that were true, what types of secret evidence would we expect to see?  Would that apply to Joseph if he was secretly practicing polygamy as well? 

Mark:  Yeah, you have the strongest kind of evidence. So again, since polygamy is something that was being denied openly while being practiced privately, you’re going to have, basically, a few kinds of evidence. You’re going to have, (I would say) four kinds of evidence. And it’s important to look at all of these. You’re going to have privately held evidence that are private records by the people that are participating, that are pro-polygamy that are faithful. You’re going to have that.

GT:  Faithful to the LDS Church.

Mark:  Yes, faithful to LDS. Because somebody who is faithful is not going to talk openly about polygamy at that time. They’re not going to do it.

Mark:  They’re people, a lot of times, it’s because of polygamy, that they’re dissenters. That’s what’s turned them off. Other times it’s other reasons that they’ve been turned off and since they have this, they’re going to use this as retaliation. It’s going to be that. So you’re going to have those. Those are going to be your contemporary evidences. It’s going to fall into those two categories. Those are really the only reasonable expectations.

GT:  Dissidents.

Mark:  Then, you’re going to have later evidence from friendly people who are participants that are going to talk about it after the secret’s out. Then, the fourth category, I think this is a very good, big, important one to talk about, is third party evidence. So, this is going to be accounts from people, usually later, after the secret’s out, who are neither anti-Mormon dissenters or pro-polygamy. So, people who have no reason to want to discredit Joseph Smith, [nor] who want to attack to Joseph Smith, and have no reason to want to promote that he was a polygamist.

Mark:  Now you asked about rules about evidence. There is another thing about hearsay. It’s called the statement against interest. If somebody says something that goes against their interest, that carries some weight. So, we can look at some of the contemporary evidence.

We get into more detail. What polygamy evidence is there in the Nauvoo period? Mark Tensmeyer will tell us about the Sarah Pratt case, Hyrum Smith before the high council, and other evidence polygamy was secretly practiced by Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo period.

Mark:  There is the deal where in January 1844, Joseph and William Law are holding a city council meeting, and William Law is questioning a witness. He asked him, “Well, what did we talk about? What did you and I talk about on that day?”

Mark: “We talked about the doctrine of plurality of wives, the rumors about it. It’s really messing up families. It’s causing a lot of pain to a lot of people.” And William Law says there on the record, “…and don’t you think there’s some truth to those things because Joseph and Hyrum blew up the matter before the High Council, and the Elders quorum?”

Mark:  And so Joseph responds by saying, “A man who promises to keep a secret and doesn’t, cannot be trusted in anything.”

GT:  Meaning that Wil[liam] broke a secret.

Mark:  That William broke a secret. Yes, he did. So, what secret did he break? So, it kind of inadvertently [discussed polygamy.] It’s after that, that things really start to fall out between Joseph and the Laws. William Law starts the Reformed Church, and a number of people join.

Then, of course, William Law, his attack on there, it’s really two-pronged. The one thing he does is he files criminal charges against Joseph in Carthage for unlawful cohabitation with Mariah Lawrence and others. That goes before a grand jury. A grand jury indicts. People in that grand jury include active elements, including people from the Mormons. It includes Daniel H Wells. It includes William Marks. He’s there as part of it. It includes Willard Griffith.

GT:  The grand jury includes all these people?

Mark:  It includes Mormons, and they say that there was probable cause. They indict him. So, they say that there is probable cause that these charges against Joseph Smith are true. They bound him over for trial in October 1844. Now, of course, that trial never happens. We know why. Because Joseph died before that, but had Joseph not been killed in June 1844, then there would have been a full-on trial about polygamy. So that trial that Joseph was put on trial almost happened.

Mark:  Yeah. Of course, the other thing they do is they publish The ExpositorThe Expositor says a few things about polygamy. It says things like, they’re taking these women and it exaggerates some things. “They are leading them out into the wilderness, if they say no, and all kinds of things.” But what it also has is it has three affidavits by Austin Coles, William Law and Jane Law. William Law says, “Hyrum gave us revelation. It allowed for people taking plural wives.” Jane Law says it did and it said he can take up to 10. Doctrine and Covenants section 113 doesn’t say you can take up 10, but it does mention ‘if a man takes 10 wives and they are virgins…’ it says that one point.

Then Austin Coles has an affidavit in there. His is detailed. He said, “Late last summer, Hyrum Smith read a revelation to the High Council. The first part said that if a person was sealed up to eternal life, and they could not lose their exaltation unless they commit murder.” Then, it talks about how Abraham and Jacob, their doctrine in taking plural wives. It says that it allowed for a man to take plural wives. So, he gives a description that’s actually really good summary of Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 as we know it. It’s brief, but a pretty comprehensive summary there.

We talk about other evidence in Nauvoo as well. The LDS and RLDS Churches have fought about Joseph Smith’s polygamy for a century.  Is there 3rd party evidence that could settle this?  Mark Tensmeyer discusses evidence outside the two churches that can help settle the matter as to whether Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.

Mark:  Another section, after William Marks is dead, there’s one of the apostles by the name of Zenas Gurley, Jr, whose father was very instrumental in founding the LDS Church. He’s wanting to get to the bottom of this.  I think it’s 1880s and William Marks is dead at this point, but Leonard Sobey, who was the other member of the High Council, he did not become a Brighamite. He followed Rigdon and after Rigdon’s church fell apart, he just sort of stayed out there and remained unaffiliated, but still believed. He goes out to Leonard Sobey and asks him, “What happened? What really happened?”

Sobey said, “Hyrum Smith read a revelation on plural marriage. As near as I can recall, it’s the exact same revelation the Utah church put out.”

GT:  Oh, wow. That would sure be nice to throw out if you’re a polygamy skeptic. That’s after June 27, 1844.

Mark tells about other RLDS or even Bickertonite members who concede Joseph practiced polygamy. Why do you think some LDS members are buying into the argument that Joseph was a monogamist? Do you agree the evidence is overwhelming that Joseph practiced polygamy?