Friday, June 22, 2012

Part 9 - A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

 A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

 “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” - Joseph Smith (from the History of the Church, Volume 1, Chapters 1 through 5)

Polygamy did not initially start in the LDS Church, but came from a religious sect known as the Cochranites, led by Jacob Cochran.  Many of the Cochranites accepted the LDS Church and were brought into the LDS Church, comprising a substantial portion of the Church.  Unfortunately, the Cochranites doctrine regarding polygamy was secretly adopted by Brigham Young and others close to Joseph Smith.  There was no mention of polygamy in the Church until the Cochranites were converted.

Even if you are LDS, chances are you have never heard of the Cochranites, yet the Cochranites converts formed a large part of the LDS Church.  When the first LDS missionaries arrived among the Cochranites in Saco, Main, 1832, they found the Cochranites to be extremely receptive to the message of the restoration.  Accustomed as they already were to following in the traditions of the ancient patriarchs, it was not difficult for them to accept the message that the ancient church of Christ had been restored with all its gifts.  

As described below, the Cochranite stronghold was such a fruitful place for converts that the young Church of Christ held a conference in Saco in 1834.  Nine of the twelve apostles were in attendance.  Furthermore, Brigham Young later visited the Cochranites several times as a missionary alone and later married Cochranite Augusta Cobb (who was still married and had seven children)
[1] – clear evidence of Brigham’s adultery and in violation of the Article on Marriage which recognized marriages outside of the covenant as lawful.   The High Council met at Kirtland on February 20, 1834, its record states:

“The council also decided that Elder Brigham Young should travel alone it being his own choice . . . and that there should be a general conference held in Saco, in the state of Maine, on the 13th day of June, 1834.”  Times and Seasons 6 [November 1, 1845]: 1022–1023 (emphasis added).

Why would Brigham be traveling alone to visit the polygamous Cochranites in violation of the Lord’s direction in the Doctrine and Covenants that missionaries should always travel in pairs? 

Polygamy, as eventually adopted by the LDS Church under Brigham Young, first originated with the Cochranites.  According to Wikipedia (Jacob Cochran):

                Jacob Cochran (also Cochrane, 1782-1836) was a non-denominational preacher born in Enfield, New Hampshire, USA who founded the Cochranites in Saco, Maine.  Cochranite worship is said to have resembled Shakerism, but which also practiced a new doctrine called spiritual wifery.  Cochranism may have influenced the Mormon doctrines of plural marriage and the United Order, as well as the free love practice called complex marriage once favored by the Oneida Community . . . .

Cochran has been called a ‘John the Baptist’ for Mormonism by Saco Valley historian G.T. Ridlon because so many Cochranites were among those who converted to Mormonism and moved west.  Although the Cochranites practiced a type of “spiritual wifery” [Note:  this is the same term used by Joseph Smith in condemning polygamy] which sanctioned multiple female partners for each man in the group, their doctrines did not include the precept of ‘eternal marriage,’ and thus differed slightly from Utah Mormon polygamy.

Latter Day Saint historical sources indicate that LDS Church missionaries were laboring successfully to make converts among Maine’s Cochranites as early as 1832:  at the Church conference held in Saco, Maine on August 21, 1835, at least seven of the newly ordained apostles were in attendance [including Brigham Young].  John C. Bennett, a leading Mormon who was excommunicated, is credited with introducing the Cochranite term spiritual wifery to Mormonism.  Bennett’s version of the multiple female partners practice appears to have more closely resembled Jacob Cochran’s doctrine than it did the precept of polygamy alleged to exist among the Latter Day Saints.”  (Emphasis added).

Although the Cochranites vanished from the history books by the end of the decade, they hadn’t really disappeared.  They had simply been folded into the LDS Church, selling their farms and shops and moving to Kirtland and eventually Nauvoo, bringing their polygamous families and teachings with them.

The similarities between the Cochranites and the LDS Church are noteworthy:

1.       Cochran used the term “spiritual wives” just as the Utah polygamists did;

2.       Cochran claimed that permission to practice polygamy must come through revelation to the leader, just as in the LDS Church’s theology;

3.       The leader’s permission was required before spiritual wifery could be practiced;

4.       “Assigning of wives” was practiced in both systems;

5.       Exchanging of wives was sometimes practiced by both (e.g., it is claimed that Joseph had ten wives that were married – six of which were married to active members);

6.       Oaths of secrecy were a requirement of Cochranism, and are still a part of the LDS temple ordinances;

7.       The “Garden of Eden” ceremony was practiced by Cochran.

What is of particular interest is the fact that Samuel Smith and Orson Hyde wrote against the Cochranites’ polygamous activities.  Orson Hyde’s Journal, dated October 11, 1832, read:

“[P]reached 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 knew one another after the flesh.”  (Emphasis added).

Orson Hyde was clearly denouncing polygamy, yet Joseph had purportedly revealed polygamy on July 17, 1831.[2]  Why would Samuel Smith condemn the practice of  “plurality of wives” when Joseph was supposedly preaching the doctrine as necessary for salvation?
Brigham Young’s Faulty Memory

Brigham declared “the doctrine” of polygamy was revealed to him in a vision and revelations while in England.  (There is strong testimony that Brigham was committing adultery in England.[3])  Brigham wrote:

“While we were in England, (in 1839 and 40), I think the Lord manifested to me by vision and his Spirit things [concerning polygamy] that I did not then understand.  I never opened my mouth to any one concerning them, until I returned to Nauvoo; Joseph had never mentioned this; there had never been a thought of it in the Church that I ever knew anything about at that time, but I had this for myself, and I kept it to myself.  And when I returned home, and Joseph revealed those things to me, then I understood the reflections that were upon my mind while in England. But this (communication with Joseph on the subject) was not until after I had told him what I understood—this was in 1841.  The revelation [Section 132 in the Utah Doctrine and Covenants] was given in 1843, but the doctrine was revealed before this.  Deseret News, July 1, 1874.[4]

This statement by Brigham is very important because:

1.       He admits that polygamy was not a doctrine of the Church before 1839 or 1840: “There had never been a thought of it in the Church.”  This destroys the LDS Church’s official teachings that polygamy was even thought of as a Church doctrine as early as 1831;

2.       According to Brigham, Joseph had never even mentioned polygamy as a doctrine before 1841; and

3.       It was Brigham Young who first developed the dogma of polygamy—and that he claimed he did so by Divine manifestations and by a vision.

However, in another account Brigham Young placed the revelation to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1829 while translating the Book of Mormon.  Brigham Young, quoted in Charles L. Walker, “Diary,” (Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, 1855–1902), 25–26. 

Most scholars have rejected this early date.  Brigham was not even a member at this time, so he would have heard such a story second-hand at best, and may well have misunderstood the timing.  There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that portrays plural marriage positively, so there is little which would inspire Joseph and Oliver to ask questions about it, and such questioning seems to have been a prerequisite to Joseph and Oliver’s early revelations on baptism, the priesthood, and other matters.  The journal which records the 1829 date may be in error, since there is another, earlier record in which Brigham Young opines that Joseph had the plural marriage revelation “as early as in the year 1831.”  Journal History, 26 August 1857; cited by Hyrum Leslie Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom (Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Co., 1999), 489n436.

So when was it Brigham?  1829, 1831, 1843 (as stated in Section 132) or between 1839 and 1840?  Brigham’s faulty memory is evidence of false testimony. 
The Book of Mormon Prohibits Polygamy

Mosiah 11:1-2: 

“1. And now it came to pass that Zeniff conferred the kingdom upon Noah, one of his sons; therefore Noah began to reign in his stead; and he did not walk in the ways of his father.

2. For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart.  And he had many wives and concubines.  And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord.  Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.”  (Emphasis added).

Jacob 1:15:

And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.”  (Emphasis added).

Jacob 2:23-30:

“23. But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes.  For behold, thus saith the Lord:  This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms[5], because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

24. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

25. Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26. Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

27. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord:  For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28. For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.  And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

30. For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”[6]  (Emphasis added).

Jacob 3:5:

“Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.”

The LDS Church has some evidence in support of its claim that Joseph Smith revealed polygamy.  However, the affidavits and claims in support of the LDS Church’s position were written well after Brigham Young had assumed leadership and moved the Church to Salt Lake City, Utah.  Further, most of the “wives” of Joseph Smith who made the allegations were in polygamous relationships under the control of Brigham Young and other leaders of the Church.     

To be fair, the LDS Church has many after-the-fact affidavits that support its allegation that Joseph Smith first revealed polygamy, including statements made by prominent LDS leaders and others, such as Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, Williams W. Phelps, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph B. Noble[7], Lyman E. Johnson, William Law, William Clayton, Lorenzo Snow, Lucy Walker Kimball, Joseph C. Kingsbury, Helen Mar Kimball (Whitney), David Fullmer, Newel K. Whitney, Eliza Snow, et al., and are found in the Journal of Discourses[8], Historical Record[9], and History of the Church. 

However, these affidavits and statements were written many years after the death of Joseph Smith and were all (as far as I can tell) written by polygamists and/or followers of Brigham Young, i.e., individuals with a very biased view on the subject.  No affidavits or journal entries were made during the life of Joseph Smith showing that Joseph Smith was engaged in polygamy.  The journal entries, including Helen Mar Kimball’s, were written many years later.  For example, Mary Lightner’s (an alleged plural wife of Joseph Smith) affidavit was published by historian Fawn Brodie, who wrote:

“Curiously, she [Mary Lightner] makes no mention of her marriage to Joseph in her autobiography . . . but on February 8, 1902, when eighty-four years old, she swore to an affidavit that said in part:  ‘I was sealed to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, by commandment. In the spring of 1831, the Savior appeared and commanded him to seal me up to everlasting life, gave me to Joseph to be with him in his Kingdom . . . . In 1834 he was commanded to take me for a wife.  I was a thousand miles from him.  He got afraid.  The angel came to him three times, the last time with a drawn sword and threatened his life.  I did not believe.  If God told him so, why did he not come and tell me?  The angel told him I should have a witness.  An angel came to me—it went through me like lightning—I was afraid.  Joseph said he came with more revelation and knowledge than Joseph ever dare reveal.  Joseph said I was his before I came here and he said all the Devils in Hell should never get me from him.  I was sealed to him in the Masonic Hall, over the old brick store by Brigham Young in February 1842 . . .” Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 443–444 (emphasis added).

Why did these purported wives of Joseph Smith fail to mention, in their personal journals or otherwise, their marriages to Joseph Smith until many years after Joseph’s death?

To this day, the LDS Church has not produced even a single word, in a sermon, lecture, statement, newspaper or LDS Church publication printed during the life of Joseph Smith, wherein Joseph, by word or deed, endorsed polygamy.

Also, none of the marriages show up on the then official current records of the Church, in violation of the Lord’s commandment that a record be kept (“The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch.”).  For further refutation of the above false claims and statements, which are too detailed to include herein, please see Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes found at 

Moreover, combined with the fact that not one descendant of Joseph Smith (outside of his relationship with Emma) has been found through DNA evidence, the proven fact that Brigham Young fraudulently altered official Church history in support of his allegations, I find the evidence propounded by the Church dubious.  See Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy:  A History, p. 303.  In short, based on the evidence, I believe that Brigham Young, and the polygamist followers of Brigham Young, lied about the origins of polygamy in order to maintain their authority and the polygamous doctrines they espoused. 
The Secret Doctrine

In response to these claims, the LDS Church has argued that plurality of wives was revealed as a “secret” doctrine as proven by a “large collection of affidavits” written long after Joseph’s death.  According to B.H. Roberts:

“It is to be observed first of all that this principle of plural marriage had to be introduced secretly, firstly, because of the traditions and prejudices of the saint themselves; and, secondly, because of the advantage that their enemies surrounding them would have over the church if once the doctrine was publicly proclaimed.  This enforced secrecy, which a reasonable prudence demanded, gave rise to apparent contradictions between the public utterance of leading brethren in the church and their having a plurality of wives under the new marriage law.”  Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. ii, pp. 103-4 (emphasis added).

B.H. Roberts further went on to say that the confusion and statements against polygamy resulted from Joseph and other leaders of the LDS Church who reproved the unsanctioned polygamy of the orient and the unauthorized polygamy of John C. Bennett.  For example, according to Parley P. Pratt, “The spiritual wife doctrine of J. C. Bennett and numerous other apostates, is as foreign from the real principles of the church as the devil is from God, or as sectarianism is from Christianity.”  Id. p. 104 (note 16).

Is the LDS Church correct?  Were the “apparent contradictions” only a result of a disagreement as to the form of polygamy and nothing more?   Joseph Smith vehemently and repeatedly preached against and denounced polygamy, without any qualification, even after Joseph was supposedly engaged in polygamous relationships.  In addition, not one child has been discovered through DNA or other evidence to be the polygamous child of Joseph Smith even though Emma bore him nine.[10]  The evidence does not support the LDS Church’s position.

Please continue to Part 10 (

[1] In 1847, Henry Cobb sued Augusta Cobb for divorce.
[3] On August 24, 1891, Seventy Thomas Stafford wrote a letter to Seventy Gomer R. Wells telling of improper conduct which he had witnessed on the part of Brigham Young, both in England and in Nauvoo.  Stafford wrote:
“But I am fully convinced, as I was then, that Brigham (Young), was in adultery in Manchester, England, in the fall, winter and spring of 1840 and 1841.  Elizabeth Mayer is the person with whom Brigham was then committing adultery.  My reasons are these:  We lived next door to her, under the same roof . . . . This Elizabeth Mayer had a father and a brother who were gardners; they took their dinners, as they worked a long piece from home.  After they had left for work, Brigham would step into the house, she would then lock the door and pull down the blinds and curtains, which to me was strange.  He never came to see our folks, although not five steps apart; and when he left he was always in a hurry, and she never came to the door with him when he was leaving.  This same thing occurred in Nauvoo with a woman and Brigham. Her name was Greenough; her son was about my age, was always driven out when Brigham came, the door was shut and the curtains lowered.  I was puzzled to know why he acted so, if he had a good heart, and was engaged in the business of teaching the truth, why drive the boy out? Why not come also and see my mother, only a few steps apart?  I am now, and was then, satisfied that he was in adultery, in Manchester, England. The seeds of polygamy was sown, and Brigham the sower . . . . I was present at a meeting in a grove [at Nauvoo], about three weeks before Joseph and Hyrum were murdered, when Joseph made a public statement in the presence of three thousand people, that polygamy was being practiced secretly by some; that it had crept into the church secretly and must be put down speedily or the church would be driven from Nauvoo.   I am satisfied that Joseph was not in favor of it (polygamy) at all.  Would swear to all I have stated.”  R. C. Evans, Autobiography of Elder R. C. Evans, 334–335.

[4] In contrast, according to the LDS Church’s institute manual:  “It is clear that the Prophet Joseph Smith received section 132 before it was recorded but delayed making it known. The Prophet knew the Lord’s will on plural marriage within the new and everlasting covenant probably as early as 1831 (see History of the Church, 5:xxix). In March 1843 he spoke to William Clayton of eternal marriage. In July of that year, he was discussing the doctrine with his brother Hyrum in William Clayton’s presence when Hyrum said, “If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take it and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.” (History of the Church, 5:xxxii).”  See
[5] For example, Orson Pratt gave the initial sermon which announced polygamy as a doctrine, which he delivered in the Tabernacle, in Salt Lake City, August 29, 1852, entitled “Celestial Marriage.” Orson declared:  ‘[A]mong them are many spirits that are more noble, more intelligent than others, that were called the great and mighty ones, reserved until the dispensation of the fulness of times . . . . This is the reason why the Lord is sending them here, brethren and sisters; they are appointed to come and take their bodies here . . . . Then is it not reasonable, and consistent that the Lord should say unto His faithful and chosen servants . . . take unto yourselves more wives?”  Journal of Discourses 1 [1854]: 62–63.
[6] The LDS Church interprets this verse as follows:  “For if I will, saith the Lord of hosts, raise up [righteous] seed [or people] unto me, I will command my people [to practice polygamy]: otherwise [if the Lord does not give the commandment to practice polygamy], they shall hearken unto these things [Jacob’s instruction to not practice it].” This interpretation makes this passage completely out of harmony with all the rest of Jacob’s revelation against polygamy.  The better interpretation of the passage shows that it is definitely monogamous, and that it is in harmony with all the rest of the revelation which the Lord gave through Jacob.  It is: “For if I will, saith the Lord of hosts, raise up [righteous] seed unto me, I will command my people [the Lord will be their commander—He will give them commandments to obey]: otherwise [if the Lord is not their commander; or they do not obey His commandments], they shall hearken unto these things [they shall practice the sins of polygamy].” 
[7] On June 26, 1869 (twenty-five years later) Joseph B. Noble (the first man who purportedly had the first child from a plural wife) claimed that on April 5, 1841, he “married or sealed Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the order of celestial marriage revealed to the said Joseph Smith.” First, Louisa was Mr. Noble’s sister and she later married Brigham Young as a plural wife (and had five sons with Brigham as opposed to zero from Joseph).  Second, the claim that Ms. Beaman had been married to Joseph first originated with the despicable Dr. John Bennett in 1842, which Joseph denied.  Bennett wrote:  “In concluding this subject, however, I will semi-state two or more cases, among the vast number, where Joe Smith was privately married to his spiritual wives—in the case of Mrs. A**** S****, by Apostle Brigham Young; and in that of Miss L***** B***** [Louisa Beaman], by Elder Joseph Bates Noble.”  John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or, An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism [Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], 256.  The story of the sword carrying angel appeared much later.  Finally, LDS Church leaders state Louisa Beaman was married to Joseph on April 5, 1841, even though she was not baptized until two years later – on May 11, 1843 (see Millennial Star 21: 75). 

[8] E.g., Journal of discourses, vol. iii., p. 266.  “It has been claimed, chiefly by the sons of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the founders of what is known as the ‘Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints’ that Joseph Smith never introduced either the doctrine or the practice of the plurality of wives in the church; but the evidence is overwhelmingly against this contention . . . . there is a large collection of affidavits upon the subject in the files of the Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, a number of which – ten in all – are published in the Historical Record, together with many less formal statements and evidences.  Some of the affidavits and statements are from women who were married to Joseph Smith, and some by those who performed the ceremonies (Historical Record, Jenson, pp. 219-234), and other persons whose relationship to Nauvoo events gave them exceptional opportunities to know the truth of the matters whereof they testified.”  Cited by A Comprehenive History of the Church, Century One, Vol. II, B.H. Roberts (1965), p. 103, note 15.
[9] In May 1887, almost forty-three years after Joseph Smith's death, the LDS Church published sixteen pages of affidavits and testimonies in the Historical Record.
[10] How this fact fits within the LDS Church claim that Joseph revealed polygamy as part of a “righteous seed” theory (see Jacob 1:30 and D&C 132) is unexplained.  For example, some have argued that maybe Joseph never had sexual relationships with his plural wives out of respect to Emma.  However, Brigham Young certainly had 57 children by at least sixteen different wives.  Why the difference?  Also, if these marriages were asexual, wouldn’t Joseph have proclaimed the same.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. This was fun to see how an attorney would build the case for Joseph Smith. The only question I have remaining is about the William Clayton Diaries. How do you reconcile what William Clayton Diaries seem to be the suggesting. That is that Joseph taught these things to a select group of leaders and that Joseph was a polygamist. How would you handle this bit of evidence. I have never seen these diaries but I know someone that has and he seems confident that they are a true record.

    1. In case you haven't seen it, I answered your question in the next blog post. Thanks for reading.

  2. I also would like to hear how you reconcile with William Clayton's diary in March of 1843 when Joseph tells him that it is his privilege to have all the wives he wants and that in April of that year, Joseph marries Margaret Moon to William Clayton. This is his 2nd wife.