Friday, June 22, 2012

Part 3 - A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

“Inasmuch as this church has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband.” – D&C 101 (1835 and 1844 editions) (revelation dated, December 16, 1833)
“I wish the grand jury would tell me who they [the alleged plural wives] are – whether it will be a curse or blessing to me.  I am quite tired of the fools asking me. . . . What a thing it is for a man [Joseph] to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.”  – Joseph Smith

Van Wagoner:  Joseph Damned the Practice of Polygamy

Richard Van Wagoner is an LDS Church historian and writer best known for his books Sidney Rigdon:  A Portrait of Religious Excess and Mormon Polygamy: A History.  Richard was a member of the LDS Church until the day he died in 2010.[1]  His 1994 biography of Sidney Rigdon won awards from the Mormon History Association and the John Whitmer Historical Association.  Without ever investigating the matter, Van Wagoner never doubted that Joseph Smith revealed the doctrine of polygamy; however, Van Wagoner’s work strongly indicates the LDS Church knowingly concealed Joseph Smith’s discourses against polygamy, an important fact in weighing the evidence of truth.

1.       Richard Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, p. 292:

“The Prophet warned against ‘iniquitous characters [who] say they have authority from Joseph or the First Presidency’ and advising them not to ‘believe anything as coming from us, contrary to the established morals & virtues & scriptural laws . . .’  The sisters were urged to denounce any man who made polygamous proposals and to ‘shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are Prophets, Seers, or Revelators; Patriarchs, Twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Majors, Generals, City Councilors, Aldermen, Marshals, Police, Lord mayors or the Devil, [they] are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices.”  (Emphasis added).

Unequivocally and without qualification, Joseph was condemning to hell any man who advocated polygamy, even if that man was the prophet himself.  Why would Joseph direct members to “denounce” the prophet, i.e., Joseph Smith, if the prophet was surreptitiously preaching polygamy behind closed doors? 

If Joseph was a polygamous, wouldn’t Joseph at the very least insert conditional or waffling language (e.g., “unauthorized polygamous proposals”)?  Despite the LDS Church’s repeated claims that Joseph was only referring to unauthorized polygamy as practiced in the orient and by Dr. Bennett, the above language evinces that Joseph did not waffle or equivocate in denouncing polygamy in all its forms. 

2.       Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History:

“The Prophet’s most pointed denial of plural marriage occurred on 5 October 1843 in instructions pronounced publicly in the streets of Nauvoo.  Willard Richards wrote in Smith’s diary that Joseph ‘gave instructions to try those who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives . . . Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof.  No man shall have but one wife.’”  Id. at 292 (emphasis added).

3.       Van Wagoner’s footnote to the above quote, on page 303 states:

“When incorporating Smith’s journal into the History of the Church, church leaders, under Brigham Young’s direction, deleted ten key words from this significant passage and added forty-nine others so that it now reads:

“Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” (Emphasis added).

Missing entirely from Joseph’s statement in the official rewritten history is the primary directive, “Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof.”  In other words, LDS Church leaders, under the direction of Brigham Young, knowingly rewrote the above journal to convey the nearly opposite meaning.  At the very least, Brigham Young demonstrated a penchant to falsify doctrine and alter Church history in order to support the LDS Church’s claim that Joseph revealed polygamy.[2]  This fact alone should cause every member of the LDS Church to suspect and question the veracity of Brigham Young’s claims; unfortunately, many will fail to reach this rightful conclusion. 

4.       Richard S. Van Wagoner wrote in “The Making of a Mormon Myth:  The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young” Dialogue, Vol. 28, No. 4, Winter 1995, pp.2–3:

The Twelve’s nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations that were seamlessly stitched into church history.  Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian who later left the church, was aghast at these emendations.  Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized, Wandell noted in his diary:

“I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was “doctored” to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.”

More than a dozen references to Brigham Young’s involvement in transposing the written history may be found in the post-martyrdom record first published in book form in 1902 as History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For example, an  1 April 1845 citation records Young saying:  I commenced revising the History of Joseph Smith at Brother Richard’s office:  Elder Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith were with me.”

That this revision, or censorship, of the official history came from Brigham Young is evidenced by an 11 July 1856 reference in Wilford Woodruff’s diary.  Apostle Woodruff, working in the church historian’s office, questioned Young respecting a “p[ie]ce of History on Book E-1 page 1681-2 concerning Hyr[u]m leading this Church & tracing the [A]aronic Priesthood.”  Young advised, “it was not essential to be inserted in the History & had better be omitted.” Woodruff then queried him about “Joseph[s] words on South Carolina” (see D&C 87; 130:12-13) which had recently been published in the Deseret News.  Young said he “wished it not published.”  Years later Elder Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, admitted that after Joseph Smith’s death some changes were made in the official record “for prudential reasons.”

Joseph’s Letter in Liberty Jail

While imprisoned in Liberty Jail, Joseph denounced polygamy in a letter he wrote to the Saints in Caldwell County, dated December 16, 1839[3] (eight years after Joseph supposedly introduced polygamy), ending with the warning that “if any person has represented anything otherwise than what we now write they have willfully misrepresented us.”  Joseph wrote:

“Know assuredly Dear brethren, that it is for the testimony of Jesus, that we are in bonds and in prison . . . .

Was it for committing adultery?  We are aware that false and slanderous reports have gone abroad, which have reached our ears, respecting this thing, which have been started by renegades, and spread by the dissenters, who are extremely active in spreading foul and libelous reports concerning us; thinking thereby to gain the fellowship of the world . . . . Some have reported that we not only dedicated our property, but likewise our families to the Lord, and Satan taking advantage of this has transfigured it into lasciviousness, a community of wives [polygamy], which things are an abomination in the sight of God.

When we consecrate our property to the Lord, it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy according to the laws of God, and when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children to the Lord, he does not give them to his brother or to his neighbor; which is contrary to the law of God, which says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.’  ‘He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart.’  Now for a man to consecrate his property, his wife and children to the Lord is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the widows and fatherless, the sick and afflicted; and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for himself and his house to serve the Lord.  In order to do this he and all his house must be virtuous and shun every appearance of evil.  Now if any person, has represented anything otherwise than what we now write they have willfully misrepresented us.” 

Times and Seasons[4] [April 1840]: 82–85 (emphasis added). 

A Question and Answer on Polygamy

While Joseph and other Church leaders were journeying from Kirtland to Far West in the fall of 1837, they were asked by non-members if the Church believed in polygamy.  Joseph listed twenty “questions which are daily and hourly asked by all classes of people whilst we are traveling.”  One question was, “Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one?Elders’ Journal 1 [November 1837]: 28.  Joseph answered, “No, not at the same time.  But they believe, that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again.”  Id., July 1838: 43.  Joseph was the editor of the Elders’ Journal, so this statement came directly from him in 1838, i.e., five years after Joseph allegedly married Fannie Alger.  See also May 1, 1838, as quoted in “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” p. 119.  Joseph either lied or was telling the truth – there is no middle ground that Joseph was directing his condemnation as to the form of polygamy.

Joseph’s Speech One Month before His Death

Less than a month before Joseph’s martyrdom, thousands of Saints witnessed Joseph denounce the doctrine of polygamy and those who would accuse him of promulgating it.  The address is in The History of the Church under the title “Address of the Prophet – His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo,” delivered Sunday, May 26, 1844, Id. Vol. 6, p. 408-412.

Joseph declared:

“Another indictment has been got up against me [the polygamy indictment].  It appears a holy prophet [William Law] has arisen up, and he has testified against me [causing the polygamy indictment to be brought forth] . . . . God knows, then, that the charges against me are false.

I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives.  I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can.

This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery.  This spiritual wifeism[5]!  Why, a man dares not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this . . . . William Law . . . swears that I have committed adultery.  I wish the grand jury would tell me who they [the alleged wives] are—whether it will be a curse or blessing to me . . . .

A man asked me whether the commandment [revelation] was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet has charged me with adultery . . . . Wilson Law [William’s brother] also swears that I told him I was guilty of adultery . . . . I have rattled chains before in a dungeon for truth’s sake.  I am innocent of all these charges, and you can bear witness of my innocence, for you know me yourselves . . . . What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.

I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago [when charged with polygamy shortly after his marriage to Emma Hale]; and I can prove them all perjurers.”  LDS History of the Church, 6:410–411 (emphasis added).

Joseph equated polygamy with adultery and stated that he was the victim of repeated lies spread by Joseph’s enemies.  Without a doubt, Joseph stated that he was monogamous.  On the other hand, Joseph NEVER preached a public sermon nor made a public statement in favor of plural marriage.  As noted by Richard and Pamela Price:  “In the same volume, on page 474, is report of a sermon by the prophet from the stand in Nauvoo, June 6 [16], 1844.  In one passage they report him as saying:  ‘I have taught all the strong doctrines publicly, and always taught stronger doctrines in public than in private.’  That was about ten days before his death and effectually disposes of the Utah claim that he taught the strong (and rank) doctrine of polygamy in private, not daring to teach it in public.  Salt Lake can hardly repudiate its own version of these sermons . . .” p. 108. 

Please continue to Part 4 (

[1] See
[2] In Joseph F. Smith’s 1905 correspondence to Richard C. Evans of the “Reorganized” church, Mr. Smith attached the same revised and false statement as key proof that Joseph Smith was the founder of polygamy.

[3] Note that Joseph Smith had allegedly first entered into a polygamous relationship in early 1833 with Fanny Alger.

[4] The Times and Seasons was a 19th-century Latter Day Saint periodical published monthly or twice-monthly at Nauvoo, Illinois, from November 1839 to February 15, 1846.  The publication was the first to include such significant Latter Day Saint documents as “The Wentworth Letter,” the “King Follett Discourse,” the Book of Abraham, the personal history of Joseph Smith, Jr., and the announcement of the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.  Initially, the publication was edited by Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith (a brother of Joseph Smith, Jr.). After the death of D.C. Smith in 1841, Joseph Smith, Jr. himself became the chief editor, assisted by John Taylor. In November 1842, Taylor became the principal editor, assisted by Willard Richards.  The motto of the paper was “Truth will prevail.”

[5] “Spirtual wifeism” was a term used by the Cochranites in reference to polygamy. 


  1. Thankyou! I appreciate your hard work researching, and I too have been on a quest for truth. Having obtained a copy of Joseph And Emma's son Joseph Smith III 's Memoirs I have discovered more knowledge.

    I read your blog last year with interest ... Having been a devout LDS since 1985 and a Temple attendee since 1993, it made sense to me to have these findings brought to the surface.