Was Joseph Smith Married to Other Men’s Wives?

On various Internet forums I repeatedly hear the charge that Joseph Smith not only practiced plural marriage, but that some of those marriages were polyandrous rather than polygynous. That is to say, he shared some of his plural wives with other men. This seems highly unlikely to me because I do not believe the Lord would authorize such a thing. I have never seen any doctrinal justification for such a practice. And I believe that Joseph Smith was truly chosen by Jesus Christ by prophecy and revelation as His spokesman charged with restoring his ancient gospel in modern times. I cannot believe that the Lord would have chosen a blatantly immoral man to accomplish such a work when there are so many good men upon the earth that he could have chosen. I believe that most of the charges of immorality made against Joseph Smith are lies without any basis in fact.

I suggest that we all find out from the Lord whether or not Joseph Smith was his chosen prophet commissioned to restore the ancient, authorized Church of Jesus Christ. And if he was, then we be loyal to him as he expected the saints to be. And being loyal means that we “sanitize” history wherever needed to minimize the possibility of repeating lies that have been and are continually being told about Joseph Smith. The truth is, the “facts” of history are not so easily verified as some people foolishly imagine. And as a result of this, many people accept as “facts” things that are not facts. Lies enter the stream of recorded, written history. And once accepted as facts they are endlessly repeated even though they are untrue. It is a human tendency to “fill in the gaps” in our knowledge with assumptions, suppositions, hypotheses, theories, guesses and wild speculations. People just naturally do not like to admit to their ignorance. It is a matter of pride, and we all have such pride to one degree or another. As a result of this lamentable human failing, history is often just repeated gossip and rumor. Some of it is true. Some of it is false. And it is almost impossible to tell the difference because historians are as susceptible to viewing the “facts” of history through a subjective lens as anyone else.

If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, we should be loyal to him and give him the benefit of the doubt in all matters. Satan is a liar with enormous motive for propagating lies about Joseph Smith, and he has many mortal followers who are highly intelligent and competent in falsifying the record. Mark Hoffman is but one example of how lies can be inserted into the “facts” of history. I’m sure that there are many others that have gone undetected.

If the Book of Mormon can be believed, only a true seer can actually know the past or the future. We fool ourselves if we think that we know the past. We don’t. History is largely a fiction written by historians and based upon false primary evidence, records created by people who either had an axe to grind or were merely mistaken.

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36 Responses to Was Joseph Smith Married to Other Men’s Wives?

  1. Karen says:

    So sad for these poor women who are told that they have to marry these men or their spiritual lives are in peril…they have no choice, and the sad, lonely lives that they had, and their children who suffered under this abuse, under the guise of a revelation!

  2. jcobabe says:

    Indeed, it is arrogant and presumptuous to claim that we know so many things about past lives.

    What is wrong with admitting — “I don’t know”?

  3. Jettboy says:

    Well, from my understand Joseph Smith played loosely with the idea that there was a difference between marriage for time and marriage under the Covenant. Therefore, for Joseph Smith and others during his life it wasn’t as if woman married to men for time only were actually married. However, under the same “rules” God does respect a marriage contract of any kind over none. I believe, just like baptism for the dead, the understanding of a more orderly way of polygamy was revealed later. I haven’t seen any evidence the practice continued more than during the earliest period of the Covenant.

    Therefore, the marriages to woman who were already married was a matter of what kind of marriages they were involved. I have actually seen the same argument for Joseph’s marriage to Mary vs. her possible marriage to God allowing for the birth of Jesus.

    I am not troubled by Joseph Smith’s marriages because I understand the differences that even the D&C seems to indicate between marriages on Earth and those under the Covenant. Its certainly unusual, but not without certain recognizable reasons. He doesn’t have to explain his actions to me because I have already seen them in the Scriptures.

  4. John C. says:

    John, I should tell you that this post inspired another here.
    You’ve raised some questions for me.

  5. C Jones says:

    Joseph Smith is no longer here to defend himself against his accusers. Since none of us were actually there, I don’t know that we can assign motives with any degree of accuracy. So we each must choose what to believe. I choose to believe that given the chance, Joseph could and would explain his actions to my satisfaction. After all, he convinced his greatest friends and supporters- moral and religious men and women. I choose to judge Joseph by the great love his true friends had for him. I judge him by the devotion of his brother Hyrum. I judge him by the Book of Mormon. I judge him by the witness I feel from the Spirit of God that he was the great prophet of this dispensation.
    If I were ever to meet him, I would like to be able to tell him that I always gave him the benefit of the doubt.

  6. will says:

    John, you seem to be saying that the Law of Chastity is flexible enough to allow for polygyny, but not polyandry. How do you explain that?

  7. Clark Goble says:

    I’d second the presumption many appear to have that for a revelation to be a revelation it must be written down. I think we privilege the written word more than is justified – perhaps for the illusion that God is dictating every single word? I think that an incorrect view of revelation.

    Frankly most of what was taught and revealed in Nauvoo wasn’t written down. We have a few fragmentary journal entries which people then argue over. Some of those made it in an edited form into the D&C. However in some cases, such as D&C 130, those might be somewhat misleading.

    Clearly, I think, Brigham Young thought polandry wrong, given how he treated Joseph’s polandrous wives like Zina. I think Brigham was wrong in this and that the actions were a grave miscarriage of justice. One of Brigham’s bigger mistakes (IMO).

    The big problem to me is that if we can justify polygamy by noted that when someone dies we remarry, that we can’t do that with Joseph. The reality of life after death has to inform how we view marriage while I don’t think it does.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to defend everything about polygamy. I find the practice rather disturbing frankly. Yet, if I die, I’d want my wife to remarry both for her and for my children. When we all get to the other side of the veil the reality of that relationship has to be accounted for. To imagine that if I die tomorrow and my wife remains happily remarried for 50 years and that suddenly that relationship will be lost on the other side of the veil frankly sounds horrible to me.

    Contrary to some, just as John, when I heard of polyandry it actually made more sense. What is more troubling to me is the idea that there is polygamy but only for multiple wives. It seems to make a mockery of a lot of our ideas of life after death and heaven.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Re Kim Siever’s post, I think it would have been even more specious for Joseph NOT to have slept with (any of) his plural wives, considering that (1) the commandment was to take wives to “raise up seed” and (2) in the case of the previously unmarried wives–what were they expected to do? Live celibately until Joseph;’s death, not knowing when that would be?

  9. Does the revelation have to be published beforehand for you to consider it legitimate?

    Joseph asked Zina to be his plural wife while Henry Jacobs was courting her. She turned him down. Zina and Henry asked Joseph to solemnize their wedding, but when he didn’t show up, John C. Bennett married them. When they later asked Joseph why he did not show up, he told them both it was because the Lord had revealed to him that Zina was to be his plural wife. Still, she refused. When he sent a message with her brother Dimick three months after the marriage, that an angel with a sword had said he must establish polygamy or lose his life and position, Zina acquiesed. Henry was a witness to their marriage of Joseph and his wife Zina, officiated by her brother Dimick.

    How do you know? If you read this story believing Joseph to be a prophet, then you believe him when he says the Lord revealed Zina was his. If you don’t, not even a prepublished revelation makes the situation simple.

  10. I would like to thank all of you for your participation in this thread. You have provided me with a lot to ponder. My puzzlement is exacerbated by my natural distrust of most written history, so much of it is slanted or just plain false. I am forever trying to separate the truth from the falsehood in history, not just Church history, but all history. Knowledge is just so tenuous when it comes from uninspired, secular sources. And this is true regardless of how good or repected the historian.

    For an example, the highly regarded and peer reviewed scientific journal, NATURE, recently published a careful study of the relative accuracy of the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA with the notoriously inaccurate and often biased articlesin the online WIKIPEDIA. They found a great many errors of fact in the scientific articles published in the WIKIPEDIA, but to their great surprise, they found that the articles in the famed BRITANNICA contained almost as many errors. Hence, neither source is to be trusted without much further corroboration from other reliable sources. (See this Wired news story for further details.)

    Also, I have at times received false personal revelation or “burnings in the bosom” very similar if not identical to those that have provided me with my testimony of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph, and the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ. Because of the false revelation that I have received, I generally try to corroborate everything I learn from the Holy Ghost from other sources such as the scriptures and the writings of the latter-day prophets. Normally this is a no brainer. The Holy Ghost almost never “reveals” to me anything that has not already been confirmed a thousand times in the scriptures and modern prophetic utterances. However, I have received no such guidance from any sources on the matter of Joseph Smith’s alleged polyandry.

    If the gospel is true, and I fervently believe that it is, then I am certain that plural marriage as it was taught and practiced in Utah before the 1890 Manifesto was from God, not the devil. I have no such assurance regarding Joseph Smith’s alleged polyandry. Therefore, until I receive additional light and knowledge, I am left with the assumption that either 1) it never happened, or 2) Joseph Smith was commanded by God to take other men’s wives in plural marriage but that he did not have sexual relations with them. Nothing in scripture, the writings of the modern prophets, or my own sense of right and wrong which is informed by the Light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost, permits me to suppose that the Law of Chastity is so flexible that God would allow Joseph Smith to engage in such a practice. That he authorized polygynous polygamy as taught and practiced in Utah during the 19th century is a fact that is much better documented and established than Joseph’s alleged polyandry. Who can deny that?

    I am sixty years of age. I have received what I understand to be personal revelation from the Holy Ghost at least since I was sixteen and first began investigating the gospel as taught by the Mormons. I have receieved a lot of it. As a result my faith has grown in some areas until it approaches a perfect knowledge. But it has done so because I keep asking questions and then seeking answers. The most interesting questions are those for which there are no immediate, off-the-top-of-the-head answers such as we often hear in a typical Gospel Doctrine class or from the pulpit every six months in General Conference. To increase ones knowledge one needs to press on into the unknown, being careful not to look beyond the mark or ask for knowledge to which he is not entitled or spiritually prepared. But as we are told in the 9th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it is not sufficient to merely ask the questions. We have to do the homework first. And this blog along with my various online discussions in email, are part of my effort to do that homework. It is part of my pondering process.

    Bottom line: I have a revealed testimony of the gospel, but I find it enormously strengthening to that testimony to test it by asking hard questions when those questions are answered by and by. That is what I have been trying to do in this thread.

    So I thank all of you for your input. I have much to ponder. Enough for now. Continue in this comments thread if you like. I have received from it all that I find useful for now.

  11. John,

    There is no doubt that Joseph Smith married other men’s wives, and even the church’s FamilySearch website lists these marriages. The story of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young is especially poignant in terms of polyandry. Furthermore, there is no evidence of specific revelation allowing that practice. The written revelation on polygamy, which is now partly in the Doctrine and Covenants, seems to specifically forbid this practice.

    If you believe that the previous set of facts makes Joseph Smith a false or fallen prophet, then Joseph Smith is a false or fallen prophet. End of story. On the other hand, if you believe (as I do) that a person can make mistakes, even serious mistakes, and still be a prophet, there’s no problem. But you have to accept the ramifications of this belief: prophets can’t be automatically trusted, any more than any other human being. They’re called by God, and they call us to God, but they also err.

    This is your choice: reject Joseph Smith and become an anti-Mormon, reject the now pretty well settled historical evidence of polyandry, or adopt a somewhat more flexible view of prophets and prophecy (how flexible is up to you). I’ve found a lot more peace with the third option than with the first two.

  12. Kim Siever says:

    John,

    The problem with answering your question regarding whether Joseph Smith was a fornicator and/or adulterer, is that there is no documentation of Joseph Smith having sex with the wives he took from other husbands (as far as I am aware; correct me if I am wrong).

    Sex needs to be present for the act of fornication or adultery to be present.

  13. Clark Goble says:

    Why is polygamy OK while polyandry bad? Surely what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. It seems odd that men get upset at polyandry but then expect women not to get upset at the symmetrical relationship. (Yes, I know the term is technically polygyny)

  14. JWL says:

    Have you read the treatment at http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/polyandry.pdf?It is always good to have the full facts and this piece seems to be a fair summary. More importantly in answering your question, the author gives his view as to how these marriages can be seen as fitting into the overall revelations regarding plural and eternal marriages. In particular, the author cites testimony from at least some of the wives that they felt that their marriages to Joseph were commanded of God.

    As for how I myself would answer your question, I view the process of revelation as more complex and subtle. The earliest revelations in this dispensation taught us that “… you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right …” (D&C 9:7-8). I believe Bruce R. McConkie gave a well-known talk on this principle, using the gripping illustration of how to find a wife. The nub of it was that we don’t ask the Lord who we should marry, we go out and find the person we want to marry and then ask for a confirmation from the Lord.

    This is a complex and ongoing process, and few revelations received in the course of this process, even by presidents of the Church, are ever written down. The only written revelations we have on plural marriage is D&C 132. We have no evidence that the Lord gave Joseph any more specific guidance than this. Note that this revelation contains knowledge of the doctrines of eternal marriage and family relations as well as plural marriage. Imagine Joseph’s situation trying to “study out in his mind” how to proceed with such novel and far-reaching doctrines, all while also building Nauvoo and avoiding being kidnapped to Missouri. According to the author of the FAIR article, several of the polyandrous marriages were a means of linking Joseph by family ties to his personal bodyguards. I can make allowances for Jospeh trying out this way of implementing the doctrine of eternal families (remember that intially everyone was sealed to Church leaders rather than to their own biological families). I can also allow that the Lord allowed these efforts, but later ratified Brigham Young’s decision to discontinue using polyandry as a means of implementing the eternal sealing of all Church members to each other.

  15. Minerva says:

    John asks: “Once again: When Joseph Smith married other men’s wives, if he did, was he obeying the commandments of God, or was he just fornicating and committing adultery? And how do we know? Plain, simple questions demand plain, simple answers. Still waiting.”

    I think most of the answers have been as plain as they can be. You think your questions are plain and simple, but they aren’t. Your questions deal with how God communicates privately to his children and his prophets and also with the privacy and intricacy of sin, repentence, and redemption.

    Joseph was married to other men’s wives. Joseph was very secretive about this. These things do seem to indicate that he was adulterous. Much of what Joseph did looks at the surface as kind of weasly and weird (money digging, peeping, the whole bank scandal). He is not a squeaky clean character. He’s just not.

    But just as we don’t know all of the particulars about the sins and repentance of the people we interact with today, we don’t know know the particulars of Joseph’s sins and repentance.

    You and many of us here have a testimony of Joseph Smith. He opened a new dispensation. So much of what was revealed to him was brand new and strange. God had prepared him, sure, but he was still a human being who had to acclimate to a new, mind-blowing worldview.

    If you can’t accept complexity, that is not the fault of those who have attempted to answer your very complex questions.

    It sounds like this information (Joseph’s polyandry) is new information to you and has disturbed you quite deeply and you just want to be assured that it isn’t true. It is true. But many of us know that and have known for quite some time and are still here in the Church with our testimonies intact. And I don’t think it’s because we can’t be honest with ourselves.

  16. John C. says:

    John,
    To answer your question, if Joseph Smith was acting according to revelation, we have no record of the revelation (or, in other words, we have not yet found the revelation). I don’t believe that it is necessary to assume that the plural marriage practiced by Joseph operated (or should have operated) similarly to plural marriage in the Utah era (if for no other reason than it didn’t). At this point, the manner in which people respond to this problem is directly related to whether or not they believe Joseph was a prophet based on other evidence. Those who believe are more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here; those who don’t aren’t. I am sorry that you are having trouble finding answers here, but it appears to be something that you are going to have to work out between yourself, God, and Joseph. Good luck!

  17. Anonymous says:

    John, you sound like the exmo board here.

    History is rarely simple, and simplicity is not a realistic expectation.

    If you’re going to argue that it didn’t happen historically, then you must treat it on that basis, with historical accounts.

    We just don’t have “doctrinal justifications” for everything we do.

  18. Kaimi says:

    John,

    You’re not getting a “direct answer” to the question “was polyanry specifically commanded?” because there is no official direct answer. The church doesn’t discuss the issue, although the historical records are pretty clear. (For example, the sworn affidavits that Stapley references). The church has not made any official statement like “when Joseph Smith took the already-married Zina Huntington as a plural wife, he did so by revelation.”

    Nevertheless, a number of the contemporaneous sources seem to indicate that he believed he was commanded to do so. In Zina’s case, she writes that he told her he was commanded to take her as a wife, by an angel with a drawn sword. So, the answer to your question (at least with regards to Zina) seems to be that he was specifically commanded, by an angel, to take her as a plural wife.

    Such documentary evidence doesn’t exist for all of his polyandrous wives.

    If you’re looking for a way to reconcile the facts, there seem to be a few ways, of which I’ll mention two. First, there is the controversial FARMS article that argues that while Joseph married several married women, he didn’t have sex with any of them,and the marriages were “dynastic” only.

    http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=290

    Second, even if one believes that Joseph indeed had sex with his polyandrous wives (and I don’t find the FARMS piece particularly convincing myself), I don’t think it necessarily follows that if Joseph was wrong on polygamy/polyandry, all of Mormonism has to fall by the wayside. He could be a true prophet who had weaknesses and flaws; there’s nothing wrong with that idea. We believe that David was wrong about Bath-Sheba, but was right to worship Jehovah; the one does not negate the other.

  19. Rusty says:

    John,
    If your definition of fornication is “Sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other.” (dictionary.com) then no he didn’t fornicate (they were married). If your definition of adultery is “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.” (dictionary.com) then the question is whether they were “lawful” spouses. Heavenly law? American law? Maybe a lawyer can answer that better, but I would imagine that he wasn’t committing adultery because they were “married”.

    But you’re a smart guy and I’m sure you know the definitions of these terms and you’ve already applied it and come up with these same answers. It sounds like you have other issues to deal with. It sounds like you are questioning why God would allow polyandry and not let us all in on why. And it’s a fair question, one that many of us struggle with. But like Emily my big struggle is with polygamy and consider polyandry just as a branch of the bigger question.

    But the questions that Emily and BestHair have asked ARE GOOD QUESTIONS! If the Holy Ghost says that JS was a prophet then how could evidence of his sins prove that the Holy Ghost was lying to you? I mean, for you this really is more about the Holy Ghost and question of fallible prophets than it is about polyandry.

  20. GeorgeD says:

    Still waiting for what? Who do you think knows the answer to your question? Are you looking for someone here who will give you a convenient rationalization? There may be one but why do you think that anyone alive today would know it?

    Testimony is based on the witness of the Holy Ghost. There isn’t anything that can add to that and it can only be taken away by our sin and lack of faith.

  21. Anonymous says:

    “This seems highly unlikely to me because I do not believe the Lord would authorize such a thing. I have never seen any doctrinal justification for such a practice.”

    That you would “swallow” the Nephi killing Laban story and choke on the reports of Joseph’s marrying other men’s wives shows how we can inure ourselves to the familiar, even if it’s much further removed from our usual notions of right and wrong.

    You probably don’t have any difficulty with the death of untold numbers of children in the flood, or during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. (See Samuel to Saul in I Samuel 15:3–

    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    What “doctrinal justification” can you dredge up for killing all of the infants and sucklings, and what about the camels, oxen, sheep and asses?

    If you can do it, fine. You should be able to do the same for Joseph Smith. If not–if the Amalekite slaughter is not something you can find justification for, but you simply turn the page and move on, then you should do the same for Joseph Smith.

  22. Hmmm… Still no straight forward answers to my straight forward questions. I wonder what that signifies? Emilys and Best Hair have answered my question with a question rather than an answer. Interesting.

    As to why I am bothered by charges of polyandry made against Joseph Smith, I am bothered precisely because no one wants to answer my questions. I learned many years ago that when people are evasive and equivocate in answering honest questions, it is because they have something to hide, generally their own ignorance. Not knowing the answer, and not wanting to admit that they don’t know the answer, they give an answer anyway but make sure that the answer is a nonanswer. The Baptist clergy who tried to answer my questions about the Holy Trinity, deathbed repentance, and the fate of those who die without ever hearing the gospel gave me similar “answers” ie. nonanswers to my questions when I was a teenager. This is why I’m a Mormon. The Mormons have always given me straight answer to honest questions. But apparently there are some Mormons, or others who are posing as Mormons, who are just like the Baptists.

    In the present discussion, it seems to me that if polyandry was commanded by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith, then the practice would have been part of plural marriage under the administration of Brigham Young when plural marriage was taught publicly after the saints moved west to Utah. Not only would it have been practiced, but the doctrine would have been explained. After all, polygyny was practiced and explained during the Utah period, quite extensively explained as a matter of fact. That apparently this polyandry has been an avoided topic is evidence to me that either 1) it was thought a terrible sin committed by the Prophet Joseph Smith which should be “whitewashed” in our history or 2) it never happened and is a lie that evil people have been trying to insert into the historical record.

    If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Savior’s only authorized church as it claims to be, and if there really is a Satan as the scriptures clearly teach, then it follows that the Church would be the ongoing target of the most sophisticated and egregious lies imaginable. Why? Because Satan is a liar from the beginning. That is his modus operandi. And those mortals that serve him, consciously or otherwise, are liars themselves who delight in tearing down the Church. I fervently believe that much of this occurs in online discussion. As a consequence it is a constant challenge to discern the truth from the lies in information one receives from Internet sources. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that one rarely knows who he is talking to, or anything about his reliability as an information source.

    Once again: When Joseph Smith married other men’s wives, if he did, was he obeying the commandments of God, or was he just fornicating and committing adultery? And how do we know? Plain, simple questions demand plain, simple answers. Still waiting.

  23. Best Hair says:

    You have a witness from the Holy Ghost that he was a true prophet, what more do you need? If wasn’t a true prophet, why would God tell you he was? The facts are there. Joseph Smith had other men’s wives for his wives. So, either 1) God is a liar and gave you a wrong answer 2) God does not exist and you only convinced yourself that Joseph Smith was a prophet or 3)God told you the truth, Joseph is a true prophet, but very very human. My answer is the third option. I, too, have received confirmation from the HG that Joseph really was a prophet of God. Prophets can mess up, too, in their pursuit to connect with divinity. I think Brother Joe, might have really thought that marrying other people’s wives was a revelation from God. So, he got it wrong. It’s the first or the last time that the Lord’s annotated have been wrong about the will of God.

  24. EmilyS says:

    I think this thing just ate my comment, so here’s a second try:

    What is it exactly about polyandry that you find so much more heinous than polgamy? I mean, if you can accept without qualm that Joseph recieved revelation to take plural wives, why should it be so much more of a system shock to consider that Joseph received revelation (whether its a revelation you know about and can read in the scriptures or not) to take some of those wives from among the other men?

    Personally, I find the idea oddly comforting (because it shows that at least it wasn’t always just the women having to do all the sharing), but perhaps that’s just the evil feminist in me talking 😉

  25. Not trying to be offensive, but some of the response that I am getting on this thread reminds me of the sophistries and equivocation I received from the Baptists as a teenager when I asked them the hard questions about Baptist doctrine. How about a straight answer, someone?

    Was Joseph Smith a fornicator and adulterer or wasn’t he? That’s a pretty straight forward question, isn’t it? It deserves a straight forward answer.

    When the prophet Nephi was commanded by God to slay Laban, he was given an explanation by God, and the revelation was recorded. Without that explanation and recording, Nephi would have been an ordinary murderer for killing a helpless drunk in cold blood.

    Unless Joseph Smith was commanded by revelation to practice polyandry, if he in fact practiced it, then he was an ordinary fornicator and adulterer committing his egregious and immoral sins using the guise of prophethood.

    If I were to take a second wife without priesthood authorization I would be rightly excommunicated and lose my priesthood. If Joseph Smith was violating God’s law by practicing polyandry, then he was not a true prophet and Mormonism is a false religion. That is pretty clear to me.

    So once again, I ask a simple question: Was Joseph Smith commanded by revelation to practice polyandry or not? The answer, if it is available, is very important because it determines whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet or not. Since I have an inspired testimony that he was indeed a true prophet, either 1) he never practiced polyandry and is the victim of lies, or 2) he practiced polyandry by revealed commandment from God. I don’t see any third option. Can you suggest one? Or are you suggesting that sharing a wife with other men is a minor sin, something of little consequence in the Lord’s eyes?

  26. Sheldon says:

    John,

    You assume that there is a “need” to reconcile this behavior. Let us assume, per your hypothetical, that we can affirmatively answer “yes” to your question of whether or not God revealed to Joseph Smith that he should engage in polyandry; answering that question does NOT require that God subsequently place his commandment “in context”, as you imply from your follow-up question. Nor does it mean that God needs to assert some sort of “doctrinal justification”. Rather, that God revealed it to Joseph, and that Joseph followed the revelation, should be sufficient. Otherwise, you are requiring that God justify what may (or may not) be unjustifiable. There are a lot of commandments/revelations from God that I can’t “reconcile” or justify. I wonder if Abraham asked God to “justify” and “place in context” His commandment to sacrifice Isaac? Just some thoughts to consider.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The things we’d like to hang our testimonies on aren’t always as black and white as we’d like them to be…

  28. ed says:

    John, I don’t know the answers to your questions, but I will point out that you could make the same kind of argument about other practices. For example, you could ask: “If the church president denied the priesthood and temple to blacks, what was the doctrinal justification for it? Did someone receive a revelation commanding such a practice? If so, is it recorded anywhere? And if there is no revelation, and no doctrinal justification for the ban, how was Brigham any different from any other racist?” But I don’t think you’d deny the reality of the priesthood ban.

  29. GeorgeD says:

    I wouldn’t stake my faith that the Lord and/or Joseph Smith does/did things according to my preconceived notions.

  30. OK. Suppose I accept all this “proof” that Joseph Smith was practicing polyandry. I’m not saying that I do, I’m just setting up another question that I consider pertinent:

    If the Prophet Joseph was practicing polyandry, what is the doctrinal justification for it? Did he receive a revelation commanding such a practice? If so, is it recorded anywhere? If so, did the Lord offer any context, that is, did he explain any of his reasons for giving such a commandment?

    And if there is no revelation, and no doctrinal justification for polyandry, how is Joseph any different from any other fornicator and adulterer? And why would the Lord choose such a man to be his prophet? Didn’t the Lord know beforehand what kind of man Joseph Smith was? There are many men who are true and faithful to their wives and who live the Law of Chastity perfectly. Why wasn’t Joseph Smith such a man? Or why didn’t the Lord call such a man to be his Prophet to head this dispensation?

    Something just doesn’t add up. Something doesn’t ring true in this scenario, don’t you agree?

    Perhaps there is more to this story that is not being told, something that will make sense of the whole, do you think? Lies don’t always consist of false data. Sometimes they consist of true but incomplete data, the “truth” but not the “whole truth,” as it were.

    I am reserving judgement until I have a better understanding, if I ever do. I have the testimony of the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith was a true prophet with all that implies. And I do not see how that fact can be reconciled with his alleged polyandry. Aren’t those who claim Joseph Smith practiced polyandry also claiming that he was a false prophet by making such a claim? If not, how can they reconcile his behavior?

  31. J. Stapley says:

    John, by your same reasoning, someone could say, the Lord never commanded polygamy becasue I don’t believe that God would command such a thing. Just because you find something unpalatable doesn’t mean it is not true.

    Moreover, it is not shoddy scholarship and lies. Zina Young is the best example of someone who was a relief society President and Levirate wife of Brigham, who signed afficavits to the fact that she was married to Joseph while previously married to her husband Henry.

  32. John Dehlin says:

    The Church’s own web site confirms this as well.

    See:

    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/AF/individual_record.asp?recid=1020523&lds=0

    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/AF/individual_record.asp?recid=7106574&lds=0

    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/AF/individual_record.asp?recid=1095476

    For just 3 examples. I’ve compiled a list of facts that are confirmed by the church in the Ensign, or in church publications. You can verify it all yourselves by going to the primary sources.

    http://mormonstories.org/top10toughissues/polygamy.html

    Polygamy and even polyandry I can deal with. But denying or being unwilling to accept the facts is always tougher for me to deal with.

    John Dehlin

  33. The quick answer to your question is, Yes, Joseph did marry women who were already married. Read any biography of Joseph Smith, and it’s difficult to deny. Donna Hill, Richard Bushman, two faithful Mormons explore the historical evidence quite thoroughly. Did the Lord want Joseph to do this? I don’t know, but it doesn’t effect my testimony in any negative way.

  34. NFlanders says:

    To answer to question of your post title: yes, yes he was.

    We all have our own ways of dealing with it.

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