Interrogatory No. 8
The Dearth of Jewish Customs in the Book of Mormon
Recognizing that we are talking about devout Jews coming to the Americas, would it not be reasonable to expect that these immigrants would continue to live according to their customs and traditions?
Yet the Book of Mormon gives only a few superficial mentions of the intricate and rich religious heritage enjoyed by the Jews since the days of Moses.
The most common biblical terms used to describe Jewish customs or laws, holy days, feasts, the concept of clean/unclean, observances, dietary restrictions, religious ceremonies as well as Old Testament priesthood are entirely missing from the Book of Mormon.
Here is a list of nine examples of important Jewish biblical terms with their relative frequencies, which never appeared even once in the Book of Mormon:
“Passover” (59 times in Bible)
“ark of the covenant” (48 times in Bible)
“mercy seat” (23 in Bible)
“burnt offerings” (39 times in Bible)
“circumcision” (96 times in Bible)
“incense” (121 times in Bible)
“alters” (17 times in Bible)
“sons of Aaron” (97 times in Bible)
“day of atonement” (21 times in Bible)
“feast of tabernacles” (17 times in Bible)
“house of the LORD” (627 in Bible)
The word Passover was used fifty-nine times in the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, however, not once. Is it not amazing that a book supposedly written by ancient Israelites would never refer to Passover the most important holy day in all Judaism?
While the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, Moses told the people to wipe the blood of a lamb to their side posts and lintel, “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”(Exodus 12:21-23)
The Egyptians did not do this, and consequently lost all their “firstborn.” This convinced Pharaoh that he should let God’s people go.
The significance of the Passover to the Jews cannot be overstated. Since the Nephites were supposed to have been Jews who possessed “the five books of Moses”(1 Nephi 5:11), they should have observed and celebrated Passover hundreds of times after they arrived in the Americas.
The Book of Mormon also makes scant mention of the “Sabbath day.” It is only mentioned five times as compared to the 171 times it is mentioned in the Bible.
How odd, how incredible that the Book of Mormon, supposedly written by Jewish people, would virtually ignore the day which was held so sacred by the Jews.
There is no mention of circumcision or any evidence it was ever practiced, except for one verse in Moroni 8, in which Jesus declares that “circumcision is done away in me.”
Christ tells the Nephites that their “sacrifices and burnt offerings shall be done away” in 3 Nephi, but ironically there is no mention of burnt offerings after they arrive in the Americas. The only exception is found in Mosiah 2:3. Here it is explained that “they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses.”
Ceremonial Cleanliness and Unclean Foods
No mention other than one reference found in the largely plagiarized portion of Isaiah. Most significantly, there is no mention of Kosher eating.
Below are the counts of the times that some of the various feasts are explicitly mentioned:
ChroniclesBook of Mormon
Passover 2 0
Tabernacles 1 0
Unleavened Bread 3 0
Likewise in the Book of Mormon, there is no explicit mention of any regular Jewish sacrifice or offering. Again, here are the counts of some regular Jewish sacrifices in both books:
ChroniclesBook of Mormon
New Moon 3 0
Evening & Morning 4 0
Drink Offerings 1 0
As well, there is no mention of temple items in the Book of Mormon. The Jewish temple had several parts which were all important, such as the altar, incense, the shewbread the court and the Holy of Holies.
Nephi claims that his temple was built after the manner of Solomon’s temple (II Nephi 5:16), but none of these items are ever mentioned in the Book of Mormon,
ChroniclesBook of Mormon
Temple Court 6 0
Temple Altar 20+ 1*
Holy Place 6 0
Shewbread 7 0
Incense 8 0
(* Alma 15:17. The context is unclear.)
Curt van den Heuvel also comments that the relationship between the priests and the temple is obscured. In the Old Testament, the priestly system and the temple could not be separated. Exodus 27:21 In contrast, The Book of Mormon records that the Nephites built a temple and had a priestly class, but the two are never associated with each other.
The above, as well as the absence of any mention of the scores of Jewish dietary laws, leads van den Heuvel to question if, “The Book of Mormon is not an ancient history but was rather made up by someone who had a good imagination, but very little understanding of ancient Jewish culture.”
FairMormon’s Comment on the Scant Mention of Jewish Customs and Laws
Response to claim: “the Book of Mormon claims to be the story of religious Jews, yet there is scant or no mention of Jewish customs or laws”
The portions of the Book of Mormon that describe Lehi’s family in the Old World do reflect Jewish customs or laws.
There is strong evidence of a year of Jubilee in the king Benjamin address.
There is the covenant emphasis from king Benjamin that is evidence of Hebrew influence.
The Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by people living post-Christ.
The Book of Mormon lists sins which are consistent with the Ten Commandments.
The above qualifies as scant, so let’s go with that!
The Book of Mormon gives a few superficial mentions of the intricate and rich religious heritage enjoyed by the Jewish people since the days of Moses.
I am not sure I understand what FairMormon is suggesting when it says, “The Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by people living post-Christ.” Are they suggesting the editors striped out Jewish references?
The most common biblical terms used to describe Jewish customs or laws, holy days, feasts, the concept of clean/unclean, observances, dietary restrictions, religious ceremonies as well as Old Testament priesthood are entirely missing from the Book of Mormon. I have listed in my letter nine examples of important Jewish biblical terms with their relative frequencies, which never appear once in the Book of Mormon as well as how often they appear in the Bible as well as a list of other significant Jewish features that one would expect to see in authentic Jewish history.
Smith’s writing shows an alarming ignorance of Judaism. It also wouldn’t do any harm if the Mormon apologist at FairMormon who wrote this critique would get out and meet a jew.
Interrogatory No. 9
We now know Joseph never used the Plates to translate the Book of Mormon. Instead he used a rock; he found while digging a well. What then was the point of the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim being preserved for 1,400 years, if never to be used in translation?
When I was growing up in the Mormon church, it was my understanding and firm belief that the Prophet Joseph Smith by earnestly examining each character on the gold plates, with the use of the Urim and Thummim, would, by the gift and power of God, be given its English word equivalent.
I don’t know why I held that view, but it was no doubt, something that I picked it up in Sunday school, mutual, or from the pictures in the Improvement Era or a Priesthood manual that depicted it precisely that way. There are many things in the Mormon Church that one seems to acquire through a kind of comprehensive osmosis. It is assumed that you must know and accept certain things, which rather than exposing your doctrinal ignorance by seeking clarification, you just accept.
Like many members, it was much later that I learned the truth about the translation methodology, but not in church, the Era, or a Priesthood manual.
As absurd as it sounds, it was while watching an episode of South Park and it was hilarious!
Not only did Joseph NOT use the Urim and Thummim for the clear majority of the translation, but the gold plates themselves were not required. Just the magic stone and a hat.
I wonder if the prophets and other Book of Mormon characters would find the South Park episode quite so funny; after all the pains they allegedly went to in fashioning rare gold into plates, meticulously engraving ‘reformed Egyptian’ characters on them one at a time, abridging them, preserving them and finally transporting and burying them?
The following testify to the actual method Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon:
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus, the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.
I, as well as all of my father’s family, Smith’s wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, were present during the translation… He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation.” 1
“Sometime around 1822, before his first visit from the angel Moroni, Joseph was digging a well with Willard Chase, not far from the Smith home, and he discovered a smooth, dark-colored stone, about the size of an egg, that he called a seer stone. He later used it to help in the translation of the Book of Mormon and also in receiving certain revelations.” 2
“The process of translating the “reformed Egyptian” plates was simple though peculiar. It was all done with the Urim and Thummim spectacles, but it was instant death for anyone but Joe to use them. Even when he put them on, the light became so dazzling that he was obliged to look through his hat. Moreover, when so engaged, no profane eyes were allowed to see him or the hat. Alone, behind a blanket stretched across the room, Joe looked into his hat and read the mystic words.” 3
“The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with a stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods.” 4
“A fellow by the name of Joseph Smith, who resides in the upper part of Susquehanna county, (sic) has been, for the last two years we are told, employed in dedicating as he says, by inspiration, a new bible. He pretended that he had been entrusted by God with a golden bible which had been always hidden from the world. Smith would put his face into a hat in which he had a white stone, and pretend to read from it, while his coadjutor transcribed.” 5
A neighbor of the Smith’s, Lorenzo Saunders provided a statement in 1885 in which he alleged a conspiracy between Cowdery, Rigdon and, Smith in the creation of the Book of Mormon.
His statement reads:
“As respecting Oliver Cowdery, he came from Kirtland in the summer of 1826 and was about there [i.e. the Smith’s farm] until fall and took a school in the district where the Smiths lived and the next summer he was missing and I didn’t see him until fall and he came back and took our school in the district where we lived and taught about a week and went to the schoolboard (sic) and wanted the board to let him off and they did and he went to Smith and went to writing the Book of Mormon and wrote all winter. The Mormons say it wasn’t wrote there but I say it was because I was there. I saw Sidney Rigdon in the spring of 1827, about the middle of March. I went to Smiths to eat maple sugar, and I saw five or six men standing in a group and there was one among them better dressed than the rest and I asked Harrison Smith who he was and he said his name was Sidney Rigdon, a friend of Joseph’s from Pennsylvania.
I saw him in the Fall of 1827 on the road between where I lived and Palmyra, with Joseph. I was with a man by the name of Ingersol. They talked together and when he went on I asked Ingersol who he was and he said it was Rigdon. Then in the summer of 1828 I saw him at Samuel Lawrence’s just before harvest. I was cutting corn for Lawrence and went to dinner and he took dinner with us and when dinner was over they went into another room and I didn’t see him again till he came to Palmyra to preach. You wanted to know how Smith acted about it. The next morning after he claimed to have got plates he came to our house and said he had got the plates and what a struggle he had in getting home with them. Two men tackled him and he fought and knocked them both down and made his escape and secured the plates and had them safe and secure. He showed his thumb where he bruised it in fighting those men.
After [he] went from the house, my mother says ‘What a liar Joseph Smith is; he lies every word he says; I know he lies because he looks so guilty; he can’t see out of his eyes; how dare [he] tell such a lie as that.’ The time he claimed to have taken the plates from the hill was on the 22 day of September, in 1827, and I went on the next Sunday following with five or six other ones and we hunted the side hill by course [i.e. “in a search pattern”] and could not find no place where the ground had been broke. There was a large hole where the money diggers had dug a year or two before, but no fresh dirt. There never was such a hole; there never was any plates taken out of that hill nor any other hill in country, was in Wayne county. It is all a lie. No, sir, I never saw the plates nor no one else. He had an old glass box [i.e. a box used for holding plates or panes of glass] with a tile in it, about 7×8 inches, and that was the gold plates[;] and Martin Harris didn’t know a gold plate from a brick at this time.
Smith and Rigdon had an intimacy but it was very secret and still and there was a mediator between them and that was Cowdery. The manuscript was stolen by Rigdon and modelled over by him and then handed over to Cowdery and he copied them and Smith sat behind the curtain and handed them out to Cowdery and as fast as Cowdery copied them, they was handed over to Martin Harris and he took them to Egbert Granden [sic], the one who printed them, and Gilbert set the type.”
Lorenzo Saunders, Letter to Thomas Gregg, 28 January 1885, in
Charles A. Shook, The True Origins of the Book of Mormon,
(Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Co., 1914, p. 132-33).
It should be noted that the term “Urim and Thummim” is not found in the Book of Mormon and was never used by Joseph Smith in the production the Book of Mormon until after1833.
Ancient prophets went through all that effort of making, engraving, compiling, abridging, preserving, hiding, and transporting gold plates so that the gold plates would serve as a “maturing” and “build character” exercise for Joseph Smith. Or, was it to “provide as solid evidence” to Joseph’s 19th century New England treasure hunting magical thinking family and friends, and for Martin Harris to copy characters for Charles Anthon.
FAIR acknowledges and admits that the gold plates were not used for translating the Book of Mormon.
FairMormon’s Comments on the Method of Translation
Comment No. 1
Response to claim: Joseph Smith “used a rock; he found while digging a well” to translate the Book of Mormon
Question: Did Joseph Smith use his own seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?
Many eyewitness accounts confirm that Joseph employed his seer stone during part of the translation process
Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for “money digging.”
If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph’s point of view:
He’s being called upon to reveal things that are hidden and to translate an ancient record.
Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.
How could Joseph know that he wasn’t going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.
The Lord seems to have used Joseph’s preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities.including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.
With time, Joseph was able to translate with his “original” stone—thus, his own ability had increased, because he no longer needed the “stronger” Nephite stones.
Eventually, he did not require the “prop” or “crutch” of the stone at all—his faith and experience had grown.
FairMormon says, “If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph’s point of view.”
That is a little silly if we are required just to accept Smith’s view of things this whole exercise becomes moot.
The ‘hermeneutics of suspicion‘ is an essential element of the search for truth. It is only by reading texts between the lines, cataloging their omissions and laying bare their contradictions, that we can discover what is true.
Is it not be more reasonable to allow the reader to objectively look at the information I have provided and your comments on it and allow them to decide.
As well, your following statements seem to be saying that Joseph’s ‘treasure hunting rock’ is like a ‘security blanket?’
“He’s being called upon to reveal things that are hidden, and to translate an ancient record.”
“Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.”
“How could Joseph know that he wasn’t going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.”
“The Lord seems to have used Joseph’s preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.”
Ok, I now hear you now as saying that, the seer stone wasn’t that important to the translation process, just like the ‘gold plates’ themselves were not essential, nor the Urim and Thummim.
FairMormon now accepts the reality of the ‘rock in the hat’ methodology and moves the discussion to whether Smith was provided with the exact wording of every sentence in the Book of Mormon or simply given impressions which he then dictated within the context of his understanding?
Then in a statement reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s infamous, “What difference does it make!” response when pressed in the Benghazi hearing, those champions of truth at FairMormon reveal their frustration:
“Scholars have examined and debated the issue of a ‘tight’ versus ‘loose’ translation method for many years. Although it is an interesting intellectual exercise, the exact process by which words and sentences were formed has no bearing upon the fact that the book was dictated by the ‘gift and power of God.’ 6
I think that seeking to know what is true is more than just an interesting intellectual exercise. I think these things are important.
“The Lord provided a set of seer stones (which were formerly used by Nephite prophets) along with the plates. The term Nephite interpreters can alternatively refer to the stones themselves of the stones in conjunction with their associated paraphernalia (holding rim and breastplate). Sometime after the translation, early saints noticed similarities with the seer stones and related paraphernalia used by High Priests in the Old Testament and began to use the term Urim and Thummim interchangeably with the Nephite interpreter sand Joseph’s other seer stones as well. The now popular use of the term Urim and Thummim has unfortunately obscured the fact that all such devices belong in the same class of consecrated revelatory aids and that more than one were used in the translation.”
“The Nephite interpreters were intended to assist Joseph in the initial translation process, yet the manner in which they were employed was never explained in detail. The fact that the Nephite interpreters were set in rims resembling a pair of spectacles has led some to believe that they may have been worn like a pair of glasses, with Joseph viewing the characters on the plates through them. This, however, is merely speculation that doesn’t take into account that Joseph soon disassembled the fixture, the spacing between seer stones being too wide for his eyes. The accompanying breastplate also appeared to have been used by a larger man. Like its biblical counterpart (the High Priest’s breastplate contained 12 gems that symbolized him acting as a mediator between God and Israel), the Nephite breastplate was apparently non-essential to the revelatory process.”
Certainly, there was a change related to the use of the Urim and Thummim after the loss of the 116 pages, Joseph rarely used the Urim and Thummim, opting for his magic seer stone.
Which begs the important question, that I don’t feel the apologists have dealt with; why was this wonderful apparatus preserved for 1,500 years to serve such a limited purpose?
Comment No. 2
The stone is mentioned occasionally in Church publications, but is rarely (if ever) discussed in the 21st century in venues such as Sunday School, nor is it portrayed in any Church-related artwork. This is the conflation of the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone under the name “Urim and Thummim.” In church, we discuss the Urim and Thummim with the assumption that it is always the instrument that Joseph recovered with the plates. Only those familiar with the sources will realize that there was more than one translation instrument.
That said, the Church has been very frank about the seer stone’s use, though the product of the translation of the Book of Mormon is usually given much more attention than the process. Note the mention of the stone in the official children’s magazine, The Friend (available online at lds.org):
OK, we need a reality check here. I am seventy years old, I grew up in the Church, and I believe that like many, perhaps most members I did not hear of the Magic stone in the hat method of translation until quite recently, certainly within the last decade.
It is a little silly for FairMormon to explain this away by saying, “no look we donated a line to it in the Children’s Friend in 1974.”
It should also be noted that Joseph would often correct his own translation on the fly. For example, Mosiah 7:8.
“…they were again brought before the king.. and were permitted or rather commanded that they should answer the questions.”
Are we to believe that this error came across Joseph’s magic rock? Remember he tells us words or sentences would appear, he would speak them to the scribe (usually Oliver Cowdery) who would read it back and only when verified would it disappear and another word or line appears.
Another example is Alma 10:”
“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.”
Or, Alma 24:19
“And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.”
A suspicious person would say that Joseph was working from an outline behind the curtain and misspoke.
And there is the poor grammar and discombobulated sentences throughout supposedly coming from the Lord:
, “But the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek…”
“…for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.”
There is a pattern here in the way the Church approaches embarrassing issues in their past. It is their modus operandi. The formula being:
- Deny that the controversial or unsavory thing ever happened or was ever said
- Acknowledge the thing, but deny that it is relevant or any kind of big deal
- Acknowledge its relevance, but say it’s just old news that’s been around forever
When rumors of Smith rock in the hat stories started to make the rounds we witness:
- The Denial
In 2000, Joseph Fielding McConkie (son of Bruce R. McConkie) and Craig J. Ostler, both employed by BYU wrote an essay titled, “The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon in which they wrote:“Thus, everything we have in the Book of Mormon, according to Mr. Whitmer, was translated by placing the chocolate-colored stone in a hat into which Joseph would bury his head so as to close out the light. While doing so he could see ‘an oblong piece of parchment, on which the hieroglyphics would appear,’ and below the ancient writing, the translation would be given in English.Joseph would then read this to Oliver Cowdery, who in turn would write it. If he did so correctly, the characters and the interpretation would disappear and be replaced by other characters with their interpretation.”“…the testimony of David Whitmer simply does not accord with the divine pattern. If Joseph Smith translated everything that is now in the Book of Mormon without using the gold plates, we are left to wonder why the plates were necessary in the first place. It will be remembered that possession of the plates placed the Smith family in considerable danger, causing them a host of difficulties. If the plates were not part of the translation process, this would not have been the case. It also leaves us wondering why the Lord directed the writers of the Book of Mormon to take a duplicate record of the plates of Lehi. This provision which compensated for the loss of the 116 pages would have served no purpose either. Further, we would be left to wonder why it was necessary for Moroni to instruct Joseph each year for four years before he was entrusted with the plates. We would also wonder why it was so important for Moroni to show the plates to the three witnesses, including David Whitmer. And why did the Lord have the Prophet show the plates to the eight witnesses? Why all this flap and fuss if the Prophet didn’t really have the plates and if they were not used in the process of translation?What David Whitmer is asking us to believe is that the Lord had Moroni seal up the plates and the means by which they were to be translated hundreds of years before they would come into Joseph Smith’s possession and then decided to have the Prophet use a seer stone found while digging a well so that none of these things would be necessary after all. Is this, we would ask, really a credible explanation of the way the heavens operate?”
- Acknowledge the thing, but deny that it is relevant or any kind of big deal.Once it was blatantly clear the ‘Rock in the Hat’ could no longer be denied, the next step was to discount its importance, as this statement by FairMormon illustrated:“The conclusion that Joseph used a “magical” or “occult” stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon is entirely dependent upon one’s own preconception that the use of such an instrument would not be acceptable by God. Believers, on the other hand, ought not to take issue with a distinction between one set of seer stones versus another. As Brant Gardner notes: “Regardless of the perspective from which we tell the story, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged. How was the Book of Mormon translated? As Joseph continually insisted, the only real answer, from any perspective, is that it was translated by the gift and power of God.”And then the gaslighting.
- Acknowledge its relevance, but say it’s just old news that’s been around forever“The stone is mentioned occasionally in Church publications, but is rarely (if ever) discussed in the 21st century in venues such as Sunday School, nor is it portrayed in any Church-related artwork. This is the conflation of the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone under the name “Urim and Thummim.” In church, we discuss the Urim and Thummim with the assumption that it is always the instrument that Joseph recovered with the plates. Only those familiar with the sources will realize that there was more than one translation instrument.That said, the Church has been very frank about the seer stone’s use, though the product of the translation of the Book of Mormon is usually given much more attention than the process.” Again it was mentioned in the Children’s Friend.
1 Martin Harris, “Address to All Believers in Christ”, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p.12
2 James. B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 40.
3 John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham Press, 1916), 36
4 Affidavit of Isaac Hale dated March 20, 1834, cited in Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), pp. 126-128.
5 Cincinnati Advertiser of June 2, 1830
FairMormon’s Comment on the Bogus Images
“Response to claim: “Why does the Church continue to print bogus pictures and hang misleading paintings in Church buildings showing Joseph running his fingers over “Reformed Egyptian” characters on gold plates?”
All art, including church art, simply reflects the views of the artist: It may not reflect reality.”
“Why, then, does the art not match details which have repeatedly been spelled out in LDS publications?
The simplest answer may be that artists simply don’t always get such matters right. The critics’ caricature to the contrary, not every aspect of such things is “correlated.” Robert J. Matthews of BYU was interviewed by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and described the difficulties in getting art “right”:
Even this does not tell the whole story. “Every artist,” said Henry Ward Beecher, “dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” This is perhaps nowhere more true than in religious art…”
I am sorry, but I don’t buy that. Decision-making in the Mormon church is more centralized than it is in the Kremlin.
Also, you just said the, “A common complaint is that church materials usually show Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by looking at the golden plates…” If that is the case, and it has been the case for decades, then why doesn’t the church do something to correct it.
Interrogatory No. 10
How can we deal with Fanny Alger and Plural
Marriage Before the Revelation on Plural Marriage?
There is overwhelming evidence that in 1835, Joseph had a sexual relationship, an affair with a nineteen-year-old girl by the name of Fanny Alger who was then employed in his own home as a servant girl.
Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris considered the relationship to have been merely adulterous. Cowdery wrote a letter to his brother Warren in January 1838 referring to “a dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Alger’s.”
Martin Harris reports the Prophet indicated that the ‘servant girl’ was claiming he had made, “improper proposals to her, which created quite a talk amongst the people.” Believing there was no truth to it, Harris told Smith, “take no notice of the girl, that she was full of the devil, and wanted to destroy the prophet of God.”Smith, however, “acknowledged that there was more truth than poetry in what the girl said,”to which Harris then told Smith he would have nothing to do with the matter and that he could, “get out of the matter the best way he knew how.” 1
William McLellin in a letter to Joseph’s son in 1872, rather bluntly described the affair:
“Now Joseph I will relate to you some history, and refer you to your own dear Mother for the truth. You will probably remember that I visited your Mother and family in 1847, and held a lengthy conversation with her, retired in the Mansion House in Nauvoo. I did not ask her to tell, but I told her some stories I had heard. And she told me whether I was properly informed. Dr. F. G. Williams practiced with me in Clay Co. Mo. during the latter part of 1838. And he told me that at your birth your father committed an act with a Miss Hill [sic]—a hired girl. Emma saw him, and spoke to him. He desisted, but Mrs. Smith refused to be satisfied. He called in Dr. Williams, O. Cowdery, and S. Rigdon to reconcile Emma. But she told them just as the circumstances took place. He found he was caught. He confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him. She told me this story was true!! Again I told her I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true.” 2
It is difficult to describe this as one of Joseph’s ‘plural wives’ as we know from the D&C he did not have the power to “seal” at the time he “married” Fanny. Joseph was given such authority in April 1836, when he claimed that he and Oliver Cowdery had a vision in which Elijah appeared to them and gave them “the keys of this dispensation.”
Fanny and her parents left Kirtland in September 1836 moving to Dublin, Indiana where Fanny married Solomon Custer, a non-Mormon.
Fanny was by no means the only girl or woman that Joseph had a sexual relationship with without ‘the benefit of clergy.’ In an astonishing example of revisionism, the Church likes to tack this one up as a ‘marriage.’
There is increasing evidence that Smith’s practiced a unique form of concubinage. I say unique because unlike the concubines that Old Testament prophets took, Smith seemed to offer these women no level of commitment. In modern parlance, we might use words such as an affair, dalliance, liaison or friends with benefits to describe these sexual relationships.
I think it is important to note that there were many accusations of sexual impropriety and illicit sexual conduct made against Smith between 1827 and his death in 1844.
At present, there are no accounts of Joseph’s sexual experiences before 1827. Although he hints at it when he writes in the official Church history that, “I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption of human nature, which I am sorry to say led me into divers temptations, to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.”
Joseph does not explicity identify which were the “temptations” or the “many appetites” that he gratified which were “offensive” to God. Could his “gratification of many appetites”be referencing sexual liaisons, masturbation or something even more troubling?
We know he attended many camp-meetings, he says, “as often as occasion would
It is well known that these ‘camp-meetings,’ were rather bawdy affairs, and were not just attended by the pious seeking salvation but by drinkers, thrill-seekers, and prostitutes. They were hotbeds of sexual opportunity with men and women lying around together in the dark. One wag commented that at these meetings, ‘more souls were begotten than saved.’
Joseph was arrested again on several charges on June 30th, 1830. A court trial was held before Judge Joseph Chamberlain at Bainbridge, New York. A dozen witnesses were called, including Miriam and Rhoda Stowell, the daughters of Josiah Stowell of Bainbridge. Smith had worked for Stowell as a fortune hunter, between October 1825 to March 1826. During this period, Smith frequently associated with the Stowell girls who were eighteen and twenty years of age
Seeking to determine Smith’s “character and conduct,” the prosecutor called the Stowell girls as witnesses. Joseph Smith said that both girls “were severally examined … particularly as to my behavior towards them, both in public and in private.”
Nothing came of this case, according to Joseph.
The prosecutor may have called the Stowell girls because of the recent sexual accusations made against Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Levi Lewis, Emma Smith’s cousin accused Joseph of attempting “to seduce Eliza Winters,” a close friend of Emma’s. Lewis said that being well “acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris and that he has heard them both say, [that] adultery was no crime. Harris said he did not blame Smith for his attempt to seduce sixteen-year-old Eliza Winters.” 4
Joseph and Emma’s abruptly left Harmony in May of 1829.
You know, at one time I had respect Emma Smith-Bittamon but no longer. The more I have got to know her the real Emma, the more I see her as a conflicted and dishonest woman who too often enabled Joseph’s sexual peculiarities and punished his victims.
“Joseph’s name was connected with scandalous relations with two or three families” according to Benjamin Winchester, a close friend of the prophet, said the Kirtland accusations of scandal and “licentious conduct”against him was discussed, “especially among the women.” The rumors mentioned a Miss Vienna Jacques and a Miss Marinda Nancy Johnson specifically. 5
Sexual allegations were also made against Smith in Hiram, Ohio. Related to Marinda Johnson. Luke Johnson—Marinda’s brother, and later member of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 wrote:
“While Joseph was yet at my father’s, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation [castration]; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. The mob … in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug [aqua-fortis, a poison] into his mouth.
The mob [then] became divided [because they] did not succeed … put poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him, and went to an old brickyard to wash themselves and bury their filthy clothes. At this place a vial was dropped, the contents of which ran out and killed the grass.… [then] part of the mob went to the house that Sidney Rigdon occupied, and dragged him out, and besmeared him with tar and feathers.” 6
One member of the mob screaming for Smith castration was Eli Johnson who believed that Smith had been intimate with his sixteen-year-old niece.
It would seem that Joseph had more accusers than Bill Cosby!
1Metcalfe, Anthony. Interview with Martin Harris, ca 1873, in ‘Ten Years before the Mast,’ Malad, Idaho, 1888.
2William McLellin, Letter to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, Community of Christ Archives
3 Joseph Smith-History,” 1:8, The Pearl of Great Price
4 ” Levi Lewis affidavit, 1
5 Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy,4.
6 Luke Johnson History, p. 57
FairMormon’s Comments on Fanny Alger
Response to claim: “Why did Joseph Smith’s polygamy pre-date any revelation sanctioning it?”
I am sure that there are more than a few lawyers volunteering their time to FairMormon who can instruct you that under section 107 of the US Copyright Law, any duplication by me of your, “Dwould constitute a “fair use” as the use of such copyrighted material, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, is offered to the public without profit.
But since FairMormon seems to want to stymy debate on this issue, I will assume that they have no defense of this obvious extramarital affair and move on to his numerous ‘marriages’ with a long list of teenage girls.
Interrogatory No. 11
Was Joseph’s Marriages to Very Young Girls Right?
While there could be more because of Joseph’s secrecy and cover-up, we now know of a surety that he had at least ten teenage brides:
Fanny Alger, 16
Sarah Ann Whitney, 17
Lucy Walker, 17
Flora Ann Woodworth, 16
Emily Dow Partridge, 19
Sarah Lawrence, 17
Maria Lawrence, 19
Helen Mar Kimball, 14
Melissa Lott, 19
Nancy M. Winchester, 14?
Did he have sex with these young girls?
Here’s what Helen Mar Kimball, just 14 confided to a close friend in Nauvoo about her marriage to Joseph Smith:
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 1
Obviously, any reasonable person knows that Helen meant it was sexual. As Jeremy Runnells puts it, “This is Warren Jeffs territory,” and had Joseph Smith conducted himself in this manner today, he would have rightfully been imprisoned as Jeffs has been.
If someone treated your sister or daughter like that today, would you be alright with that?
The sexual nature of Joseph Smith’s marriages should be acknowledged as the LDS scripture repeatedly stress it:
“… for they are given unto him to multiply a replenish the earth and to bear the souls of men.”2
Joseph secretly “slept” with young Emily Partridge according to her own testimony under oath and certainly, without Emma’s knowledge or consent, Emily testified that she “roomed” with Joseph while Emma was somewhere else in the house on the night of their marriage. 3
As well, according to Benjamin F. Johnson, living in Ramus, Illinois, on May 16, 1843, Joseph shared a room with Eliza, the “daughter of the late Bishop Partridge.”Again, without the knowledge or consent of Emma. 4
Emma discovered that sixteen‐year‐old Flora Woodworth was carrying a gold watch that Joseph had given her in August of 1843. Realizing the implications, Emma demanded that Flora give the watch back. Smith reprimanded her, but Emma refused to be quiet on the carriage ride home. William Clayton, Joseph’s secretary, that he had to employ “harsh measures” to stop her complaining. This raises the question, did Joseph used both physical force as well as lies to avoid a divorce from Emma. 5
To me, one of the most troubling stories was Martha Brotherton’s, an 18-year‐old convert from England, who emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1842 with her parents.
Brigham Young approached Joseph Smith for his approval to add Martha as another of his plural wives. Smith agreed and called a meeting with Young and Martha. Martha knew nothing of their agreement. Her parents were not informed or invited. Today, of course, she would be regarded as a dependent minor.
After Smith and Young made great efforts to have her agree, Martha absolutely refused.
At this point, they encouraged her to lie to her parents and keep their proposal a secret but again, tried to convince her to accept Brigham’s proposal. Martha finally appealed to them through tears and pleading that she be given time to think about the offer.
After finally being permitted to leave the room, Martha revealed everything to her parents and wrote the events while the important details were fresh in her mind. She told others in Nauvoo about the episode before the family boarded a steamboat bound for St. Louis. She also published her account in a St. Louis newspaper. 6
When Smith read the article, he immediately denied Martha’s story, issuing false affidavits and making public statements labeling Martha as a liar and apostate calling her a “mean harlot.” 7
There appeared to be a competition to get as many plural wives as one could. William Clayton, the secretary to Joseph Smith, wrote on August 11, 1843, that about marrying additional wives, Joseph told him, “You have a right to get all you can.” 8
Is it any wonder that people accuse Smith of treating women like chattels? But even Smith doesn’t approach the misogynistic depths of Heber C. Kimball, famed in the non-Mormon world for his statement, “I think no more of taking another wife than buying a cow.” 9
“This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed so that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth.”10
Joseph also married his own teenage foster daughters. Would God to be okay with a 37-year-old man marrying his young foster daughters and their friends?
But what makes this behavior even more egregious is how he would pressure and coerce these adolescent girls to submit to him by telling them that her entire family’s salvation and exaltation depends on their compliance.
Does the idea that a child can guarantee the eternal salvation and exaltation of her entire family by marrying Joseph Smith not contradicts the central Mormon tenet that everyone must work out their own salvation?
Helen was not Joseph’s only teen bride. There were many, and their stories are equally tragic. There were ten others that we know of.
Also, the notion that it was common for girls 12 – 14 to marry in 19thCentury America is an absolute myth. Just go to your town hall and ask to see the marriage records of the 1800s and you will see how unusual it was.
Moreover, as discussed above, there must be a presumption that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his polygamous wives. This is based upon the historical record (at least a dozen affidavits and testimonies from Joseph’s plural wives themselves) of Joseph Smith having sexual relations with his polygamous wives.
FairMormon’s Comments on Smith’s Marriages to Young Girls
“Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage.” 11
“The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.”
FairMormon; please. ‘… Difficult to understand and explain today.’ Look at Warren Jeffs, the jury that put him away had little difficulty ‘understanding’ why, like Joseph Smith, Jeffs married very young girls. As the prosecution ‘explained,’ with little difficulty, it was all about SEX.
I am sorry but a 37-year-old man ‘marrying’ a 14-year-old girl was exceedingly rare and viewed with a jaundiced eye even in upstate New York in the 1830s and 1840s. And let’s not forget it was also illegal.
As the census data below shows, less than 1% of all brides in Smith’s day were 14 years old and 37-year-old grooms were about the same. As I will show below, the 14/37 cohort is astronomically small. Fanny/Smith was likely the only 14/37 bride/husband combo that year in the entire state of New York. FairMormon’s attempt to make it sound like young girls barely out of puberty marrying middle-aged men was commonplace is yet another example of their deceitfulness.
Incidentally, Joseph doesn’t hold the record for the Mormon age gap when marrying teenage girls. Those bragging rights go to Mormon President Lorenzo Snow, who married a 16-year-old girl when he was 57 years old.
Let me again assure you that people of Snow’s time didn’t view sixty was the new twenty!
The most conservative estimates indicate that Joseph entered into plural marriages with 29–33 women, 7 of whom were under the age of 18. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was 14. The rest were 16 (two) or 17 (three). One wife (Maria Winchester) about which virtually nothing is known, was either 14 or 15.
Helen Mar Kimball
Some people have concluded that Helen did have sexual relations with Joseph However, historian Todd Compton does not hold this view; he criticized the ‘anti-Mormons’ Jerald and Sandra Tanner for using his book to argue for sexual relations and wrote:
“The Tanners made great mileage out of Joseph Smith’s marriage to his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball. However, they failed to mention that I wrote that there is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage, and I suggest that, following later practice in Utah, there may have been no sexuality. (p. 638) All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage.”
Exactly what type of evidence of sexual activity would you expect to find?”
FairMormon has commented:
“A middle-aged man ‘marrying’ a 14-year-old girl, was far from normal. Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was likely the only 37/14 marriage in New York State that year. Joseph Smith was sealed to Helen Mar Kimball in 1843 during the time that the Saints lived in Nauvoo, Illinois, not New York State. And, in fact, Illinois Governor Thomas Ford at age 28 was married to 15-year-old bride Frances Hambaugh in 1828, and had five children by her. William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, married a 16-year-old girl in 1808 when he was 37 years old.
When his wife died young, Clark married his wife’s cousin. By this time, Clark is in his 50s, marrying a woman in her late 20s. Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage. The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time.”
First, Governor Thomas Ford 28/15 cohort is not equivalent to Joseph’s 37/14 – 10 years different. But that in itself does not prove anything.
As the chart above, built from 1840 census data shows, a small fraction of 1% of all brides were 14 years old. It also shows that less than 1% of all grooms were 37 years of age.
We don’t have any statistics on the 37/14 Groom/bride combos, but simple arithmetic and a little common sense would predict it would be extremely small. The probability of a 14/37 cohort is .005 (14-year-old brides) x .01(37-year-old grooms) = .00005 or stated as odds, that is 1 in 20,000. There were 12,000 37-year-old men and 22,000 14 year girls in New York State, and they certainly didn’t all marry that year.
With the odds of 1:20,000 clearly Joseph/Helen was the only 37/14 cohort in New York that year.
FairMormon’s statement that “plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so…” Yes, plural marriages were unusual because they were illegal.
I am not sure what point FairMormon is trying to make by stating that this child was instructed to marry a portly middle-aged man by Dad.
“My father was the first to introduce it to me, which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly.” 12
But then this was the guy who made the statement, “I think no more of taking another wife than buying a cow.”
What a poor child. What a Dad! 13
The Church’s apologists have also commented:
“There is, despite the critics’ insinuations, no evidence that Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage was consummated. (Consummation would not have been inappropriate since this was a marriage, but the critics are too anxious to find problems where no evidence for such exists. Helen did have some disappointments—these mostly revolved around being less free to participate in parties and socials, not at being physically joined to an older husband.”
Here we go again.
Yes, there was no physical examination of Helen after the ‘Honeymoon,’ and as far as we know, Smith’s sexual proclivities didn’t favor Ménage à trois so we don’t have any witness to the act.
But here is what Helen Mar Kimball, a girl of just 14 confided to a close friend in Nauvoo about her marriage to Joseph Smith:
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”14
It is an extreme apologetic position to suggest that we cannot make reasonable inferences. That Smith didn’t have sex with Helen or the many other teenagers he married or the twelve married women he polyandrously married because we cannot produce both first-hand and explicit evidence of sexual intercourse.
FairMormon’s tendency to discount all second-hand evidence as being “hearsay” and therefore need not be addressed, confuses the rules of the courtroom with the rules of historical scholarship. Something FairMormon is obviously ignorant of.
Any reasonable person knows that Helen meant it was sexual. As Jeremy Runnells puts it, “This is Warren Jeffs territory,” and had Joseph Smith conducted himself in this manner today, he would have rightfully been imprisoned as Jeffs has been.
The sexual nature of plural marriages should also be acknowledged as the LDS scripture repeatedly stress it:
“… for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth and to bear the souls of men.” 15
Also, let’s not forget that Helen was but one of many teens targeted by Smith:
Fanny Alger, 16
Sarah Ann Whitney, 17
Lucy Walker, 17
Flora Ann Woodworth, 16
Emily Dow Partridge, 19
Sarah Lawrence, 17
Maria Lawrence, 19
Helen Mar Kimball, 14
Nancy M. Winchester, 14?
Clarissa Reed Hancock, 19
Malissa Lott, 19
Was Joseph Smith a pedophile probably not but he certainly had an interest in very young girls.
FairMormon asserts: “No, actually it wasn’t pedophilia. The facts: Joseph being sealed to Helen does not meet the definition of “pedophilia.” The term “pedophilia” is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “psychosexual disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or the opposite sex”. (sic) Pedophilia requires that the adult involved have sexual acts with a prepubescent child. The term was not even coined until 1896 or broadly utilized until around 1920.”
The essential part of this definition is: “engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or the opposite sex.” Pedophilia requires that the adult involved have sexual acts with a prepubescent child.”
OK, two things must be shown to label Joseph Smith, a pedophile:
- Helen Kimball (or Nancy Winchester) were prepubescent.
- Joseph Smith, an adult male had sexual intercourse or engaged in other sexual acts with either of them.
Let’s examine the first condition.
FairMormon makes the irrelevant point that Helen continued to live with her parents after marrying Smith. It is necessary to tell them that pedophilia has to do with sex, not residency.
I will stipulate that Helen was 14.8 years of age when she married Smith. She was born August 22, 1828, and it is thought she married Joseph Smith on May 28, 1843, the date of her father’s blessing.
I am not altogether satisfied with your age of menarche in America in 1840 has a normal distribution close to a mean of 15.2 years and a standard deviation of 1.85. I believe your citation is using European, not US data.
My research (North American girls Boaz (1999) puts menarche at 16.5 in 1840.
Nevertheless, even accepting your numbers, menarche in Helen’s day was between and 13.35 and 17.05.
This means that at 14.8 the odds are 60/40 that she was prepubescent.
To the second point, the assumption, of course, is that marriages are consummated.
As well, as I have indicated previously, Helen reported sex was involved:
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 16
By FairMormon’s own statistics and definition then, there is a 60% chance Joseph Smith was a pedophile.
Was he a pedophile? Maybe maybe not but he was certainly a sexual predator. The fact that we find a middle-aged man marrying teenage girls is troubling enough particularly when we consider the coercive techniques Joseph employed.
Today Joseph Smith would also be labeled a child rapist and would be a registered sex offender.
Among adults most sexual activity does not constitute a criminal offense, unless one of the adults does not consent to the activity.
However, in law, children are viewed. As unable to give consent. Indeed, the term “minor” refers to a person who has not yet reached the age of “majority, “where they can give consent in any legal matter (for example, a minor cannot make a valid contract). However, actual laws and the maximum ages that constitute a breach of law vary by state but in no case in the United States, today is that age 14. A person engaging in sexual activity with a minor below these proscribed ages – 16–18 is guilty of an offense. As well there are age gap laws that aggravate. A 17-year-old boy while still guilty, would be treated more leniently than a 37-year-old man engaging in sexual activities with a 14-year-old child. In New York State, today a man over 21 who has sex with a girl of 14 is guilty of third-degree rape.
I stand by my statement that Joseph Smith may have been a pedophile.
1Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53
2Doctrine and Covenants 132:63
3 Mormon Enigma, p. 144
4 ” Mormon Enigma, p. 145.
5 An Intimate Chronicle, p. 118
6 St. Louis Bulletin, July 15, 1842, p. 2.
7 Evans, The Keystone of Mormonism, Keystone Books Inc., 2003, St. George Utah, pp. 20‐21.
8An Intimate Chronicle, p. 115
9 Heber C. Kimball, Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17,
10Discourse of Brigham Young, p. 305
12Compton, Todd (December 1997), In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural
Wives of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
13Heber C. Kimball, Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17,
14 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53
15 Doctrine and Covenants 132:63
16 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53
Interrogatory No. 12
Does Smith’s use of Coercive Stratagems to get Girls and Women to ‘Marry’ and/or Sleep with Him Show a Lack of Character or even Common Decency?
The brother of Almira Johnson describes how Joseph sought his sister as a wife: “almost ready to burst with emotion,”looked his friend in the eye and said, “Brother Joseph This is Something I did not Expect and do not understand it. You know whether it is Right. I do not. I want to do just as you tell me and I will try. But if I ever Should know that you do this to Dishonor and debauch my Sister I will kill you as Shure as the Lord lives.”He goes on, “I know that Joseph was Command to take more wives and he waited until an angel with a Drawn Sword Stood before him and declared that if he no longer delayed fulfilling that Command he would Slay him.”
Joseph did marry Almira Johnson that summer. Johnson recorded that “the prophet Came and at my house occupied the Same Room and bed with my Sister [Almira] that the month previous he had occupied with the Daughter of the Late Bishop Partridge as his wife.” 1
Joseph often guaranteed the salvation of an entire family if the object of his affection agreed to his proposal as in the case of fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball wrote:
“Having a great desire to relate to the Prophet, Joseph, he (my father) offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth.”My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seemed to my mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for she had already taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more.” 2
Joseph Smith gave Helen only 24 hours to decide on whether to marry him. Helen wrote:
“My father left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours. … I was skeptical – one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast me off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right.”
The next day, the 37-year-old Joseph claimed his teen bride. In her memoir, Helen wrote, “After which he said to me, ‘if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.’This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.”
Helen also thought her marriage to Joseph Smith was non-sexual. But to her surprise, it was not.“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.” 3
There is the heart-wrenching story of Lucy Walker.
The Walker family arrived in Nauvoo in the spring of 1841, but sadly in January 1842, Lucy’s mother died of malaria, leaving her husband, John, with ten children to care for. In the family’s time of grief and need for each other, Joseph Smith sent Lucy’s father John on a two-year mission to the eastern states, placing Lucy’s siblings in the homes of different members.
He saved 15-year-old Lucy for his house and subsequently informed the lonely and vulnerable girl, “I have a message for you, I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.”Lucy recorded in her journal,“My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me.” 4
Her anguish was made clear by her words of prayer:“Oh that the grave would kindly receive me that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother… Why Should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father I am only a child in years and experience. No mother to council; no father near to tell me what to do, in this trying hour. Oh, let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.” 5
Joseph also told Lucy that the marriage would have to be secret and intensified the pressure on this poor girl by giving her an ultimatum: “It is a command of God to you. I will give you until (sic) to-morrow (sic) to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.” 6
Joseph Smith’s son tried to exonerate his father from the charge of having sex with his many wives, but after speaking to many of them in person, he accepted the relationships were sexual.
More than a dozen faithful LDS women testified that their marriages to Joseph Smith included sex. Close relatives of Smith’s “wives” testified that he spent the night in the same bed with them.
Many cult leaders – Jim Jones, David Koresh, Warren Jeffs, and others likewise claimed to have received “revelations” similar to D&C 132 justifying them having sexual relations with multiple women and yes, girls in their early teens.
Richard van Wagoner in his book, Mormon Polygamy suggests that should a woman spurn Joseph’s advances, she risked having he reputation blackened. Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt, and Martha Brotherton certainly saw their reputations impugned.
The prophet labeled Sarah, a ‘whore from her mother’s breast,’Martha Brotherton branded as a ‘mean harlot,’and Nancy was labeled a ‘poor miserable girl out of the very slough of prostitution.” 7
Is Smith’s public slandering of these women Christ-like?
I think it is important to note as well that Emma was also a victim of Joseph’s Coercion. Frustrated by her opposition to his many marriages, in D&C 132, it is made clear that she had better get on side or she, ‘shall be destroyed.”
- Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
- And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.” 8
Apologists Responses to Joseph’s Coercive Stratagems:
“Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet’s counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.” 9
“Given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight. No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight. Despite this, the reported initial reactions are all negative: these women were strong-minded and did not simply obey because Joseph told them to. Because of their distaste for the idea, many plural wives reported divine revelations that confirmed the truth of plural marriage. Joseph encouraged women to seek for such divine confirmation.”
“Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet’s counsel: ‘A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.’ The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.” 10
1Mormon Enigma, Second Edition, P.146
2Helen Mar Kimball Journal, Helen Mar Autobiography, Woman’s Exponent, 1880
3 Polygamy: A History, by LDS member Richard S. van Wagoner, p. 53.
7 Richard Van Wagoner in his book, Mormon Polygamy, p. 299
8 Doctrine and Covenants 132:51-52
9 Brian Hales, “A Response to Concerns Regarding Joseph Smith and the Practice of Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” October 17, 2013.
Interrogatory No. 13
Was Joseph’s Polygamy and his Polyandry and his Lies and Denials acceptable?
Plural or polygamous “marriages” were conducted in secret by Joseph Smith as early as 1833, even though the sealing power was not restored until 1836. As well, the rules of polygamy were not given until 1843. Joseph “married” at least 34 women in addition to Emma Smith, including seven girls under the age of 18 and at least 11 women who were simultaneously married to other men. There was also a mother-daughter set and three sister sets, and several of these women were Joseph’s own foster daughters. Joseph repeatedly lied and denied his polygamy:
“…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; and I can prove them all perjurers.”
History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411
Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday, May 26, 1844. At the time, he had secretly taken at over 25 plural wives. Who was the perjurer?
“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel before it was reported that I had seven wives.”
Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, 26 May 1844
Incidentally, In the same year that Joseph began his participation in polygamy by “marrying” Fanny Alger, the Church published the following in the Book of Commandments (the predecessor of the Doctrine & Covenants):
“Inasmuch, as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crimeof fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”
Statement on Marriage, August 1, 1835, Section CI, p. 251,
Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers
To lessen public rumors of his secret polygamy, Smith had 31 witnesses sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842, Times and Seasons stating that he did not practice polygamy.
This affidavit, however, was signed by several people who were secret polygamists or who knew full well that Joseph was a polygamist at the time they signed the affidavit. Eliza R. Snow, one of the signers of this affidavit, was also one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives.
Also, why was Joseph still preaching against polygamy in October of 1843 when he claims to have received a revelation in July of 1843 commanding the practice of polygamy?
Joseph Smith married the following women who were already married to other men.
What possible justification could there be?
To multiply and replenish the earth? While it is possible, there is no compelling evidence that children resulted from these unions. To have a place in the hereafter? What about their husbands, some were obviously worthy, as Joseph sent away on missions for the Church. Where the marriages a way for Joseph to comply with the command to take plural wives in a manner that would be less painful for Emma? Seriously, Emma’s tender feelings can negate policy and marriage covenants that others have sincerely entered?
By Joseph Smith’s own revelations, the practice was verboten!
The revelation on celestial and plural marriage, now section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains three references to sexually polyandrous relations, and all three label them as “adultery,” with the woman involved “being destroyed.”
Moreover, as discussed above, there must be a presumption that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his wives. There are at least a dozen affidavits and testimonies from Joseph’s plural wives themselves swearing that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with them.
One of the clearest examples of Joseph’s polyandry was his marriage to Sylvia Sessions Lyon, who had married Windsor Lyon (Joseph himself officiating) in 1838.
Joseph was also sealed to Sylvia’s mother, Patty Bartlett Sessions. Perhaps in the case of Patty, who was 47, it is plausible that the relationship was not sexual, but even a mother and daughter team is especially troubling (and unbiblical, Lev. 18:17). Did Joseph persuade Patty to become one of his plural wives to more easily persuade Sylvia to do likewise?
Significantly, in a deathbed confession, Sylvia told her daughter Josephine, who had been born in 1844, that Joseph Smith was her father. “She told me then that I was the daughter of the Prophet Smith she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” 4
It appears that Joseph’s first polyandrous wife was Zina Huntington Jacobs. In 1839 Zina and her family spent three weeks in the Smith’s home after Zina’s mother died of malaria.
While there, Zina met Henry Jacobs, whom she later married. However, Joseph, who had talked to Zina about her becoming his wife even before she married Jacobs, told them that it was still the Lord’s will that she should become Joseph’s wife. She relented a few months later and was sealed to Joseph in a ceremony that she later dated as taking place on October 27, 1841.
In her autobiography, Zina stated, “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life, for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman by those I dearly loved.” The “sacrifice” she speaks to implies that the union with Joseph was sexual.5
Apologists Responses to Joseph’s Polygamy and his Polyandry and his Lies and Denials
“Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph’s carnal desires to marry young women. Of interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry).” 6
“It is claimed by some critics of Mormonism that Joseph Smith (and or other Church members) had a voracious sexual appetite, and that because of this, he instituted polygamy. One might reasonably hold the opinion that Joseph was wrong, but in the face of the documentary evidence, it is unjustifiable to argue that he and his associates were insincere or that they were practicing their religion only for power and to satisfy carnal desires. Those who insist that “sex is the answer” likely reveal more about their own limited perspective than they do of the minds of the early Saints.” 7
The apologists go on to speculate:
“For well over a century, the impressiveness of the Prophet’s salvific teachings have been largely lost on both believers and unbelievers. Though not unexpected, polygamy as a practice and principle has garnered virtually all of the attention. The public’s fascination with polygamy both then and now is understandable, but unfortunate.”
Polygamy quickly became the alpha and omega of Joseph Smith’s teachings…
“Societal resistance against the practice of plural marriage mounted in 1842 and never relented. Lost in the shuffle were the doctrines that surrounded and transcended plurality.”
Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provides several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.”
Joseph Smith dictated what is now Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provides several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.
The earliest justification mentioned by the Prophet was that it was a part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:19–21. Old Testament prophets practiced polygamy, so it could be a part of the restoration of “all things” (see D&C 132:40, 45).
To Provide a Customized Trial
Another reason for the establishment of plural marriage is that it brought trials to practicing Saints that provided opportunities for spiritual growth.
The belief that God challenges His followers on earth to make them worthy of blessings from their obedience is a pattern in the scriptures. Sometimes disciples are required to migrate to new lands or to defend themselves against powerful enemies.
Practicing plural marriage was difficult for most participants. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Helen Mar Kimball, remembered: “The Prophet said that the practice of this principle would be the hardest trial the Saints would ever have to test their faith.”
Multiplying and Replenishing the Earth
The third reason given by Joseph Smith for the practice of plural marriage comes as polygamous couples “multiply and replenish the earth.”
When compared to monogamy, polygamy decreases the number of children each wife bears. When practiced within a society, it may increase the overall total number of children being born by providing opportunities for motherhood to women who otherwise might never marry and have children.
There are several problems here.
First, if it were a restoration, it was short-lived.
Second, there is a good deal of data to suggest that polygamy did more harm than good to the ‘spiritual growth’ of the women who were victim to it.
Third, the argument that it was intended to multiply and replenish is demolished by Joseph’s polyandry. There is no evidence that the men who were already married when Joseph ‘took’ them were impotent or incapable of raising their offspring.
The apologists say Joseph had to keep the practice of polygamy (let alone polyandry) secret because it was against the law.
No, the fact that is was against the law is a reason NOT to engage in it!
FairMormon writes, “One critic of the Church claims, “Joseph Smith publicly lied about his practice of polygamy, and lied to his own wife (Emma) about the practice. It is certainly true that Joseph did not disclose all of his plural marriages precisely when they happened. For example, he had been sealed to Emily and Eliza Partridge already, and Emma later had one of her periods of acceptance of plural marriage, on condition that she gets to choose the wives. She chose Emily and Eliza, and so they were resealed to Joseph without disclosing that they were already sealed. Emma’s change of heart didn’t last long, and she soon had Joseph break off contact with the girls, and expected them to renounce the covenants they had made.
There are also other examples. It’s difficult to know exactly what Emma knew, and when she knew it because she would later insist that Joseph never practiced plural marriage. So, we have to kind of piece together the evidence from fairly fragmentary sources.
Was Joseph justified in this? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. If one doesn’t believe that Joseph was commanded to practice plural marriage, then the whole enterprise was probably a bad idea. If Joseph was commanded to practice plural marriage (as he repeatedly testified that he had been), then ultimately he had to choose between obeying Emma and obeying God. And, Joseph seems to have been determined to obey God.” 8
Come on; Joseph did more than, “not disclosing all his plural marriages,” he LIED about it when asked and he was asked often, once again:
“…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; and I can prove them all perjurers.”
Not only did Smith lie to Emma, the saints, and others but he also suborned perjury by having others lie for him in a vain attempt to halt public rumors of his secret polygamy and polyandry. He got 31 witnesses to sign an affidavit published in the LDS October 1, 1842, Times and Seasons stating that Joseph did not practice polygamy:
“…we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” 9
One of the signers of this affidavit, was one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, Eliza Partridge whom he married three months earlier on June 29, 1842. Two Apostles and future prophets, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, were fully aware of Joseph’s polygamy behind the scenes when they signed. This says quite a bit about their honesty and character as well.
Another signer, Bishop Whitney, had married his daughter Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph as a polygamist wife a few months earlier on July 27, 1842; Whitney’s wife and Sarah’s mother Elizabeth (also a signer) witnessed the ceremony.
“Among Joseph’s plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect on the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these ‘polyandrous’ marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.” 10
“Of all the aspects of Joseph Smith’s marital theology, this is the most difficult area to understand, because very little primary evidence exists.” 11
It should also be noted that while FairMormon and the Gospel Topics Essay on polygamy suggest that God commanded certain prophets in the Bible to practice plural marriage.
This is not true.
The fact that polygamists can be found in the Bible, Abraham, Lamech, Jacob, Esau, Nahor and Eliphaz for example, there is no indication that the practice was commanded by God. The LDS Church would have you believe that the Lord’s silence on the matter equates to commanding it.
Monogamy is about love,
Polygamy is about sex
1History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411
2Joseph Smith (LDS History of the Church 6:411, 26 May 1844
3 Statement on Marriage, August 1, 1835, Section CI, p. 251,
Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith Papers.
4 ” Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:265.
5 Zina Young, in her autobiography or “Biographical Sketch,”
quoted in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 81;
Hales, Joseph Smith’sPolygamy, 1:254
9 The affidavit published in the Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842
10Samuel Katich, “A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith,” Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.
11 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/ Joseph_Smith
Response to claim: “Emma was unaware of most her husband’s marriages, and she certainly did not consent to most of them as required by D&C 132.”
Again, FairMormon just provides boilerplate responses not specific to my comments.
I feel, however, that it is important to provide the reader with some worthwhile commentary supporting polygamy from Smith’s or the Church’s perspective or at least putting it in a different context.
Brian Hales is perhaps the leading expert on, and LDS apologist for, Mormon polygamy. He has done a considerable amount of research on the subject and has produced three volumes in which he delves into almost every aspect of it.
Dr. Hales has discovered historical documents and factual information that contributes a great deal to the discussion of the origins and practices of Mormon polygamy.
But Brian is an apologist, and he openly admits that his writings are driven by a specific agenda.
I find his style non-confrontational and his demeanor pleasant and even respectful toward critics of the Church’s dominant narrative; nevertheless I feel he suffers from the same confirmation bias as most other Mormon apologists.
This is not, however, the proper forum for a thorough analysis and critique of his wordy writings or what I find to be his somewhat peculiar interpretations of the data.
However, I would like to comment on a recent interview he and his wife had with Daniel Peterson on an LDS Perspectives podcast that somewhat capsulate his apologetic efforts.
This is a ‘softball’ interview, where both he and his ‘interviewer’ are preaching to the choir but it still shines a light on his modus operandi.
I couldn’t help but think that this interaction was analogous to Sean Hannity’s interview with Donald Trump, and is equally painful to listen to without shouting out meaningful and challenging questions for the interviewer to ask.
The first question Peterson reads from the script is, “Did Joseph Smith introduce plural marriage in order to expand his sexual opportunities?”
Hales replies. “… it is important for us who believe to understand what Joseph taught.” “The first thing he taught was that it was a special trial for the membership…”
I am not sure this is not an unwarranted conclusion. Joseph made a comment to that effect, but there is not much beyond that.
I don’t wish to be unkind to Dr. Hales but I find that he tends to tell us what conclusions we should come to based on the evidence he produces; many times I would submit, where a reasonable person would draw quite a different conclusion based on their interpretation of the same facts.
I find no compelling evidence of Hales supposition that polygamy stood as an Abrahamic test for the Saints or that Smith taught it. Perhaps Dr. Hales has a primary source beyond Joseph’s offhand comment so indicating. I have been unable to find any collaboration myself.
He goes on to suggest that the second reason for polygamy was a restitution of all things as spoken of in Acts 3:19–21.
Here Brian Hales is on mark and makes a valid point, and certainly, Joseph spoke to it.
But the restoration of what exactly?
It states in a recent Gospel Doctrine manual, that the words “all things”refer to the ‘laws and ordinances of the gospel.”
Was Polygamy then an ancient law or ordinance?
According to Gordon B. Hinckley, not only was it neither a law nor an ordinance, it wasn’t even doctrinal.
I have discovered only one instant where God commanded polygamy, and that was actually in the New Testament (Corinthians 7:10-11 & 27-28), but a careful reading of this passage shows it was intended to fit a specific and complicated circumstance and was clearly not a law or ordinance.
I think the Old Testament shows that polygamy was permitted for cultural reasons but was not commanded of God. I think we need to be careful not to make the mistake of believing that while the Bible speaks of polygamy this does not equate to God’s approval of it.
I think Genesis clearly shows God’s intent was for marriage to be monogamous—one man for one woman. God gave Adam “a helper,” not several helpers. A man would leave his family to “be joined to his wife,” not wives. This special union is described as becoming “one flesh.”
The first reference to polygamy is found in Genesis where Lamech, a descendant of Cain and a murderer himself takes two wives.
After the Flood, there are many mentions of polygamous relationships—including among the patriarchs of Israel. Jacob, Abraham, David, and Solomon who all had multiple wives.
I have not been able to locate any passages in Scripture forbidding polygamy but often polygamous relationships are mentioned in a very negative light, in fact, the problems of such relationships are often highlighted.
There are several passages in the New Testament that speak against the practice of polygamy.
The relationship between husband and wife is compared to that of Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5:25–33Paul speaks about this relationship and refers back to Genesis. Once again, God’s standard for marriage is defined as one man and one woman. Paul states, “let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
The third reason Hales states for polygamy is, “to multiply and replenish the earth.“
He says, “having children with his polygamist wives was one of the reasons. It wasn’t the most important one, and we would probably be wise to point out that the evidence does not show that Joseph was having a lot of sexual relations with his plural wives.”
Hales, it would seem bases this conclusion largely on the fact that DNA studies have yet to show offspring resulting from Smith’s marriages. The implication is no prodigy, no sex.
He further states that “Many other reasons and evidences (sic) and observations indicate that sexuality was not a common occurrence.”
I would suggest that this is another example of where Hales forms an unwarranted conclusion. I believe any reasonable person would infer from Smith’s behavior and the statements of several of his ‘brides.’ that sex was certainly involved if not Smith’s primary motivation.
The interview then discussed the accusation that Joseph Smith a was a pedophile, and all agree as do I that pedophilia has to do with an interest in prepubescent children and I would agree there is no particular evidence that Joseph had a sexual interest in children; however, most definitions of pedophilia also speak of sex with children, ” an interest in or sexual interaction with prepubescent children.” I think as my analysis above shows, even using FairMormon’s statistics on the age of menarche in 1843, and using the standard deviations they present, there is a 60% chance Helen Kimball, his youngest wife as far as we know, was prepubescent.
However Hales, his wife, and Peterson in a grand display of discounting, another technique he often employs in his writing, pass over the inappropriateness and immorality of a 37-year-old man marrying a 14-year-old girl. Hales says, “A sealing or a marriage to a 14-year-old would have been a little out of the norm, but it wasn’t that abnormal.”
This is demonstrably false. I have shown above it was so abnormal that the Smith/Kimball ‘marriage’ was likely the only such 37/14 cohort in all of New York State that entire year.
Peterson chirps in, “It’s the problem, isn’t it, of presentism, that we look at these things, and we think, “14, that’s shocking.” and Brian replies“It’s eyebrow-raising.” But, maybe it wasn’t scandalous then. It would be a little on the young side, but not unheard of.”
‘A little on the young side;’ notice that there is no mention of Smith’s age – 37. Maybe a 21-year-old man marrying a 14-year-old girl was ‘eyebrow-raising’ in 1843, but it was another thing when a middle-aged man did so, even ignoring the fact that what Smith and Kimball entered into what was no more a marriage in the eyes of the law than Warren Jeffs recent marriages to his young brides. Bigamy was just as illegal then as it is now and far less acceptable to the good people of 19th-century Illinois.
In today’s environment where men of power, wealth and celebrity are being accused of using their power to abuse and harass women, I think it is unbecoming, almost bordering on rape apology to discount or rationalize away the significance of Smith’s ‘relationships’ with young girls.
Also, Hales inserts ‘facts,’ not likely to be questioned by those casually reading or listening to his work. When speaking about the legality of marrying someone who is 14 years of age, he says, “even of our time right now if you have a parent’s permission. It’s not underage in many countries now even without a parent’s permission.”
Yes in the Cameroons 14 is just fine but what has that got to do with anything?
Hales’ statement that “even of our time right now if you have a parent’s permission…” is misleading. That is not the general rule. In the United States as the chart below shows the minimum age of consent is 16 years of age or older in every state in the Union, with only five of the fifty allowing those under 16 to marry with parental consent.
Let’s also not forget Smith was not legally married to anybody but Emma and by the laws of every state, then and now, there is no age of consent to have sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old-year-old girl, with or without her parent’s consent.
Again, Hales chooses to believe that Smith’s relationship with Helen Kimball did not involve sex in spite of the fact that we have this statement from her friend:
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”1
The point is made that Helen still went to dances as if this is prima facie evidence that she wasn’t having sex with Joseph. We know that none of Joseph Smith’s marriages involve him living with or maintaining his wives financially. We know with greater certainty that he had sex with other teenage girls he married who lived otherwise normal lives.
They all went about their daily lives except when Smith called upon them. Hales does not present any compelling evidence showing why this pattern would differ with Helen.
Hales also throws in that, “in Utah then, (speaking of years later) there was a policy to not consummate marriages to the younger wives until they had hit like 18 years of age or 19.”Even if there was any evidence of this ‘policy,’ this is, of course, irrelevant and immaterial. We are talking about Joseph Smith in Illinois, not Brigham and the boys in Utah. That is a whole other story.
I agree that there is little evidence that Smith sent men on missions just to have sex with their wives although I do not accept Hales comment that “the sealings were allwhat(sic) we call ‘eternity only.'”
Hales’ definition of what sexual polyandry is incredibly strict. In his view, even if a woman’s legal marriage was superseded by her religious marriage to a second man, that would not, according to Hales, constitute “polyandry.”
There is indeed evidence that Smith had sex with at least three of his polyandrous wives.
Hales himself reports a deathbed confession in 1882, in which Sylvia Sessions Lyon told her daughter Josephine, who had been born in 1844, that Joseph Smith was her father: “She told me then that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” 2
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner another of Joseph’s polyandrous wives gave a signed statement in 1902 affirming that in February 1842 Brigham Young had sealed her to Joseph “for time and all eternity.”3
And in her autobiography, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs writes “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life, for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman by those I dearly loved.”surely this “sacrifice” clearly implies sexual relations with Smith.4
Finally, Emma’s knowledge of Joseph’s polygamous relationship is broached by Laura Hales who states, “We actually don’t know when Emma found out about polygamy. We know for sure that she didn’t know about two marriages, and we can make educated guesses by other documents — that she didn’t know about some other marriages.”
“But by May 1843, she knew about plural marriage, and she was temporarily supportive of it. By that time, Joseph had been married to quite a few women, most of them for eternity only.”
It was temporary, and again I dispute that“most were for eternity only,”
The three conclude the interview by clucking about how nobody is perfect. “We also know that prophets aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that they can’t necessarily lead the church and receive revelation. If we put a prophet on a pedestal and say, “He has to be perfect,” I think we’ll be disappointed every time.”
Yes, let’s not look for perfection, but when we witness so many examples of arrogant, immoral, deceitful and criminal behavior resident in one person, do we not have to ask ourselves, is this someone the Lord would choose to be his spokesman?
A man who begins his adult life running a ‘treasure hunting’ money-making scam that led to his arrest and trial. He faced fifteen criminal charges between March 1826 and June 1844 including banking fraud, perjury, adultery, and fornication, threatening a sitting judge, and twice for conspiracy to commit murder and twice for treason. His serial lying to the Saints, his friends and even his wife about his myriad unions with other women. His arrogant and boastful nature, trumping the Savior himself, “I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”.
But as Dr. Hales declares, nobody is perfect.
1 Polygamy: A History, by LDS member Richard S. van Wagoner, p. 53
2 Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:349-54
3 Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 1:265.
4 Zina Young, in her autobiography “Biographical Sketch,” quoted in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 81.
Interrogatory No. 14
The Numerous Accusations of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Levelled at Joseph Smith
In this day when all around us men in positions of power and influence are being made to account for their cowardly abuse and harassment of women, I think it altogether appropriate to raise the issue of Joseph Smith’s proclivity in this regard.
As I write this, we have seen United States Senator Al Franken resign amide at least six accusations of inappropriate behavior with women. U.S. Representative John Conyers, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, and of course U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore have been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. In the world of entertainment, allegations also abound. Comedians Bill Cosby and Louis C.K., actors Jeremy Piven, Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman. Producer Harvey Weinstein, NBC anchor Matt Lauer and let’s not forget the man who currently sits in the Oval Office, Donald Trump.
Sexual harassment is hardly a new phenomenon, but the deluge of disturbing allegations of sexual assault and harassment by powerful, high-profile men has prompted an increasing number of brave women to come forward with their harrowing tales of sexual abuse and harassment and have declared, “me too!”
We are all familiar with Lord Acton’s dictum that, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The one thing all of the above have in common is power. The power of their position, the power of their wealth, the power of their celebrity.
Like our esteemed President’s vulgar conversation with “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush, Joseph Smith freely and openly bragged about his use of women. “He told me one day of a certain girl and remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible to talk like this”(“Interview with William Law. March 30, 1887,” Daily Tribune: Salt Lake City, July 31, 1887).
In 1827, Levi Lewis accused Smith of trying to seduce sixteen-year-old Eliza Winters and reports hearing Smith and Martin Harris say that, “adultery was no crime.”
In 1832, we find Eli Johnson “furious because he suspected Joseph of being intimate with his sister Nancy Marinda Johnson.”It was this that led to the tarring and feathering of Smith and the attempted castration.
A year later in 1833, a Mrs. Alexander quoted Polly Beswick as saying: “It was commonly reported, Jo Smith said he had a revelation to lie /with/ Vienna Jacques, who lived in his family. Polly told me, that Emma, Joseph’s wife told her that Joseph would get up in the middle of the night and go to Vienna’s bed. Polly said Emma would get out of humor, fret and scold and flounce in the harness. Jo would shut himself up in a room and pray for a revelation. When he came out he would claim he had received one and state it to her, and bring her around all right.”1
In that same year, 1833 Miss Hill, a servant in the Smith household claimed that Smith made indecent proposals to her, “which created quite a talk amongst the people, ”and which Smith supposedly admitted to Martin Harris.
In 1933, we had Fanny Alger aged 16, which the Church likes to list as a ‘marriage’ even though there is no marriage license and it came prior to any revelation on sealing and which William E. McLellin tells us that Emma witnessed their actual copulation through a crack in the barn.
At some time prior to 1886, Sarah Pratt said that “Lucinda Harris who was a married lady, a very good friend of mine. When Joseph had made his dastardly attempt on me, I went to Mrs. Harris to unbosom my grief to her. To my utter astonishment, she said, laughing heartily: “How foolish you are! I don’t see anything so horrible in it. Why I am his mistress since four years!”2
Sarah Pratt. Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841 John C. Bennett, Joseph friend reported that he told him that, “he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for one of his spiritual wives.”
Smith told Sarah, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.”
To which Sarah replied, “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter, am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will”She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.”
To which Smith replied, “Sister Pratt, I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?”3
In the fall of 1841, Melissa Schindle was staying with the widow Fuller, who had recently been married to a Mr. Warren, in the city of Nauvoo, tells us under oath that Joseph Smith came into the room where she was sleeping at about 10 o’clock at night, and after making a few remarks came to her bedside, and asked her if he could have the privilege of sleeping with her.4
In 1841 Catherine Fuller Warren also swears under oath that Smith got into bed with her without her invitation.5
FairMormon takes the same tack that Roy Moore and Donald Trump et al. have taken, deny, deny, deny. These women are all liars.
1 “Mrs. Warner [sic] Alexander, Statement , original in Stanley A. Kimball Papers, Southern Illinois University; typescript in Linda King Newell Collection, MS 447, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.”
2 W[ilhem] Wyl [pseud. for Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits, or the Truth about Mormon Leaders from 1830 to 1886, Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and His Friends: A Study Based on Fact and Documents (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing, 1886). 60.
3 “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that” (Bennett 1842a, 228-31
4 John C. Bennett, letter dated 27 June 1842, “Bennett’s Second and Third Letters,” Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Ill., 15 July 1842. Reproduced in Bennett’s History of the Saints: or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 253–54.
5 Ibid, p.14
Interrogatory No. 15
Restoration of the Priesthood
Because of the necessity of authority, would not the priesthood have to be restored in order to properly organize the LDS Church, that is, prior to April 6, 1830 – the Mormon Church’s official date of organization.
Joseph Smith created the Mormon Priesthood after organizing the church not before as many members believe. This is another example of Smith’s practice of revising revelations to match his evolving theological ideas.
LaMar Petersen explained, “The important details that are missing from the “full history [of priesthood restoration of 1834 are likewise missing from the Book of Commandments in 1833.]” 1
One might expect the particulars of the restoration in this first set of 65 revelations, the dates of which encompassed the conferral of the two Priesthoods, but they are conspicuously absent…
Chapter 28 gives no clue to the restoration which, if real, had been known for four years. As well, the notable revelations on the Priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 2 and 13, are also missing.
Almost five hundred words were added to this revelation on the Priesthood of August 1829, Section 27 of the D&C. The new material added the names of heavenly visitors and two separate ordinations.
The Book of Commandments listed the duties of Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons and refers to Joseph’s apostolic calling but there is no mention of Melchizedek Priesthood, High Priesthood, Seventies, High Priests, or High Councilors. These were later inserted into the revelation on Church organization and government of April 1830, making it look like they were known at that date. But they do not appear in the original, Chapter 24 of the Book of Commandments three years later. 2
Researchers who have examined the D&C and primary source accounts found that the official narrative of priesthood restoration contains numerous gaps, inconsistencies, and contradictions. Scholars also raise important questions that expose potential weaknesses in Smith and Cowdery’s story of their miraculous ordinations. For example, if Joseph and Oliver had experienced events as remarkable and life-altering as divine visitations by John the Baptist and three of Christ’s apostles, why would they not tell others? These miraculous ordinations were not publicly revealed or documented until five years after they supposedly occurred. Moreover, if the restoration of the priesthood is a fundamental tenet of the LDS Church, why was this revelation excluded from the Book of Commandments when it was originally published in 1833, only being revealed in the revised and re-named Doctrine and Covenants in 1835?
- Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery failed to testify to the members nor record anything about the appearances of “John the Baptist” and “Peter, James, and John” in any publications prior to 1834 (five years after the events purportedly took place)—nor did they teach that men ordained to offices in the church were receiving “priesthood authority”.
- Nobody in or out of the church knows the exact date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and Oliver Cowdery was inconsistent in describing which heavenly being(s) had come to confer that authority.
- Joseph Smith and other early members stated that the first conferral of the Melchizedek priesthood happened in June 1831 in Ohio at a conference of Elders and that Joseph himself was ordained to the high priesthood by church elder Lyman Wight at that time.
- Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 D&C, adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John AS IFthose appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations, which they weren’t. The Book of Commandments, which later became the D&Csays nothing about these appearances. 3
David Whitmer Indicates the High Priesthood ended with Christ
David Whitmer, undoubtedly, stuck to his testimony up to the very last. He did however in publishing the following sworn statement in which he expresses his approval of polygamy and :
“Unto All Nations, Kindred, Tongues, and People, unto Whom These Presents Shall Come:
It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell County, Mo., that I, in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the “Book of Mormon.”
To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now if he did not then; and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement:
That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published in that Book, as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all of my statements, as en made and published.
“He that hath an ear to hear let him hear;” it was no delusion! What is written is written, and he that readeth let him understand.
And that no one may be deceived or misled by this statement,
I wish here to state: that I do not endorse polygamy or spiritual wifeism. It is a great evil, shocking to the moral sense, and the more so, because practiced in the name of religion. It is of man and not of God, and is especially forbidden in the Book of Mormon itself.
I do not endorse the change of the name of the church, for the wife takes the name of her husband so should the church of the Lamb of God take the name of its head, even Christ himself. It is the Church of Christ
As to the High Priesthood, Jesus Christ himself is the last Great High Priest, this too after the order of Melchisedec, as I understand the Holy Scriptures.
Finally, I do not endorse any of the teachings of the so-called Mormons, [of] Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as taught in the Bible and Book of Mormon; for the same gospel is plainly taught in both of these books as I understand the word of God.
And if any man doubt should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same, before presuming to sit in judgment and condemning the light which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life as pointed out by the unerring hand of God.
In the spirit of Christ who hath said, “Follow thou me, for I am the life, the light, and the way,” I submit this statement to the world. God in whom I trust being my judge as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life.
My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by this plain and simple statement of the truth.
And all the honor be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen. 4
To this statement is subjoined the following certificate:
We, the undersigned citizens of Richmond, Ray County, Mo., where David Whitmer has resided since the year A. D. 1838, certify that we have been long and intimately acquainted with him and know him to be a man of the highest integrity, and of undoubted truth and veracity. Given at Richmond, Mo., this March 19, A. D. 1881.
Gen. Alexander W, Doniphan. Hon. Gen. W. Dunn, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. Thos. D. Woodson, President of Ray Co. Savings Bank. J. T. Child, editor of Conservator. H. C. Garnet, Cashier of Ray Co. Savings Bank. L. C. Cantwell, Postmaster, Richmond. Geo. I. Wasson, Mayor. Jas. A. Davis, County Collector. C. J. Huges, Probate Judge and Presiding Justice of Ray County Court. Geo. W. Trigg, County Clerk. W. W. Mosby, M. D., W. A. Holman, County Treasurer. J. S. Hughes, Banker, Richmond, James Hughes, Banker, Richmond. D. P. Whitmer, Attorney-at-law. Hon. James W. Black, Attorney-at-law. Thos. McGinnis, ex-Sheriff Ray County. J. P. Quisenberry, Merchant. W. R. Holman, Furniture Merchant. Lewis Slaughter, Recorder of Deeds. Geo. W. Buchanan, M. D., A. K. Reyburn.”
Apostle William McClellan excommunicated in 1838 states that he had no knowledge of any priesthood restoration by angelic visitors. “But I never heard one word of John the Baptist, or of Peter, James, and John’s visit till I was told some year or two afterward in Ohio.”Likewise, Joseph Knight who had written so much about important Mormon events in 1833 made no mention of these visits either. Book of Mormon witness, David Whitmer had no knowledge of
the angelic visitations of John the Baptist or Peter, James, and John, until 1834. He even went on to state, “I do not believe John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver
Richard Bushman states that Joseph Smith was often reticent to tell others about his revelations and angelic visits. The earliest known account of this visit by Peter, James, and John was referenced by Oliver Cowdery in 1834. Certainly, these angelic visitations were not known by general church membership until Cowdery’s introduction in an 1834 history of the church referencing only John the Baptist. From page 20-21,
As well, Oliver Cowdery’s 1834 published history made no reference to an angelic visitation after John the Baptist’s ministration.
Even pro-LDS historian Richard Bushman admits in his biography on Joseph Smith (Rough Stone Rolling, p.75): “the late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication”
It is also important to note that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants, adding the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations in the Book of Commandments, which they indeed were not.
1Problems in Mormon Text, by LaMar Petersen, pp. 7‐8.
2 Gregory A. Prince, Power on High: The Development of the Mormon Priesthood, Signature Books, 1995.
4 DAVID WHITMER, Richmond, Mo., March 19, 1881.
5 Alexander Neibaur, May 24, 1844, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City
6 February 15, 1841, Letter and Testimony, p.6-9.
“Why was the restoration of the priesthood not reported by Joseph and Oliver Cowdery until years later and then earlier revelations changed to match that account?”
We don’t know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone – we only know when he first put it in print. But consider this: If Oliver was covering up fraud on the part of Joseph Smith when he talked of receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, then why didn’t he expose the fraud after he fell into disagreement with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated from the Church? Why, in fact, did Oliver continue to insist that the events related to the restoration of the Priesthood actually happened?
The implication is that Oliver was dishonest, yet his associates during the time that he was a lawyer after leaving the Church viewed his character as “irreproachable.” 5
I see, Is this Oliver Cowdery the same man that Joseph described as, “…too mean to mention, and we had liked to have forgotten?”
Is this the same Oliver Cowdery that Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor in the First Presidency called,“…a lying, thieving, counterfeiting man who was ‘united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs in the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property, by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent?”6