The Truth Will Set You Free

15. Was Joseph’s Marriages to Very Young Girls Right?

Abusive Man Choking Female Victim

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 19th Century 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.”


DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

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.

chart2

census

Incidentally, Joseph doesn’t hold the record for the 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 shows, a small fraction of 1% of all were 14 years old. It also shows that less than 1% of all grooms are 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.

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.

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:

  1. Helen Kimball (or Nancy Winchester) were prepubescent.
  2. 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 indicated 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, probably not, however, the fact of 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.

redd

References

1 Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS Historian, Richard S. van Wagoner, p.53

2 Doctrine 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.

8 An Intimate Chronicle, p. 115

9 Heber C. Kimball, Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17,

10 Discourse of Brigham Young, p. 305

11 https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy

12 Compton, Todd (December 1997), In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural
Wives of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Signature Books.

13 Heber 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

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43