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Joseph Smith’s Teen Brides

One of the Gospel Topics essays on polygamy produced by the church indicates that Joseph Smith married young women, one of “who[m] was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.”  I talked to polygamy expert Dr. Brian Hales about these sealings.  What does he have to say about this?

Brian:  There are two 14-year-olds.  The other 14-year-old was Nancy Maria Winchester.  We don’t know anything about that relationship, when it happened.  She may have been 15; my bet is she was 14.  Helen Mar Kimball is the one 14-year-old.  For several reasons I don’t believe that relationship was consummated, but Joseph gets accused of all kinds of crazy things.  People even call him a pedophile.

Now a pedophile is someone who’s interested in children under 11, which would not apply to Joseph in the wildest of rumors, but he was sealed to probably two 14-year-olds, and a 16-year-old.

Brian indicated that these were non sexual marriages, and he discusses Helen some more.

We can piece together from what Helen wrote, the sealing occurred, and after the sealing, Helen continued to go to dances and balls and socialize for the next several months until at one point Joseph stepped in and said, Look.  We don’t want her doing this anymore.

Later Helen said that she hated polygamy.  She wrote this down early on.  This was one of the early writings before she wrote her books defending it.  But the reason why she hated polygamy was not because of her own relationship with it, but because of how it affected her mother.  I argue that if she were having conjugal relations with Joseph and finding that to be undesirable, she might have actually used her relationship with Joseph as a reason for hating polygamy.

I asked Brian why she wasn’t sealed as a wife rather than as a child under the Law of Adoption.

Do you know there were no adoptions performed during Joseph’s lifetime.  The only adoptions that we have any record of occurred in the Nauvoo Temple and they occurred around, depending on your definition of an adoption, there’s 205 or something.  A lot of these, I use the word adoption to mean a child is sealed to parents who they are not biologically related.

What do you think of these marriages?  Do you agree that these sealings were likely non-sexual?

Don’t forget to enter our contest for a free book!  Check out our audio, video or transcripts here on our website, or on Amazon!  Don’t forget to check out our previous episodes with Brian Hales, as well as our discussion of polygamy with Dr. Mark Staker!

Joseph Smith’s Youngest Teen Brides





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