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Dating Fanny Alger (Part 1 of 12)

Don Bradley is one of the funniest Mormon historians I know.  In our first conversation with Don, we’ll talk about my first memory of him, which deals with the timing of Fanny Alger’s marriage/affair with Joseph Smith.  Was Fanny pregnant?  Don Bradley thinks it is a strong possibility.  Check out our conversation….

Don:  A big part of doing history is actually just lining things up in their proper order. Once you get the sequence of events right, you can see the causation. You can watch the dominoes fall. But if you don’t have the dominoes in the right order, you can’t see what caused what or what made what to happen. Once you place Emma’s discovery of that relationship in the proper place, you can suddenly see why there are various people in Kirtland dissenting, why Joseph Smith takes off on a sudden trip and goes somewhere else for a while, why Fanny Alger suddenly takes off and goes the opposite direction to Indiana. It all lines up beautifully once you get things in the proper order. But a key piece of that evidence was actually identifying Eliza R. Snow’s contribution to Andrew Jensen’s research. It helps to show that this was a marriage that Eliza R. Snow, who was around the time was there in the house. She didn’t think that this was an affair. Her understanding was this was an early plural marriage. So it has lots of implications.

GT:  This is great. Can we stay here for a minute? Because I have a lot of questions about this. As I recall, and please correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like you are making the case that this marriage to Fanny happened after the Elijah’s visit was in March or April of 1836?

Don: So that’s a possibility that I’m raising. It was pointed out to me immediately after the presentation, actually by two Community of Christ apostles who were there, that for a woman at the time of her first pregnancy, she usually starts showing a little bit later. Fanny, the reports say, was visibly pregnant at the time Emma discovered the relationship. And so the chronology there might not work for the relationship to have begun after April 3, because Fanny would have had to have had the time to get pregnant and then start showing before Emma discovered the relationship according to some of the sources.

GT:  Wasn’t it discovered in the barn?

Don:  Yes. But she was also said to have been visibly pregnant and the people who are saying this are actually the people whose home that Fanny moved into when she was kicked out of the Smith home. So they would know. And so a likely sequence of events is Fanny is showing signs of pregnancy, maybe morning sickness. She is starting to show, right? And that makes Emma suspicious something is going on. And so she starts following Fanny’s movements more and finds Joseph and Fanny together in the barn.

We will also talk about whether Emma Smith pushed Eliza Snow down the stairs.  What do you think of Don’s research?

Historian Don Bradley thinks Fanny Alger may have been pregnant.

Don’t miss our previous conversations about Fanny Alger with Brian Hales.

047: Fanny Alger Part 2:  Marriage or Adultery? (Hales)

046: 1st Plural Wife Fanny Alger: Time or Eternity Polygamy?  (Hales)

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*Impact of Protests on Apostles (Part 7 of 7)

If you’d like to check out this episode, please sign up for my newsletter.  It’s completely free.  Go to  to find out how the apostles reacted to these protests against BYU.

Matt:  President Kimball said in 1975. Let me get this right. If I don’t lift the ban, my successor won’t do it, nor will my successor’s successor. Of course, he’s talking about Benson and Mark Petersen. So that was President Kimball, saying very clearly if I don’t do this, they won’t. Harold Lee was just intractable. He refused to lift the ban and Joseph Fielding Smith, too. It’s interesting how people evolve because Elder Kimball, I don’t want to give you the sense that he’s a racial progressive. One of the things that his son talks about is my father shared some of the same prejudicial views towards black people that other people of his generation did. Clearly, that’s easy to believe if you realize that we’re all products of our environment, right?  But what’s unique about Kimball is not that he had prejudicial views, it’s how he evolved and that he saw that it was the right thing to do to further the advance of the church. That’s why I admire him so much is that he knew that there were obstacles. David O. McKay had the same obstacles, different personalities in the Twelve, but the same obstacles. I think I can make a strong argument that President McKay might have lifted the ban in the 1950s had it not been for some of the hardliners there. What’s different between President McKay and President Kimball, is that Kimball recognize that it was worth fighting for, it was worth going to bat for. I don’t want to say that McKay didn’t think it wasn’t worth it. But Kimball spent a lot of time nurturing relationships with the personalities that he had to work with the most, which is McConkie. I’m not sure about Petersen, how much of the one on one, but I do know with Elder McConkie, he spent extensive time with him working him through these issues. We talked about how McConkie gone to Brazil several times in the weeks and days leading up to the revelation. So when they went to the temple in June of 1978, it wasn’t like the manuals, say, “Oh, I just had a revelation one day.”  No, this is something they knew they we’re going to change when they got there. I’m not trying to take away from their revelatory experience and the inspiration of it all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that President Kimball knew the ban was going to go that day and I’m quite certain that the others knew that it was going to go, too. It was just a matter of being unified and probably feeling that last-minute inspiration that they felt they needed to have.

What are your thoughts on Matt’s research on the ban?

Dr. Matt Harris describes how Pres Kimball got the apostles on board with the 1978 revelation.  This is the group of apostles from 1969 that did not overturn the ban under President McKay when many of the protests took place.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Harris!

352: BYU Law School Almost Lost Accreditation

351: Civil Rights Investigation at BYU

350: Sports Protests Against BYU

349: Race & Religious Minorities at BYU

348: How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?

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BYU Law School Almost Lost Accreditation (Part 6 of 7)

In the early 1970s, BYU opened up a brand-new law school.  I was surprised to learn that the American Bar Association considered not accrediting the university due to the racial ban in the Church.  Dr. Matt Harris describes some of these little-known issues that new BYU president and lawyer Dallin Oaks dealt with this potentially fatal blow to the law school.

Matt: There is new law school popping up and the American Bar Association, they send a letter to Dallin H. Oaks, this brand-new president. He’s a young man. He’s just left his tenured position at the University of Chicago where he went to school and then subsequently joined their law faculty. BYU recruited him to replace Wilkinson. So in 1971, Dallin Oaks comes on board and Oaks receives this letter. “Oh my gosh, they’re not going to accredit us.  They’re threatening to not accredit us because of the church’s policy towards blacks.”

GT: On the law school.

Matt:  On the law school. They just got it up and running.

GT:  So let me make sure.  So, 68-69 we’re having these civil rights problems with the entire school in general.

Matt:  Yes.

GT:  We hire some black faculty. So that gets them off their back.

Matt:  Yes.

GT:  But now 1971 comes and the bar association is threatening to take away the accreditation.

Matt:  Yes, and a year earlier, Nixon, the IRS with Bob Jones is out. This is all going on at the same time.

Check out our conversation….

In 1971, brand-new BYU President Dallin Oaks was worried the new law school on campus might not get accredited.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Harris.

351: Civil Rights Investigation at BYU

350: Sports Protests Against BYU

349: Race & Religious Minorities at BYU

348: How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?