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