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Polygamy Rumors–Declaration on Marriage

Oliver Cowdery opposed polygamy

In our third conversation with Dr. Brian Hales we’ll talk about the earliest rumors of polygamy.  In 1835, the Doctrine & Covenants published a Declaration on Marriage.  We’ve got a couple questions about that.  First of all, did Joseph Smith actually author that revelation or was it someone else like Oliver Cowdery?

Brian:  You know in my volume one, I go into this in some detail, and what we find is yes Joseph was gone, and yes they were quick to get this passed.  In fact they called for this conference on Sunday to be done on Monday and there were almost no leaders there.  The Quorum of the Twelve there were almost no one present, the High Council really weren’t represented.  The theory is that they were trying to get it pushed through before Joseph got back because Oliver had these reasons and stuff.

I don’t think so and I’m grateful for Michael Marquardt for helping me.  We sat one afternoon down in his basement and we went through all the documents, and what we find is at that at point in time they needed to go forward with printing the Doctrine & Covenants.  They had published we think most of the book up to section 101, which is the Article on Marriage and that they’re having piles of all these papers around the printing office. So we think, or at least I think and I think Michael agrees that the driver at that point was really that they just wanted to get official approval so that they could finish publishing the Doctrine & Covenants and so I don’t think that they were trying to do something backhanded with Joseph.

When Joseph came back there’s no evidence that he really disapproved of what had happened.  In fact he quotes or refers to the Article on Marriage two or three times later when he is performing marriages.  He said this declares our church’s belief which they had to have in writing in order for the elders of the church to be authorized by the state to perform state recognized marriages, so there were a number of things….

GT interrupts:  So whether Oliver may have authored it or not, it didn’t seem like it bothered Joseph at all and he was fine with it.  Is that safe to say?

Brian:  I believe so.  I’d have to refresh my memory, but what we do know is he could have had it rescinded but he also quoted it as authoritative and Michael Marquardt pointed this out to me I think he’s even published that somewhere that Joseph did consider it after the fact to be the official declaration of the church at that time.

Second, was it a response to polygamy that could have been happening in the Kirtland community?  What does Dr. Brian Hales think about these things?

Brian:  The first accusation against the Latter-day Saints, they weren’t called that then, against the Mormons, the Mormonites, that they had embraced some alternate form of marriage, came in 1831.  It was in conjunction with the Law of Consecration and it was basically not only do they share everything, they share wives.  That was the accusation that came up.

Of course it’s easily refuted.  There’s nothing to support that it was even thought of or discussed.  So when people say they were talking about polygamy in Kirtland, I would really like to see the data on that, that this was really a response to polygamy because my research shows that there was, with respect to Joseph and Fanny Alger, discussion of adultery and that was the claim that everybody was worried about.  I don’t find anybody discussing polygamy during that period.

Don’t forget to check out parts 1 and 2 of our interview with Dr. Brian Hales.  When do you think polygamy started being practiced among the Mormons?

Polygamy Rumors – Declaration on Marriage


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Does Polygamy in D&C 132 Conflict with JST Genesis?

We continue are discussion with Dr. Brian Hales.  (Part 1 is here.)  He has written a comprehensive history of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.)  In this episode, I’ll ask him about Dr. Mark Staker’s claim that Black Pete may have been responsible for introducing polygamy into the Kirtland period.

Joseph knew the Old Testament, he knew Abraham had more than one wife and Jacob, so why would we need to think that it was Black Pete that was introducing this in a very real way, especially when Joseph wasn’t supportive of so much that was going on when he first arrived down there, and the types of spiritual experiences that they were expressing in their church meetings and things like that.  So I’m a little dubious on that, but I just applaud Mark.  I say go forward and let us know.

He also makes an interesting statement about the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

I believe all of these principles came to Joseph line upon line, precept upon precept.  Some of the exciting things that are happening down at BYU, Tom Wayment and others are looking at the Joseph Smith Translation very carefully and discovering that it really shouldn’t be thought of as actual scripture in and of itself, that it was a chance for Joseph to expand upon the text to make the Bible text correspond with the theology that he was receiving through revelation, or through communications that he portrayed to be from God.

I asked Brian about differences in biblical polygamy and Doctrine & Covenants 132.

GT:  Well so I guess my question is as far as 132 and Genesis, does it seem to you that there’s a difference among those two scriptures as far as whether God commanded Hagar to be a plural wife or whether Sarah was totally responsible?

Brian acknowledges the accounts are different, but it doesn’t bother him.

Brian:  So for me to see the JST Genesis and that it doesn’t necessarily say what comes in 1843 doesn’t surprise me because of the line upon line, precept upon precept process.

What do you think about these different accounts about Hagar’s marriage to Abraham?  Does it bother you that these two accounts seem to differ in whether God commanded the marriage, or Sarah suggested it?

Check out our conversation…

Does Polygamy in D&C 132 Conflict with JST Genesis?



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Canadian Polygamy – Should it be Legal?

I’m excited to publish this interview with Dr. Brian Hales, the premier expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamy.  He has written a three volume set called Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (you can get Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 here.)  In this first episode, I was surprised to learn that Brian recently was deposed in a Canadian court.

Brian:  I just got back last week, it was a week ago today from Cranbrook, [British Columbia,] Canada.  That is where they are holding a trial right now for two leading polygamists:  Winston Blackmore and James Oler.  The Canadian government has kind of a different system than we have here in the United States in that they have a law against polygamy.  It’s been on the books since 1899 or before.  They haven’t prosecuted anybody in the last 100 plus years, but what they are able to do in Canada that we don’t do in the U.S. is they can petition their Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of a particular law.  In 2012 they did this to the state, well it would be the province, British Columbia did a provincial court saying, is this polygamy law constitutional?  They ruled that it was.

They are now prosecuting the two leading polygamists because there’s a group of hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds located about an hour, hour and a half away from Cranbrook where the court’s being held.  So the prosecution, the attorneys called me up and said, would you come up and be an expert?  They said, we don’t want you to testify for or against, and I told them that isn’t what I’m interested in doing.  They wanted somebody to give an accurate history which is something that I had studied.

I can even give you a copy of a chart that I’ve updated and you can put it the show notes or however you do online if people are interested.  It’s available at, but they asked me to come up and start with Joseph Smith and go right through on authority to the 1890 and 1904 manifestos, the period between that and the fundamentalist groups coming together at the end of the 1920s, and then the branches and the breakoffs and I put together a nice little chart that talks about the different groups and of course the fundamentalists up there.

Many have wondered if Brian is in favor of polygamy.  In the interview, he said

…personally I don’t think that we should allow polygamy either in Canada or the United States, but my reason might be a little surprising to you, because in a country or government that allows same-sex marriage, and again I’m not speaking for or against that, but if we allow same-sex marriage and we allow polygamy, you could have networks of people, hundreds of people all married to each other in a variety of ways.

If the government privileged marriage, in other words if a married man and a married woman, whatever kind of marriage it is, if they have a privilege a single person doesn’t have, then everybody’s going to want to be married in some way.  I think it would force the government to basically get out of the marrying business and leave it as a social construct or a religious agreement.  But in doing that it would also take away any privilege for marriage which I think could harm the family.  So that’s my reasoning for saying I don’t think we should have legal polygamy.  I think a society can absorb polygamy on a small scale. It obviously can’t be practiced widely because of the differences in people, male and female, the gendered differences of being born, but I don’t think a society can absorb both of the expansions or marriage at the same time.  I mean you can do same-sex marriage, or you can do polygamy.  I don’t think it’s good for the family to do both.

Don’t forget to check out my conversation with Dr. Mark Staker on early Kirtland Polygamy.

Do you think polygamy should be legalized?  What do you think of Brian’s rationale with legalizing gay marriage being bad for the family?

Check out the video, or get a transcript!


Canadian Polygamy – Should it be Legal?