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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 I’d have to refresh my memory, but what we do know is he could have had it rescinded but he also quoted it as authoritative and Michael Marquardt pointed this out to me I think he’s even published that somewhere that Joseph did consider it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.
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…