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Mormon Polyandry: More than One Husband

When we talk about Mormon polygamy, we usually mean polygyny—where a man has more than 1 wife.  The opposite of that is polyandry, where a woman can have more than 1 husband.  Did you know that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married?  In this episode, Dr. Brian Hales talks about several of these instances.  We’ll talk in detail about one of these women, Sylvia Session Lyon.  She gave birth to a girl named daughter, Josephine, and Josephine’s mother said she was the child of Joseph.  They did a DNA test to see if Josephine was the daughter of Joseph or Windsor.

I theorized that the marriage between Joseph Smith and Sylvia Sessions Lyon did include sexual relations in that plural marriage, and I had some theories as how that might have unfolded.  When the DNA evidence came back—and part of the theory was that Joseph was the father of Josephine [daughter of Sylvia Sessions Lyon.]  That’s an important point.  But when the DNA evidence came back that Windsor Lyon was the father, it required me to re-write things.  I’ll be honest with you.  It wasn’t what I expected, but it was what I had hoped.

Brian now believes that there were no sexual relations between Joseph and any of these 11-14 polyandrous marriages.

Brian:  Why the women chose Joseph over their legal husbands, sometimes these men were active Latter-day Saints, we don’t know.  It seems odd.  But it’s not as odd as them practicing actual sexual polyandry without anybody ever talking about it or finding that to be controversial.

GT:  Ok, so your opinion is of all the eleven polyandrous marriages, where a woman could have two husbands essentially, none of them involved sexual relations.

Brian:  Correct.

GT:  That’s your opinion.  Ok.  So let’s talk a little bit about…

Brian:  Rick, let me interrupt though.  If people go to my books, they’re going to be confused because I used the word eleven.  The twelfth polyandrous marriage on the chart is Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph C. Kingsbury, which was a front marriage.  Everybody involved with that realized that she was sealed to Joseph but apparently there was some legal issues going on, so Joseph asked Kingsbury to have a legal marriage but not consummate the marriage.  Everybody agrees that was the relationship.  That’s number twelve.

Number thirteen is Lucinda Pendleton who we just know nothing about, and the fourteenth one is to Mary Herron who we have one attestation that connects her to Joseph sexually but we don’t know any of the details.  If somebody goes to my chart, there’s actually fourteen women on that but eleven of them we believe were eternity-only, two are undocumented so just take your guess, and then we have this pretend marriage with Sarah Ann, so fourteen in total.

He theorizes that this was Joseph’s attempt to satisfy the angel with a flaming sword.  Joseph was completing these sealings in order to fulfill the angel’s command and also placate Emma. We also address the rumor that Joseph sent men on missions so he could marry their wives.

Brian nods:  The problem is we have two sealing dates for Joseph and Marinda.  The other date is from an affidavit Marinda signed that is well after Orson Hyde returning from Palestine.  Even the one that appears to be a case where Joseph might have sent him on a mission, then he waits a year—it doesn’t make sense.  A year later we have Joseph being sealed to Marinda, but again we have a second date.  The second date is a signed affidavit which we probably would consider to be more reliable than something that was just scrawled on a page in Joseph’s journal, not in his handwriting but in I think Thomas Bullock’s [handwriting.]  Again that story is false, yet it’s a sound bite.  It’s all over the internet.  We’ve got to kill it.  It’s wrong.  It’s false.  Joseph did not send men on missions and so he could marry their wives according to any reliable documentation.

Why do you think that Joseph was sealed to other men’s wives?  Were you aware that most of these men were ok with Joseph being sealed to their wives?  Do you think that made it easier for them to consent because there were no sexual relations (no sexual polyandry)?  Why would God command Joseph to do this?

Don’t forget to check out our previous episode on Fanny Alger, as well as parts 15 of our conversations with Brian.  Check out our conversation…

Our New Contest!

Don’t forget to sign up for a contest to win a free book!  You can sign up here!  It is the Parallel Doctrine & Covenants that contains the 1832, 1833, and 1835 Doctrine & Covenants side by side so you can see the changes.  When it was originally published, it was about $50, but the book is now out of print.  Curt Bench was actually the one who wrote the introduction to this book.  It’s a fairly recent book, but if you find it on Amazon now, check this out.  It’s $175.  On Abebooks it’s even higher–$260!  This book is a valuable book and has become a collector’s item, especially for historians or those seriously interested in Mormon history.

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What are the Theological Justifications for Polygamy?

We know that in the Bible, many prophets practiced polygamy.  However, modern Christians and Jews mostly condemn the practice.  What are Joseph’s theological justifications for polygamy?  Dr. Brian Hales tells us,

The easiest one is part of the restitution of all things, and if somebody asks you, “Why did Joseph do it?”  The easy answer is, he was a prophet-restorer, and the old prophets did it, and he restored it.  That’s not entirely nuanced, and some would say it’s even correct.  I think it is generally.

The second one is it was a trial.  This is the one I couldn’t remember.  It presented a special trial.  The Lord does do that.  It gives different people at different times different kinds of trials.

A third one was to—it was the one I had talked a great deal about.  It allowed all men and women to enter into a marriage, even if this is a plural wife, and then the [fourth] one is the one we started with, multiply and replenish the earth.

We’ll also talk about what Brian thinks of Carol Lynn Pearson’s book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy.

Of course on earth, polygamy is not fair.  It’s unequal.  You could say it’s sexist if you want, on earth.  But I don’t think that we know anything about eternal marriage, and we certainly don’t know anything about eternal plural marriage.  So to assume that that’s a bad thing, that it victimizes women, and to assume that women should fear that is to fear unknown things.  God has promised us everlasting joy, a fullness of joy.  His plan is a plan of happiness.

Check out our previous episode on Fanny Alger, as well as parts 1, 2, 3. Many of you will find Mark Staker’s interview on Kirtland polygamy  enlightening too.  Don’t forget to check out a transcript (link below), or the video!


What are the Theological Justifications for Polygamy?


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Fanny Alger Part 2: Plural Marriage or Adultery?

Here’s part two of our discussion about Joseph’s plural marriage to Fanny Alger.  In this discussion we’ll talk about Emma Smith as well as Oliver Cowdery’s reaction.  They both thought it was adulterous.

What we understand is that more or less, the people that Joseph Smith told about Fanny Alger as a plural wife, they didn’t believe him….

Joseph, according to one of the accounts gets Oliver and says in the middle of the night.  ‘Oliver, come help me with this.’  Oliver hears the story and sides with Emma and thinks Joseph is having an adulterous affair.  That was his opinion, probably right up until his death, that Joseph was not authorized to marry her.  It wasn’t a marriage.  He made hints to members of the high council that Joseph had been guilty of adultery.  He did not accept any story of a marriage ceremony as being valid, and neither did Emma.

On the other hand, Fanny’s family seemed to believe that it was a legitimate marriage.

But most of the people that learned it from Fanny did believe which is interesting.  Fanny’s family believed.  The family that Fanny went to live with was Chauncey Webb and Eliza Jane Webb, they believed that this was an actual marriage

Fanny eventually married a non-Mormon man in Indiana, but her family came to Utah, and her brother was a polygamist!

Brian:  Whatever actually happened between Joseph and Fanny did not bother their faith of these people who knew the details, same with Eliza Snow.

GT:  Was it true that her parents came all the way to Utah?

Brian:  Her brother did and I don’t know if they died or all, but they didn’t leave the church. It’s interesting that John Alger in 1891, this is right after the 1890 Manifesto, he left the church over the Manifesto.  He had a polygamist wife and he could not accept that.  So again some irony.

GT:  Fanny’s brother was a polygamist?

Brian:  Uh huh, and he left the church over the Manifesto of 1890.

Why do you think people believed Fanny, but not Joseph?  Were you surprised to learn that Fanny’s family stayed in the church?  (Check out parts 14 as well!)

Check out a transcript!

Fanny Alger Part 2: Plural Marriage or Adultery?