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Did Emma Deny Joseph Practiced Polygamy?

The RLDS Church was founded on the claim that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy.  Even on her death bed, Emma Smith made the startling claim to some that Joseph never practiced polygamy.  Conservative bloggers such as Rock Waterman (see his post here) and even Denver Snuffer have made the claim that Joseph Smith was a monogamist.  However, current RLDS Church prophet/president Stephen Veazey has made the claim that historical records show that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy.  What does Dr. Brian Hales believe about these allegations about monogamy and Joseph Smith?

I have an article that I have been pitching to different people to publish on the denials.  To be quite honest with you, there are at least two other denials that clearly were not senility, were clearly not specially phrased questions where Emma just comes right out and they’re fairly well documented, said “Joseph did not practice polygamy.”

How do I deal with that?  I don’t know.  I do not have a good explanation.  I think Emma was an amazing woman.  I look forward to meeting her someday.  You know in our theology that’s a possibility.  She had the worst row to hoe of all the polygamist wives in my view.  She did remarkably well.  She stumbled, but I believe there’s plenty of forgiveness on these things for her, but I honestly don’t know how she was able to say these things that she said.  Hopefully these will be published. I’ve put them together, I just haven’t got them published yet.  It’s pretty clear that she just denied it flat out.  I don’t know how she made that work for her, but they’re there.

I also asked Brian how he deals with the idea that Joseph practiced only monogamy.

Brian:  You know it’s interesting, Rick, that you would bring that up because by the time this interview is aired, The Interpreter {a Mormon history journal} will have published a very long article that I have written where I don’t just give evidence that Joseph did it, but I actually attack the arguments by, I mention Rock Waterman, I mention the Prices, and then Denver Snuffer who is in my view just the latest false prophet.  Remember I started looking at Mormon fundamentalism and I documented and wrote articles on men or came as great leaders who came for this reason or that reason and then they just fall by the wayside.  There’s a number of these that I talk about in my book.  I think Denver is just the latest in all of this type of a pattern.

For those who have questions, the easiest way probably to detect Denver is he said Joseph didn’t practice polygamy, and then just look at the evidence.  I outline it all here.  It is true that most of the evidence that Joseph practiced plural marriage is from late sources, but not all of it.  The Nauvoo Expositor states right in there that Joseph Smith had a revelation.  It was read to the high council.  We’ve got testimonials from William Law and Jane Law saying that Joseph was teaching polygamy.  These are contemporaneous.  There are entries in William Clayton’s journal.  John C. Bennett clearly had heard some rumors.  I don’t know that he was ever in confidence of Joseph with it.  But to say that it’s all old is not true.  There are some very important contemporaneous sources.

What do you think of the arguments Brian makes against monogamy?  (As a reminder, this is part 10 of our conversation with Brian.  Check out parts 19 to learn the facts behind polygamy.)  Look below for a video and transcript.

Emma Denied Joseph Practiced Polygamy?

 

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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…

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1st Plural Wife Fanny Alger: Time or Eternity Polygamy?

We’re here to talk about Joseph’s first plural wife. Dr. Brian Hales noted that this marriage likely occurred prior to the sealing power being restored. Was this a time, or eternity sealing?

Brian:  If it wasn’t a sealing, then what authority was used?  The state wasn’t going to allow Joseph to marry a second wife, so the only authority that it could have been would be priesthood authority and Joseph was already using that authority to marry people just for time there in Kirtland.  So one interpretation is Joseph gave that authority to Levi and this would have been strictly a priesthood marriage that Joseph would have argued God recognized and so if he recognized it and Fanny and her family apparently recognized it as did others who were involved, but not Oliver [Cowdery] and not Emma.

What do you think?  Was this an adulterous relationship, or was it a true marriage?  Was it a sealing, or just a polyamist marriage for time?  What do you think of polygamy?

Check out parts 1, 2, and 3, as well as Mark Staker’s interview on Kirtland polygamy!  See the video here:

1st Plural Wife Fanny Alger: Time or Eternity Polygamy?