Questioning the Prophet’s integrity

I love Adrian Larsen’s post “Are you calling Joseph Smith a Liar?”.  In it he shares a 42-page anonymous booklet about Joseph Smith’s Monogamy, which is well written.

Why is it okay to call our founding leader a liar?  It’s the honest question I have been grappling with since I began studying polygamy. Why is it that we can sweep all of Joseph Smith’s public testimonies against polygamy (including a marriage article cannonized into scripture) under the rug, say he was lying, and still believe that he was was a prophet? Can we do that without redefining what a prophet of God, even a God of truth is? Everyone is OKAY with a scenario where Joseph Smith lied about polygamy.

On the other hand, to believe that Church leaders and others lied about Joseph Smith committing adultery by having so many wives is considered blasphemous. Nevermind that the bulk of these testimonies came years, even decades after Joseph Smith died, many under dubious circumstances. Nevermind that that it came during a period when even children were taught to lie about their last names, let alone the lying deception carried out by adults in order to practice polygamy. Nevermind that we know John Taylor lied about polygamy because he was preaching sermons in Europe during the 1850’s declaring that Mormons were not polygamists. Nevermind that DNA tests have only proven that Joseph Smith fathered children through Emma. Nevermind the 1,000 signatures of LDS women during the Nauvoo era declaring that polygamy was not being taught or practiced in the church. Nevermind that before and after Joseph died his involvement in polygamy was questioned in court and he was never condemned. Nevermind that one of Joseph Smith’s final sermons a month before he was murdered declared that he was innocent of polygamy, that he had evidence to prove it and he intended to. Nevermind revisionist history.

Either Joseph Smith was lying, or Brigham Young was lying. Either Emma Smith was lying, or other women claiming to be his wife after he died were. There is no in-between ground. To believe one person is declare the other a liar and public deceiver. Why not give members of the church the freedom to choose for themselves who to believe?

I have been accused of apostasy because I believe that Joseph Smith was an honest man. Yet, to believe he was lying would bring the whole restoration under question. The entire restoration of the gospel depends on Joseph Smith’s integrity. My own integrity requires that I defend the man I truly believe communed with Jehovah.

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” -Richard Feynman

My Journey Through and out of Polygamy, Part 4

Part 1, A Mormon Girl’s perspective

Part 2, Examining the Past

Part 3, Polygamy and Mormonism today

Part 4: Afterthoughts

Having published the previous articles and engaged in a few facebook discussions, this post is a compilation of my commentary as well as a few more points I would like to make. The Mormon polygamy/polyandry debate is a rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper the more one studies, and I am by no means an expert. There are several hypothesizes one could make concerning what really happened, and I have only explored the over-arching one that seems most plausible to me. So without further ado, here are a few more points to consider.

1. Jacob 2:30, What does it mean, to raise up seed?

Since publishing this essay, others have pointed me to essays on Jacob’s sermon and I have studied the chapter again and wish to add my commentary on Jacob 2:30.  This verse is often used as a loophole for polygamy in a chapter that otherwise sharply condemns the practice:

 30 “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

What does it mean, to raise up seed?
In Jacob 2:25-26:

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

As far as I can tell, in this chapter God is saying- look, these people in Jerusalem do polygamy, and it’s an abomination. I need righteous seed who will not practice polygamy, and I have commanded your family and these people (the Nephites) NOT to practice it. Why? Because I have separated you and I command you not to sin as the people of old did.
In other words, it’s the righteous seed that are especially COMMANDED not to practice polygamy.
Otherwise, even if not specifically commanded, stay away from these “things”, aka, abominations.
Isn’t it sad, and ironic that we have in verse 23:

“…they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written…”

…and yet, today we use another verse by the same author to excuse polygamy in our day.  During the polygamy years in Utah, the preface to this chapter stated that the Nephites were commanded not to do polygamy “because they were wicked”.  I don’t see it that way.  The way I see it, the Book of Mormon tells us that polygamy is an abomination!

2. The unusual polyandry of Zina H.J. Young

Long before I stumbled across the RLDS apologetics, I read about what has to me become the most troubling aspect of the entire polygamy/polyandry of early Mormonism, which is the sad tale of Henry and Zina Jacobs.

According to the original narrative, before she married Henry, Joseph Smith approached her and asked her to be his plural wife. She refused and married Henry. Two more times she refused him, but on the fourth request, he told her that an angel with a flaming sword had commanded them to be sealed together, and while the marriage was said to be consummated, a child even resulting from the marriage, Zina remained with her first husband Henry.

After Joseph died, she was again sealed to Joseph, this time with Brigham Young acting as proxy and with Henry standing as a witness. Then it is declared that Brigham and some of the other apostles have a Levitical responsibility to care for the wives of Joseph. He takes Zina as his own wife, sends Henry on a long, foreign mission, and has a child with her. Zina Jacobs becomes Zina Young.

Something’s not right here. If Joseph allowed her to stay with her husband, why wouldn’t Brigham? Joseph was dead, and Zina had a legal, living husband ready to provide for her, and two children. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Brigham wanted the beautiful and intelligent woman to be his wife. Levitical responsibility indeed. Both Zina and Henry’s happiness was destroyed by the new relationship, and their two children lost their father. For years they said Zina’s second child was Joseph’s, but DNA tests have proven that Henry was the father.

Which makes more sense? God would command Joseph to take Zina as a Spiritual Wife while allowing her to stay with her physical husband, only to have Brigham be her physical husband in order to raise up physical seed for Joseph according to the Levitical commandment, even though that physical marriage destroyed another marriage with a worthy priesthood holder who had committed no sin, breaking apart a family with two children. Such was the will of God.

Or perhaps, Brigham wanted Zina for his wife and convinced her to join his elite circle. Needing a religious justification for their actions, they concocted this story and acted out their parts. Why would she need to be sealed to Joseph twice? Why was Zina’s memory as to the details of her marriage to Joseph so vague?
Of course there may be another explanation. Maybe Zina was strong-armed into the relationship. Maybe Brigham was mad. Maybe there is some unknown mystery in the story that would explain everything and make it all right. Nevertheless, in my mind, no other explanation closes the Zina H. J. case as succinctly. I didn’t need RLDS apologists to know there was something fishy about Zina’s story. And poor Henry!

3. Polygamy on trial in Hancock county

One thing I HAVE been taught since childhood is that there were many lies told about Joseph Smith during his life, lies that landed him in jail and justified the mobs, but when he testified in court, again and again he was proven innocent. What did he go on trial for? In the Nauvoo years, more often than not, polygamy. And if he was able to prove his innocence then, why not now?  If the Temple Lot Case failed to prove he was guilty after his death, a case involving many who knew him personally, we would certainly be hard pressed to prove it now. If people lied about him during his life, what would stop people from lying after he was dead and couldn’t defend himself? Especially if the lies would justify their crimes to the tender-hearted saints and potentially fend off an increasingly oppressive federal government.

Regarding the polygamy trials in Nauvoo, there were several. And Joseph was not the only one on trial. John C. Bennett, Nauvoo’s first major, was excommunicated from the church and expelled from the community not only for practicing polygamy, but also for falsely attaching Joseph’s name to it. Bennett then wrote a book about Joseph practicing polygamy, and Emma responded by gathering over 1,000 signatures from women in Nauvoo stating that the LDS church did not practice “spiritual wifery” in any form, and that such was the sole invention of Bennett.
Chauncey L. Higbee was expelled for the same reason, and we have several affidavits from the women he seduced who testified that he claimed the teaching came from Joseph, only to find out later that it was completely untrue. In Higbee’s case, Joseph went so far as to sue Higbee for defaming his name, not only in Carthrage, but again on the county level. Joseph went to great lengths to prove his innocence, declaring again and again that it was his intention to root polygamy out of the church. These court cases show several affidavits of young women who were seduced into polygamy believing Joseph was secretly teaching it. They declared they never heard Joseph teach it, and upon learning the truth, they wished to repent and do all they could to clear Joseph’s name and make the thing known to protect others from the same fate.
At the time of Joseph’s death, he was compiling evidence to convict several more polygamists who were doing the same, with full intentions of putting himself through the same trial as his counterparts. Hyrum was helping him prepare.  After Joseph’s death, these documents fell into Brigham’s hands. Why would Joseph go to such great lengths to root polygamy out of the church if he was secretly practicing it himself? Why would he be willing, nay, eager to put himself through the third-party legal system if not to prove his innocence? Evidence of these trials, the affidavits of the young women involved, and Joseph’s preparation for the upcoming trial is documented in Prices carefully researched documentary “Joseph Fought Polygamy”.

4. God will beat us with a few stripes…

An excellent point my friend Steven Retz pointed out, regarding a scriptural inconsistency not addressed in the links I shared. Nephi warns us to watch against a false doctrine: 2 Nephi 28:8

“God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”

Compared to D&C 132:26

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.”

Before I comment, let’s define “Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise”, as well as “The morning of the first resurrection”.

Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

From D&C 88:

3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.

4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

In the Doctrines of the Gospel teacher’s manual, we read:

“What is meant by the phrase “morning of the first resurrection”? One of the blessings pronounced upon those who are sealed in the temple for time and all eternity is the power to come forth “in the morning of the first resurrection.” Elder McConkie explained: “Those being resurrected with celestial bodies, whose destiny is to inherit a celestial kingdom, will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. Their graves shall be opened and they shall be caught up to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. They are Christ’s, the firstfruits, and they shall descend with him to reign as kings and priests during the millennial era.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 640.)”

Those two scriptures are teaching two different truths. Nephi says it is a false doctrine to believe that one can be saved in their sins after a few stripes.

The other says that once a couple is married and has been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and in this context it seems to me to be referring to the event of being sealed in the temple to your spouse(s), future sins short of murder will be punished previous to the morning of the first resurrection and they will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.
Yet it seems to me that other scriptures describing the Holy Spirit of Promise refers not to marriage, but the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through this gift, we are sanctified in Christ as we obey the Celestial laws and become perfected in him. These blessings are given on condition of our faithfulness. It is not an event that happens once. Sanctification is a process. When we sin and commit blasphemies, we are not obeying Celestial laws.
It is not the process of being destroyed in the flesh and given over to the buffetings of Satan that we become worthy of Celestial glory. It is the process of the atonement, our sincere repentance, and our demonstration that we can live Celestial laws that qualify us for Celestial glory.

I conclude that this concept in LDS D&C 132 is not compatible with 2 Nephi 28, and I favor the Book of Mormon.

5. We know there was a conspiracy.  The question is…

Was Joseph involved? Critics of the Utah polygamy conspiracy theory state that it would be impossible for so many people to tell the same lie and pull it off. That it is hard to believe so many people would be willing to lie about polygamy.

I ask why? We KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, by their own confession, that they were lying about polygamy in the Nauvoo years. Even if God justified their lies in order to protect themselves from the government as they obeyed a commandment, even if that is true, these people have demonstrated that they were perfectly capable of lying not only to the government, but also to their fellow saints.

We know that Bennet and Higbee deceived many, how was it done? If they were lying, how did they deceive their fellow saints in the church? I invite you to examine their story and compare it to what Joseph is said to have taught. We cast Bennett from the church and spit on his memory and rightfully so. Why is it that we find Bennett’s polygamy so repulsive but can embrace it as a divine commandment if it came from Joseph Smith?  Is it because we have seen the fruits of Joseph Smith and know he was a true prophet?  That would explain the appeal of attaching polygamy to his name. We also have clear evidence that even after Joseph died and the saints established in Utah, and Utah polygamy being public knowledge the eastern states, that these leaders were denying polygamy in their missionary efforts in other countries, namely England and France.

Again, these church leaders and their wives were perfectly capable of lying well. We know because they have admitted that they lied in Nauvoo about not practicing polygamy. The only question is, was Joseph involved?

Either polygamy was started by Joseph and he taught them all how to lie about polygamy to protect themselves from the law, OR

Joseph was innocent of polygamy, the lie that they were not practicing polygamy in Nauvoo was abandoned in Utah, while the lie that it came from Joseph was sustained and further embellished.

Either way, everyone involved in Nauvoo polygamy lied about its practice at one point or another. They were capable of lying. They were quite capable of mass deception conducted as a group; we know because they did it. Why would it be inconceivable that they would have continued to lie when they reached Utah, especially when they had a lot to lose if they didn’t?

 6.  The cognitive dissonance of this new understanding

I have been asked how I can believe the proclamation on the family was inspired and yet reject D&C 132 as scripture. That if scriptural canon was hijacked and so many of these early leaders were lying about Joseph, it would imply that the church was, and therefore must still be in a state of apostasy. That to follow these questions through would mean I would have to reject something else in order to get things to match up. How can I be a faithful member of the church today and yet have this cognitive dissonance in my core belief system?
Is the church in apostasy? It’s quite possible. In fact, the Lord Himself told the Saints that the whole church was under condemnation for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously long before polygamy was introduced. Why did he direct the early Saints to change the name of the church? President Benson confirmed that we still remain under condemnation. For all of this, His anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.…/04/cleansing-the-inner-vessel…

It’s the gospel that is true. The church is a tool for bringing the gospel to the people. The gospel is still taught in this church. There are and have been wicked and righteous men, wheat and tares in our church since the beginning. Because of this, the philosophies of men (example: polygamy) have also been taught. Nevertheless, I do not know of any organization in the world where so much of the truth is still intact, which is why I am still a member of the church today, in spite of its imperfections. I do not bring all of these issues and facts to light to shake faith in the restoration. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God. Too many people loose sight of that when they go down the polygamy rabbit hole. It is imperative that we base our faith in the correct things. In the truth. Cling to the truth.

I do not reject everything that has been taught in our church since the polygamy days. We have had great spiritual giants in our church. Again, it is NOT an all or nothing thing. It’s not either all completely true or none of it is. I can be a Mormon and reject polygamy. Let’s look at another example.
I honor the sacrifice of our founding fathers. I despise slavery. I think it’s awesome that we have been to the moon. I can be a good American without thinking every action of the US government is amiable. In fact, as a Patriot, I have a duty to do my part to preserve our freedoms against the hands of the adversary. America is still one of the best places to live in the world, and I identify myself as an American. When America is good, I rejoice. When America is in error, I have a right, nay, a duty to voice my dissent. It has been said that all that it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.  Whose responsibility is it to keep America free?

So it is with the church. I have gained a knowledge that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I believe the proclamation on the family to be inspired. I reject polygamy. I love the Book of Mormon. Why would that necessitate cognitive dissonance?
Oh wait, I know. Is it because the leaders of the church can’t lead us astray? The man in this discussion was right, in order to reject polygamy, something else would have to give too. It is the “can’t lead us astray” philosophy that is the “something else” I have rejected. Christ is the only perfect individual who has lived, and HE is the one who cannot lead us astray. If so, He would cease to be God. But it is not the same with the leaders of the church. They have their agency, and we have the responsibility to hold them accountable if they do lead us astray, as outlined in D&C 42 and 107.
Not everything that I’ve learned about the church as a result of my studies that began with polygamy has been what I wanted to learn. Hence the reference to the painful truth Patrick Henry alludes to. But learn it we must if we wish to repent of unbelief and gain knowledge.  The glory of God is intelligence! God has given US the charge to not be led astray. It is OUR responsibility to carry his gospel to our fellow saints. The church is one of His tools for carrying forth that work. The Lord has revealed how His church should be organized, how leaders should be called by common consent, and how we as individuals must come unto Christ, seek His face, and know that He is. It is through the gospel that this work is accomplished. We have been told how to judge good seed from bad seed, good and evil, and have been give our sacred agency. We have been told to study and to learn. We have been given everything we need to return to the presence of the Lord. In that, the church is doing a fantastic job. I do not have to believe everything that is being taught to be true to the faith, true to my religion, and true to my God. Why would we be taught how to judge if we are not allowed to do so?

I rejoice that the church no longer practices polygamy today. That we reject it, and excommunicate any who are found to be practicing it.  We have turned away from that evil. I believe in second chances. I believe in repentance. I believe that the Lord was pleased when our church abandoned the practice. I believe that the strong focus of the church in strong families is good. Anything that invites us to do good and to come unto Christ comes from the Lord. That is why I believe the proclamation on the family was inspired.
I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I believe that what the Book of Mormon teaches us concerning polygamy is true, for it is a true book.  I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that he never became a fallen prophet, and I maintain that he was innocent of polygamy.  I believe that marriage between one man and one woman is the pattern that the Lord has set.  These beliefs are at the core of my religious conviction, and I will be true to them.

My journey through and out of Polygamy, Part 3

Part 3: Polygamy and Mormonism today

What would my life be like today if polygamy was still practiced in the church?

More to the point, would we have continued to practice polygamy if the U.S. government would not have dragged us away from the practice, kicking and screaming?

I think it is likely.  As a result, the missionary efforts of the church would probably have been less successful, but with my rich and encompassing polygamous heritage, I certainly would have been born in the LDS church.  And being a pretty young songbird, I think it very likely I would have caught the eye of some prominent church leader and have become a young polygamous wife. I would have been convinced easily enough- as a teenager without any prodding, I was convinced it was a good principle, only by virtue of my heritage.  And I was eager to marry and become a mother.  So I can only conclude that I would have said yes.  I would probably have been a happy mother too, even if my life would have lacked the rich romance that I have with my husband.  The disturbing reality is that I had a narrow escape.  If polygamy were legal, I would have been a part of it, and others reading this post would have been entangled in the web too.  Maybe even you.

And my husband.  What would have become of him?  Well, polygamy is great if you’re the man with several wives, but what if you are poor, what if you are not part of the elite that are given wives?  Well, do the math.  If there are 21 boys born for every 20 girls, and half of the men are given two wives, where does that put you?  Or maybe 5 of the men get 2 wives, and one guy gets 5 wives?  Regardless, somebody ends up with the short end of the stick.  Well, one of 3 things usually happens.  Either they go on a mission and do their best to convert a bride, they devote their life to labor without a wife, or they leave or are kicked out of the community.  More men were married in early Utah than anywhere else in the United States at the time, but if we still practiced polygamy today, at some point the math would have caught up with us, and I don’t know how it would have effected my husband.  Like me, he comes from solid pioneer stock.  Some of his ancestors were very influential leaders in the church, but others were very poor.

Polygamy was HARD. And not just for the women. It was hard for the men. Good men, who loved their children and were unable to spend the time they would have loved to getting to know them, unable to give them the intimate relationship they probably longed for. There were good men who gave their all to their wives, never knowing where they would sleep at night as they surrendered themselves to the decisions of the wives.  There were polygamous pigs, of course, but many of the men involved were very meek.  There were abusive men AND women.  Many wives abused the other wives.  It was hard for the children whose fathers were often away, who had to lie to law enforcement about what their name was for fear that their father hiding in the barn would be taken to prison. It was hard for the women too, in ways I do not think I need to describe in this article. I have read heartbreaking stories.  I do not doubt the sincerity of the vast majority of early saints that practiced it.  Most did it because, and ONLY because, they felt it was their duty to God.  They did it with hope for a better life to come.

My own ancestor’s accounts are extremely limited and sparse on what their own experience with polygamy was like. They only state simply that they married a 2nd, 3rd, etc wife, and that she was a good woman who gave them X amount of children, with the names and birthdates listed afterwards. After such detailed and riveting accounts of the Nauvoo years, their silence in the Utah years make me wonder why they would not write more about it. Granted, the Utah years were very hard, and it’s quite possible they never had the time. Then again, many of these recollections were written in their entirety during the sunset periods of their lives. Who knows? I suspect that perhaps they did not write about it because it wasn’t something they wanted to remember.

Regardless, they were good people, and they raised many stalwart children, and I truly honor them for it. In doing so, however, I am not bound to their religious belief in polygamy, and I hereby exercise my own freedom to believe that Joseph never taught it.  And while the patriarchs of old may have practiced it, the Bible also spells out that it was painfully difficult then too.  Polygamy may have been tolerated under the law of Moses, but was never part of God’s revealed will for His children, and was never a requirement for obtaining exaltation.

I came to this conclusion a year ago and have since that time been trying earnestly to gain a better understanding of what the ramifications of my new conclusions are. For now that are not important, and I am still in the process of seeking greater light and knowledge. I love the Lord and I seek to follow Him. I believed my conclusions were best kept private due to the controversial nature of the information.

Yet today, I find that Mormons are in the spotlight on this issue now as much as, if not more than ever before, especially as the political debate over marriage continues. We have comedians like Robin Williams saying, in reference to polygamy and our stance against gay marriage, that deferring to Mormons for marriage advice is like asking Octo-Mom to start a Planned Parenthood clinic. Can I blame them for not taking us seriously?

Then we have conservatives wondering if the Mormons want to bring polygamy back, and why that would not be a good thing, like this example.   And I know I am not the only one IN the church who wonders what they would do if polygamy became legal again. Most Christians today abhor polygamy and have no reservations fighting it. It was a little different for me because of my ancestry and ties to the Mormon church.  I have seen many articles about polygamy posted on facebook, and my fellow saints express that polygamy may be ugly, as the many current examples seem to show, but if God commanded it…  Well hey, that was the way I looked at it too quite recently.

Now I know polygamy is wrong. I am intimately aware of the heartache and pain it brought those who practiced it. Because of my heritage, I am more able than most to declare that such a course of action will bring great sorrow to any people that accept the practice and allow it to enter among them.

I for one hope it doesn’t. I have found great happiness in my family relationships. I have good parents who love each other, who love the Lord, and who love their children. I believe that marriage between one man and one woman is ordained of God. That the very first commandment to man was to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. That they would become one flesh, unified together in the common goal of serving the Lord and raising righteous children. I believe that the Proclamation on the Family was inspired by God, and that if we would live, as Nephi references, “after the manner of happiness”, we would do well to prayerfully examine this document and follow the pattern that the Lord has set.

As I was pondering these things, there was a morning not long ago that I woke up early and felt compelled to research and write about what I have learned through the years. The basic outline came as a flood and at first I set out to write. Yet I pushed the idea back. I post enough controversial ideas in public without sharing a view that goes directly against the narrative published by the LDS church. I considered publishing anonymously, or maybe saving it to share with close friends. I have wondered what might happen to my relationships with family and friends if I publish this with my name attached. I almost didn’t write it at all. Then I stumbled across this scripture, and I no longer can ignore the promptings which have compelled me write and share what I have learned.  D&C 123:

11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—

12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.

15 Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.

How can I ignore the charge to write? Let the consequence follow. Will we reject the new evidence we are privy to, which was unknown to our ancestors? What was obscure is now freely available for all to see who have eyes to see. When the decedents of the wicked priests of Noah discovered their actions, they rejected the teachings and wicked abominations of their fathers and moved forward with faith in Christ.

It has been said that a study of the uncomfortable aspects of church history should be avoided because it is not faith promoting. Promoting faith in what? People leave the church because they cannot accept a book written by a man who practiced polyandry. THAT is what is not faith promoting. Exposing darkness for what it is helps us abandon the darkness and come unto the light, unfettered by the false and vain doctrines of our fathers.

Knowing the origins of this controversy, and clearing Joseph’s name through the resulting evidence, has strengthened my testimony in the Book of Mormon and the divine calling of the prophet of the restoration more than ever.

I hope it can be that way for you too. There are so many people who leave the church when they discover the historical evidence that not all is as we were taught. I find that unfortunate because there is so much about Mormonism that I whole-heartedly embrace. It is not an all-or-nothing deal. And here-in lies the distinction between the church and the Gospel.  Even with its divine origins, the church is an earthly organization designed to foster gospel learning, and can, by it’s very nature, only be temporary.  The gospel is eternal.  The gospel circumscribes all truth into one great whole. The gospel invites us to do good, and to live after the manner of happiness, and to come unto Christ.

There are good people and bad people in every walk of life, in every sect, in every religion, in every organization. We cannot trust everyone, and we cannot even trust ourselves. That is why we will be cursed if we put our trust in the arm of flesh. We must put our trust and our faith in Jesus Christ. We must not be afraid of seeking knowledge and truth, and that includes the anecdotes of church history. As we do, however, it is important to put everything into the proper perspective. The church is still a great bastion of truth with a mission to fulfill. Indeed the very fullness of the gospel can be found in this church for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Let us move forward with faith. Let us put behind us this dark chapter of Mormon history. Let us look at how difficult polygamy really was for the early saints and rejoice in the family relationships we are encouraged to strive for today. The family is under attack from every front- in the media, in our schools, in the courts. It need not come from our own faith.  If you feel in your heart that polygamy is wrong, there’s probably a reason for that.

If you joined me for a cup of, say, HERBAL tea (wink), and asked me about my faith, I will tell you with confidence that I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I will bear my testimony that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and I will testify that the Book of Mormon in partnership with the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price have helped me draw closer to God during my search for greater gospel understanding. I will testify that God was instrumental in bringing these modern scriptures to light, and that He did this for all men, not just members of the LDS church. The Book of Mormon is a true book of scripture for all Christians, and many of other faiths have drawn inspiration from it as well.

God invites all, both bond and free, old and young, male and female, to come unto Him. The Book of Mormon will aid in that pursuit. I also testify that there is a very real and very aware adversary who would stop at nothing to halt and maim the progress of the work of God. What greater fortress is there than the family? What greater way is there for him to undermine God’s work than in weakening and undermining the family unit? How many of our dear Christian brothers and sisters have rejected the Book of Mormon, not because they do not believe in continuing revelation or modern prophets, but because they want nothing to do with something so abhorrent as polygamy? How the devil must laugh when God’s sacred book which condemns sexual immorality in all its forms is rejected, simply because good and moral people associate it with the unfavorable behavior of the early Utah saints?

Let us put off our pride. Let us denounce the sins of our past. Let us move forward. Let us come unto Christ. Maybe I’m completely wrong about Joseph, it wouldn’t be the first time, and I am no accredited scholar. But I can put two and two together, and there’s something about this polygamy thing that just doesn’t add up. But maybe a focus on 19th century polygamy isn’t as important as what we will do in the coming months and years.

The question is, what will we, as a society, do to defend, restore, and heal the divine nature of families today, in 2015 and beyond? What will we teach our children? As our freedoms corrode, will we fall into despair and adapt to the teachings of men? Do we know the revealed word of God well enough to differentiate between divine inspiration and the philosophies of men? Do we know God? When darkness comes, the light still shines. Christ employs no servant at the gate. Things are going to get hard down here on earth, but they are going to get much better too. Let us be wheat, not tares. Let us look forward with joy to the second coming of our Savior. And let us strengthen our own families as we prepare for that great day.

My journey through and out of Polygamy, Part 2

Part Two- Examining the Past.

As I began reading the Book of Mormon again, even without having answers to the difficult questions, I began to be at peace again. This book is pure. This book is true. And a man will come closer to God by abiding it’s precepts than any other book. I began sleeping well again.

But I read the book differently. I read it for myself, with a desire to truly digest the work with no preconceived notions, and taking what it said at face value.  Nephi speaks to us with plainness. He sought to know what his father knew, and God revealed it to him. His brothers sought to understand what he knew, and he told them God would tell them too if they would seek Him. But they would not, and fell into darkness. God will reveal His mysteries to all who seek to know them, line upon line, precept on precept. When we go to Him for knowledge, when we ask, we will receive. And thus began my prayerful search to understand the mysteries of God.

What are the mysteries of God?

I wanted to know what kind of being God is, and how he works his miracles. There are many interpretations as to what the mysteries of God are, but to me, the greatest mystery of all would be related to science. I never had accepted that the world was billions of years old. The bible, and the Book of Mormon teach catastrophism. There was a great hole in my understanding of the gospel because the mainstream explanation of the history of our planet just doesn’t jive with, for example, the Mormon belief that a city of Enoch was taken up to the Lord, and was visible to the inhabitants of the earth, and that the tower of Babel was made in order to reach some physical, real location visible to the inhabitants. Floating cities? We believe it. Right? But the mechanisms for such a history, wow. That’s a study I could get behind! That’s what I’ve always wanted to know about! Would God teach me if I asked Him? Are there others on this earth who understand? And how would I recognize and filter out the quackery from the truth?

During this tangent of my studies, I discovered Anthony Larson’s research and his website I was immediately fascinated and my husband and I ended up taking his classes for the sheer sake of the information he presented alone. We took his classes online and we gained so much from his patient teaching as he answered our questions and helped us grapple with such bold and dramatic information that somehow felt right.

It was Anthony’s testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith that makes this tangent study relevant to the story I am sharing today. Anthony bore his testimony that no one but a true prophet of God could have known what he knew, restore what he restored, and reveal what he revealed, at that time in history and our scientific understanding of the world, save he was exactly who he said he was. A man who knew. His testimony was electrifying for me- it resonated to my very core. Yes indeed, Joseph WAS a prophet of God. I knew it, not just believed.  Academic knowledge had confirmed what I had always believed, as I never had given up hope, even though I could not reconcile that belief with new information.

So what do I know? I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. Now I knew it more than ever!

But what about polygamy? No, what about Joseph Smith and the accusations of polyandry? Two years later I began to feel ready to address this subject again. So I began to search and read again.

First of all, my understanding of the “why” behind polygamy during my teenage years wasn’t quite right. I thought it was presented as a temporaral commandment to raise up seed. I had never done my due diligence in studying D&C 132 and had only tried to put everything into perspective based on the Book of Mormon scripture in Jacob. There were as many men as there were women in the early church. They did not practice polygamy because it helped meet their temporal needs. Polygamy was taught as an ETERNAL principle. They did it for the blessings in the world to come, a heaven where the highest order and greatest blessings were for those in polygamous relationships. The suffering through polygamy here would bring about the greatest exaltation in the next world. That’s how polygamy was taught, and it was with this belief that my ancestors and so many others entered into the practice. It was, indeed, a religious belief.  For example, Joseph F. Smith taught, as referenced in the Journal of Discourses:

“Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or nonessential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe,
that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part—and is good so far as it goes—and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefore, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself.”

Also note that while the Mormon documents on polygamy are not so libelous as the mainstream world views us, we do not officially deny that Joseph practiced polyandry. Did 14-year-old Helen Kimball marry Joseph? Yes the records say, but Wikipedia takes quotes out of context. Helen wrote of how she felt she was made to suffer unbearably, yes, that quote is widely shared. But the context for that quote was that she felt that way because she was not allowed to go to a party with her peers because she was a married woman, not because polygamy itself was so dark. And her dying testimony offered nothing but praise that she was able to participate. So take that for what it’s worth. Such information was comforting initially, but the polyandry thing still didn’t feel right, so I searched and studied more. And somewhere in my searches somebody linked to Why I’m abandoning polygamy.


The premise of this article is that Joseph Smith FOUGHT polygamy, that it did indeed start in Nauvoo against Joseph’s wishes, and that when the saints moved to Utah, they began openly practicing it.

Oh how I hoped this information could be true! Oh how I wanted it to be! It would change everything! I could hold of the Book of Mormon with pride and attest that Joseph Smith was a man of God who was perfectly morally straight and never lied in court when he proclaimed that we did not practice it. Again and again he had to defend himself in court on polygamous charges by his enemies, and never once was he convicted. I began to hope, but I needed to conduct my own research and come to my own conclusion based on the evidence, and not just what I WANTED to be true.

I wanted historical context. I wanted to know the perspective of everyone involved. I wanted to examine and cross examine. I wanted to know the TRUTH. A year later, I am still at peace with what I have discovered. I come out with this information now not because I have anything to prove, but because I feel compelled to write this for the sake of some audience that only I can reach.

So here is what I will do. I will give a broad overview of what I believe happened, share a small handful of supporting evidence, and then conclude with the very important issue of why this is important. Why it is important NOW. And why I believe I would be held accountable to my great shame if I do not stand tall now and defend not only Joseph Smith’s integrity, but more importantly, the family as it was ordained of God from the foundations of this world.

First of all, how did this happen? Where did polygamy come from?

Let’s play “What if”.

What if the church was not restored in a vacuum, but amidst a great reawakening of religion, with many different people, all converts, and all of them bringing their own ideas of what religion should be to the table?

What if many of these new converts believed in polygamy, such as the Cochranites, among others? What if they believed in it, and expected and wanted such a doctrine to be restored?

What if some of the leaders of the early church began practicing polygamy in secret in the Nauvoo years?

What if everything Joseph publicly declared against the practice and his intentions to root it out of the church were true?

What if, after the death of Joseph and their journey west to Utah, these leaders began to practice it openly, and the best way for them to get away with it was to proclaim that Joseph taught it?

What if, as the nation began to debate the morality of polygamy, contemporary to the moral debate of slavery, the Utah polygamists had to defend polygamy as a religious practice in order to defend their property and freedom from prison?

What if the women in these polygamous relationships, while not incredibly happy with their polygamous life, enjoyed the status the position of their husbands gave them, they did not want to lose their husbands to prison, to loose their material possessions, and did not want the law to declare them to be adulteresses? Enough to “lie for the Lord”, as was done in those days in many cases to the law enforcement officers. Children were taught to lie about their last names, and all kinds of deception as an act of civil disobedience. What if the testimonies brought forth for the Temple Lot case, for example, were of a similar nature?

What if indeed. That’s a lot of “what if”s. But it’s a storyline that makes a lot of sense to me. There have been mountains of testimonies and eyewitness accounts that Joseph taught polygamy. Brian Hales has compiled 3 large volumes on the subject, and his rebuttal to Waterman’s essay can be found here: Even so, Brian admits that most of the evidence seems to have sprung up when polygamy was under attack. Very, very few are contemporary. Even so, there certainly is a lot of support for polygamy. If you wish to believe in it, as I once did, there is plenty of evidence. I do not judge, although I respectfully carry my own view. Let’s look at some of the supporting evidence that Joseph truly supported monogamy.

  1. The evidence Joseph presented time and again in his own polygamous trials is the fact that the Book of Mormon teaches against polygamy, along with other scriptures and publications published under Joseph’s direction.
  2. All public statements made by Joseph Smith during his lifetime not only deny any involvement, but flatly condemn polygamy.
  3. Joseph had no problem conceiving children with Emma, and the women he was said to have married had no fertility problems, yet none of the individuals said to have been his children through these marriages are a proven genetic match. DNA tests have been done, the results are in. Every individual said to be Joseph Smith’s child through polygamous relationships are now either known to be the child of their legal father or the results are unknown. None of the otherwise single “sister wives” had any children during Joseph’s life.
  4. The Doctrine and Covenants 1835 edition, section 101, which was the edition of the scriptures published at the time of Joseph’s death, clearly addresses the objection of others that we practice polygamy and flatly rejects it. Marriages should be held in public, and they should be between one man and one woman.
  5. Emma Smith to her dying day flatly denounced any and all claims that Joseph was involved in it. Her children denounced any claims that their parents were ever at odds with each other, or that they ever saw their father even flirt with another woman. How can we overlook the testimony of the legal wife and scientifically proven biological mother of Joseph’s children?  How can we ignore the observations of his older children, who certainly would have known if something was up?
  6. Section 132’s origins are unclear, and the conditions around its publication are suspect. As the story goes, Emma destroyed the original, yet Joseph didn’t bother to make another copy? The only version available is in William Clayton’s handwriting? It languished in Brigham’s dresser drawer for several years and was conveniently found when the Utah Saints by and large began taking note and questioning the practice?  Okay… But,
  7. The writing style is different from the other sections in the D&C. It was first published years after Joseph’s death. If it was written by someone else, there was plenty of time for someone else to put something together, and it does not read like the other sections, which makes the authorship by someone else seem likely. For a detailed look at this aspect, see this writing analysis done by Enid DeBarthe.
  8. D&C 132 is riddled with inconsistency. There are verses that counter other scriptures. For example, Jacob in the Book of Mormon called David and Solomon’s act of having many wives and concubines an abomination. In D&C 132, we are told that in nothing did David sin, except in the case of Uriah and his wife. For a more detailed look into this and several more examples see this article . (I do not agree with this author on all accounts, but his research is worth noting as it helps us to ask questions.)
  9. There were 4 individuals who were said to have seen the original revelation on polygamy. They are Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Emma Smith, and William Clayton. Joseph and Hyrum were dead. Emma Smith declared the first time she heard about it was in the 1850’s in the newspaper. William Clayton’s account of the circumstances has a questionable detail in it regarding the Urim and Thumum. Clayton was also in on polygamy up to his eyeballs.  He was intimately involved.  The revelation was in his handwriting.  That doesn’t prove that he lied, but it’s his testimony against Emma.  Whose story adds up?
  10. Emma and fellow Relief Society sisters gathered more than 1,000 signatures of LDS women testifying that the LDS church was not practicing polygamy during the Nauvoo period.
  11. The Temple Lot Case.  There are some strange testimonies given by some of Joseph Smith’s supposed wives, saying that polygamy was a secret part of their religion and that they could not disclose the details of their relationship with Joseph.  Granted, others openly stated that they were Joseph’s wife “in very deed”, but it doesn’t negate the fact that some of the testimonies were fishy.  The judge seemed to think so too.  In his closing statements, the judge said that he didn’t want to say these women were lying, but given the evidence, he ruled in favor of the RLDS church.  If Joseph Smith could not be convicted of polygamy IN A COURT OF LAW, by unbiased, non-church members, before OR after his death, it seems reasonable to believe he didn’t practice it.
  12. There are known cases of historical tampering done after Joseph’s death as Clayton compiled and re-wrote the history of the church under Brigham Young’s direction. One example of this relates directly to polygamy. Perhaps you have seen the reference from Joseph Smith’s journal, dated October 5th, 1843: (changes in red)

“”Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.”

I’ve seen it before. There are many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th hand accounts of what Joseph said about polygamy, most of which came 25 years or more after Joseph’s death, but this is the ONLY first-hand account I have seen. If you have another, I’d honestly love to see it. Nevertheless it would not undermine the importance of this one, and it turns out this one was clearly altered. Originally it said something quite different:

“‘Gave instructions to try those who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives…Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.”

You can see the original manuscript yourself thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers project.  Notice that someone penciled in “To be revised” on the left, and a space was presumably given for the upcoming revision.  The revision is clearly in someone else’s handwriting.!/paperSummary/history-draft-1-march-31-december-1843&p=143

Here’s a screenshot:

altered history

Oh there’s so much more out there to support both sides of the debate. This was one of THE debates during the 19th century.  The question of polygamy was not limited to the Mormon community. Others were practicing it. But certainly the Utah polygamists were the most famous. The cousins, sons of Hyrum and Joseph Smith, were in the public spotlight as they each presented their case to the supreme court. While the state did not declare whether Joseph himself was innocent or not, the United States decided that Polygamy was NOT a good thing for society, an act worthy of punishment, for polygamy was an act that Americans by and large abhorred. It was a devastating blow to the LDS church. To my ancestors. Yet because of the official declaration, the “Manifesto” of Willford Woodruff in 1890, we declared we would stop the practice, and when 1904 Joseph Field Smith’s “second manifesto” again declared to the government that we would abandon the practice, we finally did.

What would my life be like today if it had played out otherwise?

My journey through and out of Polygamy, Part 1

Part 1: A Mormon girl’s perspective

Now, as provocative as the title may be, I wish to clarify immediately that I have never actually practiced polygamy. No sir.  Thankfully my loyal husband has one wife, and it’s me.

So from hence cometh the journey? I once came to believe in contemporary polygamy, and I no longer do.  In fact, I am very opposed to it. My journey has been a long one, full of study, sleepless nights, agonizing grief, and peaceful repentance as I came to the understanding on this issue I have today. The post may be long, but I hope you’ll stick with me through this 3-part essay.  First I will tell you what growing up in a church with polygamous roots was like, because I know my perception and misconceptions are common.  Second, I will demonstrate that it is more than likely that Joseph Smith condemned polygamy and that I believe our scriptural canon was hi-jacked.  I no longer feel a religious obligation to support it.  Third, as the question of whether polygamy should be legal is making headlines, I will spell out some of the great disadvantages that fall on any people, religious or not, who allow this abomination to be practiced among them.

I also wish to share how the knowledge I have gained has shaped my faith in the restoration. There are aspects of church history I will share that may be unfamiliar to you, and if that is the case, I especially would not want the take-away to be the first half of my message, so please stick with me. We will examine the darkness so that we may better appreciate the light.

Okay then, here’s my story.

I am a true-blue, pioneer stock Mormon. Many of my ancestors joined the church during the New York and Kirtland years, others traveled the ocean and across the plains to join the saints in Nauvoo and Utah. The most recent converts in my line joined the church and migrated to Utah over a century ago. I love family history. That love started when I was 10 and filled out my first pedigree chart as part of a Merry Miss assignment. I started reading those histories, and my love of the restoration truly blossomed during this period of my life. Great stories of sacrifice, of faith in Christ, of great miracles, wonders in the heavens, their experiences with the founding prophet, Joseph Smith, and their labor of love as they made the desert blossom as a rose. I love my pioneer heritage. I honor them. Still do.

As I learned more about these pioneers, my 12-year-old-self started noticing something strange that started to bother me. Why did they have more than one wife? I had never heard of such a thing. Why would they marry several different women, and have so many children? I mean, I came from a large family, and I really love big families, but why would a man need to take care of 27 kids, or in the case of one of my ancestors, 63? I asked about it and thus began my journey through polygamy.

My husband and I were both taught as children that plural marriage was a principle revealed through Brigham Young. Our parents, youth teachers, and peers all conveyed this message to us. I remember touring Nauvoo at 12 and hearing the tour guides explain it that way.

Abraham practiced polygamy, after all. God revealed the principle in our day, for a few select members of the church to practice. I initially thought it was a wide-spread practice in the early church, but in fact it was a very small percentage that did. It just affected a lot of people because those who did practice it had much larger families, as many as half of the individuals had a polygamous relationship somewhere in their family. I’ve got a LOT of polygamy in my family lines. Not to mention one of my ancestor’s first cousin was Brigham Young. This practice is in my blood, no question about it. So while polygamy may have been an uncomfortable topic, I had a profound respect and admiration for my progenitors. Luckily polygamy is no longer practiced today, so I didn’t have much to worry about anyway, right? Besides, it’s really fun to be related to so many people. Oh, your last name is Suchandsuch, are you related to Johnny? Me too, I’m from the first wife, how about you?

One ancestor’s several wives marked the beginning of my discomfort with polygamy. I could get behind polygamy being a revelation from God for a few families. Okay. But this man was this amazing, stalwart pioneer. He was in the Mormon battalion. He was a body guard for Joseph Smith. He was present at many of the early church events and was often one of the first to step forward and say “I’ll go!” This man was pretty awesome. But when I learned that he had 7 wives, and that he was 50 when he married the last one, aged 15, and had 11 children with her, I felt sick to my stomach. I’ve never, ever felt comfortable about that relationship. I mean, maybe she was poor, and he was well off, and her needs were very well provided for.  Maybe she felt like Cinderella, going to live in a fancy house. And sure, his youngest child was 2 when he died at 80 and never really knew their dad, but how cool to know who their dad was, and to have that heritage to tell their future generations, and there were plenty of big brothers to serve as male role models. Right? That’s how I have tried to justify it in my mind, but the truth is, this part of my family history has always made me feel very uncomfortable.  To say it happened is one thing, people do things after all.  But I was never at a place where I could look someone in the eye and declare that they only did it because of revelation. But it is what it is, and it happened over a century ago. So I try to focus on living the gospel in my own life, and try to ignore polygamy.

But it’s still there.  All my life I’ve been told not to worry about polygamy because we don’t do it anymore, but it’s still a part of our scriptural cannon. And there has always been talk of the possibility of the practice being reinstated sometime in the future. If it could happen then, it can happen again.

So I’ve grappled with the question, would I be willing to do it if called upon? Would I be willing to share a husband with my sister? With my best friend? With someone I didn’t get along with at all, but my husband found attractive? With some ditsy girl that needed someone to help take care of her children through a previous marriage? If God commanded, would I be willing to do that? I was 16. Would I be willing to be wife #5 to a senior citizen who held a prominent role in the community, even though his first wife is old enough to be my grandma? Would I? Well, I do love the Lord. And I love the bible. And I love the Book of Mormon. If I would be willing to give my life and be a martyr for Christianity, would I not be willing to live my life, even if it meant sacrificing my own happiness in the process? I grappled with these questions. They were only hypothetical, “what if” questions, but I felt I had to honestly address them in order to be honest with myself and my faith. Ultimately, I decided that I would be willing to do whatever God asked me to do. Even polygamy. I even told my husband as much once we were married. We’ve had uncomfortable but frank “what if” discussions of our own. We are both SO GLAD that we are not asked to live this law! But we wish to obey God in all things, and we would do it if we felt God commanded it.

And so I gained peace with this small aspect of my religion. After all, there is so much more to the gospel, so much work to be done in the community, and so many wonderful things to participate in. Plenty to keep me busy and content, and I was. There are so many things in the gospel that bring happiness and joy to my life!

Then about 4 years ago a new wrench was thrown in to the works.  Exposure to the history books stating that it was Joseph Smith, and not Brigham Young that started polygamy in the church. Wait, what? I had always been told it was Brigham. Well, no matter, a revelation is a revelation. I had already accepted polygamy to some extent, so I could accept it coming from Joseph.  Maybe you already knew that, but I didn’t, and neither did my husband.

What really cut me to the core though was the reported polyandry. Polyandry is when a woman has multiple husbands. Not only did Joseph marry a very young Helen Kimball, but he also approached married women and they were sealed as his spiritual wives (weddings said to be consummated), while still married to their former husbands. At first I didn’t believe it. I mean, growing up I had heard that Joseph had gone to court many times on false charges, surely something like this would be an example of that, right? I couldn’t wait to prove this accusation wrong to myself as I dug into the articles on fairmormon.

To my dismay, family history search lists several wives, not just Emma. And the apologetic articles confirm that it was Joseph, not Brigham that introduced the practice into the church, albeit in secret.

I couldn’t sleep. I had a hard time focusing on anything but this topic.  On the one hand, the idea of polyandry is completely repulsive to me.  Would God command it?  It seems more likely a wicked man would abuse religion to commit adultery.  But Joseph Smith, a wicked man?  I love the prophet Joseph! Always have. I looked up to him with the deepest respect and honor how he selflessly sacrificed again and again for the church. The man who was tarred and feathered and ultimately killed for his beliefs.  That Joseph Smith?

Somehow I was more comfortable with polygamy coming through Brigham than the beloved prophet of the restoration. Why?  Because as a child I asked people WHY polygamy was instituted in the first place. I received many speculative answers, myths really, but the general consensus was that frontier life was hard and there were more women than men in the Utah church. Or that there was a sharp division between the rich and the poor in Utah, and that by the affluent marrying the poor, it helped stabilize the economy, making things more common among them.  Oh, and in those days, girls simply married younger. Well, these are perhaps benefits of polygamy, assuming there really were more women, or you’re not one of the poor chaps left without a girl to marry.

In the book of Jacob, chapter two it has been interpreted to say that if polygamy is commanded, and that’s a big IF because God delights in the chastity of women, it would be for the purpose of raising up righteous seed. So… In Utah we were starting new colonies and we needed more children in order to survive the harsh frontier, right? So polygamy COULD have made sense in Utah.  Maybe. But all of that reasoning fell down like a house of cards if it was Joseph who introduced the practice. Try as I might, I could not see how/why it would have been necessary in the thriving community of Nauvoo.

And this polyandry stuff? I just couldn’t bite it.

If God commanded my husband to take a second wife because of her great charitable need, I could maybe get behind that. But if the president of the church came and told me that I was really supposed to be the wife of a member of the 70’s in my stake and that our family would be blessed for our sacrifice, well, I just couldn’t accept something like that as coming from God. Why would he do that when I already have a loving husband, and our children need HIM in their lives? How could I abandon the husband of my youth in such a way?  That’s not the God that I know.

Oh the turmoil this teaching took me through! How can I believe that something that goes against every fiber of my sense of morality came from God? But I know the Book of Mormon is true, and if that came from Joseph Smith and has brought such happiness to my life, how can I reject it? Yet how can I honor the Book of Mormon if it came from a man who would take another man’s wife as his own? I just couldn’t accept such an act as being commanded of God, but I also could not fathom that something so plain and precious as the book of Mormon could come from any source than precisely where it claims to be from: An ancient text, written by prophets who lived on the American continent, translated by a man who communed with God.

How could I rectify my faith?

I prayed.


I had never prayed with such fervent pleas for understanding as I did at this time. “Please God, strengthen my faith. I am willing to accept hard truths, but above all, I wish to know the real truth. I wish to know Thy will for my life. I devote my life to THEE. Please help me as I grapple with these uncomfortable parts of church history, and help me find the peace that was mine two months ago before I learned these things. I am not sorry that I have learned more, but with all that I learn, help me gain understanding, and to place everything in the proper context.”

“It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”                           —-Patrick Henry

And if I, a daughter of liberty, am willing to know the awfulness of our nation’s state, to learn things which so nearly concern my temporal salvation, how can I, a Christian, not attend to things that so nearly concern my spiritual salvation, my standing with God, and my eternal progression? No indeed. Let me know the truth, and let me be one with God.

As I prayed, the answers did come. And the answer was quite simple. Yes, you will come to know the truth, and it is not wrong for you to want to know. But first, you must remember what you already know. You must STRENGTHEN YOUR TESTIMONY in what you already know. You must reaffirm your faith in the gospel, and as you study with real intent, you will be ready and prepared to learn the truth behind these issues.

And so I began to read the Book of Mormon again.