Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Index/Chapter 2

Response to claims made in "Chapter 2" (pp. 52-107)


A work by author: George D. Smith

Response to claim: 53 - the author notes that Joseph "recommended his friend, whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married, should 'come a little a head, and nock…at the window'"

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

Referring again to the Whitney letter, the author notes that Joseph "recommended his friend, whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married, should 'come a little a head, and nock…at the window.'"

Author's sources:
  • Smith, Letter to "Brother and Sister [Newel K.] Whitney, and &c.," Nauvoo, Illinois, Aug. 18, 1842, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake:
The author commonly exploits the presentist fallacy in the matter of Joseph's wives' ages. The author also contradicts himself on p. 65: "Joseph requested that Sarah Ann Whitney visit him and ‘nock at the window...."

Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review) Whitney "love letter" (edit)

Ages of wives (edit)

Question: Did Joseph Smith write a "love letter" to his plural wife Sarah Ann Whitney to request a secret rendezvous?

On 18 August 1842, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney, who had become his plural wife three weeks earlier, asking them to visit him while he was in hiding.

Critics of the Church would have us believe that this is a private, secret "love letter" from Joseph to Sarah Ann, however, Joseph wrote this letter to the Whitney's, addressing it to Sarah's parents. The "matter" to which he refers is likely the administration of ordinances rather than the arrangement of some sort of private tryst with one of his plural wives. Why would one invite your bride's parents to such an encounter? Joseph doesn't want Emma gone because he wants to be alone with Sarah Ann—a feat that would be difficult to accomplish with her parents there—he wants Emma gone either because she is opposed to plural marriage (the contention that would result from an encounter between Emma and the Whitney's just a few weeks after Joseph's sealing to Sarah Ann would hardly be conducive to having the spirit present in order to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads"), or because she may have been followed or spied upon by Joseph's enemies, putting either Joseph or the Whitneys in danger.

The Prophet was in hiding as a result of the assassination attempt that had been made on Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs

On the 16th of August, 1842, while Joseph was in hiding at the Sayer's, Emma expressed concern for Joseph's safety. She sent a letter to Joseph in which she noted,

There are more ways than one to take care of you, and I believe that you can still direct in your business concerns if we are all of us prudent in the matter. If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

It is evident that there was concern on Emma's part that Joseph's hiding place would be discovered because of all the people visiting Joseph, particularly if they were in the company of Emma

Joseph wrote the next day in his journal,

Several rumors were afloat in the city, intimating that my retreat had been discovered, and that it was no longer safe for me to remain at Brother Sayers'; consequently Emma came to see me at night, and informed me of the report. It was considered wisdom that I should remove immediately, and accordingly I departed in company with Emma and Brother Derby, and went to Carlos Granger's, who lived in the north-east part of the city. Here we were kindly received and well treated." (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, pp. 117-118)

The next day, while in hiding at the Granger's, Joseph wrote a letter to three members of the Whitney family inviting them to come visit him

The letter is addressed to "Brother and Sister Whitney, and &c." Scholars agree that the third person referred to was the Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann, to whom Joseph had been sealed in a plural marriage, without Emma's knowledge, three weeks prior. The full letter, with photographs of the original document, was published by Michael Marquardt in 1973, [1] and again in 1984 by Dean C. Jessee in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. [2] The complete text of the letter reads as follows (original spelling has been retained):

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

Some critics point to this letter as evidence the Joseph wrote a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann, requesting that she visit him while he was in seclusion. Others believe that the letter was a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring their daughter to him so that he could obtain "comfort," with the implication that "comfort" involved intimate relations.


Question: How do critics of the Church portray Joseph Smith's letter to the Whitney family as a "love letter"?

Critical treatments of the letter: Was this a "love" letter to Sarah Ann?

Did Joseph Smith write a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney? Was this letter a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring her to Joseph? Was Joseph trying to keep Sarah Ann and Emma from encountering one another? Certain sentences extracted from the letter might lead one to believe one or all of these things. Critics use this to their advantage by extracting only the portions of the letter which support the conclusions above. We present here four examples of how the text of the letter has been employed by critics in order to support their position that Joseph was asking the Whitney's to bring Sarah Ann over for an intimate encounter. The text of the full letter is then examined again in light of these treatments.

Critical presentation #1

Consider the following excerpt from a website that is critical of the Church. Portions of the Whitney letter are extracted and presented in the following manner:

... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith.
—’’Rethinking Mormonism’’, “Did Joseph Smith have sex with his wives?” (Web page)

This certainly has all of the elements of a secret “love letter:” The statement that it would not be safe if Emma were there, the request to “burn this letter as soon as you read it,” and the stealthy instructions for approaching the house. The question is, who was this letter addressed to? The critics on their web site clearly want you to believe that this was a private letter to Sarah Ann.

Critical presentation #2

Here is the way that Van Wagoner presents selected excerpts of the same letter. In this case, at least, he acknowledges that the letter was addressed to “the Whitney’s,” rather than Sarah, but adds his own opinion that it “detailed [Joseph’s] problems in getting to see Sarah Ann without Emma's knowledge:”

My feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us ... if you three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me, now is the time to Afford me succor ... the only thing to be careful is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety.
—Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 48.

Critical presentation #3

This version, presented by George D. Smith, presents excerpts from the letter which makes it sound like Joseph was absolutely lusting for the company of Sarah Ann. Smith even makes Napoleon Bonaparte a Joseph Smith doppelgänger by quoting a letter from the future Emperor to Josephine of their first night together:

"I have awakened full of you. The memory of last night has given my senses no rest. . . . What an effect you have on my heart! I send you thousands of kisses—but don’t kiss me. Your kisses sear my blood” (p. xi). George Smith then claims that a “young man of ambition and vision penned his own letter of affection to a young woman. It was the summer of 1842 when thirty-six-year-old Joseph Smith, hiding from the law down by the Mississippi River in Illinois, confessed:"

Smith then compares the excerpts from Napoleon's letter above to portions of the Whitney letter:

My feelings are so strong for you . . . come and see me in this my lonely retreat . . . now is the time to afford me succour . . . I have a room intirely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect saf[e]ty, I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me.
—George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Polygamy: We Called It Celestial Marriage,” Free Inquiry [Council for Secular Humanism] 28/3 (April–May 2008): 44–46.

Critical presentation #4

Finally, we have a version which acknowledges the full contents of the letter...but only after presenting it in the manner described above numerous times. The author eventually provides the full text of this letter (150 pages after its comparison with Napoleon). Since there are no extant "love letters" from Joseph Smith to any of his plural wives, the mileage that the author of Nauvoo Polygamy..."but we called it celestial marriage" extracts from the single letter to the Whitney's is simply astounding:

  • "[i]t was eleven years after the Smiths roomed with the Whitneys that Joseph expressed a romantic interest in their daughter, as well." (p. 31)
  • "recommended his friend, whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married, should 'come a little a head, and nock…at the window.'" (p. 53)
  • "Emma Hale, Joseph's wife of fifteen years, had left his side just twenty-four hours earlier. Now Joseph declared that he was "lonesome," and he pleaded with Sarah Ann to visit him under cover of darkness. After all, they had been married just three weeks earlier. (p. 53)
  • "As will be seen, conjugal visits appear furtive and constantly shadowed by the threat of disclosure." (p. 63)
  • “when Joseph requested that Sarah Ann Whitney visit him and ‘nock at the window,’ he reassured his new young wife that Emma would not be there, telegraphing his fear of discovery if Emma happened upon his trysts.” (p. 65)
  • "Three weeks after the wedding, Joseph took steps to spend some time with his newest bride." (p. 138)
  • "It was the ninth night of Joseph's concealment, and Emma had visited him three times, written him several letters, and penned at least one letter on his behalf…For his part, Joseph's private note about his love for Emma was so endearing it found its way into the official church history. In it, he vowed to be hers 'forevermore.' Yet within this context of reassurance and intimacy, a few hours later the same day, even while Joseph was still in grave danger and when secrecy was of the utmost urgency, he made complicated arrangements for a visit from his fifteenth plural wife, Sarah Ann Whitney." (p. 142)
  • "Smith urged his seventeen-year-old bride to 'come to night' and 'comfort' him—but only if Emma had not returned….Joseph judiciously addressed the letter to 'Brother, and Sister, Whitney, and &c." (p. 142-143)
  • "Invites Whitneys to visit, Sarah Ann to 'comfort me' if Emma not there. Invitation accepted." (p.. 147)
  • "As if Sarah Ann Whitney's liaison were not enough…another marriage took place…." (p. 155)
  • "summer 1842 call for an intimate visit from Sarah Ann Whitney…substantiate[s] the intimate relationships he was involved in during those two years." (p. 185)
  • “his warning to Sarah Ann to proceed carefully in order to make sure Emma would not find them in their hiding place.” (p. 236)
  • "Just as Joseph sought comfort from Sarah Ann the day Emma departed from his hideout…." (p. 236)
  • "Elizabeth [Whitney] was arranging conjugal visits between her daughter, Sarah Ann, and [Joseph]…." (p. 366)

One must assume that this is the closest thing that the author could find to a love letter, because the "real" love letters from Joseph to his plural wives do not exist. The author had to make do with this one, despite the fact that it did not precisely fit the bill. With judicious pruning, however, it can be made to sound sufficiently salacious to suit the purpose at hand: to "prove" that Joseph lusted after women.

The full story

In contrast to the sources above, Compton actually provides the complete text of the letter up front, and concludes that "[t]he Mormon leader is putting the Whitney's in the difficult position of having to learn about Emma's movements, avoid her, then meet secretly with him" and that the "cloak-and-dagger atmosphere in this letter is typical of Nauvoo polygamy." [3]

What parts of the Whitney letter do the critics not mention?

As always, it is helpful to view the entire set of statements in content. Let's revisit the entire letter, this time with the selections extracted by the critics highlighted:

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

So, let’s take a look at the portions of the letter that are not highlighted.

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

The letter is addressed to “Brother and Sister Whitney.” Sarah Ann is not mentioned by name, but is included as “&c.,” which is the equivalent of saying “and so on,” or “etc.” This hardly implies that what follows is a private “love letter” to Sarah Ann herself.

Could this have been an appeal to Sarah's parents to bring her to Joseph? In Todd Compton's opinion, Joseph "cautiously avoids writing Sarah's name." [4] However, Joseph stated in the letter who he wanted to talk to:

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams;

Joseph wants to talk to “you three,” meaning Newel, Elizabeth and Sarah Ann.


Question: What was the real purpose of the letter written by Joseph Smith to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney?

The one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics

Interestingly enough, the one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics:

..one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me...

According to Richard L. Bushman, this may have been "a reference perhaps to the sealing of Newel and Elizabeth in eternal marriage three days later." [5] Compton adds, "This was not just a meeting of husband and plural wife, it was a meeting with Sarah's family, with a religious aspect. [6]

Joseph needed to have the company of friends who supported him

In addition to the stated purpose of the meeting, Joseph "may have been a lonely man who needed people around him every moment." [7] Consider this phrase (included in Van Wagoner's treatment, but excluded by the others):

...it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am al[l]ied, do love me, now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile. (emphasis added)

These are not the words of a man asking his secret lover to meet him for a private tryst—they are the words of a man who wants the company of friends.

"...when Emma comes then you cannot be safe"

So, what about Emma? The letter certainly contains dire warnings about having the Whitney's avoid an encounter with Emma. We examine several possible reasons for the warning about Emma. Keep in mind Emma's stated concern just two days prior,

If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

Joseph wished to discuss and/or perform a sealing ordinance that Emma had not yet received

Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks before without Emma's knowledge.[8] Joseph may have wished to offer a sealing blessing to Newel and Elizabeth Whitney at this time. Given Joseph's indication to the Whitneys that he wished to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads," and the fact that Emma herself was not sealed until she consented to the doctrine of plural marriage nine months later, Joseph may have felt that Emma’s presence would create an uncomfortable situation for all involved—particularly if she became aware of his sealing to Sarah Ann.

Joseph wished to avoid involving his friends in case he were found by those looking for him

If Joseph was in hiding, he had good reason to avoid being found (hence the request to burn the letter that disclosed his location). He would also not want his friends present in case he were to be found. Anyone that was searching for Joseph knew that Emma could lead them to him if they simply observed and followed her. If this were the case, the most dangerous time for the Whitney's to visit Joseph may have been when Emma was there—not necessarily because Emma would have been angered by finding Sarah Ann (after all, Emma did not know about the sealing, and she would have found all three Whitney's there—not just Sarah Ann), but because hostile men might have found the Whitney's with Joseph. Note that Joseph's letter states that "when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible." Joseph wanted the Whitneys to avoid observation by anyone, and not just by Emma.


Response to claim: 53 - "The prophet then poured out his heart, writing to his newest wife: 'My feelings are so strong for you…now is the time to afford me succour….I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me now'"

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: The prophet then poured out his heart, writing to his newest wife: "My feelings are so strong for you…now is the time to afford me succour….I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me now."

Author's sources: *Whitney letter, Aug. 18, 1842.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake:
Joseph is speaking to all three Whitneys, and the author again distorts the letter as at the beginning of the book.

Whitney "love letter" (edit)

53

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Emma Hale, Joseph's wife of fifteen years, had left his side just twenty-four hours earlier. Now Joseph declared that he was "lonesome," and he pleaded with Sarah Ann to visit him under cover of darkness. After all, they had been married just three weeks earlier.

Author's source(s)
  • Whitney letter, Aug. 18, 1842.
Whitney "love letter" (edit) Response

54

Claim
  •  Author's quote: “Did Sarah Ann keep this rendezvous on that humid summer night? Unfortunately, the documentary record is silent.” But “the letter survives to illuminate the complexity of Smith’s life in Nauvoo."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Whitney "love letter" (edit) Response

54

Claim
  • The author states that what interested him the most was how Joseph "went about courting…these women."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Womanizing & romance (edit) Response

55

Claim
  • It is claimed that when polygamy was officially abandoned in 1890, that "what previously had been called 'celestial marriage' was subtly redefined to specify something new: marriage performed in LDS temples for this life and for an expected eternal afterlife."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Necessary for salvation? (edit)
  • See also ch. Preface: xiv
  • See also ch. 1: 6
  • See also ch. 2: 55
  • See also ch. 6: 356
Response

55

Claim
  • Plural marriage is claimed to have originally been a "key principle" of exaltation, "but by adaption, celestial marriage was still said to be required, only now it meant monogamy rather than polygamy."

Author's source(s)
Necessary for salvation? (edit)
  • See also ch. Preface: xiv
  • See also ch. 1: 6
  • See also ch. 2: 55
  • See also ch. 6: 356
Response

55

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Despite his crowded daily schedule, the prophet interrupted other activities for secret liaisons with women and girls…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Womanizing & romance (edit) Response

55

Claim
  • The author notes that Joseph "assured the women and their families that such unions were not only sanctioned but were demanded by heaven and fulfilled the ethereal principle of 'restoration.'"

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response

56

Claim
  • The author assumes that "[t]here may have been even more wives and plural children."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Fallacy of probability (edit)
  • See also ch. 2: 56
  • See also ch. 2a: 111
Response

57

Claim
  • The author notes that History of the Church says nothing about Nauvoo on the day of Louisa Beaman's marriage to Joseph.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Censorship of Church History (edit) Response

63

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "As will be seen, conjugal visits appear furtive and constantly shadowed by the threat of disclosure."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Whitney "love letter" (edit) Response
  • This is pure assumption on the part of the author—he provides no such evidence save his own repeated representation of the Whitney letter.

65

Claim
  •  Author's quote: “when Joseph requested that Sarah Ann Whitney visit him and ‘nock at the window,’ he reassured his new young wife that Emma would not be there, telegraphing his fear of discovery if Emma happened upon his trysts.”

Author's source(s)
  • No citation given
  •  History unclear or in error
Whitney "love letter" (edit) Response

65

Claim
  • The author claims that "[o]ne of the instrumental people in the inauguration of plural marriage was John [C.] Bennett…."

Author's source(s)
  • Author's opinion.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • A huge leap, presuming that Bennett's adulteries were ever sanctioned by Joseph, or had anything to do with plural marriage.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • The author notes that in 1841, John C. Bennett was Joseph Smith's "closest confident."  [ATTENTION!]

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Ignores that Joseph began to distrust him for cause long before their public rupture.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • It is claimed that Joseph was "sharing power" with Bennett.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Bennett's power was mainly secular. He did little in the religious realm. Joseph had wanted to be relieved of temporal responsibilities, and Bennett was available.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • It is claimed that in 1842, John C. Bennett spoke out against Joseph "and was soon stripped of his offices and titles."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Bennett was guilty of serial immoralities, and had been disciplined on multiple occasions. He only "spoke out" once he learned that he was to be stripped of membership in the Church.
  • The author has cause and effect reversed, perhaps because he doesn't want us to know of the overwhelming evidence of Bennett's guilt.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • It is claimed that John C. Bennett and Joseph each "accused the other of immoral behavior."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Bennett was accused by far more people, over a far greater length of time, of "immoral behavior." Many of his accusers were not LDS and had nothing to do with the Mormons.
  • Bennett only began to accuse Joseph once his own crimes were repeatedly revealed.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • The author attempts to rehabilitate John C. Bennett by claiming: "While some of his claims may have been exaggerations, much of what he reported can be confirmed by other eyewitness accounts."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Many of Bennett's claims are clearly false.
  • The author uses Bennett uncritically, and naively.
  • The things which Bennett can "confirm" are mostly things like names of people Joseph married.
  • Bennett also clearly forged some material from others.
  • John C. Bennett

65

Claim
  • Yet more attempt to make Bennett a credible witness: "Even though his statements must be weighed critically, he cannot be merely dismissed as an unfriendly source who fabricated scandal."

Author's source(s)
  • Author's opinion.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author never does this weighing for us.
  • Much of what he writes, after analysis, must be dismissed as fabrication or exaggeration, however.
  • Even anti-Mormon authors warned of Bennett's problems:
"There is, no doubt, much truth in Bennett's book…but no statement that he makes can be received with confidence." [9]

65

Claim
  • The author claims that "Bennett had an ambitious but colorful background."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • This hides a mountain of evidence about Bennett's pre-LDS behavior, including:
    • repeatedly using others' names to fraudulently support the establishment of medical colleges
    • selling bogus medical diplomas
    • selling bogus diplomas in other fields (e.g., law)
    • lying and misrepresentation
    • serial adulteries and infidelities
    • abandonment of wife and children
  • John C. Bennett

66-67

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Writing on March 23, 1846, Bennett claimed to have known 'Joseph better than any other man living for at least fourteen months!'….Bennett was well positioned to know all about any behind-the-scenes transactions.

Author's source(s)
  • Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 56.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author here accepts Bennett uncritically.
  • Despite his claim, he was never part of the inner circle which received the highest temple ordinances introduced by Joseph. Bennett and Rigdon "were conspicuously absent" when Joseph Smith spoke to those who would be among the first to receive the full endowment necessary "to finish their work and prevent imposition" by Satan.
  • Bennett had secular influence, but relatively little to do with religious matters in Nauvoo:
"Thus, the considerable embarrassment to Joseph Smith and Mormonism which some have inferred from Bennett's alleged duping of the Mormons is cast in a new light because Bennett himself so effectively refutes his own claim that he was a close confidant of Joseph Smith. Unwittingly, Bennett indisputably demonstrates that he was neither directly involved with the endowment, eternal marriage, nor plural marriage—the most significant private theological developments during Bennett's stay in Nauvoo. [10]

68

Claim
  • The author claims that Joseph is merely “feigning impartiality” before going on to practice “undemocratic block voting.”

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Bloc voting (edit)
  • See also ch. 1: 2
  • See also ch. 2: 68
  • See also ch. 4: 292–293
See NOTE on bloc voting
Response
  • Block voting is not undemocratic—many interest groups vote en masse for candidates which will meet their needs.
  • Joseph was not feigning when he said, "We care not a fig for a Whig or Democrat….We shall go for our friends." (p. 68) He was indicating that party made no difference to the Saints; what mattered is who would agree to defend them.
  • Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Loaded and prejudicial language

69

Claim
  • The author notes that Joseph was apparently "undeterred" by reports of a negative assessment of Bennett, and proceeded to name him Assistant President of the Church.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Joseph knew from personal experience that "it is no uncommon thing for good men to be evil spoken against," and did nothing precipitous.
  • The accusations against Bennett gained credence when Joseph learned of his attempts to persuade a young woman "that he intended to marry her." Joseph dispatched Hyrum Smith and William Law to make inquiries, and in early July 1841 he learned that Bennett had a wife and children living in the east. Non-LDS sources confirmed Bennett's infidelity: one noted that he "heard it from almost every person in town that [his wife] left him in consequence of his ill treatment of her home and his intimacy with other women." Another source reported that Bennett's wife "declared that she could no longer live with him…it would be the seventh family that he had parted during their union."
  • John C. Bennett

69

Claim
  • It is noted that John C. Bennett was Assistant President of the Church.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Sidney Rigdon, a counselor in the First Presidency, was frequently ill. On April 8, "John C. Bennett was presented, with the First Presidency, as Assistant President until President Rigdon's health should be restored." Modern readers should be cautious in projecting the role of the current First Presidency on Joseph's day. In the modern Church, the First Presidency is almost always composed of two apostles who have extensive experience in ecclesiastical affairs called to serve with the President. In Joseph's day, this was not the case. Most of Joseph's counselors in the First Presidency were to betray his trust, including Jesse Gause, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, William Law and John C. Bennett. While some of these counselors received keys, Bennett did not. None were apostles prior to their call.
  • John C. Bennett
  • Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Presentism

69

Claim
  • It is claimed that John C. Bennett had religious influence by being Assistant President of the Church.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • [This is not stated baldly, but some readers might be confused.]
  • With few exceptions, Bennett "played little role in church conferences. There might have been an unofficial division of labor between Bennett and Smith. Smith handled church affairs; Bennett took the lead in secular matters."
  • John C. Bennett

70

Claim
  • The author claims that Joseph Smith and John C. Bennett remained confidants until about March the next year (1842)

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
  •  History unclear or in error
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Bennett was confronted with the charges mentioned above in the summer of 1841.
  • When confronted with these charges, Bennett broke down and confessed. Emma's nephew, Lorenzo D. Wasson, claimed to have been upstairs and heard Joseph "give J. C. Bennett a tremendous flagellation for practicing iniquity under the base pretence of authority from the heads of the church." Claiming to be mortified at the idea of public censure, Bennett took poison in a suicide gesture, but recovered.
  • John C. Bennett

70

Claim
  • It is claimed that there seemed to be "no office or honor within reach that Smith did not hasten to grant to Bennett."

Author's source(s)
  •  History unclear or in error
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • This is false: Bennett was never inducted into the "Quorum of the Anointed"—those who were receiving the temple endowment from Joseph (see above, 66-67).
  • He was also never made an apostle.
  • John C. Bennett

70

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Zina Huntington, who married Henry Jacobs instead but then reconsidered seven months later in response to Joseph's restated interest."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response

70-71 - "Joseph soon after married Zina's sister, Presendia, who was also already married"

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Seemingly impatient, Joseph soon after married Zina's sister, Presendia, who was also already married."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Question: What did the husband of Presendia L. Huntington know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Presendia's husband Norman left the Church, and since she was unable to be sealed for eternity to her earthly husband, she was sealed to Joseph Smith instead

Presendia Huntington was married to Norman Buell when she was sixteen years old. Both Presendia and Norman originally joined the Church, but Norman later left it while Presendia remained a believing member. Since she was unable to be sealed for eternity to her earthly husband, she was sealed to Joseph Smith instead. Presendia's 1881 biography notes her husband's rejection of the Church as the reason she decided to be sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity,

I was maried to Norman Buell Jan 6th 1827. both joined the Church in in [sic] Kirtland Geauga Co Ohio he left the church in Mo in 1839 the Lord gave me strength to stand alone & keep the faith amid heavy persecution in 1841 I entered into the new & everlasting Covenant was sealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet & Seer & to the best of my ability I have honored Plural Marriage never speking one word against the principal. [11]

An affidavit signed by Presendia on May 1, 1869 states:

Be it remembered that on this first day of May A.D. 1869 personally appeared before me Elias Smith Probate Judge for Said County Presenda Lathrop Huntington \Kimball/ who was by me Sworn in due form of law and upon her oath saith, that on the eleventh day of December A.D. 1841, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by Dimick B. Huntington, a High-Priest in Said Church, according to the laws of the Same regulating Marriage; in the presence of Fanny Maria Huntington. [12]

A biography of Presendia L. Huntington may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


71

Claim
  • The author notes that "Bennett alleged that during the summer and fall of 1841, Smith made unsuccessful advances toward Apostle Orson Pratt's wife, Sarah."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author does not tell us that Sarah and Bennett were probably having an affair, as witnessed by LDS and non-LDS witnesses, and a plausible time-line.
  • John C. Bennett

71

Claim
  • It is notes that "[w]hatever the accuracy of the quotes [i.e., Bennett's claims] the two men [Orson and Joseph] quarrelled…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • The author here avoids the necessity of dealing with the problems in Bennett's account.
  • John C. Bennett

71

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "…the important aspect of this incident is that it tells us less about Bennett's motive in recalling this dispute and more about Orson's willingness to support his wife over his religious leader…."

Author's source(s)
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • "Recalling" assumes that Bennett's account is truthful, and not fabricated. This has not been demonstrated.
  • John C. Bennett

71

Claim
  • The author concludes that Joseph believe that Sarah Pratt "had been wrong to reject him—and that she had failed the test. The defiance she exhibited ultimately led to alienation with her husband…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author again says nothing about Sarah and Bennett's affair, which probably had something to do with her "alienation."
  • John C. Bennett

72

Claim
  • The author notes that Orson Pratt eventually accepted Joseph's explanation "that he merely wanted to test Sarah's obedience, and was not seriously courting this married woman."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • The author does not tell us that Orson eventually believed Sarah and Bennett had misled him, saying he was first informed by "a wicked source, from those disaffected, but as soon as he learned the truth he was satisfied." [13] He presents no evidence for what explanation Joseph gave Orson, or what Orson believed.
  • John C. Bennett

72

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Meanwhile, Bennett seems to have followed his leader in courting several women himself."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author is here presuming that Bennett imitated Joseph.
  • Bennett was also involved in operating a prostitution ring and house of ill repute in Nauvoo. [14]
  • John C. Bennett

72

Claim
  • The author claims that John C. Bennett resigned from the church on May 17, 1842.

Author's source(s)
  • Andrew Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 86–89. (Note that The author does not properly represent the source's contents.)
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  •  History unclear or in error: In fact, Bennett was forced to resign by Joseph, who wrote to the Church recorder: "be so good as to permit Bennett to withdraw his name from the Church record, if he desires to do so, and this with the best of feelings towards…General Bennett." [15]
  • John C. Bennett

72

Claim
  • It is claimed that Bennett was excommunicated from the Church in "retaliation."

Author's source(s)
  •  History unclear or in error
  • Andrew Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 86–89.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • This was not in retaliation, since Joseph had pushed for Bennett's resignation.
  • A high council trial of Chauncey Higbee concluded on May 24, at which it became clear that Higbee had been seducing women under Bennett's direction.
  • Bennett was told that his withdrawal from the Church would be made public. Bennett once more begged for mercy, claiming that public exposure would distress his mother. [16] Joseph again deferred a public announcement, and Bennett would soon also make confession to the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. Weeping, Bennett pleaded for leniency, with Joseph as his advocate. [17] Even Joseph's patience had an end, however. It soon became clear that still other members had used Bennett's arguments to seduce women—his excommunication was made public on 15 June. The Masonic Lodge published Bennett's crimes the next day. [18] His Nauvoo reputation in tatters, Bennett left and began plotting his revenge.
  • John C. Bennett

72

Claim
  • John C. Bennett claimed that his excommunication was postdated to May 11 to appear that it had occurred before his resignation.

Author's source(s)
  • Andrew Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 86–89.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • See also ch. 2a: 119
(The author later acts as if this claim of Bennett's is established fact.)
  • The author mischaracterizes his source, and does not tell us that Bennett's claim was false. Bennett's biographer wrote:
"On May 11 Smith and several others signed a statement to disfellowship Bennett….
"According to Bennett, three of the signatories were not in Nauvoo on that date….
"[However] William Law, one of the signatories…testified that he signed it on the evening of May 11. Some four or five days later Law had a conversation with Bennett 'and intimated to him that such a thing was concluded upon.'…The best explanation for this matter is that Joseph Smith had the disfellowship document drawn up on May 11 Those who were in Nauvoo were asked to sign it….As others returned to the city, they added their names." (Andrew Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 86, 100).

73

Claim
  • The author claims that up until early 1842, Joseph Smith and John C. Bennett "seemed to be on good terms."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response

73

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "It is entirely plausible that Bennett was then privy to Smith's domestic matters."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • The author wants to rehabilitate Bennett as a source, while glossing over the problems.
  • John C. Bennett

73

Claim
  • The author notes that "[i]n the spring of 1842, the two men quarreled and Smith had Bennett excommunicated…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
John C. Bennett (edit) Response
  • Joseph and Bennett did not "quarrel"—evidence of further seduction and infidelity by Bennett came to light.
  • Bennett was given the chance to resign, and did so.
  • Further disclosure to the high council led to Bennett's exposure and excommunication.
  • John C. Bennett

75

Claim
  • Zina and Henry Jacobs "were apparently willing to let the prophet insinuate himself into their marriage."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response

75

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "In the context of having just married a pregnant wife, [Joseph's] words acquire added meaning: 'If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you….'"

Author's source(s)
  • History of the Church 4:445.
Response
  • The author implies that sexuality was involved in this polyandrous marriage.
  • He tries to prejudice the reader by pointing out that Zina was pregnant when she and Henry approved her sealing to Joseph.
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."

75

Claim
  • It is noted that Joseph's diary and the History of the Church do not "give any hint of conjugal contacts Smith might have had with this wife."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Censorship of Church History (edit) Response

75

Claim
  • The author claims that when Henry Jacobs returned from his mission in June 1844 that "he found Zina accompanying Joseph to private meetings involving Masonic-like handshakes, oaths, and special clothing."

Author's source(s)
  • MORE…. Zina D.H. Young, Journal, "June 5, 6, 7, 8, 9," 1844, Zina Card Brown Collection; see Bradley and Woodward, Four Zinas, 124.
  • CHECK THIS SOURCE!!
Response

77

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Even though Zina was pregnant with Henry's child when she married Joseph, the theology of 'sealing' meant that in the next life she and her children would be Joseph's 'eternal possessions,' unconnected to Henry.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Sealing takes away families? (edit)
  • See also ch. 2: 77
  • See also ch. 3: 234
Response
  • The author gives no evidence for this. It may be that some early sealings (especially polyandrous ones) were intended to bind families to each and Joseph in salvation in the next world.
  • The image which this gives of Joseph "taking away" Henry's children is inflammatory and probably misleading.
  • Polygamy/The Law of Adoption
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."

77

Claim
  • The author claims that "[s]ome sources say [Brigham] Young advised [Henry Jacobs] to find a wife who could be his eternal partner."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • This from a single source (not "sources") and comes from a virulently anti-Mormon work, William Hall, Abominations of Mormonism Exposed (Cincinnati: I. Hart & Co., 1852), 43–44.
  • Besides being hostile, this source has numerous problems which make it implausible.
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."

77

Claim
  • Henry's subsequent life is not discussed by the author, perhaps because it would provide insight into why Zina chose to remain with Brigham.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response

78

Claim
  • Brigham Young said that "if a woman can find a man holding the keys of the priesthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her, he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is. In either of these ways of sep[a]ration, you can discover, there is no need for a bill of divorcement."

Author's source(s)
  • Brigham Young, "A few words of Doctrine," Oct 8, 1861, LDS Archives.
Brigham Young's 8 October 1861 talk (edit)
  • See also ch. 2: 78
  • See also ch. 8: 541
Response
  • The author omits key parts of Brigham's recorded discourse: "…if a man magnifies his priesthood, observing faithfully his covenants to the end of his life, all the wives and children sealed to him, all the blessings and honors promised to him in his ordinations and sealing blessings are immutably and eternally fixed; no power can wrench them from his possession. You may inquire, in case a wife becomes disaffected with her husband, her affections lost, she becomes alienated from him and wishes to be the wife of another, can she not leave him? I know of no law in heaven or on earth by which she can be made free while her husband remains faithful and magnifies his priesthood before God and he is not disposed to put her away, she having done nothing worthy of being put away."
  • Brigham Young 8 October 1861 discourse on plural marriage
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."

79

Claim
  • Presendia Buell is claimed to have "displayed an affinity for mystical religious experiences as one of the women who began speaking and singing in tongues…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Presendia Buell (edit) Response

79

Claim
  • It is claimed that Presendia Buell "did not take the prophet's advice [to leave for Illinois while he was in Liberty Jail] prior to his escape from jail on April 16. Nine months later, on January 31, 1841, she gave birth to a son Oliver. Later that year [she went to Illinois]….."

Author's source(s)
Presendia Buell (edit) Response
  • The main text clearly implies that Joseph was the father of Prescendia's son Norman. Else, why mention that "nine months later" she had a child, with no further comment?
  • Smith disguises the fact that DNA evidence has proved that Oliver was not Joseph's son.
  • Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Children of polygamous marriages
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

80 n. 63

Claim
  • Fawn Brodie pointed out that Oliver was born at least a year after Presendia's husband left the church and that Oliver had the angular features and high forehead of the Smith line (No Man Knows, 2989ff, 301, 460).[Note continues below]

Author's source(s)
  • See left column
Response

80 n. 63

Claim
  • [Continued from above] Compton considered it improbable that Joseph and Presendia would have found time together during the brief window opportunity after his release from prison in Missouri (Sacred Loneliness, 670, 673)."[Note continues below]

Author's source(s)
  • See left column
Presendia Buell (edit) Response

80 n. 63

Claim
  • [Note continued from above]"….There is no DNA connection (Carrie A. Moore, “DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants: scientific advances prove no genetic link,” Deseret Morning News, 10 November 2007). Compton finds it "unlikely, though not impossible, that Joseph Smith was the actual father" of John Hiram, born November 1843; Presendia's last child during her marriage to Norman Buell. (Sacred Loneliness, 124, 670–71)."

Author's source(s)
  • See left column
Presendia Buell (edit) Response

81

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Occasionally, as King David did with Uriah the Hittite, Smith sent the husband [of potential polyandrous marriage partners] away on a mission which provided the privacy needed for a plural relationship to flower."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • Unmentioned—but perhaps not unimplied—is the fact that David had already committed adultery with Bathsheba, and sought to have her husband killed so he could marry her (see 2 Samuel 11). This metaphor imputes motives to Joseph where no textual evidence exists.
  • Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Mind reading
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

81

Claim
  • "This [see above] applied to Zina…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • Henry Jacobs was present at the sealing to Zina. Henry knew of Joseph's plural proposal to Joseph before their marriage.
  •  Internal contradiction: compare p. 75
  • Zina and Henry Jacobs
  • Full details: Wyatt, "Zina and Her Men."

82

Claim
  • The author notes that the History of the Church "makes no mention of the second Huntington nuptial…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Censorship of Church History (edit) Response

82

Claim
  • The author notes a Buell child being sealed to a proxy for Joseph with “wording [that] hints that it might have been Smith’s child….It is not clear…which of her children it might have been."

Author's source(s)
  • Oliver Huntington Journal, Nov 14, 1884, USHS; see Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 140, 673.
Response

84

Claim
  • The author notes: "From the inception of plural marriage, Smith demanded confidentiality from those whom he taught the principle."

Author's source(s)
  • History of the Church 4:479; Woodruff Journals 2:143.
Hiding polygamy (edit)
  • See also ch. 1: 3-4 and 51
  • See also ch. 4: 247
Response

85

Claim
  • The author assumes that Joseph "evidently adapted and redefined [elements] from the Masonic rituals and incorporated [them] as part of the unfolding Mormon temple ceremonies."

Author's source(s)
  • No source given.
Response

85

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "The [temple] vows of secrecy and threats of blood penalties intensified the mysterious rites of celestial marriage…."

Author's source(s)
  • Author's opinion.
Temple (edit)
  • See also ch. 2: 75 and 85
  • See also ch. 2a: 114
Response

88

Claim
  • The author notes that there is no mention of Joseph's sealing to Agnes Smith in the History of the Church.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Censorship of Church History (edit) Response

92

Claim
  • Sarah Pratt is claimed to have reported in 1886 that Lucinda had told her nearly forty-five years earlier in 1842: "Why[,] I am his [Smith's] mistress since four years."

Author's source(s)
  • Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 60.
Lucinda Harris (edit)
  • See also ch. 1: 33 and 44
  • See also ch. 2: 92
Response
  • Compton notes that this statement is "antagonistic, third-hand, and late" (In Sacred Loneliness, 650). It seems implausible that Harris would admit to being a "mistress."
  • Newel and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 346 have likewise seen the "mistress" label as "an embellishment by either Sarah Pratt or W. Wyl."
  • The author provides none of this perspective.
  • Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Nauvoo Polygamy/Loaded and prejudicial language

99 - "the History of the Church made no mention of Sylvia [Sessions Lyon] on February 8, 1842"

The author(s) of Nauvoo Polygamy make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that "[a]s usual, the History of the Church made no mention of Sylvia [Sessions Lyon] on February 8, 1842…."

Author's sources: No source provided.

Censorship of Church History (edit)

FairMormon Response


Question: What did the husband of Sylvia Sessions know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. She was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married. Brian Hales notes that , "This marriage triangle is unique among all of the Prophet’s plural marriages because there is strong evidence that Sylvia bore children to both men. She became pregnant by Windsor Lyon in October of 1838, September of 1840, and April of 1842. Then a year later became pregnant with a daughter (named Josephine—born February 8, 1844) that was purportedly fathered by the Prophet." Sylvia's daughter, who had the intriguing name "Josephine," made the following statement:

Just prior to my mothers [Sylvia Sessions Lyon] death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret fro me and from others until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church.

Daughter Josephine was proven not to be a daughter of Joseph Smith, Jr. through DNA analysis

For many years, Josephine appeared to be the only viable candidate as a child of Joseph Smiths "polyandrous" sealings. However, DNA analysis ultimately disproved the paternity claim: Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.[19]

Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church

It appears, however, that Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church and left Nauvoo. Hales points out that "Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: 'Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.'" [20] The sealing to Joseph occurred after Windor's excommunication. Andrew Jenson, in his historical record, referred to Sylvia as a “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” [21] There is no known evidence that Windsor lived with Sylvia after he returned to Nauvoo, but Sylvia did "rejoin" Windsor after he was rebaptised in 1846. Hales states, "No details are available to clarify what authority was used to reconfirm the marriage relationship between Sylvia and Windsor after their previous marital separation. Most likely the couple consulted with Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball, who authorized their rejoining. Whether a private religious marriage ceremony for time was performed or the couple resumed observing their legal marriage is unknown. Importantly, even with the renewed conjugality between Windsor and Sylvia after Joseph Smith’s death, no evidence has been found to support her involvement in sexual polyandry at any time." [22]

A biography of Sylvia Sessions may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


100

Claim
  • The author claims that "[d]uring these years as Windsor's wife, Sylvia reportedly bore Smith a child in 1844…."

Author's source(s)
Response
  • The author ignores Brian C. Hales, “The Joseph Smith–Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?” Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57, which argues that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously, contrary to evidence misread by Compton.
  • Joseph_Smith/Polygamy/Children_of_polygamous_marriages

103

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Typically, [Joseph] never mentioned his marriage to Patty [Sessions] on paper…."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Censorship of Church History (edit) Response

105

Claim
  • It is claimed that Sarah Cleveland's husband "was a Swedenborgian, embracing a world view compatible with that of Mormons."

Author's source(s)
  • Biography of Sarah Maryetta Kingsley, LDS Archives.
Response
  • These needs more argument than the author gives it. It is not clear how being a Swedenborgian would predispose Cleveland to accept a modern prophet, new scripture, and restored priesthood authority (for example).
  • Surely any world-view was somewhat compatible with the Mormons', but what about Cleveland's views were more compatible than, say, other Christians?
  • Plan of salvation/Three degrees of glory/Swedenborg

106

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "John Cleveland's Swedenborgian faith might have helped prepare Sarah for some of Joseph's teachings. Like Smith, followers of Emanuel Swedenborg conceived of a pre-existent life, 'eternal marriage' for couples who had a true 'affinity' for each other, and a three-tiered heaven that required marriage for admission to the highest level."

Author's source(s)
  • Author's speculation.
  • Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, trans. George F. Dole (West Chester, Pa.: Swedenborg Foundation, 2002), 18–32.
  • CHECK THIS SOURCE! [needs work]
Response

106

Claim
  • The author notes that John Cleveland's continued willingness to host LDS events "indicated a likely compatibility of beliefs."

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • There are other options:
    • Perhaps Cleveland was simply a tolerant man?
    • Perhaps he respected the Mormons for what he had seen of them personally?
    • Perhaps he respected his wife's desire to practice her own faith, despite not sharing it.

106

Claim
  •  Author's quote: "Like some of the other husbands of women who agreed to marry the prophet, John Cleveland nevertheless became 'more and more bitter towards the Mormons.'"

Author's source(s)
  • Sarah Cleveland to August Lyman, 1847, John Lyman Smith Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, cited by Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 284.
Response
  • The author does not tell the reader that this difficulty did not occur until after Joseph's death, and the Saints had gone west. He neglects to point out that Compton noted that even six months before Joseph's death, Sarah's husband was "very friendly and frequently visited the Prophet." (Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 281).
  • Thus, the implication that Joseph's plural marriage caused problems for Cleveland is not sustained by the evidence.
  • The author also does not tell us that one version of Sarah's decision to remain behind instead of going to Utah reads:
"Brigham Young and council…counciled her to stay with her Husband as he was a good man, having shown himself kind ever helping those in need, although for some reason his mind was darkened as to the Gospel. She obey[ed] the council and stayed with her Husband, and was faithfull and true to her religion and died a faithfull member of the Church…." (Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 283).

106

Claim
  • Besides Cleveland (see above) other polyandrous husbands are claimed to have become more bitter against the Church.

Author's source(s)
  • No source provided.
Response
  • As shown above, Cleveland was not bitter about the Church or Joseph during Joseph's lifetime.
  • No other examples are given. It is not clear to whom the author is referring.
  • Polygamy book/Polyandry

Notes


  1. Michael Marquardt, 1973 pamphlet "The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Joseph C. Kingsbury, and Heber C. Kimball," George Albert Smith Family Papers, Manuscript 36, Box 1, Early Smith Documents, 1731-1849, Folder 18, in the Special Collections, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (source). The original is in the LDS Church Archives.
  2. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, [original edition] (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1984), 539–540. ISBN 0877479747. GL direct link
  3. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  4. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 349. ( Index of claims )
  5. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  6. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  7. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  8. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  9. T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints : A Full and Complete History of the Mormons.... (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1878 [1873]), 184 note.
  10. Andrew F. Ehat, "Joseph Smith's Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question," (Master's Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981), 40.
  11. Presenda Huntington Kimball, “Biographical Sketch,” 1881, MS 742, CHL, first copy page 2 and variant copy page 2. off-site
  12. Joseph F. Smith affidavit books, CHL 1:7. off-site
  13. George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James, "A Response to D. Michael Quinn's Homosexual Distortion of Latter-Day Saint History," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): footnote 70, citing T. Edgar Lyon, "Orson Pratt—Early Mormon Leader," (M.A. diss., University of Chicago, 1932), 31. See also Millennial Star 40 (16 December 1878): 788.
  14. [citation needed]
  15. Bennett, History of the Saints, 40–41.
  16. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 5 link
  17. Smith, History of the Church, 5:18 (26 May 1842).
  18. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 461.; see Times and Seasons 3/15 (15 June 1842): 830; Smith, History of the Church, 5:32.
  19. R. Scott Lloyd, ""Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  20. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  21. Andrew Jenson Papers, MS 17956, CHL, box 49, folder 16.
  22. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," Note 28 josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site