Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Index/Chapter 24

Response to claims made in "Chapter 24: The Wives of the Prophet"


A work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
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Response to claim: 334 - The number of women sealed to Joseph Smith may have exceeded fifty

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The number of women sealed to Joseph Smith may have exceeded fifty.

Author's sources: William Hepworth Dixon: New America (1867), p. 225.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Brodie's evidentiary standards are far too low.

Response to claim: 336 - At least twelve of the women sealed to Joseph were already married with living husbands

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

At least twelve of the women sealed to Joseph were already married with living husbands.

Author's sources: No source provided.

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 number was lower; Brodie's evidentiary standards are weak. She notes that the evidence for one of these women (Mrs. Levi Hancock) is "only word-of-mouth tradition in the Hancock family."

Question: Was Joseph Smith married or sealed to women who were already married to other living men?

Joseph Smith was sealed to 11 women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church

Among Joseph's plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these "polyandrous" marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.[1]

Of all the aspects of Joseph Smith's marital theology, this is the most difficult area to understand, because very little primary evidence exists. As one scholar noted:

Perhaps nothing is less understood than Joseph Smith's sealings to women already married, because the evidence supports conflicting interpretations.[2]

Criticisms related to Joseph Smith's "polyandrous" marriages

These "polyandrous" marriages have given rise to a number of criticisms:

  • Why would Joseph be sealed to other men's wives?
  • What was the nature of these marriages? Were they consummated?
  • Why did these 11 women continue to live with and have children with their husbands even after being sealed to Joseph Smith?
  • One critic of the church notes, "Joseph Smith would frequently approach other men’s wives about being his own plural wives..." [3]

At the time that celestial marriage was introduced, it was possible to be married for time to one person and sealed for eternity to another. These marriages appear to have been performed for the purpose of forming dynastic bonds in the afterlife, as there is no evidence that Joseph ever cohabited or had intimate relations with any of these women. No children from these marriages have ever been identified. These were sealings which would only affect Joseph's association with these women in the afterlife.


Question: What was the nature of Joseph Smith's "polyandrous" marriages?

Evidence indicates that Joseph was sealed for eternity to eight to eleven women who were married to other men

The fact that these women continue to live with their earthly husbands and even have children by them indicates that the sealings to Joseph Smith were not marriages in the normal sense.

Joseph's sealing to their wives doesn't appear to have changed anything in their daily lives or their relationship to their current husbands

The relationship between these women and their husbands appear to have not changed even after they were sealed to Joseph Smith. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands.


Question: Did Joseph Smith consummate any of these marriages with married women?

There is no evidence to indicate that Joseph consumated any polyandrous marriages, with one possible exception for a woman who considered herself divorced

The available evidence also does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with these married women. Fawn Brodie, who repeatedly stated her belief that Joseph had intimate relations with many of his plural wives, identified several individuals that she thought “might” be children of Joseph Smith, Jr. Yet, even Brodie noted that “it is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light.” Brodie postulated, in spite of a complete lack of evidence, that Joseph must have been able to successfully practice some sort of primitive birth control, or that abortions must have been routinely employed.To date, DNA analysis has ruled out Joseph Smith as the father of any of the children of the women to whom he was sealed who were married to other men.

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith"

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "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 was out of fellowship with the Church." It is not known whether Sylvia was referring to her daughter as being a literal descendant of Joseph Smith, or if she was referring to the fact that she had been sealed to the prophet. In an article published in Mormon Historical Studies, Brian C. Hales demonstrates that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously. [4]


Question: Did Joseph Smith have any children through any of his polyandrous marriages?

DNA research has, so far, ruled out most who were suspected of being Joseph's children through polyandrous marriages

Mother Brodie’s claim [5] Modern evidence

Buell

Brodie claims that “the physiognomy revealed in a rare photograph of Oliver Buell seems to weight the balance overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph’s paternity.” Oliver Buell is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Presendia Huntington Buell’s son Oliver, born sometime in 1838-1839, was the son of Norman Buell.[6] "Only 9 of the 23 genetic markers match when comparing the inferred Oliver Buell haplotype to that of Joseph Smith. Such a low degree of correlation between the two haplotypes provides strong evidence that they belong to two unrelated paternal lineages, thus excluding with high likelihood Joseph Smith Jr. as the biological father of Oliver N. Buell. Further weight is given to this observation by the close match of the inferred haplotype of Owen F. Buell to the independent Buell record in the SMGF data base, which genetic relationship dates back prior to Joseph Smith's era. Additionally, the two genetic profiles were run through a haplogroup predictor algorithm that assigned the Smith haplotypes to a cluster known as R1b and the cluster for the Buell's haplotypes to I1b2a, two deeply divergent clades that separated anciently, thus providing further evidence that the Oliver Buell and Joseph Smith lineages are not closely related" [7]

Alger

Brodie states that “[t]here is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland.” DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.[8]

Hancock

”Legend among the descendants of Levi W. Hancock points to another son of the prophet. If the legend is true, the child was probably John Reed Hancock, born April 19, 1841.” Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock.

John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock.[9] "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III." [10]

Lightner

The son of Mary Rollins Lightner “may as easily have been the prophet’s son as that of Adam Lightner.” George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Hyde

Mrs. Orson Hyde’s sons Orson and Frank “could have been Joseph’s sons.” Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Pratt

Mrs. Parley P. Pratt’s son Moroni “might also be added to this list.” Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.[11]

Snow

”According to tradition,” Emma beat Eliza Snow and caused her to abort Joseph’s child. Both LDS and non-LDS reviewers have found several flaws in the story about Eliza.[12] Emma's biographers note that "Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would be unlikely had she suffered a miscarriage."[13]

Jacobs

Zina was “about seven months pregnant with Jacobs' child at the time of her marriage to the prophet.” [14] John D. Lee and William Hall stated that Zina had been “pregnant by Smith.” Zebulon Jacobs is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs's son Zebulon was the son of Henry Bailey Jacobs.[15]


Response to claim: 338 - "Most" of Joseph wives were married to him for "time and eternity"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"Most" of Joseph wives were married to him for "time [that is, life] and eternity."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is true.

Response to claim: 339 - Emma selected the Partridge sisters and the Lawrence sisters as plural wives for Joseph

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Emma selected the Partridge sisters and the Lawrence sisters as plural wives for Joseph.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is true.

Question How did Emma Hale Smith react to Joseph's practice of plural marriage?

Emma was aware of Joseph's plural marriage and sometimes gave permission, but did much to try and thwart it

Emma was aware of plural marriage; it is not clear at exactly what point she was made aware, partly due to there being relatively few early sources on the matter. Emma was generally opposed to the practice of plural marriage, and did much to try and thwart it. There were times, however, when Emma gave permission for Joseph's plural marriages, though she soon changed her mind.[16] Emma was troubled by plural marriage, but her difficulties arose partly from her conviction that Joseph was a prophet:

Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.[17]

Emma did teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young

Emma never denied Joseph's prophetic calling; she did, however, teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young. Torn between two certitudes—her conviction of Joseph's prophetic calling, and her hatred of plural marriage—Emma had difficult choices to make for which we ought not to judge her.

But, the critics ought to let all of Emma speak for herself—she had a great trial, but also had great knowledge. That she continued to support Joseph's calling and remain with him, despite her feelings about plural marriage, speaks much of her convictions. As she told Parley P. Pratt years later:

I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.[18]

Allen J. Stout: "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness"

Allen J. Stout, who served as a bodyguard for Joseph, recounted a conversation he overheard in the Mansion House between Joseph and his tormented wife. A summary of his account states that "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness; that Satan was doing his utmost to destroy her, etc. And solemnly came the Prophet's inspired warning: 'Yes, and he will accomplish your overthrow, if you do not heed my counsel.'"[19]

Emma Smith: "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it

Emma's inner conflict was also dramatized in another report:

Maria Jane Johnston, who lived with Emma as a servant girl, recalled the Prophet's wife looking very downcast one day and telling her that the principle of plural marriage was right and came from Heavenly Father. "What I said I have got [to] repent of," lamented Emma. "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it."[20]

Emma Smith: "I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting"

Emma asked Joseph for a blessing not long before he went to Carthage. Joseph told her to write the best blessing she could, and he would sign it upon his return. Wrote Emma:

I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side...I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.[21]


Response to claim: 342 - Emma burned the revelation on plural marriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Emma burned the revelation on plural marriage.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is likely true. Brigham Young said that Emma burned the revelation,

Said she—"Joseph, you promised me that revelation, and if you are a man of your word you will give it to me." Joseph took it from his pocket and said—"Take it." She went to the fire-place and put it in, and put the candle under it and burnt it, and she thought that was the end of it, and she will be damned as sure as she is a living woman. Joseph used to say that he would have her hereafter, if he had to go to hell for her, and he will have to go to hell for her as sure as he ever gets her.[22]

Response to claim: 343 - Joseph said that he would have Emma as his wife in the hereafter even if he had to "go to hell" for her

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph said that he would have Emma as his wife in the hereafter even if he had to "go to hell" for her.

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is likely true. Brigham Young said,

Said she—"Joseph, you promised me that revelation, and if you are a man of your word you will give it to me." Joseph took it from his pocket and said—"Take it." She went to the fire-place and put it in, and put the candle under it and burnt it, and she thought that was the end of it, and she will be damned as sure as she is a living woman. Joseph used to say that he would have her hereafter, if he had to go to hell for her, and he will have to go to hell for her as sure as he ever gets her.[23]

Response to claim: 345 - There is "some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

There is "some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The evidence is not persuasive.

Question: Did Fanny Alger have a child by Joseph Smith?

A suggestion that Fanny was pregnant by Joseph surfaced in an 1886 anti-Mormon book with a claim that Emma "drove" Fanny out of the house

The first mention of a pregnancy for Fanny is in an 1886 anti-Mormon work, citing Chauncey Webb, with whom Fanny reportedly lived after leaving the Smith home.[24] Webb claimed that Emma "drove" Fanny from the house because she "was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet." If Fanny was pregnant, it is curious that no one else remarked upon it at the time, though it is possible that the close quarters of a nineteenth-century household provided Emma with clues. If Fanny was pregnant by Joseph, the child never went to term, died young, or was raised under a different name.

Fawn Brodie claimed that Fanny's son Orrison was the son of Joseph Smith, but this was disproven by DNA research

Fawn Brodie, in her critical work No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, claimed that “there is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland.”[25] However, DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.[26]


Response to claim: 345 - The author claims that Prescindia Huntington Buell's son Oliver may have been Joseph's son

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Prescindia Huntington Buell's son Oliver may have been Joseph's son.

FairMormon Response


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

DNA has definitively ruled this out.

Question: Did Joseph Smith father children by polyandrous plural wife Prescindia Buell?

All those who have been definitively DNA tested so far—Oliver Buell, Mosiah Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, Moroni Pratt, and Orrison Smith—have been excluded as children of Joseph Smith

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

Nauvoo Polygamy author George D. Smith tells his readers that “until decisive DNA testing of possible [Joseph] Smith descendants—daughters as well as sons—from plural wives can be accomplished, ascertaining whether Smith fathered children with any of his plural wives remains hypothetical” (pp. 228–29, cf. p. 473). This is true, but G. D. Smith fails to tell us that all those who have been definitively tested so far—Oliver Buell, Mosiah Hancock, Zebulon Jacobs, Moroni Pratt, and Orrison Smith—have been excluded. Would he have neglected, I wonder, to mention a positive DNA test?

The consequences of George D. Smith's less-than-rigorous approach to sources becomes clear in the case of Oliver Buell, son of Presendia.[27] Huntington Buell, one of Joseph’s polyandrous plural wives. Fawn Brodie was the first to suggest that Oliver Buell was Joseph’s son, and she was so convinced (based on photographic evidence)[28]Fawn Brodie to Dale Morgan, Letter, 24 March 1945, Dale Morgan papers, Marriott Library, University of Utah; cited by Todd Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives and Polygamy: A Critical View," in Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect, ed. Newell G. Bringhurst (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 166.</ref> In a footnote, G. D. Smith notes that Todd Compton “considers it improbable that Joseph and Presendia would have found time together during the brief window of opportunity after his release from prison in Missouri” (p. 80 n. 63).[29]

The geography

This slight nod toward an opposite point of view is inadequate, however. G. D. Smith does not mention and hence does not confront the strongest evidence. Compton’s argument against Joseph’s paternity does not rest just on a “narrow window” of opportunity but on the fact that Brodie seriously misread the geography required by that window. It is not merely a question of dates. Brodie would have Joseph travel west from his escape near Gallatin, Davies County, Missouri, to Far West in order to meet Lucinda, and then on to Illinois toward the east. This route would require Joseph and his companions to backtrack while fleeing from custody in the face of an active state extermination order.[30] Travel to Far West would also require them to travel near the virulently anti-Mormon area of Haun’s Mill, along Shoal Creek.[31] Yet by April 22 Joseph was in Illinois, having been slowed by traveling “off from the main road as much as possible”[32]:320-321 “both by night and by day.”[32]:327 This seems an implausible time for Joseph to be conceiving a child. Furthermore, it is evident that Far West was evacuated by other church leaders, “the committee on removal,” and not under the Prophet’s direction. Joseph did not regain the Saints until reaching Quincy, Illinois, contrary to Brodie’s misreading.[32]:315, 319, 322-23, 327 Timing is the least of the problems with G. D. Smith’s theory.

Despite Brodie’s enthusiasm, few other authors have included Oliver on their list of possible children.[33] With so many authors ranged against him, G. D. Smith ought not to act as if Compton’s analysis is merely about dates.

The DNA

G. D. Smith also soft-pedals the most vital evidence—the DNA.[34] He makes no mention in the main text that Oliver’s paternity has been definitively ruled out by DNA testing. This admission is confined to a footnote, and its impact is minimized by its placement. After noting Compton’s disagreement with the main text’s suggestion that Oliver might be Joseph’s son, G. D. Smith writes, “There is no DNA connection,” and cites a Deseret News article. He immediately follows this obtuse phrasing with a return to Compton, who finds it “‘unlikely, though not impossible, that Joseph Smith was the actual father of another Buell child,’ John Hiram, Presendia’s seventh child during her marriage to Buell and born in November 1843” (p. 80 n. 63). Thus the most salient fact—that Joseph is certainly not Oliver's father—is sandwiched between a vicarious discussion with Compton about whether Oliver or John could be Joseph’s sons. Since G. D. Smith knows there is definitive evidence against Joseph’s paternity in Oliver’s case, why mention the debate at all only to hide the answer in the midst of a long endnote? That Brodie is so resoundingly rebutted on textual, historical, and genetic grounds provides a cautionary lesson in presuming that her certainty counts for much.[35]

Maybe another Buell child?

Two pages later, G. D. Smith again tells us of 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,” he tells us, “which of her children it might have been” (p. 82). In fact, what is clear is that he has not assimilated the implications of the DNA data. John Hiram, the seventh child about whom Compton is skeptical, is the only other option. Yet the only evidence for this child belonging to Joseph is Ettie V. Smith’s account in the anti-Mormon Fifteen Years among the Mormons (1859), which claimed that Presendia said she did not know whether Joseph or her first husband was John Hiram’s father.[36] As Compton notes, such an admission is implausible, given the mores of the time.[37]

Besides being implausible, Ettie’s account gets virtually every other detail wrong—insisting that William Law, Robert Foster, and Henry Jacobs had all been sent on missions only to return to find Joseph preaching plural marriage. Ettie then has them establish the Expositor.[38] While Law and Foster were involved with the Expositor, they were not sent on missions. Jacobs had served missions but was a faithful Saint unconnected to the Expositor. He was also, contrary to Ettie’s claims, present when Joseph was sealed polyandrously to his (Jacobs’s) wife.

Even the anti-Mormon Fanny Stenhouse considered Ettie Smith to be a writer who “so mixed up fiction with what was true, that it was difficult to determine where one ended and the other began,”[39]:618 and a good example of how “the autobiographies of supposed Mormon women were [as] unreliable”[39]:x as other Gentile accounts, given her tendency to “mingl[e] facts and fiction” “in a startling and sensational manner.”[39]:xi-xii

Brodie herself makes no mention of John Hiram as a potential child, going so far as to carelessly misread Ettie Smith’s remarks as referring to Oliver, not John Hiram. No other historian has argued that Buell was not the father.[40] There is no good evidence whatever that any of Presendia’s children were Joseph’s. It is not clear why G. D. Smith clings to the idea.


Response to claim: 345 - "Legend" says that John Reed Hancock may have been Joseph's son

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"Legend" says that John Reed Hancock may have been Joseph's son.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

-"Legend" is not a source. No other author has followed Brodie on this; there is very little evidence that this is true. Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock. John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr. DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock.[41] "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III."[42]

Response to claim: 345 - The son of Mary Rollins Lightner "may as easily have been the prophet's son as that of Adam Lightner"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The son of Mary Rollins Lightner "may as easily have been the prophet's son as that of Adam Lightner."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Response to claim: 345 - Mrs. Orson Hyde's sons Orson and Frank "could have been Joseph's sons"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Mrs. Orson Hyde's sons Orson and Frank "could have been Joseph's sons."

FairMormon Response


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

Brodie mistakes the date on Frank's birth certificate—it is impossible for him to have been Joseph's son. Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity. The birth dates match times when Orson Sr. was available to sire him. Most historians have disagreed with Brodie here.

Response to claim: 345 - Mrs. Parley P. Pratt's son Moroni "might also be added to this list"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Mrs. Parley P. Pratt's son Moroni "might also be added to this list."

FairMormon Response


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

Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr. DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.[43]

Response to claim: 345-346 - "According to tradition," Emma beat Eliza Snow with a broomstick and caused her to fall down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"According to tradition," Emma beat Eliza Snow with a broomstick and caused her to fall down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage.

Author's sources: None specified.

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 stairs story has not stood up to investigation. See Emma, Eliza and the stairs

Question: Was a pregnant Eliza R. Snow pushed down the stairs by a furious Emma, resulting in a miscarriage?

The historical and logistical problems with this story make it unlikely to be true

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. 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)

There is little evidence that the stairs incident happened as described.

Evidences that “Eliza had conceived Joseph’s child and miscarried,” George D. Smith, the author of Nauvoo Polygamy "...but we called it celestial marriage" tells us, are “fragmented” and “questions cloud the story.” Despite this, “the secondary sources are convincing in their own right” (p. 130). Here again, the author’s representation of the data and references to those who disagree leave much to be desired. He cites other authors while giving no indication that they disagree with his reading. For example, from an essay in BYU Studies he cites the Charles C. Rich version of a pregnant Eliza “heavy with child” being shoved down the stairs by a furious Emma. Nowhere does he tell the reader that these authors concluded that the story given the present evidence was untenable:

But where are we? Faced with a folk legend, with genuine documents that tell no tales, and dubious ones that contradict themselves and the contemporary accounts, perhaps it is best for us to respond as we must to many paradoxes of our history: consider thoughtfully and then place all the evidence carefully on the shelf, awaiting further documentation, or the Millennium, whichever should come first.[44]

The statement that Eliza carried Joseph’s unborn child and lost it due to an attack by Emma is brought into question by Eliza’s own journal

Newell and Avery’s biography of Emma places the story into doubt:

The statement that Eliza carried Joseph’s unborn child and lost it [due to an attack by Emma] is brought into question by Eliza’s own journal. While her Victorian reticence probably would have precluded mention of her own pregnancy, if she were indeed carrying Joseph’s child, other evidence in the journal indicates that she may not have been pregnant. Eliza’s brother Lorenzo indicated that by the time she married Joseph, she was “beyond the condition of raising a family.” Also if she was “heavy with child” as the Rich account states, she would not have been teaching school, for even legally married women usually went into seclusion when their pregnancies became obvious. Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would not have been probable had she suffered a miscarriage.[45]

RLDS perspective

The award for most humorously ironic use of a source in this section goes to the author's citation of Richard Price. The author argues that “most convincing of all is to think that these stories were circulating widely and Eliza never considered to clarify or refute them.” He attributes this insight to Price (p. 134 n. 207). He believes that the “most convincing” aspect of the story is that Eliza never rebutted it. Uncorrected rumor or gossip is more convincing than the absence of diary or behavioral evidence for a pregnancy as outlined by Newel and Avery? If I do not rebut an unfounded rumor, does this mean I give it my consent? This seems a strange standard. Joseph and the members of the church tried to rebut the rumors spread by the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits, yet the author treats them as valuable insights. The Saints, it seems, are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

The author’s citation of Price might lead the reader to believe that Price agrees with Smith’s reading—that Eliza Snow never rebutted the story because it was true. But Price claims exactly the opposite.[46]

In addition to the indignity of having his work cited for a view that is the reverse of his own, Price suffers further. An RLDS conservative, Price is committed to the stance that Joseph did not teach or practice plural marriage.[47] Far from endorsing Smith’s view of the stairs incident, Price is adamant that the story is false. Though the author spends a page explaining why Joseph and Emma may have moved to the Mansion House earlier than thought (as the stairs story requires), he ignores Price’s diagram and argument for the story’s impossibility based on the Mansion House’s layout.[48] The author can hardly have been unaware of it since the same Web page contains the argument to which he makes reference. FAIR does not agree with Price on all points—his dogged insistence that Joseph did not practice plural marriage cannot be sustained by the evidence, which often leads him to make unwarranted leaps—but the author ought to at least engage Price’s critique and fairly represent his views.


Question: If the story of Emma pushing Eliza Snow down the stairs is true, why did Eliza not make use of it?

Eliza went to considerable lengths to defend plural marriage and to insist that Joseph Smith had practiced it, so why did she never offer her pregnancy and miscarriage as evidence?

If the stairs story is true, why did Eliza not make use of it? The argument from silence cuts both ways: Eliza went to considerable lengths to defend plural marriage and to insist that Joseph Smith had practiced it. Why did she never offer her pregnancy and miscarriage as evidence? Eliza was not afraid to criticize Emma Smith for what she regarded as the latter’s dishonesty. Following Emma’s death and her sons’ publication of her last denial of plural marriage, Eliza wrote:

I once dearly loved ‘Sister Emma,’ and now, for me to believe that she, a once honoured woman, should have sunk so low, even in her own estimation, as to deny what she knew to be true, seems a palpable absurdity. If . . . [this] was really her testimony she died with a libel on her lips—a libel against her husband—against his wives—against the truth, and a libel against God; and in publishing that libel, her son has fastened a stigma on the character of his mother, that can never be erased. . . . So far as Sister Emma personally is concerned, I would gladly have been silent and let her memory rest in peace, had not her misguided son, through a sinister policy, branded her name with gross wickedness.[49]

Emma was safely dead; Eliza had no need to spare her feelings. Why not offer her alleged miscarriage or Emma’s angry assault as evidence if it were true? This scenario seems at least as plausible as the author’s weak claim that silence equals agreement. Yet more than a hundred pages later, the author asks us to “assume . . . that LeRoi Snow’s account was accurate” before asking leading rhetorical questions. Yet again, no links to the other side of the story are provided (p. 236).


Response to claim: 346 - "It is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

"It is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

It is astonishing that the author guessed wrong so often, and missed the one viable candidate: Josephine Fisher.

Response to claim: 346 - Jedediah Grant "excused" Joseph's marriages to married women by stating that it was a way to "try the people of God to see what was in them"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Jedediah Grant "excused" Joseph's marriages to married women by stating that it was a way to "try the people of God to see what was in them."

Author's sources: Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses 2:14.

FairMormon Response


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

Grant says nothing about Joseph's polyandrous marriages; he is speaking of cases (e.g., such as Heber and Vilate Kimball) in which Joseph proposed plural marriage but then relented.

See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 2:14 to see how this quote was mined.

Response to claim: 346 - Perhaps Joseph "learned some primitive method of birth control" or took advantage of items such as "Portuguese Female Pills" to produce miscarriage

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Perhaps Joseph "learned some primitive method of birth control" or took advantage of items such as "Portuguese Female Pills" to produce miscarriage.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Author's conjecture—Brodie can't adequately explain why a large number of children were not produced from Joseph's other "marriages."

Notes

  1. Samuel Katich, "A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith," Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.
  2. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 29. ISBN 0252026810.
  3. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014)
  4. See: Hales, Brian C. "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57.] DNA research is ongoing but it is rendered more difficult since the Y chromosome evidence of paternal lineage is not present in females.
  5. No Man Knows My History, p. 301, 345, 465.
  6. DNA Tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants, Deseret News Nov. 10, 2007.
  7. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 2008, Vol. 28, p. 133. off-site
  8. Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.
  9. Deseret News, 2007.
  10. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 2008, Vol. 28, p134-135. off-site
  11. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  12. This bit of folklore is explored in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), 86–96.. RLDS author Richard Price also argues that the physical layout of the Mansion House makes the story as reported by Charles C. Rich unlikely, see "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard Price. "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes." (n.p.: Price Publishing Company, 2001), chapter 9. Price's dogmatic insistence that Joseph never taught plural marriage, however, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
  13. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 136. See also discussion in Danel Bachman, "Plural Marriage Before the Death of Joseph Smith (Master's Thesis, Purdue University, 1975), 140n173.
  14. Brodie, p. 465.
  15. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  16. Emma gave permission for at least the marriages of Eliza and Emma Partridge, and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 409, 475. ( Index of claims )
  17. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 261. ( Index of claims )
  18. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (editor), "Memoirs of Joseph Smith III (1832–1914)," The Saints Herald (2 April 1935): 431–434.
  19. Allen J. Stout, "Allen J. Stout's Testimony," Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 230–31; cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.
  20. Emma Smith to Maria Jane Johnston, cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.; quoting Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 161.
  21. Emma Hale Smith, Blessing (1844), Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  22. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.
  23. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159.
  24. Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 57. Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67. Discussed in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy," 140. Also in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  25. Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History.
  26. Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.
  27. Presendia’s name is also spelled Presenda or Prescindia in contemporary documents. We here use the spelling adopted by her autobiography, also followed by Compton and G. D. Smith.
  28. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 301. Brodie includes the picture between 298–99. ( Index of claims ) that she wrote, “If Oliver Buell isn’t a Smith then I’m no Brimhall,” which was her mother’s name.
  29. Citing Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 670, 673. ( Index of claims )
  30. See Clark V. Johnson, “Northern Missouri,” in Historical Atlas of Mormonism, ed. S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 42.
  31. Compton, "Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith's Plural Wives," 170.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 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 3 link
  33. The following all fail to include Oliver Buell as a potential child of Joseph’s: Danel Bachman, “Mormon Practice of Polygamy,” 137–38; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 43–44 and 43 n. 43; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 157–58; Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue 38/3 (Fall 2005): 49–50 n. 115.
  34. Carrie A. Moore, “DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants,” Deseret Morning News, (10 November 2007), off-site (accessed 2 December 2008); Ugo A. Perego et al., “Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 28 (2008): 128–36. For background information, see Ugo A. Perego and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith” (paper presented at the Mormon History Association Conference, 28 May 2005); Ugo A. Perego et al., “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications,” Journal of Mormon History 32/2 (Summer 2005): 70–88.
  35. Elsewhere G. D. Smith actually uses an appeal to the fact that Brodie was persuaded by a tale as evidence! (p. 131).
  36. Green, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons, 34-35.
  37. Compton, “Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives,” 166.
  38. Green, Fifteen Years, 34–35.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Mrs. T.B.H. [Fanny] Stenhouse, "Tell It All": The Story of a Life's Experience in Mormonism (Hartford, Conn.: A.D. Worthington & Company, 1875 [1874]), The footnote confirms the identity of the author as Ettie V. Smith.
  40. See Bachman, “Plural marriage,” 139; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 43–44 and 43 n. 43; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 157–58; Compton, “Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives,” 167; Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue 38/3 (Fall 2005): 49–50 n. 115.
  41. Deseret News, 2007.
  42. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 134-135.
  43. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  44. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., “Emma and Eliza and the Stairs,” BYU Studies 22/1 (Fall 1982): 86–96. Compare Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 131 n. 195.
  45. Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 136. Compare Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 132 n. 201.
  46. Richard Price and Pamela Price, “Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs,” in Richard Price, chap. 9 of “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes.” (n.p.: Price Publishing Co., 2001), off-site (accessed 5 November 2008). FairMormon's consultants do not sustain Price's view, however, that Joseph Smith did not practice or teach plural marriage.
  47. On Price’s break from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) mainstream, see: William D. Russell, “Richard Price: Leading Publicist of the Reorganized Church’s Schismatics,” in Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, ed. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 319–37.
  48. Compare Price and Price, “Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed,” with George D. Smith’s opinion in Nauvoo Polygamy, 133.
  49. Eliza R. Snow, Woman’s Exponent 8 (1 November 1879): 85; cited in Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 307–8.