Joseph Smith/Polygamy

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    Joseph Smith and Polygamy

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Joseph Smith and polygamy

Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical, and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph's carnal desires to marry young women. Of particular interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry). (Click here for full article)



This collection of articles lists a number of known plural wives, with responses to critical claims related to specific plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr. (Click here for full article)







  • Works of Abraham
    Brief Summary: D&C 132 tells Joseph and others to "do the works of Abraham." What are the "works of Abraham?" (Click here for full article)
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  • Is polygamy not Biblical?
    Brief Summary: The criticism that polygamy is irreligious appeals to western sensibilities which favor monogamy, and argues that polygamy is inconsistent with biblical Christianity or (ironically) the Book of Mormon itself. (Click here for full article)
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  • Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?
    Brief Summary: Critics use the Book of Jacob to show that the Book of Mormon condemns the practice of polygamy, and go on to claim that Joseph Smith ignored this restriction by introducing the doctrine of plural marriage. (Click here for full article)
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  • Early Christians on plural marriage
    Brief Summary: There is extensive, unequivocal evidence that polygamous relationships were condoned under various circumstances by biblical prophets, despite how uncomfortable this might make a modern Christian. Elder Orson Pratt was widely viewed as the victor in a three-day debate on this very point with Reverend John P. Newman, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in 1870. (Click here for full article)
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  • Claims that polygamists are allowed to go beyond normal "bounds"
    Brief Summary: Is it true that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young admitted that the practice of polygamy meant they were "free to go beyond the normal 'bounds'" and "the normal rules governing social interaction had not applied to" Joseph? (Click here for full article)
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  • Sealing brother and sister together
    Brief Summary: Critics announce that Joseph "sealed" brothers and sisters together, perhaps hoping that readers will conclude that brothers and sisters were thus married and engaging in incestuous relationships. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hiding the truth about polygamy
    Brief Summary: It is true that Joseph did not always tell others about plural marriage. He did, however, make some attempt to teach the doctrine to the Saints. It is thus important to realize that the public preaching of polygamy—or announcing it to the general Church membership, thereby informing the public by proxy—was simply not a feasible plan. Critics of Joseph's choice want their audience to ignore the danger to him and the Saints. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hiding the truth about polygamy from Emma
    Brief Summary: Joseph Smith did not always disclose his plural marriages to his first wife, Emma. How might we understand his decision? (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Joseph write secret "love letters" to any of his polygamous wives?
    Brief Summary: Is it true that on 18 August 1842 Joseph Smith wrote a “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney requesting a secret rendezvous or "tryst?" Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks prior to this time. What does this letter actually say? (Click here for full article)
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  • Why was Joseph sealed to young women?
    Brief Summary: Critics argue that Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women are evidence that he was immoral, perhaps even a pedophile. (Click here for full article)
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  • Fanny Alger and William McLellin
    Brief Summary: With a lone exception, there is no account after Joseph’s death of Emma admitting Joseph’s plural marriages in any source. The reported exception is recorded in a newspaper article and two letters written by excommunicated Latter-day Saint apostle William E. McLellin. The former apostle claimed to have visited Emma in 1847 and to have discussed Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger. McLellin also reported a tale he had heard about Joseph and Fanny Alger in which they were allegedly observed by Emma together in the barn. (Click here for full article)
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  • Women locked in a room
    Brief Summary: Were women locked in a room while Joseph attempted to persuade them? (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Joseph Smith coerce women to marry him?
    Brief Summary: Some have claimed that Joseph applied significant pressure on women to be married to him. (Click here for full article)
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  • Did women turn Joseph down?
    Brief Summary: Some have claimed that significant pressure was put on women to practice plural marriage in Nauvoo. Did any of these women resist or refuse? What were the consequences of doing so? (Click here for full article)
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  • Does the fact that Joseph Smith did not "multiply and replenish the earth" through his plural wives contradict a commandment given in Doctrine and Covenants 132:63?
    Brief Summary: Joseph Smith does not appear to have produced any children by his plural wives, except for Emma, yet, Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 states, "But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men." Why did Joseph practice polygamy, if it was not for the purpose of multiplying and replenishing the earth? (Click here for full article)
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Joseph Smith was sealed to women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church. (Click here for full article)

See also Brian Hales' discussion: FAQ: Joseph Smith and Polyandry
Few things are more confusing to observers than Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women. Due to limitations in the number and types of documents available, understanding what transpired is difficult. The topic itself is very complex. Nevertheless, sufficient evidence is available to discern why these sealings took place and whether sexual polyandry occurred. (Link)
Did Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages Include Sexual Relations?
The answer is yes or no, depending upon the type of plural marriage Joseph and the woman entered into. Those that were for this life and the next (called “time and eternity”) could include sexual relations. Those that were limited to the next life (“eternity only”) did not. Overall, evidence supports sexual relations in less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions, and available documents indicate that such relations were infrequent. (Link)
Sexual Relations are Documented In Less than Half of Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages
Kathryn Daynes observed that any assertion that most of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages included sexual relations is “a conclusion that goes beyond documentary evidence.”[1] (Link)
Children from Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages







See also Brian Hales' discussion: Did Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages Include Sexual Relations?
The answer is yes or no, depending upon the type of plural marriage Joseph and the woman entered into. Those that were for this life and the next (called “time and eternity”) could include sexual relations. Those that were limited to the next life (“eternity only”) did not. Overall, evidence supports sexual relations in less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions, and available documents indicate that such relations were infrequent. (Link)
Sexual Relations are Documented In Less than Half of Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages
Kathryn Daynes observed that any assertion that most of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages included sexual relations is “a conclusion that goes beyond documentary evidence.”[2] (Link)
Children from Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages




  • Divorce in the 19th century
    Brief Summary: Some members of the Church remarried without obtaining a formal legal divorce. Critics of the Church try to make this seem dishonest and adulterous, when it was in fact the norm for the period, especially on the frontier and among the poor. Critics are not honest about the legal realities faced by nineteenth century Americans. (Click here for full article)
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  • Remarrying without civil divorce
    Brief Summary: Some critics like to emphasize that some LDS members did not receive civil divorces before remarrying—either monogamously or polygamously. They either state or imply that this shows the Saints' cavalier attitude toward the law. (Click here for full article)
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  • Illegal marriages in Ohio?
    Brief Summary: Critics charge that Joseph Smith performed monogamous marriages for time of already-married members, violating Ohio law in Kirtland. Such claims are false and represent a misunderstanding about the marriage and divorce law of the day. (Click here for full article)
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Notes


  1. 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.
  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.

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