Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Plural wives/Fanny Alger
This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.
- Discovered in a barn—
How did Emma learn about Joseph's marriage to Fanny Alger? I've heard they were discovered together in the barn. Was Fanny pregnant? (Link)
- Fanny Alger: Marriage or affair?—
Critics charge that Joseph Smith's early plural marriage(s) cannot have been "real" marriages, since the doctrine of "eternal marriage" (i.e., marriages which last beyond the grave) was not introduced until 1841. (Link)
Probably the wife about whom we know the least is Fanny Alger, Joseph's first plural wife, whom he came to know in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant of sorts to Emma (such work was common for young women at the time). There are no first-hand accounts of their relationship (from Joseph or Fanny), nor are there second-hand accounts (from Emma or Fanny's family). All that we do have is third hand accounts, most of them recorded many years after the events.
Unfortunately, this lack of reliable and extensive historical detail leaves much room for critics to claim that Joseph Smith had an affair with Fanny and then later invented plural marriage as way to justify his actions. The problem is we don't know the details of the relationship or exactly of what it consisted, and so are left to assume that Joseph acted honorably (as believers) or dishonorably (as critics).
There is some historical evidence that Joseph Smith knew as early as 1831 that plural marriage would be restored, so it is perfectly legitimate to argue that Joseph's relationship with Fanny Alger was such a case. Mosiah Hancock (a Mormon) reported a wedding ceremony; and apostate Mormons Ann Eliza Webb Young and her father Chauncery both referred to Fanny's relationship as a "sealing." Ann Eliza also reported that Fanny's family was very proud of Fanny's relationship with Joseph, which makes little sense if it was simply a tawdry affair. Those closest to them saw the marriage as exactly that—a marriage.