Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 13

Response to claims made in "Chapter 13: Unholy Matrimony"


A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods
A work by author: Richard Abanes
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Response to claim: 282, 572n8 (PB) - Joseph approved a "pretend marriage" between his plural wife Sarah Ann Whitney and Joseph Kingsbury

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph approved a "pretend marriage" between his plural wife Sarah Ann Whitney and Joseph Kingsbury

Author's sources:
  • George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (1995), 27.
  • "History of Joseph Kingsbury, Written by His Own Hand, 1846, 1849, 1850," Stanley Snow Ivins Collection, vol. 15, 74-76, Utah State Historical Society.

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 correct.

Question: What did the husband of Sarah Ann Whitney know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Joseph actually requested that Joseph C. Kingsbury marry Sarah civilly in order to allay any suspicions regarding their plural marriage

Sarah Ann Whitney's marriage to Joseph Smith was unusual in that, at some point after the marriage, Joseph actually requested that Joseph C. Kingsbury marry her civilly in order to allay any suspicions regarding their plural marriage. This marriage, however, was a "pretend" marriage according to Kingsbury,

[I] was imployed in Joseph Smith’s Store under the direction of Bishop Newel K Whitney untill the fall of 1842 and on the 16th day Oct Caroline my Wife Died. . . . how thankfull I feal thinking I shall see & meat her again to enjoy each other society for ever to part no more & also my little sons . . . and on the 29th of April 1843 I according to President Joseph Smith council & others agreed to stand by Sarah \Ann/ Whitney as supposed to be her husband & had a pretended marriage for the purpose of bringing about the purposes of bringing about the purposes of God in the last days as spoken by the mouth of the prophet Isiah Jeremiah Ezekiel and also Joseph Smith, & Sarah Ann should rec-d a great glory Honner & Eternal Lives and I Also Should Rec-d a Great Glory Honner & Eternal Lives to the full desire of my heart in having my companion Caroline in the first resurrection to hail her & no one to have power to take her from me & we Both shall be crowned & enthroned togeather in the Celestial Kingdom of God Enjoying Each others Society in all of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ & our little ones with us as is Recorded in this blessing that President Joseph Smith Sealed upon my head on the Twenty third day of March 1843 as follows. [1]

Sarah Ann and Joseph Kingsbury acted the part of husband and wife publicly, but apparently never consummated the marriage. Sarah married Heber C. Kimabll for time, not eternally, after Joseph's death and had seven children. According to Brian Hales, Joseph Kingsbury later billed the church for his services of acting as "front husband" for one of Joseph's plural wives. [2]

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


Response to claim: 282, 572n8 (PB) - Joseph wrote a "revealing letter" to Sarah Ann Whitney's parents in which he invited them "to bring their daughter to visit him"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph wrote a "revealing letter" to Sarah Ann Whitney's parents in which he invited them "to bring their daughter to visit him"

Author's sources:
  • George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (1995), 27.
  • Joseph Smith, letter to Whitney family, Aug. 18, 1842, photocopy, George Albert Smith papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library.

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

This letter was written to Sarah Ann Whitney's parents, and Sarah was included in the invitation (although not named). The letter did not ask them to "bring their daughter to visit him."

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, [3] and again in 1984 by Dean C. Jessee in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. [4] 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." [5]

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." [6] 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." [7] 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. [8]

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." [9] 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.[10] 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: 283, 572n11 (PB) - Joseph stated: "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph stated: "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one"

Author's sources: History of the Church, vol. 6, 410-411.

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 correct. Joseph was responding to accusations of adultery.

Question: Why did Joseph Smith say "I had not been married scarcely five minutes...before it was reported that I had seven wives"?

The Laws sought to have Joseph indicted for adultery and perjury

This statement refers to Joseph's well-known declaration on 26 May 1844 in his "Address of the Prophet—His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo". Significantly, this address was given the day after the Laws sought to have Joseph indicted for adultery in the case of Maria Lawrence. (They also sought to indict him on a charge of perjury.)

Many have criticized or been concerned by the secrecy with which Joseph instituted plural marriage without appreciating the realities of the dangers involved. Illinois law only criminalized adultery or fornication if it was "open". Since Joseph was sealed to his plural wives for either eternity, or for time and eternity, he did not view these relationships as constituting adultery or fornication. Therefore, under Illinois law, as long as Joseph and his plural wives did not live in an "open," or "public," manner, they were not guilty of breaking any civil law then in force in Illinois. Furthermore, this reality explains some of Joseph's public denials, since he could be truthfully said to not be guilty of the charges leveled against him: he was not committing adultery or fornication.

Joseph was refuting the charge of adultery, not the fact that he had "seven wives"

History of The Church 6:410-411:

I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can.

This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man dares not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this.[11]....

A man asked me whether the commandment was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet has charged me with adultery. I never had any fuss with these men until that Female Relief Society brought out the paper against adulterers and adulteresses.

Dr. Goforth was invited into the Laws' clique, and Dr. Foster and the clique were dissatisfied with that document,[12] and they rush away and leave the Church, and conspire to take away my life; and because I will not countenance such wickedness,[13] they proclaim that I have been a true prophet, but that I am now a fallen prophet.

[Joseph H.] Jackson[14] has committed murder, robbery, and perjury; and I can prove it by half-a-dozen witnesses. Jackson got up and said—"By God, he is innocent," and now swears that I am guilty. He threatened my life.

There is another Law, not the prophet, who was cashiered for dishonesty and robbing the government. Wilson Law also swears that I told him I was guilty of adultery. Brother Jonathan Dunham can swear to the contrary. I have been chained. I have rattled chains before in a dungeon for the truth's sake. I am innocent of all these charges, and you can bear witness of my innocence, for you know me yourselves.

When I love the poor, I ask no favors of the rich. I can go to the cross—I can lay down my life; but don't forsake me. I want the friendship of my brethren.—Let us teach the things of Jesus Christ. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a downfall.

Be meek and lowly, upright and pure; render good for evil. If you bring on yourselves your own destruction, I will complain. It is not right for a man to bare down his neck to the oppressor always. Be humble and patient in all circumstances of life; we shall then triumph more gloriously. What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.

I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers. I labored with these apostates myself until I was out of all manner of patience; and then I sent my brother Hyrum, whom they virtually kicked out of doors.[15]

Note the rejection of the term "spiritual wifeism". Note that "spiritual wifeism" likely refers to John C. Bennett's pattern of seduction and sexual license, which the Saints were always at pains to deny.

Joseph was not merely bluffing, nor was he lying—he literally could prove that the Laws were perjuring themselves on this point

In light of the circumstances under which they were spoken, Joseph's words were carefully chosen. Joseph was not merely bluffing, nor was he lying—he literally could prove that the Laws were perjuring themselves on this point in the charges brought only the day before.

Bradshaw cites a portion of Joseph's above statement, and then concludes:

A review of Joseph's remarks in light of the circumstances under which they were spoken shows that Joseph's words were carefully chosen. In this speech, Joseph was specifically reacting to the indictments for perjury and adultery that were presented by the grand jury the day earlier. Thus, when Joseph affirmed during the same speech: "I am innocent of all these charges," he was in particular refuting a claim that he and Maria [Lawrence] had openly and notoriously cohabitated, thus committing the statutory offense of adultery. He was also refuting the perjury charge. While the overall tone of Joseph's remarks may seem misleading, it is understandable that Joseph would have taken pains to dodge the plural marriage issue. By keeping his plural marriages in Nauvoo secret, Joseph effectively kept them legal, at least under the Illinois adultery statute.[16]:413


Response to claim: 284 (PB) - Many of Joseph's plural wives teenagers

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Many of Joseph's plural wives teenagers.

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

Some were in their teens. Many of them were not.

Response to claim: 285, 575n21 (HB) 573n21 (PB) - "Elohim and Heavenly Mother made countless spirit babies via celestial sex"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Coexisting with these two deities was a limitless amount of cosmic spirit matter known as "intelligence," out of which Elohim and Heavenly Mother made countless spirit babies via celestial sex."

Author's sources:
  • McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 387, 750.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:122..
  • Orson Pratt, "The Pre-Existence of Man," The Seer, March 1853, vol. 1, no. 3, 38

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 author uses the offensive term "celestial sex" to characterize LDS beliefs related to the pre-existence. The sources quoted, Bruce R. McConkie, Brigham Young, and Orson Pratt never use the term "celestial sex." No LDS leader has ever used the term "celestial sex." The term "celestial sex" was popularized in Ed Decker's 1982 anti-Mormon film The God Makers. This source is not credited as a source by the author, but its influence is obvious.

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a practice called "celestial sex," and that this is the manner in which "spirit children" are formed?

It is the critics of the Church that invented and use the offensive term "celestial sex"

This is not a term used by Latter-day Saints. It has, in fact, never been used by Latter-day Saints. The use of the term "celestial sex" by critics is intended to be demeaning and shocking to Latter-day Saints or interested readers. The use of such tactics may say much about the mainstream culture's preoccupation with sexual behavior. However, it says nothing about the actual beliefs of Church members.

Critics of the Church twist LDS beliefs into a form that makes them look ridiculous. Quotes made by early LDS leaders are often used to support the claim that Latter-day Saints believe in “Celestial sex.” It should be noted, however, that LDS leaders have never used the term "Celestial sex." This phrase was coined by critics of the Church, likely for its “shock value” in portraying the following concepts in LDS belief:

  1. The belief that God the Father has a physical body.
  2. The belief that there exists a Heavenly Mother who also possesses a physical body.
  3. The belief that our Heavenly Father and Mother together are capable of creating “spirit children.”

Critics take these ideas and combine them, leading to a declaration that Latter-day Saints therefore believe in “Celestial sex.” Various anti-Mormon works then use this idea to mock LDS beliefs or shock their readers—though this claim does not describe LDS beliefs, but the critics' caricature of them.

One of the earliest uses of the term "celestial sex" was in the anti-Mormon film The God Makers

For example, the 1982 anti-Mormon film The God Makers makes reference to “engaging in celestial sex with their goddess wives." One woman in the film, who is claimed to have once been a Latter-day Saint, expresses the idea that the primary goal of women in the Church is to "become a goddess in heaven" in order to "multiply an earth" and be "eternally pregnant." The claim that Latter-day Saints expect to have "endless Celestial sex" in order to populate their own planet is very popular among critics of the Church, though members themselves would not explain their beliefs in that way.

The critics' assumptions simply take what we know about our physical world and naively apply it to the afterlife. When one examines the critics’ point further, a key question ought to be raised: How does the union of two immortal beings in a physical manner produce spirit offspring? Latter-day Saint belief is that “spirit children” only receive a physical body upon being born on earth.

This question, of course, cannot be answered. It is pointless to speculate on the exact manner in which “spirit children” are produced, and to assume that this occurs through “Celestial sex” and being "eternally pregnant" is to apply a worldly mindset to a spiritual process. The bottom line: Latter-day Saints do not know the mechanism by which “spirit children” are produced, and no LDS doctrine claims that "celestial sex" and being "eternally pregnant" are the means.


Question: What have Latter-day Saint leaders actually said about the method of procreation in the afterlife?

Church leaders have said very little about this, because little is known about the process

The fact that we do not know the exact process by which “spirit children” are created does not mean that LDS leaders have not speculated on the process. There are a few quotes that are often used to support the critics’ concept of “Celestial sex," which we will now examine:

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 387

"[I]ntelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual [spirit] entities."

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 750

"Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities."

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, 122

"[God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be."
— Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:122..

John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 69

The author of the anti-Mormon book Becoming Gods says the following:

"As for the sexual aspect of this event, LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe explained, 'Sex Among the Gods. Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere.'" (p. 392, n14)

Upon reading the quote above, it does indeed sound as if Widtsoe is talking about a “sex act” among gods. It must be noted, however, that Widtsoe referred to "sex" as a "quality" rather than a "practice." Of course, the fact that two genders exist at all implies that it somehow takes both to accomplish the creation of spirit children. Looking at Widtsoe’s quote in context, we learn that he is not speaking about the sex act, but about gender:

Sex Among the Gods.
Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere. It is indestructible. The relationship between men and women is eternal and must continue eternally. In accordance with Gospel philosophy there are males and females in heaven. Since we have a Father, who is our God, we must also have a mother, who possesses the attributes of Godhood. This simply carries onward the logic of things earthly, and conforms with the doctrine that whatever is on this earth is simply a representation of spiritual conditions of deeper meaning than we can here fathom.

Would a “sex act” be considered a “quality” that was “indestructible?” Critics rely on contextual presentism by quoting the term "sex" without the context that makes its meaning clear. It is more reasonable to consider “gender” a “quality” that is “indestructible.” Consider the following quote from James E. Talmage.

“We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of sex among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life. It was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both disembodied and resurrected states .... [The] scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing characteristics, including the distinction of sex, "before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth." ("The Eternity of Sex," Millennial Star (24 August 1922): 530.)"

Note the phrase “the distinction of sex.” Talmage is not talking about a “sex act,” but rather the distinction between the two sexes or genders.


Response to claim: 285, 574n25 (PB) - "Earth, by the way, in this Mormon scenario, was fashioned as part of a joint creative project supervised by the most faithful of Heavenly Father's spiritual progeny"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Earth, by the way, in this Mormon scenario, was fashioned as part of a joint creative project supervised by the most faithful of Heavenly Father's spiritual progeny (e.g., Jesus, Joseph Smith, Noah, Adam, John the Baptist, etc.). Elohim's other spirit children included: Lucifer, who would become the Devil (a.k.a. Satan); Napoleon; George Washington; Joseph Smith; Louis Armstrong, Donny and Marie Osmond, Senator Orrin Hatch, U.S. President George W. Bush, and everyone else who has ever lived on this planet."

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

This is simply sarcastic propaganda.

Response to claim: 286, 574n26 (PB) - Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father is a "polygamous god"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father is a "polygamous god"

FairMormon Response


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

This is not a doctrine of the Church, even if some believe it.

Response to claim: 286 (PB) - Do Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father is "the god of this planet"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Do Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father is "the god of this planet"?

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

Numerous LDS scriptures assert that God the Father rules through Christ over the universe. DC 45:1; DC 76:24; Moses 1:33; Moses 2:1) LDS apostles and leaders frequently use the term Lord of the Universe to describe Jesus, who creates and rules over "worlds without number."

Response to claim: 286, 575n29 (PB) - Latter-day Saints believe that our mortal life is similar to what God the Father had to go through in order to become God

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saints believe that our mortal life is similar to what God the Father had to go through in order to become God.

FairMormon Response


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

Latter-day Saints do believe that God went through a mortal existence at some point.

Response to claim: 287 (PB) - "More spirit children means more power, which in turn pushes a Mormon male further up the hierarchical ladder of gods in our universe"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "More spirit children means more power, which in turn pushes a Mormon male further up the hierarchical ladder of gods in our universe."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This statement is not LDS doctrine—it is the creation of the author.

Question: Do Mormon men believe that they will become "gods of their own planets" and rule over others?

Mormons believe in human deification, but what this doctrine means or entails is beyond human comprehension

It is claimed by some that Mormons believe that they can push themselves higher in a type of 'celestial pecking order.' This is often expressed by the claim that Latter-day Saint men wish to become "gods of their own planets." One critic even extends this to our "own universe,"

Mormons teach that by obedience to all the commandments of Mormonism, a Mormon may attain the highest degree of heaven and ultimately become a god, creating and ruling over his own universe. Do you believe that? Is this your ultimate personal goal?

Members of the Church—like early Christians—believe in human deification or theosis. They assert that this doctrine is taught in the Bible and by modern revelation. However, what this doctrine means or entails is beyond human comprehension anyway. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," taught Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Most members of the Church realize that they have enough on their plates to do and become through Christian discipleship and keeping their covenants. They do not spend much time concerned about the details of their future state. They are simply confident that they will be happy, in families, and back in the presence of God where they will continue to do His will.

Certainly we can have the end in mind, remembering the relationship of Father to child is crucial. He will always, through all eternity, be our Father and our God. Still, it would be unwise to jump the gun and assume we are practically almost there; we have plenty to do in the meantime, and an eternal and abiding need for the grace of Christ to compensate for our manifest inadequacies.

The critics' accusations along these lines are a caricature of LDS belief, and omit virtually everything of importance in their discussion of this doctrine.

The caricature: Mormons wishing to "get their own planet"

Mormons, along with many other Christian denominations, believe in deification or theosis, based on the teaching that we can become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Little is known, though much might be speculated, about the specific details of our potential under this doctrine. Reducing it to ruling a planet caricatures a profound and complex belief. The use of the word “planet” makes Mormons seem more like sci-fi enthusiasts than devout Christians.

This isn’t just a quibble about semantics. Claims that Mormons hope for “their own planets” almost always aim to disrespect and marginalize, not to understand or clarify. The reality is that we seek eternal life, which we consider to be a life like that of our Father in Heaven. We consider our immediate task on Earth to learn to understand and obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than speculate on what life might be like if we achieve exaltation. Specifics about the creation of worlds and the ability to govern them upon achieving eternal life are not clarified in Latter-day Saint scripture. Attempts to portray these concepts as simply wanting to “get our own planet” are a mockery of Latter-day Saint beliefs.

The reality: Latter-day Saints wishing to become like their Father in Heaven

Much criticism of Joseph Smith and the Church in general stems from a teaching regarding the eternal potential of mankind.[17] The Church believes that men and women are the "offspring" of Heavenly Parents (see Acts 17:28-29) composed of the same eternal substance (see DC 93:33-35) and hence we have divine possibilities through the grace of Christ. Latter-day Saints believe that they can achieve a life like that of our Father in Heaven. This implies that one can eventually participate in similar works, among which would be the creation of worlds. In 2001, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted,

The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does. We learn both the spiritual things and the secular things “so we may one day create worlds [and] people and govern them” (Henry B. Eyring, quoting Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, October 2002.)

Elder's Eyring and Kimball are not the only ones to make such references. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Joseph Fielding Smith all associated becoming like our Heavenly Father with the creation of worlds, and the populating of these worlds with spirit children.

However, there are many names for (and many interpretations of) this belief in and out of the Church. There are various schools of thought on what it might mean for a person to become a "god" after this life. On this view, Brigham Young didn't teach of countless gods doing their own thing in countless universes, each out for their own concerns. According to Brigham, there will be no such separate kingdoms of personal power

...to yourself, by yourself, and for yourself, regardless of every other creature.

But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth. If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead...If we fancy that we have an independent interest here and in the world to come, we shall fail in getting any of it.

Your interest must be concentrated in the head on the earth, and all of our interest must center in the Godhead in eternity, and there is no durable interest in any other channel.[18]

Along these lines, consider the interesting sermon by Heber C. Kimball from 1856. In this discourse, President Kimball tangentially referred to deification, not as a glorious declaration that we will become gods or godlike, but to remind his listeners not to put the cart before the horse. We ought to consider becoming true "Saints" before focusing too much on being gods.

Heber said:

Many think that they are going right into the celestial kingdom of God, in their present ignorance, to at once receive glories and powers; that they are going to be Gods, while many of them are so ignorant, that they can see or know scarcely anything. Such people talk of becoming Gods, when they do not know anything of God, or of His works; such persons have to learn repentance, and obedience to the law of God; they have got to learn to understand angels, and to comprehend and stick to the principles of this Church.

…I bear testimony of this, and I wish you would listen to counsel and lay aside every sin that doth so easily beset you, and turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart.</ref>

Similarly, during the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith is said to have taught:

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel--you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.[19]

The need for divine grace

Main article: Neglecting grace?

Christ said "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (see Matthew 5:48) and members of the Church tend to take that charge literally. The trouble is, some Saints might feel they can or even must achieve this impossible goal through their own efforts. In conversations about grace and works Mormons are quick to quote: "faith without works is dead," (see James 2:20), often in reaction to extreme conservative Protestantism's claims that one can be saved by faith alone without a concurrent change in behavior and life wrought by that faith. In this respect, the Latter-day Saints share far more with the early Christians than they do with modern conservative Protestantism.

Members must also remember, however, that works without faith is also dead, and Heber seems to be trying to express that message.

Here we see an early example of a Church leader discussing "grace," though he still maintains a perspective in which works are essential. It is for us, today, to focus on today, and retain a remission of sins relying on Christ, as the light grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day, when the rest of this doctrine can be figured out more clearly. In the meantime, our probation continues, and Heber had a few pieces of advice to impart:

We cannot become perfect, without we are assisted by our heavenly Father. We must be faithful and of one heart, and one mind, and let every man and woman take course to build up and not pull down. See that you save your grain, that you may save yourselves from the wicked of the world. Try to take care of every thing that is good to eat, for this is the work of the Lord God Almighty, and we shall have times that will test the integrity of this people, that will test who is honest and who is not.

Omitting prayer is calculated to lead the mind away from those duties which are incumbent upon us; then let us attend to our prayers and all our duties, and you will know that brother Brigham and his brethren have told you of these things...

There are trying times ahead of you, do you not begin to feel and see them? If you do not, I say you are asleep. I wish that the spirit which rests upon a few individuals could be upon you, everyone of you, it would be one of the most joyful times that brother Brigham and I ever saw with the Saints of God upon this earth.[20]


Response to claim: 287, 575n38(PB) - Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus Christ was not "conceived in any way that might be considered supernatural"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Is it true that Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus Christ was not "conceived in any way that might be considered supernatural" and that He was not "miraculously begotten, for instance, by the Holy Ghost, as Christianity teaches"?

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 11:21).

Question: Do Mormons believe that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born?

Latter-day Saints believe in the virgin birth

It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary, therefore Mary was not a virgin when Jesus was born. As evidence they point to a handful statements from early LDS leaders that directly or indirectly say so. It is also claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah."

Critics of the Church like to dig up quotes like those from Brigham Young for their shock value, but such statements do not represent the official doctrine of the Church. Furthermore, critics often read statements through their own theological lenses, and ignore the key distinctions which LDS theology is attempting to make by these statements. Instead, they try to put a salacious spin on the teaching, when this is far from the speakers' intent. The key, official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is literally the son of God (i.e., this is not a symbolic or figurative expression), and Mary was a virgin before and after Christ's conception.

At the annunciation, Mary questioned the angel about how she could bear a child: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34; the expression "know" in the Greek text is a euphemism for sexual relations). Nephi likewise described Mary as a virgin (1 Nephi 11:13-20), as did Alma1 (Alma 7:10).

Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh (e.g., 2 Nephi 25:12; D&C 93:11). He was literally the Son of God, not the son of Joseph or even the son of the Holy Ghost.

What the Church has not taken a position on is how the conception took place, despite speculations by various early Church leaders. The canonized scriptures are silent on how the conception took place—even Nephi's detailed vision of then-future Messiah is veiled during the part where Mary conceives (1 Nephi 11:19).

Some early leaders of the Church felt free to express their beliefs on the literal nature of God's Fatherhood of Jesus' physical body

For example, Brigham Young said the following in a discourse given 8 July 1860:

"...[T]here is no act, no principle, no power belonging to the Deity that is not purely philosophical. The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood—was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." [21]

Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution

But are these types of statements official Church doctrine, required for all believing Latter-day Saints to accept? No—they were never submitted to the Church for ratification or canonization. (See General authorities' statements as scripture.)

Critics have noted that this statement, and others like it, can be read to indicate there was sexual intercourse involved in the conception of Jesus. Regardless of this speculation--which goes beyond the textual data--Brigham Young's view may be seen by some contemporary Latter-day Saints as correct in that Jesus was literally physically the Son of God, just as much as any children are "of our fathers." Modern science has discovered alternative methods of conceiving children--e.g., in vitro "test tube" babies--that don't involve sexual intercourse. Thus, though processes such as artificial insemination were unknown to Brigham and thus likely not referenced by his statements, it does not necessarily follow from a modern perspective that the conception had to come about as the result of a literal sexual union. It is certainly not outside of God's power to conceive Christ by other means, while remaining his literal father. (Put another way, Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance, if you will, without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution).

Ezra Taft Benson taught:

He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Nephi 11:20.) [22]

Benson's emphasis is on both the literalness of Jesus' divine birth, and the fact that Mary's virginal status persisted even immediately after conceiving and bearing Jesus.

Church leaders' statements on the literal paternity of Christ were often a reaction to various ideas which are false

  • they disagreed with the tendency of conventional Christianity to deny the corporeality of God. They thus insisted that God the Father had a "natural," physical form. There was no need, in LDS theology, for a non-physical, wholly spirit God to resort to a mysterious process to conceive a Son.
  • they disagreed with efforts to "allegorize" or "spiritualize" the virgin birth; they wished it understood that Christ is the literal Son of God in a physical, "natural" sense of sharing both human and divine traits in His makeup. This can be seen to be a reaction against more "liberal" strains in Christianity that saw Jesus as the literal son of Mary and Joseph, but someone endowed with God's power at some point in His life.
  • they did not accept that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were of one "essence," but rather believed that they are distinct Personages. Thus, it is key to LDS theology that Jesus is the Son of the Father, not the Holy Ghost. To a creedal, trinitarian Christian, this might be a distinction without a difference; for an LDS Christian it is crucial.

Bruce R. McConkie said this about the birth of Christ:

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says. [23]

In the same volume, Elder McConkie explained his reason for his emphasis:

"Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin, because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. Mary, his mother, "was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Ne. 11:13-21), was "overshadowed" by the Holy Ghost, and the conception which took place "by the power of the Holy Ghost" resulted in the bringing forth of the literal and personal Son of God the Father. (Alma 7:10; 2 Ne. 17:14; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.) Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.) Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false. [24]

Note that McConkie emphasized the literal nature of Christ's divinity, his direct descent from the Father, and the fact that the Holy Ghost was a tool, but not the source of Jesus' divine Parenthood.

Harold B. Lee was clear that the method of Jesus' conception had not been revealed, and discouraged speculation on the matter

Harold B. Lee said,

We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more. [25]


Response to claim: 287-8, 575n39 (PB) - Do Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father visited the earth to conceive Jesus Christ through Mary after "making her his wife"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Do Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father visited the earth to conceive Jesus Christ through Mary after "making her his wife" even though she was "his daughter" and "betrothed to Joseph?"

Author's sources:
  • Brigham Young, Deseret News, October 10, 1866.
  • Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, 268. Brigham says, "The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband. On this account infidels have called the Savior a bastard. This is merely a human opinion upon one of the inscrutable doings of the Almighty. That very babe that was cradled in the manger, was begotten, not by Joseph, the husband of Mary, but by another Being. Do you inquire by whom? He was begotten by God our heavenly Father. This answer may suffice you—you need never inquire more upon that point. Jesus Christ is the only begotten of the Father, and he is the Savior of the world, and full of grace and truth."
  • Orson Pratt, :Celestial Marriage," The Seer, October 1853, vol. 1, no. 10, 158. (It should be noted that the First Presidency rejected Pratt's writings in The Seer as Church doctrine.)

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 author twists words in such a way that no Latter-day Saint would recognize this alleged part of their "theology."

Question: Do Mormons believe that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born?

Latter-day Saints believe in the virgin birth

It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary, therefore Mary was not a virgin when Jesus was born. As evidence they point to a handful statements from early LDS leaders that directly or indirectly say so. It is also claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah."

Critics of the Church like to dig up quotes like those from Brigham Young for their shock value, but such statements do not represent the official doctrine of the Church. Furthermore, critics often read statements through their own theological lenses, and ignore the key distinctions which LDS theology is attempting to make by these statements. Instead, they try to put a salacious spin on the teaching, when this is far from the speakers' intent. The key, official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is literally the son of God (i.e., this is not a symbolic or figurative expression), and Mary was a virgin before and after Christ's conception.

At the annunciation, Mary questioned the angel about how she could bear a child: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34; the expression "know" in the Greek text is a euphemism for sexual relations). Nephi likewise described Mary as a virgin (1 Nephi 11:13-20), as did Alma1 (Alma 7:10).

Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh (e.g., 2 Nephi 25:12; D&C 93:11). He was literally the Son of God, not the son of Joseph or even the son of the Holy Ghost.

What the Church has not taken a position on is how the conception took place, despite speculations by various early Church leaders. The canonized scriptures are silent on how the conception took place—even Nephi's detailed vision of then-future Messiah is veiled during the part where Mary conceives (1 Nephi 11:19).

Some early leaders of the Church felt free to express their beliefs on the literal nature of God's Fatherhood of Jesus' physical body

For example, Brigham Young said the following in a discourse given 8 July 1860:

"...[T]here is no act, no principle, no power belonging to the Deity that is not purely philosophical. The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood—was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." [26]

Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution

But are these types of statements official Church doctrine, required for all believing Latter-day Saints to accept? No—they were never submitted to the Church for ratification or canonization. (See General authorities' statements as scripture.)

Critics have noted that this statement, and others like it, can be read to indicate there was sexual intercourse involved in the conception of Jesus. Regardless of this speculation--which goes beyond the textual data--Brigham Young's view may be seen by some contemporary Latter-day Saints as correct in that Jesus was literally physically the Son of God, just as much as any children are "of our fathers." Modern science has discovered alternative methods of conceiving children--e.g., in vitro "test tube" babies--that don't involve sexual intercourse. Thus, though processes such as artificial insemination were unknown to Brigham and thus likely not referenced by his statements, it does not necessarily follow from a modern perspective that the conception had to come about as the result of a literal sexual union. It is certainly not outside of God's power to conceive Christ by other means, while remaining his literal father. (Put another way, Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance, if you will, without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution).

Ezra Taft Benson taught:

He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Nephi 11:20.) [27]

Benson's emphasis is on both the literalness of Jesus' divine birth, and the fact that Mary's virginal status persisted even immediately after conceiving and bearing Jesus.

Church leaders' statements on the literal paternity of Christ were often a reaction to various ideas which are false

  • they disagreed with the tendency of conventional Christianity to deny the corporeality of God. They thus insisted that God the Father had a "natural," physical form. There was no need, in LDS theology, for a non-physical, wholly spirit God to resort to a mysterious process to conceive a Son.
  • they disagreed with efforts to "allegorize" or "spiritualize" the virgin birth; they wished it understood that Christ is the literal Son of God in a physical, "natural" sense of sharing both human and divine traits in His makeup. This can be seen to be a reaction against more "liberal" strains in Christianity that saw Jesus as the literal son of Mary and Joseph, but someone endowed with God's power at some point in His life.
  • they did not accept that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were of one "essence," but rather believed that they are distinct Personages. Thus, it is key to LDS theology that Jesus is the Son of the Father, not the Holy Ghost. To a creedal, trinitarian Christian, this might be a distinction without a difference; for an LDS Christian it is crucial.

Bruce R. McConkie said this about the birth of Christ:

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says. [28]

In the same volume, Elder McConkie explained his reason for his emphasis:

"Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin, because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. Mary, his mother, "was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Ne. 11:13-21), was "overshadowed" by the Holy Ghost, and the conception which took place "by the power of the Holy Ghost" resulted in the bringing forth of the literal and personal Son of God the Father. (Alma 7:10; 2 Ne. 17:14; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.) Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.) Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false. [29]

Note that McConkie emphasized the literal nature of Christ's divinity, his direct descent from the Father, and the fact that the Holy Ghost was a tool, but not the source of Jesus' divine Parenthood.

Harold B. Lee was clear that the method of Jesus' conception had not been revealed, and discouraged speculation on the matter

Harold B. Lee said,

We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more. [30]


Response to claim: 288, 576n42-43 (PB) - Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus became a polygamist just like His Father

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus became a polygamist just like His Father.

Author's sources: Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," The Seer, 172, 158.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The Church teaches no such doctrine. Most references to Elohim's status come from Orson Pratt, who believed that this was true. The Church, however, has neither accepted nor promoted such a teaching.

Question: Do Mormons believe Jesus Christ was a polygamist?

There is no official doctrine regarding Jesus' marital state

The Bible is silent on the issue of Jesus' (or the Father's) marital state, and there has been no modern revelation stating he was or was not married. This leaves the issue an open question. Jesus' purported polygamy plays little if any role in present-day LDS discourse.

Therefore, the easy answer is that no, Latter-day Saint doctrine does not teach that Jesus was married, polygamist or otherwise. In fact, there is no official Church doctrine on this issue. Members are free to believe as they wish concerning this matter.


Charles Penrose (1912): "We do not know anything about Jesus Christ being married"

Charles W. Penrose:

Question 2: Do you believe that Jesus was married?
Answer: We do not know anything about Jesus Christ being married. The Church has no authoritative declaration on the subject. [31]


Question: Did early Mormon leaders believe that Jesus Christ was a polygamist?

A few Church leaders believed this, but the idea was never official Church doctrine

Since members in the nineteenth century were commanded to practice polygamy, many presumed that Jesus would have had to also practice this law.

Jedediah M. Grant

Jedediah M. Grant said:

This ancient philosopher says they were both John's wives. Paul says, "Mine answer to them that do examine me is this:—.Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas." He, according to Celsus, had a numerous train of wives.

The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based upon polygamy, according to the testimony of the philosophers who rose in that age. A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers. We might almost think they were "Mormons."

But if you pass on in their history to seek for uniformity and beauty, you will find some grand flare-ups among them. Look, for instance, at Paul and Peter, disputing and quarrelling with each other....[32]

Grant believed that early writers, hostile to the Christians, charged members and even Jesus, with polygamy (a charge which would have offended sophisticated Roman opinion in the day). Grant sees the obvious parallels with how the Saints have been treated over the same issue, but Jesus' marital state is not his main point, but conflict and persecution. (It is not clear, however, to which source Grant is referring—FAIR has been unable to locate any such reference to Celsus.)

Orson Hyde

Likewise, Orson Hyde remarked:

I discover that some of the Eastern papers represent me as a great blasphemer, because I said, in my lecture on Marriage, at our last Conference, that Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children.

All that I have to say in reply to that charge is this—they worship a Savior that is too pure and holy to fulfil the commands of his Father. I worship one that is just pure and holy enough "to fulfil all righteousness;" not only the righteous law of baptism, but the still more righteous and important law "to multiply and replenish the earth." Startle not at this! for even the Father himself honored that law by coming down to Mary, without a natural body, and begetting a son; and if Jesus begat children, he only "did that which he had seen his Father do."[33]

Hyde is again not focused on Jesus' matrimonial state, and notes that being married and begetting children—polygamously or otherwise—is no evil, but is in accordance with God's commandments from time to time.


Response to claim: 288, 576n44 - The author states that the "road to godhood" for others is "far more difficult and takes considerably longer" than the route taken by Jesus Christ

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

*The author states that the "road to godhood" for others is "far more difficult and takes considerably longer" than the route taken by Jesus Christ, since Jesus did not require "wives" or "temple rituals" to achieve godhood.

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

This is an absurd claim by the author. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins—something that no man is even capable of doing for himself. This is what the author implies is the easier road to godhood?

Response to claim: 289, 578n51 (HB) 576n51 (PB) - "many "'influential' Mormons and LDS religion teachers still saw women as mere 'birth machines'"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The following differences exist between the hardback and paperback editions:
  • "According to the late BYU scholar Eugene England, Mormon women literally are to become 'birth machines' so Mormon males can continue creating and populating various worlds without end." (HB)
  • "In 1987, BYU scholar Eugene England noted how many "influential" Mormons and LDS religion teachers still saw women as mere "birth machines"—a view he called "one of the more popular rationales for eternal polygyny." Just recently "an increasing number of faithful Mormons" have started rejecting such a notion." (PB)

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

This is utter nonsense.

Response to claim: 290, 577n56-57 (PB) - Ann Eliza Young in her 1875 book Wife No. 19 stated the polygamy in Utah was not an option, but a command

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Ann Eliza Young in her 1875 book Wife No. 19 stated the polygamy in Utah was not an option, but a command.

FairMormon Response


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

Given that plural marriage was practiced by only 15-20% of members on average, this claim is dubious.


Response to claim: 295, 579n77 - Latter-day Saint men treated women as "livestock or property"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saint men treated women as "livestock or property." The endnote refers to an alleged quote made by Brigham Young to Henry Jacobs in which he is claimed to have told Jacobs that "the woman that you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is a spiritual wife of brother Joseph...and she, in his behalf, with her children, are my property..."

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

Stenhouse could not have heard the alleged comment by Brigham in 1846, since he was baptized in England on July 14, 1845, and didn't come to the United States until late 1855. His "corroboration," therefore, is of no worth, and he is likely to have simply copied Hall's claim as his own. Hall claimed that the comment was heard "in the hearing of hundreds," yet nobody else present among these "hundreds" has ever corroborated this story. The claim also does not match Brigham Young's teachings on the subject.

Response to claim: 295, 582n81-82 (HB) 580n81-82 (PB) - The author claims that "wife swapping" was "acceptable"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "wife swapping" was "acceptable."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is nonsense. Grant's quote is about consecrating everything to God's service: money, wives, etc. It does not sanction "wife swapping."

Response to claim: 297, 581n88-89 (PB) - Missionaries were instructed to not select converted women as wives before they were brought back to Utah

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Missionaries were instructed to not select converted women as wives before they were brought back to Utah.

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 author creates a composite idea from the two sources. Kimball's discourse doesn't actually mention plural marriage. Kimball's quote in context:

"I say to those who are elected to go on missions, Go, if you never return; and commit what you have into the hands of God-your wives, your children, your brethren, and your property. Let truth and righteousness be your motto; and do not go into the world for anything else but to preach the Gospel, build up the kingdom of God, and gather the sheep into the fold. You are sent out as shepherds to gather the sheep together; and remember that they are not your sheep: they belong to Him that sends you: Then do not make a choice of any of those sheep; do not make selections before they are brought home and put into the fold."


Response to claim: 297, 581n90-95 (PB) - If missionaries chose not to "heed Kimball's warning" about selecting wives before bringing them to Utah, they were castrated

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

If missionaries chose not to "heed Kimball's warning" about selecting wives before bringing them to Utah, they were castrated.

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

This is nonsense. There is no evidence of this beyond Lee's book, which was heavily edited by his lawyer with an anti-Mormon spin after Lee's death.

Response to claim: 299, 581n95 (PB) - Brigham Young said that "the only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young said that "the only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

FairMormon Response


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

If you read the entire passage from which this quote is taken, you will see that Brigham is also acknowledging those who do not actually practice plural marriage. Critics of the Church, however, only extract this single phrase.

Question: Did Brigham Young believe that one could not enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they were a polygamist?

Wilford Woodruff: "President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all"

I attended the school of the prophets. Brother John Holeman made a long speech upon the subject of Poligamy. He Contended that no person Could have a Celestial glory unless He had a plurality of wives. Speeches were made By L. E. Harrington O Pratt Erastus Snow, D Evans J. F. Smith Lorenzo Young. President Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all.[34]

Wilford Woodruff: President Young...said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord

Then President Young spoke 58 Minuts. He said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.[35]


Response to claim: 301, 582n106 (PB) - Orson Pratt taught that anyone not entering into plural marriage "will be damned"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Orson Pratt taught that anyone not entering into plural marriage "will be damned"

FairMormon Response


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

Pratt is talking about being sealed, not having more than one wife.

Question: Did early Mormon leaders teach the plural marriage was a requirement for exaltation?

Some 19th century Church leaders taught that plural marriage was a requirement for those wishing to enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom

To obey the Lord's commands in all things is necessary for exaltation. (Our inevitable failure to live perfectly requires the grace of Christ's atonement.) Members of the Church in, say, 1860 who refused to follow the counsel of prophets and apostles put their spiritual standing in jeopardy. Likewise, members who refuse to obey present counsel are at risk.


Response to claim: 301 (PB) - "Monogamy was equated with a failure to obey God, which not only displeased the Almighty, but endangered one's eternal destiny"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Monogamy was equated with a failure to obey God, which not only displeased the Almighty, but endangered one's eternal destiny."

Author's sources: No source provided.

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

This is nonsense.

Question: Is plural marriage required in order to achieve exaltation?

Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

Critics of the Church point to a statement made by Brigham Young to make the claim that Latter-day Saints believe that one must practice plural marriage in order to achieve exaltation: [36] Brigham Young once said,

The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.)

This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. They do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by those trying to worry modern-day readers):

Brigham Young also said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith"

We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.[37]

Brigham was stating that the command to practice plural marriage was from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God

It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:

  • The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
  • To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
  • It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
  • Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.

Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as present-day members do not.


Response to claim: 301-2, 582n108 (PB) - Did Brigham actually say that monogamy was the "source of prostitution and whoredom" throughout all Christendom?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Brigham actually say that monogamy was the "source of prostitution and whoredom" throughout all Christendom?

FairMormon Response


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

Brigham actually said "a source," not "the source."

Response to claim: 302, 582n109 (PB) - Was failure to acquire plural wives considered a crime worthy of death?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

*Was failure to acquire plural wives considered a crime worthy of death?

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is an absurd claim. The source listed by the author talks about an increase in the number of plural marriages during the "Mormon Reformation." It says nothing about apostasy being "worthy of death." The idea that apostasy was "worthy of death" originated with the Tanners. The author strings several different ideas together to create his conclusion that failure to acquire plural wives was "worthy of death."

Response to claim: 302 (PB) - The author claims that single or monogamous men "mocked and ridiculed as practically impotent"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that single or monogamous men "mocked and ridiculed as practically impotent"

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

This is an absurd claim. The author provides no source to back up this assertion. The burden of proof is upon him.

Response to claim: 303, 582n111 (PB) - LDS women were told that they could only be saved through their husbands, who would provide them with salvation

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

LDS women were told that they could only be saved through their husbands, who would provide them with salvation.

FairMormon Response


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

LDS believe that salvation only comes through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and do not believe that it is dependent upon any man.

Response to claim: 304, 583n114 (PB) - Brigham said: "It is for you to bear children..."

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham said: "It is for you to bear children,...are you tormenting yourselves by thinking that your husbands do not love you? I would not care whether they loved a particle or not; but I would cry out, like one of old, in the joy of my heart, 'I have got a man from the Lord!' 'Hallelujah! I am a mother—I have borne an image of God!'"

FairMormon Response


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

A key portion of Brigham's quote has been omitted.

Response to claim: 305 (PB) - The author claims that the Bible not sanction or command polygamy

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that the Bible not sanction or command polygamy.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

levirate marriage was mandated by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Even if true, this claim is immaterial. God did not condemn the practice of plural marriage in the Bible. If it was everywhere and always forbidden, God could and would have done so. Early Christian authors understood this.

Question: Does the Bible forbid plural marriage?

The Bible does not forbid plural marriage

Some Christians claim that plural marriage has no Biblical precedents—they point to condemnation of King David and King Solomon as evidence that polygamy is always forbidden by God. Some claim that Abraham's polygamy "portrays his acceptance of plural marriage as a mark of disobedience to, and a lack of faith in, God." It is claimed that since the Bible didn't allow a man to marry two sisters, this proves that LDS plural marriage was "unbiblical" because some Mormons did so.

The Bible does not forbid plural marriage. In fact, many of the most noble Biblical figures (e.g., Abraham) had more than one wife. Furthermore, Biblical laws quoted by critics forbid kings from being led astray by plural spouses, or entering relationships not sanctioned by God's authority. However, the same Biblical laws provide guidelines for legitimate plural relationships.

It is true that David and Solomon were condemned for some of their marriage practices

It is true that David and Solomon were condemned for some of their marriage practices. This problem was mentioned in Deuteronomy:

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother...17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away... (Deuteronomy 17:15,17

Only four chapters later, the Lord gives instructions on how to treat equitably plural wives and children

Critics ignore the fact that only four chapters later, the Lord gives instructions on how to treat equitably plural wives and children. (See Deuteronomy 21:15-17.) Why does He not simply forbid plural marriage, if that is the intent of chapter 17? Why does He instruct the Israelites on how to conduct themselves in plural households, if all such households are forbidden?

So, rather than opposing plural marriage, the command to kings is that they:

  1. not multiply wives to themselves (i.e., only those who hold proper priesthood keys may approve plural marriage—see 2 Samuel 12:8, Jacob 2:30, DC 132:38-39);
  2. that these wives not be those who turn his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:3-4);
  3. not take excessive numbers of wives (see Jacob 2:24).

David and Solomon are excellent examples of violating one or more of these Biblical principles, as described below.

David is well-known for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah

David is well-known for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (see 2 Samuel 12:1-27. Nathan the prophet arrived to condemn David's behavior, and told the king:

7 ¶ And Nathan said to David...Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

8 And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. (2 Samuel 12:7-10)

Nathan here tells David that the Lord "gave thee...thy master's wives." And, the Lord says, through His prophet, that He would have given even more than He has already given of political power, wives, and wealth.

But, David sinned and did evil in the matter of Uriah. If plural marriage is always a sin to God, then why did Nathan not take the opportunity to condemn David for it now? Or, why did the prophet not come earlier?

Solomon's wives turned his heart away from the Lord, as Deuteronomy cautioned

Solomon's problem is described:

1 BUT king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love...

7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8

Solomon's wives turned his heart away from the Lord, as Deuteronomy cautioned. Nothing is said against the plurality of wives, but merely of wives taken without authority that turn his heart away from the Lord.

Abraham and other Biblical examples demonstrate that plural marriage may, on occasion, be sanctioned

David and Solomon do not prove the critics' point, but in fact demonstrate that plural marriage may, on occasion, be sanctioned (as in David's case certainly).

But, we need not rely on these examples only to demonstrate that plural marriage was practiced by righteous followers of God in the Bible. Other cases include:

and also possibly:

The Law of Moses provides rules governing Israelites who have plural wives

As noted above, Deuteronomy 21:15 provides rules governing Israelites who have plural wives. Further instructions are also given in Exodus 21:10. Why did God not ban plural marriage through Moses if it is always an immoral act?

The Law of Moses did not allow plural marriages to two sisters

Latter-day Saint plural marriage did not rely on biblical authority or interpretation (though they used biblical parallels to explain and understand the command which they believed they had received from God via a modern prophet.)

Marrying two sisters was quite frequent, possibly because sisters had already learned to get along together, which made for more harmonious plural families. One researcher noted:

Marriage to the wife's sister, defined as incest only by Anglican canon law, is the only form of polygamous marriage of the [potentially 'incestuous] categories...that occurs in significant numbers. [39]

The Saints did not claim to be restoring Mosaic plural marriage—they only used Moses' example as precedent for the fact that God could and had commanded plural marriage in the past. The specific structure, rules, and restrictions varied from time to time as guided by prophets.


Response to claim: 306 (PB) - The author claims that the Hebrews never considered polygamy a standard practice

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that the Hebrews never considered polygamy a standard practice.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Levirate marriage was mandated by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Even if true, this claim is immaterial. God did not condemn the practice of plural marriage in the Bible. If it was everywhere and always forbidden, God could and would have done so. Early Christian authors understood this.

Response to claim: 307, 583-4n123-5 (PB) - Did Joseph Smith and Brigham Young believe that the New Testament teaches polygamy and that Jesus and his apostles were actually polygamists?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph Smith and Brigham Young believe that the New Testament teaches polygamy and that Jesus and his apostles were actually polygamists?

FairMormon Response


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

Jedediah Grant is actually talking about statements attributed to Celsus: Was Jesus a polygamist?

Response to claim: 308 (PB) - The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy

Author's sources:

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 Book of Mormon states that God condemns polygamy except when God commands it.

Question: Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?

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

Jacob 2:24-29 states:

24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

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

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

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

Critics of the Book of Mormon generally refrain from citing the very next verse:

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30).

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord may, under some circumstances, command the practice of plural marriage. As one member of the Church explained:

Jacob 2:30 is the key verse for understanding why Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other nineteenth-century Mormons were justified in their practice of polygamy, but that this is the exception to the Lord's law, not the rule.... Mormons believe that the period when polygamy was publicly sanctioned (1852–1890)—and the longer period in which it was privately approved (the early 1830s to 1904)—were exceptions to God's basic law that Jacob spelled out in verse 27.[40]


Notes

  1. Joseph C. Kingsbury, “History of Joseph C. Kingsbury,” (photocopy of manuscript), in Ronald and Ilene Kingsbury Collection, MS 522 Box 3 Folder 2, page 13, Marriott Library. off-site
  2. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sarah Ann Whitney," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  6. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 349. ( Index of claims )
  7. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  8. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  9. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  10. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  11. Note that "spiritual wifeism" likely refers to John C. Bennett's pattern of seduction and sexual license, which the Saints were always at pains to deny.
  12. That is, the Relief Society document condemning adultery, which Foster had engaged in under the tutelage of John C. Bennett.
  13. Again, Joseph is denying the spiritual wifeism of Bennett, which he calls "wickedness" and was quick to oppose via Church discipline.
  14. Jackson was another witness against Joseph Smith, and would go on to write an anti-Mormon tract: Joseph H. Jackson, The Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, (Printed for the Publisher: Warsaw, Illinois, 1846).
  15. 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), 6:410-412. Volume 6 link
  16. M. Scott Bradshaw, "Defining Adultery under Illinois and Nauvoo Law," in Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith's Legal Encounters, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. Walker, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 2014), 401–426.
  17. This article was based on a blog post, Blair Hodges, "Becoming Saints before gods," lifeongoldplates.com (8 February 2008), last accessed (28 December 2008) off-site (used with permission). Due to the nature of a wiki project, the text may have been subsequently modified.
  18. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:26-28.
  19. 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), 6:306–307. Volume 6 link
  20. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 4:1-7.
  21. Brigham Young, "Character of God and Christ, etc.," (8 July 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:115. (See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:238.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:218.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:268..
  22. Ezra Taft Benson, "Joy in Christ," Ensign (March 1986), 3–4. (emphasis added) off-site
  23. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 742. GL direct link
  24. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 822. GL direct link
  25. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 14. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  26. Brigham Young, "Character of God and Christ, etc.," (8 July 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:115. (See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:238.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:218.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:268..
  27. Ezra Taft Benson, "Joy in Christ," Ensign (March 1986), 3–4. (emphasis added) off-site
  28. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 742. GL direct link
  29. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 822. GL direct link
  30. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 14. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  31. Charles W. Penrose, "Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered," Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912).
  32. Jedediah M. Grant, "UNIFORMITY," (7 August 1853) Journal of Discourses 1:346.
  33. Orson Hyde, "The Judgements of God on the United States--The Saints and the World," (18 March 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:210.
  34. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:527 (journal entry dated 12 February 1870). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
  35. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:31 (journal entry dated 24 September 1871). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
  36. The following critical works use this quote from Brigham to claim that Latter-day Saints must accept polygamy as a requirement to enter heaven. Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers; Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 233, 422 n. 48-49. ( Index of claims ); George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), xiv, 6, 55, , 356. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review)); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 29, 258.( Index of claims )
  37. Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added) See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.
  38. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 2:10. off-site
  39. Jessie L. Embry, "Ultimate Taboos: Incest and Mormon Polygamy," Journal of Mormon History 18/1 (Spring 1992): 93–113.
  40. Jana Riess, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated & Explained (Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005), 82.