Ch. 5 – Busting Polygamy Wide Open

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What I read in the article about polygamy was shocking. I had been taught for four decades that polygamy was something that began with Brigham Young, and was only implemented to help widows whose husbands had died in the Pioneer crossing of the plains. Not once in church was I ever told that Joseph Smith was the source of the polygamy. An apologist reamed me out one day when I told him that I never knew. He said that it was not a secret and that it was a member’s responsibility to know this stuff.

But I ask you, if something does not appear in any church curricula, never taught over the pulpit, never taught at general conference, never referenced in church literature anywhere, how am I as a member supposed to learn about it? I had specifically been admonished my whole life to never look outside of approved church materials, yet somehow, I was supposed to figure out myself that it happened. It is simply ridiculous to say that I can only look at approved church literature, then exclude possibly damaging information from that literature, and then lambast me for not knowing the information. That is just plain silly.

I was never told about the fact that he had at least 33 wives (Don’t believe me? Look it up.)

Wives of Joseph Smith

I was never told that every place Joseph and the church leaders practiced polygamy it was illegal. Let me say it again…. It was illegal every single place that polygamy was practiced. I read it myself from the state legal codes of the day. Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, even in Mexico when the church moved out to the Mexican Territories. It was always illegal.

I was never told about Fanny Alger.

Fanny Alger was a 16-year-old housekeeper that lived with Joseph and Emma. Joseph had a sexual affair with Fanny and they were caught having sex in a barn by Emma. This was completely baffling to me. Why had I never heard this? Surely it must be an anti-Mormon lie. The prophet Joseph Smith would never have done anything so sexually improper. He was god’s mouthpiece on the earth. There is no way this is true. I rolled on over to a church apologist website expecting them to blow this one out of the water with both guns. I expected the apologists to prove it was not true. Then an even more shocking thing occurred.

The apologists CONFIRMED it.

Not just one of them, but all the apologists I could find said yes it had happened, and then claimed that it was all somehow OK because she was just Joseph’s first polygamist wife. So, see? It’s all just fine because god was cool with it. WAIT JUST A MINUTE, I thought. This was 1833! She couldn’t have been his polygamous wife, because Joseph had not received the special “sealing power” from god to perform polygamous marriages at that time! It was not until 1836 that Joseph would supposedly get the power to perform sealings. This was an obviously false claim by apologists. This was not an anti-Mormon lie, this was corroborated by multiple contemporary primary sources and the church apologist community ADMITTED that it was true.

One account even referred to Emma driving Fanny out of the house because she was pregnant. Even Oliver Cowdery and other church leaders were angry with Joseph because of the sexual impropriety calling the situation with Fanny “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair.” Oliver, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick Williams witnessed Joseph confess his betrayal to Emma and he begged for her forgiveness.

I cannot express just how much of an impact this had on me. The church had spent my whole lifetime painting this perfect picture of Joseph the Prophet, rugged, down-to-earth, winningly charming and handsome. Man of god, man of priesthood, man of sacrifice. But what I had staring me right in the face was compelling evidence that Joseph had sex with a teenage girl and gotten caught, and that the church was attempting to obscure that evidence by calling it a “marriage”.

In fact, 7 to 11 of Joseph’s wives were under the age of 18. I often hear the apologist argument that “marriage that young was common” at the time and no big deal. This is a complete myth; easily researched, easily disproven. Helen Mar Kimball was only FOURTEEN. Let me repeat that so that it sinks in. Helen was FOURTEEN. Joseph was THIRTY-SEVEN. This 37-year-old man married and had sex with a 14-year-old girl with the open collusion of her parents.

Joseph had gone to Heber Kimball and first asked him to give his wife Vilate to Joseph as a polygamist wife. The Kimballs struggled with this command from the prophet for several days. They describe that they were emotionally and spiritually crushed, yet finally relented and agreed. But Joseph had other plans. After they had agreed to this, Joseph said that it had all been a test of their faith, and that instead he wanted 14-year-old Helen as a wife.

In her own words, Helen said this:

You look at that and tell me if you think that is right. This was manipulation and coercion pure and simple. Imagine if your next-door neighbor came to you, said he was a prophet, and demanded your 14-year-old daughter as a celestial wife, would you agree to it? Of course not, you would call the police.  What if known and convicted polygamist Warren Jeffs came to you and asked for your 14-year-old daughter as a wife, would you agree to it? Of course you wouldn’t.

Now imagine if it were your Bishop or Stake President who asked for your 14-year-old daughter as a wife, would you agree to it? I would hope that the answer would still be an emphatic NO. What if LDS church leaders like Dieter Uchtdorf, or David Bednar came to you and asked for your 14-year-old daughter as a wife saying that your family would be saved if you agreed and damned if you did not. Would you do it?

Several apologists for the church try to justify Joseph’s despicable behavior by making the claim that these were just “dynastic” marriages and there was no sexual activity involved. That is just nonsense.

Even Helen described it like this:

Take a look at the facts, and the words directly from the mouths of the women.

  • Emily Partridge said she “roomed” with Joseph the night after their wedding and had “carnal intercourse” with him.
  • Melissa Lott testified in court that she had been Joseph’s wife “in very deed.”
  • When Heber Kimball asked Eliza Snow if she was a virgin although married to Joseph Smith, she replied, “I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that”
  • Prescinda Huntington, who was simultaneously married to her husband Norman Buell and Joseph Smith (a situation called polyandry) reported that she did not know if Norman or Joseph was the father of her son Oliver.
  • William Law, First Counselor in the First Presidency reported that Joseph had told him a certain girl (not Emma) had “given him more pleasure than any other girl he had ever enjoyed.”
  • Joseph Nobel swore in a court affidavit that Joseph told him that he and Louisa Beaman had spent the night together.
  • William Clayton, Joseph’s personal secretary reported that Emma had found Joseph and Eliza Partridge in an upstairs bedroom together. Emma was devastated by the adultery.

What is also damning is that church apologist organizations, and faithful LDS authors such as Bushman and Hales freely admit that sex had occurred.

Which brings us to Polyandry.

It was downright boggling to find out that 11 of Joseph Smith’s wives were married to other men at the exact same time they were married to Joseph. This flew directly in the face of the “widows who need support” argument. These women already had husbands and then married Joseph too. I read the information myself from the church’s own genealogy website. These were not dynastic marriages either but also included sex.

What in the world could be the justification for Joseph marrying a woman already married? This was baffling to me and it went against everything I had been taught about the reasons for polygamy. It obviously wasn’t to “build up Zion” or “take care of abandoned widows”. Even with temple marriages today, in the church handbook of instructions it states that a woman cannot be sealed to two men at the same time (although it is fine for a man to be sealed to multiple women because the church apparently is cool with polygamy in the afterlife – there are even current living church apostles sealed to more than one woman after their first wife had died.)

Let’s take a closer look at Orson and Marinda Hyde who were married in 1834. Joseph had the audacity to send Orson on a mission to Jerusalem in April, 1844, then Joseph married Marinda as a polyandrous wife. She had a son on Jan 23, 1845 who many suspect was Joseph’s (if you do the math, in order for Henry to have been the father, she would have had to carry the child 294 days instead of the average 266 days of gestation). What seems clear to me is that Joseph decided he wanted Marinda, so he sent her husband away, polyandrously married her and they have a son. What’s worse is that most of the time, Joseph married these women without the other husband even knowing about it.

Underage girls, secret weddings, secret rendezvous, secret sex. Sounds more and more like Warren Jeffs all the time.

Joseph also went out of his way to keep his polygamy a secret from all but a group of insiders (who coincidentally Joseph allowed to practice polygamy too – WINK WINK!). They all kept it a secret. Joseph lied over and over in public, in writing, in newspapers, saying he was not practicing polygamy. In one specific instance, he gave a sermon in which he not only denied the polygamy but then condemned the practice. There were multiple of his polygamous wives in the audience during the sermon.

And let’s not forget that many times, Joseph kept the polygamous marriages secret from Emma. Never mind that in Mormon church scripture section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants which outlines the rules of polygamy states that the first wife needed to give permission for additional wives. Joseph lied to Emma and did it anyway. There was even the case where he married himself to two sisters in a secret ceremony, and then when he finally got Emma’s permission, he had a fake wedding ceremony pretending it was the first time he married them. All to deceive Emma.

Why did Joseph and everyone involved in the polygamy go to such great lengths to keep it a secret? Why was it necessary at the time to hide the marriages if everything was above board and endorsed by god? Why is it necessary for the modern church to obscure and sometimes flat out deny the truth about Joseph, his polygamy, his teen brides, his polyandry, and his sexytime sex? If all of this was a commandment of god, if this was a restored eternal truth, if this was a vital part of salvation, why the blanket of lies and obfuscation?

Or in other words: If everything was legit, why all the lies and cover-up?

Exmo: How I Killed the Mormon God, Chapter 5: Busting Polygamy Wide Open | ©2017 Aaron Case. All Rights Reserved.