Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Mormon History Is Not What They Say

Now and then I'll hear from some fellow latter-day saints who have gotten their backs up over something I’ve written.  But after my last entry on this blog I was surprised by some fiery objections from a totally unexpected quarter.

I’ve not only managed to offend a few faithful Mormons, now I’ve somehow gotten most of the  ex-Mormon community arrayed against me, too.

Most people I know who have chosen to leave the church are quite reasonable, and I count many of them as friends. But on some ex-Mormon boards and blogs, the response by some people to my article on the origins of LDS polygamy can best be defined by one word:  Angry.

Others have responded with sarcastic ridicule.  The proprietor of  the blog “Molly's Muse” referred to the name of my blog, Pure Mormonism, as “hilariously titled.”

Ouch.  That hurt.

Then she goes on to say that my “theory is as laughable as the writing is dull.”

Double ouch.

(A parenthetical note to newcomers: The decision for this blog’s title derives from my observation that the organic religion founded by Joseph Smith was nondogmatic and libertarian, while the church today appears defined by a tone of authoritarian rigidity. Anyone assuming I believe modern Mormonism is pure has misread my intent.)

All this controversy stems from my review last month of the book Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, by Richard and Pamela Price.

The Prices offer a multitude of contemporary proofs that Joseph Smith vigorously denounced the practice of plural marriage and tried without success to eradicate it prior to his death.  They also carefully document how history was tampered with by the prophet's successors in order to “attach his name” to the practice.  

The reactions I got from the majority of active Mormons were varying degrees of surprise and interest, but judging from most comments, it really didn’t shake their faith.

By contrast, some of my ex-Mormon friends came at me with both barrels for what they saw as an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Joseph Smith, who they insist is an irredeemable nogoodnik.

With all due respect to those who have chosen to exit the church, it appears to me that more than a few have become overly invested in the view that Joseph Smith just has to be a complete huckster and unquestioned fraud.  To some of these people, utter disdain for Joseph Smith has become their new religion.  Any attempt to portray Brother Joseph as anything other than a con man and a hustler is seen as a direct attack on their faith.

Now, before you smugly sniff “who cares what a bunch of apostates think?” I would remind you that most of these people used to be just like you and me.  Actually, they were better than you and me, if righteousness is measured by total devotion to the church and all its programs.  These people were not Jack Mormons.  Far from it.

In almost all cases, if you look beneath the surface of a member who has turned away from the church in disgust, you’ll find someone whose testimony was at one time unshakable, a stalwart guardian of the faith who once spent countless hours online and in person defending the church from its anti-Mormon enemies.  Here’s an even-handed video by John Dehlin that accurately describes who these people are and how they got that way:

As you can see, a common thread among these “heretics” is the discovery that many of the things they were taught in church and seminary turned out to be not quite as officially presented.  Consequently, these members felt betrayed by the institution they revered as a beacon of truth and light.

As one former latter-day Saint put it recently, “I remember getting into a discussion with a co-worker who asked me about [some things he had learned about the early LDS church].  I remember telling him that all that stuff was anti-Mormon lies.”

As it turned out, the things the co-worker brought up were historical facts he could back up using actual Mormon sources, and this member ended up feeling he had been deceived by the official church materials he had relied on.

“That experience and others like it,” he continued,” is one of the main reasons for my level of anger today. I looked like a complete idiot, a dupe and blind follower, because the church has chosen to treat me like a 10 year old who cannot handle the truth.”

What’s more, he says, this tendency of the church to protect its image at the expense of historical veracity is counterproductive to the missionary effort. “Any investigator is going to go home and google ‘Mormon Church’ and in one hour will know more about the history of the Mormon Church than the true believer who has been a member for 40 years.”

Let me make it clear that I neither judge nor begrudge any person whose search for truth takes them on a path different from my own.  Who am I to insist that anyone hold the same beliefs as I do?

Where I do have a problem is with those who claim to be on a search for truth, yet refuse to consider any evidence that may challenge their already fixed beliefs.  That’s what I ran into with some of these former members of the church.  They seem to have settled into their new belief system and want nothing to do with any new information that might challenge even a tiny part of it.

Most of their arguments with me came down to 1.) Joseph Smith lied about everything else, so it’s obvious he lied about being against polygamy, and  2.)  The historical record is clear that almost three dozen women were secretly married to Joseph Smith, and the historical record does not lie.

As for point number one above, that is an intellectually lazy position.  Let's say for the sake of argument that Joseph Smith did lie about (x) and (y).  It does not then automatically follow that he is lying about (z).  A criminal may be a forger, but that doesn’t mean he is also a murderer.  (Okay, Mark Hoffman just came to mind, so I’m going to have to work on that analogy.  Still, even Hoffman was not charged with either crime until all the evidence against him had been meticulously examined.)

The more I look into this, the more I'm inclined to see that the evidence is very strong that Joseph Smith vigorously opposed the practice of polygamy, while the evidence that he secretly practiced it anyway appears quite flimsy.

As to the argument of the historical record being unimpeachable; Well, it turns out that a great deal of what passed for true history prior to the twentieth century has turned out to be wildly unreliable, and that goes double for the historical record on polygamy.
Everything You Know Is Wrong
A couple of weeks ago Jeff Rigenbach sent me his latest book, Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction To Revisionism.

I’ve had a passion for revisionist history for as long as I can remember, but something I read in Riggenbach’s informative volume caught me up short.  It was an essential factor that I had never considered before and which just so happens to have direct application to why the historical record about Joseph Smith and Polygamy is so confusing and contradictory.

While doing the research for her biography of Joseph Smith back in the 1940's, Fawn Brodie wrote to a friend that “the more I work with the polygamy material, the more baffled I become.” She has not been alone.  Every biographer since has struggled with the dichotomy of what Joseph Smith asserted and what the historical record appears to show.

I think Jeff Rigenbach may have uncovered the explanation for us.

Correcting The Past
If the study of history can be defined as "the science of discovering what happened," then revisionism is the forensic science of methodically re-sifting through the evidence of the past to get at the truth of what really happened.  According to Joseph R. Stromberg, “revisionism refers to any efforts to revise a faulty existing historical record or interpretation.”

Harry Elmer Barnes, the father of modern revisionist history, describes revisionism as “the effort to revise the historical record in the light of a more complete collection of historical facts, a more calm political atmosphere, and a more objective attitude.”  As Riggenbach himself succinctly puts it, “We need to revise the historical record when we have new facts.”

What surprised me about Riggenbach’s book -and which is directly applicable to our discussion here- is his revelation that until quite recently there was no such thing as “history” as we usually think of it; that is, the kind of history that could actually be relied upon:         
“It was the tail end of the 19th century before the calling of the historian had been professionalized and academicized to such an extent that a majority of practitioners in the field had come to hold the view of their discipline that we now take for granted -the historian as dispassionate seeker of truth, a scholar, much more like an anthropologist...Still, there were holdouts.” (Pg 27)
One “holdout” in the arena of Mormon historians may have been Joseph Fielding Smith, whose book Essentials in Church Historywas a book all missionaries were armed with in my day, and which turns out to have been of no more real use to the student of Mormon history than the 911 Commission Report is today for the person desiring to find out the complete truth about that particular event.

I relied upon Elder Smith’s book during my mission when I gave a presentation to a class of high school seniors in Milan, Missouri where I used it to refute “anti-Mormon lies” about Mormon complicity in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Elder Smith (an apostle at the time he wrote it) placed the blame for the massacre squarely on the local Indians and John D. Lee who he painted as a renegade Mormon with only a tenuous connection to the church.  At any rate, he strongly implied, the members of the Fancher party were asking for it and had it coming.

Even today I feel like a dupe and a fool when I remember how vehemently I defended the official church position against what was the real truth of that sordid affair.

But to give him his due, Joseph Fielding Smith was little different than any other compiler of American history a hundred years ago, including the most famous and reputable of all, George Bancroft, whose ten volume History of the United States, published in 1874, remained the unchallenged standard work for decades.  But even Bancroft’s classic History was far from objective:
“Bancroft believed that his job was to write a chronicle that would make his readers proud of their country’s history, and when it suited his didactic purpose, he fabricated.” (Why American History Is Not What They Say, Pg 27)
It was not only Bancroft who was making up history to suit his agenda; Riggenbach demonstrates how this "style" was common among virtually all historians of the time.   He shows how "most of them saw themselves in particular as the providers of an important kind of inspirational literature."  Facts were elastic.  This practice of bending reality to fit the lesson plan was rampant in the 19th century.  It was systemic.  And it was considered normal.

One can easily see the parallels between writers wishing to portray actions of the American government favorably, and those within the LDS church tasked with portraying Mormon history in the most positive light.  According to Riggenbach:
“The American history taught in most schools during the past hundred years faithfully reflected received opinion, and received opinion sees the United States as a consistent, devoted partisan of the same spirit of individual liberty that once moved its founders -a peace-loving nation that wishes the rest of the world only the best, and never goes to war except in self-defense.”
“Apply this set of principles to what we know of the past and, at the end of the day, you’ll wind up with quite a pile of facts that didn’t meet the criteria and now litter the cutting room floor.”

“The facts about the gross violations of individual liberty that have been championed by U.S. presidents almost since the beginning, for example -John Adams’s Sedition Acts, Andrew Jackson’s genocidal treatment of the American Indians, Abraham Lincoln’s military conscription (to say nothing of his suspension of habeas corpus and his imprisonment of newspaper editors who dared to disagree with his prosecution of the Civil War), William McKinley’s brutal suppression of the independence movement in the Philippines after the Spanish American War, Franklin Roosevelt’s order to round up American citizens of Japanese ancestry and imprison them in concentration camps- are any of these inconvenient facts likely to be selected for inclusion in a textbook based on the “commonly shared principle” of the saintliness of the U.S. government?” (Pg. 24)   
Similarly we Mormons may ask ourselves if we should really expect inconvenient facts that reflect poorly on the “saintliness” of our church leaders to find their way into books and Sunday School manuals published by the church.

History: It Ain’t What It Used To Be
In 1972 the church appointed LDS Professor Leonard J. Arrington as the official Church Historian.  This was the first time a true historian, a trained academic, had been given that post.  This important office had always been held by a general authority.  Arrington opened up the massive church archives to other Mormon academics, and the era of The New Mormon History was born.  Surprise, surprise; that magic era didn’t last long. Just barely a decade.

The archives were a treasure house of information for the excited historians involved.  They were soon discovering things that even the current leadership of the church hadn't known about.  Paul Toscano reports that Hyrum L. Andrus was opening wooden crates full of church records that had been nailed shut since they left Nauvoo in 1846.  All kinds of fascinating stuff was in there.

Books and essays were written based on these newly found letters, diaries, journals, newspapers, and records. But not all of the information in these documents was seen as favorable to church leadership.  Some of the revisions clearly contradicted elements of what had become the official church history.

A massively ambitious multi-volume church history was planned, utilizing the talents of the church's most qualified scholars and historians. Then one day the order came down from on high to scrap the project, and the historian's office was "reorganized." Arrington, who had been introduced at general conference with great fanfare for a vote of approval ten years earlier, was quietly released in 1982 without even a ention in conference or any vote of thanks. The position of Church Historian was again placed into the hands of a trusted general authority. The archives were closed to all but a select few, and have remained closed to this day.

For a perfect example of the work of a revisionist Mormon historian, and why revisionism is such a volatile subject to some in the church, let’s look at Richard Van Wagoner’s reexamination of the famous Transmogrification of Brigham Young.

Mighty Morphing Fact Arrangers
We all know the basic story. It goes something like this.  After the death of Joseph and Hyrum, the church was left leaderless.  So the million dollar question on everyone's mind: Who was next in line to lead it?

A meeting was called, and Sidney Rigdon was first to speak.  As the story goes, Rigdon got up and campaigned for himself to be the new prophet.  Then it was Brigham Young’s turn, and as he spoke, the gathered throng witnessed a miracle.  It looked to them as if Brigham Young had been transformed into Joseph Smith before their very eyes.  Brigham’s visage became Joseph’s visage, his voice was Joseph’s voice, his mannerisms were Joseph’s.  Clearly the spirit of Joseph Smith himself had returned to witness to the membership that Brigham Young was to be his anointed successor.

That's the way most of us have heard it, but virtually every element of that story is false.  Nothing even remotely resembling the described supernatural transformation took place.  How do we know?  We have new facts.  Using letters, diaries, journals, newspaper accounts, and church records, Van Wagoner walks us through the event.  He revises the history.  You can read his essay here, entitled The Making of a Mormon Myth.  (You can find another excellent analysis by Reid L. Harper in the Fall 1996 Journal of Mormon History.)

The simple but true facts are that on August 8th, 1844, Sidney Rigdon, as remaining member of the First Presidency, spoke to a large gathering of the Saints, advocating that the church continue to be led by a triumvirate with himself as President.  The next day, Brigham Young gave a speech proposing that the church instead should be governed by the twelve apostles as a body.  He was not campaigning to be the next leader himself, nor would anyone have accepted him if he had made such a proposal. 

The membership eventually voted in favor of Brigham’s plan because he made the better speech and it was considered wiser that church government be spread among the twelve rather than to continue with a First Presidency under the ailing Sidney Rigdon.

And that was it.  No image, no visions, no voice.  Just a rip-roaring good sermon by Brigham Young.  There was no transfiguration of Brigham Young into the form of Joseph Smith, no morphing, no eerie ghost noises, no nothing.

Again, how do we know?  From primary sources; the letters, diaries, journals, and newspapers of the time.  Brigham's speech was reported on in detail in both Nauvoo newspapers and recorded by scribes for the official church records.  Hundreds of members present wrote about Brigham's fine performance in great detail in their private journals.  Nowhere was there a mention of the miraculous or divine.  Not a hint.

Until years later.

Van Wagoner takes us through the transformation.  Not the transformation of Brigham to Joseph, but the transformation from historical truth to historical legend.

You Really Had To Be There              
After the saints were settled in Utah, church leadership began to shake out in the form of a hierarchy with certain apostles recognized as having seniority over others.  Almost immediately Brigham Young forsook the plan he had proposed that church affairs should be administered by the twelve equally, and quietly adopted the plan that had been proposed by Sidney Rigdon -with himself in Sidney Rigdon's place.

Although in his famous speech in the grove at Nauvoo Brigham had insisted that “you can’t put anyone at the head of the Twelve,” in no time he managed to maneuver himself at the head of the Twelve and into the role of successor to the prophet Joseph Smith.

This aggrandizement was not what the Saints had originally voted for, but Brigham had more than proven his leadership abilities by getting them across the plains and settled in, and who were they to question the senior member of the Quorum?

It was soon being spoken about that “the mantle of Joseph had fallen on Brigham.”  What that meant exactly was anybody’s guess.  “Mantle” is both a verb and a noun, and is a very abstract term.  Nothing tangible or spiritual or visible had actually “fallen” on Brigham Young. It was meant as a metaphor.

But In 1857, 13 years after the speech in the grove, Albert Carrington took the account one step further.  In a speech before a huge gathering of Saints, he said that he couldn’t tell Brigham from Joseph that day when Brigham was speaking.

Someone else soon claimed that he had sensed the very spirit of Joseph Smith while Brigham had been speaking.  Then another person declared that he saw the very personage of Joseph take over Brigham’s body.
That was all it took.  Mark Twain has famously said that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. Human nature being what it is, there was soon no shortage of pioneers declaring that they had seen the miraculous transformation too.  It was a sign! It was a miracle!  Brigham Young had been transformed by the spirit of Joseph Smith into the image of Joseph Smith himself!

Some of the most prominent church leaders got caught up in the illusion.  “His words went through me like electricity," testified apostle Orson Hyde in 1869, “It was not only the voice of Joseph Smith but there were the features, the gestures, and even the stature of Joseph before us in the person of Brigham.”

Eight years later, a full thirty-three years after the original event, Hyde embellished further:
“I heard the voice of Joseph through him, and it was as familiar to me as the voice of my wife, the voice of my child, or the voice of my father. And not only the voice of Joseph did I distinctly and unmistakably hear, but I saw the very gestures of his person, the very features of his countenance, and if I mistake not, the very size of his person appeared on the stand. And it went through me with the thrill of conviction that Brigham was the man to lead this people. And from that day to the present there has not been a query or a doubt upon my mind with regard to the divinity of his appointment; I know that he was the man selected of God to fill the position he now holds.”
There’s just one problem with Orson Hyde’s testimony.  He hadn't been there.  Orson Hyde did not arrive in Nauvoo until August 13th. 

Other prominent Mormons who weren’t present added their testimonies too.  John D. Lee’s personal diary, Van Wagoner tells us, “makes it clear that he did not return to Nauvoo until 20 August, nearly two weeks later.”   But that didn’t stop Lee from later saying "I myself, at the time, imagined that I saw and heard a strong resemblance to the Prophet in him."  Wilford Woodruff told the story from the pulpit many times over the years, embellishing it more than any of the others with each retelling.

Interestingly, Woodruff was present that day and had written the most detailed and complete  contemporary account of Brigham’s speech on the day he gave it.  But in that original account he failed to mention any of the supernatural sights and sounds he miraculously recalled years later.

If the church leadership were inclined to exaggerate, the rank and file were up to the challenge too.  According to Van Wagoner:
“Retrospective retellings of a ‘transfiguration,’ in a variety of forms, can be found in dozens of sources, yet no two seem to agree on precise details. Elizabeth Haven Barlow, a cousin of Brigham Young, for example, wrote that her mother told her that ‘thousands in that assembly’ saw Young ‘take on the form of Joseph Smith and heard his voice change to that of the Prophet’s.’  Eliza Ann Perry Benson reminisced that the Saints arose ‘from their seats enmass’ exclaiming ‘Joseph has come! He is here!’”
Too bad the newspapers neglected to notice the crowd going wild.  It would have made good copy.

Thankfully, not every member of the church got caught up in the collective delusion.  According to Van Wagoner:
Bishop George Miller, present at the gathering, later recalled that nothing supernatural had occurred on that day. Young made a “long and loud harangue,” Miller later wrote, for which I “could not see any point in the course of his remarks than to overturn Sidney Rigdon’s pretensions.”

Why It Matters, And Why It Doesn’t
Just as 19th century historian George Bancroft believed there was nothing wrong with fabricating and reshaping the facts as long as the resulting stories “would make his readers proud of their country’s history”, so did 19th century Mormons profess to fudging the facts if it led to promoting the faith.

But such Mormon urban legends have a way of backfiring.  Rather than strengthening testimonies, once the deception is revealed, testimonies are often destroyed. Witness the hoards of good and faithful people leaving the church in droves every year after discovering their testimonies were dependent on deeply held beliefs that had been manipulated by those they trusted most.

 Nearly a hundred years ago B.H. Roberts was already concerned about this trend: 
“Suppose your youth receive their impressions of church history from “pictures and stories” and build their faith upon these alleged miracles [and] shall someday come face to face with the fact that their belief rests on falsehoods; what then will be the result? Will they not say that since these things are myth and our Church has permitted them to be perpetuated …might not the other fundamentals to the actual story of the Church, the things in which it had its origin, might they not all be lies and nothing but lies?”

Whack-a-Mole Wives
Members and ex-members alike deserve to take an objective look at the women who started popping up in late nineteenth century Utah claiming to have once been secretly married to Joseph Smith.  We deserve to carefully analyze their claims one by one, and that's just the kind of research Richard and Pamela Price have been engaged in for over thirty years.

Are these tales of secret marriages not that much different from tales of miraculous transfigurations, thought to aid in affirming the glorious doctrines of the Lord's true church?  If apostles would claim to witness miracles they did not see, is it not conceivable that their women could claim weddings they did not experience?  Did any of these women come forward earlier than the late 1870's?  Do we have any contemporary accounts of their secret marriages written in their diaries near the time they supposedly took place? Why don’t we hear anything of this until these women were well past middle age and the practice of plural marriage was under attack?

Anyone could have claimed to have been married to Joseph Smith, since the marriages were alleged to have been secret and no marriage certificates exist.  One wife would not even have known about any of the others. “You were married to Joseph Smith? No kidding! I was married to Joseph Smith!

“Well, howdy-do and pleased ta meetcha!”

All of these dubious claims were made by women who were firm believers in The Principle, having lived their entire adult lives as plural wives, nearly all of them to men of prominence in Utah society.  They were absolutely convinced that the doctrine was introduced by Joseph, so a little exaggeration to affirm the legitimacy of the practice couldn't hurt. Doubtless some of these gals may have come to believe Joseph Smith actually would have married them for real if he had actually met them.   

Let’s take a quick look at just a couple of cases of women who have been presented to me as proof positive, absolutely-airtight-smoking-gun-evidence that Joseph Smith was a sex-obsessed Lothario.

The Smoking Gun Is A Toy Cap Pistol

 1.  Nancy Rigdon
Nancy Rigdon was the pretty nineteen year old daughter of First Councilor Sidney Rigdon, and the way the story is often told, Joseph Smith made advances toward her in a letter and she rejected him.

In volume II of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, the Prices examine this story in depth and document all the juicy details.  You can read the complete analysis here.  I’ll give you the short version.

A letter was delivered to Miss Rigdon which she was told was from Joseph Smith.  The letter did not contain Joseph’s signature, and Miss Rigdon rejected it because she knew where it had come from.  She suspected it was the work of John C. Bennett, who held incriminating knowledge about her seduction by Chauncey Higbee and hoped for her cooperation in entrapping Joseph. What ended up happening to the poor girl was that her affair with Higbee was made public, causing her no end of  humiliation.

Wouldn’t you know it, Bennett somehow had a copy of the letter to Nancy Rigdon of his own, which he published in the Sangamo Journal, and later in his book, claiming it was written by Joseph Smith to ancy Rigdon.  Gee, I wonder how he got that copy?

Joseph Smith made affidavit denying authorship of the letter, and Nancy Rigdon herself affirmed it had not come from Smith, “nor in his hand writing, but by another person, and in another person's hand writing.”  Nancy’s father didn’t believe the letter was from Joseph either.  Neither copy of the notorious letter has been found to this day.  All we know of it is from what Bennett published.

Some smoking gun.

2.  Helen Mar Kimball

I suppose if we came across the diary of an innocent fourteen year old girl expressing apprehension about her upcoming wedding to Joseph Smith, an adult man in his mid thirties, that would be pretty damning evidence, wouldn’t it?

That’s how the journal of Helen Mar Kimball is often presented.  But the journal was written by Helen when she was nearly fifty and had been one of the plural wives of Orson F. Whitney her entire adult life.  Helen tells a retrospective tale of desiring to be obedient to her father who wished her to be given to the Prophet to wife. The actual purpose of her story was to bolster support for the practice of plural marriage, to which she was a devoted acolyte.

Far from being the private diary of a reluctant underage girl, this was a story Helen composed in the late 1870's which she wrote for publication.  Her story has all the earmarks of the type of fabricated "history" created to build testimonies among those who may have come to question the doctrine of plural marriage.  Her conclusion was that plural marriage was wonderful.  She was in with both feet.  Why, she even had the privilege of being married at one time to the living Prophet himself, that's how super-duper the whole thing was.

“I learned that plural marriage is a celestial principle,” she testified, “and saw... the necessity of obedience to those who hold the priesthood, and the danger of rebelling against or speaking lightly of the Lord’s anointed.”

Helen makes it clear in an accompanying poem that her marriage to Joseph was for eternity only.  That is, the marriage was never consummated.  This is a typical caveat of the women who came forward with these claims.  They seemed to enjoy the status of an eternal marriage to the famous founder of their faith, but most were careful to make the point that there was never any hanky-panky going on.  Joseph would claim them as his celestial mates later in the hereafter.  They even had themselves sealed "again" to Joseph in the Utah temple in case anybody didn't believe them.

Those who insist that Joseph Smith was a sex-obsessed letch scoring dozens of clandestine conquests at Nauvoo will have to explain to me how the biggest celebrity in the city, during the busiest time of his life and with everyone's eyes constantly watching his every move, would be able to woo, court, and wed two to three women every month.  And then explain to me this unusual penchant he had for always picking chickies who refused to put out. 

Helen Mar Kimball’s purpose in writing her tract was to help support unquestioning loyalty toward Church leaders at a time when they were coming under attack from outside the church and adherence to "The Principle" was generating questions inside.  Like anyone else of her generation and in her position, when it suited her purpose, she fabricated.  She didn't write what she did because she was fishing for sympathy, she was trolling for converts. 

Art or Science?
Today the study of history is a social science, no longer the malleable "art" that it was prior to the twentieth century.  So perhaps it's time Mormons as well as ex-Mormons applied the scientific process when trying to determine whether Joseph Smith was being honest in his denunciation of polygamy, or whether he was a flaming hypocrite.

"Occam’s Razor" is the scientific principle embodied in the statement that “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.”

Perhaps Fawn Brodie's frustrated bewilderment at the conflicting evidence tying Joseph Smith to plural marriage was simply a result of her having been raised in the church (as were most subsequent Joseph Smith biographers) and accepted as a “given” that the doctrine of polygamy originated with Joseph Smith.  Was she predisposed to ignore the simplest explanation?

How many of us have ever thought to check the provenance of D&C 132? Haven't we always just assumed that it was written in Joseph's hand?  We unquestioningly accept as truth what has been handed down to us from people whose own recollections of key events changed radically depending upon the lesson they wished to convey, and who lived in a time when even the professional historians were no sticklers for accuracy.   

After weighing all the evidence in any historical controversy, the best we can conclude about any given event is that it was more likely to have happened one way, and less likely to have happened another. Important factors to consider are primary and contemporary accounts (accounts written at the time), versus secondary accounts, hearsay, and later recollections.
So here’s what it comes down to.  On the one hand we have countless contemporary accounts in Joseph’s own words testifying of his incessant crusade to root out polygamy in the church and his threats to prosecute its practitioners.  On the other hand we have scribes as early as 1847 testifying to their complicity in tampering with the dead man's journals, along with an entire gallery of pinch-faced dowagers appearing from out of nowhere with a claim to fame for their secret weddings to a long dead super-celebrity.

Taking Joseph Smith at his word and approaching the later claims as hyperbole typical of the zeitgeist is the only way to make sense of all the contradictions.  It’s the only way the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

No one really knows the truth about what happened back then. I wouldn't pretend to.  I’ve only read half of the revisionist history on the topic, and I'm told there's much more yet to be made available.

But if I were to offer an early opinion based on the evidence I’ve seen so far, I would have to say that it seems more likely that Joseph Smith was sincere about eradicating polygamy in the church; and given what we know about the 19th century proclivity for embellishing reality without shame as long as it was for a good cause, I’d have to conclude that it’s less likely that we can rely on the claims of Joseph Smith’s several “wives”.

I don’t quite understand this reluctance some people have -both believing Mormons as well as others raised in the parochial Mormon culture- to automatically reject new information that might force a paradigm shift in their thinking.

I like how B.H. Roberts looked at it: “I find my own heart strengthened in the truth by getting rid of the untruth, the spectacular, the bizarre, as soon as I learn that it is based upon worthless testimony.”

I actually like discovering I might have been wrong about something.  It's kind of exhilarating.  It tells me I’m still learning.

[A couple of notes about leaving comments:    1.  Some readers have expressed confusion because the process demands a user name first.  The simplest way (Occam's Razor, Dude!) is to select "Name/URL" from the drop down menu.  Just use the "name" box and ignore the box for the URL.  You don't need it unless you have a blog or a website, in which case you can post your URL so other readers can link to your site.     2. In a couple of cases, readers have not seen their comment post after they clicked "Post Comment."  If that happens to you, simply close the program out, then come back in.  Your comment should be there.  (For your own safety, you should copy your comment into notebook before leaving just in case.)      One final reminder:  I don't screen or delete comments, so if you want to criticize me, have at it; your diatribe WILL be published.  I read all comments, so please be civil and polite, as I cry easily.  (I'm talkin' to you, Molly Muse.)]


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Andrew S said...

I for one enjoy all of your articles here; they are always so well-done, informative, and most importantly, thorough.

Have you ever written any books?

Zojirushi said...

Hi, I'm ex-mormon by choice (even served a full-time mission and was married in an LDS temple). Your writing style is excellent and you have nothing to worry about as far as the quality of writing goes; The ex-Mormon community is a herd of stray cats and I would expect dissenting opinions on a regular basis.

Despite this, I must respectfully disagree on the fraudulent nature of JS in several instances: the Book of Abraham "translation" ( stands out like a sore thumb and is a huge factor that evidences JS' not being honest with his followers.

And although he did try to distance himself from polygamy, he failed in trying to establish otherwise by practicing it and recording the D&C "revelations." Additionally, I am a practicing Freemason and he shamefully plagiarized the masonic rituals in ways that I still uncover on a regular basis. Of course this is just as sampling.

With that, I will admit that the Book of Mormon is impressive and so is the legacy he established, being one man. The community and bonds he created among his followers created powerful synergies, a strong worth ethic and generally a moral people and I credit this to him. However, I am unable to defend him further against acquisitions of fraud in light of what I have uncovered in my experience and studies.

In either case, I hope members who disagree with me on his dishonesty see the light on the wrongs of the many modern fallacies of their leadership here. But, I would be more satisfied if they investigated further.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the compliments. I have not written a book of my own but I have thought it would be nice to have such a tangible creation to hold in my hand. I've thought about one day compiling these blogs into one volume, but then, who in their right mind would buy a copy?


On last month's entry here I discussed the dubious provenance of D&C 132, so that does not look to me like a true revelation received through Joseph Smith. If you missed it, I hope you'll read that entry.

The actual statement on marriage that Joseph Smith wrote in the Doctrine and Covenants was the old section 101:

“Inasmuch as this church has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband.”

That scripture was removed and the dubious section 132 added after the Saints settled in Utah.

Your point about the Book of Abraham is well taken, but my argument here is restricted to the question of whether a person is guilty of one action irrespective of any questions surrounding another.

Dave P. said...

This has definitely been weighing heavily on my mind since the last post and reading this one has only caused more questions to come, but one in particular:

Why is Joseph Smith the only one who's ever attacked when it comes to issues like this? Sure his "successors" (I use the term loosely now) claim the practice originated with his receiving a revelation that got tacked on as Section 132, but compared to what people say about Joseph nearly all of the succeeding presidents of the church tend to get away scot-free or are treated as infallible because, if the deceit began with Joseph, they aren't at fault for propagating a lie. I ask, "What if Joseph was indeed telling the truth, and the lies/deceit began with future church leaders? In that case, when and with whom?"

The escalation of Mormon myths is still a problem today. At the dedication of the Draper temple, one member of the First Presidency commented that the Lord was pleased with the building of the temple and how the work would continue. That wasn't good enough for someone and reports of the Savior Himself being seen walking through the temple began to pop up. Not wanting to be outdone, people at the Oquirrh Mountain temple soon began to talk about the Father and Son walking through the temple together. Sure such stories sound inspiring but, the bottom line is, a lie is still a lie. And we know what Jacob said about liars in 2 Nephi 9.

I often ask myself why I'm still a member of the Utah church, but I still see good fruits coming from it more often than not so I'm willing to stick with it as long as necessary.

Spektator said...

Great piece of writing.

Your words reaffirm the difficulty in presenting history as anything but one perceived version of an event. Much of our 'history' is written by the winners not the losers. Before modern times, it was common to see the writings of a vanquished foe to be burned so as to avoid any 'conflict' in the recording of an event.

As I read your words, I was reminded of the similar ideas presented in Bart Ehrman's book, Misquoting Jesus, where the books that became the Bible New Testament were shaped by the doctrinal 'winner.' I agree, it is only recently that historians even had a credible occupation in light of the historical treatment of 'non-approved' material.

If the support of polygamy by Joseph Smith was, as the Price evidence suggests, fabricated after the fact to bolster Brigham Young's version of church doctrine, where does that leave the validity of the current church? Can one recover from such a misdirection and remain 'the one and only true church?'

The only way for me to rationalize the bulk of historical and current events is that the Book of Mormon is correct in predicting the apostasy of the Gentile church. How else could one sustain the migration of doctrine?

TuNeCedeMalis said...

Great post Alan. I must admit that whether I agree or disagree, that I almost always enjoy what you have to say.

I remain unconvinced that Joseph truly did not practice polygamy. In the words of others it is just too large a "pill to swallow". While I believe that the supreme position that the church leaders found themselves in in Utah would allow them to fabricate much untrue history, I think that they would have had a hard time fabricating as all that is present regarding Joseph SMith and plural marriage.

There are literally hundreds of journal entries that insinuate the presence of plural marriage in Nauvoo at the time of Joseph's death that tie Joseph to the practice. A very short (emphasis on short) internet search brings up the journals of

Orange Wight (Son of Lyman Wight)
Oliver Cowdry
William Clayton
Erastus Snow

I am stopping here because I find the process of finding these names tedious, they are everywhere.

I think that for the most part you and I have somewhat similar views. I believe that Joseph was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, Brigham Young almost seemed to "politic" his way into power and authority. Brigham Young lived and preached a form of polygamy that I think is incorrect in almost every way. Brigham Young was authoritative while Joseph was libertairian and so on and so on. There is simple way toooooo much proof from way to many people that Joseph also lived this type of lifestyle (whether it was right or not).

You still have not said anything about patriarchs in the bible being polygamous, such as Abraham and Jacob, you also have not discussed other bibilcal leaders such as David and Solomon.

I think that your post shines light on the fact that we have been fed a ton of crap from all sides of so many issues. Fundamentalists tell us that we must live PM if we are to be saved, modern day leaders tell us that we must not live it, apoligists tell us that Joseph lived it but it was never sexual, the reformed church tells us that Joseph never lived it. What on earth is a person to believe?

Occam's Razor does seem to apply here.

There are hundreds of people that claim that Joseph lived it. Of those people some went west with the saints and accepted being a part of Brigham's "kingdom". Some went north with James Strange. Some went to Texas with Lyman Wight, some went to New York with Sidney Rigdon. Some stayed in Nauvoo with Emma. All these people ended up going separate ways after the death of Joseph but one of the few things they agreed on was the Joseph was living polygamy... that is all these people EXCEPT... Emma. Emma subsequently starts grooming her children to take over what is left of the church in Nauvoo and swears until her face is red that in spite of mountains of evidence, oaths, journals, stories, witnesses and more, that Joseph never married anyone else but her. From that point is where the "Joseph was never a polygamist" agreement started and it has continued strong through the RLDS church.

Now I ask you to apply occams razor as you mentioned above. What is the "simpler" explanation? That hundreds of journals, witnesses, stories, oaths and other pieces of evidence, all collected by different types of "mormons" are lying and the Emma Smith is the sole teller of truth or that Emma Smith is lying and the history is what it appears to be?

Simple question... and it has an equally simple answer.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave, it's interesting that you say you sometimes wonder why you stay with the church, because Spektator right below you pretty much sums up one of the main reasons I stick with it: Because "the Book of Mormon is correct in predicting the apostasy of the Gentile church."

So much of the Book of Mormon rings true for me, PARTICULARLY its warnings of the falling away of the church in our day. The big irony is that very few believing members care to acknowledge that the scriptures might be telling them that the church as an institution could possibly ever err.

Until we take Christ at his word and repent, not only as individuals, but as body of members, we aren't likely to turn this thing around. We have had it so ingrained into us that "authority" is the end all and be all, that we don't want to consider that things could have possibly gone sour early on. It's too important that the line of unbroken infallible authority remains unblemished in the eyes of the membership.

The more I investigate this polygamy thing, the more I have to confront the reality that the deceit regarding polygamy lies some where else other than with Joseph Smith.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Thanks for your thoughtful note of disagreement. I'm aware that some contemporaries of Joseph came to believe he was engaged in the practice, and I certainly don't have all the answers, but it's my understanding that the Prices have taken and analyzed most of them. I'm always impressed by their depth of research.

Certainly Bennett's accusations muddied the water quite a bit, as it must have been very difficult for some to look at this great statesman they had known so well and believe he was lying. The Prices have recently added a couple of Chapter's on William Law's role in all the confusion. (Law is an ancestor of mine, btw.)

My limited understanding is that several people bought the stories of Joseph's indiscretions but later apologized to him for believing the rumors. Oliver Cowdery may have been one of these, but don't quote me on that.

All I can advise anyone attempting to get to the bottom of this controversy is to finish checking into the revisionist research provided by the Prices and then make up their minds as to what is more likely vs what is less likely. That's my intent.

Sed contra audientor ito, my friend!

Emily said...

I have loved reading both of your posts about polygamy. When I think about the doctrines of the church that bother me the most, and that I can't get a witness about from the Holy Ghost, they all stem from the practice of polygamy and the temple ordinances that are indirectly linked to that practice.

I am one of those church members who has adamantly defended the church and had a rock solid testimony which has been shaken by the latest "revelations" through online research. I feel angry and somewhat betrayed, and I wish the church would open the archives and just "let it all hang out."

Anyway..I have really LOVED reading this post and I hope you will continue to write because I think you are helping a lot of people with what you are writing.

BTW...what dissenting member wouldn't be threatened by the idea that Joseph Smith was actually a good guy? Its probably hard to go back and believe once you are already angry and stayed that way for a long time.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thank you, Emily. That's very kind.

Stephen said...

This was interesting.

However, you should know that the triad lodge rituals, which predate the masons by several hundred years, were obviously stolen by the Masons. Or not.

But seriously, you make some very interesting points, ones that dovetail with the dna studies that have been done on possible descendants of Joseph Smith.

calimom said...

What great Sunday reading!

There are so many things that you posted today that I had never heard, and I consider myself pretty well read on such subjects. I was especially fascinated with the idea that the story of Brigham's visage becoming like Joseph's is a myth. I actually believed that all my life. (I too like discovering that I have been wrong about things - that always leads me into greater discoveries!) This myth has been a bit of a stumbling block to some of my latest understandings about the church (and I'm open to the fact that even these new understandings are limited and always open to further review :) so I'm grateful to learn more about it!

Polygamy has always been hugely bothersome to me. I finally came to the conclusion that Joseph probably saw an aspect of eternal progression that he didn't know how to relate to the world he knew at the time, and misunderstood it to correspond with polygamy and therefore mistakenly instituted the practice into the church. I was ok with this because I love the Prophet Joseph despite his imperfections and believe with my whole heart/mind that he is a prophet of God. I have many friends who, as you described, internet-searched themselves out of the church, feeling like they were lied to and now believe Joseph was just a big lying crook. I have internet/scripture-searched myself out of many of the church's modern-day practices realizing they are nothing more than the false traditions of our fathers. But, I could never deny my testimony of Joseph Smith. Reading the Price's research has been really fascinating. There is another possibility than the one I had finally come to terms with about polygamy! Yay! I haven't completely decided if it is true that Joseph never, ever practiced polygamy, but like you, I find their arguments compelling and persuasive. I really hope that they are correct - and hope that my hope doesn't sway my judgment!

There were some very interesting comments made on today's writings and on your previous polygamy post. I love hearing all the different ideas/opinions! Regarding Zojirushi's comments: The information in this post alone should remind us that we shouldn't have concrete assumptions about such things as Book of Abraham or the temple/Masonic connection. Just like polygamy, are we basing these assumptions on facts, or on the "history" that has been presented to us by those with motives to alter stories to meet their own beliefs? What we are taught today - or even over the last hundred years about what the Book of Abraham is - is surely not a complete representation of what Joseph claimed about it. Same with the temple rites we practice today. When did they come into play, how often, when, and why were those rites altered, changed? What was the reason behind their use and when were they implemented? It is fascinating to look into and I've learned that much of what I think I know is just a drop in the bucket of a more complete/full truth. And, I too have long held that Section 132 is not ALL revelation!

***An aside: I can't find much written about what the first experiences were like in the temple at Kirtland compared to the changes made by the time the Nauvoo Temple was being used. Did Joseph have a direct hand in those changes or was he spending too much time in hiding to even know fully what was going on? I know he became a Mason, but can't find anything about if it was he who directly changed the endowment to so closely correspond with the Mason rites. Any help or direction on where to find answers to these questions would be WONDERFUL. Thanks. ***

I'm looking forward to reading a book or two that you quoted from in the post - they sound pretty interesting. And, thanks for spending so much time writing a thoughtful, well-written and inspirational blog. I don't always agree with what you write but always look forward to reading it!

Stephen said...

Would you be interested in doing a guest post at ??

jmb275 said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your post (as I have others). I'm open to the possibility of what you're claiming. But I do have a few questions:
1. One of our own prophets has vigorously claimed and convinced an entire church (not our own) of Joseph's involvement in polygamy. I've read the letter exchanges between JSF and the then head of the RLDS church. JSF is unshakably certain and has ample evidence to back it up. However, I admit that he was at the tail end of polygamy in the early 20th century and may have still believed it was an eternal law. But we don't know all his sources either. As church historian he was privy to the stuff now locked up, so perhaps there is more evidence than we (or the Prices) are aware of. It complicates it further since one of our own leaders (with all that such a position entails in this church) claims Joseph practiced it.

2. If Joseph did not practice it, some of the best historians in the world today are fooled. I realize this may not mean anything, but I would expect more from the likes of Bushman, Quinn, etc.

3. Related to #1, as with virtually all church history, the locked up "vaults" make for quite the conundrum. How do we know what's opened for historians? Is the new Joseph Smith Papers project evidence of new openness again? Or are we still only seeing what the church wants us to see? The church itself is clearly (as you've demonstrated numerous times) not to be trusted when reporting its own history. But it also has a monopoly on the best historical evidence locked away, yet it makes the very claim you are refuting.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Good comments; thanks for your intelligent input. Regarding your questions on Kirtland temple vs Nauvoo, among the books I have skimmed but not yet gotten around to reading is David Buerger's Mysteries of Godliness, a history of LDS temple worship. I know next to nothing about the Kirtland temple, other than it seemed to be used more as a chapel/classroom than the way temples are used today.

As you can probably begin to tell from my recent posts, I'm beginning to wonder if Brigham didn't take things in a different direction. He claimed that he received the temple ordinances word for word from Joseph Smith, but I wonder how much time he actually spent in Nauvoo buddying up to Joseph Smith. Seemed to me he was always away on missions.

I read a piece recently in the times and seasons that happened to be adjacent to one of the articles I linked to last month. The writer was discussing how anxious the Saints were to get the temple finished so they would have a place to meet for Sunday services other than outside. Was the temple actually meant to be a large meeting house like the Salt Lake Tabernacle later became? There was no discussion about the temple being a place for ordinances, rituals, etc., just "when are we gonna get to stop meeting outside here in the grove?"

Also, I was intrigued with Joseph Smith's adamancy I quoted last month that weddings were ALWAYS to be performed in a public place, no exceptions. Why did Brigham ignore that? I think it was because the types of marriages he advocated -plural ones- had to be done in secret.

I intend to look into this further for a future piece.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Sure. Email me at

Alan Rock Waterman said...


1. I'm not sure that just because Joseph Fielding Smith had access to the church archives that it means he did a of of research in there. After all, a lot of stuff wasn't even unpacked, and he did perpetuate a lot of the myths of the church. The entire church was so invested in the doctrine of plural marriage in those days that they couldn't see straight. It became everything.

Fred Collier's Unpublishd Revelations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is full of revelations reaffirming the sacred principle and how if the heavens fall and the earth is wiped out, that practice MUST still continue no matter what. They were hysterical in support of it back then, so JFS was firmly devoted. I don't think anyone could have swayed him from his testimony of it. My point is that polygamy colored every thought in those days. I don't think the leaders were capable of stepping back and looking at things with an objective eye. He argued brilliantly for the principle because he firmly believed in it and that it originated with Joseph, but he was depending upon statements by Brigham Young and documents that had been doctored. And of course he did not question the provenance of Section 132. If you accept that as coming from Joseph, then everything that follows is going to be incorrect.

2. Some of the best historians can swerve down the wrong path when proceeding from a false assumption. That assumption did not lead them to question whether Joseph Smith practiced polygamy or not. They merely concerned themselves with the question of why he spoke out against it since it was so very "obvious" that he practiced it.

I would very much like to see Todd Compton or George Smith, or Richard Bushman take a crack at refuting the arguments of the Prices, or explaining them away. I want to see counter arguments. I just haven't seen any yet. We have seen the side that assumes polygamy, and we have seen the Prices refute most of those assumptions. Now it would be nice to see counter arguments to the Prices' position. I've seen people dismiss the book out of hand, but not address the arguments therein.

3. I'm looking forward to the continuation of the Joseph Smith papers, too. I have volume I but not volume II (a hundred bucks? Are you kidding me?!)

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. In the past the leadership has excitedly announced big plans to release information, only to find some of that information not to their liking. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism was heavily redacted and supervised, for example. It was announced with great fanfare, but turned out to be kind of a dud.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Joseph Fielding Smith may have had access to the church archives, but that doesn't mean he utilized it. He perpetuated many of the myths of Mormondom. Certainly he was a commited believer in polygamy. A reading of Fred Collier's "Unpublished Revelation" shows how that principle became the over-riding doctrine, coloring everything. I don't think anyone back then was capable of even considering that they may have been off-point or incorrect. It was the most important doctrine ever, supplanting the Golden Rule, everything. And of course once you unquestionably accept section 132 as having come from Joseph Smith, every other argument follows after that. Of course Joseph practiced polygamy; they could see it no other way.

2. Even the best historians can be mistaken if proceeding from a false assumption. The main historians who dealt with polygamy concerned themselves with how odd it was that Joseph Smith was so outspoken against the practice when it was so "obvious" that he practiced it himself. I don't think it ocurred to them to step back and ask themselves, Is it possible there may be something faulty with the "historical record"?

They have stated their positions, and the Prices have, to my mind, successfully refuted many of the things put forth as facts. Now I would like to see counter arguments from Compton, Bushman, Van Wagonen, and George Smith. If there are holes in the revisionist history, of course we want to know.

So far I haven't seen any point by point refutations of many of the evidences brought forth by the Prices. Dismissals, yes, but we deserve to hear all sides, and I simply haven't seen that yet. I don't hold to one position, even if I do lean toward it. I want to see a continuing back and forth. The ball is now in the mainstream Mormon historian's court.

(continued next post)

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Joseph Fielding Smith may have had access to the church archives, but that doesn't mean he utilized it. He perpetuated many of the myths of Mormondom. Certainly he was a commited believer in polygamy. A reading of Fred Collier's "Unpublished Revelation" shows how that principle became the over-riding doctrine, coloring everything. I don't think anyone back then was capable of even considering that they may have been off-point or incorrect. It was the most important doctrine ever, supplanting the Golden Rule, everything. And of course once you unquestionably accept section 132 as having come from Joseph Smith, every other argument follows after that. Of course Joseph practiced polygamy; they could see it no other way.

2. Even the best historians can be mistaken if proceeding from a false assumption. The main historians who dealt with polygamy concerned themselves with how odd it was that Joseph Smith was so outspoken against the practice when it was so "obvious" that he practiced it himself. I don't think it ocurred to them to step back and ask themselves, Is it possible there may be something faulty with the "historical record"?

(continued next post)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jmb275 continued)

They have stated their positions, and the Prices have, to my mind, successfully refuted many of the things put forth as their facts. Now I would like to see counter arguments from Compton, Bushman, Van Wagonen, and George Smith. If there are holes in the revisionist history, of course we want to know.

So far I haven't seen any point by point refutations of many of the evidences brought forth by the Prices. Dismissals, yes, but we deserve to hear all sides, and I simply haven't seen that yet. I don't hold to one position, even if I do lean toward it. I want to see a continuing back and forth. The ball is now in the mainstream Mormon historian's court.

3. I too am looking forward to the continuing Joseph Smith Papers. I have volume I, but not II (a hundred bucks? Are you kidding me?!)

The leadership is gung-ho on this project, but let's see if they find out there's information in there not to their liking.

Urban Koda said...

I need to read through this entire post later today, when I'm not trying to multi-task with my job and I have time to digest it all.

If I could perhaps offer a reason for some of the reactions from ex-mormons...

I think there are two things at play here. First, the LDS Church (Like many modern Judeo-Christian organizations) paints things as very black and white. You're either with God or against him, you're either in the Church or against it. I suspect many who leave the Church, still keep this unfortunate mindset, despite leaving much of the doctrine behind.

Second, when you realize that much of what you've been taught in the Church is a lie, you feel incredibly betrayed and a mix of anger and pain.

I think many take refuge in a position of opposition to the Church, much of which is rooted in the idea that Joseph Smith was an evil man who stands at the head of much of the deception which caused the pain at the time of departure.

The notion that he might also be good seems contrary to whole good vs evil pattern of thinking we have, and the idea that perhaps we've been duped again brings back many of those feeling of betrayal and anger.

I'm still undecided on much of it - hence the need to read, digest and research this and other posts with great care.

I think at the end of the day, that I'll find that there was much good and bad in which the prophet was engaged, and much which was kind of in between. I suspect that his life, the issues of polygamy, and much about the Church is more complicated than simply good or evil.

Thanks for helping broaden my mind!

Jess said...

New follower here. I linked to your review of the Price's book from FMH. Your writing is excellent and your organization and thought process builds nicely toward a critical perspective. I appreciate the scientific objectivity you approach these issues with, as a social scientist myself, and a Mormon woman who is just now getting around to dealing with my unending questions, thank you.

Nothing substantive to add...yet. I do find it most interesting that church officials cannot publicly admit to the follies of our past, but it is also reasonable to see the double bind that the church is in. They're damned if they do (the legitimacy of the church as the one true church comes into question) and damned if they don't (inquisitive Mormons like myself will continue to look for evidence and experience disappointment/bitterness upon discovering historical inaccuracies).

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Koda, you may have hit on the answer to the mystery of why some post-mormons become closed-minded with your suggestion that they still see things as either black or white. Very astute. We're raised with the belief that "it's all true or it's all a fraud".


Thanks for the effusive compliments. This lazy old shlub is in danger of getting a fat head, so be careful with that stuff.

I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out what the initials FMH stand for, so I ain't all that smart. Please enlighten me.

Andrew S said...

I think I can help there: that's Feminist Mormon Housewives.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks Andrew. That explains why those chicks dig me.

Rude Dog said...

Isn't it though a yellow flag in our minds when the authors, the Prices, Price Publishing Company of the "Restoration Bookstore", whose mission statement reads;
"We are believers in Jesus Christ and His true Gospel, which was restored by Him through His servant, Joseph Smith, Jr. and continued by Him in the Reorganization of 1860 through His servant Joseph Smith III. The Restoration Bookstore is sponsored by Price Publishing Company, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the preservation and publication of materials supporting these principles. The Restoration Bookstore began operation on January 23, 1989, and has continued to provide books and materials supporting these beliefs. We went online April 6, 2003, which was one hundred and seventy-three years after the Church was organized. We are pleased to make these resources available to you and hope you will visit us often and find spiritual strength from this site."
Is it not everything to gain by these Reorganized Church Members to vindicate Joseph Smith Jr. from the scandalous implications of polygamy and polyandry, only to heap the blame onto Brigham Young? Brigham Young's behaviour still makes this position a double negative for the modern LDS church. Brigham Young, isn't that enough to condemn the church as a whole? Well, for me, with the mounds of evidence from so many different sources, it would take so many to be wrong in order to distance Joseph from polygamy/polyandry that it would make reason stare. And suppose these reorganized members are right, and the onus falls upon Brigham Young. How does hitching our star to this new historical view redeem the modern church?
Much more to follow I'm sure.

Stephen said...

It is important to realize that polygamy turned the LDS Church into an ethnic group, which was a strong factor in its survival.

It is only in the last 20-30 years that it has begun to fade from being an ethnic group to being something else.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'll tell you why the Prices' motivations don't bother me, Rude Dog.

Their determination to restore Joseph Smith's good name is what motivated them to so diligently get to the bottom of the controversy. Remember, they are not presenting a biography of Joseph Smith that allows them to omit facts they find unfavorable to their thesis and to emphasize things that support their views.

Rather, what they have spent the past thirty years doing is investigating the details put forth by the accepted biographers, putting those assertions under the microscope and seeing if they hold up.

It's always the obsessive types -the nerds, if you will- who have the endless patience to comb through every little piece of evidence in order to test their thesis. Who else but someone as motivated as the Prices ever went to the trouble to find the long hidden defamation lawsuit Joseph Smith filed against Chauncey Higbee (and the devious machinations of Dr. Bennett that assured Joseph could not show so the case would be dismissed)?

A common rumor held that a jealous Emma Smith pushed Eliza Snow down the stairs because Eliza was said to be carrying Joseph's baby. What other historians bothered to travel to Nauvoo to check the architecture of the staircase to see whether the story could have actually happened as reported? And where else do we find the many clues that the baby was actually John Bennett's and the Smiths had taken Eliza in out of sympathy for her plight? Or to look at Eliza's diary at the time to learn what feelings Emma and Eliza actually had for one another? Here's what they found:

Initially the Re-orgs did maintain that Joseph was innocent of polygamy, but then for some time were forced to remain silent in the face of what seemed like overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Then came Richard and Pamela Price with their obsession for the facts, and now the truth is beginning to come out.

It may be true that all this puts the onus for the doctrine onto the shoulders of Brigham Young and casts suspicion on his veracity, but I'm not out to redeem him or the modern church. Hell, I'm not even out to redeem Joseph Smith. I'm just trying to find out what really happened.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Apropo your comment, "Bored in Vernal" has posted an interesting essay on the Mormon Diaspora over at Mormon Matters:

She laments what she sees as the apparent dissipation of interest in our pioneer ancestors as a distinct people, and the apparent fading of interest in the celebration of Pioneer Day.

This was a surprise to me. When we lived in Utah, the whole state shut down for celebrations.

Here in California, however, she's right. Nobody in the LDS community seems to give the date a second thought.

Michael said...


Great column. I always find a great deal of wisdom and insight from your writings and I look forward to each new post.

Needless to say, I often learn more here than I do sitting in Priesthood or Sunday School, so I feel the time spent reading your blog is, indeed, time well spent.

A question regarding section 132. If I take your premise to be correct (that Brigham Young was the primary instigator of polygamy), and
D&C 132 is of questionable origin, where does that leave the concept of "eternal marriage", even in the "one man, one woman" sense. Is that principle to be tossed out the window with polygamy? I mean, that is one of the hallmark teachings of the present-day church, right? The idea that a "family can be together for eternity".

Great work...keep it up. And best wishes.

Dave P. said...

"Here in California, however, she's right. Nobody in the LDS community seems to give the date a second thought."

That's because people don't consider it a holiday if they don't get the day off.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Good question, Michael. I still believe in Eternal marriage for the married couple, and I assume the revelation exists elsewhere besides D&C 132, but off the top of my head I can't think of where.

Do you think it's possible that there was an original lost version of 132 that dealt with celestial marriage absent the later addition of the polygamy verses?

Your question certainly is grounds for further research. I wonder if the Reorganized folks have an answer for that. I assumed they believed in sealings, but maybe not.

I was surprised to learn (as I quoted in last month's piece) that Joseph Smith insisted that all weddings should take place in a PUBLIC place, so I assume that whatever provisions he had in place for "sealings" might have been separate from the wedding ceremony and were to be performed later.

Interesting question!

JSDefender said...

I really enjoyed your article. I marvel at your grasp of the issues. I particularly appreciate your response about the Prices. I have personally known them for about 35 years and can unequivocally state they are two of the finest people I have ever known. Their integrity is unquestionable and they have always stood in their lives for the pure Gospel as restored through Joseph Smith, Jr.

Your assessment of them is correct. They are committed to the position that Joseph was not a polygamist and have extensively researched the material – about 4 to 5 volumes worth of documentation – to support that position. They believe Joseph’s statements and actions as well as the statements and actions of those who had firsthand knowledge of the events are his best defense. They present this view because no one else does. Other more notable historians have mainly overlooked the information provided in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. As you have so aptly stated, the other books about Joseph and polygamy begin with the presumption that he taught and practiced polygamy. They give credibility to all who say he was a polygamist, with little analysis of the probative value of the evidence. And when Joseph spoke against polygamy or his family defended him, they are implicated as liars. To me, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy makes the reader decide between two questions. Am I going to believe Joseph who, at the time of the events, stood against polygamy? Or am I going to believe those who years after the events, while participating in polygamy at the highest church levels and in an attempt to support it, claimed he was a polygamist?

Your discussion about revisionist history was interesting. I agree with you as long those who are revising history are objective and have an honest love of “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God.” For the last 50 years in the RLDS Church, our “historians” have been revising our history away from the position that Joseph was not a polygamist to the position that he was. They have done so as a part of a bigger movement—to move our church into mainstream Christianity. Our leadership found that if they could demean Joseph’s character they could more easily disassociate the membership from believing in him as a prophet as well as believing in the truth of the work he did. And if the membership no longer believes in the Restoration distinctives, then it is very easy for the leadership to move the church into mainstream Christianity, which has occurred with the Community of Christ.

Regarding eternal marriage, as an RLDS I can state that we do not believe marriage is for eternity and we have no “sealings.” This is true for the Restoration Branches Movement (to which I belong), Community of Christ, Remnant Church, or the many other present day groups having their beginnings in the RLDS Church. The early RLDS leaders (including Joseph III) believed their church was a reorganization of the original LDS Church and as such adhered to the doctrine and cannon of scripture of that church which the membership had approved prior to Joseph’s death. The one exception was the Inspired Version of the Bible, which Joseph did not published prior to his death but the RLDS Church first published in 1867. Since none of these doctrines or scriptures support eternal marriage, the RLDS Church didn’t either and, as a result, neither do any of the groups having their beginnings in the RLDS Church.

Thanks again for your article. I thought it was excellent.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the clarifications, Defender. I should notify my readers here that you maintain an an excellent website called "Defending Joseph" here:

I have not yet had the time to investigate this site as much as I intend to, but it looks to be chockfull of excellent resources for those wishing to investigate further.

Jonas said...

Rock, Old Buddy,

You always amaze and inspire me.

A few thoughts on various parts of this post. First, a comment to those angry ex-Mormons you referred to: Why are you angry and why do you carry this anger with you like a yoke around your neck? Was your time in the church so bad, or did it bring you to a higher state of being than you might otherwise have been without it?

This is my experience with the church (the higher state of being) and my participation – which included a mission and spending most of my life as an active, tithe-paying, temple attending member. Yet today I am completely inactive – by absolute, conscious choice, but I hold no malice toward the church. Why should I? Living the principles got me through some times in my early years that otherwise might have set me in a direction that would have been most damaging.

Today I choose not to live the principles of the church. I even drink an occasional beer (but I blame that directly on Rock). It was Rock who wrote about beer on this blog several months ago, and that has turned me into a raging beer-a-holic with an annual consumption rate of a whopping six-pack every - - - - (hmmm, let me think) every 8 – 12 months, but I’ll be damned before I will take accountability for my own actions. No sir! It’s Rock’s fault – PERIOD!

Back to a more serious note: I have found a spiritual path of a higher vibration that works for me. If I were stuck in my anger and feeling duped, then I would not be able to find this path and my spiritual progress would be stagnant. Instead I honor my upbringing in the church and thank God (both Mother and Father, masculine and feminine) for it. It set the stage for what I have today and it is good.

If you are angry stop and ask, “Why?” Be honest with yourself. Does that mean you can’t live a spiritual life? No! Perhaps it means that you are prepared for those “higher truths” that you always heard about, but if you’re wallowing in your anger, then you will not find them.

To those who are still active in the church, BRAVO! Love the church and all it has to offer if that’s what works for you. The world is a better place because of you (and me).

Many people seem to think Rock is anti-Mormon. When I read this blog I feel Rock’s passionate love for the church, but I also feel his pain and frustration for what was once pure, but has become corrupt, convoluted and confusing. Rock, keep up the good work!

Oh, and if you think the “theory is as laughable as the writing is dull” uh, then DON’T READ THE FREAKIN’ BLOG! DUH!!!

Love ya bro!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thank you for a beautiful letter!

I willingly accept all credit for placing you on your path of hops and barley ingestion. Now if you could only help me tolerate the taste of that beneficial but venal-tasting stuff, I know my own life would improve.

I am convinced that God intends us to drink beer (the Word of Wisdom is clear on that)and that our people would not be the most dependent in the nation on psychotropic medications if we were not refusing to follow His counsel in this area. It's sad that we proudly follow the commandments of men in this area over the words of Jesus.

I salute you on your perfect path, my friend. Thanks for your inspiring words.

non american said...

I have just finished reading the following chapter in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy:

Vision 39-The Peace Maker—Another Source of LDS Polygamy,

and came across this quote.

"there was a book printed at my office, a short time since, written by Udney H. Jacobs, on marriage, without my knowledge; and had I been apprised of it, I should not have printed it; not that I am opposed to any man enjoying his privileges; but I do not wish my name associated with the authors, in such an unmeaning rigmarole of nonsense, folly, and trash.

(Times and Seasons 4 [December 1,1842]: 32)

What do you think Joseph means by "Not that I am opposed to any man enjoying his privileges". That could be used to show that Joseph was referring to Polygamy, don't you think?

Dave P. said...

Sounds more like it being a standard romance novel and what Joseph referred to as a man "enjoying his privileges" is how someone has the ability to read and they have the agency to read what they want to.

I suddenly just had the hilarious thought of how Joseph would react if the Twilight series was written in his day.

Chris said...

So with Brigham Young I agree, I'm extremely skeptical. Everything I read comparing his teachings and Joseph's seem very contradicting....I love the belief that Joseph never indulged in Polygamy, just feels right ya know? Next, it really seems like Joseph was very fine with blacks holding the Priesthood and possibly even getting their endowments - (great site!) But Brigham it seems is the one who started teaching very opposing teachings.

I can't understand it. It seems like these later prophets say "well since this is what Brigham taught (even though it was never pronounced at all as doctrine) it must be how it should be". Like the later prophets don't want to question the older one's, even when they don't agree with them (i.e Spencer W. Kimball and the blacks with the priesthood, he knew it was wrong that they couldn't have it, common sense would have said to allow it, that's how I feel at least).

Either way though, it's a scary thought to think Brigham just led the church how he felt it should be, wouldn't that sort of make him a false prophet? and if he was one, than where is the true church??
I don't have any fully concluded resolutions on any of this at all....far too much to look into.
Anyways, as you can tell I'm full of questions and ideas.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Anon American,

I took it to mean Joseph didn't object to allowing a man to print and promote whatever ideas he wanted, it was just that by hiring the same press to print his book that printed the church newspaper, Joseph was concerned that some may associate Joseph's name with Jacob's book. Sadly, many did.

Anonymous said...

So Rock,...ever think of becoming an apologist for the Community of Christ? :)
Your conclusions certainly lean that way. :)

If one reaches the same conclusions that you have...where does that leave the mainstream church? What about succession in the presidency and when they're teaching the children "Follow the Prophet"...who the heck are they talking about?
If we chop away the "roots" of mormonism...IOW Brigham Young and John Taylor...that effectively destroys not only the mainstream Church, but all us crazy fundamentalist-types as well.

Bruce in Montana

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I certainly do look a bit like an apologist, don't I, Bruce?

Although I don't see my self as an apologist in the academic sense, I am beginning to think I may owe the Reorgs a big fat apology.

As a missionary sent to Independence, Missouri, my companion and I took the tour of the Reorganized Church headquarters, all the time feeling smug about how these pitiful souls were so misguided not to have hooked up the true church.

"Follow the prophet" is an insidious doctrine that has crept in which is completely unsupported by scripture and would have appalled Joseph Smith himself. I kinda think Brigham would have liked it if the membership felt that way, but in those days they were too smart to be taken in by a doctrine that centralized ecclesiastical power in one man like that.

By the way, I've learned that not all members of what used to be the Reorganized Church are happy with the direction taken by the Church of Christ, and continue to want nothing to do with the "New" version. The Community of Christ still owns the copyright to "Reorganized", though, so I think they call themselves "Restorationist" or something. Maybe JS Defender can weigh in here and clue us in.

Frederick said...


Yet another wonderful read with lots of food for thought. I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into this blog. Ever since I began my awakening, I too have been fascinated with "revisionist history." I think it is vital that we question all of the information we've been presented throughout our lives. In fact, Joseph Smith began by asking a very simple question. Moroni tells us to ask God in faith, to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon. Shouldn't we all seek truth, while asking our Father in Heaven to testify truth to us through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit?

I for one have a testimony and nothing in your posts has ever caused me to question it a bit. On the contrary, I feel motivated to pursue truth and knowledge further. Thanks for your efforts here!!! keep up the great work.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks, Frederick,
Always great to hear from you. I agree. Nothing that is true should be found damaging to one's testimony, nor should truth be withheld.

JSDefender said...

Rock, regarding your response to Bruce, you are right that Community of Christ (CofC) owns the copyright to the name, “Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” As a result of a couple of Federal court cases, church branches other than those associated with the CofC can’t use that name to advertise including using it on church building signs. Since the churches of the Restoration Branches Movement are not associated with the CofC, we can no longer use the name in this manner. However, as I understand, the court made it plain that we can still call ourselves by that name. We just can’t advertise ourselves as such.

Thanks for the shout out.

TuNeCedeMalis said...

No matter what anyone believes about polygamy or not, I think most of us can agree that the most important thing we will do in our lives is to come unto Christ. Polygamist or monogamist, Mormon or non Mormon, none of us will experience exaltation until we come unto the Savior, no matter how closely we are trying to "keep" the commandments.

And yes, there is no doubt that the devil smiles as our children proudly sing "Follow the Prophet".

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Amen and Amen to that, TuNeCeDe!

In all our discussions and debates over what is and what is not doctrine, let's not forget the single most important point of our theology, and the only thing that really matters: Coming to Christ, and following his admonition to unconditionally love ALL mankind.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely ya'll. That's all that counts in the end.
I suppose we're supposed to be going through all this cognitive disonance over history and doctrine.
If it makes us better people, it's a good thing. If we get cockey about our own opinions, it's not.
Have a great weekend guys.

Bruce in Montana

Eliza R. Snitch said...


I enjoy reading your blog very much, even if I don't necessarily agree with you all the time.

I too was surprised at the reaction some ex-Mormons had to your last post. I think that people leave for all kinds of reasons, but "Joseph Smith was a lying scoundrel" is a good catch-all reason. It's easier than, "Well, I have some doctrinal issues, and the church made me depressed, and I don't enjoy sacrament meeting, and I'm not really sure I believe in a personal god." I'm not trying to discount the way people feel when learning unsanitized history about Joseph (I was devastated and INCREDIBLY ANGRY), but I do think that people tend to develop the same attitude towards him that one might have towards the villain in a Disney movie-- perhaps a warranted attitude for a while, but it shouldn't become a new dogma.

I think you're right about somehow needing Joseph to be a scoundrel. I already had a paradigm about Joseph (that he was perfect) which turned out to be incorrect, so I'm disinclined to set up a new set of rigid beliefs about him. Some people are. You touched a nerve.

I'm glad you did, because I don't think we can close the book on Joseph Smith yet. (Can we ever?) Love him or hate him, he was a fascinating man, and I think it's as wrong to say that he was all bad as it is to say that he was all good.

calimom said...

OK, I've been able to do some reading about the differences between the Kirtland temple vs. the Nauvoo temple. This is what I've gathered so far: The Kirtland temple was, like you said, mostly used as a chapel - open to almost anyone. The original ordinances that occurred there (1835) did not include the endowment we know today. They happened in a simple ceremony for the church leaders, patterned after the washing/anointings that are described in the bible. They also participated in a “seal to all their blessing(s)" by a group "Hosanna Shout". The endowment was thought by the early saints to have come later during the dedication with all the manifestations of the spirit that occurred then; i.e. visions, speaking in tongues, etc.(btw, doesn't the D&C require us to expect these types of manifestations for all heaven-approved temples?) After this endowment, Joseph Smith declared "...we had passed thru all the necessary ceremonies." HC 430:33 Interesting.

Then later comes D&C 124:39+ that added baptisms for dead, solemn assemblies, etc to be part of the new temple to be built. As the "official" story goes, the endowment as we now know it came to be! (The one that resembles the Mason rites). This was supposively introduced by J.S. This is where what we now know as eternal families originated, I believe. (It may have been taught earlier - maybe by J.S. and/or by some who liked the spiritual wife idea, but it seems to have officially started from this endowment). From all that I can gather, the info we have about Joseph's role in these changes comes from “history by committee” long after his death - a group of leaders were given the assignment to put together Joseph's words from scattered documents (many that lacked complete sentences made by him - they kinda filled in the blanks from incomplete notes). I'm reserving judgment on what this means for eternal marriage and where this endowment comes from. Eternal marriage/later endowment ceremony could just as well have come from J.S. and then the polygamy aspects added later after J.S.’s death to allow room for spiritual wifery. Or it could have everything to do with the practice of polygamy (that I now feel pretty good about laying mostly on the feet of others beside Brother Joseph) and was completely made up? Or it could turn out that everything went down as has been reported all these years (I’m having a hard time believing that anymore). But, I don’t know yet! I’m ok with things even if it turns out that eternal marriage isn’t what we have been taught! This may sound a little odd coming from a woman who is madly, deeply in love with her husband, but after much thought and meditation on this possibility over the last year I’ve found peace and hope about this very subject.

An aside: The word eternal doesn’t actually even mean what we think - if we look at its ancient root words. It means for an age. That can lead to a whole other discussion left for another time!!!

Anyway, the questions brought about by the Price’s work have given me lots to think about/study over/search for! Looking forward to what you come up with as you look into the questions you all have posed as well!

P.S. I’m so grateful for the kind welcome from you. I was pretty much called an immature girl who needed to repent for even daring to think about these kinds of things recently on another blog. It is even a blog that is almost totally about all not being well in Zion. I guess one is only allowed to think so far about such things before she is deemed a lost soul who doesn’t really know the spirit but is instead being led by Satan!

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Thanks for sharing your research. What you've found aligns with many of my own suspicions. I've got to start cracking the books myself and look into this subject further. As I said previously, Joseph Smith's rule that weddings are to take place in a public place has really got my mind reeling. If we went back to very public weddings and then allowed immediate temple sealings afterward, wouldn't that be a happy compromise?

I'd like to talk to you further about your findings. Please email me at Way to go! Keep asking those questions!

Ben said...

Jeez Uncle Rock, you sure are getting a lot of attention lately. Of course, you do write really well, so... kudos.

As usual, I found your post thought provoking and well compiled.

So I suppose I really only have one question: If the modern church was effectively founded on principles of lies, and the current leadership is a succession of essentially falsely ordained people...(I say that because there was no clear evidence of who should take the prophet's place, and since Brigham seemed to be a liar, along with his direct successor) doesn't that make the church entirely false? You know, except for that nicely written work?

Wouldn't that effectively mean that "Mormonism" is just a great big ol' lie? Wouldn't it mean that the actual religion died with Joseph Smith?

Though I suppose that one could still practice personal revelation without difficulty, and it could be taught to one's children easily enough. But that would require that an institution either be eradicated, or radically changed in such a way that the current members are unlikely to stick with it.

Truly a revolution. With a hit to the membership of this magnitude, the whole religion would die. I really can't see a way to preserve the teachings put forth by Joseph Smith and still make such a complete change. You know, except that such a revolution is very unlikely.

Oh well. Not like anyone's actually getting hurt, just a bunch of nice people getting along.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Ben, all I can say is that I don't often hear people testifying that they know Brigham Young was a true prophet. They simply shortcut directly from Joseph Smith to whoever is the current president of the church.

Maybe you want to be the one to tell them.

By the way, the committee that runs has asked me to "guest post" on that blog, so this recent entry will show up there tomorrow in abridged form. Apparently some people think my pieces are overly long. Have you ever heard such a thing?!

The cool news is that MormonMatters receives 2000 hits a day. I have to wait a whole month for numbers like that.

Dave P. said...

I saw the post there this morning and the few comments I read were favorable, but now it's gone!

Andrew S said...

Dave (and others who were wondering):

I probably shouldn't be posting this, since I do not really have any authorization to speak on behalf of the Mormon Matters permas, but I wanted to try to explain...

We had originally planned to post Rock's post in the afternoon. However, a slip-up scheduled it for this morning, where we already had a post from Joanna Brooks (aka Ask Mormon Girl).

We wanted to give Rock's post a fairer showing (since, as things currently were, it was immediately overshadowed by the latest AMG column), so one of the permabloggers decided to delay the post until this afternoon, where it'll be back up, and on the top of the page, with all of the comments intact.

Even if I can't apologize on behalf of anyone but myself, I'd like to apologize personally and say that no ill will was intended.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the clarification, Andrew. I've seen you post comments here; didn't know you were one of the brains behind MormonMatters.

I'm looking forward to seeing my shining face on your fine blog. (You are planning on showing my face, aren't you?)

Andrew S said...

See, now, that's why I wanted to (dis)claim my message. :D I am not one of the brains behind anything but Irresistible (Dis)Grace. I just happen to play a really cool columnist on Mormon Matters every Saturday morning. Kinda like the BYU guy, only without magic scene-shifting powers.

But I can say that your shining face will shine on Mormon Matters, even if it is not really "my" blog.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well see, now at least I know about your column and can enjoy your contributions such as the one about seeds you just posted. I wouldn't have known about that if I hadn't mistaken you for a brain.

And that BYU Guy spoof of the Old Spice commercials you linked to above is gold! See the many ways you have already enriched my life, Andrew?

That video makes me homesick for the Lee Library, though.

Dave P. said...

Definitely a reasonable explanation. In fact, when I saw it this morning I thought it was sad at how the AMG column had already overshadowed it. No harm done.

Andrew S said...

BTW, just so you know, you're back up.

Babblonian said...

The thing is, I think the mainstream lds church desperately needs JS to have established and practiced polygamy, even as they try to keep it under the rug. If JS didn't advocate and practice polygamy, and instead actively tried to root it out as the Prices claim, then you are stuck with BY inventing it and fabricating a backdated revelation to support it. If that were the case, I think you could make a pretty good case for the Brighamite branch being in a state of apostasy from the very beginning.

Dave P. said...

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. But it's the guilty who take the truth to be hard.

Also in the D&C the Lord specifically states that the church is under condemnation even before Joseph's death for treating lightly the Book of Mormon. Ezra Benson reminded the church about that and, as far as I know to this day, that condemnation has not been rescinded.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that the truth would stand up to any scrutiny. If these allegations are true, then from BY to Tommy Monson is just a string of delusional divinely inspired anything. The visions of folks like John Taylor, Wilfred Woodroff, etc. become just lies as well.
If the myriad of testimonys regarding JS advocating polygamy are actually false...where does that leave us?
Should we just assume the restoration was really just a lie or, at least, a 14-year unsuccessful attempt?
If the "roots" of the restoration...such as Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc. were all just liars...why even bother caring anymore or associating oneself with Mormonism for any reason? This is very disturbing stuff but a person would be doing themselves a disservice by not investigating it enough to prove it correct or incorrect. And please, nobody advocate praying for a spiritual witness to whether, or not, these things are true. If that worked, we wouldn't be discussing it IMHO.

Bruce in Montana

Dave P. said...

Oh the priesthood is still there, because even an unworthy holder is able to pass it on to others and there have been several modern-day miracles performed by the average member of the church. While it has the hierarchy, the church leaders do not make the church as a whole.

John the Baptist promised Joseph and Oliver that the priesthood would not be taken again from the earth. I can't seem to find a similar statement about the church not ever falling away in the scriptures though. (And, thanks to Rock, I learned about the scriptures wherein the modern-day church is prophesied to fall away.)

In addition, my priesthood line of authority goes back to Brigham Young, but- if BY was a liar- did that prevent me from exercising my priesthood to heal a little girl while on my mission? The answer is a bold, resounding, NO.

Truthseeker said...

Have any of you heard of the "World Wide Church"?The leaders came to the terrible conclusion that everything they stood for and were teaching- as passed down by their leaders was FALSE! (I wish I knew where I saw this video- sorry guys. It was possibly 60 minutes.))

It took great courage and there was a huge shake up of their pretty sizable congregations, but they realized that they could no longer go on preaching lies and false doctrine. They announced this to their membership and believe me many, MANY people left and they lost a lot of "tithes". the video I watched they were happy and their consciences were clear, in spite of this.

They started over with what they believed to be their true doctrine. This took incredible strength and they were struggling with their financial issues- but those "True Believers" who stuck with their leadership, also had a witness that something was amiss. Sound familiar? They are rebuilding and converting new members.

Yes, those whose faith is not strong and those who "idolize" the Leadership and our church, would also be shaken to their very core- but at least we would be true to our core theology. Free agency vs. Au5thority and cover-ups, and much more- the TRUTH.

I seriously doubt that the Brethren of our church will ever come "clean"- too much money at stake. How very sad. I, for one would have more respect and come back fully if this happened. Unfortunately our leaders think we ALL are children, (MANY are) who can only handle the "milk".

I can't help wishing and hoping.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I think the link you're referring to, TruthSeeker, is this video:

Oldtimers will recognize the names of Herbert W. Armstrong and his son who succeeded him, Garner Ted Armstrong.

These two were all over TV and radio, and their church had members worldwide. Eventually the leaders of the church got together and came to the realization that some of their root doctrines were untenable, and finally admitted the same to the membership.

It's been so long since I've seen this video, I don't even remember what the controversy was. I think it was so much doom and gloom that they were neglecting Christ. But I dunno. Interesting story, though. Thanks for bringing it up. At some point the LDS Church is going to have to face it's past if it is going to have much of a future.

Dave P. said...

I just realized something. In our personal lives we're taught line-by-line, precept-by-precept about a principle until we master it. If we happen to fail a test of a principle (the test being defined by my D&C professor as doing the right thing without having to be influenced/directed by the spirit), we're given as many chances as necessary until we get it right.

I realized this same principle applies to the church as a whole and, unfortunately, it continues to fail in regards of being completely open and honest about the stains on its history. Of course while the biggest offenders are plural marriage and blacks holding the priesthood, several other events have conveniently "disappeared" and are never spoken of within church circles. If they're brought up from outside, good luck getting a straight answer. In fact, that even applies to a situation where someone would have to be forced to admit that the church and its leaders are completely incapable of doing no wrong.

Spektator said...

Dave P. said:
"Oh the priesthood is still there, because even an unworthy holder is able to pass it on to others and there have been several modern-day miracles performed by the average member of the church..."

This short comment prompts a number of questions in my mind. Here they go:

Can we assume that the priesthood is still here because miracles have been performed by church members?

This would suggest that there could be no miracles outside the realm of the priesthood. As my experience in the broader world has shown me, people of many religions have experienced miracles. It is faith that prompts miracles.

I am reminded of the story from Luke 9:49-50:
“And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”

If you want to see how miracles are linked to the true church, read the following from 4 Nephi:

“And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.”

If we are to accept the church established among the Nephites as a pattern, it is the 12 disciples that are supposed to demonstrate these miracles. Do we see any miracles being performed by the equivalent 12 apostles today?

Can an unworthy holder still pass on the priesthood to others?

If this was the case, why did the priesthood disappear from the earth? There were plenty of priesthood ordinations by the original 12 apostles. This statement would support the Catholic view that the priesthood has been handed down from generation to generation.

In D&C 121:36-37 it reads:

“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

I would assume the rights of the priesthood include the ability to ordain others. As one reads here, it doesn’t take much to suspend the priesthood of any man. Once a man has committed any of these activities, his priesthood is non functional.

Spektator said...

Dave P. said:
"Oh the priesthood is still there, because even an unworthy holder is able to pass it on to others and there have been several modern-day miracles performed by the average member of the church..."

This short comment prompts a number of questions in my mind. Here they go:

Can we assume that the priesthood is still here because miracles have been performed by church members?

This would suggest that there could be no miracles outside the realm of the priesthood. As my experience in the broader world has shown me, people of many religions have experienced miracles. It is faith that prompts miracles.

I am reminded of the story from Luke 9:49-50:
“And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”

If you want to see how miracles are linked to the true church, read the following from 4 Nephi:
“And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.”

If we are to accept the church established among the Nephites as a pattern, it is the 12 disciples that are supposed to demonstrate these miracles. Do we see any miracles being performed by the equivalent 12 apostles today?

Spektator said...

previous post continued:

Can an unworthy holder still pass on the priesthood to others?

If this was the case, why did the priesthood disappear from the earth? There were plenty of priesthood ordinations by the original 12 apostles. This statement would support the Catholic view that the priesthood has been handed down from generation to generation.

In D&C 121:36-37 it reads:

“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

I would assume the rights of the priesthood include the ability to ordain others. As one reads here, it doesn’t take much to suspend the priesthood of any man. Once a man has committed any of these activities, his priesthood is non functional.

Dave P. said...

That point works its way into the difference between priesthood power and priesthood authority. A good analogy is a slightly different interpretation of the parable of the ten virgins with each lamp representing priesthood authority. It can still be held, carried around, or passed on. But when it comes to priesthood power, or the actual exercising of the power of God, an empty lamp will yield nothing.

When a person is ordained to an office of the priesthood, they're given a lamp and the amount of power they have then becomes based on their personal actions and righteousness. There are many functions of the priesthood that require the authority, but many others (blessing especially) also require sufficient faith and power of the holder. But, if they've done something to make that light go out, amen to the priesthood [power] of that man.

As for the great apostasy, we don't know exactly how long it took for the priesthood to disappear from the earth, but the lack of modern-day communications and travel methods, along with the ability to keep records, the last-remaining priesthood holders likely died off before being able to pass it on. Of course the Catholics believe that the first Pope was Peter's successor and carried on from there. Did he have the priesthood? I don't know. If so, was it passed on down? I don't know. But when you think about it, it was "lost" anyway in that the hierarchical structure of the church was altered, the beliefs in the nature of God changed, and the gospel as taught by the Savior forgotten in large chunks.

And there have been accounts of modern-day Apostles performing miracles. I'll have to dig up the full information again but I recall a story of M. Russell Ballard visiting a country in South America (Bolivia, I believe) during a time when a major lake's water level was far below normal due to a drought. The spirit prompted him to "Bless the land," and he did so. It wasn't long before hydrologists and geologists were reported to be "stunned" at the sudden rise of the water level.

And, even then, the Apostles do not have a monopoly on the spirit and performing miracles. In fact, when the abomination of desolation arrives, we're expected to use our own priesthood to command the harmful elements and persons to stay away from what it ours.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave, you have some very intriguing thoughts on this. I can't help but think that priesthood power continues within the rank and file "Body of Christ" -the membership- regardless of the degree to which the managers in the hierarchy may have departed from the true path. Is it possible, I wonder, if too much emphasis has been put on the Line of Authority? Does priesthood power more accurately reside in The Remnant?

Dave P. said...

It's entirely possible, especially since there's still the lingering emphasis on how higher-tier positions (ones with priesthood keys) are considered to be filled by the "better" members. Hello idolatry? Then again you did a post on this.

Anonymous said...

You are such a wonderful writer. Thank you for your doing so much research & being willing to share these vital things with us.

I have always known polygamy was not lived correctly in the early church, even if somewhere in the universe it is a true principle.

The fact is, righteous men who truely love their wives don't hurt them by running after other women, period, even if polygamy were a true principle. A righteous man would be more repulsed & pained at the thought & practice of it than his wife & would let his wife do any & all the choosing. There would not be any dating going on or bragging about who could get the most women, etc.

Also, today we understand much more about the equality of wives in marriage & how men are expected to love & respect & honor their wives to even be worthy of her in eternity, let alone think men could collect, control & neglect women like they did back in those days & still be righteous.

It has been a miracle throughout history for a man to keep even one woman happy in every respect & support her financially while also doing his half of the responsibilities of childcare & housework, how in the world could a man ever do that for 2, 3 or 43 women.

The only reason polygamy ever got off the ground even then was because the women were falsely told that if they didn't get married & sealed in this life to a man they would not make it to the Celestial Kingdom. Without this threat, most women would not have gone along with the pains & horror of polygamy. We now know that was not true, women can get married after this life & still have every blessing.

Thus if polygamy was ever brought back the more righteous & knowledgeable women of today who have self-worth & self-respect (as it is said that Emma tried to teach the women of her time) would never subject themselves to such a painful arrangement in this life, they would just wait til the next life to marry.

It is not hard to believe that everyone in the Church has gone astray & become corrupt, except a rare few humble followers of Christ, since 2 Nephi 28 warns us of just that scenario happening. It warns that everyone will be deceived to fall for the philosophies of men & to do evil.

I definately see this has happened all around in the Church. It is very rare to find someone who really believes in the Gospel that Jesus Christ taught. So to think that the whole church pretty much is & has gone astray from the beginning is actually backed up by scripture.

I agree with Dave, the Priesthood can be pasted on by even wicked men pretending to be righteous. Authority & power are two very different things. Only a rare man today really lives worthy of the 'power' of the Priesthood, even though the authority is conferred upon many.

Also, Joseph Smith said that we should all be Prophets. Meaning that there is no doctrine or truth that Prophets can receive that the Spirit or the Lord won't also reveal to us. Those who receive personal revelation can know just as much or even more truth than any Prophet has revealed to us.

Also, Joseph himself talked much about the eternity of the family & the sealing of spouses & parents to children that will be valid through all eternity if the parents are true to their covenants, especially marriage covenants. So I firmly believe based upon Joseph's teachings & personal revelation that families are forever & the sealing power is real & necessary.

Anonymous said...

If I could interject a bit on the comments above:

"I have always known polygamy was not lived correctly in the early church, even if somewhere in the universe it is a true principle"

Well, that seems to be tarring them all with the same brush. Was everyone in the early church living the principle correctly? Probably not but certainly many were doing just fine.

"Thus if polygamy was ever brought back the more righteous & knowledgeable women of today who have self-worth & self-respect (as it is said that Emma tried to teach the women of her time) would never subject themselves to such a painful arrangement in this life, they would just wait til the next life to marry"

Er..uh...the principle is alive and well. There are many very happy, functional, and well-rounded polygamous families. Try the Principle Voices website for a little enlightenment.

"Also, Joseph Smith said that we should all be Prophets. Meaning that there is no doctrine or truth that Prophets can receive that the Spirit or the Lord won't also reveal to us."

I don't think that means that at all. The Lord has always revealed the higher laws to certain prophets...not to the general priesthood population. One is entitled to personal revelation to the people he has been entrusted to oversee, usually a man's family, but not to the masses. This is entrusted to one person in the world at a time. Just sayin....

Bruce in Montana

Anonymous said...


Again, there is no truth, no commandment, no prophesy, no vision of eternity, no heavenly personage, that Prophets are entitled to recieve & converse with that anyone else on earth can too, if they are worthy. Anyone of us can recieve things that even Prophets don't know yet. To be a Prophet doesn't mean they are more righeous than anyone else, just that they now have more accountability & obligation to be righteous & receive instruction & revelation for the world. The difference is, a Prophet is accountable for warning & speaking to the whole world, we with our revelations are only accountable for warning & teaching the truth we receive with those of our family & friends & those the Spirit tells us to.

The Prophets & scriptures say that those living in polygamy today are living in adultery & the women are being abused in the worst of ways. It is very common for abused women to go into denial & think they are happy & go along with the abuse & think their husband is righteous. That many women do not have self-worth or self-respect & become desperate & fall for polygamy is unfortunately not surprising, many women throughout history have done this.

Anonymous said...

I'll comment briefly and let this one go:

"...there is no truth, no commandment, no prophesy, no vision of eternity, no heavenly personage, that Prophets are entitled to recieve & converse with that anyone else on earth can too, if they are worthy."

Well, let's take Moses and Joseph Smith for examples...These guys were chosen by God as prophets and given keys to certain dispensations. I don't think anyone else was/is entitled to this no matter what their worthiness.
Only one person at a time may have these.

"The Prophets & scriptures say that those living in polygamy today are living in adultery & the women are being abused in the worst of ways."

If I based my view of polygamous families on what the media has spoon-fed me, I would probably agree. However, I know many healthy, happy, and functional polygamous families that would roll their eyes and chuckle at your view. Let's take my friend "Tom" for instance. He's a drywall contractor with 2 wives and 14 children. Wife "A" is a reflexologist with a nursing degree. Wife "B" is a real estate agent. Both are well-educated, well-read, modern, savvy, outgoing women who belly-laugh at the stereotypes perpetuated by such authors as Jon Krakauer, Elisa Walls, etc. Please realize that the majority of mormon polygamists are not praire-dress-wearing FLDS types.

As far as "prophets" saying that those living in polygamy today are "living in adultery". I would encourage you to look at John Taylor's revelation concerning this.

We're getting off track and I won't turn this into an arguement. I'd just suggest that you get to know members of the AUB or independent fundamentalists before tarring us all with an FLDS brush. You will find that you've been deceived.

Bruce in Montana

Anonymous said...

Your example of Tom & his wives only proves my point even more. I have known many women like those you speak of. Boy that Tom guy sure has these women duped. On top of everything else that he convinces them to go along with, these silly women are even choosing to save Tom from his role of having to provide for his family by himself. Wow. I am continually amazed by how some women refuse to be treated like the queens they are or could be. So sad to hear stories like that.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll try once more and drop it.

Here's a clip of one of these "sad" families with "silly" women that have been "duped" by their husband.
If this is "sad"....many families could be upgraded by this sort of sadness IMHO.

Bruce in Montana

Andrew S said...

Wow, Anonymous, I am impressed. In your commenta attempting to denounce the "evils" of polygamy in the abuses that you think it commits against women, you have singlehandedly managed to commit your own abuses against women by encouraging a "men work" strategy that keeps women tied down without means to provide for themselves and their families.

*golf clap*

Anonymous said...

You think it is abusive to women to want them to be pampered, protected & provided for by men?

I believe in women getting all the education they can, incase their husband becomes unable to provide because of disability or death. Even 'Divorce' should not be used as an excuse for a man to try to escape his divine responsibility to provide everything for his former wife & children the rest of their lives, unless the wife chooses to remarry. And yes, even if it was the wife who left & divorced him. For if she has to go to work if only further hurts the children or grandchildren that he is obligated to protect.

But it has always been a woman's divine right to have all her needs & desires provided for by her man so she can focus on her high calling of Motherhood. But unfortunately many women today do not expect their man to show them that kind of respect, love & service in totally providing for her.

Focusing most of her time on Motherhood does not mean a woman would have no time for personal growth & pursuits & sharing her talents, but her interests should not come with the added burden of having to make money & support the family.

Andrew S said...

When this pampering is perpetuated by promoting the idea of the fragility of women, yes, there is something wrong.

If women are enabled, they can protect themselves. Only when you deprive and restrict women do they need to be protected, provided FOR, and cared FOR.

I believe that a woman should be able to do whatever she wants as a job, not just defer to being a stay at home mom with personal growth and pursuits as a secondary focus.

Anonymous said...

I see. And I realize that you do have the majority of the world agreeing with you.

I myself though, have decided to go by what Prophets of God teach on this subject. Even if very few believe in doing it this way. For I know it as the only way to save ourselves, our marriages, our families & even our world from destruction.

Dave P. said...

Which prophets? A few of the early ones in this dispensation called monogamy evil and plural marriage an eternal principle.

Anonymous said...

Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, Pres. Hinckley....

We have learned much more from more recent Prophets about marriage since the time of earlier Prophet's statements that were based on the level of knowledge they had at that time. We keep getting more & more truth revealed as time goes on.

And BY also said that if all men were righteous they wouldn't have to live polygamy, for then every woman would have her own righteous husband.

As it will be in the millenium. All women will have their own righteous husband. There will be no shortage of righteous men when Heavenly Father can finally pull from all the men who ever lived.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I find much to agree with regarding both what Anonymous and Bruce have to say. And Bruce, thank you for the information regarding the Principle Voices website. I did not know about it.

Like you, Bruce, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for many modern polygamists. I realize my affection for these people may not make a lot of sense given my present position that the principle was likely not given through Joseph Smith, but for me it comes down to freedom of religion. I'm not opposed to the practice of polygamy per se; rather I'm interested in finding out about its roots in the church.

Assume for a moment that the church under Brigham Young took a direction different from that under Joseph Smith and that the leaders henceforth decided that plural marriage was a new and useful doctrine. I don't have a problem with that. I would only desire it to be pointed out that this is a new doctrine presuming as I do now that Joseph Smith's name was attached to it without his permission.

Though the mainstream LDS church does not condone the practice, and our founder may have opposed it, I applaud anyone for whom the practice is working out. I have no wish to have anyone deprived of such a relationship wherein the parties are all agreed. For many people it seems to be a very workable arrangement and it seems to make a lot of sense for them.

TuNeCedeMalis said...

"I applaud anyone for whom the practice is working out. I have no wish to have anyone deprived of such a relationship wherein the parties are all agreed. For many people it seems to be a very workable arrangement and it seems to make a lot of sense for them."

This is exactly what "Anonymous" disagrees with. She is insistent that all those living polygamy are damning their souls to hell and that polygamy is simply a result of a lack of knowledge and spirituality.

I couldn't disagree with "Anonymous" more. She has never opened her eyes, ears or heart. Like all of us, she is certain that she is right.=)

Alan Rock Waterman said...


When I indicated that there is much that Anonymous said that I agree with, I wasn't alluding to her opinion on plural marriage. What I did agree with was her assertion that the church (in my view the Corporate Church) seems to have "pretty much...gone astray" and her citing of 2 Nephi 28 in that regard.

Also, I tend to agree with her statement that "Authority & power are two very different things" and that "Joseph Smith said that we should all be Prophets. Meaning that there is no doctrine or truth that Prophets can receive that the Spirit or the Lord won't also reveal to us. Those who receive personal revelation can know just as much or even more truth than any Prophet has revealed to us."

Finally, I liked her opening statement where she declares, "Alan, You are such a wonderful writer."

Although others may disagree with that assertion, I, for one, do not care to argue the point.

Non American said...

Alan, I also think you are such a wonderful writer!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Great! That's two!

JSDefender said...


Thought you might want to read my latest post at

Alan Rock Waterman said...


As it happens, your post above is the first thing I read this morning. Very well done, and cogently argued. I recommend it to all my readers.

Newly Housewife said...

Dave P.

So even though BY was the next prophet, and he practiced polygamy, the fact that the church as a whole still had righteous members that did not practice the concept--the priesthood was still held? So the keys in fact don't rely on one man, but they rely on the body of the people?

If that's the case why was a Gospel Principle lesson on the priesthood which said the prophet had all the keys?

I'm coming to the conclusion that a person's priesthood is more about where their heart is than their actions. So even though BY had multiple wives, because he believed he was helping their salvation and following the gospel--his priesthood was kept in tact?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Now, that's an intriguing theory, Housewife. I have no doubt that Brigham firmly believed in the doctrine of plural marriage, so if he was following his conscience, I'd be open to considering that God honored him for doing things to the best of his ability.

There's still the question about his lying about Joseph's approval, though. He did take liberties in invoking Joseph's name to give the practice legitimacy that he had to know was a sham. Unless, as some believe, Joseph believed in the doctrine for a brief time before denouncing it.

As for your other statement regarding the church as a whole, I'm inclined to believe there is more power in "the body of Christ" as a whole -the membership- than merely the head as represented by the GA's. Just my thought, though.

I really mean to get back to reading "Power From On High" by Gregory Prince; maybe I can learn more there about the origins of the "keys" being the domain of one man. One thing I'm learning from that book is that much of what we know about the priesthood was not handed down in the orderly fashion we've been taught. It was more of a slap-dash affair developed over time.

Anonymous said...

The Prophets teach (Elder Packer etc.), that "everyone knows when they do wrong". That would be doubly so for especially an Apostle or Prophet.

And since the Prophets & our Church teach that polygamy is an adulterous abomination in every case throughout history unless it is authorized by God, then if polygamy wasn't really authorized for the early Church leaders to live, then God would not support them in evil.

Yet he can still pass the Priesthood Keys on even through unrighteous men. Like if an unrighteous father baptizes or confers the Priesthood on his son then it is effective & the Son can truely have the power of the Priesthood, even if the father as sinned away that power.

So, God can use unrighteous men & leaders for his purposes, even if the men themselves are wicked & doomed if they don't repent.

Steve said...

Obviously, the final test of this point of view will be the Lord's confirmation of it as truth, and not near truth either. Still I think it would be interesting to line up the "Joseph did practice polygamy" witnesses against the "Joseph did not practice polygamy" witnesses and see how they stack up. In my mind that is one of the biggest flaws with this argument.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Lining up the witnesses and evidence on both sides and then commenting on it all is pretty much what the Prices have done with "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy." I think reading both volumes is the place to start, then one can come to a conclusion of sorts.

Anonymous said...

In the end, even after all our study of both side's evidence, since it is nearly 200 years later, only the Holy Spirit can tell us if Joseph believed in it & practiced it or not.

Dave P. said...

I finally got a chance to listen to the "Why do Mormons leave the church?" presentation a while back and what's been bugging me ever since was how the guy presented the argument that Joseph practiced polygamy as fact.

It really didn't come to a boil until this little spiel- paraphrased, "When church members learned that Joseph had many wives despite preaching against plural marriage, his response was, 'I never said I was perfect, get over it.'" If this was really true, then that one statement would have undone everything Joseph had gone through in regards to the 116 lost pages, the trials at Zion's camp, Liberty Jail, and every single time he'd been rebuked by the Lord. It destroys every example he had shown as a credible leader and, based on other examples in his life, I simply cannot believe he'd say something like that to wash his hands of lying, especially when he translated the verse of, "Woe unto the liars for they are thrust down to hell." "Thrust" is the key word there because to be "cast" into hell simply implies being tossed into a pit and letting free-fall take over from there. "Thrust" implies that a force is pushing one down all the way to the bottom as fast as possible.

Upon thinking about this further, I came to the conclusion of, if Joseph indeed never practiced plural marriage, just how much later church leaders had completely sold him out in order to justify their taking of plural wives. It's hard to put into words, but it definitely gives people a reason to undermine Joseph completely and knock the entire foundation of the church out from below. No wonder Rock said along the lines of, "What better tool could Satan use to try and destroy the restored church?"

Now that I think on it a little more, I just love how the guy made the disclaimer of, "Now what I've shown you doesn't prove that the church isn't true," and yet does nothing to rebut the claim of Joseph behaving like a politician instead of a prophet. I already know he wasn't perfect, but would he really have used that as an excuse for something so heinous?

Bryce Dixon said...

I just read this post after having read your review of Daymon Smith's Book of Mammon. I enjoyed your review of Smith's book much more than I did the book but I was surprised that you did not comment on the credibility of Smith's writing since the satire seemed so excessive and the fictitious persona so irritating and confusing that is hard to make out what was real and what was exaggeration. I really wanted to learn what Smith had to say and wished he had spoken more plainly. It seemed that he was mainly showing off.

And how fascinating your blog on polygamy when I thought the question had been settled. Your recapitulation of mythological history was masterful. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Regarding my failure to comment on the baffling form of Smith's writing: you may have noticed that my entries are already way too long. I decided to cover that with my comment to the effect that his writing is somewhat scattershot. I figured another paragraph about exactly how scattershot it was might get me off track.

In the interviews at Mormon Stories, Smith explained what he was attempting to do, but for me and some others, it didn't quite work.

In the interviews, as well as in his doctoral dissertation, he seems a completely different author.

Regardless of the style in some portions of the book, I believed the information contained was substantive enough to recommend it without qualification.

Thanks for your compliments. And welcome aboard to the least concise blog on the internet.

RJ said...

Rock, I have no idea how long you keep responding to these threads but I am new to reading your blog and these last two on polygamy mean alot to me.

I am one of those who've been very active for decades, and who really wanted to believe EVERYTHING, but found there were things that just didn't resonate for me. I am now on the verge of leaving the church. One of the reasons? Joseph Smith's supposed polygamy. Your posts have caused me to search my heart with regards to Joseph Smith and to have hope that he was, indeed, a much better man than I have lately thought., an LDS website, lists Joseph Smith as being sealed to many women, including those you discussed above. I have wondered why the church leaves that controversial information available to all the world, but in light of the Price's research it appears it could be to salvage the church's reputation even while sacrificing Joseph's reputation to one of hypocrisy. How does this play for you?

Secondly, as a person who is near leaving the church, I agree with someone above who wrote that, whether Joseph Smith practiced polygamy (while vehemently denying same), or whether Brigham Young altered the historical record so that he could practice polygamy (while pretending Joseph received the principle from God)... In the end, the painful point is that it appears that SOMEONE lied, and that SOMEONE was a prophet who helped found and form this church.

It's very painful to leave, unimaginably and searingly painful. But I, unlike you, have not found a way to stay in a church that teaches TRUTH/black and white but practices the slipperiness of deception.

Thank you for your great site. I would love to hear your thoughts, and those of others, regarding what I have said here.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I do indeed keep up with these former posts. I get copies of all comments in my email box, so I see all and know all.

Everyone else who has commented on a particular post will get an email notification also, so others may weigh in here, too.

I think for the longest time no one in Church leadership thought to question the conventional wisdom that polygamy was introduced and practiced by Joseph Smith. After all, who would have thought to question Brigham Young or the faith promoting testimonies of all those wives.

But now I don't think the Church leadership can allow themselves to face the possibility that Brigham Young may have been the bigger fraud, for that would call into question the line of authority, and it is upon that unbroken line of authority that they have made the claim that their own authority rests.

If Brigham Young was the real instigator of plural marriage and used Joseph's name to legitimize it, everything is called into question, including much of the reason for the modern temples. So I think it's a question they just can't deal with. Better to let the world see Joseph Smith as a womanizer and sex addict who lied about his involvement with polygamy than to suggest that Brigham Young may have fallen from grace almost from the beginning.

The more I dwell on the business of the coming forth of Section 132 alone, the more I shake my head in wonder. Here was supposedly the most important revelation of all time, and rather than reveal it to the membership immediately (if God spoke it, he clearly wanted His words made known to the people right away), Brigham Young tucks it away in a drawer for eight years.

When he does bring it forth, he admits it's a copy, which covers for the fact that it is not in Joseph's handwriting. The gist of the thing just so happens to not only validate Brigham's lifestyle, but makes it mandatory and the most important thing a man can do. Hey guess what, everybody? I've kept this revelation in a drawer in my desk, but now God wants me to show it to you and oh, by the way, everyone has to have more wives.

Emma declared that Joseph never told her of such a revelation and that the first she had heard of it was Orson Pratt's piece in the newspapers. Emma's statement is pooh poohed by Brigham Young, she's dismissed as just jealous, and that's the end of the argument. But it sounds to me like Emma may be the only one telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

Frank said...

Fascinating post. Just discovered your blog today. I'm one of those exmo's, but I'm not one that subscribes to the view that everything Joseph Smith did was dishonest and crooked. I believe he was sincere.

I'm curious how you view the Fanny Alger case? She is often cited as the "first plural wife" by apologists, or as Joseph's first time being caught in an affair, by his detractors.

Dave P. said...

In yesterday's Sacrament Meeting we had the usual plethora of the speakers parroting out the most-recent conference talks as reprinted in the Ensign, and the one that really got under my skin was the one talking about those who leave the church because they were "offended." As usual, the original speaker and the parrot never presented the other side's point of view and two examples really stood out: The unemployed man who got a new job but chose not to pay his tithing and left the church because the bishop would basically not allow him to make that choice, and the one who left because the church no longer operated as it did 150 years ago.

That second one nearly made me stand up and shout, "Did you stop to think that one of the reasons why the church is condemned is because we no longer operate it in the way the Lord commanded as outlined 150+ years ago?!" I usually sit with a group of friends and I wonder how much they love watching me get annoyed when someone says, "I've been asked to base my talk on so-and-so's conference talk," or when they parrot out false doctrine with no scriptural basis. As for yesterday, I simply whispered to one of my friends that, "It's not always that simple."

@ Frank,

I can't speak for Rock, but my view on the Fanny Alger case is that she and Joseph had an illicit affair and Emma caught them in the act with Oliver Cowdery calling it a loathsome act after he learned about it. However, I don't know if Joseph sought Fanny as a plural wife at the time and I think it was an isolated incident as I also believe Joseph repented of that since the Lord forgives him of a major sin in the D&C that may well have been that affair. Sadly, that wasn't the last time Joseph followed after his carnal desires.

Some things to think about said...

The Making of a Mormon Myth.~ I took the advise and read part of the Van Wagoner paper. Lost interest after the second page after trying to verify his references and found 11 of the first 24 to be grossly inaccurate. I suppose this is why he is wiki'ed as an amatuer historian.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I guess that depends on what you consider the meaning of "amateur." I doubt very much that the writer of the entry meant the term the way you took it. The term simply refers to a person who has a regular job IN ADDITION TO writing and researching history. He was also the Historical Archivist for the town of Lehi where he lived.

The same article you cite includes a tribute to Van Wagoner as a "trailblazer in Mormon studies." He was very highly regarded by other Mormon historians, and I've never heard any of them challenge his findings. Indeed, other Mormon and non-Mormon professional historians bestowed awards on him for his works.

I've found Van Wagoner's footnotes to be extremely accurate, even when they disagree with his thesis. If you found them inaccurate, I think you owe it to the field of Mormon studies to provide a complete list of your findings. If you have found significant errors in Van Wagoner's essay, you would be making a great contribution to Mormon studies and uncovering inconsistencies others have missed.

You might have to read past the second page, though, if you hope to disprove the thesis that the Transmogrification never took place.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. And I'm perfectly willing to believe there is some truth in the material presented in "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy" but I'm also willing to believe that marital irregularities occurred because people are complex. I believe that Joseph may have become ambivalent and even regretful of many things he had done and roads he had taken from time to time. He himself informs us of his deep reflections and even occasional trepidation at times. I'm guessing that the truth probably lies somewhere in the gray mist in between the two major branches of the restoration. I do know that modern fundamentalists try hard to graft their theology onto Smith (i.e. Adam-God) no matter how scant the evidence.

whitehusky said...

This reminds me of the people who say, "I've seen Elvis, and he's still alive!" Just say, "I was married to Joseph Smith, but he never touched me!"


At any rate, polygamy is not something any human being seems to have handled properly. Then there are those who got into it through no fault of their own. Poor Jacob and Rachel had no end of problems being saddled with the conniving and selfish Leah. Yes. It's easy to believe that plural marriage is not only going to ruin your life, but also your eternity.

That's why Adam had one wife: Eve. Anything else just messes everything up.

doyle_megan said...

To hear some people talk, Joseph Smith married every woman west of the Rockies, and that posthaste! I've given up even trying to pay attention to church history. I just read the scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand them.

whitehusky said...

I just ran into someone on a blog today who was blaming Joseph Smith for creating a man-made religion with no foundation. He was attributing all the false traditions and beliefs in the church to Joseph Smith. I told him that Joseph was not to blame for today's Mormons who don't know the Lord. It's their responsibility, and they often aren't living up to it.

Dave P. said...

Just as in the days of Moses, whitehusky. The Israelites were too lazy to seek to know the Lord for themselves, so they sent Moses up to the mount. And, when things started to go wrong, they could blame Moses and not themselves.

AV said...

No Prophet from Joseph Smith to Pres. Monson can receive any true revelation (any more than you or I) that goes against the scriptures we already have.

All their revelations must be in harmony with all previous scripture or we can know for sure it is false.

So how does the revelation D&C 132 on 'plural marriage' by Brigham Young harmonize with the scriptures they had at that time? For it doesn't.

This is not rocket science. Yet you would think so, judging by how hardly no one ever thinks about it.

Steve said...

To which parts of D&C 132 do you object?

Dave P. said...

I can't claim to speak for AV, Steve, but the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon clearly states that polygamy is an abomination to God in any way and that the Nephites were already ripe for destruction because of it (and they'd only been living in the promised land for one generation!).

A lot of members claim that verse 30 in Jacob 2 is an "exception" for polygamy when the Lord needs to raise a righteous seed. However, that verse is always misinterpreted and taken out of context. It has two valid interpretations: when the Lord inspires a single husband and wife to have a child, and when the Lord wants to raise a righteous people He will have them keep His commandments. If the Lord didn't give the people those commandments, they would have hearkened unto their own whims and desires ("these things"), in that case being polygamy.

I once had someone tell me, "But that only applies to Jacob's audience and God may command one thing to one people but something else to another people." I was dumbfounded because the guy had basically just denied the nature of God right there. As King Benjamin testifies during his sermon, God is unchanging, therefore if he declares something abominable, it always is and always will be, no exceptions. Also, there's the fact that the Book of Mormon was written for our day and, if it wasn't important for us to know, then it wouldn't have been included.

Regarding other things in Section 132, I'm currently at the point where I can only say, "I don't know." Given how every temple after Kirtland has been cursed (Section 124:48), I don't really know if eternal families or celestial marriages are even valid practices.

Steve said...

Joseph said a key to understanding revelation is to know the question that prompted it. In Jacob's case it was because wicked men were using David and Solomon's examples to justify their own carnal nature. Obviously a bad idea.

For me there are too many instances where righteous men practiced plural marriage without the Lord's condemnation. It was even written into the law of Moses for certain cases (see the case of Ruth). And in David's and Solomon's cases, they were chastised for taking what they ought not have taken - Bathsheba in David's case and wives of foreign nations in his son's instance. In fact it seems to me that the Book of Mormon contradicts the Old Testament in their cases: Nathan specifically told David that he had sinned in the case of Uriah/Bathsheba and if David had asked, He would have given more wives to the king.

Something to ponder.


AV said...

Actually the only way to tell if someone now or in the past like king David, etc. was righteous & a true disciple of Christ, is by 'love', pure true Christlike love.

Only those who possess this kind of love can tell if others do or not & thus if they are true disciples or not. Everyone else will easily be deceived to think wicked people are righteous.

David did not have true love for his 1st wife, for a man with true love for his wife would not live polygamy & torture his wife like that.

God also commands men to make their wives happy & serve their every wish & never do anything to hurt them, thus again polygamy goes totally against that true command & revelation - to love & protect a wife from all harm, pain & abuse.

It's vital that we come to understand that polygamy in any form, is & always has been in every single case, one of the vilest forms of spouse abuse ever known to women. And God has the harshest words for men & husbands who abuse their wife in any way.

The fact that some women like polygamy & say how wonderful it is, does not make it so or mean they are righteous. You can go into any polygamous group today & find tons of women who will say they love it.

In fact, most abused women who suffer from any form of abuse from their husbands, do not see themselves as abused. They make excuses for their husbands & say that he is a righteous man & that their marriage is good for the most part. Denial is the common response for women who are abused. Only those few with the Spirit are brave enough to awake to the awfulness of their situation & can call the kettle black.

The Lord said that the Nephites were completely destroyed because they would not obey the Lord's high law of monogamy. But the wicked Lamanites obeyed this law & loved their spouse & did not abuse their wives & children by polygamy, thus even in their wickedness God spared them because they obeyed this most important commandment.

Polygamy or multiple women, is the natural carnal & devilish desire of most all men. It is not a test, but an abusive perk, that most men on this earth have desired to indulge in, either by collecting wives or if the laws didn't allow it, they just had or have affairs.

When men divorce their wives today it is just another form of polygamy or this desire for multiple women. Men in the Church think they are collecting wives when they have more than one sealed to them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They doom themselves for all eternity when they break their covenants to their 1st wife & even look at another woman let alone date or marry one.

Steve, you mentioned the law of Moses. The Law of Moses was not a saving law. It kept a wicked people from getting even worse. The Law of Moses does not have the power to save anyone let alone exalt someone. Moses allowed alot of things to go on, because the people were so wicked that if he didn't they would do worse things. He had to allow divorce for one thing, not that it was ok, but that if he didn't allow men to divorce they would do worse to their wives than abandon them. Divorce was still pure adultery in Moses's time just as it is today, even if the Prophet must allow it to go on because the people refuse to keep the higher laws that can exalt them. People then thought & people now think they are getting away with divorce & remarriage & that it's not adultery, but it is & has been adultery since the days of Adam. Sin never becomes ok or loses it's eternal consequences.

AV said...


There is no righteous case of polygamy in the Bible. Abraham was following the command of his wife when he did it. I believe God told him to obey Sarah & go along with even wickedness, because he knew Sarah would only learn the hard way that polygamy, though it was common back then, is not a righteous way to go about getting children. She did not have faith that God would fulfill his promises to her. But she did finally learn & repent & their polygamy only lasted a short time before Sarah had Abraham send her away.

Jacob was another example of desperate weak wives pressuring the husband to live polygamy & a dishonest father-in-law who tricked Jacob into living it at a weak time in his life when he was so in love with Rachel & wanted so badly to be with her. But I believe that Jacob later repented of his polygamy too & came to realize it was wrong.

Why do we think these men in the Bible were righteous their whole lives & didn't have Alma the younger type 'pasts' & later repented & became truly righteous?

The Bible, Book of Mormon & the D&C all clearly preached monogamy & one wife. They all clearly showed the mess & abomination & evil of polygamy & how abusive it was to women & how it leads to great destruction.

Brigham Young added D&C 132 to the D&C years later in Utah, & said it was from Joseph. But Joseph always preached against polygamy & a true Prophet would not stand before the Church & lie over & over, while secretly running after young women & destroying his wife emotionally, anymore than a true Prophet today would.

Joseph had to have had true love for Emma to be a true Prophet, & thus it would be impossible for him to run after women behind Emma's back. That is not the way God or a righteous man works & polygamy goes completely against God's laws & commandment in numerous ways. It is so easy to see this that everyone misses it.

Also, the only reason most women joined up with a polygamous man back then was because women were falsely told by leaders that they had to be sealed in this life to a righteous man in order to make it. We know now that that is not true. Women can marry in the next life & have every blessing. They can even stay married to a unrighteous man & save him & achieve Exaltation with their repentant spouse. Now why didn't they teach women that back then, for they knew a man could save a wicked wife, but they didn't teach the other way because then women wouldn't live polygamy.

~Clint~ said...

AV: I am curious if you have any scriptural or revelatory backing for these two statements that you made:

Women can marry in the next life & have every blessing.

They can even stay married to a unrighteous man & save him & achieve Exaltation with their repentant spouse.

I have heard these kind of statements before, but am unable to find any scriptural or revelatory basis for them.

If you know where these specific statements come from, I would be curious to know their source.

Dave P. said...


"They can even stay married to a unrighteous man & save him..."

This is the trap you've fallen in to. No one can save his/her spouse. The Atonement only makes it possible to save ourselves.

I mentioned a friend a while back who was spiritually told to divorce her husband and got the exact words from her: "If you continue to live a lie, you will die!"

That's something that can apply to all of us, as both temporal and spiritual death are quite possibly the result of living in an unequally yoked marriage.

AV said...


I know we can save an errant spouse & infact, that is the greatest purpose of marriage on this earth, to save our spouse, if need be, with our unconditional true love & sealing. True love is the greatest power there is, it is another name for 'Priesthood power'.

And I am sorry to hear about your friend, who I believe was inspired by the Adversary, for Heavenly Father & the Spirit would never say something like that & contradict all other revelations they have given us on marriage & true love.

Being unequally yoked needn't weaken us, in fact, if we have the Spirit & true love it will help us progress faster & farther than any other trial we could have.

As, Elder McConkie once said, "Loving one's enemies perfects the soul."

Loving & serving our enemies is the hardest trial of this life, especially when that's our spouse. Only those with the true love of Christ can do it.

Keeping our covenants to an unrighteous spouse is not living a lie, but the Adversary will surely tell us it is. He is telling everyone who will listen to him to divorce for this reason or that.

Heavenly Father never tells anyone to divorce & break their sacred covenants to their spouse, it's absolutely impossible, for it goes against all eternal laws he has given us. He instead commands us to have true love & unconditional faithfulness & commitment to our spouse, forever.

Do we have our agency to divorce? Certainly. But even when justified, God would rather we have true love for our spouse, even if & especially if they do not deserve it.

Just like Christ did for us, though we didn't deserve it.

AV said...


Yes, I have some quotes from Prophets who suggest this ability to save a spouse. I will get some together for you & post them tomorrow hopefully.

RJ said...

Case to ponder: woman marries man in temple. Man struggles with and them gives in to homosexual behaviors. He knew before marriage but was counseled after mission to get married, have children, and it would "go away". Woman stays for 9 years longer, bears 3 more children, believes leaders who say ask will be well if she just keeps paying, etc. Husband engages again, risks bringing HIV home to family... Finally, divorce. Husband embraces glaringly gay life. Woman remarries... Husband for her, father for children. You are saying this woman is an adulteress?

RJ said...

Sorry, I meant to say, "leaders tell her all will be well if she just keeps PRAYING," but PAYING works, too!

Dave P. said...

Oh you were right on the first time, RJ. The corporate church requires extortion of tithing funds above everything else to be considered "faithful."

AV said...


If a person is 'justified' to divorce (& only the right Spirit can tell us if we are), for there are some rare justified divorces, then it would not be 'adultery' to remarry.

But neither has that spouse kept their promise & covenant to have unconditional true love for their errant spouse, or they could never think of divorcing & dating or remarrying, yet they would protect themselves.

For one day that spouse will repent, usually not until the next life, & then if you would have been valiant in your covenant, it would have given you the power to take your repentant spouse to the Celestial Kingdom with you to be married forever.

But if one breaks their covenant they won't have such power & claim on their spouse & the repentant spouse will just have to stay in the Telestial Kingdom they merited for all eternity, single & miserable for losing you.

And though a justified 2nd marriage may not be adultery, it is not based on the Celestial law of true love either, thus it is a Terrestrial level marriage, which I believe will not be eternal.

For the ticket into the Celestial Kingdom & Exaltation is true love for one's spouse. And if they had it for the 1st spouse they could never ever divorce & get remarried.

For it's impossible to have Celestial Christlike 'true love' for a 2nd spouse, or else the person would have had it for the 1st & not even be with the 2nd.

And if a spouse is dangerously abusive or unrighteous as you mentioned, to where the wife's safety or life is in danger, she can separate from him & protect herself from him while still keeping her covenants to him & love & serve him from a safe distance & be faithful to him for the rest of her life.

I know that sounds like a long hard road & sometimes it is, but it's worth it to save a soul & experience the joy that power will bring someday, rather than the pain of losing the power to save your spouse, even though right now you don't think you want to be with him in eternity, but you will, more than you could ever imagine.

But as long as we are still living, we can always repent if we have broke our marriage covenants to our spouse & decide to go back & start keeping our covenants again to love & serve & stay completely faithful to our 1st spouse & help them to repent someday, even if they have remarried, for their marriage is not valid with God & will end at death & then you can save them to the Celestial K. with you forever.

For true love does conquer all & always wins.

whitehusky said...

//... the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon clearly states that polygamy is an abomination to God in any way //

Again, if people knew the Lord like Jacob did, they wouldn't argue over this. One man cleaves to one woman. That's the way the Lord set it forth for mankind. And mankind decided to rebel.

Typical. Just like the Israelites in the wilderness who complained against everything, wanted Korah instead of Moses, and turned to idol worship at the first opportunity ... we've got people in the church who want to walk in worldly ways and not even consider how the Lord feels on the subject.

Jeanmarie said...

Fascinating reading. Can you send me off in the right direction to learn more about the provenance of D&C 132?

AV said...


Have you read this site's article called "Why I'm Abandoning Polygamy? Alan explains in there a little I think how D&C came to be.

Or you can just go the website & read about D&C 132 from their book "Joseph Fought Polygamy".

I am finding that the Church's historians seem to generally agree with many of that books facts on things, yet they just see it all from a different angle, that Joseph was lying to the Saints. Which I don't believe a Prophet would do, especially for the reasons they give.

We must be very careful what we say about Joseph Smith, for he was a true & valiant Prophet & to say he did all those horrible things running after & collecting women, especially saying he would abuse his wife Emma that way, will bring condemnation down upon us if it's not true.

We cannot just believe anyone on earth that would suggest such vileness of Joseph, that he lived polygamy, we must know for sure by studying Joseph's own testimony while he was alive & the words he himself published & approved & by personal revelation & by study of what the scriptures say about polygamy (before 132 was added).

Sorry, Jeanmarie, I didn't mean to sound like I was directing those last remarks to you, there were just to anyone in general.

AV said...


I mean't to tell you that their book "Joseph Fought Polygamy" is 'free' to just read over the internet from their website & study about 132 or all the other things Joseph said during his life about polygamy.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

In all the time since I wrote these two pieces challenging the conventional wisdom regarding Joseph Smith's alleged involvement in polygamy, I have yet to find anything substantial that would convince me that he was a secret practitioner. Everything is hearsay written decades later, and clearly motivated by a desire to protect Brigham's empire.

You would think that someone who claimed to have been married to Joseph in Nauvoo would have mentioned it in her journal at the time, rather than waiting until the 1870's to bring it up. Very suspect.

And why did Brigham Young feel it necessary to doctor Joseph's journals? Tampering with the historical record like that seems pretty despicable to me.

As AV infers above, Joseph would not have lied about this. It would have completely destroyed his credibility if he had lied earlier with the intention of admitting it later. Who would follow such a two-faced prophet?

AV said...

Exactly Alan. Joseph wouldn't have lied about polygamy if he thought that the members would have to except it later. Prophets don't make it any harder than it already is to accept truth. God doesn't work that way.

For God knows that the strong & valiant, who would stand by what Joseph taught, would never accept polygamy. For it was firmly planted in their minds & hearts how evil it was.

It would be like an Apostle today trying to get us to now accept 'viewing porn' in every home.
After years of hearing how bad it is.

It's vital that we liken history & the scriptures to us & put ourselves in that time period.

If we had listened to Joseph teach over & over about the vileness of polygamy & studied the scriptures that teach that & that monogamy is God's only law of marriage taught in the scriptures, & then after Joseph died & Brigham Young started preaching polygamy to us, or better yet, even came up to us as a young woman or came to our 16 year old daughter to propose marriage & invite us or her to be another wife of his, what would you think? What would you say?!

Of course we wouldn't go along with it or believe him. For we had just heard Joseph warn us over & over about it all & even warn us a few months earlier that 'if anyone teaches anything contrary to what the Bible, Book of Mormon or D&C (1944 version) says, meaning if anyone ever teaches anything different than monogamy, than Joseph said 'we should consider him a dangerous 'imposter' that should be shunned & disfellowshipped. Even if it was an Apostle, for many Apostles in those days were falling from grace, so why would we think Brigham couldn't too?

We just wouldn't follow him after what Joseph just got done preaching.

UNLESS, we were men who liked the sound of polygamy or we were women who were weak, with low self-worth & low self-respect, desperate to have a man at any cost or be married to someone with power. There are so many women like this all over in the Church today. It is not hard to picture them doing the same back then.

Heavenly Father doesn't play games with us, he doesn't make it that hard to accept the truth. He says it like it is & doesn't try to confuse us & he doesn't contradict himself. All truth is harmonious with itself. No true prophet after Joseph can preach something contrary to what he did. That is God's eternal law. Otherwise God's church is a church of chaos, if every new prophet can come up with something new & different & change the commandment & laws of heaven.

What would be the 'standard' to be able to tell the difference between a true prophet & a false prophet then?? If it's not the 'scriptures' like Joseph said it was??

For the scriptures warn us that in these last days there will be many false prophets. Is it impossible that there could be 'false prophets in the church' even? Of course, many in Joseph's day had already fallen. So what criteria would you have used to detect a false prophet? Someone teaching something as gross & abusive to women like polygamy is & opposite what Joseph taught maybe??

AV said...

If I had been there in Nauvoo in 1844, I would have remembered Joseph's warnings & I would have not accepted anyone who taught different than Joseph's teaching of monogamy."

For one of his last warnings was:

For I know that Joseph was a true Prophet of God & that the Book of Mormon is true & that makes '2 true witnesses' that 'monogamy' is God's only law of marriage. And '2 true witnesses' that polygamy, in any form or by any name, is a vile & abusive evil that would repulse the Spirit of any righteous man or woman.

If you had been there, who would you have believed, Joseph or Brigham?

Remember, this was long before all those women had claimed that Joseph had married them, long before Brigham Young had brought out Section 132, long before many Saints had accepted or lived it yet.

You could have even gone & talked to Emma to see what she thought about the idea of polygamy, for it was long before all the rumors about her too. I bet I know what her counsel to you would have been.

So who's teachings & testimony would you have believed?

We today are all required to go back to that time period & consider Joseph's words & testimony & what the scripture taught back then & just like the saints in those days, we must decide who we would have believed.

AV said...

Sorry, I left out what one of his last warnings was that I mean't to include in that last post.

Can you hear him crying this from the dust?

Here it is:

"If any man writes or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter... Try them by the principles contained in the acknowledged word of God; if they preach, or teach, or practice contrary to that, disfellowship them; cut them off from among you as useless and dangerous branches..."

Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 5:490-491, April 1, 1844.

Mike said...

Great post. I've used the Van Wagoner argument and essay a few times as an example of the importance of not using Memoirs and aggrandized accounts of church history. Especially the transformation of Brigham into Joseph. But then....

I came across the Sarah Stoddard diary here ( She died in 1846 and the journal was finished and closed in 1847 by her daughter 10 years before Albert Carrington brought up the transformation in GC. The daughter testifies that her mother was strengthened during the persecutions that followed Joseph/Hyrum's as followed "that the one time of complete peace and the upsurging of faith and hope was when the prophet's mantle fell over Brigham Young and it appeared to the thousands assembled that Joseph the prophet stood once more before them". This from a diary that was closed in 1847! So as heartfelt as Van Wagner is about trying to down grade the event, he obviously missed a journal or two in his research... Take everything with a grain of salt IMO especially from scholars who's agenda sometimes is to gain notoriety by taking something of the past and punching holes in it.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Still smells fishy to me, Mike. If Sarah Stoddard saw the transformation, she was the only one who wrote about it anywhere near the time. Don't take my word for it, you've seen all of Van Wagoner's evidence (or lack) to the contrary.

How do we know the diary was "closed" in 1847? What does that even mean, that no one was able to open the diary up and add something? Whose handwriting is that entry in? Remember, entire gaps of our history were doctored after the fact, and by many hands.

I dunno. I'd have to see something more convincing. And from the mouth of two or three witnesses, not just the one. It's possible the entire rumor began with Stoddard and that Carrington just picked up on her fantasy.

Mike said...

I have similar concerns Alan. The amazing thing was how I found it. I've known about the journal/memoir collection at for a while. I go there and pull up a journal to study normally going in alphabetical order. The day I read that journal I just though to randomly click the links on the page. I had been pondering the Van Wagner essay that week and thought it ironic that I come across something that could possibly rain on his parade lol. BOAP has a transcript but the original is king. According to the transcript the daughter ends the journal in 1847 in Iowa as they are about to set off to the west. But a penciled in date doesn't mean it was 1847. It could have been 1860 for all we know. BUT if it is dated to the 1840's. It really doesn't matter if it's 1st or a second hand account. What matters is the story is told before 1857 which would punch a hole in his argument. If it could be dated it should and even if it isn't it's a pretty cool journal :) the account of Sarah's son Charles watching a drunk William Law take a pot shot at Joseph and his gun failing with a misfire is history gold! It says its in the collection held by the Stoddard family. I'm sure a well worded email to the admins at might even get me a lead on who to ask for a view or a photocopy.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Sarah's wording in her account, does not say that BY 'looked' like JS, but that he 'seemed' like JS standing there in similar strength & authority.

This still does not tell me anything except that this Sarah & many there felt BY was 'in their belief' the new Prophet.

But I have learned that most everyone, in or out of the church, believes their own revelation & feelings & interpretations are sure & true, even when they are from the Adversary & completely wrong or evil.

Everyone in the Church seems to be so easily deceived by false personal revelation, false doctrine & fallen people, then & now.

So we can't just go by our 'feelings' & impressions, we must go by sure doctrine, already established as true, & judge men & prophets by that.

The real & only valid question is 'was Brigham Young called by God' by revelation through proper channels? Not the voice of the people (who can easily be & usually are wrong & deceived).

Anonymous said...

Nice bit of digging on finding that the Prices are members of the RLDS church. Not surprising given the topic of their book. If you're looking for an objective, non-biased opinion, they certainly aren't it. However, I'm of the view that all opinions carry some weight, biased or not, I just think opinions that have less bias should be given more weight.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever find another revelation supporting eternal marriages? It certainly is an interesting question.

Anonymous said...

If Brigham was a false prophet then that possibly makes Joseph a false prophet, since Joseph prophesied that he was establishing the Kingdom for the last time. If Brigham wasn't the one to keep the Kingdom alive, who was? Joseph Smith III also got a somewhat racist revelation concerning the blacks (RLDS D&C 114:4;, so we can't say Brigham was the only racist leader to come out of Joseph's church. Both Brigham and Joseph Smith III did make efforts to live Consecration, which give them both some credibility in my eyes. Joseph Smith III also continued the tradition of getting revelations and adding them to the church's Doctrine and Covenants. Brigham Young did add one revelation to the LDS Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 136). Any other legitimate contenders for the crown?

Anonymous said...

Rock, being the lover of history and proof that you are, I'd love for you to support your choice of words: "unconditionally".

Anonymous said...

All of Mormonism does seem false if Brigham wasn't a prophet, doesn't it? Unless there is some other rightful successor to Joseph Smith. Who could it be though?

Anonymous said...

Please provide support for your claim that an unworthy priesthood holder can "pass it on to others"?

Derek said...

Alan, you might want to look at the new book, The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, for a clear understanding of why JS was killed and for what reasons. This new work by John Dinger is a revelation and frankly will be hugely damaging to your thesis in your blog posts. A smoking gun? I think you will find it very enlightening to read this book and learn about things happening on the inside....

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'd like to get that book, Derek, but fifty bucks?! Not this year, I'm afraid.

I wish there was more information on Amazon regarding that thesis. I am aware of the rumors of minutes of the Nauvoo High Council, but I have also heard the provenance is in question. I have my doubts about Hyrum's involvement in any such doings, so I'll have to see that book some day and judge for myself.

I really would like to read it; I just can't afford it.

Also in the matter of the reasons for Joseph Smith's assasination, I'm currently reading "Junius and Joseph: Presidential Politics and the Assasination of the First Mormon Prophet" which takes the position that the killing was orchestrated by the highest levels of Illinois politicians. This would be consistent with the view of Joseph Smith biographer Robert Rimini, which I read some years ago, as well as the feelings of many of the Saints in that day. Rimini is one of the foremost historians of the Jacksonian era, and an expert on the politics and movements at the time. He says it's no question it was a political assassination, and everyone knew it at the time.

I find it interesting that most of us were raised to believe Joseph Smith was killed because of religious persecution. It doesn't take much pondering to conclude that it was a political threat the Mormons posed to their neighbors, not a religious one.

Unknown said...

I have a testimony of Joseph and the book of Mormon, and most people join the church for that reason, no one joined it based on polygamy or Brigham young etc etc in this day and age the church has no racism, polygamy r blood atonement, it is a different generation and because of the goodness of the people, the vhutvh appears to shine out. It was tainted, it would be great if Thomas monson let the truth be known.. it is a collection of awesome people..

Unknown said...

Brigham young had thirty years to alter history, and the journals I have read are suspiciously post-date, not current. I took this in prayer to God and received crystal clear answer that Joseph had but one wife, that those that contradicted this were liars, that d and c 132 was a fabrication. I was told the truth would reveal itself.

Regarding the Patriarchs, Abram listened to his wife because she wanted a child and lacked faith, Abram was commanded to be perfect and he became perfect, having his name changed to Abraham.. when he had Isaac and was asked to sacrifice him, god said Isaac was his only son . . Even though ishmeal was Abraham's eldest . . .

Abraham was monogamous after becoming perfect, and did not marry again til Sarah had died.

D&c 132 makes out that polygamy is essentially, and to be obeyed ... well when Isaac married, he only wed Rebekah . . . Does this mean he is condemned for neglectly the 'false, made up law of Sarah'

Jacob only wanted to marry Rachel, it was not a law of god to have multiple wives,

Lehi left Jerusalem to raise up pure seed, in the book of Jacob the are three chapters condemning polygamy, and polygamists take two words out of that, twist them and give reason for polygamy . . But the 'other wise' was referring to the destruction they would receive, if they disobeyed one wife rule . . . And that god can raise up righteous seed by telling his people to be righteous. The lamanites were praised for obeying the law and having one wife.

Unknown said...

I thought that Joseph Smith infuriated the public because he deemed to destroy the printing press of a critic. I presume that the newspaper printing in those days was the holy grail of the public and freedom of the press was a big deal and the people were furious with Joseph Smith for ruination of a printing press as an attack on free speech.

The LDS interpretation that Joseph Smith was martyred does not fit in my ideas that people were furious that the Mormons simply decided to stomp on a printing press-- kind of like setting the American flag on fire.

What do you think of that?

Bjorge Queen said...

For what it's worth, I'm an exmo and this did not make me angry. In fact it really made me think. Being able to accept at least the POSSIBILITY that JS didn't instigate polygamy helped me let go of a great deal of anger I have felt toward the man personally. I don't believe he was a prophet, but that doesn't have to mean that he was a creepy fraud.
A lot of things I've read about Joseph on your blog, assuming they are true, have led me to have more respect for him. Not enough to return to his church. Not by any stretch. But even so, I think it has been good for me.
I can't really say that anybody, since I've left the church, has given me a good argument for the idea that Joseph Smith might have been of reasonably good character. So that's saying something.

Unknown said...

I am a direct descendant of JS. As a child my great grandmother told me several stories about the church that had been passed down from generation to generation. Our family makes sure to do hand down these stories as we gaze upon our genealogy. Therefor I believe what I was told was pure and accurate.

With that said... JS DID practice polygamy. Emma wasn't happy with it at first but it grew on her to the point she started to bring woman to JS. Not only did JS receive this revelation from our heavenly father but it also became a necessity due to the large number of woman widowed. At that time (as I'm sure you already know) an actual army was formed to slaughter any and all Mormons. JS found out and formed our own army that was armed. Unfortunately our army was much smaller than theirs and a lot of men were slaughtered leaving grieving widows alone with a house full of children. In those days woman only worked at home in the kitchen so they had no financial means to take care of a family. As a solution to help, many men married these widows. Of course JS would deny it outside of the church. There were people (and a large number of them) that were looking for any excuse to hang him on a tree and destroy the religion. If he told the truth the nonbelievers would use it against the church and we wouldn't be calling ourselves Mormon now. Not only did JS sanction and practice polygamy, but he also preached that in heaven it is practiced. A belief that many Mormons believe today. During this time polygamy was legal. When a law was passed to ban polygamy the church decided to stop the practice due to being a law abiding religion. That is when the fundamentalists broke off and went under ground. Those that stayed with us realized the only hope we had to gain converts was to uphold the law and stop the practice. If you truely believe that JS was a prophet, then you should have no heart burn accepting the fact of polygamy. The church has nothing to apologize for. It was a commandment given from god to JS. To ask the church to apologize for such a thing would be the same as asking someone to apologize for living the 10 commandments from the bible. It is what it is, it is what it was, and it is what we believe. I say "accept it or join another religion".

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that you believe such stories about Joseph Smith, even though he was your ancestor. I have LDS ancestors who lived polygamy, one being a patriarch, yet I still know how revolting, abusive & evil of a practice it was.

There were of course relatives of Joseph's who believed he lived & started polygamy and passed down such stories, but that does not mean it's true.

We know that Christ and the ancient prophets warned against polygamy and taught that it was a vile abusive whoredom to women. So even if Joseph fell for it too, like so many prophets before him, it doesn't mean it was right, for it was completely contrary to the Gospel that Jesus Christ & his holy prophets taught.

I give Joseph the benefit of a doubt, for I believe he showed the wisdom and knowledge that he knew how evil polygamy was & didn't lie about his feelings & involvement with it.

I believe Joseph was innocent of polygamy and that all those who accuse him of the very evils he fought against his whole life, will have to answer to him & God for their unfounded accusations. I believe there is far & away more 'proof' of Joseph's innocence than there is evidence of any guilt. So I can't understand why anyone would believe Joseph guilty of such a thing, let alone believe a prophet of God could be so abusive, deceiving & evil towards his wife and still maintain his standing with God.

I don't know any self-respecting righteous woman who would live polygamy or believe a Prophet of God would either, for they know & understand Christ's teachings and they know that Prophets can't lie & deceive people, let alone lie & abuse a wife, and still be a prophet.

People who believe that prophets can be so evil do not understand Christlike love, the very thing Christ said to use to detect his true disciples & prophets by.

And even if I were widowed with many children, I would never subject myself to the vile abuses of polygamy, nor do I believe God would ever want me to, for that would be far & away worse than being a single mother, for me & my children, and I speak from experience & I know many single mothers who feel the same as I do. For they know that God expects men to protect, respect & love them not abuse, control & collect them.

Polygamy is the complete opposite of Christlike true love, but we must possess true love to realize this.

If the men of the Church were so righteous back then, then they would have known that God expected them to financially support those widows & single mothers even without marrying them and they would have done so, instead of asking for fringe benefits.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

If you are indeed descended from Joseph Smith through one of his plural wives, the world is waiting to hear from you. There have been several attempts to prove others who have made the claims you have, yet DNA fails to find a match. There simply are no known descendants of Joseph Smith who did not come through Emma's line.

I have no doubt your family has passed such stories down, for that was common for many of the wives of prominent Utahns to make that claim.

The key question I have for those who believe Joseph practiced plural marriage while vigorously denouncing all who promoted it, and excommunicating banishing and suing those who accused him of it, is this: At what point did you think he going to admit it was a true doctrine revealed from God? After all those intense denunciations, who would believe he was a prophet of God once he said "Psyche! It's real. I was just waiting until the right time to tell you all!"

I'm afraid you have brought nothing but more hearsay. Joseph taught one thing. There is absolutely no evidence he practiced something else.

Unknown said...

Have you ever visited the DC temple? If not I would highly recommend it. There you can find many members that will state the same as I have. It was given to him as a commandment. At first he wouldn't do it because he didn't want to hurt Emma. God went to him a second time and told him if he didn't god was going to punish him for not following a commandment when he was suppose to be a prophet.

As far as a DNA test goes.. I would be more than glad to take one.

Unknown said...

Now that I have given your comments even more thought I have a some questions for you.

The US was established on July 4, 1776. The church was established (or officially organized) on April 6, 1830. That would make our country 53yrs old when the church was official. I'm sure we can agree on that. I'm sure we can also agree that many people assumed a different last name when they came to this country making it very difficult (if not impossible in some cases) to establish blood lines. If you are up on your history as you claim then you are also aware of the war that was declared on the members of our church shortly after the official organization.

My questions to you are thus... What happened to all of the widows left after that war? What happened to all of the children that were sired by the men that were slaughtered? Does it not make sense that another man would take on those responsibilities? Would it also not make sense that a lot of those children would maintain their biological fathers last name and some would assume the "step fathers" last name? Then would it also make sense that DNA testing would prove nothing in this matter due to the fact that children didn't have to be legally adopted at that time? You could literally pick and choose what ever you wanted to call yourself with no legal papers to state otherwise. As the stories go. The men would assume more than one wife but more times than not, no "relations" would come between them. It was done to help keep people from starving to death. Even if they were "true" husband and wife in every manner, what is the big deal? Polygamy was legal then. So what if it did happen? No man took a "child" bride. No insest. Nothing perverse... and what about our belief that polygamy is practiced in heaven?

To answer your question... He never "vigorously denouncing all who promoted it, and excommunicating banishing and suing those who accused him of it".
"At what point did you think he going to admit it was a true doctrine revealed from God?" He did put it forth as being true doctrine. Even you have admitted that the doctrine has been changed over time. Perhaps you need to learn more of the church history rather than just picking and choosing what you believe is to be true.

AND by the way... No women in my family have been "prominent Utahns". Only common farmers and blue collar factory folk here. Most of which left Utah a VERY long time ago. Are you aware that you really make woman in our church history sound very bad? We're not bad at all. Just very mentally and spiritually strong.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You'll have to pardon my skepticism if I don't automatically accept hearsay from members who were not present when Joseph received this "commandment," even if they do repeat it in the Washington DC temple.

I would be interested in seeing a statement from Joseph Smith where God threatened to punish him if he did not enter into plural marriage. I have certainly seen no such revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is where Joseph posted every other communication he recieved.

I am aware of several members repeating a story of an angel with a flaming sword who threatened to slay the prophet if he didn't marry addtional women, but there are some obvious problems with that story:

It didn't appear anywhere until about 1879, decades after Joseph Smith died, and at a time when it was Utah polygamy was gravely threatened and the Saints needed convincing that the principle was true. Then once the rumor got started everyone started repeating is as fact. Why was this terrific story not widely known before?

Such an event would contradict Joseph's Free Agency.

It would have helped if this angel had appeared to Emma, since she is supposedly the one standing in the way.

Finally, how was Joseph Smith ever going to get any good Mormon girl to marry him after he himself had a letter read to the Relief warning the gals to absolutely reject anyone making such a sordid proposal, warning against: "iniquitous characters [who] say they have authority from Joseph or the First Presidency’ and advising them not to ‘believe anything as coming from us, contrary to the established morals & virtues & scriptural laws...", and further cautoing the sisters to "denounce any man who made polygamous proposals and to ‘shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are Prophets, Seers, or Revelators; Patriarchs, Twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Majors, Generals, City Councilors, Aldermen, Marshals, Police, Lord mayors or the Devil, [they] are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices.”

Tammy, we have the choice to believe the words Joseph Smith actually taught during his time here on earth, or we can reject those teachings in favor of rumors which are contrary to those things he taught, and which surfaced long after he was present to defend himself.

In my view, the Restored gospel was a beautiful thing during the prophet's life. It was only after his death that contradictions appeared and things began to get confusing.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Tammy, I am not aware of any war that was declared against the Mormons, so I'm afraid you have the advantage of me there.

There was certainly some skirmishes between some Mormons and local Missourians, and culminating in the infamous Massacre at Haun's Mill, which resulted in 19 Mormon fatalities. There were certainly threats against the Saints, which is why half of them decided to leave the area.

You ask, "what happened to all the widows after the war?"

Beats me.

The War Between the States resulted in the deaths of 620,000 men, leaving quite a few more widows and orphans needing to be cared for than the Haun's Mill tragedy, yet no one seems to have come up with the idea that the best way to provide for the needs of all those widows would be to marry them. Perhaps the people did what Christians have always done for widows and orphans. They contributed to their assistance. There are other ways to help a person other than marrying them.

Certainly there were some widows who went to Utah, but there was no excess of women in ratio to men. Quite the opposite. The Utah pioneers actually didn't bring enough women with them to go around, as most of the single women preferred to stay put. According to

"The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state."

I'm a bit confused about what you are saying about children changing their names so it's difficult to know who might be descended from Joseph Smith and who might not. It's very simple to trace the descendants of women who claimed to have been married to Joseph Smith. Since the ostensible reason for plural marriage was "to raise up righteous seed unto the Lord" all that is necessary is to test the DNA of the descendants of those women and see if it matches up with the known descendants of Joseph Smith.

We don't have to search for them under assumed names; their genealogy is no secret. They are the Whitneys, the Kimballs, the Youngs, the Cannons, etc. They walk among us.

So far, all attempts at matching the children of the women who claimed to have married the prophet haven't born any matches to Joseph's kin. Perhaps you will prove to be the elusive great-great-granddaughter of Joseph. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

P.S. You say "polygamy was legal then." I think you got that part wrong.

Anon 23 said...

I believe asking a single mother to live polygamy, so she can be taken care of, is, to put it mildly, adding insult to injury.

I don't believe strong righteous women would ever live polygamy.

There was no need to ask widows to live such a thing as polygamy anyway and righteous men like Joseph back then knew this, for God already instituted a command for men & church leaders to completely financially take care of widows, without marrying them, thus allowing the widows to keep their covenants of faithfulness to their 1st husband, yet still be financially taken care of.

And it is very clear that Joseph proved he knew far too much to fall for some angel, or even God, who demanded him to live polygamy, because Joseph knew it was absolutely impossible for God to ever change his stance against polygamy or any other doctrine or sin. Truth doesn't change, God is the same yesterday, today & forever.

I believe it is also impossible for God to even 'tempt' someone to sin, even if Joseph would have told him "No", cause he knew polygamy was evil.

Thus I don't believe God told, tempted or tested Joseph to live polygamy, for God wouldn't do such a thing, though if he did Joseph would have told him "No," for Joseph was too smart to fall for something that was contrary to the scriptures & Christ.

But Satan of course could & would have one of his angels try to tempt Joseph to live polygamy, like he has done with many since Joseph, but Joseph wouldn't have fallen for it, for Joseph knew & taught that you can detect a 'bad' angel by the fact that they teach 'contrary' to what Christ & the scriptures say and Christ & the scriptures firmly teach that polygamy is a vile whoredom in all cases in history.

Gary Hunt said...


You can read about Joseph Smith's DNA testing at

Ugo A. Perego has a PhD in Genetics and Biomolecular Sciences. He is the person who did the testing of the DNA of those who claim to be Joseph Smith's descendants.

Before I read Rock's two article regarding polygamy, I thought it was a fact that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage. After reading these articles and reading the Price's book I am not so sure he did. This even though my great-great grandfather was a very close associate of Joseph Smith and claims Joseph asked him to live polygamy.

I have spent many hours studying both sides of the issue and believe that we can't say for certain wether he did or didn't live polygamy. At this time most of the evidence is one person's word against another. The only hard evidence is the DNA testing, which has shown that most of the persons, who it has been claimed are his children via polygamy, are not his. The other few will be very difficult to prove one way or another at this time. Dr. Perego explains the reason in his information.

Anon 23 said...


I admire your ability to look at the issue of Joseph & polygamy with such fairness, common sense and unbiased thinking, especially since you had a GG Grandfather who claimed Joseph asked him to live polygamy.

I believe that only those with such 'open minds' will eventually be able to come to a knowledge of the real truth, by study or by the Spirit.

Whether Joseph ever lived polygamy or not is a mute point in my opinion. For even if we find he did, that would only sadly mean he also fell for whoredoms, just like so many other prophets and men who were once 'greatly favored by God' did throughout history because they let themselves weaken. It seems that even Prophets have a hard time not falling for Satan's enticement of polygamy.

Men with true love & complete faithfulness for their 1st & only wife seem to be rarer than rubies.

And even if Joseph did have true love for Emma and didn't fall for polygamy, was still a true prophet, he was very prone to being wrong or deceived by falsehoods or wicked people.

So even with 'true' prophets we have to question, test & prove 'all things' that they say, do or write, to know for sure if it's right or not, for Joseph was sometimes very wrong. He was learning & growing in the knowledge of the Gospel just like the rest of us, slowly, line upon line.

Joseph taught that we can't depend on him or any prophet to save us, we can only save ourselves by doing what it takes to get enough knowledge and live worthy of the possession of the Holy Spirit, to teach us the truth of all things, like if whether Joseph was innocent of polygamy or not.

Gary Hunt said...

Anon 23,

The last 15 years I have been trying to improve the quality of my thinking. My reason for this is to develop, if you will, self defense skills so that I would improve my chances of not being deceived by those, who are either ignorant of what they are doing, or those who are human preditors and know exactly what they are doing.

Learning critical thinking skills and understanding the logical errors are of great importance to anyone wanting to learn the truth. I have also learned that a person needs to be continually challenge their belief systems. It's amazed me how many things I have believed most of my life don't stand up to the challenge. The apostle Paul said...

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

I think we gain understanding through the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith taught that the Holy Ghost comes to a person as "pure intelligence" to the mind. You can find his exact quote in "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

I think there are three basic theories about Joseph Smith and polygamy.

1. He lived it and lied about it.
2. He lived it...later tried to repent/ eliminate it.
3. He never lived it.

Some day we will understand exactly what happened. Until then I think we need to appreciate the most important thing Joseph brought forth and that is the Book of Mormon.

I know from some of your other comments that issues regarding marriage, divorce, adultery etc... are very important to you. I probably agree with a lot of what you say, but I don't know to what degree. What would be helpful to me, in better understanding your position on these issues, is some references. Scriptural and otherwise. I have not spent a lot of time specifically studying these issues.

Anon 23 said...


Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reply. I agree with your thinking and wish everyone would do as you do & continually 'challenge their belief system' as you say. For every one of us is wrong about probably many things, yet we don't realize it yet. We have all been taught so many falsehoods & opinions by church leaders that are contrary to what the scriptures say.

Just look how many times Joseph Smith was wrong about people, practices & principles & he even saw God & received much revelation & knowledge directly from angels. That should give us a clue how easily deceived we all can be & are in many things.

Like you, I also constantly challenge my thinking, for I also have been amazed how many things I have believed that weren't true. Now I'm doing my homework on every single principle & subject I've ever been taught.

I keep going back to Christ & what I know he actually taught & then the Book of Mormon, which I believe is true. All else & all other persons have to agree with Christ & the BoM before I will consider them true.

I appreciate your openness to learning more about the things I often touch on that you mentioned. I mention them because I believe that marriage is the basis of eternal life and to gain that we have to get marriage & family right, and gain Christlike love, and then from there we branch out & help others around us.

I do have a lot of references, scriptures, quotes, etc. on those subjects that I'm sure would probably interest you since you are a seeker of truth, but it is too much too post or explain here. It's very hard to discuss such topics over the internet anyway so I'm not sure what to tell you.

But thanks again for your post. I agree those 3 scenarios about Joseph Smith are what we have to decide from. But I don't think we can wait until Joseph returns and explains himself, I think we have to find the truth & live it now to gain the eternal blessings which we all seek.

For Joseph clearly taught that those who are deceived by falsehoods & especially false prophets, will lose their standing in the Celestial Kingdom. Thus I am trying to find the truth and awake from any deceptions I may have fallen for along the way.

patdwhite said...

why is it that the church officially accepts that Joseph had many wives but people still try to deny it. Even Family Search lists his wives, ( and shows the marriage dates to have occured while Joseph was living) Joseph was called to be a prophet but the Lord was pretty specific in the doctrine and covenants that he was chosen so that that God could show that he could accomplish his works through the "weak" things of the world. The more we try to keep everything about Joseph pure and perfect, the more people will get disillusioned and leave the church.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I am much less interested in "keeping everything about Joseph pure and perfect" than I am about historical truth. God chose a flawed individual in Joseph Smith, no one is denying that. However, he should not stand accused of participating in something he was expending an enormous amount of energy declaiming against absent any proof.

The marriage dates found at Family Search are not a reliable historical indicator, as those dates were entered decades AFTER the alleged marriages in order to fit the narrative. There were no such records available nor entered into the record until after the wives of the prominent men of Utah came forward and made their outrageous claims.

Anyone can point to genealogical records as "proof" that the marriages took place, especially when they entered the records after the fact in order to prove the claim. But records created in that way are no more valid than a forged driver's licence or phony birth certificate. It might LOOK real, but looks don't matter. Facts matter.

Because such stories were circulating at the time Joseph found it necessary to make public denunciations, he made certain he had scribes present with him at all times. There certainly were no opportunities for the most prominent man in Nauvoo to woo, court, and wed an average of three women a month, as claimed.

Joseph Smith had flaws and weaknesses. But there is no reason to add subterfuge to the mix unless it can be proven.

Anon 23 said...

"Weak things of the world' does not mean 'unrighteous things or persons of the world'.

Joseph may have been weak (someone of no consequence or earthly power) but he was also one of the most righteous persons to have walked the earth. Thus he wouldn't have believed in or practiced polygamy, or if he had he would have become a fallen prophet.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Excellent point, Anon 23.

Bart Burk said...

Please look at the Nauvoo Expositor. Notice the affidavits provided by several people where Doctrine and Covenants 132 is practically quoted and Hyrum Smith is said to have read it in a meeting to people making the affidavits. This was 1844, long before Brigham Young released the revelation to the world. There is no conspiracy here -- the editors of the Nauvoo Expositor knew about the revelation and the people making the affidavits claimed they had heard it from Hyrum Smith. Price's entire book is upset by this fact and Price never addresses how the people could have heard this document and claimed Hyrum Smith read it. I don't see any way around the evidence here that this document came from Joseph Smith rather than something Brigham Young cooked up.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm guessing you have not read volume II of "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy." William Law and the Nauvoo Expositor are addressed in more than one chapter there.

Bart Burk said...

I've read it, but it doesn't explain how Austin Cowles knew so much about the revelation that Brigham Young eventually revealed in 1852. Specifically, he stated, "In the latter part of the summer, 1843, the Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, did in the High Council, of which I was a member, introduce what he said was a revelation given through the Prophet; that the said Hyrum Smith did essay to read the said revelation in the said Council, that according to his reading there was contained the following doctrines; 1st, the sealing up of persons to eternal life, against all sins, save that of sheding innocent blood or of consenting thereto; 2nd, the doctrine of a plurality of wives, or marrying virgins; that "David and Solomon had many wives, yet in this they sinned not save in the matter of Uriah."

It seems hard to imagine he hadn't heard the revelation directly from Hyrum Smith with all of the detail listed. I don't believe Hyrum would have been introducing revelation in Joseph's name if Joseph hadn't revealed it. I would like to believe Joseph and Hyrum had nothing to do with this, but the affidavits, especially the one by Cowles, seem to make that impossible. You would almost have to believe Young and the apostles were conspiring with the Laws and Cowles to believe it. That doesn't seem likely to me.

Anon 23 said...

Of course Brigham and other apostles were conspiring with others against Joseph Smith. That is very clear. Brigham wanted to live, and was living, polygamy secretly and probably tried to get Joseph to go along with it for years, but Joseph wouldn't. I believe Brigham Young was the most evil of men and would have done anything to cover up his crimes of polygamy.

Brigham Young needed a revelation/doctrine to justify his polygamy and he further would have tried to pin such a revelation on Joseph and convince others to say Hyrum or Joseph supported it.

It appears that D&C 132 was written by Brigham Young and others prior to Joseph's death.

Brigham spent the rest of his life trying to justify his whoredoms and I believe he had many people lie or fooled to say that Joseph & Hyrum lived or believed in polygamy.

It is easy to see how all these affidavits are just lies amid a conspiracy against Joseph.

Even in the off chance that Joseph had fallen for polygamy at some point and became a fallen prophet, it still wouldn't prove D&C 132 a true revelation. For if any 'new' revelation contradicts 'previous' revelation or scripture, then the new is immediately proven 'false'.

The Book of Mormon and more especially Christ's teachings, 'trump' D&C 132 and prove it was a false revelation, almost surely written by Brigham Young and others to justify their vile whoredoms.

Bart Burk said...

But Cowles said Hyrum Smith, not Brigham Young, read him the revelation. Was Hyrum Smith a believer in polygamy as well even though Joseph was fighting it? Or do you believe that Brigham Young shared the revelation with Cowles and that Cowles lied in claiming that Hyrum Smith read the revelation to him?

Anon 23 said...


I definitely believe that Cowles lied at the urging of Brigham Young. If Hyrum Smith was ok with polygamy he probably wouldn't have been killed along with Joseph, for Hyrum would have been a great asset to have to help justify polygamy.

Hyrum & Joseph were both clearly righteous Christlike men totally repulsed by and against polygamy, as any righteous man/husband would be.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

JSFP is an online work in progress, with chapters being added as the authors are able (Richard Price suffered a stroke awhile back, so I wonder if it's ever going to be finished). The most recent chapter, 77, is titled "Joseph Smith Refuted Polygamy Affidavits" and addresses the Cowle accusation, among others.

I have not yet read this one myself, but offer it here for those unaware of its availability. (I haven't gotten to most of volume II in fact, as my studies have taken me elsewhere for the time being.) For those interested in pursuing all information available on this topic, these articles are a good resource. Just about every accusation against the prophet has been collected in these pages, along with pertinent background on the accusers.

I still find it interesting that most LDS are unaware that most of Joseph Smith's time in the last weeks of his life were spent chasing down and refuting these rumors against him. It's worth remembering that only those things Joseph Smith actually taught were to be considered doctrinal. Since he repeatedly and publicly denounced polygamy in any form and "prohibit[ed] the practice thereof", I'm inclined to take his word over those whose goal it was to knock him off his perch and take his place. He did, after all, give a warning to the Nauvoo Relief Society that if even the prophet himself promoted such things, the women were to conclude he was "a demon of the fiery pit".

I would think that, after giving such an explicit warning, Joseph's pool of eligible and willing virgins in Nauvoo would have instantly dried up.

Joseph Smith is long dead. So are his accusers. Anyone sifting through all these statements and refutations is just going to have to study the lives of all participants and come to a conclusion about their character and motives, I guess.

I think one problem is most modern Saints are seeing the words of Joseph's accusers, yet are completely unaware of the prophet's vigorous rebuttals. It's always a good idea to look at both sides. This latest chapter, No. 77, can be found near the bottom of the page at this link:

Anon 23 said...


You have such a great way of explaining and saying things. Thanks for your comment.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if the church leaders and historians would have a great debate with humble people like the prices or people like you Rock, who understand 'the other side of the story'?

I highly doubt the Church would ever be willing to do such a debate though, for I believe they know they don't have good answers. But you Rock or the Prices would probably be willing because you know you have truth on your side!

Bart Burk said...

Price is promising more information about the relationship between the apostles and the Expositor affidavits in the future. At this point it would really take a leap of faith to believe the apostles leaked what eventually became D&C 132 to Cowles, etc. There simply is no evidence this happened in what has been presented so far. The simplest explanation is that Cowles was telling the truth when he said he heard it from Hyrum Smith. It will be interesting to see what Price has to say in the next chapter.

Anon 23 said...


If the apostles were trying to make it seem like Joseph Smith received that revelation (132) then they had every reason & motive to leak it to Cowles and get him to say what he said. We already know those apostles were apostate, wicked fallen men, so why wouldn't they urge Cowles to lie.

Whereas there is no proof that Hyrum fell from grace and lived or believed in polygamy, only proof that he was totally against it.

So I believe Hyrum deserves to be believed and not wicked men like those apostles who lived polygamy and ran around after other women behind their wife's & church's back. Why would we ever give such men the benefit of a doubt?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Most of us growing up in the church have had no idea of the machinations going on behind the scenes in Nauvoo. We led to believe that Brigham Young's taking the reins was a smooth transition, and that only a handful of dissenters did not follow.

The reality is that it was three years before even half the Saints could be persuaded to go west, and that was only because the threats to their lives and property was increasing. Still, a good half of the estimated 20,000 members of the church elected NOT to follow Brigham. Why? Because he was despised by many, and trusted by few. In the end, most of those who went west were the new converts from Britain who had been brought into the church by Brigham and some members of the 12 who had served missions in the UK.

If memory serves, only 5 apostles counting Brigham himself went along with his plan. The others would have nothing to do with him. So the solution? Brigham kicked the dissenters out of the quorum and selected replacements. This does not sound like a unified quorum of the 12 acting as a body to me.

We have also been led to believe that Joseph and Brigham were best buds. Brigham Young's the guy who advanced that story. Most of Joseph's best friends would have nothing to do with the man they called a fraud, and they were very vocal about their objections. Many insisted Brigham was behind the poisoning of Joseph's brother Samuel, who would have been next in line of succession.

Ever heard of James Whitehead? Neither had I, so successful has been our histories in obliterating his name from history. But Whitehead was Joseph's personal secretary and with the prophet constantly near the end of the prophet's life. He apparently knew some of Joseph's secrets, as he would have nothing to do with the new usurper. Brigham Young was not well thought of among a lot of Joseph Smith's friends.

Yes, the possibility of men closest to Joseph Smith conspiring behind his back is very real. Joseph himself said it was going on, and there is every indication that by the time he made that fact public, he knew he was no longer in control of his own fate.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Anon, I appreciate your confidence in me, but I would not be qualified to participate in such a debate. What we need is for a Richard Bushman, Todd Compton, Michael Quinn, or Brian Hales to examine all the evidence provided by the Prices and other researchers on this topic, and carefully sift through it for an honest appraisal. If the evidence is refutable, so be it. But so far no one is addressing these conclusions and this evidence. Historians of the LDS tradition begin with the presumption of guilt, then compile rumor and testimony to confirm that guilt.

We need a fresh, open look at this, such as was done during the Temple Lot Case, where all the evidence pro and con was presented. (The Temple Lot case is virtually unknown to most Utah Saints, and for good reason. As the judge stated in his decision, the evidence proved Brigham Young to be "a bold and bald usurper."

Bart Burk said...

I am inclined to believe that Joseph Smith actually revealed D&C 132 in Nauvoo and that Hyrum Smith read it as stated. I am also inclined to believe that Joseph Smith was actually sealed to women in Nauvoo, but that he didn't consider these women to be his wives in this life. In that case neither he nor Emma would have been lying if they stated he only had one wife. Brigham Young and the apostles took this to an entire new level in Utah. Does anyone know if Brigham Young and the other polygamists in Nauvoo actually had children in Nauvoo?

Anonymous said...

I am so angry with the LDS leadership, past and present, for perpetuating these lies against Joseph Smith! They are as guilty as Brigham Young in this cover-up. They may think they are doing the pragmatic thing by not stirring up an old controversy by setting the record straight, but that does not absolve them of their complicity in these false attributions to Joseph Smith. The are not justified in this hurtful fraud!

The Church's position is based on Joseph being a hypocrite, denounced polygamy openly but doing it privately. Sorry, but this is unacceptable. I'm furious with them! I demand answers!

Every member of the church who cares about the truth should demand that the leadership come clean once and for all, under threat of withholding tithing unless and until they do so. I will not tolerate it anymore. Enough is enough!


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I have looked at the evidence very closely for many years. This has bothered me for a long time and the Prices' work has just pushed me over the edge by filling in those last crucial details I had always been unsure about. The conclusion is unavoidable: Joseph Smith is either innocent of polygamy (which I believe) OR he was a complete hypocrite and utter fraud wholesale. Since I know the Book of Mormon is true, I know it cannot be the latter.

Have you read D&C 38 and 42 and 50 and 63? They are so explicit about what was going on within the church with secret abominations, evil spirits that people did not understand perceived falsely to be from God, plus explicit commandments against both lying and anything other than one wife. The truth of this is plain for anyone to see if they give Joseph even the slightest benefit of doubt regarding his own public testimony and life's established character.

If Joseph hid it like LDS leaders are still perpetuating, then he not only blatantly violated the express law given by God both with respect to adultery and lying simultaneously (repeated again and again in those revelations of D&C), but also was responsible for the huge break-up of the church after his death when thousands faithful to his public testimony refused to follow the polygamy doctrine. There is no way to reconcile a true prophet Joseph with the phony, deceitful, hypocritical, and soul-destroying misleading teaching that led so many away.

We know ultimately the lie failed as the church led by Brigham was brought eventually to its knees because of that wicked doctrine. This garbage was no revelation from God. I'm pissed at this fraud!


Bart Burk said...

What if (as seems possible) Joseph Smith was simply having women sealed to him for eternity, but wasn't living with them as husband and wife in this life? Then he wouldn't be practicing polygamy. He would have been telling the truth when he said he only had one wife even though he was sealed to more than one woman for the next life. Perhaps Brigham Young misunderstood Joseph's intentions on how this was supposed to be carried out. The LDS Church may not be in a position right now to sort it all out and so calling it a cover-up is a little harsh.

Bart Burk said...

Unfortunately, I'm afraid Price hasn't filled in the details completely. Until he can come up with a good explanation of how Cowles knew about D&C 132, I am not going to be convinced. Speculation that Brigham Young and Cowles conspired is not proof of anything. I'm waiting for Price to provide a better explanation for this theory about a so called conspiracy between the apostles and those who presented the affidavits. I don't think Price can prove anything.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how entrenched they are in Brigham's Utah. The LDS leaders need to be taken to task. It is primarily their fraud and that of their predecessors why the world attaches polygamy to Joseph Smith and to every other decent member of the LDS church by association. I'm fed up with this deceit, I'm fed up with the character assassination of the courageous Joseph Smith as a weak weasel, and I'm fed up with the garbage it attaches to so many decent LDS folks like me by association, just to protect Brigham and their own legacy.

Sorry for the multiple posts, but I'm really upset about it.


Anonymous said...

Don't you know about Cowles? He was a good friend and associate of James Strang. James Strang had helped to convince Cowles of Joseph's guilt. (Note that Cowles listed other evidence besides what he claimed about Hyrum in his Nauvoo Expositor affidavit, I think was from Strang and Law based on their prior close associations.)

Strang had convinced Cowles that Strang was staunchly against polygamy and that Joseph was responsible for it. However, Strang was one of the chief people fighting over succession of the leadership after Joseph's death. Strang ended up taking 10,000+ followers with him to Michigan (as much as Brigham took with him), only to reveal to them that he was also a secret polygamist. Strang had five wives. His faction broke up and Cowles joined up with William Law and co. and their spin-off church.

I posit that Strang and Brigham were part of the conspirators against Joseph to cover their own polygamy sins and were like thieves fighting over the treasures of the church after pulling off the crime and taking Joseph out the picture. Both Brigham and Strang were polygamists, but Strang hid his longer than Brigham so was able to influence more people of Joseph's supposed guilt, especially those who were not practicing it, who followed him to Michigan.

As far as the supposed details from Cowles about D&C 132 from Hyrum. This is a chicken and egg problem. Brigham and co. made great efforts to pin the doctrine on Joseph and the Nauvoo Expositor was public knowledge, in fact highly discussed scandalous knowledge. In making up a revelation to pin on Joseph, Brigham would have been sure to include whatever accusations were cast at Joseph in the Expositor. Cowles, like many others, had been convinced by Strang, William Law, and possibly others that Joseph was guilty, and like many others, made testimony against Joseph based on the testimonies of others. That was a common theme among allegations. I think Cowles statement was the egg to Brigham's D&C 132 chicken.

Bart Burk said...

Strang was baptized a Mormon on February 25, 1844 and sent to Wisconsin by Joseph Smith on March 3, 1844. There is very little indication that Strang and Brigham Young would have spent much time together. And do we really think he would have been involved with Cowles in that short a time? Would he even have become involved in polygamy in such a short time? Again a lot of speculation without any evidence. That's useless. If Cowles followed Strang after Joseph's death it is no proof they had much to do with each other before Joseph's death.

Anonymous said...

I considered that possibility, but it does not fit the facts. There were so many problems with polygamy for so many years that it would have been impossible for Joseph to have not addressed it clearly, especailly to his closest associates. Joseph was not a coward. He had faced so much adversity for his claims and revelations and doctrines before that it is totally and utterly inconsistent for him to work a doctrine in the dark.

Moreover, it wouldn't absolve him of hypocrisy and deceit. Joseph and Hyrum were making nearly continuous efforts to disabuse the public's mind about ANY notion of such a doctrine and had prosecuted many violators and made many enemies by shaming them to the church and public with excommunications. There were so many people who had an incentive and motive to go after him on any grounds, that Brigham et al.'s treachery gave them a charge that could finally stick, so they took it. This doctrine had plagued the early church in many ways and forms for many years, which is why so many categorical denials were made by Joseph and Hyrum.

The clearly documented alterations to church history and Joseph's diaries by Brigham's Utah bunch to attach it to Joseph shows where the deceit rests. Joseph did not miscommunicate it. He explicitly forbid anything to do with it on numerous occasions and was about to expose Brigham et al for their secrets.

So, that position of a spiritual-only wifery does not hold water.

No, it is not harsh. I demand clarity on this cover-up. Yes, cover-up. The evidence of doctored journals of Joseph is already on the record.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Cowles was excommunicated (see the Prices documentation of the speedy excommunications without trial with motive to avoid Joseph investigating false polygamy accusations) and then appointed counselor to William Law in April 1844.

There is evidence for a strong Cowles and Strang relationship. Austin Cowles "accepted the claims of James Strang and addressed him as president of the church. Appointed by James Strang to be presiding high priest over district of Kirtland, 1847-1848. Wrote to James Strang, 'I need not remind you, sir, of the unanimity of feeling and harmony of action that marked all of the movements of your administration in organizing a stake in this place.'"

Anonymous said...

You're right, Strang was a late-comer to the LDS, but that only makes his opportunism more pronounced. The fact that Strang made efforts to hide his polygamy while accusing Joseph and others of it, forging letters from Joseph, inventing angel visitations, making up other revelations, etc., shows that Strang was an opportunist at least, and likely a co-conspirator to take down Joseph and get his own prophet gig. Joseph had many enemies, for many different reasons, and they all seized on the opportunity served up by Brigham in the climate of endless accusations of polygamy against Joseph. The real hypocrites were those who fought to split the baby in half (the remains of the church) for their own gain after serving up Joseph to be slain. Joseph was not the hypocrite, he was the victim of hypocrites.

Bart Burk said...

But Strang didn't make any claims until after Joseph Smith had died. The postmark on the letter where Joseph supposedly appointed Strang to be his successor was June 18, 1844 after the Expositor had been destroyed. That Cowles accepted Strang after Joseph Smith's death doesn't prove anything about a relationship before Joseph Smith's death. A lot of people followed Strang after Joseph's death. That doesn't mean they had anything to do with him before Joseph died.

Bart Burk said...

Strang didn't start practicing polygamy until July 1849. He was against it during the Nauvoo period. So he wasn't hiding any polygamy in 1844.

Anonymous said...

There are some missing details that could make everything crystal clear, no question about that. But, I think you are overlooking some major factors about how people relied on others' testimony as though it were their own. For example, Sidney Rigdon was one of the closest associates of Joseph Smith, and he did not believe the accusations but defended Joseph throughout Joseph's life. One time Rigdon was faced with an accusation that had him doubting, but he went to Joseph about it and everything was cleared up as to Joseph's innocence.

But repeated accusations seed doubts, and the whole community had been seeded with diverse doubts on these issues for many years from all directions. The more attacks people devised, the more doubts were seeded. Joseph could not denounce them fast enough or harshly enough. Just as he attempted to expose the whole thing, the enemy had him trapped.

It was only after Joseph's death, after talking to William Law et al. and watching the church fall into the control of polygamists groups instead of his own that those doubts made the difference for Rigdon. He was eventually persuaded against his own personal knowledge to consider Joseph a fallen prophet. People has been making claims against Joseph for years, and had failed time and again to get them to stick because Joseph fought them, but people continued trying. Rigdon had to weigh the testimony of the twelve against Joseph, and Law's testimony and others, plus a climate and history of related problems. He had to garner support, and did not get much by delaying his attribution of guilt to Joseph.

So how much less persuading would it take for someone even less familiar with Joseph? I bet they could have put many more affidavits in there if they wanted to.

Joseph had so many enemies, enemies that he had outed for THEIR sins in this regard, and when he was no longer there to defend himself, his enemies had sufficiently developed enough false backstory for their claims to a point to convince people of Joseph's guilt.

That's my impression after all my study.

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, Strang was a secret proponent of polygamy. He may not have officially got the second wife until 1849, but John C. Bennett was his major supporter for succession. And Bennett was a key adversary of Joseph and a polygamist/adulterer himself, looking for revenge against Joseph for denouncement. It's no coincidence that Bennett was back around to back Strang's candidacy, and that Cowles threw it support for Strang, etc. Bennett was a great charlatan and manipulator, who had introduced polygamy scandals of his own that were outed and had contrived evidence to undermine Joseph. They were definitely related. Their friendships are documented, and Bennett's agenda is documented.

Bart Burk said...

According to Bennett's biography, "The Saintly Scoundrel", Bennett didn't have any significant contact with Strang's movement or Strang until 1846. Strang's movement was already established before Bennett even became involved in it. The Strangite movement began in 1844-1845.

Bart Burk said...

I need to add that according to the biography of Bennett, by 1847 Strang had booted Bennett out of his church. I really don't believe that Strang and Bennett were all that close.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, Joseph Smith had appointed Bennett as a close adviser after only a short time with the Saints because of his help during a difficult time, and it was not very long before Bennett betrayed Joseph and was kicked out. Bennett was a scoundrel. In 1842, Bennett wrote a scathing expose of Joseph Smith, entitled History of the Saints, accusing Smith and his church of crimes such as treason, conspiracy to commit murder, prostitution, and adultery. This was well-known among the Saints, and undoubtedly Strang knew about those incidents as much as anybody. The fact that Rigdon and Bennett ended up associated with Strang officially in 1846-1847 does not mean they were *introduced* to each other then. They had to known of each other before then, and were only openly associated in looking to consolidate power in the aftermath of Joseph's death.

Even if Strang was somehow just a serendipitous opportunist after-the-fact, Bennett certainly had an agenda and was very skillful at manipulating people. He created forgeries for Rigdon, he had ties with Law, and Law was tied to Cowles, Foster, Higbee. All who accused Joseph, and then were cut off by Brigham and co. without trial to prevent Joseph from exposing the lies.

I don't put a lot of trust in people who attacked Joseph for polygamy, who themselves ended up teaching and/or practicing polygamy. By definition, Joseph was their enemy and vice versa. All of Strang, Bennett, and Rigdon either taught or practiced polygamy at some point. They are worked together in the power grab after Joseph's death. Brigham and the polygamy apostles did their power grab. It was vultures picking at the remains of the church they had destroyed.

Anon 23 said...

Good for you Anonymous, you should be outraged and disgusted with this evil cover-up. Unfortunately most people who find out about all this just want to still go along thinking the Church is still somehow true and good despite how evil & corrupt it's leaders, past or present, were & are.

It would be great if enough members forced the Church to reveal the truth about all this, but it still wouldn't mean the Church could ever have any legitimate claim to being the 'true' church. The present LDS Church is no more true than any of the FLDS or RLDS branches or any other Christian Church in America.

There is no 'true' Church today, they are all in apostasy. We can only do the best we can on our own, with the scriptures Joseph gave us and our own personal revelation from the Holy Ghost, which can teach us the truth of all things far better than any prophet ever could.

I believe we should give our tithes and offerings directly to the poor and fatherless around us, thus insuring that it really gets to where it should.

I don't think we get any brownie points from God giving the unrighteous leaders of the Church our tithing, while 'hoping' they will do right with it. If LDS Leaders were 'righteous' they would tell the truth about Church history, not perpetuate lies.

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to organize a forum for people who believe Joseph Smith was not guilty of polygamy. I searched for such a group on google, but could not find one. It seems like there may be very many of us who are looking for such a group and find blogs like this one along the way. It's nice to find this blog and see that others understand the conspiracy against Joseph. I wish there were a way to find/establish the larger community of like-minded people who believe in the original restoration and defend Joseph Smith against this defamation.

Anon 23 said...

Anonymous 3:31,

I also think a forum or support group would be great, for people who believe Joseph was innocent of polygamy.

Maybe those who live in different states could get together. I know a number of people around me who don't believe Joseph lived polygamy.

What state are you in? Maybe people could start getting together to discuss this very interesting subject.

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