About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

Joseph’s Wives: Emma Hale

From December 2013 to August 2014 I wrote a series of posts on a Faithful Joseph, tracing a plausible history in which Joseph Smith didn’t keep his wife Emma in the dark, and rarely, if ever, engaged in sexual activity with the women he would covenant with.

This is the first post in the series Joseph’s Wives, describing each of the women believed to have been Joseph’s wife based on information from reliable contemporary witnesses. Of these, the first and most important to understand is Emma Hale. I have identified several “tells” which I plan to assess for each wife:

  • Are there substantiating details that contemporaries considered the woman a wife?
  • Are details of the alleged marriage during Joseph’s lifetime known?
  • Is there an indication that the marriage was sexually consummated?
  • Is it reported one or more children was engendered by Joseph Smith with the wife?
  • Is there a record that the wife was sealed to Joseph after his death?
  • Did the reported wife embrace Joseph’s teachings regarding covenant marriage after his death?
  • Was the marriage a subject of prophecy?
  • Did the marriage serve to “bind” Joseph to important families, so-called dynastic marriages?

The result will be a visual summary which can be used to assess the nature of Joseph’s marriages over the period of his lifetime. This visual summary and links to the posts describing the individual women will be posted separately.

Any discussion of Joseph’s wives must include Emma Hale, Joseph’s only legal wife, the only wife Joseph publicly acknowledged during his lifetime. Continue reading

Review: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy – Toward a Better Understanding

JSP_LauraAnd now for the review that matters this month, the delightfully concise book about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy written by Brian C. Hales with the support of his bride, Laura Harris [Hales].

The main text of this book captures the heart of the point Brian C. Hales made in his three volume, 1500+ page master work titled Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. Some of these points are:

  1. Joseph was not the skank he is so often portrayed to be.
  2. Polygamy in our day is not required. The New and Everlasting Covenant itself does not require polygamy.
  3. Bennett was there, but he does not appear to have actually been instructed regarding the New and Everlasting Covenant. Thus his accusations and actions should not be presumed to accurately reflect Joseph’s teachings.

Continue reading

Review: The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume 2

Persistance of PolygamyIIThis second volume of the Persistence of Polygamy series deals with polygamy following the death of Joseph Smith. And yet it includes a surprising amount of content that those wishing to understand polygamy during Joseph’s life ought to know.

Thus I didn’t find this volume boring, contrary to my expectation.

I did find that this volume is much more eclectic that the first volume. Not only are the topics included eclectic, the individual articles themselves often wander away from what appeared to be “the point” into strange historical nooks and crannies. Reasonably, since these are all original essays, there isn’t a sense that the different essayists benefited from academic discussion with the other writers. Thus we learn graphic details of William Smith’s misbehavior in one article, while other articles portray William as merely a former polygamist who eventually relinquished plural marriage for monogamy within the RLDS faith tradition.

With my perspective that there were two distinct forms of “polygamy” practiced in Nauvoo during Joseph’s lifetime, I would have arranged the essays differently. In an introduction, I would have distinguished between the secretive covenant marriages Joseph and select followers entered into and the not-so-secretive instances of illicit intercourse (termed spiritual wifery) that occurred under the direction of Dr. John C. Bennett. I then would have listed all the individuals who were named in association with the 1842 High Council investigation in the introduction, noting where in the subsequent history these same names re-emerge.

I would have divided the book into three sections:

  1. Legacy of Smith’s Polygamy among the Mountain Saints
  2. The Factions who Didn’t Gather to Utah
  3. Forces of Change

Continue reading

Review: The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume 1

Persistance of PolygamyThis intriguing volume has been available for several years now, but I only recently read it through in its entirety. This is germane at this time because Brian C. Hales and his lovely wife, Laura, will be coming out with a related book in the near future.

Besides, I always think it is germane to talk about polygamy. Especially if it means I can further explore the terrible damage John C. Bennett inflicted with his corruption of sexuality in Nauvoo.

Three volumes are planned in the Persistence of Polygamy series, with this first volume discussing the Origins of Polygamy and Joseph Smith. This is the controversial and bothersome part for so many people. The issue of how polygamy evolved after Joseph’s death isn’t particularly controversial, in my opinion. I do wish I could have been a bug on the lapel of Brigham Young in the fall of 1844, able to ask him the reasons for his actions. But after the die was cast in September, 1844, the way things evolved was understandable and a matter of history.

A third volume, which has not yet appeared, will talk about polygamy after the Manifesto, primarily (as I understand it) focusing on the fundamentalist groups who persist in practicing polygyny today.

At the very end of the collection, Jessie L. Embry asks: “Where does the study of polygamy go from here? As I read through these essays, I wondered if scholars need to come up with new questions, Maybe there are questions other than when Joseph Smith married his first plural wife? How many wives did he have? How old were they? And how did people react?” 1

Jessie continues: “While I recognize the need for new questions, I am caught in the old trap… I believe that scholars will continue to just rehash the same information unless someone comes up with new questions. Then Mormon history could be “researched” and “reinvestigated” and not just “retold,” defended, or attacked…” 2

For my part, I was continually frustrated that the impact of John C. Bennett, so obvious to me, is entirely absent from these essays. Bennett himself is nominally present, but the vast scope of what happened is clearly still being ignored in this volume, reflecting research as recent as 2010. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. The Persistence of Polygamy, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster, John Whitmer Books, 2010, p. 288.
  2. ibid., p. 289.

#Mormon General Conference #WomensSession

Around the world, Mormon women and girls 8 and older are meeting to participate in the first session of Spring General Conference. These four missionaries enjoyed the pre-conference social at the Annandale Stake Center in Virginia.

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Conducting: President Linda K. Burton

Choir: Family Choir from Holladay, Utah

Opening Hymn: Choir and Congregation singing How Firm a Foundation Continue reading