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: Mary Heron & Clarissa Reed

[By popular demand, objectionable words in this post will be blacked out as follows: objectionable words. If you feel a need to confirm that you’ve inferred the correct objectionable word(s), you can see the text by using your mouse to highlight the black rectangle.]

JEJohnsonYou’re expecting me to talk about Fanny Alger next, but something came across my desk that prompted me to jump chronological order to examine the tenuous hints people will seize upon when claiming a woman was a plural wife of Joseph Smith.

First we’ll talk about the case of Mary Heron, who some believe was either a wife or sex partner of Joseph Smith based on the testimony of Joseph Ellis Johnson (pictured to the left). Second, I’ll discuss the “hope” some have harbored that Clarissa Reed produced a son by Joseph Smith over a year after her marriage to Hancock. Continue reading

Wives of Joseph Smith

Over the course of 2015 I will be blogging about the various women believed to have covenanted with Joseph Smith. For each I will provide biographical background, along with what, if anything, is known of her life after Joseph’s death.

In evaluating allegations that women were “married” to Joseph Smith, it is important to establish what constitutes sufficient evidence that a woman should be listed as a “wife.” I have come up with the following “tells” that can give us a high-level view of the women whose names are associated with Mormon founder, Joseph Smith. The first four attributes speak to whether or not a marriage occurred. The second four attributes speak to what may have motivated the marriage and what the marriage meant to the woman after Joseph’s death.

Bride   Did reliable contemporaries consider the woman a wife?
ManWoman  Are details of the alleged marriage known?
intercourse   Was the marriage said to be sexually consummated?
baby    Is it said Joseph Smith had a child with the wife?
marriage   Was the woman sealed to Joseph after his death?
temple   Did the woman go to Utah after Joseph’s death?
vision   Was the marriage a subject of prophecy?
dynasty Did the marriage “bind” Joseph to important people?

In some cases, the woman died before she could have achieved the milestones of being sealed to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo temple or traveling to Deseret with the Saints.

RIP The woman died before she could have achieved this milestone

Continue reading

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