About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for 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. Meg contends Joseph was under commandment to restore plural marriage and taught the acceptability of plural marriage. But Meg suggests Joseph may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Mormon Marriage: Use Cases

imageIn light of the updated LDS Church policy regarding same gender unions and children raised by same gender couples, I was struck by what Joseph Smith did in Nauvoo in the case of Parley P. Pratt and Mary Ann Frost [Stearns Pratt].

Parley was a widower, having previously been married to the then-deceased Thankful Halsey, a widow herself when she married Parley. Mary Ann Frost was a widow who had greatly loved her first husband.

In 1843 Hyrum Smith performed a ceremony sealing Parley to Mary Ann. As soon as Joseph learned what Hyrum had done, he annulled the sealing. Continue reading

The Pretend Husbands

imageThere are at least two men who became public husbands of women who were sealed to Joseph Smith in the 1840s.

The first and most well-known of these was Joseph C. Kingsbury, who documented that “on the 29th of April 1843 I according to President Joseph Smith council & others agread to Stand by Sarah Ann Whitney as supposed to be her husband and had a pretended marriage…” 1

The second and almost entirely unknown of these was Jonathan Harriman Holmes, who in the 1860s told his children and friends that his wife, Elvira Annie Cowles, had first been the wife of Joseph Smith, that he, Jonathan, had agreed to be her husband after Joseph’s death if she wished it. When taken together with the fact that Joseph Smith performed the December 1842 ceremony wedding Jonathan Holmes to Elvira Annie Cowles, the December 1842 marriage can be seen as a pretended marriage, like that of Joseph C. Kingsbury to Sarah Ann Whitney. 2

Both Kingsbury and Holmes were widowers. In each case, the man was subsequently sealed to the bride of his youth in the Nauvoo temple. It is clear in the case of Kingsbury that the promise of being sealed to his wife and someday reunited with his dead children was convolved in his willingness to be a pretended husband to Sarah Ann Whitney. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Joseph C. Kingsbury journal, page 13, apparently recorded after August 1848, available online via http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/JCKingsbury.html.
  2. See the statement William Wright provided to Church headquarters in the early 1900s (contained in Brian Hales’ Joseph Smith’s Polygamy) and Jonathan’s reported statement to his own children as documented in the Job Welling family history, available online at familysearch.org under books.

A Woman’s Testimony: The Road Hill House Murder

imageI have the privilege in participating in a book group. This month’s selection was The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective.

The story of the shocking murder is laid before the reader: a three-year-old boy, Saville Kent, turns up missing in June 1860. His body is found in the servants’ privy, having been murdered.

The local police force, largely composed of unpaid local volunteers, fails to determine who committed the crime after two weeks. Mr. Whicher, the most reknowned of Scotland Yard’s eight detectives, is sent to solve the disturbing case. John Whicher almost immediately comes to his conclusions: the murder was committed by individuals living in the Kent household in Road Hill, and the most likely suspects are the murdered boy’s half-siblings, teenagers Constance and William Kent. Mr. Whicher only has physical evidence to support accusations against Constance, and that is circumstantial.

The spectacle of a working class man sifting through the family’s soiled laundry to accuse a respectable middle class maiden of brutally killing her younger brother causes country-wide revulsion. Mr. Whicher’s career is destroyed, though he is able to find work as a private detective a few years later, when Constance Kent confesses to being solely responsible for the murder. Constance spends 20 years in jail.

William, freed from suspicion by his sister’s testimony, is able to inherit the thousand pounds his deceased mother had bequeathed to him upon his majority and goes on to enjoy a successful career in science. Once Constance is released, she changes her name and spends the rest of her life with or near her brother, William.

This one murder case has a profound impact on the zeitgeist of the age, manifested in the new genre of detective fiction. It popularized conlusions that had been arrived at decades earlier by those involved in the judicial system: human witness (confession or eyewitness evidence) was too subjective to be trusted. As early as 1825, Jeremy Bentham’s A Treatise on Judicial Evidence (1825) argued that testimony needed to be backed up by material proof.

Yet when it comes to matters relating to the emergence of the central doctrines regarding marriage in Mormonism, the vast majority are content to hang their interpretation on the testimony of human witnesses, ignoring the capacity of these witnesses to mislead, whether intentionally or not. Continue reading

Commentary on the Hales’ Critiques

Meg-croppedI was delighted to see a formal response from Laura and Brian Hales regarding my writings about Joseph Smith and others who lived in Nauvoo in the 1840s.

Laura Hales’ Introduction

Laura did not engage me on details, and I agree with most of the points she makes. I agree that if one is obsessing about things that damage faith, that “immersing oneself in persistent doubt, fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful, weakens one’s faith.” Continue reading

Who was John McIlwrick?

Bottom Line Up Front: Weather and possibility of an American-born John “McIlwrick” suggest Martha Brotherton’s interview with Brigham Young occurred well before January 1842.

cpv2The other day I explained what I think happened between Brigham Young and Martha Brotherton. My thesis was that Martha’s encounter with Brigham occurred prior to January 1842, before we have a positive indication that Joseph Smith had included Brigham in ceremonies related to the New and Everlasting Covenant. The July 1842 letter describing Martha’s alleged ordeal appears to pin the incident as occurring in February-March 1842, when William Clayton was working in the tithing office and prior to the April 7th denunciation of the tale during General Conference. 1

I tried in vain to locate a direct reference to the arrival of the Brothertons in the vicinity of Nauvoo, Illinois. But we know that Mary Brotherton (born 1819) had married a John McIlwrick. John and Mary would join Martha’s other sister, Elizabeth, in denouncing Martha as “a deliberate liar;” as “a wilful inventor of lies;” and a circulator of “lies of a base kind, concerning those whom she knew to be innocent.” These family members also accuse Martha as acting outside of “common decency,” by “lying on the top of a young man when he was in bed,” etc. 2

Perhaps, I thought, I could find when John McIlwrick arrived in the United States and thus pinpoint when the Martha Brotherton episode could have occurred. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Apr. 15, 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, p. 763, reporting on the Thursday, Apr. 7, 1842, spring conference in Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith “spoke concerning the elders who went forth to preach from Kirtland… [and] then spoke in contradiction of a report in circulation about Elder Kimball, B. Young, himself, and others of the Twelve, alleging that a sister had been shut in a room for several days, and that they had endeavored to induce her to believe in having two wives.” Available online at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/utils/getdownloaditem/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9835/filename/4927.pdf/. Note that the conference refutation only indicates apostles have been implicated. Joseph Smith himself was not defended, indicating the original rumor had not included Joseph himself.
  2. Nauvoo Wasp broadside “extra” of Aug. 31, 1842.