Another Approach to Addressing Gender Concerns

Taylor_wivesIn light of the recent discussions about Joseph Smith having many wives and the gender issues survey, I think it’s not inappropriate to bring up the impact beliefs about polygamy have had on the way men and women behave towards one another in the Church.

One thing that I have found quite striking in my discussions with Mormon men about Joseph’s polygamy is the large number who cannot wrap their minds around a Joseph who might have remained physically faithful to Emma, or at the very least didn’t go to bed with every woman he could corner into having sex.

When I talk about this to non-Mormons, they get the implications of the small number of children and the fact the DNA data fails to prove any of the children were engendered by Joseph. They get the idea that there wasn’t effective birth control in 1840.

But Mormon men, in particular, are very invested in a Joseph who was sexual in his plural marriages. Why? Why is my hypothesis on this point treated with derision by some Mormon males who have studied polygamy? What does the “traditional” view of Joseph do for them that they are so invested in protecting it?

The traditional view of Joseph gives us a man so intent on obeying God’s commandment that he deceived his wife and kept her out of his confidence. Prior scholars would have you believe that Joseph went around procuring wives even while Emma was openly preaching virtue, that Emma was preaching virtue in direct opposition to Joseph’s behaviors.

Yet this version of Joseph is absolutely not the only way to interpret the data. I would argue that only a terribly sloppy reading of the historical data can possibly lead to such a distorted image of Joseph.

Frankly, I think the thing that would do the most to ameliorate inappropriate behavior between members of the separate genders would be to critically examine the history that we have been brought up to accept. Of course, that would be part of why I have been blogging about these matters for the past year.

What are ways that relations between the genders have improved greatly in recent times with respect to Church? What are the factors to which you attribute the improvements?

PS – The picture shows the four plural wives of John W. Taylor in 1901. That’s some kind of chutzpah. At a time when everyone else was creeping around in hiding, Taylor arranges for his plural wives to participate in a photo shoot. Sweet great-grandpa – that’s why they had to excommunicate you.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) 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 is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

48 thoughts on “Another Approach to Addressing Gender Concerns

  1. “But Mormon men, in particular, are very invested in a Joseph who was sexual in his plural marriages.”

    I don’t feel particularly invested in this notion. I think the weight of evidence favors limited sexual activity with the non-polyandrous wives, but if it turned out Joseph never consummated any of his plural marriages, I think I’d actually be relieved.

    And I had polygamous ancestors, so it’s not a case of family history.

  2. I’m also not one who thinks Joseph was sexually active with most of his wives. Joseph was mostly trying to build up a dynasty, linking families together and to himself. He also had men sealed to him as sons, etc.

    Later, Brigham Young would do the same thing, sealing many to himself, in order to centralize his power, establish a loyalty among the leaders in the Church, and to end the variety of prophetic claims that were abounding (Rigdon, Strang, Council of 50, etc).

  3. I think Meg is referring to some of the traditional scholars of polygamy. It is worth pointing out, as both Bruce N and Meg have said, that this is relatively new field of study. There have been, of course, lurid stories told since the 1830s, but the scholarly treatment of this subject has not really been examined in detail until the last couple decades. I have received some communication that claims that Meg’s scholarship cannot be treated seriously because it is so apologetic as to be far-fetched. I disagree with this assessment because there is clear and incontrovertible evidence that Emma participated and sanctioned at least some of Joseph’s marriages. So, I am open to the possibility that Joseph was loyal to Emma and to God as he navigated the minefield of instituting polygamy.

    I am willing to put this whole subject in the category of “we simply don’t know all the things that happened.”

  4. @rameumptom on November 24, 2014 at 7:51 am


    What is your source that Joseph had individuals sealed to him during his lifetime?

    I know people were sealing folks in an adoptive manner in the Nauvoo temple, but I am completely unaware of any documentation that Joseph performed parent to child sealings during his lifetime.

  5. I believe Joseph practiced what he preached…”We believe in being honest, true, chaste…virtuous, and in doing good to all men (and women)” (A of F 13). If he had a sexual appetite, he would have obeyed the Lord’s charge to implement polygamous relations during the 1830s. If he wanted to brand himself as a power-hungry lunatic, then he already exceeded expectations without having to add polygamy to the mix, particularly late in his life. Perhaps some would think adding polygamy was consistent with his raving-mad character. But no honest researcher, who studies his life along with the testimonies of many others who knew him, can reach that conclusion, unless he/she is fully committed to their bias/agenda.

    I’m not exactly sure when began to feel his life would be curtailed (I think the very early 1940’s), but knowing this, and being virtuous, he would not recklessly and irresponsibly engage in sexual behaviors with the expectation that any offspring would be raised without a biological father. Knowing his life would be cut short would, I should think, greatly affect one’s sexual behavior lest they wish to leave a legacy/seed behind, damn the consequences, yet another act of a unscrupulous lunatic.

    Now if Joseph had no intention of consummating any relationships–as hard as it may be to believe–or perhaps he just didn’t know if such would occur–I think one primary purpose was to set an example for future polygamists to follow. Brigham, who initially despaired at the thought, and others who witnessed Joseph’s sealings, came to accept and adopt the principle. Would they have readily adhered to the commandment without Joseph’s faithful example? We’ll never know, but the Lord was eager for Joseph to begin, perhaps to ensure that future leaders would follow and carry out His purposes until its revocation.

    Critically examining our history, I conclude that virtue and goodness defines Joseph. The possibility that Joseph kept Emma out of her confidence doesn’t disturb me. Did Abraham tell Sarah, before setting off for Mt. Moriah, that he was going to sacrifice their son? Probably not. Was he so intent on obeying God’s commandment that he withheld his intentions from her? Probably so. Whatever version one reads into Joseph’s history, what stands out to me is that Joseph’s life was guided by obedience, responsibility, and virtue.

  6. Why would we presume that a man need not inform his spouse he plans to go do something dangerous?

    For example, I think of Saint Margaret and King Malcolm McDuncan III. When they were both older, King Malcolm decided to attack Alnwick. He informed Margaret of his plan. She advised against the attack. But Malcolm proceeded anyway.

    Malcolm and two of Margaret’s sons were killed at Alnwick. It’s one of the miraculous events told of Margaret that she collapsed at the time of the killings, telling her attendants that something terrible had occurred. When her surviving son arrived, she commanded her to tell her what had happened. And as soon as the son confirmed the deaths, she herself died.

    So in the story of Margaret and Malcolm, the king goes ahead and does what he pleases, but he does keep his consort informed. He consults with her.

    Why would we think that the great patriarchs (including Joseph in this category) would keep their wife ignorant? And inasmuch as Mormon men think this is a pattern that prophets have lived, do they presume that they, also, have no obligation to inform or consult their spouse?

    Would this, perhaps, lead to a culture where women are expected to simply fall in line when the male leadership comes up with lessons and programs that were developed without any female input? Would this lead to a culture where the General Authorities have to keep reminding leadership to consult women, reminding husbands that they aren’t supposed to beat their wives and children, reminding men that their wife is supposed to be their partner, not just the one who is expected to obey?

  7. Which is more damning, a Joseph who consummated his marriages as a proper husband should, or kept them as virgins with no hope of marriage to any another as he kowtowed to Emma? (Martyrdom sure was convenient for them wasn’t it?) Which is more damning, knowing Joseph’s polyandrous wives could still have sex with their husbands on earth, and Joseph would not do it in this life, or knowing that Joseph had taken out exclusive drilling rights on them in the next life over the husbands they lived and bore children with in this life? I don’t understand why Mormons are so uppity about sex, that they fail to see how grossly unjust the implications of a monogamous Joseph really is.

  8. Maybe “uppity” is unkind. Since Meg asked about the difference between men and women’s theories about Joseph, I think men are naturally (as in natural man/enemy to God) polygamous, and women are naturally (as in natural woman/enemy to God) monogamous. As a man, I sympathize with Joseph Smith’s polygamous nature, but women would not sympathize with it. For many women, the idea of Joseph having celibate marriages with dozens of women who could not have sex with anyone else is less evil than Joseph actually having polygamous sex. But I don’t know if men would look more sympathetically upon a pure Joseph surrounded by virgin nuns, than a Brigham-like Joseph trying to have real relationships with his wives.

  9. I still maintain that a deep clue to Joseph’s polygamy is found in Brigham’s behavior toward his wives. I cannot understand how Joseph could be totally abstemious and Brigham father 55 children. Brigham maintained his entire life that he didn’t do anything other than what Joseph taught him to do.

    It was a different time, a different era. I can live with Joseph Smith having a normal male libido. I can even deal with Brigham having a normal male libido. For me, the real question is, why can’t you all deal with it?

  10. if Joseph merely had a normal male libido, how come his ‘drill,’ to borrow Nate’s term, only worked with Emma?

    Nate’s response also contains a fundamental presumption, which is that the women are somehow owned by their husbands. Let’s look at the women who had living husbands at the time they presumably became married to Joseph:

    Lucinda Morgan Harris (George W. Harris) – Lucinda had herself sealed to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo temple. Although she is relatively well documented as an individual, there is not consensus that she was married to Joseph during his life. If a woman decided she wanted to be sealed to Joseph in eternity and had such a sealing performed after Joseph was dead, it seems to me that’s the woman’s business.

    Zina Huntington Jacobs (Henry Jacobs) – Joseph had been prompted to ask Zina to be his bride in 1834, years before she got married to Henry. After Joseph’s death, Zina ditched Henry to be Brigham’s wife in mortality. Sucks to be Henry. But Zina is the one who made these decisions.

    Presendia Huntington Buell (Norman Buell) – Presendia apparently made the decision to be sealed to Joseph in eternity as her husband, Norman, was not a believer, and was allegedly bitterly opposed to Mormonism. If the concept of being reunited to deceased children was being taught, Presendia would also have been interested in being sealed into a marriage that could reunite her with the three of her children who had died.

    Sylvia Sessions Lyon (Windsor Lyon) – Based on Sylvia’s deathbed comment to her daughter, Josephine, Sylvia clearly considered herself at least sealed to Joseph (some, of course, presume Joseph was the biological parent of Josephine). Windsor was excommunicated around the time Sylvia likely entered into covenant with Joseph.

    Mary Rollins Lightner (Adam Lightner) – Mary Rollins was another of the women Joseph had been prompted to marry in the 1830s, prior to her marriage to Adam Lightner.

    Patty Bartlett Sessions (David Sessions) – Years later, Patty Sessions claimed she was sealed to Joseph, but she didn’t have the relationship sealed again in the Nauvoo temple. Patty worked with Elizabeth Durfee, and is one I suspect of being a detective rather than wife, per se.

    Marinda Johnson Hyde (Orson Hyde) – Marinda was one who Joseph had likely been prompted to marry in 1832. The April 1842 note mentioning Marinda may have merely been Joseph speaking with her about the investigation into the seductions being carried out by Bennett and the Strikers, as she herself said she was sealed to him in May 1843. In May 1843, it would have been Marinda’s choice to become sealed to Joseph rather than her husband, Orson Hyde.

    Elizabeth Davis Durfee (Jabez Durfee) – I am completely unconvinced that Elizabeth was sealed to Joseph during her lifetime. Bennett thinks she was, but he would have thought that because she was interfering with his seductions. She did have herself sealed to Joseph after his death. But again, this would be her choice, not Joseph’s.

    Sarah Kingsley Cleveland (John Cleveland) – I am completely unconvinced that Sarah was sealed to Joseph during her lifetime. Bennett thinks she was, but he would have thought that because she was interfering with his seductions. She did have herself sealed to Joseph after his death. But again, this would be her choice, not Joseph’s.

    Ruth Vose Sayers (Edward Sayers) – Ruth wanted to be sealed to her husband, but he didn’t believe it was possible to be married in eternity. He encouraged Ruth to be sealed to Joseph, as it appeared to mean so much to her.

    Elvira Cowles Holmes (Jonathan Holmes) – Jonathan wrote that Joseph was married to Elvira, and that Jonathan had only become her husband after Joseph’s death, at Joseph’s request.

    Mary Ann Frost Stearns Pratt (Parley P. Pratt) – This was a case where Hyrum sealed Parley to Mary Ann, even though Mary Ann had a first husband to whom she’d been quite devoted. Joseph had the sealing Hyrum performed cancelled. It appears possible Joseph sealed himself to Mary Ann with the intent of reserving her for her first husband.

    Then we have the unknown dozens of women who had themselves sealed to Joseph in eternity, without any indication Joseph had married them in life. If a woman who was married to someone else got herself sealed to Joseph in the temple after he was dead and without any indication he agreed with the matter, it isn’t as though Joseph was reserving the women so he could have, as Nate called it, exclusive drilling rights.

  11. “if Joseph merely had a normal male libido, how come [it] only worked with Emma?”

    There are so many variables going into the issue of how semen interacts with the female system, and vice-versa, that I think it fruitless to belabor the point. Also, many pregnancies miscarried, and many babies were stillborn. Absence of genetic evidence is not necessarily evidence of an absence of sex.

    Richard Bushman, in Rough Stone Rolling, on page 441, details an interest story that lends credence to the reality that Joseph probably had sex with at least a few of his wives besides Emma:

    “Years later, William Law, Joseph’s counselor in the First Presidency, said he was shocked to hear Joseph say one of his wives “afforded him great pleasure.” That report is one of the few, and the fact that it shocked Law suggests such comments were infrequent.”

    My point in bringing this up is to detail the quite reasonable proposition that Joseph *probably* had sexual relations with a few of his 40 wives. Why this is such an apparent controversy is puzzling to me when we see Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff sire nearly a hundred children between them. Why is it an apparently surprising thing that a constantly hounded, prosecuted, jailed, spied upon Joseph didn’t get to spend more than a few nights unmolested with his plural wives?

    If you want your theory to be compelling you are going to have to answer these questions. I have no beef in the fight; I have no polygamous ancestry nor does it bother me that Joseph had sexual instincts like the rest of us.

  12. Michael,

    You do know who William Law was?

    When a fellow pulls together hundreds of men and has them swear to kill you, would you then presume that a statement he makes decades after your death is credible?

    Joseph Smith could as well be having sex with all the men and sheep in his general vicinity, with more credibility since at least in those cases, one would not presume that there could even be offspring.

  13. Meg, I appreciate your efforts here. Joseph was learning and trying and changing — it is easy for me to believe there was little or no sex with sealed “wives.” As with some other things, the protocol was formalised later by Brigham, and wives were publicly held out as such. In my mind, the Lord taught Joseph some principles and then Joseph implemented them, sometimes imperfectly and sometimes with changes later.

  14. “You do know who William Law was?”

    Good grief, Meg. I presume you know Richard Bushman.

  15. Back to Michael, Louisa Beaman was the only plural wife married to Joseph from April 1841 to October 1841, and the only single plural wife sealed to Joseph for over a year.

    Yet she doesn’t have children by Joseph. When Joseph is dead, she goes on to have five children in five years with Brigham Young.

    Obviously lack of children doesn’t necessitate lack of sex. However, given the number of women involved, the lack of reliable contraception, failure of any single woman to produce a child, and the inability to prove any of the children born to otherwise married women are genetically Joseph’s, I assert that you honestly have to at least admit the possibility that Joseph rarely, if ever, had sex with his plural wives.

    Now did he teach Brigham that plural wives should be full wives? Sure. But it isn’t as though he had to invite Brigham into his bedroom and demonstrate to get that point across. Ergo, Joseph himself needn’t have had sex with his plural wives to teach Brigham that it was appropriate for a man to have sexual relations with a plural wife.

    Getting back to the point at hand, there has been a presumption that Joseph didn’t consult Emma. I’ve suggested that this version of the history may have influenced the way Mormon men and Mormon women interact with one another, influences that have negatively impacted the experience of being a Mormon woman.

  16. Of course I am familiar with Richard Bushman. But I will say that I find his failure to qualify the reliability of William Law’s comment to be a major flaw in his treatment of Joseph’s polygamy.

    William Law wanted Joseph dead. He wanted Joseph dead to the extent that he almost murdered two teenagers because they wouldn’t take an oath to kill Joseph. From that point on (March 1844), I don’t trust a word that William Law says.

  17. There are acts of sex that do not result in pregancy. Acts of intimacy that clearly violate the law of chastity and any spouse would consider adultery but not result in pregnancy. Lack of progeny does not prove that Joseph was not sexually intimate with his wives. As a married woman I testify that any act of sexual intimacy my husband could commit outside our relationship would have the same damaging effect on our relationship regardless of whether or not the act of intimacy could result in a child.

  18. Hi md,

    Obviously this is the dichotomy we see. Men in the Mormon Church tend to be so invested in the idea that it was only right for Joseph to be intimate with his plural wives that they get really testy when I point out that there is *no proof* that he ever did anything intimate with any of them.

    The two who testified in a manner that makes people think something happened were both 19 years old when they married Joseph and they are both women who Emma either explicitly did give to Joseph (Emily Partridge) or are married to Joseph during a period of time when by revelation Joseph wasn’t supposed to be marrying without Emma’s express permission (Malissa Lott). Thus lack of data regarding Emma’s concurrence is not actual data regarding lack of concurrence.

    Women have a hard time with a Joseph who was catting about behind Emma’s back.

    This is what I mean about a fundamental gender concern in the Church. There is, based on the common understanding of the past, a vast divide between what the men think is OK and what the women think is OK.

    For my part, I don’t buy that Emma was as ignorant of Joseph’s activities as is commonly presumed. People suppose Emma was ignorant because:

    1) They can’t imagine any other reason for her to throw a fit about Joseph being with Fanny in the barn. I’ve lived around people (and I am a people), so I can imagine folks throwing fits for all kinds of reasons. Like possibly that Fanny was fed up being in a “marriage” where she wasn’t going to ever possibly have children, while she was getting old enough that it was time for her to get married. And with all the young men hanging around the Smith home in Kirtland, it strains credulity that there wasn’t at least one young man sweet on her. At any rate, Emma, Fanny, and Joseph never talked about what might have happened in that barn. Oliver was the one who decided it was a matter that wasn’t OK. And then he went and changed the word to “affair” as his imagination decided “matter” wasn’t strong enough. He wasn’t there, he didn’t see anything. But we are taking his word for it that something happened.

    2) Emma says strong words against spiritual wifery. At some point someone apparently asks her opinion of spiritual wifery, where the doctrine comes from. And she retorts, “It comes straight from hell!” Now, if you think she thinks plural marriage is synonymous with spiritual wifery, then you might think she’s talking about Joseph’s activities. But if you’ve studied the matter in any detail, you know that spiritual wifery is the illicit seduction Bennett and his Strikers were teaching, not what Joseph was teaching.

    3) You might have read what Emma preaches to the Relief Society and thought this was Emma preaching against Joseph’s activities. But when you understand what Bennett and the Strikers were doing, you discover that the women that aren’t being allowed into the Relief Society are the ones that are named in the eyewitness testimony before the High Council, when Bennett and Chauncy Higbee and roughly a dozen other men (not Joseph) are arraigned for being slimy seducers. Joseph and Emma were both teaching that folks needed to be virtuous.

    4) You may have decided that the only reason the Partridge girls were re-sealed to Joseph in May 1842 was because Emma didn’t know about the earlier sealing. But it’s also possible that Emma did know about the earlier sealing, and that she trusted them to be the first two “public” plural wives precisely because they had behaved themselves during the months prior to May.

    5) You may have read Emily’s writings about how Emma was so jealous, and how Emily and Eliza got sent away from the Smith home in August 1843. But what you didn’t know is that the Partridge girls and Flora Woodruff and Eliza Snow all get sent away at the same time, and these are the four women that Orange Wight claims to know are Joseph’s plural wives. And Orange Wight was a Striker, as is clear from his record regarding his days in Nauvoo. Except he was one of those who never realized that he’d been inducted into Bennett’s teachings, where the girls called themselves spirituals. So there is a reason for Emma to have sent the girls away other than jealousy (as in, rank fear for Joseph’s life).

    6) You may wonder why Emma asked Joseph to burn the revelation, when she claimed later to have never seen the thing. If you’ve read it, you know that one interpretation of the later verses is that Emma was asking for a divorce, or that Emma had asked to be able to marry another man. I think there’s a third option that is better than either of these two. But that revelation as it stood was damning to Emma. In fact, after it was canonized, one of the prophets (I think Joseph F. Smith) admitted that it would have been best to redact portions of the revelation that clearly were intended for individuals rather than the Church as a whole. That is more than sufficient reason for Emma to demand the thing be burned.

    There are some other reasons people commonly assume Emma didn’t know exactly what was going on. But they ignore other things, like the fact that the four men Emma trusted enough to have them secretly re-bury Joseph’s remains were all related to Joseph’s plural wives: Jonathan was public husband for Elvira Annie Cowles, the Huntington brothers were brothers to Zina and Prescendia Huntington, and Gilbert Goldsmith was the son of Elizabeth Durfee.

    Emma’s beef was with Brigham Young. She didn’t want him to collect her as a plural wife. She didn’t want to give him or the Church property she believed belonged to Joseph. And she violently disagreed with Brigham’s stance that plural wives should be full sexual partners to their husbands.

  19. By way of explanation, I used some objectionable language in one of the prior comments. The reason I did that was because I’m pretty sure the idea of Joseph sleeping with other men or with sheep would be universally objectionable to those who love Joseph. But I was trying to make the point that most women pretty much feel the same kind of revulsion regarding the idea of Joseph having sex with his plural wives if Emma was not aware of/consenting to what was going on. Also, if we’re going to insist on hoping/saying/proclaiming that Joseph was having sex with his wives, we have almost as much data on which to base other unprovable (and objectionable) assertions.

  20. I am still not sure why you think men in particular are the ones “proclaiming” Joseph had sex with his plural wives. Have you read “Mormon Enigma”? Have you seen the stuff posted at FMH about each of the wives? There are many women who believe Joseph had sex with at least some of his plural wives. Full disclosure. Yes, I am a man. Yes, I believe that Joseph had sex with at least some of his plural wives. I think he made a mistake in doing so, if in fact he did.

    In your list of objections to your position and your responses posted at 10:20 pm in response to md, you fail to mention the first person accounts of women having sex with Joseph. I know you have addressed this in previous blog posts, but would you mind doing so again?

    Finally, one small quibble. I agree that Zina Huntington Jacobs made her own choices (your response at 4:29 pm), but they seem to be helped by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who kept sending her husband out on missions. I believe that her choices were affected by her husband’s absence.

  21. I should have acknowledged that you mention two of the women who gave first person accounts. I would like to know more about how you interpret their words. It is not possible to argue that Joseph did not have sex with anyone other than Emma and that it was ok if he did with some of them because Emma knew about it.

  22. “Nate’s response also contains a fundamental presumption, which is that the women are somehow owned by their husbands. Let’s look at the women who had living husbands at the time they presumably became married to Joseph…”

    Your blurbs on the polyandrous wives attempts to prove that all these wives made the choice to be with Joseph, that there was no coercion. Several of them rejected Joseph first, then married someone else, then regretted it, and went back to Joseph. It seems to me like they might have felt guilty about rejecting the proposition of a prophet of God, and their marriages with mere mortals turned out to be difficult, as all marriages are, so going back to Joseph must have seemed quite alluring from a spiritual, eternal perspective. What a chance, to be a wife of the being 2nd only to Jesus Christ! These dynamics of guilt and spiritual allure make these marriages far from simple “choices” for these women. A proposition from Joseph must have held extreme power given his status, and you can’t really say these women were entirely in possession of their full free agency. That they are “owned” by their husband, is very scriptural language.

    It makes me think of the parable of the talents, where God, in D&C talks about how he will bless Joseph for his righteousness with a multitude of “wives, houses, flocks, etc.” Joseph is the 10-talent guy, and the polyandrous husbands are the 1-talent guys who “take their talent from them and give it unto him who hath 10 talents.” He that hath shall be given, and he who hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.

    All this goes away if we introduce the idea of eternal polyandry. Then women are not forced into extreme choices, and are spiritually equal with men, not their property, but free agents unto themselves.

  23. The authors of Mormon Enigma and many of the women who “accept” that Joseph was a sexual partner with his wives are full of rage over the possibility.

    The Mormon men who attack me over my assertion that Joseph may have been celibate in his plural marriages assert that it would be wrong for Joseph to deny them his greatness (or words to that effect). Many of those attacks have occurred either in direct e-mail, in person, or in other forums.

    As to the two women who supposedly testified to having sex with Joseph, they were Emily Partridge and Malissa Lott. Emily said “Yes” when asked if she had carnal intercourse with Joseph, in a court case where the disposition of the Temple Lot was at stake. One word, in the 1890s, when lying for The Lord had become an ingrained part of Mormon culture. As for Malissa, she merely said she was Joseph’s wife in very deed. Which implies sex, but could have also referred to her assertion (an assertion made by others) that Emma knew about her marriage to Joseph. Again, this was in the context of the Temple Lot case where the entire point of the Church’s involvement was to testify that Joseph did, in fact, teach polygamy.

    When Malissa was asked why she never became pregnant, if she was Joseph’s wife in very deed, she indicated that she was nervous. Which is the fatuous explanation that reminds me of Todd Akin’s rationale for why legitimate rape supposedly doesn’t cause pregnancy.

    Emily lived in Joseph’s home as a wife from March 1843 to August 1843, and she remained in Nauvoo after leaving the Smith home. So if she was having the kind of carnal intercourse one thinks of when one hears that phrase (versus passing a plate of meat during dinner, another technical meaning that could explain the phrase), she managed to remain unpregnant by Joseph for over a year. This was a time during which Joseph got Emma pregnant. And Emily was one of those Brigham got pregnant within a year of Joseph’s death.

    Nate and IDIAT have asserted that polyamory in heaven makes everything OK. But while the recent Church essays regarding plural marriage failed to clarify that there will not be polyandry in heaven, there is nothing that should make one hope that a woman will be able to have multiple husbands in heaven. On the other hand, the example of Zina supports the expectation that women will have an opportunity to choose in heaven.

  24. DD,

    I don’t know why you claim I can’t argue that it was OK if the women Joseph had sex with women Emma had expressly granted him permission to be intimate with. On the other hand, I’m arguing that even in these two cases, there is no proof that sex actually happened, given the stakes when the women testified of the sex.

    If sharing a room is sufficient to assert sex, then everyone was having sex with everyone else. Rooms were scarce in the 1840s. Of course, this is the rationale by which some people assert any number of historical figures were homosexual.

    Again, the point of my post, which keeps getting dragged off topic, is the very different impact the belief in a sensual and coercive Joseph has on men and women in Mormon culture. I’m not arguing that women don’t believe it or that all men are horrified by it. I’m merely saying that you’ll find lots of Mormon men who are willing to go on the attack to defend Joseph’s right to be sexual with all these women, asserting as Nate did that it is abusive to have married a woman and then not grant her the benefits implied in marriage. On the other hand, most Mormon women are disgusted by the idea that Joseph was having sex with these wives behind Emma’s back. This is why Val Avery could only write for a few minutes at a time without vomiting as she wrote the polygamy section of Mormon Enigma. This fuels much of the anger you hear over at Feminist Mormon Housewives.

    This underlying presumption that Joseph was having sex with plural wives in marriages where Emma was neither informed nor consulted therefore creates a gulf between some men and women in the Church. The men are often completely OK with it. The women are not.

    This fundamental issue, then, can be seen to fuel much of the energy behind the drive to force the Church to grant priesthood power to women. This, they believe, is the way to undo over a century of male oppression and abuse of women. But I think you could ordain every woman tomorrow, and this matter of Joseph and Emma would still have power to canker hearts.

    As for me, I’m OK with whatever history might have actually been. I’m just trying to point out that the history we have been led to believe occurred, thanks to Bennett and Brodie, is not the only way to read the documented history.

    I believe the documented history is actually consistent with a Joseph who remained physically faithful to Emma, despite a commandment to engage in polygamy. He taught what he had been commanded, but he himself, arguably, did not perform those acts he knew the wife of his heart would find to be a betrayal, acts that he knew would risk losing her in eternity. This possible Joseph, I believe, is one that women would not hate, one that men would see as having sacrificed greatly for his love of his first wife.

    Thus, I think this possibly faithful Joseph is a prophet of the restoration that has power to unite men and women in a shared love and regard for their founding prophet, a man they can respect (even if men will have pity on him), a man that can teach them to become better people, less selfish, more devoted to the spouse they have.

    I also think that polygamy becomes less of an emotional issue if one doesn’t suspect that the man who implemented it was doing so to have his way with women.

  25. DD,

    Regarding Zina, Henry was not absent when Zina agreed to become Joseph’s plural wife.

    He was absent when Brigham convinced Zina to become his mortal wife in lieu of Henry.

    I’m intrigued by Elvira, who refused to marry Joseph until 1843 even though it’s possible (per Andrew Jensen’s original hypothesis) that she was the first woman Joseph approached about polygamy in Nauvoo. After Joseph’s death, Elvira refused to be “collected” by any of the men in a position of stature, as occurred with all the other wives save Helen Mar Kimball (whose father was one of the ‘men in a position of stature.’) Where Zina’s husband was sent on a mission, Elvira’s husband was effectively sent off with the Mormon Battalion.

    Yet Elvira remained faithful to the man Joseph had handfasted her to in 1842, a man who went on the record as stating he was only a public husband to Elvira during the period of Joseph’s life.

    So getting back to Zina, it was her choice. And she had female colleagues who were not making the choice she made. So it isn’t as though she can be credibly viewed as a woman who was merely coerced to take up with Brigham (technically her husband because of standing proxy in the temple sealing to Joseph) rather than remain with Henry.

  26. Let me assure you that I do not disagree with you because I believe you are denying Joseph his “greatness.” I think polygamy in general was awful for women (and for Henry Jacobs). I do not believe in a polyamorous heaven. Also, if women are filled with rage over the possibility of Joseph sneaking behind his wife’s back with other women and girls, I think that is understandable.

    I doubt that Joseph was able to have sex often with his other wives. I believe infrequent sex and the rudimentary birth control that was available could easily explain the lack of children.

    I am also bothered by the “lying for the Lord” that occurred during the polygamous days of the Church. The thought that Church leaders suborned perjury in order to try to win a lawsuit is not faith-affirming. I believe a more plausible explanation for the weak answer given by Malissa is that she was uncomfortable having a frank discussion about sex, Victorian attitudes and all that. I could easily imagine some scenarios about what she meant by saying she was nervous that would involve sexual contact with Joseph and little chance of pregnancy. However, that sort of speculation is probably not appropriate here, and it would only be speculation.

    I am sorry you have been attacked. I hope my questions and comments have not seemed like attacks. It certainly is not my intention. Thanks for your response.

  27. Hi DD,

    I don’t know that Church leaders intended to have women perjure themselves. For Malissa’s part, I don’t think she said anything incorrect. She was Joseph’s wife. She merely said it in a way that need not confirm sex, though she knew sex would be inferred. As to her later fertility, she bore her first child less than a year after marrying Ira Willes. She had earlier been technically married to Dr. Bernhisel, who had stood proxy for Joseph in the temple. But there is no information to support a conclusion that the “marriage” to Bernhisel included sex.

    During the winter Malissa was married to Joseph, she lived in Joseph’s home. No need to sneak around, if they were being intimate. Thus I contend that it isn’t trivial that Malissa never became pregnant, as it wasn’t trivial that Elvira never became pregnant.

    For what it’s worth, one aspect of why people don’t like my reading of the history is the implicit accusation that Emily Partridge lied under oath. She said one word, a word that confirmed what should have been true, that everyone believed to be true, that she wanted to be true. By that one word she protected not only the temple lot, but perpetuated the impression that hid speculation into why Joseph married many of his wives, if what Emma and her sons had said was the actual fact. Why marry 30-40 women if there is no sex, as Emma claimed?

    By that one word, Emily allowed people to ignore Eliza Snow’s poem about the vile wretch who took Eliza side by side and face to face. By that one word, Emily wrought a form of revenge on Emma for casting her aside like Hagar was cast aside at the request of Sarah.

    Who, other than Joseph, could know that Emily might be lying? Not the leaders of the Church who still lived. To a man, the men who had married the majority of Joseph’s widows were dead.

    So, DD, no need to get upset that the leaders of the Church encouraged perjury.

    [The culture of “Lying for The Lord” was a form of civil disobedience, at a time when men were being jailed for obeying what they thought of as a commandment from God and their constitutional right under freedom of religion. Though we don’t often talk about the men who died, it is pretty clear that George Manwaring died as a direct result of his incarceration, leaving behind three wives and his small children. Manwaring was the English convert who wrote “Oh How Lovely was the Morning.”]

  28. Please Meg, I realize you have deep feels on this issue but don’t view these comments as attacks on you. We can disagree without getting personal. I suppose part of the problem is that contra your suggestions most Mormon men are somewhat ambivalent about this while you have the most detailed researched theory of anyone in the church. (world?)

    But it doesn’t mean we agree and it doesn’t mean we are attacking you. I simply disagree (you might say in ignorance compared to the knowledge you command on this issue).

    But I see Emma as lying later in life when she denied this reality publicly. Maybe she lied for good reasons to herself to preserve her children and that lie tragically grew over time.

    I see Joseph as being imperfect… Knowing he was supposed to do something hard for him and harder for his wife and at varying times involving Emma I am it and never really doing a good job of it.

    Polygamy is an issue we still run from as a church notwithstanding our nice sounding topical guide articles of late. We claim ignorance in the face of the teachings, we run so much from it that we even refuse to link our beardless prophets and credo to it.

    So is it any wonder that Joseph had just as much as a hard time with it as us? I could see him being conflicted and all over the place because we still are to this day.

  29. I’d just add I think your theory is nice were it true, and I have no doubt some aspects are – women who were abused or entered into unchaste relationships were brought into his protection be becoming his wife. I still there is something to be said about plural marriage also having a welfare component given the reality of living back the.

    But I’ve never been able to follow you in your logical leap that do investigate strikers requires marrying women. I think it’s more likely that the victims or participants were simply married to Joseph as a sign of compassion after being deceived and having the truth taught.

  30. Thanks Meg,

    Although, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t saying something “carnal intercourse” back then roughly the equivalent of Nate’s terminology above? I think she was being about as open as she could be. I have very little background knowledge about the temple lot case, but weren’t Church leaders soliciting people to testify about practices before Joseph Smith’s death in order to establish which group was the proper successor to Joseph’s organization?

    Malissa’s statement seems very unambiguous to me. Emily’s is perhaps more ambiguous, but I think that is only because we read it through modern eyes. The whole point of their testimony was to show that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy in the same way as those who followed Brigham Young did. If they did not have sex with Joseph, they were perjuring themselves, unless they had false memories. As you note, lying happened back then. Whether they were reporting the truth or not, there are uncomfortable implications.

    I have probably taken up enough of your time. Thanks again.

  31. Hi Dq,

    If you haven’t, take a bit of time and read through my Faithful Joseph series. Make sure you understand the evil seductions Bennett and his Strikers were conducting, and how Emma and the Relief Society were working with Joseph to expose the sinners. Make sure you understand that less than a handful of children (2?) appear to have been engendered by any of the dozens of polygamist men during Joseph’s lifetime. Make sure you are aware that Emma is on record as asserting that plural marriage wasn’t supposed to involve sex, a position she tersely maintained even as she saw plural wives become pregnant after Joseph’s death.

    Thus Emma’s careful statement that Joseph was not involved in spiritual wifery and that Emma was his only wife are consistent with what she said earlier. Scholars who have studied Emma note her strict adherence to honesty in all things. They are flummoxed by her final statement, since they have presumed Joseph was sexual in his marriages. But if Emma knew that Joseph’s plural marriages didn’t actually involve sex, then was it actually a lie for her to assert to her sons that she was Joseph’s only true wife?

    In a way, I am grateful that Emma and her children remained separate from the Church for so long. This means that there has been an ability to determine the parentage of those children that were born to Joseph’s plural wives. If Joseph’s children had gone west, it would have potentially been difficult or impossible to determine the fact that Joseph can’t be proved the father. Ugo Perego’s article in the first book of The Persistence of Polygamy makes for very informative reading.

  32. Hi Dq and DD,

    The logical leap relates to Joseph effectively securing the fealty of certain women as he and Emma investigated those who were seducing and being seduced. We know that Patty Sessions, Elizabeth Durfee, and Sarah Cleveland were older women with either unique skills (Sessions was a midwife) or highly trusted by Emma Smith. They are noted as being involved in talking with other women about spiritual wifery, with Elizabeth Durfee’s repeated attempts to question the Partridge girls being possibly the most well known.

    I’d argue that it isn’t clear that these women were actually “married” to Joseph in life, though it served each of them to either be sealed to Joseph after his death or at least to claim that they’d been his wife.

    Malissa and Emily both went on the stand attempting to prove that Joseph had been a practicing polygamist. If they were telling the truth, then Emma lied in her deathbed statement. If they were implying sex, I think they could argue they hadn’t actually technically lied, and Emma would not be lying in her deathbed statement.

    It’s possible that Malissa and Emily were telling the truth, but that Emma, knowing Joseph had not produced children with any other woman, came to believe that therefore Joseph wasn’t actually having sex with his plural wives. This might have been inspired by knowing her sons had come to believe their father hadn’t even taught about plural marriage, and likely knowledge that her youngest son, David, was invested in this matter to the point of mental instability.

    I wrote a post last year before starting to blog here at M* that summarizes why I don’t agree with Brian Hales’ list of twelve women who he asserts had sex with Joseph [click to view]. I should mention that at that time I was merely interested in plausible alternate explanations to Brian’s list of twelve sexual partners, as at that time I had no plans to write a historical treatment.

    The one wife I didn’t have figured out at the time was Olive Frost. Hales cites a late account from someone who doesn’t make sense as an intimate of Olive Frost stating that Olive had a child and that she and the baby died. But Olive died of malaria in September 1845, leaving plenty of time for her to have become pregnant by one of the men who collected Joseph’s wives after Joseph was dead. Thus a report that Olive had a child does not in any way confirm that Olive was intimate with Joseph.

  33. Meg, I think part of the appeal for your theory is that it rehabilitates *Emma* as well as Joseph. I’m not sure many Mormons are ready for such a rehabilitation. I grew up thinking of Emma as–while ultimately having performed great service and having endured monumental persecution–also, frankly, something of a battle ax who burned revelations, assaulted pregnant women, got Joseph killed by insisting he come back across the river when he was safely in Iowa, cynically tried to build her own real estate portfolio at the expense of the church when people were starving, and ultimately rejected the temple rites and turned her children against the priesthood. (Of course, as I’ve aged, I’ve learned that some of these are nuanced and others are just plain wrong; but old perceptions die hard.)

  34. Emma was amazing.

    As someone who has felt “pushed” by the spirit to do things that didn’t make any sense at the time, I can imagine an Emma who felt very strongly about Joseph and fidelity and refusing to go west precisely because the spirit prompted her in these things.

    Because Emma thwarted Joseph’s attempts to enter into a more sane version of polygamy, Joseph had a chance to teach dozens of women first hand what he meant by his doctrine. These are the women who would lead the other women of the Church until 1901, and they were supported by a vast cadre of sisters who had had the same teachings.

    Because Emma didn’t allow Joseph to be openly sexual in his plural marriages, we have the possibility of seeing Joseph as physically faithful to Emma despite his teachings to his followers. This results in the lack of DNA evidence proving Joseph engendered children by his plural wives.

    Speaking of DNA, Emma’s refusal to gather to Utah means there was no co-mingling of Joseph’s genetic material with the genetic material of the children of the plural wives. This allowed Ugo Perego to make definitive conclusions regarding most of the children whose paternity can be tested (i.e., the ones who survived long enough to have children of their own).

    Finally, Emma’s sons, by attacking the polygamy practiced by the Utah Saints, prompted documentation of what had occurred in Nauvoo, an otherwise unthinkable compendium of data during a time characterized by Victorian standards. Thus we have data from the women and other eyewitnesses, rather than mere accusations from dissenters.

    I’m completely anticipating God telling Emma she did just as He wished her to do, and restoring her to Joseph as his eternal bride, the woman for whom he would have gone to hell, if required.

  35. “I’m completely anticipating God telling Emma ”

    I guess that’s part of the difference you’re getting at with gender issues. I personally don’t anticipate anything with regard to God and Emma as I lack information. But from what I know about the situation, if I were to look at things from myself I’d feel I was in need of repentance or my salvation would be at risk if I were to: turn away from the body of the church, keep my children back from it, teaching things contrary to what church leadership is teaching on a contentious issue.

    You’ve taken the gaps in the history and put the most positive possible (and seemingly fantastical) interpretation on it. Ironically, I think much of the Emma praise in the last couple decades as been as the church has really grown more comfortable distancing itself from plural marriage. When we still had old timers around who actually had close family members connected to plural marriage who didn’t hold Emma in a fond light for not joining the Saints, it seems she was viewed in a different light.

    Where I’m torn is I feel that to embrace the historical narrative of Emma (who is now to be praised when she refused to join the Saints and nearly caused a restoration shattering schism in the church) you’ve crafted is to accept Emma as portrayed on your terms, but not by the members of the church who knew her. I can’t imagine any of her former associates in SLC saying, “I’m glad Emma stayed behind” or “I’m glad Emma thwarted Joseph”.

    I see a world that could have been… Emma continuing to lead the Relief Society and boldly testifying for decades in meetings and writings of Joseph and his mission. She didn’t deny her testimony, but surely you can see how her influence was severely cut short as a result of her own decisions. Think of the volumes of information she could have provided if she continued as a member of the church.

    It’s a tragedy really.

  36. The funny thing is that the women who knew Emma did continue to love her and name their children after her. Looking at Elvira Annie Cowles, for instance, she named her daughters:

    Lucy Elvira (Joseph’s mother and herself)
    Marietta (her husband’s first wife)
    Phoebe (her own mother)
    Josephine (Joseph – guess she’d given up on having a son by then)
    Emma Lucinda (Emma and a twist on Lucy Mack’s name)

    It was left to Elvira’s daughters to name a child after their mother’s good friend, Eliza Roxcy Snow.

    Elizabeth Durfee even got pretty disgusted with how Brigham was implementing plural marriage and left the saints to return and be with Emma.

    It is Brigham and the other men who were really mad at Emma. As they were the ones who disproportionately wrote the history, you are seeing their disdain. I admit Eliza Snow was distressed by Emma’s final testimony, stating that Emma knew better than that.

    Joseph F. Smith in particular was really, really mad at Emma. As a boy, he’d come to visit his father’s grave and found it disturbed, exposing the skull of his uncle (likely Samuel). Joseph F.’s mother, Mary Fielding Smith, had interrupted the four men Emma had asked to relocate the bodies, which may be why they weren’t able to relocate all three brothers. Mary was mad at Emma for her high-handedness in relocating Hyrum’s remains without telling Mary it was happening. And Joseph F. Smith retained that intense anger for the rest of his life.

    So again, we have a disparity in the ways the genders reacted to a significant matter, interspersed with inidividual females who were mad at Emma for some portion of what she did.

    You assert that I’m seeing Nauvoo and Emma in the most positive possible light. Yet I am telling you that my ancestor, Austin Cowles, not only conspired against Joseph but that Joseph’s death appears to have been caused by members of that conspiracy. I am telling you that Bennett misled men and women who were very highly placed in Joseph’s Church, including apostles, bishops, sons of such leaders, Eliza Snow, the family of the woman who prompted the revelation on baptism for the dead, widows whose husbands had been murdered at Haun’s Mill.

    Rather, I suggest that you find my interpretation of events in Nauvoo to be so contrary to what you have been raised to think that you cannot accept it. And it sounds better to accuse me of fantastical positivity, because people who are too positive about Nauvoo events can be and have been dismissed as not credible.

    What I’m saying is that Emma’s failure to gather to Utah produced definite results that are helpful to us now, generations later, data that we can and have used to determine the truth of Joseph’s interactions, rather than being forced to make do solely with innuendo and rumor. The God I worship is more than capable of directing individuals to do things in service of peoples generations in the future (such as what happened in the Book of Mormon).

    As to Emma not letting Joseph be intimate, Emma was very outspoken in her opinion that plural wives were not to sleep with their husbands. Despite Joseph marrying many women, we have a lack of genetic data *that should exist* to indicate he ever consummated his plural marriages. In addition, most of these women remained on good terms with Emma, despite the fact that Emma knew they were Joseph’s wives. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that Joseph’s plural wives and Joseph were not abusing Emma’s sense of the proper relationship between a husband and his plural wives.

  37. Was Emma teaching truth? Were the Prophets and Apostles who carried on the church after Joseph in error?

    I don’t think there is a person in the world who could read your theory and not come to the conclusion that you were trying to view Joseph and Emma in the most positive light. (I think it’s worthy of praise to look for the best in other though and you’ve done it by trying to make sure the historical facts can still line up with your narrative)

    I won’t comment on your suggestion about the hows, whats, and whys of my view of Emma. It’s beside the larger point I’d like to make.

    I’d much rather have 20 years of Emma’s writing, teaching, preaching post-martyrdom than I’d have a tenuous assertion of proof that maybe Joseph didn’t sleep with those women. It’s a pour trade-off in my opinion that instead of having volumes of direct accounts written from SLC by Emma about the BoM, Joseph’s revelations and character, etc. we have the hope that now we can potential link some pieces of the puzzle together.

    Again, much of Emma’s life was filled with sacrifice and tragedy. I don’t find her quiet ending in Nauvoo anything other tragic when I consider what could have been. Tens of thousands should have been at her funeral and paying their last respects to the women whose feet they should have sat at and heard direct testimony from her lips were she to have remained in the church. It’s a great loss that she didn’t come west. I find little solace that a few close associates remained so, when I consider what could have been.

  38. Hi DQ,

    As long as we’re re-writing history, I’d much rather have had a history where Bennett didn’t fall, where he was able to convince his wife to join him in Nauvoo, where he then was introduced to the principle of the New and Everlasting Covenant, had a chance to marry the young woman he had fallen in love with and Joseph was never killed at Carthage.

    In that history, we would have had decades of Joseph and Emma writing and explaining and there would be no weirdness regarding confusion between spiritual wifery and plural marriage. And possibly Joseph could have still been the prophet in 1890, when The Lord had promised to appear to him, and Joseph could have ushered out the age of polygamy with definitive authority. No Lorin Woolley, no modern day polygamy.

    And Jane Manning would have been adopted into the Smith family, once she understood what was going on, and Joseph would never have implemented the priesthood ban. And when people got strange about what it meant to translate the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and the Bible, Joseph would have been able to explain it time and time again. So no silly pictures of him looking at the plates themselves instead of looking into the seer stones, and no one losing their testimony because they are shocked, shocked to learn the history of their Church wasn’t the way some artists had portrayed it in the past.

    Of course, had Joseph lived to 1890 and beyond, we wouldn’t have had Brigham Young and John Taylor as prophets, we wouldn’t have the Mormon Battalion, we might not have had Abraham Lincoln as a president, the Civil War might have come out completely differently, and our whole history would be something else than what we currently know. Sarah Pratt wouldn’t have taught her children to hate the Church, Strang wouldn’t have been assassinated. And a family you know nothing about wouldn’t have been poisoned, killing both parents and most the children, leaving their two year old son an orphan.

    I mean, as long as we’re going to wish history happened differently, let’s wish big.

  39. Meg,
    I’ve always found alternate history more interesting than historical fantasy. I realize based on your serious you have a preference for the latter though. I mean, as long as we’re being snarky.

  40. Hi DQ,

    I invite you to actually critique my conclusions, rather than simply asserting that you don’t agree and accusing me of engaging in historical fantasy.

    Which of my points can you prove wrong based on actual facts, rather than long-held traditional views?

  41. Just engaging is a bit of verbal jousting based on the cheek of your last reply! The biggest critic is there is not s shred of evidence in the form of a statement by any participant that the reason for Joseph’s marriages were to root out the strikers, no a shred of evidence in the form of any writings by any participant or Emma that she was also part of a plot to do so.

    Every statement (such as those from RS meetings) you have used to tenuously link your theory to said undercover plot have in fact also been said in other settings because the statements on virtue and righteousness,etc are universal and general. So to imply they were used in the service of uncovering the strikers would also open the modern uses of virtue and righteousness etc to be speak against modern day strikers ravaging the church from within.

    In fact, there lies the big issue, you could probably overlay your theory onto the modern church today and suggest Thomas Monson and Sis Burton are actively rooting out sexual conspirators in the church. Maybe he’s even marrying them in secret to protect them and win their confidence as well?

    Your theory would make a great novel. The issue is there isn’t a shred of direct evidence, just inferences and conjecture. If you can point me to any historian who agrees with you, I’ll gladly reconsider.

    I definitely think your on to something by bringing the strikers into the mix as there is obviously overlap. Your series does a great job of pointing out the tangled moral mess that lurked under some aspects of Nauvoo — and very likely in other and similar ways* lurk in our communities. But I don’t see Emma acting so strongly with Joseph to uncover these plots by as you do.

    * not to imply spiritual wifery, but just (ab)normal immorality.

  42. The only historian I have found who has treated the matter of the High Council confessions of the women has been Gary Bergera. Except in his article, he specifically indicates he is operating from a paradigm where John Bennett was taught plural marriage by Joseph Smith.

    This is not credible, based on the timing of the letter Joseph received indicating John Bennett was a rogue with a living wife, which must have arrived no later than early February 1841. In addition, there is absolutely nothing about what John Bennett was doing that corresponds to Joseph’s teachings. Seducing a widow without benefit of ceremony, then introducing roughly a dozen of your closest randy friends to the idea that the widow is an easy lay is not what Joseph taught. A three-level sexual hierarchy based on the status of the woman is not what Joseph taught. Inducting teenage boys into having sex with random girls who refer to themselves as spirituals is not what Joseph did.

    So my point is that none of the historians have yet turned their sights on the data I’ve been looking at. And we do have the statements from Mary Rollins and Agnes Coolbrith, both of whom wrote they could tell Joseph F. Smith things he didn’t know about Joseph. These are the two women Joseph married in January and February 1842, when the Nauvoo census was launched for the express purpose of teaching the families to be righteous. The Relief Society had as one of its founding purposes to warn the unwary (mentioned by Emmaline Wells, quoted in one of the recent Visiting Teaching messages).

    If you’ve read the minutes of the Relief Society, you will see the extreme concern Emma and Joseph expressed about virtue, which included background checks of the sisters applying to be members. Sisters were assigned to investigate individuals who were inappropriate (e.g., Clarissa Marvel). It got to the point where one could only be admitted to Relief Society if one had written recommendations from two standing members attesting to the woman’s virtue.

    Again, you are casting aspersions and calling my conclusions into doubt, but you are not offering any data to refute my conclusions other than that historians haven’t already published this. But they have fundamentally interpreted the history through a lens influenced by Brodie and others, individuals who didn’t know there is no DNA proof of children begotten by Joseph on plural wives, individuals who supposed that Mary Clift’s mention of being seduced in the High Council minutes was a cover up for her polygamous marriage, rather than suspecting that her polygamous marriage was a cover up for the seduction that had gotten her pregnant.

    Again, if you have data to call into question my conclusions, I’m happy to entertain it. Insulting me and merely mentioning that no other historian has yet concurred with my conclusions is simple ad hominem, and in this case ad hominem is not sufficient. Data is requested.

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