[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]
We who enjoy the benefits of the modern Church forget how much Joseph Smith still had left to do at the dawn of 1843. In Joseph’s quest to restore the marriage system described in the Old Testament (and hinted at in the Book of Mormon) he had secured the support of his apostles and several close associates (male and female).
Joseph had also largely gotten rid of the “sort which creep into houses, and lead captive… women laden with sins…” 1 and provided for the women taken in sin.
However Joseph still had to convince the thousands of Mormon converts of this marriage doctrine, in the face of all the scurrilous rumors they’d heard or inferred.
From January 1843 to the end of May 1843, Joseph began to extend his teachings to those individuals who had been wounded by the rumors about “spiritual wifery.” One of these was Joseph’s older brother, Hyrum Smith. Of the women who had been wounded, the best documented case involves Emily Partridge.
The Conversion of Hyrum Smith
Hyrum Smith was almost six years older than Joseph Smith, and became the oldest surviving son of Lucy Mack [Smith] andJoseph Smith Sr. when Alvin Smith died in the 1820s. Hyrum supported Joseph throughout their lives together. When it came to the Church Joseph restored, Hyrum was one of the first to be baptized, was one of the Eight Witnesses testifying of the reality of the golden plates that gave rise to the Book of Mormon. When the Church was organized on April 6, 1830, Hyrum Smith was the oldest of the six charter members. Hyrum was an early missionary, led early congregations, marched with Zion’s Camp, and was one of those imprisoned in Liberty Jail with Joseph Smith.
When Father Smith died, Hyrum became Presiding Patriarch of the Church. A few months later Hyrum was made Assistant President of the Church and ordained to the office of apostle.
Yet though Joseph had taught plural marriage to the other apostles, he was unable to get Hyrum to accept plural marriage until May 26, 1843.
Young Gideon Carter 2 relayed the oft-told story that “Hyrum did not at first receive [plural marriage] with favor. His whole nature revolted against it. He said to Joseph that if he attempted to introduce the practice of that doctrine as a tenet of The Church it would break up The Church and cost him his life.” 3
Joseph asked Hyrum to ask the Lord about it. After much anguish, Hyrum confronted Brigham Young near the Masonic Hall. The two proceeded to sit on a pile of fence rails that lay nearby. In 1866 Young would give a sermon and relate Hyrum’s words:
“[B]rother Brigham, I want to talk to you… I have a question to ask you. In the first place I say unto you, that I do know that you and the twelve know some things that I do not know. I can understand this by the motions, and talk, and doings of Joseph, and I know there is something or other, which I do not understand, that is revealed to the Twelve. Is this so?”
Brigham said, “I do not know any thing about what you know, but I know what I know.”
Hyrum continued, “I have mistrusted for along time that Joseph has received a revelation that a man should have more than one wife, and he has hinted as much to me, but I would not bear it… I want to know the truth and to be saved.”
Once Brigham was convinced that Hyrum would not work against Joseph, he confided that Joseph had many wives sealed to him. Hyrum wept like a child, and went to Joseph. Hyrum “renewed his covenant with Joseph, and they went heart and hand together while they lived, and they were together when they died…” 4
The Partridge Sisters
By 1843, practically all those who were members of the Mormon Church had become aware of John C. Bennett’s accusations against Joseph. However the accusations raised particular questions in the minds of young ladies who had been questioned during the desperate investigations that led to Bennett’s expulsion.
Edward Partridge died of ague in May 1840, leaving his family ill and without support. Two of his daughters, Emily (16) and Eliza (20) determined to “hire out” as maids. Joseph and Emma Smith had taken them in, providing Emily and Eliza with the necessities of life in exchange for their help around the homestead.
During the spring of 1842, when Joseph and Emma were trying to uncover the seducers and identify and help the victims, Emily claims Joseph said, “Emily, if you will not betray me, I will tell you something for your benefit.”
When it became clear it would be impossible for Joseph to get a private moment to talk with Emily, he offered to give her a letter if she would promise to burn it afterwards. Emily refused to accept the letter, saying she “shut [Joseph] up so quick.”
Joseph was obviously still concerned that the seducers might have gotten to the Partridge girls. He had Elizabeth Durfee invite Emily and Eliza to her home soon after Emily refused Joseph’s letter. In Emily’s autobiography, she writes that Mrs. Durfee “introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in that day. She wondered if there was any truth in the report she heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to. I kept my own council and said nothing.”
Emily clearly never realized that spiritual wifery was not the same thing as plural marriage.
As they walked home that night, Emily told her sister, Eliza, about how Joseph had attempted to talk with her. Emily wrote “She felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed soon after.” 5
What Emily could not know is whether Joseph and Emma and others living in the Smith homestead noticed Eliza’s depression and Emily’s refusal to be in a situation where she was alone with Joseph.
Emily turned nineteen on February 1843, a year after the conversation with Mrs. Durfee. During the intervening months, Emily had sorted her feelings and decided she would be willing to receive Joseph if he ever tried again.
On March 4, 1843, Mrs. Durfee told Emily Joseph wanted to speak with her at the home of Heber Kimball that evening. When Emily asked what Joseph wanted, Mrs. Durfee replied she thought Joseph wanted Emily for a wife. Emily worried all day about the interview, to the point that she didn’t change out of the clothes she’d worn to do the washing. Throwing a cloak over herself, Emily told her sister Eliza she was going to visit their mother, which she briefly did. Then Emily proceeded to the Kimball home, but found only the children at home. She waited until Heber Kimball and Joseph arrived, but then the children were sent to a neighbor and Kimball told Emily to leave as well. As Emily hurried away, Heber Kimball called after her, eventually getting her to return to talk with Joseph.
Decades later when Emily testified during the Temple Lot trial, she would relate “He taught me this principle of plural marriage that is called polygamy now, but we called it celestial marriage, and he told me that this principle had been revealed to him but it was not generally known; and he went on and said that the Lord had given me to him, and he wanted to know if I would consent to a marriage, and I consented.” Elsewhere she wrote, “Well I was married there and then. Joseph went home his way and I going my way alone. A strange way of getting married, wasn’t it?” 6
On March 8, 1843, Joseph similarly “wed” Eliza Partridge. Eliza was more reserved than Emily and passed away before the Temple Lot trial, so we do not have any details specific to Eliza Partridge’s March 1843 marriage to Joseph.
Emily and Eliza Partridge had presumed that Joseph would re-enact the high pressure sexual importuning they would had heard about in 1842. However the reality in March 1843 appears to have been ceremonial, unconsummated marriage – wholly other than what they had feared.
In May 1843 Emma Smith finally decided she would openly agree to Joseph marrying several young women, including the Partridge sisters. I will cover this history next week as part of the post “Emma’s Ultimatum.”
Chronology of Early 1843 Sealings
With the background of these stories involving Hyrum Smith and the Partridge sisters, let us look at all the plural marriage activity taking place in early 1843, prior to Emma’s decision to openly participate in Joseph’s marriages to plural wives.
Joseph Smith asked Willard Richards to enter plural marriage. In January 1843 Richards arranged to marry Sarah and Fanny Longstroth, English converts who had come to America but had failed to gather to Nauvoo. Richards went to St. Louis where the family lived and asked if he could marry the two girls, then 16 and 14. According to the family history, the marriages were not consummated until after the Longstroths were sealed to Willard Richards in the Nauvoo temple, three years later. 7
William D. Huntington was brother to two of Joseph’s early wives, Zina and Presendia. On February 5, 1843, William married Harriet Clark, the sister of his first wife, Caroline Clark. We don’t have enough data to know how Bennett’s identification of William’s sister as a plural wife might have affected William’s household and the sister of his first wife. Harriet would not conceive until after Joseph Smith’s death, indicating a possibility that William’s marriage to Harriet could have remained unconsummated while Joseph lived. 8
Ruth Vose [Sayers] alleged she was sealed to Joseph for eternity only in February 1843, with Hyrum Smith performing the ceremony, however it seems likely she mis-remembered the year. 9
Orson Hyde first plural wife was English-born Martha Rebecca Browett, who he married in February or March of 1843. No children resulted from this marriage. In 1850 Martha would marry Thomas McKenzie, and Irish-born convert whose wife had died and left him with the care of their young daughter. Martha then divorced McKenzie in October 1852 after reaching Salt Lake City. Martha would live until 1904. Orson Hyde went on to marry Mary Ann Price 10 in April 1843, another English convert. Mary Ann would have a daughter, Urania, in 1846. These two English converts married Orson too late for these marriages to be likely associated with the direct activities of Bennett and his Strikers. However it seems unlikely that they had remained unaffected by the stories of English-born Martha Brotherton and the stories in the Expositor about foreign converts being exploited. Mary Ann tells of being introduced to the idea of plural marriage by Joseph Smith, and the long weeks before she was finally satisfied that Hyde was a conscientious, upright, and noble man. 11
Flora Ann Woodworth was daughter of Lucien Woodworth, the construction foreman working on the Nauvoo House, a project very important to Joseph. William Clayton gave an affidavit that Flora became one of Joseph’s wives in the spring of 1843, and Willard Richards appears to have written “Woodworth” in shorthand notation in Joseph’s journal for March 4, 1843, which may refer to Joseph’s concern about Lucien or a possible ceremony between Joseph and Flora Ann. Sometime during the summer of 1843, Flora’s mother, Phebe, told Orange Wight that Flora was one of Joseph’s wives. 12 While there is no documentation to suggest Lucien Woodworth or Flora Ann had been “wounded” by the events of 1842, Phebe’s satisfaction with the marriage between Flora Ann and Joseph hints that the marriage certainly served to increase the bond between Joseph and the Woodworth family. 13
As mentioned previously, Emily and Eliza Partridge married Joseph Smith on 4 March and 8 March respectively, a year after Emily refused to allow Joseph to talk with her or give her a letter.
Joseph Bates Noble had performed the ceremony sealing Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman, Noble’s sister-in-law in spring 1841. We do not know what Noble thought in the summer of 1841 through the summer of 1842, as Bennett and his Strikers taught that it was right to engage in illicit intercourse as long as no one found out. However somehow Bennett learned that Joseph Bates Noble had performed a ceremony marrying Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith. 14 While it is possible Bennett learned about Joseph Bates Noble’s role from Joseph Smith, it seems more likely that Noble, himself, shared the story. On April 5, 1843, Joseph Smith sealed Joseph Bates Noble to Sarah B. Alley, a convert from Massechusetts who was in her early twenties. By the end of the month it appears Sarah had conceived her son, George. Sarah Alley’s social circle included Sarah Peak Noon, the English widow who had become Heber Kimball’s first plural wife in 1842. When Alley became pregnant, the news “was commited to Sarah [Noon] and she was requested not to tell…” 15
Joseph Smith’s secretary, William Clayton, had married Ruth Moon in 1836. On April 27, 1843, Ruth’s sister, Margaret Moon, became a plural wife to William Clayton. Within the month Margaret had conceived, giving birth to a son on February 18, 1844. 16
Lucy Walker tells of being sixteen in 1842 and having a discussion with Joseph Smith where he said, “I have a message for you. I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” 17 Joseph went on to explain how celestial marriage could link families together for eternity, saying that celestial marriage was restored for the benefit of the human family, that it would prove an everlasting blessing to Lucy’s father’s house and form a chain that could never be broken. Lucy’s mother had died in January 1842, a death which had fractured the family. Lucy refused Joseph’s teachings in 1842 and described herself as being “tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable. Oh that the grave would kindly receive me that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother.” Lucy’s account gives a fascinating glimpse into the audacious economy with which Joseph attempted to both discover who had been victimized while also teaching about the eternal links that would bind the human family together. In April 1843 Joseph attempted to talk with Lucy again. Lucy recounts that Joseph’s renewed discussion with her “aroused every drop of scotch in my veins…” Lucy told Joseph she could not marry him unless God revealed it to her, and God had not done so yet. 18
Joseph promised Lucy she would have a manifestation of the will of God concerning her, a testimony she could never deny. That night Lucy experienced her room filling with light, “like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud… My Soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being. And I received a powerful and irresistable testimony of the truth of the marriage covenant called Celestial or plural marriage.” 19
Lucy married Joseph on May 1, 1843, with William Clayton officiating and Eliza Partridge standing witness. Lucy would say, “It was not a love matter… [but] to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world.” 20
During the early portion of 1843, Joseph Smith reached out to a handful of men and women to invite them to enter into plural marriage. The men who took on plural wives during this period were very close to Joseph and appear to have been reaching out to relatives or converts who reasonably could have been spooked by Bennett’s accusations. As for the women who became plural wives in early 1843, the documents that exist indicate the woman had serious reservations based on either knowledge of or suspicion regarding Joseph Smith’s involvement in plural marriage. Yet time and again these women did gain a testimony that either plural marriage was not the evil they had feared or that the man involved was upright and noble. The number of English converts involved in marriages during this first portion of 1843 is unusual, and may be associated with the disproportionate damage Bennett’s activities and accusations had done to English converts.
Marriages entered into prior to April 1843 did not appear to have a sexual component at that time, based on the reproductive history as well as written statements in some cases. But the April plural marriages entered into by William Clayton and Joseph Bates Noble show that sexual relations between men and their plural wives did occur prior to Joseph’s death.
By May 1843, Emma Smith decided she would be willing to offer Joseph a handful of wives, and allow herself to be sealed to Joseph for not only time but for all eternity. The next four months would prove more difficult than Emma had imagined
Future Planned Posts:
Revealing the Revelation
Those Virtuous and Pure
Daughter of Hope
The Prodigal Returns
Conferring the Mantle
Collecting the Sorrowful
For Eternity and Time
Fifty Years in the Wilderness
Days of Defiance
God’s Strange Act: A Legacy
- 2 Timothy 3:6. ↩
- Gideon, born 1831, was first cousin to Marietta Carter [Holmes], who had been killed by a mob in August 1840. This story regarding Hyrum Smith was related to B. H. Roberts in 1894. ↩
- Gary Bergera, The Earliest Mormon Polygamists, p. 41, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 2 May 2014. ↩
- Gary Bergera, The Earliest Mormon Polygamists, pp. 28-29, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 2 May 2014. ↩
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 407. ↩
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 407-408. ↩
- Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.23-25, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.8, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Ruth Vose and her non-Mormon husband, Edward Sayers, had taken Joseph in during August 1842, when he was hiding to avoid being extradited to Missouri on charges related to the shooting of Governor Boggs. As recorded by Andrew Jensen, Ruth and Edward Sayers arrived in Nauvoo in 1841. “While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to the theory of a future life insisted that his wife Ruth should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim her in this life. She was accordingly sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus became numbered among the Prophets plural wives though she continued to live with Mr. Sayers until his death.” from Andrew Jensen, Ruth Vose Sayers Draft biographical sketch, cited in Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Chapter 12, see note 42. Ruth Sayers would attest in May 1869 that she was sealed to Joseph Smith in February 1843 with Hyrum performing the sealing. However Hyrum hadn’t reconciled with Joseph over plural marriage until May 26, 1843. Nor is it likely Emma would have openly participated in a sealing between Joseph and another woman as early as February 1843. If Ruth was right about the year, her sealing to Joseph likely took place after May 26, 1843. If Ruth was right about the month, her sealing to Joseph likely took place in February 1844. A third possibility presents itself if Joseph agreed to the marriage in February 1843, but the actual ceremony didn’t occur until after May 26, 1843.Gary Bergera gives his analysis in Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.32-33, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Mary Ann Price traveled to Utah in 1852, one of four women to drive teams in the Henry W. Miller Company. During that crossing, Mary Ann was still being referred to as Miss Mary Ann Price. ↩
- Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.8-10, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Orange Wight had set his cap for Flora Ann after hearing about plural marriage from Joseph Smith. Orange Wight’s reaction to the awkward revelation by Flora Ann’s mother was to be pleased Joseph had liked a woman he liked, and to try to find some other worthy woman who hadn’t already been snapped up, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 389-391. ↩
- Gary Bergera reports that Pheve Woodworth, Flora’s mother, may also have been sealed to Joseph Smith. See Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.30-31, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- John C. Bennett wrote “Joe Smith was privately married to his spiritual wives—in the case of Mrs. A**** S****, by Apostle Brigham Young; and in that of Miss L***** B***** [Louisa Beaman], by Elder Joseph Bates Noble. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or, An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism [Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], p. 256. ↩
- Vilate Kimball letter, cited in Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.18, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Gary Bergera, Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44, p.6-7, available online at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf, retrieved 3 May 2014. ↩
- Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch, pp. 5-6, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 463. ↩
- Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 464. ↩
- Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 465. ↩
- Temple Lot transcript, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 465. ↩