Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Are the original statements that Joseph was a polygamist true?

Not long ago I searched online and found Historical Record 6, edited and published by Andrew Jenson. I read for the first time the original statements made by some of the alleged plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr. and others having "knowledge" of these events. The interesting thing about these statements is that they make up the core of evidence used by the Utah LDS Church and most historians to "prove" that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. Without these statements, they have no substantial argument. Thus, in this post I wish to discuss a little of the background of these statements and make some observations regarding them.

Joseph was killed in 1844, but the first recorded statements regarding his alleged polygamist activities were made in 1869. So, if Joseph was the designer and promoter of polygamy within the LDS Church, why did the Utah LDS Church, after 25 years, try to obtain evidence of his alleged polygamist activities? I believe the answer is that they had none. All who discuss the subject of Joseph and polygamy agree that Joseph never publicly taught or practiced polygamy. Thus, no evidence existed from him on this issue. In addition, all agree that Brigham Young and other leaders acknowledged that they themselves secretly practiced polygamy in Nauvoo and justified their actions by saying Joseph instituted this practice within the church. They taught this idea to those they led west and in 1852 produced a revelation, allegedly from Joseph, authorizing the practice of celestial marriage or polygamy. Because the members of the Utah LDS Church trusted their leaders, they believed them when they said that Joseph started polygamy in the church. Thus, at that time the leaders had no need to try to prove this idea. However, beginning in the 1860s when Joseph's sons came to Utah as ministers of the Reorganized Church to preach against polygamy and to prove false the polygamy accusations against their father, the Utah LDS Church had to scramble to obtain evidence to support their position that Joseph practiced polygamy. (See Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Joseph the Martyr's Testimony of Innocence Upheld by His Son, Joseph Smith III.)

In the statements found in Historical Record 6, there are only a six witnesses that I consider key to proving whether Joseph practiced or taught polygamy. They are key witnesses because they were in positions to have had first hand knowledge of the truth of this matter. The rest of the witnesses based their testimonies on things that they allegedly heard Joseph say or that others said about him. While this might be corroborating evidence for the key witness' testimonies, of itself the corroborating statements don't prove Joseph was a polygamist. If key witness testimony doesn't hold up as true, then corroborating testimony doesn't matter. In addition, since Joseph couldn't defend against these allegations, to be fair and prevent lying, the testimony of a key witness should have corroborating testimony from at least one other credible witness. I consider four of the key witnesses to be Eliza Roxy Snow, Eliza M. Partridge, Emily D. Partridge, and Lucy Walker because they alleged that they were plural wives of Joseph. Emily D. Partridge, and Lucy Walker also gave testimony to this effect in the Temple Lot Suit. The other two key witnesses are William Clayton and Joseph C. Kingsbury. Clayton allegedly recorded the celestial marriage revelation as Joseph spoke it and Kingsbury copied it the next day. Only Kingsbury gave testimony in the Temple Lot Suit regarding his involvement with the revelation. (A PDF file of all their Temple Lot Suit testimonies is also online.)

When I first read all the polygamy statements from Historical Record 6, I was amazed how clear, articulate, and detailed they were, considering they were made anywhere from 25 to 40 years after the reported events (the last statements were made in the mid-1880s). I found it amazing because I can barely remember the events of last week let alone 25 to 40 years ago—even those events that were life changing. When I compare the allegations of Emily D. Partridge, Lucy Walker, and Joseph C. Kingsbury published in Historical Record 6 with their testimonies in the Temple Lot Suit, their allegations broke down under cross examination. While in the polygamy statements their recollections of events 25 to 40 years earlier were clear, articulate, and detailed, their statements under cross examination in the Temple Lot Suit a few years later were vague, rambling, and contradictory. Their testimonies in the Temple Lot Suit clearly don't support their previous statements published in Historical Record 6. How can this be? My answer is that the original statements were false and as such didn't hold up under cross examination in a court of law.

William Clayton didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. However, in his statement published in Historical Record 6 he said, "The copy [of the celestial marriage revelation] made by Joseph C. Kingsbury is a true and correct copy of the original in every respect." Since Kingsbury's testimony in the Temple Lot Suit under cross examination clearly showed that his original allegations were false, William Clayton's above allegation has to be false, making his entire statement published in Historical Record 6 also false.

Eliza Roxy Snow also didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. In her statement in Historical Record 6 she said, " It is a fact that Sister Emma, of her own free will and choice, gave her husband four wives, two of whom are now living [Eliza being one] and ... she taught them the doctrine of plural marriage and urged them to accept it." Historical Record 6 also shows Eliza Snow and Joseph Smith were married 6/28/1842. However, as an officer of the Ladies Relief Society in Nauvoo, Eliza signed the following statement which was printed October 1, 1842 in the Times and Seasons (an LDS Church paper printed in Nauvoo): "We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practiced in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.... Emma Smith, President. Eliza R. Snow, Secretary" (Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 940). In the same October 1, 1842 Times and Seasons, p. 939, Joseph stated, "Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.... We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church." Obviously, since Eliza didn't know of any other system of marriage other than "one man should have one wife" three months after her purported plural marriage to Joseph, her 1879 statement in Historical Record 6 was not true. Her statement in 1842 is considered more reliable, because of its closeness to the event, than the one made by her 37 years later. In addition, in 1879 she was living in a plural marriage with Brigham Young and as such could have been influenced to support his position that Joseph started polygamy in the church. For more information on the contradictory statements of Eliza Snow, read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Chapter 10.

In Historical Record 6 an affidavit signed by Eliza M. Partridge stated "on the 11th day of May, 1843, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by James Adams, a High Priest in said Church, ... in the presence of Emma (Hale) Smith and Emily D. Partridge." She gives no other particulars of the marriage. Eliza M. Partridge didn't testify in the Temple Lot Suit. So for her statement to be considered true, it must be validated by other credible means. Her statement is corroborated by the statements of Emily Dow Partridge, Lovina Walker, and William Clayton in the same section of Historical Record 6. However, I don't believe Emily Dow Partridge and William Clayton to be credible witnesses for the reasons given above. In Historical Record 6 Lovina Walker testified that in 1846 Emma Smith told her that she witnessed Joseph's marriage to Eliza and gave her consent to it. However, throughout Emma's life, she gave consistent testimony to various people at different times until her dying day that she was Joseph's only wife. Because Lovina Walker's one time testimony conflicts with Emma's life long testimony who was in a position to know the truth, I can't give credibility to Lovina's testimony. As a result, I don't believe Eliza's three corroborating witnesses to be credible and their statements shouldn't be used to corroborate Eliza's statement. Thus, I believe Eliza's statement that she was a plural wife of Joseph must be discarded because it lacks credible corroboration.

To me it is obvious that the statements of the key witnesses published in Historical Record 6 are not true. And if the statements of the key witnesses are not true, then the statements of the other witnesses published in Historical Record 6 can't be used to corroborate their testimony, making this entire body of evidence inadequate in proving Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. Thus, in my opinion the position of the Utah LDS Church and historians that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, based on this body of evidence, is false.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did Joseph lie about polygamy?

As I said in the previous post, I believe Joseph wasn’t a liar and deceiver. He endured great hardships for his beliefs. A liar and deceiver wouldn’t have done so, but would have quickly moved on to “greener” and more lucrative pastures. In addition, the events of his life certainly showed he didn’t use those who believed him to further his power, fame, or fortune. And thus, since He wasn’t a liar and a deceiver, then he was who he said he was: a prophet of God.

The Utah LDS also believe he was a prophet of God and that he was responsible for the introduction of the celestial marriage doctrine (also called spiritual wifery or polygamy) into their church. They believe God revealed to him this doctrine giving him a revelation in 1843 on this subject, which is now section 132 of the Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants. However, Joseph never publically taught this doctrine, but in fact, stood against it. (Joseph always denied association with this doctrine. See Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy). According to the Utah LDS, since he brought forth the revelation, but openly denied his association with it, he must have secretly taught and practiced this doctrine. Thus, they believe he openly lied about not being a polygamist.

While I respect their position, I don’t understand it. Once a person has lied to me or purposely deceived me, I have great difficulty trusting them in the future. In future associations with them, I’m skeptical as to whether they are being truthful and honest with me. It’s only after their future actions continue to show me they are trustworthy that I can trust them again. If I believe Joseph lied about not teaching and practicing polygamy, how can I believe he didn’t lie about the Book of Mormon, or his revelations, or the Inspired Version of the Bible? I can’t, regardless of the reasons for his lie.

Since I do believe he was a prophet of God, how do I resolve this issue? Simply, I believe he didn’t lie about it and someone else did. Now this would be a very foolish position for me to take if there was no historical evidence to support it. However, there is. Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, by Richard and Pamela Price, presently contains over 2 volumes of documentation supporting the position that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. Polygamy came into the church by three different conspiracies, with the last one initiated by Brigham Young and other church leaders, including several in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. As Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy shows, Joseph actively tried to stop it, but because it was practiced in secret (as Brigham and other leaders alleged Joseph did), he couldn’t eradicate it prior to his death. After Joseph’s death, the church was thrown into chaos. The people trusted the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and as a result, Brigham Young, who was president of that quorum, was able to take control of the church. The group he moved west was only about 10,000 church members (See RLDS History of the Church 3:27) of the approximately 30,000 members living in and around Nauvoo, Illinois and the 150,000 to 200,000 members worldwide (See ibid, 3:1). Although relatively small in number, this group was the most organized of the subsequent factions of the church and took with them the church structure (priesthood quorums and organization), church records (including unpublished writings of Joseph), and church moneys. In Utah, Brigham and the leaders of this group continued to practice polygamy and gave credit to Joseph for it inception. The celestial marriage revelation was first made public in 1852, 8 years after Joseph's death, which made it impossible for Joseph to confirm or deny its truth and, thus, seriously discredits the validity of that document. It was publicly presented by Orson Pratt in 1852 in Utah at the request of Brigham Young in order to give public sanction to the practice of polygamy. The Utah LDS Church has not been able to produce credible evidence that Joseph was the founder of polygamy in the church and that the celestial marriage revelation was written by him. (Read the decision rendered March 16, 1894, by Judge Philips in the Temple Lot Case.)

As I search the Internet what amazes me is that all the sites discussing Joseph’s alleged practice of polygamy and his deceitful cover-up never consider the possibility that he may have been telling the truth. It is assumed he taught and practiced polygamy and just lied about it. It appears to me that this narrow reasoning comes from the teachings of the Utah LDS Church over the years and from the many historians who have bought into this position. Nevertheless, I do believe Joseph Smith, Jr. did not teach or practice polygamy. He was a prophet of God and he didn’t lie to his people.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Was Joseph a liar and a deceiver?

There is much information on the Internet indicating Joseph Smith, Jr. was a liar and a deceiver and thus an imposter and a false prophet. And he did these things for his own personal gain: money, power, and fame. However, this is just not true. To help support my position, below is a quote from the RLDS History of the Church which provides some sound reasoning on this issue.

“This testimony [about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon] was related to hundreds of people before it was written in 1838, as many witnesses now living can testify, and was adhered to, and often reaffirmed without variation, to the time of his [Joseph’s] death, in June, 1844. Strange though the claims contained in this testimony are, yet it would be stranger still to think he [Joseph] could suffer as he did for the sake of establishing what he knew to be false. There was absolutely no inducement for him to do so. Neither wealth, fame, nor ease came to him as a result of his thus unflinchingly maintaining this unpopular cause. Thoughtful men who choose to believe his work a delusion, are compelled to admit his sincerity.

“The following statement of Mr. Smucker is a case in point:—

“‘If he were an impostor, deliberately and coolly inventing, and pertinaciously propagating a falsehood, there is this much to be said, that never was an impostor more cruelly punished than he was, from the first moment of his appearance as a prophet to the last. Joseph Smith, in consequence of his pretensions to be a seer and prophet of God, lived a life of continual misery and persecution. He endured every kind of hardship, contumely, and suffering. He was derided, assaulted, and imprisoned. His life was one long scene of peril and distress, scarcely brightened by the brief beam of comparative repose which he enjoyed in his own city of Nauvoo. In the contempt showered upon his head his whole family shared. Father and mother, and brothers, wife, and friends, were alike involved in the ignominy of his pretensions, and the sufferings that resulted. He lived for fourteen years amid vindictive enemies, who never missed an opportunity to vilify, to harass, and to destroy him; and he died at last an untimely and miserable death, involving in his fate a brother to whom he was tenderly attached. If anything can tend to encourage the supposition that Joseph Smith was a sincere enthusiast, maddened with religious frenzies, as many have been before and will be after him—and that he had strong and invincible faith in his own high pretensions and divine mission, it is the probability that unless supported by such feelings, he would have renounced the unprofitable and ungrateful task, and sought refuge from persecution and misery in private life and honorable industry.’— Smucker['s History of the Mormons]. pp. 182–183.

“This reasoning seems to be good. If it is weak at all it is in this: that Joseph Smith could be sincere and his testimony not true. Was his testimony of that character that he could be deceived regarding it? When his sincerity is admitted (and surely Mr. Smucker gives good reasons why we should admit it), is it not virtually admitting the truth of his testimony?” (RLDS History of the Church 1:19–21)

My observation of life is that people lie and deceive for personal gain because these acts are motivated by self-interest. As the above reasoning points out, if Joseph was a liar and deceiver, what personal gain did he receive from it? He received none. At the time of his death in 1844, there were approximately 150,000 to 200,000 church members worldwide who believed him (See RLDS History of the Church 3:1). If he was motivated by self-interest, wouldn’t he have used this large church membership to make himself rich and powerful and above the law? Many others have done so from their devoted followers. But he didn’t because I believe he wasn’t motivated by self-interest. He endured great hardships for what he believed and not for personal gain. And if he wasn’t motivated by self-interest, he couldn’t have been a liar and a deceiver. And if he wasn’t a liar and deceiver, then he was what he said he was: a prophet of God.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why is Joseph's name had for both good and evil?

It is a point of great interest to me that Joseph Smith, Jr. who died in 1844, over 160 years ago, is still so hated today and is thought of as an evil person. This is very evident in the anti-Joseph Smith sites, discussions, blogs, news reports, etc. on the Internet today. What amazes me so is that Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, doesn’t bring a response from people with as much antagonism, hatred, anger, etc. as does Joseph. Yet, all Joseph claimed to be was a prophet of God, like Moses. So why is it that those who believe in his teachings revere him, while those who don’t, think he is evil? The answer to this comes from the first visit of the angel Moroni to him. According to Joseph’s writings, several years after the event, in Times and Seasons, volume 8:

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God I discovered a light appearing in the room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and … that God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (RLDS History of the Church 1:12–13, emphasis added).

Joseph’s name today is “had for good and evil” just as the angel said. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. If this event really happened, and I believe it did, why did God through His angel tell Joseph his name would “be had for … evil?” So Joseph would not be discouraged and give up when he heard people saying evil, untrue things about him, which I believe they have for almost 190 years (his first vision was in 1820). If later in his life Joseph was going to turn into an evil man, as some say he did, God wouldn’t have warned him that his name would “be had for … evil.” When an evil person does evil things, it’s no surprise to them when people say they’re evil. However, when a good person does good things and people say they’re evil, it is a surprise and it is hurtful and discouraging. When God warned Joseph his name would “be had for good and evil,” he was telling Joseph that he would be accused of doing evil things, but because those accusations would be false, he should give them no heed. The angel didn’t say Joseph would be evil, just that his name would “be had for … evil.”

Of course, some people say Joseph made everything up—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything. They say he was a deceiver—a liar and an evil person. For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment he was evil. That would mean that the above words weren’t spoken to him by an angel, but Joseph made them up. He made up that an angel told him his name would “be had for good and evil.” I have known a few people in my life that I consider evil. However, they always tried to present the image that they were good and never once did they state that people would say they’re evil. Because being evil, they didn’t want to create the possibility in other’s minds that they might be evil, and thus their true intent revealed. In my opinion, if Joseph was evil and made up everything he said, he wouldn’t have stated that some people would think he was evil. He wouldn’t have wanted to put seeds of doubt in people’s minds as to his authenticity. Thus, I believe Joseph didn’t make this up. I believe that the above event happened as Joseph said it did. And I believe everything he said was true—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything.

Please keep in mind as you read the upcoming posts that while I believe Joseph was a prophet of God, I also know he was a man and men make mistakes. Moses, a prophet of God, made a mistake at the water of Meribah. As a result, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–13; Deuteronomy 32:49–52). Joseph made the mistake of giving the first 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon to Martin Harris. As a result, he lost the privilege of continuing to translate the book until he had sufficiently repented of his error (See RLDS History of the Church 1:3; RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 2 & 3). However, these were the mistakes of honest, godly men, not evil ones. So when considering Joseph and the work he did, I acknowledge he may have made errors in judgment and action, because he was a man. But he wasn’t an evil one. The evil that people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are not mistakes of an honest, godly man. They are the acts of an evil one. And in the following posts I will try to show that the evil acts which people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are false and that he was truly a good, honorable man and a prophet of God.