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.