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.


  1. I think you should have a look at your Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual used by Institute Students.

    Your church has made the following statements in this manual which is freely downloaded from your Church website:

    "Moreover, Joseph Smith and the Chuch were to accept the principle of plural marriage as part of the restoration of all things (see v. 45). Accoustomed to conventional marriage patterns, the Prophet at first understandably reluctant to engage in the new practice. Due to the lack of historical documentation, we do not know what his early attempts were to comply wiht the commandment in Ohio. His first recorded plural marriage in Nauvoo was to Louisa Beaman; it was performed by Bishop Joseph B. Noble on 5 April 1841. During the next three years Joseph took additional plural wives in accordance with the Lord's command.

  2. Steven, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    From what you said it appears you are presuming I am Mormon. However, I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the Utah LDS Church. I am a member of the Restoration Branches Movement of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). This movement believes in the original doctrines of the RLDS Church, which was established in 1860.

    The Utah LDS Church finds itself trying to stand on a very slipper slope today with regards to polygamy. If they continue with the position of Brigham Young, that Joseph was the author of polygamy in their church, they have to accept that Joseph lied about it because Joseph always taught against it and stated he didn’t practice it. The problem comes then that if Joseph lied about his involvement with polygamy, couldn’t he have also lied about his experience in the grove, the Book of Mormon, the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Inspired Version? He certainly could have which would make their entire foundation questionable.

    On the other hand, if the LDS Church acknowledges that Joseph told the truth, then they have to acknowledge that Brigham Young didn’t. And their beliefs in the Adam-God theory, blood atonement, celestial marriage, and temple ordinances would be based on Brigham Young’s lies, and thus incorrect.

    From what you quoted, the Utah LDS Church seems to be taking the position that Joseph was a polygamist but in a minimizing way. It appears to me they are trying to do some damage control. But the odd thing to me is that they were the ones that originally taught that he was a polygamist, and thus they are coming full circle.

    When one looks at all the books that have been published proclaiming Joseph to be a polygamist, it is difficult to understand how anyone can believe he wasn’t. However, it is not the volume of information that is important -- only its integrity and truthfulness. And that is where these books fail. In June, 2009, Joseph will have been dead for 165 years. There is no new information being found (except for DNA that is mostly ignored by these books) to write about. All these books just re-interpret old information to draw conclusions the author wants to draw. And when one objectively looks at the old information and evaluates it according to standards used in courts of law (i.e., how close to the event it was recorded, if it was first hand knowledge, if there was a motive to lie or slant the truth, etc.), he finds that the old information doesn’t stand up to such scrutiny. Thus, there is no real proof Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.

    If you doubt this, read the Temple Lot Case (which is also ignored in the books about Joseph and polygamy) in which, after considering all the evidence presented by the Utah LDS Church, the Hedrikite Church, and the RLDS Church, the judge determined there was no substantial evidence to determine Joseph was a polygamist and indicated the Utah LDS Church witnesses had pretty well lied about Joseph’s involvement in polygamy. If you still don’t believe this, read Joseph Smith III’s memoirs about how he purposely interviewed all the people he could that professed his father was a polygamist. Not one interview provided any creditable proof of his father’s guilt. If you still doubt, read the interviews of Emma who, throughout her life, consistently testified of Joseph’s innocence. And if all of this doesn’t convince you, then read all of Joseph’s statements and other evidence presented of his innocence in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. And when one considers the flimsiness of the allegations (as shown by the work of Joseph III) against Joseph in comparison to the strength of a court decision, his wife’s testimony, and his own testimony as well as that of others, he begins to realize the truth in the statement made by Israel A. Smith (Joseph’s grandson), “Joseph Smith was the greatest victim of fraud and conspiracy of the last 500 years. Nothing like it in recorded history. He was simply lied about when something had to be done to justify ... Utah Mormon polygamy.”

    So, if Joseph was “lied about” to justify polygamy, why do the books written today continue that lie. Some are written by authors with Mormon backgrounds who have been so schooled in the idea that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy and lied about it that they can’t get past that notion. However, this doesn’t really explain why many ignore or dismiss evidence like the Temple Lot Case or present DNA evidence showing that about half of his alleged children from polygamist marriages have been proven not be his biological children. I believe that the majority of these authors have hidden agendas to demean the character of Joseph and thus negate the work of God through him. To me, this is most evident in the recent book, Nauvoo Polygamy “… but we called it celestial marriage” by George D. Smith, publisher of Signature Books. While this topic is enough to fill several blogs, let me summarize it by saying that most of the books now being written about Joseph and polygamy are coming from authors associated with three groups: John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA), Sunstone, and Mormon History Association (MHA). It is interesting to note that Signature Books publishes Sunstone Magazine and some books of authors associated with JWHA and MHA. The JWHA was established by and continues to have membership of those who led the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) into mainstream Christianity. Their attack on Joseph continues in order to rid that church of its Restoration Movement origins and doctrine. Because of many JWHA members are involved with Sunstone and MHA, I’m speculating that an underlying motive of many involved with Sunstone and MHA is to influence the leadership of the Utah LDS Church to do the same. Thus, I believe the lie continues to be promoted and magnified by those whose agenda is not to tell the truth but to move the Restoration Movement into mainstream Christianity.

    I hope this clarifies a little more of my position.

    1. What happened to the original RLDS leadership? Why did they go into the community of Christ church?

    2. Pepper--

      In the late 1950s the leadership of the RLDS Church began to change Church doctrines and ordinances to correspond with those of Protestant Christianity. Around 1985, the leadership began to close some of the congregations and silence some of the ministers who disagreed with these changes. In order to preserve the original beliefs of the RLDS Church, those who disagreed with the changes and actions of the Church leadership, formed branches of their own and called them Restoration Branches. Restoration Branches maintain the original beliefs of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 2000, the members of the RLDS Church who embraced the doctrinal changes of the Church leadership, changed the name of the Church from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to the Community of Christ.

      Thanks for asking.

    3. Thank you for your reply. I am wondering if the restoration branches claim priesthood? In what way do each of them have claim, if yes

    4. Hi Pepper--

      When the split occurred and Restoration branches were formed, the priesthood continued in the same authority as they had in the RLDS Church. The liberal RLDS leadership did silence many of the priesthood who left. However, these silences were not recognized by the Restoration branches because there was no moral or doctrinal reasons for their priesthood licenses to be removed—only that they were no longer supporting the leadership who were teaching false doctrines and leading the Church into apostasy.

    5. Wow, same thing happening in the LDS corp. interesting! Thanks for sharing the information

  3. like steven says, you need to look into more than your narrow field of study. go to and you can see all the women he was involved with. its no secret Joseph was involved in plural marriage, even though he was publicly denying it.

    p.s mormons are a lot more than just utah these days. get with the times.

  4. Anonymous, thank you for your comments.

    I have read the information at which at first seems conclusive that Joseph was a polygamist. However, upon deeper investigation, the “evidence” upon which this site is based is merely allegations, not proof. People can allege anything about anyone. (And if they are dead, like Joseph, they can’t refute those allegations.) However, for allegations to be true, they must be proved. And the ultimate test of the truth of an allegation is whether it can be proven to be true in a court of law through cross-examination and other corroborating evidence.

    In the Temple Lot Case in the 1890s, the U.S. Circuit Court Judge, John F. Philips, heard testimony from the Utah LDS Church’s best witnesses that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a polygamist and introduced polygamy into the church. He also listened to their responses through cross-examination as well as testimony and cross-examination of witnesses provided by the Church of Christ, Temple Lot, and the RLDS Church on this subject. It was his conclusion that the allegations set forth by the Utah LDS Church were not true. Thus, in the best setting that this country has to determine truth, Joseph Smith, Jr. was found to be innocent of teaching and practicing polygamy. The decision of this court case is the only proof that exists about the issue of Joseph and polygamy. All the rest are unproven allegations.

    To the credit of the site, they reference that five of the twelve children (almost half) that are alleged to be Joseph’s children from polygamist wives have been determined by DNA to not be his children. Since the object of polygamy in the early LDS Church was to produce children, this DNA evidence is proving Joseph was not a polygamist.

    Thus, when Joseph says he didn’t teach or practice polygamy, I believe him because that is where the proof, not allegations, points.

    P.S. I am very aware that the Utah LDS Church is a worldwide organization with about 13 million members. I use the name “Utah LDS Church” instead of “LDS Church” to distinguish it from the original LDS Church established through Joseph Smith, Jr. The Temple Lot Case determined that the Utah LDS Church taught and practiced doctrines not found in the original church and thus was not the true successor to the original church. I mean no disrespect by using the term “Utah LDS Church.”


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