Thursday, August 27, 2009

The "New" Attack on Joseph--Part 2

It has been a very busy spring and summer for me and as a result, I haven’t been able to post anything since April. A few days ago I received a comment from a reader about “The ‘New’ Attack on Joseph” post. They said, “Thanks for your post. I’m interested in hearing more.” So in response to their inquiry, I thought I would write a little more about the subject.

The idea in the first post is that the “new” attack on Joseph Smith, Jr. is being fueled mainly from those involved with the Mormon History Association (MHA), the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA), Sunstone, and Signature Books. The heart of the attack is coming from inside the Restoration Movement. I call it a “new” attack because it is a current day attack, but it doesn’t use new information or sources. The attack is based on many of the same old sources that have been used in attacks on Joseph from the beginning. The information is just being reinterpreted, respun, repackaged, and made to appear new and different. While attacks in the past have focused mainly on the validity of Joseph Smith as a prophet, the “new” attack, using old sources, draws additional conclusions which impugn his personal honor and integrity. The “new” attack is not satisfied to merely conclude he was a false prophet, but viciously concludes he was evil, deceitful, a liar, an adulterer, and a pedophile.

As stated earlier, one of the groups substantially involved in this attack is the JWHA. According to the JWHA history page, this group was formed in September, 1972, by members of the RLDS Church. The founding members included professors at Graceland College (RLDS Church college), editorial staff of the Herald Publishing House (RLDS Church publishing organization), RLDS Church historian, members of the RLDS Church Department of Religious Education, and future president of the RLDS Church. According to Bill Russell, one of the founding members of JWHA, in a presentation given in 2000 at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, many of the founding members of JWHA were heavily involved in liberalizing (Bill Russell’s word) the RLDS Church away from its original beliefs and into the Community of Christ (CofC), which today is nothing more than a mainstream Christian church. Bill Russell stated that this liberalization began in 1958 (which coincides with the year W. Wallace Smith became the president of the RLDS Church) and has continued to the present. To accomplish this task, the liberal founders of JWHA and other liberal leaders systematically began to teach liberal doctrines and to discredit Joseph Smith as a prophet and a man through published articles in the Saints’ Herald, church curriculum, and instruction at Graceland College in the areas of church history and religion. This included questioning the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the Inspired Version, the authority of the church and priesthood, an all male priesthood, the practice of close communion and other doctrines of the church. The First Presidency and higher quorums of the church remained aloof from these discussions to allow deniability if questioned by the membership. The more radical opinions and controversial issues, such as allegations that Joseph was a polygamist, were allowed to be printed in “unofficial” church publications like Courage and The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. Nauvoo, Kingdom on the Mississippi, by Robert Flanders, a founding member of JWHA, portrayed Joseph as less than a moral man and indicated he started the practice of polygamy in the church. The founders of the JWHA definitely had a strong influence in moving the RLDS Church away from its Restoration doctrine and into mainstream Christianity. In part, they accomplished this task by discrediting the character, prophetic calling, and works of Joseph Smith. The JWHA continues to support this position regarding Joseph and the Restoration Movement through its publications, writing achievement awards, and annual meetings. In addition, the annual meetings support liberal social and religious change. Their ideological position is important to remember as we discuss the relationship between the JWHA and the MHA, Sunstone, and Signature Books.

The MHA was founded in 1965 as an affiliate of the American Historical Association and became an independent organization in 1972. According to the history page of the MHA Web site, “MHA was organized to promote understanding, scholarly research, and publication in the field of Mormon History.” There is an obvious connection and association between the MHA and the JWHA. Some presidents of the MHA have also been members and presidents of the JWHA and visa versa. One can apply for membership to both organizations from both the JWHA Web site and the MHA Web site and receive a discount if they do so. Members of both organizations publish in MHA and JWHA publications. Conferences, articles in the Journal of Mormon History, (published by MHA) and writing achievement awards granted in the past by the MHA have, like the JWHA, supported discrediting the character, prophetic calling, and works of Joseph. According to the Journal of Mormon History page of the MHA Web site, “Manuscripts dealing with all aspects of Mormon history are welcome…. First consideration will be given to those which make a strong contribution to knowledge through new interpretations and/or new information” (emphasis added). In addition, MHA conferences and Journal of Mormon History articles have supported reform of Mormonism (including social change) toward mainstream Christianity. So, it seems, the MHA and the JWHA have similar ideological positions about Joseph and the Restoration Movement. Hopefully, this will become even clearer with the information provided below.

The books fueling the “new” attack are many, and the authors come from a Utah LDS background. Some are still members, some are not. Either these books or their authors have received awards from the MHA or the JWHA or both. In addition, many of these authors have written articles published in either the Journal of Mormon History or The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. Their association with the MHA or the JWHA can be verified at the respective Web sites. Books fueling the “new” attack are listed below. I’ve included links to information and reviews about these books so you can briefly see how they attempt to discredit the character, prophetic calling, and works of Joseph Smith.

While the above information is just a cursory look at these books and their authors, it is sufficient to show that the JWHA and MHA are cooperative in their approach against Joseph and fully support the books which are making this “new” attack. It is also interesting to note that most of these books have been published by Signature Books, making it a publishing conduit for the “new” attack. In addition to and intertwined with these three organizations, Sunstone Education Foundation, which publishes Sunstone Magazine, is also involved in supporting the “new” attack.

Sunstone started to sponsor symposiums in 1979 to explore all issues related to Mormonism. Those participating in these discussions are members of JWHA, MHA, and authors of some of the above books. The April, 2009, Midwest Symposium was themed “Examining the Origins of Scripture.” It was held at Graceland University, Independence, MO. It was co-sponsored by the John Whitmer Historical Association, the Community of Christ Seminary, and the Sunstone Education Foundation. CofC presenters included CofC President Stephen Veazey, Richard P. Howard (JWHA), Bill Russell (JWHA), and CofC Apostle Dale Luffman. George D. Smith presented his book, Nauvoo Polygamy “…but we called it celestial marriage.” The August, 2009, Salt Lake Symposium was themed “Zion’s Sisterhood: Celebrating Mormon Women’s Contributions to Church & Culture.” It included participation by CofC apostles, Andrew Bolton and Dale Luffman, as well as Bill Russell, Linda King Newell, and D. Michael Quinn. The Sunstone symposiums support the same liberal social and religious reform issues and the same position about the character, prophetic calling, and works of Joseph Smith as does the JWHA and MHA.

So, what does all of this information point to? It points to a coordinated effort between these organizations to demean the character of Joseph Smith, Jr. But why? If people can be convinced that the vision in the grove didn’t happen, that Joseph lied about his early experiences with God and angels, and that he was an evil person, they will no longer believe in the truth of the Restoration Movement. The liberal leaders of the CofC, including the founders of the JWHA, used this tactic to help move the RLDS Church away from its Restoration distinctives and into mainstream Christianity. It is my opinion that the efforts of the JWHA, the MHA, Sunstone, and Signature Books to demean the character of Joseph Smith are intended to effectuate the same change within the Utah LDS Church.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The "New" Attack on Joseph--Part 1

I recently received comments from a reader about my blog, "Did Joseph lie about polygamy?" In partial response to his comments, I wrote the following words. Because they are pertinent to defending Joseph against the "new" attack on him, I decided to make a blog of them.
When one looks at all the recent books that have been published proclaiming Joseph to be a polygamist, it may be difficult for some 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 in my opinion that is where these books fail. In June, 2009, Joseph will have been dead for 165 years. Obviously, there is no new information on this subject to write about (except for DNA that is mostly ignored by the more current books). 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 anyone doubts 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 there is still doubt, 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 doubt still exists, read the interviews of Emma who, throughout her life, consistently testified of Joseph’s innocence. And if all of this is still not convincing, read all of Joseph’s statements and other evidence presented of his innocence in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. 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? Possibly, the authors with Mormon backgrounds have been so schooled in the idea that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy and lied about it that they can’t get past this notion. However, this doesn’t really explain why many ignore or dismiss evidence like the Temple Lot Case, or Joseph III's investigations, or present DNA evidence showing that about half of Joseph's alleged children from polygamist marriages have been proven not to 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. (Gregory L. Smith in his FARMS Review of this book comes to the same conclusion about the author’s intent in writing this book when he states, “Why was this book published? To advance an agenda? The result often reads like the product of a vanity press rather than a serious attempt to synthesize the best available scholarship.”) Briefly, the great majority 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, mentioned above, sells Sunstone Magazine, the Journal of Mormon History, and publishes and sells 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. I believe their attack on Joseph continues in order to rid that church of its Restoration Movement origins and doctrine. President Veazey of the Community of Christ (CoC), who gave a talk at the 2009 Restoration Studies Symposium sponsored by Sunstone and JWHA, recently intimated in his “Defining Moment” address to the members of the CoC that the church is moving away from Joseph Smith, Jr. and embracing Joseph Smith III, because he taught the “peaceable things of the Kingdom.” Because 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 members and leadership of the Utah LDS Church to move away from Joseph Smith. 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 away from its roots into mainstream Christianity.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Current proof Joseph Smith was a prophet

According to the RLDS Doctrine and Covenants, Section 22, verses 21–23:

And worlds without number have I created... Behold there are many worlds which have passed away by the word of my power; and there are many also which now stand, and numberless are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me; for they are mine, and I know them. The heavens, they are many and they can not be numbered unto man, but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine; and as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works....

In addition, in the Inspired Version of the Bible, Enoch states to God:

And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, and millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations....

In essence these passages from both the Doctrine and Covenants and the Inspired Version state that God has created many worlds in addition to Earth. At the time this was written by Joseph in the early 1830s, there was no evidence or even the slightest indication that inhabitable worlds existed in the universe other than Earth. Yet Joseph claimed they were true and given to him by God.

For over 170 years belief in the truth of these statements has been an exercise of faith—until now. In a recent article at, "Galaxy may be full of 'Earths,' alien life," the author states:

As NASA prepares to hunt for Earth-like planets in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy, there's new buzz that "Star Trek's" vision of a universe full of life may not be that far-fetched.

There may be 100 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, or one for every sun-type star in the galaxy, said Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution and author of the new book "The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets."

Boss said that if any of the billions of Earth-like worlds he believes exist in the Milky Way have liquid water, they are likely to be home to some type of life.

The test of a true prophet is that God reveals His truths through him before the rest of the world comes to that understanding. As Amos 3:7 states, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, until he revealeth the secret unto his servants the prophets." The truth of other inhabitable worlds was revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr. 170 years before the rest of the world came to that knowledge, thus proving Joseph was a prophet of God.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did Joseph Smith, Jr. make improper advances toward Sarah Pratt?

Several sites on the Internet indicate that Joseph Smith, Jr. made improper advances toward Orson Pratt's wife, Sarah Pratt, in Nauvoo while Orson was on a mission to England. According to an article on Sarah Pratt at Wikipedia,

Sarah Pratt claimed in an 1886 interview that, while in Nauvoo around 1840 or 1841, Joseph Smith was attracted to her and intended to make her "one of his spiritual wives." According to Bennett, while Orson was in England on missionary service, Smith proposed to Pratt by claiming divine inspiration: "Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as he granted holy men of old, and I have long looked upon you with favor, and hope you will not repulse or deny me", to which Bennett claimed Pratt replied: "Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant … to my lawful husband! I never will. I care not for the blessings of Jacob, and I believe in NO SUCH revelations, neither will I consent under any circumstances. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me." Also according to Bennett, Smith made three additional proposals. By Bennett's account, Pratt issued an ultimatum to Smith: "Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will tell Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it," a warning that elicited the threat from Smith, "Sister Pratt, I hope you will not expose me; if I am to suffer, all suffer; so do not expose me.... If you should tell, I will ruin your reputation, remember that."

After Orson returned from England, Bennett claims another incident between Pratt and Smith at her home occurred. According to Sarah Pratt's neighbor, Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Sarah ordered the Prophet out of the house, and the Prophet used obscene language to her [declaring that he had found Bennett] in bed with her." Sarah told her husband about the incident; Orson took Sarah's side and confronted Smith, who denied Sarah's allegation and responded that she was Bennett's lover.

The Wikipedia article quotes three sources for this information: Van Wagoner, Richard A. (1986), "Sarah Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (2): 79; Smith, Andrew F. (1971), The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, p. 141; Bennett, John C. (1842), The History of the Saints; or An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism, Boston: Leland & Whiting. In addition to the Wikipedia article, other sites such as Rethinking Mormonism, make similar statements about Sarah Pratt and Joseph Smith, Jr.

However, these sites do not consider the exceptional documentation and rationale presented in the Sarah Pratt Case of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. In the Price's work, they clearly show how Joseph was innocent of any inappropriate behavior with Sarah Pratt. At the end of the article, they quote a most revealing interview which Joseph Smith III conducted with Sarah Pratt. Joseph III last met with Orson Pratt in 1876 and in a later visit to Salt Lake City, he had the opportunity to visit with his wife, Sarah Pratt, about her relationship with Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Joseph Smith III,

The latter part of my conversation with her revolved around the matters I had had particularly in mind when I sought the interview. I asked her, "Sister Pratt, will you allow me to ask you some rather personal and delicate questions?"

"You may ask me any questions proper for a lady to hear and answer," she replied.

I assured her I would use no language a lady should not hear and did not wish to ask any improper question or one she might not answer in the presence of Doctor Benedict who was with me. But I told her I felt there were some which referred to my father and herself which only she could answer.

I asked her to consider the circumstances in which I was placed. I was the son of the Prophet; had been baptized by him; was a member, though a young one, at the time of his death, and thought that I had understood, in part at least, the principles the church taught and believed. But following his death certain things were said about him, his teaching and practice, which were at variance with what I had known and believed about him and about the doctrines he presented. Naturally I wanted to know the truth about these matters, for I assured her I would much rather meet here in this life whatever of truth might be revealed about those things, even though it were adverse to what I believed to be his character, than to wait until after I had passed to the other side and there be confronted with it and compelled to alter my position should such revealment prove I had been in error.

She told me to proceed and the following conversation took place.

"Did you know my father in Nauvoo?"

"Yes, I knew him well."

"Were you acquainted with his general deportment in society, especially towards women?"


"Did you ever know him to be guilty of any impropriety in speech or conduct towards women in society or elsewhere?"

"No, sir, never. Your father was always a gentleman, and I never heard any language from him or saw any conduct of his that was not proper and respectful."

"Did he ever visit you or at your house?"

"He did."

"Did he ever at such times or at any other time or place make improper overtures to you, or proposals of an improper nature—begging your pardon for the apparent indelicacy of the question?"

To this Mrs. Pratt replied, quietly but firmly, "No, Joseph; your father never said an improper word to me in his life. He knew better."

"Sister Pratt, it has been frequently told that he behaved improperly in your presence, and I have been told that I dare not come to you and ask you about your relations with him, for fear you would tell me things which would be unwelcome to me."

"You need have no such fear," she repeated. "Your father was never guilty of an action or proposal of an improper nature in my house, towards me, or in my presence, at any time or place. There is no truth in the reports that have been circulated about him in this regard. He was always the Christian gentleman, and a noble man."

That I thanked Mrs. Pratt very warmly for her testimony in these matters my readers may be very sure. I had constantly heard it charged that my father had been guilty of improper conduct toward Elder Pratt's wife, and I had long before made up my mind that if I ever had an opportunity I would find out the truth from her. The result was very gratifying to me, especially as she had made her short, clear-cut statements freely, just as I have recorded, in the presence of Doctor Benedict.

It may be added that mingled with my pleasure was a degree of astonishment that such stories as had been told about her and her relations with Father should have gotten out and been so widely circulated and yet never met with a public refutation from her. However, I expressed my appreciation of her kind reception and her statements, and at the close of our interview, which lasted about an hour and a half, left her with good wishes.

Doctor Benedict and I passed from her presence into the street in a silence which was not broken until we had gone some distance. Then suddenly he stopped, pulled off his hat, looked all around carefully, and raising his hand emphatically, said:

"My God! What damned liars these people are! Here for years I have been told that your father had Mrs. Pratt for one of his spiritual wives and was guilty of improper relations with her. Now I hear from her own lips, in unmistakable language, that it was not true. What liars! What liars!"

Not a great while after this, just how long I do not know, Mrs. Pratt passed "over the river." I was glad that before she died I had her testimony, and that it had proved, as had been proved many times before, that such charges made against my father were untrue. (The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), pp. 33-34)

It is obvious to me that Sarah Pratt's in-depth interview, with repeated questions and answers designed to reveal the truth, carries much more evidentiary weight than a simple statement to the contrary. And indeed, it carries much more weight than third party statements to the contrary. So, did Joseph Smith, Jr. make improper advances toward Sarah Pratt? Absolutely not! In Sarah Pratt's own words to Joseph III, "Your father was never guilty of an action or proposal of an improper nature in my house, towards me, or in my presence, at any time or place. There is no truth in the reports that have been circulated about him in this regard. He was always the Christian gentleman, and a noble man" (ibid., p.34).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Howard Corey's Testimony Refuted

The Historical Record 6, edited and published by Andrew Jenson, provides the following affidavit made by Howard Corey, in June, 1882:

As many false statements have been made in relation to the authorship of the revelation on celestial marriage, I deem it but justice to all lovers of truth for me to express what I know concerning this very important matter.

On the 22nd day of July, A. D. 1843, Hyrum Smith, the martyred Patriarch, came in a carriage to my house in Nauvoo; he invited me and my wife to take a ride with him; accordingly, as soon as we could make ourselves ready, we got into the carriage and he set off in the direction of Carthage. Having gone a short distance, he observed to us that his brother, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, had received a revelation on marriage, that was not for the public yet, which he would rehearse to us, as he had taken pains to commit it to memory. He then commenced rehearsing the revelation on celestial marriage, not stopping till he had gone quite through with the matter. After which he reviewed that part pertaining to plurality of wives, dwelling at some length upon the same in order that we might clearly understand the principle. And on the same day (July 22nd, 1843) he sealed my wife, formerly Martha Jane Knowlton, to me; and when I heard the revelation on celestial marriage read on the stand in Salt Lake City in 1852, I recognized it, as the same as that repeated to me by Brother Hyrum Smith. Not long after this I was present when Brother David Fullmer and wife were sealed by Brother Hyrum Smith, the martyred Patriarch, according to the law of celestial marriage. And, besides the foregoing, there was quite enough came within the compass of my observation to have fully satisfied my mind that plural marriage was practiced in the city of Nauvoo.

Joseph Smith III's interview with Howard Corey in 1885 (only three years later) revealed a much different understanding than the above.

As I look back today over the events of my visit to Provo in 1885, I see in memory one man who had been an in­mate of my father's house in Nauvoo from time to time, and to me always an agreeable companion. I refer to the school teacher, Howard S. Corey. After obeying the gospel, he and his wife came from the East with a company desiring to settle among the Saints. It was his wife, as I have stated, who wrote, at the dictation of my grandmother, the book entitled Joseph Smith and His Progenitors, commonly known among us as “Lucy Smith’s History.”

Mr. Corey taught the second school I remember attending after my earliest lessons at home. I have written of this school, kept in the double loghouse, one end of which was occupied as a living room, situated in the same block as the homes of Uncle Hyrum and John Taylor. He was the man whose leg father broke when engaged in a friendly tussle, as I have related. After father's death he and his wife remained a year or two at Nauvoo, and then went West with other immigrants to Utah soon after grand­mother's history was completed.

On Friday, July 10, about noon, a man came to Brother Gammon's desiring a talk with me. I bade him be seated and was just about to settle down beside him when two others came in, one of whom had a whip in his hand. They came for­ward, and one announced himself as Howard S. Corey, introducing the other as a Mr. Dusenberry, nephew of Judge Dusenberry, of Provo. The young man had brought Mr. Corey over in his buggy, for, having heard I was in town, the latter desired to see me and have an interview with me. I told him I was very glad to meet him again and that he was very welcome.

The gentleman who had first come in asked if he should not retire and come another time, but I told him to stay, for nothing would be said that he might not hear; so he was present throughout the interview. The young man Dusenberry, a much younger man than Corey, took a seat nearby where he also could hear well what was said, and there were pres­ent, besides, Thomas Gammon, our host, and Elders Anthony and Luff whom I in­troduced to my visitors.

After these preliminaries Elder Corey stated that he had been very anxious to meet me ever since he heard I was in Utah and that now he had come to tell me his story in order that I might not be entirely ignorant of matters which had happened in the past. After a few words exchanging memories of affairs at Nauvoo, he began his story, and told it well—that is, it would have been well for him had I not remembered quite clearly a number of things which proved somewhat troublesome for him to ex­plain or answer, in view of his anxiety to enlighten me upon things which he thought I ought to know.

After he had finished his recital, I be­gan questioning him, being particularly desirous to obtain directly from him whatever he might know of my father's reputed connection with the introduction and practice of plural marriage, celes­tial marriage, polygamy or spiritual wifery. He had stated that he was taught celestial marriage by my uncle, Hyrum Smith, and by him had been so married to his wife. Our interview took about this form:

"Brother Corey, did you see or hear read in Nauvoo any 'revelation' on celes­tial marriage?"

"No; I was taught it in conversation by Hyrum Smith."

"Was it publicly preached at Nauvoo to your knowledge?"

"It was not."

"Did you hear my father teach or preach it?"

"No, sir."

I knew that this man had been a fre­quent visitor at my father's house, often eating meals there, and sometimes doing clerical work for father. Therefore, having been so intimate an acquaintance with the members and affairs of my father's household, he was in a position to be fairly well informed about what ordi­narily occurred there. Recollecting these conditions, I asked him:

"Did you ever see at my father's house any woman besides my mother who was known and recognized as my father's wife?"

"No, sir. I did not."

"Did you ever see him abroad in company with any woman, other than my mother, who was known or reputed to be his wife?"

"I never did."

By this time he had grown a little res­tive under the questioning, but I told him to have patience with me, that I was anxious to find out all I could, and knowing and remembering him, as I did, to have been an intimate acquaintance of the family, it was natural for me to believe he would be able to give me direct and fairly authentic information on these important matters. I told him I was not a child, and was prepared and willing to face either the worst or the best as the truth might reveal it to be. He expressed a willingness to give me any information within his power and therefore I continued my questions.

"Did you attend the social gatherings held among the Saints at Nauvoo?"

"Yes, to some extent."

"Did you ever see my father present at any of those festivities?"


"Did you ever see any woman with him, other than my mother, who was introduced by him as his wife?"

"No, sir; I never saw him in the com­pany of any other woman than your mother, Emma."

"Do you have personal knowledge that my father was, married to, or lived as husband with, any woman, other than my mother?"

Without hesitation or qualification, he answered, "No sir; I never did."

Coming back to the thought of the "revelation" about which I had asked him, and to his statement about his "celestial" marriage to his wife, I asked:

"Did your 'celestial marriage' to your wife take place in the Temple?"

"No, sir; the Temple was not finished then."

"Did it take place in the Masonic Hall?"


"In the Brick Store office?"

"No, sir."

"Was it in a dwelling house?"

"No, sir; it was on the street."

"How was that?"

"Well, I had held conversations with your Uncle Hyrum, in which he taught me that married couples who felt that they were sufficiently agreeable to one another in their married life together that they wished those associations to be continued after death could go before some high priest and be sealed for eter­nity, in order to assure the continuance on the other side of their ties as married companions. My wife and I had talked this over, and one day, riding in a buggy up Main Street, we met Brother Hyrum on his way home. At his suggestion, we stood up in the buggy, clasped our hands together, and he pronounced the ceremony uniting us as husband and wife for eternity, having already been married for time."

"Do you know of any other persons who were sealed in a similar way?"

"Yes, an elderly couple well past mid­dle age, whose children were away from home, were sealed in my presence with this ceremony."

"Was it done by father?"

"No; it was a high priest who was a neighbor to them."

"Was it taught that this ceremony which was said to be revealed was in­tended as a marriage ceremony in the ordinary use of the term, used to unite those not already married and who con­templated living together as husband and wife in the flesh as is done in the case of the civil marriage?"

Distinctly he answered. "It was not. It was only intended for those already married, who were desirous of continu­ing in the next life their associations as husband and wife found pleasant here. It was not contemplated or considered as a marriage ceremony such as that one contained in the Book of Covenants which is used as a form and authority in the church."

"Did you know any man already mar­ried, who was sealed by this ceremony to any woman, or to women, other than his own wife?"

"No, sir; I did not. It was not intended to be used in that way, and it did not in­clude the joining in marriage for the purpose of domestic life together as does the usual marriage ceremony."

I was particularly pleased with these answers to my questions. Thinking to test his memory and also to justify my­self, if possible, by what he would an­swer, I then asked him how he accounted for the fact now generally conceded that no children were born to my father or to my Uncle Hyrum in polygamy or plural marriage, since it had so often been stated that they had a number of wives.

Mr. Corey waited for a moment, as if thinking deeply, and then answered:

"Brother Joseph, I confess that ques­tion has been quite a stumblingblock to me for I have no way of answering it satisfactorily to myself except I should do it in the way the mother of a young friend of mine accounted for it. He used to work with me up in the canyons after wood, and we used often to talk about the Prophet Joseph and his work. One day he asked me this same question you have asked, and plied me with a number of arguments that I could not an­swer. He then said he intended to ask his mother."

At this point in Mr. Corey's story I interjected: "Was she one of Father's reputed wives?"

"Oh, yes," he answered, "his mother was one of your father's wives. I tried to persuade him not to broach the subject to his mother, but he seemed determined, for he was plainly curious to know why your father, in the vigor of young manhood, had never had children by any of his plural wives. When next we met and sat down to lunch in the wood, my young companion told me he had carried out his intention and had asked his mother about this matter, and she had replied, after due deliberation, 'My son, the prophet was very considerate in his associations with women, and did not wish to subject them to the disgrace of having children without being married!'"

At this astounding statement I exclaimed, "Disgrace, Brother Corey, disgrace?"

A flush spread over his features, and he said, slowly, "Perhaps she should have said 'supposed disgrace,' but her answer to the young man was as I have stated it to you."

At this the young Mr. Dusenberry hastily arose and said, "Come, Brother Howard, it is time we were going."

I could not repress the impulse to say, smiling broadly, "That is right, Brother Dusenberry; better take him away before he makes any further admissions that are damaging to your case."

I thanked Elder Corey most heartily for his kindness in coming to see me and for the reassuring statements he had made, which had greatly encouraged and heartened me.

We discussed numbers of people and events of those earlier days, and he said before we parted, "I perceive, Brother Joseph, that you remember a good deal more than I thought possible."

After he and his companion took their departure, I turned to the gentleman who had been waiting for his interview and found to my surprise that he was suffering under the influence of some excitement. His face was very red, he was perspiring freely, and when he attempted to speak his lips quivered, and tears threatened to flow down his cheeks. He burst out with the words:

"My God, my God! Brother Smith, what shall we do, what shall we do?"

"What do you mean, friend?" I asked him.

"Why, when I thought of all I had been told about your father, I came here to ask you some questions and to overwhelm you with what I supposed I knew. And you have kindly let me stay and hear this conversation between you and a man who must have been thoroughly acquainted with the facts, and here I have heard him testify just contrary to what has always been claimed and charged out here. I am astonished and bewildered!"

"You do not blame me for making the inquiries I did, do you?"

"Oh, no, not at all—but see what a fix it puts us all in, Brother Smith."

His words will have more meaning for the reader when I state that he was, as he told me, one of the three presiding officers of the local Mormon church at Provo and had come, in a spirit of bravado, to see me and "face me down" on some of the points I had made in my sermon the night before. He seemed to be curiously wrought upon, almost fearful. I comforted him the best I could, telling him that if a man did the best he knew and lived as near God as was possible, he need have no fear of consequences.

He kept reverting to the fact that they were "all in trouble," that their leading men were being arrested, and that he did not know what was the best to be done. I did not ask him to tell me about his own life, whether polygamous or not, but I rather inferred that it was. He finally thanked me for my courtesy and went his way.

Whatever may have been the ultimate result to him of the conversation and testimony he had heard, I have had no means of ascertaining, but when the guests were all gone, Brethren Anthony, Luff, Gammon, and I compared notes and were all quite surprised at the developments. By some means, or under the influence of some power, Corey had been moved to give information which we were quite sure he had not intended and which he would have been glad if he had not imparted to me. It had come into our conversation so naturally and informally he had been quite unsuspecting and off his guard, while I, on the contrary, in my anxiety had been quite on the qui vive. I shall never forget the bewildered expression that came over his face following his repetition of the answer the mother had given to her son, "The Prophet Joseph was a very, very considerate man and did not want to subject the women to the disgrace of haying children when they were not married. (The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), pp. 230-232)

Obviously from the answers given by Howard Corey to Joseph Smith III, his testimony published in The Historical Record was not true. He just made it up to support the position of the Utah LDS Church that the celestial marriage revelation (Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants 132) came from Joseph Smith, Jr. This is additional evidence that the affidavits and statements obtained by Joseph F. Smith do not "prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Joseph Smith, the Prophet, did teach and practice the principle of plural marriage in his lifetime" (The Historical Record 6, page 233). In fact, their untruthfulness testifies that Joseph Smith, Jr. was indeed innocent of teaching or practicing polygamy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Did Joseph hide polygamy because he feared opposition?

It is said in many discussion groups, blogs, and sites on the Internet that Joseph hid his practice of polygamy because he feared violent repercussions from the community if they found out. I've always felt this argument was extremely weak because Joseph was already persecuted (beaten, tarred and feathered, thrown in jail) for what he believed and taught. Exposing to the public a belief and practice of polygamy wouldn't have made the persecutions any worse.

The other night I happened to read again Chapter 7 of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. At the end of the chapter, the authors address this issue in an excellent manner. So I thought I would quote what they said.

The belief that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, but did it secretly because he feared opposition, is a ridiculous, weak belief according to Joseph's sons, Joseph III, Alexander, and David.

Joseph Smith III was eleven and a half years old at the time of his father's death. The young lad had a deep respect for, and a close relationship with, his father. He was intelligent and studious, and knew more about the polygamy conspiracy against his father than most Saints, because he often witnessed his mother and father's joint work to counteract the false polygamous charges which Bennett had made. He had the opportunity to observe his father's behavior, language, and mindset in public and private, both in the Prophet's office and home. As an example, the father required that Joseph III sometimes accompany him upon the rostrum during worship services; and the boy stayed at least once with his father while the Prophet was in hiding. Joseph III had this to say in answer to Brigham Young and others' claims that his father kept a polygamous revelation and polygamous marriages secret because of fear of the public:

To assert that Joseph Smith was afraid to promulgate that doctrine [polygamy], if the command to do so had come from God, is to charge him with a moral cowardice to which his whole life gives the lie. Nor does it charge him alone with cowardice, but brands his compeers with the same undeserved approbrium. The very fact that men are now found who dare to present and defend it, is proof positive that Joseph and Hyrum Smith would have dared to do the same thing had they been commanded so to do.

The danger to the lives of those men would have been no more imminent, nor any greater in the preaching of "Celestial Marriage," than it was in preaching the "Golden Bible" and the doctrine that Joseph Smith was a prophet blessed with divine revelation. For the preaching of these tenets many lost their lives; Joseph and Hyrum Smith were repeatedly mobbed, were imprisoned and finally died, in the faith originally promulgated, but—if we may judge from their public records,—not believers in polygamy. (Joseph Smith III, Reply to Orson Pratt [tract], 4)

Alexander Hale Smith, a son of the Prophet, was six years old when his father was slain. After studying the polygamous charges against his father he wrote:

We also learn another fact: ... That in the brain of J. C. Bennett was conceived the idea, and in his practice was the principle first introduced into the church; and from this hellish egg was hatched the present degrading, debasing, and destructive polygamic system, known as "spiritual wifery," or the "celestial marriage," so called.

It is said that Joseph Smith, the martyr, received a revelation revealing the "celestial marriage" and instituting "plurality of wives." I have already examined the testimony of Joseph Smith, concerning the marriage ceremony; and he declares that he knew of no other system of marriage than the one quoted from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants [1835 Kirtland Edition, 101; 1844 Nauvoo Edition, 109; 1866 Liverpool Edition, 109; RLDS DC, 111]. . . .

But says one, "that was only a sham to blind the eyes of our enemies." Shame on the man, or set of men, who will thus wilfully charge the two best men of the nineteenth century, the two Prophets of the most high God, with publishing to the church and the public at large a lie, and signing their names to it.

"Oh! but it was done to save their lives." A very likely story, when those two men had faced death and the world for fourteen long years, preaching the word of God to a sin-cursed generation. No, no, it will not do, you must meet the truth with better weapons than that, if you expect to make much of a battle. Besides all that, Is it not written, that "He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it, and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it," and did not they know this. Yes, a thousand times yes; it was their hope, their consolation in times of danger. (Alexander H. Smith, Polygamy: Was It an Original Tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? [tract], 6)

In spite of all that Joseph did to proclaim that he was not lying when he said he had not had a polygamous revelation, and that he was honest in his condemning of polygamy, members of the LDS Church proclaim even to this day that Joseph did receive Section 132 and was a polygamist. Joseph's side of the story has been, and is being, purposefully ignored by the LDS Church. They never give Joseph credit for having spoken the truth on this subject. In fact, they consider it was necessary and acceptable for the Prophet to lie, even though the Scriptures teach that lying is a major sin. It is ridiculous to believe that Joseph lied about polygamy because he feared a prejudiced public—for even the Mormons publish that Joseph bravely faced death at Carthage, saying, "I am calm as a summer's morning" (Times and Seasons 5 [July 15, 1844]: 585; RLDS DC 113:4b; LDS DC 135:4). When Joseph's statements against polygamy are taken at face value and are read with the realization that he was not a cowardly liar—an astounding fact becomes obvious—that it was Brigham and his pro-polygamist party that palmed a fraudulent polygamy conspiracy upon the Saints, which has blighted the Latter Day Saint Movement for over a century and a half.

So well said, there is nothing more to comment about this issue.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who was the greatest defender of Joseph Smith, Jr.?

Many blogs, discussion groups, and even Wikipedia assert that toward the end of Joseph Smith III's life he wavered in his belief that his father, Joseph Smith, Jr., did not teach or practice polygamy. According to a Wikipedia article on the origin of LDS polygamy, "In the end, Smith concluded that he was 'not positive nor sure that [his father] was innocent' and that if, indeed, the elder Smith had been involved, it was still a false practice." This position is used by those believing Joseph Smith, Jr. taught and practiced polygamy to diminish Joseph III's lifelong defence of his father's honor so their position can be made stronger. However, this position is just not true.

In 1913, during the last part of his 80th year and a little more than a year prior to his death, Joseph Smith III wrote the following in his memoirs:

It may be supposed at this writing (I am now nearing the close of my eightieth year), after the lapse of thirty-six years since I took the stand I did in Salt Lake City, among those people so diverse and hostile to my faith, that I should have some regrets that I had not adopted a different policy and followed, possibly, a more conciliatory course in order to make a more favorable impression. But I now record that such is not the case. Through all these years of reflection over the experiences which attended that first visit and several later ones, in which I preached at many places as opportunity offered--north, south, east, and west--and came in contact with many advocates of polygamy and plural marriage, I have entertained no wish that I had taken a less positive stand. I have never felt that any softer policy would have been wiser, for I am satisfied that I have found and occupied the only tenable ground open to me as the son of the prophet Joseph Smith, whom I believed to be innocent of responsibility for the evils they had embraced. As leader of the church reorganized, I felt sure that position was the one which could be maintained and successfully defended from the beginning of the conflict to the very end. (The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), p. 164, italics added)

Just a little over a year prior to his death, Joseph Smith III still believed his father "to be innocent of responsibility for the evils [polygamy] they [Utah LDS] had embraced." Thus, contrary to what many proclaim, he did not waiver in this position. He was firm in his belief to the end.

So, with all the information presented to him indicating his father's involvement in polygamy, how did he retain his firm belief of his father's innocence? Simply, his belief was founded in the truth because he could separate opinion from fact. As he said earlier in his memoirs:

I had made the law my study, and I had not regretted it, for I had already found that what knowledge along those lines I had acquired had been of much value to me in the work I had undertaken. I had gone into the conflict against error and false claims with a mind at least partially trained along legal lines, and I knew how to value evidence. I knew the difference between assumption and fact, and was prepared to examine whatever was presented as evidence in such a manner as to determine whether or not it was worth of the name of proof, especially in the controversy then existing between the various factions of the church. (ibid., p. 163)

Through all of his investigations, Joseph III never found a shred of credible evidence, even from the alleged plural wives, to prove his father guilty of polygamy. Thus, he remained convinced of his father's innocence to the end of his life. Indeed, Joseph Smith III was his father's greatest defender.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Was Melissa Lott Willis a plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr.?

I have recently been reading The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914) and found his statement of a conversation he had with the Lott sisters (Melissa, Mary, and Alzina) in October, 1885, at Lehi, Utah. Melissa Lott Willis was one listed on page 234 of The Historical Record 6, edited and published by Andrew Jenson, as a plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. A sketch of her life is found on page 119 of this work and in part states:

…on Sept 1843 she was married to Joseph Smith for time and all eternity. She spent most of the following winter in his family going to school in the so-called brick store. The Prophet's children, Joseph, Frederick and Alexander, went to same school, under the immediate watch-care of Sister Malissa. In the spring of she went back to live with her parents on the farm, where she remained until after martyrdom of her husband in Carthage Jail. Subsequently she lived with Emma, occasionally, until the exodus in 1846, when she left Nauvoo with the rest of Saints.

She is ever unflinching in her testimony of what she knows to be true, and states in the most positive terms, and without any hesitation, that she was sealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet on the above named date, and became, in the full meaning of the term, his wife according to the sacred order of celestial marriage. She further states that when she was married to Ira Jones Willes, he fully understood that he was marrying a widow of Joseph Smith, the martyred Prophet; that their association together would end with this life, and that in the morning of the resurrection she would pass from him to the society of her deceased husband.

However, in her October, 1885, meeting with Joseph Smith III her statement was quite different, making the truth of the above suspect. From what he states, this meeting took place sometime after her sworn affidavit was published by Joseph F. Smith. According to Joseph Smith III:

In the evening we held a service in the Music Hall of the city [Lehi, Utah]. We went early to the room and were met and welcomed by a number of our own members, as well as other friends and citizens. In chatting before the services somebody came and told me that Mrs. Ira Willis was present. I referred to this woman in the early part of these Memoirs.

This news was of interest for I had frequently been told that she, who used to be Melissa Lott, claimed to have been a wife to my father and would so testify, and that I would not dare to visit and interview her for she would tell me unwelcome things. I had, of course, seen the affidavits which she and others made, published by Joseph F. Smith to bolster up his statement that Father had more wives than one.

I at once went to Mrs. Willis, was introduced, and promptly asked the privilege of calling upon her for an interview. This permission she very cordially granted. (The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), p.244)

By appointment I went to the home of Mrs. Willis at ten o'clock on the Tuesday following our meeting in the Music Hall. As I have already stated in connection with this woman, she was a daughter of Cornelius P. Lott, a man who had come to Nauvoo from the East, his family consisting of wife, sons John and baby Peter, and daughters Melissa, Martha, Mary, and Alzina. They lived in a house on the farm belonging to Father, just east of the city, and I knew them all in a general way. I was fairly well acquainted with Melissa and with her history and movements up to the time of their departure from Nauvoo, when they all emigrated to Utah.

Melissa married Ira Willis, as I have related—a kind, shrewd Yankee and most excellent man. I had heard that they had had two sons, but when I went to call on her she was living alone. One son had died as he approached manhood, and the husband and the other son had together met death in an accident occurring when they were coming down from the mountains with a load of wood. So she was left a widow and childless at the same time.

Her home was a one-room cottage, and when bidden to enter I found her sitting by the fireside preparing things for the midday meal. It was an old-fashioned fireplace such as I was used to seeing, with broad hearth and wide-throated chimney in which were the traditional hooks to support the kettles swung over the fire, the big dogs on which the logs rested, and nearby the fireshovel, tongs, and poker. Ira Willis had always been a thrifty and handy man-of-all-work and loved to make and provide many conveniences and accessories for his home. I have told how Ira Willis once released my tongue from a frosty axe by pouring warm water on the imprisoned member. He had a hearty laugh at my expense, and for several hours I nursed an extra mouthful of swollen tongue. Mother too had laughed at the occurrence when she heard of it and told me it would be well for me if I could learn some things without trying too many experiments for myself! I have never forgotten that instance and even today, as I retell the story, my stenographer and I have had a hearty laugh over the predicament of an excited boy rushing into the house with his tongue glued to a frosted axe!

I was well received by Mrs. Willis whom I knew by the old familiar name of Melissa. I told her I had a great desire to talk with her for I had been informed she knew things I would not dare to question her about. I said I wanted to know the truth, whatever it was, and believed that in answer to my questions she would be willing to tell me what she knew.

She answered that she would be glad to grant the interview, but explained that some unexpected company was coming for lunch and she would prefer if I could call in the afternoon instead, when she would be more at liberty and with leisure for a conversation. Of course this was agreeable to me, and after exchanging a few reminiscences I left her.

Returning in the afternoon I found her guests had gone, and she was ready for a chat, willing, as she said, to answer any question I would ask about conditions in Nauvoo of which she had any knowledge. I began by asking:

"Did you know of the teaching of plural marriage or polygamy at Nauvoo?"

"I had heard of it in private but not publicly."

"Did you know of any woman having been married to, my father and living with him as his wife, besides my mother?"

"No; and nothing of the kind occurred to my knowledge."

"Do you have any reason to believe such a thing took place and that my mother knew of there being another woman besides herself who was wife to my father?"

"No," quite emphatically, "I am sure she did not."

"Now, Melissa, I have been told that there were women, other than my mother, who were married to my father and lived with him as his wife, and that my mother knew it. How about it?"

She answered rather tremulously, "If there was anything of that kind going on you may be sure that your mother knew nothing about it."

I then asked her what was her opinion of my mother's character for truth and veracity. She replied that she considered my mother one of the noblest women in the world, and that she had known her well and knew her to be as good and truthful a woman as ever lived.

"Then you think I would be justified in believing what my mother told me?"

"Yes, indeed, for she would not lie to you."

"Well, Melissa, my mother told me that my father had never had any wife other than herself, had never had any connection with any other woman as a wife, and was never married to any woman other than herself, with her consent or knowledge, or in any manner whatsoever. Do you consider I am justified in believing her?"

Without hesitation she answered, "If your mother told you any such thing as that you may depend upon what she said and feel sure she was telling the truth, and that she knew nothing about any such state of affairs. Yes, you would be entirely justified in believing her."

Our conversation continued for some time. Finally I asked, plainly, "Melissa, will you tell me just what was your relation to my father, if any?"

She arose, went to a shelf, and returned with a Bible which she opened at the family record pages and showed me a line written there in a scrawling handwriting:

"Married my daughter Melissa to Prophet Joseph Smith—" giving the date, which I seem to remember as late in 1843.

I looked closely at the handwriting and examined the book and other entries carefully. Then I asked:

"Who were present when this marriage took place—if marriage it may be called?"

"No one but your father and myself."

"Was my mother there?"

"No, sir."

"Was there no witness there?"

"No, sir."

"Where did it occur?"

"At the house on the farm."

"And my mother knew nothing about it, before or after?"

"No, sir."

"Did you ever live with my father as his wife, in the Mansion House in Nauvoo, as has been claimed?"

"No, sir."

"Did you ever live with him as his wife anywhere?" I persisted.

At this point she began to cry, and said, "No, I never did; but you have no business asking me such questions. I had a great regard and respect for both your father and your mother. I do not like to talk about these things."

"Well, Melissa, I have repeatedly been told that you have stated that you were married to my father and lived with him as his wife and that my mother knew of it. Now you tell me you never did live with him as his wife although claiming: to have been married to him. You tell me there was no one present at that purported marriage except the three of you and that my mother knew nothing about such an alliance. Frankly, I am at a loss to know just what you would have me believe about you."

I was about to make still closer inquiries in order to find out if she ever had any relations of any sort with my father other than the ordinary relations that may properly exist between such persons under the usual conditions of social procedure, when just then there came a rap on the door, and in walked her sisters Mary and Alzina.

Alzina lived rather near Melissa, but Mary, the older, was living some twenty-five or thirty miles away. Hearing I was in Lehi she had hitched up her team andt come to see me, stopping at Alzina's on the way and bringing her along.

They expressed great pleasure in meeting me again, and I was glad to see them. Our talk was general for a while, for their entrance had changed my line of inquiry somewhat. Then, urged to put to Melissa a question of importance, I asked:

"Melissa, do you know where I can find a brother or a sister, child or children of my father, born to him by some woman other than my mother—in Illinois, Utah, or anywhere else?"

She answered that she did not, whereupon Mary broke in and said:

"No, Brother Joseph, for there isn't any!”

Then she went on to say, "For twelve years I have made it my business to run down every rumor I have heard about the existence of children born to the Prophet by those women who were reputed to have been his wives. I have traveled a good many miles here and there for the purpose of finding out the truth about such statements, and not in one single instance have I ever found them substantiated or any evidence presented that had the least bit of truth in it. I have never been able to find a single child which could possibly have been born to Joseph Smith in plural marriage."

At this juncture Alzina snapped in with an explosive and characteristic exclamation:

"No, Brother Joseph, there is none, and what's more, I don't believe there ever was any chance for one!"

The earnestness of her manner and the snap with which she pointed her remark caused a ripple of laughter among us, in which, however, Melissa did not join. Noticing this, I turned to her and said:

"Melissa, how about it? You hear what your sisters are saying?"

Tears began to trickle down her face as she said, "Yes, Brother Joseph, I hear them."

"Well, what do you say? Can I believe as they do?"

She drew a deep breath, as if making a sudden decision, and then, with a sigh with lips trembling:

"Yes; you can believe that they are telling you the truth. There was no chance for any children."

Mary then explained in more detail about certain places she had gone to make inquiries directly of the persons involved (whom she named) and to see the women and the children who, it was stated, were wives and offspring of the Prophet. She said in every instance she proved the report false, either as to the woman claiming to be such a wife or as to children being there as claimed.

I thanked her and the other girls for the statements they had made. Our conversation on this and other topics continued for some time. We recalled many incidents of old times, and I learned from them of the deaths of their parents and the whereabouts and fortunes of others of the family.

I left these sisters feeling well repaid for my persistence in obtaining the interview with Mrs. Willis. In spite of what I had been told, she had neither been able to "face me down" nor to convince me that my father had done reprehensible things which I would be unwilling to believe. Instead, I left her presence and that of her sisters with my previous convictions more firmly established, if such a thing were possible. The interview had convinced me that the statement made in an affidavit of this Melissa Lott Willis, published by Joseph F. Smith along with others of similar import, to the effect that she had been married to Joseph Smith, was not true, provided the word married be construed as conveying the right of living together as man and wife, a relation she had unequivocally denied in my presence. I was convinced that wherever the word married or sealed occurred in such testimonials regarding my father it meant nothing more than that possibly those women had gone through some ceremony or covenant which they intended as an arrangement for association in the world to come, and could by no means have any reference whatever to marital rights in the flesh.

I was also convinced from the statements of Mrs. Willis that the entry in the Bible which she showed to me was a line written by her father, or some other person, recording an untruth. When I asked her in plain language how it happened she had not lived with my father as his wife if she had really been married to him, she had answered in equally plain language, that she had not lived with him in that manner because it was not right that she should do so.

I had made up my mind when I went to Utah that whenever and wherever I found opportunity I would converse with those women who had claimed, or were reputed, to be wives of my father— wives in polygamy, plural marriage, celestial, sealed, or any kind of arrangement—and in so doing I would subject them to as severe a cross examination as was within my power, to get as near as possible to the actual truth of the circumstances and the reports. It was for this reason I had called upon this woman, and I should have questioned her still further and in a more specific manner had not the entrance of her sisters turned the trend of conversation in a measure.

After my visit south, to Beaver, we passed through Lehi again on our way back to Salt Lake City, at which time I tried to have another conversation with Mrs. Willis, but learned she was not at home. I knew it would have been entirely useless to question her in the presence of an elder of their church as she would either evade my questions or refuse utterly to answer. Indeed, it is possible she may have been so far under domination and surveillance as to have stated, in such a contingency, that which was not true. As it was, I felt I had secured truthful statements from her, for she had betrayed some real depths of emotion as we conversed. She had stated that I might believe what my mother had told me for she regarded my mother as an honest, upright woman who was absolutely truthful. She had also stated that notwithstanding the "marriage" entry scribbled in her Bible, purported to be written by her father, she had not lived with Joseph Smith as his wife, believing it was "not right" to do so, and further, that he had never urged her to do so. I had also learned from her and her sisters that so far as their knowledge went there had been no issue of any polygamous marriages made by Joseph Smith, such as had been alleged. (The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), pp. 245-246)

Obviously, Melissa Lott Willis was not "unflinching in her testimony of what she knows to be true ... that she was sealed to Joseph Smith the Prophet ... in the full meaning of the term [and was] his wife according to the sacred order of celestial marriage." However, I firmly believe she told the truth to Joseph III. It’s easy to lie to someone who doesn’t know the truth, but almost impossible to lie to someone who does. According to Joseph III, he was “fairly well acquainted with Melissa and with her history and movements up to the time of their departure from Nauvoo….” He knew her and the truth of what happened and didn’t happen in his home. In addition, her sisters, who knew her and her life well, were also present at the interview. As a result Melissa couldn’t lie to them. She had to tell them the truth—and she did!

Melissa Lott Willis was not a plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. At most, according to Joseph Smith III, she “had gone through some ceremony or covenant which [she] intended as an arrangement for association in the world to come….” Obviously there was not enough evidence to even conclude Joseph Smith, Jr. was involved in such a ceremony, nor was it the belief of Joseph III, according to this statement, that he was. Thus, the affidavit of Melissa Lott Willis which Joseph F. Smith published is false regarding her plural marriage to Joseph Smith, Jr. Since The Historical Record account of Melissa Lott Willis’ plural marriage to Joseph Smith, Jr. was based on this affidavit, it too is false.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is DNA proving Joseph Smith was not a polygamist?

According to both a 2016 article and a 2011 article in Deseret News, eight of twelve children that Joseph Smith, Jr. allegedly fathered by plural wives have been proven by DNA not to be his children. This is too substantial of a number (two-thirds) to be ignored and has great implications in proving that Joseph didn't practice polygamy. It is interesting, though, that Web sites promoting Joseph Smith as a polygamist either ignore these findings or state they only prove that he didn't have children by these plural wives--not that he didn't have plural wives. However, the fact of the matter is that presently these findings strongly suggest that Joseph Smith did not practice polygamy.

So, how will not having any children by alleged plural wives prove that Joseph didn't practice polygamy? To answer this question, we must first understand one of the basic purposes of practicing polygamy in the early LDS Church. According to the article on Women and Polygamy at the Mormon Polygamy Web site, " of the stated purposes of polygamy was to 'raise up seed unto the Lord....'" In addition Todd Compton, a noted author regarding Joseph Smith and polygamy, in an article for the Signature Books Library, The Four Major Periods of Mormon Polygamy, states "There [in Nauvoo] he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] combined restorationist biblical polygamy with the idea that one gained a higher status in the next life based on the quantity of wives and offspring in this life. This gave the religious rationale for large plural families in later Mormonism." Also, "with very few exceptions ... polygamy was oriented toward childbearing." It would appear, then, that having children was an objective of plural marriage. Further evidence supporting this purpose of polygamy is found in the Utah LDS interpretation of Book of Mormon scripture. The Utah LDS Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:30, states: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things." The Utah LDS Church interprets this scripture to mean that if the Lord is going to raise up a people unto Him, then He will command them to practice polygamy. Again, the implication is that the purpose of polygamy is to procreate so that the Lord can have a righteous people. However, the most important evidence supporting this position is Utah LDS Church law about celestial marriage (polygamy). According to the Utah LDS Church, a revelation on celestial marriage (Section 132 of the Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants) was written by Joseph in 1843, but God had revealed to him the principles and doctrines of this revelation as early as 1831. In part this document states, "for they [plural wives] are given unto him [the husband] to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment..." (Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants 132:63). Thus from the above references, including the law upon which celestial marriage was based in the Utah LDS Church, it is clear that a basic purpose of plural marriage was to procreate.

As stated above, the Utah LDS Church alleges that Joseph was the one through whom God gave the celestial marriage law. If this is true, Joseph would have known from the revelation that procreation was a part of that law. And as the prophet and leader of the Church, he would have been obliged to obey that law of God to the fullest extent. If he didn't, he would lead his people away from God's promise that in eternity they would "be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them" (Utah LDS Doctrine and Covenants 132:20).

Therefore, if the Utah LDS Church and Community of Christ Church and most historians are correct that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, he would have necessarily tried to father children by polygamous wives. This is true because, as shown above, procreation was a purpose of celestial marriage. And Joseph, as prophet and leader of the Church, knew the law and would have tried to obey it. In addition, the number of children he fathered with Emma (9 children born from 1828 to 1844) shows he had the ability to procreate during the time period that the Utah LDS Church alleges he knew about the doctrine of celestial marriage. Thus, if Joseph practiced polygamy, because of the law of celestial marriage, he would have fathered children by his polygamous wives. Half of the children alleged to have been fathered by Joseph and polygamous wives were proven by DNA not to be his children. Considering that procreation was a purpose of celestial marriage, these DNA results are strong evidence that Joseph didn't practice polygamy. And one day, when DNA evidence proves Joseph didn't father any children outside of his union with Emma, Joseph will be proven innocent of practicing polygamy.