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.


  1. It means a lot to see this and other things you've written on this blog. I appreciate your taking the time to do this. All too often I see claims (put forth by persons who believe Joseph Smith to be "guilty as charged") that 'new techniques of scholarship and research' allow us in modern times to see what those in times past could not or would not see. However, such claims are often curiously short on any substantiating details. In fact, any arguments accompanying such claims seem often to be openly, even unabashedly irrational. It is very important for as many people as possible nowadays to see extent and painstaking efforts of the research and investigations of Joseph III, the Prices, and others in trying to establish more balanced (and more truthful accounts) of what really happened, and why many of us firmly believe Joseph Smith was a person of high character and truthfulness. I hope you'll continue to expand and add to this blog, and best wishes for your efforts.

  2. Anonymous—

    My apologies for a delayed response. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  3. Thank you. I read something inadvertently on the web that shook me. I prayed for guidance to help me find the truth about Joseph Smith. Tonight, I sat down at the computer and googled "In Defense of Joseph". I had no idea there was such a blog with this name. I continually find people using old rumors over and over to prop up their disaffection from their chosen faith. I am at peace once again.

    1. Anonymous (2/9/2012)—

      Thank you. What a beautiful testimony. You made my day.

  4. Thank you so much for your research and for this blog! Both will be of immense help to me as I continue to defend the Restoration truths in my little corner of the world. I am an adult RLDS convert from the Lutheran Church, and the persecution for my RLDS affiliation from non-latter day saint [professing]Christians never stops. This has been particularly harsh in the course of my work with interdenominational Christian education and conservative political action groups. But thanks to individuals such as yourself, who continue to defend the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. by presenting the facts re his life and mission, and who continue to proclaim the Old Jerusalem Gospel, I grow ever stronger in my commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church. Again, thank you and may God bless you.

  5. I read this comment on FB today:

    "In terms of the validity of the Book of Mormon, how do you explain Joseph's use of a Seer Stone instead of the Urim and Thummim to 'translate' the manuscript--this is in RLDS Church History as a personal account given by Emma to her son."

    I know there are lengthy eye-witness testimonies of Joseph's use of the Urim and Thummim and of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Apparently, Emma did make some remarks in her last years of life that were different from Joseph's consistent testimony re the exclusive use of the Urim and Thummim. I cannot personally find such statements from Emma in Church History, as the FB inquirer alleges. Can you provide more information on this matter? Thank you so much. God bless.

    1. Melody,

      Thank you for your posts and kind words. Continue the good work of defending Joseph in your “little corner of the world.” As the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “stand by my servant Joseph faithfully … for the word’s sake.” (RLDS D&C 6:8a) I firmly believe that one day Joseph will be fully vindicated. I believe that when the priesthood go out under the power of the endowment to gather the Lord’s elect into Zion, the mouths of those who have ridiculed Joseph and the Gospel brought forth through him will be shut and they will no longer have power to utter against him or the Lord’s work.

      Emma's statement is an interesting one. In February 1879 Emma Smith was interviewed by Joseph Smith III, her son, who at the time was President of the Reorganization. This interview was published in the Saint’s Herald, October 1, 1879, and also appears in the RLDS History of the Church 3:353-358 ( Joseph III asked her many questions about the Book of Mormon, polygamy, and other subjects. In the interview she stated about the translation of the Book of Mormon, “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”

      It is important to note that those who state Joseph used a “stone” to translate the Book of Mormon do so to diminish the divine authenticity of the book. However, this was not Emma’s intent in so stating. A few paragraphs later in her interview she said:

      "My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible."

      We must remember that Joseph was under strict command to not show the plates or interpreters to anyone except those to whom he was commanded to do so. Delbert Smith wrote a pamphlet, “How the Plates of the Book of Mormon Were Translated,” ( which deals with this issue. I suggest you read it in its entirety. In the pamphlet, after an exhaustive analysis of the many statements of individuals explaining how Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, Delbert Smith concludes there were only two individuals who actually observed the tool used by Joseph to do the translation—Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. Obviously, Joseph used the tool all the time and Oliver used it when the Lord had him try to translate. Both of these men agree in their testimonies that the tool used to translate the Book of Mormon was the Urim and Thummim. Since these were the only two men who saw the tool, their testimony trumps all others.

  6. I appreciate what you're doing here in defending Joseph from the notion that he practiced polygamy. Given the climate of modern society mainstream Mormons would also like to ascribe to this view because polygamy is such a hard thing to accept.

    To be intellectually honest, I think it's important to consider that there are four firsthand accounts and five credible secondhand accounts of women telling how they were not only married to Joseph but that their marriage included sexual relations. Authors Todd Compton and Brian C. Hales do a very good job at pulling together nearly every account on the matter and it's worth reading what they have to say.

  7. This post is a complete lie. Malissa Lott testified to Joseph F. Smith, to George A. Smith, it was written in her family bible, she testified of her sexual cohabitation with Joseph in the Temple Lot case, she was one of the major sources of providing the list of Joseph's other wives in addition to herself, plus she was sealed again to Joseph in 1846... but randomly in 1885 she suddenly spills the beans and rats herself out as a liar/conspirator? This so-called October 1885 meeting cannot be found ANYWHERE on the internet other than here. Suspicions arise. You, my friend, are either a complete fraud or a complete fool.

    1. Anonymous—

      Thank you for your post. I appreciate you reading the article. You bring up some interesting points which I wish to address, but it will take me some time to formulate a reply. Until then, I ask your patience and want to assure you that I am neither a fraud nor a fool.

    2. Anonymous 1/22/14:

      My sincere apologies. When I wrote my previous response to you, I had fully intended to write about the issues you discussed. However, for whatever reason, I totally forgot about responding to you until I read runtu’s comments (see below). Indeed, as you point out, Melissa Lott’s position about her alleged marriage to Joseph was certainly different in her interview with Joseph III than any of her other statements on the subject including her testimony in the Temple Lot Case. Since you and runtu seem to have similar questions about this discrepancy, I will try to explain my position on this issue in my response to runtu.

      As far as Joseph III’s memoirs are concerned, to my knowledge, they are not online. They can be purchased in paper book form from the Restoration Bookstore online at Originally, his memoirs were published serially in The Saints’ Herald by his daughter, Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, after his death. What I posted online in this blog was published originally in The Saints’ Herald, April 28, 1936 and May 5, 1936 issues. Since this magazine was strictly an RLDS publication, it was probably not widely distributed outside of that community. Thus, Joseph III’s account of his meeting with Melissa, since it is not online, would not be easy to access by the LDS community. One of the reasons I posted it to my blog was so that those who didn’t know about it could read it.

  8. Joseph Smith had one wife!!!! Emma!!! All the people that still say they were married to him is only in their dreams or pretend marriage after his deathe. People will continue to lie and speak untruths!!! A proxy marriage after someone dies is a farce! A fake! A lie! Joseph only was wed to one wife....Emma! Thanks for this very important blog site!!!!!

  9. I thought you might be interested in reading Melissa Lott's testimony in the Temple Lot case. She's pretty clear about the relationship she had with Joseph Smith, and she specifically denies Joseph Smith III's version of her conversation with him. If nothing else, you can't read her testimony and square her feisty personality with the weepy, remorseful woman JS III describes.

    Anyway, here's the relevant testimony, which includes a link to the complete testimony.

    1. Runtu--Part 1:
      Thanks for your comment. I went to your site and your Melissa Lott Willes post. I really appreciate your link to the Temple Lot Case online. For anyone interested, the URL is Unfortunately, this online version doesn’t include Judge Philips decision which evaluates and weighs the evidence to arrive at his judgment. However, his decision is online at and free to read.

      If you haven’t already done so, you might want to read my post, “Why is the Temple Lot Suit Important.” Both the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and the RLDS Church owned Quit Claim Deeds to the Temple Lot and ownership needed to be resolved when the Church of Christ began to build on the Temple Lot. It was the judge’s decision to resolve the issue by determining which church was the true successor of the original one. As you indicated, the origin of polygamy needed to be resolved because the LDS Church practiced it and the RLDS Church didn’t. For some reason, the LDS Church produced only 3 (out of the 27 listed by Andrew Jenson in Historical Record 6) alleged plural wives of Joseph to testify that polygamy originated with Joseph. According to Brian Hales in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2:29, both Melissa Lott and Lucy Walker were deposed for the Temple Lot Case in Salt Lake City.

      I find Melissa Lott Willes’ testimony in the Temple Lot Case interesting. She is very assured in her testimony until she is asked questions requiring explanations—then she seems flustered. This indicates to me that possibly her testimony where she appears assured is somewhat scripted. But this is just my perception based on what I read. However, to fairly draw such conclusions, I would have had to have been there to observe her testimony. That is why the most important opinion in this case about the testimony of the alleged plural wives is the judge’s decision. He observed first hand their testimony and incorporated that with their words to formulate his opinion.

      In his decision regarding the case, Judge Philips stated, "It is charged by the Respondents, as an echo of the Utah Church, that Joseph Smith, 'the Martyr,' secretly taught and practiced polygamy; and the Utah contingent furnishes the evidence, and two of the women, to prove this fact. It perhaps would be uncharitable to say of these women that they have borne false testimony as to their connection with Joseph Smith; but, in view of all the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged intercourse, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that at most they were but sports in 'nest hiding.' In view of the contention of the Salt Lake party, that polygamy obtained at Nauvoo as early as 1841, it must be a little embarrassing to President Woodruff of that organization when he is confronted, as he was in the evidence in this case, with a published card in the church organ at Nauvoo in October, 1843, certifying that he knew of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that the 'secret wife system,' charged against the church, was a creature of invention by one Doctor Bennett, and that they knew of no such society. That certificate was signed by the leading members of the church, including John Taylor the former President of the Utah Church. And a similar certificate was published by the Ladies' Relief Society of the same place, signed by Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, and Phoebe Woodruff, wife of the present President Woodruff. No such marriage ever occurred under the rules of the church, and no offspring came from the imputed illicit intercourse, although Joseph Smith was in the full vigor of young manhood, and his wife, Emma, was giving birth to healthy children in regular order, and was enciente at the time of Joseph's death" (This quote can be found on pages 42-43 of the above link to Judge Philips decision or The Temple Lot Case, Price Publishing Company, pp. 543–551).

    2. Runtu--Part 2:

      After reading his decision, it would be fair to say that the testimony of the alleged wives didn’t convince Judge Philips that they were Joseph’s plural wives. This unbiased, third-party decision (by a man trained to evaluate the truth of evidence and testimony) corroborates Joseph III’s account of his meeting with Melissa in 1885. In my opinion, it gives validation to the truth of what Joseph III reported about their meeting.

      So why would this discrepancy in testimony possibly happen? According to Todd Compton, “most polygamous men held elite status in Mormon society, so polygamy often offered plural wives similar status." (Charles M. Hatch and Todd M. Compton, A Widow's Tale: 1884–1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 20). If this is true, it would logically follow that being the plural wife of the original prophet of the LDS Church would certainly carry with it great status. It would be particularly important to defend that status in court, especially considering the legal problems the LDS Church was having with the Federal government over the polygamy issue. In addition, Melissa had already gone on record with Andrew Jenson as being one of Joseph’s plural wives and had been a source of information to him about other alleged plural wives of Joseph. As a result, there would have been great personal pressure upon Melissa to maintain her allegations about practicing polygamy with Joseph—even under oath in court.

      On the contrary, a private interview with Joseph III—the son of Joseph who Melissa knew in Nauvoo—would have encouraged her to be honest about her true relationship with Joseph. Because of JS III’s age in Nauvoo, she wouldn’t have been sure what he knew about their relationship. In addition, she knew that her sisters knew the truth and that she couldn’t lie in front of them. This is evidenced by the fact that her testimony that she was not Joseph’s wife and that he had no other wives than Emma was much stronger after they appeared at the interview.

      So, considering all of this plus the corroborating opinion of Judge Philips, I have to give weight to Joseph III’s account of her interview with him over her other statements, including that given in the Temple Lot Case, as to the truth of her relationship with Joseph.

    3. Judge Phillips never accused her of lying about her involvement with his father. Rather he gave his father a legal acquittal only because of legal weaknesses in the claims he heard. Under Illinois law committing adultery could not be convictable unless the affair was known. Since the affair was secret, and private he was declarable innocent. Plus she could not have been introduced in public as his wife, or live with him as his wife under the plural marriage system at Nauvoo. Those details he brought out in questioning of her were the details contradictory to the system at Nauvoo. The affidavits had more religious value against his father than unquestionable legal value. Still being Community of Christ I also have a Reorganized LDS heritage with or without the name change.

    4. Robert—-

      Thank you for reading my blog and making comment. The issue before the judge was whether the LDS and Temple Lot Churches could prove their allegations that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. According to the judge, the testimonies of the alleged plural wives (including Melissa Lot) and others that Joseph was a polygamist were weak and lacking credible evidence. Thus, their testimonies didn’t prove Joseph was a polygamist. In fact, their testimonies relating to fact were so poor that it begged the question as to whether or not they were lying about Joseph being a polygamist. In my opinion, the judge’s decision on this issue corroborates the truth of the conversation Melissa Lot and her sisters had with Joseph III. Conversely, it negates the truth of her affidavit to Joseph F. Smith and other statements she made that she was a plural wife of Joseph Smith Jr. and that he taught and practiced polygamy.


Please treat all who post and their opinions with respect.