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.