Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Book of Commandments vs. The Doctrine and Covenants

I recently received a question on one of my blogs in reference to the Book of Commandments. The individual asked:
How do you reconcile or refute others when they bring up the scripture in D&C 5 about JS "pretending to no other gift" and they are quoting from Book of Commandments not a 1835 version or later?
This is an excellent question, and since it deals with the integrity of Joseph, I thought it would be a good subject for a new blog.

The Book of Commandments Issue

Throughout the years the issue of using the revelations in the Book of Commandments instead of the corresponding ones in the Doctrine and Covenants has surfaced many times in the RLDS Church. Indeed, there are substantial differences between many of the same revelations in both books. Because the revelations in the Book of Commandments were printed first and they were allegedly copied from the originals, many assume these revelations are correct, or true. In addition, they also assume that the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants differ from those in the Book of Commandments because they were changed by Joseph to support his evolving theology. Thus, some point to the Book of Commandments as the more pure doctrine of the Restoration, while others say the discrepancy between the revelations in the two books is proof Joseph was not a prophet of God but was making up church doctrine as he went along.

Answering the Question

Before I get into the explanation of which set of revelations is correct, I wish to address the specific difference mentioned in the above question. According to Book of Commandments 4:2:
...and he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] has a gift to translate the book and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift.
The same part of the revelation found in RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 5:1d (LDS D&C 5:4) states:
And you have a gift to translate the plates, and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.
By using a little logic it is obvious to me which version of this revelation is correct, or true. As we look at the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, Jr., God bestowed on him many gifts. Among other things, he was a prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church and at various times in his adult life expressed all the gifts of the Spirit as enumerated in D&C 46. After he finished the translation of the Book of Mormon, by the power of God he corrected the Bible which was published by the RLDS Church as the Inspired Version. And he led the priesthood and members of the Church to receive a partial endowment of the Spirit at the Kirtland Temple in 1836. So to me, it is obvious that the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants is correct because he received gifts from God in his life other than the gift to translate the plates of the Book of Mormon.

The Sources

Because I did not know the intricacies of this subject very well, I had to quickly find sources to use as a basis for this blog. I chose to use two RLDS sources because the information in them seems to be well documented and I am familiar with the integrity of the authors. However, there may be LDS sources just as good as these of which I am not aware. The first is the pamphlet, Book of Commandments Versus the Doctrine and Covenants, reviewed by President Joseph Smith, III, which is a cursory presentation of the subject. The second is the book, Our Beliefs Defended, by Apostle J. F. Curtis, which contains a discussion of the subject in detail. Both of these sources can be purchased online from the Restoration Bookstore by clicking the above links for the respective sources. Since my explanation will be a very brief summary of the issues, I strongly recommend the purchase of these sources for those wanting a more complete study of this subject with full documentation.

The Explanation of which Set of Revelations Is Correct

On November 1, 1831, a special conference was held in Hiram, Ohio, where Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were preparing the Inspired Version of the Bible. This conference discussed and decided to print all of the revelations received by Joseph. On the above date, Joseph received a revelation which the Lord designated as the preface to the Book of Commandments (D&C 1). After this revelation was received, the language of all the revelations was questioned by the elders and some felt they could use better language than Joseph did. As a result, the Lord spoke to the elders through Joseph (D&C 67) challenging the elders to choose the greatest among them to write a revelation better than the least of all the revelations Joseph had written. In response to the challenge, William E. McLellin (who, according to Joseph, felt he was the wisest man among them) was chosen to write the revelation, but he failed. It was then decided that Joseph should prepare the revelations for printing (make copies from the originals) and send the copies with Oliver Cowdery to Independence where W. W. Phelps would print and publish them in the Book of Commandments. The Lord appointed Joseph, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and William W. Phelps "to be stewards over the revelations and commandments which I have given unto them, and which I shall hereafter give unto them..." (RLDS D&C 70:1 and LDS D&C 70:1-3).

From the beginning date of the conference to when Oliver left for Missouri with John Whitmer on November 10, Joseph had only 10 days to copy all the revelations received to date. While the Lord had designated the above six men to do the work, there is some discrepancy who actually prepared the copies. David Whitmer said that Joseph, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, and others prepared the revelations for publication. William E. McLellin stated that he presided over the meeting where the revelations were prepared for publication. He also stated that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon copied the revelations but changed them to suit themselves. However, this was not true. During this ten day period, Joseph attended four conferences. While he stated that he and John Whitmer "began to arrange and copy the revelations" (Our Beliefs Defended, 27; Millennial Star, vol. 14, supplement, 36), because of the conference activities, Joseph would have had very little time to do any of this work. In addition, prior to the preparation of the revelations, Oliver Cowdery left Hiram to prepare for the trip to Missouri and W. W. Phelps left for Independence making a stop in Cincinnati to purchase the printing press. Thus, while William E. McLellin may have presided over the preparation process, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and W. W. Phelps had very little, if anything, to do with this work. Thus, according to J. F. Curtis, William E. McLellin may have been directly involved in changing the revelations when copying them. McLellin admitted that he presided over the work and that the copies of the revelations were changed before being sent to Independence for printing. Since he was the one who thought he could improve the revelations, Curtis believed he had motive to make the changes. While it is really unknown who changed the revelations, it is certain that the copies were changed prior to sending them to Independence and that Joseph was not the one who changed them.

After the revelations were prepared, they were taken by Oliver Cowdery to Independence where W. W. Phelps began to print them for inclusion in the Book of Commandments. During the printing the mob in Independence destroyed the press and strewed printed revelations in the street. After the assault, the printed revelations were gathered up and loosely bound into several copies. The printing of the Book of Commandments was never completed. What exists today as the Book of Commandments are those revelations which were loosely bound after the press was destroyed.

After the mob action against the press in Independence, Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer returned to Kirtland and compared the original revelations to the copies they had been given for the Book of Commandments. They found that the copies were substantially different than the originals.

When the revelations were prepared for the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, great care was taken to ensure that the revelations published were exactly the same as the original ones. Many who were on the committee for publishing the Book of Commandments were on the committee for publishing the Doctrine and Covenants. By the time the Doctrine and Covenants was published, all who were on the Book of Commandments committee approved the revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants as correct according to the originals. In addition, all the quorums of the Church (including McLellin in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) plus the General Assembly approved the revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants as correct. Because the Book of Commandments was destroyed in mid-printing, it was never approved by the quorums or the General Assembly. Thus, it was never an authorized publication of the Church. Only the revelations in Doctrine and Covenants were approved by a vote of the people and the quorums of the Church. For these reasons plus the fact that the revelations in the Book of Commandments are inconsistent with the originals, the Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations which are correct.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Is Truth?

According to RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 90:4b (LDS D&C 94:24-25), “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; and whatsoever is more or less than this, is the spirit of that wicked one, who was a liar from the beginning.” In my opinion, this is the most accurate definition of truth I have ever read. When we see things for what they really were, really are, really will be, we see the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” And anything different than this is a lie.

Recently, I have been following the blogs of Alan Rock Waterman, Why I’m Abandoning Polygamy and Why Mormon History Is Not What They Say. If you have not read them, I suggest you do. They are excellent presentations of his discovery that Joseph Smith, Jr. may not have promoted or practiced polygamy and his view that mainstream history on this issue may need to be revised to support that finding. In other words, all the spin, all the hype, and all the interpretation needs to be peeled away from this issue to get down to just the facts. What has impressed me is his keen grasp that noted historians of LDS polygamy have omitted numerous documents by Joseph and other primary witnesses that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. I have always felt that any biography of Joseph dealing with the issue of polygamy which does not adequately consider his stand against it and does not consider the findings in the Temple Lot Case and does not consider the statements of his family who knew him best, is either suspect in its motives or just poor history. How can we get to the truth (“knowledge of things as they are, and as they were”) without considering all documents pertinent to this issue? My hat is off to Mr. Waterman for considering a shift in his thinking to the possibility that Joseph was telling the truth and for his eloquent and tireless defense of his position.

Since the basis for his shifting paradigm is the book Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy by Richard and Pamela Price, some of his responders commented that the Price’s association with the RLDS Church and their firm belief that Joseph was not a polygamist has tainted the information. In addition, some indicated that the quality of their work is suspect because their educational degrees in history are not sufficient to write credible history. When I was a young man, I heard a minister state in a sermon, “It doesn’t matter who is right. What matters is ‘what is right.’” In other words, truth is truth, no matter who speaks it or writes it. This principle has guided me in my life to accept the truth whether it is my idea or someone else’s or whether it comes from the most learned and degreed person or the simplest one. “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” regardless of where, or with whom, it originates. This principle has allowed me in my personal, professional, and religious relationships to cut through the “I’m right—No, I’m right” communication barrier to get to the heart, or truth, of the issue.

Even though the Prices do not have doctorate degrees in history and are associated with the fundamentalist part of the RLDS Church and believe with all their hearts that Joseph was not a polygamist, the principle indicated above allows one to look at the evidence on its own merit. Knowing the Prices, this is exactly what they want to happen. And this is what Mr. Waterman has done. He has looked at the evidence presented and decided it merits consideration, regardless from where it came. If the mystery of Joseph and polygamy is to be unraveled, then those who are unraveling it must look for the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” regardless of who is presenting it.

Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy is far from being completed. While the first volume is in print, the complete work to date (about 2 2/3 volumes) is online. However, the Prices have indicated there is enough documentation for four to five volumes. Thus, they believe Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy because the volumes of documentation, which they are working to make available to the public, support that position. Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy is not a biography of Joseph. It is, as the title states, documentation showing the extent of Joseph’s fight against polygamy. All of the biographies about him that deal with the polygamy issue indicate he lied about his involvement in polygamy and do not attempt to show otherwise. It is easy to conclude he lied if you do not show he stood against it. The purpose of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy is to let Joseph defend himself by his actions and his statements. It is to present the evidence which other writers have omitted. It is to show that in spite of all the allegations made against him, Joseph stood firm against the teaching and practice of polygamy. When this work is completed, the reader will have to judge for themselves. Did Joseph lie about practicing polygamy? Or, do the volumes of evidence supporting his actions and statements against practicing it necessitate the alternative conclusion that, in fact, Joseph Smith fought polygamy?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Lord Declared Joseph Innocent of Polygamy

For those of us associated with the Reorganization, the revelation received by Jason Briggs in November, 1851, is significant. It was not only the beginning point of the Reorganization, but according to an article at entitled “The Importance of the Revelation Given to Jason Briggs,” it was the Lord’s declaration that Joseph was innocent of polygamy.

As background to the revelation the article states,

After the death of Joseph Smith, Jr., on June 27, 1844, the Church was thrown into chaos, and many factions formed due to two points of doctrine. Even though Joseph had designated his son, Joseph III, four times—in the Liberty Jail, the Red Brick Store, the Grove in Nauvoo, and the Mansion House—to succeed him according to [RLDS] Doctrine and Covenants, Section 43:1–2 and the law of father-to-son lineal priesthood descent ([RLDS] DC 83:2; 84:3; 104:18), many Church leaders believed it was their right to lead the Church after his death. The men who led the largest groups were Brigham Young, Sidney Rigdon, William Smith, James J. Strang, and Lyman Wight. William Smith (the Martyr's brother) and Lyman Wight, who were both apostles, were the only ones who supported Young Joseph as the next prophet. However, in the years just prior to the Reorganization, William Smith recanted that position and claimed that he was the successor of Joseph Smith, Jr. (see RLDS History of the Church 3:738). The second false doctrine common to many of the factions was the teaching and practice of spiritual wifery (also known as plural marriage, celestial marriage, or polygamy). Within those factions this false teaching proved to be a source of discontent to those who sought to remain true to the beliefs of the Church.

After Joseph's death, Brigham Young, with the support of eight other apostles, took control of the Church at Nauvoo. Those in disagreement with them were either expelled or left the Church on their own. At the time of Joseph's death, the total Church membership was estimated to be from 150,000 to 200,000 members worldwide with about 30,000 living in and around Nauvoo (see ibid., 1). Brigham took a total of about 10,000 with him to Utah (see ibid., 27), rebaptizing all the members and reordaining the priesthood (see ibid., 18–19). He also took with him the Church structure including the bishopric and quorums, as well as Church records and assets. Church members who did not follow Brigham to Utah and believed in the original doctrines of the Church, associated with one of the other leaders until doctrines were taught that were not in the original Church. Then they would associate with someone else, hoping to find the Church in its purity (see ibid., 196–198). It was under these circumstances that the Saints tried to hold on to the Church and Gospel as best as they could during the "dark and cloudy day" after Joseph's death.

In the first part of 1851, Jason Briggs and the Beloit, Wisconsin, Branch left Strang and associated with William Smith's group. William was teaching that Young Joseph was the rightful heir to the Presidency of the High Priesthood. However, in the fall of that year Briggs learned that William Smith was beginning to advocate two new doctrines in his organization: the practice of polygamy and that he was the true successor to Joseph the Martyr (see ibid., 738). In addition, none of the other factions seemed to be teaching the original doctrines of the Church established by Joseph. Briggs had been ordained an elder in the Church prior to Joseph's death and wanted to continue to minister for the Lord, but he could not find a group that he believed represented the Church in Joseph's day. Under these circumstances Jason Briggs went to the Lord in prayer asking for divine guidance as to what he was to do.

About the revelation, Jason Briggs stated:

While pondering in my heart the situation of the church, on the 18th day of November, 1851, on the prairie, about three miles northwest of Beloit, Wisconsin, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and the visions of truth opened to my mind, and the Spirit of the Lord said unto me,

"Verily, verily, saith the Lord, even Jesus Christ, unto his servant, Jason W. Briggs, concerning the church: Behold, I have not cast off my people; neither have I changed in regard to Zion. Yea, verily, my people shall be redeemed, and my law shall be kept which I revealed unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., for I am God and not man, and who is he that shall turn me from my purpose, or destroy whom I would preserve? Wolves have entered into the flock, and who shall deliver them? Where is he that giveth his life for the flock? Behold, I will judge those who call themselves shepherds, and have preyed upon the flock of my pastures.

"And because you have asked me in faith concerning William Smith, this is the answer of the Lord thy God concerning him: I, the Lord, have permitted him to represent the rightful heir to the presidency of the high priesthood of my church by reason of the faith and prayers of his father, and his brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, which came up before me in his behalf; and to respect the law of lineage, by which the holy priesthood is transmitted, in all generations, when organized into quorums. And the keys which were taught him by my servant Joseph were of me, that I might prove him therewith. And for this reason have I poured out my Spirit through his ministrations, according to the integrity of those who received them.

"But as Esau despised his birthright, so has William Smith despised my law, and forfeited that which pertained to him as an apostle and high priest in my church. And his spokesman, Joseph Wood, shall fall with him, for they are rejected of me. They shall be degraded in their lives, and shall die without regard; for they have wholly forsaken my law, and given themselves to all manner of uncleanness, and prostituted my law and the keys of power entrusted to them, to the lusts of the flesh, and have run greedily in the way of adultery.

"Therefore, let the elders whom I have ordained by the hand of my servant Joseph, or by the hand of those ordained by him, resist not this authority, nor faint in the discharge of duty, which is to preach my gospel as revealed in the record of the Jews, and the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; and cry repentance and remission of sins through obedience to the gospel, and I will sustain them, and give them my Spirit; and in mine own due time will I call upon the seed of Joseph Smith, and will bring one forth, and he shall be mighty and strong, and he shall preside over the high priesthood of my church; and then shall the quorums assemble, and the pure in heart shall gather, and Zion shall be reinhabited, as I said unto my servant Joseph Smith; after many days shall all these things be accomplished, saith the Spirit. Behold, that which ye received as my celestial law is not of me, but is the doctrine of Baalam. And I command you to denounce it and proclaim against it; and I will give you power, that none shall be able to withstand your words, if you rely upon me; for my Spirit shall attend you." And the Spirit said unto me, "Write, write, write; write the revelation and send it unto the saints at Palestine, and at Voree, and at Waukesha, and to all places where this doctrine is taught as my law; and whomsoever will humble themselves before me, and ask of me, shall receive of my Spirit a testimony that these words are of me. Even so. Amen." (RLDS History of the Church 3:200–201; The Messenger, edited by Jason W. Briggs, vol. 2, p. 1 )

The article then goes on to explain how the revelation proves Joseph was innocent of polygamy.

One of the most important parts of this revelation is the Lord's condemnation of polygamy and His indication of Joseph's innocence. In the last paragraph the Lord states, "Behold, that which ye received as my celestial law is not of me, but is the doctrine of Baalam. And I command you to denounce it and proclaim against it...." (Of course, the reference to "celestial law" means celestial marriage which is spiritual wifery or polygamy.) [In recent years] polygamy has become newsworthy, and Joseph Smith, Jr., is unquestioningly credited by the media for its inception within the Latter Day Saint movement. For those of us having the common heritage of the Reorganization, the revelation received by Jason Briggs should remove all doubt of Joseph's innocence in the teaching or practice of polygamy. In the third paragraph of the revelation, the Lord said that William Smith and his spokesman, Joseph Wood, had "given themselves to all manner of uncleanness, and prostituted my law and the keys of power intrusted to them, to the lusts of the flesh, and have run greedily in the way of adultery." In essence, because of William Smith's polygamy teachings, the Lord called him an adulterer. However, four times in the same revelation, the Lord called Joseph His servant. Since God is unchangeable and no respecter of persons, if Joseph had taught or practiced polygamy, the Lord would have also indicated he was an adulterer. Since the Lord unmistakably called Joseph His servant, this revelation is confirmation that Joseph did not teach nor practice polygamy. Thus, no one who claims the divinity of the Reorganization should ever doubt the innocence of Joseph regarding polygamy—for the Lord, Himself, proclaimed him innocent.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Joseph will be Exonerated

Because of the “new attack” which is being mounted today against Joseph, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a Book of Mormon scripture which is pertinent to this issue.

In 2 Nephi 2:17, 24-31 (RLDS Book of Mormon, 1908 Edition) and 2 Nephi 3:11, 13-16 (LDS Book of Mormon) it states:

But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins…. And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.

And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; And they that seek to destroy him, shall be confounded: For this promise, of which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of thy loins, shall be fulfilled.

Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise.

And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father.

And he shall be like unto me; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation; Yea, thus prophesied Joseph, I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses: for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed for ever.

This scripture is part of Lehi’s blessing to his son Joseph where he quotes the prophecy of Joseph of old, the son of Jacob or Israel. The above scripture is Joseph’s prophecy about Joseph Smith, Jr. There are two parts to this scripture I wish to discuss.

First, it says, “And out of weakness he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.” I believe this scripture is yet to be fulfilled. Joseph has never been in a weaker position than he is today. He is under attack from not only outside the Restoration Movement, as he has always been, but also from within. The RLDS Church traditionally promoted the position that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. However, since about 1958 the RLDS Church has liberalized and moved away from this position. The RLDS Church (presently called Community of Christ) now takes the position on this matter that it has no official position. While the Utah LDS Church does not officially condone polygamy, it originally taught, and is returning to the position, that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church—Joseph Smith, published 2007 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 22. Also see pages 479–481 for a more complete description of what the Utah LDS Church officially states was Joseph’s teachings on the issue of celestial marriage.) Mormon and ex-Mormon members have combined with Community of Christ leaders (in organizations like the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association and in events like the Sunstone Symposiums) to demean Joseph’s character and work. Recent books published by Mormons and ex-Mormons demonize him into a mystical, lying, evil pedophile. Internet sites and discussion groups continue this abuse ad nauseam. Truly, Joseph’s name is being “had for … evil” more today than ever, especially from within the organizations that point to him as their first prophet. (The only voice actively supporting Joseph as an honorable man who did not teach or practice polygamy is Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy.)

Since Joseph is in his weakest position ever, the Book of Mormon scripture quoted above applies to today but is yet to be fulfilled. Those of us who believe he was not a polygamist, but an honorable prophet of God, can take great hope. For "out of weakness he shall be made strong." The fullness of the gospel restored through him will again go forth in power to the convincing of many of its truth. As a result, Joseph's name will no longer be “had ... for evil” but will be “had for good.” And when this happens God will begin to restore the house of Israel to the promises He made with them.

Second, the scripture says, “And they that seek to destroy him, shall be confounded: For this promise ... shall be fulfilled.” When the time comes that God makes Joseph, and the gospel restored through him, strong again, those who have sought to demean his character and his work "to destroy him" will no longer be allowed to do so. Their mouths will be shut and Joseph and the work he did will be honored in power by the Spirit of God to bring the house of Israel back to the true and living God. This of course will take place at the great and last gathering under the power of the endowment.

While those who seek to destroy Joseph will have their pleasure for a while, Joseph’s name and his work will eventually triumph by the power of God.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Summary of Why I Believe Joseph was not a Polygamist

I am responding to a recent post with the reasons why I believe Joseph was not a polygamist in spite of all the “evidence” that he was.

First, I believe he was a prophet of God because I have received testimony from God that the work He did through Joseph—Book of Mormon, Inspired Version, Doctrine and Covenants (not including Utah LDS D&C 132), restoring His true Church in 1830—is true. For God to have used Joseph to do these things, Joseph had to have been a good, honorable man—not a lying, wicked one. As it says in Helaman 2:59, the “Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples."

Second, the reasons given by those who say he lied about his involvement in polygamy are pretty shallow. One reason given is that Joseph was afraid to admit polygamy because he feared for his life. However, he had been beaten and incarcerated many times for issues not related to polygamy. If polygamy was a commandment of God, why would he fear admitting this to the public? He certainly would not have been treated any worse than he already had. The fact is that if polygamy was a command of God as many say it was, Joseph would have made it known publicly just as he had done with the rest of the Restored Gospel. The fact that he denied its practice is evidence it was not a command of God and he did not practice it. Another reason given for Joseph’s denial of polygamy was to protect Emma and keep it secret from her. Those supporting this position also believe the affidavits of Eliza and Emily Partridge (Historical Record, Volume 6, Edited and Published by Andrew Jenson, 1887) are true that Emma was present at their plural marriages to Joseph. However, proponents of these two positions cannot have it both ways because the positions are in opposition to each other. If they support the Partridge sisters’ affidavits, they have to give up the “protection of Emma” reason for Joseph’s lying about polygamy. If they do not support the Partridge sister’s affidavits as true, they punch a big hole in the evidence against Joseph because the Partridge sisters are considered eye-witnesses that Joseph practiced polygamy. Thus, the “protection of Emma” argument is very weak. Since there was no good reason for Joseph to keep silent about practicing polygamy, the fact that he continued to publicly deny it supports the position that he was telling the truth about not teaching or practicing polygamy.

Third, those that knew Joseph best and were with him the most—Emma and Joseph III—were convinced he was not a polygamist. Until Emma’s dying day, she testified that Joseph was only married to her and had no other wives. Emma was known for her honesty throughout her entire life. If she had observed plural marriage ceremonies with Joseph, as the Partridge sisters stated, she would not have faithfully insisted he was innocent. Joseph Smith III spent his entire life interviewing people who allegedly knew his father was a polygamist. Through all of his investigations, Joseph III never found a shred of credible evidence (facts and not opinions), even from alleged plural wives, to prove his father guilty of polygamy. He remained faithful to this position until the end of his life.

Fourth, the case presented against Joseph is biased. It is obvious Joseph is on trial in the minds of many people. Some say he was a righteous prophet of God. Some say he was an evil liar. Some are undecided. Since he is in essence on trial, it is my belief he should be afforded the same rights as anyone on trial. He should be assumed innocent until proven guilty. The evidence used to judge him should meet judicial standards--only facts, not opinions or hearsay, should be used to render a judgment. Unfortunately, the books that are being written today supporting the position that Joseph was a polygamist do not use that approach. While they appear at first look to use a well documented, unbiased approach to this subject, their basic premise is that Joseph lied and everyone else told the truth. Their books presume Joseph’s guilt, not his innocence. I say this because they omit pertinent evidence of his innocence: his writings, statements of Emma, Joseph III’s interviews, Temple Lot Case, etc. Some of the evidence they quote is hearsay and opinion, not fact. They make little attempt to evaluate the evidence based on how close to the event the statement was recorded or whether there was motive to lie. In my opinion, based on judicial standards, the evidence they do quote is dubious in nature. The allegations of John C. Bennett cannot be given serious consideration because he was a liar and an adulterer and had motive to impugn Joseph’s character. The allegations made in the Nauvoo Expositor were just that—allegations. There were no names, dates, or places given to corroborate their truth. The testimonies published by Andrew Jenson in the Historical Record 6 (which are the heart of the evidence against Joseph) were made thirty to forty years after the alleged incidents by those heavily involved with polygamy in Utah—some of which were wives of Brigham Young and other Utah LDS Church leaders. They were not unbiased witnesses that recorded their observations chronologically close to the events. When some of these witnesses were cross-examined in the Temple Lot Case in the 1890s, their testimonies fell apart. Even though the Utah LDS Church provided their best witnesses in that trial to prove Joseph began polygamy in the Church, the U. S. Circuit Court Judge ruled there was not sufficient evidence presented to prove Joseph taught or practiced polygamy. Thus, when judicial standards apply, the evidence against Joseph becomes weak. And if the evidence against him is weak, he should be found innocent, not guilty, because in our nation innocence is presumed, not proven.

Fifth, Joseph has no proven children of alleged polygamous marriages. One of the main purposes of polygamy was to produce offspring. If Joseph married over thirty wives, which author’s say he did, his offspring from polygamist wives would have been numerous, as was the case with Brigham Young. Joseph had several children by Emma and thus would have had several by other wives. Yet DNA is proving Joseph had no children other than with Emma. This fact is proof, according to the purpose of celestial marriage, that Joseph had no wives other than Emma.

In light of all the books being published against Joseph, it helps me to remember that the intent of the authors of these books is not to tell the truth. It is to dissuade my belief in Joseph as a prophet of God. This approach was used within the RLDS Church to move it into mainstream Christianity, which has happened to the Community of Christ. I believe it is the intent of these authors to do the same with the Mormon Church.