Monday, December 19, 2011

Sidney Rigdon and the Messenger and Advocate

Recently, a reader posed a question about Sidney Rigdon's claims in the Messenger and Advocate that Joseph practiced polygamy. I wish to answer the reader's inquiry in this article.

The claims in the Messenger and Advocate, published by Sidney Rigdon, that Joseph was a polygamist are very interesting. Because of Sidney's close relationship with Joseph from almost the beginning of the Church, including becoming a first counselor to Joseph in the First Presidency in March 1833, one would assume that the allegations in the Messenger and Advocate are true. After all, who better than Sidney should know the truth about Joseph and polygamy? And expectedly he did know the truth, but he did not publish it in the Messenger and Advocate. From Sidney's close association with Joseph, he knew that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. It was only after Joseph's death that Sidney changed his position as published in the Messenger and Advocate. So let us look at some of the events in Sidney's relationship with Joseph that point to Sidney's knowledge of Joseph's innocence and compare them to what Sidney published in the Messenger and Advocate. By doing this we should be able to see that what Sidney stated in the Messenger and Advocate was not reflective of what he knew about Joseph during their close association from 1830 to 1844.

The Early 1830s

Sidney's and Joseph's relationship started very early in the Church and they quickly became close associates. They first met in December, 1830, when Sidney came to New York to visit Joseph and subsequently became his scribe for the process of correcting the King James Version of the Bible into what is known as the Inspired Version or New Translation of the Bible. Sidney's association with Joseph on this project continued until it was completed on July 2, 1833 (Times and Seasons 6:802), with the vast majority of the work being done in Hiram, Ohio. During this time they spent many days together under the influence of the Spirit working on this document, and they received great spiritual manifestations such as the open vision of the glories as recorded in D&C 76. In addition, they suffered great persecutions together, such as the time they were dragged from their homes by the mob and beaten and tarred and feathered. These types of experiences tend to create closeness between people and reveal both the good and bad about them. Thus, both Sidney and Joseph probably came to know each other very well during this time.

Proponents that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy suggest that he did so as early as 1831 when he brought forth a revelation supporting this doctrine. To support their position they cite a letter written by W. W. Phelps to Brigham Young in 1861 which quoted parts of the alleged revelation. In addition, such proponents also indicate that Joseph's first plural wife was Fanny Alger who he allegedly married as early as 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio. If these events were true, Sidney Rigdon, with his closeness to Joseph in working on the Inspired Verson, would have had to have known about them. As adamant as Sidney was against polygamy after Joseph's death in June 1844, he would have also felt as strongly against it in the 1830s. Yet during this time he was silent on the subject. Similarly, the Messenger and Advocate in the mid-1840s makes no mention of polygamy existing during that time in the Church. In addition, Sidney was new to the Church as was everyone else. If Joseph was involved with polygamy, Sidney could have easily left the Church and returned to preaching in the Protestant world. But he did not. In fact, he was so convinced of the truth of the Restored Gospel that he accepted a calling to further responsibility in the highest quorum of the Church, the First Presidency. Because of Sidney's adamancy against polygamy after Joseph's death, his supportive actions for Joseph and the Church in the 1830s indicate to me that Joseph was not teaching or practicing polygamy at that time. Thus, I do not believe that the position of the Messenger and Advocate that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy came from Sidney's observations of Joseph in the early 1830s.

The Early 1840s

In the early 1840s, Sidney was still closely associated with Joseph in the First Presidency. In addition, he was Joseph's next door neighbor in Nauvoo. He lived ½ block to the north of both the Mansion House and the Homestead with no other houses in between. Those within his dwelling could easily note the activities surrounding Joseph's dwellings. Sidney was also the Postmaster of Nauvoo and for a while the kitchen of his home served as the post office (www.historicnauvoo.net). This placed him in a position to note who was writing to Joseph and to whom Joseph was writing. Because of Sidney's easy access to Joseph in Nauvoo, he would have definitely been in a position to know if Joseph was teaching or practicing polygamy, especially since it is alleged that from April 1841 to November 1843 Joseph married 31 women. (www.wivesofjosephsmith.org)

Again, as adamant as Sidney was against polygamy after Joseph's death, I have to believe he would have also felt as strongly against it in the 1840s prior to his death. Interestingly though, up until Joseph's death, Sidney was silent about Joseph's alleged involvement in polygamy except for allegations surrounding his daughter, Nancy Rigdon. Again, Sidney's silence about polygamy indicates to me that Joseph was not teaching or practicing polygamy during this time.

The allegations surrounding Nancy Rigdon are thoroughly covered in the article "Bennett's Sixth Letter, or the Essay on 'Happiness'" in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy. I strongly suggest that all readers review the entire article. From this article, the issue was that "an unsigned letter favoring polygamy was delivered to Nancy, which Dr. Bennett published as his 'Sixth Letter,' claiming that it was a love letter from Joseph to Nancy." The letter was in Willard Richards' handwriting and Joseph denied he authored it. After Joseph told the Rigdons about Dr. Bennett's and Francis Higbee's involvement with Nancy, and after Joseph raised Eliza Rigdon, Sidney's daughter, from the dead by the power of God, Sidney believed Joseph about the letter. Sidney wrote a letter to the editor of a neighboring newspaper, the Wasp, which was printed in the September 3, 1842 issue. In the letter Sidney stated that Nancy denied that Joseph was the author of the letter. He also stated that Joseph had denied to him that he had authored the letter.

The raising of Eliza from the dead was additional confirmation to Sidney that Joseph was innocent of the polygamy allegations surrounding him. When Eliza came back from the dead, she told her father under the direction of the Spirit that Dr. Bennett was a wicked man and that God would deal with him. In late August, 1842, on a Sunday at the public stand near the temple, Sidney declared that Joseph had raised his daughter from the dead and told the testimony of what happened. He then stated, "It has also been rumored that I believe that Joseph Smith is a fallen prophet:—In regard to this, I unequivocally state, that I never thought so— but declare that I know he is a prophet of the Lord, called and chosen in this last dispensation, to roll on the kingdom of God for the last time" (ibid.) Three years later in the Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 2 No. 2 (December 1845) Sidney states:

There is and always has been one governing principle in the church of Christ, and that is that the Lord always has and always will, give his spirit to them that obey him. If a person is found without the spirit of God, it is because he or she is a transgressor. This holds good in all cases. Persons who through obedience have attained the spirit of God, and afterwards found without it is transgressor; for had they not been so, the spirit would have continued with them. Nothing but transgression can deprive a person of the spirit of God, and the nearer a person walks to God, the greater portion of the spirit he will enjoy.

Because Sidney's belief was that the Lord only gives His Spirit to His obedient, he had to believe that Joseph could not have raised Eliza from the dead unless he was still the Lord's prophet and telling the truth. Hence, he made his public statement in August 1842 that Joseph was a true prophet and not a fallen one. And Eliza's statement under the Spirit about Bennett was confirmation to him that Joseph was telling the truth about Dr. Bennett and Francis Higbee.

In May 1844, when Sidney defended Joseph in the suit brought by Francis Higbee, Sidney reaffirmed his belief that Joseph was innocent of polygamy and that he had told the truth in 1842 about Dr. Bennett and Francis Higbee. According to the article "Francis M. Higbee Sued Joseph for Five Thousand Dollars" in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Higbee brought suit against Joseph allegedly for damages received from the Church's High Council 1842 investigation of Higbee's involvement in "'spiritual wifery' which was being practiced by Francis M. Higbee, Doctor John C. Bennett, and others. Testimony was given before the Council that Higbee had seduced at least six women, and that he had contracted a venereal disease from a prostitute, a French woman who had come to Nauvoo from the neighboring town of Warsaw." If Sidney believed or had evidence that Joseph was involved with polygamy, he could not have defended him for the following reason. This suit dealt in part with alleged scandalous events surrounding his daughter, Nancy Rigdon, including the alleged love letter written by Joseph to her favoring polygamy as mentioned above.

Engaging Rigdon was wisdom on the part of both Joseph and Sidney, because Joseph had been accused by Francis Higbee of attempting to take Nancy Rigdon, Sidney's daughter, as a plural wife. Both Joseph and Sidney were aware that it would be necessary to discuss events relative to Nancy during the hearing, because there would be a reviewing of events in 1842. That was the year that Higbee was investigated before the High Council, and since he had been Nancy's suitor, her name had been discussed. This made it probable that her name would be brought into the testimonies in the hearing before the Nauvoo Municipal Court.

Elder Rigdon, knowing that Nancy and Francis' relationship would be referred to in the hearing, still accepted the task of defending Joseph. Sidney's agreement to serve as one of Joseph's attorneys showed that he had faith in Joseph's innocence. (ibid.)

In the trial Sidney stated, "In relation to the matters before the court I am unacquainted with[,] I was sick at the time but I have heard it talked of back and fro.... I recollect Joseph Smith came to me with a complaint against [Francis] Higbee and Bennet, and made affidavit that it was true; I have the affidavit in my house" (ibid).

From the above, we see that in the 1840s, as late as May 1844 (one month prior to Joseph's death), Sidney Rigdon indicated it was true that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. Thus, I do not believe that the position of the Messenger and Advocate that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy came from Sidney's observations of Joseph in the 1840s.

The Messenger and Advocate Articles

After Sidney's attempt to lead the LDS Church was rejected, he began to publish the Messenger and Advocate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 15, 1844. He published the last issue in September 1846. He was the editor of this paper and as such was responsible for its content. (You may read the Messenger and Advocate online.) Having read all the available issues online, I found that the paper was strongly opposed to both the LDS Church leadership in Nauvoo at that time and its polygamy doctrine. The paper supported the position that Sidney was the true successor to Joseph as President of the High Priesthood and Prophet to the Church. In addition, many articles were published which both inferred and stated that the doctrine of polygamy was taught and practiced by Joseph and that he was a fallen prophet.

In the beginning issues, this position about Joseph was stated by authors other than Sidney or in unsigned articles which may have been written by Sidney. Interestingly, Sidney only wrote three articles over his name indicating Joseph was a polygamist. The first of these articles did not appear in the Messenger and Advocate until March 15, 1845, when he reported about holding preaching services at the Kirtland Temple on Sunday evening February 16, 1845, as well as the following Tuesday and Thursday nights. Of the Thursday evening service he stated:

On Thursday evening we gave the history of Nauvoo, and the events that led to the death of the Smiths, which, of course, we traced to the introduction of the spiritual wife system; for all that know any thing about it, that it was the introduction of that system which led to the death of the Smiths, and that if that system had not been introduced, they might have been living men to-day. An unexpected circumstance took place that evening, it was the arrival of brethren William Law and William E. McLellan, from Hampton, Rock Island County, Illinois. Brother Law addressed the congregation for some time, setting forth what he knew about the people and the affairs of Nauvoo; some of which were new to us. He settled the question forever on the public mind, in, relation to the spiritual wife system, and the abominations concerning it. As Joseph Smith and others had attempted to get him into it, and in order to do so had made him acquainted with many things about it that we never knew before. The whole combined put the matter at rest, and the public mind was quieted, and all doubts removed.

During our stay there were lectures delivered by Dr. Samuel Bennett, and brethren Law and McLellan, all of which tended greatly to enlighten and settle the public mind. (italics added)

The second article over his name was entitled "Tour East" and was published nine months later in the Vol. 2, No. 2 (December 1845) issue. Sidney stated that Joseph "had become basely corrupt, and put at defiance the laws of his God, to hide his iniquity from the world…." I assume he was alleging that Joseph practiced polygamy.

The third article over his name (a letter to the editor) was entitled "Communications" and was published six months later in the Vol. 2, No. 6 (June 1846) issue. Sidney stated:

We are well aware that the leaders of this people [Mormons], introduced many corruptions among them, and was the thing which gave their enemies power over them, had they not have become basely corrupt, no enemy would have had power over them. They introduced a base system of polygamy, worse by far than that of the heathen; this system of corruption brought a train of evils with it, which terminated in their entire ruin. After this system was introduced, being in opposition [to] the laws of the land, they, had to put truth at defiance to conceal it, and in order to do it, perjury was often practiced. This system was introduced by the Smiths some time before their death, and was the thing which put them into the power of their enemies, and was the immediate cause of their death. This system the twelve, so called, undertook to carry out, and it has terminated in their overthrow, and the complete ruin of all those who follow their pernicious ways.

We warned Joseph Smith and his family, of the ruin that was coming on them, and of the certain destruction which awaited them, for their iniquity, for making their house, instead of a house of God a sink of corruption. The Smiths have fallen before their enemies, as the Lord said they would, and their families sunk into everlasting shame, and disgrace, until their very name is a reproach; and must remain so forever. (italics added)

In all, there were 33 issues of the Messenger and Advocate published by Sidney Rigdon. All but two (which are still under construction) are available to read online at www.sidneyrigdon.com. Of the 31 issues available to review, only three articles indicating Joseph was involved with polygamy were over Sidney's name. In addition, 22 issues mentioned nothing about Joseph and polygamy. Prior to the March 15, 1845 issue, there were several unsigned articles indicating this position about Joseph. After this issue, there were no such unsigned articles. All of the articles that associated Joseph with polygamy, including those signed by Sidney, gave no evidence (i.e., events, dates, observer's name, etc.) to support their allegations.

My Analysis of the Issue

It is assumed that because Sidney and Joseph had a close association from 1830 until Joseph's death in June, 1844, the articles published in the Messenger and Advocate that Joseph was a polygamist and a fallen prophet, whether they were written by Sidney or others, were reflective of Sidney's knowledge about Joseph from his association with him. Thus, these articles are assumed to be necessarily true. However, I believe this is a false assumption.

In the Vol. 2, No. 6 (June 1846) issue of Messenger and Advocate, Sidney stated that "we warned Joseph Smith and his family, of the ruin that was coming on them, and of the certain destruction which awaited them, for their iniquity…." Yet, as pointed out above, while Joseph was alive, Sidney never gave any indication that he did this or that he believed Joseph was involved with polygamy or that he was a fallen prophet. In fact, just the opposite occurred. Certainly, the Nancy Rigdon scandal would have been a time for Sidney to lose faith in Joseph. No father, especially a moral one with strong anti-polygamy feelings, would have supported a religious leader's attempt to seduce his daughter into polygamy. Yet both Sidney and Nancy claimed publicly in a local newspaper that Dr. John C. Bennett's allegations that Joseph wrote the unsigned love letter to Nancy were false. Shortly after this scandal, Joseph raised Eliza Rigdon, Nancy's sister and Sidney's daughter, from the dead. This experience was so spiritually powerful that Sidney had to know of Joseph's innocence of the allegations surrounding him. As he later wrote in the Messenger and Advocate, the Lord will only "give his spirit to them that obey him." In addition, the Spirit spoke to Sidney through Eliza indicating that Joseph was telling the truth about Bennett. As a result of these experiences, Sidney declared publicly in August 1842 that Joseph was a true prophet. I believe Sidney was thoroughly convinced that the allegations against Joseph were false and that Joseph was God's servant. Subsequently, in May of 1844, about one month before Joseph's death, Sidney defended Joseph in Francis Higbee's suit indicating that Joseph told the truth about Dr. John C. Bennett's and Francis Higbee's immoral conduct in 1842. Had Sidney truly warned Joseph about his "iniquity" as he stated in the Messenger and Advocate, he would not have defended Joseph against Higbee and indicated Joseph was telling the truth about him.

Thus, from Sidney's actions throughout his association with Joseph, it is clear to me that while Joseph was alive, Sidney knew that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. He had no personal knowledge to indicate Joseph was involved with polygamy and the Lord had confirmed to him that Joseph was still His prophet and obedient to Him. Sidney's later "conversion" to the position that Joseph was a polygamist and a fallen prophet was obviously not based on his observations of Joseph during the 14 years of his close association with him and it was not based on revelation from the Lord. Therefore, it should not be assumed that the information published about Joseph in the Messenger and Advocate was necessarily true because of any knowledge that Sidney had from his association with Joseph. The information published about Joseph in the Messenger and Advocate must stand on its own merits and nothing else.

All of the allegations made in the Messenger and Advocate about Joseph, whether by Sidney or others, are totally unfounded. They give no specific examples of events, dates, times, or individuals involved. Thus, because they cannot be corroborated, they are not proof of anything. Truly, from Sidney's close association with Joseph he should have known of at least one event to support his allegations. He did not even mention the letter to Nancy, which if Joseph had written it, would have been perfect to discuss as proof that Joseph "had become basely corrupt, and put at defiance the laws of his God, to hide his iniquity from the world…" (Messenger and Advocate, June 1846). Oddly enough, this statement itself was in direct opposition to the one he made in public in Nauvoo in August 1842 after Joseph had raised Eliza from the dead. Because of Sidney's close association with Joseph, the fact that he did not mention any specifics about Joseph's involvement with polygamy indicates to me that there were none to mention, which is further proof of Joseph's innocence.

It is interesting to me that Sidney only wrote three articles over his name in which he indicated that Joseph was a polygamist, or a fallen prophet, or both. As indicated above, the first was published in the March 15, 1845 Messenger and Advocate. Prior to that issue there were signed and unsigned articles supporting this position about Joseph. Because Sidney was the editor of the paper, he would have had to have been sympathetic to this position about Joseph to have allowed these articles to be printed. Thus, it is possible that some or all of the unsigned articles could have been authored by him. If the unsigned articles were written by Sidney, the question comes to mind, "Why didn't he put his name to them?" I'm not sure of the reason, but possibly because, at that time, he was not thoroughly convinced of this position about Joseph, considering his experiences with Joseph while he was alive.

I believe the final "conversion" of Sidney to this position about Joseph came from William Law (an associate of Francis Higbee) and William E. McLellan when they joined the preaching series held at the Kirtland Temple in February 1845, as reported in the March 15, 1845 Messenger and Advocate. From that point on, Sidney published three articles over his name alleging Joseph's involvement with polygamy and did not publish any unsigned articles about this issue. In the March 15, 1845 report, Sidney stated:

Brother Law addressed the congregation for some time, setting forth what he knew about the people and the affairs of Nauvoo; some of which were new to us. He settled the question forever on the public mind, in, relation to the spiritual wife system, and the abominations concerning it. As Joseph Smith and others had attempted to get him into it, and in order to do so had made him acquainted with many things about it that we never knew before. The whole combined put the matter at rest, and the public mind was quieted, and all doubts removed." (italics added)

From what Sidney reported, I believe he was finally convinced from this point on of Joseph's involvement in polygamy. As I interpret his report, Law gave new information about polygamy in the Church and "settled the question forever." He stated things that Joseph had taught him about polygamy which "we never knew before." Law removed "all doubts" that Joseph was practicing polygamy. In addition, his subsequent two articles and the publishing of no unsigned articles confirm the solidifying of his belief. However, Sidney's belief that Joseph was a polygamist came from believing William Law and others but not from his association with Joseph.

Conclusion

While at first it might appear that Sidney Rigdon's publication of the Messenger and Advocate is proof that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy, closer scrutiny indicates it does not. First, there is strong evidence that during his association with Joseph he knew Joseph was innocent of the polygamy allegations. Second, the statements made in the Messenger and Advocate against Joseph were not supported by any facts. Third, Sidney's final "conversion" to the belief that Joseph was a polygamist came from William Law in February 1845 and not from his first-hand association with Joseph. I am uncertain why Sidney would allow the testimonies of men to change his position against what he knew and publicly testified to be true. Since Joseph was dead, maybe it was easier to say he was a fallen prophet than to defend him and prove his innocence. Maybe this disassociation with Joseph made it easier to start and run his church. Maybe such a position legitimized his new church in the eyes of the "Joseph" critics. Whatever his reason, the fact remains that during his association with Joseph, Sidney knew Joseph was innocent of teaching and practicing polygamy. Thus, the position against Joseph expressed in the Messenger and Advocate was, in the words of Shakespeare, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (Macbeth: Act V, Scene V).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Joseph and Brigham: Truth vs. Lies

Lying Successfully Is Hard

In my life, I have found that telling the truth is always easier than lying.  This is true because all you have to do is remember what happened and tell it to the best of your ability.  And generally, when this is done over time regarding the same event, the resulting stories, while maybe not exactly alike, greatly resemble each other in substance.  Lies, however, are a different matter.  To lie successfully about an event is hard.  It requires great mental powers.  First, you have to construct a story (sometimes on the fly) that is believable to your audience.  This requires a good imagination as well as knowing something about the audience and what they will believe.  Second, since you already know the truth, you have to remember the lie you told and not get it confused with the truth.  Since the truth never changes because it is actually what happened, a lie that is being passed off as the truth must also never change.  In addition, the liar must remember to whom he told the lie so as not to repeat something different to the same individual or group of people.  Third, if the liar never wishes to be caught in the lie, over time, he must remember the lie and to whom he told it.  And this is the most difficult part because after 5, 10, or 20 years, our memories fade and it is hard to remember the lies you told and to whom you told them.  Keeping this in mind let me proceed to the point of this blog.

Did Joseph Lie about Polygamy?

Joseph is accused of secretly teaching and practicing polygamy and lying about his involvement in it from about 1831 until his death in June 1844.  Joseph never preached a public sermon nor made a public statement in favor of plural marriage.  In fact, he did just the opposite.  He publically denounced its practice as evil and tried to eradicate it from the Church by pursuing punitive actions against those who were practicing it and accusing him of doing so.  Even the historians who state he did practice polygamy confirm that he never publically said he did and always spoke against it.

In Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 100, the author, Leonard J. Arrington, states that Joseph “unquestionably began to introduce the principle [of celestial marriage] to some associates in the spring of 1841, while the Twelve were still in England.”  According to WivesOfJosephSmith.org, Joseph took two wives during the period of 1831 to 1841, three wives in 1841, eleven wives in 1842, and seventeen wives in 1843.  From 1831 until his death in 1844, if Joseph lied about the doctrine and practice of polygamy, he would have lied to his family, Church members, and Church leaders in varying degrees.  If the above statement by Arrington is correct, during the first 10 years (1831–1841) he would have had to remember all of his lies so no one would have known.  Then beginning in 1841, he would have begun to reveal the truth to an increasing number of a select group, continuing to keep the general Church membership ignorant of the doctrine and practice.  If he truly did this, he must have been a very smart man to keep it all straight.  Remember, if you lie and want people to believe it, you have to remember the lie and to whom you told it over time—13 years in Joseph’s case.  However, I believe he kept it straight because he told the truth that he did not teach or practice polygamy.  If you tell the truth, you only have to remember the truth.  In addition, it is much easier to be consistent in your story.  Since there was no variance in Joseph’s position on polygamy, I have to believe he was telling the truth.

However, Joseph did more than just state he wasn’t a polygamist.  He actively pursued those who indicated he was a polygamist and defended himself against rumors.  One of the many examples was Joseph’s address to a Church conference in Nauvoo on April 6, 1843:

President Joseph then asked the conference if they were satisfied with the First Presidency, so far as he was concerned, as an individual, to preside over the whole church; or would they have another? If, said he, I have done any thing that ought to injure my character, reputation, or standing; or have dishonored our religion by any means in the sight of men, or angels, or in the sight of men and women, I am sorry for it, and if you will forgive me, I will endeavor to do so no more. I do not know that I have done anything of the kind; but if I have, come forward and tell me of it. If any one has any objection to me, I want you to come boldly and frankly, and tell of it; and if not, ever after hold your peace. (Times and Seasons 4 [May 1,1843]: 181)

Not one hand was lifted. Not one voice was raised. No complaint was made against Joseph, and he was unanimously chosen to continue as Prophet. (Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Vision 50)

If Joseph was lying about teaching and practicing polygamy and wanting to continue that lie, he would not have opened himself up to possible attack on this issue.  But even if for some strange reason he did, the result speaks for itself.  No one came forward to prove he was practicing polygamy.  And in those days there was no concern for being politically correct.  As the expression says, they called “an ace an ace and a spade a spade.”  So if he had been teaching or practicing polygamy, someone would have come forth to challenge him.

Did Brigham Lie about Polygamy?

However, Brigham Young had major problems with consistency in his story about how he learned of the plural marriage doctrine.  I am sure we are all familiar with the following statement made by him in the Bowery, Provo, Utah, July 14, 1855:

Some of these my brethren know what my feelings were at the time Joseph revealed the doctrine; I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I was not in the coffin, knowing the toil and labor that my body would have to undergo; and I have had to examine myself, from that day to this, and watch my faith, and carefully meditate, lest I should be found desiring the grave more than I ought to do. (Journal of Discourses 3:266)

So according to this statement, Brigham first heard the doctrine of plural marriage from Joseph, and he was so repulsed by it that he would have rather been dead than to obey it.  According to Arrington above, Joseph informed Brigham of this doctrine after Brigham returned from England, about July 1841.

However, in 1874 (19 years after his previous statement) Brigham reported to the Deseret News a significantly different account of how he first learned of this doctrine:

While we were in England, (in 1839 and 40), I think the Lord manifested to me by vision and his Spirit things [concerning polygamy] that I did not then understand. I never opened my mouth to any one concerning them, until I returned to Nauvoo; Joseph had never mentioned this; there had never been a thought of it in the Church that I ever knew anything about at that time, but I had this for myself, and I kept it to myself. And when I returned home, and Joseph revealed those things to me, then I understood the reflections that were upon my mind while in England. But this (communication with Joseph on the subject) was not until after I had told him what I understood—this was in 1841. The revelation [Section 132 in the Utah Doctrine and Covenants] was given in 1843, but the doctrine was revealed before this. (Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Volume 1, Chapter 4; The Messenger of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1 [June 1875]: 29; Deseret News, July 1, 1874)

According to this statement by Brigham, during 1839–1840 the Lord, not Joseph, revealed to him the doctrine of plural marriage.  Upon his return to Nauvoo in 1841, he told Joseph what the Lord had shown him and Joseph confirmed it.

In comparing these two statements, each one greatly contradicts the other.  If the first one was true, Brigham would have remembered the account 19 years later, particularly because the event was so traumatic that he wanted to die.  It is not easy to forget those types of memories over time, and even if they are forgotten, they do not morph into an entirely different story.  If the second one was true, Brigham would not have been astonished or repulsed by the doctrine as indicated in the first account because the Lord had shown him up to two years previously that it was correct.  In addition, if the second statement was true, he would have told it the first time, especially considering it gave the authority of the Lord to practice polygamy.

Who Told the Truth?

So who was telling the truth about Joseph’s involvement in polygamy?  For 13 years, Joseph stated he did not teach or practice polygamy and sought to take action against those who were practicing it and accusing him of doing so.  Joseph’s story never varied.  However, after 19 years, Brigham’s second story made the first one look false and the first one made the second look false.    Who was telling the truth?  I believe Joseph was because his story never varied.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Polygamy Statements Conflict with LDS D&C 132

At the very heart of the position that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a polygamist is the Plural Marriage section of Historical Record 6 and Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. This part of Historical Record 6 contains statements of individuals attesting to Joseph's involvement in polygamy. It was edited and published by Andrew Jenson in 1889. Section 132 is purported by the LDS Church to be a revelation on celestial marriage (polygamy) given by God through Joseph Smith, Jr. It was allegedly recorded July 12, 1843, by William Clayton “sentence by sentence, as he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] dictated” (Historical Record 6, 226). This document was first made public in 1852 by the LDS Church.

Recently, I re-read this section of Historical Record 6 and found that the statements of Eliza M. Partridge, Emily Dow Partridge, Eliza R. Snow (alleged plural wives of Joseph), Lovina Walker (Hyrum Smith's daughter and Joseph F. Smith's sister), and William Clayton (Joseph's scribe) regarding Emma Smith were in conflict with parts of Section 132. I wish to discuss these discrepancies because I believe they cast serious doubt about the entire truthfulness of both the statements and Section 132.

Evaluation Criteria for the Truthfulness of Witness Statements and Revelation

Because of these discrepancies I had to evaluate both the statements and the revelation to determine if they were true about Emma. And more importantly, if they were false about Emma, were they also false about Joseph?

By my way of thinking, witness statements or affidavits made in a court of law have a much higher probability of truth because of cross-examination by the opposition and an enforceable penalty for perjury. However, if they are made outside of a court of law, as is the case of the statements in the Plural Marriage section of Historical Record 6, there is no cross-examination by the opposition and no penalty for perjury. Thus, they may or may not be true. In addition, if part of a statement or affidavit which is made outside of a court of law is false, the other part may be false because it is possible they also lied about that part. So, the credibility of the entire statement becomes suspect.

On the other hand, revelations, as I look at it, have a more strict requirement for being truthful. While I have never received a revelation from the Lord and probably never will, the revelations of the type that Joseph received were, as alleged in them, supposed to be the mind and will of God. Most, if not all, of Joseph's revelations begin "Behold, thus saith the Lord" or something of a similar nature to indicate that Deity is speaking through His servant the prophet. While the revelations may be in the language of Joseph, they are not supposed to be his words put together by him to express the leadings of the Spirit. They should be more than that. They should be the word of God--the spoken mind and will of Deity, who does not lie. If the author of the revelation is God, I do not believe the prophet is given the power to pick and choose what parts of the revelation are delivered or what words are used to deliver the message. As a result, I do not believe that part of a revelation can be from God and part from man or Satan. If God is the author of the revelation, then all of the revelation is of Him and is true. Thus, I believe that if part of a revelation can be proved to be false, the entire revelation is not of God and is false.

So, using these criteria, if the witness statements about Emma are false, there is a high probability that they are also false about Joseph. In addition, if the statements about Emma in Section 132 are false, then the entire revelation is false. However, before I discuss these issues in depth, I wish to quote the statements along with Section 132 and analyze the content of the discrepant portions.

The Witness Statements

As background, the statements below from Historical Record 6 indicate that Emma Smith supported polygamist marriages of Joseph prior to July 12, 1843—the date which the celestial marriage document (Section 132) was allegedly first recorded and read to Emma by Hyrum Smith. These statements were made from 26 to 36 years after the events. According to Andrew Jenson, they were all published in the Historical Record to prove Joseph Smith introduced plural marriage to the Latter-day Saints (ibid., 219). Also, prior to being published in the Historical Record, all but William Clayton's statement were published in the Deseret News in October, 1879, to refute an article in the Saints' Advocate. According to Joseph F. Smith, that article was entitled "'Last Testimony of Sister Emma,' in which that lady is made responsible for a statement to the effect that Joseph Smith, the Prophet, never in his lifetime taught nor practiced the principle of plural marriage" (ibid., 220-224).

Eliza M. Partridge Lyman's statement:

"Be it remembered that on the first day of July, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me, Edward Partridge, probate Judge in and for said county, Eliza M. (Partridge) Lyman, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath saith, that on the 11th day of May, 1843, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by James Adams, a High Priest in said Church, ... in the presence of Emma (Hale) Smith and Emily D. Partridge." (ibid., 223, italics added)

Emily Dow Partridge Young's statement:

"Be it remembered that on this the first day of May, A.D. 1869, personally before me, Elias Smith, probate judge for said county, Emily Dow (P.) Young, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath said, that on the 11th day of May, A.D. 1843, at the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by James Adams, a High Priest in said Church, ... in presence of Emma (Hale) Smith, (now Emma Bidamon) and Eliza M. Partridge Smith, (now Eliza M. Lyman)." (ibid., italics added)

(Sister Young, in her autobiography published in the Woman's Exponent Vol. 14, page 38, says: "The first intimation I had from Brother Joseph that there was a pure and holy order of plural marriage, was in the spring of 1842, but I was not married until 1843. I was married to him on the 11th of May, 1843, by Elder James Adams. Emma was present. She gave her free and full consent. She had always, up to this time, been very kind to me and my sister Eliza, who was also married to the Prophet Joseph with Emma's consent. Emma, about this time, gave her husband two other wives—Maria and Sarah Lawrence.") (ibid., italics added)

It should be noted that the statements of both Eliza and Emily Partridge included the phrase, "who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath said [or saith]...." I presume this phrase was included to assure the reader that the statement was true because it was made under oath to a judge. However, there is no indication on the statement or elsewhere that they were made in a court of law. In addition, it is important to remember that the judges were probate judges. Since the statements did not concern probate matters, it is highly unlikely that they were made before the judge in a court of law. Thus, there would have been no cross-examination and no penalty for perjury. As a result, even though these two statements were made to a judge under oath, I do not believe that they have a higher probability of truth than any other statements made outside a court of law.

Lovina Walker’s statement, given June 16, 1869:

"I Lovina Walker (eldest daughter of Hyrum Smith), hereby certify, that while I was living with Aunt Emma Smith, in Fulton City, Fulton County, Illinois, in the year 1846, she told me that she, Emma Smith, was present and witnessed the marrying or sealing of Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, Maria Lawrence and Sarah Lawrence to her husband, Joseph Smith, and that she gave her consent thereto." (ibid., italics added)

Eliza R. Snow’s statement, in part, first published in the Deseret News, October 22, 1879:

"It is a fact that Sister Emma, of her own free will and choice, gave her husband four wives, two of whom are now living, and ready to testify that she, not only gave them to her husband, but that she taught them the doctrine of plural marriage and urged them to accept it." (ibid., 224, italics added)

William Clayton’s statement given February 16, 1874:

"On the 1st day of May, 1843, I officiated in the office of an Elder by marrying Lucy Walker to the Prophet Joseph Smith, at his own residence.

"During this period the Prophet Joseph took several other wives. Amongst the number I well remember Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, Sarah Ann Whitney, Helen Kimball and Flora Woodworth. These all, he acknowledged to me, were his lawful, wedded wives, according to the celestial order. His wife Emma was cognizant of the fact of some, if not all, of these being his wives, and she generally treated them very kindly.

"On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843, Joseph and Hyrum Smith came into the office in the upper story of the 'brick store,' on the bank of the Mississippi River. They were talking on the subject of plural marriage. Hyrum ... remarked, 'The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity or heavenly origin,' or words to their effect. Joseph then said, 'Well, I will write the revelation and we will see.' He then requested me to get paper and prepare to write. Hyrum very urgently requested Joseph to write the revelation by means of the Urim and Thummim, but Joseph, in reply, said he did not need to, for he knew the revelation perfectly from beginning to end.

"Joseph and Hyrum then sat down and Joseph commenced to dictate the revelation on celestial marriage, and I wrote it, sentence by sentence, as he dictated. After the whole was written, Joseph asked me to read it through, slowly and carefully, which I did, and he pronounced it correct. He then remarked that there was much more that he could write, on the same subject, but what was written was sufficient for the present." (ibid., 225-226, italics added)

Analyzing the Witness Statements

All of the above statements agree that just prior to Joseph dictating the celestial marriage revelation (now Section 132 of the LDS D&C), Emma was very supportive of Joseph teaching and practicing this new doctrine. According to the above accounts, she attended the weddings, gave her complete consent to the plural marriages, taught the principle, and even gave from two to four wives to Joseph. From their statements, she appeared to not only be a willing participant in polygamy but an enthusiastic one. And she maintained this attitude toward the four to eight additional wives Joseph allegedly married during the period from May to July, 1843. There is nothing in their observations of Emma to indicate that she did not accept this doctrine or was antagonistic toward the plural wives or Joseph during this time. She was observed by them to be a model plural wife. The position of these statements definitely reflects the reason for which they were collected and published—to refute Emma's statement published in the Saints' Advocate and prove Joseph Smith introduced polygamy to the Latter-day Saints.

Section 132

The above statements indicating that Emma was a model plural wife seems to be in direct conflict with the celestial marriage revelation allegedly dictated by Joseph on July 12, 1843. This document brings stern warnings to Emma if she does not embrace this new doctrine. LDS Doctrine and Covenants 132:51-56 states:

51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.

53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.

56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice. (italics added)

Analyzing Section 132

According to this part of the alleged revelation on celestial marriage, God told Emma to "receive all those that have been given" to Joseph. He commanded her "to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else." And He warned her that if she did not "abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law." If this revelation is true, it was a stern reprimand from God to Emma to accept the principle, support it, and support Joseph's practice of it. If she did not do this, God threatened to destroy her. Since it is not stated whether this destruction would be temporal or eternal, I assume it means a complete destruction which would be both temporal and eternal. According to this document, God was telling Emma that He would destroy her both physically and eternally (cast into outer darkness) if she disobeyed His command. Thus, this document was a warning to Emma of gravest consequences if disobeyed.

The Witness Statements Conflict with Section 132

If this revelation is true, why was God being so stern with Emma? According to the above statements in Historical Record 6, prior to the date the revelation was given she had received "all those that have been given" to Joseph with open and supportive arms. Not only this, but she had willingly given wives to Joseph, attended some of their weddings, taught them the principle, and by her actions was showing them how to obey it. And she was doing this with faith in her husband as a prophet of God and belief that the principle of celestial marriage taught by him was of divine origin. To me, this sounds like a very obedient handmaiden of the Lord. However, instead of recognizing and praising Emma for her faith and obedience, the Lord threatened her with both physical and eternal destruction if she was not faithful to the principle.

So, how can the above testimonies be reconciled with the Lord threatening Emma in Section 132? The truth is, they cannot be. If the testimonies are true, certainly the Lord would have observed the same and commended Emma in the revelation for her faith and obedience to the new celestial principle. However, He did not do this. Instead, He threatened her with total destruction. This indicates she was reluctant or disobedient in accepting and living the principle, which is in direct opposition to the testimonies.

In regards to Emma, the above statements and Section 132 are in opposition to each other. Thus, one or the other must be false about her. Logically they both cannot be true.

Either the Witness Statements or Section 132 Are Entirely False

If the revelation is true, the witness statements about Emma are false. And if the statements about Emma are false, I believe that the statements which these individuals also made about Joseph have no credibility for being true. As I stated previously, if part of a statement or affidavit is false, I believe the credibility of the entire statement becomes suspect. On the other hand, if the witness statements about Emma are true, the part about Emma in the celestial marriage revelation is false. And, as I stated earlier about revelation, if part of the revelation is false, I believe the entire revelation is false. So logically, either the entire revelation is true and the entire witness statements are false or the entire revelation is false and the entire witness statements are true. If the revelation is false, Joseph did not give it as purported by William Clayton. If the witness statements are false, they cannot prove Joseph's involvement in polygamy. Whichever the case, both the witness statements and Section 132 cannot be used together as proof that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy.

Emma's and Joseph's Lives Prove Both Are False

While both the statements and Section 132 can be in opposition to each other and one be true, they can also be in opposition to each other and both be false. It is my opinion that both are false. All statements made by Emma throughout her life opposed polygamy and supported the position that Joseph did not teach or practice polygamy. Since she was accepted in her community throughout her life as a person of honor and integrity, we have to assume her statements truly reflected her position on polygamy. In addition, her strong opposition to Brigham Young's leadership and her refusal to go West with her family and friends are also good indications of her opposition to polygamy. Thus, the probability of the truth of the above statements in Historical Record 6 regarding Emma is very low. This is especially true considering that the statements were made from 26 to 36 years after the events, these individuals were heavily involved with polygamy in Utah, and the purpose of their statements was to refute Emma by proving that Joseph was a polygamist and that she supported the principle. And I believe that if these statements were not true about Emma, they were also not true that Joseph was a polygamist..

Actually, Emma's stand against polygamy in her life is more reflective of the position taken in Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. Yet, the prophetic nature of this document comes short of fulfillment. Verse 54 states, "But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law." As stated earlier, since the type of destruction was not specified, we can assume it was intended to be a total destruction—both physical and spiritual. However, after July 12, 1843 (the date this revelation was allegedly given), Emma lived another 35 years—to the age of 74—in opposition to polygamy.** Obviously, this part of the alleged revelation was not fulfilled.

In addition, according to verse 55, the Lord stated about Joseph that if he is faithful to the principle, "I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of ... houses and lands, wives and children...." This means the Lord promised to give Joseph 100 times the number of "houses and lands, wives and children...." that he possessed on July 12, 1843. However, within a year Joseph was dead and this blessing, I believe, was unfulfilled as follows:

  1. At the time of his death, he had not received a "hundredfold ... of ... houses and lands...." He left Emma with very little financial means to support herself and their children.
  2. Since July 12, 1843, Joseph had not received a "hundredfold ... of ... children...." In 1843, all of his children with Emma had been born except for David Hyrum. In addition, it is alleged that he had twelve children by plural marriages, which if true is hardly a "hundredfold" increase. However, DNA studies have proved that five of these children (almost half) were not his children and may eventually prove that the remaining seven children were also not his.
  3. While many claim that Joseph had over 30 plural wives, they do not claim he had a "hundredfold" increase in them since July 12, 1843. In addition, Joseph's involvement in polygamy is not a proven fact. There is too much evidence against it to be a proven fact. Throughout Joseph's life, he denied his involvement. Emma and his immediate family—those that should know—always denied his involvement. His sons pursued allegations of his involvement but never found credible evidence to support the allegations. The statements of alleged plural wives did not withstand cross-examination in court during the Temple Lot Case and the judge ruled that there was no credible evidence that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.

Since God is all knowing and always speaks the truth, why did He promise these "hundredfold" blessings to Joseph knowing that he would not live long enough to receive them? And why did He promise to physically destroy Emma but did not do so? These promises to both Joseph and Emma in Section 132 were not fulfilled because they were not God's promises, but man's.

We must remember that this revelation was first made public in 1852, approximately eight years after Joseph's death, by those heavily involved in polygamy. Thus, Joseph had no opportunity to acknowledge or deny it as true. Its authenticity was never voted upon by the Church, which was the final authority prior to Joseph's death to decide if a revelation was the mind and will of God. Throughout Emma's life she denied that Joseph gave this revelation and that he taught or practiced polygamy. Those who did not go west with Brigham Young did not embrace this revelation as God-given through Joseph. In addition, the judge's ruling in the Temple Lot Case found there was not sufficient evidence to prove Joseph gave this revelation. Considering the dubious circumstances surrounding this revelation and the fact that the promises to both Emma and Joseph were not fulfilled, I can only conclude that it was not of God and was not given by Joseph. As such, I do not believe it is credible evidence that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.

Summary

When the above testimonies are compared to Section 132, it is obvious to me that either one or the other is false. And when they are analyzed separately according to known facts, they both appear to be false. In my opinion, neither one is credible proof that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.


** According to http://pages.uoregon.edu/maphist/english/US/US39-01.html, U. S. women who reached age 40 in 1850 had an average life expectancy of age 68. Emma was age 39 (date of birth 7/10/1804) in July, 1843, and lived until the age of 74 (date of death 4/30/1979). Thus, her age exceeded her life expectancy. This would certainly indicate that her life was not cut short by God because of her disobedience to the principle as section 132 stated it would be.

Addendum (2/6/15): Authorship of LDS D&C Section 132 Determined by Writing Style Analysis

The following was posted on 12/31/14 anonymously as a comment to my “The LDS Church's Plural Marriage Statement” blog post: “Have you ever read Enid DeBarthe's thesis paper on an analysis of the writing style of the author of Section 132 MDC? She proves incontrovertibly that Brigham Young was its author. I have had a physical copy of it for almost 30 years, but didn't take the time to digitize it until a couple of weeks ago. I have never heard anybody mention it in any polygamy discussions. It is quite lengthy and technical, but if you would be interested in reading it, I can send it to your email.”

I responded that I was interested in getting a digital copy and gave my email address. However, I never received a copy of this document. Since this post, I asked around locally if any of my contacts knew of this document and where I could get a copy to digitize. I soon found out that Enid DeBarthe’s sister had recently begun attending our church. Her sister put me in contact with Enid’s son who had a copy of the document. It is a 348 page book which he allowed be to digitize. There are only three in existence.

According to the title page, the book is entitled, “A BIBLIOGRAPHY ON JOSEPH SMITH II THE MORMON PROPHET-LEADER.” Enid DeBarthe wrote this book as a “Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Library Science” for the “Faculty of the Graduate School Northern Illinois University” in July 1969. The major portion of the book is about Joseph Smith (his teachings and writings), the movement of the Church from New York to eventually Illinois, and the disbursement of the Church after Joseph’s death. It is the appendix of the book (oddly not listed in the table of contents) which analyzes the writing styles of both LDS D&C 132 and the King Follett sermon and compares them to the writing styles of several men, including Joseph and Brigham Young, to determine the likely author of these documents. It is her conclusion that “Brigham Young wrote Section 132 and rewrote the major portion of the report on the King Follett sermon” (p. 315).

Today, the type of writing analysis she used is called stylometry, which compares the writing style, using various criteria, of a document with unknown or disputed authorship to the writing styles of various authors to determine correct authorship. Presently, there are several computer programs which are used to do this task. However, Enid DeBarthe, in 1969, had to do this manually by counting words as well as comparing sentence structure and phraseology. The study and analysis she did was very detailed and remarkable for her time.

Since there has been so much interest expressed to read this analysis, I have made a PDF file of it available for you to download. If you have trouble downloading it, you may contact me at jsdefender1@gmail.com and I will email it to you.