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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email it to you.