Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Whitney Letter

Recently, a reader asked if I had a response to the letter written by Joseph to Newel K. Whitney indicating that Joseph was a polygamist and was hiding these relationships from Emma. The following article is my answer to this inquiry.

The Issue

On August 18, 1842, while in hiding at Carlos Granger’s, Joseph allegedly wrote a letter to the Whitneys with the salutation, “Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.”  Many say that the “&c.” in the salutation refers to the Whitneys' daughter, Sarah Ann.  Proponents of the position that Joseph taught and practiced polygamy quote excerpts from this letter to prove it was a love letter to Sarah asking her and her parents to visit him in hiding so he could see Sarah.  They allege that about three weeks prior to the letter, on July 27, 1842, Joseph gave a revelation to Newel K. Whitney that Sarah was to be his plural wife and that Newel was to marry them.  In the supposed revelation the Lord told Newel the very words to use in the marriage ceremony and on that day they were married.  So, according to the proponents of this position, the requested visit was so Joseph could be with his new plural wife. 

Joseph's critics not only point to this letter (and the alleged revelation) to prove Joseph practiced polygamy but also to show that he was a deceiver, liar, and lustful man. To them, Joseph lied to Emma when he wrote her two days previous to the Whitney letter and closed it by telling her, “Yours in haste, your affectionate husband until death, through all eternity; for evermore” (The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney, REVISED EDITION, 1982 by H. Michael Marquardt).  To them, Joseph was practicing deception against Emma when he stated in the Whitney letter, “the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty” and “I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night.”  In addition, when in the letter he requested the Whitneys to burn it as soon as they read it, his critics believe that he was continuing his deception by trying to keep the meeting secret. (Fairwiki.org about the Whitney letter).  Thus, according to the supporters of this position, Joseph was requesting a secret rendezvous with his new plural wife because he needed marital companionship from her and he did not want Emma to know about it.

However, close scrutiny of the facts surrounding both the Whitney letter and the alleged revelation indicate this interpretation is not correct..

Facts About the Two Documents

According to chapter 34 of The Essential Joseph Smith, published by Signature Books, the alleged revelation from Joseph to Newel K. Whitney and the letter to Newel, Elizabeth, and Sarah Whitney are maintained in the archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. For the revelation, the Joseph Smith's Polygamy Chronology Web page states that it was recorded in the “Original manuscript of Kirtland Revelation Book, Church Historical Department, Ms f 490 # 2." However, in the article "Historical Perspectives on the Kirtland Revelation Book" by John A. Tvedtnes of the Maxwell Institute, this revelation is not listed as being in the book. The oldest revelation in the book was dated November, 1834, which preceded the alleged Whitney revelation by eight years.

For the Whitney letter, an image of a photograph of it is displayed on the “Strange Marriages Of Sarah Ann Whitney” site. This site states the following about the photograph:

Photographs of both sides of the original letter written in the handwriting of Joseph Smith are in the George Albert Smith Family Papers, Manuscript 36, Box 1, Early Smith Documents, 1731-1849, Folder 18, in the Special Collections, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

In chronological order, the first of the two documents is the alleged revelation given by Joseph to Newel on July 27, 1842. As previously stated, it contained the authority for Joseph to marry Sarah Ann Whitney and the words for the marriage ceremony which her father, Newel, was to conduct. The text of this document follows. Please pay particular attention to the italicized parts.

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto my servant N. K. Whitney, the thing that my servant Joseph Smith has made known unto you and your family and which you have agreed upon is right in mine eyes and shall be rewarded upon your heads with honor and immortality and eternal life to all your house, both old and young because of the lineage of my Priesthood, saith the Lord, it shall be upon you and upon your children after you from generation to generation, by virtue of the holy promise which I now make unto you, saith the Lord. These are the words which you shall pronounce upon my servant Joseph and your daughter S. A. Whitney. They shall take each other by the hand and you shall say, You both mutually agree, calling them by name, to be each other's companion so long as you both shall live, preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout eternity, reserving only those rights which have been given to my servant Joseph by revelation and commandment and by legal authority in times passed. If you both agree to covenant and do this, I then give you, S. A. Whitney, my daughter, to Joseph Smith, to be his wife, to observe all the rights between you both that belong to that condition. I do it in my own name and in the name of my wife, your mother, and in the name of my holy progenitors, by the right of birth which is of priesthood, vested in me by revelation and commandment and promise of the living God, obtained by the Holy Melchisedeck Gethrow [Jethro?] and others of the Holy Fathers, commanding in the name of the Lord all those powers to concentrate in you and through you to your posterity forever. All these things I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that through this order he may be glorified and that through the power of anointing David may reign King over Israel, which shall hereafter be revealed. Let immortality and eternal life hereafter be sealed upon your heads forever and ever. (Strange Marriages Of Sarah Ann Whitney, REVISED EDITION, 1982 by H. Michael Marquardt, italics added)

The second document, the letter allegedly from Joseph to the Whitneys, was written August 18, 1842, which was 22 days after the alleged revelation. The following text of the entire document comes from the Fairwiki.org article about the letter:

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—
I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

The Validity of the Two Documents

I was very disappointed not to find specific information online as to how these two documents were validated as being Joseph's. (If anyone has information as to the validation of these documents, I would appreciate your responding to this blog with that information.) Before we can conclude anything about Joseph's behavior based on these documents, we must be certain that he wrote them. If he did not write them, then certainly they cannot be used to prove he was a polygamist.

Authentication of the Alleged Revelation

There seems to be discrepancies about the written source of the document even though all sources I have found, including Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness, agree that the original document is maintained in the archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. It would be easy to assume that if LDS officials said this revelation came through Joseph, then it did. However, this is not necessarily true. Matthew L. Jockers, Stanford University, wrote the paper “Testing Authorship in the Personal Writings of Joseph Smith Using NSC Classification” which stated:

As Mormon scholar Dean Jessee makes clear in the introduction to Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Smith and Jessee 2002), Smith's speeches, letters, and even journal entries were frequently written by scribes or written in tandem with one or more of his collaborators. In another article that appears in the pages of the "Joseph Smith Papers" online archive (Jessee n.d.) Jessee writes, "only a tiny proportion of Joseph Smith’s papers were penned by Smith himself." In many of the documents Jessee collected, we see the handwriting of Smith interwoven with the handwriting of his scribes, sometimes side by side in the exact same letter, journal entry, or document.

So, unless the original document is in Joseph's handwriting, which from the above quote is highly unlikely, how do we know that it truly came from Joseph?

The other issue is the one put forth by Richard S. Van Wagoner in "The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young," Dialogue, Vol. 28, No. 4, Winter 1995, pp.2–3. He states:

The Twelve’s nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations that were seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian who later left the church, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized, Wandell noted in his diary:

I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was “doctored” to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.

More than a dozen references to Brigham Young’s involvement in transposing the written history may be found in the post-martyrdom record first published in book form in 1902 as History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, an 1 April 1845 citation records Young saying: “I commenced revising the History of Joseph Smith at Brother Richard’s office: Elder Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith were with me.”

That this revision, or censorship, of the official history came from Brigham Young is evidenced by an 11 July 1856 reference in Wilford Woodruff’s diary. Apostle Woodruff, working in the church historian’s office, questioned Young respecting a “p[ie]ce of History on Book E-1 page 1681-2 concerning Hyr[u]m leading this Church & tracing the [A]aronic Priesthood.” Young advised, “it was not essential to be inserted in the History & had better be omitted.” Woodruff then queried him about “Joseph[s] words on South Carolina” (see D&C 87; 130:12-13) which had recently been published in the Deseret News . Young said he “wished it not published.” Years later Elder Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, admitted that after Joseph Smith’s death some changes were made in the official record “for prudential reasons.”

Because of the many scribes used to pen Joseph's works and because of the credibility problem of the LDS historians of the post-Joseph era, it is most difficult to be sure of the authenticity of this alleged revelation. And if we cannot be sure of its authenticity, how can we use it as proof that Joseph both taught and practiced polygamy?

Authentication of the Letter

Even though a photograph is available for viewing, the Whitney letter also has authentication issues. Since this letter was allegedly written by Joseph while he was in hiding, I seriously doubt that he would have dictated it to a scribe to write. Thus, if it is from Joseph, odds are that it should be in his handwriting. As indicated above, the “Strange Marriages Of Sarah Ann Whitney” site states the letter is in Joseph's handwriting. However, the site gives no indication as to how they know that to be true other than the photograph of the letter is maintained by the Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. Chapter 34 of The Essential Joseph Smith, published by Signature Books and Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness ( p. 719, V.) state the original document is maintained in the archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. However, the writers of both of these works do not address how they know it is Joseph's handwriting. Has the handwriting of the letter from the original or the photograph been authenticated as Joseph's handwriting by outside, professional experts? In addition, how do we know the original letter is not a forgery like those produced by Mark Hofmann? Until a complete, independent, and unbiased validation of this document has been done, how can we draw any conclusions from it about Joseph's motives or behaviors?

Analyzing the Alleged Revelation

After reading both of the complete documents, it is obvious to me that the interpretation of the Whitney letter as a love letter depends on the validity of the alleged revelation and whether or not Sarah Ann was a plural wife of Joseph. Without these two events, it is a real stretch of one's imagination to interpret the Whitney letter as anything other than a letter between very good friends.

Questionable Text

Some of the text along with the circumstances of the alleged revelation make it very questionable to me. According to the Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith site, Sarah Ann Whitney was Joseph's sixteenth wife including Emma. Fourteen times previous to Sarah Ann he had allegedly entered into a plural marriage and all of these women were still living. In addition, this site indicates that in the following fifteen months he entered into an additional eighteen plural marriages after Sarah Ann. This means that after allegedly marrying Sarah Ann, he was less than half done and would continue marrying plural wives at the average rate of a little more than one a month. This scenario gives me a problem with a sentence in the alleged revelation which states "You both mutually agree, calling them by name, to be each other's companion so long as you both shall live, preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout eternity..." (italics added). If this alleged revelation was given by God, He would have known that Joseph had fifteen wives previous to Sarah Ann and would have another eighteen after her. He would have known that Joseph could not (because of his previous wives) and would not (because of his future wives) preserve himself only for Sarah Ann. In addition, if God was authorizing Joseph's polygamy, He would not have made a statement which restricted his involvement to one wife and excluded his involvement with his previous and future wives. Also, since a main purpose of polygamy was to obtain a greater reward in eternity, why would God restrict Joseph to a marital relationship with only one wife "throughout eternity." On the other hand, if Joseph created this alleged revelation for his own benefit, knowing about his previous wives and his desire for future wives (averaging more than one a month) he would not have restricted his marital activities to only Sarah Ann. Therefore, from this sentence alone in the alleged revelation, I do not believe this document came from God or that it was created by Joseph.

Questionable Subject Agreement

From my reading of Joseph's revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, I have never noticed the subject agreement to be incorrect. Admittedly, I have not studied each revelation for this purpose, but I have never noticed one while studying a revelation for meaning. I attribute this to God's impeccable understanding of all languages and that He always knows who He is talking to and what He is saying. However, in the above alleged revelation the subject agreement is incorrect. Through Joseph, God is supposedly telling Newel what he is to say when conducting the marriage ceremony between Joseph and Sarah Ann. In the words Newel was to use, a reference was made to Joseph as "my servant Joseph." This means that during the service Newel, by command of God, would reference Joseph as "my servant Joseph" which would communicate the meaning that Joseph was Newel's servant. God would have known that when Newel was addressing Joseph, he should state something like "God's servant Joseph" and not "my servant Joseph" as is stated in the alleged revelation. This little discrepancy is an indication that this document was not God given but was created by man.

Sarah Ann's Immediate Response is Questionable

Another issue I have with this alleged revelation is its timing in relation to the date of the marriage. Orson F. Whitney (the nephew of Sarah Ann Whitney) stated about Sarah Ann in The Contributor, Vol. 6, No. 4, January 1885, p. 131:

This girl was but seventeen years of age, but she had implicit faith in the doctrine of plural marriage, as revealed to and practiced by the Prophet, was of celestial origin. She was the first woman, in this dispensation, who was given in plural marriage by and with the consent of both parents. Her father himself officiated in the ceremony. The revelation commanding and consecrating this union, is in existence, though it has never been published. It bears the date of July 27, 1842, and was given through the Prophet to the writer's grandfather, Newel K. Whitney, whose daughter Sarah, on that day, became the wedded wife of Joseph Smith for time and all eternity. (Strange Marriages Of Sarah Ann Whitney)

I find it very hard to believe that on July 17, 1842, a 17-year-old woman received a revelation that she was to become a plural wife of 36-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr. and with no hesitation she married him on that same day. In Todd Compton's analysis of the above statement he indicates that her acceptant state of mind about embracing polygamy may have been a "family tradition that has idealized the story." But he goes on to say that her father and mother and Joseph had instructed her in this doctrine prior to her alleged marriage to Joseph on the date of the alleged revelation (In Sacred Loneliness, p. 348). Yet his references to support this notion are unclear. Even if she was the most serious-minded and obedient child, her thoughts at age 17 of having to marry a 36-year-old man with 15 other wives would have been very scary, if not repulsive, to her. At age 17, with her whole life ahead of her, she was being required to sacrifice all of her dreams to participate in a new doctrine, that was only taught in secret, so her family could be assured of eternal life. And this new secret doctrine would require her at 17 to embrace sexual behavior that had been previously taught to her by her parents and society as being immoral. Keeping this in mind, I find it a bit contrived that she was so convinced of the truth of this doctrine that as soon as the alleged revelation came, she obeyed it and was married on the same day.

My wife's great, great grandfather and family followed Brigham Young west to Utah after Joseph's death. In the 1860s their daughter was in love with a young man and was desirous to be married to him. However, a Bishop decided that she was to be one of his plural wives. This thought was so repulsive to her that her entire family and her fiance's family fled Salt Lake City under cover of darkness with wagon wheels and horse hooves padded so as to leave unnoticed. As the story goes, they feared being caught and killed. They risked all so that their daughter would not have to participate in polygamy. And this was after polygamy had been taught and practiced openly for years as a doctrine of God brought forth in revelation by His Prophet Joseph (LDS D&C 132). Thus, is it probable that another young woman with less instruction and exposure to this doctrine, Sarah Ann Whitney, embraced it so thoroughly that on the day the alleged revelation was given to her father, she was not only ready to obey it, but did? I just do not believe so. If the document had been received and she had been given time to come around to this position, then it would be more feasible. But to receive such a life- and morality-changing command and to completely obey it the same day, to me is way outside of normal human behavior for this circumstance and as such gives question to the validity of this event.

Elizabeth's Autobiography Omitted Reference to the Alleged Revelation

The most important issue I have with this alleged revelation is the portion of Elizabeth Whitney's autobiography printed in the The Women of Mormondom, pages 368–369, by Edward W. Tullidge, 1877. When reading her statement, it is not so much what she says that casts great doubts upon the validity of the alleged revelation, but what she does not say. Even though it is lengthy, I am including the entire quote from this book so that no one thinks I purposely left anything out. Please pay particular attention to the parts I have italicized.

A very proper one to speak here is Mother Whitney, for it was her husband, Bishop Whitney, who preserved the revelation on polygamy. Speaking of the time when her husband kept store for Joseph (1842-3), she says: "It was during this time that Joseph received the revelation concerning celestial marriage; also concerning the ordinances of the house of the Lord. He had been strictly charged, by the angel who committed these precious things into his keeping, that he should only reveal them to such ones as were pure, and full of integrity to the truth, and worthy and capable of being entrusted with divine messages; that to spread them abroad would only be like casting pearls before swine; and that the most profound secresy was to be maintained, until the Lord saw fit to make it known publicly through his servants. Joseph had the most implicit confidence in my husband's uprightness and integrity of character, and so he confided to him the principles set forth in that revelation, and also gave him the privilege of reading and making a copy of it, believing it would be perfectly safe with him. It is this same copy that was preserved in the providence of God; for Emma (Joseph's wife), afterwards becoming indignant, burned the original, thinking she had destroyed the only written document upon the subject in existence. My husband revealed these things to me. We had always been united, and had the utmost faith and confidence in each other. We pondered upon the matter continually, and our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was very merciful to us, revealing unto us his power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision; a halo of light encircled us, and we were convinced in our own bosoms that God heard and approved our prayers and intercedings before him. Our hearts were comforted, and our faith made so perfect that we were willing to give our eldest daughter, then seventeen years of age, to Joseph, in the order of plural marriage. Laying aside all our traditions and former notions in regard to marriage, we gave her with our mutual consent. She was the first woman given in plural marriage with the consent of both parents. Of course these things had to be kept an inviolate secret; and as some were false to their vows and pledges of secresy, persecution arose, and caused grievous sorrow to those who had obeyed, in all purity and sincerity, the requirements of this celestial order of marriage. The Lord commanded his servants; they themselves did not comprehend what the ultimate course of action would be, but were waiting further developments from heaven. Meantime, the ordinances of the house of the Lord were given, to bless and strengthen us in our future endeavors to promulgate the principles of divine light and intelligence; but coming in contact with all preconceived notions and principles heretofore taught as the articles of religious faith, it was not strange that many could not receive it. Others doubted; and only a few remained firm and immovable."

I believe that the revelation "concerning celestial marriage" referenced by Elizabeth Whitney in her autobiography is what is known today as Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. She indicates that a copy of the document was kept in safety by her husband Newel and that the original document was burned by Emma, which events are commonly known to be associated with the document on celestial marriage that became Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. Allegedly this revelation was dictated by Joseph on July 12, 1843. When reading Elizabeth's statement above, we must keep in mind that her daughter Sarah allegedly married Joseph a year earlier on July 27, 1842—the same date that Newel Whitney, Sarah's father, allegedly received a revelation from God through Joseph authorizing Sarah's and Joseph's plural marriage and dictating the marriage ceremony which Newel was to use to marry them that day. This alleged date of marriage is confirmed by affidavits obtained from both Sarah and Elizabeth in 1869. (I will discuss these affidavits a little later.)

I have read and re-read the above statement by Elizabeth trying to find some reference to the alleged revelation requiring Newel to perform the plural marriage ceremony between his Sarah and Joseph. However, I can find none. All references to a plural marriage revelation are to the one allegedly dictated by Joseph on July 12, 1843. She associates Newel's and her experience as to the validity of polygamy with this revelation and not with the one allegedly given to Newel a year earlier authorizing the plural marriage of Sarah and Joseph. In addition, she associates Sarah's marriage to the 1843 revelation and not to the alleged July 27, 1842 revelation given to Newel upon which date Sarah was allegedly married to Joseph.

To me, both Elizabeth's omission of acknowledging the alleged 1842 revelation to Newel and her associating the beginning of their plural wife experience to the 1843 revelation is very strong indication that the earlier revelation to Newel, authorizing the plural marriage of Sarah and Joseph, did not occur. To the Whitneys, the revelation to Newel would have been a very important revelation and worthy of inclusion in Elizabeth's autobiography. It is the one, not the "Section 132" revelation, that told them plural marriage was of God. It indicated to them that it was acceptable to God for Sarah, their beloved daughter, to obey "this new and strange doctrine" (to quote Elizabeth) and enter into a plural marriage with Joseph. Because this revelation required Newel and Elizabeth to allow their 17-year-old daughter to participate in a unorthodox system of marriage thought by society to be wicked, it is the revelation given in 1842—not the one given in 1843—that would have caused Newel and Elizabeth to seek and receive a testimony of its truth. It was the revelation given to Newel in 1842, not the one in 1843, that was the first written revelation authorizing plural marriage and setting a precedent for the marriage ceremony that was to be performed. And yet, Elizabeth did not mention this important revelation in her autobiography about the authority for the practice of polygamy and their involvement with this system of marriage. She was detailed in her account and very proud that her daughter "was the first woman given in plural marriage with the consent of both parents," yet she failed to mention the 1842 revelation and associated these actions with the 1843 revelation which occurred a year after the date of Sarah's alleged plural marriage to Joseph. Because of the importance to the Whitneys of the alleged revelation to Newel, her omission of it in her above statement was a result of more than forgetful thinking. The only possible explanation is that the alleged revelation to Newel on July 27, 1842, never occurred. If it had, Elizabeth would have mentioned it in her autobiography as the basis for their belief in plural marriage. And if that revelation did not happen, neither did the marriage.

Analyzing the Letter

For the purpose of analyzing the contents of the letter, I am going to assume that Joseph wrote it even though, as discussed above, further authentication may need to be done in this area.

If you believe that Joseph was a polygamist and married Sarah Ann Whitney on July 17, 1842, then it is easy to construe some of the contents of the letter as a "love letter" requesting his new wife to visit him. Although, the entire letter is more difficult to view in this manner than many of the briefer excerpts quoted by various authors that run together the "convicting" sentences and leave the other parts out. However, if you believe Joseph was not a polygamist and did not marry Sarah Ann Whitney, then such an interpretation of the letter is a real stretch of imagination. Standing alone, the letter gives no proof that Joseph was a polygamist or that he was married to Sarah Ann Whitney.

Statements in the Letter used to Support the Position that Joseph Practiced Polygamy

The statements in the letter which authors point to as "proof" of Joseph's polygamy and marriage to Sarah are:

...my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief...

...all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty...

...the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible...

...burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it.

...I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night.

If the alleged revelation and marriage to Sarah Ann were not true, all that can be learned from these portions of the letter is:

  • Joseph's friendship with the Whitneys was very strong,
  • he was lonely and anxious to see them,
  • they should keep this letter secret (burn it),
  • they should use utmost caution in meeting with him in secret,
  • keeping the meeting secret will insure their safety, and
  • for their safety they should not meet with him when Emma is there.

It is only the alleged revelation and marriage to Sarah Ann that interprets these parts as a "love letter." Without the "polygamy" issue, this is just a letter between very good friends from one who is in hiding and wants to remain hidden for both his safety and that of his friends.

Admittedly, the part about Emma is very curious. Why would Emma's presence, without the polygamy interpretation, make it unsafe for the Whitneys? Fairwiki.org gives a good answer to this question. However, they do not follow this rationale through to their conclusion because they finally interpret the letter in light of the alleged revelation and marriage. Fairwiki.org states:

The Prophet was in hiding as a result of the assassination attempt that had been made on Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs. On the 16th of August, 1842, while Joseph was in hiding at the Sayer's, Emma expressed concern for Joseph's safety. She sent a letter to Joseph in which she noted,

There are more ways than one to take care of you, and I believe that you can still direct in your business concerns if we are all of us prudent in the matter. If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. ([LDS] History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

It is evident that there was concern on Emma's part that Joseph's hiding place would be discovered because of all the people visiting Joseph, particularly if they were in the company of Emma. Joseph wrote the next day in his journal,

Several rumors were afloat in the city, intimating that my retreat had been discovered, and that it was no longer safe for me to remain at Brother Sayers'; consequently Emma came to see me at night, and informed me of the report. It was considered wisdom that I should remove immediately, and accordingly I departed in company with Emma and Brother Derby, and went to Carlos Granger's, who lived in the north-east part of the city. Here we were kindly received and well treated." ([LDS] History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, pp. 117-118)

Without the predisposition that Joseph was a polygamist and had recently married Sarah Ann, this position logically explains why he wanted the Whitneys to come when Emma was not there. Both Joseph and the Whitneys would be safer if they visited when Emma was not there because she could be followed by authorities wanting to arrest Joseph. Even if Emma was not followed, her presence in addition to some of Joseph's other friends would be a certain tip-off to anyone watching the house that Joseph was indeed hiding there.

The necessity of Joseph's hiding place remaining a secret could explain why he wanted the Whitneys to burn the letter. This would prevent it from falling into the wrong hands which would allow his hiding place to be revealed. In addition, the need to protect his whereabouts would explain the secrecy he requested of Newel in contacting him at his hiding place by knocking "at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty..." Possibly, Joseph wanted Newel to be very careful in his approach to his hiding place in case it was being watched by authorities. Joseph's assurance to Newel that he had a room by himself was indication that their visit would be private and safe.

Other Problems with the "Love Letter" Theory

Even if one believes Joseph was a polygamist, brought forth the revelation to Newel, and married Sarah Ann Whitney, this letter still has problems being interpreted as a "love letter" to Sarah. Again, Fairwiki.org does a good job explaining this position. In their conclusion they state:

Critics would have us believe that this is a private, secret "love letter" from Joseph to Sarah Ann, however, Joseph wrote this letter to the Whitney's, addressing it to Sarah's parents. The "matter" to which he refers is likely the administration of ordinances rather than the arrangement of some sort of private tryst with one of his plural wives. Why would one invite your bride's parents to such an encounter?

The categorizing of the purpose of this letter as a "love letter" is wishful thinking on the part of those who believe Joseph was a polygamist. As indicated above, Joseph certainly would not invite his new wife's parents to come with her to a private room so he could be with her as her husband. Thus, the loneliness expressed in the letter had to be for friendship from those of like faith and not for a new plural wife. In addition, their meeting was also for another purpose as indicated in the letter:

..one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads...

Joseph wanted to give his friends a spiritual blessing for which, as expressed in the letter, it was important to "have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty...."

Other Evidences in the Sara Ann Whitney Case

Discrepancies in Affidavits and Statements

At the Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney site we find the following affidavits by Sarah Ann and her mother Elizabeth regarding her alleged plural marriage to Joseph Smith, Jr.:

AFFIDAVIT OF SARAH A. KIMBALL

Territory of Utah }
County of Salt Lake.}ss.
Be it remembered that on this nineteenth day of June, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me Elias Smith, Probate Judge for said county, Sarah Ann Kimball, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath saith that on the twenty-seventh day of July, A.D. 1842, 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 Newell K. Whitney, Presiding Bishop of said Church, according to the laws of the same regulating marriage, in the presence of Elizabeth Ann Whitney her mother.
 
Sarah A. Kimball.
Subscribed and sworn to by the said Sarah Ann (Whitney) Kimball, the day and year first above written.
 
E. Smith, Probate Judge.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, [Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News Press], p. 73., italics added)

AFFIDAVIT OF ELIZABETH A. WHITNEY

Territory of Utah }
County of Salt Lake.} ss.
Be it remembered that on this thirtieth day of August, A. D. 1869, personally appeared before me, James Jack, a notary public in and for said county, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath saith that on the twenty-seventh day of July, A. D. 1842, at the city of Nauvoo, county of Handcock, state of Illinois, she was present and witnessed the marrying or sealing of her daughter Sarah Ann Whitney to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for time and all eternity, by her husband Newel K. Whitney then Presiding Bishop of the Church.
 
E. A. Whitney.
Subscribed and sworn to by the said Elizabeth Ann Whitney the day and year first above written.
 
James Jack, Notary Public.
(Andrew Jensen, Historical Record, Vol. 6, May 1887, pp. 224-226.)

However, both Newel K. Whitney and Elizabeth Whitney stated differently in October, 1842—just a little over two months after their daughter allegedly entered into a polygamous marriage with Joseph Smith, Jr. The Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, published the following statement signed by twelve men including Newel K. Whitney:

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did. (Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 939–940)

The Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, also published the following statement signed by nineteen women of the Ladies Relief Society including Elizabeth Whitney:

We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a disclosure of his own make. (Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 940)

So, how can it be that two months after the alleged plural marriage of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith, Jr. her parents signed and published a statement in the widely circulated Times and Seasons that they "know of no system of marriage being practised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants" (Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 940)? Yet, 27 years after the alleged marriage Elizabeth signs an affidavit attesting to the marriage and some 35 years after the alleged marriage she writes her thoughts about the event as published in The Women of Mormondom, pages 368–369, by Edward W. Tullidge, 1877. Even Sarah's affidavit is discrepant with her parents' statements in the Times and Seasons. In her affidavit, also made 27 years after her alleged plural marriage to Joseph, Sarah stated, "she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ... according to the laws of the same regulating marriage...." Thus, Sarah stated that her marriage to Joseph was according to the marriage laws of the Church. However, her parents stated in Times and Seasons that those Church laws did not support polygamous marriages. They said that other than "J. C. Bennett's 'secret wife system,'" the only marriage system known within the Church was the one taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, which was a monogamous system of marriage. The statements published in the Times and Seasons are in direct opposition to both affidavits of marriage, Elizabeth's autobiography, and the alleged revelation itself.

With all due respect to the Whitneys, they were lying somewhere. The first scenario is that Newel and Elizabeth lied in their Times and Seasons statement to cover up the alleged revelation and Sarah's alleged marriage to Joseph. The second scenario is that they told the truth in their Times and Seasons' statement but Sarah and Elizabeth lied in their affidavits 27 years later, and Elizabeth lied in her autobiographical reflections 35 years later. Most Mormon history authors support the first scenario. I support the second. However, before I can give my reasoning, I need to discuss a little about the nature of the statements made by the Whitneys.

The Nature of Affidavits and Statements

So, are the affidavits made by Sarah and Elizabeth and Elizabeth's biography statement more reliable for telling the truth than Newel's and Elizabeth's statements in the Times and Seasons? According to Todd Compton in the prologue to his book, In Sacred Loneliness, affidavits and biographies are very good evidence. He states:

What criteria can be used to evaluate whether a woman's marriage to Joseph Smith (during his lifetime) can be reliabley documented? In 1869 Joseph F. Smith, countering Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church (RLDS) denials of Joseph Smith's polygamy, had Joseph Smith's living widows sign affidavits documenting their marriages to him. An affidavit is very good evidence. A woman mentioning in a journal or autobiography that she married the prophet is also good evidence, as is a close family member's or friend's testimony or affidavit or reminiscence, especially if he or she supplies convincing detail, anecdotal or documentary. (page 1, italics added)

However, with all due respect to Mr. Compton, I do not necessarily consider affidavits, journals, and autobiographies very good evidence. The reason why is that they are personal statements made without penalty for lying. Unless an affidavit is part of a court proceeding, there is no penalty for perjury. The only thing official about a notarized affidavit outside of a court proceeding is that the notary verifies that the person who is making the statement has provided sufficient proof that they are the person they allege to be. The two affidavits above, as well as all the affidavits obtained by Joseph F. Smith mentioned by Mr. Compton above, fall into this category. They are merely a person's statement—true or false. Likewise, a person's journal or autobiography falls into the same category—it is their personal statement, true or false. Only a statement which is made in a court of law under penalty for perjury and which withstands cross examination can be assumed to have a high probability of truthfulness. Thus, the affidavit made by Sarah and the affidavit and biography statement made by Elizabeth have no more inherent truthfulness than the signed statements by Newel and Elizabeth in the Times and Seasons. At face value, they are on equal footing as to the probability of their truthfulness.

Evaluating the Whitneys' Affidavits and Statements

There are some considerations that I believe weigh in favor of the 1842 Times and Seasons statements being the truthful ones. First, they were made publicly with the corroboration of twenty-nine others. This lends credibility to their statements. Second, they were made very close to the time of the events they addressed. Usually statements made close in time to the event referenced are the most accurate because the person's memory has not been faded by time, and their interpretation of the events has not been influenced by other opinions. Third, the statements regarding the alleged plural marriage between Sarah and Joseph were made many years after that alleged event. In addition, they were made by those involved in polygamous activities at a time when it was important to the LDS Church to justify the doctrine of polygamy. As stated by Todd Compton above, "In 1869 Joseph F. Smith, countering Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church (RLDS) denials of Joseph Smith's polygamy, had Joseph Smith's living widows sign affidavits documenting their marriages to him" (ibid.). Actually, by that time, there had been a sustained three-year missionary effort to Salt Lake City and other parts of Utah by the Reorganized Church. Many LDS joined the Reorganization but soon left the area for Idaho or the Mid-West. Alexander Smith was there in 1866 and again in 1869 with his brother David. During this missionary effort, both of these sons of Joseph Smith, Jr. (and cousins of Joseph F. Smith) defended their father and spoke against polygamy to the LDS priesthood (including Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith) and members of the LDS Church (RLDS History of the Church 4:427–553). Because of their success and the high regard for Joseph Smith, Jr. in the LDS Church, this challenge from Joseph's sons must have brought considerable pressure upon the leaders of the LDS Church as well as those involved in polygamy to "prove" the position that their practice of polygamy came directly from Joseph Smith, Jr. himself. Such pressure to prove that Joseph was the originator of polygamy brings into question for me the validity of their affidavits and statements. Fourth, as previously discussed, Elizabeth's autobiographical statement in The Women of Mormondom omits reference to the alleged revelation to Newel in 1842 authorizing the plural marriage of Joseph and Sarah and associates all their celestial marriage involvement with the alleged 1843 revelation, which came one year after Sarah's alleged plural marriage to Joseph. This failure of Elizabeth to mention in her autobiography such an important event in the lives of the Whitneys indicates to me that both the revelation and the marriage did not occur. Because of these reasons, I have to give credibility to Newel's and Elizabeth's statements in the Times and Seasons as being true rather than to Elizabeth's later affidavit and statement as well as to Sarah's later affidavit.

Summary

To interpret the Whitney letter as a love letter from Joseph to Sarah Ann Whitney, the validity of the previous alleged revelation to Newel K. Whitney and Joseph's plural marriage to Sarah Ann would have to be established. Without the occurrence of these two events, the letter becomes merely a request from Joseph to his good friends, Newel and Elizabeth Whitney, for a visit. As presented above, the need for validation of the author of the revelation, discrepancies within the revelation, the grammatical structure of the revelation, the immediate response of 17-year-old Sarah Ann to the revelation, the Times and Seasons statements of Newel and Elizabeth, and the discrepancies in the later affidavit and biographical statement of Elizabeth and affidavit of Sarah Ann cast serious doubts about the validity of the alleged July 27, 1842, revelation to Newel and the subsequent plural marriage on that date of Joseph and Sarah Ann Whitney. Thus, in my opinion, there was no such revelation and no such marriage, which makes the letter nothing more than just a communication between friends.

30 comments:

  1. Continued:

    Why in the world would we believe or trust anything such desperate women say or write today or 150 years ago, when they so easily fall for such vile abuse & evil & then lie, especially to themselves, to cover up their sins & foolishness.

    Unfortunately such souls back then, as today, rarely repent in this life & regain their conscience, to tell the real truth that really went on 150 years ago.

    Women who fall for polygamy are even more past feeling & foolish then women today who line up to date & marry a men who have been divorced.

    Women signing up for polygamy know without a doubt they will be horrifically abused & used by the man & treated with the lowest regard as he abuses & leaves them daily & he goes off with other women.

    A woman who has no conscience or respect for herself & thus willingly asks for such abuse can never be taken seriously no matter how many affidavits she signs. She has lied to herself & to God & to everyone else she knows & until she repents & has a little self respect & does not sign up for men to use & abuse her, she can't be trusted as telling the truth about anything.

    Not only that, but Brigham Young taught his followers that lying was ok, if it was for a righteous purpose, which BY told them polygamy was.

    So these women, so desperate to have a man at any cost, even after they heard Joseph Smith constantly warn & preach against polygamy, & even though the Book of Mormon is very clear about polygamy being a vile whoredom in every case, would have been very willing to lie & say anything to appease Brigham Young & their husband & cover up & justify their guilty deeds which they had fallen for.

    The only proof God says we need, to know if people are lying & in denial & spreading falsehoods, is if they fall for or believe in or even desire polygamy. That's all the proof anyone will ever need.

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  2. Part 1:

    I believe we must look to common human nature & how most people around us today respond to life, in order to understand & make sense of why people did things or 'IF' people did things in the past.

    I believe that Elizabeth lied in the later affidavit & in her biographical statement, & told the truth early on in Nauvoo in the R.S. statement.

    For people usually get more unrighteous & past feeling (& thus willing to lie) as they get older, especially when they fall for evil & abuse & whoredoms like polygamy. She probably still had her conscience intact in Nauvoo, but later lost it after she followed Brigham west & went along with polygamy & had to then later try to justify her errant beliefs & behavior. That she was willing to go along with the abuse of her own daughter by men, is all the proof I need to know that she had lost her conscience.

    We must look around at LDS people today to understand how they probably acted yesterday. Most of the LDS women (& men) I have known (which is most all of the people throughout my life) & do now associate with in the LDS Church, I believe would easily lie about polygamy if they had lived back then. For I believe they actually have lied (especially to themselves) even today about polygamy, saying they believe it's true & that Joseph Smith lived it, even though none of them have any proof or probably have ever looked deeply into the matter. They are so past feeling or past thinking & blinded, that they go right along with what the Book of Mormon calls 'whoredoms' without even giving it a 2nd thought.

    Even more important is the amazing reality I have watched over & over where it seems that most LDS women even today would easily fall for polygamy & be willing to marry a man with multiple wives. Because we see that these women even today support such abusiveness in men when they desperately line up by the thousands to date & marry men who have divorced & abandoned their 1st wife & children or probably caused their 1st wife to run from him.

    (I acknowledge that there are surely some good men who have had abusive wives who have left them, but I believe those cases to be rare, especially if the man was truly keeping his vows to love & serve his wife above all else, especially himself.)

    If a women (& it seems most are) is willing to date or marry & thus commit adultery with (according to Christ & LDS Prophets), a man who abandoned his 1st wife & her children, then those women show they haven't a shred of self-worth or self-respect & will trade their souls & their eternal sealings to their children & their Exaltation just to have a man, which they know deep down will probably not stay committed & faithful to them either.

    When women are so base & so desperate & have lost their conscience to lie to themselves & everyone else & commit adultery with a man in remarriage, then how can we think such women would not also fall for even worse whoredoms & abuse like polygamy & lie about that too.

    Almost all of these women do not seem to want to talk to the former wife & hear the other side of the story & past of the man they date & marry. They want to go blindly into a remarriage & just believe that the guy is telling them the whole truth & that he was innocent in the divorce or is now changed & it will be different with her. Which is just more proof the woman is living in denial, & lying to herself, not wanting to know the reality of the situation.

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  3. I would be interested in your reaction to this podcast:

    http://mormonstories.org/324-326-grant-palmer-returns-to-discuss-sexual-allegations-against-joseph-smith-william-and-jane-law-and-his-resignation/

    Especially if you would be willing to be interviewed.

    Have you dealt with this in your blog? I tried looking for it but didn't find it.

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    1. Jon—

      Thank you so much for your comment. My apologies for my delayed response but things have been busy here and I wanted to listen to the podcasts and read the documentation before responding.

      I‘m going to respond to the “sexual allegations” discussion, but not the one on William Law because that would have to be quite extensive. For a different perspective on William Law, you might want to read the information about his conspiracy in Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy at http://restorationbookstore.org/jsfp-index.htm.

      In this blog, I have not directly dealt with the sexual allegations indicated in the podcast and Mr. Palmer’s paper at http://mormonthink.com/grantpalmer.htm. However, indirectly I have done so in my discussion of the “new” attack on Joseph at http://www.defendingjoseph.com/2009/04/new-attack-on-joseph.html and http://www.defendingjoseph.com/2009/08/new-attack-on-joseph-part-2.html. I say this because these articles talk about how present allegations about Joseph are not new—just old ones revisited.

      From listening to the podcast and reading the article, it is obvious that Mr. Palmer believes there was probably something truthful about these allegations. He is careful to state that they are merely allegations, but I get the impression that he believes them. When studying all the “evidence” used to support the position that Joseph was a polygamist, it is always important to separate fact from allegation and evaluate the circumstances of the statements made. Remember, Joseph always denied the truth of such allegations and his involvement in polygamy. Therefore, when authors provide “evidence” that he was a polygamist, they are essentially putting him on trial. And in a trial, evidence must be authenticated and allegations proved in order to find the defendant guilty of charges, which in Joseph’s case is polygamy and inappropriate sexual behavior.

      All of what Mr. Palmer presents in the podcast and his paper are allegations—nothing proven. When several allegations of this nature are made against a person, people tend to think, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Thus, many conclude there must be at least some truth to the allegations. However, that is not necessarily true. In my life, I have seen false accusations made against several individuals, which the majority of people have believed to be true and persecuted those individuals based on their erroneous beliefs. The greatest example of this in our time is the lies told by the Nazis against the Jews that resulted in the Holocaust. So, when Mr. Palmer lists in his paper statements accusing Joseph “of illicit sexual conduct with six young women from 1829-1835,” the reader tends to think they are true because surely six allegations of this nature about the same man must be true. However, allegations are true only if evidence proves them true. Mr. Palmer provides no such proof and admittedly states in the podcast that they are only allegations.

      Nothing came of the sexual accusations made against Joseph regarding the Stowell girls and Eliza Winters. This indicates there was no proof to substantiate the allegations. While the actions of the mob at Hiram, Ohio, may have possibly been fueled in part by allegations of sexual impropriety regarding Nancy Johnson, it does not mean the allegations were true. When have the actions of a mob ever been based on a careful and complete evaluation of the truthfulness of an allegation? The action of this mob against Joseph is not proof of anything. However, the fact that Joseph was not expelled from the John Johnson home after this event and that Luke Johnson later became an apostle are strong indications that both John and the fact that Luke Johnson did not believe these allegations about Joseph regarding their daughter and sister, respectively. (continued)

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    2. Jon- (continued)

      If they believed these allegations to be true, John’s first order of business would have been to remove Joseph from his home to protect his 16-year-old daughter and Luke would have disassociated himself from Joseph and the Church. In addition, the actions of a guilty sexual predator (who had been severely assaulted by a mob rendering justice) would have been to preserve his safety from any future mob justice by fleeing and hiding. Yet Joseph preached the Restored Gospel the next morning from the front porch of the Johnson home to many who had been in the mob the night before. These are not the actions of a guilty man, but those of an innocent and brave man who truly believed in the Restored Gospel and the work God had called him to do.

      The Martin Harris statement is interesting, but I cannot obtain the source material to evaluate the possibility that Martin really said this. According to the reference, Anthony Metcalfe quotes Martin in his book, Ten Years before the Mast, published in 1888. Copies only appear to exist at BYU and Yale, but nothing online. While I tend to believe that information published so far after an event is generally unreliable, in all fairness to the book, having not read it, I cannot honestly evaluate the truth of the statement one way or another.

      I believe the William E. McLellin allegation is very weak. All of her life, Emma remained true to her belief that Joseph was faithful to her and did not practice polygamy. If we believe McLellin’s statement, we have to believe that the only time she deviated from her position was with McLellin. This is hard to believe because McLellin was not on the best of terms with the Smiths and if Emma were going to confess a deep secret, it would not have been to McLellin. The Maxwell Institute’s review of George D. Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamy at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=20&num=2&id=721 does an excellent job of explaining why it was very improbable that Emma said these things to McLellin.

      I have difficulty believing the popularly quoted statement made by Oliver Cowdery to his brother Warren about an affair Joseph was having with Fanny Alger. First, I have never been able to read the entire letter, which makes it difficult to assess the truthfulness of any one part of the letter. Second, a letter written by Oliver to his sister Pheobe in 1846, indicates he was surprised to learn that polygamy was being taught and practiced in Nauvoo. (See a discussion of this letter at http://restorationbookstore.org/articles/nopoligamy/jsfp-visionarticles/olivercowdery.htm.) If Oliver believed that Fanny Alger was a polygamous wife of Joseph or that Joseph was having an extramarital affair with her in the mid-1830s, he certainly would not have registered surprise in his letter to Pheobe that people in Nauvoo had begun to practice similar activities. His surprise indicates to me that these were not the teachings of the Church (or Joseph) when he was associated with it. This later letter to Phoebe makes me question the validity or interpretation of the previous letter to Warren. (continued)

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    3. Jon- (continued)

      As I stated earlier, Joseph is on trial. The “prosecution” consists of those who are alleging that he was guilty of introducing polygamy into the Church as well as practicing socially unacceptable sexual behavior. The “defense” consists of Joseph’s statements and those who believe him including his family. Remember, in our society, Joseph is innocent until proven guilty. Thus, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. All Mr. Palmer did in his podcast and article was to recite the allegations. He did nothing to prove their truth. And this is the error of the “evidence” used against Joseph—they are allegations which are not proved. The only time there was a real attempt to prove that the allegations against Joseph were true was in the Temple Lot Case. And those trying to prove he was a polygamist failed to prove their case.

      On another note, thank you for your invitation to be interviewed. However, I am going to decline. I prefer to defend Joseph in writing.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Thank you for your in depth reply. I'll have to pick up your book and read it. It's nice to have a counter view. Palmer's accusations were quite disturbing.

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  6. JSDefender,

    I have seen the same thing in my life. That is it the natural disposition of almost all people, even in the LDS church, to 'unquestioningly' believe false accusations about people.

    So it is easy to see how the accusations about Joseph were easily accepted by most of the members of the LDS Church after Joseph's death, just like most all LDS members still, blindly & without proof or question, accept those same accusations as truth today.

    It's amazing to me how everyone in the LDS Church today, except a few, just automatically believe and accept that the Prophet Joseph Smith did all those horrible and abusive things to his wife Emma and other women. Things that most of the men in the Church would never do to their own wife.

    Yet, they all just blindly accept that the 'prophet' Joseph did those abusive things without any questions or reservations.

    It's amazingly sad, that just because we know for sure that BY, and others who followed him, did such horrible abusive things to women & their wives, most everyone just believes the accusations against Joseph & that he did the same.

    The reality is, that everyone in the LDS Church is going to stand accountable before God one day if they spoke evil against a true Prophet of God & blindly chose to believe in & teach that Joseph committed the very whoredoms that he so valiantly fought & preached against his whole life.

    God commands us to 'prove all things' before we hold fast to anything or anyone. We are commanded to only hold fast to that which is good & true, because we have 'proved' it to be so.

    If we are deceived by falsehoods or false prophets then it is our own fault & it will be to our eternal condemnation.

    For the Holy Spirit and a study of Joseph's own testimony, could have uncovered the truth about such things if people would have lived worthy of the Spirit & taken the time to disprove all these accusations against Joseph.

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    1. Anonymous--

      Well said. I come from an RLDS background and since the 1960s I've watched the leadership and many members of that church (now Community of Christ) accept these allegations about Joseph as true without any attempt to defend him. And in some cases they have promoted these false allegations. I believe like you, we will all be held individually accountable for whether or not we have defended Joseph.

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  7. I was just now searching for about this when I discovered your post. I’m just stopping by to say that I really enjoyed reading this post, it’s very well written.

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    1. It is awesome to find people that are not afraid to tackle the ugly accusations and get to the truth of it, I wish I was brave enough myself a few years ago, but instead I was satisfied with my answer via the Holy Ghost that I knew the Book of Mormon to be true, and knew that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God & that I was not to worry about the horrible things I was reading (polygamous apparent 'evidences'). I felt that the answers would come ... and here we are! I have been blessed to be begin my own research and gained a personal testimony through prayer that Joseph Smith died a worthy man and was married in his life time to one woman, Emma. And that testimony I received whilst praying last month. I feel ashamed that I ever doubted his involvement into polygamy and stand with all those wishing to defend Joseph & Emma, they are worthy of our efforts, and they are pure. I have been LDS for 27 years, and I finally found out the truth! The LDS church hijacked the church and carried it away. The spirit confirmed to me that Brigham Young was an apostate and led the church astray. I am now left with 'what do I do now!' I feel like announcing it from the stand, but I would probably be cast out! But Thank the Lord, I found out before I died! I am so thankful, I can be at peace now knowing that Joseph Smith is a man of honour & I am proud to defend his name. :-)

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    2. Anonymous—

      Thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us. It’s a brave thing you did to do so. Your testimony will strengthen others to make the same inquiry of the Lord to know the truth about Joseph and polygamy. And I know He will answer their prayers just like He answered yours.

      Since the Lord blessed you with a knowledge of Joseph’s innocence, I would find out from Him what He wants you to do about it. I’m sure He has a plan and will use you to assist Him.

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  8. I put "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy" in e-book format. I tried contacting the authors, but they haven't got back to me. Let me know if you might be able to talk to them and see if they want me to send it to them.

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    1. Jon--

      Thanks for doing this. I will talk to them. Out of curiosity, did you convert the paperback volume 1, or did you convert all the online files?

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    2. Just Volume 1, but I had plans to do the other files too; once I finish the first book. It was pretty easy to do since they had it formatted online.

      It is definitely much easier to read on an e-reader than on the internet!

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    3. I'm working on the Vision files. Do you know if they want them broken up in multiple volumes? Feel free to e-mail me directly. Also, I can send you the first volume if you would like. Also, do you think they would want them in the same order as they are now?

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    4. I was not able to email you directly since your return address for the email sent me by Blogger was shown as a no-reply Blogger address.

      I checked with the Prices and they are now in the process of converting many of their print books to eBooks. Volume I of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy is in the final stages of conversion. The eBook should be out shortly. The Volume II print edition is anticipated to be out in the next several months and the eBook will follow shortly after that. Since Volume II will be somewhat different than the Vision articles online, they really can't make a Volume II eBook from the online articles.

      Even though the Prices can't use the eBooks you are preparing, they wanted me to extend to you their appreciation for your kind offer.

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  9. I think Jon is great to help out :-) Thank you guys! Any suggestions as to where a lds convert in England is to go after 27 years of living the faith and attending lds temples ? lol! I hear that the Joseph Smith the third church departed from its way in the 1960's - now, It's kind of weird living all these years believing I was attending the one true church, and thinking how lucky I was to be alive whist the truth was upon the earth, now I have the carpet pulled out from under my feet! But I am blessed, and I am a seeker of truth so I know I was led to find out truth :-) I will spread it here in England. I had a son a member of the LDS church that told me that he had a vision of Joseph Smith showing him that the church of his day were at war with the truth, and he declared to me that the Church was not true! He told me he wanted to go on a mission but upon praying, he was told the church was not true and had not been for over 150 years.. I thought he was turning anti, but what was really happening was that he was a seeker of truth also and the Holy Ghost had revealed to him directly the truth!! Took me about five years to know what he was on about! I know now, finally I get it! I just had been too scared to search out because the fake stuff seemed so real, but that is what counterfeit stuff is ... like real but totally worthless & totally illegal & wrong. Fake accounts, fake affidavits, altered documents, lies, deceit .. all by the LDS church to cover up polygamy! I wish the LDS church would denounce Brigham Young & apologise for the deceit, and maybe reform but as they have deceived the membership for so long, I don't expect they will do that. They have books on the prophets, and to deceive the latest generations of converts, the book on Brigham Young quotes nothing about his words, and more than that, gives the impression of him having only one wife!!! They have omitted the word Brigham's 'wives' for 'wife'! And before Brigham came along, Black people were welcome into the church and given the priesthood and Joseph was anti-slavery also. I read with interest his views of being President of America if he were elected and his wording was brilliant as well as highly intelligent, and inclusive of every need within the government. He mentions abolishing slavery.

    I hope to produce a Pamphlet of some kind to share with my LDS long term friends and see if I can help others see the truth, but they are so indoctrinated with the plural marriage stuff, I am afraid the church is doing a grand job of making people accept it as part of doctrine. I am very concerned that a movie has been made about Emma and how she accepted polygamous wives for Joseph etc, such vulgar lies and deceit, but the church helped that movie be produced. I wouldn't be surprised if they were preparing the LDS people to embrace the doctrine closer and try to bring it back!!! I hope not, but seems the LDS are sheep believing anything coming from the church, and ignoring the Spirit ! :-(

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    1. Anonymous—

      Thank you for your comments and testimony. It is a joy to see how the Lord is beginning to move to bring many to the truth about Joseph.

      The Lord is always more interested in where we are going than where we have been. I’m sure He will continue to lead you to accomplish what He wants you to do if you continue to put your trust in Him.

      I believe Joseph III was the true successor to his father as evidenced by the great outpourings of the Lord’s Spirit to the Reorganization from its beginning until the 1950s. The leadership has turned it from the original teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. to the teachings of modern day Christianity—the very doctrines the Lord told Joseph were abominable. We in the Restoration Branches are trying to hold on to the original doctrines until the Lord sets His Church in order. If you wish to learn more about the founding of the Reorganization you can do so by clicking the links at the bottom of the Restoration Bookstore home page at http://restorationbookstore.org. Another good book is the Early History of the Reorganization by Edmund C. Briggs. You can purchase it online at the Restoration Bookstore in both paperback and eBook format.

      You mentioned about producing a pamphlet. You may want to read the paper written by an LDS Elder about Joseph not teaching or practicing polygamy at http://www.confessionsofanelder.blogspot.com/.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. The Whitney's are just another sad case of a long list of opportunists willing to do/say whatever for self promotion.

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  12. jsdefender
    another gr8 blog
    dont hav an rlds background but an lds background
    yet my take on this is xactly as yers
    wrote a fb note a few mos ago that is relevant 2 yer blog
    it xposed the skoosh la doosh, b.young 4 the fraud that he was
    jus copy n paste this link below..
    .
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/lance-brett-cutler/joseph-smith-was-notta-fraud-but-brigham-young-sure-was/10152682637939575
    .
    commnts r welcome jus so as theyre jus not vulgar, they wont b deleted

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  13. Just reread this section of your blog and wanted to let you know that when I emailed the LDS church archives about some of the whitney documents, they informed me that they had two manuscript copies of the 27 July 1842 revelation for NK Whitney, however, neither appears to be the original. And Brian Hales has pointed out that the other document sometimes cited, "Joseph Smith, Blessing to Sarah Ann Whitney, March 23, 1843, typescript, LDS Church History Library. A typescript of this blessing was originally part of the Joseph Smith Collection (CHL MS 155), but since it was not an original document, it was removed. The location of the original monograph is currently unknown, but presumed to be uncategorized at the LDS CHL." So it seems that even in this case of Sarah Ann Whitney, which the Joseph Smith papers admits is one of the two best contemporarily documented case of Joseph's polygamy, lacks much contemporary documents. And I think you did a great job showing how the part about Emma made sense in the context of danger. It seems weird to me that people assume Joseph thinks that if Emma saw the Whitneys, she would put them in physical danger? At this point in time, Joseph was supposedly keeping things secret from Emma so she wouldn't have even seen it as a polygamous wife visiting him, but rather friends, which her letter indicates is often happening. And even in the cases when she supposedly found out about his wives and flipped out about, she never threatened anyone's life or put them in any real danger. So your interpretation of the real dangers makes more sense in my mind.
    Thanks for the interesting post.

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    1. Courtney,

      Very interesting information. Thanks.

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  14. Also, in regards to the Oliver Cowdery letter that was previously mentioned, if you haven't seen this, Hales has provided a typescript here:
    http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/oliver-cowdery-letter-to-warren-a-cowdery-olivers-brother-january-21-1838/
    It is a copy by Oliver's nephew so not in his handwriting. And when reading it, I wonder if you could interpret it as Oliver saying that they discusses the Fanny Alger affair (which he admittedly describes in vivid, negative language), but that Oliver only ever said what he thought was true and had been admitted by Joseph (which was nothing - so he was not saying that he had accused Joseph of anything, but that he had only said what he thought Joseph had told him). Maybe a stretch but the letter is kind of confusingly worded about what exactly Oliver is saying. I know that people read it as saying he accused Joseph of telling him he had an affair in light of the minutes of Oliver's excommunication meeting, but given that Joseph was able to clear everything up by explaining the girl business, as recorded in the notes, it seems hard to think that Joseph was telling about 14 or so men about polygamy at that early date. And I suppose it is not an actual contemporary document as it is a copied letter and we don't have the original. Hope this helps!

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    1. Hi Courtney,

      Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

      It is interesting to note that the infamous quote "dirty, nasty, filthy affair" that many indicate references Joseph's extramarital affair with Fanny Alger may have a completely different meaning. Webster's 1928 dictionary (online at http://webstersdictionary1828.com/) states the definition of the word "affair" to be:

      "1. Business of any kind; that which is done, or is to be done; a word of very indefinite and undefinable signification. In the plural, it denotes transactions in general; as human affairs; political or ecclesiastical affairs:also the business or concerns of an individual; as, his affairs are embarrassed.

      2. Matters; state; condition of business or concerns.

      I have sent that ye may know our affairs. Ephesians 6:21.

      3. In the singular, it is used for a private dispute, or duel; as, an affair of honor; and sometimes a partial engagement of troops.

      In the phrase, at the head of affairs, the word means, the public concerns of executing the laws and administering the government."

      I certainly don't see any definition of that word at that time to indicate an extramarital relationship between a man and a woman. What Oliver was referencing by that phrase I do not know. However, because of the definition of "affair" at that time, I don't believe he was talking about and extramarital affair.

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  15. Regarding Helen Mar Kimball"

    With all due respect, I do not classify Helen Mar Kimball as a credible witness, (HMK 1) nor do I accept at face value her statements. To me they appear to be lies, distortions and embellishments so that she could keep her financial place, and also sell more copies.

    (HMK 2) If she was a credible person she would have been deposed in the 1892 Temple Lot Court case.

    (HMK 3) Helen’s comments about Brother Joseph came in the 1880s during the secession battles between the RLDS and the LDS, where millions of dollars (in today’s funds) were at stake.

    (HMK 4) She appears to me to be a “front” for the pro-polygamy side of the LDS church.

    (HMK 5) One of the top LDS pro-polygamy side claimists, Andrew Jensen, claimed back in the 1800s that Helen Mar Kimball was married to Brother Joseph. He claims that it happened in May of 1843. In fact, just about any “Joseph did it” book you read uses the “May 1843” marriage date. However there is no record of the event. Now how many wives do you know that don’t remember when they were married?

    (HMK 6) The only record that one may look at, is a Blessing her father gave her on May 28th of 1843; the month in question. In the Blessing he states: “For thou shalt be blest with a companion and he shall be a man of God. Listen with care to his council for he shall be thy head, inasmuch as thou wilt do this thou shalt be honored of God, and shall be inspired with the blessings of God. “ Now that does not sound like a person who is married does it?

    (HMK 7) According to the “Brother Joseph did it” side, they claim that Helen was “given” to Brother Joseph with her parents’ prior consent. Now, I would respectfully submit that if her Father and Mother had agreed to give her to Brother Joseph already, then he would have used different words in the Blessing.

    (HMK 8) True; ….. from the 28th of May to the 31st of May there are four days remaining; however, I just don’t think the parents of Helen, and Helen herself, would make up their minds in four days on an such important issue as marrying a man who is already married without extended debate over several days, if not weeks of debate and Prayerful Fasting, Scripture Study, more Prayer and heartfelt consideration. Four days is not enough time for a decision to be made. The claim of a May 1843 marriage by Jensen and the other “historians” makes no reasonable sense.

    (HMK 9) So if Andrew Jensen is wrong about the date of the marriage, why should I believe that there was a marriage at all?

    (HMK 10) Helen had much to gain by claiming to be a wife of Brother Joseph. She was protecting her financial sphere and her elite social standing. The financial pressure was huge; her husband worked as a clerk in the Tithing office with William Clayton; under pressure to conform and support is how I see it playing out.

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  16. Helen Mar Kimball part 2

    (HMK 11) She starts writing in the 1870s with her friend Emmeline B. Wells, about Nauvoo as featured in the Women's Exponent and in the Deseret News. I have seen no earlier reports about claims “she makes” about being married to Brother Joseph. So she was “paid” for those writings in the 1870s. After those stories ran out of cash (for being published), she went on to the issue of polygamy.

    (HMK 12) In 1881, she publishes a long autobiography, partly about polygamy, for which she is “paid.”

    (HMK 13) In 1882 she publishes a major work, “Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith, Editor of the Lamoni Iowa “Herald” (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882). Which was a response against Joseph Smith III claiming his father was only married to Emma. Of course she is “paid” here too. The pro polygamy wing of the LDS Church “needed” a wife to respond to President Joseph Smith III; she was selected.

    (HMK 14) In 1884 she published “Why We Practice Plural Marriage” (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884); for which she was “paid.”

    (HMK 15) After her husband passes over to The Spirit World, she starts writing a journal (1884 to 1896), for which I presume, she expected to be “paid.”

    (HMK 16) After her husband passes over to The Spirit World, she starts writing a journal (1884 to 1896), for which I presume, she expected to be “paid.”

    (HMK 17) I read parts of her 1881”autobiography,” her 1882 “Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith, Editor of the Lamoni Iowa “Herald,” her 1884 “Why We Practice Plural Marriage” and also parts of her 1884 to 1896 journals. My analysis that I respectfully submit, is that they show inconsistent patters for one author; I see trends of multiple authors. I agree that further scientific study needs to analyze the writing patterns of those works attributed to her to more fully determine if she wrote those works alone, or if she had a team of writers assisting her. A “team” would further point to her being used as a front person” to defend polygamy and mire Brother Joseph’s good name, which casts doubt on her claims and statements.

    (HMK 18) One red flag pops out significantly; that is she makes claims to remembering detailed conversations….word for word… 40 years or plus after the events happened. Now how many of you remember ….. word for word….conversations that happen last week, last year, ten years ago or forty years ago? Her claims of remembrances of specific conversations from 40 years prior in a ….word for word context….are not credible. I pause to point out to the reader, that bogus “word for word” conversations are a regular “occurrence” in the journals by those accusing Brother Joseph of having more than Emma as his wife; they often cite conversations that “supposedly” happened 20, 30 , 40 years earlier. One in such particular statement is from a man nearly 90 years of age, remembering a word for word conversation he had almost 50 years ago; yeah sure right.

    (HMK 19) Wrapping up Helen; I see no reason to believe her claims; she was a paid author and “wrote” to be “published” and sell her works. I am sure she meant well, and was trying to protect the pro-polygamy wing of the LDS church. When it comes to money, good people rationalize and rationalize.

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    1. Hi Kyle,

      You make good points. I particularly like HMK 6, 7, 8, and 18. Thanks for you comments.

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