Friday, May 29, 2015

William Clayton Lied


The primary testimony pertaining to the creating and recording of what is now Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants comes from William Clayton. Allegedly, he recorded the revelation as it fell from Joseph's lips on July 12, 1843, on the second floor of the Red Brick Building in Nauvoo in the presence of Hyrum Smith. As his story goes, the original copy of the alleged revelation was given to Emma who shortly thereafter destroyed it. While Clayton didn't record the complete details of this event until 1874, his story appears to have been circulated by word of mouth prior to his publishing it. This story was first recorded from a speech given by Brigham Young at the LDS Church conference in 1852 when the alleged plural marriage revelation was first read to the members. At that conference on August 29, 1852, Brigham Young stated:

The original copy of this revelation was burned up. William Clayton was the man who wrote it from the mouth of the Prophet. In the meantime, it was in Bishop Whitney's possession. He wished the privilege to copy it, which brother Joseph granted. Sister Emma burnt the original. The reason I mention this is because that the people who did know of the revelation suppose it is not now in existence. (Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy, 2:78; Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young," Deseret News Extra, September 14, 1852.)

William Clayton's 1874 account of these events was published in the "Plural Marriage" article of Historical Record 6 by Andrew Jenson. According to Clayton, he as well as Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma Smith were primary witness to his account. However, when Clayton's testimony was first published, Hyrum and Joseph were dead which made it impossible for them to either corroborate or refute his claim. However, during Emma's lifetime, she made several statements at different times consistently refuting his testimony—one to Jason W. Briggs in 1867, one to J. C. Chrestensen in 1872, and one to her son Joseph III in 1879.

Since Section 132 was never approved by a vote of the Church as a revelation from God, its authenticity, as a revelation given by God to Joseph in 1843, rests soley upon Clayton's testimony as an alleged primary witness to the event. Because Emma, another primary witness, consistently refuted his allegations, it is of utmost importance that William Clayton was completely truthful in his statement. However, he was not. He embellished his account of Joseph giving the revelation with a substantial lie.

William Clayton's Testimony and the Lie

Below is the part of Clayton's testimony about recording the polygamy revelation (LDS D&C 132) which contains the lie. I italicized the lie for ease in recognition.

On the morning of 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 said to Joseph, "If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace." Joseph smiled and remarked, "You do not know Emma as well as I do." Hyrum repeated this opinion and further 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, sentance by sentance, 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. (Historical Record 6:225–226, italics added)

This statement in Clayton's testimony about the Urim and Thummim is very important. It is the seal of authenticity regarding the truth of this revelation. Joseph's refusal to use this tool to bring forth the revelation indicates his complete confidence in his knowledge of the truth of the revelation and his familiarity with it. This part of his testimony reassures the reader that Joseph knew what he was doing and that the revelation is true. However, this statement by William Clayton is a lie.

Why this Statement Is a Lie

Joseph stated in his history:

... the [Book of Mormon] plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate ... remained safe in my hands until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand, when according to arrangements the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight. (Times and Seasons, May 2, 1842, 3:772)

According to the above, after Joseph was through translating the Book of Mormon, he delivered the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate back into the hands of the angel from whom he had received them.

The translation [of the Book of Mormon] was completed about June 1, 1829. The title page was entered with the clerk of the United States District Court in western New York, June 11, 1829. Printing was begun in August, 1829, by E. B. Grandin at Palmyra, New York, and completed March 26, 1830. (Thelona D. Stevens, Book of Mormon Studies, Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 32)

I [Joseph Smith, Jr.] wish to mention here, that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated.... (Times and Seasons, 3:943)

Because the title page of the Book of Mormon was the last inscription upon the plates, presumably, it was the last to be translated. Since the title page—the last page of translation—was registered on June 11, 1829, Joseph would have "accomplished by them [the Book of Mormon plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate] what was required at my hand" and "delivered them up" to the angel probably some time in June 1829 because he no longer had use for them. According to Joseph above, from the time he delivered the Urim and Thummim back to the angel until May 2, 1838, the angel had charge of them. In addition, there is no indication from Joseph that the angel ever returned them to him after that date until his death in 1844. Thus, in 1843 Joseph didn't have the Urim and Thummim and would have known he didn't. So if Hyrum would have "very urgently requested Joseph to write the revelation by means of the Urim and Thummim," Joseph's response would have been that he didn't have them—not that "he did not need to, for he knew the revelation perfectly from beginning to end."

In 1843, Hyrum Smith would have also known Joseph didn't have access to the Urim and Thummim. As one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon and a brother to Joseph, he would have known Joseph returned them to the angel shortly after completing the translation of the plates. As the Presiding Patriarch of the Church in 1843, he would also have known if Joseph received them again, which he didn't. Thus, Hyrum wouldn't have "very urgently requested Joseph to write the revelation by means of the Urim and Thummim" knowing he didn't have them.


Thus, it appears that William Clayton lied about this exchange between Hyrum and Joseph. Some may say that he lied about a minor point which doesn't affect the the major thrust of his testimony that Joseph was a polygamist and brought forth the polygamy revelation which Emma destroyed. I disagree. If he was telling the truth about Joseph and the polygamy revelation, why would he have felt a need to embellish his account with a lie? The lie he told was for the purpose of giving credibility to the revelation. And if the revelation was truly the word of God, why would he need to give it credibility? The fact that he lied in his testimony about the Urim and Thummim makes me wonder what else he lied about—Joseph's polygamy and the revelation itself? I think so. Considering Emma's consistent testimony, as well as her outstanding honor and integrity throughout her entire life (see my blog post on Emma), I have to believe her testimony is true that Joseph didn't bring forth what is now Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants and that William Clayton's testimony is false.

As additional proof that Joseph didn't author Section 132, if you have not already done so, download Enid DeBarthe's writing style analysis of Section 132. After comparing the writing style of Joseph, Brigham Young, and others to that of Section 132, she concludes it was written by Brigham Young. If you have trouble downloading the PDF file, you may contact me at and I will email it to you. If you wish to know more about Enid's study or the method she used, go to the addendum at the bottom of my post, "The LDS Church's Plural Marriage Statement."