There are 29 thoughts on “A Response to Grant Palmer’s “Sexual Allegations against Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Polygamy in Nauvoo””.

  1. I think female voices are also important in their own defense against Grant’s claims (and Benson’s, Packham, Dehlin, etc. etc. etc.
    Helen Mar Kimball:
    “Men, or creatures in human form, who insult and tyrannize over helpless women and children, seeking to goad us to desperation and drive our people…They know in their hearts that their accusations against this people are false, and that they themselves stand guilty before God and man of the iniquities they seek to lay at our doors…The daughters of Zion must awake…We have learned this lesson well, that we need not look for justice from them, nor for mercy from men whose hearts are adamant. ..”

    “..no one but myself is responsible for my actions.”

    “It was among the grand designs of the Gods that woman should be equal with man…Mormons…are neither slaves nor toys… we are not so ignorant of matters pertaining to the women of the world as they appear to be concerning us, and this religion called ‘Mormonism’—a religion which we have espoused and cling to because we love its principles, which require all to live godly in Christ Jesus and keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world, the angels will bear witness…I am a stronger advocate of …the celestial order of marriage, and rejoice more exceedingly in the goodness of God to me and my house….”
    “Could those who look down upon plural wives and cast a stigma upon them and their offspring realize the lamentable…condition of many women in the world, veritable slaves who dare not express their feelings for fear of the lash of ‘public opinion,’ they might change their minds respecting ‘Mormon’ women, who are anything but dupes or slaves.”

    “Liberty is necessary to make life endurable, and if I have ever been deprived of that boon under the laws and government of God’s kingdom, I have remained in blissful ignorance to this day, and can say, as God is my witness, it is this Gospel that has made me free.”

    “…The debt she has paid, and it is the plan of the Almighty to make of His noble daughters queens instead of serfs, that woman may reign

    “The soul-destroying crimes that are fostered in the midst of Christian civilization, are breaking more hearts and causing them to put an end to their dreary and wretched existence, than all the alleged heart-burnings endured by plural wives…”

  2. What was the purpose of polygamy? Even if one accepts that the number of women who had sexual relations with Smith was small where are the children. ? For those women who were sealed to him but with whom he did not have sexual relations with, what happened to them? Did they marry someone else later?

  3. I appreciate the response, though I’m not so much in love with the personal attacks embedded within it.

    I did not intend any “personal attacks.” I apologize. All I can see that might be construed as that is to say that you have “misunderstanding,” “missing,” and “underplaying” certain bits of data. That isn’t intended as an attack; it’s only describing how I see your argument. Again, my apologies.

    I did find a)-f) to be a useful chain of thought.

    I’m glad. This is the argument that the paper makes, though I’ve here been a bit more pedantic about it. 🙂

    In the future I would encourage you not to make too many assumptions about the commenters with whom you engage.

    Again, I’m not sure what you’re referring to here. In rereading what I wrote, perhaps you think I was saying that you were among those for whom: “But, Palmer does have his audience and devotees….This has not kept his fans from fulsome praise. There is no theory so bizarre, or so shaky, that someone (sometimes many someones) won’t believe it.”

    I’m here speaking in general terms of Palmer’s work, not about you specifically. I apologize if it gave that impression.

    Cheers.

  4. Hi Watcher,

    Thanks for the comments.

    I apologize for “mystifying” you regarding whether D&C 132:19-20 refers to polygamy or monogamy. Your comments reflect the common fundamentalist view that polygamy must be commanded in those verses someplace. Actually, Mormon fundamentalists seldom quote those verses and when they do, the almost always add brackets or an asterisk, or a footnote somewhere to clarify that even though the words do not specify plural marriage, they are certain that exaltation requires it.

    My responses have consistently pointed out that the verbiage is plain and unambiguous, offering exaltation and godhood in a monogamous setting when a worthy “man marries a wife” by proper authority.

    However, you astutely point out that the original question was about a “plurality of wives” (V. 1). But I disagree that the Lord’s answer that follows must be restricted just to polygamy. Fundamentalists often assume that everything that follows Joseph’s question in verse 1 deals strictly with polygamy. In 1833 when Joseph Smith asked the Lord concerning the use of tobacco during Church meetings (see JD 12:157-58), the Lord responded by giving the Saints a general health code we now call the “Word of Wisdom” (D&C 89). Joseph asked a specific question and received a general answer that included a discussion of tobacco use (one verse), but was not limited strictly to it.

    Similarly, Joseph asked about a plurality of wives and received an answer that dealt, not only with polygamy, but with the entire New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, which includes plural marriage but is not limited to it. Plural marriage itself is not mentioned until verse 34.

    Polygamists today want the New and Everlasting Covenant to be strictly plural marriage or always to require plural marriage. It is just isn’t true. I really like Apostle Joseph F. Smith’s 1878 teaching:

    “There is a great deal said about our plural marriage… It is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, APPLICABLE TO ALL GOSPEL DISPENSATIONS, WHEN COMMANDED AND NOT OTHERWISE, AND NEITHER ACCEPTABLE TO GOD OR BINDING ON M
    AN UNLESS GIVEN BY COMMANDMENT” (JD 20:26; caps added).

    So here Joseph F. Smith says polygamy is a “law” but only “when commanded.” So, when it is NOT commanded, it is not a law. Since plurality can be commanded, it can be revoked, (see D&C 56:4, 58:32; Jacob 2:30), which happened in 1890. Elder Smith states polygamy is not “binding” unless “given by commandment.” Also, it is not required of “all gospel dispensations.” This is exactly what I believe.

    Your reference to D&C 84:57 suggest that maybe you would like to read a previous article of mine here.

    https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/dissenters-portraying-the-church-as-wrong-so-they-can-be-right-without-it/#comment-14075

    It seems that many critics want the Church to be wrong so they can be right without it. One problem with their approach is that their criticisms do not help the kingdom to roll forth. Joseph taught in 1831 that “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).

    Church members are not perfect, but there are many who are holy and are fulfilling God’s requests. This I know–please do not claim otherwise. The Kingdom is rolling forth and we can help. Joseph taught: “Let the Saints remember that great things depend on their individual exertion, and that they are called to be co-workers with us and the Holy Spirit in accomplishing the great work of the last days” (TPJS 178). Being a coworker requires more than criticism, but a humble willingness to serve as God’s representatives direct “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

    Fundamentalists generally do not do this. They focus on polygamy, and may add the law of consecration, as if those practices were magic and would remove the need for valid authority (see D&C 132:18) and their responsibilities to be missionaries (see D&C 88:81, 84:76) etc. At the final day, I believe they will be disappointed. The Prophet explained: “The disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection would be indescribably dreadful” (TPJS 325). How can we avoid this? By making VALID covenants and keeping them.

    As you said, you are not a fundamentalist so it is possible that much of what I have written above may not apply. Forgive me if that is the case.

    Take Care,

    Brian Hales

    • It seems as though Watcher got under your skin a bit. I appreciate your detailed response especially that fabulous quote from Joseph F Smith.

      This is the part of Watchers comment I had the most trouble with:

      Indeed, from a broad, contextual reading of the revelation, the most plausible interpretation favors the likeliness of the text in verse 19 referring to a polygamous man taking another wife, or a monogamous man that is preparing to take his first polygamous wife.

      This seems a particularly forced interpretation for it seems like the most obvious interpretation would be instructing a monogamous man with a legal marriage to undertake an eternal marriage. Did Watcher not think that the first wife needed to be sealed in this covenant but that a man just skipped over his first wife and started eternal covenants with his second wife?
      As you say, there is a clear effort to force the text to meet an agenda.

    • Thank you for your response Brian.

      No need to apologize. I am mystified by many things, not just your views on polygamy.

      First, let me say that I enjoyed your debate with Cheryl Bruno at Sunstone this year. I was impressed with the level of patience, restraint and charity you used in your remarks despite her aggressive remarks during the debate.

      You probably don’t remember me, but I was the commenter that mentioned Brigham’s dream in which he asked the prophet Joseph to explain about the law of adoption, which, in my opinion, demonstrates that Brigham Young was as mystified with the law of adoption as I was with your assumption that verse 19 of section 132 “clearly refers to a single worthy man being sealed to a single worthy wife by proper authority.”

      Your interpretation of Section 132 reminds me of an article and a presentation done by Valarie Hudson, another LDS feminist that you have locked horns with in time past.

      She stated the following:

      “Now, as to the first part of D&C 132, verses 3 to 33, we have a reiteration that you must marry, and you must marry in the temple in order for your marriage to be effective in the hereafter and in order for you to be exalted.”

      She used the following quote from Hyrum M. Smith’s early commentary on the Doctrine and Covenant, as the foundation for her assessment:

      “The Revelation [Section 132] is divided into two parts. The first part, comprising verses 3 to 33, deals mainly with the principle of celestial marriage, or marriage for time and all eternity, and the second, comprising the remaining verses, deals with plural marriage.”

      You will notice that both interpretations above fall short of claiming that verses 3 to 33 categorically exclude the practice of polygamy and only have to do with monogamy.

      True enough, they are claiming that the main topic of these verses has to do with celestial marriage for time and eternity, while the remaining verses of the revelation focus primarily on polygamy, but they are not suggesting that polygamous marriages or the topic of polygamy are being excluded in those verses.

      They are not ruling out that both polygamous and monogamous marriages can be sealed in temples as celestial marriages for time and eternity.

      IMO the above interpretations are not congruent with how Brigham Young interpreted those verses. For that reason I don’t think someone could reasonably say that those interpretations are “clear” to the objective reader that has the advantage of Brigham Youngs teachings for context.

      Furthermore, it appears to me that you and Gregory are taking the previous axioms shown above, which have previously been taught in the modern corporate church, and narrowed the interpretation of verses 3-33, verse 19 in particular, to the topic of monogamy.

      I believe that narrow interpretation is even less “clear” to readers, than the interpretations postulated by Hudson and Smith.

      I am curious to know how many other LDS scholars truly believe that verse 19 is exclusively referring to single men and single women.

      I am also curious about Louis Midgley’s comment:

      “I wondered about the few paragraphs leading up to Part I.”

      Brother Midgley, can you please clarify what it is that you wondered about so that the authors of the article could respond to you?

      Brian, I appreciate the quote from President Joseph F. Smith, however, his administration and his doctrinal worldview took place after Official Declaration 1.

      It seems to me that the teachings of Brigham Young, the “prophet” that cannoned Section 132 would hold a little more weight in understanding what Section 132 is saying. Here are just a few of his declarations on the matter that we are all familiar with:

      “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 11, p. 269

      “[A] man who did not have but one wife in the Resurrection that woman will not be his but [be] taken from him & given to another.” Wilford Woodruff Journel 7:152 (See JD 16:160-171)

      “Now, where a man in this church says, ‘I don’t want but one wife, I will live my religion with one.’ He will perhaps be saved in the Celestial Kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all…. and he will remain single forever and ever.” Brigham Young, Deseret News, September 17, 1873

      “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned; and I will go still further, and say that this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord had given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned.” Brigham Young, Deseret News, November 14, 1855

      Regarding the following statement:

      “It seems that many critics want the Church to be wrong so they can be right without it. One problem with their approach is that their criticisms do not help the kingdom to roll forth. Joseph taught in 1831 that “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).

      I am sorry you feel that I am not helping the kingdom to roll forth. And you are correct. I am not helping the kingdom that Daniel prophesied about to roll forth because it has not yet begun to roll forth.

      You have grossly misinterpreted the inspired prophetic dream that is contained in section 65. The dream is speaking about a future event, when those anointed servants with whom the keys of the kingdom were committed to, will return the to the Lord’s vineyard to usher in the fulness and fulfill the prophecy in Daniel. (See section 101, 103 & Jacob 5:70)

      If you will visit the prophecy of Daniel and read about the rolling forth of the kingdom that is alluded to in section 65, you will find that when the kingdom begins rolling forth, it will do so in POWER and it will smite the kingdoms of the world and “brake them to Pieces” (Dan 2:34-35, 44-45)

      It is true that the restored church was given the opportunity to begin fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel in February of 1843:

      “But verily I say unto you, that I have decreed a decree which my people shall realize, inasmuch as they hearken from this very hour unto the counsel which I, the Lord their God, shall give unto them.
      6 Behold they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to prevail against mine enemies from this very hour.
      7 And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever.
      8 But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
      9 For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
      10 And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” (Section 103)

      Brian, do you honestly believe that the LDS church has been prevailing over the kingdoms of the world for the last 180 years or do you think the kingdoms of the world have been prevailing over the saints?

      Has the LDS Church been breaking the kingdoms of the world to pieces for nearly two centuries?

      Apparently Joseph Smith thought that the kingdom that Daniel prophesied about did not begin to emerge victorious in 1834.

      Here is a statement he made in 1844, shortly before his death, showing that he realized that the foundation to be laid for the rolling forth of that kingdom, would be a later time, and that he would be an instrument in laying that foundation:

      “I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.” History of the Church, 6:364–65; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on May 12, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Thomas Bullock.

      Let me assure you Brian that I am as anxious as you for the kingdom to roll forth victorious.

      Again, I appreciate all of the research that went into the article. I learned some interesting and helpful things from reading it. I would encourage you to consider removing your claim that verse 19 in section 132 is clearly referring to a single man and single woman, I believe it diminishes from the credibility of the article.

    • In the same way Nephi doesn’t mention camels in the text about the journey through Arabia (no need to mention the obvious) why would we need an extensive discourse type revelation (132) about a man marrying one wife? Everyone was crystal clear on that. I propose the reason for the extensive legalistic revelation is precisely because it was intended to drive home the idea and concept of polygamy. There was simply no need to beat folks over the head about monogamy.

      Why not just embrace our past? What’s wrong with that? I’m not a polygamist or a fundamentalist but I can be objective about our history. Often our best defenders go into revisionist history mode to fit their modern day sensibilities. Discovering that 132 is about polygamy (or there would be no need for it) does zero damage to a testimony of the restoration.

      • D&C 132 is about polygamy, but is not ONLY about polygamy. Ideas about eternal marriage/sealing are also in there. Many researchers believe it is an amalgamation of three separate revelations, each dealing with a different set of questions and answers

        The fact that readers can come to different conclusions is potentially evidence of this.

  5. “At best Palmer is extrapolating, at worst he is mindreading.” While I think this criticism holds some water, I worry that the authors are similarly guilty of this kind of historical thinking.

    Their response to complaints about Vienna Jacques makes assertions about what Emma would and would not do based on their assessment of her character. The claims aren’t supported with facts and it fails to adequately deal with the Vienna Jacques example.

    • We cite Emma’s reaction to plural marriage in Kirtland in our discussion of the Fanny Alger/Miss Hill matter.

      I am not aware of any contemporary evidence that suggests that her reaction to the reported Vienna Jacques matter would have been different. Do you? Even in Nauvoo, she was reluctant at best regarding plural marriage.

      We know precisely how Emma reacted in 1843 when presented with a revelation sanctioning plural marriage. She did not then react as Polly Beswick claimed she did with Vienna Jacques. I no of know reason to think that she was _more mellow_ on the matter in Kirtland, especially when coupled with the Fanny Alger evidence. It simply doesn’t match her reaction contemporaneously, or later when the exact scenario which Beswick reports occurred.

      Hales deals with the matter in great detail in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History 1:48-53.

      • I understand you point, what I’m saying is that her behavior in 1843 is not evidence of her behavior in 1833. Nowhere does Beswick say that Emma was “tolerating” it, merely that Smith would have “revelations” in response to Emma’s anger.

        Obviously there is room for doubt of the account, but I don’t think asserting that she would react in the same way a decade earlier accounts for all the possibilities. It does not close the door on the accusation, not by a mile.

        A sample theory: Perhaps previous experiences with polygamy and/or infidelity slowly caused Emma stand up to Joseph with more firmness.

        • I think you’re missing part of the argument when you write:

          her behavior in 1843 is not evidence of her behavior in 1833.

          We are not claiming that 1844 behavior alone is evidence for 1833. We are, instead, proposing the following reasoning:

          a) there is no evidence from any point in her life that Emma Smith winked at or tolerated sexual impropriety.
          b) Emma grew up in a straight-laced culture, among religiously conservative family (she was related to a Methodist minister, and her family strongly disapproved of Joseph’s religious pretensions). There is nothing in her upbringing or culture to encourage her to view adultery lightly, or with any degree of tolerance.
          c) Ample evidence exists of Emma’s strong-mindedness, independence of thought, and powerful personality. This was not a woman who was a doormat. (She would go against her family’s wishes to marry Joseph, and stuck with him despite their continued hostility. That is not the act of a woman to be trifled with, especially if Joseph repeatedly betrayed her trust, given how much she had risked for him.)
          d) Circa 1835, Emma learned of Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger, and was not pleased, and did not permit Fanny to remain in the house. She also involved Oliver Cowdery.
          e) Between 1841-1844, Emma was generally opposed to plural marriage, with brief periods of relatively reluctant support.
          f) In 1843, Joseph wrote the revelation regarding plural marriage, with the express purpose of convincing Emma to support plural marriage (at Hyrum’s request). Joseph told Hyrum that it would not succeed, and he proved to be correct.

          Thus, the 1843 behavior is part of the reasoning, but it is not the only part. It is one data point among many.

          Given the above data, the Vienna Jacques claim asks us to believe that at some point in 1833, Emma was somewhat troubled by Joseph’s acts (with no evidence of even a marriage ceremony to dignify the goings-on). Joseph was (in the Beswick telling) repeatedly unfaithful to Emma, and Joseph could quiet Emma down merely by claiming a revelation.

          Now, you could read the evidence as you suggest. I think it less plausible. I think the _only_ reason to read it that way is to rescue the Beswick account regarding Vienna. (And, as we detail, there are other problems with it too, from a time-frame perspective, for example.) [For how implausible this is, it’s worth noting that George D’ Smith’s book on plural marriage omits this story entirely, even though he tries to make the same case that Palmer does about Joseph’s early sexual escapades.]

          I think you’re misreading and underplaying the available evidence when you say:

          Nowhere does Beswick say that Emma was “tolerating” it, merely that Smith would have “revelations” in response to Emma’s anger.

          What you miss is that as a result, this would mollify Emma. The relevant lines read:

          Jo would shut himself up in a room and pray for a revelation. When he came out he would claim he had received one and state it to her, and bring her around all right. (pp. 199-200, italics added.

          That’s the whole point of the story: Joseph is claimed to do this repeatedly, and all Emma does is “get out of humor, fret and scold and flounce in the harness.”

          [Aside: Beswick’s tale won’t hold water at all unless she can explain why no one else had heard or knew of this, and why Emma didn’t pitch a fit–she must explain the silence about this issue if she is to have any credibility at all. Yet, implicit in the tale is the idea that no wife of the time would put up with such behavior without raising a stink. So, she must explain that too. I wonder if we can’t detect some of the “bedroom farce” style writing in the anti-Mormon anti-polygamy polemics of the latter half of the 19th century. The statement dates from 1886, so I think there’s probably been a great deal of environmental influence on the tale and how it is told–this is precisely the sort of thing which the audience has by now grown accustomed to associating with Mormon wives, whom those in the east could never believe were not oppressed drudges resigned to their lot. They even built a “rescue house” for such women in Salt Lake, only to have it rarely used. Easterners complained that the women would stop plural marriage if they could–so the Mormons called their bluff, gave women the vote, and the women supported it en masse. I think this late-dated tale tells us far more about the attitudes of the Saints’ critics and society as large than it does about the 1833 it purports to treat. And, all these factors play into how I interpret it–a good example of how hard it is to be explicit about everything one has encountered on a topic when writing history. To a great degree, we must simply decide whether we trust a historian’s impressions–even an amateur one, like me. The author can do his best to put the data out there, but even then his interpretation will draw on many influences that simply can’t be cited, partly because of the volume, and partly because he probably isn’t aware of them all, or couldn’t consciously label the specific things that have combined into the bouillabaisse that is his conclusions. 🙂 ]

          Beswick’s Emma doesn’t have her make a public issue of it–yet, with the Fanny Alger event, Emma calls in the highest authority in the Church besides Joseph: Oliver Cowdery. And, why didn’t Emma raise the issue of past behavior with Oliver? If she’s going to try to make Joseph stop, why doesn’t she lay out the on-going, repeated nature of the crimes, so that she can show that this is a long pattern of behavior, and she has been patient or Christian long enough? This would allow her to show Cowdery that this isn’t a momentary indiscretion; this is a deep-seated problem.

          That’s all negative evidence, but it is strange that if she was going to involve Oliver, she wouldn’t lay all the facts out to him. And, Oliver doesn’t seem to have agreed with Joseph–witness his letter to his brother. But, Oliver says nothing about any other incident besides Fanny. So, you have two witnesses who both had clear motive and opportunity to mention Vienna, and yet they don’t. I am suspicious of theories that require people to act in illogical ways, especially when the logical way would have been very much to their advantage.

          So, Beswick’s Emma gets grumpy and scolds until Joseph “bring[s] her around” with a revelation, and this happens repeatedly. The Emma of documented history finds out about Fanny, puts her out of the house, involves Oliver Cowdery, and it even comes to the attention of the high council. Now, maybe you’re right–maybe she’d had a great change of heart and awakening, as you say: “Perhaps previous experiences with polygamy and/or infidelity slowly caused Emma stand up to Joseph with more firmness.” There is a great deal that lies hidden in that “Perhaps!” 🙂

          Could Emma have had a change of mind/heart within 2 years after repeatedly being a doormat regarding Vienna? Anything is, in some sense, possible. But, there is no evidence for it happening, and a great deal about her behavior and character that makes this unlikely in the extreme, it seems to me. But, as I noted, we all interpret data with our own biases and lenses. Those anxious to condemn Joseph may find your suggestion plausible–all one can ask is that all the issues be pointed out to those who wish to make up their minds based on evidence, rather than other motives.

          As we wrote:

          As a woman possessing conservative moral values, there is little indication that Emma would have ever approved of her husband having sexual relations outside of marriage. Emma struggled mightily in 1843–1844 to accept plural marriage; it seems a frank affair would have been even more difficult for her in 1833. All records from the Kirtland period demonstrate that she did not then believe that God-approved plural marriage had been restored. Accordingly, she would have considered any polygamous intimacy as adultery and would not have permitted contact between the two as described by Nancy.

          Note the word “Accordingly”–this is a clear signal that we are here drawing an inference or conclusion from the evidence. This is how history must be done–one takes fragmentary data, and does one’s best to assemble a story that explains the data.

          There can be no “proof” in such matters; all one can talk about is possibilities and plausibilities. I think a study of Emma’s life, together with the other problems in the late, second- or third-hand Beswick account, make it very, very, unlikely.

          But, Palmer does have his audience and devotees. After all, he is persuaded that Joseph got some ideas from a German tale, ETA Hoffmann’s Der goldne Topf. As far as I can tell, the only real evidence for this was the forged Salamander Letter. This has not kept his fans from fulsome praise. There is no theory so bizarre, or so shaky, that someone (sometimes many someones) won’t believe it.

          Readers will have to decide for themselves if our theories are an example of this phenomenon, or if they make good sense of the evidence. That’s all any writers about historical matters can ask. (All I can say personally is that I have made a good faith effort, and I think Brian has too. I’ve changed my mind on some things in the last 10 years I’ve studied the topic, and I expect if you talk to me in 10 years, I may have changed some things again.)

          But, Palmer’s readers won’t get the chance to assess the reasonableness of his theories compared to the evidence, because he doesn’t even acknowledge the data that might lead one to see it differently.

          It’s not like the case hadn’t been made before now–he has easy access to such arguments, should he wish to address them.

          • I appreciate the response, though I’m not so much in love with the personal attacks embedded within it.

            I did find a)-f) to be a useful chain of thought.

            In the future I would encourage you not to make too many assumptions about the commenters with whom you engage.

  6. Enjoyed the podcast reading on Stitcher. Sure glad Palmer is not on the LDS payroll these days. Great research by Brian and Greg. Those who want to find something bad to hang on Joseph will laud Palmer’s recycling job, so he knows his market. I do know of LDS who left the Church over these allegations, but it would have helped if they looked at both sides of the story before exiting.

  7. Grant Palmer’s latest effort says so much more about Grant Palmer than anything about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thank you for highlighting the errors and shortcomings of Palmer’s newest attack on the Prophet.

  8. This is great work. Thank you! I actually learned some interesting, new things about one of my ancestors.

    I especially enjoyed the conclusion. Some of the recently reviewed critics (like Runnells and Wunderli) seem to follow the same problematic pattern and approach to history. Ultimately, as was stated, they’re presenting historical fiction as fact.

    It appears no one has or will succeed in credibly portraying Joseph Smith as an insincere fraud, guilty of duping his followers. A scholarly, comprehensive analysis of the history and data simply doesn’t support such a conclusion. Such negative, unfounded opinions and beliefs about Joseph Smith and Mormonism are most unfortunate. I hope those who have fallen victim to such poor scholarship will seriously reconsider their conclusions. Thanks again to Dr. Hales and Dr. Smith.

  9. Excellent deconstruction of the facts. It is methodical and thorough and leaves a strong sense of respect for people who hold a different opinion while explaining the rigor that should be expected from both sides.
    My only critique is that it started a bit weak. It took a bit of reading before getting to impressive examples of flawed analysis and a shallow reader might abandon the article after a few paragraphs thinking there were only very minor concerns.
    And Brother Hales I love your three volume set on polygamy. Any reader who enjoys the meticulous and detailed writing of this article will enjoy that series as well. I especially love your honesty about historical issues and fearlessness in diving into every thorny issue while maintaining a steady faith in the overall character of our founding leaders.

    • I also thought I saw a rather limp opening section, what G, above, calls “weak.” but I could not figure out how to correct the problem without major changes, which seemed unnecessary, given what follows, which devastates Grant Palmer’s speculation.

      • Yeah, intros are always hard. When you know an area well, it’s hard to know what readers will come to the topic with, and how much background/spade work you need to do.

        Discerning readers may wish to just skip to “Part 1”. 🙂

      • Grant Palmer couragously and with some degree of self-sacrifice wrote the truth regarding the false doctrine of polygamy, and how it was manipulated onto the early church through Joseph Smith and his select inner circle. Palmer’s thorough research illuminates just how this insidious evil was inflicted on the innocent who thought they were following the Lord when they humbly submitted themselves to their prophet, who stated he had received this revelation from God. “I am the same yesterday, today, and forever” are the words of the Lord. Grant Palmer couragously stepped forward to share with us what can happen when we fail to acknowledge God first and foremost and that He will not reverse Himself with respect to eternal laws and principles.

  10. There is a tremendous amount of research presented in this essay which I appreciate very much.

    While I agree with much of the essay and do not consider Grant Palmer to be overwhelmingly credible as an LDS historian, I feel that there are some questionable declarations and assumptions in the essay which I would appreciate a response to.

    1. You take issue with Grant’s interpretation of the word “covenant” in verse 19, wherein he uses brackets to clarify that it refers to “polygamy”. You then make the assertion that the first line of the verse is “clearly” referring to a single worthy man being sealed to a single worthy wife by proper authority:

    “Unfortunately for his reconstruction and his readers, Palmer’s bracketed commentary “[polygamy]” contradicts the first line of the verse, which promises exaltation to a worthy monogamous couple who are sealed by proper authority. “If a man marry a wife” (D&C 132:19, italics added) clearly refers to a single worthy man being sealed to a single worthy wife by proper authority.”

    I am mystified by your dogmatic conclusion. To me, the phrase “If a man marry a wife..” could just as easily be referring to a polygamous man that marries a wife, as to a monogamous man that marries a wife.

    Secondly, verses 4&5 arguably define the term “new and an everlasting covenant” and “new and everlasting covenant” as specifically referring to a celestial marriage form of polygamy.

    I believe the beginning passages of the revelation lay the foundation for the primary topic of the entire revelation and should be viewed that way. Indeed, from a broad, contextual reading of the revelation, the most plausible interpretation favors the likeliness of the text in verse 19 referring to a polygamous man taking another wife, or a monogamous man that is preparing to take his first polygamous wife.

    I understand that it has become popular among some LDS apologists to accept a revisionist interpretation of section 132 which suggests that much of what follows the foundational explanation of why the revelation was received and what the revelation is going to address, in verses 1&2, curiously has nothing to do with the topic of polygamy, but rather with eternal monogamy.

    I find that interpretation problematic and unlikely.

    I respect a person’s choice in viewing the narrative that way, however, to state that verse 19 is “clearly” referring to a monogamous man is quite an assumption to make, as if everyone would agree with that supposition that is not a fundamentalist.

    I certainly don’t agree with that assumption. I think it is logical and historically congruent, to assume that the primary topic of the entire revelation is based in the topic of polygamy as prefaced in the first two verses.

    For this reason, I feel it is disingenuous and even deceptive to assume in the essay that anyone interpreting the passages differently than you “is following the tradition of Mormon fundamentalists”

    I am certainly not a Mormon fundamentalist in the sense you are using the term, but I still accept a literal reading of the text that is consistent with how Brigham Young and fundamentalists in his tradition have interpreted it.

    2. You make the following declaration:

    “Nineteenth century leaders certainly understood that “a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.”4 This calls Palmer’s interpretation into question.”

    It seems to me that the above statement is ambiguous, misleading and probably even irrelevant.

    When the Saints were failing in their attempt at the commandment of consecration, and the Lord declared them to be under condemnation. at that time He made it clear that believing in a revealed principle in ones mind without living it was not acceptable. It was not enough to “say”, one must “do”:

    “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—” (D&C 84:57)

    As the two of you are well aware, Brigham Young initially agreed with the above declaration from the Lord and he taught that one needed to live the principle of polygamy, not just believe it. (In later years he may have softened on the issue).

    The fact that there may have been some 19th century leaders that erroneously believed that one can give lip service to a revealed law that God has commanded the Saints to live, without having to live it, (without serious consequences) only shows how some leaders of the church departed from the word of God.

    3. Now that the Church is making a greater effort in their historical essays to distance themselves from the doctrine of mandatory celestial polygamy to obtain the highest salvation, I find it intriguing that apologists continue to take section 132 so seriously and dissect the passages therein to attempt to defend the faith.

    Hopefully it is only a matter of time before the church acknowledges the many theological inconsistencies and contradiction in section 132 and begins printing the D&C without it.

    It seems nonsensical to me that the Lord would reveal Section 132 to Joseph Smith with a commandment to live a new principal, but not command him to publicly publish and canonize it, yet, many decades later have Brigham Young insert it into the D&C without a revelation authorizing him to do so. Section 132 blatantly contradicted three other revelations in the D&C when Brigham Young had it canonized.

    Lastly, I must say that I loved the following statement:

    “The claim to have seen Joseph drunk during the translation is entertaining. If Joseph were drunk, it would make the production of the Book of Mormon more impressive…” LOL

    That is certainly a quotable.

    IMO it is not unrealistic to suspect that Noah may have received a revelation or two while being somewhat inebriated. LOL

  11. After his initial Paul Pry, Jr. misadventure, which he has yet to adequately explain, Grant Palmer could have stuck with some harmless hobby. Brian Hales and Greg Smith have done a fine job of exposing the flaws in Palmer’s essay. It is indeed sad to see Palmer the act the pigeon by again succumbing to his own tricks.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

Close this window

Top of Page

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This