There are 36 thoughts on “A Response to Denver Snuffer’s Essay on Plural Marriage, Adoption, and the Supposed Falling Away of the Church – Part 1: Ignoring Inconvenient Evidence”.

  1. Hi Leo,
    Thanks for the link. I didn’t know that the manuscripts were available online.
    As I’m sure you recognized, there are actually two copies of the document on that link and they are in different handwriting. I couldn’t tell you which, if either, is Joseph Smith’s, and unfortunately I haven’t pursued it.
    Michael Marquardt was the first to make me aware of that document back when I was researching in the late 2000s. I used his transcript from THE JOSEPH SMITH REVELATIONS: TEXT AND COMMENTARY in my book. I have used him to authenticate handwriting before so I highly respect his opinion even though he is not a professional.
    I think it is great that the Church is making all these documents available!
    Sorry I can’t be any real help here.
    Take Care,
    Brian

  2. This article is written as an exposé with the implication that Denver Snuffer was dishonest about the evidence he marshaled to present his view. However, I thought he was very clear throughout his talk that he found the evidence presented in this article as unpersuasive.
    He focused his thoughts on evidence he thought was more relevant to the issue at hand. I tend to agree: statements, affidavits, and court testimonies written fifty years later by individuals who have a vested interest in legitimizing the practice of polygamy are less reliable than statements made by Joseph Smith and/or statements made concurrently with the issue in question. This article would look very different if Hales stuck to evidence originating before the death of Joseph Smith.
    Almost all of the evidence Hales uses to support his view was generated: (1) after the death of Joseph Smith; (2) when the descendants of Joseph Smith challenged the Brigham Young’s position as the rightful heir of Joseph Smith’s leadership position; and (3) when LDS Church was fighting a battle with the Federal government in an effort to make polygamy a fundamental part of the religion. The historical mess is complicated by the fact Brigham Young ascended to the his Presidency under the campaign promise that he would deliver the leadership position to a descendant of Joseph Smith when he ‘came of age’ (I’m betting that the descendant of Joseph Smith that came to Utah to claim his scriptural mandate was not a polygamist). It is messier still because the LDS Church had a culture of ‘lying for the Lord’ in its fight for polygamy against the Federal government.
    There seemed to have been a strategic effort made by Brigham Young to make polygamy a fundamental aspect of the religion. And with the recent Supreme Court cases on gay marriage we all know why: if you can convince the Court that the practice is a fundamental part of your religious beliefs then the practice is a protected under the Constitution. Witnesses who are willing to connect polygamy to Joseph Smith (as practiced in the late 1800’s) can kill two birds with one stone: insulate Brigham Young from the claims of Joseph Smith’s descendants AND protect the Church from the claims of the Federal Government.
    In my mind (and apparently in the mind of Denver Snuffer), it makes many of the testimonies cited by Hales as unreliable.

    • I appreciate the tone of this response, but I disagree that Part 1 was an “exposé.” It does not appear to me that providing historical documentation for an event (Joseph Smith’s plural marriages) would normally be considered an exposé. Regardless, it is necessary to point out a few problems.
      First, the author is accurate that “This article would look very different if Hales stuck to evidence originating before the death of Joseph Smith.” Joseph Smith left only D&C 132 (which some debate is from him, but the provenance is pretty solid for objective observers). The only other contemporaneous sources friendly to the Prophet are entries in the journal of William Clayton.
      However, if we look beyond believers, we find contemporaneous statements from Oliver Olney, William Law, Joseph H. Jackson, and even John C. Bennett so accurately Identified five of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. These men corroborated the existence of plural marriage in Nauvoo although their accounts do not agree with each other and manifest other weaknesses.
      The biggest problem, in my view, with Denver Snuffer’s interpretation (which is supported by “Enos”) is the alleged conspiracy that must have occurred to support Nauvoo polygamy memories of events that allegedly never took place. In 1869 Joseph F. Smith collected over 50 affidavits and testimonials. In the 1880s, Andrew Jenson collected dozens of testimonials separately and published them in 1887. Lastly, in the 1892 Temple Lot cast multiple Nauvoo polygamists were deposed. All of these attestations tell essentially the same story, but there is no evidence of collusion.
      Beside the volume of testimonies, another real problem is the chronology. Plural marriage didn’t burst on the Utah scene with claims of Brigham Young who tried to tie it back to Joseph Smith.
      Plural marriage started in Nauvoo with families of multiple wives and children there that expanded in the west. The first baby born from a sealed polygamous marriage was, according to my research, Adelbert Kimball, son of Heber C. Kimball and Sarah Peak Kimball, born in late 1842 or early 1843. He lived less than a year. Sarah stayed with the Kimballs during her confinement. The second child of a polygamous couple appears to have been George Omner Noble, born on February 2, 1844, to Joseph Bates Noble and Sarah Alley Noble. Other children were born to polygamous wives in the years that followed. Their lives are a testament to the practice of full plural marriage. Hundreds of plural marriages were performed in the Nauvoo Temple in 1845-1846.
      Are we to believe that Joseph taught it, that children were born to OTHER plural wives, but that Joseph never consummated his plural unions? Coupled with D&C 132:63, which state plainly that “multiply and replenish the earth” is a reason for plurality, the idea that the Prophet didn’t or wouldn’t have tried to have children with his plural wives is problematic. Add several attestations from the wives themselves, several under oath, that the marriages were consummated and disbelief becomes difficult.
      I don’t wish to be overly critical, but the cognitive dissonance embraced by those who deny Joseph Smith’s plural marriages is remarkable to me. Of course we all have the right to choose what we believe. However, believing any voice, including Snuffer, who denies historical events that are supported by literally hundreds of attestations from individuals who not only witnessed the activities, but describe their own personal participation, even if the records were made later, is pursuing a path based upon falsehoods.
      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Hi Bro Hales,
        The traditional narrative that most LDS embrace relies on the existence of a rather large and well-orchestrated conspiracy. Otherwise, how would one explain the repeated denials of not only Joseph, but many other contemporary participants in Nauvoo polygamy? Many of the same people that you cite as proof that Joseph did teach and embrace polygamy were adamantly denying the practice existed whilst in Nauvoo (John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Eliza Snow, Brigham Young, and many, many others).
        At a church meeting of about 8,000 people in 1844 “A Voice of Innocence” was read to the congregation to which the crowd said “amen” twice. This document denounced plural marriage. Ironically, Brigham Young was the very next speaker. So the inconvenient truth is that the traditional narrative that you defend (and do so very well I don’t mind saying) presupposes a rather large and effective conspiracy to cover up polygamy and it originates with Joseph Smith. Is that conspiracy any more believable than the one you’re now questioning?
        As for Adelbert Kimball, I recommend further research. He is also known as “Adelmon”. Sarah Peak’s husband, William Noon, abandoned her about the same time she married HCK. Sarah’s final child born by her previous marriage has the same birth and death date as this child. The only possible conclusion, then, is that these two children are the same. Here’s one family history that shows Adelbert as the child of William Noon: http://www.watsonclan.com/getperson.php?personID=I8516&tree=watson. Even if it was HCK’s son it would have been very easy to claim the child was William’s. Regardless, it’s not reliable proof of a child born from a polygamous union and known to Joseph Smith.
        The other child you mention, born to Joseph Nobles, is less easily questioned. He was born in Montrose, IA rather than Nauvoo, however.
        What’s strange to me is that there were approximately 25 men married to 40+ women and over a 3-year period there were only two children allegedly born (Nobles’ and Clayton’s). Contrast that with the 14 children born from polygamous unions in 1845-1846.
        Also, I still don’t know why you cite Olney. I’ve read your source material for him on your website and he only references other people’s claims. He’s not a first-hand witness from what I see, although maybe I missed it.
        Anyway, just some food for thought.

        • Hi Bro. Ebbert,
          Thanks for the comments. You mentioned the “denials” of polygamy in Nauvoo as evidence that celestial plural sealings never occurred. I wonder if you have ever looked carefully at the language of the “denials.” There are no denials of celestial marriage. There are no denials of eternal plural marriage. The language in every case seems to allow for plural marriage that was not an official Church doctrine (because it wasn’t at the time) and was not legal polygamy (because it wasn’t) and was not polygamy as practiced by the Turks etc.
          No one ever asked Joseph if he practiced polygamy like Abraham or whether he had women sealed to him as plural wives in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Those are the only questions he had to answer “yes,” to. Simple questions about whether Joseph was practing John C. Bennett’s spiritual wifery or to plain polygamy could be truthfully answered “yes.” The document, “A Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo,” was consistent with this, denying Bennett’s spiritual wifery, but not addressing eternal sealings, whether monogamous or polygamous. You and I see this as splitting hairs, but it was the primary tactic used by Joseph Smith to not bear a false witness while introducing plurality among selected Saints.
          Research demonstrates that 29 other men had plural marriages in Nauvoo to 50 women. Click here: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/final85polygamists.jpg
          Your observation that we have few records of children born in the 1845-1846 period may have merit, but in my view, not much. I haven’t researched the possible offspring from these unions, maybe you have. Even if the number is lower than expected, the fact that these men and women reported their plural marriages, which were each approved by Joseph Smith, could be a conspiracy or it could be the truth.
          Even one child could be sufficient to successfully contradict the theory in my view. Otherwise, the conspiracy began early and expanded rapidly with no apparent evidence of a centralized coordinator. Since some of the testimonies are from Nauvoo members who later apostatized, it is interesting that they too would join the conspiracy without exposing Brigham Young as the perpetrator.
          Here’s an interesting example. In 1908, Almira, daughter of Martha McBride Knight, was asked if she had ever received a proposal to be a plural wife of Hyrum Smith:
          She looked startled and answered, “Yes and No.” She said, “One day mother and I were in the front room and Joseph Smith came walking down the street and turned in at our gate. I had a hunch and as he entered the front door I went out the back and remained until he left. When I returned my Mother told me that Joseph had come at the request of his brother, Hyrum, to ask me to be his wife. And also asked Mother to ask me, seeing I wasn’t in. So when my mother said, Almira what do you say about it?” I said, “No.”
          Almira refused, even though “Emeline and Harriet Partridge” attempted to persuade her. She soon left the church and married S. B. Stoddard, a bitter anti-Mormon. Later she divorced and married George Hanscom, living out the rest of her life in Akron, Ohio. In 1908 she signed a document that read:
          “I (Almira K. Hanscom) know that Spiritual marriage, as it was called, was taught by Joseph and Hyrum Smith, when in Nauvoo before they were killed that this Spiritual marriage allowed men to have more than one wife at the same time. I also know, that Emeline and Harritt Page [Emily and Eliza Partridge] came to me and said this was a hard trial, that they (girls) tried to convince me. I also heard at this time that Joseph Smith (the Prophet as he was called) and his wife Emma quarled about this principle.”
          So do we believe that Almira’s testimony is part of a conspiracy? It was very late so maybe it can be dismissed on that alone? But why would she attest to such details?
          Sorry this is so long, but those who wish to dismiss these types of evidences will have a big job because there are so many from so many diverse sources.
          Good luck,
          Brian

  3. Hi Leo,
    Oliver Olney was married to Alice Johnson, a sister to Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde, who was the wife of Apostle Orson Hyde. Marinda herself was sealed to the Prophet and had served as an intermediary in his plural marriage proposals. Oliver undoubtedly enjoyed and exploited this tie as much as possible. However, it was curtailed or diminished when his wife died in July of 1841, leaving Olney with two young daughters. Whether Alice’s death greatly affected Oliver’s mental stability is unknown, but it appears that something happened in 1841 to alter the trajectory of his life.
    In early 1842 Oliver made claims that he was in visionary contact with the “Ancient of Days,” presumably Adam. He reported teachings that were contradictory to Church doctrines and was excommunicated on March 17, 1842. Olney was never a polygamy insider and was a rather questionable poet :-).
    The Kingsbury copy of D&C 132 can be viewed by copying this URL and pasting it in the address line:
    https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE537526
    The first few pages are a later copy by Willard Richards, but the Kingsbury copy begins with item 9.
    Thanks,
    Brian

  4. True, many sources are years old and by mainstream faithful; however, there are a number of contemporary evidences substantiating JS as the proprietor/restorer of Nauvoo polygamy (both faithful and unfaithful to JS).
    These come to mind:
    The 1842 Whitney letter revealing JS’ polygamous sealing ceremony.
    Also the Laws’ 1844 affidavit makes a number of references to the present D&C 132 Revelation and its text:
    http://en.fairmormon.org/Primary_sources/Nauvoo_Expositor_Full_Text#Affidavits
    William Clayton Nauvoo Journal
    Nauvoo High Council minutes

    • Thank you for the comments on William Clayton’s journal (which I see is quoted above) and also that the Law’s Nauvoo Expositor referencing items in D&C 132.

    • Hi,
      I’m unaware of any plain references to authorized plural marriage in the Nauvoo Council minutes.
      Here’s a comprehensive list of contemporaneous documents that purport to discuss Joseph Smith’s teachings on plural marriage:
      Firsthand from Joseph Smith:
      D&C 132
      William Clayton’s journal (excerpts)
      Two documents were given in the context of polygamy without actually mentioning plural marriage:
      The “Happiness is the object. . .” letter dictated by Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon (“Sixth letter from John C. Bennett,” Sangamo Journal, Springfield Illinois, August 19, 1842. Reprinted in John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints: Or an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842, 243-45. Reprinted in History of the Church, 5:134 and Joseph Fielding Smith, comp. and ed. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976 printing, 256.)
      Revelation given, dated July 27, 1842, outlining the words Sarah’s father, Bishop Newell K. Whitney, was to use in performing the ceremony. (Revelation for Newell K. Whitney, July 27, 1842. Original manuscript in CHL; quoted in Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999, 315-16; see also Revelations in Addition to Those Found in the LDS Edition of the D&C on New Mormon Studies: A Comprehensive Resource Library. CD-ROM. Salt Lake City: Smith Research Associates, 1998.)
      Contemporaneous antagonistic sources are four:
      John C. Bennett (See The History of the Saints: Or an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842).
      Oliver Olney (See Oliver Olney Papers, Beineke Library, Yale University; microfilm at LDS Church History Library,MS 8829, item 8.)
      William Law’s journal and the Expositor (Lyndon W. Cook, William Law: Biographical Essay – Nauvoo Diary – Correspondence – Interview, (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1994).
      Joseph H. Jackson, (See A Narrative of the Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, Exposing the Depths of Mormon Villainy, came from letters Jackson wrote to the New York Herald, September 5 and 7, 1844, and to the Weekly Herald [New York City] September 7, 1844.)
      If I have missed anything, please let me know. Most of these are available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org
      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Hi Brian,
        Thanks for that list of contemporary evidence. I’ve found it very useful. The revelation to NK Whitney is a very compelling piece of evidence if true. I found the text of that revelation on the website you referenced (http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/JS1685.pdf).
        However, I can’t find the actual document online anywhere. Is it possible to view the actual document? Have you ever seen it? I’m surprised the church doesn’t release the original since it would help bolster its claims regarding plural marriage. I also wonder whether this piece of evidence isn’t actually contemporary. Is it possible Whitney recorded it later in life but indicated it was given in 1842? In that case, it wouldn’t be contemporary obviously. Anyway, any other light you can shed on that would be very helpful. Thanks.

        • Hi Leo,
          You bring up a good point. I actually did not seek to verity Michael Marquardt’s reference.
          To my knowledge, no one has doubted this.
          I have to think that the Joseph Smith Papers project will eventually publish it and I have watched for that. I can’t find it on the website yet.
          Hopefully they will upload it soon.
          Thanks,
          Brian

          • Thanks for the response. Hopefully the church releases it soon. I’m also looking forward to seeing Kingsbury’s record of 132.
            I have another question, about your reference to Oliver Olney. I found the item you referenced on p 45 of this link: http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/JSP_Book_49.pdf. I read through the entries but Olney never mentions a firsthand account of being taught about plural marriage by Joseph or anyone else. He does make some references to the 12 having illicit relations w women and he references Joseph’s supposed passion for women but nothing direct. While it is contemporary, there’s no evidence its a firsthand account unless I’m mistaken. Did I miss something? Thanks.

  5. Brian, thank you for publishing these articles. I have enjoyed your work on this subject for a while now. I have four comments/questions.
    As a Latter-day Saint, I recognize that the majority of evidence comes from faithful Latter-day Saints. This leads me to having only a few choices–either burying my head in the sand and ignore this uncomfortable subject or accept that Joseph Smith introduced polygeny to the Church and practiced it. If I were not a member, I either wouldn’t care or would use it as evidence of Mormon barbarianism. However, if I belonged to a Latter-day Saint tradition that does not recognize Brigham Young or his successors–such as the Community of Christ or Snuffer, I do think I could easily discredit a large amount of evidence because it was (1) late (25 to 40 years after the fact), (2) was pushed by people with an agenda and thus suspect. My question is whether there is any primary evidence outside of faithful Latter-day Saints from 1869 to the early 1890s including D&C 132? I know you have addressed this a bit in the article and the comments, the evidence you cite is still from faithful Latter-day Saints.
    My second issue is with John C. Bennett. You claim Bennett could not have known anything direct from the Prophet because they became estranged in about May 1842 at which time Joseph only had 7 plural wives. On the other hand, Joseph told members of the Twelve and others in the fall of 1841. We need to remember that Bennett was in fact close to the Prophet. He was a member of the First Presidency (as an assistant counselor). He was Mayor of Nauvoo (Joseph was on the City Council at the time). He was Major General and Chief Commanding Officer of the Nauvoo Legion while Joseph was Lieutenant General and Chief Reviewing Officer of the Legion. Bennett was the state’s quartermaster general in the militia when the saints were fleeing to Missouri. He was very helpful to the saints in getting Nauvoo set up and getting the charters for the city, the legion, and the university through the Illinois legislature. All that said, I don’t believe what Bennett said about “spiritual wifery” and his own actions matched anything Joseph might have told him, but the evidence against Bennett learning from the Prophet seems quite weak to me.
    Somewhere I heard a story that Emma heard something in a barn and when she peaked through a hole she saw the whole affair or something like that. It has been a long time since I read it. I recall interpreting that story not as witnessing Joseph and a women making love, which in my opinion may not have had Emma starring at them throughout wondering what to do, but rather that Emma caught them getting married in front of somebody marrying them and in front of witnesses. Do you remember the story and does this interpretation make sense?
    The last comment is to refer to the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics for a monograph by Walter Scheidel of Stanford University entitled “Monogamy and polygyny in Greece, Rome, and world history”
    June 2008. This paper opened my eyes a bit about polygyny and how scholars study it. Almost all ancient cultures, except Greece and Rome, had high levels of polygyny. Scholars use a polygyny index to compare societies. Point one is that in Greece and Rome, the marriage pattern was “Socially Imposed Universal Monogamy” of SIUM, where from the beginning of the classic period in Greece and as far back as can be seen in Rome, monogamy was enforced by laws and custom and this is where the idea that polygyny is barbarism comes from. The second point is that two factors govern the degree of polygyny in different cultures–the first is differences in male economic power. The larger the inequality, the larger the polygyny index. This made sense. Then the author quotes several studies showing that female choice in mating is essential as well (caveated with the fact that often the female choice is in fact made by the family of the female). The idea seems to be that the greater the disparity of economic resources among the males, the more desirable it is to be married to a male with considerable economic resources, even if that means sharing the male, then to be married to one without economic resources. Thus, the article claims that the larger the economic disparity among the males, the better off females are with high levels of polygyny (and the author quotes female scientists making that point). Polygyny benefited women up and down the spectrum and benefited men at the top but not men at the bottom of society, at least according to the article and its sources. This got me thinking. I don’t think the practicers of polygyny in Nauvoo were the economic elite. Instead, I can’t help wondering whether in Nauvoo economic resources of the male should in fact be replaced by potential in the eternities. Faithful women saw a small pool of men who could take them to exaltation. Today, we realize that the pool is much bigger and I can’t help wondering if there wasn’t a higher urgency to be sealed and ensure exaltation then as opposed to now. Comments?

  6. I watched a youtube video of you, Brian, in 2012 in which you said that you thought the polyandry marriages were non sexual for eternity only marriages. In this 2015 essay rebutting DS, it seems that you are saying that at least some of the polyandrous marriages were sexual. Am I understanding you correctly?

    • Hi Shane,
      I’m not sure what video you watched but I have never said that all of Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women were non-sexual “eternity only” sealings. I have been misquoted by quite a number of people who have alleged that I have said that.
      Now with that stated, it is important to clarify that I do not believe Joseph Smith ever practice sexual polyandry nor would he have tolerated it in others.
      Of the fourteen women with legal husbands, I believe 11 were “eternity only” sealings for the next life only. Of the three remaining women, one was a pretend marriage (by their own accounts Sarah Ann Whitney with Joseph C. Kingsbury), one had experienced a Church divorce (Sylvia Sessions Lyon from Windsor Lyon), and the last is Mary Heron who is too poorly documented to know precisely what was going on although my wife doesn’t think it was a real relationship.
      Here is a link to a chart: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Screen-Shot-2014-02-06-at-4.04.28-PM.png
      And an essay: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/sexual-polyandry/
      If you are more interested.
      Thanks,
      Brian Hales

  7. I sometimes wish there was a simple like or recommend button for some of these articles. While I can respect the efforts that go into a lot of these articles, I think the above is one of the most invaluable articles the Interpreter has ever published.

    • David, there are simple like and share buttons at the top of this article on the right-hand side. These buttons are present on all of our articles.

      • Ah, I’m viewing this on a tablet, so that might explain why I can’t see them! Carry on! (I’d already shared a link to this, but really just wanted some way to express my high opinion of the article, though I guess my comment partly did that).

    • Hi Michelle,
      I disagree that the Church discourages scholarly tools. The Lord told Joseph Smith early to “STUDY it out” in our minds (D&C 9:8-9). We are to learn “by STUDY and by faith” (D&C 88:118).
      If we don’t study, then we will be more easily deceived. Joseph Smith warned: “Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world” (D&C 50:2). The apostle John similarly warned: “BELOVED, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
      It is easy to claim Joseph was a “liar” regarding polygamy—it is the low hanging fruit for critics who really haven’t looked at his statements. They would also condemn Abraham because he didn’t tell King Abimilech (Genesis 20:2) that Sarah was his wife. A liar? Joseph could truthfully deny practicing legal polygamy, but he never denied practicing celestial marriage.
      I’m happy to give Denver Snuffer the privilege of interpreting the evidence as he wishes according to the spirit that he follows. What I don’t think is acceptable, is for him or anyone (including myself) to ignore the evidence. This is why I’ve uploaded my entire polygamy database to http://MormonPolygamyDocument.org.
      Denver stated that he had copies of my three volumes JOSEPH SMITH’S POLYGAMY: HISTORY AND THEOLOGY, but as I read his essay on “Plural Marriage,” I wonder if he read them.
      Joseph Smith also taught: “Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God” (TPJS 205).
      I encourage you to prayerfully study ALL the evidences and then decide if Denver is correct regarding his statements concerning Joseph Smith and plural marriage.
      Take Care,
      Brian Hales

  8. What evidence do we have that section 132 as we have it today was what joseph smith originally dictated? Do we have the original transcript?

    • Hi Mike,
      The original transcript of D&C 132 was recorded by William Clayton on July 12, 1843. On that day he wrote in his journal:
      “This A.M, I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives and concubines &c. After it was wrote Presidents Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E[mma] who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious.”
      In 1874, Clayton remembered:
      “On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843, Joseph and Hyrum Smith came into the office, in the upper story of the brick store, on the bank of the Mississippi River. They were talking on the subject of plural marriage. Hyrum 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 his opinion and further remarked, “the doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity and heavenly origin,” or words to their effect. Joseph then said, “well, I will write the revelation, and we will see.” He then requested me to get paper and prepare to write. Hyrum very urgently requested Joseph to write the revelation by means of the Urim and Thummim, but Joseph, in reply, said he did not need to, for he knew the revelation perfectly from beginning to end.
      Joseph and Hyrum then sat down, and Joseph commenced to dictate the Revelation on Celestial marriage, and I wrote it, sentence by sentence as he dictated. After the whole was written, Joseph asked me to read it through, slowly and carefully, which I did, and he pronounced it correct. He then remarked that there was much more that he could write, on the same subject, but what was written was sufficient for the present.
      “Hyrum then took the revelation to read to Emma. Joseph remained with me in the office until Hyrum returned. When he came back, Joseph asked him how he had succeeded. Hyrum replied that he had never received a more severe talking to in his life, that Emma was very bitter and full of resentment and anger.
      “Joseph quietly remarked, ‘I told you, you did not know Emma as well as I did.’ Joseph then put the Revelation in his pocket and they both left the office.”
      Soon after William Clayton penned the revelation, a duplicate was made by Joseph C. Kingsbury who wrote two accounts of the copying process, one in 1886 and the other in 1892:
      “I will say that Bishop Newel K. Whitney handed me the Revelation… the day [after] it was written or the day following and stating what it was asked me to make a copy of it. I did so, and then read my copy of it to Bishop Whitney, who compared it with the original to which he held in his hand while I read to him. When I had finished reading, Bishop Whitney pronounced the copy correct and Hyrum Smith came into the room at the time to fetch the original. Bishop Whitney handed it to him. I will also state that this copy, as also the original are identically the same as published in the present edition [1876] of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”
      “Bishop Whitney got the revelation… and presented it to me, – and wanted me to copy it, and so I went into a room by myself, – a divided place, – a place that was divided, I went off in there by myself, and copied it, -that I copied the revelation on plural marriage that he handed me, and just as I got through the copying of it, Hyrum Smith came in and wanted the revelation, – the original revelation was what he wanted. He came in to see how I got along with it – That is Bishop Whitney did, and then he went out and told Hyrum Smith that he would hand him the revelation in a few minutes, for I was not quite through the copying of it. Well, when I got through making the copy, I took the one I had made myself and read it and he took the original and read it at the same time to see if I had made any mistakes, and that it was correct, and when he found that it was all correct he took the one that I had made and went out to the door and handed it to Hyrum Smith who was outside of the door ready to take it.”
      The Clayton copy was destroyed by Emma or at her request. The Kingsbury copy was kept by Bishop Whitney and given to Brigham Young in Winter Quarters. It is now in the possession of the Church and will be available for download in the next few weeks or months (according to a CHL employee who knows).
      Since Kingsbury died in 1898, the left several testimonies concerning the accuracy of the copy he made that was later published as section 132. Anyone claiming that changes were made to the document either needs to discredit Kingsbury as a credible witness or allege that somehow the Clayton copy was tampered with before Kingsbury received it in 1843. Neither seems to be an easily defended argument.
      Thanks,
      Brian Hales

      • I appreciate the thorough reply. I asked because Denver already posted a response to some aspects of your essay and it seems he suspects that section 132 had been altered by BY or others later on to justify their version of polygamy. The evidence you presented is compelling.
        This is a difficult subject for me and I assume at least some others because it would be nice to be able to believe that JS never did have sexual relations with any other women. It is what many of us I think would like to discover because the idea that God commanded secret polygamy often times against Emma’s wishes is a hard thing to make sense of. But, if the evidence truly shows that he did have sexual relations with other wives, we don’t want to ignore that evidence and believe in something that is false.

        • Hi,
          You bring up a good point that is discussed on this link: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/emmas-response/
          I believe that anyone who alleges that D&C 132 has been altered or forges hasn’t studied the historical documents associated with it.
          Within the next year (and possibly soon) the Church will make the Kingsbury copy of the manuscript available. I have not seen it, but I’m confident it matches D&C 132 faithfully.
          So Snuffer will need to say that it was changed without Kingsbury’s knowledge between the time it was dictated to Clayton and then delivered to Kingsbury to copy (which was hours or a day or two at the most).
          Or that the Church’s Kingsbury copy is a forgery. This is difficult because both Clayton and Kingsbury lived well beyond the publication of the revelation and both testified it was a faithful copy. Otherwise, they both would have needed to be co-conspirators.
          The provenance of the Kingsbury copy to 1852 (when it was published) is well documented. As I say in both Part 1 and Part 2 of my responses, it sometimes seems Denver Snuffer wants to rewrite history to fit his needs. Sorry but it just doesn’t work that way.
          Best,
          Brian

  9. Hi Again,
    As I said, we can only document two children and only one that lived to adulthood. Speculating on others is no helpful.
    It appears that officially, Church leaders were unaware of any polygamous offspring born to the Prophet, although privately they may have heard rumors. Lucy Walker recounted in the 1870s her experience talking with the sons of Joseph and Emma: “[They] seem surprised that there was no issue from asserted plural marriages with their father. Could they but realize the hazardous life he lived, after that revelation was given, they would comprehend the reason. He was harassed and hounded and lived in constant fear of being betrayed by those who ought to have been true to him.”
    Brigham Young died in 1877; his daughter, Susa wrote: “Father and the Twelve Apostles felt the death of the Prophet far more keenly than did the people; and as we believe that children are a part of the glory we inherit hereafter, it seemed a cruel thing that the beloved leader and Prophet should be stricken down in the prime of life, and left without issue in this Church.” Joseph F. Smith also embraced the belief that his uncle, the Prophet, had no children with his plural wives in 1879.
    Concerning Josephine Lyon Fisher, the only known child to live to adulthood, in 1905, Stake President Angus Cannon wrote this report concerning an interview he had with Joseph Smith, III:
    Before we parted… I said, “Joseph, you have asked where is the issue in evidence of your father’s having married plural wives.” I will now refer you to one case where it was said by the girl’s grandmother that your father has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl’s grandmother was Mother Sessions, who lived in Nauvoo and died here in the valley. She was the grand-daughter of Mother [Patty] Sessions. That girl, I believe, is living today in Bountiful, north of this city. I heard Prest. Young, a short time before his death, refer to the report and remark that he had never seen the girl, but he would like to see her for himself, that he might determine if she bore any likeness to your father. Joseph hereupon said, “Did you ever go and see her?” “No sir, I did not.” “Then there is where you have not done what you ought to have done. You should have gone to see her for yourself, and so satisfied your own mind.” I said, “The woman is now said to have a family of children, and I think she is still living.[”] He replied, “I have heard of that case, but have understood that the girl was born more than a year after my father’s death. I said, “I think you are mistaken or have been misinformed regarding this girl, for I have been told that her grandmother, Aunt Patty Sessions, asserts that the girl was born within the time after your father was said to have taken the mother.” Josephine was born February 8, 1844.
    I hope that helps.
    Brian

  10. It’s interesting that there’s no DNA proof that Joseph never fathered children with anyone besides Emma, although absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    For me, the stronger proof that Joseph didn’t have any children through polygamy is that there are so few people who have claimed to be descendants of Joseph (Is Josephine Rosetta Lyon the only one?). The circumstances of her story seem unusual, that her mother only told Josephine of her parentage on her deathbed. I would think that if I were Joseph Smith’s child, or the mother of Joseph Smith’s child, I would be shouting it from the rooftops. I would be mormon royalty, and I might even have a dubious claim on running the LDS church.
    No mother would keep this secret from their child. Brigham and the 12 probably would not be inclined to cover this up, indeed they might also broadcast the fact that Joseph had a child through polygamy, to legitimize their own polygamy. Any polygamous child of Joseph’s would’ve testified to it in the Temple Lot case.

    • Hi Lemuel,
      As I say in the essay, the evidence for Josephine is not negative, it is just inconclusive due to cross marrying between the two genealogical lines. Also, we have two separate attestations for Olive Frost’s child who died in infancy.
      I disagree that Josephine would have been questioned in the Temple Lot trial. Her mother was dead (1982) and she knew nothing more than what her mother had told her.
      We agree that there is no additional evidence of offspring except for a reference to a miscarriage, a few accounts from Bathsheba Smith of a birth (with Emma the midwife), and a couple of quotes from Mary Elizabeth Rollins.
      Are these conclusive that Joseph Smith had offspring? Depends on the reviewer’s decision.
      Best,
      Brian Hales

      • For me, it’s still about the incentives–once the saints were in Utah, there’s no incentive to hide any of Joseph’s children, and plenty of incentive not to.

  11. The ability to understand what Denver is saying requires you to remove what you have been told about what was said and documented and read it for what is on the paper. When celestial marriage is mentioned, the LDS member thinks polygamy, you must unlearn what you have learned in order to see clearly what was being conveyed. It is a most holy doctrine if you will understand it, and it has nothing to do with increasing the number of children being born on earth. If God desired this thing to increase the birth rate, then he would have created 50 women for Adam, and sent 10 or more for Noah and his sons on the Ark. But alas, it was one man and one woman in each of those Genesis events. This is why we must throw out the wisdom of the wise, and seek that spirit that guides us into all truth. That is what McConkie said at least.
    I have done my own research into this, including much on my knees. It has become such a mess, that the beauty of what Joseph was trying to establish has become beyond our view. I know you are trying to prevent people from being led astray by Denver, and I applaud you for that. I do not want anyone led astray by anyone. The contradictions of section 132 to the scriptures established prior to its existence should be looked into. We should discover through a thorough study of the Book of Mormon, mainly the book of Mosiah about what it means to raise up seed unto Christ. Then the meaning of it all will come into view and we will see the folly that existed with the great patriarchs prior to them entering into covenants with God, and see that we too can be eligible for those same covenants.

    • Hi Brent,
      I appreciate the thoughtful comment. Joseph Smith identified four reasons for the restoration of plural marriage in D&C 132:
      1. As part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:19–21 (D&C 132:40, 45).
      2. To provide a customized trial for the Saints of that time and place (see D&C 132:32, 51).
      3. To provide bodies for noble premortal spirits by “multiplying and replenishing the earth” (D&C 132:63).
      4. To allow all worthy women to be sealed to an eternal husband “for their exaltation in the eternal worlds” (D&C 132:63, 16–17).
      When anyone says that celestial marriage “has nothing to do with increasing the number of children being born on earth” I puzzle because D&C 132:63 states plainly in unambiguous language that one of the reasons for plurality is to “multiply and replenish the earth,” which is to have children. Of course, it is not the only reason or even the most important, which I believe to be the fourth.
      You have made other comments I don’t understand, and I respect the right of every person to receive revelation for themselves. It sounds like you may have received some interesting insights. Yet I hope we all agree with Joseph Smith’s counsel: “if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.” The keys are held by the prophets, seers, and revelators—the apostles—today and controlled solely by President Monson. Any new doctrine that should be taught to the Latter-day Saints will come through them. This is another reason why Denver Snuffer’s message is in error–he has no keys. I discuss this in Part 2.
      Thanks again for the comment.
      Brian Hales

    • Brent,
      First off, the phrase “you must unlearn what you have learned” is a statement by Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back, so two things are already apparent when I read your comment: 1.) you have assimilated lines from the Star Wars films into your regular vocabulary (either intentionally or unintentionally), and 2.) you quoted a well-known line from a famous film without giving credit to the line’s origins. You could just have very well said “Dear Brian, you’re going to need a bigger boat,” or “Dear Brian, I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse,” or maybe “Dear Brian, snakes…why’d it have to be snakes?” What all of this says about you, I don’t know; but I thought it should at least be pointed out.
      Second, and as an overall point with regard to Mr. Snuffer, I find it puzzling that he and/or his supporters tend to invoke the name of Hugh Nibley as some sort of overture that Mr. Snuffer is, in some respect, “continuing the legacy of Dr. Nibley’s approach to the gospel.” Nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, there was never a more passionate advocate for the prophetic calling and teachings of Brigham Young than Hugh Nibley (even a cursory examination of Dr. Nibley’s writings reveal this to be true). Nibley even had a tendency to sometimes simply use the phrase “Joseph and Brigham” as an almost joint partnership of bold men who helped restore to the minds of mortals the true potential of the human race. In short, Nibley loved the brashness and boldness of Brigham Young because he himself was brash and bold. Suggesting that Snuffer is somehow “in line” with the tradition of Hugh Nibley (which, again, seems to be present in what I see from other Snuffer supporters, not necessarily from you) demonstrates a lack of genuine and objective research and investigation. To paraphrase Alma: “…ye do greatly err, and ye ought to search the [writings of Hugh Nibley]; if ye suppose that they have taught you this, ye do not understand them,” (Alma 33:2).

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