Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 1: History


by Brian C. Hales

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Also available through Amazon and Deseret Book.

Book Description:

Few American religious figures have stirred more passion among adherents and antagonists than Joseph Smith. Born in 1805 and silenced thirty-nine years later by assassins’ bullets, he dictated more than one-hundred revelations, published books of new scripture, built a temple, organized several new cities, and became the proclaimed prophet to tens of thousands during his abbreviated life. 
     Among his many novel teachings and practices, none is more controversial than plural marriage, a restoration of the Old Testament practice that he accepted as part of his divinely appointed mission. Joseph Smith taught his polygamy doctrines only in secret and dictated a revelation in July 1843 authorizing its practice (now LDS D&C 132) that was never published during his lifetime. Although rumors and exposés multiplied, it was not until 1852 that Mormons in Brigham Young’s Utah took a public stand. By then, thousands of Mormons were engaged in the practice that was seen as essential to salvation.
     Victorian America saw plural marriage as immoral and Joseph Smith as acting on libido. However, the private writings of Nauvoo participants and other polygamy insiders tell another, more complex and nuanced story. Many of these accounts have never been published. Others have been printed sporadically in unrelated publications. Drawing on every known historical account, whether by supporters or opponents, Volumes 1 and 2 take a fresh look at the chronology and development of Mormon polygamy, including the difficult conundrums of the Fannie Alger relationship, polyandry, the “angel with a sword” accounts, Emma Smith’s poignant response, and the possibility of Joseph Smith offspring by his plural wives. Among the most intriguing are the newly available Andrew Jenson papers containing not only the often-quoted statements by surviving plural wives but also Jenson’s own private research, conducted in the late nineteenth century. 
     Telling the story of Joseph Smith’s polygamy from the records of those who knew him best, augmented by those who observed him from a distance, may have produced the most useful view of all.

Comprehensive Table of Contents:



1. Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: An Introduction

Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: An Overview
Controversies in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy
Plural Marriage after Joseph Smith’s Death
A Brief Historiography of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy
Joseph Smith’s Teachings on Plural Marriage
Historical Sources Contemporaneous with Joseph Smith
Late Recollections
Common Non-LDS View: Joseph Smith the Womanizer
LDS View: Joseph Smith as Prophet-Restorer
Published Views Versus Unpublished Views

2. Joseph Smith’s Morality, 1820s to 1835

The Case of Eliza Winters
1830 “Testimony” of Improper Conduct
William Bond’s Narrative
An 1832 Romance with Marinda Johnson?
Vienna Jacques: An 1833 Plural Wife?

3. Charges of Immoral Conduct against Joseph Smith, 1836–1842

Sidney Rigdon’s Daughters, Nancy and Athalia
Fawn Brodie’s Claims of Pre-1842 Plurality
Lucinda Pendleton Harris
Presendia Huntington Buell: No Relationship or Conception On-the-Run?
Marinda Nancy Johnson (Again)
Clarissa Reed Hancock
Benjamin Winchester’s Allegation Regarding a “Miss Smith”

4. Fanny Alger and the Beginnings of Mormon Polygamy

1831 Revelation: “Ye Should Take Unto You Wives of the Lamanites”
Other Evidence Corroborating the Early 1830s
Polygamy in Other Religious Sects in the 1830s
Evidence Supporting a Relationship between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger
Dating the Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger Relationship

5. The Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger Relationship: Plural Marriage or Adultery?

Evidences of a Marriage between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger
Authority to Perform a Plural Marriage?
Immediate Consequences of the Fanny Alger Plural Marriage
Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger: Charting the Evidence

6. Oliver Cowdery and the Aftermath of the Alger-Smith Relationship

Oliver Cowdery: Early Polygamist?
Annie Lyman: Candidate Wife?
Possible Chronologies
Rumors of Adultery, Not Polygamy
Refuting the Rumors of Adultery
No Rumors of Polygamy
Adultery Rumors Quickly Died
The Gentile Press and Other Writers Were Unaware

7. Oliver Cowdery’s Article on “Marriage”

August 17, 1835, General Assembly
A Reaction to Oliver Cowdery’s Behavior?
A Reaction to Joseph Smith’s Behavior?
A Reaction to Accusations of Communal Wives?
A Reaction to Members’ Personal Misconduct?
Timing of Including “Marriage”
Denials of Polygamy
Apostasy at Kirtland

8. Pre-Nauvoo Preparations for Plural Marriage

Church Members’ Pre-Nauvoo Knowledge of Plural Marriage
Angel with a Drawn Sword
Reliability of the Angel-Sword Narratives
Priesthood Marriages for “Time”
A New Doctrine: Marriage beyond Death
Elijah’s Sealing Authority
Child-to-Parent Sealings
Private Teachings of Marriage Sealings
Reticence about “Eternal” Marriage?
A Commandment and a Privilege

9. Eternal Plural Sealings Begin

Facing the Challenges
1840 Nauvoo: Joseph Smith Cautiously Shares Plural Marriage Teachings
Finding Women to Marry as Plural Wives
Louisa Beaman: First Documented Eternal Plural Marriage
Instructing the Twelve Apostles
First Teachings, First Reactions
A Quincy Connection?
A “Testing the Waters” Sermon

10. October 1841 to June 1842: Ten Additional Sealings

Zina and Presendia Huntington, 1841 Sealings
Eight More Sealings in 1842
Two Sealing Dates for Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde
Sarah Granger Kimball’s Refusal

11. Sexuality in Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages

Joseph Smith and Sexuality
Sexual Relations in Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages
Evidence of Sexual Relations
Children from Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages?
Identities of Alleged Children
Sexual Relations: An Apparent Rarity for Joseph Smith

12. The Puzzle of “Polyandry”

Historic Explanations
“Ceremonial Polyandry” Versus “Sexual Polyandry”
Twelve Documents Supporting Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry
Charles Edmund Richardson, Mary Ann Darrow, and Fredrick Walter Cox
Additional Evidence from D. Michael Quinn
Overview of the Evidence
“Given to Multiply and Replenish”

13. Joseph Smith and Sylvia Sessions Lyon: Polyandry or Polygyny?

Evidence of Sexual Polyandry
Dating Sylvia’s Sealing
Joseph F. Smith’s 1869 Affidavit Books
Sealing Dates: Late 1842 or Early 1843
A Legal Divorce between Windsor and Sylvia?
A Religious Divorce between Windsor and Sylvia?
Evidence Supporting a Post-Excommunication Sealing Date
Childbearing Chronology Suggests Physical Separation
DNA Testing to Establish Joseph Smith’s Paternity?

14. Sexual Polyandry: Examining the Contradictory Evidence

LDS Theology: Sexual Polyandry Is Nondoctrinal
LDS Theology: Sexual Polyandry Is Antidoctrinal
The “New and Everlasting Covenant”
Some Researchers Ignore Joseph’s Smith’s Theological Positions
No Complaints from Joseph Smith’s Polyandrous Wives
No Complaints from Witnesses and Officiators
No Complaints from Legal Husbands
No Complaints from Detractors
The Calendar of Sexual Polyandry
Sexual Polyandry: A Non-Issue for Nauvoo and Utah Polygamists
Polyandry and the Temple Lot Depositions
Contemporary Confidence That Joseph Smith Practiced Sexual Polyandry

15. Sealings for “Time and Eternity” and for “Eternity Only”

Duration of Three Forms of Marriage
Joseph Smith and Sealings for Eternity Only
Evidence of Nauvoo Sealings for “Eternity”
Joseph Smith’s “Eternity Only” Sealings
Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo Plural Marriage Chronology
Other Evidence of “Eternity” Sealings
The Silence of “Eternity Only” Wives
D&C 132:41: “. . . Not Appointed unto Her”
Sexual Relations in “Time Only” or “Time and Eternity” Sealings

16. The Fourteen “Polyandrous” Wives

The “Pretended” Marriage of Joseph C. Kingsbury and Sarah Ann Whitney
Women Married to Nonmembers or Anti-Mormons
The Next Six “Polyandrous” Husbands
The Next Six “Polyandrous” Wives
Mary Heron Snider—Fourteenth Polyandrous Wife

17. Nauvoo Plural Marriage Slowly Expands

Failed Proposal to Nancy Rigdon
Why Nancy Rigdon?
Heber C. Kimball, Second Plural Husband
Brigham Young First Polygamous Proposal
Vinson Knight’s Polygamous Marriage

18. Joseph Smith Marries Additional Plural Wives

Delcena Johnson and Martha McBride
Sealing to Eliza R. Snow
Sarah Ann Whitney’s Two Husbands
Oliver Olney: An Outsider’s View in Nauvoo

19. John C. Bennett Impacts Plural Marriage in 1842

John C. Bennett’s Arrival in Nauvoo
Bennett’s Pre-Nauvoo Adulterous Behavior
Bennett’s Immorality in Nauvoo
Bennett’s House of Ill Fame
Bennett’s Excommunication
Bennett’s Letters to the Sangamo Journal
Bennett Schemes with Martha Brotherton
Joseph Smith Counterattacks
The History of the Saints
Consequences of John C. Bennett’s Apostasy

20. John C. Bennett: Polygamy Confidant or Sexual Opportunist?

Traditional Interpretation: Bennett Was Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Confidant
Examining the Evidence
Five Plural Wives Identified Correctly
Plural Marriage Verses Spiritual Wifery
Bennett’s Personal Spiritual Wifery: Seductions and Sexual Relations
John C. Bennett’s Later Description of Nauvoo Polygamy
Bennett’s 1843 Ignorance of Eternal Marriage
Nauvooans on Bennett’s “Spiritual Wifery”

21. John C. Bennett, Sarah Pratt, and Orson Pratt

Story One: Joseph Smith Attempts to Make Sarah Pratt a “Spiritual Wife”
Story Two: John C. Bennett and Sarah Pratt Were Sexually Involved
Orson Pratt’s “Mind Temporarily Gave Way”
Sorting through the Conflicting Claims
Orson and Sarah Pratt Are Rebaptized
1886 Accusations of Sarah Pratt

22. Post-Bennett Resurgence

The Peace Maker
Joseph Cautiously Teaches Others
Church Discipline for Sexual Immorality and Unauthorized Polygamy
Nauvoo Saints Recall Their Introductions to Plural Marriage
Lorenzo Snow Embraces Plural Marriage
Parley P. Pratt and Mary Ann Frost Stearns Pratt


 Praise for Joseph Smith's Polygamy:

“Brian Hales wants to face up to every question, every problem, every fear about plural marriage. His answers may not satisfy everyone, but he gives readers the relevant sources where answers, if they exist, are to be found. There has never been a more thorough examination of the polygamy idea.” — Richard L. Bushman,author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
“Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, the first thorough treatment of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages written by a conservative Mormon scholar, is a landmark in the historiography of Mormon polygamy. While I disagree with some of Hales’s conclusions, I admire his willingness to confront difficult topics and the depth of his research. This impressive work furthers the ongoing dialogue in the Mormon historical community on a fascinating and challenging aspect of the life and teachings of Mormonism’s founding prophet.” — Todd M. Compton, author of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
“Hales’s massive and well documented three volume examination of the history and theology of Mormon plural marriage, as introduced and practiced during the life of Joseph Smith, will now be the standard against which all other treatments of this important subject will be measured.” — Danel W. Bachman, author of “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith”
“Brian Hales is an exceptionally thorough, meticulous, and evenhanded researcher and assessor of Joseph Smith’s complex and controversial polygamous practices and the theological rationale that supported them. His path-breaking and indispensable three-volume study provides the most comprehensive documentation and assessment yet available of the extant evidence on the topic, even though Hales’s fellow scholars of Joseph Smith’s polygamy may not always find persuasive the ways in which he interprets and contextualizes his evidence.” — Lawrence Foster, author of Religion and Sexuality
“It is clearly the single greatest guide to available resources on the practice of polygamy in Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo. And, it will without any doubt shape the arguments regarding the centrality of plural marriage in early Mormon theology, as well as arguments on precisely what that plural marriage means historically and theologically for Latter-day Saints.” — Cheryl Bruno, Worlds Without End
“Brian C. Hales has done a superb job in bringing all of the relevant history together in one place. No matter what one’s opinions are, for the coming decades this set will prove to be the standard to turn to in researching Mormon polygamy.” — Colby Townsend, Association for Mormon Letters
“Regardless of the reader’s religious or societal views, what Brian C. Hales has achieved, ought to be recognized as an audacious study. . . . This is a very well researched and presented volume, and should be considered as a serious piece of scholarship that enlightens neglected areas of of Mormon past.” — David M. Morris, International Journal of Mormon Studies
“Hales's work is a solid contribution to the historical and theological literature relating to Joseph Smith's life. These three impressive volumes will contain something of value for readers of many backgrounds. Historians, both friendly and antagonistic to Joseph Smith, will appreciate the detailed and comprehensive focus on primary source materials. Latter-day Saints with an interest in history will appreciate reading the words of a writer who shares a common foundation of faith.... This important three-volume work will doubtless be referred to and read for years to come” — M. Scott Bradshaw, BYU Studies Quarterly

Other Volumes in the Series:

Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 2: History
Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 3: Theology

Podcasts and Video:

Podcast interview with the Mormon Discussions Podcast.
Podcast interview with the Mormon Stories Podcast.
Podcast interview with the Good Word Podcast.
Podcast discussion with FAIR.
Presentation at Benchmark Books:

About the Author:

Brian C. Hales, board-certified anesthesiologist in Layton, Utah, graduated from Utah State University with a B.S. in biology and from the University of Utah, College of Medicine. This book is his seventh. His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2007) was awarded the “Best Book of 2007” prize from the John Whitmer Historical Association.
     He authored Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism (2008) and The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy: An LDS Perspective (1992). Hales has published articles in Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and the Journal of Mormon History. He also contributed a chapter to he Persistence of Polygamy: Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormon Polygamy, edited by Newell Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster (2010). He is also webmaster of and In addition to a fulltime LDS mission in Venezuela (1976-78), he has served as a music missionary (1999 -). Hales has also served as president of the Utah Medical Association and as president of the Medical Staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. He is the father of four adult children.


More Information:

638 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58958-685-7 (Paperback)
Published February 2013
The full appendices, index, and bibliography for this volume are contained in Volume 2.

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