Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 2: History


by Brian C. Hales

Available in ebook on KindleNookApple, Google Play, and Kobo.

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:


23. Joseph Smith’s Plural Sealings, February to July 1843

Six Minimally Documented Sealings
Four Better Documented Relationships
Joseph Smith Declines to Marry Mary Ann Hale
Failed Proposal to Rachel Ivins

24. Emma and Hyrum Accept Plural Marriage

Plural Marriage in the Smith Family
Joseph Smith’s Love for Emma
Emma Smith Confronts Rumors of Polygamy
Hyrum Smith’s Conversion
Emma Accepts Plural Marriage
May 1843: A Happy Month for Joseph
Emma Experiences a Plural Household
Joseph Smith’s Public Allusion to Polygamy

25. Emma’s Resistance and a New Revelation

The Revelation on Celestial and Plural Marriage
The “One” Man Holding Sealing Authority
Joseph and Emma: Conflict and Agreement
Destruction of the Original Revelatory Document
Joseph’s Other Sealings
Joseph’s Reasons for Concealing His Sealings

26. Emma Confronts Joseph’s Plural Wives

Emma Smith: Conflict Concerning Plural Marriage
Flora Ann Woodworth Leaves Plural Marriage
Emily and Eliza Partridge Dismissed

27. Emma’s Struggles as Joseph’s First Wife

A Second Period of Marital Harmony
Joseph Smith’s Last Plural Sealings
Augusta Adams Cobb and Plural Marriage
The “Poisoning” Incident
Emma Smith, Plurality, and the Relief Society
Emma Tried to Believe and Obey
Joseph and Emma’s Devotion
Emma’s Unique Path through Plural Marriage

28. The Revelation As a Catalyst

Nauvoo High Council Hears the Revelation
Awareness of the Revelation Widens
Apostle John Taylor Complies
Plural Marriage as a “Test” of Church Leaders

29. The Knowledge and Practice of Plural Marriage Expand

Practicing Polygamists
Joseph Smith Authorizes Other Priesthood Leaders to Teach about Plural Marriage
Hyrum Smith Champions the Cause
The Struggle to Accept Plural Marriage
Resistance to Plural Marriage

30. Confusion and Rumors outside Polygamy’s Inner Circle

Official Denials of Polygamy
“Let No Man Break the Laws of the Land”
Rumors among Members and Nonmembers
Nauvooans Unaware of Plural Marriage
Unauthorized Plural Marriage Teachings

31. Polygamy and the Martyrdom

William and Jane Law and Plural Marriage
Joseph Smith and Jane Law: Five Interpretations
William Law: “I Wanted to Tread upon the Viper”
Maria Lawrence and the Lawrence Estate
The Nauvoo Expositor and the Martyrdom

32. Did Joseph Smith Intend to Abandon Plural Marriage?

William Marks’s Accounts
The Belief that Joseph Never Practiced Polygamy
Official RLDS View
Emma’s Final Responses to Plural Marriage

33. A Review of Joseph Smith’s Wives

Andrew Jenson’s 1887 List: Twenty-Seven Wives
Compilers of the Names of Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives
The 1869 Affidavits of Fanny Young and Elvira A. Cowles
Lucinda Pendleton
Joseph Smith’s Sealings to Young Wives
Sexual Relations with Fourteen-Year-Old Girls?
Joseph’s Plural Wives after His Death
Joseph’s Reputation among Nauvoo Associates

Appendix A. Doctrine and Covenants Section 132

Appendix B. Evidence of Plural Marriages for Each of Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives

GEORGE D. SMITH’s Five Additional Plural Wives:
Todd Compton’s List of Eight Possible Wives

Appendix C. Databases Dealing with Plural Marriage at Nauvoo

1869–70 Affidavits Collected by Apostle Joseph F. Smith
Andrew Jenson’s “Plural Marriage,” Historical Record, July 1887
Andrew Jenson’s Private 1886–87 Notes
The Temple Lot Testimonies and Depositions

Appendix D. Historical Accounts Referring to the Relationship of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger

Four References Written between 1838 and 1842
Fifteen References Written between 1872 and 1903

Appendix E. Sexuality in Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages

Probable Sexual Relations with Twelve Plural Wives
Ambiguous, Contradictory, or Limited Data for Three Plural Wives

Appendix F. Horace Cummings and the “Conspiracy of Nauvoo”

History of “Conspiracy of Nauvoo”
Corroborating the Details

Appendix G. Non-Specific Reports of Sexual Impropriety against Joseph Smith and Church Members

Publications from the 1830s to July 1842
Post-July 1842 Publications (after John C. Bennett Exposé)
Reports Published after Joseph Smith’s Death, from June 27, 1844, to 1852:
Reports after the Public Announcement of Plural Marriage, August 29, 1852
Reports Published after the September 24, 1890, Manifesto

Appendix H. Chronology


Shortened Citations

Index for Volumes 1–2



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

See more reviews at Goodreads.

Other Volumes in the Series:

Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1: 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:

602 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58958-686-4 (Paperback)
Published February 2013

Related products