Lies of the Relief Society

09 April

RS LogoAs most of our readers know, Melissa submits a small info page on the monthly LDS publication for the Visiting Teaching Messages.  The intended audiences for these publications are the women in their Relief Society program and their purpose is to provide encouragement and directions for living a godly life while following Christ.

All that got me to wondering what female Mormons today think of those in the Relief Society back in the days of Emma Smith.

By and large, the Church as a whole turned its back on Emma because she didn’t submit to Brigham Young’s dictates. It makes for a rare day when or if you find any pictures of her hanging in their ward buildings or come across a Relief Society lesson that focuses on her life.  While pictorials showcasing past RS presidencies mention her, little else is said. If she was a staunch supporter of Joseph and vouched for his prophetic calling why is she all but forgotten?

Along with the absence of Emma is the absence of some activities the Relief Society was engaged in during that time. One of the most outrageous things the Relief Society participated in was signing a public notice denying polygamy was being practiced amongst those in the Mormon faith.

D&C 101 Then and Now

The Church published D&C 101 condemning polygamy and was part of their canon from 1835 to 1876. In 1842 the Church decided to republish part of D&C 101 in their periodical ‘Times and Seasons’ and added the declaration from the elders and RS members denying polygamy.

The original D&C 101 is listed below and you’ll notice that I’ve embedded links in each woman’s name that’ll take you to various sites giving you further info on her.

My concerns about this are the lies they told while proclaiming they’re a group of godly women.  It’s obvious when you see the activities of each woman’s life that it’d be a long stretch to assume she wasn’t aware that polygamy was being practiced. If she wasn’t a polygamous wife, someone she knew was. In one case (Whitney’s) the parents who signed the denial had just given their daughter as the 18th wife to Joseph Smith three months beforehand.  If that wasn’t bad enough they were also admitted members of the local Masonic Lodge and even held their meetings in their building.

They vowed to keep secrets for the sake of “the Lord’s work”, thus making their public declaration nothing but a lie even if they weren’t practicing polygamy. SeeNauvoo Relief Society Minutes Book, Third Meeting, March 30, 1842, pp 22-24, 86-89.

If you’re a member of the LDS Relief Society is this behavior acceptable to you? Do you allow your children to lie or condone lying from your spouse or keep secrets?

Exodus 20:16; “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”.

If God commanded us not to lie and you don’t accept the sin of lying, then a hard look at what these women were doing is in order. If polygamy was mandated by God, why were they denying it? Wouldn’t this mean they’re telling God that his commandments mean nothing to them if they were lying and hiding it?  You’ll notice there is no mention of this declaration in the history of the LDS RS big events. See LDS Women of God.

At the end of one of their ‘Epistles’ written by Smith and other leaders to the RS they closed their letter by saying;

“P.S. If the Lord be God, serve him; but if baal, then serve him.” [p. 88]

Can you imagine?  I don’t know why, but their comments and deeds never cease to amaze me. In that same meeting held in March 1842 they were talking about the polygamy issue without actually saying this is what it was and reiterated the importance of keeping secrets;

“Third Meeting of the Society —

Lodge Room March 30th 1842

p 24

Councillor Cleveland remark’d that they had put their shoulder to the wheel and exhorted them to do with their might — we have entered into this work in the name of the Lord  let us boldly go forward—

After appropriate remarks Prest. E. Smith, said she had an Article to read which would test the ability of the members in keeping secrets; as it was for the benefit of the Society, and that alone—”

That article was the ‘epistle’ mentioned above.

Today their new declaration on marriage is known as D&C 132 commanding polygamy for salvation.

The modern day version of D&C 101 has nothing to do with polygamy – you can read it here.

1842 D&C 101

October 1, 1842

Nauvoo, Illinois 

D&C 101 – Elders & Relief Society Deny Polygamy

Times and Seasons, “Truth will Prevail”, Volume 3, No 23, pg 939;


According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority…The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.”

The text above is D&C Section 101. In 1842 the Church decided to republish this in their periodical Times and Seasons and add the following declaration:

We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

S. Bennett

N. K. Whitney
George Miller

Albert Pettey
Alpheus Cutler

Elias Higbee
Reynolds Cahoon

John Taylor
Wilson Law

E. Robinson [Ebenezer]
W. Woodruff

Aaron Johnson

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.

Thirza Cahoon

Thirza obviously knew she was lying. She and Reynolds were married in 1810. Reynolds married Lucina Roberts in late 1841 or early 1842 making Thirza’s sworn and signed statement a lie.

Also see Mormon genealogical site for further info on Thirza & Lucina. gives her marriage date to Reynolds gives marriage date of Cahoon’s 2nd wife, Lucina Roberts, in 1842 – before the declaration was signed.

Thirza died in UT 1866

Also see Reynolds Cahoon & His Stalwart Sons, p 77-78 giving more info on his 3 wives.

Sarah Marietta Kingsley Cleveland

Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia 4:183 says her husband was a judge in Nauvoo (never Mormon) – when saints left IL she stayed behind w/ her husband.

She was wife #18 for Joseph Smith & married in 6/1842. Already married to Judge John Cleveland in 1826 and stayed married to him throughout marriage to Smith. Had 2 kids w/ John Cleveland and 1 kid w/ her first husband, John Howe who died 1823-1826.

She was Emma’s 1st Counselor.

She also married John Smith in January 1856, and again stayed w/ Cleveland throughout that marriage. She died four months later in 4/1856.

Millennial Star believes she was merely an investigator & not intimately involved w/ Smith.

Lois Cutler

Wikipedia & Nauvoo Polygamy Demographic Report cites 7 wives for Alphaeus. His 1st wife Lois married him in 1808. They broke away from Mormonism after Smith’s death and started the ‘Cutlerites’.  Some branches of this still exist in northern Michigan.  No one from this group has ever acknowledged that he was a polygamist; much like the CoC (RLDS) denies Smith ever practiced polygamy.

Their daughters Emily and Clarissa married Heber Chase Kimball in 1845. They were wives #15 & #17 respectively.

Alphaeus was Smith’s personal secretary and church historian.

Sarah Higbee

The Higbee brothers both married women by the name of Sarah. The Sarah mentioned here is the wife of Elias. The Higbee brothers are mentioned in Wife No 19 citing they had major disagreements w/ Smith and then Young when he took over.

Married to Elias Higbee mentioned above – link for earlylds shows marriage to Elias

Sarah Elizabeth Ward Higbee was married to Elias. She died 4/1/1874 in MO

Judge Elias Higbee died unexpectedly in 1843 of cholera. See HC 5:421 & Wiki resource.

Higbee, Elias married Sarah Elizabeth Ward, 10 Sept. 1818, in Tate Township, Clermont Co

Sarah King Hillman

fortheloveofgeneology link is for her son Ira who married Mary Priannah Petty – daughter of Catharine Petty listed below.

HOWEVER, find-a-grave says Mary Pryann’s father is Robert Cowan & earlylds says Catherine’s daughter Mary died as an infant.

Sarah & Mayhew Hillman were married in 1816

Ann Standley Hunter

Ann & Edward Hunter married in 1830.

Supporting Saints, Life Stories of the 19th Century Mormons, p 276  tells of the vast wealth he gave to the Church from J. Smith and thereafter. Conflicting stories on when he became a polygamist, thus making it doubtful they didn’t know about polygamy at the time she signed the declaration.

Jane Law

Wife no. 19, or the story of a life in bondage, pp 61-63 gives the description of Wm. Law, the Higbee brothers and Wm. Marks confronting Smith about his philandering ways. When their questions weren’t answered satisfactorily, Law created the ‘Nauvoo Expositor’ exposing the behavior of Smith and others in Mormonism. Smith’s response was to burn down the press which led to his arrest and subsequent death in the Carthage Jail during the infamous gunfight.

Rosannah Marks

Her husband Wm. Marks was one of the men who confronted Smith about polygamy and his behavior issues. After Smith’s death Wm and his family moved and assisted in founding the RLDS Church and ordained Joseph Smith III as their president.

Rosannah died in 1862, Wm remarried in 1866.

Sophia R. Marks 

Sophia Marks is the daughter of Rosannah and Wm Marks. Wm was the Stake President and totally devoted to Smith. However, William told a newspaper that just before Smith’s death he [Smith] confessed that polygamy would be the Church’s ruin.

“Some have admitted that Joseph Smith became involved in polygamy but later tried to disentangle himself from the practice. . . .Former Nauvoo stake president William Marks, a close friend of Emma, wrote in a July 1853 letter to the ‘Zion’s Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ’ that he met with the prophet a short time before his death. ‘We are a ruined people,’ Marks quoted Smith; ‘this doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife System, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived . . . it is wrong; it is a curse to mankind, and we shall have to leave the United States soon, unless it can be put down, and its practice stopped in the Church.’ Marks said that Smith ordered him ‘to go into the high council, and I will have charges preferred against all who practice this doctrine; and I want you to try them by the laws of the Church, and cut them off, if they will not repent, and cease the practice of this doctrine . . . I will go into the stand and preach against it with all my might, and in this way, we may rid the Church of the damnable heresy.’ But the prophet was killed shortly after this conversation, and when Marks related what Smith had said, his testimony ‘was pronounced false by the Twelve and disbelieved.’”

(Source: “Zion’s Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ,” 7 July 1853, pp. 50-55, in Richard S. Van Wagoner, “Mormon Polygamy: A History,” Chapter Seven, [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1986], p. 77; see also, Bibliography, p. 294; Wagoner’s book is available for review and/or purchase at: )

It is reported that Smith tried to seduce Sophia [also known as Sophie]. See Joseph H. Jackson A Narrative of the Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, (1844); reprinted for Karl Yost, Morrison, Illinois, 1960, 27-28.

Mary Catherine Fry Miller

MILLER, George. Son of John Miller and Margaret Pfeiffer. Born 25 November 1794

Married Mary Catherine Fry (born 1801 in Virginia) before 1827. Four known children: Joshua L., John F., Mary Catherine, and Elizabeth Ann.

Catharine Petty Pettey

Married Albert Petty (no relation) from KY – 10+ kids

Link above says one of her daughters (Mary Pryann) married Ira Hillman – son of Sarah Hillman above –

HOWEVER, find-a-grave says Mary Pryann’s father is Robert Cowan & earlylds says Catherine’s daughter Mary died as an infant.

Emma Smith

It goes without saying this woman knew better. By the time she signed this declaration Smith was married to 24 women, including Emma.

Eliza R. Snow

Eliza was wife #20 for Joseph Smith & married him 6/29/1842; four months shy of signing the declaration. Her brother, Lorenzo Snow, became the 5th prophet of Mormonism.

Lenora Taylor

Married John Taylor in 1833. He was the 3rd prophet of Mormonism.  She was the 1st of 16 wives.

Life of John Taylor, pg. 255; “In this our first issue it may be expected that something would be

said in relation to this matter. This we undertake as cheerfully as any other task; for we are not

ashamed here in this great metropolis of America * * * to declare that we are polygamists.” – B.H. Roberts 

Elizabeth Ann Whitney

The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney by H. Michael Marquardt contains an affidavit for Sarah Ann Whitney’s marriage to Joseph Smith.

Her mother was Elizabeth Ann Whitney of the RS mentioned above – her father was Newell Whitney, the Church’s presiding bishop, who also signed the denial in October 1842. Sarah Ann Whitney and Smith were married in July 1842 – she was his 21st wife.

Phoebe Woodruff

Woodruff was the 4th prophet of Mormonism. Married Wilford Woodruff in 1837 – she was wife #1 of 11 wives. While he was on the run from the feds he missed her funeral in 1885.

Polly Z. Johnson

Married to Aaron Johnson who also signed the declaration.

Angeline Eliza Works Robinson

Angeline was the daughter of Abigail works and sister of Miriam Works, Brigham Young’s 1st wife. She left w/ Sidney Rigdon after death of Smith and became affiliated with the RLDS Church. She married Ebenezer Robinson who also signed the declaration. Also see for more info.

Abigail Works

Abigail was the mother of Angeline mentioned above.  Abigail was married to Asa Works

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