Joseph Smith and Polygamy

In the 13 years I was a Mormon there was little talk about Joseph Smith and polygamy. Whenever polygamy was brought up the discussion was usually centered on Brigham Young as the one who set the example and paved the way for polygamy in the early Mormon Church.

polygamy1Little did I know that Smith had a least 34 wives before his death in 1844.  Many were teenagers (2 of them were 14) when he married them and some of his wives were married to other men. In fact Smith was going full steam ahead in the practice of plural marriage many years before he introduced it to the whole body of the Mormon Church. In the Journal of Discourses vol 20 page 29, Joseph F. Smith said;

“To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832.”

Doctrine and Covenants 132

    At the beginning of section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants we learn  Joseph Smith was asking God why he allowed men like Jacob, David, and Abraham to have multiple wives.  From this inquiry, Smith said he learned that the practice of plural marriage was to be a part of the Mormon Church.  In this text Smith, goes on to say that God told him anyone who does not abide by this covenant would be damned.  I’ve had LDS members argue with me and tell me that this section of D&C isn’t about polygamy but about the “new and everlasting covenant” of marriage, otherwise known as celestial marriage.

When we read Doctrine and Covenants 132 in context, the message of polygamy is very clear. I don’t know why the LDS miss it.

LDS members will say that Smith never had any other wives other than Emma before he wrote D&C 132. In verses 52 Smith says Emma must “receive all those that have been given” to Joseph Smith. In verse 54 Smith says that if Emma will not abide by this commandment she would be destroyed. At this time, the LDS will usually retaliate and say that Smith never had marital relations with these women.

In reference to Smith, they may say he only married them because they needed protection and he wanted to fulfill their physical needs. This argument is dispelled in verses 61-63 where Smith talks about men who have more than one wife are to “multiply and replenish the earth.” If he wasn’t involved sexually with his wives then he was disobeying a commandment from his god.

Women clearly had no value in Smith’s eyes.  At the bottom of this article I have a link to page where you can read stories of the women he tried to manipulate into marrying him. It’s recorded that he married any many as ten women who were married to other men.

If he wanted another man’s wife to add to his harem, she had no recourse. If her husband agreed to Smith’s proposal, she could only comply with the wishes of the priesthood holders above her. Journal of Discourses, Vol: 02 pg: 14 reads:

    “What would a man of God say, who felt alright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, “Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build the kingdom of God.” Or if he came and said, “I want you wife?” “Oh yes,” he would say, “here she is, there are plenty more.”

       Smith claimed to have “restored” the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth.  Part of this restoration included polygamy as we learned in D&C 132.  One would think that if he were restoring something that had been done away with it would be the same as it was before the restoration.

I also found it very interesting to learn that Smith married a mother and a daughter Patty Bartlett and Sylvia Sessions, and three sets of sisters: Delcena and Almera Johnson; Sarah and Maria Lawrence; and Emily and Eliza Partridge. What was so interesting about these marriages is that they go against what God said in the Old Testament found in Lev. 18:17-18. These verses read:

  “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.”

   Smith denied practicing polygamy up until his death in June of 1844. In History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (vol: 6 page 411) He is quoted as saying;

      “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives,when I can only find one.

Smith’s aversion to telling the truth about his polygamous escapades was just one of the ways he deceived the early Mormons.  His lies and deceit have led countless souls into a religion which leads people away from true happiness.  Smith used manipulative tactics to explain things in a way that makes God not the unchangeable being we know him to be from his word. I hope modern day Mormons will see Smith for what he truly was; anything but a prophet of God.


Name Date of Marriage Age Living Husband
1.Emma Hale January 1827 22
2.Fanny Alger 1833 16
3.Lucinda Morgan Harris 1836 37 George Harris
4.Louisa Beaman April 1841 26
5.Zina Huntington Jacobs October 1841 20 Henry Jacobs
6.Presendia Huntington Buell December 1841 31 Normal Buell
7.Agnes Coolbirth January 1842 33
8.Sylvia Sessions Lyon February 1842 23 Windsor Lyon
9. Mary Rolling Lightner February 1842 23 Adam Lightner
10.Patty Bartlett Sessions March 1842 47 David Sessions
11.Marinda Johnson Hyde April 1842 27 Orson Hyde
12.Elizabeth Davis Durfee June 1842 50 Jabez Durfee
13.Sarah Kingsley Cleveland June 1842 53 John Cleveland
14.Delcena Johnson July 1842 37
15.Eliza R. Snow June 1842 38
16.Sarah Ann Whitney July 1842 17
17.Martha McBride Knight August 1842 37
18.Ruth Vose Sayers February 1843 33 Edward Sayers
19.Flora Ann Woodworth Spring 1843 16
20.Emily Dow Partridge March 1843 19
21.Eliza Maria Partridge March1843 22
22. Almera Johnson April 1843 30
23.Lucy Walker May 1843 17
24.Sarah Lawrence May 1843 17
25.Maria Lawrence May 1843 19
26.Helen Mar Kimball May 1843 14
27.Hanna Ellis Mid 1843 29
28.Elvira Cowles Holmes June 1843 29 Jonathan Holmes
29.Rhoda Richards June 1843 58
30.Desdemona Fullmer July 1843 32
31.Olive Frost Mid 1843 27
32.Melissa Lott September 1843 19
33.Nancy Winchester 1843 14
34.Fanny Young November 1843 56


Doctrine and Covenants 132