The recent gospel topics essays by the church on plural marriage provide an unprecedented, frank look at a number of aspects of plural marriage previously not included in church discourse. With an announcement in the Church News, a letter to church leadership and plans to include the essays in some curricula, attention will turn to the topic of polygamy.
The essay “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” discusses the introduction of plural marriage by Joseph Smith, noting that his close associates said he received the revelation around 1831 and that “the revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843.” On July 12, 1843, Hyrum Smith asked Joseph Smith to provide a revelation to help convince Emma Smith to accept polygamy. Joseph said he knew the revelation by heart and did not need to use the Urim and Thummim, and dictated the “revelation on marriage” (as it’s referred to in the essay) published in the LDS Doctrine and Convents, Section 132 (which I’ll refer to as D&C 132).
The first revelation on polygamy has been traditionally dated to 1831. In 1935, Church Historian and Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The exact date I cannot give you when this principle of plural marriage was first revealed to Joseph Smith, but I do know that there was a revelation given in July 1831, in the presence of Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps and others in Missouri, in which the Lord made this principle known through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Whether the revelation as it appears in the Doctrine and Covenants [w]as first given July 12, 1843, or earlier, I care not. It is a fact, nevertheless, that this principle was revealed at an earlier date
A reading of the 1843 revelation indicates that some aspects of it had to do with events current to 1843. This raises the question of how much of the revelation came from 1831, how much was given in 1843, and if there were other sources between those dates. There are a number of references to revelations by Joseph Smith having to do with polygamy in addition to the 1831 and 1843 revelations – some of which may have informed Joseph Smith as he dictated 1843 revelation “from memory”.
In this article, I’ll look at revelations through Joseph Smith regarding polygamy. I’ll review evidence for the 1831 revelation as well as look at ten other potential revelations in addition to D&C 132 received by Joseph Smith about polygamy. I will list only those mentioned in sources before Joseph Smith’s death in 1844 – avoiding recollections occurring decades after the fact.
Continue reading “The Polygamy Revelations of Joseph Smith” »