Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor

43A-Image Emma Smith Bidamon Writing_editedIt has come to my attention that Brian Hales has commented on my article Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842-1844 which was published in the Fall 2013 issue of Journal of Mormon History. Brian’s comments appear in the Letters to the Editor section in JMH 40, no. 3 [Summer 2014]. In order to give a timely response to his remarks I reproduce them here, with my responses given in bold italics. Please join in with your observations as well!

Emma’s Awareness

Cheryl L. Bruno is to be complimented for trying to connect the dots regarding the introduction of secret polygamy teachings to Nauvoo Church members in the early 1840s in her article “Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842–44” (Journal of Mormon History 39, no. 4 [Fall 2013]: 158–81).

CB: Thank you, Brian!

However, her timeline for Emma Smith’s introduction to plural marriage is problematic.

Bruno writes that “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842” (173–74).[1] To support this chronology, Bruno observes that, on April 29, Joseph’s journal records: “[It] was made manifest[,] a conspiracy against the peace of his househould.”[2]

CB: This reading of Joseph’s journal entry was first made by Valeen Tippets Avery, with whom I agree.

“J.C.B.” is written lightly in the margin by scribe Willard Richards. Observers might speculate that, on that date, John C. Bennett and/or one of his followers visited Emma and accused Joseph of “spiritual wifery,” which would have exposed the Prophet’s plural marriage activities to her. This interpretation seems rather extreme, based as it is on very limited and ambiguous historical data.

CB: “Observers might speculate that…” This sentence introduces a straw man argument, and is not in the least what I “speculate” in my article. In fact, I did not mention John C. Bennett at all in connection with Emma’s discovery that her husband was practicing polygamy. I did observe, as Avery did, that “this knowledge may be why no Relief Society meeting was held the following week, and why Emma was absent at the second.” I also noted that in the following meetings, Joseph kept cautioning the sisters against intolerance and Emma responded by denouncing any “violation of the laws of virtue.”

In response, Joseph would have resolutely denied any involvement with Bennett’s immoralities.

CB: This strongly tempts me to engage Brian’s straw man polemic, though John C. Bennett has no place whatsoever in my argument. I should resist. But…how do we know that Joseph would have resolutely denied involvement with Bennett’s immoralities? Perhaps because at the time he was denying any and all involvement with plural marriage, including those which were later documented?

Available evidence strongly supports that Bennett, a known adulterer throughout the 1830s, never learned of the celestial marriage doctrines from the Prophet and simply continued his debaucheries upon arriving in Nauvoo using several seduction techniques including references to “spiritual wifery.” Bennett’s most common rationalization was to tell the women that if they kept the relations secret, there was no sin in it. Margaret Nyman described Bennett’s teaching as related by his follower Chauncey Higbee: “Any respectable female might indulge in sexual intercourse, and there was no sin in it, provided the person so indulging keep the same to herself; for there could be no sin where there was no accuser.”[3]

CB: What “available evidence” supports the idea that Bennett did not learn of celestial marriage doctrines from the Prophet? Even the term “spiritual wife” – often attributed to John Bennett—was a term commonly used by wives of the Prophet to describe their own relationship. Further and not insignificantly, it seems that “Bennett’s most common rationalization” is at the very least extrapolated from a teaching attributed to Joseph Smith. In his history we find the following for Nov 7, 1841: “I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said “if you do not accuse each other God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven; and if you will follow the Revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours— for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down:” (History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 Addenda. Joseph Smith Papers website). Note that Bennett first arrived in Nauvoo in September of 1840 – plenty of time to hear this teaching from the mouth of Joseph Smith.

Regardless, Bruno confidently employs the April 29, 1842, dating scheme throughout her article, which bolsters her premise of a smoldering conflict over polygamy between Joseph and Emma during the remainder of 1842. According to Bruno, “Each seemed determined to use the Relief Society to promulgate their views. From the beginning, Emma Smith apparently considered the society an opportunity to oppose her husband’s teachings about plural marriage” (169–70).

CB: My conclusions on this point have nothing to do with John C. Bennett, whom I did not mention in connection with Joseph and Emma’s conflict. The conclusion that Emma found out about the full extent of Joseph’s polygamy in April of 1842 may “bolster” my argument that the Smiths used the Relief Society as a forum for their power struggle, but the primary evidence for this comes not from the date but from their own words as reported in the Relief Society minutes. After all, Emma must have been aware, on some level, of Joseph’s indiscretions since she discovered Joseph and Fanny together in the barn in the [mid-1830’s].

Bruno also theorizes that the “meeting of the Relief Society on March 30, 1842, began with ‘the house full to overflowing,’ as sisters gathered to observe the power struggle between the Prophet and his wife” (170).

CB: This is not merely a supposition or “theory” of mine, but is drawn from the primary evidence which I cite. The expression “the house full to overflowing” is found in the Relief Society minutes for that date. As mentioned above, the Smiths’ acerbic words to each other are also reported in the minutes.

The earliest documentable date for Emma’s awareness of eternal plural marriage is May of 1843, when she participated in four of her husband’s polygamous sealings (to Emily and Eliza Partridge and Sarah and Maria Lawrence).[4] Emma undoubtedly learned about its principles earlier than this point, but her actions indicate that it was only weeks, not months or years, earlier. Joseph successfully kept his own brother, Hyrum Smith, and William Law, second counselor in the First Presidency, unaware of plural marriage until mid-1843, so asserting an earlier date for Emma requires reliable historical evidence.[5]

CB: This is indeed the earliest “documentable date” for Emma’s participation in plural marriage. But her awareness probably grew incrementally, beginning from the date of the Fanny Alger affair. Joseph never admitted to committing adultery with Fanny. So what do you suppose his explanation to Emma might have been?

Accordingly, if Emma did not learn about the practice of plural marriage until May 1843, there would have been no “power struggle” (170) or “wrestle” (174) in 1842 between Emma and Joseph over polygamy that Relief Society members or other Latter-day Saints would have witnessed (168, 170).

CB: Again, the idea that the Smiths “wrestled” over this issue does not depend upon the exact date that Emma became aware of Joseph’s polygamy, which I place on or before April 1842. Joseph’s journal records some type of altercation between himself and his “househould” which it took him some energy to resolve; and this may or may not have centered on polygamy. Power dynamics are nonetheless readily apparent in Joseph’s and Emma’s public words to each other, which the reader may study either in the Relief Society minutes, or as quoted in the pages of my article. Especially juicy is the exchange where Joseph requests the President and Society to “hold your tongues” as a matter of policy, and Emma responds by observing that “sin must not be covered,” the guilty “must reform,” and that “she wanted none in this Society who had violated the laws of virtue.”

Bruno provides some intriguing observations regarding the interactions between the establishment of Masonry, the organization of the Relief Society, and the unfolding of polygamy in Nauvoo in the early 1840s. However, the chronology she has adopted regarding key events may be problematic and might affect the accuracy of some of her conclusions.

CB: The conclusions I make about “key events” are supported by additional evidence which Brian here fails to note. I find it puzzling that Brian wishes to delay the date of Emma’s awareness of Joseph’s polygamy until May 1843, given that such accusations had already been made public through the local newspapers.

Brian C. Hales

Layton, Utah

[1] Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984), 114, suggest the same date.

[2] Dean C. Jessee, ed. The Papers of Joseph Smith: Volume 2, Journal, 1832–1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 379. Bruno misquotes this journal entry by citing a secondary source.

CB: The quote as cited in my paper follows the language reported in the Millennial Star: “A conspiracy against the peace of my family was made manifest, and it gave me some trouble to counteract the design of certain base individuals, and restore peace. The Lord makes manifest to me many things, which it is not wisdom for me to make public.”

Here is the quote as it appears in the Manuscript History of the Church, image of original on Joseph Smith papers website: “Friday 29. A conspiracy against the peace of my household was made manifest, and it gave me some trouble to counteract the design of certain base individuals, and restore peace. The Lord makes manifest to me many things, which /it\ is /not\ wisdom for me to make public until others can witness the proof of them.”

The Joseph Smith journal penned by Willard Richards (The Book of the Law of the Lord) is more contemporary and reports simply as follows: “Friday 29 was made manifest a conspiracy again[s]t the peace of his househould.” [J.C.B written lightly next to this sentence.]

If polygamy was indeed the source of the disturbance of the peace of the Smith household, we might expect to find some disturbing polygamous activity happening at the time. A glance at Brian’s website shows that one of the Prophet’s most problematic marriages occurred in April of 1842–to Marinda Nancy Johnson, wife of Orson Hyde. Accusations about polygamy among Joseph Smith and the Twelve peppered the local papers in the month of April. Whether or not John C. Bennett was involved in notifying her, Emma would have had to have been living under a rock not to have been suspicious of her husband’s involvement in extramarital activity at the time.

[3] Testimony of Margaret J. Nyman v. Chauncey L. Higbee, before the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the city of Nauvoo, May 21, 1842, Millennial Star 23 (October 12, 1861): 657. See also Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 1:515–93.

[4] Bruno incorrectly identifies Maria Lawrence as “Catherine.” Emily Dow Partridge Young, “Incidents in the life of a Mormon girl,” n.d., Ms 5220, 186, LDS Church History Library. The exact date of Joseph’s sealings to the Lawrence sisters is unknown, but it seems reasonable that it was chronologically close to the Partridge sealings.

[5] On May 26, 1843, William Clayton recorded: “Hyrum received the doctrine of priesthood.” George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton.(Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 106; William Law, Affidavit dated July 17, 1885, qtd. in Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy(Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1914) 126.


Comments

Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor — 56 Comments

  1. Cheryl, you had me at: “This reading of Joseph’s journal entry was first made by Valeen Tippets Avery, with whom I agree.”

    Cheryl, so glad you are willing to take this on. I decided long ago Brian was incapable of looking at evidence and then honestly evaluating it, so I decided it was unproductive to engage him. You seem to have a uncanny ability to deal with his nonsense. Thank you Cheryl.

  2. I appreciate Cheryl’s kind response to my letter to the editor of the Journal of Mormon History. However, I can still identify several problems with her reply. My primary concern continues to be the timeline she promotes in both her JMH article and in this post. It is my belief that Emma did NOT know of Joseph’s teachings or actions regarding eternal and plural marriage prior to the spring of 1843 and that any notion of an underlying conflict over that topic between him and Emma in 1842 is contrived.

    Cheryl accuses me of presenting a “straw man” argument when I dispute the pseudo-evidence she employs in her article that dates Emma’s awareness specifically to an event with John C. Bennett. Cheryl boldly affirms: “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842” (173–74). Apparently, on that date Bennett and/or some of his followers approached Emma accusing Joseph. If Bennett was not a polygamy insider, then Joseph could have truthfully denied any connection with his debaucheries, and, importantly, he could have done it without discussing eternal plural marriage. To assume Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages on that date requires specific evidence, which Cheryl does not provide. If she affirms Bennett was not involved, then she should explain what happened on that date that caused Emma to become aware. Perhaps Cheryl would have been more persuasive if she had focused on providing such evidence to validate her reconstruction rather than criticizing my concerns regarding her lack of documentation.

    It may be helpful to note that the historical record shows that after May 1843, the documentable date when Emma was aware of Joseph’s teachings and other plural marriages, Emma immediately reacted to those teachings in a very tangible way rather than the barely detectable manner that Cheryl promotes. Emily Partridge, for example, related that immediately after her sealing to the Prophet, Emma became her violent enemy and wouldn’t allow her to be with Joseph, even recruiting spies to watch Joseph. In addition, just weeks later on July 12, 1843, Hyrum entered the fray by requesting Joseph dictate a revelation on plural marriage, which he does, and Hyrum presents it to Emma and is soundly rebuked.

    I affirm Cheryl’s timeline is in error and is not defensible with anything but ambiguous historical data. However, Cheryl can show this is incorrect and can help advance the scholarship on this topic if she can produce some unambiguous evidence to support that Emma Smith knew of Joseph’s plural marriages prior to May of 1843. There’s the challenge.

    Let me also add my disappointment at reading that Cheryl indicates that there was no marriage ceremony performed between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger and that his Nauvoo plural marriages were “indiscretions,” rather than sealings in the new and everlasting covenant. It prompts me to ask Cheryl if she believes Joseph Smith was a true Prophet? The version of him she portrays in this post and in her article does not seem to support it. Are we to classify Cheryl Bruno as another webmaster who teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of such voices on the Internet these days.

    All My Best!

    Brian Hales

  3. Brian,

    I’m curious how you would interpret the “pseudo-evidence” Cheryl cited.

    It seems clear that there was some kind of marital dispute on April 29, 1842 connected to doctrines or practices that Joseph was keeping secret. What, in your opinion, might this be if not polygamy?

    Also, it seems clear that Joseph and Emma were at odds in the Relief Society on May 26, 1842 about some kind of “heinous sin . . . against the laws of virtue” that had been committed by some members of the Society. Joseph instructed the Society to show mercy and forgiveness rather than cast the offenders out. It was more important to protect the innocent, he suggested, than to condemn the guilty. He also urged that the power of any institution required that members “chasten and reprove and keep it all in silence,” and “not even mention [sins] again.” Indeed, “the truth on the guilty should not be told openly . . . lest in exposing these heinous sins, we draw the indignation of a gentile world upon us.” Emma argued to the contrary: there was a religious obligation to “expose” these sins and she would tolerate none in the Society who “had violated the laws of virtue.”

    Although neither Joseph nor Emma gave any specific details, clearly the offense being discussed was sexual. And although the offenders being discussed in this context were members of the Relief Society, the offense presumably wasn’t homosexual in nature. The existence of female offenders implies that there were male offenders too, and Joseph’s urgent concern for protecting the reputation of the Church implies that the male offenders included high-level Church leaders. Moreover, his concern for protecting the innocent is consistent with Cheryl’s hypothesis that Smith really considered the “offenders” to be blameless, no matter how much he publicly used the language of blame to distance himself from their activities. (This confusing mixture of the language of blame and innocence is characteristic of the way Smith talked to Emma about polygamy, especially in Section 132. In that revelation, some of his language suggested he was guilty of sin but would be forgiven, some of it suggested he was permitted or “justified” in doing what he wanted, and some of it suggested he was carrying out a divine mandate and would be punished if he refused.)

    Again, I would be quite interested to hear what you think this Relief Society discussion was about if not polygamy. If there was a sexual scandal in the Relief Society in May 1842, one would expect to find other historical evidence about the nature of the offenses and the identities of the offenders—unless, of course, there were no disciplinary hearings because Smith didn’t consider the offenders to have sinned at all.

  4. I have been long out of this conversation, well, since 2005. But, as a friend of both,I have a few questions:

    1. When was the Martha Pratt revelation?
    2. When was the Jane Law Revelation?
    3. When was the Fanny Alger revelation? It had to be before the Oliver Cowdery trial. (You accuse me, I’ll accuse you mentality.)
    4. When was the Moon revelation? Probably 1842.
    5. When was the John C Bennett revelation. It would have to be connected to his Bona Fides presented to each of his conquests.
    6. Nancy Rigdon? (Probably 1842)
    7.

  5. I appreciate Cheryl’s kind response to my letter to the editor of the Journal of Mormon History. However, I can still identify several problems with her reply. My primary concern continues to be the timeline she promotes in both her JMH article and in this post.

    It is my belief that Emma did NOT know of Joseph’s teachings or actions regarding eternal and plural marriage prior to the spring of 1843 and that any notion of an underlying conflict over that topic between him and Emma in 1842 is contrived. Cheryl accuses me of presenting a “straw man” argument when I dispute the pseudo-evidence she employs in her article that dates Emma’s awareness specifically to an event with John C. Bennett. Cheryl boldly affirms: “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842” (173–74). Apparently, on that date Bennett and/or some of his followers approached Emma accusing Joseph.

    CB: The straw man comes in when Brian says, “Apparently, on that date Bennett and/or some of his followers approached Emma accusing Joseph.” As I said before, my dating of Emma’s awareness of Joseph’s polygamy does not depend on John Bennett having been involved in any way. The record states that the peace of the Smith household was destroyed.

    If Bennett was not a polygamy insider, then Joseph could have truthfully denied any connection with his debaucheries, and, importantly, he could have done it without discussing eternal plural marriage.

    CB: In other words: He could have continued to lie to her? Is this Brian’s construction of this event? He and I disagree on this point. I believe that Bennett was a polygamy insider. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with the dating, so let us lay aside the discussion of Bennett.

    To assume Emma learned of Joseph’s plural marriages on that date requires specific evidence, which Cheryl does not provide. If she affirms Bennett was not involved, then she should explain what happened on that date that caused Emma to become aware.

    CB: The evidence that I used in my paper to suggest an April 1842 date consists of the following:

    (1) There was a disturbance in the Smith home on that date, which Joseph (or at the very least, Willard Richards, speaking for Joseph) described as a “conspiracy against the peace of his household.” The use of the word “conspiracy” suggests that this was not simply Joseph and Emma squabbling about doing the laundry.

    (2) Emma was absent at the next two meetings of the Relief Society, and because its officers and members consisted of women who were either married to Joseph or deeply immersed in Joseph-led polygamy, some have suggested that this was the point where Emma became aware of the sisters’ involvement.

    (3) In the May 26th meeting, Joseph’s and Emma’s disagreement had intensified to the point that they publicly differed about how to handle spreading rumors of polygamy. Joseph counseled Emma and the rest of the Society to “hold your tongues about things of no moment, — a little tale will set the world on fire.” He told them that at the time “the truth on the guilty should not be told openly— Strange as this may seem, yet this is policy.” He urged them to “use precaution in bringing sinners to justice lest in exposing these heinous sins, we draw the indignation of a gentile world upon us (and to their imaginatio[n] justly too).” After Joseph finished speaking, Emma immediately countered Joseph’s remarks by insisting that “sin must not be covered, especially those sins which are against the law of God and the laws of the country— all who walk disorderly must reform, and any knowing of heinous sins against the law of God, and refuse to expose them, becomes the offender. Emma said she “wanted none in this Society who had violated the laws of virtue.”

    Perhaps Cheryl would have been more persuasive if she had focused on providing such evidence to validate her reconstruction rather than criticizing my concerns regarding her lack of documentation.

    CB: I considered the forgoing to be sufficient evidence to validate my reconstruction. However, it appears that Brian needs more evidence that Emma was aware of Joseph’s polygamy before his marriage date of May 1843. Please recall that April 1842 was the month when Joseph was implicated in improprieties in the case of Martha Brotherton. Further, he proposed marriage to Nancy Hyde and Nancy Rigdon. Private and public accounts show that these incidents were known and discussed broadly.

    It may be helpful to note that the historical record shows that after May 1843, the documentable date when Emma was aware of Joseph’s teachings and other plural marriages, Emma immediately reacted to those teachings in a very tangible way rather than the barely detectable manner that Cheryl promotes.

    CB: I would hardly say that unexplained absences from the Society over which she was the president; not to mention a public disagreement in front of a crowded room of the most influential women in the Church was “barely detectable.”

    Emily Partridge, for example, related that immediately after her sealing to the Prophet, Emma became her violent enemy and wouldn’t allow her to be with Joseph, even recruiting spies to watch Joseph. In addition, just weeks later on July 12, 1843, Hyrum entered the fray by requesting Joseph dictate a revelation on plural marriage, which he does, and Hyrum presents it to Emma and is soundly rebuked. I affirm Cheryl’s timeline is in error and is not defensible with anything but ambiguous historical data. However, Cheryl can show this is incorrect and can help advance the scholarship on this topic if she can produce some unambiguous evidence to support that Emma Smith knew of Joseph’s plural marriages prior to May of 1843. There’s the challenge.

    CB: Unfortunately, because Brian discounts evidence that does not fit with his theories and promotes evidence which does, I doubt if I will be able to convince him of my views. The responsibility of an historian is to provide pertinent evidence and to suggest what they believe to be the most logical interpretation. I leave it for readers to weigh and evaluate the evidence themselves.

    Let me also add my disappointment at reading that Cheryl indicates that there was no marriage ceremony performed between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger and that his Nauvoo plural marriages were “indiscretions,” rather than sealings in the new and everlasting covenant.

    CB: Nowhere in my paper or in our discussion here have I deemed it necessary to weigh in on the validity of Joseph’s marriages. But perhaps Brian would like me to satisfy his curiosity. As it happens, his allegations here are false. Rather than indicating that there was no Joseph/Fanny marriage ceremony, I have elsewhere called attention to the fact that the sealing keys were not yet restored at the time of the Alger “scrape.” And I absolutely believe that Joseph’s Nauvoo plural marriages were sealings in the new and everlasting covenant.

    It prompts me to ask Cheryl if she believes Joseph Smith was a true Prophet? The version of him she portrays in this post and in her article does not seem to support it.

    CB: For shame, Brian. Here’s another logical fallacy. My religious beliefs have no bearing on our discussion of this subject. Interpretive disagreements do not constitute apostasy. (You really shouldn’t use personal attacks when so many of your readers know of my great admiration of the Prophet. Weren’t you at the Sunstone meeting when I publicly proclaimed my testimony of Joseph Smith? Such shenanigans only make you look foolish.)

    Are we to classify Cheryl Bruno as another webmaster who teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of such voices on the Internet these days.

    CB: You may classify me as such when you see me teach it. Otherwise, best to stick to the topic at hand.

  6. Congratulations on your superhuman restraint, Cheryl. Brian, is everyone who disagrees with you ipso facto an apostate?

  7. Frankly, this conversation smacks of denigrating the testimonies, conversations and experiences of women in favor of perceived evidence of one man.

    On the one hand, there are dozens of women (Emma Smith, the RS members (many of whom were involved in/soon to be involved in polygamous relationships directly), and the general female population of Nauvoo who, undoubtedly had conversations about the leaders of their community as they worked together to stay alive) and on the other is one man, John C. Bennett, who is “identified” merely by the existence of initials in someone else’s diary.

    Brian sets Bennett up as the bad guy, guilty in part by his reputation – he was a known adulterer and problem-causer. Therefore he was much more likely to be spilling the beans about polygamy to Emma and he would not have done that as early as Cheryl believes.

    Obviously a well-known “bad guy” whose initials happen to match those inscribed in a margin in a journal is much more likely to be the cause of problems than any number of good women. Of course a man’s planting of knowledge would be more efficacious and believable than any number of women who spent time socializing and working with Emma. And women attending Relief Society meetings and working to make their community a safer, more moral, more Christian sort of community would never discuss their innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes and desires together; nor would they share their burdens with one another, stopping suddenly to change the subject with the prophet’s public wife entered the room.

    Historians have to weigh evidence and judge which is more likely to happen.

  8. HMM, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. Are you saying that Emma could easily have heard about polygamy in 1842 from one of the Relief Society women rather than from John C. Bennett? And that if it was one of the women, then it’s much harder to accept Joseph Smith’s and Brian’s characterizations of the informant as a conspirator and liar?

  9. Gary #1
    I hadn’t planned on replying through the JMH, because I wanted to provide a timely response and the turnaround would be much longer to put it in the Journal. If I get some time to thoroughly research the timeline of Emma’s awareness of polygamy I may put it into print. That’s just not one of my pressing interests.

  10. This has been a *great* exchange. I’ve appreciated Brian and Cheryl’s comments, of course, but also liked Chris’ sharp observations.

    I’ve no dog in this fight, but I do suspect that Emma Smith knew relatively early on of Joseph Smith’s unorthodox sexual behavior, and that this likely predated events with Fanny Alger. In this regard, I believe that D&C 93:47-8—received in May of 1833—can be read as an oblique reference to Joseph Smith’s failure to enter into a plural marriage. If so, this would be why the rebuke is on “his family.” At this time, this family would have consisted of Joseph (who was a relatively young man of 28), Emma, and a baby (who would not have been of the age to “give more earnest heed” per the revelation). Here is the relevant part of the thing:

    And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.—You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord; Your family must needs repent and forsake some things, and give more earnest heed unto your sayings, or be removed out of their place.

    Joseph is rebuked for not keeping the commandments; Emma is rebuked for not giving heed to Joseph’s words; she must repent or be removed out of *her* place. This is admittedly a creative reading of the passage, but if correct, at the very least it gives Joseph Smith a revelatory justification for what Oliver would call Joseph’s “scrape” with Alger. And, it would suggest that the subject of polygamy may have been at least some quiet dinner conversation in the Smith home. :)

    But Emma knowing this in theory is far different from coming to grips with an actual sexual relationship between her partner and another. Many years after the fact, Wm. McLellin related to Joseph Smith III the circumstances under which Emma admitted that she knew firsthand of Joseph’s relationship with Alger:

    “I told her [Emma] I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!! She told me this story too was verily true.” – William McLellin, 1872 letter to Joseph Smith III, see In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton, p. 35

    However, I also think that Thomas Marsh’s 1838 affidavit is accurate. He relates:

    “I heard Oliver Cowdery say to Joseph Smith, Jr., while at George W. Harris’ house, in Far West, that [Joseph] never confessed to him. And O. Cowdery gave me to understand that Joseph Smith Jr. never acknowledged to him, that he [Joseph] ever confessed to any one, that he was guilty of the [crime of adultery]” (Elder’s Journal, v. 1, July 1838, p. 45).

    Even if I’m wildly incorrect in my D&C 93 speculations, I’m still betting that Emma knew of Joseph Smith’s personal behavior, at least dating to this event. It is also likely that Joseph Smith never admitted to her or anyone else that he ever committed adultery. Consequently, one must ask WHAT COULD JOSEPH HAVE POSSIBLY TOLD EMMA? How did he explain it to her? That he and Fanny were simply checking the wheels on the wain? I doubt it very seriously.

    I suspect, then, that Emma knew about polygamy from the mid-to-late 1830’s, although the specifics may not have been clear to her, nor the fully developing teaching. How could she know that, as it was still developing, and the sealing keys weren’t even revealed until 1837 thereabouts—as Cheryl mentions. But I’m suspicious of the outright declaration Brian makes that “Emma did NOT know of Joseph’s teachings or actions regarding eternal and plural marriage prior to the spring of 1843.” Rather, I don’t believe that in 1842 she knew the FULL teaching, or the EXTENT of its implementation or institutionalization. I suspect that this was the shock she received in 1842: it wasn’t simply Joseph’s private personal practice, or even just John C. Bennett’s personal religious philandering. Had it been limited to this, her response may have been very different. But by the beginning of April 1842, the public rumor mill was suggesting to her what Emma may have suspected for some time: Joseph Smith was institutionalizing this practice. Martha Brotherton’s (apparently true) accusations were publicly known and rebuked first by Hyrum and then by Joseph from the stand in April. Privately, in this same month, Joseph married Orson Hyde’s wife, as Cheryl noted. He also approached Nancy Rigdon, providing us the first long rationale of the practice by Smith, as well as a firsthand look at how he was applying “theocratic ethics” in this social context.

    When Cheryl says “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842,” this is how I read that statement. From the very outset, the Relief Society was intended by Emma to fight polygamy in the Church. How personally humiliating for her to face the fact that her own husband had spiritual wives, and was promoting the same, all the while excoriating John C. Bennett for doing what to most observers would very much appear to be cut from the same cloth. Humiliating: I don’t know how Emma managed the courage to come back to face the Relief Society sisters.

  11. Brian Hales:

    “It prompts me to ask Cheryl if she believes Joseph Smith was a true Prophet? The version of him she portrays in this post and in her article does not seem to support it. Are we to classify Cheryl Bruno as another webmaster who teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing number of such voices on the Internet these days”.

    Is believing that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God a requirement to arrive at your conclusions?

  12. I appreciate this exchange and hope that Cheryl is comfortable with me extracting it and posting it in the future on my website, http://JosephSmithsPolygamy.ORG.

    I continue to disagree that Emma learned about Joseph Smith’s celestial marriage teachings on April 29, 1842. The evidence Cheryl presents is ambiguous. It could support her theory, if we had some additional more convincing documentation. But as it stands, we know there was a disturbance that day and little more. References to Martha Brotherton and Nancy Rigdon, both stories promoted by John C. Bennett, are not evidences that Joseph taught Emma about celestial marriage. (Cheryl’s assertion that John C. Bennett was a polygamy insider deserves separate consideration, which we can further discuss in another post.)

    Cheryl posits a protracted course of Emma’s awareness that began in April of 1842 but is discernible only in ambiguous observations at that time, observations like alleged non-specific public references to it before the Relief Society or that fact that Emma missed a couple of meetings.

    Then in May of 1843 the historical record suddenly describes Emma’s very specific reactions to Joseph Smith’s plural marriage teachings. At that point, Emma accepts plural marriage and participated in four plural marriages in May 1843. Maria Jane Woodward, a domestic in the Smith home, recalled a conversation she had with Emma sometime after August 31, 1843 when the Smiths moved into the Nauvoo Mansion. Emma told her:

    “’The principle of plural marriage is right, but I am like other women, I am naturally jealous hearted and can talk back to Joseph as long as any wife can talk back to her husband, but what I want to say to you is this. You heard me finding fault with the principle. I want to say that that principle is right, it is from our Father in Heaven,’ and then she again spoke of her jealousy.
    Then she continued, ‘What I said I have got to repent of. The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph or that principle. The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else find fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.’”

    Though this is a late account, there are no similar recollections for the 1842 period. Shortly after participating in the sealings, Emma rejected plural marriage and actively sought out Joseph’s plural wives in order to prevent their involvement with him. On July 13, just weeks after her participation in the sealings, she gave Joseph an ultimatum to stop new plural marriages. This documentable timeline is an important and generates a few questions for Cheryl:

    Why would Emma, an intensely private person, have been willing to display her marital dirty laundry in front of the Relief Society in 1842?

    Why did Joseph wait until May 28, 1843 to be sealed to Emma if she knew about eternal marriage over a year earlier?

    Why did Emma apparently ignore Joseph’s plural wives and new plural marriages throughout 1842 until June of 1843?

    Why did Emma wait until May-August 1843 to confront Joseph’s plural wives to try to limit his involvement with them? During May-August 1843 Emma had heated interactions with at least Emily and Eliza Partridge, Flora Ann Woodworth, and Eliza R. Snow (but there was no truth to the notion Emma threw Eliza down a set of stairs).

    Why did Emma wait until July 13, 1843 to threaten Joseph with divorce and give an ultimatum?

    In addition, the whole idea that Relief Society sisters in March of 1842 would have known about celestial marriage as Cheryl describes is problematic. Cheryl wrote: that the “meeting of the Relief Society on March 30, 1842, began with ‘the house full to overflowing,’ as sisters gathered to observe the power struggle between the Prophet and his wife” (170). Are we to believe the “sisters” knew of plural marriage at that early date? What is the evidence? We recall that Hyrum Smith and William Law did not learn of it until the middle of 1843, about the same documentable time as Emma. So Cheryl affirms that the Relief Society “sisters” knew about a “power struggle” over polygamy, but Hyrum and William did not know about polygamy at that time? Cheryl’s reconstruction generates important chronological improbabilities.

    These observations are important because Cheryl describes a conflict between Emma and Joseph in 1842 that I do not believe existed. In fact, I affirm they were united against John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wifery” at that time. But we can address that in another post.

    Cheryl chastises me saying: “For shame, Brian.” Perhaps I should apologize, but when a person like Cheryl or me places themselves in front of others as teachers of Joseph Smith’s life and doctrines, our personal beliefs become an issue. Why? Because he taught, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). I think many in our audiences would like to know what spirit we seek as we teach. It seems to me that when you label Joseph Smith’s plural marriages as “indiscretions,” you portray him as a false prophet because he plainly disagreed with your assessment (see D&C 132:19-20). You affirm your belief in him but I seem to detect an inconsistency and simply ask for clarification. You don’t need to answer if you don’t want to.

    Take Care,

    Brian Hales

  13. Cheryl, For what’s worth, I’d strongly encourage you to draft a letter to the editor for publication in the Journal of Mormon History. I think it’s important to maintain a “print” version of any response.

  14. You make some interesting points, Brian. I’d be interested in hearing from Brian and Cheryl whether they would consider the possibility of an intermediate theory: that Emma was informed about polygamy in April, but by late May Joseph had convinced her either that he would stop or that he hadn’t ever sanctioned or participated in it in the first place?

  15. Chris #16:
    Intriguing. What evidence do we have that would point to that conclusion?

  16. Cheryl,

    In his remarks before the Relief Society, Joseph claimed to have been instrumental in bringing the “heinous sin” to light. I think this may be a clue as to how he was managing the scandal. Like any politician who gets caught red-handed, Joseph may have tried to co-opt the narrative by quietly conducting a sham investigation to root out low-level scapegoats. Or he may have told Emma that his plural wives seduced him, that they, rather than he, were the guilty parties. Joseph had engaged in blame-passing before—notably to Sampson Avard during the Missouri War—and he would do it many more times in the future, for instance by slandering women who refused his proposals and went public with their stories. If Brian is right that Emma was relatively quiescent for the next year, then it suggests that Joseph may, for the moment, have succeeded in convincing Emma that he was either innocent or reformed.

  17. I’m really disappointed that Cheryl Bruno’s testimony was made an issue on this blog. There was really no call for that, and the justification being made for leveling this accusation doesn’t fly. The next time Brother Hales has the opportunity to serve as Sister Bruno’s bishop, he can interview her for a temple recommend. Even then, there would be no public accusation.

  18. Brian says: “Perhaps I should apologize, but when a person like Cheryl or me places themselves in front of others as teachers of Joseph Smith’s life and doctrines, our personal beliefs become an issue. Why? Because he taught, ‘If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach’ (D&C 42:14).”

    Wow. Brian, The arrogance of your remarks here is utterly astounding. You cover the very worst kind of ad hominem in the cloak of religiosity. I trust the significance of this is not lost on anyone. The implication is that YOUR presentation is spirit-filled, while those who find your own interpretation problematic (which to my counting is not an insignificant number of professional historians) are lacking the spirit or proper spiritual discernment. In my own spiritual system, your words suggest both wickedness and priestcraft.

    Of course, you don’t need to respond to this!

    ~J

  19. Brian Hales #14 says:

    I appreciate this exchange and hope that Cheryl is comfortable with me extracting it and posting it in the future on my website, http://JosephSmithsPolygamy.ORG.

    CB: I think the usual procedure is just to link to this site.

    I continue to disagree that Emma learned about Joseph Smith’s celestial marriage teachings on April 29, 1842. The evidence Cheryl presents is ambiguous. It could support her theory, if we had some additional more convincing documentation. But as it stands, we know there was a disturbance that day and little more. References to Martha Brotherton and Nancy Rigdon, both stories promoted by John C. Bennett, are not evidences that Joseph taught Emma about celestial marriage.

    CB: I am beginning to feel that Brian continues to invoke Bennett because he feels he can discount his witness as an “apostate.” But once again, Bennett’s witness is not essential to the argument. Even before Martha Brotherton left Nauvoo, rumors of the incident was circulating. On April 7, rumors were so prevalent that Joseph and Hyrum were forced to confront them from the stand. On April 20, 1842, Martha’s sister Elizabeth Brotherton made out a statement in which she said: “I suppose, by this time, you will have heard that my parents and sister have apostatized… my sister has told some of the greatest lies that ever were circulated.” Thus there is plenty of evidence to show that Joseph’s polygamy was a public concern.

    In my paper I did not claim that “Joseph taught Emma about celestial marriage” himself, but that “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage” at that time. I hope that Brian will resist the impulse to expand the argument into things I have never claimed. We do know more than just that “there was a disturbance that day.” Joseph’s is clear that other people are conspiring to disturb the peace of his household.

    (Cheryl’s assertion that John C. Bennett was a polygamy insider deserves separate consideration, which we can further discuss in another post.)

    CB: Want to discuss it at Sunstone next year? (lol, j/k)

    Cheryl posits a protracted course of Emma’s awareness that began in April of 1842 but is discernible only in ambiguous observations at that time, observations like alleged non-specific public references to it before the Relief Society or that fact that Emma missed a couple of meetings. Then in May of 1843 the historical record suddenly describes Emma’s very specific reactions to Joseph Smith’s plural marriage teachings. At that point, Emma accepts plural marriage and participated in four plural marriages in May 1843. Maria Jane Woodward, a domestic in the Smith home, recalled a conversation she had with Emma sometime after August 31, 1843 when the Smiths moved into the Nauvoo Mansion. Emma told her: “’The principle of plural marriage is right, but I am like other women, I am naturally jealous hearted and can talk back to Joseph as long as any wife can talk back to her husband, but what I want to say to you is this. You heard me finding fault with the principle. I want to say that that principle is right, it is from our Father in Heaven,’ and then she again spoke of her jealousy. Then she continued, ‘What I said I have got to repent of. The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph or that principle. The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else find fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.’” Though this is a late account, there are no similar recollections for the 1842 period.

    CB: Emma knew about Fanny Alger since the 1830s, but we don’t have any accounts of what she might have thought. You can’t read anything into a paucity of records, especially with polygamy, which was being covered up. Early on, Emma’s responses were very different, and they escalated over time. This could be explained by Chris Smith’s theory above; Emma may have thought she could convince Joseph to stop having relationships with other women.

    Shortly after participating in the sealings, Emma rejected plural marriage and actively sought out Joseph’s plural wives in order to prevent their involvement with him. On July 13, just weeks after her participation in the sealings, she gave Joseph an ultimatum to stop new plural marriages. This documentable timeline is an important and generates a few questions for Cheryl: Why would Emma, an intensely private person, have been willing to display her marital dirty laundry in front of the Relief Society in 1842?

    CB: That’s not a part of my argument. In fact, I don’t think Emma would have wanted to discuss her personal affairs in a public venue. I think she was very circumspect in the way she discussed her objection to polygamy, a heated concern in the community at the time.

    Why did Joseph wait until May 28, 1843 to be sealed to Emma if she knew about eternal marriage over a year earlier?

    CB: Just knowing about the extent of Joseph’s involvement does not mean that Emma had been taught the specifics of the doctrine or was willing to enter into the practice at that point.

    Why did Emma apparently ignore Joseph’s plural wives and new plural marriages throughout 1842 until June of 1843? Why did Emma wait until May-August 1843 to confront Joseph’s plural wives to try to limit his involvement with them?

    CB: I would think these would be well within the range of normal reactions to a wife discovering that her husband was having relationships with other women. It is similar to the way she later dealt with Lewis Bidamon’s affairs by ignoring them.

    During May-August 1843 Emma had heated interactions with at least Emily and Eliza Partridge, Flora Ann Woodworth, and Eliza R. Snow (but there was no truth to the notion Emma threw Eliza down a set of stairs). Why did Emma wait until July 13, 1843 to threaten Joseph with divorce and give an ultimatum?

    CB: Why do some women stay with abusive husbands for 30 years before finally leaving them?

    In addition, the whole idea that Relief Society sisters in March of 1842 would have known about celestial marriage as Cheryl describes is problematic. Cheryl wrote: that the “meeting of the Relief Society on March 30, 1842, began with ‘the house full to overflowing,’ as sisters gathered to observe the power struggle between the Prophet and his wife” (170). Are we to believe the “sisters” knew of plural marriage at that early date? What is the evidence?

    CB: Yes, we are to believe that the Sisters knew of plural marriage; as Brian well knows, many of these women had already been introduced to the Principle. And as I have stated repeatedly, it was a topic of no small concern in the community at the time.

    We recall that Hyrum Smith and William Law did not learn of it until the middle of 1843, about the same documentable time as Emma. So Cheryl affirms that the Relief Society “sisters” knew about a “power struggle” over polygamy, but Hyrum and William did not know about polygamy at that time?

    CB: They knew they were witnessing a power struggle. Many of the women would soon be married to Joseph Smith. They were already polygamy “insiders”—and long before Hyrum was. Joseph’s wife’s knowledge does not depend on what his brother knew.

    Cheryl’s reconstruction generates important chronological improbabilities. These observations are important because Cheryl describes a conflict between Emma and Joseph in 1842 that I do not believe existed.

    CB: I ask the reader to make of the exchange what you will. But it seems quite obvious, as Chris Smith noted above, that they are disagreeing over something having to do with sexual impropriety.
    My interpretation of these exchanges are based on scholarly interpretations of the events, while Brian’s conclusions seem to be driven by apology.

    In fact, I affirm they were united against John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wifery” at that time. But we can address that in another post.

    CB: Of course they were united against Bennett’s polygamy–because as I pointed out in my article, Joseph uses Bennett as a shield or a foil, so that on the one hand he can appear to be against the very thing that he is doing.

    Cheryl chastises me saying: “For shame, Brian.” Perhaps I should apologize, but when a person like Cheryl or me places themselves in front of others as teachers of Joseph Smith’s life and doctrines, our personal beliefs become an issue. Why? Because he taught, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). I think many in our audiences would like to know what spirit we seek as we teach. It seems to me that when you label Joseph Smith’s plural marriages as “indiscretions,” you portray him as a false prophet because he plainly disagreed with your assessment (see D&C 132:19-20). You affirm your belief in him but I seem to detect an inconsistency and simply ask for clarification. You don’t need to answer if you don’t want to. Take Care, Brian Hales

    CB: I don’t think I need to respond to this, having already answered it previously. Allegations such as these have no place in historical discourse. Many of our fine non-LDS scholars have had some of the best insights on Mormon history.

  20. CB: I don’t think I need to respond to this, having already answered it previously. Allegations such as these have no place in historical discourse. Many of our fine non-LDS scholars have had some of the best insights on Mormon history.

    Indeed. Historical acumen is not dependent in any way upon religious beliefs or loyalties.

  21. Hi Again,

    I appreciate Cheryl’s responses to my questions. However you will need to forgive me if I’m nonplussed by her explanations of the questions I presented. I was hoping she would provide documentation rather than rationalizations.

    Perhaps revisiting the minutes of the Relief Society is a good place to continue. Cheryl wrote: “From the beginning, Emma Smith apparently considered the society an opportunity to oppose her husband’s teachings about plural marriage” (168-69). She also reports that there was a “power struggle” (170) between Emma and Joseph that was played out, partially at least, before the Relief Society.

    The March 24, 1842 RS minutes report: “Prest. E. Smith. . . proceeded to read to the honorable body, a report, wherein Clarissa Marvel was accus’d of scandalous falsehoods on the character of Prest. Joseph Smith, without the least provocation, praying that they would in wisdom adopt some plan to bring her to repentance.” If there was a “power struggle” between Emma and Joseph, it is curious that when he was accused, Emma aggressively defended him and instead went after the accuser.

    The March 30, 1842 minutes report Joseph’s counsel that “none should be received into the Society but those who were worthy. . . One principal object of the Institution, was to purge out iniquity— said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations or the consequences would be serious.” Immediately thereafter: “Prest. E[mma] Smith rose & said she would like to hear from those appointed to enquire into the case of Clarissa M.” Concerning these remarks, Cheryl Bruno writes: “After Joseph finished his remarks and left the meeting, Emma ignored his cautions and continued full steam ahead with the Clarissa Marvel investigation.” Cheryl’s interpretation seems extreme. What did Emma “ignore”? Another plausible explanation is that Emma was just proceeding with “old business” from the previous meeting. How were Joseph’s comments supposed to have prompted Emma to ignore the “old business” of obtaining a report on a matter that was started in the previous meeting?

    Concerning the RS minutes from the April 26th meeting, Cheryl writes: “Especially juicy is the exchange where Joseph requests the President and Society to ‘hold your tongues’ as a matter of policy.” Cheryl is referring to Joseph’s counsel on that date: “Said he had been instrumental in bringing [the iniquity among us] to light—melancholy and awful [it is] that so many are under the condemnation of the devil & going to perdition With deep feeling said that they are our fellows—we lov’d them once. Shall we not encourage them to reformation?. . . hold your tongues about things of no moment, a little tale will set the world on fire. At this time the truth on the guilty should not be told openly.”

    Joseph reported he had brought the iniquity to light suggesting he wasn’t trying to hide celestial marriages because at that time, only he had been married plurally (see below). A more likely interpretation is that Joseph sought mercy for the women and men recently called up for Church discipline by the Nauvoo High Council. Between May 21 and 28, 1842, the High Council met several times to investigate reports of adulteries instigated by John C. Bennett and his followers, adulteries Joseph exposed. Among the women called to testify were Catherine Fuller Warren, Mary Hardman, Melinda Lewis, Caroline Butler, Matilda Nyman, Margaret Nyman, Polly Mecham, Polly Masheres, Melinda Lewis, and Maria Champlin. Their testimonies incriminated others including Justus Morse, Mrs. Barriss, George W. Thatcher, Lyman O. Littlefield, Joel S. Miles, Mrs. Alfred Brown, J. B. Backenstos, and Alexander McRay. Many of those who were investigated by the high council repented or were innocent.

    Immediately after her husband’s comments, Emma added: “Mrs. Prest. rose and said all idle rumor and idle talk must be laid aside yet sin must not be covered, especially those sins which are against the law of God and the laws of the country— all who walk disorder ly must reform, and any knowing of heinous sins against the law of God, and refuse to expose them, becomes the offender— said she wanted none in this Society who had violated the laws of virtue.” I wonder how is this “juicy”? The Nauvoo High Council investigations were ongoing so Emma’s comment that no transgressions should be “covered” was unsurprising.

    Regarding the Relief Society membership, Cheryl writes: “Many of the women would soon be married to Joseph Smith. They were already polygamy ‘insiders.’” Actually by April, Joseph had been sealed to Louisa Beaman, Zina Diantha Huntington, Presendia Lathrop Huntington, Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Patty Bartlett, and possibly Marinda Nancy Johnson (for whom there are two dates). All but two of these women were legally married. The problem for Cheryl’s reconstruction is that Joseph taught sexual polyandry was adultery (D&C 132:41-42, 61-63) and that no woman could have two lawful husbands according to God’s laws (D&C 22:1, 132:4). This supports that they were nonsexual “eternity only” sealings except for Louisa and Agnes. Perhaps Cheryl believes Joseph Smith practiced sexual polyandry, which introduces a whole new discussion topic. (See http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/sexual-polyandry/ and the essays by me and Mike Quinn.) The point being that while Joseph consummated the marriage with Louisa Beaman (and we know nothing about his relationship with Agnes), in March of 1842, there was very little plural sexuality for Emma to know about or oppose. In addition, Brigham and Heber probably had not married plurally by then either but Vinson Knight may have.

    In contrast, at that time Bennett’s immoral shenanigans were becoming well known. If Emma was unaware of the teachings of celestial marriage and if John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wifery” was unrelated to Joseph’s teachings, then Emma’s opposition was not against Joseph, but against Bennett. And Joseph was united with her opposing Bennett.

    Cheryl, I think you do Emma a disservice by painting her as opposing Joseph in 1842. She opposed immoralities wherever she found them. However, you represent Joseph’s sealings as “indiscretions” that arose from his “predilections” (169) rather than revelation. As described by you, we would expect Emma to oppose them. However, Joseph taught plural marriage was an “order of the priesthood” and that if Emma, once she learned the doctrines, rejected them, she would be under severe condemnation (D&C 132:65). Maybe it would be helpful for you to clarify whether you think Joseph Smith’s plural marriages were authorized sealings recognized by God or simply Joseph’s inventions designed to expand his sexual opportunities or something else.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Brian

  22. I appreciate Cheryl’s fine essay and her response to Brian Hales here. However, have the same questions as Brian. I have no dog in the fight really. I have just been going over a great deal of information about Joseph’s plural marriages and Emma’a involvement so I was interested in the exchange.

    Let me say first that Joe Geisner’s comment in #2 and Cheryl’s charging Brian’s with adopting his view merely because of “apologetic” motives are both unwarranted — and Joe’s comment should have been deleted altogether since it was simply a personal attack without merit. Shame on him. However, Brian’s questioning of Cheryl’s faith was clearly out of bounds for a conversation focusing on the merits of a theory about historical events and records.

    It seems to me that it is the historian’s job to consider all of the scenarios that the evidence may support and sift through them carefully to see if one is more probable than another. Most often the available data seriously underdetermine any particular position and the best we can do is offer conjecture. This issue may be such a case. However, I see precious little to support Cheryl’s claim that Emma knew fully about Joseph’s involvement in polygamy by April 1842. It is conjecture that the “house was full to overflowing” because those attending the RS meeting were there to see a dispute between Joseph and Emma as Cheryl asserts — and I do not know what supports her claim that there was general knowledge among RS members that such a conflict would be addressed in the meeting. It is conjecture that the the lack of an RS meeting the first week in May 1842 and that Emma was absent the next week somehow support that she learned of Joseph’s polygamy. It is also conjecture that the 29 April 1842 mention by Joseph of a “conspiracy against the peace of this household” relates somehow to Emma and her knowledge or lack thereof about polygamy. It is unclear to me what the disturbance was or that it had anything to do with Emma.

    I also think that Cheryl has misunderstood Brian’s question. Cheryl correctly asserts that she does not rely on the reference to JCB (John C. Bennett) penned on the side of Joseph’s journal entry to support her view that Emma learned of JS’s polygamy. She asks how Brian knows that JCB had not been initiated into Joseph’s polygamy — but Brian’s point is that Joseph had already mentioned the conflict with JCB and the reference to JCB in the note suggests that JS was referring to issues created by the defection of JCB and his charges against JS; not necessarily having to anything having to do with Emma’s knowledge. Brian’s point is that Cheryl fails to account for this evidence and her theory of what is referred to should account for all of the evidence. So Cheryl’s admission that she does not even mention JCB is precisely Brian’s point. The note seems to refer to problems with JCB and in my reading does not even tend support that by this date Emma knew about JS’s polygamy.

    Christopher asserts that the conflict must have had something to do with sexual matters, but that is not clear to me either. It seems most likely that the issue addressed was broader than merely sexual improprieties and extended to all challenges to virtuous conduct.

    But let’s assume that Christopher is on to something just for the sake of argument. He avers that Joseph must have told Emma something about the Alger matter. But it appears to me very likely that we know what he told her. In his 6 Oct. 1875 statement to J. H. Beadle, McLellan stated that JS was “sealed to the hired girl.” The “sealing took place in a barn and . . . was witnessed by Mrs. Smith through a crack in the door [of the barn].” Because McLellan was not there, and based on his earlier 1872 statement, it is clear that he is relying on Emma Smith for his assertions and has only second hand hearsay to offer. However, at least 12 other sources refer to the relationship between Alger and JS as a “sealing” as well. It appears to me most likely that Emma “spied” the actual sealing ceremony which was performed in a barn according to Mosiah Hancock. So it seems probable to me that Joseph explained to her that what had occurred between him and Alger was a sealing — and it did not include a full knowledge of plural marriage. It is obvious that Emma did not have a full knowledge of plural marriage at that time because: (1) Emma later (1843) required much fuller instruction regarding the revelation on plural marriage and Joseph’s involvement; and (2) no one knew fully about plural marriage at that time.

    Cheryl discounts this view of the matter because she claims that the sealing powers had not yet been restored — having been restored on 6 April 1836. However, she is assuming an earlier date for the “indiscretion” (her term) and assumes it could not be a sealing because it was before 6 April 1836 when the sealing authority was restored. Regardless, that there was a sealing appears to be JS’s explanation to Emma. Further, dating the Alger transaction is contentious at best, but I believe it occurred after 6 April 1836 because she did not leave Kirtland until September 1836 at Emma’s insistence — and I do not believe that Emma would have let her stay for a year if she really had issues with Fanny. Further, we now have evidence that Eliza Snow was “well acquainted with” Fanny and she came to stay with the Smiths in Kirtland in the spring of 1836. Thus, a post April 1836 date seems to be required (at least in my mind strongly supported). See: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/fanny-alger-2/ If the sealing power was needed to seal the “sealing ceremony” between Alger and JS, that would be another reason to posit a post April 1836 date. (However, it seems rather clear to me at least that the Melchizedek priesthood itself included the power to seal in heaven what was sealed on earth and so perhaps that sealing power was not necessary for this type of sealing).

    Further, Cheryl’s assertion that JS was involved in some “indiscretion” seems to be merely here moral judgment because that term is not based on historical documents. But historians are not moral experts. Such judgments may be appropriate for one looking to see if JS was really a prophet; but not really the provenance of the historian. So I disagree with her assertion to that extent.

    There seem to be at least three possibilities regarding JS’s 29 April 1842 comment:

    1. Joseph was warning Emma off of an investigation into polygamous relationships and so she must have known about polygamy;

    2. JS was warning Emma and others that they had better tread carefully because they did not have all of the facts and did not fully grasp what was at issue;

    3. It had little or nothing to do with Emma’s knowledge of polygamy.

    All three views are still live possibilities for me. However, I tend to see #2 as most probable.

  23. I also want to say that I am not convinced by Cheryl’s attempt to connect the RS with Masonry as she has done. Her approach suffers from the same defects as paralellomania — and I do not see explicit connections that persuade me that her parallels are any more than her best attempt to match catch phrases.

  24. Blake,

    All I can say is that you’re taking very literally some terminology that is clearly euphemistic. In the nineteenth century, “virtue” in reference to a woman had to do almost entirely with sexual chastity, modesty, and gender roles. A minor offense against virtue could be a mere social impropriety such as immodest dress, but a “heinous sin” against virtue is almost certainly a sexual offense.

    As for Emma witnessing the “transaction” between Joseph and Fanny, there’s simply no way that this was a sealing ceremony. The context of McLellin’s full letter leaves no doubt as to the sexual nature of the transaction: McLellin says Joseph “committed an act” with Fanny, that when Emma later confronted him he “desisted,” “confessed,” and “begged forgiveness,” which Emma gave him. McLellin’s triple exclamation point after the word “transaction” says it all.

    As for the conspiracy against the peace of Joseph’s household, I don’t see how this could refer to anything other than marital strife. (Unless of course Joseph had a servant or a boarder at the time?)

    Regarding Blake’s assertion that “[Moral] judgments may be appropriate for one looking to see if JS was really a prophet; but not really the provenance of the historian,” I disagree. There was an interesting debate between Robert Orsi and Stephen Prothero on this subject a few years back. Prothero took a position in favor of moral judgments, Orsi against. They both made persuasive arguments, but ultimately I come down on Prothero’s side. It’s important to empathize with offenders and to try to determine how they saw themselves, but only because that sort of understanding is one of the moral norms of the historian and his audience. There are other moral norms and objectives that the historian serves as well, including empathy with victims. These sorts of norms are what make the historian’s stories meaningful; to unmoor the discipline from them would be to rob it of significance. Having said all that, “indiscretion” is hardly a judgmental term. It implies little more than that what Joseph was doing was out of keeping with his society’s norms.

  25. I appreciate the recent responses. There are many points to address here, and I don’t have much time, so I will deal with them piecemeal as I have a few moments in my day.

    The first thing I would like to do is simplify the Joseph/Emma “power struggle” for Brian, since he has taken issue with this point several times.

    Essentially, Joseph says: Don’t openly tell the truth about people who are committing iniquity. Hold your tongues.

    Emma replies by saying: Sin mustn’t be covered up. If you know something about the guilty and you try to hide it, you yourself are at fault.

    In my original paper I posit that an awareness of the underlying conflicts Joseph and Emma are having over polygamy adds to our understanding of Joseph and Emma’s words to the Society. Brian claims that “A more likely interpretation is that Joseph sought mercy for the women and men recently called up for Church discipline by the Nauvoo High Council.” Let us assume that this is the case. We still have a conflict over adultery here: Joseph calling for mercy, and Emma for justice for those accused of immorality. Brian may not think that’s especially juicy, but I do! Considering Joseph’s later actions with Bennett, and his current relationships with women, why is he asking that those accused of adultery not be punished? And why is Emma willing to publicly oppose his position on the matter?

  26. Brian, thanks for your latest post. I hadn’t realized that this event coincided with the sexual scandal surrounding John C. Bennett. That helps me understand your position much better, since it supplies a likely alternative interpretation of Joseph and Emma’s conflict in the Relief Society: Joseph wanted to avoid a public scandal that would damage his and the Church’s reputation, to protect Bennett & co.’s female victims from being expelled from the Relief Society, and possibly also to protect the male perpetrators from legal and disciplinary consequences. Given this context, I can agree with you that it becomes more difficult and more tenuous to hypothesize a connection between this episode and the marital conflict a month earlier. Clearly there’s at least a tangential relationship, since the perpetrators were members of Smith’s inner circle, doing things that were similar his own secret polygamy, and (as Cheryl explained above) basing their activities at least loosely on his teachings. When they got caught, there was a danger of his own practices being publicly exposed. And if Cheryl is correct that Emma had heard a rumor of Smith’s marriage practices the previous month, then he would have been acutely aware of just how thin his own cloak of secrecy really was.

  27. In his comment #25 Brian also takes issue with my calling many of the Relief Society sisters “polygamy insiders.” Brian protests:

    Actually by April, Joseph had been sealed to Louisa Beaman, Zina Diantha Huntington, Presendia Lathrop Huntington, Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Patty Bartlett, and possibly Marinda Nancy Johnson (for whom there are two dates). All but two of these women were legally married. The problem for Cheryl’s reconstruction is that Joseph taught sexual polyandry was adultery (D&C 132:41-42, 61-63) and that no woman could have two lawful husbands according to God’s laws (D&C 22:1, 132:4). This supports that they were nonsexual “eternity only” sealings except for Louisa and Agnes.

    This argument makes me giggle. Only in the Mormon world could we look at a man who has married SEVEN women and conclude, as Brian does, that because they are married to other men and he is only having sex with one of them, that “there was very little plural sexuality for Emma to know about or oppose.” Without even engaging my thoughts Joseph’s possible sexual polyandry, do you think it might be possible that Emma would oppose her husband sealing himself to other women for a marriage relationship in the eternities?

  28. Blake:

    “I also want to say that I am not convinced by Cheryl’s attempt to connect the RS with Masonry as she has done. Her approach suffers from the same defects as paralellomania”

    On the contrary. Paralellomania is a simple list of similarities without regard for social context, and without historical basis. Cheryl’s treatment of this subject places these similarities in their proper framework.

    Or do you really mean to argue that Joseph Smith’s “good masons” comment referred to anything BUT Freemasonry? That the numerous other similar language pointed out by Cheryl and many others has no historical basis for comparison to Freemasonry? That the prayer on the first page of the RS book, found on the Bible of the Lodge room where the RS was first organized wasn’t a Masonic prayer? That the constitution, recommendation for membership and investigation of candidates wasn’t a Masonic form? Or that the story of the mallet and trowel presented to Sarah Kimball by a “master mason” for the cornerstone laying ceremony of the first Relief Society building in Utah was likewise not an “explicit connection?” Ms. Bruno goes to some length to provide the historical backdrop for these things, demonstrating their relationship to contemporaneous Masonic practice. If there were no historical or genealogical links to Freemasonry, THAT would be akin to “paralellomania.” But, as those historical and genealogical links exist — and this fact is both admitted by other respected historians and similarly demonstrated by Ms. Bruno — I would think Cheryl has every reason to explore these connections, and see if they extend further. She argues that they do extend further, and frankly, I agree with her contra Blake.

    Blake says: “I do not see explicit connections that persuade me that her parallels are any more than her best attempt to match catch phrases.”

    To dismiss this work as a “best attempt to match catch phrases” would be exceedingly unfortunate. It is, I would note, how many apologists choose to minimize the Endowment’s clear and thoroughgoing dependence upon Masonic forms. Yet the historical setting for both the Endowment and the Relief Society argue against such facile dismissiveness.

    While I do see a few historical “misses,” I think that overall Ms. Bruno does a fine job of placing the Relief Society in its proper Masonic context. In my opinion, this extends significantly beyond “a few words,” or “catch-phrases,” and Bruno admirably points out the landmarks.

  29. That Emma would have witnessed a “sealing ceremony” between Joseph and Fanny and not understand it to have some connection to plural marriage does not seem to be the most natural conclusion for somebody with “no dog in this fight,” but let’s say that’s true. How would Joseph have explained to Emma the purpose of a sealing ceremony or its implications? If it was explained to Emma as anything other than a marriage ceremony, why would Emma have insisted on Fanny leaving? If it was explained as something to do with marriage, then it’s easy to understand why Emma would want Fanny to leave, as Emma would later do with other plural wives of Joseph.

  30. Joe: First, I trust that you are not dismissing the need for evidence for assertions that the RS was merely a Masonic extension to your unsupported claim that apologist dismiss the relation between them. That would be something like mere name-calling and dismissing by association.

    Second, I consider myself something of an expert on Masonry and Mormonism, having studied it extensively. I am more than happy to see the connection when it is present, as it is between some facets of the endowment and Masonry. But a pan-Masonic interpretation is also a mistake because it is equally clear that Masonry does not explain everything.

    No, I do not see an open bible on an altar as a probable connection with Masonry — if it were every Christian church would have the same connection. Investigation of candidates may be Masonic, but it was a common practice with women’s clubs (e.g., daughters of the Am. Rev.), churches (e.g., some Methodists) and a number of other 19th century organizations. Cheryl reaches for phrases from sources that are not proximate in either time or location and, especially given the various forms of Masonry, she mixes and matches regardless of the rite or lodge. That is a mistake. So I do not believe that the historical context she constructs is anywhere near as relevant as you seem to think that it is.

  31. Brian: “A more likely interpretation is that Joseph sought mercy for the women and men recently called up for Church discipline by the Nauvoo High Council.”

    Actually, that is false. They had not been “recently called up for Church discipline” by April as you here suggest, Brian. That is finessing the record — for what possible purpose I do not know.

    Rather, Bennett resigned his position as Mayor on May 17, and the High Council trials began approximately two weeks later, as you note. Many of the claims against Bennett, William Smith and others resulted from the testimony given at this trial. Of course, by his own testimony, Joseph Smith knew of profligate behavior by Bennett in mid-1841. For reasons I’ll leave readers to determine for themselves, he chose not to reveal this information, instead allowing Bennett to become Secretary of the Masonic Lodge, Mayor of Nauvoo, etc. etc. Maybe it was for reasons not dissimilar to why Emma Smith didn’t leave her husband or threaten him with divorce when she first learned of his indiscreet behavior.

    By contrast to the late date of the High Council trials you mention, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith (and less directly, William Clayton) had by the first week in April been rumored to have been involved in knowing about / teaching / practicing surreptitious plural marriage. This information was ostensibly made public by the disclosures of Martha Brotherton. She and her parents left Nauvoo as a result of what she disclosed.

    While the rumor mill isn’t always right (Hyrum nor Clayton were directly involved in PM or its teaching at this time), it is amazingly accurate in the other accounts. The first solidly recorded official plural marriage outside of Smith’s own unions was that of Brigham Young to Lucy Ann Decker Seely in June of 1842 — only some few months after he approached Brotherton, and was defended from the stand by Hyrum and Joseph Smith. Young was of course sealed to Brotherton after her death, giving credence to her account that he had in fact approached her as she had publicly stated. And, Joseph Smith had been privately teaching Plural Marriage to select individuals since 1840 (Joseph Bates Noble; brother-in-law to Louisa Beaman, Joseph Smith’s first “sealed” plural wife in 1841). That select company included Brigham Young, who was accused by Brotherton of approaching her with a proposition of Plural Marriage.

    The date of Heber C. Kimball’s first plural marriage wasn’t recorded, but assuming that the birth of a child by his plural wife Sarah Noon in October of 1842 is an indicator, they would have been married in January 1842 at latest.

    Whatever one might say about Emma, she was not a slow pony; it seems at the very least probable that she suspected that her husband was “institutionalizing” PM by April of 1842; leastways, the accusations were not simply of random philandering. Then again, the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants hinted of rumors of institutionalized polygamy.

    These rumors wouldn’t die – later events suggest that they wouldn’t die, because they were to some degree true. So, Joseph and Hyrum both denounce polygamy from the stand in April. A few weeks later, Joseph Smith denounces it again.

    There is little doubt that the troubles in the Smith home mentioned by Joseph Smith are about more than poor housekeeping. Further, whatever the source of her understanding, however deficient in points of later doctrine, howevermuch she may or may not have known of the specifics of Joseph Smith’s marriages, the truth is that Emma and Joseph do argue publicly about how best to confront “challenges to virtue,” which I read as sexual sin (as I believe contemporary hearers would have).

    Joseph Smith unsurprisingly states a view that supports his own secret behavior; Emma argues that vicious or un-virtuous behavior should not be condoned.

    I’m puzzled by Brian’s historical or theological need to place Emma’s “realization” as late has he does; I believe the evidence suggests at least some understanding much earlier — maybe as early as 1833.

  32. Christopher: I believe that even a facile reading of the RS minutes shows that there were many concerns covered under the term “virtue” such as not judging, holding one’s tongue, honesty, falsely claiming Joseph’s sanction for practices and so forth.

    With regard to an attack on his household, I do not see how you support that allegation that it must be marital strife. It seems transparent to me at least that the attack is on his entire household, including Emma. Further, the attack seems to be based on Bennett’s accusations, and I agree with Brian that the evidence points toward both Emma and Joseph standing together against such attacks. I see absolutely nothing that suggests that Emma had learned about Joseph polygamy by 28 April 1832 and Cheryl’s arguments are based on little more than conjecture that is not explanatory of the totality of evidence as I see it.

    With respect to McLellin’s statements, you make the mistake of eliding his 3 statements. First, I do not regard McLellin as fully trustworthy in this matter. I doubt that Emma would confide in him as he claimed when she refuse to discuss the issue with virtually anyone else. Just why a sealing ceremony could be a “transaction” is not clear to me – if indeed that is what Emma said (and it is more than open to doubt). Why call it a sealing at all? That was not a euphemism for sexual activity in the 19th century.

    You make the mistake of eliding all 3 of McLellin’s statements without recognizing that each one provides different details as his assertions become more bold and include more claims as time passed. I believe that it is clear that there was a sealing in a barn — and nothing beyond that is at all trustworthy as I see it. The other sources that speak of a sealing back that up. Finally, nothing you say tends to disprove in any way that Joseph’s explanation was that his relationship with Alger was based on a sealing ceremony and that his explanation to her was that a sealing took place. Finally, absolutely nothing suggests that Emma somehow had a full understanding of polygamy based on the Alger incident – and that is the primary point.

  33. Joe: It is pellucidly clear that by 7 May Joseph already expressed public concerns about Bennett — as shown in the 7 May 1842 entry of the History: http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842?p=518#!/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842&p=503.

    Further, you fail to account for the “JCB” written in the margin of the 28 April 1842 note about the threat to the peace of Joseph’s household. It is not exactly clear when it was written, but it seems to indicate that JCB was being referred to and not someone else who threatened to expose PM. Maybe that is why Brian thinks it is relevant — the evidence requires an explanation and Cheryl’s reconstruction of a supposed conflict between Josepha and Emma does not really do it as I see it.

  34. Blake: “First, I trust that you are not dismissing the need for evidence for assertions that the RS was merely a Masonic extension.”

    No one has made the argument you here state. It is a straw man.

    Blake: “[your] unsupported claim that apologist dismiss the relation between them.”

    But this is precisely what many Mormon apologists do. Aside from Homer’s recent book, nearly everything produced by LDS scholars is apology, which both trivializes and dismisses significant Masonic contributions to LDS tradition and ritual.

    Blake: “I consider myself something of an expert on Masonry and Mormonism, having studied it extensively.”

    As an endowed Freemason who has “studied ‘it’ extensively,” who has spoken to this issue in the past, and who is currently working on a decades-long project for publication on the subject, it is one of my own small conceits that I know a thing or two about Masonry and Mormonism. You will forgive me for trusting my own experience and research in this area over your undoubtedly very studied opinions.

    Blake: “I am more than happy to see the connection when it is present, as it is between some facets of the endowment and Masonry.”

    Your own comments here regarding the most obvious of Masonic elements in the formation of the Relief Society betray your remarks above.

    Blake: “But a pan-Masonic interpretation is also a mistake because it is equally clear that Masonry does not explain everything.”

    I don’t see anyone arguing for a pan-Masonic anything; again, this seems to be a bit of a straw man, Blake.

    In fact, I entirely agree that Masonry does not explain everything. I spend some discussing this, using almost these precise words in my opening chapter. However. It most certainly DOES explain some things. :-)

    Blake: “No, I do not see an open bible on an altar as a probable connection with Masonry — if it were every Christian church would have the same connection.”

    That open bible sat on an altar in a lodge room, in which Joseph Smith had received Masonic degrees on the day preceding. The prayer itself used distinctive Masonic language, as Cheryl pointed out. You are of course free to reject the evidence, which seems pretty strong to me. The connection with Masonry isn’t a mere possibility; it is highly probably, given the circumstances.

    Blake: “Investigation of candidates may be Masonic, but it was a common practice with women’s clubs (e.g., daughters of the Am. Rev.), churches (e.g., some Methodists) and a number of other 19th century organizations.” But these organizations were not organized under the direction of a man encouraging those women to be “good masons,” who had a minute book which adopted a Masonic prayer as its object and aim, and so forth. These items individually are not strong evidence, but collectively they make a powerful circumstantial case.

    Blake: “Cheryl reaches for phrases from sources that are not proximate in either time or location”

    Cheryl has correctly identified language that is common to Masonry of that day. While one might have wished for better evidence in some places, as a Freemason, I’d argue that she’s bang-on even in such cases. So would the Masonic scholar who initially reviewed her paper prior to publication. (No, it wasn’t me–but I know him well)

    Blake: “especially given the various forms of Masonry, she mixes and matches regardless of the rite or lodge.”

    Do you have any examples of any errors she introduces? Any specific misses? I’m not aware of any, and I’m pretty kenning of 19th-century Freemasonry. As I recall (not looking at her article at the moment), one of her primary Masonic sources was Bernard’s Light on Masonry. This ritual exposure includes a variety of rites — York, Scottish, and other French Haute-grade degrees. Freemasons (and others) of Joseph Smith’s day would have been familiar with this mix, as well as with other similar workings I could here mention. Cheryl’s use of such sources –it seems to me– is not fundamentally different of the kind of investigations many Masons do when studying their own rituals and traditions.

    I do observe that Mormons often hide behind the “given the various forms of Masonry” argument. Nevertheless, I’m open to the criticism if you can make it stick. Let’s see your cards, Blake: do you have a specific example in which Cheryl’s comparison is invalidated by some kind of “mix and match” of rite and lodge?

    Blake: “So I do not believe that the historical context she constructs is anywhere near as relevant as you seem to think that it is.”

    So, in your opinion, the fact that the Relief Society is formed in a Lodge room in which Joseph Smith received Masonic degrees the day previous, and in which the Bible is still open on the altar, and still has upon it the Chaplain’s prayer; that the Society adopts that prayer as its aim and objective; that Joseph Smith describes this woman’s group as moving according to “the ancient order” (a Masonic term,” must “grow up by degrees” (a Masonic term), must investigate and ballot upon candidates, and must be “sufficiently skilled in Masonry to keep a secret,” don’t suggest to me what I clearly see it as suggesting. Okay. I get it.

  35. Chris,

    I was intrigued by your comments about Joseph forestalling Emma by saying that he would reform, or stop. If you look at the plural marriage dates for Smith, you will see a dropoff from the summer of ’42 until the late winter/early spring of ’43, when they started up in earnest again. This would explain nicely Emma’s reactions in May ’43. We might know more if Clayton’s Journals for 1842 were available, but for some reason they are still restricted.

  36. I feel in good company in my assertion that the Relief Society had demonstrable connections with both Freemasonry and Polygamy. In fact, Michael W. Homer’s new book, Joseph’s Temples makes many of the same conclusions I do. Homer states:

    When Smith addressed the Relief Society he used Masonic terminology and taught its members that among the most important lessons they needed to learn was the Masonic skill of being able to keep a secret. He hoped that the Relief Society would help prepare Mormon women for the temple endowment, which the Mormon prophet revealed several weeks later, and he wanted to protect the secrecy of the ever-growing practice [plural marriage] that he was beginning to disclose to his closest associates.

    Neither Homer nor myself describe the Relief Society as “merely a Masonic extension.” Neither do we provide a “pan-Masonic interpretation.” Nevertheless, the dual roles that Masonry and polygamy played in the formation of the Society are indisputable. I feel that with the groundwork that Avery, Nick Literski and Joe Swick have laid, plus the evidence and explications that Homer and I have provided, this will only become more accepted as time goes on.

  37. Blake: “It is pellucidly clear that by 7 May Joseph already expressed public concerns about Bennett.”

    Yes! But not over polygamy, it would seem. But I admit that my own response doesn’t allow for the fact that the meeting at which Joseph and Emma really go toe-to-toe is on May 26th — which is in fact following the first Nauvoo High Council trials. I was thinking only of the April meeting, which is of course “weak sauce” on my part.

    However, it is also equally clear that concerns about polygamy were being addressed the month prior — on 7 April– and that these had nothing whatsoever to do with Bennett. Brotherton’s accusations correctly finger the key players in her own case. Consequently, I’m persuaded by Cheryl’s argument that one need not look to Bennett as the source of information regarding polygamy in the Church, or that Bennett is really critical to her argument (although Bennett is critical to Brian’s responses, for reasons I’m not fully appreciating). The public conversations from the preceding month were plenty and salacious, it would seem, all by themselves.

    Blake: “Further, you fail to account for the “JCB” written in the margin of the 28 April 1842 note about the threat to the peace of Joseph’s household.”

    That is correct; I’ve not accounted for it. :-)

    Blake: “It is not exactly clear when it was written”

    And your comment here precisely anticipates what I would have said.

    Blake: “but it seems to indicate that JCB was being referred to and not someone else who threatened to expose PM.”

    It does seem to suggest that, yes.

    Blake: “Maybe that is why Brian thinks it is relevant — the evidence requires an explanation”

    Well, it requires one to account for it, certainly. But what it does NOT require is for Bennett to teach Emma about PM, as Brian construes. It merely indicates that whoever made the penciled note, at whatever time they did, thought that Bennett was responsible for the “conspiracy.” I don’t think Cheryl would disagree that this is possible, or even probable; you’d have to ask her. However, it would have been a suitable footnote to her argument, I think. Her paper would certainly be strengthened had she noted it. On the other hand, this omission is not fatal to her presentation, IMO. Other scholars have commented upon the passage — including Valeen Tippetts Avery, as Cheryl notes, and also Andrew Smith, who also suggests that the passage may refer to Bennett. But there seems little doubt that whatever the cause, Emma and Joseph fought publicly over issues related to how to address possible sexual misconduct. Given the public scandal from the month previous, I suspect this had to do with polygamy. By the end of May, Bennett’s own little addition to salacious public entertainment would begin to raise its head. So, we see an intensifying of the scandal as the months wore on. And, during this entire time, Joseph continues to proposition and marry additional women. :-)

    Blake: “Cheryl’s reconstruction of a supposed conflict between Josepha and Emma”

    I think the conflict between Emma and Joseph is not simply “supposed,” even if one disagrees on the precise cause of that conflict.

  38. In #26 Blake suggests that I do not understand Brian’s point about John C. Bennett:

    Brian’s point is that Joseph had already mentioned the conflict with JCB and the reference to JCB in the note suggests that JS was referring to issues created by the defection of JCB and his charges against JS; not necessarily having to anything having to do with Emma’s knowledge. Brian’s point is that Cheryl fails to account for this evidence and her theory of what is referred to should account for all of the evidence. So Cheryl’s admission that she does not even mention JCB is precisely Brian’s point. The note seems to refer to problems with JCB and in my reading does not even tend support that by this date Emma knew about JS’s polygamy.

    As Joe says above, the initials “J.C.B.” are penciled in the margin of an account that is not even written by Joseph Smith in the first place. It is unlikely that Joseph himself wrote this marginal note. The most we can say is that whoever wrote the later note may have felt that Bennett had something to do with the disturbance in the Smith household. Thus, I do not use the information in my argument.

    I went back to my original paper to clarify in my mind exactly what Brian was objecting to, and it appears that he mostly takes issue with a small paragraph where I say the following:

    From indications in Joseph’s history, Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842 [here I provide a footnote to the History of Joseph Smith about the conspiracy against the peace of his family]. One of Emma’s biographers has speculated that this knowledge may be why no Relief Society meeting was held the following week, and why Emma was absent at the second. But the wrestle for control continued as Joseph kept cautioning the sisters against intolerance and Emma kept denouncing plural marriage.

    It seems to me that I have qualified my statement about Emma becoming aware of her husband’s involvement in polygamy (i.e. I never say that Joseph taught her exactly what he intended by it), as well as specifying that Emma’s absence at RS is speculation by Avery. I have provided evidence that Joseph and Emma publicly disagreed. I don’t believe, as Brian claims, that this small part of my paper really “affect[s] the accuracy of [my] conclusions.” I do stand by my conclusions, but whether or not Emma was aware of the extent of Joseph’s polygamy in April 1842 or a year later, the crux of my paper centers around whether the Relief Society was affected by the dual concerns of Freemasonry and polygamy.

    I think that Blake’s and Joe’s comments on this thread about Masonry are probably more applicable to the original concerns in my paper than the date that Emma became fully aware of Joseph’s polygamy.

  39. Brian writes,

    Then in May of 1843 the historical record suddenly describes Emma’s very specific reactions to Joseph Smith’s plural marriage teachings. At that point, Emma accepts plural marriage and participated in four plural marriages in May 1843. Maria Jane Woodward, a domestic in the Smith home, recalled a conversation she had with Emma sometime after August 31, 1843 when the Smiths moved into the Nauvoo Mansion. Emma told her: “’The principle of plural marriage is right, but I am like other women, I am naturally jealous hearted and can talk back to Joseph as long as any wife can talk back to her husband, but what I want to say to you is this. You heard me finding fault with the principle. I want to say that that principle is right, it is from our Father in Heaven,’ and then she again spoke of her jealousy. Then she continued, ‘What I said I have got to repent of. The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph or that principle. The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else find fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.’” Though this is a late account, there are no similar recollections for the 1842 period.

    This “late account” seems very contrived. For example, if Emma had believed in polygamy at all, by May of 1843, why did Clayton write in July of 1843:

    [July 12, 1843. Wednesday.] This A.M. I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives and concubines &c. After it was wrote Presidents Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E[mma] who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious.

    Emma did not believe a word of the polygamy “revelation”, yet a month or so later she is telling someone that it is a “correct principle”? That account should be disregarded as later apologia for polygamy. Clayton also writes on August 16th 1843:

    This A.M. Joseph told me that since E[mma] came back from St. Louis she had resisted the P[riesthood]in toto and he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake. She said she would [have] given him E[liza] and E[mily] P[artridge], but he knew if he took them she would pitch on him and obtain a divorce and leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish anything. O God deliver thy servant from iniquity and bondage.

    If Emma had already “given” Joseph the Partridge sisters in May, then why does Joseph tell Clayton in August that she WOULD HAVE given them to him? According to Emily Partridge, Joseph indeed “took her”, with Emma in the house, in May. If it were already done, why does Joseph speak of it as a future event? It is difficult to believe that sometime after these entries by Clayton that Emma was telling someone that the principle of polygamy was “right”.

    With all of this deception on Joseph’s part, how could this principle be “right” and Emma accept it as such?

  40. Blake: “nothing you say tends to disprove in any way that Joseph’s explanation was that his relationship with Alger was based on a sealing ceremony and that his explanation to her was that a sealing took place.”

    So, it is your argument that Emma was made aware of a *sealing* between her husband and Fannie Alger, which sealing occurred between April and September of 1836, and that what McLellin saw in the barn was a *sealing*.

    And that the phrases in the July 1872 McLellin letter to Joseph Smith III were “elided.”

    These statements pose some real historical challenges, but maybe they make for cleaner theology. Cough.

  41. This thread blew up, and I don’t have the energy to read it all. So I’ll just say this to Blake: it was a conspiracy against the PEACE of his household, not just a conspiracy against his household.

  42. Brian: “You will need to forgive me if I’m nonplussed by her explanations of the questions I presented. I was hoping she would provide documentation rather than rationalizations.”

    These are interpretive matters which do not necessarily require “more documentation.” If the argument she makes is consistent with the known evidence (and AFAICT it is), that *that will do,* as the saying goes.

    It appears that you are taking exception with 3 sentences in Cheryl’s paper, and have concerns that really are beyond the scope or focus of her subject matter — or are only peripherally related thereto.

    Others here have noticed that had she wished to discuss Joseph Smith’s tactics through 1843 (the Voice of Innocence, etc), the strength of her argument would have clearly been made evident. This is because (for instance) VoI uses similar language to describe adultery / polygamy as harming the peace of one’s home. I was actually standing next to Cheryl while she discussed VoI with another Church historian at some length, during the recent MHA sessions. Her choice not to include the content of her research on that point in her paper was likely driven by the fact that this wasn’t the primary focus of her article.

    There is sufficient evidence, IMO, that Emma had a clue about Joseph Smith’s behavior prior to April 1842, and that from at least that month, there was public evidence of the intent to institutionalize polygamy, and Brotherton fingered Smith as the head of this operation. Cheryl’s argument on this score can only be strengthened by the increase in salacious rumors over the months which followed.

    Obviously, Brian, your concern is Bennett, who certainly does make a splash beginning in mid-May. But by this time, the RS arguments are already underway, the “peace” of the Smith home is already disrupted, and Cheryl seems to be right about the nature of these early RS discussions.

    As for the need for more “documentary evidence,” I’d observe only that –as demonstrated by Blake’s remarks on the RS and Freemasonry–the argument here isn’t really about the amount of supporting evidence at all, but the ability to skillfully synthesize and analyze what is already right in front of us.

    Cheers,
    ~J

  43. Hi Again,

    I appreciate Blake’s comments and agree with Chris that things have splattered.

    However, my interest in this exchange was not to discover which of us was the best historian or who could write with the most cleverness.

    My interest was threefold:

    First, I believe that the question, “When did Emma Smith first learn of Joseph Smith’s teachings about plural marriage?” is very important. I appreciate Cheryl taking the time to investigate it as I did while researching for my three volumes. According to Mormon historian Juanita Brooks, regarding pertinent historical documentation: “You never get it all.” Connecting the dots requires us first to identify the dots. Researchers may not thereafter agree, but everyone benefits from the greater accessibility to manuscript evidences. Through Cheryl’s efforts looking at the subject and performing her research, it was possible that she could have uncovered new historical data or discovered a new view to enlighten us all.

    My second interest stems from what I believe is Cheryl’s negative misrepresentation of Emma’s behavior in 1842. I believe Cheryl does Emma an immense disservice by claiming she opposed her husband both secretly and publicly before the Relief Society. This is unfortunate and is difficult to ignore.

    Third, I am troubled that Cheryl would portray Joseph Smith’s plural marriages as “indiscretions” that arose from his “predilections” (169). The Prophet taught the sealings were part of the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 132:19), a covenant that came through revelation from God (v. 4). Cheryl proclaims a belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet, but her depiction of him in the article and in our subsequent correspondences seems to contradict it.

    To support her reconstruction, Cheryl wrote that supportive evidence is found in “their [Joseph and Emma] own words as reported in the Relief Society minutes.” Below I’ve tried to zero in on just what those minutes and the other evidences Cheryl presents reveal. If I’ve missed something, hopefully someone will let me know.

    Relief Society Minutes March 24, 1842

    The minutes of the March 24, 1842, Relief Society meeting report the words of Joseph and Emma: “Prest. E[mma]. Smith . . . proceeded to read to the honorable body, a report, wherein Clarissa Marvel was accus’d of scandalous falsehoods on the character of Prest. Joseph Smith, without the least provocation, praying that they would in wisdom adopt some plan to bring her to repentance.” If there was a “power struggle” between Emma and Joseph at that time, it is curious that when he was accused, Emma aggressively defended him and instead went after the accuser.

    Relief Society Minutes March 30, 1842

    The minutes from the next meeting on March 30, 1842, report Joseph’s counsel that “none should be received into the Society but those who were worthy. . . . One principal object of the Institution, was to purge out iniquity— said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations or the consequences would be serious.” Immediately thereafter: “Prest. E[mma] Smith rose & said she would like to hear from those appointed to enquire into the case of Clarissa M.” Concerning these statements, Cheryl Bruno wrote: “After Joseph finished his remarks and left the meeting, Emma ignored his cautions and continued full steam ahead with the Clarissa Marvel investigation” (170). Cheryl’s interpretation seems extreme. It is unclear how Joseph’s comments were supposed to have prompted Emma to ignore the “old business” of obtaining a report on a matter that was started in the previous meeting. Usually meeting agendas begin with “old business” before going on to new business items. However, if a guest speaker has been invited, their speech can be inserted in the agenda at any time. Regardless, it seems there is no evidence of a “power struggle” in this sequence of events.

    April 29, 1842, “Conspiracy against the Peace of [the Smith] Household”

    According to Cheryl, something happened on April 29, 1842, giving Emma even greater knowledge of her husband’s “indiscretions”: “Emma became aware of the extent of her husband’s involvement in plural marriage on April 29, 1842” (173–74). This claim raises the question of what Cheryl affirms Emma knew before the Relief Society was organized on March 17 because she wrote that Emma then “considered the society an opportunity to oppose her husband’s teachings about plural marriage” (168–69).

    In defense of her theory, Cheryl wrote: “There was a disturbance in the Smith home on that date, which Joseph (or at the very least, Willard Richards, speaking for Joseph) described as a ‘conspiracy against the peace of his household.’ The use of the word ‘conspiracy’ suggests that this was not simply Joseph and Emma squabbling about doing the laundry.” Joseph’s journal records for that date: “[It] was made manifest[,] a conspiracy against the peace of his househould.” “J.C.B.” is written lightly in the margin by scribe Willard Richards. I agree the disturbance probably was not over something like the “laundry.” However, we simply do not know what happened.

    Observers could assume that John C. Bennett was a polygamy insider and then assume that he confronted Emma with Joseph’s private celestial marriage teachings and thereafter assume Emma believed him and also assume that Emma rejected them and then assume that afterwards she sought to publicly oppose them, but that is a lot of assuming. Besides, the evidence is strong that Bennett was not a polygamy insider and never spoke with Joseph regarding eternal marriage. Assuming Emma would reject the teachings when presented to her seems unfair and is without documentation.

    Regardless, Cheryl observes: “Emma was absent at the next two meetings of the Relief Society, and because its officers and members consisted of women who were either married to Joseph or deeply immersed in Joseph-led polygamy, some have suggested that this was the point where Emma became aware of the sisters’ involvement.” In fact, Cheryl is in error. Emma attended the “Sixth Meeting of the Society” on April 28 and then she missed the “Seventh Meeting of the Society” on May 13, but Joseph attended it and prayed and offered a few comments, but there is no indication of any controversy. His journal records that he had “been in his garden & with his family much of the day.” Then Emma was present for the “Eighth Meeting of the Society” on May 19 where she issued a warning to the sisters. The minutes record: “Mrs. Prest. said this day was an evil day – that there is as much evil in this as in any other place . . . that much of this iniquity was practiced by some in authority, pretending to be sanction’d by Prest. Smith.” In contrast to Cheryl’s claims that Emma missed two meetings, she only missed one and there is nothing to support that her absence had anything to do with plural marriage or a “power struggle” between her and Joseph.

    Relief Society Minutes May 26, 1842

    Concerning the RS minutes from the May 26 meeting, Cheryl writes: “Especially juicy is the exchange where Joseph requests the President and Society to ‘hold your tongues’ as a matter of policy.” Cheryl is referring to Joseph’s discourse on that date. Eliza R. Snow recorded: “Said he had been instrumental in bringing [the iniquity among us] to light—melancholy and awful [it is] that so many are under the condemnation of the devil & going to perdition With deep feeling said that they are our fellows—we lov’d them once. Shall we not encourage them to reformation? . . . hold your tongues about things of no moment, a little tale will set the world on fire. At this time the truth on the guilty should not be told openly.”

    Joseph reported he had brought iniquity to light, which was why he counseled the audience to “hold their tongues” regarding “the truth on the guilty.” What “iniquity” was then being investigated in Nauvoo? Between May 21 and 28, 1842, the High Council met several times to explore reports of adulteries instigated by John C. Bennett and his followers, adulteries Joseph had personally brought to light. Among the women called to testify were Catherine Fuller Warren, Mary Hardman, Melinda Lewis, Caroline Butler, Matilda Nyman, Margaret Nyman, Polly Mecham, Polly Masheres, Melinda Lewis, and Maria Champlin. Their testimonies incriminated others including Justus Morse, Mrs. Barriss, George W. Thatcher, Lyman O. Littlefield, Joel S. Miles, Mrs. Alfred Brown, J. B. Backenstos, and Alexander McRay. Many of those who were investigated by the high council repented or were innocent.

    Immediately after her husband’s comments, Emma added: “Mrs. Prest. rose and said all idle rumor and idle talk must be laid aside yet sin must not be covered, especially those sins which are against the law of God and the laws of the country— all who walk disorderly must reform, and any knowing of heinous sins against the law of God, and refuse to expose them, becomes the offender— said she wanted none in this Society who had violated the laws of virtue.”

    Cheryl affirms: “Through public exchanges such as this, and private observations made by Joseph and others, it is apparent that Emma continued to struggle with the doctrine of celestial plural marriage” (175). This seems like an extreme interpretation of ambiguous evidence. The Nauvoo High Council investigations were ongoing so Emma’s comment that no transgressions should be “covered” was unsurprising.

    Of course Cheryl is entitled to her opinion, but to date, I’m not impressed with the evidence she cites in support of the idea that Emma knew of Joseph’s celestial marriage teachings or opposed him in 1842.

    Cheryl may provide interlineal comments or if she is too busy, I’ll just get to wrangle with her over “adoption” at Sunstone next month.

    Thanks,

    Brian

  44. First of all, thank you, Cheryl, for a thought-provoking article and thread.

    Brian Hales wrote: “The problem for Cheryl’s reconstruction is that Joseph taught sexual polyandry was adultery (D&C 132:41-42, 61-63) and that no woman could have two lawful husbands according to God’s laws (D&C 22:1, 132:4). This supports that they were nonsexual “eternity only” sealings except for Louisa and Agnes.”

    This seems to be a misreading of the verses Brian cites:

    “41 And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.

    42 If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery.”

    Verse 41 tells us that a woman in the new and everlasting covenant who is with another man commits adultery only when the Lord has “not appointed unto her by the holy anointing.” In other words, if the Lord has appointed unto her by the holy anointing, a woman can be with another man without committing adultery. This seems to be clear justification for sexual polyandry and not, as Brian argues, a proscription of it.

  45. I really do wish I had more time to respond…perhaps this weekend. But for now I’ll just make a couple of quick comments.

    This is guaranteed to raise Brian’s hackles, but we know that Joseph Smith did things that were contrary to the revelations he received. In certain instances he was chastised for this. His own revelations suggest that his behavior was not always consistent with his profession.

    Especially when a revelation is as ambiguous as the above, we cannot use it to prove that Joseph Smith did not practice sexual polyandry. That revelation was given after many of his polyandrous marriages, and there may have been mitigating factors which allowed Joseph to justify such actions–for example, his teaching that marriages contracted without priesthood authority were invalid.

  46. I’d also like to address the comments Brian made on Emma’s 1842 Relief Society attendance–a careful reading of Avery as quoted in my paper shows that the two meetings she has Emma missing are the meeting following the 29 April disturbance (which would have been the 5th of May, but the meeting was not held), and the meeting on the 13th of May.

    Far more interesting to me, and more a propos to my research is that Emma did not attend Relief Society AT ALL from Sept. 1, 1842 to March 9, 1844, when she called a special gathering of the sisters, in the morning and again in the afternoon, to read the “Voice of Innocence” and to put the sisters under covenant not to be involved in polygamy. She repeated this on two successive Saturdays, for a total of four meetings. Emma intended to continue in this vein, but was instead shut down, and the Relief Society never met again in Nauvoo.

    Looking back, John Taylor said that the reason the RS meetings were discontinued was that Emma Smith “taught the Sisters that the principles of Celestial marriage as taught and practiced was not of God.”

    This information makes it difficult for Brian to maintain that Emma and Joseph were not publicly at odds on the issue of polygamy.

  47. Reading back on Brian’s long remarks in #47, I believe I have already answered most of his concerns in previous comments. That is, except his oft-repeated accusation that I have characterized Joseph’s extra-marital interactions with women as “indiscretions.”

    Honestly, I did not intend that this word would put Joseph in a bad light. Mormonism is not a religion of papal infallibility. On the other hand, if Brian refuses to entertain the possibility that Joseph ever committed an “indiscretion,” how can he impartially consider historical evidence and come to a reasoned conclusion?

  48. Isn’t it quite possible, that in the wake of Emma’s comments in 1844, that the JCB penciled in the margin of the entry about the peace of Joseph’s house being disturbed, could have been written during that period? Emma links the two with her comments on the Voice of Innocence. In Mormon Enigma they write,

    [Emma] then presented both the “Voice of Innocence” and the presidency’s letter, stating that the two documents contained the principles the society had started upon, but she “was sorry to have to say that all had not adhere’d to them.” Referring to Joseph’s original charge to search out iniquity, Emma reminded the women that she was the president of the society by the authority of Joseph. The minutes record, “If there ever was any Authority on earth [to search out iniquity] she had it–and had [it] yet.” Emma urged the women to follow the teachings of Joseph Smith as he taught them “from the stand,” implying that his private teachings should be disregarded. Reminding them that “there could not be stronger language than that just read,” she emphasized that those were Joseph’s words” (Mormon Enigma, p. 174).

    Interesting that Clayton writes in July 1844:

    President Marks came up to enquire which was best to do about appointing a Trustee. We concluded to call a meeting of the several presidents of Quorums and their Council this P.M. at 2 o’clock. As I returned to dinner, Brother [Newel K.] Whitney came down with me and stated his feelings about Marks being appointed Trustee. He referred me to the fact of Marks being with [William] Law and Emma IN OPPOSITION to Joseph and the Quorum. And if Marks is appointed Trustee our spiritual blessings will be destroyed inasmuch as he is not favorable to the most important matters.

    Here is an admission by Clayton that Emma indeed was in opposition to Joseph, and he knew it. Did Emma just change her mind? I don’t think so, the evidence shows that she only very reluctantly indulged Joseph, and that Joseph tried everything, even “using harsh measures” in August 1843, to get her to stop abusing him.

    Emma turned “friendly and kind” when she was ordained a queen with Joseph in October 1843. Even Emily Partridge, years later wrote,

    “After these many years I can truly say; poor Emma. She could not stand polygamy, but she was a good woman, and I never wish to stand in her way of happiness and exaltation. I hope the Lord will be merciful to her, and I believe he will.… (Diary, 1883)

    If Joseph didn’t lie about polygamy, as Brian believes, then why in October of 1843 did he have Willard Richards write,on the 5th:

    Morning rode out with Esqu[ire] Butterfield to farm &c. P.M. rode on prairie to shew some brethren some land. Eve[ning] at home. Walked up and down St[reet] with Scribe and gave instructions to try those who were preaching, teaching, or practicing [practicing crossed out] the doctrine of plurality of wives on this Law. Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.

    This states “plurality of wives”, not “polygamy” or “spiritual wife system”, — exactly what Joseph was teaching privately, plurality of wives.

    This was right at the time that Emma was anointed a queen. No wonder she was in a better mood towards him.

    Also, wasn’t the wife of Ebeneezer Robinson spying on Joseph at the behest of Emma Smith in the winter of 1841 and when Joseph found out about it he was furious and cursed her out? (Angeline) He then had a revelation (January 1842) which took away the Times and Seasons from Robinson. It is not unreasonable that Emma would soon have her suspicions confirmed, in April of 1842.

  49. That revelation was given after many of his polyandrous marriages, and there may have been mitigating factors which allowed Joseph to justify such actions–for example, his teaching that marriages contracted without priesthood authority were invalid. – See more at: http://www.withoutend.org/emmas-awareness-response-brian-hales-jmh-letter-editor/#comment-70795

    Cheryl, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t Brian’s position that such a scenario he would not consider Sexual Polyandry – but rather serial marriage – , as in such a case, I believe Brian’s position goes, in Joseph’s mind, there would only have been one present valid marriage, with a previous civil marriage becoming considered superceded and nullified (even possibly without the husband’s knowledge) by his marriage to the bride under the New Covenant. I know this is definitely a semantic issue, but may be a cause of some of you talking past each other on points where you substantially agree – just not in terms of nomenclature.

    I welcome correction if I misrepresented Brian’s position – this is how I understood it from reading his 3-volume set of books, listening to his podcasts, etc.

  50. David T., #53
    You may be right, but as I understand it, Brian’s position on the polyandrous marriages is that they were “eternity only” sealings, with no sexual component whatsoever. In some cases, if I recall correctly, the women were having children with their husbands at the same time they were married to Joseph.

    My point was that we cannot use the revelations in D&C that one should not commit adultery as proof that Joseph was not having relations with his polyandrous wives. He may have had justification (in his own mind) for doing so; or alternately, he may have been acting contrary to his own understanding of the revelations–as we humans all do on occasion.

  51. the polyandrous marriages is that they were “eternity only” sealings, with no sexual component whatsoever.

    I believe he acknowledges that what is popularly seen as the general category of polyandrous marriages can, with evidence, be subdivided into different categories – “eternity only”, and “time and eternity”, with the “time and eternity” cancelling out the civil marriage, and halting the permission of sexuality in those old marriages, with the “eternity only” not allowing sexuality with Joseph, but maintaining it with the still acknowledged “time only” husband. In each case, sexuality was only permitted with a single husband. Hence Brian’s issue with the acceptance of describing what happened as sexual polyandry.

    While I do not agree with all of his conclusions, I did find this aspect of Hales’ work particularly intriguing, and with what seemd to be good arguments.

  52. If these women who sealed to Smith while having children to their legal husband, to whom did these children sealed to for the next life? Intersting family conversation around the dinner table.

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