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Joseph Smith Statements Denying Polygamy

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Joseph Smith Statements Denying Polygamy

WWCB series (Why We Can't Believe)
Joel B. Groat

Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of Joseph Smith's character is his willingness to practice or teach something privately yet deny it publicly. He even severely sanctioned other Mormons who practiced what he taught. Links to scans of the original documents cited are provided below.

  • "MARRIAGE. v. 4 "Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251 (1835)

    "...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one." (Joseph Smith - who at the time had secretly taken at least 25 plural wives)
  • Joseph Smith refers people to extract from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage which disavows polygamy, stating that this is "the only rule allowed by the church." Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 909 (1842). See bottom half of left-hand column.

  • Joseph Smith repeats again statement from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage to deny all allegations of polygamy being practice. Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 939 (1842)

  • Joseph and Hyrum Smith announce the excommunication of Hiram Brown, a member of the Church, for "preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan." Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 423 (1844)

  • Hyrum Smith, with full knowledge and consent of his brother Joseph, publishes statement categorically denying any teaching of plural wives or polygamy, and that all such teaching is false doctrine. “… some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may has as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practiced here.” Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 474 (March, 1844)

  • Statement denouncing teaching of plural wives as fiendish. States that the spiritual wife system merely allows a man to be married to another wife for time and eternity if his first wife dies. Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 715 (1844) See bottom half of right column A.

  • "...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday May 26, 1844.  At the time he had secretly taken at over 25 plural wives.

The dishonesty regarding polygamy is a legacy that haunts much of LDS history to this day.  It has been perpetuated by Mormon "prophets" to this day, and is exemplified in the following statement regarding these denials by historian D. Michael Quinn:

Some elements of these Nauvoo denials obviously did not square with the historically verifiable practice of plural marriage during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. In an effort to counter the Reorganized Church’s use of these Nauvoo denials, Joseph Fielding Smith, an assistant in the Church Historian’s Office since 1901, asserted in 1905:

"I have copied the following from the Prophet’s manuscript record of Oct.5, 1843, and know it is genuine" and then quoted Joseph Smith’s diary that he alleged concluded, ". . . and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise." The handwritten Nauvoo diary of Joseph Smith for 5, October 1843 actually ends: "No men shall have but one wife."60

Even after the Mormons left Illinois in 1846 for territories where polygamy was not in legal jeopardy, these denials continued. In January 1850, the LDS Millennial Star in England printed a reply to anti-Mormons, which stated in part:

12th Lie—Joseph Smith taught a system of polygamy.

12th Refutation—The Revelations given through Joseph Smith, state the following . . . "We believe that one man should have one wife."Doctrine and Covenants, page 331.61

The editor of the Star at this time was Apostle Orson Pratt, who had temporarily left the Church in 1842 because his wife claimed that Joseph Smith had proposed spiritual marriage to her; subsequently converted to polygamy, Pratt, at the time of this 1850 denial, had already married four plural wives and fathered two polygamous children.62 Nine months later, Apostle John Taylor published a pamphlet of a debate he had in France, which included the statement: "We are accused here of polygamy, and actions the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting.... These things are too outrageous to admit of belief." He answered his opponents by reading the 1835 Article on Marriage.

By this date in 1850, John Taylor had married twelve polygamous wives who had already borne him eight children.63

Click to go to full Quinn article.