“I’ve got a black spot on my life which will pain me to the very last minute of my existence.” -William Law
The “black spot” was defending brothers Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Law later discovered that in fact Joseph and Hyrum were indeed polygamist. Not only to married women, but also to teenagers.
This part of the lives of Joseph and Hyrum has been left out of the Missionary Discussions, Church Manuals, and Church History books.
The Mormon Church admits they were sexual in nature and to married women:
“For a Church-approved work to state that polygamy involved “conjugal relations” and use the term polyandry is landmark.” 1
FAIR – Admits 30+ Marriages & With Fourteen Year Olds:
“The most conservative estimates indicate that Joseph entered into plural marriages with 29-33 women, 7 of whom were under the age of 18. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was 14. The rest were 16 (two) or 17 (three). One wife (Maria Winchester) about which virtually nothing is known, was either 14 or 15.”
“Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically2 an obstacle to marriage. The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least;”3
FARMS Review – Admits Sexual Relations With Fourteen Year Olds:
Sexuality in Joseph’s plural marriages
“There is no reason to doubt,” G. D. Smith tells us, “that [Joseph’s] marriages involved sexual relations in most instances” (p. 227). There is, in fact, relatively little evidence with which to judge, which means that some doubt is prudent. There is good evidence of a conjugal relationship with Almira Johnson, Melissa Lott, Emily Partridge, and Eliza R. Snow. It is also reasonable to include Eliza Partridge, Maria Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence. The evidence for their inclusion is persuasive, though they are not named specifically. There is late, hostile evidence of intimacy with Fanny Alger, and most intriguingly there is some evidence of both a physical relationship and a child with Sylvia Sessions Lyon. This is only nine marriages out of Todd Compton’s list of thirty-three – or G. D. Smith’s list of thirty-eight – plural marriages.4
Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Attempts Book of Mormon Justification
[The main article on this subject is Plural Marriage. Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began to practice plural marriage, also referred to as “celestial marriage.” This was viewed as a divine commandment to “raise up seed unto” God (Jacob 2:30).5
“He also understood that the Church would one day be required to live the law ( D&C 132:1-4, 28-40).”
“The Book of Mormon makes clear that, though the Lord will command men through his prophets to live the law of plural marriage at special times for his purposes, monogamy is the general standard (Jacob 2:28-30);”6
The one exception in the Book of Mormon was “to raise up seed” and was not met by Joseph or Hyrum Smith.
In addition, neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon associates polygamy with salvation (Mormon exaltation).
Adding insult to injury, Joseph even married women who were already married to faithful men who were able to have children. Brigham Young was even “sealed” to those same women, which contradicted D&C 132 entirely.
Further reading: Wives of Joseph Smith
1. The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843 back
2. The remaining place for Mormon apologists to retreat to after admitting that Joseph married fourteen year olds is to build a case showing that it was not unusual for 39 year olds to marry 14 year olds. Good luck. back
3. FAIR back
4. Gregory L. Smith, “A review of ‘Nauvoo Polygamy:…but we called it celestial marriage’ by George D. Smith,” FARMS Review, vol. 20 (2008), no. 2, pp. 108-109. back
5. Encyclopedia of Mormonism back
6. Encyclopedia of Mormonism back