Critics have had over three years to prove I was wrong to assert Joseph Smith was an honorable man who rarely, if ever, consummated the covenants he entered into with women other than his wife, Emma. No one has assembled a reasonable alternate explanation for the lack of children from dozens of “plural marriages.” Despite various instances of ridicule on the one hand or unreasoning dismissal on the other hand, no one has attacked my core thesis and proven me wrong.
Meanwhile I have found additional information that further clarifies this important topic.
I assert Joseph’s actions were prompted by a desire to save his people from a heresy that threatened to derail the restoration itself. Many have considered my position and found it a satisfying answer to the confusion of facts history has left to us.
The sixth edition of Reluctant Polygamist was published March 17, 2017, the 175th anniversary of the founding of Relief Society (now available on Amazon.com). There was no organization more effective than the Relief Society at combating the heresy of illicit intercourse corrupting Nauvoo in 1842. So I thought it fitting that this important anniversary be marked by publication of a revision that points out with even more clarity how Relief Society saved the Saints in 1842. Though the electronic edition was available March 17, I wanted to wait until after General Conference to mention it here at Millennial Star.
However I have no interest in restricting readers to paper copies. The pdf of the sixth edition is available by clicking the following link: Reluctant Polygamist, 6th Edition. I will be discontinuing availability of earlier editions on May 1, though pdf versions of all earlier editions will become available on the Reluctant Polygamist website at that point. The Reluctant Polygamist website will also provide the content of the most recent book in webpages that can be translated into any of 90 languages, along with instructions on how to get the internet or a pdf reader to speak the content to you. These webpages will also include future errata, additional references not included in the print version, and new evidences as they arise. Continue reading It’s a Wrap: Reluctant Polygamist, 6th and Final Edition
The first weekend in February is when Nauvoo hosts two events.
One is the Saturday recreation of the 1846 exodus, when the Mormons fleeing Illinois traveled down Parley Street to the Mississippi. The annual celebration starts in the Family Living Center (with food), then all march out to the landing in the cold. Nice words are said, then folks return to their parked cars and head home. It’s definitely something worth doing at least once.
In recent years, the Nauvoo Untold Stories Symposium is held Friday and Saturday, with evening presentations on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s a great mix of folk history and cherishing the lore of the main religious and ethnic groups that have passed through Nauvoo. This year featured exploration of DNA, the Smith burial grounds, German cookies, Joseph Smith’s plans to escape Carthage, and other good stuff. Continue reading Nauvoo Untold Stories – 2017 Highlights
175 years ago Brigham Young reportedly attempted to convince Martha Brotherton to be his “wife.” The conversation between Martha and Brigham Young reportedly occurred in the Red Brick Store (pictured above). The exact date is not known, but the conversation almost certainly occurred in the latter half of December 1841.
Many have presumed that the conversation was a “legitimate” proposal that Martha become Brigham’s plural wife within the context of Joseph Smith’s teachings regarding Celestial Marriage and the New and Everlasting Covenant. After all, Martha claimed that Joseph Smith was one of the three men who spoke with her that day, urging her to accept Brigham’s proposal.
However it should be remembered that Martha placed Joseph Smith at the scene in an affidavit written at the express invitation of Dr. John C. Bennett, who was attempting to tarnish Joseph Smith’s reputation. From the contemporary journal of a faithful Mormon, it appears Joseph Smith felt Brigham’s attempt to coerce Martha Brotherton was a transgression so serious that Joseph feared Brigham would be struck down and die. 1 As discussed in my post Saul, Alma the Younger, and the tale of Martha Brotherton, it is plausible that Martha’s account was largely based on actual events. However the third man participating in the conversations Martha described was likely an unwitting Hyrum Smith, rather than Joseph Smith.
[Textile Workers in 1909 embodying the 4th definition of “striker”]
This past June/July, I spent a couple of weeks hanging out over at another LDS-themed website. I had been induced to visit this other site because I became aware my name was being used in vain.
I learned a few useful things as a result of that interaction, because some of those participating in that forum had knowledge I did not yet have. They didn’t cause me to question any of my primary theses regarding Nauvoo events, but they did make me wonder about my use of the term “striker” to describe the seducers who were telling women it was acceptable to participate in illicit intercourse. The strident critics on that other site claimed I was entirely wrong in the use of this one word. They pulled up various citations from the mid 1800s that indicated “striker” was a term that seemed to convey the idea of political activism. So I was planning to remove the term “striker” from a future update of my book, Reluctant Polygamist.
Luckily, I hadn’t gotten around to excising “striker” from my book. It turns out the term means what I thought it meant, and the word would have been even more upsetting and pertinent than I realized. Continue reading Striker: History of a Definition
Carol Lynn Pearson, who describes herself as one of the “wise-woman elders” of Mormonism, has written a book documenting how the specter of eternal polygamy pains those who have embraced Mormonism.
For many Mormons as old as me, Carol Lynn Pearson was *the* Mormon poet. Her poetic voice was clear and inspiring in her initial books of her poetry, widely quoted in Mormon circles. Her life appeared to be unusually graced until her beloved husband came out as gay. Pearson’s book about her husband was published in 1986, after her former husband died from complications related to AIDS.
Pearson started as precocious and innocent girl believing the promises of 1970s Mormonism and has arrived at the status of elderly and wounded woman, crying out to God and us listeners with her stories of how entitled polygamous patriarchy harms everyone, but particularly the female members of the Mormon tribe.
As a reviewer, I am simultaneously irritated with Pearson while applauding her clarity in pointing out the damage stupid beliefs about eternal polygamy can cause.
I am irritated because she sees Mormon plural marriage through a lens I no longer see as valid, a lens through which she describes Joseph Smith “taking” 30-40 wives, including some with legal husbands and at least one as young as fourteen. I would have rendered that phrase that Joseph Smith covenanted with ~40 women, including some with legal husbands and one woman who may have been as young as thirteen. But I would have pointed out that in every case that has been examined, the few children borne by these women during this time have been positively confirmed to be the biological children of the legal husband (with no confident reports that any otherwise unmarried women conceived at all). And I point out the vast sexual heresy that engulfed Nauvoo in 1841-1842, to which I posit Joseph was responding to by entering into covenants with associated teachings, covenants that appear to have been asexual for the most part.
Yet I applaud Pearson because the pain she describes is the very reason why I feel it is so critical to unearth the forgotten sins of our past, the truths it appears our pioneer forebears had righteously buried in full repentance before their Lord, Jesus Christ. Continue reading Pearson’s Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Review
This past Saturday I attended the temple with my husband. This was the first time I’d experienced the endowment ceremony since coming to believe that Hyrum Smith, rather than Joseph Smith, may have been the third man Martha Brotherton described in her 1842 affidavit.
I completely overlooked Adam and Eve, the iconic figures who transgressed and yet were then promised the salvation of Christ could redeem them.
For those not familiar with the endowment, let me repeat Glen M. Leonard’s description. The endowment:
[set] forth a pattern or figurative model for life. The teachings began with a recital of the creation of the earth and its preparation to host life. The story carried the familiar ring of the Genesis account, echoed as well in Joseph Smith’s revealed book of Moses and book of Abraham. The disobedience and expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden set the stage for an explanation of Christ’s atonement for that original transgression and for the sins of the entire human family. Also included was a recital of man’s tendency to stray from the truth through apostasy and the need for apostolic authority to administer authoritative ordinances and teach true gospel principles. Participants were reminded that in addition to the Savior’s redemptive gift they must be obedient to God’s commandments to obtain a celestial glory. Within the context of these gospel instructions, the initiates made covenants of personal virtue and benevolence and of commitment to the church. They agreed to devote their talents and means to spread the gospel, to strengthen the church, and to prepare the earth for the return of Jesus Christ. 1
Leonard, Glen M., Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise, (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 2002), 258-259, cited by Devery S. Anderson, The Anointed Quorum in Nauvoo, 1842-45, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Fall 2003), pp. 137-138, available 22 Aug 2016 at https://archive.org/stream/AnointedQuorum/Anointed%20Quorum_djvu.txt ↩
I am not certain what the wording of the original endowment was, but I am certain that it did not allow for random liaisons of temporary duration, which was the hallmark of Bennett’s illicit intercourse or “spiritual wifery” heresy. ↩
As we consider scripture, we see great individuals who have overcome a terrible past.
Saul, later Paul, began his career of tormenting Christ’s followers by volunteering to hold the clothing of those who stoned Stephen, a believer. He went on to actively persecute Christians, until he was stopped by a divine revelation on the road to Damascus. Yet he went on to become one of the greatest of the early Christian apostles.
Alma, son of the Alma who had been a priest in the court of King Noah, went about actively destroying the Church of God. It is unclear how much of the later apostasy and warfare that troubled the Nephite and Lamanite peoples were directly attributable to the youthful actions of Alma “the younger.” Yet the younger Alma went on to become a great political and religious leader, honored in his own time as well as by modern Mormons.
I have suggested that some early Mormons were like Alma the younger and Saul/Paul. We know them and honor them for their great goodness. But I detect the traces of a troubled past of which they repented.
This past month, as a tangential result of my foray into an alternate Mormon-themed website, I tumbled across something that has stood in plain site, yet unseen across the decades. It makes sense of things, yet it does not make me glad. I am now persuaded that someone I previously saw as uncorrupted had an episode in their past that rivals the evil of Saul and the youthful Alma. Continue reading Saul, Alma the Younger, and the tale of Martha Brotherton
I had a delightful time at the Mormon History Association Conference this past weekend. I met scores of individuals, many of whom I had only read about. They were uniformly gracious in person, including those with whom I have sparred online.
But I realized the road to being accepted by some in this community is paved by scholarly papers.
As I evaluated why I have written this book, I realized I simply want this version of Joseph Smith to be available to a large number of people as soon as possible. So I am making the pdf version of the book available to anyone who wants to download it. Just click on the cover image in this post.
If you really want a physical copy of the book, it is being carried by Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City and you can get the book from Amazon. Even though I’m now giving away the pdf, I still think the nicest format is Kindle, making it trivially easy to access the footnotes. The version currently available via these sellers has the old cover and doesn’t include the updates based on Ugo Perego’s latest DNA analysis. The updated version represented by the pdf will be published on June 27th. Continue reading Free Book, or What I learned at MHA
From the time Pluto was discovered in 1930, we had only the fuzziest images of the fascinating celestial body. The highest resolution images came from the Hubble telescope (image on far left). As the New Horizons space probe sent back images, space enthusiasts were excited to see hints of details that explained the asymmetries seen with the Hubble telescope. When New Horizons passed within 8,000 miles of Pluto in July 2015, the clarity with which we could now see Pluto was absolutely thrilling.
I’ve felt that same kind of Eureka! moment as I come to better understand Joseph Smith and the details of his actions and teachings regarding Celestial marriage. In the past I was blogging about things every week, and so you would hear what I was learning. Then I stepped back to write it up as a book, and have since been preparing for the June edition I’ll push out right before the Mormon History Association Conference.