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We who enjoy the benefits of the modern Church forget how much Joseph Smith still had left to do at the dawn of 1843. In Joseph’s quest to restore the marriage system described in the Old Testament,[1] he had secured the support of his apostles and several close associates (male and female).

Joseph had also largely gotten rid of the “sort which creep into houses, and lead captive… women laden with sins…” [2] and provided for the women who had been misled. However Joseph still had to convince the thousands of Mormon converts of this marriage doctrine in the face of all the scurrilous rumors they had heard or inferred.

From January 1843 to the end of May 1843, Joseph began to extend his teachings to those individuals who had been wounded by the rumors about “spiritual wifery.” One of these was Joseph’s older brother, Hyrum Smith. Of the women who had been wounded, the best documented case involves Emily Partridge.

The Conversion of Hyrum Smith

Hyrum Smith was almost six years older than Joseph Smith, and became the oldest surviving son of Lucy Mack [Smith] and Joseph Smith Sr. when Alvin Smith died in the 1820s. Hyrum supported Joseph throughout their lives together. When it came to the Church Joseph restored, Hyrum was one of the first to be baptized and was one of the Eight Witnesses testifying of the reality of the golden plates that gave rise to the Book of Mormon. When the Church was organized on April 6, 1830, Hyrum Smith was the oldest of the six charter members. Hyrum was an early missionary, led early congregations, marched with Zion’s Camp, and was one of those imprisoned in Liberty jail with Joseph Smith.

When Father Smith died, Hyrum became Presiding Patriarch of the Church. A few months later, on January 24, 1841, Hyrum was made Assistant President of the Church. Yet Hyrum did not accept plural marriage until May 26, 1843, though Joseph had taught the doctrine of plural marriage to many men by then.

Young Gideon Carter [3] wrote “Hyrum did not at first receive it [plural marriage] with favor. His whole nature revolted against it. He said to Joseph that if he attempted to introduce the practice of that doctrine as a tenet of The Church it would break up The Church and cost him his life.” [4]

Joseph asked Hyrum to ask the Lord about it. After much anguish, Hyrum confronted Brigham Young near the Masonic Hall. The two sat themselves on a pile of fence rails that lay nearby. The exchange between the two can be found in a 1866 sermon recorded in George D. Watts’s Journal of Discourses:

“[B]rother Brigham, I want to talk to you… I have a question to ask you. In the first place I say unto you, that I do know that you and the twelve know some things that I do not know. I can understand this by the motions, and talk, and doings of Joseph, and I know there is something or other, which I do not understand, that is revealed to the Twelve. Is this so?”

Brigham said, “I do not know any thing about what you know, but I know what I know.”

Hyrum continued, “I have mistrusted for along time that Joseph has received a revelation that a man should have more than one wife, and he has hinted as much to me, but I would not bear it… I want to know the truth and to be saved.”

Once Brigham was convinced that Hyrum would not work against Joseph, he confided that Joseph had many wives sealed to him. Hyrum wept like a child, and went to Joseph. Hyrum “renewed his covenant with Joseph, and they went heart and hand together while they lived, and they were together when they died…” [5]

The Partridge Sisters

By 1843, practically all those who were members of the Mormon Church had become aware of John C. Bennett’s accusations against Joseph. However the accusations particularly affected women who had been questioned during the desperate investigation that led to Bennett’s expulsion.

Edward Partridge had died of ague in May 1840, leaving his family ill and without support. Two of his daughters, Emily (16) and Eliza (20) determined to “hire out” as maids. Joseph and Emma Smith had taken them in, providing Emily and Eliza with the necessities of life in exchange for their help around the homestead.

During the spring of 1842, when Joseph and Emma were trying to identify and help the victims while uncovering those still seducing, Emily claims Joseph said, “Emily, if you will not betray me, I will tell you something for your benefit.”

When it became clear Emily would not allow Joseph to get a private moment to talk with her, Joseph offered to give Emily a letter if she would promise to burn it afterwards. Emily refused to accept the letter, saying she “shut [Joseph] up so quick.” [6]

Joseph was apparently still concerned that the seducers might have gotten to the Partridge girls. He apparently had Elizabeth Durfee invite Emily and Eliza to her home soon after Emily refused Joseph’s letter. In Emily’s autobiography, she writes that Mrs. Durfee “introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in that day. She wondered if there was any truth in the report she heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to. I kept my own council and said nothing.”

As they walked home that night, Emily told her sister, Eliza, about how Joseph had attempted to talk with her. Emily wrote “She felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed soon after.” [7]

What Emily could not know is whether Joseph and Emma and others living in the Smith homestead noticed Eliza’s depression and Emily’s refusal to be in a situation where she was alone with Joseph.

Emily turned nineteen on February 1843, a year after the conversation with Mrs. Durfee. During the intervening months, Emily had decided she would be willing to receive Joseph if he ever tried again.

On March 4, 1843, Mrs. Durfee told Emily that Joseph wanted to speak with her at the home of Heber Kimball that evening. When Emily asked what Joseph wanted, Mrs. Durfee replied she thought Joseph wanted Emily for a wife. Emily worried all day about the interview, to the point that she did not change out of the clothes she had worn to do the washing.

Throwing a cloak over herself, Emily told her sister Eliza she was going to visit their mother, which she briefly did. Then Emily proceeded to the Kimball home, but found only the children at home. She waited until Heber Kimball and Joseph arrived. The men sent the children to a neighbor and Kimball told Emily to leave as well. As Emily was hurrying away, Heber Kimball quietly called after her, eventually getting her to return to talk with Joseph.

Decades later when Emily testified during the Temple Lot trial, she would relate “He taught me this principle of plural marriage that is called polygamy now, but we called it celestial marriage, and he told me that this principle had been revealed to him but it was not generally known; and he went on and said that the Lord had given me to him, and he wanted to know if I would consent to a marriage, and I consented.” [8] Elsewhere she wrote, “Well I was married there and then. Joseph went home his way and I going my way alone. A strange way of getting married, wasn’t it?” [9]

On March 8, 1843, Joseph similarly “wed” Eliza Partridge. Eliza was more reserved than Emily and passed away before the Temple Lot trial, so we do not have any details specific to Eliza Partridge’s March 1843 covenant with Joseph.

Emily and Eliza Partridge likely presumed Joseph would re-enact the high pressure sexual importuning they would had heard about in 1842. However the reality in March 1843 appears to have been ceremonial, unconsummated marriage – wholly other than what they had expected.

In May 1843 Emma Smith finally decided she would openly participate in Joseph’s covenants with  other women, starting with the Partridge sisters. Emma’s involvement in Joseph’s covenants with other women is covered in more detail the next chapter, “Emma’s Ultimatum.”

Chronology of Early 1843 Sealings

With the background of these stories involving Hyrum Smith and the Partridge sisters, let us look at all the plural marriage activity taking place in early 1843, prior to Emma’s decision to openly participate in facilitating Joseph’s covenants with other women.

Joseph Smith asked Willard Richards to embrace plural marriage. In January 1843 Richards arranged to covenant with Sarah and Fanny Longstroth, English converts who had come to America but had failed to gather to Nauvoo. Richards went to St. Louis where the family lived and asked if he could covenant with the two girls, then 16 and 14. Longstroth family histories state the marriages were not consummated until after the sisters were sealed to Willard Richards in the Nauvoo temple in 1846. [10]

William D. Huntington was brother to Joseph’s early wives, Zina and Presendia. On February 5, 1843, William covenanted with Harriet Clark, the sister of his first wife, Caroline Clark. We do not know how Bennett’s attack on Joseph might have affected William’s household and the sister of his first wife. Harriet would not conceive until after Joseph Smith’s death, indicating a possibility that William’s marriage to Harriet may have remained unconsummated while Joseph lived. [11]

Ruth Vose [Sayers] alleged she was sealed to Joseph for eternity only in February 1843, with Hyrum Smith performing the ceremony. However it seems more likely she mis-remembered the year than that she mis-remembered the officiant, who could not have been Hyrum in February 1843. [12] It is more likely Joseph was sealed to Ruth Vose [Sayers] in 1844.

Orson Hyde covenanted with English-born Martha Rebecca Browett in February or March of 1843. No children resulted from this covenant relationship. In 1850 Martha would marry Thomas McKenzie, an Irish-born convert whose wife died, leaving him with the care of their young daughter. Martha then divorced McKenzie in October 1852 after reaching Salt Lake City. Martha would live until 1904. Orson Hyde went on to covenant with Mary Ann Price [13] in April 1843, another English convert. Mary Ann would conceive after Joseph’s death and have a daughter, Urania, in 1846. These two English converts covenanted with Orson too late for these unions to be associated with the direct activities of Bennett and his Strikers. However it seems likely that they had been affected by the stories of English-born Martha Brotherton and stories about foreign converts being exploited. Mary Ann tells of being introduced to the idea of Celestial marriage by Joseph Smith, and the long weeks before she was finally satisfied that Hyde was a conscientious, upright, and noble man. [14]

Flora Ann Woodworth was daughter of Lucien Woodworth, the construction foreman for the Nauvoo House, intended to eventually house visiting dignitaries. William Clayton gave an affidavit that Flora covenanted with Joseph in the spring of 1843. Willard Richards appears to have written “Woodworth” in shorthand notation in Joseph’s journal for March 4, 1843. Sometime during the summer of 1843, Flora’s mother, Phebe, told Orange Wight that Flora was one of Joseph’s wives. [15] Some researchers propose Joseph also covenanted with Phebe Woodworth, Flora’s mother. [16] This mirrors the way Joseph attempted to teach the true doctrine of the New and Everlasting Covenant to both the wife and daughter of Vinson Knight, who had apparently gone “to loose conduct.”

As mentioned previously, Emily and Eliza Partridge covenanted with  Joseph Smith on March 4th and March 8th respectively, a year after Emily had refused to allow Joseph to talk with her or give her a letter.

Joseph Bates Noble had performed the ceremony sealing Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman, Noble’s sister-in-law, in spring 1841. We do not know what Noble thought in the summer of 1841 through the summer of 1842, as Bennett and his Strikers taught that it was right to engage in illicit intercourse as long as no one found out. Somehow Bennett became aware that Joseph Bates Noble had performed a ceremony uniting Louisa Beaman with Joseph Smith. [17] It seems most likely that Noble, himself, shared the story with someone in Bennett’s circle. On April 5, 1843, Joseph Smith sealed Joseph Bates Noble to Sarah B. Alley, a convert from Massachusetts who was in her early twenties. Sarah B. Alley conceived her son, George, in mid-May, assuming full term gestation. Sarah Alley’s social circle included Sarah Peak [Noon], the English widow who had become Heber Kimball’s first plural wife in 1842. When Alley became pregnant, the news “was commited to Sarah [Noon] and she was requested not to tell…” [18]

Later that summer, Joseph took Erastus Snow on a walk and talked with him about “the Celestial Order of Marriage.” Erastus was the brother-in-law of Louisa Beaman. Joseph confided in Erastus regarding the 1831 circumstances leading to the revelation regarding plural marriage. Joseph asserted that “the time had come now when the principle should be practiced.” Erastus would not marry a plural wife until 1844. His writings on the topic would not be captured by Andrew Jensen until five years before Erastus died in 1888. [19]

Joseph Smith’s secretary, William Clayton, had married Ruth Moon in 1836. On April 27, 1843, Ruth’s sister, Margaret Moon, covenanted with William Clayton. Margaret conceived and gave birth to a son on February 18, 1844. [20] Assuming a full-term delivery, this indicates conception occurred in late May, 1843.

Lucy Walker tells of being sixteen in 1842 and having a discussion with Joseph Smith where he said, “I have a message for you. I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” [21] Joseph went on to explain how Celestial marriage could link families together for eternity, saying that Celestial marriage was restored for the benefit of the human family. It would prove an everlasting blessing to Lucy’s father’s house and form a chain that could never be broken. Lucy’s mother had died in January 1842, a death which had fractured the family. Lucy refused Joseph’s teachings in 1842 and described herself as being:

“tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable. Oh that the grave would kindly receive me that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother.”

Lucy’s account gives a fascinating glimpse into the audacious economy with which Joseph attempted to discover who had been victimized while also teaching about the eternal links that would bind the human family together. In April 1843 Joseph attempted to talk with Lucy again. Lucy recounts that Joseph’s renewed discussion with her “aroused every drop of scotch in my veins…” Lucy told Joseph she could not marry him unless God revealed it to her, and God had not done so yet. [22]

Joseph promised Lucy she would have a manifestation of the will of God concerning her, a testimony she could never deny. That night Lucy experienced her room filling with light, “like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud… My Soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being. And I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of the marriage covenant called Celestial or plural marriage.” [23]

Lucy covenanted with Joseph on May 1, 1843, with William Clayton officiating and Eliza Partridge standing witness.

Lucy had a daughter, Rachel, who died at Winters Quarters in December 1847. The record of Rachel’s death and interment states:

“Rachel Kimball; age 1 yr., 11 mos., 4 days; daughter of Heber and Lucy Kimball; deceased Dec. 29, 1847; disease canker; birthplace Nauvoo, Ill.; birthdate Jan 28, 1845; grave no. 147”

This record contradicts itself. Either Rachel was born in January of 1845, making Joseph Smith the likely biological father, or Rachel was 1 yr., 11 mos, 4 days old, born in January of 1846, conceived months after marrying Heber C. Kimball after Joseph’s death. It appears more likely the age is correct and the date was a mistake. This would validate Lucy’s assertion that “It was not a love matter… [but] to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world.” [24]

Healing Wounded Hearts – Notes

In early 1843, Joseph Smith reached out to a handful of men and women to invite them to enter into plural marriage. Records left by women who became plural wives in early 1843 indicate the woman had serious reservations based on rumors that Joseph Smith practiced spiritual wifery. Time and again these women did gain a testimony that the plural marriage Joseph taught was not evil and/or that the man involved was upright and noble.

English converts and sisters of first wives are disproportionately represented during this first portion of 1843, possibly reflecting the damage Bennett’s accusations had caused to English converts and knowledge of how the news had affected men’s sisters-in-law.

Plural marriage covenants entered into prior to April 1843 did not appear to have a sexual component at that time, based on the reproductive history as well as written statements. In May the plural wives of William Clayton and Joseph Bates Noble conceived. This shows that sexual relations between men and their plural wives did occur prior to Joseph’s death in certain cases wholly unrelated to the illicit intercourse scandal of 1841-1842.

By May 1843, Emma Smith decided she would be willing to offer Joseph a handful of wives, and allow herself to be sealed to Joseph for not only time but for all eternity. The next four months would prove more difficult than Emma had imagined.

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[1] The Book of Mormon includes discussion of plural marriage. As seen in the marriages of the Queen of the Lamanites, Book of Mormon peoples used levirate marriage that conveyed property, as in the story of Ruth.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:6.

[3] Gideon, born 1831, was first cousin to Marietta Carter [Holmes], who had been killed by a mob in August 1840. This story regarding Hyrum Smith was related to B. H. Roberts in 1894.

[4] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 41, online 2 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf.

[5] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, pp. 28-29, online 2 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_ 13.pdf. It appears that around this time Hyrum had a dream of being united to his deceased wife, Jerusha. Mercy Thompson, Hyrum’s sister-in-law, had a corresponding dream of being united to her deceased husband, Robert Thomson. Three days after Hyrum accepted the doctrine of the New and Everlasting Covenant, Hyrum and Mercy stood proxy as each was sealed to their deceased spouses, fulfilling the promise conveyed in their respective dreams.

[6] Emily Dow Partridge Young, Incidents in the Life of a Mormon Girl, undated manuscript, CHL, Ms 5220, pp 186, 186b.

[7] Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 407.

[8] Temple Lot Transcript.

[9] Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 407-408.

[10] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 23-25, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/ Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf. As the Longstroths are not included in the Mormon Migration database, it seems possible they had been in Joseph Fielding’s company with Martha Brotherton, as the records of the Tyrian and her passengers were lost.

[11] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 8, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_ 13.pdf.

[12] Ruth Vose and her non-Mormon husband, Edward Sayers, had taken Joseph in during August 1842, when he was hiding to avoid being extradited to Missouri on charges related to the shooting of Governor Boggs. As recorded by Andrew Jensen, Ruth and Edward Sayers arrived in Nauvoo in 1841. “While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to the theory of a future life insisted that his wife Ruth should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim her in this life. She was accordingly sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus became numbered among the Prophets plural wives though she continued to live with Mr. Sayers until his death.” from Andrew Jensen, “Ruth Vose Sayers Draft biographical sketch,” cited in Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Chapter 12, see note 42. Ruth Sayers would attest in May 1869 that she was sealed to Joseph Smith in February 1843 with Hyrum performing the sealing. However Hyrum had not reconciled with Joseph over plural marriage until May 26, 1843. Nor is it likely Emma would have openly participated in a sealing between Joseph and another woman as early as February 1843. If Ruth was right about the year, her sealing to Joseph likely took place after May 26, 1843. If Ruth was right about the month, her sealing to Joseph likely took place in February 1844. A third possibility presents itself if Joseph agreed to the marriage in February 1843, but the actual ceremony did not occur until after May 26, 1843.Gary Bergera gives his analysis in “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 32-33, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_ 13.pdf.

[13] Mary Ann Price traveled to Utah in 1852, one of four women to drive teams in the Henry W. Miller Company. During that crossing, Mary Ann was still being referred to as Miss Mary Ann Price.

[14] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 8-10, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_ V38N03_13.pdf.

[15] Orange Wight had set his cap for Flora Ann after hearing about plural marriage from Joseph Smith. Orange Wight’s reaction to the awkward revelation by Flora Ann’s mother was to be pleased Joseph had liked a woman he liked, and to try to find some other worthy woman who had not already been snapped up, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 389-391.

[16] See Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 30-31, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf.

[17] John C. Bennett wrote “Joe Smith was privately married to his spiritual wives—in the case of Mrs. A**** S****, by Apostle Brigham Young; and in that of Miss L***** B***** [Louisa Beaman], by Elder Joseph Bates Noble. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; or, An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism [Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], p. 256.

[18] Vilate Kimball letter, cited in Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 18, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V38N03_13.pdf. The confidence between Sarah Peak [Noon Kimball] and Sarah B. Alley [Noble] is consistent with the possibility that they were both pregnant at the same time.

[19] Erastus Snow’s recollection says 1841, but since he was not in Nauvoo until April 1843, this was an error on Snow’s part. We can infer that the 1843 conversation likely occurred no earlier than summer 1843, as Erastus mentions that Emma had administered to Joseph but had since turned against him.

[20] Gary Bergera, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 6-7, online 3 May 2014 at http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_ V38N03_13.pdf.

[21] “Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch,” pp. 5-6, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 463.

[22] “Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch,” cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 464.

[23] “Lucy Walker, Brief Biographical Sketch,” cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 465.

[24] Temple Lot transcript, cited in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 465.