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Emma Hale had been Joseph’s wife since he was a young, poor man. Since the beginning of their courtship in the late 1820s, Emma was aware of the opposition that faced Joseph. He had repeatedly been attacked, beaten, imprisoned, held at gunpoint and betrayed into enemy hands. Joseph had returned to Emma variously bleeding, bruised, tarred, and emaciated.
Emma would ultimately receive Joseph’s lifeless body, shot in the chest.
Like Hyrum, Emma likely believed that Joseph’s teachings and actions related to the plural marriage aspect of Celestial marriage would cause his death. We see this in her vehement reaction to his sermon regarding potential converts from countries where polygamy was practiced. 
Many have inferred from Emma’s silence that Emma did not know Joseph was covenanting with other women. She does not publicly acknowledge these marriages at any time. But Joseph himself frequently forbade the actual practice of plural marriage. Though Emma herself remained silent, Emma reportedly participated in select covenant ceremonies starting in May 1843. Those reporting her participation include both LDS who followed Brigham Young and RLDS individuals who followed Joseph’s sons. Notably, conceptions by the plural wives of other righteous men only occur in May 1843 and after the fall of 1843,  times when Emma was not vocally opposed to plural marriage.
Why did Emma remain silent if she knew?
Emma’s silence has been interpreted as ignorance of the commandment to restore Celestial marriage and teach plural marriage. But just as lack of children does not confirm lack of sex, Emma’s silence does not necessarily confirm lack of knowledge.
The practice was initially so secretive that there are no contemporary documents at all. Emma would have learned in Kirtland, Ohio, how devastating it could be when she complained to even a trusted intimate (Oliver Cowdery). Emma had been angered to find Joseph alone with Fanny Alger. Oliver inferred from Emma’s anger that Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger was a tawdry affair. But it is not certain Emma’s anger was caused by intimacy between Fanny and Joseph. Even so, the subsequent alienation between Oliver Cowdery and the Church contributed to apostasy at Kirtland and lethal violence in Missouri.
In 1838 Joseph was asked, “Do Mormons believe in having more wives than one?” Joseph replied, “they believe that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again.”  In light of the sealing power Joseph received in 1836, this answer is significant. Emma likely knew of the sealing power, which could bind husbands and wives for eternity, implying the possibility of eternal plural marriage when a surviving spouse remarried. However it cannot be certain Emma understood the implication of Joseph’s well-publicized answer.
Emma was witness to the provocative blessing Father Smith pronounced on Joseph’s head in September 1840, which appears to have told Joseph he would not die until “all the plan of all the work that God requires” was laid out.
Joseph could easily have kept Emma informed of his plans to restore Old Testament marriage practices. But Emma would have had no need to document or discuss plural marriages so long as the marriages remained unconsummated and hidden from the uninitiated.
Another possible motive for Emma’s silence is suggested by the Nauvoo Expositor. In a grossly mangled version of a possible legitimate explanation, the authors of the Nauvoo Expositor wrote:
“it was right anciently… but we must keep those… blessings from the world, for until there is a change… we will endanger ourselves by practicing it.” 
Emma’s silence regarding plural marriage may merely have represented her unwillingness to endanger Joseph’s life.
Emma and the Relief Society.
Emma and Joseph became aware there were sexual predators in Nauvoo in January 1842. The two of them sprang into action to combat the scourge.
As Relief Society President, Emma presided over the female efforts in 1842 to flush out Bennett and his Strikers. She was fully apprised of the fact that high profile men were using their influence to persuade women to agree to illicit intercourse, referred to as spiritual wifery. A study of the Relief Society minutes shows Emma using the Relief Society to investigate irregularities, insisting she wanted none in the Society who had violated the laws of virtue. 
Joseph supported Emma in this, announcing on June 9, 1842, that no one would be admitted to Relief Society unless two or three members of the Relief Society in good standing presented a petition that the prospective member was of good report. 
Emma’s counselors in the Relief Society, the ones investigating the disturbing tales of seduction, were aware of plural marriage. Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Cleveland, and Elizabeth Durfee were involved in plural marriage activities during 1842. It does not seem credible that Emma could have remained unaware of men, such as Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, who were sheltering vulnerable women in 1842.
Giving Joseph the Partridge Sisters.
Emma maintained silence on the topic for a year following the High Council investigation into the illicit intercourse scandal. Silence may merely have been Emma’s refusal to condone by deed or appearance the spiritual wifery and illicit intercourse carried out by Bennett and his men.
By May 1843 a year had passed. Apparently Emma finally felt comfortable allowing individuals outside her immediate circle to know of her knowledge of and involvement in Joseph’s plural marriages.
Emily and Eliza Partridge were working as maid servants in the Smith household, a position very similar to that of handmaiden in the Genesis stories involving plurality of wives. When Emma decided to make her involvement in plural marriage public, Emily and Eliza Partridge were obvious candidates to become Joseph’s ‘public’ plural wives.
Emily and Eliza Partridge had been secretly sealed to Joseph in March 1843. It appears neither Joseph nor Emma explained to Emily Partridge why the ceremonies were being re-solemnized. It is possible repeating the sealings with Emma as part of the ceremony was intended to demonstrate Emma’s public embrace of plural marriage.
Emily presumed that Emma had been ignorant of the March sealings, and that this was the reason the ceremonies were repeated. But Emily Partridge herself was clearly ignorant of much that had happened in 1842. Later in life Emily would suggest that “spiritual wifery” and polygamy were merely alternate terms for Celestial Marriage. Emily described how Sister Durfee “introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in that day.”  In her autobiography, Emily wrote:
“He [Joseph Smith] taught me this principle of plural marriage that is called polygamy now, but we called it Celestial Marriage.” 
The plan was that the Partridge girls would be sealed to Joseph Smith, and then Emma would be sealed to Joseph. Following Emma’s sealing to Joseph, those inner circle couples who were already married would be able to be sealed.  In addition, some whose spouses had died were sealed to the deceased spouse, with a proxy standing in for the departed individual.
Emma was perhaps comforted by the knowledge that Joseph had already covenanted with Emily and Eliza Partridge. The girls had seemed content to be cautious and discrete. And so Emma went through with the repeated sealing ceremony, placing each girls’ hand in the hand of Joseph.
At some point a few days after the May ceremony, Emma became hardened against the Partridge sisters. Emily never understood why this might have occurred. However Emily apparently did not know “spiritual wife” was a bad term. Emily could have easily alienated Emma by referring to herself as a spiritual, as girls had reportedly done in 1841. 
Alternately, Emily and possibly Eliza may have been intimate with Joseph and proceeded to flaunt their conjugal status. In 1894 Emily would testify to prove Joseph had taught plural marriage, a practice his sons repudiated and claimed their father had never taught. Emily’s entire purpose in testifying was to keep the RLDS Church from retaining control of the Temple Lot. When asked if she had engaged in “carnal intercourse” with Joseph, Emily responded, “Yes, sir.” 
Emma would have been infuriated and frightened if Emily or Eliza Partridge equated marriage to Joseph with the sexual practices the young women had heard rumored. Emma would similarly have been frightened if Emily or Eliza openly bragged of their new status as Joseph’s wives.
There is a tale that Emma dragged Eliza down the stairs by her hair.  This one tale regarding Eliza and the stairs seems to refer to Eliza Partridge. Emma Smith might well react in this manner if a previously demure Eliza Partridge called herself a spiritual or openly demanded intimacy with Joseph, heedless of the danger Emma so clearly perceived.
Emma was potentially faced with two young women who risked exposing Joseph by their careless words or by becoming pregnant at a time when they lived in Joseph’s home. Emma immediately set about doing all in her power to prevent the Partridges from having intimate access to Joseph.
Emma could only hope that neither Emily nor Eliza Partridge had become pregnant as a result of their possible activities with Joseph. But as Emma herself had agreed to the sealings, it is completely understandable if Joseph and either of the Partridge sisters had presumed intimacies would be appropriate.
Roughly four months after the possible intimacies in May 1843, Emma would have Joseph send the Partridge girls away. Neither young woman had become pregnant.
Marriage in the Quorum of the Anointed
The ordinance of sealing previously-married couples together had been performed twice before in private, with Joseph officiating. But the sealing of Joseph to Emma was something Joseph could not officiate himself.
On May 28th, Joseph and Emma became the first couple sealed together in quasi-public, at a meeting of the Quorum of the Anointed.  The sealing was performed by James Adams, who was subsequently sealed to his own wife, Harriet Denton [Adams].
This matter of the pending sealings was likely the cause of Hyrum’s question to Brigham Young:
“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?” 
Other couples in the Quorum of the Anointed proceeded to be sealed in subsequent days, a cause of great rejoicing to them. But as the cloak of secrecy was stripped away, Emma became increasingly concerned.
In the days following the Partridge girls’ sealing to Joseph, other young women covenanted with Joseph. Sisters Sarah and Maria Lawrence were sealed to Joseph. Sarah Lawrence would later claim there had been no intimacies between herself and Joseph. Elvira Annie Cowles [Holmes] was sealed to Joseph on 1 June 1843, seemingly having waited for Emma to embrace the New and Everlasting Covenant before entering into such a covenant herself with Joseph Smith. Elvira never discussed whether she slept with Joseph. Her reproductive history suggests her relationship with Joseph Smith was not sexual.
Heber C. Kimball proceeded to insist Joseph covenant his 14-year-old daughter, Helen. Though most serious scholars doubt the relationship was sexual, the ceremony restricted Helen’s subsequent social activities.  Joseph Smith also arranged for Sarah Whitney to marry her widower brother-in-law, who explicitly understood the arrangement to be a pretend marriage. The pretend marriage could have been intended to prevent a suitor from attempting to pursue Sarah. Like Elvira Annie Cowles, Sarah Whitney would not conceive until after Joseph’s death.
Faced by these additional covenant relationships and possibly aware that men were being allowed to be intimate with their wives, Emma reached a breaking point. Emma made a demand of Joseph, and Joseph was commanded to offer her the desire of her heart.  A month later the Lord would command Joseph to revoke the offer, saying “I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else.” 
What might Emma have demanded?
The language of the revelation suggests Emma was promised another husband. Joseph H. Jackson, identified as one of those in the mob that attacked Joseph, claimed Emma wanted to marry William Law.  A more likely possible replacement husband for Emma would have been Jonathan Harriman Holmes, long-time housemate of the Smiths. 
Another possibility is that Emma threatened to simply divorce Joseph if he would not agree to abandon his covenants with other women. An August 1843 entry in William Clayton’s journal hints that Emma had demanded Joseph “relinquish all for her sake.” 
In addition, Emma may have asked Joseph to come away with her and turn the work of the Church in Nauvoo over to others. Joseph’s actions during June 1843 support this last possibility. On June 13, 1843, Joseph took Emma and their children and traveled roughly 200 miles northeast to the home of Emma’s sister, Elizabeth Hale [Wasson], in Inlet Grove or Palestine Grove,  Lee County, Illinois.
It is not clear how long Joseph intended to stay with the Wassons. A week after arriving, Joseph would tell William Clayton and Stephen Markham “I have no fear. I shall not leave here.”
Emma could have remained with her sister for an extended time without causing significant comment, making good on her “divorce” threat. Or Joseph could have planned to remain with Emma at the Wasson household, shifting administration of the Church to the Assistant Presidents of the Church, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and William Law, and the Quorum of the Twelve, headed by Brigham Young.
“I am weary of life… kill me, if you please”
On June 18th word reached Nauvoo that Governor Thomas Ford had issued a writ against Joseph. Illinois planned to honor Missouri’s request to extradite Joseph to stand trial. Stephen Markham and William Clayton were sent to find Joseph and warn him. Markham and Clayton reached Joseph on June 21st. Joseph was not overly worried, but did cancel all public speaking arrangements, including a planned sermon in Dixon.
On Friday, June 23rd, Joseph sent William Clayton to Dixon to scout. While in Dixon, Clayton met two men who claimed to be Mormon missionaries. Clayton gladly told them Joseph was near and how to get there. Clayton did not realize the two men were Joseph H. Reynolds, a sheriff of Jackson County, Missouri, and Constable Harmon T. Wilson, from Carthage, Illinois. They were the very men he had warned Joseph about.
Reynolds and Wilson hurried to the Wasson home, arriving around 2 p.m. Reynolds and Wilson told the Wassons they were Mormon elders, and wanted to see Brother Joseph. B. H. Roberts’s History of the Church contains an account of the arrest, excerpted below:
“Wilson accosted me in a very uncouth, ungentlemanly manner, when Reynolds stepped up to me, collared me, then both of them presented cocked pistols to my breast, without showing any writ or serving any process…
[Reynolds cursed, then said,] “ ‘…if you stir I’ll shoot…’
“I answered, ‘I am not afraid of your shooting; I am not afraid to die.’ I then bared my breast and told them to shoot away. ‘I have endured so much oppression, I am weary of life; and kill me, if you please….’
“They then turned their pistols on me again, jamming them against my side, with their fingers on the triggers, and ordered Markham to stand still or they would shoot me through…
“I then said, ‘Gentlemen, if you have any legal process, I wish to obtain a writ of habeas corpus..’ [The arresting officials cursed again and answered,] ‘…you shan’t have one.’ They still continued their punching me on both sides with their pistols.” 
Reynolds and Wilson forced Joseph into their wagon, continuing to beat him as they removed him from Emma and the children.
In the days after this arrest, we see four women knowledgeable about plural marriage visit the head of Joseph’s body guard, Cornelius Lott. These were Elvira Annie Cowles, Eliza R. Snow, Elizabeth Whitney, and Elizabeth Durfee. It was crucial that Lott rouse himself in defense of Joseph, whose life was at stake. Perhaps they were attempting to set Lott’s mind at ease regarding rumors he had heard. Under the circumstances, it does not seem likely they were visiting at that time to persuade Lott to give Joseph his nubile daughter, Malissa, as some researchers have suggested. 
Lott and others successfully engaged in the contest to return Joseph safely to Nauvoo. As the path of Joseph, Reynolds, and Constable Wilson neared Nauvoo, they stopped at Honey Creek, at the home of Michael Crane. Joseph wrote:
“I showed my sides to Mr. Crane and the company, which still continued black and blue from the bruises I had received from the pistols of Reynolds and Wilson, while riding from Inlet Grove to Dixon eight days ago…” 
Joseph was in the custody of Reynolds and Wilson. But now Reynolds and Wilson were in the custody of Sheriff Campbell and Colonel Markham. The group of them were guarded by Joseph’s friends, ensuring that none could escape. By this point Joseph was headed safely towards home, and Reynolds and Wilson were the ones who would have been afraid.
Emma and Hyrum tearfully greeted Joseph outside of Nauvoo. Joseph’s return became a great celebration, with the band playing and guns and cannon firing. Joseph mounted his favorite horse, “Old Charley.” He rode into town with Emma at his side. Triumph was tempered when Joseph rejoined his mother and children. Little Fred in particular had been terrorized by seeing his father pistol-whipped and dragged away.
The day of celebration ended with a feast. Joseph insisted Reynolds and Wilson participate.
“When I went to dinner with my family, Reynolds and Wilson were placed at the head of the table, with about 50 of my friends, and were served with the best that the table afforded, by my wife, whom they [had] refused to allow me to see, when they so cruelly arrested and ill-treated me, which contrasted strongly with their treatment to me when I was first arrested by them, and until my friends met me.” 
Joseph had attempted to leave Nauvoo and spend time alone with Emma, likely at Emma’s demand. Yet Joseph had been forced back into the midst of Nauvoo and all that Emma had demanded he give up. It was now clear that Nauvoo was an island of legal safety Joseph could not afford to leave.
Emma could hardly make good on her threat in light of how Joseph had returned. Emma’s relief regarding Joseph’s safe return soon gave way to the old emotions. Hyrum, seeing Emma’s unhappiness, suggested that Joseph write down the revelation regarding the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Emma’s Ultimatum – Notes
Emma’s silence has been interpreted as ignorance of Joseph’s activities. However her silence may have been primarily inspired by concern for Joseph’s safety.
In May 1843 Emma agreed that it was time to openly teach plural marriage. Emma decided that Emily and Eliza Partridge would be the young ladies she would like to have become Joseph’s quasi-public plural wives. But something about Emily and Eliza soon upset Emma. The number of additional covenants Joseph was entering into may also have caused Emma concern.
Emma issued an ultimatum. She wanted Joseph to relinquish all for her sake. If he would not do so, she would divorce him. She may have also suggested that she wished a different husband.
Joseph traveled with Emma to her sister’s home. The peaceful idyll was ended when Joseph was arrested for extradition to Missouri. Emma watched as Joseph was pistol-whipped and taken from her. It likely terrified her to hear him ask to be shot. As far as Emma knew, it might be the last time she would ever see Joseph.
Several of Emma’s particular confidantes helped rouse Joseph’s guard to his defense. In roughly a week, Joseph was returned to Emma’s side. Nauvoo celebrated. Joseph placed the pistol-whipping sheriffs in a place of honor at the celebration dinner. But Emma was concerned, possibly more now than before.
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 Accounts regarding a fall 1841 sermon mentioning polygamy are recorded by Joseph Lee Robinson, George A. Smith, Horace Cummings, and Helen Mar Kimball [Smith Whitney]. Helen also documents Joseph’s sermon and retraction. Robinson and Kimball mention Emma’s reaction, see Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume I, Chapter 9.
 If Joseph practice plural marriage, it seems reasonable that he did so during the windows where we see bona fide plural wives conceive children. Emily Partridge would testify that she had roomed with Joseph several times and participated in carnal intercourse during May 1843, however she did not conceive. It is sufficient for Emily’s testimony to remain true if actual carnal intercourse occurred only once. An RLDS apostate, after having embezzled funds from the RLDS Church, would claim Malissa Lott told him Joseph Smith had wanted to have her bear his child. Malissa then described the one intimate encounter that followed. It seems this must have occurred in May 1844, as Malissa’s failure to quicken from the single attempt would likely have occasioned another attempt. If accepted as accurate, Malissa’s description of the solitary attempt to conceive Joseph’s child portrays a “polygamist” who truly was reluctant.
 History of the Church 3:28-30.
 The Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844, Page 1, Col. F. Online 15 May 2014 at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Expositor.
 Relief Society Minute Book, p. 53, Minutes for Thursday, May 26th, online 6 May 2014 at http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book?p=50#!/. This is the meeting after Catherine Fuller, Margaret and Matilda Nyman, Sarah Miller, and others testified before the High Council regarding the seductions carried out by Bennett, Chauncey Higbee, and others.
 Relief Society Minute Book, p. 61, Minutes for Thursday, June 9th, online 6 May 2014 at http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book?p=58#!/.
 Partridge, Emily Dow, autobiographical sketch, Written Especially for My Children, January 7, 1877, Marriott Library, manuscript owned by Emily Young Knopp.
 Partridge, Emily Dow, “Emily Young Autobiography,” p. 4; see Women’s Exponent, v. 14, August 1, 1885, p. 38.
 Only two previously-married couples had been sealed at this point. Newell K. Whitney and his wife, Elizabeth, were sealed in conjunction with the sealing of their daughter, Sarah, to Joseph. Then Heber C. Kimball was sealed to his wife, Vilate, as a result of Kimball’s faith in offering Vilate to Joseph, an offered sacrifice I think was prompted by the apostle’s action in excommunicating Orson Pratt for refusing to publicly confirm that his wife was an adulteress.
 Orange Wight, Autobiography, “At first the doctrine was taught in private… The next I noticed when in company with the young folks the girls were calling one another spirituals.” Orange dates this to 1841-1842, making it possible that the Partridge girls had heard the term and even used it themselves by 1843. Online 12 May 2014 at http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/OWight.html. Orange claims he was initiated into polygamy in the winter of 1841/42, which was almost certainly in the context of John C. Bennett’s spiritual wifery. It is uncertain how Orange Wight learned that the Partridge girls, specifically, were wives of Joseph Smith.
 Emily’s testimony was given as part of the Temple Lot trial, where the Utah Church was helping the Temple Lot Church defend the Missouri property where a Temple was to have been erected. The LDS Church tried to prove that Joseph had practiced and taught polygamy during his lifetime, “proving” that the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, headed by Joseph’s sons, was not true to the legacy of Joseph Smith. Emily thus had a motive to be expansive with her claims regarding sexuality with Joseph.
 This is the tale related by Sister Mary Ann Barzee Boice, cited in multiple sources, including Beecher, Newell, and Avery, “Emma Eliza and the Stairs,” BYU Studies 22:1, p. 93, online 12 May 2014 at https://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFViewer.aspx?title=5510&linkURL= 22.1BeecherNewellEmma-062070ee-a927-48b5-a09a-db83edd57b24.pdf.
 See Devery S. Anderson, Gary James Bergera, Editors. Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 1842-1846: A Documentary History; See also Ehat, Introduction of Temple Ordinances, 74-75. For a summary, see the FairMormon article titled Joseph Smith/Polygamy/Emma Smith/Sealing, online 12 May 2014 at http://pt.fairmormon.org/ Joseph_Smith/Polygamy/ Emma_Smith/Sealing.
 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.
 An anti-Mormon source, Catherine Lewis, reports Helen telling her mother “I would never have been sealed (married) to Joseph had I known it was anything more than a ceremony.” This was in the context of Brigham Young attempting to collect the young widow, as he believed was his levirate duty. However Helen’s objection may refer to the reality that the “ceremony” interfered with Helen’s flirtations and attendance at dances.
 See the retraction of the commandment, D&C 132: 51-56, online 12 May 2014 at https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132.51-56? lang=eng#50.
 D&C 132:54.
 Jackson, Joseph H., Biography, The Joseph Smith Papers, online 15 Jun 2016 at http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/joseph-h-jackson.
 Jonathan, less than three months younger than Joseph Smith, is the only man whose wife was sealed to Joseph during mid-1843. As late as 1845, Jonathan’s marriage to Elvira may still have been a pretend marriage.
 The August 16, 1843 entry in Willliam Clayton’s journal indicates Joseph feared Emma would divorce him if he accepted Emma’s offer to give him the Partridge sisters. As Joseph was already married to the Partridge sisters, this suggests Joseph either had not consummated the unions or had ended conjugal relations and did not want to resume relations for fear Emma would invoke her ultimatum from June 1843. See George D. Smith, Intimate Chronicle, p. 117.
 The location of the Wasson’s home is sometimes given as Inlet Grove. However local historians assert that at the time of the arrest the Wasson home was located in Palestine Grove. An 1843 account of the arrest indicates that the arrest occurred in Palestine Grove.
 Todd Compton writes of this visit on June 29th, concluding “Once again [Elizabeth Durfee] may have been preparing a young woman, Melissa Lott, for a proposal from Joseph Smith.” See Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 262-263.