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Joseph Smith would tell women and their families that participation in celestial marriage would bring great blessings, allowing them to be united to deceased loved ones. Joseph would explain an angel had appeared several times and commanded him to covenant with particular women.

Critics presume these were fraudulent statements used to coerce women throughout Joseph’s latter years. But Joseph’s mention of the angel appears to be limited to the timeframe between the fall of 1840 and February 1842. Joseph would initially reach out to two men regarding what he termed Celestial marriage. Each of these men and their extended families had roots in New York and had been staunch supporters of Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Alvah Beaman family had supported Joseph’s work while he was translating the Book of Mormon. The William Huntington family had earnestly sought out the restoration of Christ’s Church before finding the Book of Mormon in 1833.

Fall 1840: The Noble House of Beaman.

In 1869 Joseph Bates Noble wrote out an affidavit claiming Joseph Smith had approached him in the fall of 1840. Joseph taught Noble “the principle of celestial or plural marriage, or a plurality of wives,” saying “the angel of the Lord had commanded him (Smith) to move forward in the said order of marriage.” Joseph continued, “In revealing this to you, I have placed my life in your hands, therefore do not in an evil hour betray me to my enemies.” [1]

Joseph Bates Noble had been a member of the Mormon Church since the fall of 1832, when he had been taught the gospel by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. He had been a missionary for the Church before ever meeting Joseph Smith. Noble had  marched to Missouri with Zion’s Camp, the pseudo-military group Joseph Smith assembled to relieve the suffering of Mormons in Missouri circa 1834.

Joseph Bates Noble’s prominence, however, was primarily because of the family he had married into. In 1834 Joseph Bates Noble married Mary Adeline Beaman, a daughter of Alvah Beaman and Sarah Burtts. The Beamans had been acquainted with Joseph Smith and “the work” since the time that the Book of Mormon was being translated. [2]

After August 1843, Joseph Smith would also confide in another Beaman in-law, Erastus Snow. Erastus would document that Joseph had first received the revelation on “the principle of the Celestial Order of Marriage” while translating the Old Testament. Erastus would also claim Joseph had affirmed to him “the time had come now when the principle should be practiced.” [3]

Sarah Burtts [Beaman] died on September 29, 1840, shortly after the death of Joseph Smith’s father. Louisa Beaman, then twenty-five, moved in with her sister Mary Adeline and Mary’s husband, Joseph Bates Noble. [4]

In a separate 1869 affidavit, Noble would affirm to Andrew Jensen that “Elder Joseph B. Noble swears (the affidavit I have on hand) before a notary public, on June 6, 1869, that he did on April 5, 1841, seal to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, Miss Louisa Beaman, according to the revelation on plural marriage.” [5]

Joseph Bates Noble had taught Louisa about the doctrine of Celestial marriage and the possibility of plural marriage. Louisa had prayed and received a testimony that the principle of plural marriage emanated from God.

Joseph Smith reportedly met Joseph Bates Noble and Louisa in a grove near Main Street. Louisa was disguised as a man. Joseph Smith dictated the words of the ordinance to Joseph Bates Noble, who performed the ceremony sealing Louisa to Joseph. The three of them then traveled across the river to Montrose, Iowa, the location of the Noble home. [6]

During the Temple Lot trial, when it was deemed important to prove that Joseph Smith had been a practicing polygamist, Joseph Bates Noble testified regarding that night, how he said “Blow out the light and get into bed, and you will be safer there.”

The cross-examination between the sharp lawyer and the guileless Mormon is almost humorous. The lawyer destroyed the certainty Joseph Bates Noble had conveyed that Joseph Smith and Louisa Beaman necessarily consummated their Celestial marriage:

Q. Well did you stay there until the lights were blown out?

A. No sir I did not stay until they blowed out the lights then.

Q. Well you did not see him get into bed with her that time?

A. No sir.

Q. And so you don’t know whether he followed your advice from your own knowledge?

A. No sir, I did not see him, but he told me he did. [7]

Q. Well, you know from your own knowledge that he did?

A. Well, I am confident that he did.

Q. But you don’t know it of your own knowledge from seeing him do it?

A. No sir, for I was not there. [8]

Louisa would not become pregnant during Joseph’s lifetime, even though the ceremony between Louisa and Joseph Smith occurred more than three years prior to Joseph’s death. By contrast, Louisa would bear five children in five years (including two sets of twins) after her marriage to Brigham Young in 1846. Louisa died of breast cancer on May 15, 1850. [9] Louisa Beaman’s reproductive history suggests she did not have sex with Joseph Smith.

Zina Diantha Huntington.

The William Huntington family had been actively looking for a return of the Church of Christ in 1832. In 1833 the Huntingtons found the Book of Mormon. In April 1835 the Huntington family formally joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Zina was nineteen the summer of 1840 when her mother passed away of a “congestive chill,” likely malaria. Zina herself was so sick she could not attend their mother’s funeral. Around the end of July, Joseph Smith told Zina’s father to bring the family to the homestead so the Smiths could care for them. Zina and her family lived with the Smiths until the latter part of August. [10] While convalescing at the homestead, Zina met Henry Jacobs, and they began courting.

In the fall of 1840, Joseph taught Zina’s brother, Dimick Huntington, the principle of plural marriage and asked to marry Zina. However it is not clear that Dimick found an opportunity to share this doctrine with Zina at the time. Possibly uninformed that she had the option of entering into Celestial marriage with Joseph Smith, Zina married Henry Jacobs on March 7, 1841. The ceremony was performed by Dr. John C. Bennett. [11]

Following Zina’s marriage to Jacobs, Joseph Smith would report an angel appeared, the same angel who had reportedly commanded Joseph to enter into Celestial marriage two times before. This time the angel bore a sword, swearing that Joseph and his people would be cut off if Joseph Smith did not restore Celestial marriage.

This time Dimick did talk to Zina, though she was now married and pregnant. Zina would later describe her prayers during that time:

“O dear Heaven, grant me wisdom! Help me to know the way. O Lord, my god, let thy will be done….” [12]

Zina covenanted with Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841.

Nine and a half months after marrying Henry Jacobs and weeks after covenanting with Joseph, Zina gave birth to a son. DNA analysis confirms Zina’s first son had the same father as Zina’s second son, born in 1846. The common father was likely Zina’s legal husband, Henry Jacobs, [13] as Joseph Smith was dead before Zina’s second son was conceived. Zina named her first son Zebulon, after the son of biblical polygamist Jacob and his less-loved wife, Leah.

Presendia Huntington [Buell].

Dimick Huntington had arranged for Joseph to covenant with his sister, Zina Huntington [Jacobs]. Now Dimick asked Joseph to covenant with his other living sister, Presendia Huntington [Buell] (b. 1810). The reward Dimick desired for uniting Joseph with his two sisters was “that where you and your fathers family are, there I and my father’s family may also be.” [14]

Presendia had married Norman Buell in the 1820s, bearing him their first child in 1828. Norman migrated with the Huntington family, but was never baptized into the Mormon faith. In the fall of 1841, Presendia lived 60 miles from Nauvoo. Four of Presendia’s six children had died in infancy. The promise that Celestial marriage could bind children to parents would have had a strong appeal to Presendia and to Dimick. Presendia covenanted with Joseph on December 11, 1841.

The Huntingtons would remain utterly loyal to Joseph Smith during the turbulent years that would come. Presendia and Zina would travel to Utah and become leaders amongst the Mormon woman. [15] Dimick and William would assist in the secret burial of Joseph’s remains in the summer of 1844, and would be part of the even smaller group entrusted to relocate Joseph’s remains in February 1845. Oliver, the youngest, would inherit and cherish a cane containing Joseph’s death locks. [16]

The Angel of the Lord – Notes.

Following the death of his father, Joseph Smith .broaches the topic of plural marriage with two long-time Mormons, asking each to discuss the matter with a female relative who was unmarried at the time. In each case Joseph claimed that he had been commanded by the angel of the Lord.

After learning of the request and angelic command, both Louisa Beaman and Zina Diantha Huntington [Jacobs] eventually agreed to covenant with Joseph Smith. Zina’s brother, wishing to further secure his family’s bond to Joseph, asked Joseph to covenant with his thirty-one-year-old sister, Presendia Huntington [Buell], married to a non-Mormon.

Neither Louisa nor Zina would conceive a child during their marriage to Joseph Smith. It is unlikely Presendia’s children born prior to Joseph Smith’s death could have been engendered by Joseph, see Appendix C.

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[1] Boyack, Hazel Noble, A Nobleman in Israel: A Biographical Sketch of Joseph Bates Noble, Pioneer to Utah in 1847. The Pioneer Printing Company, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1962.

[2] Noble, A Nobleman in Israel, pp. 11-21.

[3] Bergera, Gary James, “The Earliest Mormon Polygamists,” Dialogue, p. 37.

[4] Compton, Sacred Loneliness, pp. 71-113.

[5] Compton, Sacred Loneliness, pp 79-80.

[6] Compton, Sacred Loneliness, p. 59.

[7] Noble clearly thought Joseph was confirming he had consummated the marriage. However Joseph may have merely confirmed he had blown out the candle.

[8] Joseph B. Noble, Deposition, Temple Lot Case, part 3, pp. 426-27, questions 700-704.

[9] Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 55-70.

[10] Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 71-113.

[11] Dr. Bennett’s role in the marriage indicates Zina Huntington could not have been the young woman Bennett hoped to marry.

[12] Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 79-80.

[13] Perego, Ugo, “Joseph Smith and DNA,” The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume I, pp. 233-256.

[14] Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 123.

[15] Zina was president of the Relief Society until her death in 1901. Zina was the third president of Relief Society and the third and last of Joseph’s wives to head that organization.

[16] The Coffin Canes, online 10 Mar 2014 at http://www.josephsmithjr.org/index.php/history/joseph-smith-jr/201-the-coffin-canes.